THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 4, February, 1942
(Pages 168-172; Size: 16K)
(Number 94 of a 103-part series)



IN the Scientific American for February, 1941, occurs the following editorial passage:

In this column 25 months ago, the belief was expressed that, until a really hard and actual physical working principle underlying the long-mysterious art of dowsing, divining, or water witching by forked boughs was discovered and identified, so that physical laboratory instruments could be substituted for the vague uncertainties of the human factor, any investigation of that art must necessarily remain premature. We did not deny that dowsers locate water -- we believed, and still believe, they often do -- but we wanted the physicists to take over the problem, take some of the occult-mystic obscurantist hocus-pocus out of it and work it out as an ordinary problem in physical research, leaving the mystics and occultists high, dry, and lonesome.
These sentiments deserve close examination in themselves, as a psychic phenomenon indicative of the mental barricades which truth must surmount unless content to arrive by duly sanctified channels. Here we find it stated that "investigation is premature" until "a really hard and actual physical working principle ... was discovered and identified." How, may we ask, is such a principle to be discovered, until and unless such "premature" investigation is carried out? It is a simple matter of record that for a century or more, orthodox science refused to investigate "dowsing" at all, claiming that the idea was ridiculous on the face of it.

The statement further implies that no investigation can be worthy of the name in which the "vague uncertainties of the human factor" are involved. Aside from the fact that this should logically throw out of court the entire sciences of psychology (perhaps not a fatal loss), and of medicine, one wonders whether the individual capable of writing such a paragraph actually knows anything of the practical problems of human psychology involved in research on any obscure and difficult subject, no matter how "physical."

The closing sentence of the paragraph from the Scientific American deserves special notice from theosophists. The difficulties met in the world by the Ancient Science are in any case never from conflict with facts. Consistent readers of this Magazine are well aware of the manner in which scientists have been urged, directly and indirectly, to investigate the many obscure physical problems upon which only Theosophy has thrown real light, but which would be of great value to science in building an integrated view of the Universe, should they be investigated and verified by means congenial to scientific men themselves.

In the sentence referred to are, first, an unfair accusation against the "dowsers"; second, an explicit determination to refuse to any but materialistic investigators the credit for any discovery of any kind. This is all of a pattern with what Theosophy itself has met at the hands of enthroned materialism from the beginning. Theosophists have been fairly familiar with the "dowsing" problem for many years, and have known not a few "dowsers," some invariably successful, some successful part of the time (like the physicists and geologists working on the same problems by other methods), and some who had very little success. Theosophically, dowsing is simply an interesting exemplification and proof of the manner in which the electro-magnetic forces of the human organism interlock with the invisible currents of natural forces which traverse space. But the typical "dowser" does not engage in "occult-mystic obscurantist hocus-pocus." In fact, in the Occident, he does not engage in any notable discussion at all. He merely says that he can find water; when engaged for a job, tries to do it. If he succeeds, he suggests that any friend looking for water be referred to him, and departs. He does not know how he does it, does not pretend to know, and is not particularly interested in any explanation offered him, either Theosophic or scientific.

If he is an Oriental, he will sometimes offer an explanation which is substantially that given later in the Scientific American editorial, but which would be scornfully rejected in orthodox circles because the words are not Greco-Latin, and because the giver thereof wears no trousers. And he will explain only when very sure the explanation will not reach aspiring but unsuccessful competitors. They might understand it.

The Scientific American refers to The Physics of the Divining Rod, by two British scientists, Maby and Franklin, as follows:

The investigation proved to be arduous and complex and the report is by no means sketchy. Boiled down to a painful degree, its many conclusions come approximately to this: Every material object and, especially, good conductors in the midst of relatively insulating media, is surrounded by secondary radiation from cosmic rays. The zones of this radiation from these objects can be definitely mapped out in space by means of several physical recording instruments of conventional type, including ionization counters; and, thus mapped out, they check with those mapped out by the ancient method of divining. The working basis of dowsing is the nerves and muscles of the operator, which act as natural ionization counters of electron showers caused by the cosmic rays. One person in ten can learn the art. Both authors learned it.
With the further comment:
It is particularly pleasing, however, to note that our early suspicion that dowsing was not a fake, but has a true physical basis, is apparently verified. The new report will not altogether please those few scientists who all along have pooh-poohed dowsing in toto (without looking into it). Those whom it really will most displease are the occult-minded, for it substitutes the ordinary for the nebulous, the known and commonplace for the mysterious which, to that type of mental makeup, is always the more attractive.
So cosmic rays are "ordinary, known, and commonplace"? And no mystery exists in the question of how the nerves act as ionization counters for them? Is there nothing "mysterious" or "nebulous" about an "art" which, though based on "known and common-place" qualities belonging to everyone with a nervous system, can be learned by only one in ten? (Further investigation would probably show the proportion to be more like one in seven; and theosophists would not be surprised if a certain phrase, "first-born of the ether," which occurs in The Secret Doctrine, might have application to this capacity.)

