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The Theosophical Quarterly
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Entered July 17, 1905, at Brooklyn, N. Y., as second-class matter,
Copyright, 1921, by The Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society, as such, is not responsible for any opinion or declaration in this magazine, by whomsoever expressed, unless contained in an official document.
THE SECRET DOCTRINE AND RECENT SCIENCE
IN the Notes and Comments printed in THE THEOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY for April, 1920, attention was called to the significant fact that a series of forecasts drawn from the teaching of the Adepts, in articles published first in The Theosophist, and reprinted in Five Years of Theosophy (1885), had been strikingly and completely fulfilled.
Among the passages quoted was the following: "When an astronomer is found in his Reports 'gauging infinitude', even the most intuitional of his class is but too often apt to forget that he is gauging only the superficies of a small area and its visible depths, and to speak of these as though they were merely the cubic contents of some known quantity. This is the direct result of the present conception of a three-dimensional space. The turn of a four-dimensional world is near, but the puzzle of science will ever continue until their concepts reach the natural dimensions of visible and invisible space-in its septenary completeness." (Reprint of 1910, p. 158.)
In the same Reply, we are told that "the 'Adepts' of the Good Law reject gravity as at present explained". Particular interest attaches to these two passages, because of the presence, in the United States, of Dr. Albert Einstein, the Swiss mathematician, who is the most widely known critic of the older conception of gravity, and the most conspicuous, though far from being the first, advocate of "a four-dimensional world". Because of his visit and the brilliant expositions which heralded it, both the idea of four dimensions and the criticism of gravity were daily discussed by the newspapers, with almost startling familiarity. It may fairly be said that the conception of a four-dimensional world is no longer "near"; it has arrived.
Students of Theosophy are interested in this fulfilment of a forecast made nearly forty years ago, for several reasons. To begin with, they are interested in the idea of a four-dimensional space; though they may not think of it in quite the same way as do Dr. Einstein and his fellow mathematicians. We measure in three directions: length,
breadth and height. The position of any point in space can be determined in terms of these three co-ordinates, as they are called. Einstein insists that, since position in space is not fixed, but relative to moving bodies, and since these bodies move in time, time must be taken as a fourth co-ordinate, or dimension. Students of Theosophy look at the "four-dimensional world" in what may be called a more practical way; practical, that is, as making quite thinkable and possible certain manifestations of spiritual life; such, for example, as the Body of the Resurrection, appearing in the centre of a closed room, without passing through its boundaries; and, in general, as supplying a basis for understanding the activities of the Spiritual Man.
While it is true that his investigations and computations may never lead Dr. Einstein to a deeper understanding of the Spiritual Man, it is also true that the general conception of a four-dimensional world, which he is popularizing, and, even more, his whole thought that the world of space and time is not fixed but relative, may break the bonds of the material mind for many, giving the Spiritual Man a chance to breathe.
Students of Theosophy have a further interest in the fulfilment of the forecasts of the Adepts, and an interest in drawing attention to this fulfilment, because, once again, this may bring aid and comfort to the Spiritual Man, by helping him to burst asunder the heavy shackles of nineteenth century materialism and disbelief: the mood which impelled it to reject the knowledge of the Adepts, offered with so generous a hand. Students of Theosophy are, therefore, interested in the fourdimensional world, because they are interested in the Spiritual Man, who there finds adequate room; they are interested in the forecasts of the Adepts and their fulfilment, because they are profoundly interested in the Adepts themselves.
One of the published reports of Dr. Einstein's views quotes him as saying that time and space are not the fixed realities they had been thought; that both are relative to matter. This may be called a characteristic example of those looking-glass inversions lately discussed in these Notes and Comments. Students of Theosophy would be inclined to say that all three, space, time and matter, are relative to Consciousness; not, of course, the external, personal consciousness of any individual, but what one may call the Consciousness of the Logos, the Oversoul, the universal Consciousness of our system of worlds. But it is evident that the conception of time and space, whether as fixed, or as relative, have their place in consciousness. Where else could they have a place?
As these Notes are written, Madame Curie is on her way to the United States, and the newspapers are full of her visit and of the Madame Curie Radium Fund. Both popular and scientific periodicals are devoting much space to this distinguished woman, a Pole by birth, but now thoroughly identified with France.
Just as Dr. Einstein is the symbol of the four-dimensional world
and of relativity, so Mme. Curie is the symbol of radio-activity and the new and striking conception of matter. It may, therefore, be both pertinent and interesting to point out that this whole field of discovery was explicitly foretold in The Secret Doctrine, and, since these Notes and Comments are written on May 8th, White Lotus Day, they are offered as a partial memorial of the great occultist who died on that day thirty years ago.
