THEOSOPHY, Vol. 31, No. 2, December, 1942
(Pages 65-70; Size: 57K)
(Number 96 of a 103-part series)



IN our last was shown the nature of the painful conflict that exists between the man of true scientific genius and the norm of his surroundings. It was pointed out that the very peculiarities which most make for success in discovery tend most to set the victim apart as "queer," and hence to work against acceptance of those discoveries.

Dr. Watson shows how this social resistance becomes crystallized and officialized through institutions. The result is that the very success of science, which has brought recognition and endowments, has gone far to entomb it under the weight of its possessions. His revelations on this score must be intensely interesting to Theosophists, who have seen the downfall of true religion follow from just such a cause, who have seen the early stage of the Theosophical Movement of this period crumble into corruption by the same process. Even in the United Lodges, which dispensed as far as humanly possible with all vestiges of institutionalism, Theosophists find themselves at grips with the ever-present tendency toward orthodoxy and mental stasis within themselves and within their comrades. We seem here to have a basic Karmic law akin to inductance in an electric circuit by which the very power of the current is used to choke it. Failure is inherent when success takes this form.

Essentially, the situation is summed up in this passage:

Let us imagine that certain desirable temperamental tendencies have been built into the character of the embryonic scientist by the social and physiological circumstances of his birth, growth, and upbringing. Now comes a trial of strength between these tendencies and the organized customs of the adult society. The searching activities of the scientific man provide, in the first place, an undifferentiated mass of facts and fancies. From this a socially acceptable interpretation is gradually sifted out. The social forces select certain of the scientist's abilities and aptitudes for approval. The social organization acts as a filter on the scientific results which are candidates for recognition. Where the belief and practice of the society are sound, this process leads to scientific truth. Where the social features of scientific organization are faulty or based on something other than love of truth (for instance, on the demands of stability, power, or ambition), this selecting process will lead to error. But this sort of error will have, in the eyes of all except intellectually-honest insiders, all the authority of the scientific tradition behind it.... (Watson, David Lindsay, Scientists Are Human, London: Watts and Co., 1938, p. 50.)
Dr. Watson thinks that industrial research often offers a healthier outlook. The corporation is concerned only with the work of the researcher, not with his personal habits, morals, or peculiarities. Moreover, there is a monetary premium on original work which does not exist in the case of the institution. However, we venture to say that the field is not as rosy as Dr. Watson may imagine. In the first place, with few exceptions, research must have definite financial value in order to receive continued support. Sometimes that worth is not synonymous with social value or even material utility. There is little room for soaring into the higher flights of discovery, since the end is immediate and practical, and, for the most part, the scientific genius is working as a subordinate to men whose principal talent is the financial evaluation of results. Seldom does the most interesting research also have the highest economic value. Thus a conflict of purposes sometimes arises, discouraging and disheartening to the genius and exasperating to his "practical" superiors.

The discouragements and difficulties met with by the genius in institutions have a close parallel with those encountered in industry. The socialistically-minded for example, are accustomed to look toward the Soviet Union as the Ultima Thule of the scientific genius. But the truth is, that the Union being one huge business concern, the evils of industrialized science are met with throughout, with fewer academic institutions for refuge. Since the only officially recognized teleology is pure atheism, the scientist who finds himself skirting the metaphysical borders -- in which region lies the greatest of all recent discoveries in the West -- finds himself at the same time in a region of great official frigidity. To cramp the scientific mind into duly materialistic channels, a distinction has been made between "proletarian science" and other kinds. For instance, Einstein's former "curved space" and "closed universe" -- with which Theosophists disagree also, but for other reasons -- is "capitalist science," because it is supposed to have some vague connection with the possibility of a personal god. If commercial considerations on the one hand, and institutionalized orthodoxy on the other, are a curse to the scientific genius, what must be a control by inverted religion of this type?

In no land is the genius of today either really free or entirely happy. Scholars, in general, feel their work needs clarification and integration with the work of other scholars, and with the outside world (see Lookout, p. 86, "Science, Philosophy and Religion"). [Note: The report that is in the "On the Lookout" section of THEOSOPHY magazine, which is referred to by the Editors here, is the 3rd in a series of yearly Conferences. I have provided this report, as well as the prior two, in sequence, after this article. --Compiler.]

Says Dr. Watson:

I want you to come with me to visit a certain influential scientific administrator. The office is empty when we arrive, for he has been away for two weeks on a holiday. His desk is piled high with reports of investigations which he has had no time to read. When he does arrive he looks very severe and important, but he turns out to have a charming manner.... This is the man that decides who shall prosecute what scientific research in these spacious laboratories.

