February 2012 Newsletter

The following articles are reproduced from the February 2012 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.

Our Attitude and Debt to Science
By Edi D. Bilimoria

Reprinted from the May 2011 edition of The Theosophist

 

Anomalies Between Theosophical Literature and Science
 

Those who intentionally set out to disprove the assertions made in classical Theosophical literature (The Secret Doctrine, Mahatma Letters, etc.) will find plenty of anomalies between it and modern science. Those who are bent on vindicating Occult Science in the light of modern science will also succeed in doing so, because what they discover will mirror what they have set out to do in the first place. The English natural philosopher, theorist and experimenter, John Michell, pointed out how the universe (all too) obligingly reflects back to the unwary whatever beliefs he projects into it, supplying him with proofs of his own conjectures in a closed feedback mechanism — karma may indeed have an ironic sense of humour. So a measure of the mettle and calibre of the true researcher is his ability to break out of this closed loop by constantly questioning his pet assumptions, his psychological dependence on familiar ideas or personalities, and his belief systems.

 

However, those who investigate The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters, etc., with an open mind plus a motiveless passion for Truth may well find eternal verities that sometimes appear inaccurate and imprecise (to the scientist) because of the necessity of having to represent and express abstruse ideas (a) using the concepts of our four-dimensional space-time physical world; and (b) in terms of the language, mental culture and scientific knowledge prevailing in the nineteenth century when the vast outpouring of this literature took place. The eternal truths about Deity, Cosmos and Man have had to be (a) 'flattened down' to suit our limited faculties and understanding, and (b) filtered through 'blinds' to guard against revealing too much to the unprepared multitudes. Therefore, misunderstandings, distortions and inaccuracies are bound to occur just as when a three-dimensional object is represented as the digital information constituting its two-dimensional photograph.

 

Errors of fact must not be confused with inaccuracies that inevitably appear in any attempt to capture the ineffable in thought and language. For this reason, The Secret Doctrine and other great works of that period, for example The Ancient Wisdom by Annie Besant, must be read, in large measure, as a vast symbol with a range of meaning and — as HPB makes very clear—as a sort of abstract algebraic formula. Those who take them literally at face value, like an icon, are doomed from the start. The occult doctrines must be appreciated in their overall, panoramic aspect — for it is easy to exaggerate the minor errors (supposedly) discovered by science, at the expense of the grander truths undiscovered, and not amenable to investigation, by such science.

 

That said, it is deplorable to lap up, uncritically, every word of original Theosophical writings (so-called First Generation), whilst denigrating the entire worth of later writers (so-called Second Generation) and others outside main­stream Theosophy; along with the attendant tendency to deify HPB and the Masters with unimpeachably infallible omniscience. This attitude shows neither devotion, nor reverence to the Founders, least of all a love of truth, but merely immaturity and idolatrous fanaticism born of egoism.

 

Scientific Scrutiny — Its Limitations and Context
 

Scientific scrutiny and experimentation are vital — but within their appropriate boundaries and context. Whereas The Secret Doctrine does contain statements of hard, scientifically testable information (mainly in the Addenda on Occult and Modern Science), much of the material is simply not amenable to the methods of Western science; and, as stated above, it is easy to become obsessed about minor errors of detail, whilst missing the truth of the grand, overall panorama presented. However, meeting science on its own terms, by what methodology does science propose that we gather evidence on the validity of, for example, the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha, or the Three Fundamental Axioms in the Proem of The Secret Doctrine? Can science verify the Law of Karma, or that Compassion is the Law of Laws, or the role of the Manasaputra-s in awakening the sleeping mind of third Root-race man? Is modern plate tectonics sufficient grounds for researching whether or not the continents of Lemuria and Atlantis existed? If (in all seriousness) science still has difficulty in explaining how corn circles occur nowadays, can it be so confident about disproving the existence of the lost continents of millions of years ago?

 

Even more, how do we demonstrate to science that the occult system is no fancy of man, but the uninterrupted chronicle of Adepts, tested by them over centuries of experience using their internally perfected mental, psychic and spiritual faculties as the instruments of investigation, rather than the external, physical laboratory apparatus of the scientist?

 

Science and intellect cannot tell us what things are in themselves — rather they tell us what they are not. Science is but one method (the ‘horizontal’ dimension) for investigating truth. There are other ways of substantiating ‘evidence’ that may not satisfy the methodology of Western science, but are nevertheless self-consistent and valid in themselves (the self-consistent mythologies of races the world over, to name but one). Furthermore science in the full sense of that term derived from the Latin scire meaning ‘to know’, must not be equated exclusively with the methodology of Western science. So it is perfectly meaningful to talk about the science of yoga, the science of astrology, or the science of religion, even though the modus operandi of yoga, astrology and religion will hardly appease the current paradigm of mainstream (‘normal’) science.

