Book: Theosophy and Science

Theosophy and Science


Scientism of Theosophy

For the modern Theosophy, which professor Olav Hammer considered as a standard of the esoteric tradition, conventional science is called upon to play ''two diametrically opposite roles.'' On the one hand, Theosophy has always expressed its clearly negative attitude towards it. On the other hand, in the process of building the occult doctrine, it gave to certain fragments of scientific discourse the status of valued elements. In this case, science was not used as an object of criticism, but as ''a basis of legitimacy and source of doctrinal elements.'' Thus, in Hammer's opinion, the main goal was achieved: the doctrine acquired a ''scientistic'' appearance. (Hammer 2003, pp. 203-204; Asprem 2013, p. 408)[1]

The Theosophical Society proclaimed its third main task, ''To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.'' (Kuhn 1992, p. 113; Hammer 2003, p. 218) Thus, it set itself one of its goals to investigate phenomena whose existence itself is highly controversial, that is, the very premises of Theosophy have become ''fertile ground'' for the search for ''scientistic formulations.'' Scientism and the ambivalence relation to science were already evident in the first Theosophical publications. It can be seen in both Blavatsky's early articles, and in Isis Unveiled, the book that became the ''first full-scale attempt'' to create the Theosophical doctrine, where she stated that Theosophy does not contradict science, but is, in fact, a ''higher form of science,'' in comparison with what is usually understood by this term. (Hammer 2003, p. 219)

The exercise of magical power is the exercise of natural powers, but superior to the ordinary functions of Nature. A miracle is not a violation of the laws of Nature, except for ignorant people. Magic is but a science, a profound knowledge of the Occult forces in Nature, and of the laws governing the visible or the invisible world… A powerful mesmerizer, profoundly learned in his science, such as Baron du Potet, Regazzoni, Pietro d'Amicis of Bologna, are magicians, for they have become the adepts, the initiated ones, into the great mystery of our Mother Nature. (Blavatsky 1966, p. 137; Hammer 2003, p. 220)

A dual relation of Blavatsky to science remained unchanged, in Hammer's opinion, throughout her Theosophical career. It was manifested also in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and later continued in The Secret Doctrine.[2] In one of the letters, terms and theories of the conventional science are characterized with words such as ''misleading'', ''vacillating'', ''uncertain'', and ''incomplete.'' (Barker 1924, p. 62; Hammer 2003, p. 220) It is this last word that is most important, that is ''science is a half-truth.'' The Theosophical doctrine ''not so much'' denies the truth of science, how much condemns its inability to explain an essence of the spiritual processes that ''are supposedly the real causes'' of the physical and chemical phenomena. (Hammer 2003, p. 221) According to Hammer, The Secret Doctrine is completely ''imbued with the rhetoric of scientism.'' Although the ''basic cosmological'' concept in this work ultimately derives ''from ancient wisdom'' that was recieved by Blavatsky, as she claimed, from her ''Masters,'' many of the details of this ''declassified'' cosmology are accompanied by references to archaeological discoveries, modern biological theories such as evolutionary theory of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), etc. She believed that the positioning of Theosophy in relation to science is of great importance, and the third parts of both the 1st and 2nd volumes of her book have the common heading ''Science and the Secret Doctrine Contrasted.'' These sections are devoted both to the refutation of the conventional science, and to the search in it the support of occult teachings. (Hammer 2003, p. 221) Blavatsky repeatedly returned to the assertion that modern physical sciences point to the same reality as the esoteric doctrines:

If there is anything on earth like progress, Science will some day have to give up, nolens volens, such monstrous ideas as her physical, self-guiding laws – void of soul and Spirit, – and then turn to the occult teachings. It has done so already, however altered are the title-page and revised editions of the Scientific Catechism. (Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 506-507; Hammer 2003, p. 262)

Generally, Blavatsky did not reject science, suggesting the possibility of ''reconciliation'' of science and Theosophy.[3] She believed that they have ''important common grounds,'' and that the ''weaknesses'' of the traditional science are only its ''temporary shortcomings.'' The main point of contact, which unites science and ''occultism'' against the common enemy, a dogmatic religion, was the refusal to recognize ''unknowable, absolutely transcendent causes.'' Theosophical cosmos appears and disappears in an infinite sequence of ''cycles of evolution and involution.'' This is pantheistic position, because the beginning of this process does not require ''transcendent God.'' (Hammer 2003, p. 265) Blavatsky wrote:

Well may a man of science ask himself, ''What power is it that directs each atom?'' <…> Theists would solve the question by answering ''God''; and would solve nothing philosophically. Occultism answers on its own pantheistic grounds. (Blavatsky 1888a, p. 549; Hammer 2003, p. 265)

