Questions We All Ask by G. de Purucker
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

No. 3 (October 15, 1929)

SOME QUESTIONS THAT GROWNUPS ASK

For two Sundays last past, I have been talking about the questions and observations that children ask and make, and I have tried to point out to you the deep elemental wisdom that lies in the unspoiled child's mind. I fancy that some people do not altogether like that idea: that is to say, the idea that we grownups do not know so very much after all, in the sense of knowing more than the little ones know — because adults naturally ask themselves: how about our growth and the experiences that we have?

Grownups of today are still psychologized in the idea that children are "created" or are born with their minds a tabula rasa, a blank page, on which nature — what is this nature? — writes everything that forms a child's character as it grows up to adulthood.

But as you must know, that theory is no explanation of a child's intrinsic character, and cannot be understood at all, because what is this "Nature," this recording angel, in the first place; and in the second place, where and what is this supposititious tabula rasa, this blank sheet, this blank tablet, on which this abstraction called nature, writes the results of a child's experiences?

On the contrary, theosophists, with the wisdom-religion of the ancient times behind us, say that the little ones come into incarnation bringing with them from past lives treasuries of experience of all kinds, good, bad, and indifferent, and it is precisely these treasuries of experience, good, bad, and indifferent, which manifest the character and which, by the effect they have on the character, make you different from me, or you different from others.

From ages upon ages of the past, out from the past, have these incarnating entities, these incarnating monads, come into life after life, and in each life improving — let us hope that it is an improvement — if not degenerating, what previously had been developed in the individual being as character. Character is not inbuilt as a work from outside; nor is it builded by the mere adding of brick to brick of experience, or stone to stone of experience, after the manner in which a mason will insert new stones or bricks in a wall. But character is the product of evolution, as the ancient wisdom, today called theosophy, teaches it; that is to say, it is the bringing out of what is within: the expansion or development of the faculties that lie latent and innate in the very energies which form human beings as they are.

We are the expressions of these energies, for these energies are the seeds of beings — collectively speaking, these energies are the monads of beings, and these monads are the manifesting energy-consciousness-points — call them by what name you like, for the name matters very little indeed. As these spiritual energies, these forces, come out and express themselves in manifestation, they do so as character. Thus is genius builded; thus does love divine finally shine forth with a splendor that nothing else ever attains; thus too the lovely fruits of intellectual genius — talent, ability, in all their various stages — come into flower and blossom in the life of the man.

So you see, there is no reason to be offended at the thought that an adult is merely a grownup child. It seems obvious enough, and also obvious that the elemental wisdom of little children is due simply to their unsophisticated and unspoiled minds, and to their native instinctive vision, their native instinctive genius thus expressing itself, and the child's not knowing how to express this genius in the sophisticated terms and modes that adults are usually so proud of.

I have before asked you the question, friends: if we are so proud of our sophistication, and think it is a mark of excellence which distinguishes adulthood from the little one, from the mind of the child, why cannot we answer their questions? Yes, why cannot we answer their questions satisfactorily even to ourselves? It is usually much more difficult to answer a little child than it is to answer an adult. An adult is so sophisticated that he is perfectly sure he knows it all; and if he is polite, he will listen to you politely, and go away thinking that he knows more or less than you do, as the case may be; but his mind is already so full of what he thinks are facts, that you can hardly stuff another fact in.

That is sophistication, and most of our life is passed in unlearning what we think we know, actually in order, just before we pass out of life, to attain some small realization of the fundamental fact of consciousness.

Ruskin says very beautifully: "Childhood often holds a truth with its feeble fingers, which the grasp of manhood cannot retain — which it is the pride of utmost age to recover." It is true. You look at very old people, and look at them with sympathy and understanding, and you will find that their minds are not childish, but often childlike in their simplicity; for they are quick and intuitive, in their own lines or views of things, and are growing unsophisticated, recovering the childlike nature and instinctive vision that the little ones have. We think we know so much, we adults: we think that we can answer all possible questions: questions that the angels in highest heaven, as the Christians might say, would hesitate before presuming to touch upon even as an overture to an answer.

The simplest questions that the little children ask are often filled with mysteries and wonder. Walt Whitman expresses this beautifully in his Leaves of Grass, page 33:

A child said: "What is grass?" fetching it to me with full hands. How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

If you know what grass is, then in the name of the immortal gods, send your knowledge to the academies. How grateful will they be — if they only accept it!

I have some questions here today that adults have asked, a list of them, and I find them just like the questions of children, plus sophistication, and they are just about as hard to answer, these particular questions at least. The greatest difficulty in answering any question is in breaking the molds of the mind of the questioner that he may receive a new truth — as our first great theosophist in modern times, H. P. Blavatsky, said, "breaking the molds of mind," — so that the new rays of truth may enter in, the rays of the new truth.

