“The One is the Flame of Life. The Many are the Sparks in the Flame. The Flame once lighted kindles everything within its sphere. The Fire is in everything and everywhere; there is nothing dark or cold within its sphere.”
In this Fifth Aphorism of Creation, the Rosicrucian is directed to apply his attention to the concept of the Universal Life—the Life of the World Soul, permeating everything everywhere within its sphere of existence. This concept of the World Soul as a Flaming Fire of Life, abiding in the entire Universe in all of its parts, is represented by the Rosicrucians by the symbol of a circle filled with flaming fire.
The symbol of Life has always been the Flaming Fire, in all occult teachings. The Eternal, Universal Fire, or Flame, which kindles ever all that presents itself to its influence, yet ever remains unchanged and undiminished in its Essence, has ever been the favorite symbol of the occultists for the Universal Life in Manifestation. When the term “Spirit” is used to indicate “Life,” then the Flame or Fire has always been the symbol for Spirit.
And, indeed, the Flame is the most appropriate symbol for Life that can be thought of. For the Flame while ever remaining the same, yet is never composed of the same particles or sparks for even two consecutive seconds. The Flame, itself, in its Essence, ever remains the same and unchanged, yet its Manifestation is always accompanied and correlated to the appearance and disappearance of innumerable tiny particles of material substance which it kindles into sparks, then destroys by the process of combustion, and then replaces by others of similar nature.
And so it is with the Universal Life. It ever persists unchanged and unaltered in its Essence, yet constantly manifesting itself through and in countless material forms which come and go and are in turn replaced by other forms. The form appears, is consumed, and perishes—yet the Flame abides and survives all change. Those who have plunged deep into the esoteric teachings are aware that there are many other very good reasons why the Flame or Fire is the best possible symbol for Life, but it is not thought expedient to go into these further reasons at this time and in this place.
It was formerly the teachings of science that the Universe was composed of two great classes of Things, as follows: (1) Living Things, and (2) Lifeless Things. In the first class were placed all human and animal life, at least during their term of vital existence; plants were afterward added, though somewhat grudgingly, by science. In the second class, all Things below the plane of animal or plant life were placed; it being taught that minerals, chemical elements, etc., were utterly lifeless. Any who ventured to question this accepted classification were deemed of unsound mind, and unworthy of serious consideration.
But the esoteric schools of thought, and the occultists, were always insistent upon the principle that there was nothing lifeless in the universe—that everything was instinct with life in some form, degree, or phase. And, lo! modern science has at last reached the point where it is practically looking Occultism squarely in the face, in full agreement upon this important point. The old idea of a half-lifeless universe is fast passing away, and men of advanced science are beginning to whisper to each other that “The Universe is Alive, as a Whole and in all of its parts.” Surely this is a remarkable change in scientific opinion.
This changed conception of science is picturesquely expressed by Luther Burbank, the ” wizard of plant life,” as follows: “All my investigations have led me away from the idea of a dead material universe tossed about by various forces, to that of a universe which is absolutely all force, life, soul, thought, or whatever name we may choose to call it. Every atom, molecule, plant, animal, or planet, is only an aggregation of organized unit forces, held in place by stronger forces, thus holding them for a time latent, though teeming with inconceivable power. All life on our planet is, so to speak, just on the outer fringe of this infinite ocean of force. The universe is not half-dead, but all alive.”
Prof. Dolbear goes back even to the Ether of Space in his assumption of Omnipresent Life, when he says: The Ether has besides the function of energy and motion, other inherent qualities, out of which could emerge under proper circumstances, other phenomena, such as life, mind, or whatever may be in that substratum.” Prof. Cope has intimated that “the basis of Life lies back of the atoms and may be found in the Universal Ether.”