The Theosophical Criticism

Criticizing the science of the 19th century, the Theosophists claimed on the ''futility'' its attempts to adequately explain ''the greatest enigmas'' of Universe. They evaluated the ''occult based'' hypotheses as more accurate than those presented by science. (Kalnitsky 2003, p. 312) Blavatsky defined her position regarding science ''from the beginning of her Theosophical career.'' Thus, The Mahatma Letters contain, in Hammer's opinion, the ''rather unsystematic'' accusations the modern science and the fragments of the occult doctrine, supposedly ''far superior'' the scientific ideas of the day. The essence of Blavatsky's ''later argument'' is anticipated in the next passage from Letter No. 11: ''Modern science is our best ally. Yet it is generally that same science which is made the enemy to break our heads with.'' (Barker 1924, p. 63; Hammer 2003, p. 261; Asprem 2013, p. 405) She condemned constantly the traditional science as ''limited, materialistic and prejudiced'' and blamed in this the famous thinkers and scholars.[4] Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was the first among the culprits ''due to the materialism of his method, 'the general tenor' of his writing and, more specifically, his misunderstanding of spiritual evolution.'' Materialist ''error'' of Isaac Newton (1643-1727) allegedly consisted in the fact that in his law of gravitation the primary was the power, not the influence of the ''spiritual causes.'' In addition, she repeated the ''baseless,'' according to Hammer, assertion that Newton came to his ideas after reading Jakob Boehme (1575-1624). (Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 481, 490; Hammer 2003, p. 267)[5] According to Blavatsky, the mechanistic science's adepts of her time were the ''animate corpses.'' She wrote that ''they have no spiritual sight because their spirits have left them.'' She named their hypotheses ''the sophisms suggested by cold reason'' which future generations would banish to the ''limbo of exploded myths.'' (Blavatsky 1877, pp. 306, 318, 621; Tyson 2006, p. 388) Also the Theosophist Henry Olcott (1832-1907) wrote that the Theosophists must break ''the walls of incredulous and despotic Western science.'' (Olcott 2011, p. 100; Tyson 2006, p. 387)[6]

Some scientists, according to Blavatsky, were more prone to spiritual, and she ''selectively approved'' them. ''The positive side of Descartes' work'' was supposedly his faith in the ''magnetic doctrine'' and alchemy, although he was a ''worshipper of matter.'' She was admired by method of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), ''combining scientific and esoteric thought.'' (Blavatsky 1877, pp. 206, 207; Hammer 2003, p. 267) She gave also some excerpts from Newton's most ''speculative'' works, where he supports a ''spiritualized'' approach to gravity. Thus, according to her words, these ''greatest scientists'' rediscovered the esoteric knowledge already available to ''Western occultists including Paracelsus… kabbalists and alchemists.'' (Blavatsky 1888a, p. 490; Hammer 2003, p. 267)[7]

Blavatsky wrote in The Secret Doctrine that occultism does not combat with conventional science, when ''the conclusions of the latter are grounded on a substratum of unassailable fact.'' But when its opponents try ''to wrench the formation of Kosmos… from Spirit, and attribute all to blind matter, that the Occultists claim the right to dispute and call in question their theories.'' She stated that ''science is limited'' to researching one aspect of human life that relates to the sphere of material nature. ''There are other aspects'' of this life – metaphysical, supersensory, for the knowledge of which science has no tools. Science devotes its strength to the study of vital forces, which are expressed in a phenomenal or sensual area. Consequently, it sees nothing but the residual effects of such forces. ''These are but the shadow of reality,'' Blavatsky claimed. Thus, science deals ''only with appearances'' and hints of life, and that is all that it is capable of until the postulates of the occult are recognized. Science is tied to ''the plane of effects,'' but occultism is take to ''the plane of causes.'' Science ''studies the expression of life,'' esotericism sees life itself. So that the scientist can learn ''the elements of real causality,'' he will have to develop in himself such abilities which today almost all Europeans and Americans absolutely lack. There is no other way to get enough facts to substantiate his conclusions. (Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 477-478; Kuhn 1992, p. 258)

The Theosophical Evolutionism

Modern Theosophy, as professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke stated, ''adapting contemporary scientific ideas,'' raised the concept of ''spiritual evolution through countless worlds and eras.'' (Goodrick-Clarke 2008, p. 211) According to professor Donald Lopez, the occult ''system of spiritual evolution'' was more profound and advanced than that proposed by Charles Darwin. The Theosophists accepted his theory but rejected the assertion that life originated from matter, and not from spirit. (Lopez 2009, p. 11)[8] In Blavatsky's opinion, between the spiritual evolution of man and his physical development ''there is an abyss which will not be easily crossed by any man in the full possession of his intellectual faculties.'' Physical development, ''as modern Science teaches it, is a subject for open controversy; spiritual and moral development on the same lines is the insane dream of a crass materialism.'' (Blavatsky 1888b, p. 650; Kuhn 1992, p. 255) Darwinian theory and the materialistic science suggest that the development of matter in an organic form leads to the emergence of the psyche and intelligence as the products of two elements: matter and energy. Occultism claims that such a process can lead to the creation of physical forms only. Instead of considering intellect and consciousness as properties of evolved organisms, Theosophy speaks of a ''spiritual evolution'' as a concomitant biological one and associated with it. ''Evolution in its higher aspect'' can't be explained if its factors are reduced to blind material forces arising under the impact of the ''mechanical influences of environment.'' (Kuhn 1992, pp. 253, 254)[9]

