Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Of late Esoteric Cosmogony has been frequently opposed by the phantom of this theory and its ensuing hypotheses. “Can this most scientific teaching be denied by your adepts?” it is asked. “Not entirely,” is the reply, “but the admissions of the men of Science themselves kill it; and there remains nothing for the adepts to deny.”
To make of Science an integral whole necessitates, indeed, the study of spiritual and psychic, as well as physical Nature. Otherwise it will ever be like the anatomy of man, discussed of old by the profane from the point of view of his shell-side and in ignorance of the interior work. Even Plato, the greatest philosopher of his country, became guilty, before his initiation, of such statements as that liquids pass into the stomach through the lungs. Without metaphysics, as Mr. H. J. Slack says, real science is inadmissible.
The nebulae exist; yet the nebular theory is wrong. A nebula exists in a state of entire elemental dissociation. It is gaseous and — something else besides, which can hardly be connected with gases, as known to physical science; and it is self-luminous. But that is all. The sixty-two “coincidences” enumerated by Professor Stephen Alexander,* confirming the nebular theory, may all be explained by esoteric science; though, as this is not an astronomical work, the refutations are not attempted at present. Laplace and Faye come nearer to the correct theory than any; but of the speculations of Laplace there remains little in the present theory except its general features. Nevertheless, “there is in Laplace’s theory,” says John Stuart Mill, “nothing hypothetical; it is an example of legitimate reasoning from present effect to its past cause; it assumes nothing more than that objects which really exist, obey the laws which are known to be obeyed by all terrestrial objects resembling them.” (System of Logic, p. 229).
This from such an eminent logician as Mill was, would be valuable, if it could only be proved that “terrestrial objects resembling . . .” celestial objects at such a distance as the nebulae are — resemble those objects in reality, not alone in appearance.
Another of the fallacies from the Occult stand-point, which are embodied in the modern theory as it now stands, is the hypothesis that the planets were all detached from the Sun; that they are bone of
* “Smithsonian Contributions,” xxi., Art. 1, pp. 79-97.
his bone, and flesh of his flesh; whereas, the Sun and planets are only co-uterine brothers, having had the same nebular origin, only in a different mode from that postulated by modern astronomy.
The many objections raised against the homogeneity of original diffuse matter, on the ground of the uniformity in the composition of the fixed stars, by some opponents of the modern nebular theory, do not affect the question of that homogeneity at all, but only the said theory. Our solar nebula may not be completely homogeneous, or, rather, it may fail to reveal itself as such to the astronomers, and yet be de facto homogeneous. The stars do differ in their constituent materials and even exhibit elements quite unknown on earth; nevertheless, this does not affect the point that primeval matter — i.e., as it appeared even in its first differentiation from its laya condition* — is yet to this day homogeneous, at immense distances, in the depths of infinitude, and likewise at points not far removed from the outskirts of our solar system.
Finally, there does not exist one single fact brought forward by the learned objectors against the “nebular theory,” (false as it is, and hence, illogically enough, fatal to the hypothesis of the homogeneity of matter,) that can withstand criticism. One error leads into another. A false premise will naturally lead to a false conclusion, although an inadmissible inference does not necessarily affect the validity of the major proposition of the syllogism. Thus, one may leave every side-issue and inference from the evidence of spectra, and lines, as simply provisional for the present, and abandon all matters of detail to physical science. The duty of the Occultist lies with the Soul and Spirit of Cosmic Space, not merely with its illusive appearance and behaviour. That of official physical science is to analyze and study its shell — the Ultima Thule of the Universe and man, in the opinion of Materialism.
With the latter, Occultism has nought to do. It is only with the theories of such men of learning as Kepler, Kant, Oersted, and Sir W. Herschell, who believed in a Spiritual world, that Occult Cosmogony might treat, and attempt a satisfactory compromise. But the views of those physicists differed vastly from the latest modern speculations. Kant and Herschell had in their mind’s eye speculations upon the origin and the final destiny, as well as the present aspect, of the Universe, from a far more philosophical and psychic standpoint; whereas modern Cosmology and Astronomy now repudiate anything like research into the mysteries of being. The result is what might be expected: complete failure and inextricable contradictions in the thousand and one varieties of so-called scientific theories, and in this theory as in all others.
