THEOSOPHY, Vol. 28, No. 1, November, 1939
(Pages 18-23; Size: 32K)
(Number 82 of a 103-part series)



(Part I of II)

THE years 1937-39 have been marked by peculiarly rapid developments in the scientific search for resolution of the question "What is life?" Vitalism, which affirms the existence of a mysterious and non-mechanical "Life Force," loses ground with each new biochemical discovery and has so far vanished from the picture that it is now seldom seriously discussed. From the Theosophical point of view this might almost be an occasion for regret, since Vitalism, for all its hiatuses of logic and its over-simplified dualism, at least stands in opposition to the gross assumption that "life is the motion of matter." But while the new discoveries are far from reaching the clear conception of universal life as taught by Theosophy, they have rendered the loss of such a weak ally somewhat unimportant. Finally and unequivocally, the eyes of science have been opened to the fact that the rigid separation of the "living" from "non-living" was only an illusionary scum of ignorance frozen over the Sea of Being. Scientific skating on this artificial film has come to an end rather suddenly, for while an imaginary surface will support the wildest of speculations, it cannot sustain for long the heavy tread of experiment.

The developments in physics following the famous Secret Doctrine prophecy of 1888,(1) which led to almost full vindication of the statement that "It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built,"(2) have been closely paralleled in biology by the research into the divisibility of "living" matter. It is only a few years since the existence of "filterable viruses" was deduced from their apparent effect as disease producers, though they are invisible to the microscope. The minute size of these agents, together with properties which seemed difficult to classify as between chemical and quasi-bacterial, had led to much discussion as to whether these agents are inorganic or "alive." Among other "living" qualities they appeared under certain conditions to have the power of reproduction and even of hybridization.(3)

The early uncertainty regarding the nature of these viruses is illustrated by an article in Science for Feb. 5, 1937. On the tobacco mosaic virus, we find:

The isolation of this typical virus in crystalline form and its recognition as a high molecular weight protein are without question a fundamental discovery, the far-reaching significance of which can probably only be partially grasped at the present time. Infection by the virus may be regarded as due to the introduction of a few molecules of the virus protein into a susceptible host. These few molecules apparently have the ability to so disarrange the normal metabolic reactions as to cause the cell to manufacture more of the virus protein. The work has also indicated that in the production of the virus protein by the host new strains may arise, through perhaps the chance production of one or more molecules of a slightly different structure, thus giving mutation of the virus. As Stanley has pointed out, the virus can not be regarded as simply an autocatalytic agent but must be regarded as a new type of super-catalyst, being able to cause the cell to produce more molecules in its own likeness.(4)
But why assume that the virus causes the cell to produce more molecules of its own kind, rather than that the virus reproduces itself? And if the above description of the process is correct, is this not an outright hybridization between the virus and the cell, in which the "mutations" may have more the aspect to be expected from hybridization? It is strongly indicated in The Secret Doctrine that most of the infectious diseases (which are probably all mutations of an ancestral syphilis) originated with such ultramicroscopic hybridization, the latter being a karmic reflex of the sin of Atlantis. The hybrid species which resulted from the sexual union between early man and animals were, perhaps, macroscopic prototypes for the alien races of germs which today degrade the cell population of the human organism.(5)

The further present bearing of these dangerous virus "mutations" upon the serums and vaccines is obvious, the danger being the greater in that such effects would be long-delayed and masked. Tobacco mosaic is of the nature of a plant cancer.

The Science article continues:

As Dr. Stanley has stated, "It is now possible to list protein molecules along with living organisms such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa as infectious disease-producing agents." Dr. Stanley well recognized, however, that all the disease-producing agents, now classified as viruses, may not all turn out to be high molecular weight proteins but that some might prove to be truly living bodies and that at this early stage of our knowledge different types of filterable disease-transmitting agents may have been classified under the one heading of viruses.
Inherent in this article, therefore, is the doubt whether a molecule, even of protein, can be regarded as "alive." A Science News report in the same volume gives an account of experiments showing a basic similarity -- almost an identity -- between the biological reactions of this same virus and the equally invisible genes. And certainly, if anything in the world can be considered alive, the "genes" (or whatever units or powers this term represents as descriptive of the transmitters of hereditary characters), ought to fall in that class!

