Theosophy and science
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Immediately after formation the Theosophical Society in 1875, the founders of modern Theosophy were aimed to show that their ideas can be confirmed by science. According to professor Olav Hammer, at the end of the 19th century the Theosophical doctrine has acquired in Europe and America wide popularity, thanking to numerous publications, which contained its simplified exposition and, in particular, asserted that Theosophy "includes" both science and religion, thus, positioning itself as "a scientific religion," or "a religious science."[note 1] Professor Joscelyn Godwin wrote that the Theosophical Society was formed at the "crucial historical moment when it seemed possible to unite science and occultism, West and East" in modern Theosophy, adding into Western civilization the esoteric Eastern wisdom.
Scientism of TheosophyEdit
For the modern Theosophy, which Hammer considered as a standard of the esoteric tradition, conventional science is called upon to play "two diametrically opposite roles." On the one hand, Theosophy has always expressed its clearly negative attitude towards it. On the other hand, in the process of building the occult doctrine, it gave to certain fragments of scientific discourse the status of valued elements. In this case, science was not used as an object of criticism, but as "a basis of legitimacy and source of doctrinal elements." Thus, in Hammer's opinion, the main goal was achieved: the doctrine acquired a "scientistic" appearance.[note 2]
The Theosophical Society proclaimed its third main task, "To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man." Thus, it set itself one of its goals to investigate phenomena whose existence itself is highly controversial, that is, the very premises of Theosophy have become "fertile ground" for the search for "scientistic formulations." Scientism and the ambivalence relation to science were already evident in the first Theosophical publications. It can be seen in both Blavatsky's early articles, and in Isis Unveiled, the book that became the "first full-scale attempt" to create the Theosophical doctrine, where she stated that Theosophy does not contradict science, but is, in fact, a "higher form of science", in comparison with what is usually understood by this term. This statement by Blavatsky is quoted in Hammer's thesis:
The exercise of magical power is the exercise of natural powers, but superior to the ordinary functions of Nature. A miracle is not a violation of the laws of Nature, except for ignorant people. Magic is but a science, a profound knowledge of the Occult forces in Nature, and of the laws governing the visible or the invisible world... A powerful mesmerizer, profoundly learned in his science, such as Baron du Potet, Regazzoni, Pietro d'Amicis of Bologna, are magicians, for they have become the adepts, the initiated ones, into the great mystery of our Mother Nature."
A dual relation of Blavatsky to science remained unchanged, in Hammer's opinion, throughout her theosophical career. It was manifested also in the mahatma letters and later continued in The Secret Doctrine.[note 3] In one of the letters, terms and theories of the conventional science are characterized with words such as "misleading", "vacillating", "uncertain" and "incomplete". It is this last word that is most important, that is, "science is a half-truth." The Theosophical doctrine "not so much" denies the truth of science, how much condemns its inability to explain an essence of the spiritual processes that "are supposedly the real causes" of the physical and chemical phenomena. According to Hammer, "The Secret Doctrine" is completely "imbued with the rhetoric of scientism". Although the "basic cosmological" concept in this work ultimately derives "from ancient wisdom" that was received by Blavatsky, as she claimed, from her "Masters," many of the details of this declassified cosmology are accompanied by references to archaeological discoveries, modern biological theories such as evolutionary theory of Haeckel, etc. She believed that the positioning of Theosophy in relation to science is of great importance, and the third parts of both the 1st and 2nd volumes of her book have the common heading Science and the Secret Doctrine Contrasted. These sections are devoted both to the refutation of the conventional science, and to the search in it the support of occult teachings. Blavatsky repeatedly returned to the assertion that modern physical sciences point to the same reality as the esoteric doctrines:
"If there is anything on earth like progress, Science will some day have to give up, nolens volens, such monstrous ideas as her physical, self-guiding laws—void of soul and Spirit,—and then turn to the occult teachings. It has done so already, however altered are the title-page and revised editions of the Scientific Catechism."
Blavatsky generally did not reject science, suggesting the possibility of "reconciliation" of science and Theosophy.[note 4] She believed that they have "important common grounds", and that the "weaknesses" of the traditional science are only its "temporary shortcomings." The main point of contact, which unites science and "occultism" against the common enemy, a dogmatic religion, was the refusal to recognize "unknowable, absolutely transcendent causes." Theosophical cosmos appears and disappears in an infinite sequence of "cycles of evolution and involution." This is pantheistic position, because the beginning of this process does not require "transcendent God." Hammer has cited:
In his thesis Arnold Kalnitsky wrote that, criticizing science of the 19th century, the Theosophists claimed on the "futility" its attempts to adequately explain "the greatest enigmas" of Universe. They evaluated the "occult based" hypotheses as more accurate than those presented by science.
