THEOSOPHY, Vol. 22, No. 7, May, 1934
(Pages 309-312; Size: 13K)
(Number 55 of a 103-part series)

SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE

XLVIII

THE "GENES"

SCIENCE is compelled to trample many a futile treadmill to the finality of disappointment before gaining courage to break out of familiar ruts; and in fact seldom embraces the strange until by insensible degrees it has either become no longer strange or has become the alternative to something still more strange.

An unconscious approach to such a breaking-out is evident in the extremes to which biologists are now reduced in their pursuit of the "carrier" of heredity. The mysterious "gene" is so often, so factually, and so familiarly spoken of that the lay public no doubt has come to visualize it as something as definitely concrete and physical as a hen's egg. In plain fact, no one has ever seen a "gene," and no clear inferential conception of it exists. To see this, one has but to read such an up-to-the-minute exposition as that of Dr. S. J. Holmes, of the University of California.(1)

Biology is now forced to consider the gene as being probably a self-producing molecule. The enormous implications of this idea do not seem to have been fully grasped even by Dr. Holmes himself. The first of these implications is that every phenomenon of highly organized life is implicit in matter at the earliest observable stage of complexity. Nor has any scientist ever shown how a mere matter of geometric and mathematical complexity could give rise to biological phenomena, to self-reproduction, to feeling, or to thought; in other words, as to how a printing press could be considered more conscious than a grindstone, which is exactly the principle involved in the theory that life is a matter of chemical complexity. Dr. Holmes admits the great difficulty of conceiving how a molecule could possibly divide and thus reproduce itself; and tries to escape it by the hypothesis that such a molecule may instead build copies of itself out of the "surrounding medium." After playing with this idea slightly, he seems to sense the even greater troubles lying ahead of an attempt to carry it to its logical conclusion, and passes on to other phases, leaving us as a supposition that "free genes constituted the most primitive forms of life, if indeed we are justified in applying the term living to self-perpetuating molecules of this kind." But why not, in view of the obvious fact that these genes exhibit all the definitional phenomena of what science is accustomed to call "life?"

His discussion of how genes came to be such is largely true. They are, thinks he, the product of "a long series of evolutionary changes." In whatever organism first developed the "essential mechanism of sexual reproduction," the chromosomes (aggregations of genes) consisted of homogeneous material. Some slight variations in composition, fused by the sexual "crossing-over," would lead to diversity of qualities in the individual gene, and thus to all the possibilities of mutation and variation shown in evolutionary processes. He claims correctly that no organism which failed to adopt sexual reproduction ever rose to great or varied heights. Theosophy points out that the actual evolution of the human race itself into diversified and intelligent beings, began only with the separation into sexes of the primitive, unicellular though gigantic forms of life which constituted the Third Race. Thus once again we find demonstrated the principle of "as above, so below."

As Dr. Holmes correctly says, once the "crossing-over" mechanism was evolved, nature would tend to diversify the results. But when he attempts an explanation of certain of the present-day phenomena of mutation and heredity, he does not do so well. In course of time, he thinks, the "gene" would tend to be reduced to the minimal size, "which, so far as we know, may be molecular." To account for the apparent lack of order exhibited by mutational phenomena, he assumes an evolutionary differential between genes in the same organism. "There are doubtless numerous genes which have never been known to mutate, even in Drosophilia, while there are a few which appear to mutate with riotous unrestraint. Evidently there are genes and genes." Some, he thinks, have been reduced to their minima, while others are still relatively complex and subject to more variation. But, we wonder, would Dr. Holmes be willing to subscribe to the unavoidable implication that as evolution proceeded the possibilities of mutation, and therefore of evolution itself, would diminish to the vanishing point? We think not; and it seems further apparent that in this particular respect Dr. Holmes has added but one more to the enormous mountain of scientific "alibis" in this particular line, which seek to explain in terms of ever-multiplying hypotheses the ever-multiplying failures to reduce heredity to mechanico-mathematical order. The mind of an intelligent and imaginative man can explain any sort of contradiction if permitted to leave the field of known facts in order to do so.

