THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 11, September, 1938
(Pages 493-497; Size: 27K)
(Number 77 of a 103-part series)


THE purview of science has been likened to a sphere of radiance of increasing diameter, slowly extending its illumination into the darkness of the unknown. The symbol is poetic enough, but contains implications which ought to give scientists cause for serious thought.

First of all, there are no signs that we are approaching the end of the "darkness of the unknown," and thus no promise in science of finality of knowledge in any direction. Frank consideration of this outlook might help to prevent the lesser lights -- the exploiters and camp-followers of science -- from heralding the dawn of a new day at each small glimmer. Second, as the radius of the sphere increases, the area of its surface, that is, the boundary between the known and the unknown, increases much more rapidly; to be exact, the area quadruples as the radius doubles. In other words, the emergence of unsolved problems increases in proportion to the square of the penetration into the mysteries of any given field. Third, the sphere is not a true one. In those areas of research which are unpolluted by emotional or sectarian predilections -- which have outgrown, or were born free from, the emotional incubus of the early anti-clerical (thence anti-spiritual, pro-materialistic) bias generated in the early struggle of science for liberation -- the surface of the sphere appears symmetrical, well-ordered, well coordinated. But in other regions its surface is subject to sinister bulges, irregularities, and indentations. In some cases the darkness begins at the very feet of the investigating scientist, merging with his own shadow and making him bewildered and bemused with problems which have no existence except in his own mind.

Curiously enough, at the present moment science knows a great deal more about the stars and nebulae in the immensities of space -- the nearest of which is at the inconceivable distance of four light-years -- than it does about the constitution of the globe ten miles beneath the crust. A review of the literature on this subject inclines one to think that, here, also, a great deal of the trouble is caused by inheritance -- a lingering of obsolete tradition. The insensible influence of the nineteenth century cosmogenetic materialism which produced the Nebular Hypothesis now haunts the subconscious mind of the scientist in the ghostly form of a "molten earth" which at one time "slowly cooled and solidified." This latter theory is blood-brother to the defunct "solar combustion" idea, and nearly as discredited in the minds of competent scientists. Nevertheless, it is obvious that many of the present speculations regarding the inner constitution of the earth incorporate the "Skandhas" of this outmoded theory.

An excellent review of the present knowledge of the interior of the earth appeared in Science, Feb. 28, 1936. Written by Dr. J. B. Macelwane, professor of geophysics at St. Louis University, this article throws some light on the problem of earthquakes, but at the same time raises many new questions. He says:

The most accessible part of our earth is its outer crust; yet this very outer crust bristles with unsolved problems. Geologists have been accustomed to speak of the zone of fracture near the surface of the earth and of the underlying zone of flow. Now it has been found that the depth of first yielding in most destructive earthquakes is not, as might be expected, near the top of the zone of fracture but is at or somewhat below its base. The normal depth of focus of earthquakes or depth of first significant radiation of earthquake waves seems to be between ten and fifteen kilometers. Does this first sudden failure take place by faulting properly so-called? Branca, Conrad, Krumbach and Oldham have suggested that thermodynamic causes may be at work even in ordinary earthquakes and that geologic faulting may not tell the whole story.... It seems clear, then, that the problem of earthquake causes is more of an open question than ever.
(The reader is requested to keep in mind "thermodynamic causes" in view of what comes later.)

The study of earthquake waves had disclosed the curious fact of the discontinuous nature of crustal stratification -- the existence of layers or distinct "shells" of marked differences in character and thickness. These layers vary in number from four in Southern California, reaching down to 39 kilometers, to one of 16 kilometers in the central island of Japan. Dr. Macelwane remarks that as knowledge of these structures increases the picture is one of growing complexity amounting almost to confusion. Probably this picture will become much clearer when, on the basis of a much greater accumulation of data, competent hands undertake a correlation of the major stratifications with the great cycles of world geological history as set forth in Theosophy.

Everywhere under this crustal complex is a great "stone mantle" which appears to be uniform down to about 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles). This major shell presents mysterious features. Though not discontinuous, the rapidity of transmission of earthquake waves through it increases with depth, and the velocity of the waves varies horizontally, indicating, according to Dr. Macelwane, regional differences of structure extending below the zone of isostatic compensation: i.e., below where the crust is supposed to be floating on viscous material of uniform composition. This shell is also of enormous rigidity under shocks. Still more puzzling is the origin of earthquakes within it down to a depth of 700 kilometers, involving the release of enormous stores of energy of some kind. How is this energy generated or stored?

