Why matter matters
Separating fact from fancy in the speculative theories of science about matter
In this article we investigate some of the theories of material science and compare them with the facts of Occult Science, to try to discover what matter really is and its relation to spirit.
Very few mystics and even fewer occult students pay much attention to the material sciences. This is a mistake, for without a proper understanding of the material it is impossible to form any true conception of the nature of spirit. Our aim in this article is threefold. Firstly to examine what science considers to constitute matter, secondly to compare some of its theories with the facts known to occult science, and thirdly to expose the dangerous tendency within modern science to substitute faith-based dogma for open-minded enquiry and experiment. In the course of our investigation we shall review some of the latest scientific research and by comparing it with the known facts of occult science, come to some remarkable conclusions which we venture to hope will be both interesting and profitable.
What is matter?
Despite its advances in many areas material science has yet to formulate any convincing explanation of what matter actually IS. Wikipedia tells us that matter "is the substance of which all material is made." Not very helpful, is it? The Oxford English Dictionary says that matter is "physical substance in general, as distinct from mind and spirit," without giving us any clue as to what 'spirit' or 'mind' may be. This also contradicts the prevailing scientific theory that mind is matter and that 'spirit' is a non-existent and outdated philosophical concept. Wikipedia also says that matter is "anything that has mass and volume." Science tells us that "mass is a property of a physical body which determines the strength of its mutual gravitational attraction to other bodies, its resistance to being accelerated by a force", whilst volume is "the amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container."
None of this tells us what 'mass', 'volume', or 'force' actually are, much less what the mysterious 'matter', of which they are thought to be the properties, may be. At best we may conclude that (according to material science) matter is something (substance) contained within something else (volume or space) which is attracted to other bits of itself by some force or other. We seem to be getting deeper and deeper into a material morass of mere words, none of which tell us what matter actually is, let alone 'mass' or 'force', or even 'gravity'. Let us try again. One definition that may provide the first clue to this mystery is that: "Matter is made of single particles called atoms and is any substance that has either mass or volume."
Although modern physics has been forced to abandon the concept of atoms as indivisible and indestructible particles of matter proposed by the Greek philosopher Leucippus and developed by his pupil Democritus more than 2,000 years ago, the main principles of this model are still taught in schools and remain the most comprehensible representation of matter for those of us who are not particle physicists or mathematicians. Democritus' ideas were not new; they go back many thousands of years before his time, as we shall discuss later on. Moreover, his atomic model is largely correct, as we shall show as we develop our theme. To do so we need to return to the three words we mentioned earlier; mass, volume and force, and see whether occult science can provide a more rational explanation of what they are and mean than material science can.
Let us begin with mass. You will remember that science says it is the property of attraction and resistance possessed by a physical body. Shall we call it 'gravity'? Science might and sometimes does, as enshrined in Newton's well-known proposition that "all bodies attract each other with a force proportional directly to their masses, and inversely to the squares of the distances between them." But Sir Isaac Newton does not say what the mysterious force is that causes bodies to behave in this way. Nor does calling it gravity help us very much. Newton himself expressed grave doubts about the validity of his proposition to explain all the observed phenomena, and asked how massive objects could attract each other at vast distances without the mediation of anything in between them. Occult Science states that what is 'between them' is Cosmic electricity, but not any form of electricity known to our present scientists.
The weighty problem of gravity
In one of the passages of his Principia, Newton wrote that: "there is some subtle spirit by the force and action of which all movements of matter are determined." This is pure occult science. This great and humble scientist went on to say that: "It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter, without mutual contact, as it must do if gravitation be essential and inherent in it...that gravity should be innate, inherent and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance, through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else by and through which their action may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man, who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial I have left to the consideration of my readers."