The nebular hypothesis, involving the theory of the existence of a
* Beyond the zero-line of action.
primeval matter, diffused in a nebulous condition, is of no modern date in astronomy as everyone knows. Anaximenes, of the Ionian school, had already taught that the sidereal bodies were formed through the progressive condensation of a primordial pregenetic matter, which had almost a negative weight, and was spread out through Space in an extremely sublimated condition.
Tycho Brahe, who viewed the Milky Way as an ethereal substance, thought the new star that appeared in Cassiopoeia, in 1572, had been formed out of that matter. (“Progymnasmata” p. 795.) Kepler believed the star of 1606 had been likewise formed out of the ethereal substance that fills the universe (“De stella nova in pede Serpentarii,” p. 115). He attributed to that same ether the apparition of a luminous ring around the moon, during the total eclipse of the sun observed at Naples in 1605.” (“Hypotheses Cosmogoniques,” C. Wolf.) Still later, in 1714, — the existence of a self-luminous matter was recognised by Halley (“Philosophical Transactions”). Finally, the journal of this name published in 1811 the famous hypothesis on the transformation of the nebulae into stars, by the eminent astronomer, Sir W. Herschell (See “Philosophical Transactions,” of 1811, p. 269, et seq.), after which the nebular theory was accepted by the Royal Academies.
In “Five years of Theosophy,” on p. 245, an article headed “Do the Adepts deny the Nebular Theory?” may be read. The answer there given is “No; they do not deny its general propositions, nor the approximative truth of the scientific hypotheses. They only deny the completeness of the present, as well as the entire error of the many so-called “exploded” old theories, which, during the last century, have followed each other in such rapid succession.”
This was proclaimed at the time “an evasive answer.” Such disrespect to official science, it was argued, must be justified by the presentation, to replace the orthodox speculation, of another theory more complete than theirs, and having a firmer ground to stand upon. To this there is but one reply; it is useless to give out isolated theories with regard to things embodied in a whole and consecutive system, which, when separated from the main body of the teaching, would necessarily lose their vital coherence and thus do no good when studied independently. To be able to appreciate and accept the occult views on the nebular theory, one has to study the whole esoteric cosmogonical system. And the time has hardly arrived for the astronomers to be asked to accept Fohat and the divine Builders. Even the undeniably correct surmises of Sir W. Herschell, that had nothing “supernatural” in them, about the sun being called “globe of fire” (perhaps) metaphorically, and his early speculations about the nature of that which is now called the Nasmyth willow-leaf theory — caused that most eminent of all astro-
nomers to be smiled at by other, far less eminent colleagues, who saw and now see in his ideas only “imaginative and fanciful theories.” Before the whole esoteric system could be given out and appreciated by the astronomers, they would have to return to some of those “antiquated ideas,” not only to those of Herschell, but to the dreams of the oldest Hindu astronomers, and to abandon their own theories, none the less “fanciful” because they have appeared in one case nearly 80 years and in the other many thousands of years later. Foremost of all they would have to repudiate the ideas on the Sun’s solidity and incandescence; the sun “glowing” most undeniably, but not “burning.” Then it is stated, with regard to Sir W. Herschell’s view that those “objects,” as he called the “willow leaves,” are the immediate sources of the solar light and heat. And though the esoteric teaching does not regard these as he did — namely, organisms as partaking of the nature of life,” for the Solar “Beings” will hardly place themselves within telescopic focus — yet it asserts that the whole Universe is full of such “organisms,” conscious and active according to the proximity or distance of their planes to, or from, our plane of consciousness; and that finally the great astronomer was right in saying that “we do not know that vital action is competent to develop at once heat, light, and electricity” while speculating on those supposed “organisms.” For, at the risk of being laughed at by the whole world of physicists, the Occultists maintain that all the “Forces” of the Scientists have their origin in the Vital Principle, the one life collectively of our Solar system — that “life” being a portion, or rather one of the aspects of the One Universal life.
We may, therefore, as in the article under consideration, wherein, on the authority of the Adepts, it was maintained that it is “sufficient to make a resume of what the solar physicists do not know,” — we may, we maintain, define our position with regard to the modern nebular theory and its evident incorrectness, by simply pointing out facts diametrically opposed to it in its present form. And to begin with, what does it teach?
Summarizing the aforesaid hypotheses, it becomes plain that Laplace’s theory — now made quite unrecognisable, moreover — was an unfortunate one. He postulates in the first place Cosmic matter, existing in a state of diffuse nebulosity “so fine that its presence could hardly have been suspected.” No attempt is made by him to penetrate into the arcana of being, except as regards the immediate evolution of our small solar system.