According to Blavatsky, the ''scientific'' theory of evolution reflects only that part of it that takes place in our present physical world. Darwinism does not take into account what happens before and after. In her opinion, Darwin ''begins his evolution of species at the lowest point and traces upward. His only mistake may be that he applies his system at the wrong end.'' After passing through the period of necessary separation, the spirit returns to itself enriched during its journey. Consequently, the biological evolution is not a ''random'' event that could ''occur'' due to some ''rare'' combination of chemical matters and then continued driven by the need for survival and suitable mutations. Blavatsky claimed that ''not spirit is in matter, but on the contrary, matter clings temporarily to spirit.'' (Blavatsky 1877, pp. 428, 429; Lachman 2012, p. 171)[10] Thus, the spirit (or consciousness) is primary, and matter is a temporary means used in its ''work.'' According to Theosophy, evolution is the basic phenomenon of the Universe that does not coincide with the materialistic vision, which, in Blavatsky's opinion, is ''a hideous, ceaseless procession of sparks of cosmic matter created by no one… floating onward from nowhence… and it rushes nowhither.'' (Blavatsky 1877, p. xviii; Lachman 2012, p. 171) She proposed the kabalistic scheme of evolution: ''A stone becomes a plant; a plant a beast; a beast a man; a man a spirit; and the spirit a god.'' In this scheme: ''Each perfected species in the physical evolution only affords more scope to the directing intelligence to act within the improved nervous system.'' (Blavatsky 1877, pp. 301, 425; Lachman 2012, p. 171)

Olcott claimed, ''Theosophy shows the student that evolution is a fact, but that it has not been partial and incomplete as Darwin's theory makes it.'' (Olcott 1885, p. 250; Дружинин 2012, p. 79) Professor Taimni wrote that, it is not known to science that the main goal ''of the evolution of forms'' is to obtain more effective means for the development of the mind and ''unfolding consciousness.'' This barbarism is quite standard because the ordinary scientists decline to view everything that is ''invisible'' and can't be investigated ''by purely physical means.'' Occultism allows one to obtain the ''missing knowledge'' and makes the concept of the evolution of forms not only more complete, but also explains the cause of the entire process, without which it seems completely meaningless. (Taimni 1969, p. 384)

Orientalists and Theosophists

In 1888, the president of the Theosophical Society Henry Olcott met in Oxford with Max Muller (1823-1900), ''the father of the 'Science of religion','' as Lopez called his. (Lopez 2009, pp. 154, 158) Olcott wrote later in his diary that professor Muller, in a conversation with him, highly appreciated the work of Theosophists in translating and re-publishing the sacred books of the East. ''But as for our more cherished activities,'' Olcott wrote, ''the discovery and spread of ancient views on the existence of Siddhas (Eliade 1958, p. 303) and of the siddhis in man, (Radhakrishnan 1948b, pp. 366-367; Трефилов, 2005, p. 379) he was utterly incredulous.'' In Muller's opinion, nor in the Vedas, nor in the Upanishads there are any esoteric overtones announced by the Theosophists, and they only sacrifice their reputation, pandering ''to the superstitious belief of the Hindus in such follies.'' In response to Olcott's attempt to argue his point of view by references to the Gupta-Vidya[11] and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali the professor said, ''We had better change the subject.'' The president has remembered well not only this conversation, but also ''two marble statuettes of the Buddha sitting in meditation, placed to the right and left of the fireplace.'' He noted this fact, having written in his diary in brackets: ''Buddhists take notice.'' (Olcott 1910, p. 61; Lopez 2009, p. 157)

Professor Lopez claimed that this was a significant meeting, because both, Buddhist Olcott, and the Buddhist studies scholar Muller, although both were directly related to Buddhism, nevertheless took different positions and lived in different worlds. The world of Olcott, an American emigre and convinced Theosophist ''no formal training in the classical languages of Buddhism'', but who was knowing well both the Buddhist world, and many reputable monks, collided with the world of Muller, a German emigre and outstanding sanskritologist, who was reading ''Buddhist manuscripts in the original Sanskrit and Pali,'' and however failed to recognize theirs esoteric meaning and ''never traveled beyond Europe.'' In Asia, Olcott faced with Buddhist superstition, which is why he argued with some of the leading monks of Sri Lanka. But he deeply revered the Buddhist mores. After his travels through the countries of Asia, he knew that for Buddhists it was absolutely unacceptable and offensive to place anything connected with dharma on the floor or even on a chair. Moreover, he knew that Buddhists ''would never place a statue of the Buddha on the floor.'' (Lopez 2009, p. 158)[12]