This statement frightened Newton's contemporaries, as it frightens their modern descendants who are revolted by the intrusion of anything immaterial that smacks of the 'occult' into their domain of exact material science. The words we have quoted from Newton's Principia show that whilst he may not have believed in the Aether of occult science, he did believe in the 'subtle spirit' which mediates attraction and repulsion between bodies. How little our present-day physicists understand the innermost thought of this peer among scientists may be deduced from the prevailing scientific dogma that "Gravity is responsible for the formation of the universe," as we may read in Wikipedia's article on this subject. Had poor Sir Isaac known the abuses and misuses to which his researches would lend themselves, that spiritually-minded and deeply religious man would have quietly eaten his apple and held his peace!
In the above lines we may discover what 'gravity' really is: the law of attraction and repulsion. Sir Isaac Newton's writings are an ever ready witness to show how much he hesitated between gravitation and attraction and repulsion, impulse and some other unknown cause to explain the regular course of planetary motion. It is this unknown cause which is the key to what 'gravity' really is: attraction and repulsion plus the impetus of the Cosmic electricity we referred to earlier, or Fohat as it is called in occult scientific terminology. The focus through which this force is directed in the macrocosm is the Sun, in the microcosm it is the nucleus of the atom.
Cosmic Electricity—the life blood of the Universe
It is Fohat that imparts all motion and awakens all into life in the Solar System as in the atom; it is the life-blood of the Universe and the agent of attraction and repulsion, but not as understood by modern physics and according to the law of gravity; but in harmony with the laws of occult science. These laws were formulated thousands of years ago in Atlantis, and thence brought to ancient India, Egypt and Greece, from whence Democritus and others obtained their knowledge of matter and spirit. It is Fohat that forces into life and separates primordial substance, or pregenetic matter, into atoms, which are the source of all life and consciousness. On the material plane Light, Flame, Cold Flame, Fire, Heat, Water, and Water of Life, are the progeny of this Cosmic electricity; the latter being the One Life at the upper Rung of Being, whilst at the lower rung it is the mysterious Astral Fluid, the 'Odic' force of Von Reichenbach and the magnetic current employed in various healing treatments by the 'laying on of hands.' You can read much more about this force in H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, which book we recommend to all sincere seekers after Truth.
Having dealt with 'mass' and discovered what it really is, namely the operation of the occult law of attraction and repulsion upon any material body, it will be clear that 'volume' is simply another word for 'space', for every body, from an atom through man to a solar system, must occupy space, this is self-evident. What then, is an atom? Science has belatedly discovered what occult science has always known: an atom is simply seemingly empty space which can best be described as movement. But movement of what? Science does not know. This is where we come back to force, which you will remember is the last of the three words, the others being mass and volume, science uses to describe matter, without having the least idea what they actually are or mean! Force is simply electricity in motion. We may then say that atoms are centres of electrical motion which occupy space kept apart by the law of attraction and repulsion.
Of course there is much, much more to it than that. In the Mystery Schools of ancient Egypt, Greece and India, the investigation of matter alone took several years of concentrated study. H. P. Blavatsky herself devoted 1000's of pages to this subject in her books and papers without even scratching the surface of the great mysteries that lie within the substance science thinks it knows so well and talks so glibly about. The best we can do is to introduce you to this vast subject by providing you with the basic facts known to occult science. The rest is up to you.
We have now answered the question we posed at the beginning of this article, namely; what is matter? It is the negative pole of spirit. In The Secret Doctrine we may read that:
"Father-Mother spin a web whose upper end is fastened to spirit—the light of the one darkness—and the lower one to its shadowy end, matter; and this web is the universe spun out of the two substances made in one, which is Svabhavat."
Svabhavat is a Sanskrit noun meaning a state or condition where spirit and matter, which only become dual during manifestation, are ONE. It is the same as the 'prima materia' of the alchemists, the "the Omnipresent Proteus of the Universe, the one element—LIFE-Spirit or Force at its positive pole, Matter at its negative pole," as Blavatsky also tells us in the same book. In short, spirit and matter are the phenomenal differentiated aspects of one primary, undifferentiated Cosmic Substance—Svabhavat.
