First Edition copyright © 1944 by Theosophical University Press.
Part I - Introductory
Part II - A New Philosophic Basis
Part III - Action
Part IV - Events
Part V - The Mathematical Methods of Physical Science
Part VI - The Geometric Quantity
Part VII - The Dynamic Quantity
Part VIII - The World of Reality
Part IX - The Observer and His Observations
Part X - The Two Kinds of Knowledge
Part XI - Physics and Metaphysics
The importance of the following papers can hardly be over-estimated, whether for readers who seek instruction or for theosophists anxious to equip themselves for presenting their message to the world. It is a plea for studying nature as a whole. We find the great thinkers of today losing their way in their search for truth because they are studying nature in parts -- parts that have been artificially separated from the whole which together they constitute. Thus we have what may broadly be called science and philosophy, the one dealing with the world of the senses, the other with the world of the mind, as though these two were separate; each therefore studying abstractions and not realities; each arriving at insoluble problems and contradictions. But, as theosophists are fond of proclaiming, the distinction between organic and inorganic nature is not valid; all nature is organic. What we call the physical world or plane, the world as presented to our senses, is but the outward aspect corresponding to an inner aspect of a unitary nature: the senses and the mind view nature from two viewpoints. If these are artificially separated, we get the two extreme schools of pure idealism and rank materialism, each of which leads to a blind alley.
But it is not sufficient merely to declare our convictions on this point: we need to implement them. And this is what Oluf Tyberg has done. Mr. Tyberg was pre-eminently equipped for such an undertaking. He was a mechanical engineer by profession and had won high encomiums for his profound and accurate knowledge of mathematics, pure geometry, and physics. So much for one side of his capacious mind: on the other side he had been a profound student of philosophy both ancient and modern, as will at once be seen from his writing. Thus equipped, he has proven competent to discharge the task in question with his feet on firm ground and to speak "as one having authority, and not as the Scribes." We have to express our regret that increasing infirmities due to his advanced age prevented him from completing his work. Mr. Tyberg was President of Theosophical University for seven years prior to his death in August, 1941.
Efforts are being made in many fields to reintegrate a knowledge that has become split up into discordant elements, since the times when ancient philosophers looked upon nature as one organic whole. Among modern philosophers special approval is given to Kant for his insistence on this truth. Mr. Tyberg points out that neither our capacity to observe nor our ability to understand springs from experience itself; experience merely verifies what we have already apprehended by faith. Faith is the key to an open mind. Reason assumes credit for the knowledge which it has merely verified; it has not initiative; discovery comes from intuition during the silence of intellect. Objective reality or physical nature is due to an organic nature in and behind. Cause and effect are inseparably linked in a dynamic community: effect is present in cause; cause resides in effect. Newtonian physicists treated cause and effect as separate compartments. Interaction between mind and body is a constructive process that repeats itself throughout nature. The three fundamentals of classical physics were space, time, matter; but Einstein has introduced a four-dimensional space-time, and all objects thus become events.
This, together with other scientific pronouncements, helps Mr. Tyberg to establish his main point: that behind the extrinsic physical nature there lies an intrinsic organic nature. The former is not real, but it is merely a quantitative representation conveyed to the mind by the senses. The interior nature deals with qualities, the exterior nature is concerned with quantities, measurements, equivalences. It is essential to study these two aspects of nature together, since if we attempt to separate them we land in mere abstractions and are obliged to use alphabetical symbols to denote unknown quantities. Then we forget that these symbols are merely counters, and allow ourselves to commit what has been called the "reification of concepts" (Stallo) or the "entification of abstractions." We create a nature made up of "force" or "energy" and "matter," without explaining what these abstractions really are. So, by following Mr. Tyberg's method, we are enabled to eliminate that unnecessary and artificial distinction between organic and inorganic. We begin our study of nature by observing its working in the living being -- in ourselves -- and we reason from the internal to the external, and not vice versa. We must, like the ancients, see the earth as the physical representation of an organic entity. Kant held that intuitive cognition must precede experience; science seeks experimental verification of intuitive cognition. Ethics has suffered from a dualistic view of the universe: it has been either religious or utilitarian. It is neither; rather, it is both.
