20th January 2007


From the The Quest, Autumn, 1993:

Science & The Secret Doctrine

From H. P. B.: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky,
Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement,
by Sylvia Cranston.

Sylvia Cranston
has produced the first large-scale biography of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky,
co-founder of the Theosophical Society.
A researcher and author, Cranston spent fourteen years on this work.
She is also the co-aauthor (with Carey Williams) of
Reincarnation: A New Horizon in Science, Religion and Society
and co-author (with Joseph Head) of The Phoenix Fire Mystery.
Her works have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch.

In 1988, the time of the centenary anniversary of the publication of The Secret Doctrine, a number of symposia on the work were held in the United States, Europe, and India. At one presentation at Culver City, California, leading American Theosophist, Jerry Hejka-Ekins observed:

It is unlikely that a book reviewer receiving The Secret Doctrine back in 1888 would judge the work as one that would last beyond a few reprintings. It is a ponderous work of some 1500 pages, filled with Far Eastern philosophical and religious terms contrasted with nineteenth-century science and its now discarded theories. But somehow, after a hundred years, The Secret Doctrine remains in print and is still being studied....

   What is it about The Secret Doctrine that makes it endure and continue to influence today’s thinking where other works have been long forgotten? Perhaps it is that the book is really a twentieth-century work, written 100 years before its time.... Unless the writer of The Secret Doctrine had been able to anticipate future discoveries, the book would have quickly become dated in the light of an advancing science. Yet HPB made the prophecy that “it is only in the twentieth-century that portions, if not the whole, of the present work will be vindicated” (2:442). 1

Prophecies are rarely made in The Secret Doctrine. The one that follows is particularly arresting because specific dates were given as to its fulfillment (1:611):

The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. So vast and so profound are these that hardly a few, a very few of the highest Initiates – those whose very existence is known but to a small number of Adepts – are capable of assimilating the knowledge. Yet it is all there, and one by one facts and processes in Nature’s workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact sciences while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unraveling its arcana.

   It is at the close of great cycles, in connection with racial development, that such [disclosures] generally take place. We are at the very close of the cycle of 5,000 years of the present Aryan Kaliyuga; and between this time 1888 and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a deathblow. 2

There are two parts to the prophecy. The first raises the questionas to whether there were any remarkable discoveries unveiled to science in the nine-year period just mentioned. David Dietz, in his work The New Outline ofScience, gives a helpful overview:

The history of civilization discloses few contrasts greater than that furnished by the difference in viewpoint of the nineteenth-century physicists and their successors in the twentieth century. As the nineteenth century drew near its close, physicists felt that they had completed their tasks. One eminent scientist of the time, making an address in 1893, said that it was probable that all the great discoveries in the field of physics had been made. He sketched the history and development of the science, finally summarizing the well-knit, and as he thought, all-sufficient theories of the nineteenth century. The physicist of the future, he said sadly, would have nothing to do but repeat and refine the experiments of the past, determining some atomic weight or constant of nature to an additional decimal place or two. *)

   And then, two years later, on December 28, 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen presented the secretary of the Physical Medical Society of Würzburg with his first written report of his [accidental] discovery of x-rays. on the first day of 1896 he mailed copies of the printed article to scientific friends in Berlin and elsewhere. With them he sent some prints of the first x-ray photographs he had taken … the most spectacular of all showed the bones of the human hand. Here was exactly what the speaker of 1893 had said could not happen: a new discovery had been made.... Roentgen had found some mysterious rays which penetrated opaque objects as easily as sunlight poured through window glass. There was nothing in nineteenth-century physics to explain this startling phenomenon.... Not only the scientists but people everywhere were excited by the news. Roentgen found himself world famous overnight. [He was awarded the first Nobel Prize for physics in 1901.]

   The next major discovery in the realm of atomic physics was that of radioactivity, made [in 1896] a few weeks after Roentgen’s announcement, by Antoine Henri Becquerel in Paris. Becquerel’s father, also a physicist, had investigated fluorescence, the fact that many substances when exposed to sunlight subsequently glowed in the dark. Becquerel recalled his father’s work and wondered if there was any similarity between fluorescence and x-rays. Accordingly, he wrapped a photographic plate in black paper and placed upon it a crystal of a uranium salt which his father had used. He exposed the arrangement to sunlight. Upon developing the plate he found it fogged or darkened, proving that some ray had indeed penetrated the black paper. He supposed that the action of the sunlight had caused the uranium to give off x-rays. 3

In preparation for further experiments, Becquerel accidentally discovered not the x-rays he was looking for but radioactivity. Remarkedthe eminent physicist Robert Millikan:

