THE INFINITE DIVISIBILITY OF THE ATOM: theosophical perspectives by Clive Bellgrove

In 1888 HP Blavatsky’s theosophical masterwork The Secret Doctrine was published in both London and Washington. In my opinion it is probably the greatest work on genuine Occultism ever printed. On pages 519-520 of the first volume of that work there is a discussion regarding “the infinite divisibility of the atom”, at a time when the scientific world proclaimed that the atom was solid and indivisible, comparing it with a miniature billiard ball. 

Mme. Blavatsky died in London on 8th May, 1891. Between the date of publication of THE SECRET DOCTRINE and her death this lady received visits from and had discussion with many eminent scientists. Among them was one man who, it seems, particularly attracted her attention. During their discussion she informed him that before the end of the nineteenth century a discovery would be made which would change material science forever. Six years later it was that scientist, J. J. Thomson, who discovered the electron, the nucleus of every atom being a positive charge and the orbiting electron/s of negative charge, thus proving that the atom was in fact divisible.J.J. Thomson became a director of the famous Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University. At the early age of twenty-four a New Zealander, Ernest Rutherford, joined Thomson at Cavendish; and it was Rutherford who succeeded in splitting the atom for the first time. Thus it seems reasonable to claim and draw attention to the enormous debt that modern science and the present day world in general owes to Theosophy.

Subsequent work by many scientists in many laboratories around the world on the atom and its particles has revealed a vast amount of information on both atomic and nuclear physics. Many and varied particles have been discovered. I have been told that at a recent count the number had reached over fifty; and who will suggest that the last of them has been found? It is worth pointing out here that, when such a new particle is discovered, the scientists concerned find that Nature has had it working quite efficiently in its appropriate field of activity for who knows how many ages past; which appears to underline the fact that Nature knows far more about these matters than do the foremost present day investigators! 

It has been said that there are two exact sciences. One is Mathematics, and this is accepted indisputably. The other is Logic; not mere rhetorical logic, but fundamental logic. Nature works on the principle of cause and effect; nothing exists without having had a preceding cause; and every effect automatically becomes a cause of a yet succeeding effect, and so to infinity. Pure fundamental logic deduces from any set of circumstances the only possible outcome of those circumstances; that outcome produces further problems that must be solved, and these solutions produce yet more questions. Eventually the solution of the problem is reached through deductive reasoning, and is found to work in harmony with the operations of Nature.

A scientist in his laboratory and a cook in his kitchen both know that if they use the identical components and conditions they will obtain identical results from their efforts. When there is some unexpected variation in the results the scientist and the cook can think back and usually find error in their own procedures. But sometimes, with the scientist in particular, something entirely unexpected emerges. An investigation is made, sometimes locally, sometimes worldwide, and as a result something previously unknown to science is discovered. But that discovery is made because it is accepted as a fact that Nature is dependable in being accurately repetitious, and never in any circumstance capricious, undependable.  Every question rightly put has its solution bound up within itself; and the answers can be found through the right use of logic. Nature wastes nothing. Eventually everything is used over and over again. Therefore all the rest of infinite space can scarcely be thought to be left totally empty, void.

In the very room where you are sitting reading this, there is not only atmosphere and light, but a great many radio and television waves, with sound, colour and movement; all utterly invisible to you, but which can be interpreted with man-made instruments so that we hear speech and music, and see colour and movement. It is so much easier to understand these things nowadays than it was in the 1880s when Mme. Blavatsky first drew attention to the infinite divisibility of the atom. We can more readily understand that beings, self-conscious and non-self-conscious, manifest throughout infinite Nature. It is theosophical teaching that infinity is full of manifesting beings on every stratum of space, and that our known universe exists on only one of those strata. It teaches that it is divinity which in-fills all space, not as an abstract principle, but as Divinities, higher in degree, medium, and lower, in each “direction” to infinity. Here it seems appropriate to draw attention to a statement in the Christian New Testament, (John 10-34) that the teacher Jesus is recorded as having said: “Is it not written in your law, I said Ye are gods”. But anything and everything that has life in it must inevitably have divinity at the apex of its being; not only other human beings, but animals, insects, plants, the mineral kingdom, and all. Logically also there must be divinity ordering and controlling the activity of every atom and particle of every atom, and further. As our galaxy is the appropriate field of manifestation for what to us is a super god, and as our Earth is a sufficient field for us who are gods in our highest aspect (though manifesting little of that quality at present), so the field of activity of an atom, with a life period of millions of billionths of a second of our time, is appropriate in size and all other conditions for the infinitesimally small beings who live on these particles and sub-particles. 

