THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 4, February, 1935
(Pages 166-171; Size: 17K)
(Number 60 of a 103-part series)



IT is notable that scientific discovery and thought, as related to Theosophical principles, run in very definite cycles. For some months it will be astronomy; for another series, questions of evolution, and so on and so on. Not that the streams of routine discovery and of cerebrations thereby generated show such definite cycles in themselves; but the Theosophically significant content of them does.

The contemporary current runs in the direction of a serious and foreboding self-search -- a new phenomenon indeed. Almost to the present, the pronouncements of science upon the tragic miscellany of its own social effects have skated agilely over the issue, have shunted responsibilities around it and have abounded with what the blunt language of the people terms "alibis," which almost invariably have centered about a single but variously expressed contention -- that it is the business of science to discover and the responsibility of "mankind" to apply. So the munitions manufacturers say it is their business to sell arms; it is not their fault that people buy arms to kill one another with. But when their paid agents wreck peace conferences, bribe governmental agents, stir up mutual distrust between governments; when they finance campaigns of fear-ridden "patriotism" and "preparedness" to the same ends, their mutilated conscience can only contend that human nature is such and such, and that there will therefore always be wars. This being the case, someone must profit by them, and why not these deserving manufacturers? They are also adept at manoeuvering themselves into a moral position where the maintenance of arms manufacture by selling to foreign nations becomes a patriotic duty to the end of preserving the defenses of their own people, and also they can demonstrate that one or another small nation would have suffered destruction had it not been allowed to purchase arms from abroad. They do not explain, of course, how these purchases result principally in the small nation getting itself into unnecessary trouble, often enabling some tyrannical militaristic minority within it to enslave the rest of the population.

But how different from the munitions manufacturer is the scientist who purveys his discoveries heedless of social results, inasmuch as there are few scientific discoveries which cannot be and are not used toward human destruction in war, however apparently harmless in their origin.

It is somewhat questionable whether the present current of scientific misgiving is due wholly to the parade of ghastly facts which has so unrolled itself for the past twenty years. These were just as evident before 1929 as they are now, without producing anything much of scientific reaction other than the aforesaid procession of "alibis." The past five years, however, have produced devastating inroads into the scientific professions themselves, which have suffered drastically from wrecked salaries, curtailed research income, and the spectacle of vast and growing numbers of scientific graduates for whom the world has no apparent place; to say nothing of the decimation of the fragile invested savings of the average scientist. All this has sadly upset the equanimity of many such, who were formerly able to view even the spectacle of war as a product of "human cussedness" far removed from their sphere of thought, and particularly from their sphere of responsibility.

Thus we now have such grim questionings as the following:

(1) The lag of social forces, the tardiness of ethical insight and practise. Something is missing in a sequence that seems logical enough; if great reservoirs of energy have been tapped and their power harnessed to the creation of huge stores of food and clothing and shelter; if we know how to make time dwindle and shrink space, if we can move mountains -- not, alas, by faith but by thunderbolts and chemistry, why are so many millions of men in idleness and want, instead of being, as one might reasonably suppose, in leisure and well-being? Apparently no one knows the answer, even dimly, to a problem so far-reaching, so intricate and obscure; but it is evident that certain things have failed to happen. The new environment has not produced a new society, for the individual has not produced a new society, for the individual units of society have not altered to keep pace with a changing world. Wisdom and charity have loitered behind skill and inventiveness; the ferment of moral idealism has gone meager and watery. Great things that might forward the happiness and contentment of mankind as a whole have been held back by blind self-interest or by still more sordid urges.

(2) The incredible disaster of war which beggared the world not only of its goods, but of its infinitely precious store of human lives and beliefs. In large part, certainly, the dislocations of government, of commerce, industry and distribution, of markets, exchange and trade, are the price of that unbelievable folly, no less than the ceaseless threat of residual fear and hatred. No optimism can dispel the shadow of a calamity that darkens the happiness and welfare of our children's children, and from beneath that shadow we must view the future. (Dr. Henry S. Houghton, Science, June 1, 1934).

And this is followed by one of like import and even more insight, from the keys of a still greater authority.
The situation which arises through introduction of new ideas in a world which has not been prepared for them is in some respects not unlike that which may occur in bringing a new biological element, or an element from another region, into a part of the world adjusted through millions of years to a particular biological balance. The mongoose was introduced into Jamaica in order to kill rats. The experiment proved that the mongoose also kills all ground birds and destroys nests and may become an intolerable pest. The rabbit, a peaceful and in many ways useful creature, brought into Australia becomes a serious problem. So a new idea brought into use through physics or chemistry or study of social theory may come into a world not yet prepared for its use, and unless carefully guarded may contribute toward development of an unbalanced situation.

With reference to the possibilities of unbalance, it is my feeling that we are faced at this moment with a need for what might be called conservation of opportunity for science. With the way open for enormous contributions, which may well bring blessings to mankind, we must protect or conserve the positive opportunities for advance through warding off dangers which might lead to restriction of constructive science. The situation of science is endangered by failure to set up such relations as will furnish the most careful guidance in the introduction of new elements arising from creative work. This protection, or conservation, of the opportunity for great achievement, which intelligence has gained after fighting its way through tens of thousands of years, is one of the greatest needs of the moment. Development of means for adjustment in this situation depends in part upon these who study mankind from the point of view of social sciences, in part upon economists and in part upon students of government. There is also an unavoidable responsibility resting upon science itself so to fit the contribution which it makes into the general scheme of human life as to give the greatest advantage with the minimum of possible disturbance. (Dr. John C. Merriam, Science, June 1, 1934).

