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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Evolution of Substance
The most common fact in life for all of us is that of the material world, - that world which we can see and contact by means of the five senses, and which is called by the metaphysical thinkers the "not-self," or that which is objective to each one of us. As we all know, the work of the chemist is to reduce all known substances to their very simplest elements, and it was thought not long ago that this had been satisfactorily accomplished. The conclusions of the chemist placed the number of the known elements between seventy and eighty. About twenty years ago, however (in 1898), a new element was discovered which was called Radium, and this discovery entirely revolutionized the world's thought about matter and substance. If you will go to the textbooks of the last century, or search the old dictionaries, seeking for the definition of the atom, for instance, you will usually find Newton quoted. He defined the atom as "a hard, indivisible, ultimate particle," a something which was incapable of further subdivision. This was considered to be the ultimate atom in the universe, and was called by the scientist of the Victorian era "the foundation stone of the [34] universe"; they considered they had gone as far back as it was possible to go, and that they had discovered what lay back of all manifestation and of objectivity itself. But when radium, and the other radioactive substances, had been discovered, an entirely new aspect of the situation had to be faced. It became apparent that what was considered the ultimate particle was not so at all. As you now have the definition of the atom (I am quoting from the Standard Dictionary) it is:

"An atom is a center of force, a phase of electrical phenomena, a center of energy, active through its own internal makeup, and giving off energy or heat or radiation."

Therefore, an atom is (as Lord Kelvin in 1867 thought it would ultimately turn out to be) a "vortex ring," or center of force, and not a particle of what we understand as tangible substance. This ultimate particle of matter is now demonstrated to be composed of a positive nucleus of energy, surrounded - just as is the sun by the planets - with many electrons or negative corpuscles, thus subdividing the atom of earlier science into numerous lesser bodies. The elements differ according to the number and arrangement of these negative electrons around their positive nucleus, and they rotate or move around this central charge of electricity as our planetary system rotates around the sun. Professor Soddy, [35] in one of his latest books, has pointed out that in the atom is to be seen an entire solar system, - the central sun can be recognized, with the planets pursuing their orbital paths around it.

It would be apparent to each of us that when this definition of the atom is contemplated and studied an entirely new concept of substance comes before us. Dogmatic assertions are therefore out of order, for it is realized that perhaps the next discovery may reveal to us the fact that the electrons themselves may be worlds within worlds. An interesting speculation along these lines is to be found in a book by one of our scientific thinkers in which he suggests that we might be able to divide and subdivide the electron itself into what he calls "psychons," and thus be led into realms which are not now considered physical. That may be only a dream, but the thing that I am seeking to impress upon my mind and yours is that we scarcely know where we stand in scientific thought, any more than we know where we stand in the religious and economic world. Everything is passing through a period of transition; the old order changeth; the old way of looking at things is proving false or inadequate; the old expressions of thought seem futile. All that the wise man can do just now is to reserve his opinion, ascertain for himself what appeals to him as truth, and endeavor then to synthesize [36] that particular aspect of universal truth with that aspect which has been accepted by his brother.

The atom, then, can be predicated as resolving itself into electrons, and can be expressed in terms of force or energy. When you have a center of energy or activity you are involved in a dual concept; you have that which is the cause of movement or energy, and that which it energizes or actuates. This brings us directly into the field of psychology, because energy or force is ever regarded as a quality, and where you have a quality you are really considering the field of psychic phenomena.

There are certain terms in use when considering substance which are continuously appearing, and about which there is a wide diversity of definition. In looking over one scientific book last week it was discouraging to find the author pointing out that the atom of the chemist, of the physicist, of the mathematician, and of the metaphysician were four totally different things. That is another reason why it is not possible to be dogmatic in dealing with these questions. Nevertheless, rightly or wrongly, I have a very definite hypothesis to put before you. When we talk about radium, we are, in all probability, venturing into the realm of etheric substance, the region of ether, or of protyle. Protyle was a word coined by Sir William Crookes, and is defined by him as follows: [37]

"Protyle is a word analogous to protoplasm, to express the idea of the original primal matter before the evolution of the chemical elements. The word I have ventured to use for this purpose is compounded of a Greek word 'earlier than,' and 'the stuff of which things are made."'

We are, therefore, throwing the concept of matter back to where the Oriental school has always put it, to primordial stuff, to that which the Orientalist calls "primordial ether," though we must ever remember that the ether of science is many, many removes from the primordial ether of the Oriental occultist. We are led back to that intangible something which is the basis of the objective thing which you and I can see and touch and handle. The word "substance" itself means that which "stands under," or which lies back of things. All, therefore, that we can predicate in connection with the ether of space is that it is the medium in which energy or force functions, or makes itself felt. When we are talking in these lectures of energy and force, and of matter and substance, we can separate them in our minds thus: When we speak about energy and substance we are considering that which is as yet intangible, and we use force in connection with matter when dealing with that aspect of the objective which our scientists are definitely studying. Substance is the ether in one of its many grades, and is that which lies back of matter itself. [38]

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