The Theosophical Perspective on Modern Science

“There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law – eternal, immutable, ever active. Apparent miracle is but the operation of forces antagonistic to what Dr. W.B. Carpenter, F.R.S. – a man of great learning but little knowledge – calls “the well-ascertained laws of nature.” Like many of his class, Dr. Carpenter ignores the fact that there may be laws once “known,” now unknown to science.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 587)

The title page of H. P. Blavatsky’s most famous and monumental book “The Secret Doctrine” announces that the Secret Doctrine is “THE SYNTHESIS OF SCIENCE, RELIGION, AND PHILOSOPHY.”

While it’s true that the book endeavours to synthesise all three, the title also points to the fact that the Secret Doctrine itself – i.e. the Gupta Vidya, the Esoteric Philosophy or Doctrine of the initiated Adepts, only a comparatively small portion of which has been embodied in the book titled “The Secret Doctrine” – is the perfect, naturally occurring, synthesis and unity of science, religion, and philosophy.

These are the three facets or sides of the jewel of Truth. They are in fact all equally important, for when not in equilibrium, Truth becomes distorted in one way or another.

So the ideal for society is to have the three inseparably reunited, rather than them functioning as three distinct, divided, separate, unconnected disciplines and fields of work and research.

However, the science, religion, and philosophy we are referring to here are not today’s science, religion, and philosophy, but their pure form, their higher expressions, some of which have been termed “metachemistry,” “metamathematics,” and “metageometry” by HPB. (See “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 616, 620)

Theosophy emphasises the great potential and importance of today’s science, while also pointing out some of its major flaws, in order to emphasise why modern science should most definitely not become the god of modern man, which, unfortunately, it largely has become.

Whilst it was understandable and undeniably beneficial and positive that 19th century science undertook the disentangling of itself from theological Christianity and religious dogmas, its former religious basis was replaced with a largely nihilistic materialism and a misplaced sense of conceit and arrogance.

For example, science cannot prove that soul and spirit exist but unless scientists can prove that they do not exist, they are in no position to categorically or confidently assert and declare that they do not. For a scientist to say, “Our scientific research has never been able to find anything whatsoever supporting the idea of metaphysics or of God” and thus implying that such things must therefore be non-existent is to bizarrely suppose that that which has always been insisted upon as being non-material and above and beyond the physical can somehow be located and dissected with physical and material instruments and investigations. Material means can obviously never discover that which is purely immaterial.

The majority of scientists also seem thoroughly ignorant of any type of spiritual belief or concept other than traditional Christianity. According to one of them, the fact that “science has never yet proven or found even a trace of a big Man up in the sky” is sufficient evidence to deny the existence of Deity and sufficient reason for us all to become atheists.

The supposedly learned gentleman is obviously unaware that such crude and anthropomorphic notions of God are the hallmark solely of the Abrahamic religions whereas many of the Indic religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Advaita Vedanta or the non-dualistic form of Hinduism are nontheistic and deny the existence of THAT type of Deity just as fervently as the scientists do.

They are also ignorant of the fact that evolution has been taught in the Indian spiritual philosophies for thousands of years and seem to hold the notion that no-one had ever conceived of such an idea as evolution until Charles Darwin.

A retired physicist, an atheist himself, reliably informed us that very few of today’s scientists have even a basic knowledge of history, philosophy, or religion; a fact that he considered most lamentable. It would seem that all most of them care about or give any credence to is science itself. Even the history of science is dismissed, although this is no doubt partly due to the many embarrassing facts it would reveal, in showing the uncomfortable fact that science changes its tune about almost everything every few decades or so.

Science has at one time accepted all that it now denies and denied all that it now accepts.

“In the present age both Church and Science, the blindly-believing and the all-denying, are arrayed against the Secret Sciences, though both Church and Science believed in and practised them – especially the Kabalah – at a not very distant period of history. . . . the most illustrious men of science were all alchemists, astrologers and magicians, witness Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Roger Bacon, etc. But consistency has never been a virtue of Modern Science. It has religiously believed in all which it now denies, and it has denied all that it now believes in, from the circulation of the blood up to steam and electric power.” (HPB, “The Kabalah and The Kabalists” article)

“. . . from Bacon down to our modern Royal Society, we have a too long period, full of the most ludicrous mistakes made by Science, to warrant our believing in modern scientific assumptions.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 439)

“. . . the divergence of scientific opinions is so great that no reliance can ever be placed upon scientific speculation.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 149)

“For, with the exception of a few problems from the domain of purely physical science, both the premises and conclusions of the men of Science are as hypothetical as they are almost invariably erroneous. And if they do not so appear to the profane, the reason is simply this: the said profane is very little aware, taking as he does his scientific data on faith, that both premises and conclusions are generally the product of the same brains, which, however learned, are not infallible; a truism demonstrated daily by the shifting and re-shifting of scientific theories and speculations.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 438)