You know what difficulty every new discovery has to make its way in the world, the reason being that men are averse to new knowledge, not because they are averse to accepting something new, but merely because it is unfamiliar to their previous modes of thought, therefore is not in accordance with accepted rules and regulations, and with our sophistications and with the things we think that we know. We have thus to break the molds of mind, and finally a little light enters into the tiny cranny thus burst open in the mind, and with its own magic power it works a marvel; and the mind is finally bursted, and then we see, we see!

Here are some hard questions that I am going to answer today, or try to answer; because these questions are many, I shall try on the Sunday following, and perhaps on the Sunday after that, to answer the rest of them. I do not know who sent in to me these questions, doubtless some kind friends.

These are certainly some difficult questions!

Why are they familiar to you? Because you have heard them before, perhaps not in this life, but certainly in a previous life, and your character built in that previous life, recognizes familiarity with them. On the same line is built true love between human beings, trust above all things, and confidence and sympathy and respect.

Familiarity in the sense just employed signifies knowledge previously acquired. We reject precisely those things that we are not accustomed to see or to think about, because they are strange and oft appear to us to be baroque or queer, but the trouble is not in us and not in the things themselves. But those things which have become native to our souls, and have become a part of our own inner fabric — them we like, for they are familiar, for they are a part of ourselves.

People who ask such questions as the two first above named must have been theosophists in other lives, unquestionably so; and people to whom the wonderful theosophical truths — the truths of natural being please remember, that is our theosophical teaching — are unfamiliar, are just they who have never studied them before, in other words they whose minds have not been awakened to recognize this mode of natural truth.

A theosophist is not made; he is not one by means of instruction, that is to say instructed to be one. He is born a theosophist; he comes out of the past a theosophist, perhaps unconsciously to himself: he comes out of the ages, unconsciously to himself or herself "trailing clouds of glory" with themselves as they come, as Wordsworth puts it beautifully. They are superior people. We do not say this because we theosophists look upon ourselves in an arrogant way as being superior people. That is not the idea. We say it because it is true. Any man or woman who is interested in the great questions involving the nature and destiny of man and of the universe, and of man's inner spiritual constitution and the inner constitution of the universe, and in the origins of these, must de facto have a superior mind.

"Why is it that people will not accept the truth when it is put so clearly by you?" Because they don't recognize it to be true. What was the experience of the founder of the Theosophical Movement, H. P. Blavatsky, when she first brought the ancient wisdom to the western world? Rejected, persecuted, reviled, mocked at, single handed she fought the battle; and now, fifty years or more after her first labors began in this country, theosophy is a word known in every civilized country. And greater than anything else perhaps, theosophy as she taught it is accepted in many of its principles, by the most eminent scientific thinkers of today, although, we must suppose, unconsciously, because they never refer to it by name as having originated with the great theosophist, H. P. Blavatsky. In any case, there is tribute of intellectual acknowledgment.

Why has not the whole world turned theosophical? Because the whole world does not know theosophy. People don't recognize the truth in theosophy — they are not awake — and all that theosophists can do is to keep on budging along, budging ahead, and hammering and hammering the truth home into their minds, until finally these raindrops of theosophical words entering into their mind will succeed in bursting the rigid and crystallized molds of thought.

The time is coming — and I personally believe that it is coming rapidly — when a revolution in human thinking shall take place, stealing into men's minds and hearts from the East: from the sunrise of our being; the great truths of nature and of man will become familiar if only by force of theosophical repetition, of mental repetition, of verbal repetition. Then we shall see a renascence of the ancient wisdom-religion in every civilized country, for it is the universal religion, the natural religion-philosophy-science of mankind.

For all things are inseparably bound together. You cannot really separate anything from anything else. The words that I am now trying to utter, create vibrations in the ether, which go out from my mouth, spreading into eternity. Think you that they have entered into my mind from nowhere, haphazard, fortuitously? Never. They have come to me out of the past; every word that I say, or that any one of you says, has come out of my or of your past. We human beings are not automata, however; we are not mere automatic repeaters. That is not the idea. Things come to us which are ourselves, in fact which we ourselves have created in ourselves in other lives, and these are parts of our character; and we revoice them and relive them — only on higher planes and with wider sweeps of effect each time, let us hope!

I mean this is so unless we have degenerated, lost the link with our spiritual being, and have become so enfeebled and weak that we have taken the downward path. But such unfortunate and misfortunate human beings are exceedingly few and are negligible therefore in number. As Francis Thompson the poet says in this connection:

All things by immortal power
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.

