THEOSOPHY, Vol. 17, No. 10, August, 1929
(Pages 442-447; Size: 19K)
(Number 14 of a 103-part series)



Esoteric philosophy teaches that everything lives and is conscious, but not that all life and consciousness are similar to those of human or even animal beings.... The idea of universal life is one of those ancient conceptions which are returning to the human mind in this century, as a consequence of its liberation from anthropomorphic theology.... It hardly seems possible that science can disguise from itself much longer ... that things that have life are living things, whether they be atoms or planets. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 49).

...the primordial Electric Entity -- for the Eastern Occultists insist that Electricity is an Entity -- electrifies into life, and separates primordial stuff or pregenetic matter into atoms, themselves the source of all life and consciousness ... (the Astral Light is) the first Light of the primordial Elohim ... or, (scientifically) ELECTRICITY AND LIFE. (S.D., I, 76).

AS the conception of self dawns upon the individual of a new race, that conception correlates with, and depends upon, the visible contrast of his own qualities with those of the objects about. In some things he is visibly related to the stone; he, like it, has length, breadth, thickness, color, weight, inertia. Unlike it, he can move, grow, change -- and die. The first instinctive movement of the mind is curiosity, which infallibly leads to endless comparisons and speculations; to classifications innumerable -- conscious or unconscious. Inevitably, then, the man, by the very nature of mind, is led to admit a kinship -- based upon things visible -- between himself and others. Motion is the most striking characteristic lying ready to his perceptions; it is primarily by motion, not by size, form, or color, that the animal detects friend or foe, insofar as it depends upon sight. Thus the nascent mind classifies the world into the self-moving contrast with the immobile, placing himself logically and inescapably in one category as opposed to the other. Thus the mystery of self-motion makes to him his own origin miraculous; it causes him to deify the animals, to "see God in the clouds and hear him in the winds;" a seated boulder is a matter of course, but a rolling one is alive or demon-driven.

As science develops, and the range of observation increases, there is a shifting of the categories; it is found that through ages of oppression and deceit there has been fostered a soul-pervading bitterness in the better intellects, and the whole idea of life and permanence has been inextricably confused with religious dogma and superstition -- then the disgraced idea of life is swept away in a torrent of scientific resentment, and every effort is emotionally bent to bring all conscious action under the yoke of the predictable and "inanimate;" the great Masters of Wisdom are forced to "reincarnate for the preservation of the just and the destruction of the wicked," and the ever-recurring issue between Theosophy and materialism is at the decision, its issue doubtful. So stand we on this day.

Life, then, being basic in the Universe, and we, through ages of mental and spiritual drift, gone far astray from the foundation of our being, have to climb back over a ladder whose first rung, for the material-minded, has to be reached far within our physical bodies. What, then, is the true nature of the vitality within us? Ah, those words above quoted were a lighthouse ignored and despised, but in whose lee since has moored many a scientific bark, driven to that despised harbor by the contrary winds of human ignorance!

The writer of the Anatomy of Science(1) says that the attempt to bridge the gulf between physics and physiology is a legitimate aim of science, but that present extrapolations go beyond what is justifiable.

"The belief that even an infinite succession of such investigations would lead to a comprehensive understanding of vital phenomena seems to be one of the illusions like the ignis fatuus of the mechanistic philosophers, which blind our eyes to many interesting trails that should tempt the scientific explorer.... The possibility of a science broad enough to include the behavior of a group of electrons and of a university faculty is too remote to say now whether it will be more like mechanics or psychology!"
This ignis fatuus is created only by the fact that the mechanistic scientist is yet wholly under the sway of the naive primordial classification made by the dawning mind; a classification which he has altered somewhat, to which he has applied many imposing names, but which is basically exactly the same! And that dreamed-of "science" has always been in the world under the despised name of Theosophy in the West, Atma-Vidya in the East.

