THEOSOPHY, Vol. 24, No. 3, January, 1936
(Pages 105-109; Size: 16K)
(Number 62 of a 103-part series)



(Part I)

A STRIKING psychological paradox in the field of evolution is visible today. As confidence in the actuality of a universal principle of evolution becomes more indomitable, disintegrating faith in time-honored theories as to how it operates is bringing science to outspoken evolutionary agnosticism. The situation results from the pressure of the inexorable logic of Nature against a fundamental human error. Nature, since nothing is separate from anything else, and all forms on earth are integral parts of what in reality is a single psycho-physical ideational complex, does present a picture of inter-relationships pointing to a common origin. But the truth about that origin is in part fragmented, in part inverted, by a basic materialistic bias, subsistent largely upon the Karmic results of a wide-spread moral error committed by the race in the mists of a dark past.

A brief summary of some of the recently expressed uncertainties is in order:

It is indeed plain that we have still to wait before the fossil record will be able to provide the answer to a question which studies of anatomy and physiology fail to reveal. (Dr. Adolph H. Schultz, Science, Feb. 23, 1934).
Prof. A. S. Pearse, of Duke University, states that while the evidence proves evolution a fact, and that mechanisms of heredity are well known, all that can be done at present is to point out the conditions under which variations take place. The cause of them is unknown.(1)

The eminent Briton, Douglas Dewar, claims that the difficulties involved in conventional theories of evolution even imply that life originated on the earth several times, giving rise to different paths of evolution which are still being followed.(2)

Mr. Dewar has perceived, in a somewhat foreshortened manner, a real fact: the fact that there are alive on earth today revivified relics of former manvantaric cycles. The whole reptilian kingdom seems to be one; and there are others.

W. L. McAtee, of the U.S. Biological Survey, opens with the usual apologium to the effect that "science does not deal with ultimate explanations" -- he should have said, "other than to deny any explanations, ultimate or otherwise, advanced by others." Science, says he, contents itself with enumeration of conditions under which certain events take place. There has been overemphasis on the "struggle for life," and attempts have been made to draw lines where none exist in nature. Protective adaptation theories, he says, are no exception to the insecurity of life tenure possessed by all scientific theories, and the more critically they are examined in the light of nature, the more insecurely they appear to be founded. But for that matter, "all evolutionary phenomena are fundamentally inexplicable." "From the peculiar nature of the case no causal explanation of evolution is possible."(3)

This attitude is parallel and integral with a statement of the physicist Bohr, that "the existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that cannot be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology."(4)

It seems never to have occurred to any of these men that the "fundamental inexplicability" of life and of evolution is due to no obstacle in nature, but to a basically erroneous definition and comprehension of life itself. Just so long as "life" is not understood as the basic principle from which all forms, material and otherwise, are derived, but is regarded as a casual and sporadic activity of inanimate substance under certain combinations, so long will all vital phenomena remain "fundamentally inexplicable."

Dr. McAtee, in Science for March 20, 1932, and April 20, 1934, finds the theory of protective adaptation, so long a pillar of evolutionary theory, now a stumbling block. The reason is simple: protective adaptations are found not to be protective. As for instance, a long series of studies on the stomach contents of birds shows that the "protected" insects form as large a part of ornithological menu as any others. For that matter, it had been pointed out some time since, that as animal vision does not respond to the same ranges of color as that of man, what seems to be protective coloration to man may not be to the beast of prey.

The phenomenon of "convergent evolution" brought to the fore by Dr. W. H. Manwaring, of Stanford University,(5) is closely allied behind the scenes to that of "protective mimicry." According to Dr. Manwaring, descendants of a single bacterial cell will so diverge from the parent type as to simulate wholly unrelated families and genera. Moreover, two practically identical mutants will arise from two apparently unrelated germ cells.

As a result of such disconcerting happenings, Dr. Manwaring states that "studies of infectious agents have led to conclusions which bacteriologists and immunologists are unable to harmonize with currently accepted theories of genetics and organic evolution." In this realm, says he, a Lamarckian world rather than a Darwinian is suggested: i.e., a world in which evolution takes place as the result of the effort of the organism to adapt itself to conditions. Manwaring further states that about the only conventional law of genetics and organic evolution not challenged by current biologists is the 19th century denial of spontaneous generation; and even this, he says, is questioned by some biologists as a result of hypothetical transformation of certain normal enzymes into "pathogenic genes," or disease-carrying hereditary factors. (Pro-vaccinationists please note).

Now, as a matter of fact, "convergent evolution" and "spontaneous imitation" -- which is the real name for "protective coloration" -- are closely allied with the curious fact that differing species in the same region tend to adopt the same devices, as in the case of the marsupials and of the membraned or "flying" squirrels, fishes, and snakes.

All of this is quickly simplified by an understanding of the fact that all is life and consciousness in varying degree, that behind every living species is a particular spiritual force of acute but limited perceptions and intelligence, one of whose basic instincts, one of the instincts upon which all evolution rests, is imitation.