Saleeby, in his well-known work of Evolution, in which he carries to its logical conclusions the work of Herbert Spencer, says: “Life is potential in matter; life-energy is not a thing unique and created at a particular time in the past. If evolution be true, living matter has been evolved by natural processes from matter which is, apparently, dead. But if life is potential in matter, it is a thousand times more evident that mind is potential in life. The evolutionist is impelled to believe that mind is potential in matter. (I adopt that form of words for the moment, but not without future criticism.) The microscopic cell, a minute speck of matter that is to become man, has in it the promise and germ of mind. May we not draw the inference that the elements of mind are present in those chemical elements—carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chlorine—that are found in the cell. Not only must we do so, but we must go further, since we know that each of these elements, and every other, is built up out of one invariable unit, the electron, and we must therefore assert that mind is potential in the unit of matter—the electron itself. It is to assert the sublime truth first perceived by Spinoza, that mind and matter are the warp and woof of what Goethe called ‘the living garment of God.’ Both are complementary expressions of the Unknowable Reality which underlies both.”
Flammarion has said: ‘The universe is a dynamism. Life itself, from the most rudimentary cell up to the most complicated organism, is a special kind of movement, a movement determined and organized by a directing force. Visible matter, which stands for us at the present moment for the universe, and which certain classic doctrines consider as the origin of all things—movement, life, thought—is only a word void of meaning. The universe is a great organism, controlled by a dynamism of the psychical order. Mind gleams through its every atom. There is mind in everything, not only in human and animal life, but in plants, in minerals, in space.” [The student must always remember that where there is “mind,” there must be “life;” and where “life,” there must be “mind.” Hence the importance of these admissions of modern science.]
Haeckel in his “Riddle of the Universe,” sometimes called “The Bible of Materialism,” makes the following statement, remarkable coming from such a source: “I cannot imagine the simplest chemical and physical process, without attributing the movements of the material particles to unconscious sensation.” Again, he says: “The idea of chemical affinity consists in the fact that the various chemical elements perceive the qualitative differences in other elements—experience ‘pleasure’ or ‘revulsion’ at contact with them, and execute specific movements on this ground.” He adds, at another point: “The sensations and responses in plant and animal life are connected by a long series of evolutionary stages with the simpler forms of sensation that we find in the inorganic elements, and that reveal themselves in chemical affinity.” He quotes with approval the statement of Nageli that: “If the molecules possess something that is related, however distantly, to sensation, it must be uncomfortable to be able to follow their attractions and repulsions; uncomfortable when they are forced to do otherwise.”
But not only is modern science giving approval to the oldest conceptions of the occultists concerning Universal Life in the manner mentioned above, i.e. by general statements; it is also quoting with approval the experiments and discoveries of leading scientists along the same line—experiments which go to prove the general statements above quoted. Let us consider a few of these experiments and discoveries in the laboratories of modern science.
Science has practically created counterparts of the diatoms or “living crystals”—created artificially, in the laboratories, creatures similar to these links between the mineral and the animal forms. The diatoms are tiny geometrical forms, composed of a tiny shell of siliceous material enclosing a minute drop of plasm, resembling glue. These creatures are visible through the microscope, and are so small that thousands of them might be gathered together on the head of a pin. They so closely resemble crystals that a very careful examination is required to distinguish them from true crystals; and yet they are alive, and perform all the functions of life.
Crystals, as you know, are born, grow, live, and may be killed by chemicals or electricity. Some investigators have discovered indications of elementary sex functions in certain crystals. A scientific writer has said: “Crystallization, as we are to learn now, is not a mere mechanical grouping of dead atoms—it is a birth.” The crystal forms from the mother liquor, and its body is built up systematically, regularly, and according to a well-defined pattern, plan, or design—as true to the pattern as are the bodies of plants and animals. The certainty is present in the crystal creative life activity. And, not only does the crystal grow in this way, like a plant or an animal, but it also reproduces itself by separation and division, just as do the individuals of the lower forms of plant-life and animal-life. The distinguishing point between the growth and reproduction of crystal forms and that of the higher forms of life has, heretofore, been held to be as follows: the crystal takes its nourishment from the outside and builds up its bodily structure on its outer surface, while the lowly forms of plant-life and animal-life takes its nourishment from the outside but builds up its bodily structure from within. If the crystal had a soft-centre and took its nourishment in the way of the low form of plant-life or animal-life (building from within) it would be almost identical with the diatom; or if the diatom grew from the outside, and had a hard centre, it would be considered a true crystal; so, as you see there is very little real difference between them. And, now, lo! even this distinction is apparently to be wiped out by the discovery of artificial living crystals, evolved in the laboratory.