Consequently, whether one accepts or rejects his theory in its bearing upon the immediate cosmological problems presented for solution, he can only be said to have thrown back the mystery a little further. To the eternal query — “Whence matter itself; whence the evolutionary impetus
determining its cyclic aggregations and dissolutions; whence the exquisite symmetry and order into which the primeval atoms arrange and group themselves?” — no answer is attempted by Laplace. All we are confronted with, is a sketch of the probable broad principles on which the actual process is assumed to be based. Well, and what is this now celebrated note on the said process? What has he given so wonderfully new and original, that its ground-work, at any rate, should have served as a basis for the modern nebular theory? This is what one gathers from various astronomical works.
Laplace thought that, consequent on the condensation of the atoms of the primeval nebula, according to the “Law” of gravity, the now gaseous, or perhaps, partially liquid mass, acquired a rotatory motion. As the velocity of this rotation increased, it assumed the form of a thin disc; finally, the centrifugal force overpowering that of cohesion, huge rings were detached from the edge of the whirling incandescent masses, contracting necessarily by gravitation (as accepted) into spheroidal bodies, which would necessarily still continue to preserve the same orbit occupied previously by the outer zone from which they were separated. (“Laplace conceived that the external and internal zones of the ring would rotate with the same angular velocity, which would be the case with a solid ring; but the principle of equal areas requires the inner zones to rotate more rapidly than the outer.”)* The velocity of the outer edge of each nascent planet, he said, exceeding that of the inner, there results a rotation on its axis. The more dense bodies would be thrown off last; and finally, during the preliminary state of their formation, the newly-segregated orbs in their turn throw off one or more satellites . . . In formulating the history of the rupture and planetation of rings, Laplace says:
“Almost always each ring of vapours must have broken up into numerous masses, which, moving with a nearly uniform velocity, must have continued to circulate at the same distance around the Sun. These masses must have taken a spheroidal form with a motion of rotation in the same direction as their revolution, since the inner molecules (those nearer to the Sun) would have less actual velocity than the exterior ones. They must then have formed as many planets in a state of vapour. But, if one of them was sufficiently powerful to unite successively, by its attraction, all the others around its centre, the ring of vapours must have been thus transformed into a single spheroidal mass of vapours circulating around the Sun with a rotation in the same direction as its revolution. The latter case has been the more common, but the solar system presents us the first case, in the four small planets which move between Jupiter and Mars.”
While few will be found to deny “the magnificent audacity of this
* “World-Life.” Prof. Winchell points to a good many mistakes of Laplace in his work; but as a geologist he is not infallible himself in his “astronomical speculations.”
hypothesis,” it is impossible not to recognise the insurmountable difficulties with which it is attended. Why, for instance, do we find that the satellites of Neptune and Uranus display a retrograde motion; that, in spite of its closer proximity to the Sun, Venus is less dense than the Earth? Similarly, the more distant Uranus is more dense than Saturn? How is it that so many variations in the inclination of their axes and orbits are present in the supposed progeny of the central orb; that such startling variations in the size of the planets is noticeable; that the Satellites of Jupiter are more dense by .288 than their primary — that the phenomena of meteoric and cometic systems still remain unaccounted for? To quote the words of a Master: “They (the Occultists) find that the centrifugal theory of Western birth is unable to cover all the ground. That, unaided, it can neither account for every oblate spheroid, nor explain away such evident difficulties as are presented by the relative density of some planets. How, indeed, can any calculation of centrifugal force explain to us, for instance, why Mercury, whose rotation is, we are told, only about one-third that of the Earth, and its density only about one-fourth greater than the Earth, should have a polar compression more than ten times as great as the latter? And again, why Jupiter, whose equatorial rotation is said to be ‘twenty-seven times greater, and its density only about one-fifth that of the earth’ should have its polar compression seventeen times greater than that of the earth? Or why Saturn, with an equatorial velocity fifty-five times greater than Mercury for centripetal force to contend with, should have its polar compression only three times greater than Mercury’s? To crown the above contradictions, we are asked to believe in the Central Forces, as taught by Modern Science, even when told that the equatorial matter of the Sun, with more than four times the centrifugal velocity of the Earth’s equatorial surface, and only about one-fourth part of the gravitation of the equatorial matter, has not manifested any tendency to bulge at the Solar equator, nor shown the least flattening of the poles of the Solar axis. In other and clearer words, the Sun, with only one fourth of our Earth’s density for the centrifugal force to work upon, has no polar compression at all! We find this objection made by more than one astronomer, yet never explained away satisfactorily so far as the ‘Adepts’ are aware.”
