Errors in the primary literature
Dec 17, 2004 08:51 AM
by Bart Lidofsky
Cass Silva wrote:
That is why I use the following rule in reading the primary literature:
If the Secret Doctrine differs from current scientific knowledge, I look
for the following:
As these ideas were so revolutionary at the time and HPB was not a
native english speaker or writer of english, language
misinterpretations may have occured which were cleared up by
KootHoomi. I do not believe that the truth was misinterpreted, but
there arose a need for words to describe the undescribable and when
this happens the words are misinterpreted but never the message.
1) Am I making assumptions which are not necessarily warranted?
2) Is there a way of interpreting the words to conform with current
3) Is there any evidence that this comes from information that was
received second-hand, which is incorrect?
For example, in Mahatma Letter #65 (by the way, anybody who wants to do
serious Theosophical research should get a copy of THEOSOPHICAL
CLASSICS; for $24.95, it's an incredibly useful tool, containing ISIS
UNVEILED, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, THE MAHATMA LETTERS, THE COLLECTED
WRITINGS OF H.P.B., and several other sources):
"What does modern science know of force proper, or say the forces, the
cause or causes of motion? How can there be such a thing as potential
energy, i.e., an energy having latent inactive power since it is energy
only while it is moving matter, and that if it ever ceased to move
matter it would cease to be, and with it matter itself would disappear?"
The reason why I often use this statement as an example is that it
clearly shows that the Koot Hoomi is clearly using an incorrect
definition of the term, "potential energy". Give the definition that he
is using, he is most probably correct, but if you ignore the definition,
then he is wrong. There IS such a thing as potential energy, but it is
NOT what is being described.
So, applying the three tests:
1) One might assume that Koot Hoomi is personally familiar with
then-current knowledge of physics, and knew what was meant by the term
2) By looking at the definition rather than the term, it DOES fit with
current scientific knowledge.
3) Since this was an answer to a letter written by a non-physicist, it
is not unreasonable that the letter contained the term "potential
energy" with the incorrect definition.
It has been theorized, and has so far stood up to all experimentation,
that humans can only think in terms of symbols. The problem with symbols
is that they can be manipulated into something self-contradictory, and
therefore meaningless. For example:
The sentence on the next line is false.
The sentence on the previous line is true.
We appear to have a paradox. What we have is a bunch of glowing
phosphors on a screen, or a bunch of drops of inks on a piece of paper,
that appear to create a meaningful pattern, but in fact create a
meaningless pattern. While I would not go as far as the late
philosopher, Jacques Derrida, in his theories of Deconstructionism, he
DID have a good basic point that language is always ambiguous.
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