He is a "good executive." That is, he never drops a stitch in ordering supplies or supervising the janitor service. And he makes an immense beaming impression on wealthy visitors. But is this man competent to decide the basic policy of the institution? Has he enough vision to dispense with the mountains of slag, which we are describing in these pages, and find the glittering crystal of truth beneath? Maybe yes. Maybe no. All I would say is that the men of profound insight whom I have known intimately have seldom had such a resemblance to a new-model motor-car -- fitting the fancies of pharisees with such precision as this man -- and so well equipped to proceed at top speed no matter where....

All institutions in the modern world -- whether scientific or lay -- tend to pass into the hands of bureaucrats, or if not of bureaucrats into the control of those who measure up to one or more external standards of social polish, energetic manners, decisiveness, business acumen, and so on. All of these qualities, admirable as they are, give, in themselves, no advantage in piercing the secrets of Nature, or of directing the aims of the institution in harmony with the deepest needs of the society or with the eternal verities. Our contemporaries are content to hand over their destiny to those who from the eminence of a Plato, a Christ, a Faraday, or a Shelley, are morally bankrupt. (pp. 53-55.)

He then points out specifically how scientific men have suffered at the hands of their contemporaries. Mendel, to whom is due the whole present science of genetics, died unrecognized and embittered. Gibbs, recognized twenty years too late for personal benefit, is in reality the founder of modern chemistry. Hitterorff and Ohm were recognized only at the end of their scientific lives. Sadi Carnot, largely the founder of the modern science of steam and gasoline engines, waited ten years to find a reader. The case of Mayer, an equally great discoverer in the same line, is striking. His papers were repeatedly refused, and when he finally achieved publication, he found himself regarded as an impostor because his ideas were already being used by later workers! A classic in this respect, not recognized by Dr. Watson, probably being too much even for him to credit, is the appropriation of the work and reputation of Béchamp by Pasteur.

Waterston's work, which largely founded the modern science of gases, was termed by a Royal Society referee "nothing but nonsense, unfit even for reading before the Society." Newton's major books waited twenty years. Fourier's paper on heat was rejected by an Academy committee composed of Laplace, Lagrange, and Legendre, but thirteen years later, as secretary of the Academy, Fourier published the paper without change.

Such delays are not so common now, Dr. Watson remarks, pointing out some discoveries which were immediately heralded. But he adds:

Yet these advances we have mentioned fitted neatly into the framework of existing institutions. They give answers to currently fashionable problems. A more revolutionary discovery, on the other hand, does not fit the existing set-up of accredited ideas. Its importance consists in the fact that there is no administrative niche waiting for it. It is not so easy to establish that contributions of this calibre do not face the same sort of obstacles as they did during the last century.

For instance, it took many years before Einstein's special theory of relativity began to exert its profound influence on modern physics.... Again, I could tell you of an English physicist (Whyte) whose theoretical work may one day incorporate and transcend both the relativity and new quantum theories, but who is practically unknown to his fellow-physicists. I could introduce you to a biologist, an underling in a London hospital (Woodger), whose beautiful writings on theoretical biology are ignored by the great endowed laboratories, and to a cosmologist (Ross Gunn) whose brilliant new electromagnetic theory of the solar system is never mentioned when his predecessor, Jeans, is in the limelight. There is a designer of telescopes (Ritchey) who was not consulted about the construction of the mammoth new two-hundred-inch instrument at Mount Wilson, U.S.A. Yet this is rendered already out of date in many respects by his numerous improvements in technique and design. (p. 59.)

He gives other instances.

There is frequently a misleading allotment of credit for discovery. Freud's work, for instance, rests on that of Pierre Janet, and was anticipated by Schopenhauer. Ironically, the very feature that made the reputation of Freud -- emphasis on sex -- is not an improvement, as Watson points out, but a narrowing and stultification of Janet's work.

The point is that through his wealth of case-data and through his commanding personality, Freud has come to be accepted as the symbol of the new psychology of the unconscious, both by the laity and by a majority of those doctors who devote themselves to psychological medicine. As a result, Pierre Janet, Adolf Meyer, and Hans Prinzhorn, who understand vast reaches of human nature that slip through the (somewhat pornographic) meshes of the Freudian scheme, are relatively unknown and do not exert their rightful weight in moulding the thought of the generation who are reading this book. (p. 64.)
This problem in science has been recognized by great minds but is kept in the background.

The via dolorosa of the true discoverer, as described by Dr. Watson, may be summed up as follows:

To begin with, having studied mainly under mediocre men who have gained their chairs in various ways not at all related to genius or real talent, the original mind will often find himself labeled "queer" by his teachers, with whom he has had frequent conflicts:

He will be passed over in favour of rivals who show no sign of disturbing abnormality or originality. This rejection of outstanding talent is, in part, unintentional, since only the great can recognize the early signs of greatness in another. (p. 67.)
Having then reached the staff of a university or institution he comes in conflict with men who--
...resent or ridicule the assumption that their own way of working and thinking is not the best way. Those who most hate to have potential distinction in their midst are those who are most active in the politics of the laboratory. Gradually a wall of unfavourable opinion is built around the newcomer.

