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The fact is, that only the partial truth of many of the secondary "laws" of Darwinism is beyond question... (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol II p. 662)
If we accept Darwin's theory of the development of species, we find that his starting-point is placed in front of an open door. We are at liberty with him, to either remain within, or cross the threshold, beyond which lies the limitless and the incomprehensible, or rather the Unutterable. If our mortal language is inadequate to express what our spirit dimly foresees in the great "Beyond" - while on this earth - it must realize it at some point in the timeless Eternity. (Isis Unveiled Vol I 14-15)
"But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown, (on our plane) Master Mason - the ONE LIFE and Law. ... That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for." (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol II p. 732).
The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations is a proof of this. The immutable laws that weed out the weak and feeble species, to make room for the strong, and which ensure the "survival of the fittest," though so cruel in their immediate action - all are working toward the grand end. (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol I p. 277).
our "ignorant" ancestors traced the law of evolution throughout the whole universe. As by gradual progression from the starcloudlet to the development of the physical body of man, the rule holds good, so from the universal ether to the incarnate human spirit, they traced one uninterrupted series of entities. These evolutions were from the world of spirit into the world of gross matter; and through that back again to the source of all things. The "descent of species" was to them a descent from the spirit, primal source of all, to the "degradation of matter."
My real intent in writing this newsletter was to prepare a sound foundation of Blavatsky's views as a basis for discussing in the light of Theosophy the current debate on "inteligent design" (ID). It is natural in this process to attempt to also communicate Theosophy's view of evolution - at least on the origin of the species. However - after lightening - I see that is too much. Therefore this letter will focus only on the issue of Theosophy's view on Darwinism - especially relevant to ID.
The next quote from Blavatsky is included here because it is interesting to see her using a kind of reasoning that seems an exact parallel to some of the reasoning used by the advocates of ID.
"Suppose an Occultist were to claim that the first grand organ of a cathedral had come originally into being in the following manner. First, there was a progressive and gradual elaboration in Space of an organizable material, which resulted in the production of a state of matter named organic PROTEIN. Then, under the influence of incident forces, those states having been thrown into a phase of unstable equilibrium, they slowly and majestically evolved into and resulted in new combinations of carved and polished wood, of brass pins and staples, of leather and ivory, wind-pipes and bellows. After which, having adapted all its parts into one harmonious and symmetrical machine, the organ suddenly pealed forth Mozart's Requiem. This was followed by a Sonata of Beethoven, etc., ad infinitum; its keys playing of themselves and the wind blowing into the pipes by its own inherent force and fancy. . . . . What would Science say to such a theory?" (SDii348)
Blavatsky's next quote is perhaps the most relevant quote of all for the ID argument. In it she explicitly refers to designers - even using that same term more than a century ago.
"But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown, (on our plane) Master Mason - the ONE LIFE and Law. Belonging to this sphere, they have no hand in, or possibility of working on any other, during the present Manvantara, at any rate. That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for."
Just a moment here. Sometimes advocates of Darwinism attempt to argue for their position by noting the obvious progress in the forms of evolution. To them, this makes it patently clear that Darwin was right. Any other view is understandly frustrating to them. But does the appearance of progressive forms really imply Darwin was right?
Suppose we went to the large Smithsonean Museum in Washington DC. I think they have a section there where the museum displays a succession of actual aircraft, showing how the design of aircraft has "evolved" over last century. But -- we know that evolution of design is a sign that intelligence was involved. Human engineers evolved the designs from one stage to another. In that case progressive evolution obviously implied to us the existence of a designing intelligence. It could have been a display of the progression of automobiles over the century and it would present the same issues.
Effectively Blavatsky is referencing this same view casually in passing when she comments above saying "progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demostrate; that they act by design".
