WHAT IS MATTER AND WHAT IS FORCE?
BY ANOTHER THEOSOPHIST.*
[The Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 12, September, 1882, pp. 319-324]
“As a question of science,”—which, as such, has to be strictly kept within the boundaries of modern materialistic science—all “discussion on this subject,” however “desirable,” would prove, on the whole, unprofitable. Firstly, because science confines herself only to the physical aspects of the conservation of energy or correlation of forces; and, secondly, because, notwithstanding her own frank admissions of helpless ignorance of the ultimate causes of things, judging by the tone of our critic’s article, I doubt whether he would be willing to admit the utter unaptness of some of the scientific terms as approved by the Dvija, the “twice-born” of the Royal Society, and obediently accepted by their easily persuaded admirers. In our age of
* [ In Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 8, H.P.B. states that this answer is from the pen of Master K.H. It is not known whether it was dictated to H.P.B., or received in some other manner.— Compiler.]
freedom of thought and cheap paradox, party spirit reigns supreme, and science has become more intolerant, if possible, than even theology. The only position, therefore, that could be safely assumed by a student of esoteric philosophy against (evidently) a champion of the exact science, in a discussion upon the appropriateness of certain modern scientific terms, would be to fight the latter with his own weapons, yet without stirring an inch from one’s own ground. And this is just what I now propose to do.
At the first glance, there does not seem much to answer in the article—“Is Electricity Matter or Force?” A modest point of interrogation, parenthetically placed after the word “hydrogen,” in an enumeration of the equivalents of “the air we breathe”; and, the question, as shown in the heading, and already seemingly settled by a series of quotations taken from scientific authorities who have been pleased to regard electricity as “a force,”—is all we find in it. But it is so only at the “first glance.” One need not study our querist’s article very profoundly, to perceive that it involves a question of a far more serious moment to the Theosophists, than there appears to be in it at first. It is neither more nor less than the following: “Is the President of a Society, which numbers among its adherents some of the most scientific minds and intellects of Europe and America, any better than an ignoramus who has not even studied, or, has forgotten, his school primers—or is he not?” The implication is a very grave one, and demands as serious a consideration.
Now, it could hardly be expected that any reasonable man personally acquainted with the President would lose his time over proving that Colonel Olcott cannot be ignorant of that which every schoolboy is taught and knows; to wit, that air, the gaseous fluid, in which we live and breathe, consists essentially of two gases: oxygen and nitrogen, in a state of mechanical mixture. Nor does anyone need a Professor Tyndall to assure him of the fact. Hence, while the sneer implied in the interrogation mark would seem quite natural if the paper emanated from an enemy, it naturally shocks a Theosophist to find it proceeding from a Brother member. No Fellow can be ignorant of the fact, that “the
President-Founder of the Theosophical Society” has never pretended to lecture upon any specific subject pertaining to physical sciences—which is the province of physicists and chemists; nor has “the learned President” pledged himself never to depart from the orthodox terminology of the Fellows of the Royal Society. An expounder and advocate of occult sciences, he may be permitted to use the peculiar phraseology of the ancient philosophers. It is simply absurd to have to point out that which is self-evident; namely, that the equivalents “of the air we breathe,” enumerated by the lecturer, did not relate to the atmospheric air pure and simple—for he would have probably said in such a case “chemical constituents,” or its “compound elements”—but to the whole atmosphere, one of the five primitive elements of occult philosophy composed of various and many gases.
