THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 10, August, 1933
(Pages 452-455; Size: 12K)
(Number 47 of a 103-part series)



(Part One)

THE wave of intense scientific egotism and cocksureness which ruled last century, forming one of the principal crosses borne by Madame Blavatsky's much-scarred shoulders, has well spent itself upon the limitless quicksands of dead theories and hypotheses demolished in succession by inexorable circumstances.

That era in fact was a curious compound of blind revolt from blinder theology, and of a sort of renaissance, a stirring of that curiosity which in many ways approaches the light of the Great Quest. The "origin" of man was sought along with that of the Cosmos; and had there not been the history and shadow of religious persecution over all, who knows what the result might have been? Heaven knows the facts have not changed, however much amplified.

Just as the birth of human-kind was supposedly pinned once and for all to the "ape-ancestor" -- who now day by day resolves more and more into a gigantic, nebulous, and amorphous shadow -- so man's earthly habitation was traced back to a nebular birth; and damned be he who questioned either. H.P.B., unmindful of damnation, effectually demolished both; but like the jinn who was so cleverly beheaded that he knew it not until he sneezed, that fact was not then known, and is not now known, to the scientific devotee. The "Nebular Hypothesis," to question which was once blasphemy, has now so broken down that serious attempts recently have been made by astronomers -- not very convincingly -- to prove that it never was really accepted anyhow!

But certainly its disruption has filled the scientific void with little else than chaos. Until recently there were three major theories of the origin of the planets, with various modifications and overlappings. They were:

1. The collision theory.
2. The tidal theory.
3. The ribbon theory.
        To which have been added:
4. The meteor theory.
5. The fission theory.
All of which makes at least four too many.

In brief the bearing of these may be sketched.

The collision theory holds that the collision of two bodies, one of them our sun, filled the space of the solar system with fragments which later coalesced to form planets.

The tidal theory teaches that the close passage of the sun and another star -- the latter having disappeared -- drew matter out of the sun, which later formed into planets. The ribbon theory is really a specialization of the collision theory, giving details of how it happened.(1)

The meteor idea seems new -- and in some ways is a surprising approach to the truth. It was developed by the Abbé Moreux, who thinks that the planets represent a capture by the sun of materials from a vast cloud of meteoric matter through which it passed millions of years ago. These meteors are supposed to have aggregated into the larger masses as time went on.(2) The Abbé claims that this is the only theory which can explain the mysterious "Bodes' Law" of planetary distances. On the other hand, say some critics, the Abbé's idea fails to explain the direction of rotation of the planets and the motions of some planetary moons. Theosophical teachings indicate that retrograde motion in a moon means that it is a foreign body captured by the planet in question.

The fission theory is dealt with by Dr. Ross Gunn, appropriately connected with the U.S. Navy.(3) He thinks that the solar system was formed by the splitting of the sun into two bodies, one of which has since disappeared among the stars.

One of the prime difficulties encountered by all these theories of late has been the evidence regarding the comparative age of the earth and the universe. Obviously any of these mechanical theories calls for a long period of evolution prior to the formation of the planets. The facts of radioactivity, etc., indicate that the age of the geologic time of the earth is not much less than that of the Galactic Universe itself!(4) Dr. Ernst J. Opik remarks that "this deals a severe blow to the idea that the universe of the stars and nebulae is an outgrowth of a process of relatively slow evolution."

H. Gordon Garbedian contends that the discovery of the new planet Pluto has changed the old idea that the smaller planets are found nearer the sun; and that the discovery once and for all extends the known planetary system far beyond the possibilities of the old "nebular hypothesis--" although he thinks that we may have to postulate origin of the sun and planets simultaneously from a nebula.(5)

Many more planets are enumerated in the Secret Books than in modern astronomical works. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 152).

Nor do the two last discovered great planets depend entirely on the Sun like the rest of the planets. Otherwise, how explain the fact that Neptune receives 900 times less light than our Earth, and Uranus 390 times less, and that their satellites show a peculiarity of inverse rotation found in no other planets of the Solar System. At any rate, what we say applies to Uranus, though recently the fact begins again to be disputed.... we merely state that only seven of our planets are as intimately related to our globe, as the Sun is to all the bodies subject to him in his system. Of these bodies the poor little number of primary and secondary planets known to astronomy, looks wretched enough, in truth. Therefore, it stands to reason that there are a great number of planets, small and large, that have not been discovered yet, but of the existence of which ancient astronomers -- all of them initiated adepts -- must have certainly been aware. (S.D. I, 575-6).

When we speak of Neptune it is not as an Occultist but as a European. The true Eastern Occultist will maintain that, whereas there are many yet undiscovered planets in our system, Neptune does not belong to it, his apparent connection with our sun and the influence of the latter upon Neptune notwithstanding. This connection is mayavic, imaginary ... (S.D. I, 102).

And the sun and planets are co-nebular:
The nebulæ 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 ... may all be explained by esoteric science; though, as this is not an astronomical work, the refutations are not attempted at present... (S.D. I, 588).
That H.P.B. was more than right about Uranus is proven; not only do its satellites have inverse rotation, but the planet itself does, as discovered twenty-three years later.(6) These retrograde motions were set forth by H.P.B. as one of the objections to the nebular hypothesis.(7)

In Science, Aug. 21, 1931, Dr. Carr V. Van Anda dissects the tidal and ribbon theories quite unmercifully, though the more mathematical of his expositions are hard to follow. In analyzing the collision theory he remarks that it really dates back to Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, who, after translating Newton's Fluxions into French, "Thereafter, quite appropriately, died of calculus." In exposing some errors of Dr. Jeffreys, who attempts to support the theory, he shows that the real outcome of such a collision would have been the ultimate merging of the sun and the star into one body. He shows in fact that the whole theory is involved in, and supported by, a tangle of mathematical errors. "The fundamental assumptions of the theory prohibit the formation of planets."

The tidal theory fares no better. Van Anda shows that:

1. It would probably require a specially created star to meet all the conditions.

2. That even granting the existence of such a star, our own sun, on the fundamental assumptions of the theory, could not have been in the necessary condition at that time.

3. That the formation of the planets would require an extraction of three times their mass from the sun, which is far in excess of any possible amount which could be drawn out by tidal forces.

4. That the postulated mechanism for starting the rotation of the planets is self-contradictory.

One would imagine that these were enough. In reply to a suggestion that "new knowledge" about what goes on inside a star might resolve the puzzles, Van Anda caustically inquires "As to new knowledge, is it to be found in the bewildering contradictions of the debate, now in its third year in the Royal Astronomical Society and in the scientific journals, about what goes on inside a star?"

Next article:
XLV (Part II of II)
(Part 48 of a 103-part series)

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(1) Science, August 21, 1931.
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(2) The Week's Science, Nov. 9, 1931.
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(3) Literary Digest, June 4, 1932.
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(4) Science News Letter, April 2, 1932.
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(5) New York Times, Oct. 5, 1930.
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(6) Science, Oct. 17, 1930.
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(7) Secret Doctrine, p. 592-3, Vol. I.
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