THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 9, July, 1937
(Pages 404-410; Size: 23K)
(Number 72 of a 103-part series)


WHILE such cases as that of Dr. Evans-Wentz, and the discussion of Oriental Science in the British Association for the Advancement of Science,(1) form the few striking forerunners of a tide fated to inundate dogmatic materialism as thoroughly as dogmatic religion has already been swamped by scientific inquiry, there are numerous smaller "ripples" observable on every hand. Men of science will one day -- now not far in the future -- wonder how reputed "thinkers" could ever have been blind to half the mass experience of the human race; how it could ever have been supposed, as materialism requires, that humanity has from the beginning of time been one-third fools, and one-third lunatics, and one-third scoundrels.

Perhaps this awakening will be aided by a dawning perception by men of science that they themselves are like unto other men, not merely in the possession of flesh and bones, but of human prejudices and weaknesses as well. Francis Boak Carter(2) has related the case of a physicist who, his theories having been upset by the discoveries of Madame Curie, regarded his whole life-work as wasted. Previously an energetic worker, he lost heart and did nothing of moment after that time. Hardly cold impersonality!

Prof. Yandell Henderson of Yale describes a graver defect.(3) He states that after campaigning in vain for the acapnia theory of surgical shock, he stopped arguing with physiological specialists and "experts" and cultivated the anesthetists, not so much attached to theory but very much interested in practical results. Thus the rejected theory has now become the capstone of the surgical corner, and deaths from failure of respiration under anesthesia have almost ceased. If Dr. Yandall's accusation be just, then academic apathy has been the murderer of countless numbers.

Disconcerting enigmas encountered on the boundaries of experiment have practically eliminated the "Positivist" attitude from the philosophy of science. Dr. Niels Bohr stated at the California Institute of Technology that the human mind can never hope to penetrate more than a certain number of the veils with which Nature baffles investigators in every field.(4) He went to the extreme of remarking that "fools finally alter or destroy the object of research, in both physics and biology." It may never have occurred to Dr. Bohr that there are means of research which deal with totalities, which synthesize instead of destroying the field of investigation entered. An essay at the unitarian point of view led Sir James Jeans to the conception of the Universe as a manifestation of thought, having connection with the human mind through that form of logic called mathematics. Little, probably, does Sir James realize to what that opens the door! If the universe is made of thought, then consciousness exists everywhere. Prof. Edwin G. Conklin of Princeton has specialized the idea into a purely Theosophical tenet. Life, he thinks, has at the very start the capacity to distinguish and select, which is the beginning of wisdom in all living things.(5) He will, however, along with the geneticists and embryologists, have some difficulty in locating the "start." Strictly in line with this conception is that of Prof. James Mackaye,(6) of the Franklin Institute, who surmises that every material thing, from bones and flesh of man to the gases of the suns, has a kind of "life" which has to be "fed" continuously from the ether, if matter is not to annihilate itself.

In the field of actual experimentation the factor of the "unseen" is pressing so forcibly into the realm of visible effects as to lead the scientific mind to new areas of research. Dr. Austin H. Clarke, of the Smithsonian Institution, has taken photographs in complete darkness by emanations of some kind from dead butterflies. This, he thinks, is suggestive of "some bit of life which has not escaped at the death of the organism." He hastily apologizes for this daring venture in the direction of truth.(7)

All this has made the modern mind amenable to a more impartial and less arrogant consideration of ancient truths. Two modern Chinese and one American investigator -- K. K. and A. L. Chen, and H. Jensen -- have vindicated one of the most fantastic of the ancient Chinese remedies, in much the same manner as Chaulmoogra oil, the discovery of Buddhist priests, came into its own. Toad-warts in five different species secrete epinephrine. Toad glands produce cholesterol and ergosterol, containing vitamin D. Toad venom contains bufagin, the effects of which resemble digitalis. No more laughter, then at the ancient Chinese remedy of powdered toad!(8)

Jerome Alexander claims that credit should be given where due, and lives up to it. Goiter, he says, was known to Pliny, and iodine was prescribed for it by Dr. Coindret in 1812.(9) Dr. Alexander refers to a book, The Savage as a Scientist, published by Blackwood's of Edinburgh. Dr. Edward Hume, of the Chinese Yale College of Medicine, claims that organotherapy was discovered as early as the sixth century, when sheep's thyroids were used for cretinism, and that smallpox inoculation was practiced in the seventh century and became common in the eleventh. Thus modern science is forced to concede to the ancients, not merely many a medical virtue, but some of the medical vices of which it is itself so proud. Alexander ascribes the discovery of bufagin and an adrenalin-like substance in toadskin to Prof. J. J. Abel. He also notes our modern use of ephedrine from Ma Huang. The proper cause and treatment of malaria, says he, is known to African savages.