One particularly strong statement is made in H. P. Blavatsky’s first book “Isis Unveiled”:

“Modern science, powerless to satisfy the aspirations of the race, makes the future a void, and bereaves man of hope. In one sense, it is like the Baital Pachisi, the Hindu vampire of popular fancy, which lives in dead bodies, and feeds but on the rottenness of matter.” (Vol. 2, p. 639)

Pointing out that scientists are often as prejudiced and bigoted as the religious fundamentalists, the start of “Isis Unveiled” – which bears the subtitle of “A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology” – declares, “Our voice is raised for spiritual freedom, and our plea made for enfranchisement from all tyranny, whether of SCIENCE or THEOLOGY.” (Vol. 1, p. xlv)

Interestingly, on that page and also later in the first volume, on p. 171, she identifies “the neglect of the committee of the French Academy of 1784” – a committee of physicians investigating the work of Anton Mesmer under the orders of King Louis XVI – as the main parent of “the materialism of today.”

Had Mesmer and his system of healing, which came to be known as mesmerism, been given a fair, just, impartial, and open-minded hearing, things would have been very different for the Western world. And Mesmer had been selected by the Great Brotherhood of Initiated Adepts or Masters of Wisdom (who guide and watch over the spiritual evolution and advancement of humanity) “to act in the XVIIIth [18th] century as their usual pioneer, sent in the last quarter of every century to enlighten a small portion of the Western nations in occult lore.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 213-214)

On p. 48 of “The Key to Theosophy” (the third of HPB’s four main books to have the word “science” in its subtitle) we read:

“Our duty is to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract – after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature – bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural. What we have to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority.”

So just like modern science, Theosophy denies the existence of “miracles or anything supernatural.” But if one reads our article Why Does Theosophy Deny The Miraculous and Supernatural? it will be seen that what is denied is not the apparently miraculous or supernatural event or experience but rather the common religious explanation for it. Everything in the Universe happens according to distinct and definite laws of Nature, Theosophy maintains, and belief in miracles is merely the ignorance of the unseen laws operating behind the occurrence. But not everyone on the planet is ignorant of them; there are, as we have said, the Adepts or Masters.

HPB’s closest colleague William Q. Judge, who was a co-founder with her of the modern Theosophical Movement – their both being direct representatives of the Great Brotherhood during the closing quarter of the 19th century, as Mesmer and others had been at the end of the 18th – made these statements on p. 1-2 of his book “The Ocean of Theosophy”:

“Although it [i.e. Theosophy] contains by derivation the name God and thus may seem at first sight to embrace religion alone, it does not neglect science, for it is the science of sciences and therefore has been called the wisdom religion. For no science is complete which leaves out any department of nature, whether visible or invisible, and that religion which, depending solely on an assumed revelation, turns away from things and the laws which govern them, is nothing but a delusion, a foe to progress, an obstacle in the way of man’s advancement toward happiness. Embracing both the scientific and the religious, Theosophy is a scientific religion and a religious science.

“It is not a belief or dogma formulated or invented by man, but is a knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical, and intellectual constituents of nature and of man. The religion of the day is but a series of dogmas man-made and with no scientific foundation for promulgated ethics; while our science as yet ignores the unseen, and failing to admit the existence of a complete set of inner faculties of perception in man, it is cut off from the immense and real field of experience which lies within the visible and tangible worlds. But Theosophy knows that the whole is constituted of the visible and the invisible, and perceiving outer things and objects to be but transitory it grasps the facts of nature, both without and within. It is therefore complete in itself and sees no unsolvable mystery anywhere; it throws the word coincidence out of its vocabulary and hails the reign of law in everything and every circumstance.”

Judge’s article “The Adepts and Modern Science” concludes by saying of the Adepts or Masters or Mahatmas, who, it must be understood, are not the so-called “Ascended Masters” of the New Age Movement:

“Their attitude to modern science is that they accept the facts of science wherever they prove the truths of Occultism, but they consider modern science to be materialistic and also devoid of philanthropy. This we must admit to be the case, and as the student who has had experience in these matters knows for himself that the Adepts have the truth and possess a knowledge of nature’s laws, he approves of their refusing to come down to science and of their demand that science must rise to them. He also knows that in the course of the cycles the mass of men will have been educated and developed to such a position that a new school, at once religious and scientific, will have possession of the earth and rule among all men who possess civilization.”

Hopefully the Theosophical position will not be misunderstood and it will be seen that Theosophists acknowledge that it is undeniable that science, in spite of its gaping flaws, has contributed in numerous ways to the good of mankind and also that it could be of indescribably wonderful benefit to the progress of humanity if only it could be willing to look at things and think about things a little differently. And it is equally undeniable that in a few quarters of the scientific world, perhaps most especially in physics, this seems to now be beginning.