... Two possibilities suggest themselves: the energy might have been stored chemically or it might have been stored as potential energy of elastic strain. The term chemical energy would naturally be taken in a wide sense to include latent energy of various types such as that of solution, melting, vaporization and of some forms of crystallization. It is conceivable that there might be aggregates at these great depths existing under forms that are in stable equilibrium only under other conditions of pressure and temperature than those proper to that level. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that this instability could progress to such a degree of unbalance that when the change of state or other reaction required to restore equilibrium occurred, it would take place with explosive violence.
At this point we may interject a Theosophical summary of the possibilities:
In regard to great cataclysms occurring at the beginning and ending of the great cycles, the main laws governing the effects are those of Karma and Re-embodiment, or Reincarnation, proceeding under cyclic rule. Not only is man ruled by these laws, but every atom of matter as well, and the mass of matter is constantly undergoing a change at the same time with man. It must therefore exhibit alterations corresponding to those through which the thinker is going. On the physical plane effects are brought out through the electrical and other fluids acting with the gases on the solids of the globe. At the change of a great cycle they reach what may be termed the exploding point and cause violent convulsions of the following classes: (a) Earthquakes, (b) Floods, (c) Fire, (d) Ice.

Earthquakes may be brought on according to this philosophy by two general causes; first, subsidence or elevation under the earth-crust due to heat and steam; second, electrical and magnetic changes which affect water and earth at the same time. These last have the power to instantaneously make the earth fluidic without melting it, thus causing immense and violent displacements in large or small waves. And this effect is sometimes seen now in earthquake districts when similar electrical causes are at work in a smaller measure. (The Ocean of Theosophy, 1893, p. 123.)

The changes discussed by Dr. Macelwane are alterations between fluidic and crystalline states.

Below the level where these alterations probably occur is a transition zone about 200 kilometers thick, in which earthquake wave velocities do not vary, and below that is the mysterious core, of which almost nothing can be said. It is regarded as metallic, to account for the enormous weight of the earth -- much greater than if it were composed of the ordinarily known stones. The core transmits little if any earthquake wave motion, though Dr. Macelwane observes that "there seems to be evidence for the transmission of shear waves" through it. According to the available data, then, the core might be a liquid, or an incompressible solid; or if one chose to assume an enormous weight for the shell, the core might be -- nothing!

The reader is invited to ponder over a passing remark in a Mahatma's letter concerning the sub-mineral kingdom, the kingdom below the crust of the earth, which, he says, "we could name but would be embarrassed to describe." Dr. Macelwane finds its description difficult for other reasons:

... Not until a direct method of attack on the core problem is found can we begin to discuss with confidence the distribution of velocities within the core or the probable characteristics of the material composing it.... In fact, the conditions at the center of the core would seem to transcend all possibilities of direct experience. The temperature is completely unknown and the pressure is so enormous as to stagger the imagination. Unknown states of matter are not excluded.
Here is full vindication of H. P. Blavatsky's remark: " is absolutely false, and but an additional demonstration of the great conceit of our age, to assert (as men of science do) that all the great geological changes and terrible convulsions have been produced by ordinary and known physical forces." (S.D. I, 640.)

So much for negative truth. With the increasing popularity among the men of science of the view that "the universe begins to look more like a universe of thought than of matter," some of us may yet live to see a recognition of the positive aspect of the same truth:

It is a fundamental principle of the Occult philosophy, this same homogeneity of matter and immutability of natural laws, which are so much insisted upon by materialism; but that unity rests upon the inseparability of Spirit from matter, and, if the two are once divorced, the whole Kosmos would fall back into chaos and non-being.... There is a purpose in every important act of Nature, whose acts are all cyclic and periodical. But spiritual Forces having been usually confused with the purely physical, the former are denied by, and therefore, have to remain unknown to Science, because left unexamined. [S.D. I, 640.]
Theosophists who wish to refresh their memory as to the nature of the spiritual causation behind the veils of material cataclysm may discern the great significance resident in the allegory, "The Skin of the Earth," printed in The Path, (December, 1890), and reprinted in THEOSOPHY for December, 1913 (II, 68).