At length, however, this discrimination finds its way into the mind of the head of his department. From then on our potential discoverer finds that funds are not available for the piece of apparatus he needs so badly, that irritating routine jobs, dissipating his time and strength, are thrust upon him. Instead of being free to go on his own path, he is harnessed to the half-witted project of some "superior." He is appointed to committees which deal with side-issues or dead-issues. He is not appointed to committees which influence the trend of the research in the laboratories. He is passed over when a promotion or a rise in salary is being considered. Even the underlings of the establishment catch the idea. The librarian makes it difficult for him to get the books he so desperately needs, recalls them up to the letter of the law -- in short, extends to him none of the privileges given to the men of standing who have played their political game successfully. When he tries to make a move to another university where he fancies he might get more scope, the same nemesis pursues him. He does not get the job. Finally, exasperated beyond measure, he tells some of these mediocrats what he thinks of them. This is just what they wanted. At the first opportunity he is dismissed "because he does not co-operate" or "because he disturbs the harmony of the institution". (pp. 68-9.)

The chain of misfortune is most likely to be broken, if at all, by personal relationships rather than merit. That this situation is not imaginary is illustrated by the case of Einstein.

At last comes the stage of publishing a great discovery. If the paper is too revolutionary for the editor to understand, it is referred to "authorities" in the same field. Since the paper itself is evidence that said "authorities" have been overlooking something in their own specialty, the atmosphere is frigid from the beginning.

Then, very frequently, after being returned, the offending paper leaves its germinal ideas in the minds of the editor and the referees. There it blossoms out into new papers in which the credit due the original discoverer is minimized or does not appear at all. These authorities of course have prestige and control of all the channels. The excuses of the official plagiarist, when caught, run something like this:

"The idea was in the air." ... "Every scientist owes an infinite debt to the current climate of opinion." ... "It is, strictly speaking, impossible to take another man's ideas, for, if they are new and original, only he himself can handle them successfully." ... "The idea is as old as the hills. You will find it in Aristotle." ... "A man who works in a very new field cannot expect to gain the rapid recognition open to those who work in close harmony with their contemporaries" ...etc., etc.

Thus the task of the scientific theorist who wishes to be recognized in his lifetime is as much a matter of weighing the likes, dislikes, prejudices, and intellectual honesty of office-holders as it is of questioning phenomena. (p. 76.)

During this discussion there forms a picture of the present scientific structure as closely resembling something much older. It is the delineation of a priesthood or hierarchal church. Every process which has been described is in principle as characteristic of a church as it is of science. With the Christian Church, a period of fresh thought and revelation, of almost ecstatic entry into new fields of spirit, gave slowly way to rigid crystallization in the interests of the personal positions of sectarian dignitaries. The modern world of science seems to be at the cross-roads of Constantine. Will discovery and originality continue to survive? Or will science in a few generations be devoted, on the one hand to enforcement and reiteration of dogmas which can no longer be questioned, and on the other, to rigidly utilitarian and materialistic applications?

The world is entering an era of new and tremendous import for mankind, and the future relationships between science, society, and Theosophy are of the utmost importance.

Compiler's Note: Before going on to the next article in this series, here are the three reports about the "Science, Religion and Philosophy" conferences pointed to by the Editors in the above article:

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 29, No. 1, November, 1940
(Pages 37-41)


[The 1st of 3 reports]


An epochal meeting of some five hundred leaders in science, religion and philosophy took place at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York on September 9, 10 and 11. This conference had the avowed purpose of bringing together the various fields of human knowledge which, during centuries of intellectual development in the west, have become widely separated. Among the participants were Nobel Prize winners, college presidents, and eminent representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths. As president of the Seminary which acted as host to this distinguished gathering, Dr. Louis Finkelstein opened the conference with a statement of its objective: to bring to modern thought the rational ordering that is needed to maintain the free unity of democracy, as distinguished from the ordering by force which prevails in lands where democracy no longer exists. Defining the problem in a sentence, he said:

Our inability to transmit our individual integrations of science, philosophy and religion, in their relation to traditional values and the democratic way of life, has been catastrophic for our institutions and our civilization. (New YorK Times, Sept. 10.)
The conference, he hoped, would establish "a consensus, recognizing the independent reliability of theology, philosophy and science, in their respective fields."


After three days of deliberation, the conferees announced the measure of their success:

In their judgment, the greatest achievement of this first conference was the demonstration that they could come together not merely for the purpose of expressing their individual minds, but also in a willingness to change their minds -- at least in their attitudes toward each other.