 

Mainstream, Materialistic Science
 

I have pondered much over why there seems to be a patently deliberate attempt by Nature (the Powers that be, if you prefer) to block the general public from having access to knowledge about super-physical (paranormal) phenomena. Why do the scientific institutions governed by the priests of scientism achieve so much success in discrediting what is not mainstream, materialistic science?

 

One only has to look at the recent Viagra craze to understand why. Then look at what I call ‘vanity or glamour engineering’, namely, those aspects of genetic engineering and experiments involving immense cruelty to animals to appeal to man’s sense of vanity. The latent powers and psychic abilities, once they become public property are far more likely to become a curse in the hands of the selfish, than a blessing as when applied altruistically for humanity as a whole, with no thought of personal gain. Misuse of Viagra is one thing — misuse of siddhi-s could lead to consequences far more appalling. Therefore, Occult Philosophy divulges few of its most important vital mysteries. It drops them like precious pearls, one by one, far and wide apart... (see ‘The Coming Force’ in The Secret Doctrine describing the etheric force discovered by Keely). Nature therefore seems to be working through the agency of mainstream science and the instrumentality of the various scientific establishments to inhibit general public dissemination of that higher knowledge which, if it were freely available and generally authenticated by science, would do far more harm than good, given the current state of humanity en masse.

 

We owe a perverse debt of gratitude to mainstream Western science for safe­guarding humanity until it is, as a whole, better prepared to receive secret knowledge. So without a true Brotherhood of Humanity in deed as much as in thought (see The Maha Chohan's Letter), and a firm grip over the personal self, psychic knowledge, etc., will ever remain the property of isolated individuals and groups, but not become integrated into the common human mind. The success of our Third Object is therefore critically dependent upon the success of our First Object; otherwise the Theosophical Society would indeed descend to be ‘an academy of magic, a hall of occultism’ (to quote the Maha Chohan again).

 

What cannot be explained in a few words is the fact that, notwithstanding the enormous contributions of mainstream science towards the physical welfare of humanity, this science, at one and the same time, both creates some of the problems for us, and then protects us from the worst effects of what it has so created.

 

*   *   *

Two passages of seminal importance from the Blavatsky Lecture by Professor Arthur Ellison exhort us to do some independent thinking in order to become practising Theosophists, rather than erudite, esoteric bookworms.

 

A Theosophical study course must involve critically reading other books written by thinkers and investigators outside the Society, and comparing and contrasting the different points of view. ‘Comparative religion, philosophy and science’ [as stated in our Second Objective] could hardly be clearer.

 

To proclaim one person as an infallible authority on a subject unknown to the proclaimer, is to show fanaticism rather than reason. The Theosophical Society . . . may be injured by the blind zeal of those who pin their faith to any one investigator, and denounce all the rest (quoted from Annie Besant)

 

But that said, an even more fundamental consideration remains …

 

Western science and Occult Science cannot be directly compared. It is only meaningful to compare those things that are within context or on the same plane, so to speak. To give a musical example, you can compare Artur Rubinstein with Vladimir Horowitz playing, say, Chopin — both were virtuoso pianists of supreme calibre and of the same generation. But you CANNOT compare even an amateur pianist with the world’s most skilled office typist, even though both ultimately manifest the mechanical aspects of their craft by using their fingers on a keyboard (comparing the speed of finger movements on their respective keyboards is the only comparison that is viable in this case, however meaningless it may be). So for example, comparing Big Bang (i.e. scientific accounts of cosmogony) directly with Occult cosmogony (without qualifying statements) is to make such an error. All you can do is to compare the physical plane aspects of Occult Science with science; for this is where they meet and where they are both in context — and that is all .

 

Whenever the greater is compared with the lesser, many dimensions are lost, or rather, hidden: for what is explicit and objective in the former becomes increasingly concealed and implicit (enfolded) in the latter. Hence the perceived differences between the two schemes are a result of this loss of subtle dimension. The lesser can never ‘understand’ the greater, even though the latter has infinite patience for the former. Which means that science has to wind itself up to intuit Occult truths — not drag down the latter to its own level, whereupon many dimensions of subtlety are lost by virtue of being ‘flattened down’ to suit the confines and context of physical science.

 

That said, do not think for one moment that The Secret Doctrine is a book cast in stone. In a work of such large dimensions, there are indeed bound to be some errors and inaccuracies. The TS needs the spirit of energetic regeneration and a lot of that comes from science — not Theosophy! I cannot imagine anything worse than Theosophical fundamentalism, which, (in my opinion) does exist, but mercifully, in sufficiently small measure that it does not dominate the Society (yet).

 

Dr Edi D. Bilimoria is a scientist, author and musician, living in England.

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