Atoms: solar systems in miniature
As we said earlier, we owe our knowledge of atoms to the 5th century B.C. philosopher, Leucippus. It was he, followed later by his pupil, Democritus, who first introduced to the West the concept of matter being composed of indivisible and indestructible discrete particles, which he called 'atoms'. Leucippus almost certainly got his ideas through his initiation into the Greek Mysteries, which, as we explain in our article about Initiates and Initiation, were themselves the distorted copy of the occult scientific teachings of ancient Egypt and India.
It took almost two millennia before the atom was placed on a solid foundation as a fundamental material object by John Dalton (1766-1844). Although two centuries old, Dalton's atomic theory still remains valid today and parts of it come very close to the teachings of occult science about matter. Dalton's four main propositions were that:
- All matter is made of atoms. Atoms are indivisible and indestructible.
- All atoms of a given element are identical in mass and properties.
- Compounds are formed by a combination of two or more different kinds of atoms.
- A chemical reaction is a rearrangement of atoms.
Only the first of these propositions has been proved to be incorrect by the discovery of the electron in 1897 by the English physicist J. J. Thomson. This was followed by the discovery of the proton in 1911 and the neutron in 1932, the two particles that make up the atomic nucleus. In 1919 Ernest Rutherford achieved the first artificial transmutation of an element when he changed several atoms of nitrogen into oxygen. By the end of the 20th century nearly all 92 naturally occurring elements had been discovered. We now know that atoms can be destroyed via nuclear reactions as well as bombardment in particle accelerators. We also know that there are different kinds of atoms within an element which are called 'isotopes', but the isotopes of an element still share the same chemical properties.
At the time of Rutherford's breakthrough, the atom was conceived as a miniature solar system, with the nucleus corresponding to the sun, and the orbiting electrons to the planets. In this science was simply catching up with what occultists had known for thousands of years. This view was later rejected when it was found that electrons did not follow well-defined orbits but seemed to revolve rapidly around the nucleus in diffuse cloud-like waves, known as orbitals, that only describe the probable location of an electron at different places within an atom. In the macrocosm this would be rather like the planet mars orbiting the sun so quickly that it appeared to our eyes as a blurred, fuzzy cloud. This led many physicists to conclude that the microcosm of the atom is completely different from the macrocosm of the solar system. But more recently, some thinking scientists have begun to question this somewhat hasty electron cloud hypothesis and in 2004 researchers at the University of Rochester in the USA, coaxed an electron to orbit an atomic nucleus just like a tiny planet.
The reason why electrons do not appear to behave in the same way as planets is so simple we are surprised that science has not yet discovered it. It is a matter of scale and vibration, and we hinted at this when we used the illustration of mars orbiting the sun so quickly its position at any given time could no longer be accurately predicted. An electron is thought to move around the nucleus of an atom at 600 miles per second, roughly 30 times faster than the speed at which the earth revolves around the sun. In both cases one complete revolution makes up a year, though in the case of an electron its 'year' lasts a minute fraction of second.
Now this is where things get interesting. Please pay careful attention. According to occult scientific chronology, the complete lifespan of our earth lasts 4,320,000,000 years. This is followed by a period of rest of the same duration. These immense time periods of waking and sleep are called 'Manvantaras' and 'Pralayas' respectively, and alternate in endless cycles. If we apply these same figures to an electron, it would mean that an electron's Manvantara lasts about one millionth of a second, following which it disappears from our plane of perception for another millionth of a second before 'reappearing' again. In short, now you see it; now you don't, but this does not mean it is not there! Consequently, if our earth moved at the same rate as an electron, and we were beings infinitely larger than we are observing our planet from the standpoint of a cosmic super-scientist, its motion would appear just as blurred and fuzzy as electrons do within an atom.