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; and below that is the article mentioned in the above paragraph: "The Skin of the Earth" (I scanned it from a more recent reprinting):


Modern physics, while borrowing from the ancients their atomic theory, forgot one point, the most important of the doctrine; hence they got only the husks and will never be able to get at the kernel. They left behind, in the adoption of physical atoms, the suggestive fact that from Anaxagoras down to Epicurus, the Roman Lucretius, and finally even to Galileo, all those Philosophers believed more or less in ANIMATED atoms, not in invisible specks of so-called "brute" matter. Rotatory motion was generated in their views, by larger (read, more divine and pure) atoms forcing downwards other atoms; the lighter ones being thrust simultaneously upward. The esoteric meaning of this is the ever cyclic curve downward and upward of differentiated elements through intercyclic phases of existence, until each reaches again its starting point or birthplace. The idea was metaphysical as well as physical; the hidden interpretation embracing "gods" or souls, in the shape of atoms, as the cause of all the effects produced on Earth by the secretions from the divine bodies. No ancient philosopher, not even the Jewish Kabalists, ever dissociated Spirit from matter or vice versa. Everything originated in the ONE, and, proceeding from the one, must finally return to the One. "Light becomes heat, and consolidates into fiery particles; which, from being ignited, become cold, hard particles, round and smooth. And this is called Soul, imprisoned in its robe of matter"; Atoms and Souls having been synonymous in the language of the Initiates. 


THEOSOPHY, Vol. 80, No. 11, September, 1992
(Pages 334-339)

[Compiler's note: The listed author of this allegory, Bryan Kinnavan, was one of the pen names used by William Q. Judge.]

THE cold materialism of the 19th century paralyzes sentiment and kills mysticism. Thus it commits a double crime, in robbing man and preventing many classes of sentient beings from progressing up the ladder that leads from earth to heaven. So in telling these tales I feel sheltered behind the shield of the editor of the magazine for which I write, for, were I to be known as believing that any beings whatever other than man are affected by the mental negations of the century, my life would soon become a burden. This age is so full of ignorance that it sees not and cares nothing for the groans that are rolling among the caverns of mother earth fathoms deep below its surface. Nor will it care until its contempt for what it calls superstition shall have caused its ruin, and then -- another age will have risen and other men have come.

It was not so in our Sacred Island cycles ago. Then what we call superstition was knowledge that has now been replaced by impudent scorn for aught save the empiric classification of a few facts; a heritage of glory given up for a mere statement of the limits of our ignorance. But I will plunge into the past and forget the present hour.

Seven months had rolled away since the time when, standing in the picture gallery, I had seen the simulacrum of a dear friend blacken and disappear, and now on the morning of the day when I was to pass by the mountain of the diamond, the news was brought to me how he had fallen faithless to his trust, overcome by vanity with its dark companion, doubt.

So, at the appointed hour, I waited for the messenger. Once again the white moonbeams shone into the room and, revealing the monthly dial curiously wrought into the floor and walls by a chemical art that allowed nothing to be revealed save by moonlight after the 14th day of her course, told me in a language pale and cold that this was the 17th day. I stood and watched the dial, fascinated by the symbols that crept out with the silvery light, although for years I had seen the same thing every month. But now as I looked some new combination of our ancient magic was revealed. Every now and then clouds seemed to roll across the floor, while on them rested the earth itself. This I had never seen before. Seven times it rolled by, and then I felt that near me stood the silent messenger. Turning I saw him just as he stood when he called me to the gallery.

"Do you not know this picture?" said he.

"No. All is dark to me."

"It is the sign that you are to come to the earth's hall beyond the gallery. Look again closely at that rolling ball upon the clouds, and tell me what you see."

These words seemed to come not from the man's lips, but from all about him, as if the air was full of sound. But obeying the direction I gazed at the picture and saw that the surface of the mystic globe was moving, and then that myriads of small creatures were coming through it.

"It is time," said the sounds from all about the impassive being. "That is the signal. We will go;" and he turned away.

I followed while he led me up to the building and through the gallery of tell-tale pictures where still in the silence the faces changed and the soft music sounded. I would have lingered there to see those magic pictures, but a cord seemed to draw me after my guide. As we approached the other end of the gallery nothing was visible to the eye save a blank wall, but the messenger passed through it and disappeared. Afraid to stop, unable to resist the drawing of the invisible cord, I walked against the wall. One short moment of suspense and with my breath held I had passed through; it was but a cloud, or a vapor -- and I was on the other side. Turning, expecting to still see through that immaterial wall, I found that it was impervious to the sight, and then the cord that drew me slackened, for my guide had stopped. Stepping up to the wall, my outstretched fingers went through it, or rather disappeared within it, for they felt no sensation. Then the messenger's voice said, "Such is the skin of the Earth to those who live below it." With these words he walked on again through a door of a large room into which I followed. Here a faint but oppressive smell of earth filled all the space, and, standing just inside the door-way now closed by a noiselessly moving door, I saw that the whole place save where we stood was moving, as if the great globe were here seen revolving upon its axis and all its motions felt.

