THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 8, June, 1955 (Pages 370-373; Size: 12K)
SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN
THEOSOPHYScience is nothing more or less than a well-tested method. If one follows this method, the results may be regarded as scientific.THEOSOPHICAL literature teems with succinct phrases that lend themselves, almost irresistibly, to mantramic repetition; and, though a student may feel intuitively that they are "true," he must think on them and relate them to his experience if belief is to be transformed into rational conviction. Otherwise, the habit of glib repetition may lead the student into a situation in which he finds himself unable to support his statement logically and calmly in terms understandable by and acceptable to a non-Theosophist.
--ISRAEL WECHLER, The Neurologist's Point of View
Science changes our values in two ways. It injects new ideas into the familiar culture. And it subjects it to the pressure of technical change . . . until the whole basis of our culture has imperceptibly been remade.
--J. BRONOWSKI, The Common Sense of Science
The unique end of science is not public utility and application to natural phenomena, but is the honor of the human spirit.
--K. G. J. JACOBI
Take a familiar example: ''Theosophy is not a science, but Science" -- a statement probably fully understood by but few Theosophists. H. P. Blavatsky wrote the whole of The Secret Doctrine in support of that assertion. Is the ordinary student capable of writing such a book? Apparently not! But he can, at least, place the affirmation in an understandable context, such as might be suggested by the following definitions:Science is a well-tested method, the results of which introduce new ideas into the culture, thereby changing it.To begin with, in order to establish our "non-sectarian" position, we need to offer some basis for the assertion that Theosophy conforms to the scientific method. Indeed, ancient, or "occult" science (represented today by Theosophy) has always considered this method the ideal approach to discovery -- as H.P.B. made clear in S.D. I, 272:
Theosophy is a body of ideas, stemming from three fundamental propositions and integral to them; and a method of utilizing them which profoundly affects the human spirit.This system of ancient cosmogony . . . is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another. . . . How did they do so? By checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts. . . . No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions -- so obtained as to stand as independent evidence -- of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.This is a clear and unequivocal description of the scientific method, whether or not our listener gives credence to the "facts." Ways of meeting objections to the assumed existence of "adept-seers" will, of course, depend upon the situation; but any Theosophist may point out that the fundamental propositions of Theosophy are properly accepted by the student "on a level with the 'working hypotheses' so freely accepted by modern science." (S.D. I, viii.) For although a student cannot test the cosmic range of these propositions, he can test the principles involved -- in his environment, in his nature, and with his present powers of observation and analysis.
In order to test further the statement that "Theosophy is Science," we must consider some theosophical ideas in relation to their results on culture -- or, as Theosophists express it, the "race-mind." If these ideas offered by Theosophy have been injected into the race-mind and have thereby changed the culture, Theosophy at least parallels the function of science in this direction.
One of the most notable changes in approach has been in the realm of physics. In 1888, when these Theosophic ideas were first made available to the world, matter was considered to be a "solid," and man and the universe were assumed to work like machines, i.e., a coordination of parts and forces. But H. P. Blavatsky stated that the universe and everything in it forms an intelligent, dynamic whole, and much of The Secret Doctrine is in support of that categorical assertion. Those persons immediately amenable to these ideas were, or became, Theosophists; others, especially those whose beliefs were vulnerable, ridiculed the ideas; still others apparently ignored them. But such ideas could not long be ignored, for Theosophists kept them alive in mind, and spread them abroad at every opportunity. Thus, these "strange" conceptions gradually osmosed into the more open minds, so that now we find ramifications or adaptations of ideas, originally theosophic, returning to us in the language of the various fields of scientific exploration and experimentation: the "atomic unity" of the universe and man, matter as a ''form of energy," space-time relativity, nuclear physics, et al. -- mere words to most of us, but serving to indicate a certain level of scientific formulation. In short, the scientific mind now considers the universe and man to be an integration of forces, a dynamic "organism." So one must, if he be a "scientific" historian, give credit to H.P.B. as being the nineteenth-century discoverer of these ancient, though officially only recently-accepted, "scientific" truths.
Most noticeable, perhaps, of the effects of theosophic thought are the absorption into the general vocabulary of the words "karma" and "reincarnation," and the increased insistence on universal brotherhood. Even though the philosophic explanation of karma and reincarnation may be largely ignored or imperfectly grasped, the words themselves are so frequently encountered in writing and conversation that they no longer produce either a start of surprise or a snort of derision. And, while the humanitarian may lack the conviction that brotherhood is an actual fact in nature, individuals in ever-increasing numbers are dedicating themselves to the ideal of the brotherhood of man and are endeavoring to bring it into actuality. This, we may believe, is a result in which theosophic thought has played a significant part.
Theosophists have also, without doubt, been instrumental in breaking down categorical rigidities of good and evil, right and wrong -- interpretations based on the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law. Good and evil, said H.P.B., are relative -- relative to times, cultures, circumstances, and individuals. "Judge the act, but not the person," an injunction familiar to Theosophists, has become the procedure in the field of social psychology, most noticeable, perhaps, in studies dealing with juvenile delinquency.
In some of the literature of general psychology and psychiatry, moreover, we find the word "soul" being used to designate a dynamic center of choice and responsibility, a potential creator of better personal relationships through self-understanding and self-directed improvement. It is indeed a good thing that the theological implications of the soul as a gift of God have been lost, even though the concept of the soul as a vague psychic entity sometimes takes its place: certainly, the latter is much nearer the theosophical concept of soul than the former. Also, several of the more philosophic psychoanalysts use "soul" in a way that is not at all antagonistic to the idea of an enduring moral self. Can we imagine that the thousands of Theosophists whose tradition it is to think of themselves and others as souls in evolution, and who strive to act from that basis, have not had a great effect on their culture?
These few instances, then, among others that might be equally apt, show the similarity of method and identity of function in Theosophy and science. "True science," says H.P.B., "is never at odds with Theosophy": each seeks to discover "truth," and through truth to free the minds of men. Yet, it is not to be wondered at if the time-lag between the publication of The Secret Doctrine and the "new" science suggests to Theosophists that Theosophy first "injected new ideas" into the scientific minds of our time which have now seeped through scientific channels "into the familiar culture."
The proof of Theosophy, of course, lies in the continuous testing of its propositions by application and extension. Each person so testing may eventually be able to assert from his own knowledge: Theosophy is not a science, but Science -- the Science of Life.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE NECESSARY UNDOING
The remedy for Ignorance is Knowledge or Awareness. It goes without saying that by Knowledge is meant something more than ordinary discursive knowledge. Liberation is not to be compassed by attending courses at the university or by reading up manuals of philosophy. Rational knowledge makes its own useful contribution in helping to clear the ground of minor delusions; but Knowledge, the transcendent virtue by divine right, stands above Reason. It is the fruit of a direct intuitive experience, which is not so much a thing acquired by accretion; rather it is a thing that is already there from the moment that the obstacles to its realization have ceased to be. The effort of the seeker after this Real Knowledge is all along directed to the elimination of hindrances, to allowing the Knowledge to arise spontaneously, as it will do, the instant the necessary undoing has been effected. The presence of Knowledge is reflected in a radical alteration of the entire nature of a being; to know is to be, there is no other way.
H.P.B. and Science