So we have learned that the correspondence between an atom and a solar system is valid after all, though we predict that it will take science a long time to reach the same conclusion. As we have conjectured in our occult studies course article on Evolution, there may well be tiny beings living on an electron to whom the electron appears just as vast a world as our earth does to us, teeming with life in all its manifold varieties. And when these beings look out through their tiny telescopes at the other atoms and molecules around them, they would see a picture very similar to the night sky we see from our much larger electron we call the earth. No one can say it is not true! It is all a matter of scale and vibration, as we said earlier.
By applying the well-known Universal Hermetic Law 'as above; so below' we may extend this correspondence infinitely in either direction. Just think for a moment what this means. Our earth itself may be a mere electron in the body of some huge extra-cosmic entity for whom a second is equivalent to a million of our Manvantaras. If a solar system corresponds to an atom, then a galaxy may well correspond to a molecule, and super-galaxies to macromolecules. If the infinitely tiny is possible, why not the infinitely large? This underlines the illusory nature of space and time and the inability of our unaided intellect to comprehend the mysteries of the Universe. Mysteries which can only be ultimately grasped and understood by the Higher Self when it turns to its own Soul for illumination, as we discuss in our article of the same name in our occult studies course.
As we update this article in January 2016, some physicists are beside themselves with excitement at the discovery of four 'new' elements that they believe 'complete' the periodical table of elements. Do not believe it, dear reader. The number of natural elements has remained unchanged for over 200 years since the discovery of uranium—the 92nd element in the periodic table—by the German chemist, Martin Klaproth, in 1789. The transuranic elements beyond this number have all been created by artificial bombardment and do not occur in Nature, as we discuss below.
A multiplicity of particles
Since the 19th century many more subatomic particles have been discovered, so that today over 200 are known. Most of them are created in collision experiments inside particle accelerators, like the Large Hadron Collider situated underneath the Swiss-German border. Although these experiments enlarged scientists' knowledge of the atom, the visual concept of this fundamental building-block of matter got worse. And so we arrive at the present day with several different competing theories in the ascendant, none of which satisfactorily explain what atoms are, any more than they explain what matter is, as we have seen earlier in our investigation.
One of these theories was the so-called 'electron cloud' model referred to earlier, developed in 1925 by Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg. In this theory electrons are no longer depicted as particles moving around the nucleus in a fixed orbit. Instead, Science says we can't know exactly where they are, what direction they are heading in, or how fast they are travelling; so we just ignore the problem and describe their probable location around the nucleus as an arbitrary 'cloud'.
This theory was superseded in the 1970's by the so-called 'standard model' in a vain attempt to realise the holy grail of physics by finding a universal model that would unite all its different and competing theories into one integrated theory of everything, of which all the other known laws would be special cases, and from which the behaviour of all matter and energy could be derived. Needless to add this ambitious but foolish attempt remains unrealised. Nor can it be realised until or unless science acknowledges the existence of spirit.
The Standard Model postulates that there are twelve fundamental particles of matter: six leptons, the most important of which are the electron and its neutrino; and six quarks. Individual quarks have never been detected, and science believes that they can exist only in groups of two or three, as in the neutron and proton. There are also said to be at least 12 force-carrying particles (of which only three have been directly observed), which bind quarks and leptons together into more complex forms. The Standard Model depends on the hypothetical existence of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force. Unsurprisingly, only electromagnetism has been demonstrated to exist, the 'weak' and 'strong' forces are purely mathematical constructs, or if you prefer, figments of the physicists' fancy! Nor does this model explain what gravity is.
If we were to stretch a point we might say that the 'weak' force is simply repulsion and the 'strong' force attraction, so confirming the occult law that attraction and repulsion produce balance, the whole held together by Cosmic electricity in the form of Fohat, as we discussed earlier.
