John Danser Theosophical Commentary

John Danser has not been a Trustee but his commentary is included here because Geoffrey Farthing thought John Danser's Commentary to be sufficiently pertinent to the work of the Trust that it be included alongside Trust Newsletters.

Despite the amazing advances which have been made in recent years, and continue to be made, in all the scientific disciplines - particle physics; astro-physics; astronomy; chemistry; biochemistry - and so on - not only do the most fundamental questions remain unanswered, but modern science, because of its materialistic basis, has been compelled to resort to what is palpable nonsense to explain certain phenomena at its frontiers.

Creation

The concept of the "Big Bang" theorises that the fireball from which our Universe originated, "was produced out of nothing at all by quantum processes" !!! (from John Gribbin's The Little Book of Science). John Gribbin - described as being one of this century's most brilliant popularisers of science - in his Almost Everyone's Guide to Science, examining the particles in the nucleus of an atom writes: (p 56) 'For a short enough time . . energy can appear out of nothing at all . . [and] if you have enough energy, it can temporarily turn itself into particles during its brief life.' He continues by saying that mesons - (theoretical particles carrying the force which holds the nuclei of atoms together) - 'appear out of nothing at all, as so-called vacuum fluctuations of the quantum fields.' (The fact that Science not only has the Universe & atomic particles originating out of nothing, recalls the Occult adage, referring to the metaphysical and the physical worlds "As above, so below": it applies also to the macrocosm and the microcosm.) But what does H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) have to say about the "creation" of the universe? It is very clearly, and succinctly expressed in an answer given to a correspondent in an issue of The Theosophist for December 1881, under the heading of Is Creation Possible for Man? (Collected Writings 111, 379/80):-

'We must have a clear understanding as to what is meant by creation. Probably the common idea on the subject is that when the world was "created," the creator accorded himself or was somehow accorded a dispensation from the rule ex nihilo nihil fit - [out of nothing nothing comes] - and actually made the world out of nothing - if that is the idea of creation to be dealt with now, the reply of the philosophers would be not merely that such creation is impossible to man but that it is impossible to gods, or God; in short absolutely impossible. But a step in the direction of a philosophical conception is accomplished when people say the world was "created" (we say fashioned) out of Chaos. Perhaps they have no very clear idea of what they mean by CHAOS, but it is a better word to use in this case than "nothing." For, suppose we endeavour to conceive chaos as the matter of the universe in an unmanifested state, it will be seen at once that though such matter is perfectly inappreciable to ordinary human senses, and to that extent equivalent to "nothing", creation from such materials is not the production of something which did not exist before, but a change of state imposed upon a portion of universal matter which in its previous state was invisible, intangible and imponderable, but not on that account non-existent. Theosophist-Occultists do not, however, use the word "creation," at all, but replace it by that of EVOLUTION.'

How very much more reasonable and acceptable is such an explanation compared with the utterly impossible one of a Universe manifesting itself out of Nothing! -and - if one dare say it - more scientific, because more logical. But, of course, Science, as it is presently oriented, is unable to accept that matter other than that of the gross physical kind - (i.e. what Occultists term "astral") - can possibly exist, since to go down that road would inevitably lead to the conclusion that Matter on its highest plane was, in fact, what we term 'Spirit'. HPB quotes a maxim of Occultism (H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine Vol.I, p542): 'There is neither Spirit nor matter in reality, but only numberless aspects of the One ever-hidden is (or Sat).' She continues: 'The homogeneous primordial Element is simple and single only on the terrestrial plane of consciousness and sensation, since matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own states of consciousness, and Spirit an idea of psychic intuition.' On page p289 The Secret Doctrine Vol.I, we have an evocative quotation from a Commentary on The Stanzas of Dzyan, referring to the dawn of Manifestation after a Maha-Pralaya: 'The Initial Existence in the first twilight . . is a CONSCIOUS SPIRITUAL QUALITY. In the manifested WORLD [solar systems] it is, in its OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVITY, like the film from a Divine Breath to the gaze of the entranced seer . . It is Substance to OUR spiritual sight. It cannot be called so by men in their WAKING STATE; therefore they have named it in their ignorance "God-Spirit." '