In Science for Feb. 3, 1939, in the News section, the following passage appears in an account of the applications of the new electron microscope:

... Some of these molecules have weights 25,000,000 times greater than ordinary molecules of common chemical elements. The essential point about these huge chemical molecules of the viruses is that they are believed to represent the borderline between animate and inanimate matter. Although the viruses, at least some of them, have been shown to be chemical in nature they have been found to be capable of reproduction and possess biological activity which has always been associated only with living things.
This issue of Science also notes other recent developments in virus research:
Dr. Thomas M. Rivers, of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, believes that the viruses that cause disease, and which are much too small to be seen, are a very "mixed lot," having only their size and disease-causing ability in common. "Some of the viruses," he said, "may be minute, highly parasitic micro-organisms, the midgets of the microbial world, capable of reproduction only within susceptible host cells; others may represent forms of life more or less unfamiliar to us, and still others may be fabrications of their host cells aided by the processes of auto-catalysis. What life is and where the transition from the non-living to the living takes place, if it does, in the scheme just set forth is not known. Furthermore, the transition may be so gradual that it will be difficult for investigators to assign the particular point at which it occurs."
Dr. Rivers further states that the viruses range from almost the size of the smaller bacteria down to that of single protein molecules, and that they carry the same kind of electrical charge commonly found on protein molecules.

Still another review points to similar conclusions:

Evolution of man and all lesser living things gains scope and takes on new grandeur by being traced far below the world of life to the very chemical elements themselves. A new visualization presented by Professor George A. Baitsell, of Yale University, bridges the gap between the living and the non-living with recent new knowledge of gigantic chemical molecules of viruses that act as though they were alive. The difference between the living and the non-living is shown to be a matter of complexity. The same materials are used in both domains and they conform to the same elemental patterns. The natural world is fused so effectively that the procession of organic development flows uninterruptedly from atom to man. There is no need to worry as to just when and at exactly what stage life was infused into the evolving stuff of the natural world. In that ultra-Lilliputian borderland where the most powerful microscopes lose their sight, increasing complexity evolves into what has been labeled "life." From the simplest substance in the organic world to the most complex patterns of living substance there must be a graded series. Should evolution begin at the level of the living organism? The union of hydrogen and oxygen to form water, the union of carbon and oxygen to form carbon dioxide, the union of water and carbon dioxide to form sugar, the addition of other elements to the sugar molecule to form protein -- were not all these stages in the evolutionary processes which have led to ever-increasing complexity, reaching their climax in the world of life?
But where is any "climax," or any "world of life" as distinguished from another kind of world?

While the foregoing quotations show the presence of "organic" qualities in the "inorganic" world, there is also an accumulation of evidence tracing an ascent of "inorganic" qualities into the "organic" world. Ernst Haeckel, arch-enemy of the spiritual life of man, and scientific pretender as he was in some respects, nevertheless pointed out certain phenomena which needed only to be considered from the proper point of view, i.e., opposite to his own, to show the truth. Haeckel noted the close relation between crystallinity and living structure. Much later, Rinne(6) contended for the fundamental similarity of crystalline material and organic structure, and the continuity of the organic and the inorganic worlds. Dr. W. D. Francis in 1935 showed that the iron bacterium Leptothrix Ochracea is crystalline, and contended that one of the fundamental factors in the generation of life is iron. (He little suspects the bearing of this fact on the seemingly "symbolic" designation, the Iron Age!) Dr. Fuerth, of Prague, apparently reduced organic structures as well as organic functions to magnetic fields.(7) ("Life is light, and both are electricity," says The Secret Doctrine.)

It seems that crystalline patterns extend through all the kingdoms of nature. Prof. Baitsell has arrived at conclusions pointing to the crystallinity of living structure. His findings were revealed by X-ray investigations, unlike the others mentioned. Crystalline structures are also regarded as existing in normal fluids, such as water, the molecules of which are arranged in orderly groups, according to Prof. Peter Debye of the University of Berlin.(8)

Thus there is today strong scientific support for certain propositions set forth in Theosophy, which may be put in the language of The Secret Doctrine:

1. There is no dividing line between the "organic" and the "inorganic."

As to our outward physical bodies ... the Doctrine teaches a strange lesson; so strange that unless thoroughly explained and as rightly comprehended, it is only the exact Science of the future that is destined to vindicate the theory fully.... ALL IS LIFE, and every atom of even mineral dust is a LIFE, though beyond our comprehension and perception.... (I, 248.)

