THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 8, June, 1937
(Pages 350-354; Size: 15K)
(Number 71 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
THEOSOPHISTS, who know the inevitable unrolling of the cycles, and the nature of the reincarnating Egos emerging into objective life in America, have had no doubt that sooner or later the pressure of the facts of mind and soul must burst through the wall desperately maintained by the remnant of the "Old Guard" of that pseudo-science whose proper name is "Materialism." But even theosophists may be surprised before the swift-moving, silent wheels of change. Discussions of Eastern Yoga and of reincarnation in the British Association for the Advancement of Science in the year 1933? Accredited scientists, trailing the usual sections of the academic alphabet behind their names, openly espousing Tibetan Buddhism, and unashamedly acknowledging pupil-ship to Tibetan Yogis? What a fantastic idea! But it has happened.
Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz, M. A., D. Litt., D. Sc., will be remembered as the translator of the Bardo Thödol, the Tibetan "Book of the Dead." Before reviewing his latest views on Eastern Science(1), let us give his scientific credentials by the hand of a savant of equal standing, Dr. R. R. Marett, M. A., D. Sc., LL.D.:My friendship with the author of this work goes back a long way, namely, to the year 1907, when he first came up to Oxford as a post-graduate student from Stanford University in California. It was as a fellow-anthropologist that I came thus to know him; for his interest lay in exploring the religious experience of mankind in such various forms as may afford the most significant contrasts. His was, moreover, a thoroughly scientific attitude towards his subject, in that he was resolved to find out and set down what others thought and felt to be true without allowing his statement of the facts to be coloured by his private opinions as to what they ought to think and feel. He meant to do his best to look through the window without being baffled by his own reflection in the glass.This is as penetrating an analysis of the "scientific" prejudice as could be made -- a prejudice from which both Dr. Marett and Dr. Evans-Wentz seem to have escaped.
Now there is a certain point at which most of us, however dispassionately scientific in intention, are apt to draw a line beyond which, consciously or unconsciously, we refuse to take the other man seriously when he talks what seems to us to be nonsense. Thus, disparaging terms, such as "primitive credulity," "confusion of categories," "prelogical mentality," and so on, come to invade accounts of the unsophisticated mind that to a corresponding extent are falsified because science has no business to say "wrong" when it merely means "different." ...
Dr. Evans-Wentz has traveled extensively in the East and nearer East, finally spending three years with the noted Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup. The doctor is as far removed as the poles are apart from the preposterous pseudo-scholarship contained in so many popular works claiming to transmit ancient secrets, and to be derived from "Eastern" or even -- save the mark! -- "Lemurian" adepts. The learned Lama is equally far removed from the peripatetic Swamis so busily -- and lucratively -- engaged in leading the fussy and well-furnished on the pathway of the "higher wisdom."
It is indubitable upon internal evidence that Dr. Evans-Wentz is a scholar and scientist in the strictest sense; that he appreciates and reverences all that the best in Buddhism stands for, and that his own motives are irreproachable. For all that, he has failed to penetrate the sinister wall that confronts the trusting traveler on the borders of Tibet; in fact, there are strong indications in his works that the demarcation between the "redcaps" and "yellowcaps" of that land has become more obscure since the closing days of last century. One is reminded of the prophecy that the Raja Yoga (Theosophy) will remain in its purity in Tibet only while the country is unpolluted by Western invasion.
Dr. Evans-Wentz' three translations -- with possibly more to follow -- will inevitably extend the "Drang nach Osten" of modern British science, even as the psychic speculations and researches of Drs. Carrel and Rhine are forcing American science to invade the psychic world. Some good may be derived from these trends, if there is corresponding energetic vigilance and work on the part of theosophists; but whether such good can counterbalance the unmistakable evils is a question.
Dr. Evans-Wentz remarks:At the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1933, consideration was given to the scientific probability of the existence of intelligent beings more highly evolved than man; or, in other words, as we set forth in the Introduction to Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa in 1928, to the theory that man does not necessarily represent the end of organic evolution. In similar vein the thought was thrown out to the assembled scientists that there may be unknown states of being wherein transcendent consciousness exists independently of all physical or bodily organisms. Surmises of this character by men of science in the Occident are, of course, rapidly tending to give scientific sanction to the same theories which underlie the whole of our present treatise. It is more than likely that within a few more generations of scientific advance the British Association will welcome to its membership the Wise Men of the East.We may hope that those "generations" be not too few, and that the true Messenger of 1975 be on the scene before the "welcoming" is very far advanced!
