THEOSOPHY, Vol. 22, No. 12, October, 1934
(Pages 538-544; Size: 19K)
(Number 58 of a 103-part series)


UNDER the title of "Science and Every-Day Philosophy," in Science, Nov. 24, 1933, President William E. Wickenden, of the Case School of Applied Science, makes some remarks upon the history of science -- and, unconsciously, a vindication of Theosophy. We can do no better than to make the parallel.

The first 5000 years of kali Yuga will end between the years 1897 and 1898. ...the scientific men of to-day will have an opportunity of seeing whether the close of the five-thousand-year cycle will be preceded or followed by any convulsions or great changes political, scientific or physical, or all of those combined. ... (Ocean of Theosophy, 1893, 125-126).

If the war has brought to a climax changes in our social philosophy, the period since the war has brought sweeping changes in natural philosophy ...

From the standpoint of Materialism, which reduces the beginnings of all to matter, the Universe consists, in its fullness, of atoms and vacuity. ...what is an atom? "It is..." writes Professor Butlerof, "...the indivisible particle of matter. To admit the divisibility of the atom, amounts to an admission of an infinite divisibility of substance, ... Owing to a feeling of self-preservation alone, materialism cannot admit infinite divisibility; otherwise, it would ... thus sign its own death-warrant." Büchner, ... declares that "to accept infinite divisibility is absurd, and amounts to doubting the very existence of matter." The Atom is indivisible then, saith Materialism? Very well. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 518-519).

Fifty years ago chemists and physicists were fairly confident that they had come upon the ultimate units in nature. These were atoms -- minute, hard, indestructible, elastic, billiard balls of stuff, controlled by the same universal laws of gravitation which held the planets in their courses. Philosophers in ivory towers and simple men at their firesides began to build themselves pictures of the universe, not out of the figments of pure thought, but out of the very hard, solid atoms of the physicist and chemist. And quite a plausible picture it was that they built out of chance groupings of atoms.

Suppose an Occultist were to claim that the first grand organ of a cathedral had come originally into being in the following manner. First, there was a progressive and gradual elaboration in Space of an organizable material, which resulted in the production of a state of matter named organic PROTEIN. Then, under the influence of incident forces, those states having been thrown into a phase of unstable equilibrium, they slowly and majestically evolved into and resulted in new combinations of carved and polished wood, of brass pins and staples, of leather and ivory, wind-pipes and bellows. After which, having adapted all its parts into one harmonious and symmetrical machine, the organ suddenly pealed forth Mozart's Requiem. ... What would science say to such a theory? Yet, it is precisely in such wise that the materialistic savants tell us that the Universe was formed, with its millions of beings, and man, its spiritual crown. (S.D. II, 348).

Was it not Huxley, the great expounder of mechanism in nature, who asserted that six monkeys, set to strum unintelligently on typewriters for untold millions of years, would be bound in time to produce all the books in the British Museum? In short, given time, every conceivable accident was bound to happen. And here was man, who had once dreamed of himself as the central figure in a drama of salvation on which all existence turned, reduced to a casual accident, just a chance arrangement of little billiard balls amid millions of suns and planets whirling in inconceivable space.

The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. by one facts and processes in Nature's workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact Sciences, while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unravelling its arcana. It is at the close of great Cycles, in connection with racial development, that such events generally take place. We are at the very close of the cycle of 5,000 years of the present Aryan Kaliyuga; and between this time and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a death-blow. (S.D. I, 611-12).

Scarcely had ordinary men settled down on the atom as the indivisible unit of nature with a machine theory of the cosmos in imminent prospect, when experiments suddenly broke through this supposedly adamant foundation into a new and magical world. Roentgen caught an accidental glimpse of it in 1895, and the Curies broke into it with more evident design in 1898. With a crash the entire solid, billiard-ball model of the cosmos collapsed. [How about Becquerel? --Editors].

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. (S.D. I, 520).

If there is anything on earth like progress, Science will some day have to give up, nolens volens, such monstrous ideas as her physical, self-guiding laws --void of soul and Spirit -- and then turn to the occult teachings. (S.D. I, 506).