Chemistry and physiology are the two great magicians of the future, who are destined to open the eyes of mankind to the great physical truths. With every day, the identity between the animal and physical man, between the plant and man, and even between the reptile and its nest, the rock, and man -- is more and more clearly shown.... Each particle -- whether you call it organic or inorganic -- is a life.... It is that mysterious LIFE, represented collectively by countless myriads of lives, that follows in its own sporadic way, the hitherto incomprehensible law of Atavism; that copies family resemblances as well as those it finds impressed in the aura of the generators of every future human being,... (I, 261.)

2. Life, light, and electricity are one. (Which means that they are also one with "matter.") That light and electricity are of fundamentally the same nature has been well enough proved by Einstein and others; the relation between life and electricity as noted above is only verification of the occult doctrine:
...the primordial Electric Entity -- for the Eastern Occultists insist that Electricity is an Entity -- electrifies into life, and separates primordial stuff or pregenetic matter into atoms, themselves the source of all life and consciousness... [the Astral Light is] the first Light of the primordial Elohim ... or (scientifically) ELECTRICITY AND LIFE. (Footnote.) Od is the pure life-giving Light, or magnetic fluid; Ob the messenger of death used by the sorcerers, the nefarious evil fluid; Aour is the synthesis of the two, Astral Light proper. (I, 76.)
3. The basis of living as well as so-called "inanimate" forms, hence of manifest material life, is geometrical, built upon number, as shown in the all-pervading phenomenon of crystallinity; for number is the basis of the "Eternal Thought in the Eternal Mind." (This is the thought behind Plato's insistence upon geometry.) The basis of crystallinity is the triangle, which gives rise to the simplest form of crystal.
Next we see Cosmic matter scattering and forming itself into elements; grouped into the mystic four within the fifth element -- Ether, the lining of Akasa, the Anima Mundi or Mother of Kosmos. "Dots, Lines, Triangles, Cubes, Circles" and finally "Spheres" -- why or how? Because, says the Commentary, such is the first law of Nature, and because Nature geometrizes universally in all her manifestations. There is an inherent law -- not only in the primordial, but also in the manifested matter of our phenomenal plane -- by which Nature correlates her geometrical forms, and later, also, her compound elements; and in which there is no place for accident or chance. It is a fundamental law in Occultism, that there is no rest or cessation of motion in Nature. That which seems rest is only the change of one form into another; the change of substance going hand in hand with that of form -- as we are taught in Occult physics, which thus seem to have anticipated the discovery of the "Conservation of matter" by a considerable time. (I, 97.)
Now arises a consideration of utmost importance. It should be clear to the student how directly all these discovered facts interlock with Theosophical fundamentals long since set forth. But the materialist argues from the same data that all living phenomena are complexes of molecular motion. In this field, in other words, each man can interpret according to bias, unless facts coming in at another angle or plane of perception clinch the issue in the right direction. And it is undeniable that the popular bias is materialistic. But must we resign ourselves to the view that these new discoveries will be of spiritual help only to the Theosophist, who does not need it from that source, and that perhaps they will be of great harm to the multitude, who know nothing of Theosophy? Not, we think, if these findings are used constructively by Theosophists aware of other discoveries relating to the broad problem of form and its origin. This will be our next subject for consideration.

Compiler's Note: Before going on to part two of the above article, the article that begins below, entitled "DARK BREEDS", is from a 57-part series entitled "STUDIES IN KARMA". This is the article that is referred to by the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine in the above article, in footnote number (3). It is part 2 of 3 from a group within the series of 57 articles. I want you to know that I will soon be scanning and proofreading and adding this series to this web site. Please note that the nine footnotes found in this additional article, numbered 1 to 9 in the original, have here been changed so as to smoothly continue after the eight that are in the above article; they are numbered 9-17.