Radioactivity was revolutionary to human thought, for it meant that some, even of the “eternal atoms,” namely, those of uranium and thorium, are unstable and are spontaneously throwing off with great energy pieces of themselves, thus transforming themselves into other atoms.... Of all the new discoveries it was the most startling to human thought and the most stirring to human imagination, for it destroyed the idea of the immutability of the elements and showed that the dreams of the alchemists might yet come true. 4

The next “unveiling” to come within thetime period predicted in The Secret Doctrine was the most important of all, the discovery of the electron in 1897 by Sir J. J. Thomson. Dr. Karl Compton, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made this comment in his 1936 address as retiring president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The history of science abounds with instances where a new concept or discovery has led to tremendous advances into vast new fields... whose very existence has hitherto been unsuspected.... But to my notion, no such instance has been so dramatic as the discovery of the electron, the tiniest thing in the universe, which within one generation has transformed a stagnant science of physics, a descriptive science of chemistry and a sterile science of astronomy into dynamically developing sciences fraught with intellectual adventure, interrelating interpretations and practical values. 5

Thomson’s discovery was the culmination of a series of experiments initiated earlier by Sir William Crookes, who had been engaged in the study of electrical discharges in a high vacuum in a Crookes’ tube, invented by him. The tube became the prototype for the television tubes and fluorescent lighting in use today. Crookes’ experiments implied a fourth state of matter, which he called radiant matter and which twenty years later turned out to be electrons! It is interesting that in 1888, in The Secret Doctrine (1:621), HPB predicted that Crookes’ “discovery of radiant matter will have resulted in a further elucidation with regard to the true source of light, and revolutionize all the present speculations.”

   The discovery of the electron, remarks renowned American physicist, Robert Millikan, was “the most useful to mankind, with its myriad of extensions and applications to radio, to communications of all kinds, to motion pictures, and to a score of other industries....” Discoveries in the sciences have been greatly accelerated by use of electronic instruments.

   The Secret Doctrine itself has been used for practical purposes. Major Herbert S. Turner, the inventor of the coaxial telephone cable, which was laid across the United States in the late 1940s, used, in connection with the invention, some key passages in The Secret Doctrine (1:129-32) regarding the “Ring Pass-Not” [— The ”Ring Pass-Not” is that which divides the world of form from the formless world. —] and applied it to profound occult ideas to the world of physical force. 6

   The prophecy in The Secret Doctrine under consideration affirmed that as a result of the “large rent made in the veil of nature… materialistic science will receive a death blow.” In Time, Matter and Values, Millikan concluded after recounting the new discoveries in physics: “Result, dogmatic materialism in physics is dead.” 7 Raymond S. Yates, in These Amazing Electrons, asserts: “The old school was in full retreat. Physics was totally at sea. It was momentarily stunned by an avalanche of ponderous questions. The last solid brick had fallen from the edifice of materialism and the neat little system of categories and pigeon-holes it had so laboriously arranged had fallen with a sickening thud.” 8

   According to David Dietz, as the nineteenth century closed, it was apparent that “a major revolution had occurred in the realm of physics.” He continues:

Four significant discoveries – x-rays, radioactivity, radium, and the electron – convinced scientists that their task was only beginning, not ending. The time had come to invade the interior of the atom. It is doubtful, however, if anyone foresaw, at the dawn of the twentieth century, the major advances that would be made in theoretical understanding or the spectacular applications that would arise from this new knowledge. 9

The cycle of scientific awakening that accompanied the discovery of the electron continued to evolve with three additional discoveries, further undermining the foundation of materialistic doctrines:

1898—Radium. The element discovered by Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, is four times more radiant than Becquerel’s uranium.

1900—Quantum Mechanics. Max Planck showed that “matter radiated electromagnetic waves which are both wave-like and corpuscular—according to classical physics.” He also posited that an electron jumped instantly from one orbit to another around an atomic nucleus without passing through the intervening space (in other words, made a quantum leap, an expression frequently used today in many contexts). This was a large step away from mechanistic doctrine.

1905—Einstein’s Equation E=mc2. Einstein’s theory “added recognition that mass or substance is equivalent to energy and that time and space are integral parts of the substance-energy continuum make-up of the universe.” 10

A number of scientists have been interested in The Secret Doctrine. According to his niece, Einstein always had a copy of it on his desk. 11The Secret Doctrine contains many teachings that were denied by the science of HPB’s day but were subsequently proved true, and it is entirely possible that it contains hints of other truths that have yet to be accepted. Here are three examples in which it prefigured discoveries made in the field of physics. Manymore will be given in a pending publication by Reed Carson entitled: Blavatsky’s Foreknowledge of Twentieth Century Science.

