Physical vs. Occult Science
Abbreviations: BCW H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House (TPH), 1950-91 ET The Esoteric Tradition, G. de Purucker, Theosophical University Press (TUP), 2nd ed., 1973 FEP Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1979 FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974 MiE Man in Evolution, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1977 ML2 The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A.T. Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd ed., 1975 MLC The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TPH, chron. ed., 1993 SD The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1977 (1888) SDC The Secret Doctrine Commentaries, M. Gomes (ed.), ISIS Foundation, 2010
‘There can be no possible conflict between the teachings of occult and so-called exact science, where the conclusions of the latter are grounded on a substratum of unassailable fact. It is only when its more ardent exponents, over-stepping the limits of observed phenomena in order to penetrate into the arcana of Being, attempt to wrench the formation of kosmos and its living forces from spirit, and attribute all to blind matter, that the occultists claim the right to dispute and call in question their theories. Science cannot, owing to the very nature of things, unveil the mystery of the universe around us. Science can, it is true, collect, classify, and generalize upon phenomena; but the occultist, arguing from admitted metaphysical data, declares that the daring explorer, who would probe the inmost secrets of nature, must transcend the narrow limitations of sense, and transfer his consciousness into the region of noumena and the sphere of primal causes. To effect this, he must develop faculties which are absolutely dormant – save in a few rare and exceptional cases – in the constitution of the off-shoots of our present fifth root-race in Europe and America. ...
‘[Occultists] teach belief in conscious powers and spiritual entities; in terrestrial, semi-intelligent, and highly intellectual forces on other planes; and in beings that dwell around us in spheres imperceptible, whether through telescope or microscope. ... Such belief is now regarded as a superstition only by rank materialism, which denies Deity, spirit, soul, and admits no intelligence outside the mind of man.’ (SD 1:477-9)
‘Like the Universe itself, science is ever becoming, and can never say, “I am that I am.” On the other hand, occult science has its changeless traditions from pre-historic times. It may err in particulars; it can never become guilty of a mistake in questions of universal laws, simply because that science, justly referred to by philosophy as the “divine,” was born on higher planes, and was brought on Earth by beings who were wiser than man will be, even in the seventh race of his seventh round. ...
‘Therefore, although, in its knowledge of the ultimate constitution of matter ... occult science may be less well-informed as to the behaviour of compound elements in various cases of physical correlations: still, it is immeasurably higher in its knowledge of the ultimate occult states of matter, and of the true nature of matter, than all the physicists and chemists of our modern day put together.’ (SD 1:516)
‘The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated wisdom of the ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system ... But modern science believes not in the “soul of things,” and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of humanity. That for long ages, the “wise men” of the fifth race ... had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions – so obtained as to stand as independent evidence – of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.’ (SD 1:272-3)
‘For thousands of years, one initiate after another, one great hierophant succeeded by other hierophants, has explored and re-explored the invisible universe, the worlds of the interplanetary regions, during long periods when his conscious soul, united to the spiritual soul and to the ALL, free and almost omnipotent, left his body. ...
‘The mysteries of life as well as of death, of the visible and invisible worlds, have been fathomed and observed by initiated adepts in all epochs and in all nations. They have studied these during the solemn moments of union of their divine monad with the universal Spirit, and they have recorded their experiences. ... A definite science, based on personal observation and experience, corroborated by continuous demonstrations, containing irrefutable proofs, for those who study it, has thus been established.’ (BCW 5:50-1)
‘[Science] is the result of four things combined: human experience, human experiment or research, human reflexion or thinking, and correlation of the knowledge thus gained into systematic form.
‘This is precisely what the system which we call theosophy is ... It is the result of innumerable ages of human experience, of human research and experiment by the great sages, the masters of life and of wisdom, and of their deep thinking and reflexion, casting this wisdom-knowledge into systematic formulation. ...
‘[I]t is wholly self-consistent and its proofs are ... found in nature. It is ordered knowledge therefore; in other words, science per se.’ (ET 406-7)
Mahatma KH: ‘Our laws are as immutable as those of Nature, and they were known to man an eternity before this strutting game cock, modern science, was hatched. ... [W]e build our philosophy upon experiment and deduction ...’ (ML2 144, MLC 285)
‘[F]rom Bacon down to our modern Royal Society, we have a too long period, full of the most ludicrous mistakes made by science, to warrant our believing in modern scientific assumptions rather than in ... our teachers.’ (SD 2:439)
‘[The secret doctrine] confronts the purely speculative hypotheses of modern science, based upon the experience and exact observations of barely a few centuries, with the unbroken tradition and records of its sanctuaries ...’ (SD 2:443)
‘Occult philosophy divulges few of its most important vital mysteries. It drops them like precious pearls, one by one, far and wide apart, only when forced to do so by the evolutionary tidal wave ... [W]henever ... men with peculiar psychic and mental capacities are born, they are generally and more frequently helped than allowed to go unassisted ... on the condition that they should not become, whether consciously or unconsciously, an additional peril to their age ...’ (SD 1:558)
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‘Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom only to him, who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves for knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his own unimportant personality. ...