To show the better the right we have to assume an attitude of opposition against certain arbitrary assumptions of modern science, and to hold to our own views, I must be permitted to make a short digression and to remind our critic of a few unanswerable points. The bare fact that modern science has been pleased to divide and subdivide the atmosphere into a whole host of elements, and to call them so for her own convenience, is no authoritative reason why the Occultists should accept that terminology. Science has never yet succeeded in decomposing a single one of the many simple bodies, miscalled “elementary substances,” for which failure, probably, the latter have been named by her “elementary.” And whether she may yet, or never may, succeed in that direction in time, and thus recognize her error, in the meanwhile we, Occultists, permit ourselves to maintain that the alleged “primordial” atoms would be better specified under any other name but that one. With all the respect due to the men of science, the terms “element” and “elementary” applied to the ultimate atoms and molecules of matter of which they know nothing, do not seem in the least justifiable. It is as though the Royal Society agreed to call every star a “Kosmos,” because each star is supposed to be a world like our own planet, and then would begin taunting the ancients with
ignorance since they knew but of one Kosmos—the boundless infinite universe! So far, however, science admits herself that the words “element” and “elementary,” unless applied to primordial principles, or self-existing essences out of which the universe was evoluted, are unfortunate terms; and remarks thereupon that “experimental science deals only with legitimate deductions from the facts of observation, and has nothing to do with any kind of essences except those which it can see, smell, or taste.” Professor J. P. Cooke tells us that “Science leaves all others to the metaphysicians” (New Chemistry, 1877). This stern pronunciamento, which shows the men of science refusing to take anything on faith, is immediately followed by a very curious admission made by the same author. “Our theory, I grant, may all be wrong,” he adds, “and there may be no such things as molecules(!) . . . The new chemistry assumes, as its fundamental postulate that the magnitudes we call molecules are realities; but this is the only postulate.”* We are thus made to suspect that the exact science of chemistry needs to take as well as transcendental metaphysics something on blind faith. Grant her the postulate—and her deductions make of her an exact science; deny it—and the “exact science” falls to pieces! Thus, in this respect, physical science does not stand higher than psychological science, and the Occultists need fear but very little of the thunderbolts of their most exact rivals. Both are, to say the least, on a par. The chemist, though carrying his subdivision of molecules further than the physicist, can no more than he experiment on individual molecules. One may even remind both that none of them has ever seen an individual molecule. Nevertheless, and while priding themselves upon taking nothing on faith, they admit that they cannot often follow the subdivision of molecules with the eye, but “can discern it with the intellect” [p. 89]. What more, then, do they do than the Occultists, the alchemists, the adepts? While they discern with the “intellect,” the adept, as he
* [Italics are H.P.B.’s. The quotation is on p. 75 of Cooke’s work.— Compiler.]
maintains, can as easily discern the subdivisibility ad infinitum of that, which his rival of the exact methods pleases to call an “elementary body,” and he follows it—with the spiritual in addition to his physical intellect.
In view then of all that precedes, I maintain that the President of the Theosophical Society had a perfect right to use the language of the Occultists in preference to that of modern science. However, even were we to admit that the “equivalents” under review referred simply to the air we breathe, as specified by that science, I still fail to perceive why the lecturer should not have mentioned “hydrogen” along with the other gases. Though air consists properly but of two gases, yet with these are always present a certain proportion of carbonic acid gas and aqueous vapour. And with the presence of the latter, how can “hydrogen” be excluded? Is our learned Brother prepared to maintain that we never breathe anything but oxygen and nitrogen? The kind assurance we have from science that the presence of any gas in the atmosphere, besides oxygen and nitrogen, ought to be regarded simply as accidental impurities; and that the proportions of the two elements of the air hardly vary, whether taken from thickly populated cities or overcrowded hospitals, is one of those scientific fictions which is hardly borne out by facts. In every closely confined place, in every locality exposed to putrescent exhalations, in crowded suburbs and hospitals—as our critic ought to know—the proportion of oxygen diminishes to make room for mephitic gases.*
But we must pass to the more important question, now, and see, how far science is justified in regarding electricity as a force, and Colonel Olcott—with all the other Eastern Occultists—in maintaining that it is “still matter.” Before we open the discussion, I must be allowed to remark, that since “a Theosophist” wants to be scientifically accurate, he
* In Paris—the centre of civilization—the air collected in one of its suburbs, was found, when analysed, a few years ago, to contain only 13.79 per cent [of oxygen] instead of 23, its usual proportion; nitrogen was present to the amount of 81.24 per cent, carbonic acid 2.01, and sulphuretted hydrogen 2.99 per cent.