Cosmology

The June 2001 issue of Astronomy had a "Cosmology Special" feature, written by an astrophysicist, Mark Sincell which opened with 'Startling discoveries of the past century have revealed much about our cosmic origin, but huge mysteries remain.' and concludes with 'Cosmologists can be certain of one thing: every answer generates other questions.' This is but another way of saying that final answers as to the nature of the universe will never be found. In The Secret Doctrine Vol.II p219, HPB writes: 'Skeptics may smile and denounce our work as full of nonsense and fairy tales. But by so doing they only justify the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, who said that "the things that men do know can in no way be compared, numerically speaking, to the things that are unknown"; and thus they laugh only at their own ignorance.' Astrophysicist Paul Davies - (who has achieved an international reputation for explaining the significance of advanced scientific ideas in simple language) - would go further than Sincell. In his book The Mind of God, he acknowledges that rationality can never give us the complete truth about our world, and that "if we wish to progress beyond, we have to embrace a different concept of understanding . . Possibly the mystic path is a way to such an understanding."

An essential aspect of the "Big Bang" theory is that of inflation - that the Universe is continually expanding, and it has been found that distant galaxies instead of moving away from us at speeds that slow with time, as would be expected, they are accelerating away from us: why? - nobody knows! Neither is it known, Sincell informs us, what drove inflation in the first place. Apparently physicists have suggested different models to describe the inflating universe, but all the solutions are mathematical conveniences with no particular physical basis. "All the theories of inflation amount to proof that we don't have one good theory yet," Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory astrophysicist Edward W. "Rocky" Kolb, is quoted as saying.

Another puzzle is that there is nothing in the Big Bang model to say that widely separated regions in our universe should look similar, yet galaxies cluster in much the same numbers and patterns on one side of the universe as on another. Sincell writes that to get enough oomph to drive the present acceleration of the universe, a force which has been termed "dark energy" must make up about 65 per cent of the total density of the universe. The biggest problem with this idea is that no one has any idea what dark energy is. [!] "So far, all we've been able to do is name it," says Turner - [a top-ranking cosmologist] "It could be energy associated with nothing, or the influence of hidden spatial dimensions."

Origin of Life

Theories as to how life originated continue to abound. In the New Scientist for 26th May, 2001, a column commences with: 'Primordial soup made of RNA is back on the menu for the origins of life. Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts have shown that enzymes made of RNA - DNA's chemical cousin - can make accurate copies of other RNA molecules. Molecular replication is crucial to the existence of life, but nobody knows how it began.' Researchers suggest that 'RNA wasn't the beginning of life, but took over from an earlier, unknown molecule.' In a recent book The Spark of Life: Darwin and the Primeval Soup by Wills and Bada, an attempt is made to extend Darwinian evolution to prebiotic chemistry on the early earth. The foremost investigator in this area is Stanley Miller, who began his work at the University of Chicago in the 1950s. Miller passed electric sparks through a mixture of gases believed to approximate the chemical composition of the early Earth's atmosphere. Also include in the closed apparatus was a water reservoir simulating the ocean. The experiments produced significant amounts of several amino acids - [the building blocks of proteins, which are essential components of living things on Earth] - as well as larger quantities of a complex mixture of organic macromolecules. From these experiments came a model for the origin of life in which small organic molecules were made in the earth's atmosphere and then deposited by rainfall into the ocean, where they reacted further to make proteins, nucleic acids and the other molecules of life. However, in their book The Matter Myth, Paul Davies and John Gribbin make the point that "Unfortunately, it is not that simple." They go on to say that "In fact, the number of possible ways in which atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen could form into molecular chains the size of the DNA molecules in your cells is inconceivably large. The probability that a molecule as complex and specific as the DNA that codes for a human being would form purely at random from a soup of simple organic subunits is negligibly small. If that was what had actually happened, then life would indeed be a miracle.' They tell us Earth life is ultimately dependent on two groups of chemicals - nucleic acids and proteins, and that little is known about the crucial jump from amino acids to proteins, and even less about the origins of nucleic acids. Yet they go on to make the statement: 'It is conceivable that some variant of the Miller-Urey primeval soup would, if left long enough, be gradually directed towards the "right" sort of molecular arrangements automatically.' The inescapable inference from such a statement is that matter is programmed for the appearance of life - or, as they put it, 'the spontaneous generation of life from simple inanimate chemicals.'