Olcott asked all the same of the origin of these statuettes and inquired about their placement. Muller answered that ''the statues of the Buddha'' standing on the floor near his fireplace were taken out of the ''the great temple of Rangoon (presumably the Shwedagon Pagoda).''[13] The professor was so imbued with the British imperialism, as Lopez noted, that he was not at all embarrassed to use the military trophies captured in the Buddhist temple. The ''more interesting'' was Muller's answer to the question why he put the Buddha statues on the floor: ''Because with the Greeks the hearth was the most sacred spot.'' According to Lopez, the answer ''sounds slightly disingenuous, but its implication is important.'' For Muller, the image of the Buddha, captured in Asia and taken to England, has ceased to be Asian, and therefore its owner was not obliged allegedly to follow the ''Asian custom.'' For him, the Buddha became part ''of European culture, like a Greek god,'' and therefore he should follow the customs of Western civilization. (Lopez 2009, p. 159)

Five years after the meeting with Olcott, professor Muller published an article ''Esoteric Buddhism,'' in which he tried again, in a different form, to prove that there is no esotericism in Buddhism and never was. All his indignation the professor directed against Blavatsky, believing that the Buddhist esotericism is only her invention. ''I love Buddha and admire Buddhist morality'', Muller wrote, ''that I cannot remain silent when I see his noble figure lowered to the level of religious charlatans, or his teaching misrepresented as esoteric twaddle.'' (Muller 1893, p. 784; Lopez 2009, p. 179)[14] The Theosophists often disagreed with the European Orientalists and ridiculed their limitation. In 1882, in his letter to Alfred Sinnett, mahatma Kuthumi offered, ''Since those gentlemen – the Orientalists – presume to give to the world their soi-disant translations and commentaries on our sacred books, let the Theosophists show the great ignorance of those 'world' pundits, by giving the public the right doctrines and explanations of what they would regard as an absurd, fancy theory.'' (Barker 1924, p. 185; Lopez 2009, pp. 184-185)

The Occultists and Sceptics

For Hindus, the supernatural powers of a person, who was specially trained, aren't something special. Professor Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan noted that in Indian psychology ''the psychic experiences, such as telepathy and clairvoyance, were considered to be neither abnormal nor miraculous.'' (Radhakrishnan 1948a, p. 28) Blavatsky wrote that to consider magic as a deception is to offend humanity:

To believe that for so many thousands of years, one-half of mankind practiced deception and fraud on the other half, is equivalent to saying that the human race was composed only of knaves and incurable idiots. (Blavatsky 1877, p. 18; Kuhn 1992, p. 132)

However, according to the Theosophical Masters, the ''recent persecutions'' for alleged witchcraft, magic, mediumship convincingly show that the ''only salvation'' of the genuine occultists lies in the public skepticism, because the attribution to the ''charlatans and the jugglers'' securely protects them. (Barker 1924, p. 4) A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Eugene Alexandrov argued that the paranormal phenomena don't exist. He wrote, ''There is no telepathy (a transmission and reading of thoughts), there is no clairvoyance, levitation is impossible, there is no 'dowsing', there is no phenomena of a 'poltergeist', there is no psychokinesis.'' (Александров 2015, p. 21)[15] As Theosophist Edi Bilimoria wrote, a typical western scientist don't distinguish (or can't distinguish) two things: a ''map'' (the scientific model of the world) and ''territory'' (Nature). (Bilimoria 1997, p. 71)[16]

The Theosophical Psychophysiology

A few years after Blavatsky's death, the ''second generation'' of the Theosophists came to the leadership of the Theosophical Society Adyar. As Hammer wrote, during this period, the ''foci'' of the Theosophical scientism shifted from the theory of evolution to other areas of science. (Hammer 2003, p. 222) Charles Leadbeater, who became ''the chief ideologist'' of the Society, had involved with Annie Besant in the study of a functioning of the human mind. According their claim, the functioning of mind ''extrudes into the external world'' the thought-forms which can be observed using clairvoyance methods. (Tillett 1986, p. 224) In 1905, Besant and Leadbeater published a book named Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation contained a lot of color illustrations of the forms, ''created,'' according to its authors, by thoughts, emotions, and senses of men, as well by music. They argued that main source of the forms is the aura of man, the outer part of the cloud-like substance of his ''subtle bodies,'' interpenetrating each other, and extending beyond the confines of his physical body. (Hammer 2003, p. 55; Wessinger 2013, p. 36)[17]