She continues quite remarkably describing the act of "design":
"In the creation of new species, departing sometimes very widely from the Parent stock, as in the great variety of the genus Felis-like the lynx, the tiger, the cat, etc.-it is the "designers" who direct the new evolution by adding to, or depriving the species of certain appendages, either needed or becoming useless in the new environments. Thus, when we say that Nature provides for every animal and plant, whether large or small, we speak correctly."
You can find on the internet the argument that the "design" is not perfect. Blavataky casually admits that fallibility (aren't we all) in the immediately following sentence.
"For, it is those terrestrial spirits of Nature, who form the aggregated Nature; which, if it fails occasionally in its design, is neither to be considered blind, nor to be taxed with the failure; since, belonging to a differentiated sum of qualities and attributes, it is in virtue of that alone conditioned and imperfect." (SDii732-3)
There is yet another coincidence in the writing of this newsletter. This week's issue of Newsweek (6/27) has a cover story about evolution. It is entitled "Rediscovering Dinosaurs - Beyond T. Rex: How they really lived."
That lead article is indeed interesting. It expresses its material in often human terms that make the article a page turner. Perhaps most relevant of all it shows how science is making great strides in refining its understanding of these ancient creatures. Along the way the magazine article shows the clear, rational evidence that Darwinism is, of course, correct.
Now here is the surprise - despite all this talk about a designer, Theosophy agrees with this article in Newsweek. Actually that article is further confirmation of the claims of Theosophy. (Clearly this seemingly contradictory position needs some clarifying.)
This newsletter rarely quotes from the Stanzas of Dzyan but this time it is particularly relevant.
"VIII 29. ANIMALS WITH BONES, DRAGONS OF THE DEEP AND FLYING SARPAS (serpents) WERE ADDED TO THE CREEPING THINGS. THEY THAT CREEP ON THE GROUND GOT WINGS. THEY OF THE LONG NECKS IN THE WATER, BECAME THE PROGENITORS OF THE FOWLS OF THE AIR (a)." (SDii183)
This might have been ambiguous except for Blavatsky's comment that immediatly follows:
"(a) This is a point on which the teachings and modern biological speculation are in perfect accord. The missing links representing this transition process between reptile and bird are apparent to the veriest bigot, especially in the ornithoscelidæ, hesperornis, and the archæopteryx of Vogt." (SDii183)
(You can find interesting discussion of "archaeopteryx" if you look it up on the internet.)
In the newsweek there is this interesting comment:
"Schweitzer made yet another surpising discovery in her cache of T. Rex bones. "I started pulling the fragments out of the box and I said, 'Oh my gosh, we have a girl and she's pregnant." She had encountered what is known as medulary bone, which is characteistic of ovulating birds. The calcium to make eggshells comes from the bones, which form new tissue with a distinctive configuation. "This tissue told me dinosaurs are relatd to birds not just morpholgically" - in sructures such as the pelvis and feathers - but physiologically. In their reproductive physiology, they *are* birds."
This passage, full of human interest, should make it totally clear that Darwin was right, shouldn't it?
Theosophists, however, may justly take it to demostrate that Blavatsky was right.
Actually though the appearance of the Newsweek article at this time is probably not at all a coincidence. The debate in support of intelligent design is being actively waged. Newsweek evidently supports the materialistic Darwinian view and likely chose this cover issue and article contents to gently sway the public debate in the direction it favors. If that were so then this is not a coicidence. This newsletter is also writen in order to join the debate.
Now the seeming contradictions within Theosophy need to be straightened out.
Blavatsky refers to the laws of Darwin as "secondary". She hints at broader more profound laws of nature. These laws involve cycles and purpose and design of the universe. They involve specific design and underlying intelligence in nature.