Another theory currently being explored is that life on earth could have originated from molecules deposited by meteorites or comets. Mark Alpert reports in the Scientific American for April, 2001, that in the January 30th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report experimenting with a mixture of simple compounds known to exist in interstellar space: water, methanol, ammonia and carbon monoxide. The scientists mimicked a space environment by freezing the mixture to temperatures close to absolute zero, then exposing it to harsh ultraviolet radiation. The procedure produced an oily residue composed of hundreds of complex organic molecules. Even more striking, when immersed in water the organic molecules in the residue formed tiny hollow droplets that resembled cell membranes. Although the droplets themselves are far from being alive, similar structures could have been precursors of the first primitive life forms.

Paul Davies, in his Are We Alone? suggests other possibilities. He writes that it is possible that micro-organisms can survive quite lengthy sojourns in space if conveyed within protective rocks. Microbes have been discovered deep beneath the ground in terrestrial rocks at depths of several kilometres. These organisms, he writes, make a living using quite different chemical and physical processes than does surface life. Some estimates suggest that subterranean life may be more abundant than surface life and may possess a greater total biomass. It is conceivable that life originated deep underground and migrated to the surface only when conditions became favourable. He goes on to say that these discoveries allow the possibility that life may exist on Mars deep beneath the surface. They also allow that this life may have been transplanted from Earth as a result of asteroid impacts. Conversely, life may have originated on Mars and come to Earth by the same mechanism. Of course, it may also have been the case that life originated elsewhere entirely (for example in cometary material or even in another star system) and travelled to Earth (and perhaps Mars) by an unknown mechanism. In this way, assuming the organisms could somehow survive the hostile conditions of outer space (intense cold, cosmic radiation, etc.), life may have arisen elsewhere in the galaxy and fallen to Earth from space, whereupon, having encountered conditions favourable to multiplication, it took hold and thrived. This theory, known as the panspermia hypothesis, had been revived in recent years by the late astronomer, Fred Hoyle and the-molecular biologist Francis Crick. (It originated just over a hundred years ago with a Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius.) An example of how bacteria can live in the harshest possible conditions is given in the Indian magazine The Theosophical Movement, for June, 2001. It quotes from Discovery, March 2001: 'Scientists have found life in the unlikeliest of places - in clouds. Birgit Sattler, a limnologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, has discovered bacteria that are not just surviving but thriving in thick cloud formations.' Sattler identified the bacteria after examining cloud samples collected and frozen onto Teflon plates set up on the top of Mount Sonnblick, near Salzburg, Austria. Even at subfreezing temperatures, the bacteria could take up radioactively tagged amino acids and DNA bases. This indicates the microbes were still growing and reproducing. He said that finding bacteria in clouds suggests that life could exist in similarly extreme surroundings on other planets. "Why not? I've done research in glaciers, Antarctic lakes, and in Alpine ice, but this is the most extreme habitat in which I've found bacteria," she says. "If anything happens to Earth, bacteria will survive."

In The Secret Doctrine Vol.II p672, HPB writes: 'The Occultists, who trace every atom in the universe, whether an aggregate or single, to One Unity, or Universal Life; who do not recognise that anything in Nature can be inorganic; who know of no such thing as dead matter - are consistent with their doctrine of Spirit and Soul when speaking of memory in every atom, of will and sensation . .We know and speak of "life-atoms," and of "sleeping-atoms," because we regard these two forms of energy - the kinetic and the potential - as produced by one and the same force or the ONE LIFE, and regard the latter as the source and mover of all.' H.P.B. can be crystal clear when dealing with a particular issue, and the following is an example where she deals with the matter of the Life-Principle. It was written as part of an Editor's note to an article in an issue of Lucifer, for March 1888, written by a Theosophical Society member, and is reproduced in the Collected Writings Vol.IX, pp79/80, and it's of no less relevance now than it was over 100 years ago:

