THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 10, August, 1957
(Pages 463-470; Size: 25K)
(Part 1 of 2)
[NOTE. -- This article is a collation from standard Theosophical books and from unsigned articles in THEOSOPHY.]
KNOWLEDGE is man's greatest inheritance; why, then, should he not attempt to reach it by every possible road? The laboratory is not the only ground for experiment; science we must remember, is derived from sciens, present participle of scire, "to know," -- its origin is similar to that of the word "discern," "to ken." Science does not therefore deal only with matter, no, not even its subtlest and obscurest forms. Such an idea is born merely of the idle spirit of the age. Science is a word which covers all forms of knowledge. It is exceedingly interesting to hear what chemists discover, and to see them finding their way through the densities of matter to its finer forms; but there are other kinds of knowledge than this, and it is not everyone who restricts his (strictly scientific) desire for knowledge to experiments which are capable of being tested by the physical senses.

The most absolute and universal laws of natural and physical life, as understood by the scientist, will pass away when the life of this universe has passed away, and only its soul is left in the silence. What then will be the value of the knowledge of its laws acquired by industry and observation? Let no reader or critic imagine that this is intended to depreciate or disparage acquired knowledge, or the work of scientists. On the contrary, scientific men are pioneers of modern thought. The days of literature and of art, when poets and sculptors saw the divine light, and put it into their own great language -- these days lie buried in the long past with the ante-Phidian sculptures and the pre-Homeric poets. The mysteries no longer rule the world of thought and beauty; human life is the governing power, not that which lies beyond it. But scientific workers are progressing, not so much by their own will as by sheer force of circumstances, towards the far line which divides things interpretable from things uninterpretable. Every fresh discovery drives them a step onward.

But intuitive knowledge is an entirely different thing. It is not acquired in any way, but is, so to speak, a faculty of the soul; not the animal soul, that which becomes a ghost after death, when lust or liking or the memory of ill-deeds holds it to the neighborhood of human beings, but the divine soul which animates all the external forms of the individualized being.

Don't say that science is all wrong and that men of science are materialists. Huxley has done us good service; he has but lately admitted consciousness to be a third factor in the universe, not a part of force and matter; and Spencer has many a good thing in his works. Besides, the truth is to be found in a union of science with occultism.

Our debt to science is very great. It has levelled the barriers and made freedom of thought a possibility. Science is our friend, for without its progress you would now, at the order of the bigot, all be in the common jail. It has combated the strength and cut the claws of bigoted churches. And even those iconoclasts, such as Robert Ingersoll, who often violate the sentiment and ideals of many good men, have helped in this progress, for they have done the tearing down which must precede the building up. It is our place to supply the new structure.

Modern, physical, mental and psychological sciences, have as yet but scratched the surface of that which they are engaged in examining. Physical science confessedly is empiric, knowing but the very outposts of the laws of nature; and our psychology is in a worse state. Experiment and induction will confer a great deal of knowledge about the inferior nature of God and along that path the science of the modern West is treading, but before knowing the occult, hidden, intangible realms and forces -- often called spiritual, but not so in fact -- the inner astral(1) senses and powers have to be developed and used. This development is not to be forced, as one would construct a machine for performing some operation, but will come in its own time as all our senses and powers have come. It is true that a good many are trying to force the process, but at last they will discover that human evolution is universal and not particular; one cannot go very far beyond his race(2) before the time.

The impassable gulf between mind and matter discovered by modern science is a logical result of the present methods of so-called scientific investigation. These methods are analytical and hypothetical, and the results arrived at are necessarily tentative and incomplete. Even the so-called "Synthetic Philosophy" of Spencer is, at best, an effort to grasp the entire method and modulus of nature within one of its processes only. The aim is at synthesis, but it can hardly deserve the name of philosophy, for it is purely speculative and hypothetical. It is as though the psychologist undertook to study the function of respiration in man through the single process of expiration, ignoring the fact that every expiratory act must be supplemented by inspiration or respiration cease altogether.