It is through the latest-discovered and least understood of the scientific force-entities, that mechanistic science is being forced from its emplacement by its own levers. Some time since it was learned that the emotions -- that is to say, the phenomena most definitely linked with life -- are closely connected with electric action; the skin, for instance, allowing the passage of electricity more readily the more the feelings are aroused.(2) And this is a di-electric alteration, itself of a magnetic nature and primarily Fohatic. Dr. Kenneth Mees(3) finds that the electric current "generated" by the heart beat, can now be recorded photographically. Perhaps "generated," we would say; but perhaps, instead, electricity is the driving power, in another form from a higher plane, and emerges "stepped down" to a physical force, from the motor whose motion depends upon it. Philosophically, we look upon these forces backwards, from below upward. Prof. A. Boutario, of the Faculty of Sciences of Dijon, interprets certain discoveries to mean that the animal body is a "radio" transmitter and receiver.(4) Many biological phenomena, he says, such as the migration of birds, have no tentative explanation among scientists, and he quotes Prof. Lakhovsky to the effect that instinctive communications at great distances must be through electric waves. Even so: but when science solves the mystery of the kind of electricity which can generate vibrations across thousands of miles of space, and yet is undetectable by the most delicate instruments, it will be face to face with a true revolution in its conception of vitality!

Prof. Albert B. Mathews(5) states that the vital phenomena consist principally of oxidation, and that there is a flow of electricity in every oxidative process. This, he says, is the first rational explanation of the electric currents found in the body. All organisms show an electric polarity; the nervous system is the point of maximum growth and chemical change, and it is also electro-negative to the rest of the body; the variation of electric resistance with emotion is easily demonstrable. Here again, do we not have the looking upon the electric current as an effect, rather than the cause of vital action? Yet in a way science seems right; the current which flows from the mechanical action of the heart-beat, from the chemical action of oxidation, is a product, in the sense of being a transformation of its own noumenon. Electricity, said H. P. Blavatsky, is the ghost or shadow of matter in motion -- another kind of matter than that with which we are acquainted.

Whence, then, the origin of these enigmatic forces which arise seemingly from the depths of matter or of space, to drive our physical machinery? Science seems now to be rapidly approaching the answer given so long ago:

The "Father" of primitive physical man, or of his body, is the vital electric principle residing in the Sun. The Moon is its Mother, because of that mysterious power in the Moon which has as decided an influence upon human gestation and generation, which it regulates, as it has on the growth of plants and animals. The "Wind" or Ether, standing in this case for the agent of transmission by which those influences are carried down from the two luminaries and diffused upon Earth, is referred to as the "nurse"; while "Spiritual Fire" alone makes of man a divine and perfect entity. (Secret Doctrine, II, 105).
Not alone is man the child of solar vitality; even as the Secret Doctrine also states -- tracing its authority clear back to Hermes -- all life on earth is vivified by that central heart. Prof. Herbert C. Beeshow(6) has found that the same ultraviolet rays which are used to cure rickets in children, have a parallel effect upon plants; an effect now so well understood that these rays are used to build up bone dentistry.(7) Judge Fry, U.S. Commissioner for Sequoia National Park,(8) and Col. J. R. White, Park Superintendent, have learned that the Sequoia Gigantea, instead of making its greatest growth during the wet months as hitherto believed, flourishes most in the dry, or sunlit months. Scientists of the University of California(9) were able to grow wheat in thirteen weeks, without the aid of soil, by a combination of chemicals and argon-filled electric lights. The quality was better than that of wheat raised under field conditions. It was established that the elements of the solar rays, necessary to growth, were present in the electric light. We demur, however, if the deduction is drawn that human beings would thrive equally under electric light; for there are certain solar influences necessary even to sanity, and not to be found even in the action of that orb's agent, -- vital electricity.

