THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 8, June, 1931
(Pages 366-371; Size: 19K)
(Number 31 of a 103-part series)



(Part III)

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. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 482.)

It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built. (I, 520.)

"... To Occult Science, force and matter are only two sides of the same SUBSTANCE. (I, 623.)

...Science finds itself absolutely compelled to accept the "hypothetical" Ether and to try to explain it on the materialistic grounds of atomo-mechanical laws. This attempt has led directly to the most fatal discrepancies and radical inconsistencies between the assumed nature of Ether and its physical actions. A second proof is found in the many contradictory statements about the atom -- the most metaphysical object in creation. (I, 485.)

THE past year or two have signalized a most curious phenomenon in physics -- the passing of the scientific conception of the "atom" from the rupa to the arupa or formless plane.

Prof. Heisenberg advises that we renounce all attempts at picturing the manifestations of the electron in its atom, since "we can never hope to verify them by experiment."(1)

Prof. P. W. Bridgman, of Harvard,(2) remarks from the midst of academic despair that the changing situation has made it necessary to alter our entire conceptual attitude -- not merely the conceptions. So baffling have been the trickeries of nature in the realm of physics that he is led to think that while the fact that every acceptable description is of a rational nature seems to have significance, on the other hand it is quite likely that it merely signifies that we refuse to accept explanations not framed in terms adapted to our mentality. To which the Theosophist who has attempted to present doctrines not merely rational but incontrovertible to the scientific mind, in other than Graeco-Latin polysyllables, says Amen!

Prof. Bridgman quotes Poincairé to the effect that any aggregation of phenomena, however complicated, is susceptible of an infinite number of purely mechanical explanations. This is quite true; and once seen, can lead but to one of two results outside of Theosophical teachings -- the rejection of inductive reasoning peculiarly the characteristic of Science, or despair of finding truth at all. The latter is Prof. Bridgman's fate. He remarks that the quest for reality, so far as reality connotes uniqueness, must be abandoned. And so it must -- along his lines. As an instance of the de facto nature of this abandonment, Prof. Bridgman notes the present coëxistence of two totally different explanations of the universe in science. It was suggested in the London Observer, Jan. 6, 1928, that the present progress of physics consists in establishing mathematical relationships between unimaginable entities. This has proven painfully true since.

Dr. Vladimir Karapetoff, of Cornell,(3) says that "law" is no longer universal; the intra-atomic and ultra-celestial phenomena do not check with classic laws, and "immutable as Newton's laws of motion" has become a figure of speech. To go further, says he, we may have to imagine an entity more general than either matter, electricity or radiation, of which these three are but particular manifestations. So? Then the imagining has long since been done.

...that, which is called "energy" or "force" in Science and has been explained as a dual Force by Metcalfe, is never, in fact, and cannot be energy alone; for it is the substance of the world, its soul, the all-permeant "Sarvaga," in conjunction with Kâla "time." The three are the trinity in one, during Manvantara, the all-potential Unity, which acts on the plane of illusion (Maya) as three distinct things. (S.D. I, 582.)
Our difficulties, says Prof. Karapetoff, arise largely from having at first made our interpretations in terms of familiar things; which, proving inadequate, were supplemented by adding attributes and special laws galore until the whole broke down of its own weight. As a result of this juvenile process, we were saddled with the "childish concepts" of a jelly-like ether, of revolving spherical electrons, and the like. And one notes that the popular scientific writer still remains placidly within this cosmophysical nursery whose tinseled walls are fast crumbling before the winds of ultra-microscopic inexplicabilities.

Dr. C. J. Davisson, of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, gives no comfort.(4) It is impossible, he says, to visualize the wave-particle electrons of the present conception, because of the limitations imposed upon our thinking processes by the nature of the neural protoplasm; we are blind and deaf to a great range of light and sound frequencies, and it is conceivable that other forms of stimulation exist in our environment for which we have evolved no receptors, being thus compelled to a forever incomplete comprehension of what is going on. Abandoning hope of definiteness, therefore, the physicist has fallen back upon a sort of funereal aesthetic pleasure in dealing with symbols which evoke no images. Strange that Dr. Davisson does not suspect that "receptors" not only might be evolved but have been evolved -- and that the very nature and existence of such a work as the Secret Doctrine proves it!