Hammer wrote Blavatsky defined her position regarding science "from the beginning of her theosophical career." Thus, the Mahatma Letters contain, in his opinion, the "rather unsystematic" accusations the modern science and the fragments of the occult doctrine, supposedly "far superior" the scientific ideas of the day. The essence of Blavatsky's "later argument" is anticipated in the next passage from letter No. 11: "Modern science is our best ally. Yet it is generally that same science which is made the enemy to break our heads with." She constantly condemned the traditional science as "limited, materialistic and prejudiced" and blamed in this the famous thinkers and scholars.[note 5] Bacon was the first among the culprits "due to the materialism of his method, 'the general tenor' of his writing and, more specifically, his misunderstanding of spiritual evolution." Newton's materialist error allegedly consisted in the fact that in his law of gravitation the primary was the power, not the influence of the "spiritual causes." In addition, she repeated the baseless, according to Hammer, assertion that Newton came to his ideas after reading Böhme.[note 6]
An American author Joseph Tyson wrote that, according to Blavatsky, the mechanistic science's adepts of her time were the "animate corpses." She wrote that "they have no spiritual sight because their spirits have left them." She called their hypotheses "the sophisms suggested by cold reason," which future generations would banish to the "limbo of exploded myths." Also Henry Olcott proclaimed that the Theosophists must break "the walls of incredulous and despotic Western science."[note 7][note 8]
Some scientists, according to Blavatsky, were more prone to spiritual, and she "selectively approved" them. "The positive side of Descartes' work" was supposedly his faith in the "magnetic doctrine" and alchemy, although he was a "worshipper of matter." She was admired by Kepler's method, "combining scientific and esoteric thought." She gave also some excerpts from Newton's most "speculative" works, where he supports a "spiritualized" approach to gravity. Thus, according to her words, these "greatest scientists" rediscovered the esoteric knowledge already available to "Western occultists including Paracelsus... kabbalists and alchemists."[note 9]
A religious studies scholar Alvin Kuhn wrote Blavatsky claimed in The Secret Doctrine that occultism does not combat with conventional science, when "the conclusions of the latter are grounded on a substratum of unassailable fact." But when its opponents try "to wrench the formation of Kosmos... from Spirit, and attribute all to blind matter, that the Occultists claim the right to dispute and call in question their theories." She stated that "science is limited" to researching one aspect of human life that relates to the sphere of material nature. "There are other aspects" of this life—metaphysical, supersensory, for the knowledge of which science has no tools. Science devotes its strength to the study of vital forces, which are expressed in a phenomenal or sensual area. Consequently, it sees nothing but the residual effects of such forces. "These are but the shadow of reality," Blavatsky claimed. Thus, science deals "only with appearances" and hints of life, and that is all that it is capable of until the postulates of the occult are recognized. Science is tied to "the plane of effects", but occultism is take to "the plane of causes." Science "studies the expression of life", esotericism sees life itself. So that the scientist can learn "the elements of real causality", he will have to develop in himself such abilities which today almost all Europeans and Americans absolutely lack. There is no other way to get enough facts to substantiate his conclusions.
Tim Rudbøg wrote in his thesis: "A large part of Blavatsky's critique of modern science consisted in the critical view that many of these so-called new discoveries and theories were actually known to the ancients, but lost to the moderns due to their arrogance. In other words, any 'new' discovery was, to a large extent, simply 'old wine in new bottles'."
Modern Theosophy, as professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke stated, "adapting contemporary scientific ideas," raised the concept of "spiritual evolution through countless worlds and eras." According to professor Donald Lopez, the occult "system of spiritual evolution" was more profound and advanced than that proposed by Charles Darwin. Theosophists accepted his theory but rejected the assertion that life originated from matter, and not from spirit.[note 10]
Kuhn wrote that, according to Blavatsky, between the spiritual evolution of man and his physical development "there is an abyss which will not be easily crossed by any man in the full possession of his intellectual faculties." Physical development, "as modern Science teaches it, is a subject for open controversy; spiritual and moral development on the same lines is the insane dream of a crass materialism." Darwinian theory and the materialistic science suggest that the development of matter in an organic form leads to the emergence of the psyche and intelligence as the products of two elements: matter and energy. Occultism claims that such a process can lead to the creation of physical forms only. Instead of considering intellect and consciousness as properties of evolved organisms, Theosophy speaks of a "spiritual evolution" as a concomitant biological one and associated with it. "Evolution in its higher aspect" can't be explained if its factors are reduced to blind material forces arising under the impact of the "mechanical influences of environment."[note 11]
An American author Gary Lachman wrote that, according to Blavatsky, the "scientific" theory of evolution reflects only that part of it that takes place in our present physical world. Darwinism does not take into account what happens before and after. In her opinion, Darwin "begins his evolution of species at the lowest point and traces upward. His only mistake may be that he applies his system at the wrong end." After passing through the period of necessary separation, the spirit returns to itself enriched during its journey. Consequently, the biological evolution is not a "random" event that could "occur" due to some "rare" combination of chemical matters and then continued driven by the need for survival and suitable mutations. Blavatsky claimed that, not spirit is in matter, but on the contrary, matter "clings temporarily to spirit."[note 12] Thus, the spirit (or consciousness) is primary, and matter is a temporary means used in its "work." According to Theosophy, evolution is the basic phenomenon of the Universe that does not coincide with the materialistic vision, which, in Blavatsky's opinion, is "a hideous, ceaseless procession of sparks of cosmic matter created by no one... floating onward from nowhence... and it rushes nowhither." She proposed the kabalistic scheme of evolution: "A stone becomes a plant; a plant a beast; a beast a man; a man a spirit; and the spirit a god." In this scheme: "Each perfected species in the physical evolution only affords more scope to the directing intelligence to act within the improved nervous system."
According to words of Dimitry Drujinin, Olcott claimed, "Theosophy shows the student that evolution is a fact, but that it has not been partial and incomplete as Darwin's theory makes it." Professor Iqbal Taimni wrote that, it is not known to science that the main goal "of the evolution of forms" is to obtain more effective means for the development of the mind and "unfolding consciousness." This barbarism is quite standard because the ordinary scientists decline to view everything that is "invisible" and can't be investigated "by purely physical means." Occultism allows one to obtain the "missing knowledge" and makes the concept of the evolution of forms not only more complete, but also explains the cause of the entire process, without which it seems completely meaningless.
Orientalists and TheosophistsEdit
In 1888, the president of the Theosophical Society Henry Olcott met in Oxford with Max Müller, "the father of the 'Science of religion'," as Lopez named his. Olcott wrote later in his diary that professor Müller, in a conversation with him, highly appreciated the work of Theosophists in translating and re-publishing the sacred books of the East. "But as for our more cherished activities," Olcott wrote, "the discovery and spread of ancient views on the existence of Siddhas and of the siddhis in man, he was utterly incredulous." In Müller's opinion, nor in the Vedas, nor in the Upanishads there are any esoteric overtones announced by the Theosophists, and they only sacrifice their reputation, pandering "to the superstitious belief of the Hindus in such follies." In response to Olcott's attempt to argue his point of view by references to the Gupta-Vidya[note 13] and Patanjali the professor said, "We had better change the subject." The president has remembered well not only this conversation, but also "two marble statuettes of the Buddha sitting in meditation, placed to the right and left of the fireplace." He noted this fact, having written in his diary in brackets: "Buddhists take notice."