The Theosophical Chemistry

In parallel with the ''psychophysiological'' researches, the Theosophists were busy an occult chemistry based on a ''greatly modified'' atomic theory. Leadbeater began ''the occult investigation'' of chemical elements as early as 1895, and Besant soon joined him. They argued that, using clairvoyance, can describe the intra-atomic structure of any element. In their words, each element composed of atoms containing a certain number of ''smaller particles.'' They published ''these and other results'' in 1908 in a book Occult Chemistry: Clairvoyant Observations on the Chemical Elements. Hammer wrote, ''Although Leadbeater was the principal clairvoyant, the enduring interest in… chemistry is probably due to Annie Besant's fascination with science, especially chemistry.'' (Hammer 2003, pp. 222-223; Wessinger 2013, p. 36)

Theosophy and Physics

In 1923, an astronomer and Theosophist G. E. Sutcliffe published a book Studies in Occult Chemistry and Physics which was a ''critical analysis'' of the theory of relativity. The author has pursued the goal: to equalize the meaning of ''Eastern'' and ''Western science,'' describing their ''as two complementary 'schools'.'' In this book, the theory of relativity is regarded as the highest achievement of ''Western science,'' whereas the results of the Theosophical study ''of atoms and etheric structures'' known as ''occult chemistry'' are presented as the achievement of ''the 'Eastern' school''. (Sutcliffe 1923, pp. v-vi; Asprem 2013, p. 415) In an effort to show that the results of occult research can be compared with the theory of relativity, Sutcliffe ''proposes a wholly new theory of gravity,'' based on physics of ether. From his reasoning it can be seen that he is thoroughly erudite in the Theosophical literature, while also having a background in ''conventional physics from Britain'' in the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Sutcliffe tries to reinterpret the theory of Albert Einstein (1879-1955) in ''a tradition of British anti-relativism'', operating with the liberal ''concept of ether.''[18] The concept of Sutcliffe is based on ''contraction and expansion of the accompanying ether of bodies,'' so, according to him, gravitation ''is one of the effects of an expanding sphere of ether,'' and the electrical phenomena are a function of the ''contracting sphere.'' (Sutcliffe 1923, p. xv; Asprem 2013, p. 416)

Professor Taimni wrote that the theory of relativity apparently gave ''a new direction to our civilization'' and created problems that ''are a challenge'' to our current worldview and ways of thinking. In the ''scientific circles'' it is considered that if mathematics is used to prove something, then the question ''is finally settled'', and it can't be discussed. However, most such conclusions are not always based on proven assumptions, and this makes possible a mistake in ''the final conclusion.'' Often one does not take into account the fact that mathematical inference can then be correct if he accepts into account ''all factors'' concerning this issue, and if it is not, the conclusion may be incorrect ''or only partially correct.'' This should be borne in mind when considering the nature of space and time, as well as the Einstein's method used to solve this problem. He based his theory ''only on facts of the physical world'' and if there are other, more subtle worlds ''besides the physical'', (Tillett 1986, p. 936; Трефилов 1994, p. 237) and they exist in accordance with the occult, then his theory has no authority ''with respect to those worlds.'' Since his theory is based only on physical facts, it can be true, at best, ''only for purely physical phenomena.'' It can't be assumed that it reveals the nature of space and time ''in general'', because it is presented ''to the human mind'' functioning within the boundaries of ''the physical brain.'' In Taimni's opinion, ''The very fact that the concept of the time-space continuum'' given in his theory is too difficult for the human mind, indicates its limitations. In fact, its author simply tried to interpret ''imperfectly the shadows of some realities cast on the screen in a shadow play of the mind.'' (Taimni 1969, pp. 226-227, 334)

Taimni wrote that anyone who closely studied the nature of space and time could be convinced that the human mind is ''also a very important factor in this problem'', therefore, to understand the space and time, it is necessary to take into account this factor. And since the human mind is not only what is manifested through its physical brain, but has ''many degrees of subtlety and modes of expression,'' the entire human nature is ''really involved in the problem'' of space and time. And therefore only the one who ''dived'' into his consciousness and has ''unraveled'' his deepest secrets, having reached the source from which space and time come,[19] is really capable of saying what the true nature ''of these basic realities of the universe is.'' ''Who is more competent to pronounce a correct opinion about the nature of an orange,'' Taimni is asking, ''he who has merely scratched the rind or he who has peeled the orange and eaten it?'' (Taimni 1969, pp. 334-335)[20]

According to Emily Sellon and Renee Weber, anticipating the deductions of Einstein's relativity and field theory, as well as quantum mechanics, Blavatsky offered a universe in which ''billiard-ball atoms and push-pull forces were replaced by space, time, motion, and energy, yielding a picture of a dynamic universe far in advance of her time.'' (Sellon; Weber 1992, p. 326) She claimed, ''It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built.'' (Blavatsky 1888a, p. 520; Kuhn 1992, p. 261) In 1930, the famous physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) has performed an assumption:

The tendency of modern physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled-up waves, which we call matter, and unbottled waves, which we call radiation or light. The process of annihilation of matter is merely that of unbottling imprisoned wave-energy and setting it free to travel through space. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a world of radiation, potential or existent, and it no longer seems surprising that the fundamental particles of which matter is built should exhibit many of the properties of waves. (Jeans 1931, p. 69)[21]

In the second half of Jeans' book The Mysterious Universe, physics and cosmology give place to spiritualism and mysticism:

The universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. (Jeans 1931, p. 137)[22]

New Paradigm

According to a religious studies scholar and philosopher Vladimir Trefilov, the modern Theosophists were among the first who attempted to create ''a new paradigm of thinking through the synthesis of scientific and non-scientific knowledge.'' (Трефилов 1994, p. 234) As professor of Buddhist studies and Buddhist Evgeny Torchinov said, ''Discussion between physicists, philosophers, psychologists, and scholars of religious studies in order to find the solutions of a problem of the general scientific paradigm change, the isomorphism of consciousness and physical world,[23] and even the ontology of consciousness in general could well take place, if don't resort to sticking labels like 'mysticism'.'' (Торчинов 2007) Professor Stanislav Grof, psychologist, wrote that Western science has raised matter to a status of the prime cause of Universe, reducing life, consciousness, and mind to the forms of its accidental products. Dominance in Western science a paradigm of Newton-Descartes became one of the causes of the emergence and development of the ''planetary crisis.'' (Grof 1998, Ch. 6)

In philosopher Julia Shabanova's opinion, the ''conceptual basis'' of the civilization of the future should be the ''post-materialistic'' scientific paradigm and ''ideological idealism.'' (Шабанова 2016, p. 197) A Russian cyberneticist Sergei Kurdyumov and philosopher Helena Knyazeva, in a book Laws of Evolution and Self-organization of Complex Systems, suggested that the ''paradigm of self-organization and non-linearity'' would become the basis of the new scientific paradigm, taking from the West ''the positive aspects of the tradition of analysis'', and from the East – ideas of the integrity, cyclicity, and the one law for Universe and man. (Князева; Курдюмов 1994, pp. 73, 223)

Eastern ideas about the universal coherence, the unity of everything in the world, and the cyclic flowing into each other of Non-Being and Being (unmanifested and manifested) can resonate with the synergetic models… We can assume that there is a kind of an origin environment, in which all other observable and studied environments have grown. Then all the environments, with which we are dealing in life and scientific experiment, appear as some fluctuations (disturbances), the visible to us manifestations (modifications) of this one substrate – the origin environment. (Князева; Курдюмов 1994, p. 57)[24]

According to a historian of religion Egil Asprem, an Indian scientist and engineer Edi Bilimoria was one of the most significant characters ''in the Theosophical discourse on science of the last decade and a half.'' In his work Mirages in Western Science Resolved by Occult Science he confirms the division into ''Western'' and ''occult'' science which took place already at the time of the formation of the Theosophical Society, and also ''conceptually'' updates the discussion of ''modern physics and cosmology.'' Playing back the well-known Theosophical ''rhetoric,'' Bilimoria suggests to move forward to ''a reconciliation and reuniting of the wise old parent, Occult Science, with its adolescent prodigal son, Western science.'' (Bilimoria 1997, p. v; Asprem 2013, p. 424)[25]

Occult science is not bent on toppling, but rather on uplifting Western science to an even nobler position, by using examples from Western science itself to show how it is rooted in the deeper substratum of Occult Science and Philosophy. (Bilimoria 1997, p. 196; Asprem 2013, p. 425)[26]

The Theosophists-scientists

William Crookes (1832-1919), a British chemist and physicist.

Frederic Myers (1843-1901), a British philologist and philosopher.

George Mead (1863-1933), a British historian and religious studies scholar.

Lester Smith (1904-1992), a British chemist.

Alexander Wilder (1823-1908), an American religious studies scholar and philosopher.

William James (1842-1910), an American psychologist and philosopher.

Thomas Edison (1847-1931), an American engineer and inventor.

Robert Ellwood, an American religious studies scholar.

Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), a French astronomer and writer.

Emile Marcault (1878-1968), a French psychologist and philologist.

Charles Johnston (1867-1931), an Irish Sanskrit scholar and orientalist.

Iqbal Taimni (1898-1978), an Indian chemist and philosopher.

Edi Bilimoria, an Indian scientist and engineer.

Julia Shabanova, a Ukrainian philosopher and pedagogue.

