Dr.. Reiser views the present time as a creative stage in the history of the human race, a period of unequalled opportunity, when we are experiencing the collapse of one civilization and deciding the character and beginning the building of the new one. Inventions have now removed barriers of physical distance, events have faced humanity with the fact that survival necessitates united effort, the "phantom of isolation" has been dispelled. He holds that the new "togetherness" renders possible the idea of "global democracy," with a non-supernaturalistic religion as the basis for the intellectual and social unification of the peoples of the world; and points to the necessity for a social super-organism, to centralize and unify the complex problems that have arisen with the crash of old conditions and the coming of a new age in world-history. He visions super-national institutions that shall be to the new social organism what the central nervous system, the cerebro-spinal axis, is to the physical organism, and he foresees the evolution of a world-sensorium for the social organism, a center of intellectual-social control analogous to the cerebral cortex in the individual. And, in this forward step on the ladder of human- evolution, it is his conviction that America must provide the ideology for the new age, must "dare and imagine the blueprints of the structure of a planetary abode fit for the children of all men, Oriental and Occidental, European, and American," a pattern of international living, "a planned society of universal ends."
Face to face with a new era, we must orientate ourselves to a universe of dynamic processes, must cease to function on outworn principles and ideas and advance into the new system, the non-Aristotelian-non-Euclidian-non-Newtonian system made possible by the discoveries of relativity physics, quantum theory, etc., of recent years, which have added to our knowledge of what is fundamental in processes and relations in nature. Dr. Reiser holds, with Alfred Korzybski, the author of The Manhood of Humanity and Science and Sanity, that this newer system has one underlying structure and metaphysics giving a sound basis for a coherent theory of nature as the universal matrix of cosmic facts and relationships, a theory consonant with the facts as science now presents them, a theory, moreover, which shows man's relation to the whole of which he is a part and his interrelations with the other parts. He holds that this new system, applied to social science and policy can lift the science of relations and ethics to the level reached by technological advance, can remove the reproach now justly laid upon our civilization, that invention has outstripped ethical progress. Ethics, say the advocates of the new system, must be on a scientific basis, to show that selfishness is self-defeating. This, says Dr. Reiser, supported by the new theory of nature and metaphysics and by up-to-date biological discovery, is the remedy for the ills of society as we know them.
The mental reorientation that must be accomplished before change in any social program for human life can be effected includes understanding and acceptance of the fact that modern civilization is electro-dynamic; that none of the triumphs of electrical engineering could have been achieved had there not been developments in mathematical theory which broke with the principles of the Aristotelian-Euclidian system. Dr. Reiser aptly remarks that you cannot run a motor-car on those outmoded principles. It remains for us to humanize the new science, to apply its discoveries to ethico-social problems, and bring human relations abreast of what is now held of organism, of the inter-relations of parts of wholes to one another, of the relation of parts to wholes, of wholes to greater wholes, in successively higher integrations. Dr. Reiser perceives the analogy between geometry and ethics — the Pythagorean key to structure — and suggests that the next step in evolution involves global thinking, thinking in terms of curvature, instead of the old planal thinking. We live on a round earth; the consequences of what we do eventually return to us. Dr. Reiser stresses this "social karma," which he mentions as the equivalent of the ancient oriental teaching of samsara. Global thinking might well be found to revolutionize ideas of social responsibility on the large scale in world affairs. He also recalls the argument put forward by Sir Arthur Eddington years ago apropos of the interdependence of the parts of an organism: that of the electron taken alone nothing whatever could be said; and the statement in Eddington's last book that "the only property possessed by the elementary particle is its relation to the whole structure of existence, and the particle is independent because it has contributed its quota to the universal framework of relations." Thus vitally interwoven are the destinies of the entities that compose an organism, microcosmic or macrocosmic.