Nothing is more persistent or logically unaccountable than the materialistic delusion that to name a thing is to have understood it. Yet that delusion has served, from the day of Mesmer on, to confound and deprecate everything smacking of "occultism." Let any long-denied phenomenon, claimed to be actual by "occultism," be proved a fact, some of its rationale discovered, and a scientific name given it -- and behold, as by a miracle, all at once it is the original discoverers and upholders who are the fools, not those who blindly denied; and no matter how the "occultists" may have striven to explain the matter in available terminology, the explanation only became valid when put in scientific language.

Unquestionably, there are many "occultists" well deserving of the above-mentioned criticisms. "Hocus-pocus" and nebulosity are not uncommon in the race mind, and we venture to state that they exist in at least as high a proportion in politics and the social field as they do in "occultism." But the existence of a "lunatic" fringe around the Ancient Wisdom no more condemns the validity of that Science than Sunday-supplement science condemns the work of Jeans and Eddington. The real obstacle to recognition of the truth in occult science is just such phobias as the Scientific American editorial exemplifies. Mainly it is simply vanity of learning and achievement which cannot brook the thought of prior and greater knowledge.

Implicit in such prejudice is the assumption that occultism is "miracle-minded." This is undoubtedly true of pseudo-occultism, but the fundamental contention of Theosophy always has been that there are no "miracles" and that belief in the latter arose from misunderstandings of natural phenomena. The real ground of disagreement lies in the vaster scope ascribed to "nature" by Theosophy.

An unconscious but caustic commentary on the trend of the Scientific American editorial occurs in comments on astrology by the New York Times, Dec. 12, 1937:

The old physical universe, already tottering under the savage blows of the world's Nobel Prize heavyweights, received its final K.O. from a couple of slugging American scientists. They have deprived the physical universe of "its last vestiges of reality." ... and our correspondent in Philadelphia says that the physical universe has been reduced to "an abstract mathematical ghost which feeds on Greek letter symbols."
The Times writer is sarcastically pointing out that while astrologers ascribe events to the stars, science has shown that there aren't any stars; but he is correctly representing the most advanced scientific thought. This thought has eliminated physics in the materialistic sense at the moment that the Scientific American accepts dowsing because of its having been put on just such a physical basis. It would seem time for the head and the tail of the scientific serpent of wisdom to come to agreement, lest indeed the one devour the other in earnest.

The simple and profound underlying fact is that everything manifest presents two aspects: a proximate aspect which can be grasped by the senses, and an ultimate aspect which is surrounded by mystery. No physical phenomenon has ever been completely known, nor ever will be, in physical terms. Just beyond the range of normal sense perceptions lies the plane of "astral" manifestations -- no further from the normal range of sight, in fact, than the "ultra-violet" is beyond the visible solar spectrum. Drugs, drink, dreams, mediumism or adeptship reveal those regions to otherwise normal persons, and there are not a few natural "clairvoyants" who see in them more or less clearly. To science they are pure superstition, fancy, or invention. Yet any scientist with normal eyesight, materialist or otherwise, can be shown the "astral" body of man with entirely "normal" or physical methods. The secret has been accidentally revealed more than once; and lost again -- perhaps not altogether "accidentally."

What is the scientific conclusion, so far as it goes? Why, that these phenomena, now that they have been seen, are necessarily "physical" after all; and of course, all the "mystics" who had claimed their existence for some thousands of years are fools and obscurantists as usual, not being versed in modern Greco-Latin!

Anything that can be perceived by the senses is "physical" to him possessing the senses.

Anything previously unperceived, but made visible by some aid to the normal senses, thereupon becomes "physical."

Anything seen by the development of abnormal senses, becomes "physical" to the possessor of those senses.

In other words, any object of perception is physical -- in the scientific sense -- to him who perceives; any existence unperceived is inferable, deducible, or "mystic" to him who does not perceive it.

Such is the basic outlook of materialism; and materialism will still be materialism millions of years hence when "astral" existence will have become the norm and present "physical" matter a memory and a tradition.

The existence of malevolent men having great "occult" powers is an important teaching of Theosophy; and there are those unfortunates in the ranks, once sceptical, who have had direct evidence of the existence of such powers -- when they tried to go too far, too fast, while yet unfit. Some have asked how it is possible for one of such great knowledge to have acquired it without at the same time learning better than to use it in that manner. The answer is: Simply by exerting unusual intelligence and will-power along "occult" lines while retaining the "physical" basis of thought exemplified above.

The materialistic, miscalled "scientific," viewpoint, is that all is matter, and all phenomena are manifestations of matter in different degrees of concretion. The Theosophic viewpoint is that all is spirit and all phenomena are manifestations of spirit at different levels of objectivity. The self-same facts will be obtained by assiduous search from either standpoint. The self-same facts will damn in the one case and save in the other. The "black adept" is the man who has discovered that the "astral" plane is physical. The White adept is he who has found that the physical plane is spiritual. The power -- and the ultimate depth of damnation -- of the "black adept" is measured by the height of the "astral" planes that he has mastered and brought under the "laws of physics" -- as far as he is concerned.

Obviously, there is "black magic" ruling the minds of some who are not black magicians. Those who do not become sorcerers are those who see the fallacy in time. This time is better than some future time.

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