If, then, Rutherford split the atom, he proved that the atom was divisible. Logical reasoning then arrived at the conclusion that the particles of atoms must also be divisible. This is the area, beyond nuclear fission, that is presently engaging the attention of researchers, who have come up with their suggestion about the so-called Quarks, which they hope to find are the ultimate building blocks of the universe. But, since Nature is infinite in its ramifications, can anyone ever find the absolutely original basis or foundation of infinity? Atoms, particles, sub-particles: Where does the process stop? It may be said that smallness must stop somewhere. But does it have to? We human beings live in one stratum of space, in which we see ourselves and one another, the Earth, the solar system, our home universe or galaxy and, with the aid of telescopes and photography, millions of other galaxies. The existence of these other galaxies was confirmed by Hubble of Mt. Wilson Observatory in 1923/5. As a result we can now think of space as extending directionally forever. Similarly we now understand that Time, as we understand it, has its limitations; and that it is a portion of infinite Duration, which has no limitations.  But there is something more than direction and duration, and that is Degree. The spectrum of light in which we see everything that is visible to us has its ceiling with the violet at one end and red at the other. But we know that there are ranges of vibration higher than violet and lower than red. There are radio, television, frequency modulation, heat, and sound (not, of course, in that order of descent) and then the sub-sonics. Above there are X-rays, gamma rays, and cosmic rays. All manifest through waves or vibrations. And who will say with authority that vibrations cease with the presently known cosmic rays or the sub-sonics?  It has been said that Time as we understand it, is a division of Duration commensurate with the degree of self-consciousness which we are manifesting at the present stage of our evolution. The same can be said of size. Our size as human beings fits well with the physical conditions of the solar system and planet on which we at present live and have our being.   

Where, then, are all these thoughts leading us? What is the purpose of all this reasoning? Infinite space is filled full with divine beings, among whom are ourselves. While infinity itself cannot evolve, all beings within it can and do evolve; but at the commencement of evolution on any one of the strata of space, they commence in a state of nescience, non-understanding, and the purpose of life and lives is to give an opportunity to commence causes and to reap effects until the time eventually comes when we beings manifesting in that stratum achieve self-conscious divinity, and move into a higher range to repeat the same process.

Thus, those whom we look upon as the gods are also learning in their realms of existence, and will evolve yet higher. The point is that those whom we look upon as being gods have, countless ages ago, been the equivalent of ourselves, and therefore have a right to “return, descend” and teach us the ethics and altruism which Nature requires of us, and them.           

Look at it this way. Our physical bodies are composed of unthinkable billions of atomic particles, forever dying and being reincarnated. To them, and the beings living on them, we literally are gods, ordering their lives and wellbeing by our modes of living; going where we go, experiencing the results, the effects, of our thoughts and actions. Thus the theosophical doctrine about individual and personal responsibility. As we live our lives from day to day, moment to moment, a near-infinity of lesser beings are being affected for good or ill; and we, as their hierarch, have an overriding responsibility towards them.  “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3.8.) Theosophy teaches that all infinity impinges upon us now, at this moment; that we are inherently divine, and that because of Nature’s law of cause and effect we are individually responsible for our thoughts and acts, reaping eventually the benefit of those that are good, and relentlessly having to redeem the effects of those that are wrong. Pythagoras taught that god geometrizes. We live in a totally logical infinite universe. It is we, not Nature, who lack that quality for which Solomon is said to have asked, – – an Understanding Heart.  Please note that the views expressed are those of the speaker and not necessarily those of the Theosophical Society – Pasadena.