No ancient philosopher, not even the Jewish Kabalists, ever dissociated Spirit from matter or vice versâ. ... "Light becomes heat, and consolidates into fiery particles; which, from being ignited, become cold, hard particles, round and smooth. And this is called Soul, imprisoned in its robe of matter; ..." (S.D. I, 568.)

The three periods -- the Present, the Past, and the Future -- are in the esoteric philosophy a compound time; for the three are a composite number only in relation to the phenomenal plane, but in the realm of noumena have no abstract validity. (S.D. I, 43).

Explorers found themselves threading their way through the ruins into a wonderland more strange than even Alice had discovered, where the hard stuff of matter dissolves into impalpable radiation, and where energy, whatever that may be, is turning itself into atoms and molecules. Here are transformations that seem to defy all predictions: anomalies which seem to hint of some caprice in the chain of causes and effects. Is energy merely another aspect of blind matter? Is it something wholly apart from the realm of the spirit? What physicist would dare assert it? The scientist who a short generation ago was shunning the "den of the metaphysician" has moved in and taken possession ... one can scarcely find a materialistic physicist. How interesting it would be to call Huxley and Spencer back from the shades to behold this new wonder.

And what shall we say of the overturn in our notions of time and space, of eternity and the infinite, of the ideal, the relative and the absolute?

Thus, during the exact period prophesied, materialistic science, on the testimony of the science of today, did receive indeed a "death-blow"; and it received it exactly upon its most vulnerable spot -- the divisibility of matter.

The strange chain of "accidents" and semi-"accidents" in the discoveries referred to by Dr. Wickenden, will be found described in such books as Soddy's Interpretation of Radium, and have been dealt with before in these pages. This chain of "accidents" took its origin in the discoveries of Crookes, which were referred to by Madame Blavatsky in the following terms:

"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 [the immaterial force-substance from which matter evolves, now appearing under the guise of electrons, neutrons, positrons, etc., etc. --EDITORS.] accepted and recognized ...Chemistry will have virtually ceased to live: it will reappear in its reincarnation as New Alchemy, or METACHEMISTRY. The discoverer of radiant matter (Crookes) will have vindicated in time the Archaic Aryan works on Occultism and even the Vedas and Purânas." (S.D. I, 622-23).
"Metachemistry" is the absolutely and scientifically correct term for that strange thing into which chemistry has metamorphosed as a result of the above discoveries. As to "New Alchemy" -- it has often actually been called that.

If anything on this green globe is humanly susceptible of proof, it is that Theosophy knew fifty years ago the whole structure of nature, set it forth in its basic elements, and foresaw, even to the precise period, the nature of the upsets which were in store for the science of that period.

Can any intelligent man adequately educated in science, who has seriously followed these articles, doubt it? Why then has not Theosophy received due recognition? Why are not scientists the world over studiously delving into the Secret Doctrine? First, because only a few can be induced to read it; second, because of those who read, most drop out so soon as some statement is encountered which controverts what they have been educated to believe as true. Third, because the few who follow to the end and become convinced as to certain parts of the doctrines, get nowhere because they fail to understand that a part of Theosophy without the rest, merely constitutes a hopeless blind alley. Fourth, of those who become thoroughly convinced, none dare make public espousal of such a book as the Secret Doctrine; that would mean ridicule, might lead to loss of reputation, even of position or livelihood. For Theosophy to make its way in science, there will have to be developed a sturdier as well as more open-minded generation of scientific men than the present, which with a few bright exceptions, is not notable for courage.

Meantime the cold fact is that present-day science owes all its new revolutionary knowledge to Theosophy. Crookes was one of the early members of the Theosophical Society, and had strong metaphysical and occult inclinations which led him to such discoveries as that of radiant matter -- together with some more important ones which have never yet been accepted. The first of the series of happenings above referred to was an accident with a Crookes tube.