“Therefore, do they (the Adepts) say, that the great men of science of the West, knowing . . . . . next to nothing either about cometary matter, centrifugal and centripetal forces, the nature of the nebulae, or the physical constitution of the Sun, the Stars, or even the Moon, are imprudent to speak as confidently as they do about the ‘central mass of the Sun’ whirling out into space planets, comets, and what not . . . .” “We maintain that it (the Sun) evolves out only the life-principle, the
Soul of those bodies, giving and receiving it back, in our solar system, as the ‘Universal Life-Giver’ . . . . in infinitude and Eternity; that the solar system is as much the microcosm of the one Macrocosm as man is the former when compared with his own little Solar Cosmos.”*
The essential faculty possessed by all the cosmic and terrestrial elements, of generating within themselves a regular and harmonious series of results, a concatenation of causes and effects, is an irrefutable proof that they are either animated by an extra or intra intelligence, or conceal such within or behind the manifested veil. Occultism does not deny the certainty of the mechanical origin of the Universe; it only claims the absolute necessity of mechanicians of some sort behind those Elements (or within) — a dogma with us. It is not the fortuitous assistance of the atoms of Lucretius, who himself knew better, that built the Kosmos and all in it. Nature herself contradicts such a theory. Celestial space, containing matter so attenuated as is Ether, cannot be called on, with or without attraction, to explain the common motion of the sidereal hosts. Although the perfect accord of their mutual revolution indicates clearly the presence of a mechanical cause in Nature, Newton, who of all men had best right to trust to his deductions and views, was nevertheless forced to abandon the idea of ever explaining, by the laws of known Nature and its Material forces, the original impulse given to the millions of orbs. He recognised fully the limits that separate the action of natural Forces from that of the Intelligences that set the immutable laws into order and action. And if a Newton had to renounce such hope, which of the modern materialistic pigmies has the right of saying: “I know better”?
To become complete and comprehensible, a cosmogonical theory has to start with a primordial Substance diffused throughout boundless Space, of an intellectual and divine Nature. That substance must be the Soul and Spirit, the Synthesis and Seventh Principle of the manifested Kosmos, and, to serve as a spiritual Upadhi to this, there must be the sixth, its vehicle —primordial physical matter, so to speak, though its nature must escape for ever our limited normal senses. It is easy for an astronomer, if endowed with an imaginative faculty, to build a theory of the emergence of the universe out of chaos, by simply applying to it the principles of mechanics. But such a universe will always prove, with respect to its scientific human creator, a Frankenstein’s monster; it will lead him into endless perplexities. The application of the mechanical laws only can never carry the speculator beyond the objective world; nor will it unveil to men the origin and final destiny of Kosmos. This is
* “Five Years of Theosophy,” pp. 249-50. Art. “Do the Adepts deny the Nebular Theory?”
whither the nebular theory has led Science. In sober fact and truth this theory is twin sister to that of Ether, and both are the offsprings of necessity; one as indispensable to account for the transmission of light, as the other to explain the problem of the origin of the solar systems. The question with them is, how the same homogeneous matter* could, obeying the laws of Newton, give birth to bodies — sun, planets, and their satellites — subject to conditions of identity of motion and formed of such heterogeneous elements.
Has the nebular theory helped to solve the problem, even if applied solely to bodies considered as inanimate and material? We say most decidedly not. What progress has it made since 1811, when Sir W. Herschell’s paper, first presenting facts based on observation and showing the existence of nebular matter, made the “Sons” of the Royal Society “shout for joy”? Since then a still greater discovery has permitted, through spectrum analysis, the verification and corroboration of Sir W. Herschell’s conjecture. Laplace demanded some kind of primitive “world stuff” to prove the idea of progressive world-evolution and growth. Here it is, as offered two millenniums ago.