Dynamic humanism, the new world-religion visioned by Dr. Reiser, is intended to give man a view of nature in harmony with the latest findings of science — he states that the whole trend in physics and biology is toward the acceptance of the concept of properties and parts within organized wholes, while in mathematics, logic, and psychology the same tendency may be marked. And dynamic humanism is to include with these views of Occidental science the mysticism of the Orient. Divinity in the new system is presented as the striving of the part, the human being, towards the completeness of the universal organism, the finite aspiring to the "As-Yet-Unknown." A hint is given as to the emergence of a consciousness of inner oneness equivalent to a "fellowship of the spirit'; and a synthesis of instinct and reason in a higher mode of apprehension akin to the sporadic "hunches" now experienced, which would bring fellow-beings into direct inner contact with one another and with reality.
A New Earth and a New Humanity presents an arraignment of the old assumptions concerning the nature of our world, and marshals evidence showing that though scientific advance has made these no longer tenable, they remain as misapprehensions and misinterpretations of truth which can be dislodged in favor of a newer system only by study and hard thinking. This book gives a most readable summary of just how the newer science differs from the older in regard to time and space, force and matter, geometry, mathematics, logic, causality, in the universe; and, in addition, contains intuitive forward-looking concepts pointing to further scientific developments in a way that removes the dread of just another dogmatic system like the old theology or science. Dr. Reiser's charge of inadequacy is applied to the very language we use to transmit what we believe to be the truth about the universe; and he introduces readers to the new science of semantics, which aims to bring our words and symbols into accord with facts about the structure of the world we live in.
It is to an improved system of education that Dr. Reiser looks as the means of gradually passing on the cultural ideals and practices desirable in the new age — education freed from the present limitations due to subservience to the methods of "big business" and propaganda. He looks on education as "a socially accepted (conventionalized) philosophy in action," and would have educational systems given breadth and depth by the inclusive study of the religions and philosophies of the world as well as of up-to-date science. Voluntary co-operation in such synthesis on the part of the nations would stimulate men to avail themselves more fully and with added creative power, of the essentially human time-binding faculty, which enables men to collect knowledge of and generalize upon past human experience and achievement, and become builders of progressively higher civilizations. Destroyers of civilizations, as we are learning at present, ignore and scorn this human faculty. Dr. Reiser evidently expects, in this proposed synthesis of religions and philosophies, that the Orient has much of value to contribute.
Is Dr. Reiser aware of what the wisdom of the East has already contributed to the revitalizing of Western culture? More than 50 years ago, in 1888, in anticipation of and preparation for the demand for a reorientation to philosophy, religion, and science based on the structure of the universe, The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, the Founder of the Theosophical Movement, had for its sub-title, "The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy."
In two large volumes, dealing respectively with Cosmology and Anthropology, it presents a system inclusive of these three "offsprings of the spirit of man," that meets the requirements of the world today. The new cycle then about to open upon the upward arc of spiritual evolution for the human race warranted the renascence of that most ancient wisdom-science — the source of all the wisdom and science that reached Europe and came to the West by way of Greece. The ancient wisdom and science, however, were free from, were unadulterated by, the dogmatic distortions and misinterpretations later to be undergone during a period favorable to the observation and study of the physical, vehicular side of nature, but less favorable to the understanding of the Divinity and Intelligence which are the consciousness aspects of the Great Being whose physical form is the external universe studied by the scientists.
It is interesting to note that this most ancient science is in close accord with the most recent scientific discoveries of our day. In his book, Man in Evolution, Dr. G. de Purucker, the late Leader of the Theosophical Society, gives a list of theories concerning force, matter, modes of motion, radio-activity, the descent of man, electro-magnetic phenomena, similarity of large- and small-scale systems, etc., showing how the ancient teachings are a forecast of the modern findings; and he devotes several chapters to enlarging upon this subject. Scores of other examples of this agreement of the most ancient and the most modern theories have been recorded by students of Theosophy in Theosophical books and magazines.
Any comprehensive survey of science must include recapitulation of these early theories, which are not only abreast of what scientists have discovered today but also point the way to further knowledge of processes in the universe which have not yielded their secret to analytical scientific methods.