ought to remember that science does not call electricity a force, but only one of the many manifestations of the same; a mode of action or motion. Her list of the various kinds of energy which occur in nature is long, and many are the names she uses to distinguish them. With all that, one of her most eminent adepts, Professor Balfour Stewart—one of the authorities he quotes against our President—warns his readers (see “The Forces and Energies of Nature”)* that their enumeration has nothing absolute, or complete about it, “representing, as it does, not so much the present state of our knowledge as of our want of knowledge, or rather profound ignorance of the ultimate constitution of matter.” So great is that ignorance, indeed, that treating upon heat, ; mode of motion far less mysterious and better understood than electricity, that scientist confesses that “if heat be not a species of motion, it must necessarily be a species of matter,” and adds that the men of science “have preferred to consider heat as a species of motion to the alternative of supposing the creation of a peculiar kind of matter.”
And if so, what is there to warrant us that science will not yet find out her mistake some day, and recognize and call electricity in agreement with the Occultists “a species of a peculiar kind of matter”?
Thus, before the too dogmatic admirers of modern science take the Occultists to task for viewing electricity under one of its aspects—and for maintaining that its basic principle—MATTER, they ought at first to demonstrate that science errs when she herself, through the mouthpiece of her recognized high priests, confesses her ignorance as to what is properly Force and what is Matter. For instance, the same Professor of Natural Philosophy, Mr. Balfour Stewart, LL.D., F.R.S., in his lectures on The Conservation of Energy, tells us as follows:
. . . we know nothing, or next to nothing, of the ultimate structure and properties of matter, whether organic or inorganic, [and] . . . it is in truth, only a convenient classification, and nothing more. [pp. 2, 78.]
* [3rd chapter of The Conservation of Energy, 1874.—Compiler.]
Furthermore, one and all, the men of science admit that, though they possess a definite knowledge of the general laws, yet they “have no knowledge of individuals in the domains of physical science.” For example, they suspect “a large number of our diseases to be caused by organic germs,” but they have to avow that their “ignorance about these germs is most complete.” And in the chapter “What is Energy?” the same great naturalist staggers the too confiding profane by the following admission:
. . . if our knowledge of the nature and habits of organized molecules be so small, our knowledge of the ultimate molecules of inorganic matter is, if possible, still smaller. . . . It thus appears, that we know little or nothing about the shape or size of molecules, or about the forces which actuate them . . . the very largest masses of the universe share with the very smallest this property of being beyond the scrutiny of the human senses. . . . [pp. 5-6.]
Of physical “human senses” he must mean, since he knows little, if anything, of any other senses. But let us take note of some further admissions; this time by Professor Le Conte in his lecture on the Correlation of Vital with Chemical and Physical Forces:
. . . Since the distinction between force and energy is imperfectly or not at all defined in the higher forms of force, and especially in the domain of life . . . our language cannot be more precise until our ideas in this department are far clearer than now.*
Even as regards the familiar liquid—water—science is at a loss to decide whether the oxygen and hydrogen exist, as such, in water, or whether they are produced by some unknown and unconceived transformation of its substances. “It is a question,” says Mr. J. P. Cooke, Professor of Chemistry, “about which we may speculate, but in regard to which we have no knowledge. Between the qualities of water and the qualities of these gases there is not the most distant resemblance.” All they know is that water can be decomposed by an electrical current; but why it is so decomposed, and then again recombined, or what is the nature of that they call electricity, etc., they do not know. Hydrogen, more
* Vide Balfour Stewart, The Conservation of Energy, N.Y., 1874, Appendix, pp. 172-73.