The “world stuff,” now nebulae, was known from the highest antiquity. Anaxagoras taught that, having differentiated, the subsequent commixture of heterogeneous substances remained motionless and unorganized, until finally “the Mind” — the collective body of Dhyan Chohans, we say — began to work upon and communicated to it motion and order (Aristotle’s “Physica,” viii, 1.) The theory is now taken up in its first portion, that of any “Mind” interfering with it being rejected. Spectrum analysis reveals the existence of nebulae formed entirely of gases and luminous vapours. Is this the primitive nebular matter? The spectra reveal, it is said, the physical conditions of the matter which emits cosmic light. The spectra of the resolvable and the irresolvable nebulae are shown to be entirely different, the spectra of the latter showing their physical state to be that of glowing gas or vapour. The bright lines of one nebula reveal the existence of hydrogen in it, and of other material substances known and unknown. The same in the atmospheres of the Sun and stars. This leads to the direct inference that a star is formed by the condensation of a nebula; hence that even the metals themselves on earth are
* Had astronomers held simply, in their present state of knowledge, to the hypothesis of Laplace, which was simply the formation of the planetary system, it might in time have resulted in something like an approximate truth. But the two parts of the general problem, that of the formation of the universe, or the formation of the suns and stars from the primitive matter, and then the development of the planets around their sun, rest on quite different facts in nature and are even so viewed by Science itself. They are at the opposite poles of being.
formed owing to the condensation of hydrogen or some other primitive matter, some ancestral cousin to “helium,” perhaps, or some yet unknown stuff? This does not clash with the occult teachings. And this is the problem that chemistry is trying to solve; and it must succeed sooner or later in the task, accepting nolens volens, when it does, the esoteric teaching. But when this does happen, it will kill the nebular theory as it now stands.
Meanwhile Astronomy cannot accept in any way, if it is to be regarded as an exact science, the present theory of the filiation of stars — even if occultism does so in its own way, as it explains this filiation differently — because astronomy has not one single physical datum to show for it. Astronomy could anticipate Chemistry in proving the existence of the fact, if it could show a planetary nebula exhibiting a spectrum of three or four bright lines, gradually condensing and transforming into a star, with a spectrum all covered with a number of dark lines. But “the question of the variability of the nebula, even as to their form, is yet one of the mysteries of Astronomy. The data of observation possessed so far are of too recent an origin, too uncertain to permit us to affirm anything.” (Cosmogonical Hypotheses of Wolf.)
Since the discovery of the spectroscope, its magic power has revealed to its adepts only one single transformation of a star of this kind; and even that one showed directly the reverse of what is needed as proof in favour of the nebular theory; namely — a star transforming itself into a planetary nebula. As told in The Observatory (Vol. I., p. 185), the temporary star which appeared in the constellation Cygnus, in November, 1876, discovered by J. F. J. Schmidt, exhibited a spectrum broken by very brilliant lines. Gradually, the continuous spectrum and most of the lines disappeared, leaving finally one single brilliant line, which appeared to coincide with the green line of the nebula.
Though this metamorphosis is not irreconcileable with the hypothesis of the nebular origin of the stars, nevertheless this single solitary case rests on no observation whatever, least of all on direct observation. The occurrence may have been due to several other causes. Since astronomers are inclined to think our planets are tending toward precipitation on the Sun, why should not that star have blazed out owing to a collision of such precipitated planets, or, as many suggest, the appulse of a comet? Anyhow, the only known instance of a star transformation since 1811 is not favourable to the nebular theory. Moreover, on the question of this theory, as in all others, astronomers disagree.
In our own age, it was Buffon, before Laplace ever thought of it, who, very much struck by the identity of motion in the planets, was the first to propose the hypothesis of the planets and their satellites originating in
the bosom of the Sun. Forthwith, and for the purpose, he invented a special comet, supposed to have torn out, by a powerful oblique blow, the quantity of matter necessary to their formation. Laplace gave its dues to the “comet” in his “Exposition du Systeme du Monde.” (Note VII.) But the idea was seized and even improved upon by a conception of the alternate evolution from the Sun’s central mass of planets apparently without weight or influence on the motion of the visible planets — and as evidently without any more existence than the likeness of Moses in the moon.
But the modern theory is also a variation on the systems elaborated by Kant and Laplace. The idea of both was that, at the origin of things, all that matter which now enters into the composition of the planetary bodies was spread over all the space comprised in the solar system — and even beyond. It was a nebula of extremely small density, whose condensation gradually gave birth, by a mechanism that has hitherto never been explained, to the various bodies of our systems. This is the original nebular theory, an incomplete yet faithful repetition — a short chapter out of the large volume of universal esoteric cosmogony — of the teachings in the Secret Doctrine. And both systems, Kant’s and Laplace’s, differ greatly from the modern theory, redundant with conflicting sub-theories and fanciful hypotheses.