It is just the stubborn determination to reduce life to terms of the non-living, intelligence to blind mechanical action of the non-intelligent, that has thrown evolution into such chaos. The more facts they learn the more they are astray in theory, and the more astray in theory, the more bewildered by the patent contradictions of their well-ascertained facts.

Thus at the present time, the most disturbing critic of the whole field of evolutionary theory is its most respected veteran representative, Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn. In Science for Dec. 2, 1932, he made a frontal attack on all four of the historical theories of evolution, stating that none of them or their substitutes conforms to observable modes. A series of further expressions led to "Senescent Hypotheses as to the Nature and Causes of Evolution,"(6) in which he called for "making a fresh start along wholly new and original lines of observation and experiment, directed toward discovery of the now wholly unknown factors in this mysterious natural phenomenon."

However, Dr. Osborn, being scientific and being human, found himself under the necessity of a stepping stone of theory between the old insufficient and the new unknown. Various expositions thereof, under the name of "Aristogenesis," appear in Science, May 26, 1933, and the same for January, 1934, in addition to the above. Unfortunately, many of his explanations of just what he means by this are metaphysical and indefinite to the point of distraction. However, as nearly as we can interpret it, the term means the direct, orderly creation from the basic plasm of new adaptive characters; the orderly, purposive creation of some better or more adaptive biomechanism.

He leaves us wholly in the dark as to what is responsible for such creation, and we find in his expositions nothing that clearly distinguishes the theory in principle from the Lamarckism which he denies; moreover, as he strenuously denies any "mysterious self-perfecting principle," he leaves us with a theory of direct, orderly, purposive creation by -- nothing! Forthwith, and very logically, he remarks that "the real underlying causes of evolution are entirely unknown, and may prove unknowable." Of course they are -- so long as he starts his quest of knowledge with a denial of the only possible explanation.

All of this is valuable as a confession of ignorance which may lead in time to knowledge; but in the light of plain common-sense the eminent savant's mind appears to be operating in vacuo.

Meantime, the field of explanation having been thus abandoned by those who have so long and stubbornly preempted it, we herewith move into it a few excerpts which may serve in time to establish the Theosophical title to the land.

It is ... a mere device of rhetoric to credit "Natural Selection" with the power of originating species. "Natural Selection" is no Entity; but a convenient phrase for describing the mode in which the survival of the fit and the elimination of the unfit among organisms is brought about in the struggle for existence... But Natural Selection, in the writer's humble opinion, "Selection, as a Power," is in reality a pure myth; especially when resorted to as an explanation of the origin of species. It is merely a representative term expressive of the manner in which "useful variations" are stereotyped when produced... The real question at issue is: what CAUSE -- combined with other secondary causes -- produces the "variations" in the organisms themselves. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, II, 648).

Those purely secondary causes of differentiation, grouped under the head of sexual selection, natural selection, climate, isolation, etc., etc., mislead the Western Evolutionist and offer no real explanation whatever of the "whence" of the "ancestral types" which served as the starting point for physical development. The truth is that the differentiating "causes" known to modern science only come into operation after the physicalization of the primeval animal root-types out of the astral. Darwinism only meets Evolution at its midway point -- that is to say when astral evolution has given place to the play of the ordinary physical forces with which our present senses acquaint us. But even here the Darwinian Theory, even with the "expansions" recently attempted, is inadequate to meet the facts of the case. The underlying physiological variation in species -- one to which all other laws are subordinate and secondary -- is a sub-conscious intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom... Hartman ... regards evolution as intelligently guided by the UNCONSCIOUS (the Cosmic Logos of Occultism). But the latter acts only mediately through FOHAT, or Dhyan-Chohanic energy, and not quite in the direct manner which the great pessimist describes. (S.D. II, 648-9).

Of course, so long as science is imbued with an emotional repugnance to the idea of the presence in nature of Intelligence, subdivided and segregated into Intelligences of countless kinds and capacities, the above statements will appear to it as mere intellectual abominations. It will have to wait until its vision is cleared by further speculative hardships.

(To be Concluded)

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:


...there exists in Nature a triple evolutionary scheme, for the formation of the three periodical Upadhis; or rather three separate schemes of evolution, which in our system are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point. These are the Monadic (or spiritual), the intellectual, and the physical evolutions. These three are the finite aspects or the reflections on the field of Cosmic Illusion of ATMA, the seventh, the ONE REALITY. --S.D. I, 181.

Next article:
(Part II of II)
(Part 63 of a 103-part series)

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(1) Science, February 23, 1934.
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(2) The Week's Science, July 11, 1932.
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(3) Science, April 20, 1934.
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(4) Do. January 19, 1934. Quoted by Osborn.
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(5) Science, May 25, 1934.
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(6) Science, April 27, 1934. Dr. Osborn died in 1935.
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