THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 8, June, 1938
(Pages 349-352; Size: 14K)
(Number 76 of a 103-part series)


THE past few years have seen a remarkable increase of interest in "scientific" fiction -- a type of literature which, though popularized by Jules Verne and raised to a high point in later years by H. G. Wells, had in the interim never reached a great volume of circulation. There are a number of "pulp" magazines now specializing in this field, printing imaginative stories based upon scientific or near-scientific plots. While as literature much of this material is questionable, and as science more than questionable, it is clean -- a refreshing contrast to the endless stream of perfumed slime flowing through the "class" magazines of the country. In recent months some of these publications have acquired the services of scientific men of standing -- some of whom have been long writing in this field under pseudonyms -- and who are now presenting "fact" articles of considerable merit. Among the latter is "Catastrophe," by Dr. Edward E. Smith(1), which sums up the present standing of the various theories on the origin of the solar system in a very able manner.

The Theosophical reader is referred especially to pages 588-597, Vol. I, of The Secret Doctrine, as a correlative to what follows, as he will there find the Nebular Hypothesis -- the only one then in force -- effectively disposed of, a generation in advance of the scientific awakening to its fallacies, as well as much of importance bearing on later and current theories.

According to Dr. Smith's account, the attempt at such theories began with Newton's four laws -- the three laws of motion and gravity. Newton himself suggested the first pattern of the Nebular Hypothesis. Given an infinity of gaseous substance as the original material filler of space -- in which he and Theosophy are at one -- he recognized that such a condition could not be stable: "Some of it would convene into one mass, and some into another ... and thus might the sun and fixed stars be formed."(2)

What Newton overlooked was the fact of angular momentum, i.e., the energy of rotation possessed by the whole mass, and which had to continue in an equivalent energy of rotation possessed by these bodies after their separation into individual masses. Kant, in attempting to set up an explanation, postulated that such momentum would be acquired with the mere passage of time. Dr. Smith rightly characterizes this as "indefensible," and the theory of Laplace he calls "scarcely sounder." Laplace assumed that the whole original mass had been in rotation; that is, all the matter in infinity must have been rotating in the same direction. Obviously to anyone even slightly touched by the passing wing of Einstein, such an assumption merely renders the idea of rotation void and its name without meaning. At this point Dr. Smith introduces a bit of pure metaphysics emanating from Sir James Jeans, which unwittingly exposes how far science, in its hunt for a solution, has gone adrift, not only from traditional thinking but from empirical method. Sir James assumed that in the primeval vacuum local currents of flow already existed. Says Dr. Smith:

Whether we like it or not, we will have to assume some such motion in the primeval vacuum that was infinite space. But after all, is that so hard to do? We cannot understand how that matter came into being, nor is it any part of our present task to speculate upon that phenomenon. So, if you ask me why it should have had currents flowing within and throughout its volume, I will simply ask you back -- why was it there in the first place?
Of course, such an assumption is practically unanswerable; one has only to assume any distribution and direction of such currents as may fit the case in order to account for any celestial motion. Yet here perchance intuition has come closer to the truth than all the learned mathematics of the past. According to The Secret Doctrine:
Occultists have nothing surely against motion, the GREAT BREATH of Mr. Herbert Spencer's "UNKNOWN." But, believing that everything on Earth is the shadow of something in space -- they believe in smaller "Breaths," which, living, intelligent and independent of all but Law, blow in every direction during Manvantaric periods.... Science will be as far from the solution of its difficulties as it is now, unless it comes to some compromise with Occultism and even with Alchemy -- which supposition will be regarded as an impertinence, but remains a fact, nevertheless. (I, 496.)
Certainly the compromise with Alchemy, however unacknowledged, has taken place!

The development of the Laplace theory was closely connected with the Helmholtz theory of the origin of solar energy by solar contraction. This theory met its match in radioactivity, the predicted "death-blow to materialism" of H. P. Blavatsky. A necessity of the Helmholtz contraction was that the sun should have filled the orbit of the earth fifty million years ago. Subsequent study of the radioactive materials has eliminated this theory by showing the earth to be infinitely older. Says Dr. Smith:

And the utter collapse of that theory and its time-scale, so firmly believed in such a few years ago, "gives me furiously to think," as the Frenchman has it, as to how long it will be before our present theories will go the same way! For, parenthetically speaking, no modern theory stands upon nearly as firm a support of widespread acceptance as did that of Helmholtz. In this connection, Dr. Heber D. Curtis, Director of the Observatory of the University of Michigan, has just informed me, in reply to a direct question: "The simple fact is that there is no entirely acceptable body of theory. The latest modification, in which one of the colliding systems is binary, is already subject to some attacks ... all theories hit difficulties that seem insuperable..."
Dr. Smith's explanation of the various mathematical factors leading in turn to the collapse of Laplace's theory is worth reading in the original. Next came the Planetesimal theory -- which no doubt is still considered valid by most casual followers of scientific discovery, though some years ago THEOSOPHY (XII, 380)(3) printed the principal mathematical objections to it.