Students of Theosophy are interested in radio-activity and the new conception of the atom because they are interested in all truth; but even more, because these conceptions and discoveries mark a stride, and a long one, from nineteenth century materialism toward a more spiritual understanding of the universe. They give more breathing room for the Spiritual Man. They mark a distinct approach to the views held by students of Theosophy during a good many thousand years; notably, they very closely reproduce views put forward in The Secret Doctrine, with certain forecasts.
Before we touch on radio-activity and the new atom, there is another exceedingly interesting field of study in which the author of The Secret Doctrine has recently been vindicated by modern discoveries: the subject, namely, of former continents, two of which are generally spoken of as Lemuria and Atlantis, and the part these continents played in the development and distribution of life. Need it be said that students of Theosophy are interested in these continents, as in present and future continents, because they are the field of our spiritual development? They are interested in the confirmation of views put forward in The Secret Doctrine, because this may make definitely easier the acceptance of that other part of The Secret Doctrine which is directly concerned with spiritual life. This confirmation may make it less difficult for some to accept the reality of spiritual life, and to seek to obey its laws.
We come, then, to the former continents and to the distribution of plants and animals upon them. When The Secret Doctrine was written, the field was held by Alfred Russell Wallace, who was somewhat stubbornly convinced that the idea of vanished continents was a delusion, and who held that the present continents, with relatively trifling modifications, had held the field since the beginning of geological time. The Secret Doctrine took direct issue with Wallace, clearly teaching the existence of a series of former continents, to two of which the familiar names of Lemuria and Atlantis were given, names borrowed from Sclater and Plato.
Speaking generally, Lemuria belonged to what geologists call the Secondary epoch, though it would be better to call it the third, since it is preceded by the Primordial and Primary epochs; Atlantis, at first a northern extension of the west end of Lemuria, belonged mainly to the Tertiary, the fourth geological epoch. Islands, former mountain peaks of both these continents, survive today.
The point which we wish to make is that, in the thirty-three years
since The Secret Doctrine was published, geology, spurred by biology and the distribution of animals, has cut loose from the static views so ingeniously supported by Wallace, and has accepted a theory of former continents very like that of The Secret Doctrine.
The views now held may fairly be illustrated by The Wanderings of Animals, in The Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature, by Hans Gadow, who was born in England and educated at Cambridge. This valuable little book was published in 1913, a few months before the beginning of the World War.
In a section on Ancient Geography (pp. 80-85), we are told that the history of the lands and seas since the Carboniferous period, that is, since the middle of the Primary, or second, epoch, may be read as follows: There were two huge masses of land, a high Southland extending from South America across Ethiopia and India to Australia; and a low Northland comprising Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Siberia. These two lands were separated by a broad Mediterranean sea, an east and west extension of the Pacific basin. In Carbo-Permian times, that is, in the latter half of the Primary, or second epoch, two new features are indicated: a bridge between the northern and southern continental belts, joining Europe and Africa; and a dividing waterway running northward somewhere near Iceland.
With the Trias, the beginning of the Secondary, or third geological period, this northern waterway was bridged, while Siberia was isolated, the European sea communicating with the Pacific to the north of India. In the later Jurassic, after the middle of this third geological epoch, there are three separate masses of land: first, a northern Atlantic land, uniting North America and North Europe; second, a continental mass connecting Siberia, East Asia and Australia; and, third, the so-called Gondwanaland, South America with Africa, Madagascar and India. In the Cretaceous, the closing period of the third epoch, Western North America is connected with Western South America, continued across the Antarctic to Australia, which is still joined to Eastern Asia and Siberia, the latter joined to North America but separated from Europe. Consequently an enormous ring of land encircled Gondwanaland which was an island continent. During the later Cretaceous, toward the close of the third geological epoch, Siberia joined Europe and Canada, but North America was divided down the centre. Chile and Patagonia were severed from the rest of South America, while Australia was separated from Asia. Consequently, toward the close of the third geological epoch, there was a great antarctic continental area from Chile to Australia, while the rest of the world formed a ring with a gap through North America.
We come to the Tertiary, which is the fourth geological epoch. During the earlier half of this fourth epoch, the North American, European and Siberian lands separated and joined again in various ways. Antarctica broke away from America and Australia. Gondwanaland was divided. India became an island, while South America remained con