THEOSOPHY, Vol. 29, No. 5, March, 1941
(Pages 212-217; Size: 18K)
(Number 87 of a 103-part series)



(Part I of II)

IN this year 1941, a condition exists which is unprecedented in science. There is a major problem for which no current theory is accepted as an explanation. The period through which this Magazine has been published presents no similar case. A close study of the scientific commentaries in The Secret Doctrine, and a review of the literature back to those days, likewise show no similar phenomenon, though it is clear that nearly all theories have been kaleidoscopic in their alterations.

This instance must be particularly painful to those -- of whom few are now scientists -- who regard "science" as infallible.

Long since, man has been rendered parentless (anupadaka) in science by the substitution of an animal -- no agreement as to what kind of animal -- for his true ancestor. Now his planetary habitation is found to be parentless, too, for there is no theory satisfactory, even to a few, for the explanation of the origin of the solar system. We are not acquainted with any definite, categorical statement of that fact; but for the past year or two it has been seeping up from the scientific underworld of doubt and discrepancy, in the form of questionings, criticisms, veiled references, until at last the fact has become clear.

There have actually been only two major theories on this subject, aside from the disdained Theosophical truth. Others have been only variations.

The first was Laplace's Nebular Hypothesis, which was proclaimed to have "rendered God useless." It is not necessary here to point out the lingering and painful ways by which this hypothesis arrived at a final end at least twenty years ago. There are voluminous sections in The Secret Doctrine which show how vulnerable the whole theory was, even from the point of view of pure rationality. The expiring struggles were marked by an attempt to show that it had never been universally accepted anyway. At any rate, it is a fact of painful knowledge to Theosophists that the Nebular Hypothesis was accepted so far as to be a weapon of scientific excommunication for Madame Blavatsky and all that she taught.

The theory which gradually succeeded it had several branches, but all depended upon the close approach to our sun of another star. Prof. Kirtley F. Mather sums up the situation of the new theory's proponents in the following words:

In his book "The Solar System and Its Origin," Henry Norris Russell presents a critique of the several theories of earth origin, which may fairly be taken as representative of the attitude of most astronomers toward this problem, responsibility for the solution of which they share with geologists. Full consideration is given to the planetesimal hypothesis of Chamberlin and Moulton and to the modifications of that hypothesis which have been proposed by Jeffreys and Jeans. The obstacles which forbid whole-hearted acceptance of any one of these hypotheses are forcefully presented. The conclusion is frankly stated "that no one can yet say how our system originated in detail."

It is nevertheless apparent that the most hopeful line of research leads toward some hypothesis of origin during an encounter between the sun and another heavenly body. (Science, January. 27, 1939.)

Going on to say that the fundamental principle of the planetesimal hypothesis is "accepted," he quotes Prof. Russell as follows:
Commenting specifically upon the planetesimal and tidal theories, Professor Russell states: "It is here that the two theories part company -- the planetesimal supposing that the existing planets were formed mainly by the slow agglomeration of small cold bodies, and the tidal that they were all once liquid and have picked up much less matter in later times. This difference, while very important to the geologist, is really rather small from the standpoint of the astronomer."
Prof. Mather notes the intricate relationship between the problems of the geologist and of the astronomer in this connection; the fact that the astronomer can help the geologist but little; from here he passes to the geological investigations.

Now, of the two branches of the theory, that which most nearly approaches the Theosophical explanation is the planetesimal. The objections to it are thus of interest. Prof. Mather shows that if the earth has grown by the accretion of meteoric dust, the present rate of fall would account for only one one-hundred-and-twenty-five thousandth of the weight of the earth in two billion years. The planetesimal hypothesis assumes a former rate of infall of a hundred thousand times as great. Certainly this is logical, since the available dust and stone in space would have decreased rapidly as it was absorbed by the planets. Prof. Mather, remarking that this "throws the whole question back into the realm of speculative deduction" (What would he prefer? Personal observation?), then plunges into some speculative deductions of a more congenial nature.