Though the bulk of these essays is such as will interest and be readily understood by any intelligent reader without special aptitudes, yet those with mathematical and physical science training will attach great importance to the author's interpretation of natural phenomena in the new light shed by his analysis. Science, instead of revealing the real nature of things, has established a system of equivalences, and many of its quantities are defined merely by their relation to each other. For example, mass is defined in relation to force or to energy, and force and energy are defined by their relation to mass. (We now say, however, that mass varies according to velocity). There is no such thing as a purely objective nature: observer and observed cannot be thus separated. In analyzing action in a living being -- himself -- Mr. Tyberg (following Kant) establishes a "dynamic community," consisting of three forces, namely, the initial force, the counterbalancing resistance, and the directing force. When he lifts a bucket of water, his voluntary effort first neutralizes the resistance; and not until then can the directing force come into play. This dynamic community is symbolized by a triangle, in which the legs represent the initial force and its counterbalancing resistance, and the base represents the directing force. How does science interpret this? To take a purely mechanical instance, let us suppose the bucket to be lifted by a cord passing over a pulley and connected with a counter-weight greater than the weight of the bucket. We calculate the forces at both ends depending on the respective masses of the bucket and the weights (mg and m'g); the difference denotes the moving force, and the sum of the two masses is the total mass to be moved; whence we can calculate the acceleration of the moving system and the tension of the cord. But how apply this formula to the lifting of the bucket by a man under the influence of his will? We have no direct and independent means of estimating the muscular force exerted, and can only infer it from its equivalence to a mechanically produced force. The same applies to all actions made by a conscious being, even to those called automatic or instinctive. As we have no independent way of measuring them quantitatively and thus introducing them into a dynamical equation, we must assume them and infer their amount from the equivalence of their effects to effects produced mechanically. What does science mean by "force"? The word is used ambiguously, for, as has just been seen, it denotes an effect produced and evaluated as a product of mass and gravity. But again, the word "force" is also used to describe gravity. Thus the same word stands both for the cause and for the effect produced thereby. For the force of gravity there is no explanation, and it has to be assumed, assigned a numerical value, and introduced into dynamical equations. Thus science can claim to make its books balance, but a discerning auditor might want to itemize some of the lump sums entered in the ledger to make the sides balance. In fact, science has to make pure assumptions in order to lay a groundwork for its edifice; and this comes from beginning at the wrong end, and could be avoided if we began at the other end and inferred that the forces operating in external nature are, like those operating in internal nature, the expression of voluntary action. And indeed this is the inevitable conclusion; for analysis is bound sooner or later to conduct us into the realm of self-acting entities, whose actions cannot be referred to any ulterior physical cause.
By seeking to divide the world into mind and matter as separate entities, we fail to reach the truth about either, and reach only abstract metaphysical speculation on the one hand and a barren mechanicalism or system of dynamic equivalences on the other.
The author shows how the correct way of viewing nature does away with the apparent antagonism between volition and predetermination: the two are inseparably linked in a dynamic community. He has much to say on the meaning of the word "energy" and the doctrine of its conservation; but, without claiming further attention from the reader, we will leave him to satisfy the appetite, which we have endeavored to stimulate, by studying the book itself. -- HENRY T. EDGE
"Man know thyself" is an injunction that has come ringing down the ages, and with it have come several other unheeded messages from the teachings of ancient philosophers, such as "Man is in himself a universe in miniature" and "When man looks into himself he is looking into the heart of the universe."
Has the time arrived for a serious scientific consideration of these ancient messages? Realizing that some of the progressive scientists are now expressing views and conceptions of nature identical with those of ancient philosophers, we may be justified in thinking that not only these messages, but the conceptions upon which these messages were based, are entitled to scientific consideration.
The present is a period of transition. A mental reconstruction, precipitated by a series of quite unexpected events, is going on everywhere. It is reflected in physical science, where new and startling discoveries have subjected the very foundation to a severe test, and revealed weaknesses in heretofore unassailable axioms.
The axioms of physical science were formulated by Newton merely as a basis for certain methods which he proposed to apply as guides in future efforts to learn how nature works. But in the course of time, as new methods of formulation were invented, scientists began to forget the merely provisional nature of these methods, and to consider them as ends in themselves. It is these methods which we now find described in textbooks of physical science, where they have been classified and formulated with the object of teaching us how man works when he believes in science and learns how to manipulate the forces of a mechanical universe for his own benefit, regardless of consequences. While these methods have led to a series of great discoveries and remarkable industrial achievements, they have also fostered an entirely false conception of nature and of man's relations to nature. This explains why these great achievements are not proving an unalloyed blessing, but rather a double-edged sword. This result may serve to suggest the necessity of distinguishing between a science of methods and a science of nature, and of making the former subservient to the latter.