The Theosophists-scientists, who were awarded Subba Row medal: George Mead (1898), Emile Marcault (1936), Iqbal Taimni (1975), Lester Smith (1976). (Ramanujachary 1993, pp. 54-55)

Criticism of Theosophy

A Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov wrote that modern Theosophy is a doctrine not only ''anti-religious'' and ''antiphilosophic'', but also ''anti-scientific.'' (Соловьёв 1911, p. 397) In Nikolai Berdyaev's opinion, modern Theosophy does not represent a synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science, as its adherents say, but there is a ''mixture'' of them, in which there is no real religion, philosophy, and science. (Berdyaev 1972, p. 299)

The ambiguous attitude of the Theosophists towards science was especially abruptly criticized by the servants of the church. In 1912, John Driscoll, an author of The Catholic Encyclopedia, has described attitude of Theosophy to science as follows:

Modern theosophy claims to be a definite science. Its teachings are the product of thought, and its source is consciousness, not any Divine revelation. <…> Judging it as presented by its own exponents, it appears to be a strange mixture of mysticism, charlatanism, and thaumaturgic pretension combined with an eager effort to express its teaching in words which reflect the atmosphere of Christian ethics and modern scientific truths. (Driscoll 1912, pp. 627-628)

A Russian theologian Andrey Kuraev accused the Theosophists of violation of the principles of scientific aethics, arguing they don't react to the opponents' objections, don't bring ''a scientific arguments in support of their position,'' and also put themselves ''beyond all criticism from side of science.'' In support of his words, Kuraev quoted Blavatsky's statement on a need to fight with ''every modern scholar's'' pretension to evaluate ''of ancient Esotericism'', when he is not ''a Mystic'' or ''a Kabalist.'' (Blavatsky 1897, p. 13; Кураев 2000, p. 129) In connection with the special attention of the Theosophists to the theory of evolution, a Russian Orthodox cleric and theologian Dimitry Drujinin wrote that ''Theosophy began to parasitize on the central tendencies of thought and science of its time.'' And also: ''The rough and cheeky Blavatsky's criticism of Darwinism turned into personal insults to scholars.'' According to Drujinin, ''the statements of Theosophy are an absurd nonsense.'' (Дружинин 2012, pp. 79-81)

Lydia Fesenkova, an employee of the Institute of philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, also severely criticized the occult statements of Blavatsky, which described anthropogenesis: ''From the point of view of science, such beliefs are an explicit profanity and don't have the right to exist in the serious literature.'' (Фесенкова 2004, p. 93)

A Russian academician Viacheslav Stepin answering the question on pseudoscience said:

The dominant value of the scientific rationality begins to influence other spheres of culture – and religion, the myth are modernized often under this influence. On the border between them and science arise the parascientific concepts, which are trying to find a place in the field of science. (Стёпин 2000)



''Modern Esotericism show itself usually in a scientistic wear… It appeals to science, proclaiming the principle of the unity of science, religion, and philosophy.'' (Фесенкова 2003, pp. 84-85)


Hammer, apparently, considered Blavatsky the author, including the letters of the mahatmas. However, according to Charles Leadbeater, the letters were not written or dictated directly by the mahatmas, as the Theosophists supposed, ''but were the work of pupils carrying out general directions given to them by the Masters.'' (Tillett 1986, p. 807)


Nikolai Berdyaev wrote: ''Contemporary popular theosophy is very deferential towards science… From the natural sciences it borrows a naive realism.'' (Berdyaev 2018)


Alexander Senkevich wrote that in the 19th century, an idea of the omnipotence of science became the main one, and ''men believed in steam's force more than in virtue of preaching.'' (Сенкевич 2012, p. 157)


In the third chapter of Isis (vol. 1) named by its author ''The blind leaders of the blind'' she particularly sharply criticized the two ''high priests'' of the scientific materialism John Tyndall (1820-1893) and Thomas Huxley (1825-1895). (Blavatsky 1877, pp. 73-98; Lachman 2012, p. 174; Asprem 2013, p. 409)


Vladimir Trefilov wrote: ''The main difference between the Theosophical science and the usual modern science is seen in the fact that the latter has to do only with scraps of a whole – with the physical phenomena of this and other worlds, with that that can be performed through the physical brain of man and his feeling.'' (Трефилов 1994, p. 234) Adhering to a line of the initial Theosophical criticism, Edi Bilimoria suggested to those modern scientists who claim that they investigate and unravel ''the 'mind of God' would do better to probe into their own minds to discover the arrogance and philosophic naivete of such 'investigations'.'' (Bilimoria 1997, p. 159)


Bilimoria classified Newton as ''a greatest mystic and Occultist'' of England. (Bilimoria 1997, p. 150)


In 1963, a British chemist Lester Smith (1904-1992) said: ''There is a tendency to believe that the whole secret of life is wrapped up in this genetic code, so that when it has been completely unravelled it will be possible to create life… We should proclaim firmly that the biochemists are not studying Life itself, but its mechanisms, the almost unbelievably intricate and delicate tools it uses for its purposes.'' (Smith 1963, p. 18) A Russian academician Erik Galimov stated that Darwinism proved unproductive ''in reference to the problem of the origin of life.'' (Галимов 2001, p. 212) Lydia Fesenkova noted that, from the positions of the natural sciences, Darwinism now looks like a ''hypothesis that greatly simplifies the real state of things,'' so its conclusions find ''constantly-increasing objections.'' (Фесенкова 2007, p. 128)