'Our readers, enamoured with Modern Science, at the same time as with the occult doctrines - have to choose between the two views of the nature of the Life-Principle, which are the most accepted now, and - the third view - that of the occult doctrines. The three may be described as follows:-

I. That of the scientific "molecularists" who assert that life is the resultant of the interplay of ordinary molecular forces.
II. That which regards "living organisms" as animated by an independent "vital principle," and declares "inorganic" matter to be lacking this.
III. The Occultist or Esoteric standpoint, which looks upon the distinction between organic and inorganic matter as fallacious and non-existent in nature. For it says that matter in all its phases being merely a vehicle for the manifestation through it of LIFE - the Parabrahmic Breath - in its physically pantheistic aspect . . it is a supersensuous state of matter, itself the vehicle of the ONE LIFE, the unconscious purposiveness of Parabrahm
.'

An interesting hypothetical example of what would happen if the life principle were to become for an instant inactive in a so-called inanimate object is given by H.P.B. in an Editor's note to a TS member's article on The Transmigration of Life Atoms in the The Theosophist for August 1883, (H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol.V p112): 'The 'Jiva' or life principle which animates man, beast, plant or even a mineral, certainly is "a form of force indestructible," since this force is the one life, or anima mundi, the universal living soul, and that the various modes in which the various objective things appear to us in nature in their atomic aggregations, such as minerals, plants, animals, etc., are all the different forms or states in which this force manifests itself. Were it to become, we will not say absent, for this is impossible, but for one single instant inactive, say in a stone, the particles of the latter would lose instantly their cohesive property and disintegrate as suddenly -though the force would still remain in each of its particles, but in a dormant state.'

On the question of life reaching the Earth from other planets HPB has this to say (The Secret Doctrine Vol. II, p158): '. . If our Earth got its supply of life-germs from other planets, who, or what, had carried them into those planets? Here, again, unless the Occult teaching is accepted, we are compelled once more to face a miracle; to accept the theory of a personal, anthropomorphic Creator, the attributes and definitions of whom, as formulated by the monotheists, clash as much with philosophy and logic, as they degrade the ideal of an infinite Universal deity, before whose incomprehensible aweful grandeur the highest human intellect feels dwarfed.'

Because of the fascination which scientific exploration into life's origins holds for us, it is all too easy to lose sight of Life's raison d'etre. In an article in Lucifer, (November, 1887), called The Science of Life, HPB writes:

'Scalpels and microscopes may solve the mystery of the material parts of the shell of man: they can never cut a window into his soul to open the smallest vista on any of the wider horizons of being. It is those thinkers alone, who, following the Delphic injunction, have cognised life in their inner selves, those who have studied it thoroughly in themselves, before attempting to trace and analyse its reflection in their outer shells, who are the only ones rewarded with some measure of success. Like the fire-philosophers of the Middle Ages, they have skipped over the appearances of light and fire in the world of effects, and centred their whole attention upon the producing arcane agencies. Thence, tracing these to the one abstract cause, they have attempted to fathom the MYSTERY, each as far as his intellectual capacity permitted him. Thus they have ascertained that (1) the seemingly living mechanism called physical man, is but the fuel, the material upon which life feeds, in order to manifest itself; and (2) that thereby the inner man receives as his wage and reward the possibility of accumulating additional experiences of the terrestrial experiences called lives. One of such philosophers is now undeniably the great Russian Novelist and reformer Count Leo N Tolstoi. How near his views are to the esoteric and philosophical teachings of higher Theosophy, will be found on the perusal of a few fragments from a lecture delivered by him at Moscow before the local Psychological Society. Discussing the problem of life, the Count asks his audience to admit, for the sake of argument, an impossibility. Says the lecturer:-

Let us grant for a moment that all that which modern science longs to learn of life, it has learnt, and now knows; that the problem has become as clear as day; that it is clear how organic matter has, by simple adaptation, come to be originated from inorganic material; that it is clear how natural forces may be transformed into feelings, will, thought, and that finally, all this is known, not only to the city student, but to every village schoolboy as well.