As evidence of this emergent democratic toleration, they announced that theologians at this conference recognized the right of science in its own field to insist that truth was only what could be verified experimentally. The scientists, for their part, "seemed to recognize" the right of the theologians to speculate in a field that the theologians described as transcending experimentation....

Theologians and scientists alike insisted, however, that this democratic toleration was achieved "without compromising convictions." The theologians rested on a formal declaration that the scientific demand for experimental proof had no application in the religious field. The scientists, for their part, declared the product of unverifiable theological speculations could not be termed knowledge.

While possibly a victory for etiquette, the fact that scientists and theologians, "instead of parting violently on these last reservations," made plans for another meeting, can hardly be regarded as a monumental advance in philosophical and ethical unity. In fact, the substance of the addresses made during the conference suggests quite other conclusions. Some statements from the various speakers, selected for their summarizing value from reports in the New York Times of September 10, 11 and 12, will illustrate the difficulties involved.


For the theosophist, the address of Dr. Albert Einstein far transcended in value anything else that was said. It was, however, something of a bombshell to the happy harmony of the theologians for them to learn from him that "the main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and science lies in this concept of a personal God."

The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events [Prof. Einstein continued], the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him, neither the rule of human nor the rule of Divine Will exists as an independent cause of natural events.

To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted in the real sense by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal.

For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself, not in clear light, but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind with incalculable harm to human progress.

In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God -- that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True and the Beautiful in Humanity itself. That is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life and the fear of death and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense, I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission.

In these days, when Democracy is being falsely identified with Christian tradition, it requires intellectual courage to attack the key idea of western theology. Separation of church and state is, in America, an unaccomplished ideal. Instead of praising Dr. Einstein's integrity in refusing to compromise with theology, a national news magazine degraded its pages with the gratuitous observation that "Einstein's message was the only false note of the entire conference." Actually, it was the only true note struck of any importance. Dr. Einstein confessed he had little hope of uniting his hearers "even to a slight extent" -- a belief with which the Catholic speaker who followed emphatically agreed!


Prof. Mortimer Adler of the University of Chicago, scholarly follower of Thomas Aquinas, asserted that America is more menaced by the disorderly thinking in modern universities than by European aggression. Alleging his belief that democracy is "the most perfect form of the political community," he added that "one cannot have reasons for affirming democracy and at the same time deny the truths of philosophy and religion." But which truths? Prof. Sidney Hook of New York University was of the opinion that the expressions of Prof. Adler were "categorically false." Jacques Maritain, French exponent of Thomism, said that "an education in which science took precedence over philosophy and theology was already potentially a Fascist education." One wonders what M. Maritain would say to the historical facts assembled by George Seldes in The Catholic Crisis, a book which points out in great detail the reactionary or Fascist trend in the Catholic Church, rather than a counter movement toward Democracy.

Prof. Douglas C. Macintosh of Yale held that the "plain man ... needs a theology which will formulate the convictions of a spiritually stimulating and reasonable faith and that will contain at the heart of it a nucleus of verified empirical knowledge"! Harry Overstreet, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy of City College of New York, suggested that we think of "God as love." "As long as we think God is a person," he said, "we can easily hypnotize ourselves into inactive adoration." In a sentence, Prof. Overstreet here explained the medieval withdrawal into monasteries and the quietistic tendency of thousands of Christian mystics. But if God is "Love," logic requires a Devil to account for the existence of Hate.


On the second day of the conference, Dr. Finkelstein expressed surprise that "Prof. Einstein should give such an absolute judgment in a field that was philosophical and theological in character," arguing that "he [Einstein] should realize that he must speak with as much reserve in these fields as he habitually does in his own field of natural science." Have, then, only theologians the right to speak authoritatively of Deity? Dr. Einstein simply stated the view of most of the scientists present, as expressions of opinion subsequently showed. Other theological addresses, the Times reports, associated religion with the traditional Bible God.

Dr. William E. Ritter, zoologist of the University of California, explained how the Darwinian theory of evolution -- which "nearly everybody" now accepts -- had brought him to adopt Spinoza's conception of Deity -- a God identical with nature. Religion, according to Prof. Philipp Frank of Harvard, may be permitted to do only what science is unable to do -- to establish individual and social goals. Prof. Paul Weiss of Bryn Mawr offered a "new proof" of God's existence: "I persist, therefore, God exists. From this follows the corollary: God exists, therefore I am immortal." Prof. F. Ernest Johnson of the Columbia Teachers College said that the divorce of religion and education must be disastrous to both and urged that "public education in America should be informed with the faith of the Hebrew-Christian tradition to which our culture owes so much -- not sectarian teaching but a religious orientation."