over, was till very lately one of the very few substances, which was known only in its aeriform condition. It is the lightest form of matter known.* For nearly sixty years, ever since the days when Davy liquefied chlorine, and Thilorier carbonic acid under a pressure of fifty atmospheres—five gases had always resisted manipulation—hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbonic oxide, and finally bioxide of nitrogen. Theoretically they might be reduced, but no means could be found by which they could be dealt with practically, although Berthelot had subjected them to a pressure of 800 atmospheres. There, however, where Faraday and Dumas, Regnault and Berthelot had failed, Mr. Cailletet, a comparatively unknown student of science, but a few years ago achieved a complete success. On December 16th, 1878, he liquefied oxygen in the laboratory of the École Normale, and on the 30th of the same month he succeeded in reducing even the refractory hydrogen. Mr. Raoul Pictet, of Geneva, went still further. Oxygen and hydrogen were not only liquefied, but solidified, as the experiment—by illuminating with electric light the jet as it passed from the tubes containing the two gases, and finding therein incontestable signs of polarization which implies the suspension of solid particles in the gas proved.†
There is not an atom in nature, but contains latent or potential electricity which manifests under known conditions. Science knows that matter generates what it calls force, the latter manifesting itself under various forms of energy—such as heat, light, electricity, magnetism, gravitation, etc.—yet that same science has hitherto been unable, as we find from her own admissions as given above, to determine with any certainty where matter ends and force (or spirit, as
* A cubic yard of air at the temperature of 77 deg. Fahr. weighs about two pounds, while a cubic yard of hydrogen weighs only 21/2 ounces.
† Article of Henry de Parville, one of the best of the French popularizers of science.— Journal des Débats.
some call it) begins. Science, while rejecting metaphysics and relegating it through her mouthpiece, Professor Tyndall, to the domain of poetry and fiction, unbridles as often as any metaphysician her wild fancy, and allows mere hypotheses to run races on the field of unproved speculation. All this she does, as in the case of the molecular theory, with no better authority for it, than the paradoxical necessity for the philosophy of every science to arbitrarily select and assume imaginary fundamental principles; the only proof offered in the way of demonstrating the actual existence of the latter being a certain harmony of these principles with observed facts. Thus, when men of science imagine themselves subdividing a grain of sand to the ultimate molecule they call oxide of silicon, they have no real, but only an imaginary and purely hypothetical right to suppose that, if they went on dividing it further (which, of course, they cannot) the molecule, separating itself into its chemical constituents of silicon and oxygen, would finally yield that which has to be regarded as two elementary bodies—since the authorities, so regard them! Neither an atom of silicon, nor an atom of oxygen, is capable of any further subdivision into something else—they say. But the only good reason we can find for such a strange belief is, because they have tried the experiment and—failed. But how can they tell that a new discovery, some new invention of still finer and more perfect apparatuses and instruments may not show their error some day? How do they know that those very bodies now called “elementary atoms” are not in their turn compound bodies or molecules, which, when analysed with still greater minuteness, may show containing in themselves the real, primordial, elementary globules, the gross encasement of the still finer atom-spark—the spark of LIFE, the source of Electricity—MATTER still! Truly has Henry Khunrath, the greatest of the alchemists and Rosicrucians of the middle ages, shown spirit in man—as in every atom—as a bright flame enclosed within a more or less transparent globule, which he calls soul. And since the men of science confessedly know nothing of (a) the origin of either matter or force; (b) nor of electricity or life; and (c) their knowledge of the
ultimate molecules of inorganic matter amounts to a cipher; why, I ask, should any student of Occultism, whose great masters may know, perchance, of essences which the professors of modern materialistic school can neither “see, smell, nor taste,” why should he be expected to take their definitions as to what is MATTER and what FORCE as the last word of unerring, infallible science?
