[Notes on Evolution and Perception]
Theosophist, February, 1884
Extracts from “The Cosmic Position of Man” and “The Janus-facedness of Man,” by Baron Karl du Prel | Notes by H.P.B.
These are two short papers written by Herrn Karl du Prel . . . The tendency of the author is to show, what has been so often shown and felt before, that the teachings of science far from leading to Materialism, supply the best proof against it.
Our senses do not give us an exact report of what is going on around us, but of what is going on in us. The sound that strikes our ear, does not make us aware that the air around us vibrates; such being, nevertheless, the case, we . . . are driven to admit that the auditory nerve transforms for us, a certain fact into a certain other—vibration of air strikes us, not as vibration of air, but as sound. Something similar may be said with regard to the rest of our five senses.
There are two modes of motion, to which none of our senses responds, namely, magnetism and electricity. There are then after all more things in heaven and on earth, than our senses could ever have dreamt of.
Suppose our senses could be made to undergo some change, while the universe remained all along the same, it is evident quite a new world would arise before us, though objectively and materially the world would be exactly the same as it was before.1 Let us suppose that we were endowed with some new sense, say a sixth sense; how much the more manifold would our very same universe appear to us.
1. And this is precisely the change claimed by the initiated adepts of Occultism; and that alone is sufficient to account for their great opposition to many a scientific action of modern science and the greater trustworthiness of the teachings of the former. Once that we admit the possibility of such a “change,” and as a result therefrom, the greater acuteness and perfection of all their senses—granting even that the 6th and 7th senses do not exist for any one outside those who claim either of them or both, and thus cannot be proved scientifically—we have to admit at any rate that they see, hear, taste, feel, and smell more acutely than the rest of humanity, untrained and uninitiated, how can we then avoid trusting more in their than in our senses? And yet the same traveller who will unhesitatingly trust to the acuteness of the eye or ear of his red-Indian guide in preference to his own––will deny the existence and even the possibility of a series of such faculties being developed in an Asiatic adept!
Spectral analysis teaches us that the chemical substances composing the various celestial bodies differ from each other; consequently we can hardly help coming to the conclusion that their respective inhabitants differ from each other with regard to their organization. Suppose now the school of Materialism to be represented at each inhabited star and planet; suppose there had been a cosmic congress of materialists; suppose the members of the congress had found the means of a mutual exchange of thoughts. Each of them would then give his own perceptions according to his own organization; and as his own mode of perception could hardly coincide with that of the others, each member being supposed organized differently from all the others, the result would be a cosmic Babel. Every one would leave the congress with the firm convision that all the rest must be possessed with some sort of hallucination. Hallucination is the magic word in the mouth of every Materialist whenever one man professes to have perceived a phenomenon which he, the materialist, in consequence of some modified organization, cannot perceive. He will not understand that one and the same objective world, may and must appear subjectively different to different organizations.2
2. Apart and quite distinct from the variety in the subjective perceptions of the one and same object––by mankind in general,––stands the unvarying perception of the trained Occultist. Perceiving the actuality, for him the modes of the presentation of an object cannot vary; for the initiated adept perceives and discerns the ultimate and actual state of things in nature by means of his spiritual perception, trammelled by none of his physical senses, and only when the former have been called forth from their latent into their active state and developed sufficiently to stand the final tests of initiation. Therefore, this abnormal (in our present race only) faculty has nought to do with the common perceptions and their various modes, and if the materialist is sceptical as to the latter, how can he be made to believe in the existence of the former––a faculty of which he knows less than of the man in the moon!
That the individual existence of man on earth is of a far reaching influence upon mankind at large, the materialist freely acknowledges. The theory of evolution teaches that every individual is a link in the progressive chain of future existences. But then, life on earth is after all destined to come sooner or later to an end . . . Is it compatible with the law of evolution, that the whole life and culture of the human race, and all the forces evolved out of that life and culture should be ultimately lost in the economy of the universe? . . .
. . . if man’s labour and culture are not to be restricted to the globe upon which he temporarily lives; if he is, moreover, to emit forces which work their way throughout the universe; then we must expect some sort of action and re-action between man and the cosmos at large. . . .
The conception of a transcendental world lies . . . within the conception of evolution. For what appears now to be real to us, is actually a sort of world that could not have been real to man in a stage of earlier and lower development. To him with his deficient organization a world, as we perceive it now, could only have been conceive by a great effort of imagination, in other word, what has been transcendental to him, has become a reality to us, in our higher state of development. Unless then the materialist is prepared to maintain, that man has come to a total standstill in his development, he has no right to say, that all our knowledge of the universe begins and ends with the range of our five sense as they are now constituted. . . .
But there is not only progressive evolution awaiting us with regard to our five senses . . . but no less with regard to that inner life itself. . . . Already we perceive, in some exceptional cases, the signs of what is to come. Somnambulism, mesmerism, presentments, show us, in which way the higher faculties of man are destined to develop. They show a disposition in man to a mode of cognition which stand halfway between reality and transcendentalism. . . .
Of whatever nature the chain of forces may be, by which our earthly existence is connected with the cosmos; there is . . . good reason to believe, that one, and perhaps the chief link in that mysterious chain, is to be found in our inner self.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]––These extracts from the two German pamphlets have been kindly made for us, by our brother Dr. L. Saltzer of the Calcutta Theosophical Society. They are profoundly suggestive per se and go far to prove the theory of the simultaneous evolution and growth of the same ideas on various and widely separated points of the globe. In our next we hope to give the summary of an article, “Die Planeten Bewohner,” by the same author, the latter having kindly sent us his valuable publications for review. As remarked by our Brother, Mr. Gustave Zorn, of Odessa, after reading these works, one is tempted to ask himself in wonder: “Is Baron du Prel, a disciple—a European chela of our Himalayan sages that his thoughts should seem, so to say, photographed from their (and our) doctrines!” Truly the author of the work reviewed is a born Theosophist,—or shall we say Occultist? At any rate, here we have one more profound and unprejudiced thinker. May our present race evolute many more such philosophers for the greater glory of Truth!