As man is no longer regarded as a special creation, but as a child of nature and an integral part of the universe, we are justified in assuming that in whatever way we attempt to study and interpret nature, man and his mind must be included as an important link in the universal scheme of things. Furthermore, it is man's powers of introspection, observation, and ratiocination, and his corresponding moral, mental, and physical capacities, that constitute his sole guide in the acceptance of any pronouncements of a religious, scientific, or philosophical nature. The recognition of this should prepare us to consider, as did the ancient philosophers, that the key to an understanding of nature is man himself and his relation to nature, and that before it is possible to understand and control the forces of nature, man must first be able to understand and control himself.
Can the relations between man and the universe be confirmed scientifically? Is "man in himself a universe in miniature"? Is it possible for a mathematical science to present confirming evidence showing that "the universe is in itself a macrocosmic organic entity"? Before considering these questions let us remind ourselves how experience shows that we can see only what the senses have been trained to observe and the mind is prepared to recognize, and that established preconceptions tend to cripple our ability to observe and limit our capacity to understand. This should make us realize that neither our ability to observe nor our capacity to understand springs from experience itself, but from an inherent urge and abiding faith in our capacity to understand, supplemented by a courage of conviction strong enough to enable the open mind to approach ever nearer the truth of which nature is the expression.
We are living in an age of amazing revelations, when great achievements and unruly passions try to keep pace with one another, and we are compelled to realize the ever-widening gap between our much boasted knowledge and our very limited understanding. The fact that we have learned to utilize the forces of nature so effectively without any real understanding of them and their relation to man himself, should make us pause and consider whether reason, completely divorced from faith, is deserving of the pedestal upon which it has placed itself.
Faith is the key to the open mind and the enlarged vision. It is faith that surmounts obstacles and creates new opportunities; it is faith that moves mountains while reason trots behind and records the experience. When reason has digested the experience and formulated it with mathematical precision, reason assumes credit without realizing that by itself it possesses no initiative whatsoever. Reason is a faculty which at best barely succeeds in moving in complete circles, as it does when it becomes logic. But the sweep of these circles can be increased only by faith: without this aid these circular motions form mental grooves, tending to limit our conceptions and establish conventions.
It was faith that sustained the pioneers during the Middle Ages against entrenched and merciless opposition. It was faith and reason combined that enabled them to lift veils from the minds of men and to lead them from complete mental slavery and darkness out upon the road of progress towards freedom and light. But this faith gradually disappeared through the Newtonian age, as scientists in opposition to religious dogmatism cultivated a self-sufficient agnosticism, which resulted in reducing nature to a convenient mechanism, and science to a bundle of technical theories resting upon a system of mathematically formulated measurements.
It is this faith we must revivify. When, like Giordano Bruno, we become imbued with the realization of man's intimate relation to nature, and convinced that nature within and nature without are the joint custodians of truth, our ability to establish it as a scientifically confirmed fact depends solely upon the open-minded intelligence that we can bring to bear upon experience and can express in our conception of and attitude to nature.
To know how nature works is a problem whose solution depends upon our ability to present it to our minds as a clearly formulated question in accordance with our convictions, knowledge, and experience; for the answer to any question is contained in the question itself. Skilled experimenters usually learn to understand the mental process leading to the solution of a problem. The process usually proceeds in intermittent periods of intense mental effort. As the effort continues, the problem becomes more and more clearly formulated in our mind, and its solution finally reduces itself largely to a process of dissolving the preconceived and blinding notions that have become fastened there. The answer finally appears as a revelation, coming usually at a time when the mind is not occupied with the problem, but is in a state of apparent tranquillity. This indicates that it is not the mind that answers its own question, but rather that the mind, after having been purged sufficiently, is prepared to receive the answer. And the answer comes from the heart or innermost center of our being, where inherent or intuitive knowledge resides. When once we become imbued with the conviction that this center is also the innermost center of the universe, we shall realize that the understanding of ourselves must proceed pari passu with that of the universe.
Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fulness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect clear perception -- which is truth. -- Browning, Paracelsus
All human progress proceeds from an earnest desire to know and to understand, coupled with a conviction that knowledge and understanding are attainable. The utterances of many leading scientists are a distinct indication of a growing desire on their part to learn how nature works. To satisfy this urge they must pursue the course above outlined. They must disregard the convenient theories based upon and applicable to methods only, so as to be able to dissolve the mistaken assumptions and habits of thought inducted into the mind from such theories during the past.
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The modern doctrine of energy, generally referred to as the principle of the conservation of energy, is one of the convenient doctrines that are largely responsible for molding the scientific attitude to nature. It was declared by Clerk Maxwell to be "the one generalized statement, which is found to be consistent with facts, not in one physical science but in all," and it is now regarded as the great achievement of the nineteenth century. We shall refer to this doctrine briefly because its introduction into physical science marks the final break between science and philosophy. It has thus, besides a purely scientific interest, a historical and a psychological significance.
The doctrine of energy was first suggested by Lagrange and advocated by Joule in the very early part of the last century, when the influence of the Kantian philosophy had resulted in a renewed effort on the part of some physicists to obtain a better and more rational conception of the forces of nature and their correlation. An animated discussion arose, which became more and more objectionable to some observers, who condemned it severely for being as involved, obscure, and speculative as was the Kantian philosophy itself. With the aid of such prominent physicists as Lord Kelvin and Dr. Rankine, the discussion was finally closed by introducing a generalizing term, energy; by defining the energy of a body as its capacity for doing work; and by introducing into physics the doctrine of energy, which soon proved to be a valuable stepping-stone in the march of material progress.
The keynote of utility was struck by Lord Kelvin himself, who in order to close the door to all further discussion of a speculative nature, declared that "when one can measure what you are talking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it, and when you cannot measure it and when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind." Looking back over the events that have taken place since that time, we find that when scientists substituted energy for force and closed the door to speculation, it opened another door to assertions which as the century advanced became as dogmatic as churchianity itself, until at the close of the century quite unexpected discoveries delivered a death-blow to scientific dogmatism and once more gave liberty to an imprisoned mind.
The doctrine of energy rests on the scholium to Newton's third law of motion, and originated in the Newtonian conception of matter as a container or carrier of a property to which the term energy was applied. It asserts that the quantity of energy in the universe is constant; that energy, like matter, can neither be destroyed nor created; that energy can be transferred from one system to another; that energy lost by one system is equivalent to that gained by another; and that energy is subject to an endless round of changes.
Theory postulated that energy could exist in a state of either rest or motion, which two states were defined respectively as potential and kinetic energy. Physics textbooks are still informing us that, when a system having potential energy acquires motion, the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy; and that, while performing work, this energy is transferred to the system upon which the work is done and retransformed into potential energy.
Upon the strength of this theory physical science formulated its technical methods, by means of which it became possible to measure accurately a large range of mechanically produced effects. As these methods were applied not alone to the movements of rigid bodies, but also to chemical, thermodynamic, and magnetic reactions, technical science advanced by leaps and bounds.
A vast series of mathematically presented theories was elaborated. The methods, together with these theories, constitute what is recognized as physical science. Towards the close of the last century, the series completed at that time was collected and presented by Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and Tait in two large volumes entitled The Elements of Natural Philosophy, a monumental record of careful research and a great credit to its learned authors. Unfortunately, however, results seem to indicate that when once a physicist has mastered this technique, he has succeeded in eradicating from his mind every conception of a philosophy of nature, for not a trace of it is to be found in this voluminous work.
In this practical age the value of everything is appraised by the material advantages it offers, and technical efficiency achieves a commanding position. But the physicists themselves were carried off their feet when they ventured to extend the application of the principle upon which their technique rested, and to deduce from it an interpretation of phenomena beyond the customary range of their investigations. For instance, whereas the biologists had held that organic life and its protoplastic medium were by some kind of fundamental determinism evolved from matter in motion, the physicists now added that life as well as motion originated in a potential energy stored up in the sun, from which it was transferred to planetary matter. When Dr. Millikan isolated the cosmic ray, it came to be regarded as fundamental to physical energy; and while its origin was first traced to the Milky Way, it is now being sought for in the outermost reaches of frontierless space. The doctrine of energy had become a valuable aid in bolstering up a one-sided theory.
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While the methods upon which the doctrine of energy rests have confirmed the idea that energy is not destroyed but can undergo innumerable changes and can exist in many forms, not one iota of evidence has been presented with regard to energy itself, what its nature is, how it can change itself from one state to another, how it can transfer itself from one system to another, or how it can differentiate itself into distinctly separate and uniform mass-formations.