This is poetry, but it is also a scientific truth, as all real poetry is.

The troubles that beset and plague men do not arise outside of themselves, so far as men are concerned. The trouble is not in or with the world in which we live; it is in and with us men ourselves. Verily our troubles are in ourselves. None of us is perfect, and we are all so prone to see the motes in the other man's eye, but fail to see the great beam in our own eye. Every thoughtful man and woman knows that this is perfectly true. It is a saying of the Christian New Testament, but it is as true today as it ever was. I repeat it: the trouble with men is in themselves, and therefore the troubles that men have arise within themselves.

I came upon a very interesting series of observations in this respect in the journal Southern Medicine and Surgery, issue of March 1929, in an article written by a Dr. J. K. Hall, who says:

Most of the difficulty in modern life is not caused by our struggle with matter, but with our own beliefs and our thoughts, and with the thoughts of others. The field of man's battle is within his own mind — with his own instincts, his own thoughts, his own feelings.

This means everyone of us, not the other fellow, it means me, you.

His life is made constantly more difficult, not only by the multitudinous devices with which he has to work, but even more so by the network of laws and customs with which he has entangled himself.
Most of the tragedies of life are due to conflicts between primitive ways and the demands of civilization. Let us know ourselves as we are. Does the causative factor of the failure lie in the individual or in the complexities of a social order that are too much for his faculties of adjustment? How much civilization can we endure? May we not be fabricating a social structure about us that may be unendurable?

I think that the first part of this citation is fine. The second part I think is partly fine and partly not. I do not think that the fault alluded to by Dr. Hall is in civilization itself. What a curiously distorted idea that is! Men sow evil, build awry, and then say: How can I live in a faulty house like that? Civilization is the product of men's own hearts and minds, and therefore if the civilization is faulty, it is because the man is faulty; because civilization is merely the offspring of man himself. When man rights himself, there will be nothing to complain of outside of him.

It is quite likely that men may build social structures which topple under their own weight; but that is due to the human egoisim and folly in them, and not due to any outside power; and the idea that civilization should be renounced for barbarism or indulgence in the so-called natural things, which merely mean license and lawlessness, as an idea is both erratic and baseless. Isn't that true? It is a curious idea that civilization is something outside of men which men have to live in.

Now I turn to the question regarding force and energy: I have referred to this question, and have tried to explain it in this Temple, many scores of times. I now try once again: Force or energy on the one hand, and matter on the other hand, are two sides of the same underlying thing or "event," to adopt the modern scientific terminology. This is an ancient archaic teaching which modern science is beginning anew to see, anew to proclaim and to teach.

Look at the moral and ethical aspect that this teaching has. No longer can a man say: "I am a living soul in a material body, and there are no links between them of which I am conscious." This was a curious state of mind, and a curious idea, because if a man is responsible to anybody or anything, he is responsible first to himself — that is to say, he is responsible for the body which came to him out of nature's womb, because he himself put himself there. He has got, in body as well ats in character, precisely what he himself builded in the past, and he builded it with his own life-energy and life-forces, which are the links intermediate between the so-called soul and the body.

And there could be no connection between the one and the other if they were not of the same fabric, of the same natural stuff, of the same underlying river of life, of which matter and energy are but the two manifested aspects.

Matter is but another form of energy. Energy is but another form of matter, if you prefer to put it in that way. Theosophists prefer to say that matter, physical matter, and indeed any other kind of substantial existence, is but crystallized spirit or energy, as it were, crystallized force: spirit in one of its modes or phases. And this is also purely ultra-modern science, although the scientists might use different words in order to express the same idea — and mark you well, it is archaic philosophy which only twenty years ago was mocked at, ridiculed, and derided.

Secondly, mind, force, or energy, and matter, are, strictly speaking, unreal all three of them, that is to say relatively unreal, and hence of these three, mind is nearest reality, then comes force or energy, and matter is the least real of all. Yes, the most unreal is matter which, as we perceive it, really does not exist per se at all. In that sense it is purely an illusion, as I have often explained here, our bodies being mostly vacuum, to use the popular word, or so-called empty space.

There is no such thing as empty space, but I use this phrase because by it you will know what I mean. If a man could collect the ultimate substantial "mind particles" of himself around which these "empty spaces" exist, into a single point, that point would be so small that he would have to use a microscope in order to see all the actual ultimate substantial particles, energy particles, which comprise the only reality of his physical body; and these substantial mind-particles are themselves only real in a strictly relative sense, for they themselves are but the offspring or resultants of something still more fundamental and radical.

That is what your matter is. And these ultimates that I have just spoken of are not physical matter. You might call them points of energy-substance of the nature of mind. Consequently none of these three are separate things in themselves, existing in eternity by themselves apart from the others, but they are three modes or phases or 'events' of an underlying Reality.

