THEOSOPHY, Vol. 29, No. 9, July, 1941
(Pages 406-410; Size: 15K)
(Number 91 of a 103-part series)



(Part II of II)

The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one, and all the other kingdoms have the same astral model. Vegetables, minerals, and animals have the ethereal double, and this theory is the only one which will answer the question how it is that the seed produces its own kind and all sentient beings bring forth their like. 

--The Ocean of Theosophy.
OLD age sets in when the vivifying currents of the astral form slacken, weaken, and become clogged. This, in turn, is brought about by the loosing of the "will to live," and this, again, by the secret consciousness of the Ego that the game is nearly played out and soon will no longer be worth the candle.

A part of this problem involves the nature of Prana, "vital breath," or as sometimes called, "vitality." During the nineteenth century the idea of a specific vital force was contemptuously received; all biological phenomena were supposed to be merely special manifestations of ordinary atomic and molecular forces. Prof. Richardson was an exception to the general view. Quoting and commenting upon his ideas, H. P. Blavatsky said:

"... It [his "nervous ether"] holds the nervous system throughout in perfect tension, during states of life (true). By exercise it is disposed of (rather generated) ... and when demand for it is greater than the supply, its deficiency is indicated by nervous collapse or exhaustion." [Note by H.P.B.: "And too great an exuberance of it in the nervous system leads as often to disease and death. If it were the animal system which generated it, such would not be the case, ..."] "It accumulates in the nervous centres during sleep, bringing them, if I may so speak, to their due tone, and therewith raising the muscles to awakening and renewed life...."

Modern Science denies the existence of a "vital principle." This extract is a clear proof of its grand mistake. But this "physical something," that we call life-fluid -- the Liquor Vitae of Paracelsus -- has not deserted the body, as Dr. Richardson thinks. It has only changed its state from activity to passivity, and become latent owing to the too morbid state of the tissues, on which it has no more hold. Once the rigor mortis absolute, the "Liquor Vitae" will re-awaken into action, and begin its work on the atoms chemically....

Lastly he writes ... "The nervous Ether may be poisoned; it may, I mean, have diffused through it, by simple gaseous diffusion, other gases or vapours derived from without; it may derive from within products of substances swallowed and ingested, or gases of decomposition produced during disease in the body itself." (The Secret Doctrine I, 538.)

A progressive poisoning of the whole system is suspected by modern science to have much to do with senescence, disease and death. The above remarks give the clue to the real nature of that poisoning. It is scientifically suspected that the tissues in themselves are free from inhibitory factors existent in the body -- as in fact Dr. Carrel's famous immortal chicken tissue proved. Dr. Ephraim Shorr, Cornell Medical College, has pointed out that the metabolism of excised tissues of a dog is superior to that of the whole animal.(1)

What, then, is the origin and nature of this mysterious force? Madame Blavatsky wrote all that could be told about it; one of her most significant passages runs as follows:

This "Nervous Ether" is the lowest principle of the Primordial Essence which is Life. It is animal vitality diffused in all nature and acting according to the conditions it finds for its activity. It is not an "animal product," but the living animal, the living flower or plant are its products. The animal tissues only absorb it according to their more or less morbid or healthy state -- as do physical materials and structures (in their primogenial State -- nota bene) -- and henceforward, from the moment of the birth of the Entity, are regulated, strengthened, and fed by it. It descends in a larger supply to vegetation in the Sushumna sun-ray which lights and feeds the moon, and it is through her beams that it pours its light upon, and penetrates man and animal, more during their sleep and rest, than when they are in full activity. (S.D. I, 537.)
(One of the channels of the astral body is called "sushumna," and is the means of ingress of this force in the human form.)

These forces are of the nature of light, or rather of its invisible principles. Very evidently the invisible ultra-violet partakes of their nature. Something of a mystery exists in the fact that though the living cell uses visible light, only the ultra-violet provides the kind of energy needed to carry out some of the cell's vital processes.(2) But enough has been learned of the importance of the ultra-violet in biological activity to make it the basis of innumerable medical treatments, methods of processing food and medicines, etc. Dr. George Crile has remarked that eating food is actually eating ultra-violet and infra-red rays which have been absorbed by it from the sun. Nitrogen atoms from the air, which enter the body in breathing, have been charged with electricity from the atmosphere, and this energy becomes the activating force of the living tissue.(3) (Atmospheric electricity is generated by the sun, and thus Dr. Crile is stating the proposition almost as the Theosophical doctrines have it!)