“Men of science,” our critic tells us, “employ in turn as agents of exploration, light, heat, magnetism, electricity and sound”; and at the same time he enunciates the now heretical proposition, “that these several manifestations of force are imponderable.” I respectfully suggest that when he speaks of imponderable agents he sins against the decrees of his great masters. Let him study the books published upon the newly reorganized chemistry based upon what is known as “Avogadro’s Law”; and then he will learn that the term imponderable agents is now regarded as a scientific absurdity. The latest conclusions at which modern chemistry has arrived, it seems, have brought it to reject the word imponderable, and to make away with those textbooks of pre-modern science, which refer the phenomena of heat and electricity to attenuated forms of matter. Nothing, they hold, can be added to, or subtracted from bodies without altering their weight. This was said and written in 1876, by one of the greatest chemists in America. With all that, have they become any the wiser for it? Have they been able to replace by a more scientific theory the old and tabooed “phlogiston theory” of the science of Stahl, Priestley, Scheele, and others?—or, because they have proved, to their own satisfaction, that it is highly unscientific to refer the phenomena of heat and electricity to attenuated forms of matter have they succeeded at the same time in proving what are really, Force, Matter, Energy, Fire, Electricity—LIFE? The Phlogiston of Stahl—a theory of combustion taught by Aristotle and the Greek philosophers—as elaborated by Scheele, the poor Swedish apothecary, a secret student of Occultism, who, as Professor Cooke says of him, “added more knowledge to the stock of chemical science in a single year than did Lavoisier in his lifetime,” was not a mere
fanciful speculation, though Lavoisier was permitted to taboo and upset it.* But, indeed, were the high priests of modern science to attach more weight to the essence of things than to mere generalizations, then, perhaps, would they be in a better position to tell the world more of the “ultimate structure of matter” than they now are. Lavoisier, as it is well known, did not add any new fact of prime importance by upsetting the phlogiston theory, but only added “a grand generalization.” But the Occultists prefer to hold to the fundamental theories of ancient sciences. No more than the authors of the old theory, do they attach to phlogiston—which has its specific name as one of the attributes of Akaśa—the idea of weight which the uninitiated generally associate with all matter. And though to us it is a principle, a well-defined essence, whereas to Stahl and others it was an undefined essence—yet, no more than we, did they view it as matter in the sense it has for the present men of science. As one of their modern professors puts it: “Translate the phlogiston by energy, and in Stahl’s work on Chemistry and Physics, of 1731, put energy where he wrote phlogiston, and you have . . . our great modern doctrine of conservation of energy.” Verily so; it is the “great modern doctrine,” only—plus something else, let me add. Hardly a year after these words had been pronounced, the discovery by Professor Crookes of radiant matter—of which, further on—has nigh upset again all their previous theories.
“Force, energy, physical agent, are simply different words to express the same idea,” observes our critic. I believe he
* [This term is derived from the Greek phlogistos, burnt, inflammable, and phlogizein, to set on fire, to burn. It is a term used for the hypothetical principle of fire, or inflammability, regarded as a material substance. The term was proposed by Stahl, who, with J. J. Becher, advanced the phlogiston theory. According to them, every combustible substance is a compound of phlogiston, and the phenomena of combustion are due to the phlogiston leaving the other constituent behind. Similarly, metals are produced from their calces by the union of the latter with phlogiston. While abandoned now, the theory is not altogether without worth, and has occult implications.—Compiler.]
errs. To this day the men of science are unable to agree in giving to electricity a name, which would convey a clear and comprehensive definition of this “very mysterious agent,” as Professor Balfour Stewart calls it. While the latter states that electricity or “electrical attraction may PROBABLY be regarded as peculiarly allied to that force which we call chemical affinity”; and Professor Tyndall calls it “a mode of motion,” Professor A. Bain regards electricity as one of the five chief powers or forces in nature: “One mechanical or molar, the momentum of moving matter,” the others “molecular, or embodied in the molecules, also SUPPOSED(?) in motion—these are, heat, light, chemical force, electricity” (The Correlations of Nervous and Mental Forces). Now these three definitions would not gain, I am afraid, by being strictly analyzed.
No less extraordinary appears a certain conclusion “A Theosophist” arrives at. Having reminded us that by no “scientific apparatus yet known, is it practicable to weigh a ray of light”; he yet assures us, that . . . “the universal ether of science, which exists in extreme tenuity, can be proved to possess some weight.” This assertion made in the face of those who regard ether as a reality, and who know that since it pervades the densest solids as readily as water does a sponge, it cannot, therefore, be confined—sounds strange indeed; nor can the assumption be supported by modern Science. When she succeeds to weigh her purely hypothetical medium, the existence of which is so far only a convenient hypothesis to serve the ends of her undulatory theory, we will have, indeed, to bow before her magic wand. Since our Brother is so fond of quoting from authorities, let him quote next time the following:
Whether there are such things as waves of ether or not, we represent these dimensions to our imagination as wave lengths . . . and every student of physics will bear me out . . . that though our theory may only be a phantom of our scientific dreaming, these magnitudes must be the dimensions of something. (Magnitudes of Ether Waves, p. 25.)