What is reality? None has ever fully known. Reality per se in the loftiest theosophical sense, is unknowable, unspeakable, immortal, deathless. Man's imagination is creative in thought; and the imagination fired by a spiritual vision has spoken of this reality as spirit and ultra-spirit, and of the divine. But these three are human words and merely express man's incapacity to do other than figurate by verbal symbols what in itself cannot be understood. All that we can say is, in the words of the Hindu sacred writings, the Upanishads: the Reality is That. The ancient seers and sages did not even attempt to qualify it with an explanation, and all explanations that were made concerned merely its modes of manifestation. Reality is the source, the root, the seed, of all that is: of everything that is — and it is boundless, infinite, timeless, and therefore unthinkable.

"Are there other planets in the universe than those we know of in our own solar system?" Where do our planets come from? Why should our solar system be the only system in the spaces of boundless space to have a central sun, and planets, solar satellites, whirling around that central sun in regular mathematical orbits? Why should we be unique? The question is so unreasonable that it answers itself: we are not unique. We are merely one of innumerable others: one solar system among innumerable other solar systems; but this does not mean, however, that every sun has a planetary family. There are exceptions, as the human phrase puts it, to every rule; but the rule is: where there is a sun, there are sunlings, or sunlets, or planets.

"If not, to what can we ascribe the unique fact of our planetary existence?" We cannot ascribe it to anything, because this unique fact does not exist. If it did, it would be a perfectly unsolvable enigma.

"Were we created, or have we evolved?" Well, that is an old question which has been answered so many times that it would bore you to go into it at any length. We were not "created." Who would have created us, or what? Have we evolved? We have. But what do we mean by evolution? The question indeed is: What is evolution really? Is it Darwinism? Bunk! Is it Lamarckism, or neo-Darwinism, or neo-Lamarckism? Bunk! These are theories, transitory theories, honest theories if you like. I am not questioning honesty. I am questioning the fact. None has ever been proved, and all are simply attempts by scientific specialists to create a form of scientific theory which will answer some of the problems that nature presents biologically; but everyone knows that other problems are unsolved by any or all of these theories.

We were evolved, or rather we have evolved ourselves, along the method which I have so often set forth here. Everything that is, is in its ultimate center a consciousness point, a monad. Please don't rebuff this thought because you object to the words in which I phrase it. If you don't like the words, then choose your own words, but pray get the idea. This monad is deathless. It is spirit, and it is also super-spirit. It is linked with all everywhere; and no man knows the distance, spiritually speaking, between this inner monadic center of our own being and That: at any rate, all we know is that this monadic center is in and from That. It cannot be out of it.

This individual consciousness center is a focus of energies, forces, substances, and possesses all the characteristics of individuality, and these forces and substances and characteristics this monadic center is pouring forth constantly, thereby more fully self-expressing itself in the vehicles, its own offsprings, in which it embodies itself from time to time, from period to period: as regards our human family this means the migration of the monad from incarnation to incarnation as it passes from one sphere of life and body to another sphere of life and body, passing a day-night in each such corporeal inn, as a traveler may be said to do.

Evolution is, in theosophy — that is to say in the ancient wisdom — just what the Latin word etymologically means: the unfolding, the throwing out, the bringing forth, of what is within — not the adding of brick to brick, or of stone to stone, or of atom to atom, that is to say of mere experience to mere experience. That process would create merely an inchoate and senseless pile of unindividualized human beings. Such beings would be just heaps, piles, without individuality, without centralized individualizing consciousness.

On the contrary, evolution springs in its action from within outwards; and man or any other entity, and the beast, the vegetable even, the mineral, the angels or archangels above us — if you don't like these terms, then call them by the name of gods, or super-gods, or dhyan-chohans, call them by what name you will; all the vast hierarchies upon hierarchies of beings in space, inner and outer space, visible and invisible space — all are progressing, growing: for that is evolution. Evolution is the bringing out of what is within.

Why is a lily a lily? Why is a rose a rose? Why is an oak an oak? Why is a man a man? Why is a god a god? By chance? What is chance? Will you tell me what chance is, please. I can tell you. When we don't know the explanation of a thing, we say that it happened, just happened,' and that is chance. Chance is a word hiding our ignorance, and it is a confession of ignorance.

"Since science tells us that matter is the only solid and real thing in the universe known to us, how can there be such a thing as spirit which is said to be immaterial and unsubstantial? And if spirit does exist, how can something so shadowy, weak, and unsubstantial affect matter which is so gross, dense, and solid?"

