Theosophical University Press Online Edition
And now Occultism puts to Science the question: “Is light a body, or is it not?” Whatever the answer of the latter, the former is prepared to show that, to this day, the most eminent physicists know neither one way nor the other. To know what is light, and whether it is an actual substance or a mere undulation of the “ethereal medium,” Science has first to learn what are in reality Matter, Atom, Ether, Force. Now, the truth is, that it knows nothing of any of these, and admits it. It has not even agreed what to believe in, as dozens of hypotheses emanating from various and very eminent Scientists on the same subject, are antagonistic to each other and often self-contradictory. Thus their learned speculations may, with a stretch of good-will, be accepted as “working hypotheses” in a secondary sense, as Stallo puts it. But being radically inconsistent with each other, they must finally end by mutually destroying themselves. As declared by the author of “Concepts of Modern Physics”: —
“It must not be forgotten that the several departments of Science are simply arbitrary divisions of labour. In these several departments the same physical object may be considered under different aspects. The physicist may study its molecular relations, while the chemist determines its atomic constitution. But when they both deal with the same element or agent, it cannot have one set of properties in physics, and another set contradictory of them, in chemistry. If the physicist and chemist alike assume the existence of ultimate atoms absolutely invariable in bulk and weight, the atom cannot be a cube or oblate spheroid for physical, and a sphere for chemical purposes. A group of constant atoms cannot be an aggregate of extended and absolutely inert and impenetrable masses in a crucible or retort, and a system of mere centres of force as part of a magnet or of a Clamond battery. The universal Ether cannot be soft and mobile to please the chemist, and rigid-elastic to satisfy the physicist; it cannot be continuous at the command of Sir William Thomson and discontinuous on the suggestion of Cauchy or Fresnel.”*
The eminent physicist, G. A. Hirn, may likewise be quoted saying the same in the 43rd Volume of the Memoires de l’Academie Royale de Belgique, which we translate from the French, as cited: “When one sees the assurance with which are to-day affirmed doctrines which attribute the collectivity, the universality of the phenomena to the motions alone of the atom, one has a right to expect to find likewise unanimity on the qualities described to this unique being, the foundation of all that exists. Now, from the first examination of the particular systems proposed, one feels the strangest deception; one perceives that the atom of the chemist, the atom of the physicist, that of the metaphysician, and that of the mathematician . . . . have absolutely nothing in common but the name! The inevitable result is the existing
* “Concepts of Modern Physics,” p. xi-xii., Introd. to the 2nd Edit.
subdivision of our sciences, each of which, in its own little pigeon-hole, constructs an atom which satisfies the requirements of the phenomena it studies, without troubling itself in the least about the requirements proper to the phenomena of the neighbouring pigeon-hole. The metaphysician banishes the principles of attraction and repulsion as dreams; the mathematician, who analyses the laws of elasticity and those of the propagation of light, admits them implicitly, without even naming them. . . . The chemist cannot explain the grouping of the atoms, in his often complicated molecules, without attributing to his atoms specific distinguishing qualities; for the physicist and the metaphysician, partisans of the modern doctrines, the atom is, on the contrary, always and everywhere the same. What am I saying? There is no agreement even in one and the same science as to the properties of the atom. Each constructs an atom to suit his own fancy, in order to explain some special phenomenon with which he is particularly concerned.”*
The above is the photographically correct image of modern Science and physics. The “pre-requisite of that incessant play of the ‘scientific imagination,’ ” which is so often found in Professor Tyndall’s eloquent discourses, is vivid indeed, as shown by Stallo, and for contradictory variety leaves far behind it any “phantasies” of occultism. However it may be, if physical theories are confessedly “mere formal, explanatory, didactic devices,” and if “atomism is only a symbolical graphic system,”† then the occultist can hardly be regarded as assuming too much, when he places alongside of these devices and “symbolical systems” of modern Science, the symbols and devices of Archaic teachings.
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* “Recherches experimentales sur la relation qui existe entre la resistance de l'air et sa temperature,” p. 68.
† From the criticism of “Concepts of Modern Physics” in Nature. See Stallo’s work, p. xvi. of Introduction.