According to Science, April 21, 1933, the genetics of fish do not conform to Mendelian heredity; while some crosses behave "normally," others "refuse to conform to anything that the geneticist seems able to explain in the light of previous studies."

What, then, according to Theosophy, is the real answer?

It is that Life, so far from being a manifestation of chemical complexity, is the primordial principle of the Universe. The laws of reproduction are exactly the same for the galaxy, the world, the human body, the "gene" and the molecule; they differ only in outward manifestation by degrees of magnitude, of accuracy and precision of configuration, of scope of time-cycle and a thousand and one other superficial qualities.

But whatever form we may consider, is driven into objective existence by the pressure of the unseen Life behind, of which it is a materialization; wears out in the serving of its due purpose, and is reproduced again by the revivification of some kind of germinal seed by renewed pressure out of the unseen.

It is an objective fact that vital reproduction is accompanied by certain features not commensurate with the mere movement of mathematical mechanism. What about the now-admitted "Nodon Rays" emitted by growing tissues? Why, for instance, does the growth of a nervous system follow a pre-determined "pattern?" Why does an individual organ have a life of its own, a "pattern" providing for interconnection with other tissues, so that a transplanted organ immediately puts out feelers in the attempt to get into communication with the brain -- and often thrusts them into the wrong part of the brain?(2) If the nervous impulse is a mere mechanical action of the brain, why is it that muscles can be operated by the intelligence through channels originally connected with other muscles -- as for instance, the control of the front legs through the hind leg nerve trunks?(3) What is the intelligence behind the "tuber cinereum," which is now found to be a sort of switchboard controlling the complex machinery of the glandular system as an operator controls a great power house?

Since over and over again we have the demonstration of a building and creative intelligence or intelligences behind every embryonic growth, and of an operative intelligence or intelligences behind every living thing, and since every attempt to reduce such coördinating intelligences to mechanical explanations involves further coördinations of the coördinations, and so on ad infinitum, why not be bold enough to concede the living and intelligent causative and operative powers behind the scenes? In such a case, truly the scientist would find open before him the picture of a living physical being as merely the abbreviated contact-point between the visible effect-world and the invisible cause-world. It might dawn upon him that the "gene" is a form of the "creators," which of necessity precede the "preservers" and "destroyers."

One of the mysteries of physical life is hidden among these "lives." Their action forced forward by the Life energy -- called Prana or Jiva --will explain active existence and physical death. They are divided into two classes, one the destroyers, the other the preservers, and these two war upon each other from birth until the destroyers win.... (Ocean of Theosophy, 1893, p. 35).
These "creators," the mysterious "genes," are principally mnemonic in their action, copyists of the unseen records, faithful, even though unintelligent in the human sense.

Likewise they copy the action-pictures, as well as the mental and subconscious conceptions of self, the deeply impressed images of past lives and past actions, inherent in the Sutratma as it returns to birth, and which in returning, takes on as vehicle the living germ-cell, only a small phase of which is visible or to be analyzed under the microscope.

Complete the physical plasm, ... the "Germinal Cell" of man with all its material potentialities, with the "spiritual plasm," so to say, or the fluid that contains the five lower principles of the six-principled Dhyan -- and you have the secret, if you are spiritual enough to understand it. --(Secret Doctrine, I, 224).

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:

THE MEANING OF HEREDITY

The guiding mind and real character of each are not the result of a body and brain but are peculiar to the Ego in its essential life. Transmission of trait and tendency by means of parent and body is exactly the mode selected by nature for providing the incarnating Ego with the proper tenement in which to carry on its work... Heredity provides the tenement and also imposes those limitations of capacity of brain or body which are often a punishment and sometimes a help, but it does not affect the real Ego. 


--W.Q.J.

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XLIX
(Part 56 of a 103-part series)

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THREE (3) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(1) Science, October 6, 1933.
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(2) Science, December 11, 1931.
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(3) Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1933.
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