Prof. Wickenden recognizes well enough some of the disasters which have arisen from misapplications of science. But he misses the whole nature of human progress and destiny, owing to complete lack of knowledge of the law of cycles:

The Greeks, we are told, had a word for many of our supposedly advanced ideas, but I doubt if they had a word for progress. In ancient times it was believed that humanity was in a continuing or progressive state of decline or even decadence. The good days were in the legendary past. Each generation kept getting further away from the golden age. Religion looked backward wistfully to the happy garden where men were as gods. The longed-for Messiah was not to be an innovator, a discoverer, a creator -- but a restorer of man's lost estate. It was a depressing doctrine, tinged with futility.
He completely reverses cause and effect in his view of the development of modern civilization:
The ancients accepted slavery and aristocracy naturally as the unescapable consequences of meager resources and scanty production. I can not think it a coincidence that the development of democratic ideals and institutions, of human hope in religion and social vision in ethics has come step by step with the growth of science and technology. These ideals are the political, economic and spiritual affirmation of the credo of human progress, based on a possible abundance for man in this world. How far we have moved from the faith of the ancients that stoicism in the face of want, of pestilence or war is the highest of virtues. Oriental and Occidental cultures find here their major plane of cleavage. Charles A. Beard, the historian, records his vivid impressions of the religions of India as natural expressions of the ideals of a people who have no hope of a square meal in this or any other world. If nature forbids the satisfaction of the most elemental of all wants, the longing for food, what greater boon can be sought than emancipation from all desire and from consciousness of one's self?
In this last he betrays a complete misunderstanding of the genesis of Indian asceticism as well as of the inevitable effect of "abundance" on the mind and body of man. The days of our own "abundance," during which we developed more insanity, more nervous and degenerative diseases, and more crime, than has been the case at any time with any nation; and the increase in mental and physical health with the subsequent hardships -- all this is a terrible lesson altogether lost upon Dr. Wickenden; precisely as he misses the true cause of cataclysmic conditions which he himself describes:
The total effect of scientific inquiry on the man in the street has been to heighten his sense of individual insignificance....

When the astronomer of to-day gets through with man, he can think of himself only as an animated mite, lost in limitless space on a speck of cosmic dust.

With this growing sense of individual insignificance has come a decline of interest in personal salvation and personal immortality. But as the concern to save one's own soul has lessened, the desire for social salvation and for a share in the immortality of the human life stream has grown apace. Humanity is still crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" The world scene beyond our own borders serves only to heighten the sense of revolutionary tension -- Russia in a fever of social transformation, Italy scorning individual freedom for the discipline of the state, Germany groping for the pillars like a blind Samson, Japan expanding by the sword, China in chaos, halting between republicanism and communism, India in revolt against not only the rule but also the civilization of the western world, and everywhere a creeping paralysis in economic life.

The "desire for social salvation" as a substitute for the desire of immortality is wholly incomprehensible except to a scattered few among the millions. The loss of faith in immortality, the "growing sense of individual insignificance," has inculcated in the bosom of the masses an insane fear of Nature and of Man, a furious, red-handed determination to seize upon the lusts of life -- for, think they, when the fires of desire have burned out their brief space, there is nothing left here or hereafter. Science based upon that conception of the Universe is demonolatry; "Civilization" based upon that kind of science is a hell upon earth -- and we have it.

Prof. Wickenden concludes:

Our knowledge of men and of social institutions stands to-day where our knowledge of material nature stood two centuries back. We may be compelled to retrace our steps for a time to a similar organization of society. We may, for a time, need to forego some of the material benefits which science and technology are amply able to provide. If we are to enjoy these gains with any security, it is urgent beyond all else that our knowledge of the human and social sciences be brought abreast of our material development. Science has been called a false Messiah, whereas it is no Messiah at all. It does not promise to lead men back through the darkness to a golden age that is lost; instead it offers them light, light that all may share, that they may walk by sight and not by faith alone, into the future unafraid.
With a curious antagonistic prescience, he senses in the world Something that can lead men "back" -- in reality forward to a higher point of the ancient spiral; and opposes to it a "forward" light-bearer whose efforts have already become so dire that even Prof. Wickenden sees the necessity of "retracing our steps for a time to a simpler organization of society" as refuge; of "needing to forego for a time some of the material benefits which science and technology are amply able to provide!" -- because those "benefits" are destroying us!

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