Taking, therefore, the facts of experience derived from the phenomena of nature and viewing both cosmic and organic processes purely from their objective side, the "missing links," "impassable gulfs," and "unthinkable gaps" occur constantly. Not so in Occult Science. So far as the science of occultism is concerned, it is both experimental and analytical, but it acknowledges no "missing links," "impassable gulfs," or "unthinkable gaps," because it finds none. Back of occult science there lies a complete and all-embracing Philosophy. This philosophy is not simply synthetical in its methods, for the simplest as the wildest hypothesis can claim that much; but it is synthesis itself. It regards Nature as one complete whole, and so the student of occultism may stand at either point of observation. He may from the stand-point of Nature's wholeness and completeness follow the process of segregation and differentiation to the minutest atom conditioned in space and time; or, from the phenomenal display of the atom, he may reach forward and upward till the atom becomes an integral part of cosmos, involved in the universal harmony of creation. The modern scientist may do this incidentally or empirically, but the occultist does it systematically and habitually, and hence philosophically. The modern scientist is confessedly and boastfully agnostic. The occultist is reverently and progressively gnostic.

If one or two generalizations deduced as logical or mathematical necessities from the phenomena of physics and chemistry have been able to work such revolutions in the old chemistry, what may we not expect from a complete synthesis that shall grasp universals by a law that compasses the whole domain of matter? And yet this complete synthesis has been in the possession of the true occultist for ages. Glimpses of this philosophy have been sufficient to give minds like Kepler, Descartes, Leibnitz, Kent, Schopenhauer, and, lastly, to Prof. Crookes, ideas that claimed and held the interested attention of the scientific world. While, at certain points, such writers supplement and corroborate each other, neither anywhere nor altogether do they reveal the complete synthesis, for none of them possessed it, and yet it has all along existed.

It may be humiliating to "Modern Exact Science" and repugnant to the whole of Christendom to have to admit that the Pagans whom they have despised, and the "Heathen Scriptures" they long ridiculed or ignored, nevertheless possess a fund of wisdom never dreamed of under Western skies. They have the lesson, however, to learn, that Science by no means originated in, nor is it confined to, the West, nor are superstition and ignorance confined to the East.

It can easily be shown that every real discovery and every important advancement in modern science have already been anticipated centuries ago by ancient science and philosophy. It is true these ancient doctrines have been embodied in unknown languages and symbols, and recorded in books inaccessible to western minds till a very recent date. Far beyond all this inaccessibility, however, as a cause preventing these old truths from reaching modern times, has been the prejudice, the scorn and contempt of ancient learning manifested by the leaders of modern thought.

Nor is the lesson yet learned that bigotry and scorn are never the mark of wisdom or the harbingers of learning; for still, with comparatively few exceptions, any claims or discussion of these ancient doctrines is met with contempt and scorn. The record has, however, been at least outlined and presented to the world. As the authors of the Secret Doctrine have remarked, these doctrines may not be largely accepted by the present generation, but during the twentieth century they will become known and appreciated.

The scope and bearing of philosophy itself are hardly yet appreciated by modern thought, because of its materialistic tendency. A complete science of metaphysics and a complete philosophy of science are not yet even conceived of as possible; hence the ancient wisdom by its vastness has escaped recognition in modern times. That the authors of ancient wisdom have spoken from at least two whole planes of conscious experience beyond that of our every-day "sense-perception" is to us inconceivable, and yet such is the fact; and why should the modern advocate of evolution be shocked and staggered by such a disclosure? It but justifies his hypothesis and extends its theatre. Is it because the present custodians of this ancient learning do not scramble for recognition on the stock exchange, and enter into competition in the marts of the world? If the practical outcome of such competition needed illustration, Mr. Keely might serve as an example. The discoveries of the age are already whole centuries in advance of its ethical culture, and the knowledge that should place still further power in the hands of a few individuals whose ethical code is below, rather than above, that of the ignorant, toiling, suffering masses, could only minister to anarchy and increase oppression. On these higher planes of consciousness the law of progress is absolute; knowledge and power go hand in hand with beneficence to man, not alone to the individual possessors of wisdom, but to the whole human race. The custodians of the higher knowledge are equally by both motive and development almoners of the divine. These are the very conditions of the higher consciousness referred to. The synthesis of occult science becomes, therefore, the higher synthesis of the faculties of man. What matter, therefore, if the ignorant shall scout its very existence, or treat it with ridicule and contempt? Those who know of its existence and who have learned something of its scope and nature can, in their turn, afford to smile, but with pity and sorrow at the willing bondage to ignorance and misery that scorns enlightenment and closes its eyes to the plainest truths of experience.