‘[I]n the world of materialistic science, ... we see a great paucity of really learned men and a host of skin-deep scientists, who yet demand each and all to be regarded as Archimedes and Newtons.’ (BCW 12:315-6)
‘[One may] abandon all matters of detail to physical science. The duty of the occultist lies with the soul and spirit of cosmic space, not merely with its illusive appearance and behaviour. That of official physical science is to analyze and study its shell – the Ultima Thule of the universe and man, in the opinion of materialism.’ (SD 1:589)
‘To make of science an integral whole necessitates ... the study of spiritual and psychic, as well as physical nature.’ (SD 1:588)
‘In esoteric teachings, the most transcendental conceptions of the universe and its mysteries, as the most (seemingly) materialistic speculations are found reconciled, because those sciences embrace the whole scope of evolution from spirit to matter.’ (SD 1:623)
‘Neither science nor religion acknowledges the existence of the occult, ... that is to say, of a super-material, but not super-natural, region, governed by law; nor do they recognize the existence of latent powers and possibilities in man. ...
‘It was in the hope of arousing and utilizing [the] spirit of curiosity that occult phenomena were shown. It was believed that this manipulation of forces of nature which lie below the surface – that surface of things which modern science scratches and pecks at so industriously and so proudly – would have led to enquiry into the nature and the laws of those forces, unknown to science, but perfectly known to occultism. That the phenomena did excite curiosity in the minds of those who witnessed them, is certainly true, but it was, unfortunately, for the most part, of an idle kind. ...
‘[W]hile religion cannot grasp the idea of natural law as applied to the supersensuous universe, science does not allow the existence of any supersensuous universe at all to which the reign of law could be extended; nor can it conceive the possibility of any other state of consciousness than our present terrestrial one. ...
‘[R]eligious history teach[es] us what mean and unreasoning animals ignorant men become when their cherished prejudices are touched; and ... the history of scientific research teach[es] us, in its turn, how very like an ignorant man a learned man can behave when the truth of his theories is called in question.
‘An occultist can produce phenomena, but he cannot supply the world with brains, nor with the intelligence and good faith necessary to understand and appreciate them.’ (BCW 9:47-50)
‘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.’ (BCW 8:241)
‘Materialism cannot admit the existence of anything outside matter, because with the acceptance of an imponderable Force – the source and head of all the physical forces – other intelligent forces would have to be admitted virtually, and that would lead science very far. For it would have to accept as a sequel the presence in man of a still more spiritual power – entirely independent, for once, of any kind of matter physicists know anything about. Hence, apart from a hypothetical ether of space and gross physical bodies, the whole sidereal and unseen space is, in the sight of the materialists, one boundless void in nature – blind, unintelligent, useless.’ (SD 1:587)
‘The whole issue of the quarrel between the profane and the esoteric sciences depends upon the belief in, and demonstration of, the existence of an astral body within the physical, the former independent of the latter.’ (SD 2:149)
‘[M]any a so-called man of science ... rushes into the domains of pure metaphysics, while deriding it. ... He attacks spiritual beliefs and religious traditions millenniums old, and denounces everything, save his own hobbies, as superstition. He suggests theories of the universe, a cosmogony developed by blind, mechanical forces of nature alone, far more miraculous and impossible than even one based upon the assumption of fiat lux out of nihil – and tries to astonish the world by such a wild theory; which, being known to emanate from a scientific brain, is taken on blind faith as very scientific and the outcome of SCIENCE.’ (SD 2:664)
‘[E]ven our age of scientific enlightenment may be as grossly absurd in its materialistic negations, as the men of the middle ages were absurd and materialistic in their religious affirmations.’ (SD 2:708fn)
‘[I]n our days, scientists are more self-opinionated and bigoted than even the clergy. For they minister to, if they do not actually worship, “Force-Matter,” which is their Unknown God.’ (SD 1:509-10)
‘[According to science,] we owe the universe to the holy creative Trinity, called Inert Matter, Senseless Force, and Blind Chance.’ (SD 1:505)
‘[Science] is made to deny the phenomenon of an intelligent nature and a vital force independent of form and matter, and to find it more scientific to teach the miraculous performance of “natural forces working blindly without aim or design.” If so, then we are led to think that the physico-mechanical forces of the brains of certain eminent scientists are leading them on as blindly to sacrifice logic and common sense on the altar of mutual admiration.’ (SD 2:165fn)
‘[Materialistic scientists] will be driven out of their position not by spiritual, theosophical, or any other physical or even mental phenomena, but simply by the enormous gaps and chasms that open daily and will still be opening before them, as one discovery follows the other, until they are finally knocked off their feet by the ninth wave of simple common sense.’ (SD 1:620)
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‘The theosophists are the first to recognize the intrinsic value of science. But when its high priests resolve consciousness into a secretion from the grey matter of the brain ..., we protest against the doctrine as being unphilosophical, self-contradictory, and simply absurd ...’ (SD 1:296)
‘Theosophists ... are constantly warned by the prudent and the faint-hearted, to beware of giving offence to “authorities,” whether scientific or social. ...