Professor Lopez claimed that this was a significant meeting, because both, Buddhist Olcott, and the Buddhist studies scholar Müller, although both were directly related to Buddhism, nevertheless took different positions and lived in different worlds. The world of Olcott, an American emigre and convinced Theosophist "no formal training in the classical languages of Buddhism", but who was knowing well both the Buddhist world, and many reputable monks, collided with the world of Müller, a German emigre and outstanding sanskritologist, who was reading "Buddhist manuscripts in the original Sanskrit and Pali," and however failed to recognize theirs esoteric meaning and "never traveled beyond Europe." In Asia, Olcott faced with Buddhist superstition, which is why he argued with some of the leading monks of Sri Lanka. But he deeply revered the Buddhist mores. After his travels through the countries of Asia, he knew that for Buddhists it was absolutely unacceptable and offensive to place anything connected with dharma on the floor [or even on a chair]. Moreover, he knew that Buddhists "would never place a statue of the Buddha on the floor."[note 14]
Olcott asked all the same of the origin of these statuettes and inquired about their placement. Müller answered that "the statues of the Buddha" standing on the floor near his fireplace were taken out of "the great temple of Rangoon (presumably the Shwedagon)."[note 15] The professor was so imbued with the British imperialism, as Lopez noted, that he was not at all embarrassed to use the military trophies captured in the Buddhist temple. The "more interesting" was Müller's answer to the question why he put the Buddha statues on the floor: "Because with the Greeks the hearth was the most sacred spot." According to Lopez, the answer "sounds slightly disingenuous, but its implication is important." For Müller, the image of the Buddha, captured in Asia and taken to England, has ceased to be Asian, and therefore its owner was not obliged allegedly to follow the "Asian custom." For him, the Buddha became part "of European culture, like a Greek god," and therefore he should follow the customs of Western civilization.
Five years after the meeting with Olcott, professor Müller published an article Esoteric Buddhism, in which he tried again, in a different form, to prove that there is no esotericism in Buddhism and never was. All his indignation the professor directed against Blavatsky, believing that the Buddhist esotericism is only her invention. "I love Buddha and admire Buddhist morality", Müller wrote, "that I cannot remain silent when I see his noble figure lowered to the level of religious charlatans, or his teaching misrepresented as esoteric twaddle."[note 16] Theosophists often disagreed with the European Orientalists and ridiculed their limitation. In 1882, in his letter to Alfred Sinnett mahatma Kuthumi offered, "Since those gentlemen—the Orientalists—presume to give to the world their soi-disant translations and commentaries on our sacred books, let the theosophists show the great ignorance of those 'world' pundits, by giving the public the right doctrines and explanations of what they would regard as an absurd, fancy theory."
Occultists and scepticsEdit
For Hindus, the supernatural powers of a person, who was specially trained, aren't something special. Professor Radhakrishnan noted that in Indian psychology "the psychic experiences, such as telepathy and clairvoyance, were considered to be neither abnormal nor miraculous."
Kuhn wrote that, in Blavatsky's opinion, to consider magic as a deception is to offend humanity: "To believe that for so many thousands of years, one-half of mankind practiced deception and fraud on the other half, is equivalent to saying that the human race was composed only of knaves and incurable idiots." However, according to the Theosophical Masters, the "recent persecutions" for alleged witchcraft, magic, mediumship convincingly show that the "only salvation" of the genuine occultists lies in the public skepticism, because the attribution to the "charlatans and the jugglers" securely protects them.
A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Eugene Alexandrov, argued that paranormal phenomena does not exist. He wrote, "There is no telepathy (a transmission and reading of thoughts), there is no clairvoyance, levitation is impossible, there is no 'dowsing', there is no phenomena of a 'poltergeist', there is no psychokinesis."[note 17] As Edi Bilimoria wrote, a typical Western scientist does not distinguish (or cannot distinguish) two things: a "map" (the scientific model of the world) and "territory" (Nature).[note 18]
"Occult or Exact Science?"Edit
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- Statement on impotence of science
Kalnitsky wrote that at the beginning of her article, Blavatsky distinguishes "modern science" from "esoteric science", and argues that the methodology of the latter is preferable because it ultimately has a more practical, solid basis.[note 20] He cited the passage from hers article:
"Every new discovery made by modern science vindicates the truths of the archaic philosophy. The true occultist is acquainted with no single problem that esoteric science is unable to solve, if approached in the right direction."
He concluded Blavatsky considers modern science to be a form of the "archaic philosophy", which, as a synthesized worldview, includes the "esoteric science." According to her, this is the position of the "true occultist," who can solve any problem by the proper use of esoteric methodology.[note 21]
Blavatsky criticizes, Kalnitsky noted, the perspective of modern science, by disagreeing with the idea that the manipulation of matter presents a real scientific challenge. She asserts that replacing the word "matter" with the term "spirit" would result in a greater goal. She tries to show that knowledge of mere matter is not enough to provide the answers sought by science, because such knowledge does not adequately explain even the simplest phenomena of nature. Blavatsky notes that spiritualistic phenomena, with which she claims her audience would be well familiar, show the need for revising the prevailing scientific consensus. She argues that there is another form of "proof" of the existence of extrasensory abilities, citing the example of the use of narcotics, which allegedly had facilitated the demonstration of such abilities.[note 22] Blavatsky's statement on "natural phenomena" is quoted in Kalnitsky thesis:
"No doubt the powers of human fancy are great; no doubt delusion and hallucination may be generated for a shorter or a longer period in the healthiest human brain either naturally or artificially. But natural phenomena that are not included in that 'abnormal' class do exist; and they have at last taken forcible possession even of scientific minds."
Recognizing the potential errors inherent in relying upon imagination, and the unreliability of "delusion and hallucination," Blavatsky is still trying to gain the "stamp of legitimation" from reputable scientific judgement that could confirm that supersensory abilities "do exist." It was a constant aim of Theosophy, though implicit, and it was accompanied always by a distrust to the scientific approach. On the one hand, Blavatsky gives occasion for a reconciliation with the scientists, on the other—continues to denounce them.[note 23] In Kalnitsky's opinion, she demonstrates a desire to show that the scientific evidence of the extrasensory perception is quite possible:
"The phenomena of hypnotism, of thought-transference, of sense-provoking, merging as they do into one another and manifesting their occult existence in our phenomenal world, succeeded finally in arresting the attention of some eminent scientists."