It is therefore necessary that students of Theosophy do not speak or act as if nothing has changed or improved in science since the end of the 19th century.

In the section titled “GODS, MONADS, AND ATOMS” in Vol. 1 of “The Secret Doctrine” HPB remarks, “Truth and error are mixed in all. The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. So vast and so profound are these that hardly a few, a very few of the highest Initiates – those whose very existence is known but to a small number of Adepts – are capable of assimilating the knowledge. Yet it is all there, and one by one facts and processes in Nature’s workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact Sciences [Note: “exact science” having been the term adopted for themselves by 19th century materialistic science], while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unravelling its arcana. It is at the close of great Cycles, in connection with racial development, that such events generally take place. We are at the very close of the cycle of 5,000 years of the present Aryan Kaliyuga; and between this time [i.e. 1888, when the book was written] and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a death-blow.” (p. 611-612)

That is quite a profound passage, not least because it makes plain that occasionally certain “rare individuals” in the field of science are given “mysterious help” (whether recognised as such or not) by the Adepts and also that within a certain specific time frame a large rent – in other words, a tear or opening – would be made in “the Veil of Nature” itself, leading to materialistic science (not science itself but materialistic science) receiving “a death-blow.”

We conclude this article with an extract from “Aquarian Spirituality,” an article written by Raghavan Iyer of the United Lodge of Theosophists and first published in the October 1982 issue of the Santa Barbara ULT magazine “Hermes.” In that article, which highlights some of the most esoterically important scientific advances that have been made since HPB’s and WQJ’s time, Iyer writes:

“Humanity now finds itself at a fortunate moment; much of what is happening in the sciences is reminiscent of what was once called Hermetic wisdom. If one reads any first-rate book on the frontiers of science, one is at times encountering the threshold of Gupta Vidya. As H. P. Blavatsky prophesied, physics and chemistry have begun to penetrate the realm of atomic vibrations underlying the gross physical design of objects, and have partially revealed the complex matrix of differentiations of the ATOM, as they apply to the lowest planes. Whilst these sciences have not yet moved closer towards the metaphysically indivisible ATOM, they have clearly demonstrated that all physical structure is the superficial derivative of more fundamental differentiations. Although much of the systematic elaboration of these scientific insights has taken place since the commencement of the Aquarian Age in 1902, the critical moves were already made between 1895 and 1902, when there was a crucial intersection of cycles involving the close of the first five thousand years of Kali Yuga and the six-hundred-year cycle inaugurated by Tsong-Kha-Pa, as well as the zodiacal transition.

“Towards the close of the nineteenth century, chemistry and physics found themselves up against myriad dead ends. Drawing upon Dalton’s hypothesis of units of chemical type distinguishable by weight called atoms (1803), and Avogadro’s hypothesis that standard volumes of gases of different compounds contain equal numbers of molecules (1811), chemistry was engaged in filling in the periodic table of the elements proposed by Mendeleev (1869). Having mastered the arts of ballistics and bridge-building, physics was winding down the practical elaboration of Oersted’s discovery of the relation between electricity and magnetism (1819), and its elegant mathematical formulation in the electromagnetic field theory of light-waves developed by Maxwell (1861). Late in the century a noted lecturer even assured the British Association that physics was a closed and completed field, and that young men ought to go elsewhere to find challenging careers. All of this changed abruptly in 1895, when Roentgen discovered an entirely unaccountable type of radiant energy, the enigmatic X-rays. In 1896 Becquerel was able to localize this internal fire of matter to the substance uranium, which was then called ‘radioactive’. Following some researches of Crookes, Thomson discovered the ‘electron’ in 1897, the unit charge of electricity, a genuine fohatic entity on the physical plane. In 1898, the same year that the Curies discovered the existence and radioactivity of radium, Rutherford was able to identify two of the fohatic messengers of radioactivity – alpha particles and beta particles – the latter turning out to be identical with Thomson’s electrons. In 1899 the Curies made the fateful discovery that radioactivity could be artificially induced. Pursuing quite different lines of thought, Planck proposed in 1900 that all physical change takes place via discrete units or quanta of action. In 1902 Rutherford and Soddy developed the modern alchemical hypothesis that radioactivity was both the result and the cause of the transmutation of atoms from one chemical element to another.

“Drawing upon these critical discoveries and insights, the entire face of the sciences has been transformed in the first decades of the Aquarian Age, and the new alchemists have had more than a little impact upon society. In 1905 an unknown Swiss patent clerk wrote a series of articles synthesizing the discoveries of the time with such remarkable breadth, clarity and force that his name has become virtually synonymous with the atomic age. Within twelve months Albert Einstein demonstrated several revolutionary propositions.