As I gazed, the surface of the revolving mass was seen to be covered with circling hosts of small creatures whose movements caused the revolutions, and all at once it seemed as if the moving body became transparent, and within was filled with the same creatures. They were constantly coming from the surface and moving to the centre along well-defined paths. Here was the whole globe represented in forcible miniature, and these creatures within and upon it of their own nature moved it, guided by some mysterious Being whose presence was only revealed by beams of light. Nor could the others see him, but his silent directions were carried out.

These little beings were of every color and form; some wore an appearance similar to that of man himself, others appeared like star blossoms of the sea, their pure tints waxing and waning as they throbbed with an interior pulse of light. Whatever their shapes, these seemed evanescent, translucent, and easily dissipated; in their real essence the creatures were centres of energy, a nucleolus around which light condensed, now in this form, now in that, with constant progression of type and form. Some were more swift and harmonious in their movements than others, and these I understood were the more progressed in the scale of Being. Such had a larger orbit, and satellites circled about them. Of such systems the place was full, and all owed obedience to the subtle and interior Power which I could not discern. Each system existed for the service of all the rest; each complemented and sustained the others as they swept onward in a harmony that was labor and love. Their object seemed twofold; they assisted in maintaining the revolutions of the earth upon its axis and in guiding it in its orbit. They also grew through the ever-increasing swiftness of their own motions into greater splendor and brightness, approaching greater intelligence, coming ever nearer to self-conscious reason and love, and, as they grew, stimulated the latent spark in the metals and all the underworld growth as the lambent touch of flame awakens flame.

Guided by the Unseen Power and in their automatic obedience (for to obey was their nature), there were some who, by the greatness of their own momentum and the ferment of new forces attracted and gathering about them, seemed upon the point of bursting into some fuller expansion, some higher state of intelligence and life, but they were withheld by something that was not the Power guiding them. Looking closer I saw that an antagonistic influence was at work in the place.

The orbit of many of these docile and beautiful creatures included a passage to and fro through the mystic wall. Their duties were upon the earth as well as beneath its surface; faithful fulfillment of these functions comprised an evolution into higher service and a higher form. The malign influence often prevented this. It seemed like a dark mist full of noxious vapor that deadened while it chilled. As the clouds rolled into the hall their wreaths assumed now this shape and now that, changeful and lurid suggestions of hatred, lust, and pride. Many of the creatures coming in contact with these had that influence stamped upon their sensitive spheres, giving them the horrid likeness which they were powerless to shake off, thus becoming servants of the baleful mist itself with altered and discordant motions. Others were paralyzed with the chill contact. Others were so taxed to make up for the partial suspension of their fellows' activity that their work was unsteady and their orbital revolutions checked. But still the whole throng swung on like some splendid creation, paling, glowing, throbbing, pausing, a huge iridescent heart scintillating, singing through the gloom. Here the mist was beaten back by greater efforts that jarred the harmony; there it gathered, condensed, and in its vile embrace swept in bright systems, stifling their motions, then leaving them paralyzed where they fell, while it crawled on to fresh victims. And all through this strange picture and wonderful battle I could see the dim cloud-like shapes of cities inhabited by the men of earth, my fellows, and also the rivers, mountains, and trees of the globe.

In my mind the query rose, "Why do the earth's cities look like dreams?" And there upon the wall flashed out this sentence, while its meaning sounded in every letter:

"When you are being shown the elemental beings, the men of your earth and their cities appear as clouds because it is not to them that your mind is directed. Look yet again!"

I saw that the evil mist had gathered strength in one part of the place, and had destroyed the harmony and swiftness of so many of the little beings that the great circling globe was moving off its axis, circling more and more, so that I knew upon whatever earth this happened great changes would occur, and that in the path of the mist there would sweep over man epidemics of disease and crime. Horrified at such impending calamities I sought for an answer and looked towards my guide. As I did so he disappeared, and upon the wall his voice seemed to paint itself in living letters that themselves gave out a sound.

"It is the thoughts of men." I hid my face, appalled at owning such a heritage, and when I looked again great jets spurted through the Skin of the Earth, thoughts spouting and pouring out in miasmatic streams.

I would have asked much more, but again from some vast distance came the tones of the deep bronze bell; a shower of earth's blossoms fell about me; I had passed the wall; my guide was gone; and I was alone in my own room reflecting on what I had seen. 

The Path, October 1889

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 Vedic seers, like their later counterparts in Taoism and Buddhism, were not mystics; they were wide-awake observers of the same world we all live in. They did not deal solely in subjective visions and insights; their minds were focused on the junction-point where subjectivity and objectivity meet. This gave them a unique perspective from which to observe their own consciousness as it transformed itself into the rocks, trees, mountains, and stars we all perceive "out there." 


Next article:
I: A Survey of Opinion
(Part I of III)
(Part 78 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".

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.