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 1, November, 1932
(Pages 30-33)


X (In Three Parts)



DOCTOR Manwaring, of Stanford University, is being joined by others. According to him, new theories on immunology which have appeared during the last five years are fated to render inconclusive the literature of the past twenty. 95% of the theories up to date have been discarded anyway, he says.(9)

Previously it has been firmly held that any foreign protein injected into the tissues is as completely digested as though by natural processes. Dr. Manwaring remarks that there is no convincing evidence of this. On the contrary, traces of horse protein have been reported in human blood for several years after the administration of diphtheria antitoxin. Does that mean that so long as this condition lasts there hangs over the victim the menace of fertilization with its consequences of cancer and what-not -- to say nothing of psychic effects? Just that is implied in what Dr. Manwaring further says -- that the so-called protective "antibodies" may be hybridization products between the infectious agent and the host tissues; may be dehumanized human proteins or modified alien entities. The cross-breeding tendency is shown by the fact that when diphtheria toxins were incubated with other serum proteins than those normally used, new toxins of high virulence and changed specificities were produced. Illuminatingly, Dr. Manwaring calls vaccine and serum therapy a "hitherto discouraging field." Certainly not for the serum-factories which have been the most successful of business enterprises.

Later on,(10) Dr. Manwaring goes into the incalculable after-effects of these unnatural juxtapositions. Classic immunology, he says, has been based on the anthropomorphic idea that a serum is a purposefully defensive substance. On the contrary, the defensive trait just happens to be one of a number of very diverse characters. The body is normally full of many factors capable of mutation into unknown types, some possibly injurious. A serum injection occurs into a complex of dynamic protein mixtures of unknown potencies. The elimination or naturalization of a serum during the life of the body is unpredictable. Moreover the body reacts differently to a given serum at different ages, he says. Is it not now clear that a vaccine or serum given a very young child can bide its time for a half-century until the "cancer age" of weakening cellular stability is reached?

Moreover Dr. Manwaring states that disease-producing organisms have been known to multiply more rapidly in an immune serum than in a normal one. (For the benefit of the non-technical reader, be it explained that serum is a constituent of all blood; the word as commonly used refers to normal animal serum which has been poisoned by a given disease virus for injection into the human body).

According to Prof. E. W. Schultz, of Stanford University,(11) the ultramicroscopic viruses seem to require living cells for their propagation, but are highly selective as to what tissue they will pick out. Planting cowpox in a vaccination scar results in the restoration of tissue by young and rapidly dividing cells. It does not seem to occur to him that this temporary cancer might not always remain temporary; or that the proliferation might result from the fertilization of the body cells by the cowpox virus.

Dr. Schultz' revelations are as significant as Dr. Manwaring's. A virus being implanted, it may by cell destruction or other means bring about the proliferation of body cells to meet its demands. Why should not those new cells be its progeny, rather than "carriers?" Viruses, says Dr. Schultz, bring about formations in the cells which they attack, called "inclusion bodies." Their nature is disputed, some considering them aggregations of the virus corpuscles themselves. To us they have a most suspicious resemblance to the immediate effects of normal cell fertilization! And if this incipient fertilization occurs in all affected cells, why not viable in some? And in any case what is the effect upon the health of the cell? Dr. Schultz says that "what keeps the virus in check within the host is not clear." Perhaps it isn't kept in check! Significantly, Dr. Schultz admits that the union between a diphtheria poison or toxin, and its counteracting agent the antitoxin, may break up at a later time and both be set free.

The incalculable aftermath of serum injections is shown by experiments with plants, in which the nature of viruses showed a "baffling tendency" to change when transferred from one plant to another. What happens then when a virus is transferred from a horse to a man?(12)

The intense individuality of living substances is recognized by Dr. Karl Landsteiner, of the Rockefeller Institute. He says that the proteins in animals and plants are different and specific for each species. Thus plant and animal bodies cannot be successfully built up of tissues from other species.(13) But what of forcing substances across the natural barriers? Natural assimilation as against the unnatural and forced is demonstrated by the case of the bacteriophage. This germ-killer is harmless when given by mouth but must never be administered under the skin.(14) Why are medical men so blind to the basic principle involved? Also Dr. Epstein advocates in the case of puerperal infection the use of bandages soaked in antivirus prepared from streptococci obtained from the patient.(15) When a foreign protein comes into direct contact with the cells of a normal organism, the latter are irritated (irritation, nota bene, is accepted as a prime concomitant of cancer) entering upon a cycle of changes, the first result of which is a hypersensitiveness toward that protein, so that infinitesimal quantities can irritate the cells thereafter.(16) The establishment of immunity, the article states, is bound up with inflammatory reactions which may strike friend and foe alike. The same inflammatory reaction which destroys the microbic enemies may, under other conditions when the cells are enfeebled, turn upon the host.