“First of all, he showed that all electromagnetic radiations, including light, were composed of packets or quanta of energy, or ‘photons’, thus resolving the nineteenth century wave-particle debate about the nature of light. This proposal corresponds to the principle that Buddhi, the light of the Atman, is both indiscrete in relation to the eternal motion of the Great Breath and discrete in relation to the mayavic field of vibratory Monadic emanations.

“Secondly, he showed that physical energy and mass are mutually equivalent and interconvertible through a parametric matrix defined by the velocity of physical light. This corresponds to the occult axiom that spirit and matter constitute a double stream starting from the neutral centre of Being as Daiviprakriti, the Light of the Logos.

“Thirdly, he showed that all physical measurements of distance, speed and time undertaken by observers moving relative to each other are transformed through a parametric conversion matrix defined by the velocity of physical light when passing from the frame of reference of one observer to that of another. This proposal, which put to rest the search for a crude material aether by joining light to the metric foundations of all physical phenomena, has its occult correspondence in the triadic unity of pre-cosmic Space, Motion and Duration on the plane of Aether-Akasha, mirrored in all relations and phenomena on the lower planes.

“Fourthly, he showed the equivalence of the long-observed Brownian motion of small particles with a set of statistical laws of motion of molecules and atoms he derived from thermodynamics, thus developing the basis of the first empirical confirmation of the physical existence of atoms and molecules. This proposal, ending the nineteenth century career of atoms and molecules as merely rationalistic entified abstractions, has occult correspondences to the principles of distributive and collective Karma.

“Since 1905 there has been a virtual explosion in the sciences, as successive dimensions and orders of microcosmic and macrocosmic nature have been explored. In 1911 Rutherford discovered the nuclear structure of physical atoms, in 1913 Bohr proposed the quantum theory governing that structure, and in 1913 and 1914, respectively, Soddy and Moseley re-wrote the periodic table of the elements in terms of modern atomic theory, thus resuscitating the entire field of chemistry. In 1915 Einstein himself proposed an as yet controversial, and only partially elaborated or confirmed, theoretical synthesis of space, duration, motion and force. This line of enquiry, if perfected, would correspond to the occult correlation of the differentiations of Fohat as it “scatters the Atoms” on the plane of Aether-Akasha. In 1927 Heisenberg formulated the ‘uncertainty principle’ concerning the limits of observation of location and motion, a principle which is gradually compelling scientists to include consciousness in their theories of atomic and subatomic physical nature. By 1953 the labours of many biochemists culminated in the work of Crick and Watson, revealing the double helix of DNA, thus joining atomic and molecular theory to the design of living forms.

“Whilst the dawn of the Aquarian Age is as yet far from witnessing the emergence of a complete scientific theory integrating the One Life and the primordial ATOM with myriad lives and atoms on seven planes, it has certainly relinquished the stolid, compartmentalized conceptions of the late Piscean Age. People have now become far more aware that the invisible universe is an extremely intelligent universe; someone well trained in contemporary science is much more aware of the spiritual than those caught up in sectarian religion. Sectarians are often weak in theory owing to their weak wills in practice, and often are merely in search of alibis. But those who deeply ponder upon the cosmos with the aid of physics, biology and chemistry, and who show some philosophical or metaphysical imagination, can readily accommodate the idea that behind the sloganistic term ‘vibes’ is an exact knowledge governed by precise laws. Given this holistic standpoint, what is the necessary connection between directing these forces and that true obedience to Nature envisaged by the Gupta Vidya? This question became ominous and acute for human society on January 22, 1939, because on that day the uranium atom was split by Hahn and Strassman. Significantly, on the same day in 1561 Francis Bacon, one of the forefathers of modern science, was born.

“. . . the perils and crises of the atomic age are a physical parable of a meta-psychological crisis. As the current of the Aquarian Age compels people to turn inward, the idea is spreading that it is not merely by changing the external environment, or by protesting what other people are doing, that a genuine improvement can be gained in collective human life. As Gandhi taught, the peril of our time arises from the abuse, misuse and neglect of soul-force. In Pythagorean terms, the evolutionary degree, and hence the authentic basis of self-respect, for each soul is to be found in the totality of its intentional relations with the entirety of Nature, both manifest and unmanifest. . . .

“In the Aquarian communities and secular monastic ashrams of the future, it will be possible by design to have both free play and also continuous recognition of the evolving patterns and possibilities of Nature. Emancipation from the tyranny of habit and the conscious insertion of spiritual will into one’s life will enable men and women to take full advantage of the invisible elements within space, within their own rooms, their brains, their hearts, but also throughout the entire plenum of Nature. As they gain a sense of themselves as trustees of a mysterious set of living vestures composed of visible and invisible atoms and nourished by Nature’s generous gift of the life-giving waters of wisdom, then, through gratitude, individuals will become more humane, and more worthy of the Aquarian design of Civitas Humanum, the City of Man.”

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