Commenting on the progress of the conference, the New York Times observed editorially:

The scientists, philosophers and theologians of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths remained preoccupied with the relative positions of their own specialties and beliefs -- notably on the proposition that the authority of science ranked below that of philosophy, which in turn ranked below theology.
To this may be added the just comment of Prof. Adler:
Since professors come to a conference of this sort with the intention of speaking their minds but not of changing them, with a willingness to listen but not to learn, with the kind of tolerance which delights in a variety of opinions and abominates the unanimity of agreement, it is preposterous to suppose that this conference can even begin to realize the only ends which justify the enterprise.
Thus, as an attempt to agree on the philosophic verities which should form the foundation for a free society, the conference was a miserable failure, degenerating into a series of claims to final authority with no common ground for mutual understanding and agreement. While Prof. Einstein's declaration regarding the personal God idea may be taken as a necessary step in the negative sense, this declaration became the focus of disunion for the conference as a whole. No real synthesis of science, religion and philosophy is possible on the basis of the personal God idea; true unity will remain an impossible ideal until this false conception is abandoned.


Even then, more than negation is necessary. Thoughtful men everywhere must come to recognize the existence of a philosophy which is at once a science and a religion; a science which is both philosophical and religious, and a religion founded on science and philosophy. This is Theosophy. Some words of a Great Teacher of Theosophy are directly applicable to the impasse reached in their deliberations by our modern scientists, theologians and philosophers:

The era of blind faith is gone; that of inquiry is here. Inquiry that only unmasks error, without discovering anything upon which the soul can build, will but make iconoclasts. Iconoclasm, from its very destructiveness, can give nothing; it can only raze. But man cannot rest satisfied with bare negation. Agnosticism is but a temporary halt. This is the moment to guide the recurrent impulse which must come, and which will push the age towards extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. (THEOSOPHY XXI, 495.)
[End of the 1st report]

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 3, January, 1942
(Pages 131-135)


[The 2nd of 3 reports]


During September, 1940, a number of leading American scholars and scientists gathered in New York City to take part in a "Conference" on Science, Philosophy and Religion. (See THEOSOPHY XXIX, 38.) The high point of the discussions was reached when Dr. Albert Einstein singled out the personal God idea as responsible for "incalculable harm to human progress." Orthodox theologians have been growling and spitting at the great physicist ever since, and, needless to say, Dr. Einstein was not invited to speak at the 1941 sessions. Careful to preserve the peace of mediocrity among the participants, sponsors of the Conference produced a list of speakers who were sure not to offend by saying anything "controversial." As a consequence, whatever qualities the second Conference may have had, moral vitality and intellectual penetration were seldom present. One scientist, Hudson Hoagland of Clark University, cautiously affirmed the inability of most scientific thinkers to accept a personal God, but on the question of the social consequences which may follow from faith in an extra-cosmic creator, he remained respectfully silent.


A statement with this title by a group of Princeton scientists and teachers is extremely depressing. After patronizing reference to the pantheistic religion which "has seemed to many philosophers, scientists, and poets from the Stoics onwards to be the highest wisdom," these more advanced moderns, including the astronomer, Henry Norris Russell, complain that "contemplation of values loses much of its high significance when not related to the purposes of a divine spiritual Being." They continue:

For these and other reasons, the Hebraic-Christian moral and religious conception of the spiritual life is superior to the contemplative-mystical conception. In contemplation of value, mystical union, and identification with nature alike, the source of meaning and value is impersonal, and man must by his unaided effort establish relation with it. In the Hebraic-Christian conception, on the other hand, the Divine is conceived in personal terms. Man's relationship with God is made possible by an antecedent act of revelation on His part. God reaches down to man in grace, man responds in gratitude and love. Moreover, since God is conceived primarily as moral will, and since His purpose is fulfilled in human life, man's task is not simply to contemplate ultimate reality and value but to act in harmony with God's purpose for human life and history.
Let us pray!


The 1941 conference was on Science, Philosophy and Religion "in their relation to the Democratic way of life." Many of the papers offered by theologians sought to show the foundations of democracy in the Christian religion, or, to use the phrase often employed by these scholars, the "Hebrew-Christian culture pattern." It is argued that democracy derives at least in part from the metaphysical premise that there is "a God who loves all men, and who wishes all to love Him in return." Unlike the Greeks, who were slave-owning, "the Hebrews and Christians saw in the relation of God to man a common factor in human beings more significant than all the differences." From this "common factor" the egalitarian principle of popular government is derived. But the historical fact that the great movements toward political freedom were usually opposed by Christian ecclesiastics was hardly mentioned.