Further information on this sensitiveness, plus the individuality of tissues, is given in Science, April 10th and 24th, 1931. Occasionally the introduction of sera is accompanied by complications and death. The one in 50,000 cases of this nature, it is said, causes the physician to hesitate. (Not counting those who die of results unadmitted!). A certain portion of mankind is "naturally hypersensitive" to horse serum, the injection of which results in collapse and sometimes death. Others become artificially sensitized to it and react similarly. Due to the increasing use of serum, this group is also on the increase, forming a formidable medical problem, inasmuch as almost all commercial sera are derived from horses. In other words, the fact that a patient has survived a serum injection is no sign that another may not kill him; rather the reverse!

That an injection may definitely weaken resistance is shown by Dr. Arnold B. Rich, of Johns Hopkins.(17) The tissues become hypersensitive to the specific germ at the point of inoculation. At the next attack these tissues are damaged or killed by a normally harmless infection, resulting in illness or even death. Methods of obviating this are being proposed. The obvious method does not seem to occur to the profession!

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 essential faculty possessed by all the cosmic and terrestrial elements, of generating within themselves a regular and harmonious series of results, a concatenation of causes and effects, is an irrefutable proof that they are either animated by an extra or intra INTELLIGENCE, or conceal such within or behind the manifested veil. Occultism does not deny the certainty of the mechanical origin of the Universe; it only claims the absolute necessity of mechanicians of some sort behind those Elements (or within) -- a dogma with us. It is not the fortuitous assistance of the atoms of Lucretius, who himself knew better, that built the Kosmos and all in it. Nature herself contradicts such a theory. Celestial space, containing matter so attenuated as is Ether, cannot be called on, with or without attraction, to explain the common motion of the sidereal hosts. Although the perfect accord of their mutual revolution indicates clearly the presence of a mechanical cause in Nature, Newton, who of all men had best right to trust to his deductions and views, was nevertheless forced to abandon the idea of ever explaining, by the laws of known Nature and its Material forces, the original impulse given to the millions of orbs. He recognised fully the limits that separate the action of natural Forces from that of the INTELLIGENCES that set the immutable laws into order and action. And if a NEWTON had to renounce such hope, which of the modern materialistic pigmies has the right of saying: "I know better"? --S.D., I, 594.

Next article:
(Part II of II)
(Part 83 of a 103-part series)

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"Science and The Secret Doctrine"
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(1) See The Secret Doctrine I, 611-12.
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(2) Ibid. I, 520.
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(3) See Prof. Manwaring's views for connection with the subject of serums and vaccines (THEOSOPHY XXI, 30). [Compiler's note: A copy of the article referred to follows the one you are now reading.]
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(4) Op. cit., p. 132.
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(5) S.D. II, 187.
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(6) Grenzfragen des Lebens, 1931.
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(7) Die Naturwissenchaften, 16, 777, 1928.
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(8) New York Herald Tribune, September 13, 1936.
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Reminder: The following footnotes, numbers (9) to (17), are for the second article, but in the original article that I scanned they are numbered from (1) to (9). Just so there would be no confusion here, I simply changed the numbers so as to smoothly continue on from the eight footnotes that were in the first article above. --Compiler.

(9) Science, July 11, 1930.
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(10) Do., October 2, 1931.
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(11) Scientific Monthly, November, 1930.
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(12) Science, August 22, 1930.
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(13) Science, April 17, 1931.
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(14) Do., August 1, 1930.
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(15) Scientific Monthly, January, 1929.
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(16) Science, July 10, 1931.
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(17) Science, May 22, 1931.
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