I am aware, then, that such and such thoughts and feelings originate from such and such motions. Well, and what then? Can I, or cannot I, guide such motions, in order to excite within my brain corresponding thoughts? The question -what are the thoughts and feelings I ought to generate in myself and others, remains still, not only unresolved, but even untouched.

Yet it is precisely this question which is the one fundamental question of the central idea of life.
Science has chosen as its object a few manifestations that accompany life; and mistaking the part for the whole, called these manifestations the integral total of life.

The question inseparable from the idea of life is not whence life, but how one should live that life: and it is only by first starting with this question that one can hope to approach some solution in the problem of existence.

H.P.B. adds a footnote: "'Mistaking" is an erroneous term to use. The men of science know but too well that what they teach concerning life is a materialistic fiction contradicted at every step by logic and fact. In this particular question science is abused, and made to serve personal hobbies and a determined policy of crushing in humanity every spiritual aspiration and thought." Pretending to mistake" would be more correct.'

Point is given to the above idea by an excerpt from Paul Davies' The Mind of God. In the chapter 'Designer Universe,' he quotes from Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg's book The First Three Minutes: 'The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,' following this with the expression of a similar sentiment from the biologist Jacques Monod, in his Chance and Necessity: 'The ancient covenant is in pieces: man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he has emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down.'

A final word from H.P.B. It's from an article in Lucifer for April, 1893, called 'On Authorities in General and the Authority of Materialists, Especially' (Collected Writings Vol.III, pp156/7): 'We who believe in Occultism and the archaic Esoteric Philosophy, do not . . ask our members to believe as we do, nor charge them with ignorance if they do not. We simply leave them, to make their choice. Those who decide to study the old Science are given proofs of its existence; and corroborative evidence accumulates and grows in proportion to the personal progress of the student. Why should not the negators of ancient science - to wit, modern scholars - do the same in the matter of their denials and assertions; i.e., why don't they refuse to say either yea or nay in regard to that which they really do not know, instead of denying or affirming it a priori as they all do? Why do not our Scientists proclaim frankly and honestly to the whole world, that most of their notions - e.g. on life, matter, ether, atoms, etc., each of these being an unsolvable mystery to them - are not scientific facts and axioms, but simply "working hypotheses"? (Richard Feynman - Nobel Prize winner physicist - endorses this in the aphorism he coined about Science: 'Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of uncertainty - some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely sure.')