One speaker, Dr. Charles Hartshorne of the University of Chicago, showed critical awareness by pointing out that the religious claim of infallibility is identical with totalitarian assumption. He urged that democracy is possible only among men who admit their imperfect knowledge of God. In short, the metaphysics behind the democratic conception of the state postulates that because nobody "knows" ultimate truth, a just social order must assume the equal value of every man's opinion. This view avoids the absolute authority of "Revelation" from a God conceived as a "super-tyrant." Dr. Hartshorne would substitute the idea of God "as 'loving' in a more genuine sense than any tyrant conception understands." This is named "a genuinely social conception of God."


The familiar idea that "God is love" has an attractive simplicity, but its usefulness as the foundation of the social order may be gravely questioned. Believers in the doctrine of "Agape" (divine love) have still to explain the presence of evil in the world, and in default of a philosophical solution they are forced to make personal devils of certain "evil" men. Now a personal explanation of evil is just as defective, morally and philosophically, as the idea of a personal God, and will inevitably produce the same social chaos. Nor is the "loving" God of liberal Christianity really impersonal. "It," or "He," is still conceived in terms of a great Being with a human characteristic, namely, "love," which men think the Deity ought to possess.


The criticisms of scientific materialism on which the Princeton professors found their return to the Christian religion are far sounder than their justification of a personal God. Their argument runs:

Naturalism denies both man's relation to an order of ultimate values and his dependence upon a cosmic spiritual Power. It thus divorces him from the moral and spiritual order to which he belongs and upon which he depends for strength and direction. It encourages him to determine his ends for himself as a completely autonomous being, without any norm above his own interests and desires, individual and collective. As a result, it leads to pride and egoism. The individual, having nothing higher than himself to worship or serve, worships himself, his reason, his culture, or his race.
This passage brings echoes of statements made by William Q. Judge regarding the curse of selfish individualism. In America, individualism, he wrote,
being totally unrestrained and forming in fact the basis of independence here, it has culminated. Its bad effects -- vaguely as yet shadowing the horizon -- might have been avoided if the doctrines of the Wisdom-Religion had been also believed by the founders of the republic. And so, after sweeping away the fetters forged by priestly dogma and kingly rule, we find springing up a superstition far worse than that which we have been used to call by the name. It is the superstition of materialism that bows down to a science which leads only to negation. (Gita Notes, pp. 87-8.)
And in Echoes from the Orient, he said, prophetically:
The civilization of today, and especially of the United States, is an attempt to accentuate and glorify the individual. The oft-repeated declaration that any born citizen may aspire to occupy the highest office in the gift of the nation is proof of this, and the Mahatmas who guard the truth through the ages while nations are decaying, assert that the reaction is sure to come in a relapse into the worst forms of anarchy. (p. 5.)

The Princeton group continues with a "psychoanalysis" of well-meaning naturalist thinkers:

Influenced by the last remnants of philosophical Idealism, romantic Transcendentalism, or religious Theism in our day, they act as if they still believed in the spiritual conception of man which they have intellectually repudiated. They try to maintain their feeling for the dignity of man while paying homage to an essentially materialistic philosophy according to which man is simply a highly developed animal. They are loyal to their democratic society and culture, but they deny the spiritual nature of man and his values upon which it has been built. In short, they are living off the spiritual capital which has come down to them from their classical and religious heritage, while at the same time they ignore that heritage itself as antiquated and false.
After this clear-seeing diagnosis of our moral ills, and the weakness of modern ethical conceptions, the Princeton professors urge that "scholars and teachers must recover and reaffirm the spiritual conception of man and his good which we have derived from Greek and Hebraic-Christian sources." We must return, not to Pantheism, but to the very ideas which produced the materialistic revolution in the first place. The deformation of the intellectual principle seems to have gone pretty far at Princeton! No evidence from history is offered to support the preference of the Princeton group for conceiving the Divine in "personal terms." They simply assert mystical Pantheism is inferior because it "may lead to a depreciation of the individual and his rational and moral activity." Alas for Pythagoras and Plato! Poor Plotinus! Lao-tze, Confucius and Buddha were alike deprived of the "high significance" of values known only to those who brood upon "the purposes of a divine spiritual being"!


In contrast with the "Christians" thus able to ignore the manifest course of western cultural history, the Humanists who addressed the Conference showed genuine constructive insight into the problems of modern society. Some passages from Mark Van Doren, of Columbia University, will serve to illustrate their position. He writes of

the emergency which consists of our not knowing what we mean when we use the words man, human, and humane. Not that there has ever been a ready answer to the immemorial question, What is man? But there have been times when the question was taken with a degree of seriousness sufficient to guarantee that all thought was directed to its answer as an end....

Even a partial answer to the question would help us now -- not so much to decide which of the currently contending programs is most human, as to see that none of them is at all, at least in the large sense that is demanded. For these programs are limited to the future, whereas the truth about man and the world is always present....