Kalnitsky stated Blavatsky shows a dualistic approach in her interpretation of these phenomena, distinguishing between "their occult existence" and their manifestation "in our phenomenal world." Apparently, this means that there is noumenal "sphere of reality," which is the basis of the phenomenal world. Furthermore, the assertion that "some eminent scientists" had shown interest in various forms of ESP, obviously, indicates that most scientists are not interested in it, and that widely recognizing of their paranormal nature did not happen. In particular, she criticizes the findings of the doctor Charcot and some other scientists in France, England, Russia, Germany and Italy, who "have been investigating, experimenting and theorising for over fifteen years." This is quoted in work by Kalnitsky:
"The sole explanation given to the public, to those who thirst to become acquainted with the real, the intimate nature of the phenomena, with their productive cause and genesis—is that the sensitives who manifest them are all hysterical! They are psychopates, and neurosists—we are told—no other cause underlying the endless variety of manifestations than that of a purely physiological character."
- Scientific method's limitation
Kalnitsky wrote that, in Blavatsky's opinion, the scientists, who are trying to explore the controversial paranormal phenomena, find themselves in a situation of utter helplessness, but it is not their fault. They simply do not have an appropriate set of conceptual "tools" for the right approach to these phenomena. Without an elementary familiarization with occult principles and the adoption, at least as a working hypothesis, the notion of the subtle worlds of nature, the science is not able to reveal the true depth and scope of the universal laws that underlie all cosmic processes. The orthodox scientists-materialists are constrained by the limitations of their sciences, and so they need a new orientation based on the attraction of occult knowledge. However, according to Blavatsky, even admitting the legitimacy of the occult hypothesis, they will not be able to bring their research to the end:
"Therefore, having conducted their experiments to a certain boundary, they would desist and declare their task accomplished. Then the phenomena might be passed on to transcendentalists and philosophers to speculate upon."
Turning to the consideration of conflicting opinions about the paranormal experience, Blavatsky says that the scientific recognition of the hypothesis about the nature of the psychic phenomena is not excluded, but it requires a discussion in relation to their underlying causes. She also claims that to defend the Theosophical position harder than spiritualistic, because the Theosophists categorically reject as a materialist theory so and a belief in spirits, presented in a traditional spiritualistic approach. Blavatsky classifies the spiritualists as the "idealists" and the scientists—as the "materialists," who both fully convinced that modern science can, respectively, or to confirm, or to deny the authenticity of the kingdom of the spirits. But those who believe in the ability of a science to accept the occult presentation will be disappointed, because its modern methodology simply does not allow it. Kalnitsky has quoted:
"Science, unless remodelled entirely, can have no hand in occult teachings. Whenever investigated on the plan of the modern scientific methods, occult phenomena will prove ten times more difficult to explain than those of the spiritualists pure and simple."
He wrote that Blavatsky believes that modern scientific methods need to be rethought and remodeled to make it possible to study phenomena that can not be adequately explained from the materialistic standpoint. She expresses her disappointment with the existing state of affairs, doubting in achieving any progress. After ten years of a careful monitoring of the debate, she does not believe in the possibility of an objective and impartial investigation of the paranormal phenomena, not to mention the real revision of the well-established scientific views and the adoption of more adequate occult theory. The few scientists who could believe in the authenticity of such phenomena do not accept the hypothesis beyond the spiritualistic representations. Even in the midst of doubt of the truth of the materialist worldview, they are unable to move from spiritualism to the occult theory. In the study of unexplained side of the nature their respect for the traditional scientific orthodoxy always prevails over their personal views. Thus, according to Blavatsky, a necessary condition of objectivity is the impartiality and a change of the opinions.
In Kalnitsky's opinion, considering the methodology of science, Blavatsky understood that the inductive reasoning, based on data supplied by the physical senses, can not adequately provide a reliable way to study the abnormal phenomena. He has quoted:
"Science—I mean Western Science—has to proceed on strictly defined lines. She glories in her powers of observation, induction, analysis and inference. Whenever a phenomenon of an abnormal nature comes before her for investigation, she has to sift it to its very bottom, or let it go. And this she has to do, and she cannot, as we have shown, proceed on any other than the inductive methods based entirely on the evidence of physical senses."
- Against ethical materialism
Kalnitsky wrote Blavatsky argues that the fruits of materialistic scientific worldview, reaching the sphere of practical interests of the people, shape their ethics. She sees a direct logical connection between a faith in the soulless mechanistic universe and by the fact that is for her as a purely egoistic attitude to life. He has quoted:
"The theoretical materialistic science recognizes nought but substance. Substance is its deity, its only God." We are told that practical materialism, on the other hand, concerns itself with nothing that does not lead directly or indirectly to personal benefit. "Gold is its idol," justly observes Professor Butleroff (a spiritualist, yet one who could never accept even the elementary truths of occultism, for he "cannot understand them"). – "A lump of matter," he adds, "the beloved substance of the theoretical materialists, is transformed into a lump of mud in the unclean hands of ethical materialism. And if the former gives but little importance to inner (psychic) states that are not perfectly demonstrated by their exterior states, the latter disregards entirely the inner states of life... The spiritual aspect of life has no meaning for practical materialism, everything being summed up for it in the external. The adoration of this external finds its principal and basic justification in the dogma of materialism, which has legalized it."[note 24]
Kalnitsky wrote Blavatsky clearly expresses her utter contempt for the values of "practical materialists." She accuses the ideological foundations of theoretical materialism for its an ignoring of the spiritual dimension of reality. This aversion to the complete unspirituality of the materialism reflects her "implicit gnostic ethical stance." A materialistic-physical and selfish interests are not compatible with the idealised world of the spirit and the transcendental purpose of mystical enlightenment. The practical materialists, even professing adherence to a moral code, do not cease to be by ethical materialists. According to Kalnitsky, "Blavatsky's radical gnostic dualism is allowing no room for compromise or alternative options." Thus, she considers the esoteric vision of reality the only viable alternative.