Functions of the Astral Body

In the 11th August, 2001, issue of the New Scientist, Alison Motluk asks the question whether we have an ever-changing variety of senses instead of just the basic five, and if it's time to re-think how our brains work. She writes: 'The prevailing view of the brain still holds that there are five separate senses that feed into five distinct brain regions preordained to handle one and only one sense. ..But perhaps it's time for a radical rethink of how the brain works. Tasks we've long assumed were handled by only one sense turn out to be the domain of two or three. And when we are deprived of a sense, the brain responds - in a matter of days or even hours - by reallocating unused capacity and turning the remaining senses to more imaginative use.' All this begs the questions: are the senses really so segregated? Are they separate at all? Indeed, is it possible that our senses are continuously developing and merging ..? It might be a big shift in thinking, but it began with a simple finding - the discovery of "multisensory" neurons. These are brain cells that react to many senses all at once instead of just to one. No one knows how many of these neurons there are - maybe they are just a rare elite corps. But perhaps there are no true vision, hearing or touch areas dedicated to a single sense, after all. Perhaps all the neurons in our brains are multi-sensory - and we mistakenly label them "visual" or "auditory" simply because they prefer one sense over the others. That's the view of Alvaro Pascul-Leone at Harvard University. He made a splash five years ago when he showed people who were born blind used the visual cortex when they read Braille. He wondered if rather than lie idle, parts of the brain meant for seeing just started helping out with touching. His more recent work has convinced him that not only blind people but everyone has the capacity to swap sense if they have to. He thinks that the brain is much more versatile than most researchers would have us believe . . What he found astonishing was how quickly the brain seemed able to recruit new areas and equally effortlessly reverse that process. .."It must be assumed," he says, "that tactile and auditory input into 'the visual cortex' is present in all of us and can be unmasked if behaviourally desirable." He now feels the brain is not organised into "visual" and "tactile" regions at all. Instead he thinks it is split into units that have specific jobs to do or particular problems to solve . . The preference of a particular problem-solving unit for a specific sense may explain the notion of sense-specific regions, he says. Just because an area tends to call on vision doesn't mean it can't process other senses . . Pascual-Leone's bold interpretation that the brain is organised by task rather than by individual sense, is by no means the accepted one. Even most scientists who study multisensory processing consider it extreme - one of them being of the opinion that at least some of the areas are exclusively unisensory - saying that "the boundaries are being pushed back, just not pushed back all the way." Alison Motluk then goes on to describe an experiment which many might find offensive. It involved "rewiring" the brains of ferrets. The findings called into question the well-guarded notion that certain brain areas can only dedicate themselves to certain tasks. .. A group at MIT in Boston wanted to know how much they could override innate developmental pathways. The researchers surgically rearranged one brain hemisphere in a handful of newborn ferrets, so that the nerves from the retina, which normally go to the visual cortex, now connected to the auditory thalamus and eventually to the auditory cortex. To their surprise, they found that the auditory cortex on the rewired side arranged itself like a visual cortex: the cells showed selectivity for orientation and motion, and they encoded a two-dimensional map of visual space. The rewired animals also seemed to behave perfectly normally. Using only the untouched hemisphere the researchers trained the animals to go to a food spout on one side of a test room if they heard a sound, and one on the other if they saw a light. Amazingly, even after the visual cortex on the healthy side was completely destroyed, the animals found their way to the food, demonstrating that they could detect light. In fact the young ferrets were so normal that they had to be marked to tell them apart from their siblings. The experiment revealed just how multimodal the brain may be. The amazing rewired auditory cortex was not only seeing - it was hearing at the same time.

None of the foregoing should be surprising to students of theosophy. W Q Judge, HPB's co-worker, and her pupil, wrote in his Ocean of Theosophy, (p 42): 'The astral body has within it the real organs of the outer sense organs. In it are the sight, hearing, power to smell, and the sense of touch. It has a complete system of nerves and arteries of its own for the conveyance of the astral fluid which is to that body as our blood is to the physical. It is the real personal man.' HPB writes in the SD Vol. II, 149 -and she has it in italics: ' The whole issue of the quarrel between the profane and the esoteric sciences depends upon the belief in, and the demonstration of the existence of an astral body within the physical, the former independent of the latter.'

As part of Instruction No. IV of the Esoteric Section, HPB writes (Collected Writings Vol.XII, p672): 'Touch and Taste have no order. Every sense pervades every other, there being really only one sense acting through different organs of sensation. All senses are but differentiations of the one sense-consciousness. Hence we can feel colours and see sounds. There is no general order; that sense which is most developed being the first for that person.' Then on p.691 of the same volume, as part of Esoteric Instruction No. V, she writes: ' As said all senses are but differentiations of the one sense-consciousness, and become so differentiated on the Astral plane, where perceptive life proper begins; from that the differentiation is continued on to the lowest sub-plane of the Prakritic plane - [the terrestrial] -to which the physical molecules of our Bodies belong. For instance, fishes living in dark subterranean waters are blind; but if they are taken and put into a pond, in a few generations they will develop eyes. Nevertheless, in their original state, though they had no organs of physical vision, they were yet endowed with a sense of sight. Otherwise, how could they, in the darkness, have found their prey and avoided obstacles and dangers?' On p661 (Vol.XII) as part of Esoteric Instruction No. IV, she writes: 'The centres of sensation, or of internal action, that is of seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. - called Indriyas in Eastern systems - are located in the astral man, the physical molecules being only the necessary material agents for receiving impulses from without and transmitting them to the centres.'