There have been many philosophizers in modern times, but there can be but one philosophy, one synthesis of the whole of Eternal Nature. With the single exception of the writings of Plato, no one in modern times had given to the Western world any approximation to a complete philosophy, previous to the appearance of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. The writings of Plato are carefully veiled in the symbol language of initiation. The Secret Doctrine, coming more than two millenniums later, and in an age of so-called Science, is addressed to the Scientific thought of the age, and hence considers the whole subject from the stand-point of Science. The present age is as deficient in philosophy as was the age of Plato in knowledge of Science. It follows, therefore, that while the Secret Doctrine itself apprehends equally both philosophy and science, in addressing itself to the thought of an age it must recognize here, as it does everywhere, the law of cycles that rules in the intellectual development of a race no less than in the revolutions of suns and worlds, and so address the times from that plane of thought that is in the ascendant. It is just because analytical thought is in the ascendant, because it is the thought-form of the age, that the great majority of readers are likely to overlook the broad synthesis and so miss the philosophy of the Secret Doctrine.

We are now in a transition period, and in the approaching twentieth century there will be a revival of genuine philosophy, and the Secret Doctrine will be the basis of the "New Philosophy." H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine is a store-house of scientific facts, but this is not its chief value. These facts are placed, approximately at least, in such relation to the synthesis or philosophy of occultism as to render comparatively easy the task of the student who is in search of real knowledge, and to further his progress beyond all preconception, provided he is teachable, in earnest, and intelligent. Nowhere else in English literature is the Law of Evolution given such sweep and swing. It reminds one of the ceaseless under-tone of the deep sea, and seems to view our Earth in all its changes "from the birth of time to the crack of doom." It follows man in his triple evolution, physical, mental, and spiritual, throughout the perfect circle of his boundless life.

The time must presently come when the really advanced thinkers of the age will be compelled to lay by their indifference, and their scorn and conceit, and follow the lines of philosophical investigation laid down in The Secret Doctrine. Very few seem yet to have realized how ample are these resources, because it involves a process of thought almost unknown to the present age of empiricism and induction. It is a revelation from archaic ages, indestructible and eternal, yet capable of being obscured and lost; capable of being again and again reborn, or like man himself -- reincarnated.

The Secret Doctrine asserts that a system, known as the Wisdom Religion, the work of generations of adepts and seers, the sacred heirloom of pre-historic times -- actually exists, though hitherto preserved in the greatest secrecy by the present Initiates; and it points to various corroborations of its existence to this very day, to be found in ancient and modern works. Giving a few fragments only, it there shows how these explain the religious dogmas of the present day, and how they might serve Western religions, philosophies and science, as sign-posts along the untrodden paths of discovery.

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, 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 Kali-yuga(3); and between this time {1888} and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a death-blow.

Occult philosophy divulges few of its most important vital mysteries. It drops them like precious pearls, one by one, far and wide apart, and only when forced to do so by the evolutionary tidal wave that carries on humanity slowly, silently, but steadily toward the dawn of the Sixth-Race(4) mankind. For once out of the safe custody of their legitimate heirs and keepers, those mysteries cease to be occult: they fall into the public domain and have to run the risk of becoming in the hands of the selfish -- of the Cains of the human race -- curses more often than blessings. Nevertheless, whenever such individuals as the discoverer of Etheric Force -- John Worrell Keely -- men with peculiar psychic and mental capacities are born, they are generally and more frequently helped than allowed to go unassisted; groping on their way, though, if left to their own resources, falling very soon victims to martyrdom and unscrupulous speculators. Only they are helped on the condition that they should not become, whether consciously or unconsciously, an additional peril to their age: a danger to the poor, now offered in daily holocaust by the less wealthy to the very wealthy.