Such propositions are as unthinkable as is the idea of a divine intelligence directing such an energy, and we are reminded here of the following statement by Galileo: "Once we admit the arbitrary interference of an external Deity, every explanation is possible and reason dethroned."
Mechanical methods and their mathematical formulation originated with Galileo, who regarded them as subservient handmaids in his attempts to obtain such definite knowledge as would enable him not only to confirm his own rationalistic conception of nature but to convey that conception to others. But when Newton interpreted these methods in accordance with his own empirical conceptions, and when his followers learned to realize the utilitarian value attached to such methods, they ceased to be regarded as subservient handmaids and became the sole guides to an interpretation of nature.
The utilitarian value attached to empirical methods has tended to sustain the conventional attitude which assumed a complete separation between man and nature, and which represented man as an independent and supernaturally endowed external agent residing in a nature supposed to exist for his particular benefit.
This conception will continue just so long as men in general and physicists in particular insist upon emphasizing the scientific importance of discovering ways and means of utilizing the energy stored up in the elements. It must be evident that to the extent that physicists make "utility" the paramount object and exact mechanical methods the sole guide, just to that extent do they cultivate an attitude which, because it is distant and hostile, must be biased and misleading and in conflict with the rational conception of man as a child of Mother Nature.
The number of isolated phenomena which can be established experimentally is practically endless. Mechanical methods can be increased indefinitely, and can vary in character with human inclinations and with the fluctuating tendencies of the times, even though the processes of nature may be the same today as they were a million years ago. Methods, together with a technique established by way of methods, constitute an important and necessary scientific "shop practice"; but when the physicists utilize this shop practice for purposes of interpretation, they transform valuable handmaids into misleading guides, and reduce nature to the status of a mechanical automaton.
The fact that the results achieved by exact technical methods constitute the proof of their value and usefulness, does not preclude the possibility that mere accuracy is an insufficient guide to a correct interpretation of the processes of nature. This possibility is clearly indicated as soon as we realize that no two natural objects have ever been proved to be exactly alike in either quality or quantity. Nature persists in informing us that her inherent characteristic is uniformity rather than exactness.
This pertinent evidence has not yet been sufficiently recognized, and one of the reasons for this can be traced to the conventional attitude which regarded physical nature as consisting of permanent containers of properties. Because both the form of these containers and these supposed properties could be subjected to exact measurement, physicists utilized quantities as the sole key to an inductive interpretation of nature.
On the other hand when we now begin to consider the unexpected discoveries of the last forty years, a certain credit must be given to the technical methods. When the full significance of these discoveries is recognized there will no longer be any need of resorting to unthinkable propositions, for we shall learn that Galileo was right, and that mechanical methods have the capacity to confirm the Platonic and rationalistic conception of the structure and operations of nature.
Roentgen's discovery of the X-ray in 1895 marks the beginning of a new scientific era. Opening up new fields of investigation, this discovery provided the basis for startling advances in method, and is rapidly proving to be most far-reaching in its effect upon scientific conceptions of nature. By the aid of the X-ray, ingenious methods have been perfected for indirect observation, and physicists have been able to determine how nature works in the invisible regions of space. One of the results was the isolation of the chemical atom.
The chemical atom is now known to consist of a positive nucleus -- the proton -- and negative waves or particles of electricity -- electrons which revolve continuously around the nucleus. In other words, the atomic structure exists as a self-contained, orbital movement. The circular movements differentiate one atom from another and transform the field in which the movements take place into states of quasi-rigidity, establishing the atom as the mass of an independent bodily structure.
Science has shown how these atoms can be destroyed and transformed into different kinds of energy, including that of the cosmic ray, but it has presented no evidence whatsoever to justify us in thinking that a cosmic ray or any other kind of energy can organize and differentiate itself into distinctly uniform orbital movements. As an explanation this proposition is unthinkable, for it does not account for either the uniformity in structure, or the characteristic differences by which atoms of the different elements and groups of elements are distinguished.
But more important than the relation of atoms to the chemical elements, is their relation to the earth and everything belonging to the earth, including the atmosphere surrounding the earth. What makes it possible for these tiny masses, existing in the form of whirling movements, to unite and function as molecules, cells, and organs, and constitute themselves into composite bodies of minerals, plants, animals, men, planets, and even solar systems? The answer to this question must be found in the atoms themselves and requires an explanation of what is involved in an independent and self-sustaining movement.