Dr. Henry E. Sigerist, of Johns Hopkins, somewhat caustically criticizes a book by Prof. A. Wolf on the history of science and philosophy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.(10) In considering a figure like Paracelsus, says Dr. Sigerist, one has to regard the background of Greek and Arabic medicine on the one side, and German medieval mysticism on the other. (Jacob Behmen?) The idea that modern science was born in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is no longer supportable. Prof. Wolf, he says, piles up facts without digesting them, and, when views diverge, accepts the orthodox one without telling why he rejects the new researches. We warn Dr. Sigerist that if he proposes to go about correcting all this sort of thing that happens in modern science he will enjoy an active life from now on!

We learn from Science, July 17, 1936, of the proposed printing of the Badianus Manuscript, the oldest American botany book, a treatise on the medicinal properties of all plants used by the Aztecs, which has hitherto been immured in the Vatican Library. When men stop sneering at what ancients thought and did, there will be revelations at hand indeed! Nor will they fail to find that not a few of the old "superstitions" have their practical use today. A clipping from the Arizona Republican (undated) informs us that the Indians moved from around old San Carlos because of "signs in the stars," behavior of lizards, etc., pointing to rains and floods. The scoffers were confused when rains began on the watersheds in July instead of winter.

There are still feeble and sporadic attempts to explain "fire-walking" as physical or chemical trickery of an ordinary kind; and in many cases the elaboration and plausibility of the explanation seems to be in direct proportion to the explainer's distance from the feat at the time of performance! But the accumulated evidence is now so great that for the most part scientific men maintain a discreet silence on the subject -- and silence is the beginning of wisdom. Rose McKee, of Tokio, reports that she has observed the trick as performed near Tokio for centuries past.(11) Dr. Trumen Michelson, investigating the "fireproof" qualities of medicine men of the Fox tribe, expressed a belief that the immunity is due to bathing the hands and arms in the juice of an unnamed weed.(12) Plans, he said, were being made to test this; surely an easy test to make, necessitating only that the experimenter bathe in the juice and plunge his own hands in the fire. But in spite of the lapse of time we are still waiting for a "report." A somewhat similar feat -- "fire-stopping" -- was investigated by Dr. Haasis of the Carnegie Institute. Examination of men describing the feat indicated to him that they were sincere in their opinion that the incidents happened as described.(13) This manifestation appears to be the refusal of fire to cross the line of march of the subject. In one case fire in a pile of dry pine tops stopped at the trail of the "firestopper." In view of the aforesaid sincerity, Dr. Haasis inquires "what is the basis of this belief?" He might as well have added, What, indeed, unless fact? One of these days, perhaps, science will awake to the fact that human observation, though erratic in particular cases, has in the mass been amazingly accurate, and that there is not one "primitive superstition" that has not had, at least originally, a solid basis of observed fact. "Primitives" are among the more accurate observers, not having lost the keenness of perception and native intelligence which are dulled by the false learning of "civilization."

The substantial basis of "witchcraft" and the like, however, is sufficiently shown by current events in suggestion (hypnotism) of both kinds. Science News Letter for October 5, 1935, reports "psychic duels" fought by California Indians, in which the opponents face one another and "throw thoughts" until one falls helpless, sometimes paralyzed or even dead. Dr. John P. Harrington states that some of these men claim power to kill at a hundred miles, or to restore the dead. Dr. Harrington certifies to the actuality of the observed facts of the "fights," suggesting that results are obtained by one Indian getting another to kill himself by excitement. No doubt this enters into it, but what ordinary psychologist can distinguish between such mentally induced suggestion and the destructive influence of actual emanations? Only ignorance could lead Dr. Harrington to the assertion that the California Indians "surpass the Oriental mystics in psychic feats," but he is certainly correct in calling white men mere infants in the development of such powers.

Infants, however, are known to grow rapidly, and the "new psychic" traits of the people are developing in more than one direction, in foreign lands as well as here. Investigators have for a long time known of the well attested case of Bottineau, a French official at Mauritius, who could see and identify approaching ships several days before they were in sight.(14) He could never explain his own powers, which is not surprising. What ordinary human being -- or scientist either -- can explain physical sight?

Dr. M. Neurither, director of the Latvian Medico-Legal Institute, reports the case of the ten-year-old farmer's daughter who has a "radio brain."(15) She cannot read, but can repeat aloud what another person is reading silently. She knows only her own language, but can repeat English, French, and German texts. This seems to involve a species of clairaudience rather than clairvoyance -- ability to read "mental" sound that accompanies silent reading. The six-year-old Jackie Merkle, of Chicago, can read thought like print. His father states that he has always had this ability.(16)

Unconscious clairvoyance is far more prevalent than is suspected. We live in a common sea of thought; indeed, no ordinary man can say what thoughts are really "his own." Realizing this, it becomes evident that the lower level of the race mind is little more than a "revolving fund" of base ideas, setting up a mutual infection of greed, passion, and despair. Unconscious suicidal suggestion is becoming one of the commonest of phenomena. Illustrating this is the account of two San Francisco housewives who attended different churches and returned home to find that both their husbands had hung themselves.(17)

The real answer, of course, is that there is but one sense of perception, interchangeable in its manifestations, and which at all times overflows the recognized channels of its expression. Dr. Vladimir Dolansky, a blind Russian psychologist, states that the sightless get a warning sensation on their faces from sounds that cannot be heard by normal persons.(18) The convertibility of sound and color is a well-established phenomenon; in this case there is a convertibility of sound and touch.