However, ultra-violet is by no means the only vibration with which prana is associated. Different colors of light produce widely varying effects in plants, not only different rates of growth but surprising effects of other kinds. Seedlings exposed to blue light tend to bend toward the light and toward one another; red light produces the opposite effect. Plants receiving orange light become greener than the others, and those receiving only blue-green light develop a marked yellowish coloration. Roots grow longest in extreme blue, and shortest in orange-red.(4)

An experiment conclusively demonstrating the actual substantiality of vital solar energy was performed by Dr. E. A. Spessard,(5) who sealed green plants in airtight glass containers where no plant food could be obtained. These plants gained weight during ten months. Glass, it may be noted, cuts off most of the ultra-violet rays.

The astral body is also the basis of physical individuality. An extended discussion of the efforts of modern biology toward understanding the character of this kind of individuality -- which of course is the only kind recognized by science -- is provided by Dr. Leo Loeb.(6) This important article should be studied directly if possible, as only a resumé is possible here.

Dr. Loeb first mentions the well-known methods of recognizing an individual, then adds two which are more significant from the viewpoint under consideration. They are the body scent, by which an animal can distinguish any individual from any other, and the fingerprint pattern. The scent is explained Theosophically as the outcome of the individual relation between the pranic currents and the physical chemistry of the body; the fingerprint is a direct result of the astral pattern of the individual.

Dr. Loeb observes that there are bases of individuality which do not rest in specific tissues alone. He speaks of the "mosaic" or unified design presented by the totality of the organs and tissues. But beyond this there are properties common to all of the organs and tissues, which distinguish the man from others:

There is inherent in every higher individual organism something which differentiates him from every other individual, which can be discovered by observing the reactions of certain cells and tissues belonging to one individual towards the tissues and cells of another individual of the same species. They act as if there was something in common to all parts of one organism which differs from the analogous characteristics of all the parts in a different organism of the same species. And not only do these cells recognize the different individuals as such, they do more than that, they recognize, to speak in a metaphorical way, the degree of difference between two individuals as based on their genetic constitution.
Dr. Loeb goes into much detail about the transplantation and serological experiments which show the mutual affinity between the tissues of one individual and their common antagonism to the tissues of other individuals. His essential conclusion is:
The organism is then a harmonious whole, in which not only the organ functions are adapted to one another, but in which also all the various tissues, which apparently are not functionally related, are specifically adapted to one another, owing to the nature of their organismal differentials. This latter adaptation above all is what characterizes the individual. Such a harmonious relationship must be based on resemblances or identities in certain chemical structures of the most important and complex substances which enter into the building of the organism, especially substances of a protein nature.
And of course, so far as Dr. Loeb is concerned, the differences are purely chemical. But Biology will doubtless be a long time in proving specific chemical differences, because of the very complexity of the organic molecules involved, which often defy analysis. Even if differences should be discerned so that they can be represented by chemical formulas, the insoluble problem will remain: How did these differences arise? and how are they maintained?

While modern biologists are progressively justifying Madame Blavatsky's prediction that "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" (S.D. I, 261), the blank wall which separates the merely physical from the realm of psycho-biology has already been reached. This impasse in scientific progress was also indicated by H.P.B. in The Secret Doctrine:

Science is welcome to speculate upon the physiological mechanism of living beings, and to continue her fruitless efforts in trying to resolve our feelings, our sensations, mental and spiritual, into functions of their inorganic vehicles. Nevertheless, all that will ever be accomplished in this direction has already been done, and Science will go no farther. She is before a dead wall, on the face of which she traces, as she imagines, great physiological and psychic discoveries, but every one of which will be shown later on to be no better than the cobwebs spun by her scientific fancies and illusions. (I, 133-4.)
No doubt immense complexities in the purely physical nature of man will still be unravelled by Science; but to the percipient mind, every such step leaves in profounder darkness the real mystery of the psychic and mental powers. The latter rest on the basis of a true individuality. The nature of these powers cannot be disclosed by either the chemical analyses of the scientist or the visions of the psychic. To reach into the unfathomable substratum of Being, the seat of Real individuality, requires perceptive powers not available to either scientist or psychic. And it is well to remember that whatever may be the course of science during coming decades, it is certain that the sun of psychism is barely below the morning horizon of this century. Many are those among both scientists and laymen who will be badly scorched by its brilliant but toxic rays.

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(1) Science, May 7, 1937.
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(2) Prof. Farrington Daniels, Science, May 31, 1935.
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(3) Press, April 20, 1934.
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(4) Science, July 17, 1936.
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(5) Associated Press, January 3, 1936.
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(6) Science, July 2, 1937.
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