It becomes rather difficult, after such a public confession, to believe that science can prove the universal ether “to possess some weight.”
On the other hand, our critic very correctly doubts whether there ever was any instrument devised “to weigh a ray of light”; though he as incorrectly persists in calling light “a force, or energy.” Now I beg to maintain that, even in strict accordance with modern science, which can be shown to misname her subjects nine times out of ten, and then to keep on naively confessing it, without making the slightest attempt to correct her misleading terms—light was never regarded as “a force.” It is, says science, a “manifestation of energy,” a “mode of motion” produced by a rapid vibration of the molecules of any light-giving body and transmitted by the undulations of ether. The same for heat and sound, the transmission of the latter depending, in addition to the vibrations of ether, on the undulations of an intervening atmosphere. Professor Crookes thought at one time that he had discovered light to be a force, but found out his mistake very soon. The explanation of Thomas Young of the undulatory theory of light holds now as good as ever, and shows that what we call light is simply an impression produced upon the retina of the eye by the wave-like motion of the particles of matter. Light, then, like heat—of which it is the crown—is simply the ghost, the shadow of matter in motion, the boundless, eternal, infinite SPACE, MOTION and DURATION, the trinitarian essence of that which the Deists call God, and we—the One Element; Spirit-matter, or Matter-spirit, whose septenary properties we circumscribe under its triple abstract form in the equilateral triangle. If the mediaeval Theosophists and the modern Occultists, call the Spiritual Soul—the vahan [vehicle] of the seventh, the pure, immaterial spark—“a fire taken from the eternal ocean of light,” they also call it in the esoteric language “a pulsation of the Eternal Motion”; and the latter cannot certainly exist outside of matter. The men of science have just found out “a fourth state of matter,” whereas the Occultists have penetrated ages ago beyond the sixth, and, therefore, do not infer but KNOW of the existence of the seventh—the last. Professor Balfour Stewart, in seeking to show light an energy or force, quotes Aristotle, and remarks that the Greek philosopher seems to have
entertained the idea that, “light is not a body, or the emanation of any body (for that, Aristotle says, would be a kind of body) and that, therefore, light is an energy or act.” To this I respectfully demur and answer, that if we cannot conceive of movement or motion without force, we can conceive still less of an “energy or act” existing in boundless space from the eternity, or even manifesting, without some kind of body. Moreover, the conceptions about “body” and “matter” of Aristotle and Plato, the founders of the two great rival schools of antiquity, opposed as they were in many things to each other, are nevertheless still more at variance with the conceptions about “body” and “matter” of our modern men of science. The Theosophists, old and modern, the Alchemists and Rosicrucians have ever maintained that there were no such things per se as “light,” “heat,” “sound,” “electricity”; least of all—could there be a vacuum in nature. And now the results of old and modern investigation fully corroborate what they had always affirmed, namely, that in reality there is no such thing as a “chemical ray,” a “light ray,” or a “heat ray.” There is nothing but radiant energy; or, as a man of science expresses it in the Scientific American,* radiant energy—“motion of some kind, causing vibrations across space of something between us and the sun—something which, without understanding fully [verily so!], we call ‘ether,’ and which exists everywhere, even in the ‘vacuum’ of a radiometer.” The sentence [though] confused, is none the less, the last word of science. Again: “We have always one and the same cause, radiant energy, and we give this one thing different names, ‘actinism,’ ‘light,’ or ‘heat.’” And we are also told that the miscalled chemical or actinic rays, as well as those which the eye sees as blue or green, or red, and those which the thermometer feels—“are all due to one thing—motion of the ether.”