I suppose that a greater mistake could hardly be made than that involved in the above question. We have just seen that matter is holes, vacancies, "empty space." Matter is the one thing that really is not. What then does exist? What holds the stars in their course? What builds the universe? What governs the growing of the grass, so that, according to the beautiful old myth, he who has the ears to hear could hear the growing of the grass and the burgeoning of the trees?

Spirit is energy, the finest form, the purest form, energy-substance: the originant, to use a philosophical term, of all the various energies or forces and substances and matters that exist. All these latter, all these others, are modes, phases, events, of spirit. The forces involved in spirit are so unspeakably tremendous that no human being can adequately conceive them, much less adequately explain them.

Consider the forces locked up in a single atom — a subject of thought which for some time has been engaging the attention of our chemical physicists, as well as the imagination of romancers. These forces are so great that were foolish man enabled to unloose these forces for his own selfish purposes, he might readily disintegrate the very fabric of the world on and in which he lives.

I now come to this last question which I am going to touch upon today. "The velocity of light, usually estimated in modern physics to be 186,000 human miles a second, is claimed to be the highest speed limit of any material body in nature. Modern science asserts that it is impossible for any higher material speed to exist, and that Einstein's Relativity Theory proves this. What have you to say?"

In the first place I say what I have said before, that Dr. Albert Einstein's relativity theory is in principles a truthful and exceedingly interesting contribution to the treasury of human knowledge today; but in saying that, I refer to fundamental principles, not to any particular mathematical demonstration that he may have uttered, not to any particular mathematics by which he may attempt to express these fundamental principles of the theory which he has given to the world. It is the fundamentals that the theosophist has so heartily acclaimed.

The speed of light estimated to be 186,000 miles a second on our earth, is directly involved in Einstein's demonstration of the relativity theory; and it is just this one mathematical constant, so called — that is to say, the practically invariable speed of light — that the theosophist does not accept as a natural fact of universal application. It is not the highest speed limit of any material body, and I will prove it to you shortly, at least by suggestion and a series of suggestive facts which I will briefly lay before you.

Doubtless light travels faster, with greater velocity, than any other material thing known to us on this earth. That is unquestioned. But when men on this earth, basing their estimate of the velocity of light upon the experiments of Fizeau, who gave to the world the results of his findings in light experimentation in 1849, and of Cornu, who improved upon and checked up Fizeau's experiments in the seventies of the last century — these two scientific experimenters being Frenchmen of the last century — and according to the later corrections of Foucault, another Frenchman, and according to a still later experimenter of the United States, Michelson, an American, and according to the work along the same lines of the famous American Simon Newcomb: they disregard, perhaps not in thought but at least in results, one thing, to wit, the electromagnetic phenomena that happen on this earth in our dense atmosphere, and according to electromagnetic conditions which pertain to this our globe, by no means necessarily prevail as identical phenomena and subject to identically the same natural conditions in the stellar spaces. This seems to me to be an obvious statement, and hence that any generalizations of a universal character are, to say the least, risky.

The short distances with which these eminent scientists have worked, to whom we are obliged for the impersonality and for the partial success of their labors as far as those labors have gone; even the short distance along which they have measured the speed of light on our earth, is a distance which is, by comparison with the stellar spaces, virtually infinitesimal: a few miles only, some twenty-two kilometers and a little more in France, and something a great deal less than that in this country; and as regards their opinion that light moves in a vacuum with a speed slightly greater than in the atmosphere of our earth, it must be remembered clearly that all such estimates of the velocity of light in vacuo are wholly based on theory only and have never as yet been proved by actual experimentation — at least if such has taken place, it is utterly unknown to me.

Now, let me tell you something interesting. The Milky Way is today supposed to be our universe. We theosophists say likewise that it is so: our own particular home-universe; and the nebulae — those faint wisps of milky light, a very few of which can be seen sometimes with the unaided eye in the skies at night — are in most cases supposed to be today what are called island-universes, that is to say, vast bodies of stars, doubtless with their planets around them, gathered together in these individual world clusters, island-universes as they are today called.

Of these nebulae there are doubtless tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of them, and some are actually star clusters, the great distance of which makes them appear to our vision, unaided or aided by the telescope, is faint patches of milky light. But as none of these has been discovered to be as large in diameter, or as thick through, as our own Milky Way system is, which system has the shape of a lens, or of a thin watch, the astronomers call our Milky Way by the popular name of continent-universe; and the other nebular star clusters which we see and which are in many cases really vast masses of millions of suns, are called island-universes.

Among these nebulae there are some which are irresolvable, that is, no telescopic power has ever been able to break them up into their component individual suns, whose collective light makes them appear as wispy stellar wraiths in the night sky; and, on the other hand, some of these irresolvable nebulae are probably vast bodies of glowing primordial substance-matter which the astronomers popularly call bodies of glowing gas.