The strange world of string theory
The latest fad in particle physics is known as string theory. According to this model, the fundamental constituents of matter are really one-dimensional 'strings' of 'something' a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre long but with no thickness—so rather like the people in flatland! They are thought to vibrate and wriggle about in 10, or even 25 dimensions. Why stop at 25 dimensions? Why not 25 million? The advocates of this hair-brained theory neatly get out of the reasonable question as to why we cannot see these extra dimensions by saying that the other dimensions have for some unknown reason undergone "spontaneous compactification" and are now curled up so tightly that they are undetectable!
String theory seeks to explain why, at the very smallest scale, matter appears to be constructed from vibrating nothing. After smashing up subatomic particles into ever smaller bits such as quarks, scientists discovered to their chagrin that quarks don't appear to be made of anything at all, which is a puzzle for the scientists, but not to occult science which knows that what is 'no-thing' to our physical senses is the One Universal Element we discussed earlier. String theory depends on the assumption of the existence of other dimensions—9, 11, or even 25 of them, depending on the whim of the string thinker, even though there is not one shred of evidence that such extra dimensions exist. How can they? Length, breadth and height describe the spatial extent of any material object, whether it is a solid, a liquid, a gas, an atom or a solar-system.
To postulate, as some string theorists do, that there are 'extra' dimensions which are "wrapped" up on themselves, or "curled" up, or even "twisted" up by the convenient but inexplicable process of "spontaneous compactification" mentioned earlier, is simply to juggle words with no meaning. However, if we look a little deeper into this theory, and without bombarding you with the incomprehensible jargon of its advocates, we discover some surprising parallels with the teachings of occult science. If we substitute the word 'realm' or 'plane' for 'dimension' the vibrating 'strings' that constitute matter which we cannot see with our physical senses (or detect with any known scientific instruments or experiments), may prove to be the invisible (to us) monads of occult science.
Lifting the veil of matter
One physicist recently remarked that: "maybe the apparent vibrating nothing on which we are based is but a slice of some far grander reality." This is not so very far from the teachings of occult science. Over 100 years ago, H. P. Blavatsky, the Russian occultist from whose writings we have quoted so extensively in many of our articles, wrote that:
"These scientists are wise in their generation. For all their wonderful discoveries would go for nothing, and remain for ever headless bodies, unless they lift the veil of matter and strain their eyes to see beyond. Now that they have studied nature in the length, breadth, and thickness of her physical frame, it is time to remove the skeleton to the second plane and search within the unknown depths for the living and real entity, for its SUB-stance—the noumenon of evanescent matter."
That 'noumenon' is what occult science calls the MONAD, or spiritual atom. We may also say that monads are atomic Souls, before these spiritual atoms descend into physical form. Their descent into matter marks the mid-point of their own individual evolution. Having reached that point and lost their individuality, they then ascend through the seven states of terrestrial evolution to that point where a correspondence is firmly established between the human and Divine consciousness, or what we call the lower and Higher self. Let us listen to H. P. Blavatsky again:
"Atoms and Monads, associated or dissociated, simple or complex, are, from the moment of the first differentiation, but the principles, corporeal, psychic and Spiritual, of the "Gods,"...to the eye of the Seer, the higher Planetary Powers appear under two aspects: the subjective—as influences, and the objective—as mystic FORMS, . . . Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is Spirit—on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both are MAYA (illusion)."
Interested readers are referred to our further reading list in the sidebar for a fuller exposition of the occult scientific teaching about monads and atoms. Time and space, those great illusions, prevent us from saying more in this article.
We are of the firm opinion that it is most likely in the domain of particle physics that science will make its first tentative approach to spirit and so slowly discover the truths that occult science has known for millennia. For it is in this branch of science more than any other that earnest and sincere thinkers are most constrained and circumscribed by the mechanistic materialism that has dominated mainstream scientific thinking ever since it gained its ascendency over the outdated and untenable doctrines of religious orthodoxy—more of which in our final discussion. Ridiculous as some of the wilder theories of particle physics are, they at least hold out the hope of crossing the abyss that presently separates the material and occult sciences.