The impersonal source of vitality does indeed shine upon the just and the unjust; while on the one hand the theory is now under way and well substantiated, that sunlight has to do with immunity,(10) on the other hand it has been learned that ultraviolet rays render snake venom more fatal than it is naturally, thus accounting for the greater preponderance of venomous snakes in desert regions.(11) And Prof. Boutario(12) agrees with Faure's discovery that the incidence of sudden deaths follows closely the number of sunspots, which in turn mark the periods of maximum solar electric action. But snake venom is a living biological essence, bound to share in the distribution of life; the fact that it is deadly to us is due to the cloudy mental processes of the snake being created and vivified by the action of corresponding human traits. And all invalidism is due to some parts of our bodily mechanism profiting at the expense of others; who crowds another from the sunlight, and has strength to hold his place, will enjoy the rays -- for a time. These disorganizations are our own creation through misuse.

The likeness of the body to a transmitter and motor for solar vitality is rendered almost perfect by the discovery of a regulator in the body, to govern the flow of forces there-through.(13) There is a ferment in the blood which controls the conveyance of oxygen from the lungs to the muscles; it is tuned to react selectively to radiations, and its power is so great that a man taking a dose of one of its derivatives would be light-struck, and perhaps fatally, by ordinary daylight! It is an iron-containing compound; and may there not be perhaps some human activity upon it during the day -- perhaps the effect of some kinds of thought upon the activity of that iron -- which brings about the necessity of sleep to counteract the effect of "too much life, which kills," as stated in the Ocean of Theosophy? At any rate, it is emotion far more than physical exercise which exhausts.

Both Professors Mathews and Boutario(14) have sensed the real origin of the vital forces. There seems, thinks the former, to be mentality as well as vitality in sunshine, and perchance in oxygen also; certainly our vitality seems derived from the sun; "new conceptions of time and mass and energy seem to have the effect of putting mentality of some kind into the inorganic as well as the organic!" And he predicts a "great revolution in biological thought within the next twenty years!" Prof. Boutario believes that "the electric waves sent out by the sun and the whole universe have power to influence the cellular receivers" (of his "biological radio"). The conditions of life, he concludes, are "dominated by astral (starry) influences!" To which highly astrological viewpoint, Theosophy would reply that man draws life from those influences, which he avails himself of according to his intelligence, his morality, his past Karma.

The issue between mechanism and panbiology -- between the view that life is a product and the realization that life is basic -- is the hinge of life or death for a civilization, because man's conduct is governed, in the mass, by his view of the nature of his own existence. If life is an evanescent product, there is and can be no permanent accomplishment of any kind: all, all is swallowed up in the maw of endless change, there is no logical object to strive for except the gratification of the moment. This view wherever found, conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit, is the source of all lust, greed, murder, and selfishness. As nature and human nature are regarded, there is no end to material gratification save satiety, to be followed by the reach for new sensation.

But to understand that life itself is literally all; that regardless of change of forms it cannot be destroyed or altered in essence; that its very nature is consciousness and intelligence however manifested; that through the act of that consciousness itself the individual has within himself a self-sustaining immortal individuality -- that indeed is to shoulder indomitably the timeless responsibilities of the self-life which threads together all cosmic manifestations. This is to brush aside the veils of fear, and to become one with the silent, mighty river of existence, boundless and timeless.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


This "Be-ness" is symbolised in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolises change, its essential characteristic. This latter aspect of the one Reality, is also symbolised by the term "The Great Breath," a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation. --Secret Doctrine, I, 14.

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(1) Reviewed in Science News-Letter, Dec. 3, 1927.
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(2) Dr. David Wechsler, Science News-Letter, Oct. 7, 1927.
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(3) Washington Evening Star, Dec. 7, 1927.
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(4) Literary Digest, Dec. 3, 1927.
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(5) Science, Dec. 23, 1927.
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(6) University of Chicago, see Science, Feb. 10, 1928.
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(7) N. Y. University; Washington Post, May 7, 1928.
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(8) Science, June 15, 1928.
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(9) Washington Post, March 13, 1928.
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(10) Do., Feb. 14, 1928.
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(11) The Week's Science, May 7, 1928.
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(12) (Above quoted).
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(13) Science, March 30, 1928.
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(14) (Above quoted.)
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