Careful scientific tests have determined that there is what is known as “the fatigue of elasticity” in metals, which is relieved by a rest or “vacation.” This has also been found true of razors, the edges of which are restored by a little rest, thus corroborating the ancient “superstition” of users of razors. Tuning forks have been found to lose their power of vibration by over-use, a short rest restoring the same. Machinery in mills and factories have been found to be benefited by an occasional “day off.” Metals have been discovered to be subject to disease and infection, and in some cases have been found to have been actually poisoned and afterward restored by antidotes. Window glass, especially the fine stained glass of cathedral windows, is found to be subject to an infectious disease, spreading from pane to pane, and resulting in the disintegration of the substance of the glass. Workmen’s tools have been found to experience fatigue, and to be the better for an occasional holiday or longer vacation. Every observing machinist has observed certain idiosyncrasies in particular machines which need “humoring.”
The most conclusive scientific report upon this interesting subject, so far as known to the present writer, is that which recites the celebrated series of experiments conducted upon so-called “non-living matter, several years ago, and which are recorded in the book entitled “Response in the Living and Non-Living,” by the scientists who conducted the experiments, Professor J. Chunder Bose, of the Calcutta University, who occupies a high position in the scientific world. Professor Bose’s experiments have aroused the greatest interest in prominent scientific circles, and have aided greatly in corroborating the conclusions of other scientists who hold that “there is no such thing as dead matter.”
Proceeding from the fundamental postulate that the best and only true test of the presence of life is the response of matter to external stimulus, Professor Bose has demonstrated that in many instances so-called inorganic matter, such as metals, minerals, etc., give a response to such stimulus which is similar, if not indeed identical, to the response of the matter composing the bodies of “living” animals, plants, and men. He devised certain very delicate apparatus for registering and measuring such responses, the same being traced as curves on a revolving cylinder. He employed that most delicate scientific instrument called, the Galvanometer in these experiments. The Galvanometer will register the faintest irritation of nerve-matter, or living muscle; and the experiments proved that it would also register the variations of minerals, metals, etc., subjected to the stimulus of outside force; the curves or tracings being practically identical in either case.
Professor Bose reports that when he attached the Galvanometer to bars of various metals they gave a similar response when struck or twisted; the greater the degree of irritation caused in the metal the greater the degree of response. It should be noted that the living nerve or muscle reacts and registers in precisely the same way, and so far as the instrument indicated the response of muscle, nerve, metal, and mineral was identical. Just as the nerve or registered “fatigue” after frequently repeated stimulus, so did the metal or mineral so register. And, just as the nerve or muscle registered the renewal of vigor after a rest, so did the metal or mineral. To all intents and purposes the “living” and “non-living” matter gave the same response and evidence of “life.” Moreover, the instrument showed something like “tetanus” in metals, caused by repeated shocks; recovery after the rest being also recorded. Moreover, several metals recorded fatigue from other causes; and in some cases the metals showed the effect of poisoning, recovery by the application of antidotes, and also the signs of excitement or intoxication from other forms of stimulus.
The experiments also showed that metals manifest a condition akin to sleep; that they can be killed; that they exhibit torpor and sluggishness; that they wake up, and can be roused into activity; that they may be stimulated, strengthened, weakened, drugged or intoxicated; that they suffer from extreme cold or heat; that they respond to the presence of certain drugs just as do living plant and animal. A piece of steel subjected to the effect of poison recorded on the delicate instrument a gradual fluttering and weakening, resulting in final death, just as does a portion of animal matter, or an organ of the body of an animal, or a piece of the living substance of a plant. When revived before it was too late, the response of the metal was gradual in the case of both muscle and metal. A most interesting fact is the statement of the experimenter that even the poisons which served to “kill” the metals showed a like susceptibility to the actions of other poisons, and were found to be, themselves, capable of being “killed” by poisons. In the case of these metal “killings,” however, the molecular structure was apparently not affected, just as the similar structure
in the animal tissue is not affected—in both cases there was apparently a causing of a “something within” to cease to function in the substance, a “something” which may as well be called a “soul” as any other term.