Then, in such a glorious New Age of re-established mutual understanding and respect between Orient and Occident, in no small degree will the carefully guarded learning of the master minds of Tibet be found to amplify that of the master minds of India, and help to guide the Western World to a clearer understanding of the old, yet ever new, truths concerning man and man's place in the Universal Scheme, which have constituted since immemorial time the imperishable Light of the East.Almost imperceptibly for about a century, and more especially within the last fifty years, the higher thought of the Occident has been profoundly modified by influences distinctly Oriental. The Christianity of the so-called orthodox tradition itself has felt these fresh spiritual impulses, and as a result of them, no less than of the revolutionizing effects of Science, has now come to the most serious crisis in its history. As the Renaissance of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries overwhelmed the Scholastic Philosophy and restored to Europe the great literature and art of ancient Greece and prepared the way for the Reformation and the new age of untrammelled scientific development, so today there are deeply influential ideas, likewise born of the East, which give promise of a Reformation far more sweeping and thorough than that which was set in motion by Martin Luther.The contents of Dr. Evans-Wentz' book are valuable to those interested in distinguishing between the pure Atma Vidya teachings and the Tantric Yoga, which appear to have a darkly subtle association in the practice of the Yogis with whom he has studied. The "Ten Things" series of which he writes, if cleared of their obscurities, seem to approach in excellence the Light On the Path, Through the Gates of Gold, and The Voice of the Silence. Nevertheless, Dr. Evans-Wentz himself is aware of a division:
It was the feebly reflected Light from the East transmitted by means of the Platonic and Arab philosophers which initiated the Rebirth of the Medieval Occident. Today it is the strong direct Light of the Orient which is now reshaping the religious life of Europe and of both Americas, and affecting, in some not unimportant manner, even the thought of men of science in all Occidental centres of research.All such results of success in Hatha Yoga, although interesting to physiologists, are of themselves purely psychophysical; and when divorced from the spiritual attainments of the higher yogas, become impediments rather than aids on the Path.But after this and similar warnings, we discover that the Tantric Yogas are included as legitimate practice! So subtly are these disguised -- the Doctor's preceptors being wise indeed in their selection of texts -- that only once or twice does the "cloven hoof" appear from beneath the yellow robe. The uninformed and spiritually undisciplined mind would take the whole book in its stride, never perceiving the blurred line between the truly spiritual and the "earthly, sensual, and devilish." The object of all the forms of Yoga specified, and idea to be held in mind all through them, is the Oneness of all things. This idea of unity is in itself no safeguard, when one remembers that in the darker sects the unity of things is taken as the basis for the foulest rites. It is basically the idea which causes modern medicine to regard physiological miscegenation -- vaccination and serum therapy -- as not only blameless but praiseworthy. The doctrine of Unity, turned by black magic to serve its own ends, is the specious means used to break down the age-old and necessary barriers between forms of life at differing stages of evolution!
It was the various practices associated with Hatha Yoga, especially when the yogin does not aim to advance beyond them, including bodily mortifications and severe fasting, with which the Buddha experimented at the outset of his spiritual researches, and found inadequate for the gaining of Enlightenment. Nevertheless, as our texts suggest, the various breathing-exercises associated with Tibetan systems of Hatha Yoga, are of great value if used aright, that is to say, solely as means to the great end of all yogas, which is Emancipation.
Among the Tibetans, and among the Hindus, the neophyte's need of a spiritual preceptor (or guru) is always stressed, in order that the neophyte may be led to avoid the many subtle dangers which those incur who unwisely practice any yoga unguided. The editor would be remiss in the discharge of his own responsibilities towards the readers of this volume were he not to emphasize this need of a guru, especially for the average European or American student of practically applied yogic teachings.
Regarding the slowly changing attitude of modern science caused by the impact of Eastern Yoga -- manifestly not the Yoga of the Great Lodge, whose members will neither "come themselves nor send agents publicly to the Western World until after 1975" -- and the rising wave of psychic idiosyncrasies visible on every hand, the thoughtful theosophist may be excused for uneasy apprehensions as to the moral problems sure to arise in the intervening years. Faced with the most gigantic upheavals in politics, economics, and international affairs, it now seems that we must go through the impending turmoil in a death-fight to prevent the black arts from gaining a fatal ascendancy in the critical formative years of the next cycle.
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 way that leads to virtue is long, but it is thy duty to finish this long race. Allege not for thy excuse, that thou hast not strength enough, that difficulties discourage thee, and that thou shalt be at last forced to stop in the midst of the course. Thou knowest nothing; begin to run -- it is a sign thou hast not as yet begun; thou shouldst not use this language.
Confidence should not merely be the power to endure trials and suffering, but to stand firmly and courageously through anything and everything. To fall short of that would be a useless sacrifice for all, for slipping to the bottom means to do it all over again. Now is the time to hold fast. "Live while you can and die only when you must." For it is during life, and then alone, that the most and best can be done for your fellows in that life. No circumstances can arise that will deprive you of the power of assistance, if that is your inmost desire. For are you not greater than any circumstance? And are not all circumstances your field of battle? Therefore, arise, O Arjuna, and resolve to fight.
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
(Part 72 of a 103-part series)
Back to the
"Science and The Secret Doctrine"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".
ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, Oxford University Press, 1935.
Back to text.