According to Indian philosophy, there are ''other worlds than that which our senses reveal to us, other senses than those which we share with the lower animals, other forces than those of material nature.'' (Radhakrishnan 1948b, p. 373)


Senkevich wrote that, according to Darwin, the three main factors: variability, heredity, and natural selection were responsible for evolution; thus, ''the pragmatic West'' with its mundane approach to life simply lacked ''common sense, to gain faith in the evolution of soul or consciousness.'' (Сенкевич 2012, p. 435)


Gupta-vidya (Sanskrit). Gupta-vidya [from gupta from the verbal root gup to conceal, preserve + vidya knowledge, wisdom] - Secret knowledge, secret wisdom; the source of all religions and philosophies known to the world: theosophy, the ancient wisdom-religion, the esoteric philosophy.'' (Purucker 1999)


''As a representation of an exalted being, the image of the Buddha must also be exalted.'' (Lopez 2009, p. 159)


''It is unclear whether they were pillaged during the First Anglo-Burmese War'', Lopez wrote, ''when British troops captured and held the temple for two years, or during the Second, when British troops captured the temple in 1852; it then remained under the control of the military until 1929.'' (Lopez 2009, p. 159)


Also a prominent Buddhist studies scholar Rhys-Davids believed that ''the original Buddhism was the very contrary of esoteric.'' (Rhys-Davids 1896, p. 210)


See also arguments of Robert Carroll. (Carroll 2003)


Thus, if he didn't want to mark any ''ravines'' or ''swamps'' (the paranormal phenomena) on his ''map,'' this don't mean that he will never ''find himself'' there. For participants in a hypothetical dialogue between an initiated occultist and a typical scientist, Bilimoria chose the appropriate abbreviations: OWL (Occultist, Wise, and Learned, or an owl) and ASS (Archetypal Sceptical Scientist, or an ass). (Bilimoria 1997, p. 99)


In Hammer's opinion, ''Leadbeater proposed a theory of the human aura'' based on some Blavatsky's ideas. (Hammer 2003, p. 223) Truly, according to Blavatsky, ''Every person emits a magnetic exhalation or aura.'' (Blavatsky 1877a, p. 610)


''Ether physics was a crucial component of physics in Britain, and was part of the curriculum at Trinity College, Cambridge, as late as 1910.'' (Asprem 2013, p. 416)


According to the occult science, space and time are the result of the manifestation of their archetypal principles, called ''Mahakasha'' and ''Mahakala'' respectively. (Bilimoria 1997, p. 146)


In Taimni's opinion, Einstein's theory does not imply the existence ''of super-physical worlds,'' ignores ''the existence of mind and consciousness as principles independent of the physical world,'' suggests that there are ''only three dimensions of space and one of time'' and does not take into account ''many other facts'' of reality that are ''part of the Occult Doctrine'' and were repeatedly tested ''by seers, occultists and mystics of all ages.'' (Taimni 1974, pp. 6-7) As Lopez claimed, ''To understand the nature of reality, one must achieve buddhahood.'' (Lopez 2009, p. 19)


Professor Taimni noted that this statement of Jeans fully corresponds to the occult notions that ''a foundation of the material universe is precisely a motion.'' (Taimni 1973, Ch. 18; Taimni 1974, p. 186)


''The spiritualist or mystical tendency is not new in physics. One finds it in Kepler, of course, and later in scientists from Crookes, Oliver Lodge, and James Jeans to Eddington and Milne.'' (Restivo 1985, p. 101)


According to Indian occultists, the manifested Universe is product of interaction of two primary Principles: ''Shiva, or Consciousness and Shakti, or Power.'' (Woodroffe 1973, p. 23; Bilimoria 1997, p. 133)


Fritjof Capra wrote in 1982, ''The parallels to Eastern mysticism are appearing not only in physics but also in biology, psychology and other sciences… A natural extension of the concepts of modern physics to other fields is provided by the framework of systems theory.'' (Capra 2010, p. 17)


In The New Encyclopedia of Philosophy it is said that Blavatskian Theosophy is an attempt to merge into a universal doctrine all religions by revealing their ''common deep essence'' and detection of ''identity meanings of symbols,'' all philosophies (including esoteric), and all sciences (including occult). (Митюгова 2010)


Speaking of the ancient occult science, mahatma Kuthumi wrote, ''Our laws are as immutable as those of Nature, and they were known to man and eternity before this strutting game cock, modern science, was hatched.'' (Barker 1924, p. 144; French 2000, p. 140) Thus, according to Bilimoria, the fact of the ''expanding Universe was well known'' to occultists else in antiquity, ''only in greater'' detail in comparison with the concept of the ''modern cosmologists.'' (Bilimoria 1997, p. 142)


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