Whether the revolving medium in the atoms consists of electrons or waves does not concern us here. Waves cannot wave unless they have that capacity we identify as resistance. In order to establish an independent and continuous movement, there must be something in the movement itself that has the force or capacity to overcome its resistance to motion and to determine its velocity. But this conception of motion has been brushed aside by Newtonian physicists, and even in this twentieth century we read that
the idea of motion and force (Newton's first law) is radically different from the conception of Aristotle and the older philosophers, who thought that whenever a body was in motion some force must operate to keep it moving. On the contrary, no force whatever is required to keep a body in motion; force is required only to change the motion. If, through the action of some force, a body be set in motion and the force ceases to act, the body will not stop but continue for ever to move forward in a straight line at a uniform speed. -- Gravitation versus Relativity by Prof. Charles. L. Poor
This quotation is a reiteration of Newton's conception of motion as something bestowed upon planets when first created by God and supposed to be moving in empty space. From this conception physicists deduced the idea that motion could be considered abstractly as something that can exist independent of force and matter (resistance) [see Preface to Treatise on Natural Philosophy by Lord Kelvin and Tait]. At a later stage we shall have an opportunity to discuss more fully the Newtonian conception of motion and its origin, and for the present confine ourselves to viewing it in juxtaposition to the ancient conception.
When we eliminate from consideration any idea of special creation or supernatural intervention, and refuse to accept the idea that an external energy can organize itself and direct the atoms and their movements, we seem justified in recognizing the existence of an internal energy subject to the control of entities or beings whose bodies exist in the form of circular motions. This is what Plato did when he stated that a circular movement is one of the first signs of entitative, free existence, and in addition defined an organic entity or being as a body capable of acting and of being acted upon.
In the light of the evidence presented by science concerning these atoms and their behavior, this definition appears to be particularly applicable. The atoms can move, unite, and disperse. They can be magnetically drawn together and can constitute themselves bodies of a more composite nature, and while thus united become co-workers in the performance of functions of such composite bodies. When repelled or released they can seek new opportunities and experiences elsewhere.
When we recognize this and think of all the wonderful and symmetrical crystal formations, such as those of opals and diamonds, or those of exquisite flowers, or of the marvelous array of animal bodies, and finally of the intricate and delicate functions and organs of the human frame, and realize that the work of producing and sustaining all these separate bodies is accomplished by these busy atoms, we are facing a problem fundamental to a science of nature that cannot be disposed of by referring to atoms as "building-blocks" on the ground that a mathematical science is concerned with only the metrical aspect of nature. By so doing physicists deliberately set a fixed limit to what constitutes real scientific knowledge and arbitrarily assume the right of fixing a metric borderline between the knowable and unknowable.
This attitude can be traced to the persistent habit of accepting new evidence superseding prima facie evidence without dismissing the conceptions inducted into the mind by this very prima facie evidence. When once erroneous conceptions have been established in our mind as conventions, they possess a subtle tenacity and are difficult to combat. We do not and cannot see a convention, but everything that we observe is weighed and measured by it. Without wishing to depreciate the value of empirical knowledge, we should still recognize that experience itself demonstrates its limitations by showing how the correctness of our observations depends not only upon the things observed but upon the state of mind of the observer. While our power of observation is dependent upon our ability to form a correct conception of the things observed, our preconceptions are continually tending to deceive us.
Plato's interpretation of a circular movement is supposed to have been disposed of effectively long ago as one of his "fantastic speculations"; and so it was, but only by physicists who considered it disproved by their own preconceptions, which were based upon Newton's more scientific presentation of a physical nature made up of conservative systems. The substance of these conservative systems Newton explained as follows:
It seems probable to me that God, in the beginning, formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable particles, of such size and figures and such other properties, and in such proportion to space as most conducive to the end for which he formed them, and that these primitive particles, being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded by him; even so hard as never to wear or break to pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first creation.
Accordingly Newton considered physical nature as endowed by God with independent existence and with a reality of its own, while its conservative matter could only be subject to the actions of external agents and blind forces. As these external agents were identified as organic entities, specially endowed by the Creator with mind, a sharp distinction was drawn between organic and inorganic nature, and it was with the latter only that a mathematical science concerned itself.
