THE ADEPTS AND MODERN SCIENCE
Modern science is a bugbear for many a good Theosophist, causing him to hide his real opinions for fear they should conflict with science. But the latter is an unstable quantity, always shifting its ground, although never devoid of an overbearing assurance, even when it takes back what it had previously asserted. The views of scientific men have frequently been brought forward as a strong objection to the possibility of the existence of Adepts, Masters, Mahatmas, perfected men who have a complete knowledge of all that modern science is endeavoring to discover. Many trembling members of the Society, who do not doubt the Masters and their powers, would fain have those beings make their peace with science, so that the views of nature and man put forward by the Mahatmas might coincide with the ideas of modern investigators. It will be profitable to try to discover what is the attitude of the Adepts towards modern science.
The question was raised quite early in the history of the Society in the correspondence which Mr. Sinnett had with the Adept K. H. in India , and there is in the answers published by Mr. Sinnett in the Occult World enough to indicate clearly what is the attitude of such beings to modern science. That book will often have to be referred to in future years, because the letters given in its pages are valuable in more senses than has been thought; they ought to be studied by every member of the Society, and the ideas contained therein made a part of our mental furniture.
It is evident from the remarks made in the Occult World that the persons to whom the letters were written had a high respect for modern science; that they would have liked to see science convinced of the machinery of the occult Cosmos, with all that that implies; that they thought if modern scientific men could be convinced by extraordinary phenomena or otherwise about the Masters and Theosophy, very beneficial results to the Society would follow. There can be no doubt that if such a convincing were possible the results would have followed, but the hope of convincing our scientists seemed vain, because no way exists to alter the attitude of materialistic modern science except by a complete reform in its methods and theories. This would be a bringing back of ancient thought, and not agreeable to modern men. To pander in any way to science would be impossible to the Masters. They hold the position that if the rules and conclusions of nineteenth century science differ from those of the Lodge of the Brothers, then so much the worse for modern conclusions, as they must all be revised in the future. The radical difference between occult and modern materialistic science is that the former has philanthropy as its basis, whereas the latter has no such basis. Let us now see what can be discovered from the letters written by K.H. to Mr. Sinnett and another.
Mr. Sinnett writes,
To this he received a reply from K.H., who said:
In this is the first indication of the philanthropic basis, although later it is definitely stated. For here we see that the Adepts would not do that which might result in the mental confusion of so many persons as are included in "ignorant masses." He then goes on to say:
Here again we see that Adepts will not do that which, however agreeable to science, extraordinary and interesting in itself, might result in causing the masses once more to consider that they had proof of the agency of devils or other dreaded unseen beings. The object of the Adepts being to increase the knowledge of the greater number and to destroy dogmatism with superstition, they will not do that which would in any way tend to defeat what they have in view. In the letter quoted from, the Adept then goes on to show that the number of persons free from ignorant prejudice and religious bigotry is still very small. It is very true that such an extraordinary thing as the production of the Times in India across several thousand miles of ocean might convince even hundreds of scientific men of the possibility of this being done by a knowledge of law, but their belief would have but little effect on the immense masses of uneducated persons in the West who are still bound up in religious bigotry and prejudice. The Adept hints that "the inexorable shadow that follows all human innovations" would be a sudden blazing forth again of ignorant superstition among the masses, which, gaining force, and sweeping all other men along in the immense current thus generated, the very purpose of the phenomenon would then be negatived. On this the Adept writes a little further on,
that is, the danger would grow in proportion to the success of the phenomenon produced.
These simple remarks are philosophical, historically accurate, and perfectly true. All spiritualistic mediums know that their visitors require test after test. Even the dabbler in psychic matters is aware that his audience or his friends require a constant increase of phenomena and results, and every earnest student of occultism is aware of the fact that in his own circle there are fifty unbelievers to one believer, and that the believers require that they shall see the same thing over again that others report.
Proceeding with this matter to another letter, the Adept says:
He then goes on to show that the person desiring to know their science must abide by their rules, and taking his correspondent as an illustration, he says:
This means of course that scientific men as well as other inquirers must conform to the rules of occult science if they wish to know it, and must themselves change their modes of thought and action. He then goes on to analyze the motives of his correspondent, and these motives would be the same as those impelling science to investigate. They are described to be the desire to have positive proofs of forces in nature unknown to science, the hope to appropriate them, the wish to demonstrate their existence to some others in the West, the ability to contemplate future life as an objective reality built upon knowledge and not faith, and to learn the truth about the Lodge and the Brothers. These motives, he says, are selfish from the standpoint of the Adepts, and this again emphasizes the philanthropy behind occult science. The motives are selfish because, as he says:
The Adept makes it very clear that such a proposition could not be entertained, showing once more that the Brotherhood, and not the study of secret laws of nature, is the real object the inner Lodge has in view. Brotherhood as an object is the highest philanthropy, and especially so when connected with science.
In another letter, written after consultation with much higher Adepts, who have never been mentioned and who are utterly unknown even to Theosophists, being too high to be encountered, he takes up the same subject, saying,
We have in these extracts a clear outline of the exact position of the Adepts towards modern science, together with the statement of the reasons why they do not come forth by astounding phenomena to convince the world of their existence. The reason for the refusal is that the world is not ready, but is in such a condition that the end would be obstructed and damage be the result. Their attitude to modern science is that they accept the facts of science wherever they prove the truths of Occultism, but they consider modern science to be materialistic and also devoid of philanthropy. This we must admit to be the case, and as the student who has had experience in these matters knows for himself that the Adepts have the truth and possess a knowledge of nature's laws, he approves of their refusing to come down to science and of their demand that science must rise to them. He also knows that in the course of the cycles the mass of men will have been educated and developed to such a position that a new school, at once religious and scientific, will have possession of the earth and rule among all men who possess civilization.
William Q Judge
Path, August, 1893