Now the sun and ether being beyond dispute material bodies, necessarily every one of their effects—light, heat, sound, electricity, etc.—must be, agreeably to the definition
* “The Sun’s Radiant Energy,” by Prof. S. P. Langley, Scientific American, Vol. 41, July 26, 1879, p. 53.
of Aristotle (as accepted, though slightly misconceived, by Professor Balfour Stewart) also “a kind of body,” ergo—MATTER.
But what is in reality Matter? We have seen that it is hardly possible to call electricity a force, and yet we are forbidden to call it matter under the penalty of being called unscientific! Electricity has no weight—“a Theosophist” teaches us—ergo it cannot be matter. Well, there is much to be said on both sides. Mallet’s experiment, which corroborated that of Pirani (1878), showed that electricity is under the influence of gravitation, and must have, therefore, some weight. A straight copper wire—with its ends bent downward—is suspended at the middle to one of the arms of a delicate balance, while the bent ends dip in mercury. When the current of a strong battery is passed through the wire by the intervention of the mercury, the arm to which the wire is attached, although accurately balanced by a counterpoise, sensibly tends downward, notwithstanding the resistance produced by the buoyancy of the mercury. Mallet’s opponents who tried at the time to show that gravitation had nothing to do with the fact of the arm of the balance tending downward, but that it was due to the law of attraction of electric currents; and who brought forward to that effect Barlow’s theory of electric currents and Ampère’s discovery that electric currents, running in opposite directions, repel one another and are sometimes driven upward against gravitation—only proved that men of science will rarely agree, and that the question is so far an open one. This, however, raises a side issue as to what is “the law of gravitation.” The scientists of the present day assume that “gravitation” and “attraction” are quite distinct from one another. But the day may not be far distant when the theory of the Occultists that the “law of gravitation” is nothing more or less than the “law of attraction and repulsion,” will be proved scientifically correct.
Science may, of course, if it so pleases her, call electricity a force. Only by grouping it together with light and heat, to which the name of force is decidedly refused, she has either to plead guilty of inconsistency, or to tacitly admit
that it is a “species of matter.” But whether electricity has weight or not, no true scientist is prepared to show that there is no matter so light as to be beyond weighing with our present instruments. And this brings us directly to the latest discovery, one of the grandest in science, I mean Mr. Crookes’ “radiant matter” or—as it is now called THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER.
That the three states of matter—the solid, the liquid and the gaseous—are but so many stages in an unbroken chain of physical continuity, and that the three correlate, or are transformed one into the other by insensible gradations, needs no further demonstration, we believe. But what is of a far greater importance for us, Occultists, is the admission made by several great men of science in various articles upon the discovery of that fourth state of matter. Says one of them in the Scientific American:
There is nothing any more improbable in the supposition that these three states of matter do not exhaust the possibilities of material condition, than in supposing the possibilities of sound to extend to aerial undulations to which our organs of hearing are insensible, or the possibilities of vision to ethereal undulations too rapid or too slow to affect our eyes as light.
And, as Professor Crookes has now succeeded in refining gases to a condition so ethereal as to reach a state of matter “fairly describable as ultra-gaseous, and exhibiting an entirely novel set of properties,” why should the Occultists be taken to task for affirming that there are beyond that “ultra gaseous” state still other states of matter; states, so ultra refined, even in their grosser manifestations—such as electricity under all its known forms—as to have fairly deluded the scientific senses, and let the happy possessors thereof call electricity—a Force! They tell us that it is obvious that if the tenuity of some gas is very greatly increased, as in the most perfect vacua attainable, the number of molecules may be so diminished, that their collisions under favourable conditions may become so few, in comparison with the number of masses, that they will cease to have a determining effect upon the physical character of the matter under observation. In other words, they say, “the
free flying molecules, if left to obey the laws of kinetic force without mutual interference, will cease to exhibit the properties characteristic of the gaseous state, and take on an entirely new set of properties.” This is RADIANT MATTER. And still beyond, lies the source of electricity—still MATTER.