The religion which everyone is said to be seeking is not around the corner; philosophy will not establish a subject matter tomorrow; poetry cannot at once begin to reveal the human treasure which by its current showing it does not even remember; and science should not be expected to temper itself over a week-end. But the knowledge must be recovered. And towards this end there must be more than lip-service to unity while the disciplines continue their rush into that darkness where finally, of course, there will be no discipline at all. There is only one center for discipline, and that is our definition of man in the world which eternally is. The definition is so difficult that the chief danger ahead may be glib answers and premature formulas. Doubtless we do not want formulas at all, or even answers if they do not provoke further questions, elucidating the ineradicable ironies of existence. Nor will any sensible person suppose that no more catastrophies will happen to mankind; there was the Peloponnesian War after Greece's great century. But meanwhile we have a job to do, and it can be done now as well as at any time. It is to bring all questions back to their source in that one part of us which is relevant, namely our reason. And it is to insist that all of the disciplines have a direct responsibility in the matter. What literature lacks, what religion lacks, what science lacks, what philosophy lacks, is one and the same thing; and all will be sound again when it is repossessed.
Mr. Van Doren's paper was among the shortest submitted at the Conference. It was also one of the best.

[End of the 2nd report]

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 31, No. 2, December, 1942
(Pages 86-90)


[The 3rd of 3 reports]


The Third Annual Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life met at Columbia University in the last five days of August, and the findings of the hundred scholars who gathered to compare notes are heartening evidence of that "age of inquiry" seen by Mr. Judge half a century ago. (The two previous conferences were reported in Lookout for November, 1940, and January, 1942, respectively.) The preliminary statement of the Conference set the keynote:

We will have to discover how the ethics and spiritual principles by which we live are related to the rest of our thought.... The time has come when we must make a determined effort to discover the nature of the kinship between these various disciplines and modern democracy....

A great war is not only a great disaster; it also presents a great opportunity. Widespread destruction and suffering are inevitable; the problem confronting intelligent men and women is to prevent this destruction and suffering from being futile.... The opportunity for making a lasting contribution to world peace and happiness, as well as to man's spiritual advancement, is very great. (New York Times, August 28.)


The knowledge and wisdom of scholars must be made intelligible to the public if they are to influence democratic action, declared Professor Lyman Bryson, on leave from Teachers College, Columbia, to serve as educational director of the Columbia Broadcasting System and the Office of War Information. Addressing the fourth session of the conference, Prof. Bryson said:

In this war and in the peace to follow, the people should have access to the real issues as they did not last time.... One thing, however, may prevent the organized wisdom and scientific knowledge which we have -- and which we had twenty years ago -- from being brought to bear this time. It may fail to affect government policy because of the deliberate obscurantism of the scholar. Too often he has sought to impress rather than to enlighten. The wisdom which he has secreted has been allowed to seep only slowly into practical use.

Let us make no mistake. The reconstruction of the world is going to be a matter of tremendous pressure. It can't wait for seeping wisdom. When we enter at last into an armistice, it will mean a long period of international and social policing all over the world, which will not be a time of peaceful discussion between peoples. That is a most dangerous illusion....

One of the most astonishing discoveries I have ever made in my own life is that in all the long history of the relations of policy makers in action and men of thought, no one has ever studied the methods of connecting thought with action.

Or if there is a treatise on the subject, I have found no one who knows of it. I think you had better get busy on the problem. It is a scientific problem. (New York Times August 31.)

Evidently none of the standard Theosophical books, not one article by either H. P. Blavatsky or William Q. Judge, never a single issue of The Theosophist, Lucifer, The Path, or, for that matter, of the Magazine THEOSOPHY, has ever found its way into the Professor's hands; nor has any Theosophical meeting ever attracted his attention.

Reprinted in this issue, for instance, is Mr. Judge's "Adepts and Modern Science," in which not only the method of connecting "thought" and "action," or science and metaphysics, is studied, but the synthesis of the two -- philosophical philanthropy, if you like -- is presented. Not less than nine statements scattered through the article point to the identity of true philosophy with ethical action. Two statements in particular, one by W.Q.J. himself, and the other quoted from the Adept, should be especially noted:

Brotherhood as an object is the highest philanthropy, and especially so when connected with science....

"Now for us poor unknown philanthropists no fact of either of these sciences is interesting except in the degree of its potentiality for moral results, and in the ratio of its usefulness to mankind."

[Note: "The Adepts and Modern Science" is number 78 of the 166 articles that are compiled here in the "Volume 1--> Setting the Stage" link, which is found at the bottom of any page. --Compiler.]