Here for example she grants some of Darwinism:
"The fact is, that only the partial truth of many of the secondary "laws" of Darwinism is beyond question" (SDii662)
But having in mind the larger picture of occultism she will say:
"The real line of evolution differs from the Darwinian, and the two systems are irreconcilable, except when the latter is divorced from the dogma of "Natural Selection" and the like. (SDii185)
What follows is a particularly long quote from Blavatsky. You might notice that in it she makes a similar statement:
"Many of these secondary causes are purely physical, climatic, dietary, etc., etc. Very well. But beyond the secondary aspects of organic evolution, a deeper principle has to be sought for."
And she adds:
"The underlying physiological variation in species - one to which all other laws are subordinate and secondary - is a sub-conscious intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom."
Here is the full quote:
"As to Natural Selection itself, the utmost misconception prevails among many present-day thinkers who tacitly accept the conclusions of Darwinism. It is, for instance, a mere device of rhetoric to credit "Natural Selection" with the power of originating species. "Natural Selection" is no Entity; but a convenient phrase for describing the mode in which the survival of the fit and the elimination of the unfit among organisms is brought about in the struggle for existence. Every group of organisms tends to multiply beyond the means of subsistence; the constant battle for life-the "struggle to obtain enough to eat and to escape being eaten" added to the environmental conditions-necessitating a perpetual weeding out of the unfit. The élite of any stock thus sorted out, propagate the species and transmit their organic characteristics to their descendants. All useful variations are thus perpetuated, and a progressive improvement is effected. But Natural Selection, in the writer's humble opinion, "Selection, as a Power," is in reality a pure myth; especially when resorted to as an explanation of the origin of species. It is merely a representative term expressive of the manner in which "useful variations" are stereotyped when produced. Of itself, "it" can produce nothing, and only operates on the rough material presented to "it." The real question at issue is: what CAUSE - combined with other secondary causes - produces the "variations" in the organisms themselves. Many of these secondary causes are purely physical, climatic, dietary, etc., etc. Very well. But beyond the secondary aspects of organic evolution, a deeper principle has to be sought for. The materialist's "spontaneous variations," and "accidental divergencies" are self-contradictory terms in a universe of "Matter, Force and NECESSITY." Mere variability of type, apart from the supervisory presence of a quasi-intelligent impulse, is powerless to account for the stupendous complexities and marvels of the human body for instance. The insufficiency of the Darwinists' mechanical theory has been exposed at length by Dr. Von Hartmann among other purely negative thinkers. It is an abuse of the reader's intelligence to write, as does Hæckel, of blind indifferent cells, "arranging themselves into organs." The esoteric solution of the origin of animal species is given elsewhere. Those purely secondary causes of differentiation, grouped under the head of sexual selection, natural selection, climate, isolation, etc., etc., mislead the Western Evolutionist and offer no real explanation whatever of the "whence" of the "ancestral types" which served as the starting point for physical development. The truth is that the differentiating "causes" known to modern science only come into operation after the physicalization of the primeval animal root-types out of the astral. Darwinism only meets Evolution at its midway point-that is to say when astral evolution has given place to the play of the ordinary physical forces with which our present senses acquaint us. But even here the Darwinian Theory, even with the "expansions" recently attempted, is inadequate to meet the facts of the case. The underlying physiological variation in species - one to which all other laws are subordinate and secondary - is a sub-conscious intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom." (SDii648-9)
People may tend to think that either Darwinism explains all or that it was all designed. Of course, Theosohy is in between these two views. And some scientific minds are in agreement with Theosophy on this. So I particularly wanted to quote Philip Johnson recently being interviewed by Michael Powell (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/14/AR2005051401222_pf.html)
"I suppose you think creation is all about unguided material processes, don't you? Well, I don't have the slightest trouble accepting microevolution as the cause behind the adaptation of the peppered moth and the growth of finches' beaks. But I don't see that evolutionists have any cause for jubilation there.
"It doesn't tell you how the moths and birds and trees got there in the first place. The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that."
As far as it goes, this statement is in wonderful agreement with Theosophy.
Newsletter by Reed Wood Carson - founder of Blavatsky Net and Theosophy Foundation of Georgia.