The Theosophical
Society in Australia

Sunshine Coast Lodge

Theosophy and Science

Theosophy and Science

The motto of the Theosophical Society is "There is no Religion higher than Truth". This is a sentiment to which a scientist can equally well subscribe. Indeed the theosophist and the scientist are both engaged in a search for Truth. However the scientist seeks for truth at the physical level whereas the theosophist is concerned more specifically with spirituality and therefore seeks for all embracing Truth at a deeper level, as taught by the religious mystics throughout the ages and sometimes expressed as the Ancient Wisdom. The scientific and mystical modes of search are complementary rather than antagonistic. Physicist Fritjof Capra has said that science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science but we humans need both. Yet many scientists, perhaps even the majority, do not see the need for any deeper truth than that which can be obtained by objective scientific procedures. Others wish to have some involvement with religion but are discouraged by fundamentalist religious teachings that are inconsistent with well established scientific knowledge. Nevertheless many of the greatest physicists, for example Newton, Einstein, Schrödinger, Pauli and Bohm, have seen the need for deeper spiritual understanding as taught by the great religious teachers and mystics of all ages.

Physicists are concerned to understand the fundamental laws of physics that govern the material world of our everyday experience. Cosmologists, concerned with the origin of the universe, question where the fundamental laws come from and what determines them. Is there some deeper cause behind the laws? To many scientists this question is irrelevant but to others it is important to probe such fundamental questions. Physicist Paul Davies, on pondering these questions, says that he can believe in a form of Deity which he describes as "an impersonal creative principle or ground of being". Where does Theosophy fit in? The word Theosophy means Divine Wisdom and was chosen by the co-founders of The Theosophical Society in 1875 as best expressing the teachings they wished to promote, based on the Ancient Wisdom tradition. This is also known as the Hermetic Tradition or the Perennial Philosophy, said to have been passed on by various sages throughout the ages. Helena Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, accordingly entitled her magnum opus The Secret Doctrine but she also gave it the subtitle, The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, thus recognising the importance of all three disciplines as potentially contributing to a grand synthesis.

Three Fundamental Propositions

Blavatsky enunciated three fundamental propositions. The first of these envisages the existence of "An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Immutable Principle— One Absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned Being". This is a noble attempt to describe the indescribable— an absolute impersonal Deity transcending the Universe, but also immanent throughout the Universe. This is a concept of Deity which can appeal to a scientific mind that does not wish to believe in a seemingly capricious personal God, but is dissatisfied with scientific materialism that denies the existence of anything subtler than the gross matter which can be manipulated in scientific experiments. Paul Davies’ concept mentioned above is in effect a simplified version of this proposition.

Blavatsky’s second proposition affirms "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity … of ebb and flow which physical science has recorded in all departments of nature." She sees this exemplified in the alternation of "night and day, sleeping and waking, life and death", etcetera, and she regards this ebb and flow as an absolutely fundamental Law of the Universe. This is self-evident to scientists whether or not they would give it the status of a fundamental law.

The third proposition affirms "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Oversoul". This is the basis of the Society’s first object which concerns the recognition of fundamental unity of all peoples, with its concept of Universal Brotherhood. While this goes beyond much of orthodox science, it nevertheless finds an echo in the subtle interconnectedness of everything in the universe as expressed by quantum physicist David Bohm, who actually derives this idea from his theoretical investigations in quantum physics. Thus we can contemplate the essential unity not only of all humanity, but of all life, and indeed of the Earth itself as in the Gaia concept, and beyond that the whole vast Universe. Similar ideas are expressed by biologists, Reanney, Kauffmann and Birch.

Scientific Discoveries

Science has been extremely successful during the last century in explaining the material world, in understanding the nature of the atom and exploring the universe at large. From not knowing there were such things as galaxies, we have now discovered a vast evolving universe of galaxies like our own Milky Way, each with its billions of stars, evolving over billions of years. We have explored the planets of our solar system and debunked the concept held by many one hundred years ago that at least some of those planets were sufficiently similar to Earth to harbour human life. We now hope to find possible intelligent life on planets around other distant stars. We have discovered DNA and developed the whole science of genetics far beyond what could have been dreamed a century ago. Through studying ancient rocks and their fossils, we have built up a detailed picture of the evolution of our planet and indeed of life’s physical expression.

Science is also having considerable success in discovering how the brain works but is quite unable to explain the nature of consciousness. Scientists regard this as ‘the hard problem’. On the other hand, there is much valuable material on consciousness in theosophical literature. Again, biological scientists are expert at studying living forms but that is a far cry from understanding the true nature of life. Theosophical literature concludes that there is much more to ensouling life than its physical expression.

Freedom of Thought, Science and The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society promotes freedom of thought, and members are encouraged to use their own judgement and discrimination on all matters philosophical, scientific, and religious. Many scientists have found inspiration and insight in theosophical ideas, and members of the Society have always included scientists, some quite prominent in their fields. Over the last hundred and twenty-five years, many theosophists have expressed their views concerning scientific matters. Sometimes these have stood the test of time, or have indeed shown prescience of current scientific knowledge. Other views, however, have not been corroborated by subsequent discoveries, and have been superseded by current knowledge. Theosophical leaders from Blavatsky onwards, and especially Annie Besant, have stressed the need for ongoing research and review while keeping alive the noble ideals of the fundamental concepts. The above matters are freely debated within The Theosophical Society. Well may scientists and theosophists share the motto: "There is no Religion higher than Truth".

Suggested Reading

Intelligence Came First, Second Edition
Lester Smith

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Insight
Shirley Nicholson

Music of the Mind
Darryl Reanny

Charles Birch

The Mind of God
Paul Davies

Healing Gaia: Practical Medicine for the Planet
James Lovelock

The Rebirth of Nature
Rupert Sheldrake

The Spirit of Science
David Lorimer, Ed.

Leaflet: Theosophy and Science


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