The new religion of dogmatic Science
We use the word 'religion' advisedly and deliberately, for this is precisely what modern material science is rapidly degenerating into, to the detriment of both science and religion. You may think we exaggerate, but a glance at the dictionary definition of 'religion' and 'faith' shows that there is very little difference between faith-based dogmatic science and the entrenched dogmas of the Church it has replaced in the contemporary world-view of most people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power," whilst Merriam-Webster tells us it is "a personal set or institutionalised system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices."
Some readers may accuse us of being 'anti-science' at this point in our discussion. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are 'anti' is the arrogant presumption that science is able to offer a superior and rational explanation of the Universe and all that it contains, including man. If you have followed our investigation thus far this presumption is proved to be completely false. In a recent article in The Guardian, a senior editor for the journal Science, wrote: "Science is not so much about knowledge as doubt. Never in the field of human inquiry have so many known so little about so much." How true that is!
The writer went on to say: "TV programmes on science pursue a line that's often cringe-makingly reverential. Switch on any episode of Horizon, and the mood lighting, doom-laden music and Shakespearean voiceover convince you that you are entering the Houses of the Holy—somewhere where debate and dissent are not so much not permitted as inconceivable. If there are dissenting views, they aren't voiced by an interviewer, but by other scientists, and "we" (the great unwashed) can only sit back and watch."
Harsh words, but true! Let us also remember that although science has immeasurably improved the lives of millions of people throughout the world, it has also given us the blessings of nuclear bombs, pollution, radiation, biological weapons and birth defects. Science, like the Jehovah of the Old Testament, says to its followers: "You shall have no other gods before me". If you doubt us, and that would be an eminently sensible position to take, for we encourage all our readers to take nothing on trust and think for themselves, try asking any member of the audience at a scientific convention to join you in prayer. From that moment on you'll be about as popular among your peers as an outbreak of MRSA in a National Health hospital.
Science has its Cardinals, Archbishops and Deacons just like the Church, and they fulminate against dissenting members of the body scientific just as vociferously and vengefully as their religious counterparts did in the middle ages. Their opinions are received as sermons, and their statements are quoted like sacred texts. Ordinary people are ridiculed, if they doubt the interpretations of this priesthood. Even for those within the fold, questioning a senior colleague higher up the hierarchy is fraught with peril as many honest and outspoken scientists have discovered to their cost. Scientific work (from papers to grant applications to research) is rigorously peer reviewed, and woe betide the scientist brave or foolhardy enough to overstep the bounds of orthodoxy by as much as a hairsbreadth, or propose a novel theory or piece of research that falls outside the prevailing consensus.
The worst effects of this scientific dogmatism are that it not only stifles innovative research and muzzles honest enquiry, but inculcates a blind faith in science no less destructive to human freedom and happiness than the stranglehold the Church once exercised over the lives and thinking of humanity. The saddest part of this is that most people who reject religion in favour of science do so in the mistaken view that it provides a more logical and tenable explanation of the world. Yet when you ask them to explain the existence of the universe, they'll simply trot out the "Big Bang" or some similar scientific theory, about which they know less than their forebears knew about the doctrine of transubstantiation.
If you have studied this article with your full attention, and especially if you have read between the lines of our narrative, you will now know as much about matter, and possibly more, than any scientist, unless they happen to be an occult scientist, which is not as improbable as you may imagine. Even if you have only skimmed the surface of our words, we venture to hope that we have given you some food for thought and encouraged you to begin your own study of the wonders and mysteries of the Universe and the forces and powers that rule it under God.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 14 May 2015. Updated 31 January 2021.
We are grateful to David Pratt for some of the scientific content of this article. Readers who are interested in learning more about matter, atoms and particle physics from the standpoint of occult science are referred to the Further Reading list in the sidebar at right.