“The essence of cometary matter and of that which composes the stars is totally different from any of the chemical or physical characteristics with which Western Science is now acquainted. While the spectroscope has shown the probable similarity (owing to the chemical action of terrestrial light upon the intercepted rays) of earthly and sidereal substance, the chemical actions, peculiar to the variously progressed orbs of space, have not been detected, nor proven to be identical with those observed on our own planet” — say the Teachers (op. cit.). Mr. Crookes says almost the same in the fragment quoted from his lecture, “Elements and Meta-Elements.”
“At the utmost,” observes C. Wolf,* “could the nebular hypothesis show in its favour, with W. Herschell, the existence of planetary nebulae in various degrees of condensation, and of spiral nebulae, with nuclei of condensation on the branches and centre.† But, in fact, the knowledge of the bond that unites the nebulae to the stars is yet denied to us; and lacking as we do direct observation, we are even debarred from establishing it even on the analogy of chemical composition.”
It is evident that, even if the men of science, leaving aside the
* Member of the Institute, Astronomer of the Observatory, Paris, “Cosmogonical Hypotheses.”
† But the spectra of these nebulae have never yet been ascertained. When they are found with bright lines, then only may they be cited.
difficulty arising for them out of such undeniable variety and heterogeneity of matter in the constitution of nebulae, did admit, with the ancients, that the origin of all the visible and invisible heavenly bodies must be sought for in one primordial homogeneous world-stuff, in a kind of pre-protyle,* — it is evident that this would not put an end to their perplexities. Unless they admit also that our actual visible Universe is merely the Sthula-Sharira, the gross body, of the sevenfold Kosmos, they will have to face another problem; especially if they risk maintaining that its now visible bodies are the result of the condensation of that one and single primordial matter. For mere observation shows them that the actions which produced the actual Universe are far more complex than could ever be embraced in that theory.
First of all, there are two distinct classes of irresolvable nebulae, — as Science itself teaches.
The telescope is unable to distinguish between the two, but the spectroscope can, and notices, therefore, an essential difference between their physical constitutions.†
“Some of these,” Wolf tells us, “have a spectrum of three or four bright lines, others a continuous spectrum. The first are gaseous, the others formed of a pulverulent matter. The former must constitute a veritable atmosphere: it is among these that the solar nebula of Laplace has to be placed. The latter form an ensemble of particles that may be considered as independent, and the rotation of which obeys the laws of
* Mr. Crookes’ “Protyle” must not be regarded as the primary stuff, out of which the Dhyan Chohans, in accordance with the immutable laws of nature, wove our solar system. This protyle cannot even be the first prima-materia of Kant, which that great mind saw used up in the formation of the worlds, and thus existing no longer in a diffused state. It is a mediate phase in the progressive differentiation of cosmic substance from its normal undifferentiated state. Protyle is then the aspect assumed by matter in its middle passage into full objectivity.
† “The question of the resolvability of the nebulae has been often presented in too affirmative a manner and quite contrary to the ideas expressed by the illustrious experimenter with the spectra of these constellations — Mr. Huggins. Every nebula whose spectrum contains only bright lines is gaseous, it is said, and hence is irresolvable; every nebula with a continuous spectrum must end by resolving into stars with an instrument of sufficient power. This assumption is contrary at once to the results obtained, and to spectroscopic theory. The Lyra nebula, the Dumb-bell nebula, the central region of the nebula of Orion, appear resolvable, and show a spectrum of bright lines; the nebula of Canis Venatici is not resolvable, and gives a continuous spectrum. Because, indeed, the spectroscope informs us of the physical state of the constituent matter of the stars, but affords us no notions of their modes of aggregation. A nebula formed of gaseous globes (or even of nuclei, faintly luminous, surrounded by a powerful atmosphere) would give a spectrum of lines and be still resolvable; such seems to be the state of Huggins’ region in the Orion nebula. A nebula formed of solid or fluidic particles in a state of incandescence, a true cloud, will give a continuous spectrum but will be irresolvable.” (C. Wolf, Cosmogonical Hypotheses.)
internal weight: such are the nebulae adopted by Kant and Faye. Observation allows us to place the one as the other at the very origin of the planetary world. But when we try to go beyond and ascend to the primitive chaos which has produced the totality of the heavenly bodies, we have first to account for the actual existence of these two classes of nebulae. If the primitive chaos were a cold luminous gas,* one could understand how the contraction resulting from attraction could have heated it and made it luminous. We have to explain the condensation of this gas to the state of incandescent particles, the presence of which is revealed to us in certain nebulae by the spectroscope. If the original chaos was composed of such particles, how did certain of their portions pass into the gaseous state, while others have preserved their primitive condition? . . . .”