Other scientific laboratory experiments have revealed most interesting facts concerning the production of living things from “non-living matter.” Dr. Charles Bastian, of London, England, has prepared and exhibited more than five thousand microphotographs showing the evolution of organic living forms from the inorganic “non-living” (so-called). He claims to have produced certain microscopic black spots from a previously perfectly clear liquor, which spots gradually enlarge and are transformed into certain forms of lowly bacteria. Professor Burke, of Cambridge, England, claims to have produced from sterilized bouillon, by the action of sterilized radium chloride, certain minute living bodies which manifest subsequent growth and reproduction by subdivision.
The ordinary student of chemistry and physics is familiar with what is called “metallic vegetation,” notably in the case of the “lead tree,” in which there is manifested the appearance of plant forms on the part of the acidulated solution of certain metallic substances. In the case of the “lead tree” an acidulated solution of acetate of lead is placed in a wide-necked bottle, from the cork of which bottle a piece of copper wire is suspended, at the end of which dangles a piece of zinc which hangs at the centre of the lead solution. When the bottle is corked the copper wire begins at once to be surrounded with a growth of metallic lead closely resembling a very fine moss, which moss gradually develops branches and limbs and finally foliage, in the end a miniature bush or tree being formed. Other metallic solutions produce similar phenomena. Saltpeter, subjected to the effect of polarized light, assumes forms closely resembling the orchid. Crystals of frost form on window panes the shapes of leaves, branches, foliage, blossoms, flowers, etc. Many metals tend to crystallize in the forms of vegetable growth; and this is particularly significant when it is remembered that crystals are beginning to be regarded as “almost alive” by modern science, as noted in a preceding paragraph of the present chapter.
The scientific magazines, a few years ago, contained references to an interesting experiment performed by a German scientist using certain metallic salts. The scientist subjected the salts to the action of a galvanic current, and was astounded to discover that around the negative or cathode (female) pole of the battery the particles of the metallic salt began to group themselves in the form of a tiny mushroom, with stem and umbrella-like top. These metallic mushrooms at first displayed a transparent appearance, but gradually developed color, and finally assumed a pale straw color on the stems, with a bright red color on the top of the umbrella and a faint rose tint on the under surface. But the most startling feature of the phenomenon was that the metallic mushroom had fine veins or tiny tubes running along the interior of the steins, through which the nourishment, or additional material for growth, was transported—the mushroom being fed from the inside, as in the case of the true fungus mushroom. It seemed that, to all intents and purposes, these metallic mushrooms were practically the connecting link between mineral and vegetable life.
As has been stated elsewhere in this chapter, modern science now stands on the threshold of the discovery (by actual laboratory proof) that there is no such thing as “lifeless” matter—and that Everything is Alive. This has been the contention of the occultists for thousands of years. As a writer has said, it would seem that as in the case of the great Tunnel of the Alps, the two bands of workers, each on its own side of the mountain, were fast approaching the place where only a thin partition separated them one from another; and that already they can faintly hear the sounds of each others’ picks penetrating the thin dividing wall between the two camps. The occultist may now safely await the day when modern science will actually “prove for him the old teaching of the esoteric schools.”
Moreover, science is coming very near to the place when it will perceive the truth of the old occult axiom that “All Power is Will-Power,” and that the movements of electrons, atoms, molecules, and masses of matter are in response to an inward “feeling” resulting from the attraction or repulsion to or from other forms of matter, and the “will” action in response thereto, as Haeckel and Nageli (materialistic scientists though they may be called) have claimed for half a generation past. The contention of the Materialists that Life and Mind are but qualities of Matter, and are to be found in all forms of material objects, needs but to be inverted in order to show the Truth, long since uttered by the ancient occultists, namely that Matter is but the Outer Garment of Soul (Life-Mind), and that all material forms are ensouled by Life and Mind. The conception of the Materialists is but the Inverted Pyramid of Error, while the conception of the Occultists is the firmly placed, and soundly resting, true Pyramid of Truth—that Rock of Ages which can never be overturned, for it rests squarely and firmly on the Eternal Base of Being.
Remember, O student, the Rosicrucian aphorism that “The Fire is in everything and everywhere: there is nothing dark or cold within its sphere.”