An article headed 'Problems of Life - From the Diary of an Old Physician' (Collected Writings Vol.XII, p414), refers to the diary - published posthumously in 1879 - of a Dr N I Pirogoff - a renowned St Petersburg surgeon and pathologist. During his lifetime he had been regarded as being an Agnostic, if not a downright Atheist, but to the amazement of his former colleagues, and the general public, his diary showed that many of his views were very close to those of Theosophy. The article consisted of excerpts from the diary with HPB's comments. She quotes the following extract from the diary: ' ...that which senses in us, the sensing principle. .. cannot be localised in this or that portion of the brain; nor is it quite correct to view the brain as its only seat,' and comments: 'Mesmeric and hypnotic experiments have proved beyond doubt that sensation may become independent of the particular sense that is supposed to generate and convey it in a normal state. Whether science will ever be able to prove or not that thought, consciousness, etc., in short, the sensus intemum has its seat in the brain it is already demonstrated, and beyond any doubt, that under certain conditions our consciousness and even the whole batch of our senses, can act through other organs, e.g., the stomach, the soles of the feet, etc. The "sensing principle" in us is an entity capable of acting outside as inside its material body; and it is certainly independent of any organ in particular, in its actions, although during its incarnation it manifests itself through its physical organs.'

In the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge [Part.I, p37/8 (Facsimile. Edition.) or Collected Writings Vol.X, pp338/9] in answer to a question HPB says in her reply: 'In the Eastern philosophy. .the sense of sound is first manifested, and next the sense of light, sounds passing into colours. Clairvoyants can see sounds and detect every note and modulation far more distinctly than they would by the ordinary sense of sound - vibration, or hearing'.

[The above publication continues as follows:]

Q. Is it, then, that sound is perceived as a sort of rhythmic movement?

A. Yes; and such vibrations can be seen at a greater distance than they can be heard.

Q. But supposing the physical hearing were stopped, and a person perceived sounds clairvoyantly, could not this sensation be translated into clairaudience as well?

A. One sense must certainly merge at some point into the other. So also sound can be translated into taste. There are sounds which taste exceedingly acid in the mouths of some sensitives, while others generate the taste of sweetness, in fact the whole scale of senses is susceptible of correlations.

Q. Then there must be the same extension of the sense of smell?

A. Very naturally, as has been already shown before. The senses are interchangeable once we admit correlation. Moreover they can all be intensified or modified very considerably. You will now understand the reference in the Vedas and Upanishads, where sounds are said to be perceived.

To conclude this section, in Collected Writings Vol.XI, pp248/9, is the translation of an article which appeared - in La Revue Theosophique for May, 1889, called 'The Beacon of the Unknown.' HPB is writing for those who aspire to reach "the Beacon," and among a number of prescriptive practices given is: 'He must see with his ears, hear with the eyes, understand the language of the rainbow, and have concentrated his six senses in his seventh sense.' A footnote explains that this is a 'Vedic expression'. The senses, including the two mystic senses, are seven in Occultism; but an Initiate does not separate these senses one from the other, any more than he separates his unity from Humanity. Each one of the senses contains all the others.'

In this current research of the senses we have a perfect example of how, in time, science itself will provide evidence - to those with eyes to see - that theosophical explanations for physical phenomena, which would once have been considered risible, now demand serious consideration by the scientific community. As HPB wrote in an article 'On Authorities in General, and the Authority of Materialists, Especially', published in Lucifer for April 1863 (Collected Writings Vol.XIII, pp156/7): 'Why should not they - [the negators of ancient Science] - refuse to say either yea or nay in regard to that which they really do not know, instead of denying or affirming a priori as they all do? Why do not our Scientists proclaim frankly and honestly to the whole world; that most of their notions - e.g. on life, matter, ether, atoms, etc., each of these being an unsolvable mystery to them - are not scientific facts and axioms, but simple "working hypotheses"? ' She follows this up with: 'Whenever a fact in Nature ... does not fit in with, and refuses to be wedged into, one of their personal hypotheses, accepted as ... Science by the solemn majority, forthwith it is denied, declared a "myth" ...'