Newton presented his general conceptions of nature on prima facie evidence and as a provisional hypothesis, while his followers accepted them dogmatically and taught them as representing a demonstrated verity. When finally new discoveries revealed facts utterly disproving this prima facie evidence, we were told recently by a prominent physicist that these apparently revolutionary discoveries "however merely involve the supplementing of modern physics rather than its replacement by entirely new doctrines." A striking example of the tenacity of conventional conceptions.
Let us briefly review some of this new evidence and its bearing upon a science of nature, quite aside from all mechanical theories. More than 300 years ago, Giordano Bruno, endorsing Plato's conception of motion, declared that everything in nature exists in a continuous state of motion and change, that all movements and changes proceed in an orderly and uniform manner and reveal themselves as a complete and harmonious whole. This ancient pronouncement has now been fully confirmed by modern science. Great diversity on the one hand and harmonious uniformity on the other are inconceivable without also recognizing a definite, underlying purpose and an all-pervading intelligence guiding and directing this purpose. Dispensing with the idea of an external creator as inconceivable, but without ignoring the idea of an all-pervading directing intelligence, we must recognize this intelligence as expressing itself in and through the very bodies whose movements and changes we observe.
When physicists incorporated forces under the general term "energy," and defined the energy of a body as its capacity for doing work, on the assumption that bodies were containers of energy, they also presented evidences showing how this energy can undergo innumerable changes. But in spite of the fact that physicists were continually reducing mass into energy, they failed at first to recognize that nature is continually transforming energy into mass. This was recognized only after indirect research had identified the physical constitution of the chemical atom when energy and mass were declared to be alike and the whole of nature reduced to atomic energy and mass.
It is inconceivable for a continuously moving and changing nature, scientifically recognized as representing an interrelated, uniform, and harmonious whole, to have been built up by a "fortuitous concourse of atoms." Physicists must therefore abandon the idea of a fundamental physical and inanimate nature having an existence of its own, and of a mechanical energy capable of organizing and directing itself, and must begin to bring a larger vision to bear upon their own evidence.
The evidence shows that the atoms have not only the capacity for doing work but are continually performing work both individually and collectively. They must therefore exist as self-acting entities, i.e., as defined by Plato, as bodies capable of acting and of being acted upon.
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While a science confining itself to a specialized study of methods can afford to spurn philosophy, a science of nature, whose function is to determine how nature works, is helpless without philosophy. This latter science must be both rational and empirical, deductive and inductive. This becomes obvious when it is understood that physical science, established scientifically by measurements, leads only to conclusions from which therefore no further conclusions can be made. Hence empirical evidence is secondary in the sense that it serves only to confirm or to reject any previously formulated conception of nature.
One of the reasons why a science of nature has been so much neglected is the agnostic attitude prevalent among the scientists themselves. This attitude appears to be in general agreement with that of Herbert Spencer, who maintained that whether nature is eternal, or created by an external power, or self-created, none of these modes is within the grasp of the human mind, and that the whole problem is unthinkable. In making this dogmatic statement, however, this great apostle of agnosticism proved his complete ignorance of the sound and comprehensible ancient conception of self-creative, self-acting, and self-contained nature.
Before considering the ancient conception of a self-acting nature, it may be well to remind the reader that the sense of superiority so generally assumed by modern physicists towards ancient philosophy is neither justifiable nor capable of being sustained by facts, but is largely an inherited habit of thought perpetuating that persistent attitude of the Church towards pagan knowledge which resulted in keeping the Christian world for many centuries in complete ignorance of the truth. Careful researches continue to make it more and more evident that ancient philosophy is not speculative but represents the accumulated knowledge and experience of past great civilizations, while on the other hand recent physical investigations, as has already been indicated here, make it perfectly evident that modern scientific conceptions of nature rest largely upon prima facie evidence and upon theories deduced from mechanical methods.
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Let us consider the logical consequences which arise when the chemical atoms are identified as bodies of entities in an early stage of development, in other words as "builders." As all observable structures are composed of atoms, such structures must have come into existence as bodies of higher entities, capable of directing and coordinating the lower entities performing the function of building these bodies. Hence all movements and structural transformations in nature must be directed from within by an informing principle as in the body of the human entity, and nature becomes the physical manifestation of as many differently developed entities as there exist different forms and states of physical matter.