Matter, to the Occultist, it must be remembered, is that totality of existences in the Kosmos, which falls within any of the planes of possible perception... If they would fathom the ultimate nature of these Forces, they have first to admit their substantial nature, however supersensuous. Neither do the Occultists deny the correctness of the vibratory theory. Only they limit its functions to our Earth -- declaring its inadequacy on other planes than ours, since "Masters" in the Occult Sciences perceive the CAUSES that produce ethereal vibrations. (S.D. I, 514).
Extricating ourselves from the debris of this scientific Ragnarok, let us contemplate some of the devious courses which have led up to it, in preparation for viewing the next course of scientific events -- which will differ from those of the past.

It all began, according to Prof. Harkins, of the University of Chicago, and Dr. Noyes, of the California Institute of Technology,(5) with the discoveries of Becquerel and others from 1896 on, the consequences of which were so aptly predicted by Madame Blavatsky.(6) All this, says Dr. Noyes, led to the new sciences of electronic physics and of sub-atomic chemistry. In connection with which Madame Blavatsky remarked that:

The revolution produced in old chemistry by Avogadro was the first page in the Volume of New Chemistry. Mr. Crookes has now turned the second page, and is boldly pointing to what may be the last. For once protyle accepted and recognized -- as invisible Ether was, both being logical and scientific necessities -- Chemistry will have virtually ceased to live: it will reappear in its reincarnation as New Alchemy, or METACHEMISTRY. (S.D. I, 622).
Science first saw that Protyle in the electron; but now has to seek further agreeably to the idea set forth by Prof. Harkins, that "the present point of view is that we are far from the minuteness of scale which might permit the indivisibility of particles," and that "even the conception of indivisibility at even the most minute magnitudes is very difficult of comprehension." Prof. Harkins looks back condescendingly as across a great gulf at the nineteenth century physics with which Madame Blavatsky did battle, and which "seemed to have the idea that atoms are indivisible and extremely hard and indestructible." Indeed it had that idea -- and the hardness and unimpressibility of its scientific minds seems but to have been a reflection of its basic physical conception, even as the plastic scientific opinion of to-day seems to reflect the abandonment of definiteness in conceptions.

Dr. Davisson went Prof. Harkins one better by carrying the indivisibility thesis into the realm of experiment.(7) In the course of testing the reflection of electrons from the faces of crystals he found what seemed to him evidence that the electrons were themselves divisible.

Sir J. J. Thomson, of Trinity College, remarked that the properties of the electron can only be accounted for by the hypothesis that it has within itself a structure, rather than being the primordial building stone of the atom.(8)

Then what is this electron whose outer boundary represents the present Ultima Thule of physics?

The discoveries of the closing years of the nineteenth century revealed that the atom, hitherto considered so indivisible, was made up of a number of more minute particles partaking of the characteristics of electric charges; hence the name. The next problem attacked was the arrangement of the electron within the atom. There arose two simultaneous theories of this, each picturing the electrons related to the central nucleus as the planets are to the sun; in one case the electrons vibrating in stationary positions, and in the second, rotating. This is still the conception held by the uninformed. Approximately five years ago, one Louis de Broglie, encountering difficulties inherent in these conceptions, suggested that the idea of the electron as a particle might not be adequate, and it is since agreed that they act more like waves.

Since it appears improbable that no one physicist knows either the full history or the full description of all of the confusing and contradictory theories which have followed -- interlaced with and overlapping one another -- we may be pardoned for not attempting the full historical description. Many theories ramify into collateral branches of physics to such an extent that the electron itself is nigh lost sight of, and all are particularly involved with the problem of the nature of radiation in general and of light especially -- all of which had been so complacently sacked up by nineteenth-century physics!

Prof. Bridgman names as landmarks the electro-magnetic theory of light (which preceded the time of H.P.B.), the special and general theories of relativity of Einstein which followed her; the quantum theory of Bohr; the matrix calculus of Heisenberg (who in conjunction with Prof. Compton now announces new discoveries going to prove the existence of cosmic mind); the wave mechanics of Schröedinger; the transformation theory of Dirac and Jordan; the group theory of Weyl and the double quantization theory of Jordan and others.