Great is the self-satisfaction of modern science, and unexampled its achievements. Pre-Christian and medieval philosophers may have left a few landmarks over unexplored mines: but the discovery of all the gold and priceless jewels is due to the patient labours of the modern scholar. And thus they declare that the genuine, real knowledge of the nature of the Kosmos and of man is all of recent growth. The luxuriant modern plant has sprung from the dead weeds of ancient superstitions.

Such, however, is not the view of the students of Theosophy. And they say that it is not sufficient to speak contemptuously of "the untenable conceptions of an uncultivated past," as Mr. Tyndall and others have done, to hide the intellectual quarries out of which the reputations of so many modern philosophers and scientists have been hewn. How many of our distinguished scientists have derived honour and credit by merely dressing up the ideas of those old philosophers, whom they are ever ready to disparage, is left to an impartial posterity to say.

The extraordinary characters who now and again appear in western civilization, such as St. Germain, Jacob Boehme, Cagliostro, Paracelsus, Mesmer, Count St. Martin, and Madame H. P. Blavatsky, are agents for the doing of the work of the Great Lodge at the proper time. It is true they are generally reviled and classed as impostors -- though no one can find out why they are when they generally confer benefits and lay down propositions or make discoveries of great value to science after they have died.

Men talk learnedly of the discoveries of science, of the progress of science, as though there were any such thing as science. Science is, at best, man's idea of nature, what it is, and how it works; what makes the wheels go round. But Nature itself is another thing entirely. The greatest revelation of so-called science, to the greatest of its advocates and followers is the revelation of his own ignorance, how little, after all his searching, he really knows. If so-called civilized man were at one stroke swept from the earth, how long would science remain? There would indeed remain Nature and her laws, which to a new race of men would appear to be a very different thing indeed from what it seems to us. There might, however, arise a new science as different from ours as the habits, thoughts, and occupations of the Orient now differ from the Occident.

It is true that what we call the Force of Gravitation would still exist, and its laws and relations, whatever they really are, would remain unchanged; but the new race would call this law by a different name, representative of different ideas, of greater or lesser discoveries, of more or less knowledge, and yet this knowledge, unlike our own boasted science, would still be a phantasm, as compared with "the thing itself," viz., Nature. That which is called science to-day is a very different thing from what it was yesterday, or what it will be to-morrow. A few facts have indeed been verified and recorded, and a few laws have been approximately formulated; but all this is subject to revision or even reversion to-morrow. Give to so-called science the largest extent and most liberal meaning claimed for it, and still it has no existence outside of man. It in no sense stands for Nature, but is, at best, Nature reflected in the beclouded and contradictory mind of man. Nature deals with realities; man with shadows and phantasms.

(to be concluded) 

Next article:
Theosophy and Scientific Discovery
(Part 2 of 2)


COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Astral" means the Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane. The theosophical "Astral Light" is the "Ether" of modern science. It is the source of the idea known as the "Recording Angel" -- because every thought, word, and deed is recorded, stored, and magnetically reflected back to its source at a dynamically proper time: in other words, when conditions naturally warrant or permit it. We call this Karma, or Lawful action and reaction. All of us are also magnets for imprints in the "Astral Light" which were put there by others and which are similiar to us in character. So we constantly affect and infect each other in this way -- for good or for bad.
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(2) "Race" means the whole Human Race here.
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(3) "Aryan Kali-yuga" -- Aryan is the name of the present long evolutionary racial period (or cycle) that we are in as a whole humanity (the last long cycle for humanity was named the Atlantean one); and Kali-yuga is the Dark Age or black cycle we are presently in, morally and ethically. It is the same idea as the Iron-Age period which is the lowest and most degraded one of the four known as the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages that we are more familiar with here in the West.
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(4) "Sixth-Race mankind" is the next very long evolutionary period for humanity. Right now we are in the cycle known as the Fifth Race. During each great cycle of evolutionary activity, humanity develops another sense. Right now we speak of five physical senses that are developed: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. We are working toward the Sixth one, Intuition, fully developed, not just partially developed intuition as is now the case for most of us, where we experience only glimpses of it every now and then. Most of what we tend to call our intuition so freely at this time is not really the case.
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