Kalnitsky wrote that science was seen in the West as the dominant category of knowledge and for the Theosophists it was not so an enemy, as a potential ally. However, the stereotypes of the materialistic thinking were one of the main obstacles to the esoteric representation of reality. Thus, at every opportunity Blavatsky tries to dispel what was for Theosophy, as she considered, alien and wrong. It is meant to challenge to many of the basic principles that supported the materialistic basis of science. However, a neutral and objective approach of the science to the analysis of the facts seemed, for the Theosophists, trustworthy. Blavatsky's striving to apply this approach to the consideration of the paranormal and mystical phenomena pursued a goal: to achieve the legitimacy and public acceptance of Theosophy. A skeptical position, which was taken by Blavatsky in respect of the materialistic science, was motivated by her outrage over the ignore by the scientists the spiritual dimension of reality. On the other hand, the assertion that spiritual truths can be proven from a scientific point of view, was a constant theme of Blavatsky's claims. The efforts of the Theosophists were focused on the legitimation of all forms of extrasensory and mystical experience.
A few years after Blavatsky's death, the "second generation" of the Theosophists came to the leadership of the Theosophical Society. As Hammer wrote, during this period, the "foci" of the Theosophical scientism shifted from the theory of evolution to other areas of science. Charles Webster Leadbeater, who became "the chief ideologist" of the Society, had involved with Annie Besant in the study of a functioning of the human mind. A religious studies scholar Gregory Tillett wrote that, according their claim, the functioning of mind "extrudes into the external world" the thought-forms which can be observed using clairvoyance methods. In 1901 Besant and Leadbeater published a book named Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation contained a lot of color illustrations of forms, "created," according to its authors, by thoughts, emotions, and senses of men, as well by music. They argued that main source of the forms is the aura of man, the outer part of the cloud-like substance of his "subtle bodies," interpenetrating each other, and extending beyond the confines of his physical body.[note 25]
According to Hammer and other scholars, in parallel with the "psychophysiological" researches, the Theosophists were busy an occult chemistry based on a "greatly modified" atomic theory. Leadbeater began "the occult investigation" of chemical elements as early as 1895, and Besant soon joined him. They argued that, using clairvoyance, can describe the intra-atomic structure of any element. In their words, each element composed of atoms containing a certain number of "smaller particles." They published "these and other results" in 1908 in a book Occult Chemistry: Clairvoyant Observations on the Chemical Elements. Hammer wrote, "Although Leadbeater was the principal clairvoyant, the enduring interest in... chemistry is probably due to Annie Besant's fascination with science, especially chemistry."[note 26]
Theosophy and physicsEdit
A historian of religion Egil Asprem informed that in 1923, an astronomer and Theosophist G. E. Sutcliffe published a book Studies in Occult Chemistry and Physics which was a "critical analysis" of the theory of relativity. The author has pursued the goal: to equalize the meaning of "Eastern" and "Western science", describing their "as two complementary 'schools'." In this book, the theory of relativity is regarded as the highest achievement of "Western science," whereas the results of the Theosophical study "of atoms and etheric structures" known as "occult chemistry" are presented as the achievement of "the 'Eastern' school". In an effort to show that the results of occult research can be compared with the theory of relativity, Sutcliffe "proposes a wholly new theory of gravity," based on physics of ether. From his reasoning it can be seen that he is thoroughly erudite in the Theosophical literature, while also having a background in "conventional physics from Britain" in the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Sutcliffe tries to reinterpret the theory of Albert Einstein in "a tradition of British anti-relativism", operating with the liberal "concept of ether."[note 27] The concept of Sutcliffe is based on "contraction and expansion of the accompanying ether of bodies," so, according to him, gravitation "is one of the effects of an expanding sphere of ether," and the electrical phenomena are a function of the "contracting sphere."
Professor Taimni wrote that the theory of relativity apparently gave "a new direction to our civilization" and created problems that "are a challenge" to our current worldview and ways of thinking. In the "scientific circles" it is considered that if mathematics is used to prove something, then the question "is finally settled", and it can't be discussed. However, most such conclusions are not always based on proven assumptions, and this makes possible a mistake in "the final conclusion." Often one does not take into account the fact that mathematical inference can then be correct if he accepts into account "all factors" concerning this issue, and if it is not, the conclusion may be incorrect "or only partially correct." This should be borne in mind when considering the nature of space and time, as well as the Einstein's method used to solve this problem. He based his theory "only on facts of the physical world" and if there are other, more subtle worlds "besides the physical", and they exist in accordance with the occult, then his theory has no authority "with respect to those worlds." Since his theory is based only on physical facts, it can be true, at best, "only for purely physical phenomena." It can't be assumed that it reveals the nature of space and time "in general", because it is presented "to the human mind" functioning within the boundaries of "the physical brain." "The very fact that the concept of the time-space continuum" given in his theory is too difficult for the human mind, indicates its limitations. In fact, its author simply tried to interpret "imperfectly the shadows of some realities cast on the screen in a shadow play of the mind."
Taimni wrote that anyone who closely studied the nature of space and time could be convinced that the human mind is "also a very important factor in this problem", therefore, to understand the space and time, it is necessary to take into account this factor. And since the human mind is not only what is manifested through its physical brain, but has "many degrees of subtlety and modes of expression," the entire human nature is "really involved in the problem" of space and time. And therefore only the one who "dived" into his consciousness and has "unraveled" his deepest secrets, having reached the source from which space and time come,[note 28] is really capable of saying what the true nature "of these basic realities of the universe is." "Who is more competent to pronounce a correct opinion about the nature of an orange," Taimni is asking, "he who has merely scratched the rind or he who has peeled the orange and eaten it?"[note 29][note 30]
According to words of Kuhn, Blavatsky claimed, "It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built." The researchers in esotericism Emily B. Sellon and Renée Weber have written:
"Anticipating the conclusions of Einsteinian relativity and field theory, as well as quantum mechanics, Blavatsky proposed a universe in which billiard-ball atoms and push-pull forces were replaced by space, time, motion, and energy, yielding a picture of a dynamic universe far in advance of her time."