But others of these nebulae are resolvable, and, as just said, they are now found to consist of millions of millions of suns clustered together: some of the nebulae being annular or having a ring-shape: some of the nebulae are spiral with wisps or streamers issuing from the heart of them.

A good example of the nebulae so far irresolvable is the great nebula in the constellation of Orion, which is probably original world-stuff, and therefore of an evolutionary date younger than the bright nebulae of any other kind.

There are also known what are called the dark nebulae, very recently discovered to be such. If you look into the spaces of the Milky Way when the moon is not shining, you will see, especially those who are near the equator, certain very dark spots or lanes or spaces, which it has been customary to call in the English tongue coal-sacks, because they seem so black, both to eye and to telescope, and no telescope has ever been able by itself to see beyond or through these coal-sacks. It was thought originally, when telescopes were first used and for many years afterwards, that these so-called coal-sacks were simply holes through the Milky Way, and that the blackness was simply the visual effect of the bottomless deeps of space.

Now the astronomers think that they have discovered what these dark or black stretches are. They are now considered to be dark nebular masses consisting of some kind of unknown substance or matter which obscures the light of the stars beyond them, and which appear black or dark to us, perhaps by comparison with the brilliance of the stars, perhaps not.

On the other hand, if we see a few stars apparently located in these coal-sacks or black stretches, it is now thought to be simply because these stars are suns between us and the coal-sacks or black spots. We see them because they are projected against these dark nebulae in the background.

In our theosophical teaching, these dark nebulae are elemental or primordial matter: sleeping matter, dormant matter, matter in a state of atomic dissociation. Do you get the idea? They are primordial matter in which the kinetic activities of world building have not yet begun; whereas the illuminated nebulae are nebulae already engaged in the process of world making, and running the gamut in order of brilliance and evolutionary development from the diffused or irresolvable nebulae, like the one in Orion, to the various figure-nebulae composed of clusters of millions of millions of stars.

Some of these illuminated nebulae are what the astronomers call the spiral nebulae on account of their spiral and more or less flat or lenticular shape, that is to say, the thin watch-shape of a lens, and our Milky Way, could it be seen from some vast distance, would doubtless appear as a nebula, and probably a spiral nebula, or perhaps in annular nebula. Be it remembered always that our own sun is one of the stars in the cluster of the Milky Way and is said to be situated not far from the central portion of the Milky Way system, and a trifle to the north of the plane passing through the figure-center of the Milky Way.

[[a page of three illustrations here (p.46-7)]]

I am going to take as an example, for the purpose of the observations which I shall now make, the great and wonderful spiral nebula in the constellation Andromeda, one of the constellations in the northern sky, because it is one of the most beautiful examples known to us of the spiral nebulae, and further because it is one of the nebulae situated most near to us, and furthermore because it is now considered to be one of the island-universes.

This diagram which I now draw on the blackboard gives some vague idea of what the nebula looks like when seen through the telescope. Its elongated appearance is due to the fact that it is seen partly edgewise. We do not see this nebula flat or face on, but the line of incidence of our vision strikes it at a more or less sharp angle, which gives the appearance of an elongated figure. If you will hold your watch before your face, and look at it almost edgewise, it will appear to be elongated to you, although it is round.

Now, when it became known that the Milky Way was much larger than had previously been thought, and that some of the nebulae clustered over the heavens, such as the great spiral nebula of Andromeda, might be another universe like our own Milky Way, in other words an island-universe, great interest was aroused among astronomers, and astronomers and mathematicians and stellar physicists began to study the matter with much greater thought and care than ever before; and only a few years ago a conclusion was reached that the spiral nebulae were in rotation, that is to say, each whirling around its own center, and the spiral nebula of Andromeda was a typical instance in point of argument. They found that this particular nebula rotated, that is to say, made a complete turn, in one hundred thousand of our human years, that is, one hundred thousand solar years. They likewise found that the diameter of this Andromeda nebula was 50,000 light-years. You know, I suppose, that a light-year is the distance which light, rushing through space at the estimated earth-figure of 186,000 miles a second, travels in one human year.

Thus, then, the spiral nebula of Andromeda was discovered to be in rotation, making a complete turn in 100,000 years; that its diameter was 50,000 light-years. What then happened? The scientists were dumbfounded as well as perplexed at this combination of conditions. Do you know why? I will tell you.

You know how to get the circumference of a circle if you know the length of the diameter. Pi is a letter of the Greek alphabet, properly pronounced as is the English alphabetical character P. It is the Greek character for the sound P, and is the first letter of the Greek word Periphereia, meaning periphery or circumference. In mathematics pi is a mathematical constant and equals in numerical value 3.14159265 plus.