Turning to that dependable reservoir of the "supernormal," the dream world, there is the recent case of a Mrs. Dorothy Breakfield who foresaw in dream the wreck of her husband's ship, the "Phyllis." When she awakened him to ask him not to make the forthcoming voyage he laughed and went back to sleep. The ship was wrecked on that voyage, at Port Orford, Oregon.(19)

In the early summer of 1933, the body of Jack Blacker, a trapper of Angel's Camp, California, who had vanished in a winter blizzard, was found by a CCC man who told authorities that a dream showed him the spot.(20)

Mrs. Ralph Lemmers, of Minneapolis, dreamed vividly that she would find money in a particular place inside the lining of an old suit bought by her son for a dollar. Getting up at 3 A.M., she found $95. A few more of such extremely "practical" instances would turn the whole American race into ardent dream-cultivators!

Akin to dream-premonition is the case of the twin brothers, Stanley and Standish Donogh, of Berkeley, California.(21) These men are too well known and too socially prominent to have their testimony doubted. Standish was leaving for Los Angeles when a premonition forced him to return to the house. There he received a telephone call notifying him of a serious accident to Stanley, at Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. He rushed north in time to save his brother by a blood-transfusion.

Under more scientific auspices than news clippings is the case of the guide of the Cambridge University expedition in Iceland. This guide was locally reputed "psychic," and proved it by being on hand with horses and wagons at a designated point, in time to meet the expedition which appeared a week before the day set. He said that he had dreamed of the earlier return.(22) Roy Chapman Andrews reports a similar incident in the Gobi Desert with a Tibetan guide.

An instance of "supernormal" dreaming power of another order is recounted by Professor C. V. Boys of the Physical Society of London.(23) He dreamed out the invention of a gas-measuring machine which involved intricate mathematical processes beyond his ordinary capacity.

More deliberate use of abnormal faculties is made by the eminently "practical" British Indian Government, which employs "water-divining" as a legitimate and "infallible" means of finding water, on the basis of proven worth.(24)

A strange concomitant of the surge of psychic perception is the progressive "physicalization" of the hidden forces of nature going on in the field of scientific discovery. Powers which in long ages past had their expression through the human instrument are now made manifest by the technical genius of modern inventors. A case in point is a "death ray" device worked out by Dr. Antonio Longoria of Cleveland.(25) Its development, according to the report, has been banned by the government. The actuality of the invention was certified by A. G. Burns, President of the National Inventor's Congress. Under test, the thing killed birds two blocks away. The description of its operation shows marked similarity to what we know of Keeley's "Force," with which all theosophists should be familiar. We may be supremely thankful for a Government that suppressed it -- if it did. One wonders.

The great concern for the future is the rapid acceleration of this perennial passage of the "occult" into the physical, and the terrible destructive powers thus hanging over mankind. How to arouse a sense of responsibility in a race sunk in moral lethargy -- that is the problem. Will the Theosophical Movement be strong enough in time?

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 wise man must learn to know the heart of man; to the end that, taking every one according to his own inclination, he may not labour in vain when he shall discourse to him of virtue. All men ought not to be instructed after the same way: there are divers paths that lead to virtue; the wise man should be ignorant of none of them. 


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(1) See Theosophy for June, 1937. [Which is the article just before this one: series number 71 of 103. --Compiler.]
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(2) Literary Digest, October 20, 1928.
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(3) Science, May 1, 1936.
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(4) Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1933.
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(5) Scientific Monthly, October, 1932.
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(6) The Week's Science, July 19, 1932.
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(7) Washington Star, May 25, 1930.
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(8) New York Times, January 22, 1933.
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(9) Science, October 11. 1935.
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(10) Science, March 13, 1936.
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(11) San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 1936.
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(12) The Week's Science, July 19, 1932.
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(13) Science, August 28, 1931.
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(14) Oakland Tribune, April 20, 1936.
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(15) San Francisco Chronicle, March 12, 1936.
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(16) May 30, 1934.
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(17) A.P. August 23, 1932.
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(18) Science News Letter, February 26, 1932.
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(19) Oakland Tribune, March 10, 1936.
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(20) A.P. June 25, 1933.
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(21) Oakland Tribune, August 23, 1933.
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(22) The Week's Science, September 12, 1932.
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(23) Undated clipping.
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(24) Times of India, Engineering Supplement, March 19, 1931.
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(25) Oakland Tribune, June 7, 1934.
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