According to a philosopher and religious studies scholar Vladimir Trefilov, the modern Theosophists were among the first who attempted to create "a new paradigm of thinking through the synthesis of scientific and non-scientific knowledge." As professor of Buddhist studies and Buddhist Evgeny Torchinov said, "Discussion between physicists, philosophers, psychologists, and scholars of religious studies in order to find the solutions of a problem of the general scientific paradigm change, the isomorphism of consciousness and physical world,[note 31] and even the ontology of consciousness in general could well take place, if don't resort to sticking labels like 'mysticism'." Professor Stanislav Grof, psychologist, wrote that Western science has raised matter to a status of the prime cause of Universe, reducing life, consciousness, and mind to the forms of its accidental products. Dominance in Western science a paradigm of Newton-Descartes became one of the causes of the emergence and development of the "planetary crisis."
A Ukrainian philosopher Julia Shabanova has believed that "the post-materialist scientific paradigm and the worldview idealism" should become a conceptual basis of the future civilization. The Russian cyberneticist Sergei Kurdyumov and philosopher Helena Knyazeva, in a book Laws of Evolution and Self-organization of Complex Systems, suggested that the "paradigm of self-organization and non-linearity" would become the basis of the new scientific paradigm, taking from the West "the positive aspects of the tradition of analysis", and from the East—ideas of the integrity, cyclicity, and the one law for Universe and man.
"Eastern ideas about the universal coherence, the unity of everything in the world, and the cyclic flowing into each other of Non-Being and Being (unmanifested and manifested) can resonate with the synergetic models... We can assume that there is a kind of an origin environment, in which all other observable and studied environments have grown. Then all the environments, with which we are dealing in life and scientific experiment, appear as some fluctuations (disturbances), the visible to us manifestations (modifications) of this one substrate—the origin environment."[note 32]
According to a historian of religion Egil Asprem, an Indian scientist and engineer Edi Bilimoria was one of the most significant characters "in the Theosophical discourse on science of the last decade and a half." In his work Mirages in Western Science Resolved by Occult Science he confirms the division into "Western" and "occult" science which took place already at the time of the formation of the Theosophical Society, and also "conceptually" updates the discussion of "modern physics and cosmology." Playing back the well-known Theosophical "rhetoric," Bilimoria suggests to move forward to "a reconciliation and reuniting of the wise old parent, Occult Science, with its adolescent prodigal son, Western science."
Criticism of TheosophyEdit
A Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov wrote that modern Theosophy is a doctrine not only "anti-religious" and "antiphilosophic", but also "anti-scientific." A religious philosopher Sergius Bulgakov stated that [Blavatskian] Theosophy, trying to replace religion with itself, turns into a "vulgar pseudoscientific mythology." In Berdyaev's opinion, modern Theosophy does not represent a synthesis of religion, philosophy and science, as its adherents say, but there is a "mixture" of them, in which there is no real religion, no real philosophy, no real science.
The ambiguous attitude of the Theosophists towards science was especially abruptly criticized by the servants of the Christian church.[note 34] In 1912, John Driscoll, an author of The Catholic Encyclopedia, has described Theosophy's attitude to science as follows:
"Modern theosophy claims to be a definite science. Its teachings are the product of thought, and its source is consciousness, not any Divine revelation. <...> Judging it as presented by its own exponents, it appears to be a strange mixture of mysticism, charlatanism, and thaumaturgic pretension combined with an eager effort to express its teaching in words which reflect the atmosphere of Christian ethics and modern scientific truths."
A Russian theologian, Andrey Kuraev, accused the Theosophists of violation of the principles of scientific aethics, arguing they do not react to the opponents' objections, do not bring "a scientific arguments in support of their position", and also put themselves "beyond all criticism from side of science." In support of his words, Kurayev quoted Blavatsky's statement on the need to fight with "every modern scholar's" pretension to evaluate "of ancient Esotericism", when he is not "a Mystic" or "a Kabalist". In connection with the special attention of the Theosophists to the theory of evolution, a Russian Orthodox cleric and theologian Dimitry Drujinin wrote that "Theosophy began to parasitize on the central tendencies of thought and science of its time." And also: "The rough and cheeky Blavatsky's criticism of Darwinism turned into personal insults to scholars." According to Drujinin, "the statements of Theosophy are an absurd nonsense." Lydia Fesenkova, an employee of the Institute of philosophy, also severely criticized the occult statements of Blavatsky, which described anthropogenesis: "From the point of view of science, such beliefs are an explicit profanity and don't have the right to exist in the serious literature."
An academician Viacheslav Stepin answering the question about pseudoscience said, "The dominant value of the scientific rationality begins to influence other spheres of culture—and religion, the myth are modernized often under this influence. On the border between them and science arise the parascientific concepts, which are trying to find a place in the field of science."
- William Crookes (1832 – 1919), a British chemist and physicist.
- Frederic Myers (1843 – 1901), a British philologist and philosopher.
- George Mead (1863 – 1933), a British historian and religious studies scholar.
- Lester Smith (1904 – 1992), a British chemist (F.R.S.).
- Alexander Wilder (1823 – 1908), an American religious studies scholar and philosopher.
- William James (1842 – 1910), an American psychologist and philosopher.
- Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931), an American engineer and inventor.
- Robert Ellwood (born in 1933), an American religious studies scholar, expert on world religions.
- Camille Flammarion (1842 – 1925), a French astronomer and writer.
- Émile Marcault (1878 – 1968), a French psychologist and philologist.
- Charles Johnston (1867 – 1931), an Irish Sanskrit scholar and orientalist.
- Iqbal Taimni (1898 – 1978), an Indian chemist and philosopher.[note 35]
- Edi Bilimoria (born in ...), an Indian scientist and engineer (FIMechE, CEng, EurIng).[note 36]
- Julia Shabanova (born in ...), a Ukrainian philosopher and pedagogist.
- Helena Blavatsky argued that ancient civilizations owned wisdom based on "unity of science and religion."
- Lydia Fesenkova wrote: "Modern esotericism show itself usually in a scientistic wear... It appeals to science, proclaiming the principle of the unity of science, religion, and philosophy." However, in opinion of professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, the "scientistic aspect of modem esotericism is much more than mere terminology; it reflects an ongoing effort to bridge the worlds of spirit and physical matter."