It should be noted, however, that while recognizing the atom as an entity, it must not be regarded as the first sign of entitative existence. Ancient philosophy postulated three elementary stages below that of the mineral kingdom. Scientists may be said to have confirmed this when they discovered that the atom is composed of electrons, and that these electrons in turn are composed of photons, and furthermore established evidence tending to show that both electrons and photons have the capacity to act and to be acted upon. When the full significance of these latest researches becomes better understood, and when scientists are prepared to recognize that only entities can act and react with mathematical accuracy and in accordance with a universal plan, they will see the necessity of regarding photons, electrons, and atoms as the evidence of three elementary stages of entitative existence. Note Giordano Bruno's conception of this fact:
Everything in Nature is alive. The celestial bodies are animated beings. All things on the face of the earth and under the earth have in a certain measure and according to their state, the gift of feeling; the stone feels in a fashion which escapes the definition of man.
It is not rational to believe that anything in Nature is without mind, life, sensation or organic structure. From this infinite all, full of beauty and splendor, from the vast worlds which circle about us, to the sparkling dust of stars beyond, we must conclude that they represent an infinity of Creatures, a vast multitude, each of which mirrors forth, in its degree, the splendor and excellence of divine harmony.
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According to this conception the whole of nature is composed of units representing a vast scale of entitative existences from the most primitive to the supremely divine. All the kingdoms below man represent bodies of less developed entities, and as all these bodies, including that of man, compose the earth and everything belonging to the earth, it follows logically that the earth is the body of a much more highly developed planetary entity. Furthermore as the earth, together with the other planets and the sun, constitute the solar system, our solar system becomes the body of a still more divine solar entity. Finally, when we consider our solar system as one of the innumerable cells in the body of a cosmic entity, the entire cosmos becomes the most complete bodily manifestation of divinity. Such in brief was the ancient conception of the hierarchical structure of the universe, in which every grade of intelligence, conceivable and inconceivable, has an endless opportunity for further growth and development.
While this rational, logical, and majestic ancient conception of the hierarchical structure of the universe has been presented much more completely in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker, this brief outline of a self-creative nature is by itself entitled to a prominent place in the record of the early development of modern physical science. For the writings of Giordano Bruno show, and historical research confirms, the fact that it was upon the strength of this conception that Bruno was able to identify the supposed fixed stars as solar systems like our own. This identification reinforced Copernicus's idea of the heliocentric system and prepared the work for astronomers like Kepler and Galileo, who afterwards became its principal advocates.
Perhaps this ancient doctrine may be able to render further service in response to the utterances of progressive scientists who, like Sir James Jeans, maintain that "the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine." It would seem, therefore, that the time has arrived when a serious attempt should be made to determine to what extent the hierarchical structure of the universe can be confirmed by physical science, when its accumulated evidence is shorn of all theoretical appendages and studied in the light of a self-creative and self-acting nature.
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When a science of nature postulates a self-creative and self-acting nature, it must approach experience with the understanding that in and behind an outer physical nature there must exist an inner organic nature, whose internal actions become fundamental to the external movements in physical nature. Furthermore, it must recognize that organic actions are dynamic and have the capacity for doing work, and as such are the cause of physical energy and mechanical movements. In other words, instead of dynamics being a mere branch of mechanics as taught in a science of methods, dynamics becomes fundamental to mechanics.
In order therefore to determine the relation between the actions in a world of causes and the corresponding facts in a world of effects, we must have some definite conception of the nature of organic actions, which as such can be subjected to scientific confirmation. To obtain such a conception we must study man and his organic actions, and do so in the face of the metaphysical bugbear created by a one-sided empirical science.
While self-evidence does not constitute scientific evidence, we propose to point out its significance when considered in direct relation to physical evidence. If nature is self-acting, and hence an unfoldment from within, nowhere can the relation between the inner and outer, between an organic and a physical nature, be studied more directly than in man and by man himself. Besides, it is only reasonable to think that neither self-evidence nor self-knowledge can be ignored when attempting to interpret a nature of which man is an integral part, with any expectation of bringing conviction to the mind.
So while many of the physicists are still laboring under the conventional conception established during the Christian era -- that physical nature rests upon a physical foundation -- and are searching for a solution of the riddle of the universe in the highways and byways of space, let us assume the existence of a conscious organism in and behind physical nature and for the purpose of gaining some understanding of such an organism, begin by making a preliminary excursion into the realms of the one being in the universe who concerns us so much and of whom, as yet, we know so little -- man.