Now the way by which to get the circumference of any circle, if you know the length of its diameter, is to multiply the diameter by this pi-value: (pi)D, or what comes to the same thing, 2(pi)R. The diameter of the spiral nebula in Andromeda is 50,000 light-years. Multiplying that figure by pi, the mathematical constant just spoken of, you will obtain the periphery in light-years of the Andromeda nebula; and you will find therefore that a ray of light speeding along the circumference of this spiral nebula in Andromeda will make one circuit in about 158,000 human years. (For the purpose of this illustration I am accepting the usual and estimated value of the speed of light as being 186,000 human miles a second, and I accept this merely for the purposes of my illustration, because it is what the scientists accept.)

What does all this mean? It means that as the nebula of Andromeda in its peripheral parts, rotates in 100,000 human years, and that as it would take a light-ray traveling at the rate of 186,000 miles a second 158,000 years to run around the circumference, the nebula is therefore rotating faster that the speed of light.

There was indeed consternation and perplexity in the camp of the scientists! Light, according to the relativity theory, is supposed to be the utmost speed that any material thing can attain; and yet here we have a nebula which in its outer or peripheral portions, that is to say, along the boundary of its circumference, is tearing through space at a speed of rotational velocity one and six-tenths times the speed of light. This of course is scientifically "impossible."

What happened to the alleged fact of the discovery of the rotational speed of the Andromeda nebula in 100,000 years? The so-called discovered fact was quietly thrown overboard, and the theory regarding the rate of the velocity of light was retained.

I will read to you in this connection an exceedingly interesting extract from a simply worded radio talk made by a very eminent astronomer, Dr. Willem J. Luyten, who, if he is not a Hollander, is it least apparently a Hollander by name, and who shows a most commendable spirit of frankness and honesty, although I do wonder indeed why he did not call attention to the fact which I am now trying to set forth.

More recent researches made it appear that the Milky Way system was very much larger than it had been thought to be, and other observations indicated at the same time that the spiral nebulae were in rotation. It was this rotation which very nearly proved fatal to the theory that spiral nebulae are objects like our own Milky Way. For the spirals rotated too fast; so fast that they would make a complete turn in the incredibly short time of one hundred thousand years. We say "the incredibly short time", of one hundred thousand years, because these spirals are so enormous. At least, they were supposed to have a diameter of about fifty thousand light-years, which would mean that, if the whole spiral rotated once in a hundred thousand years, the outside portions would travel a distance of one hundred and sixty thousand light-years in that time. Consequently they would travel more than one light-year per year, and would be going faster than a ray of light — faster than one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second.

These were the alleged facts that were discovered.

After they had performed these calculations, the astronomers paused to reflect, for such a result was incredible.

They had a theory. The facts did not fit into the theory, so the facts were incredible.

You may think that astronomers are not conservative, and that they welcome new observational results. True enough, but if there is one thing that modern science regards as absolutely impossible, it is for any material body to travel faster than light. The velocity of light is a rigid speed limit enforced by the theory of relativity, and cannot be exceeded by any material body whatever. Indeed, it is more than that. The fact that the velocity of light cannot be exceeded is a fundamental tenet of modern physics — the Constitution of the Universe. Science may continually change its by-laws; it may continually scrap old theories and adopt new ones, but it thinks twice before it amends its Constitution.

Well, they must have worked over the problem for a long time, as scientific time goes today, and finally "conclusive evidence" of the actual existence of island-universes came in the year 1924.

Conclusive evidence came in 1924. . . . The distance [of the spiral nebula in the constellation of Andromeda] that we derive from these measures is one million light-years. . . . . Island-Universes have come into their own.

Now listen to this. After proving certain things which had already been proved before, we reach the conclusion of this interesting extract, which I will now read to you, merely pointing out that I wonder why Dr. Luyten says not a word about the estimated rotational speed of the Andromeda nebula of one hundred thousand years, which today would undoubtedly be an accepted scientific fact if it did not conflict so violently with the theoretic speed of light, the so-called ultimate speed limit of the material universe.

Now that we know its distance, we can say more about the great spiral nebula in Andromeda. Its diameter is about fifty thousand light-years, and it contains millions upon millions of stars. All of those stars we can see in the nebula are thousands of times brighter than the Sun; indeed, if we were to put the Sun at this distance, we could not possibly photograph it, even with our most powerful telescopes. We can now also calculate the brightness of that amazing star that flashed up in the nebula in 1885, and remained visible for but a short time. At the time of its maximum brilliance, it was one hundred million times brighter than our Sun. While it was at this splendor, this gigantic star was giving out so much light, and pouring out so much energy into space, that it was thereby losing, according to the theory of relativity, more than two hundred trillion tons of matter every second.