Now it would be too presumptuous on our part to remind the reader, that if a fourth state of matter was discovered by Professor Crookes, and a fourth dimension of space by Professor Zöllner, both individuals standing at the very fountainhead of science, there is nothing impossible that in time there will be discovered a fifth, sixth, and even seventh condition of matter, as well as seven senses in man, and that all nature will finally be found septenary, for who can assign limits to the possibilities of the latter! Speaking of his discovery, Professor Crookes justly remarks, that the phenomena he has investigated in his exhausted tubes reveal to physical science a new field for exploration, a new world—
A world, wherein matter exists in a fourth state, where the corpuscular theory of light holds good, and where light does not always move in a straight line, but where we can never enter, and in which we must be content to observe and experiment from without.
To this the Occultist might answer, “if we can never enter it, with the help of our physical senses, we have long since entered and even gone beyond it, carried thither by our spiritual faculties and in our spiritual bodies.”
And now I will close the too lengthy article with the following reflection. The ancients never invented their myths. One, acquainted with the science of occult symbology, can always detect a scientific fact under the mask of grotesque fancy. Thus one, who would go to the trouble of studying the fable of Electra—one of the seven Atlantides—in the light of occult science, would soon discover the real nature of Electricity, and learn that it signifies little whether we call it Force or Matter, since it is both, and so far, in the sense given it by modern science, both terms may be regarded as misnomers. Electra, we know, is the wife and daughter of Atlas the Titan, and the son of Asia and of Pleione, the daughter of the Ocean. . . . As Professor Le
Conte well remarks: “There are many of the best scientists who ridicule the use of the term vital force, or vitality, as a remnant of superstition; and yet the same men use the words gravity, magnetic force, chemical force, physical force, electrical force, etc.”* and are withal unable to explain what is life, or even electricity; nor are they able to assign any good reason for that well-known fact that when an animal body is killed by lightning, after death the blood does not coagulate. Chemistry, which shows to us every atom, whether organic or inorganic in nature susceptible to polarization, whether in its atomic mass or as a unit, and inert matter allied with gravity, light with heat, etc.—hence as containing latent electricity—still persists in making a difference between organic and inorganic matter, though both are due to the same mysterious energy, ever at work by her own occult processes in nature’s laboratory, in the mineral no less than in the vegetable kingdom. Therefore do the Occultists maintain that the philosophical conception of spirit, like the conception of matter, must rest on one and the same basis of phenomena, adding that Force and Matter, Spirit and Matter, or Deity and Nature, though they may be viewed as opposite poles in their respective manifestations, yet are in essence and in truth but one, and that life is present as much in a dead as in a living body, in the organic as in the inorganic matter. This is why, while science is searching still and may go on searching forever to solve the problem “What is life?” the Occultist can afford to refuse taking the trouble, since he claims, with as much good reason as any given to the contrary, that Life, whether in its latent or dynamical form, is everywhere. That it is as infinite and as indestructible as matter itself, since neither can exist without the other, and that electricity is the very essence and origin of—Life itself. “Purush” is non-existent without “Prakriti”; nor, can Prakriti, or plastic matter have being or exist without Purush, or spirit, vital energy, LIFE. Purush and Prakriti are in short the two poles of the one
* [Summarized from Joseph Le Conte’s Evolution and its Relation to Religious Thought (1888), Part 3, chap. iv, p. 299, footnote.—Compiler.]
eternal element, and are synonymous and convertible terms. Our bodies, as organized tissues, are indeed “an unstable arrangement of chemical forces,” plus a molecular force—as Professor Bain calls electricity—raging in it dynamically during life, tearing asunder its particles, at death, to transform itself into a chemical force after the process, and thence again to resurrect as an electrical force or life in every individual atom. Therefore, whether it is called Force or Matter, it will ever remain the Omnipresent Proteus of the Universe, the one element—LIFE—Spirit or Force at its negative, Matter at its positive pole; the former the MATERIO-SPIRITUAL, the latter, the MATERIO-PHYSICAL Universe—Nature, Svabhavat or INDESTRUCTIBLE MATTER.