Theosophy presents a theory of Nature as a complete organism, an inner, invisible Nature as well as a physical form. Each infinitesimal life in that cosmic organism partakes of everything that is in the greater life in which it lives, and has the ultimate possibility of evolving from within itself, in an ascending scale during vast cycles of growth and expansion, the spiritual consciousness, the high intelligence of the great whole. Man is in his inmost a spark of universal divinity, man's intelligence is a part of cosmic mind. Man came into manifestation with the universe; his destiny is indissolubly linked with it, as is that of every part, and as is every part with every other part. There is "an open future" for the human race in future cycles during which the human spiritual and intellectual faculties will have their fruition. Theosophy presents the cosmology which includes increasingly greater whole systems in which planetary and solar systems are to the higher organisms as the atom is to the physical body of man. The correspondence between large-and small-scale systems holds throughout. There is one cosmic law, one pattern of structure for all life.
"There must be an intelligent entity to act upon environment," writes Dr. G. de Purucker in his Man in Evolution. Man is the entity which can act consciously upon his environment. It is human destiny to contribute "the human quota" to "the universal framework of relations"; and this consists in becoming aware of his higher faculties and consciously exercising them in conformity with the cosmic laws and patterns of life. It is the performance of this function that makes of man an individual in the truest sense of the word. It is the presence in the human constitution of a ray of the cosmic mind that enables man to seek to know and to understand the structure of the universe.
Dr. Reiser has a happy faculty of bringing to light intuitive statements made by writers on science. He quotes from the works of Mary Everest Boole, the wife of the pioneer exponent of the new mathematics, and his co-worker, her belief in "the Ancient Secret that mathematical notation is not a mere mechanism for calculating numbers, but the supporting framework of the same organic relations of man's mind to the As-Yet-Unknown of which religions are various outward expressions." This explains the ability of the intuitive scientist to predict the evidence of the theory he holds, and rediscover in the external world the proof of the processes which he has intuited. The age-old injunction, Man, Know Thyself, implied as much for scientific as for ethical knowledge and advance.
The Secret Doctrine presents also a comprehensive study of the mythologies and religions of the world, showing conclusively that the source of all of them is one original wisdom-teaching that combines religion and science. The symbols common to them all, now in many cases sadly distorted and degraded in meaning, originally gave the story in "super-verbal" form of the processes in the evolution of man and of the universe. They have ever been the shorthand record of the science of the invisible and the visible, decipherable only to those whose inner faculties have been awakened. For those who can thus read there have never been barriers of ignorance and prejudice dividing human beings of different faiths. When humanity develops these inner faculties, when there is a revival of the true "geometric instinct," when the false theories of man and nature have been thrown aside in the coming reorientation to Truth, once more there need be no conflict between religion and science. The Theosophical teaching concerning the complete constitution of man offers a convincing explanation also of that inner conflict which marks individual experience but which is destined to result in the triumph of the upper triad of the principles which make up human nature.
With a theory of nature in agreement with the discoveries of science, with a conception of man's destiny as part of universal destiny, a conception consonant with man's highest aspirations and his human dignity, with a science of invisible as well as of visible Nature, with its teaching of a common source for the great religions which would give a new motivation to universal ethics, the Theosophical synthesis, accepted by intellectually and spiritually alert thinkers in groups throughout the world, is a strong factor in promoting the unification of the peoples of the world. The Theosophical Movement is in fact a significant influence in the direction of the humanization of science, of social integration, and a powerful stimulus to that inner process of reorientation to universal truth which must precede any change in the institutions of mankind. Out of the Ancient East came to man in his need, this noble heritage from the past.
The signal merit of Dr. Reiser's book is the clear presentation of the necessity and the reasons for reorientation on the part of the human race, and his excellent summary of the trend in various departments of thought in the direction of what could verily be "A New Earth and a New Humanity."
1. A New Earth and a New Humanity by Oliver L. Reiser, Associate Professor of Philosophy in the University of Pittsburgh. Creative Age Press, Inc. 1942. $2.50. (return to text)