Earthquake records indicate that the earth has a stratiform structure which reflects waves in a discontinuous manner. Prof. Mather claims that this structure is an argument for an originally liquid constitution, and against an origin by accretion. His most obvious argument is that a liquid earth would permit the differential settlement of light and heavy materials, which would best account for the observed wave actions. (The latter are as though the core of the earth were nickel and iron.) But Prof. Mather destroys this argument himself.

Thus an earth originally heterogeneous and always essentially crystalline would eventually be organized into its present structural form with a central core of intrinsically dense materials surrounded by concentric shells of progressively less dense substances. At all times it would react as an elastic solid to the sudden impacts or abrupt release of energy which initiate earthquake vibrations, but at all times it would be subject to "solid flow," which would tend inevitably toward specific gravity assortment. If this is true, the existing structure of the earth's interior could be explained with equal effectiveness regardless of its origin, whether by planetesimal growth or by condensation from a gaseous "filament." This would mean that the geologist would be unable to use the earth's fundamental structure as a criterion for appraising the relative merits of the planetesimal and the tidal hypotheses.
He then falls back on arguments based on continental folding. The circumferential shrinking of the earth, he says, is still the best theory to account for mountain-raising. (In which he is in radical conflict with some of the best-known geological authorities.) We may add that such a theory can be held only by ignoring the now rather obvious phenomena of alternate rising and submersion of continental areas and their interchange of status with oceanic areas.

But, says Prof. Mather, the old theory of shrinkage by cooling (an ancient enemy of Theosophy, by the way) can be completely dismissed.

There remains the possibility that physical and chemical reorganization of the materials composing the earth's interior has been such as to increase sufficiently their average density and thus produce the required decrease in volume for the earth as a whole. Chamberlin long ago appealed to this process in seeking an explanation for the diastrophism which produces folded and overthrust mountains. The argument is still valid. It applies, however, only to an earth constructed according to the planetesimal program; it is utterly ineffective in an earth which has solidified from a molten state. If at last we find no escape from the idea of a shrinking earth, we must render our verdict in favor of the planetesimal theory rather than the tidal.
There is a final point to be presented. The actual structure of the earth shows great heterogeneity of materials, and, most interesting, the frequent occurrence of heavier materials on top of lighter. Under the planetesimal theory, he explains, this is accounted for by selective ingathering, transportation, and deposition of different sorts of meteoric materials. Under the tidal theory, it would have to be accounted for by disturbance due to separation of the moon from the earth. (But the Pacific basin, usually suspected of having been the origin of the moon, is now known to have a totally different composition of materials.)

Prof. Mather concludes:

Both ideas must be critically reviewed in the light of any new knowledge which may be secured in the coming years. Neither can be whole-heartedly accepted or bluntly rejected at the present moment. The line of departure between the two is so clearly defined and leads to such far-reaching consequences that there is good reason to expect a definite verdict in the near future. The bearing of that verdict upon the theories of earth origin is obvious.

In summary, it would appear that the concept of earth structure based on recent geophysical and seismological research is not nearly so unfavorable to acceptance of the planetesimal theory of earth origin as many geologists have supposed it to be. On the contrary, in at least one particular -- that which deals with the origin of folded mountains, -- modern investigations pertaining to the fundamental structures of the earth have brought renewed confidence in the basic principles of that theory.

Actually, then, that branch of the current theory which most nearly approximates the Theosophical doctrine (in fact, forms part of it) seems to have the preponderance of evidence in its favor, geologically. But Prof. Mather is over-optimistic, to say the least.

Actually, the insuperable obstacles to both theories are in the realm of astronomy; and the worst of these is the question of angular momentum (rotation, and revolution). Calculation after calculation has shown that the circumgyratory energy involved in the rotation of the planets cannot be accounted for by any plausible theory of collision with another star, even on the liquid theory. On the accumulation theory, every speck of heterogeneously distributed dust added to a planet must decrease the velocity of its rotation, until the rotatory energy of the small original nucleus has been almost entirely absorbed. The same thing would be true of the revolution of the planets about the sun. The most plausible outcome of planetary development under such a theory would be a gigantic ball of accumulated dust, rotating very slowly or not at all. A number of objections to these theories were summed up in articles of this series in THEOSOPHY, August and September, 1933 (XXI, 452, 509), and June, 1938 (XXVI, 349). [Note: For your quick and easy reference, these three articles are my numbers (47), (48), and (76) in this series. --Compiler.]