‘It is precisely because theosophists would themselves be judged and court impartial criticism, that they begin by rendering that service to their fellow-men. Mutual criticism is a most healthy policy ... Criticism is the sole salvation from intellectual stagnation. ...
‘To reject the infallibility of a man of science is not quite the same as to repudiate his learning. A specialist is one, precisely because he has some one specialty, and is therefore less reliable in other branches of science, and even in the general appreciation of his own subject. Official school science is based upon temporary foundations, so far. It will advance upon straight lines so long only as it is not compelled to deviate from its old grooves, in consequence of fresh and unexpected discoveries in the fathomless mines of knowledge.’ (BCW 13:243-5)
‘[W]e look upon science, ordered and coordinated knowledge, as the greatest friend and ally we have. But when it comes to the theories or speculations or dogmas of scientific men, we accept them or reject them exactly in proportion as we think that they contain or do not contain truth ...’ (FEP 369)
‘[T]he physicists are as much at loggerheads among themselves in their speculations, as the latter are with the teachings of occultism.’ (SD 1:479)
‘Mathematics, per se, cannot prove anything, ... and will return to the mathematician exactly what he puts into it. ... In other words, ... mathematics per se are no absolutely certain instrument for uncovering or discovering or unveiling verities in nature ...’ (ET 408, 435fn)
‘The Occidental mind loves abstractions, loves to entify abstractions, to look upon them as concrete realities; and this psychological bias or habit is the cause of most of the philosophic and psychological confusion so noteworthy in the West at the present time.’ (Dia 3:324)
‘[T]he entification of abstractions distracts the mind and leads it away from the primal truths of being, for the mind feels temporarily satisfied with phantasms instead of realities, and precious time is lost; while the mind is lost in mazes of unrealities.’ (FEP 476)
‘Science is honeycombed with metaphysical conceptions, but the scientists will not admit the charge and fight desperately to put atomo-mechanical masks on purely incorporeal and spiritual laws in nature, on our plane – refusing to admit their substantiality even on other planes, the bare existence of which they reject a priori.’ (SD 1:544)
‘Our scientists of these modern days are beginning to dream dreams of truth, and to see visions of reality, although indeed many are the strange and wondrous imaginings in which they indulge.’ (ET 142)
‘To speak of more than three dimensions of space is simply a misuse of terms ... [U]nfortunately modern science and philosophy have not as yet clearly envisaged the reality of worlds and spheres within and invisible to the outer worlds and spheres. On the other hand, scientific theory and speculation in certain respects are becoming so highly metaphysical that they are not only beginning to merge at certain points with the teachings of the esoteric philosophy, but in some instances are actually crossing these teachings and going off at a tangent.
‘For example, ... the notion of an expanding universe is unacceptable.’ (FSO 80)
‘Science is always approximating, ever coming nearer and nearer, to the truth, which it will, nevertheless, never attain in fulness; for that would be equivalent to saying that the human mind is capable of encompassing infinity, which is absurd. The progressive and therefore changeable views of science in every way provide the right atmosphere and frame-work of scientific study ...
‘Therefore let us be on our guard lest we take any one scientific theory or hypothesis or deduction and say: “This is science’s latest declaration; being the last, it must be the most perfect, and therefore probably it is the truth.” No, it is not necessarily true; but it is the latest honest endeavor to approximate to truth ... [I]t certainly will be displaced in time by the next-forthcoming theory, which will be a still closer approximation to truth – perhaps!’ (ET 396)
‘In one sense it is the salvation of science from dogmatism that it advances with gigantic strides and without interruptions of any kind, and that the theories of one day, then taught as dogmas and accepted as “religious truths,” scientifically speaking, should be shown perhaps in the next five years to be merely theoretical speculations. Nothing so much as this saves science from even greater dogmatism than it now unfortunately has in some respects ...’ (MiE 20)
‘Humanity is ever changing, physically and mentally and perfecting itself with every race more; as you know we are acquiring learning, perception and knowledge that we did not have before. Therefore, the science of today is the ignorance of tomorrow.’ (SDC 6)
‘A “theory” is simply a hypothesis, a speculation, and no law. To say otherwise is only one of the many liberties taken now-a-days by scientists. They enunciate an absurdity, and then hide it behind the shield of science.’ (SD 2:665)
‘Holding to our motto, “There is no religion higher than truth,” we refuse most decidedly to pander to physical science.’ (BCW 12:351)
compiled by David Pratt. June 2007. Last updated Nov 2013.
Spirit and matter