- Hammer, apparently, considered Blavatsky the author, including the letters of the mahatmas. However, according to Leadbeater, the letters were not written or dictated directly by the mahatmas, as the Theosophists supposed, "but were the work of pupils carrying out general directions given to them by the Masters."
- Nikolai Berdyaev wrote, "Contemporary popular theosophy is very deferential towards science... From the natural sciences it borrows a naive realism."
- A Russian Indologist Alexander Senkevich wrote that in the 19th century, an idea of the omnipotence of science became the main one, and "men believed in steam's force more than in virtue of preaching."
- In the third chapter of Isis (Vol. 1) named by its author The blind leaders of the blind she particularly sharply criticized the two "high priests" of the scientific materialism Tyndall and Huxley.
- Vladimir Trefilov wrote, "The main difference between the Theosophical science and the usual modern science is seen in the fact that the latter has to do only with scraps of a whole—with the physical phenomena of this and other worlds, with that that can be performed through the physical brain of man and his feeling."
- Adhering to a line of the initial theosophical criticism, Edi Bilimoria suggested to those modern scientists who claim that they investigate and unravel "the 'mind of God' would do better to probe into their own minds to discover the arrogance and philosophic naivete of such 'investigations'."
- Bilimoria classified Newton as a "greatest mystic and Occultist" of England.
- In 1963 a British chemist Lester Smith said, "There is a tendency to believe that the whole secret of life is wrapped up in this genetic code, so that when it has been completely unravelled it will be possible to create life... We should proclaim firmly that the biochemists are not studying Life itself, but its mechanisms, the almost unbelievably intricate and delicate tools it uses for its purposes." An academician Galimov stated that Darwinism proved unproductive "in reference to the problem of the origin of life." Lydia Fesenkova noted that from the positions of the natural sciences, Darwinism now looks like a "hypothesis that greatly simplifies the real state of things," so his conclusions find "constantly-increasing objections."
- According to Indian philosophy, there are "other worlds than that which our senses reveal to us, other senses than those which we share with the lower animals, other forces than those of material nature."
- Senkevich wrote that, according to Darwin, the three main factors: variability, heredity, and natural selection were responsible for evolution; thus, "the pragmatic West" with its mundane approach to life simply lacked "common sense, to gain faith in the evolution of soul or consciousness."
- "Gupta-vidya (Sanskrit) Gupta-vidyā [from gupta from the verbal root gup to conceal, preserve + vidyā knowledge, wisdom] Secret knowledge, secret wisdom; the source of all religions and philosophies known to the world: theosophy, the ancient wisdom-religion, the esoteric philosophy."
- "As a representation of an exalted being, the image of the Buddha must also be exalted."
- "It is unclear whether they were pillaged during the First Anglo-Burmese War", Lopez wrote, "when British troops captured and held the temple for two years, or during the Second, when British troops captured the temple in 1852; it then remained under the control of the military until 1929."
- Also a prominent Buddhist studies scholar Rhys Davids believed that "the original Buddhism was the very contrary of esoteric."
- See also arguments of Robert Carroll:
- Thus, if he didn't want to mark any "ravines" or "swamps" (the paranormal phenomena) on his "map," this don't mean that he will never "find himself" there. For participants in a hypothetical dialogue the initiated occultist and a typical scientist, Bilimoria chose the appropriate abbreviations: OWL (Occultist, Wise, and Learned, or an owl) and ASS (Archetypal Sceptical Scientist, or an ass).
- This article was first published in 1886 in the Theosophical magazine The Theosophist. Later it was included in the 7th volume of the Blavatsky Collected Writings.
- A religious studies scholar Vladimir Trefilov stated, "Without denying the positive role of science, the Theosophical theorists emphasize its limitations."
- A religious studies scholar Alvin Kuhn stated, "Madame Blavatsky declared that occultism had no quarrel with so-called exact science where 'the conclusions of the latter are grounded on a substratum of unassailable fact'."
- Radhakrishnan claimed that, according to Indian philosophy's teachings, "The perfections (siddhis) are attained through birth, drugs (oadhi), spells (mantras), austerity (tapas), or concentration (samadhi)."
- Hammer claimed that Blavatsky often demonstrated how it is possible to combine the negative attitude to science with a positive.
- In 1871, Butlerov organized, "to the consternation of many of his fellow scientists," the first scientific commission for the investigation of the mediumistic phenomena.
- In Hammer's opinion, "Leadbeater proposed a theory of the human aura" based on some Blavatsky's ideas. Truly, according to Blavatsky, "Every person emits a magnetic exhalation or aura." Goodrick-Clarke noted that a Japanese scientist Hiroshi Motoyama has expanded Leadbeater's concepts "through electrophysiological experimental work concerning the subtle network of chakras and nadis as conductors of energy in the subtle bodies."
- René Guénon wrote that the "detailed description of different kinds of atoms" by Besant and Leadbeater can be termed as "pseudo-scientific fantasies."
- "Ether physics was a crucial component of physics in Britain, and was part of the curriculum at Trinity College, Cambridge, as late as 1910."
- According to the occult science, space and time are the result of the manifestation of their archetypal principles, called "Mahakasha" and "Mahakala" respectively.
- In Taimni's opinion, Einstein's theory does not imply the existence "of super-physical worlds," ignores "the existence of mind and consciousness as principles independent of the physical world," suggests that there are "only three dimensions of space and one of time" and does not take into account "many other facts" of reality that are "part of the Occult Doctrine" and were repeatedly tested "by seers, occultists and mystics of all ages."
- Lopez claimed, "To understand the nature of reality, one must achieve buddhahood."
- According to Indian occultists, the manifested Universe is the product of interaction of two primary Principles: "Shiva, or Consciousness and Shakti, or Power."
- Fritjof Capra wrote in 1982, "The parallels to Eastern mysticism are appearing not only in physics but also in biology, psychology and other sciences... A natural extension of the concepts of modern physics to other fields is provided by the framework of systems theory." Professor Donald Lopez noted, "Like the Theosophists of the nineteenth century, Capra sees a deep foundation from which all mystical traditions arise, a tradition that both anticipates and is confirmed by what he calls 'the New Physics'."