In a resumé of discovery for 1940, appears the statement:

Theories that the planetary system was formed by condensation of a great gaseous mass pulled out of the sun were shown to be untenable by a demonstration that such a mass would not condense, but would dissipate. (Science, December 27, 1940.)
What, then, is the true answer?

It involves many more difficulties of expression than any material theory, because the origin of a planet is actually not material, in the usual sense, at all; though its growth takes on later material aspects, of which the planetesimal theory may be largely a true picture. Its very beginning implies a radical upset, an irreconcilable difference, with materialism, in the postulate -- for some, the fact -- of the organic nature of the universe. A center of matter anywhere is of necessity a center of consciousness, because consciousness is as inseparable from substance as is mass, and vice versa. This fact is concealed from material observation, because consciousness in the lower forms of substance is not organized, not individual, not aware of self in the sense of individuality, and not equipped with means of expression. Behind the development of these capacities is the urgent "drive" underlying all life, motion, and evolution. Furthermore, in a planet as in an individual, consciousness emerges through several bases or upadhis, which are co-existent but not consubstantial in the full-blown life of the individual, and which in gestation develop serially. The magnetic field of the earth is well known scientifically. That such a field could exist before the physical earth, and be the cause of its accumulation, is probably as wild an idea to the scientist as the equal fact that a bio-magnetic field, pre-existent, is the cause of the formation of a physical human body. Both these phenomena belong to the same class; in fact, the generation and constitution of a human body is only the outcome and specialization of the cosmic law under which planets have come into being.

Thus a physical planet comes into existence at a given point of space because of the presence of the accumulated latent consciousness of a former world-system which has lain in pralaya for countless ages, and which is now to pass once more into its active phase. The first objective manifestation follows the activation of an immaterial center of fiery energy, which seizes upon and draws to itself a modicum of the surrounding dispersed matter of disintegrated planets of a former era, and, acted upon by the laws of cosmic motion, of which science has skimmed only the merest surface, sets out wildly on a course of enormous ellipticity about the sun. This brings the nascent world into distant and different parts of space, where new and hitherto unknown forms of energy and substance are accumulated. Acquiring weight, it tends to a more settled orbit; sometimes it is destroyed by the gravitation of heavier bodies, or swallowed up in them.

"The Central Sun causes Fohat to collect primordial dust in the form of balls, to impel them to move in converging lines and finally to approach each other and aggregate." (Book of Dzyan.) ... "Being scattered in Space, without order or system, the world-germs come into frequent collision until their final aggregation, after which they become wanderers (Comets). Then the battles and struggles begin. The older (bodies) attract the younger, while others repel them. Many perish, devoured by their stronger companions. Those that escape become worlds." (The Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 201.)
If it survives, it grows from a comet to a planet, and enters upon "family" life; the evolution of numerous and diverse species, organically alive and in the end self-conscious. Beholding this period of accumulation by some miracle, the modern scientist would see, for him, the full vindication of the planetesimal theory; but it would be far from the "origin," and he could not see it with eyes of fifth race humanity. Only long, long after this initial cycle of transformations does the matter of the planet itself consolidate into the present complex system of atoms; or, to use other terms, pass from the "astral" form to the physical.

The fact that "hydrogen" has been discovered in the spectrum of Cunningham's Comet may not seem startling to a layman; but it has been so indeed to the scientist.

If it proves correct, the new discovery will be important in the interpretation of future comets. Any new clue to their birth will contribute to understanding better one of the major unsolved puzzles of astronomy, the origin and evolution of the solar system. (Science, January 3, 1941.)
Guess, intuition, or reason? At any rate, truth.

The solution of this problem is at present utterly impossible to science: first, because of the material outlook; second, because of the enormously complex interrelation of all forms of human knowledge, going deeply into the very nature of consciousness and intelligence, which is involved; finally, because of sheer difficulties in mere physical observation and evaluation thereof, in such a realm.

With some of these difficulties we propose to deal next.

(To be concluded)

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(Part II of II)
(Part 88 of a 103-part series)

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