This theory, with its variants, is based primarily on the idea that the planets originated as masses of matter torn from the sun by a passing star. But it so happens that Neptune alone possesses twenty-two times more angular momentum than such an invader could have given it, the total for the system being about seventy-seven times too much. Scientific imagination, however, is equal to the emergency! It is now postulated that the sun, at the time of encounter, must have been a binary -- twin stars rotating about one another. To render this theory impregnable it is of course only necessary to make any suitable assumption as to the mass, the orbit, and the rotational speed with respect to the sun, of the missing twin, which is no longer here to speak for itself. But even the most ardent proponents of such a theory should see that it thus avoids attack at the expense of becoming meaningless.

What, one may ask, will be the finally fatal flaw to tear down this theory in turn, and what will supplant it? There are already many discrepancies in the Planetesimal theory, and others will be discovered. Since it rests upon the postulate that a solar system is an infrequent and unlikely accident, its death-blow may come through the development of new observations showing that solar systems are the rule rather than the exception; or at least that they are far too numerous to be thus accounted for; which is, of course, the fact.

Shall we then see science driven willy-nilly to embrace the Theosophical cosmogenesis? Not very likely. The human mind, even when it is "scientific," is quite able to rationalize a theory to fit almost anything it wants to believe. And, while the scientific viewpoint is relatively free from emotional bias when judging between theories of equal materiality, should the choice between physics and metaphysics be forced to an issue, most scientists would be constrained from force of habit to vote mechanist rather than anything else.

The Theosophical view regards the whole of space as a living matrix; an ever-generating womb in cyclic alternation with its opposite aspect of an all-consuming solvent, the periodic tomb of everything material. It accepts that planets, like men and animals, are born organically: that is, by a law of hereditary succession from germinal, ever-existent centers in the living ether, acquiring their physical growth by their affinities and attractions for widely diffused substance. The umbilical cords of space exist, and one day will be scientifically admitted. Meantime there is more in the invisible but potent "currents of space" guessed at by Jeans than he is likely to imagine.

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:


Now, number is the expression of diversity as such, and, indeed, the expression of the inner cause of diversity, of the directions of energy; it does not result from dead, external addition, but from living inner laws that lie in the very nature of force. On the other hand, form and magnitude find their explanation only in diversity. It follows from this that a knowledge of number is first and most essential to a knowledge of the triune whole; that a knowledge of number is the foundation of a knowledge of form and magnitude -- of a general knowledge of space.

Space itself, however, is by no means dead and stationary, but owes its existence to the constant operation of inner absolute energy. And, as space owes its existence to the cause and primordial law of all existing things, it follows that the universal laws of space underlie all that manifests itself in space and the laws of thought and knowledge themselves. 


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(1) Astounding Science-Fiction, May, 1938.
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(2) As they were. Compare Stanzas of Dzyan, III and IV, with accompanying commentaries (Cosmic Evolution).
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(3) [Note: This footnote was not in the article. I have provided below just a few excerpts and the "objections" to the theory, as printed in the "On the Lookout" section of THEOSOPHY magazine, which the Editors mentioned above. Page 380 of Volume 12 is from the June, 1924 issue. --Compiler.]

"... If we wish to examine what the course of the years has brought, we can do no better than repeat Harry Fielding Reid, American Journal of Science, January 24, 1924. (Those interested in the mathematical proofs are referred to his article.) ... Some twenty years ago Chamberlain proposed the Planetesimal Hypothesis to take the place of the moribund Nebular... Mr. Reid's calculations, all based on assumptions favorable to the hypothesis show the following failures:

1. The theory does not account for rotation.

2. Does not account for satellites with retrograde motion.

3. Does not account for all the satellites of a planet having coplanar orbits.

4. Calls for inclined orbits in satellites, with more inclination in the inner orbits than in the outer; all of which is contrary to the observed facts.

5. Does not explain orbits of planets themselves being in the same plane.

6. Does not explain the anomalous distribution of planetary densities.

The Secret Doctrine takes up the discrepancies in 1, 2 and 6, with some detail..."
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