   1. Atoms are divisible. Sir Isaac Newton wrote in Optics that “God in the beginning formed matter in solid massy, hard, impenetrable moving particles, of such sizes and f1gures, and with such properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.” 12 Scientists later eliminated the theology in this statement but retained the “hard, impenetrable particles” or atoms as the building blocks of the universe. When the electron was discovered in 1897, the blocks began to crumble. The atom is divisible.

   Here is what HPB said in The Secret Doctrine (1:519-20):

The atom is divisible, and must consist of particles, or of sub-atoms.... It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of occultism is built.

As to infinite divisibility, a scientist friend wrote to the present author: “science has proceeded in this direction only step by step — finding first electrons, then protons, then neutrons, then quarks and other particles—each time thinking it had at last found the ultimate particle. Now it has finally reached pure waves as in string theory which corresponds to the science of the SD.” **)

   When quarks were first theorized, Werner Heisenberg commented:

Even if quarks could be found, for all we know they could again be divided into two quarks and one antiquark, etc., and thus they would not be more elementary than a proton.... We will have to abandon the philosophy of Democritus and the concept of fundamental elementary particles. We should accept instead the concept of fundamental symmetries, which is a concept out of the philosophy of Plato. 13

2. Atoms are perpetually in motion. The scientists of HPB’s day not only believed atoms were indivisible, they also believed they were motionless. When the electron was discovered, this was seen to be a myth. In The Secret Doctrine (I:507-8 fn), HPB exposed that myth nine years earlier:             

Occultism says that in all cases where matter appears inert, it is is the most active. A wooden or a stone block is motionless and impenetrable to all intents and purposes. Nevertheless and de facto its particles are in ceaseless eternal vibration which is so rapid that to the physical eye the body seems absolutely devoid of motion; and the spatial distance between those particles in their vibratory motion is – considered from another plane of being and perception – as great as that which separates snow flakes or drops of rain. But to physical science this will be an absurdity....

Today it is difficult to believe this was ever thought to be an absurdity.

   According to The Secret Doctrine the ceaseless motion of atoms in what we regard to be a solid object conforms to a universal law underlying the cosmos, “that there is no rest or cessation of motion in nature.” 14 This accords with Einstein’s views, as discussed in The Theory of Relativity, by Garrett Service:

Scientific investigations show that in infinitely little, as well as infinitely great things, all is motion . . . we find nothing at rest. This being so, says Einstein in effect, motion must be regarded as the natural, as well as the actual condition of matter, a state of things that needs no explanation from us, for it arises out of the very constitution of the universe. It is the very essence of existence. 15

In The Secrt Doctrine (1:14), HPB affirms that “absolute abstract motion” is a symbol for the Absolute itself.

   3. Matter and energy are convertible. The opposite was believed by nineteenth-century science which Einstein disproved in 1905 in his famous equation E=mc2. Millikan translates the equation thus:

. . . m is mass in grams, c is the speed of light in centimeters (30,000,000,000 cm. per sec.) and E is energy in absolute energy units, namely ergs. Stated in common engineering language, Einstein’s equation says that if one gram of mass is transformed into heat each second, 90 billion kilowatts of power are continuously produced.

“The conception here,” adds Millikan, is “the exceedingly important one that matter is itself convertible into radiant energy. 16 A more general way of explaining this now proven fact is to say that matter is energy condensed, whereas energy is matter spread out.

   In The Secret Doctrine (1:623), HPB quotes from W. Q. Judge’s Path magazine (January 1887, 297):

As declared by an American theosophist, “The Monads (of 1 Leibnitz) may from one point of view be called force, from another matter. To occult Science, force and matter are only two sides of the same SUBSTANCE.”

That substance she called prakriti, which emanates from primordial matter or mulaprakriti (root matter).

   In Isis Unveiled (1:198), HPB directly asserts the convertibility of force and matter:

Every objective manifestation, whether it be the motion of a living limb, or the movement of some inorganic body, requires two conditions: will and force—plus matter, or that which makes the object so moved visible to our eye; and these three are all convertible forces....

The reference that follows (SD 2:672) is especially interesting not only because the words atomic energy indicate that atoms have energy, but because HPB appears to have been the first to use this expression so common today:

“The wave motion of living particles” becomes comprehensible on the theory of a spiritual. . . universal Vital Principle, independent of our matter, and manifesting as atomic energy only on our plane of consciousness.

In view of all the foregoing, it is not surprising to learn from the current publishers of The Secret Doctrine that orders frequently come from professors at colleges and universities. One professor at the California Institute of Technology ordered the book every few years. Upon friendly inquiry it was learned that whenever a copy was marked up too much for clear reading, he obtained a new one.