Mind in Muscles

In the New Scientist for June, 1998, an article by science journalist Philip Cohen was headed 'The Eye's Mind'. It commences with the statement that: 'Eye muscles have a primitive mind of their own,' and goes on, 'A new study suggests that the nerve cells which control eye muscles form a network that coordinates eye position, information that had been thought to originate from deeper within the brain. The result overthrows a hundred-year-old theory of how binocular vision develops.' He writes that 'Eye coordination is essential for depth perception. .The eyes are controlled by nerve cells called motor neurones, which are directly connected to neurons deeper in the brain called premotor neurones.' For the last hundred years it has been thought that the eyes are not sent individual commands but instead receive one of two commands: "move together in this direction" or "move towards each other."' But in a recent experiment with rhesus monkeys it was found that premotor neurons encoded information specific to the movement of one eye. Of 96 individual premotor neurons measured, four-fifths showed bursts of activity correlating to the movement of only one eye! Another surprise was that it was found that motor neurons seem to work together - even when one eye moved independently, the motor neurones connected to the muscles of the other eye changed their firing rates. Michael Goldberg, a vision researcher at the National Eye Institute near Washington, commented that "The challenge is for theoreticians to explain all this."

Mike King, of the University of Mississippi in Jackson, USA, who conducted the experiments, speculates that motor neurons may be far more sophisticated than previously believed. Rather than acting only as on/off switches for eye muscles, he says that they could form a neural network that learns to orchestrate eye movements. Similar motor neuron networks may control other groups of closely associated muscles. He is quoted as saying "When you look at the coordination you need to playa piano, it looks suspiciously similar."

HPB in her Esoteric Section Instruction No. III, written sometime in 1889, and reprinted in Collected Writings Vol.XII, there is a footnote on p625, concerning the brain. She writes:-

The brain, or thinking machinery, is not only in the head or skull, but, as every physiologist who is not quite a materialist, will tell you, every organ in man, heart, liver, lungs, etc., down to every nerve and muscle, has, so to speak, its own distinct brain, or thinking apparatus. As our brain has naught to do in the guidance of the collective and individual work of every organ in us, what is that which guides each so unerringly in its incessant functions; that makes these struggle and that too with disease, throw it off and act, each of them even to the smallest, not in a clock-work manner, as alleged by some materialists (for, at the slightest disturbance or breakage the clock stops), but as an entity endowed with instinct? To say that it is Nature is to say nothing, if not a fallacy; for Nature, after all, is but a name for these very same functions, the sum of the qualities and attributes, physical, mental, etc., in the universe and man, the total of agencies and forces guided by intelligent laws.

A concluding word from HPB on the condition of our civilization

HPB's indictment of the civilization of her day, in the following passage, is every bit as applicable to that of today's, over a hundred years later. It is taken from an article in the September, 1890, issue of Lucifer, headed 'The Dual Aspect of Wisdom,' (Collected Writings Vol.XII, pp310/11), and was written in answer to a correspondent who charged the theosophists with "preferring barbarous antiquity to our modern civilization and its inestimable boons.":

Our age, we say, is inferior in Wisdom to any other, because it professes, more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice, without which there can be no Wisdom. Because our civilization, built up of shams and appearances, is at best like a beautiful green morass, a bog, spread over a deadly quagmire. Because this is the age which, although proclaimed as one of physical and moral freedom, is in truth the age of the most ferocious moral and mental slavery, the like of which was never known before. Slavery to State and men has disappeared only to make room for slavery to things and Self, to one's own vices and idiotic social customs and ways. Rapid civilization, adapted to the needs of the higher and middle classes, has doomed by contrast to only greater wretchedness the starving masses. Having levelled the two former, it has made them the more to disregard the substance in favour of form and appearance, thus forcing modern man into duress vile, a slavish dependence on things inanimate, to use and to serve which is the first bounden duty of every cultured man.

Where then is the Wisdom of our modern age?


John Danser, Winchcombe, UK (2001-2)

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