By Harold Tarn
For obvious reasons, Darwinism is again taking the centre of the stage. Here, then, is a splendid opportunity for the theosophist – and as many Branches as possible – (charged always to promulgate the Doctrine by all possible means) not only to promote the theosophical version of the formation of life on Earth but to illustrate the narrow perspective of modern science by outlining the gaping cracks in an ideology that has reigned supreme for well over a century.
Charles Darwin, it must be said, had many crucial scientific insights – indeed postulating a “First Cause having an intelligent mind” – but above all re-introduced to an astonished western world the seemingly new idea that all Nature evolves. ( H.P.B. ... “Evolution is an eternal cycle of becoming and nature never leaves an atom unused” SD II,170). Nevertheless, his Origin of Species (1859) had effects of a seismic nature on Society and “violated the idea of human spiritual identity and purpose” ( Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions). The theory of Social Darwinism is perhaps a case in point.
Darwinism – taught as hard fact in the U.K. – has been under severe attack from many quarters – science in particular – for quite some time. It has been argued that Quantum Theory, for example, has dealt it a death-blow. Theosophists would add that Sheldrake’s Morphic Resonance and Bohm’s Implicate Order has helped. Of even greater significance, maybe, is that Consciousness now bestrides the stage, taking a leading role. For example, Mae-Wan Ho, an eminent biologist, has stated that “there can be no a priori dualism between consciousness and science …… I see physics and chemistry evolving more and more under the guidance of an active consciousness that participates in knowing” (The Rainbow and The Worm, Mae-Wan Ho).
Furthermore, the concept “Intelligent Design / Creationism” [based on the central premise that not only the Christian Bible must be taken literally but that it cannot be mistaken or incorrect] is stirring up fierce debate – a cultural war, in effect – complicating matters a great deal.
Materialists deny the reality of consciousness and to many, the Universe is a system without mind and purpose. This fits neatly with neo-Darwinism, with its twin towers of random genetic mutation and natural selection, which preserves advantageous mutants at the expense of less advantageous ones. Pure chance rules supreme.
Indeed, neo-Darwinists would agree strongly with the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould when he wrote “Homo Sapiens is a thing so small in a vast universe, a wildly improbable evolutionary event well within the realm of contingency, his origin a tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb on a fortunate tree. Lady Luck, not the good Lord, is responsible for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, for you and for me” ….Cold comfort for creationists…… It is not possible to get further away from any Esoteric Doctrine than that statement.
Anyone who sets out to criticize Darwinism – particularly scientists (and there are many of these) – runs the risk of at least being labelled a crank, or at worst losing their professional reputation. Nevertheless the argument that the non-Darwinian view is supported by modern findings is compelling. These “undermine and cha llenge many fundamental tenets on which the theory is constructed … and come from every one of the complex interlocking set of disciplines that go to make up the theory: geology, stratigraphy, petrology, radioactive dating, paleontology, comparative anatomy, biology, genetics, molecular biology, zoology, organic chemistry” (Richard Milton, writing in 1997). Today, at least one other branch of biology could be added to the list – epigenetics. Even neo-Lamarckinism is being moved into the fighting line. Always keep in mind that “Nature is deceitful on the physical plane” (H.P.B).
Lawrence Edwards (The Vortex of Life, 1993) writes “Darwinian evolution is often pictured as Nature’s struggle towards achieving that quality which has been described as ‘fitness to survive’. But many of the primordial few-celled organisms have the greatest survival value of all. If the grand goal is really ‘fitness to survive’ one is driven to ask why Nature should ever have embarked on the perilous journey towards more complex organisms, which face much greater hazards from their environment. One finds in Nature a continuous urge towards ever increasing complexity which is completely unexplained by the law of the survival of the fittest.”
In an article in Network Review (Scientific and Medical Network), entitled “The Dawkins Phenomenon” Dr Frank Parkinson says in The God Delusion, Dawkins “speaks for those who share his blind spot … the assumption that reality ends at the limits of human sense experience and the present state of human logic. Science has become trapped in this quite unscientific mindset”. Just so – there may well be other space/time realities and ‘consciousness modes’. Which points to the second major assumption – that consciousness plays no part in neo-Darwinistic theory.
The theosophical stance on all aspects of evolution is unequivocal.
1. On Consciousness. This is primal and not a by-product of anything and certainly not an epiphenomenon of brain activity. Quoting Blavatsky (SD I p 274) “Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e. endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. There is no such thing as ‘dead’ or ‘blind’ matter. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled and animated by an almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform. In SD I p107 “…every atom in the Universe has the potentiality of self-consciousness in it, and is a Universe in itself and for itself.”
2. On Design. “The whole order of Nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces.” (SD I p 277)
3. On Darwinism and Natural Selection. “..the Occultists themselves are ready to concede partial correctness to the Darwinian hypothesis (SD I pp 187, 600). Natural Selection is acknowledged as part of the evolutionary process, but in a minor capacity.
4. On the Anthropoids. The Occult doctrine has never taught the “…preposterous theory of the descent of man from a common ancestor with the ape” (see SD I 190 and SD II 201)
“Shattering the Myths of Darwinism” (Richard Milton)
“The Hidden History of the Human Race” (Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson)
“The Snake and The Rope” (Edi Bilimoria)