Two political scientists, a historian, a chemist, a philosopher and an authority on English literature, all faculty members of Hunter College, presented a paper representing their combined thought on "Human Liberty in a Universe of Reason and Order," in which the following occurs:

The universal brotherhood of man is still far away. It would seem to require a more equitable distribution of wealth among nations as well as among individuals.... As energy and matter tend to flow from a region of higher concentration for a lower level, so with the wealth representing the natural resources and labor of our country. (New York Times, August 31.)
As to the notion that the artificial distribution of wealth, before brotherhood has been made a living fact in the life of each man, is either realistic or possible, we refer the reader to pages 558 and 571 in the October issue. And we suggest, following out the simile quoted above, that if matter and material possessions tend to flow from a region of higher concentration to a lower level, dissipating themselves to cover a broader base, so to say, spiritual resources and the wealth of mind should tend to rise and approximate unity on a higher level. For as light converged on a single lens is evenly distributed after passing through the focus, so would the light of many minds, if concentrated on the single high object -- universal brotherhood or philanthropy -- bring equal distribution of all the world's bounty.


Upon adjourning their five-day session, the conferees issued a formal statement (New York Times, September 1):

The rise to totalitarianism and its challenge to the civilized world are inherent neither in the world process nor in human nature. The tragedy of our time might have been avoided, and its worst consequences can still be escaped, through bringing into focus the spiritual and intellectual resources available to us ... deterioration of standards of thought and action affected society in its most sensitive aspects -- namely, the fields of art, letters, philosophy and thought -- long before the advent of the war.

Realization that the malady menacing our civilization is both intellectual and spiritual is the first step toward therapy....

Or, as the theosophist puts it, what is needed, and "what the theosophical philosophy is intended for," is a change in the Buddhi-Manas -- the motivating intelligence -- of the race.


To bring our tremendous spiritual and intellectual resources, with their enormous accumulation of data and their widely differing methodologies of study into any recognized relationship with one another, and to focus their wealth of ideas and inspiration both on the immediate goals to be achieved in our time and the ultimate goals toward which we must strive, are tasks appalling in their immensity.
Paraphrasing a statement of Mr. Judge's (THEOSOPHY XXX, 100), we might say, If only the scholar would pay a little more attention to the ancients, he would save himself a great deal of trouble, for he obtains his knowledge by much delving, much painstaking labor, whereas he might have gotten the knowledge by consulting the ancients. Why spend lifetimes counting the pebbles and weighing the sand on the shores of life, when by learning a few fundamental principles we could navigate the "ocean"?


One outstanding result of the three annual conferences is the great step taken in unifying the many branches of knowledge: "Each year has witnessed a clearer approach to common thinking on the basic problems of the day." At the 1942 session the proposal was made for the evolution of a new technique of discussion, which may well be the "good discourse" recommended and exemplified by Bronson Alcott a century ago (see THEOSOPHY XXX, 177, and "Theosophist Unaware" in June and July issues). This new technique should--

approach a scholastic interchange of thought looking to mutual enlightenment rather than frustration....

Much is learned by scholars and men of letters in formal discussion; infinitely more in informal conversation. This is true of the most subtle and the methodological aspects of their work, the results of which must be expressed in concrete and intelligible form. There is need therefore to arrange, as soon as world conditions permit, for groups of scholars to meet with one another over considerable periods, perhaps spending their vacations together so that they may learn to think together.


Interesting evidence of the law of brotherhood in special reference to education as well as evolution is another passage:

It is probable that in the last analysis all formulated human learning arose from the need of making it articulate to students. Scholars and men of affairs may meet for mutual discussion and enlightenment with great profit. But the attainment of clarity among themselves and in their relationship to the world will be reached when they have to join in guiding a student.
In other words, knowledge is really ours only when we can give it to others, and our evolution is actually accomplished only by helping others on with theirs.


The conference decided that "ultimate solution of the problem presented will await the creation of a series of fellowships ... in the fields covered by this conference." In conclusion is said:

This may seem an ambitious program for this conference. But to those who recognize the vastness of the problem and its urgency, the program will seem modest indeed. So modest is this program that little could be expected to come out of it except for the widespread recognition on the part of us all and many others that the intellectual and spiritual impediments preventing mankind from creating a durable civilization and a peaceful world must be removed, and that this removal is the task of scholarship cooperating with experience.
The scholars have put their collective finger on the sorest spot in modern learning, -- divorce of principles from conduct.

In a statement to the press the representatives of the conference remarked that men of affairs are "men who do their thinking with a view to action," whereas scholars are "men who do their thinking for the sake of teaching or knowing." Next year, therefore, "men of affairs" will be invited to participate in the conference. If from further meeting of minds comes perception of a sure and sound basis for thought and action, at once scientific, philosophical and religious, the conferences will not have been in vain. Such work goes a long way toward helping the race over its transition point.

[End of the 3rd report]

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