- Speaking of the ancient occult science, mahatma Kuthumi wrote, "Our laws are as immutable as those of Nature, and they were known to man and eternity before this strutting game cock, modern science, was hatched." Thus, according to Bilimoria, the fact of the "expanding Universe was well known" to occultists else in antiquity, "only in greater" detail in comparison with the concept of the "modern cosmologists."
- See also: Christianity and Theosophy#Confrontations.
- Professor Rozin wrote that "some geniuses of esotericism are known not only as esotericists, but also as scientists."
- "The Indian-born scientist and engineer Edi D. Bilimoria has been one of the more important figures in the Theosophical discourse on science of the last decade."
- Hammer 2003, p. 222.
- Goodrick-Clarke 2004, p. 10.
- Godwin 1994, p. xv.
- Hammer 2003, pp. 203, 204; Asprem 2013, p. 408.
- Фесенкова 2003, pp. 84–85.
- Goodrick-Clarke 2008, p. 235.
- Kuhn 1992, p. 113; Hammer 2003, p. 218.
- Hammer 2003, p. 219.
- Blavatsky 1966, p. 137; Hammer 2003, p. 220.
- Tillett 1986, p. 807.
- Barker 1924, p. 62; Hammer 2003, p. 220.
- Hammer 2003, p. 221.
- Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 506–507; Hammer 2003, p. 262.
- Hammer 2003, p. 265.
- Blavatsky 1888a, p. 549; Hammer 2003, p. 265.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 312.
- Barker 1924, p. 63; Hammer 2003, p. 261; Asprem 2013, p. 405.
- Сенкевич 2012, p. 157.
- Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 481, 490; Hammer 2003, p. 267.
- Blavatsky 1877, pp. 73–98; Lachman 2012, p. 174; Asprem 2013, p. 409.
- Blavatsky 1877, pp. 306, 318, 621; Tyson 2006, p. 388.
- Olcott 2011, p. 100; Tyson 2006, p. 387.
- Трефилов 1994, p. 234.
- Bilimoria 1997, p. 159.
- Blavatsky 1877, pp. 206, 207; Hammer 2003, p. 267.
- Blavatsky 1888a, p. 490; Hammer 2003, p. 267.
- Bilimoria 1997, p. 150.
- Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 477–78; Kuhn 1992, p. 258.
- Rudbøg 2012, p. 276.
- Goodrick-Clarke 2008, p. 211.
- Lopez 2009, p. 11.
- Smith 1963, p. 18.
- Галимов 2001, p. 212.
- Фесенкова 2007, p. 128.
- Blavatsky 1888b, p. 650; Kuhn 1992, p. 255.
- Kuhn 1992, pp. 253, 254.
- Radhakrishnan 1948b, p. 373.
- Blavatsky 1877, pp. 428, 429; Lachman 2012, p. 171.
- Сенкевич 2012, p. 435.
- Blavatsky 1877, p. xviii; Lachman 2012, p. 171.
- Blavatsky 1877, pp. 301, 425; Lachman 2012, p. 171.
- Olcott 1885, p. 250; Дружинин 2012, p. 79.
- Harris, Swarup.
- Taimni 1969, p. 384.
- Lopez 2009, pp. 154, 158.
- Eliade 1958, p. 303.
- Radhakrishnan 1948b, pp. 366–7; Трефилов 2005, p. 379.
- Purucker 1999.
- Olcott 1910, p. 61; Lopez 2009, p. 157.
- Lopez 2009, p. 158.
- Lopez 2009, p. 159.
- Müller 1893, p. 784; Lopez 2009, p. 179.
- Davids 1896, p. 210.
- Barker 1924, p. 185; Lopez 2009, pp. 184–185.
- Radhakrishnan 1948a, p. 28.
- Blavatsky 1877, p. 18; Kuhn 1992, p. 132.
- Barker 1924, p. 4.
- Александров 2015, p. 21.
- Carroll 2003.
- Bilimoria 1997, p. 71.
- Bilimoria 1997, p. 99.
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- Blavatsky 1956.
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- Kuhn 1992, p. 258.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 156.
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- Blavatsky 1956, p. 59; Kalnitsky 2003, p. 156.
- Kalnitsky 2003, pp. 156–7.
- Blavatsky 1956, p. 59; Kalnitsky 2003, p. 157.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 157.
- Kalnitsky 2003, pp. 158–9.
- Blavatsky 1956, p. 71; Kalnitsky 2003, p. 159.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 160.
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- Kalnitsky 2003, pp. 160–1.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 162.
- Blavatsky 1956, p. 78; Kalnitsky 2003, p. 162.
- Blavatsky 1956, pp. 79–80; Kalnitsky 2003, pp. 162–3.
- Сенкевич 2012, p. 171.
- Kalnitsky 2003, pp. 163–4.
- Kalnitsky 2003, p. 165.
- Wessinger 2013.
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- Hammer 2003, p. 223.
- Blavatsky 1877a.
- Hammer 2003, pp. 222–23; Wessinger 2013, p. 36; DeGracia 2006, pp. 131–148.
- Guénon 2004, p. 101.
- Sutcliffe 1923, pp. v–vi; Asprem 2013, p. 415.
- Asprem 2013, p. 416.
- Sutcliffe 1923, p. xv; Asprem 2013, p. 416.
- Tillett 1986, p. 936.
- Трефилов 1994, p. 237.
- Taimni 1969, pp. 226–227, 334.
- Bilimoria 1997, p. 146.
- Taimni 1969, pp. 334–335.
- Taimni 1974, pp. 6–7.
- Lopez 2009, p. 19.
- Blavatsky 1888a, p. 520; Kuhn 1992, p. 261.
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- Торчинов 2007, Заключение.
- Grof 1998, Ch. 6.
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- Князева, Курдюмов 1994, pp. 73, 223.
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- Bilimoria 1997, p. 142.
- Соловьёв 1911, p. 397.
- Bulgakov 2012, p. 37.
- Berdyaev 1972, p. 299.
- Driscoll 1912, pp. 627–8.
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- Фесенкова 2004, p. 93.
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