You see, friends, not a word about the important point in this Dr. Luyten's conclusion — a point which is passed over in perfect silence: I mean the rotation of the Andromeda nebula in one hundred thousand years, which apparently had previously been scientifically proved. Dr. Luyten's own words are evidence of this. Were I to wax a trifle ironical, I might say that the astronomers, at least most of them, evidently think that something is wrong about the facts of nature, but not with their theory — earth-proved, but not universally — that light is the fastest traveling material entity in the universe: forgetting, as we theosophists might point out, that what exists in the vast spaces of space, outside of the mighty electromagnetic attractions of such a body as our gross, dense, earth, must be, and is indeed, very different from what it is here.

I refer of course to conditions in which matter finds itself in nebulae and in suns, as contrasted with the conditions under which we humans know matter in our gross, dense earth; and similarly I refer to the conditions under which energy or force manifests itself in star and nebula from what it must manifest itself in our own physical sphere and even in our own solar system.

Theosophy teaches that the speed of light may very readily be 186,000 miles more or less a second on this earth, and yet have quite a different rate of velocity when it is traveling under conditions very different indeed from what exist here on our planet: in fact, theosophy teaches that light travels much faster in what the astronomers call empty space, or the spaces of interstellar and internebular stretches, from what it does here on earth.

Before I leave you this afternoon I have what I believe to be a duty to perform, and in closing my lecture I will briefly fulfill it. I have received a pathetic communication in the form of a question. I debated long after the receipt of this communication whether I should speak of it in public or not: but as the writer of it, who withheld his name, gave me his permission to read his communication in public, if I so chose, and said that he would have a friend in this Temple, or himself be here, today or on next Sunday, I have finally decided to read it, because his appeal has touched me deeply; and as it is in the sense of a call for help, I do not care to be critical and ask why he preferred this way rather than receiving a written private reply from me.

The writer of this letter, which I now read to you, is, an employee in some bank, I believe:

. . . .California, June 17th.
Prof. G. VON PURUCKER,
Theosophical University, Point Loma, California.
Dear Sir: . . . . Asking your pardon for asking this question, for perhaps you can give me some real help, here is the situation:
I am a man under middle age, and about a year ago I met up with this girl or young lady. She attracted me very much, because she had no other fellows hanging around her, that I could see. We soon became deeply interested in each other, and in a little while we were exchanging signals like lovers will do, though nothing else passed between us. She knew I admired her at the first time because she was self-respecting, and kept to herself, which made me think that she would be faithful to the man she would love; I told her of this once.
One day I accidentally discovered her with another chap: I saw at once that they were more than friendly, but nothing bad at all, just half-way lovers so to say. I did not say anything then to her. I was too hurt. She did not see me, and I never said a word to her, just sort of watched, and hoped.
Soon after again accidentally I saw her almost throw him a kiss; and that same day later on, she saw me and she threw me a kiss. I just turned my head away, and walked on. I think my heart was breaking. When she saw me next time, she said: "What is the matter? Anything wrong with me?" I was so heartbroken I could not speak easily, but I finally told her what I had seen her do. She said I was silly, that she cared only for me, and only did it with the other fellow so nobody would know about me, because I was not well off and her parents might object, and she did not want a fuss.
I cannot help feeling that a girl like that is not the kind I want to marry, though I really did care for her before this happened. I am a decent man, and I want to marry a girl who her children will respect. Should I marry her do you think? I feel that I cannot love her now. . . .

How difficult it is for a man to answer a question like this one. All I can say is that the pathos of such a situation is very great indeed; and will be so understood by most of us. Most of our trials and difficulties come to us because we ourselves, however hard it may seem to say so at the present time, have brought these afflictions upon us. A man must be a man, and must act as a man, under all circumstances.

I will say the following: I do not blame the woman he speaks of. I know nothing about her, and I know nothing about her side of the difficulty. I can only say, in answer to this unfortunate man's query, that as confidence, or trust, and sympathy, and respect, are the only real bases for a happy and honorable married life, if he have not these, I think that to marry this unfortunate woman would be a most grievous mistake. Whether she be at fault, or he have misunderstood her, matters, I think, not at all, if he have described the situation correctly; for although she may be innocent of any moral delinquency in any sense, yet a woman who will, if the facts have been accurately reported, consider it harmless to encourage two men at the same time, is in the wrong so far as the action goes. First, she is doing a deep wrong to the other man; second, she is doing a still deeper injury to the man she says she loves; and third, she is doing the deepest injury to her own soul and womanhood.


Vol 1, No 4

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