   The present writer learned during a 1982 visit to Boston and Cambridge that chemistry teachers and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were formulating plans to investigate teachings in The Secret Doctrine as related to their specialities. In 1988, it was learned from Dr. Philip Perchion, a scientist who had worked on the atomic bomb, that teachers and students at MIT had formed an alchemical society and regularly studied TheSecret Doctrine. He also said that he and several chemistry teachers, mostly retired MIT professors, meet periodically to discuss the SD at the Harvard Club in New York.

   We began with a consideration of the prophecy in The Secret Doctrine that a large rent would be made in the veil of science during the nine-year period 1888-97. A scientist friend who has gone into this prophesy and its fulfillmentin greater depth than is possible here came to the conclusion, “The veil of nature was indeed rent asunder with a gash so unexpected, so staggering, so strange, with follow-on penetrations so unimaginably deep into the smallestand largest realms of nature, with such overwhelming consequences for science in all areas, and for man’s daily way of living that there isno parallel in all of our recorded history.”



1“The Secret Doctrine in the Light of Twentieth Century Thought,” Sunrise, April-May 1989, ISO, 151.

2 H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Adyar, India, Theosophical Publishing House, 1978, 1:611-12.

*) [“The chairman of the physics department at Harvard discouraged graduate study because so few important matters remained unsolved.” (Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, New York, Bantam, 1980, 311.)]

3 David Dietz, The New outline of Science, New York, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1972, 259-63.

4 Robert Millikan, The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan, New York, New York, Prentice-Hall, 195O, 272, 271. Millikan himself played an important role, in 1909, in determining the exact electrical charges of the electron, and in 1923 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of cosmic rays. From 1921 to 1945 he was director of the Norman Bridges Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; he was also chairman of the executive committee at Cal Tech.

   Millikan helped bring Einstein to the United States in the 1930s. For three summers Einstein worked at Cal Tech, before accepting a position at Princeton.

   Millikan was deeply interested in The Secret Doctrine. During his tenure at Cal Tech a copy of the book in the school’s library was so much in demand that to borrow it, one had to put one’s name on a long waiting list. It seems likely Millikan was one of the people who interested Einstein in The Secret Doctrine.

   Another possible individual was Gustav Stromberg, an astrophysicist at Mount Wilson observatory in Los Angeles who was a good friend of Einstein’s and who worked with him at the observatory. When Stromberg’s Soul of the Universe was published, Einstein’s commendation appeared on the jacket.

   It is interesting to note that during this period Boris de Zirkoff, compiler of H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, visited the observatory frequently and befriended the astronomers there. He said they all were interested in Theosophy, particularly Dr. Hubbell. Stromberg visited the Theosophical Society at Point Loma, and once gave a lecture there; he even wrote the foreword to a book on astronomy by two Point Loma Theosophists. Stromberg states:

   ”Star Habits and orbits is described as: ‘Astronomy for Theosophical Students.’ It therefore contains two distinct themes: first, a description of fundamental astronomical facts, and, second, an interpretation of these facts from the standpoint of theosophical teachings.... The great edifice of modern science is incomplete without the introduction of a non-physical world from which energy, organization and mind temporarily merge into the physical world of space and time. Modern physical theories show the insufficiency of materialistic concepts which have until recently characterized natural science and point directly to a world in intimate contact with our own consciousness.

   ”There are many roads to knowledge, and none of them should be overlooked. Knowing, as we do now, that our mind including our faculty of thinking, has its roots in an unseen but not unknown world, it is conceivable that there may be inspired men and women who have been able to grasp some of the fundamental secrets of life and of the universe without the use of microscopes and telescopes.” (Charles J. Ryan and L. Gordon Plummer, Star Habits and Orbits, Covina, California, Theosophical University Press, 1944, v-vi)

5 Science, January 8, 1937, 598.

6 Theosophia, volume 4, number 22, November-December 1947, 15.

7 Robert Millikan, Time, Matter and Values, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press, 1932, 96.

8 Raymond S. Yates, These Amazing Electrons.

9 Dietz, The New Outline of Science, 277.

10 A. March and I. M. Freeman, The New World of Physics, 1963; quoted in Sunrise, November 1975, 81.

11 Ojai Valley News, Ojai, California, September 28, 1983.

12 M. R. Crossland, editor, The Science of Matter, New York, New York, Penguin, 1971, 76.

**) “ln 1984,” writes Stephen Hawking, “there was a remarkable change of opinion in favor of what are called string theories.... What were previously thought of as particles are now pictured as waves traveling down the string, like waves on a vibrating kite string.” (Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 158, 160.)

13 Werner Heisenberg, Science, March 19, 1976, 1165.

14 Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1:97; see also 1:2, 55, 93 footnote.

15 S. Garrett Service, The Einstein Theory of Relativity, New York, New York, E. M. Radimann, 1928, 48.

16 Millikan, The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan, 273.