Thus briefly naming the landmarks of the preceding path, let us cast an eye over the surrounding present scenery -- if that can be so called whose describers themselves nominate it amorphous, as we have seen. Dr. Hagenow says that the wave-mechanics theory is a reversal of the viewpoint of the quantum theory. The conception involves the association of waves with the electronic particle. In a later development it did away with the particle entirely, and left the atom to be conceived of as a complex of pulsations. Mathematically the intensity of pulsation or vibration has a value throughout all space; the radius of the atom is infinity and as a logical deduction all things in reality penetrate one another.

Dr. John Zeleny, of Yale, remarks that the old electron is sinking out of sight, and that physicists and philosophers are now finding much in common.(9) Dr. R. D. Kleeman(10) states that it possesses internal energy as distinguished from kinetic energy. But this, although he does not say so, involves structure and therefore divisibility. Edward U. Condon, of the Palmer Physical Laboratory, speaks of the "double duality of the wave and particle concepts."(11) The wave aspect of light, he says, is now recognized as giving but one aspect of the nature of radiation. As Madame Blavatsky remarked, "corpuscular or undulatory theory -- it is all one." According to Dr. Thos. H. Johnston(12) the atom is now considered both as a beam of waves and as a planetary system of electrons. Prof. George P. Thomson made experiments with gold-films to the purport that electrons are waves or accompanied by waves.(13) Dr. Herbert A. Brennen contends that the corpuscles of which light is composed (the corpuscular nature of light was completely rejected in H.P.B.'s day) are nothing else than the electrons of matter itself.(14) Prof. Eddington, of Cambridge University, joints with some aforementioned in suspecting that the electron in toto is merely a "dummy" -- an imagined crutch to the imperfection of the human intellect; a convenient temporary hypothesis with no real existence.(15) And some theories get rather mystical with the suggestion that the electron has some freedom of choice and the ability to appear unexpectedly at forbidden places.(16) The same idea appears more prosaically in the statement that the electron cannot be simultaneously localized in both time and space; and Dr. Davisson pictures it as acting in more than three dimensions.

Now what does all this signify? Various things, among them a crisis. It is probable that the limit of research along strictly materialistic lines has been reached, and that what further travel is undertaken by physicists will be on the one hand purely mathematical, and on the other, quasi-mystical. The rush of recent discovery may slacken, while science seeks to consolidate her position and becomes slowly leavened, albeit unconsciously, with the Theosophical view. The pronouncements of Compton and Heisenberg smack decidedly of this. The Theosophist must regard this prospect with mixed feelings; because while it may mean dematerialization of physical science, it may also mean -- black magic. Anima Mundi -- the "all-permeant Sarvaga" -- in the test-tubes of a science which is but the tool of a self-seeking and more than half-animal humanity, is no smiling prospect.

And on the other hand, many scientists despairing of further progress -- as does Dr. Bridgman -- will seek to erect a scientific "pass-not" -- a modern "inscrutable will of the Lord," try to turn the thought of humanity to more mundane affairs, make it content with its own ignorances, hang a curtain before the scientific adytum to conceal its emptiness. It will be a triple parting of the ways.

Next article:
(Part 32 of a 103-part series)

Back to the
"Science and The Secret Doctrine"
series complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".


(1) Prof. C. F. Hagenow, Scientific Monthly, Aug., 1929.
Back to text.

(2) Science, Jan. 10, 1930.
Back to text.

(3) Scientific Monthly, March, 1930.
Back to text.

(4) Science, April 25th and June 27, 1930.
Back to text.

(5) Science, Nov. 8, 1929; Jan. 11, 1929.
Back to text.

(6) Secret Doctrine, I, 611.
Back to text.

(7) London Times, Nov. 19, 1928.
Back to text.

(8) N.Y. World, Sept. 16, 1928.
Back to text.

(9) Science, Dec. 28, 1928.
Back to text.

(10) Science, Aug. 31, 1928.
Back to text.

(11) Science, Aug. 31, 1928.
Back to text.

(12) N.Y. Times, June 20, 1930.
Back to text.

(13) Science Supplement, Oct. 12, 1928.
Back to text.

(14) Science, April 26, 1929.
Back to text.

(15) Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 1929.
Back to text.

(16) Manchester Guardian Weekly, Jan. 25, 1929.
Back to text.

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.