Thus the amazing irresponsibility which in former years could discover the average adult intelligence to be that of a thirteen year old child, and at the same time disclaim all responsibility for the results of the most terrific discoveries placed in such child hands, is fast passing away. There have in fact been two growing and irreconcilable currents of scientific thought; the one, the philosophy of irresponsibility; the other, a trend toward a sort of scientific fascism which has covertly, and often openly, preached the inability of the average man to rule his own affairs, and the consequent duty of the "intelligent" -- that is, of the scientists -- to take over those affairs. That both philosophies are often found expressed by the same person, indicates that the age-old fairy-tale dream -- the basis of the "personal god idea" -- of power without responsibility, flourishes as fruitfully in the supposedly logical mind of the scientist as elsewhere. This scientific fascism has achieved its greatest reach in the medical profession, which, wherever and however it can get the power, has never hesitated to tear from the individual every vestige of self-determination and freedom of choice in matters of health, showing a more voracious greed for the biological franchises of the citizen than ever have Hitler or Mussolini evinced for his political ones. Scientists in other humanly applicable lines show the same self-confidence in their own ability to manage human affairs -- in their own specialties -- better than can the individual concerned.

But even a Hitler, once elevated to power, is quickly shaken out of his dream of irresponsibility by the inexorable exigencies of Karma, soon discovering that power and responsibility can no more be separated than can up and down. The current awakening in science is a similar lesson. Alas, that such limitless and irrevocable misery should have been inflicted upon mankind before the beginning of wisdom!

But to anyone with a rudimentary talent for impersonal ethical reasoning, a full answer has been furnished to what was once a standard argument against Theosophy: i.e., "If such vast wisdom exists, if such superior beings as Mahatmas have being, why do they not prove themselves and their wisdom by conferring practical discoveries upon mankind?" The simple, blunt, often explained reason, is that to confer such discoveries is to confer destruction.

Science in fact, without knowing it, is following upon precisely the path by which the seers of old arrived at their status -- the path of hard experience. By the very force of circumstance and by the terrible reactions of Law, in no long time every intelligent scientist must come to see that the very ability to discover, imposes as the most solemn obligation -- a necessity for the preservation of the race -- the responsibility of looking very deeply and very far ahead; and then -- more often of concealing than revealing.

The ancient history of Theosophy followed certain distinct steps; first, the impaction of certain fundamental ideas in the soul of the race as foundation for all ethics; second, the basing of a gigantic structure of practical knowledge upon that foundation; third, the re-learning of the lesson of responsibility and of concealment by the later race of Adepts -- a lesson impressed by the obliteration of more than one great civilization; fourth, the lesson that such power can be entrusted to no one who has not become literally superhuman -- incapable of moral error, almost incapable of mental error.

Before the age of Adeptship is reached, human weaknesses have been burned out in a course of training more rigid than any ever conceived by a scientist. Needless to say, by the time that course is run, the being concerned is no longer capable of the petty pride of personal discovery which causes the orthodox scientist so recklessly to hurl his results into any foolish and greedy hands that may be waiting. More than that, the "Guardian Wall" accepts as its duty the suppression of untimely and dangerous discoveries made by rash minds. No one reading the whole presentation of the Keely case in the Secret Doctrine can fail to recognize the periodic subsequent rediscoveries of "Keely's Force" and to ponder over the mysterious and unaccountable ways in which it has invariably been diverted from practicability. The present attempts at "breaking the atom" are a recurrent effort at unlocking these forces -- fortunately directed along the wrong channel entirely.

The deepest of lessons can be drawn from the handling of scientific matters in the Secret Doctrine. In that volume were set forth, in a manner to be read now by anyone who runs, the most recondite truths about the construction of nature, many of them fully verified since then. But let anyone try to apply those truths to so-called "practical" uses --to new power sources for the further enslavement of the millions, to the production of "death rays," to the creation of speedier and deadlier vehicles -- and he will find himself baffled at every turn. On the other hand, the student of pure science -- the atomic physicist, the astronomer, the biologist, the worker in every realm of purifying and abstract thought -- will find himself placed upon the trail of discovery after discovery -- if he be a sincere and industrious worker without prejudice.

To so handle these matters required a consummate literary as well as scientific skill which will never be realized or appreciated by this generation -- the usual reaction of the self-seeking "practical" man upon bruising his head against the "Ring-Pass-not" being, "There's nothing in it!"

Science will receive its reward as it comes to deserve it -- as Crookes and Roentgen and Becquerel and Curie deserved it.

"The Lodge of the Masters does not care for Science unless it aims to better man's state morally as well as physically, and no aid will be given to Science until she looks at men and life from the moral and spiritual side."

But the beginning of a deserving has been made.

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:


When persons without a large preliminary training in the real Wisdom-Religion seek knowledge on the Occult plane they are very apt, from inexperience and inadequate culture, to drift into black magic ... nor could anyone receive instructions from an adept until he was ripe for it. In other words, he must undergo a long preliminary training in knowledge, self-control, and the subjugation of the lower nature before he would be in any way fit for instruction on the higher planes....

The study of true occultism, or the walking on its path, brings up the entire latent character of the person.... Karma that might not operate except after years or lives is called upon and falls, as H.P.B. has so clearly stated, in one mass upon the head of him who has called upon immutable law. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread", and, rushing in before they have the slightest idea of their own character even on its surface, they are often destroyed. But the practice of altruism is not by itself occultism, and saves from danger and prepares one for another incarnation in some body and age when everything will favor us. We have yet left some few hundred thousand of mortal years, and ought not to be too precipitate. --W.Q.J.

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