Such is the synopsis of the objections and difficulties to the acceptance of the nebular theory brought forward by the French savant, who concludes his interesting chapter by declaring that: —
“The first part of the Cosmogonical problem, — what is the primitive matter of chaos; and how did that matter give birth to the sun and stars? — thus remains to this day in the domain of romance and of mere imagination.”†
If this is the last word of Science upon that subject, whither then should one turn in order to learn what the nebular theory is supposed to teach? What, in fact, is this theory? What it is, no one seems to know for a certainty. What it is not — we learn from the erudite author of the “World-Life.” He tells us that: —
(I.) It “is not a theory of the evolution of the Universe . . . but only and primarily a genetic explanation of the phenomena of the solar system, and accessorily a co-ordination of the principal phenomena in the stellar and nebular firmament, as far as human vision has been able to penetrate.”
(II.) “That it does not regard the Comets as involved in that particular evolution which has produced the solar system.” (Esoteric doctrine does.)
(It does, because it, too, recognises the comets as forms of cosmic existence co-ordinated with earlier stages of nebular evolution; and it actually assigns to them chiefly the formation of all worlds.)
(III.) “That it does not deny an antecedent history of the luminous fire mist” — (the secondary stage of evolution in the Secret Doctrine) . . . . “and makes no claim to having reached an absolute beginning.” And even
* See Stanza III. about “Light, or the cold Flame,” and Commentary Number 8, where it is explained that the “mother” (Chaos) is a cold Fire, a cool Radiance, colourless, formless, devoid of every quality. “Motion is the One Eternal is, and contains the potentialities of every quality in the Manvantaric Worlds,” it is said.
† Hypotheses Cosmogoniques, C. Wolf, 1886.
it allows that this “fire mist may have previously existed in a cold, nonluminous and invisible condition” . . . .
(IV.) “And that finally: it does not profess to discover the origin of things, but only a stadium in material history” . . . . leaving “the philosopher and theologian as free as they ever were to seek for the origin of the modes of being.”*
But this is not all. Even the greatest philosopher of England — Mr. Herbert Spencer — arrayed himself against the fantastic theory by saying that (a) “The problem of existence is not resolved” by it; (b) the nebular hypothesis “throws no light upon the origin of diffused matter,” and (c) that “the nebular hypothesis (as it now stands) implies a First Cause.”†
The latter, we are afraid, is more than our modern physicists have bargained for. Thus, it seems that the poor “hypothesis” can hardly expect to find help or corroboration even in the world of the metaphysicians.
Considering all this, the Occultists believe they have a right to present their philosophy, however misunderstood and ostracised it may be at present. And they maintain that this failure of the scientists to discover the truth is entirely due to their materialism and contempt for transcendental sciences. Yet although the scientific minds in our century are as far from the true and correct doctrine of Evolution as ever, there may be still some hope left for the future, as we find another great scientist giving us a faint glimmer of it.
In an article in Popular Science Review (Vol. XIV., p. 252) on “Recent Researches in Minute Life,” we find Mr. H. J. Slack, F.C.S., Sec. R.M.S., saying: “There is an evident convergence of all sciences, from physics to chemistry and physiology, toward some doctrine of evolution and development, of which the facts of Darwinism will form part, but what ultimate aspect this doctrine will take, there is little, if any, evidence to show, and perhaps it will not be shaped by the human mind until metaphysical as well as physical inquiries are much more advanced.”
This is a happy forecast indeed. The day may come, then, when the “Natural Selection,” as taught by Mr. Darwin and Mr. Herbert Spencer, will form only a part, in its ultimate modification, of our Eastern doctrine of Evolution, which will be Manu and Kapila esoterically explained.
* “World-Life,” p. 196.
† Westminster Review, XX., July 27, 1868.