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We do not see the world in the way it is. We see the world in the way we are.
A unique type of ESP
Many people believe that human beings can have strange experiences that cannot yet or perhaps even in principle be explained in terms of a scientific model of man as a machine and his brain as a computer. Some claim that so-called "paranormal experiences" such as telepathy, out-of-the-body experiences, clairvoyance and precognition constitute evidence of a non-physical or spiritual dimension of human existence which no amount of ad hoc, reductionist explanation can satisfactorily dismiss. Although convinced that these paranormal phenomena are genuine, others draw no far-reaching religious conclusions about their existence but confine themselves to the speculation that these psychic powers — indeed, perhaps even consciousness itself — might be reducible to the bizarre, quantum properties of molecular networks in the brain or to some other exotic, physical mechanism.
But a sceptical minority regard all beliefs involving paranormal phenomena as irrational, believing that they can prove that virtually all claims to psychic powers or alleged witness to paranormal events have been merely the product of either superstition, wishful thinking, credulity, misinterpretation, misperception, misreporting, dishonesty or poorly conducted investigation. If a psychic is reported to be able to know or to do things under controlled, laboratory conditions that science cannot explain, these critics endeavour to find fault with the experimental procedures that were supposed to prevent the possibility of cheating by the psychic. If they cannot find anything wrong with the protocols of the experiment (unfortunately, this is rare), sceptics towards the paranormal may resort to ad hominem criticism rather than be forced to admit that the psychic's claims must be valid because they can offer no conventional explanation for what he achieved. They may suggest that the researcher reporting his investigations of the psychic might conceivably have intentionally misreported his researches or even fabricated his data. Since the honesty of a given individual can never be proved scientifically with certainty but only argued for on the basis of a lack of any evidence to the contrary, the sceptic, without drawing upon any supporting evidence, can turn any strong, prima facie case of paranormal events into an unending, unresolved controversy of claim and counterclaim merely by impugning the character of the researcher. He may ask: How can ESP and other alleged psychic powers be proven scientifically to exist if everyone has to take for granted without proof that the experimenter did not fabricate his own data? If the latter is skilful enough to falsify his findings so that his fraud is incapable of detection, how (the sceptic will ask) can anyone be certain that the evidence for ESP, etc, published by this researcher truthfully reflects what happened in his laboratory? In orthodox fields of scientific research, fraud is often readily detectable because experiments can usually be repeated by independent investigators. However, the lack of repeatability of successful tests for ESP is a notorious problem in parapsychology, leaving the subject wide open to abuse by people seeking publicity and fame rather than the truth.
However, even the sceptic would have to admit that conscious or unconscious cheating by a psychic or even by a researcher is impossible if the circumstances of the exercise of his alleged powers were such that no sensory clues were available to him a priori. Controversies usually arise in parapsychology because the complete absence of clues or information that might have been useful to the psychic is rarely proved to the satisfaction of sceptics. The rigour of proof that they demand often far exceeds the customary standards for publication in professional, scientific journals, for they rightly argue that extraordinary claims demand equally extraordinary measures of confirmation. Suppose that someone in the past had claimed to have the psychic ability to ‘see' objects so small that contemporary science knew nothing about their form and structure, being invisible to the most powerful microscopes available at the time? Suppose, further, that observations by this psychic had been published many decades before scientific facts about these objects were established? The sceptic would have to admit that no one could have cheated under such circumstances — neither the psychic nor anyone who reported his observations to the world at large. Whether the experimental conditions under which the psychic supposedly described objects unknown to science were rigorously controlled or even whether the person reporting his observations was trustworthy would no longer be pertinent issues for believers and sceptics to fill research periodicals in parapsychology with interminable arguments. Quite obviously, the lack of scientific information about the things the psychic claimed to see would have made cheating on his part or fabrication by the investigator reporting his results impossible in principle as well as in practice.
It can be argued that elaborate card-guessing trials, whose protocols always seem capable of criticism or whose statistical reliability can be disputed, are not the most convincing evidence for ESP. Instead, truly irrefutable evidence would consist of clairvoyant descriptions of some unknown aspect of the objective world that were so detailed as to make lucky guessing extremely improbable but which were scientifically confirmed only after so many years had elapsed that it would have been impossible for even the cleverest or most intuitive scientist living at the time to anticipate what was eventually discovered, let alone a layperson in the relevant field of science. Such circumstances would allow the sceptic no room for reasonable doubt or alternative, conventional explanation. The annals of psychical research are filled with reports of information about people, places and things, purportedly obtained by clairvoyance, which was subsequently verified. However, such anecdotal evidence will fail to convince a sceptic if he is doubtful that the facts really were unknown at the time to any living person. It is rare to find in the parapsychology literature instances of scientific confirmation of new information about the world allegedly obtained psychically in circumstances that exclude a priori all possibility of fraud. Such paranormal accounts concerning features of the natural world that were unknown to science when they were made can easily be forgotten with the passage of time or ignored by scientists unwilling to risk the disapproval of their colleagues by showing an interest in ‘occult matters.' Even if privately convinced by this evidence, few parapsychologists and even fewer academics will risk ruining their hard-won credentials by making their opinions public. Fear of ridicule or loss of reputation can override a scientist’s desire to establish or to defend the truth.
Such has been the fate until recently of researches carried out over a period of thirty-eight years by the Theosophists Annie Besant (1847–1933) and Charles W. Leadbeater (1854–1934), who claimed to use a type of clairvoyance to describe what they thought were atoms and molecules. Before we discuss their work and demonstrate its consistency with established facts of nuclear physics and with the theories of quarks and superstrings once it is correctly interpreted, we will review the events that led to their collaboration in this systematic psychic investigation of the subatomic world. The severest critic of parapsychology would have to admit that this study, which remains little-known even to parapsychologists, is unique. This is not because it demonstrates that accurate information about the world can be obtained paranormally (although this proves to be the case) but because it represents perhaps the only recorded example of alleged ESP where one can be completely and absolutely certain that both fraud and
unconscious use of sensory clues — the escape clauses often favoured by sceptics and debunkers of the paranormal (although, sometimes, with no proof) — are ruled out a priori by the absence of relevant scientific data or ideas that might account for their significant nature. The author has demonstrated in three books and in peer-reviewed research papers published in journals that the clairvoyant observations of Besant & Leadbeater are overwhelmingly consistent with facts of nuclear physics and with the experimentally well-established theory of quarks, about neither of which they could have known anything 120 years ago when their investigations began. This means that sceptics of the paranormal have no logical choice other than to admit that ESP of the micro-physical world is a genuine human faculty. Not that they will, of course, for they can always resort to a last, desperate measure: ignore the subject altogether and refuse to get engaged in discussion with anyone who has established a prima facie case for the claims of Besant & Leadbeater being genuine. Certainly, sceptics will not bother to review his books if they realize that they cannot dismiss the evidence that they contain. For them, maintaining one's scientific world-view and academic respectability is more important than facing the truth.
Quite apart from the resistance towards the paranormal shown by the scientific establishment, the problem for recognition of this particular kind of ESP — remote viewing of subatomic particles — is that parapsychologists rarely have enough knowledge of nuclear and particle physics to be able to evaluate adequately their purported, paranormal descriptions. It hardly needs to be pointed out that atoms, atomic nuclei, electrons, quarks, etc do not have an 'appearance' that readily enables their recognition in the way that psychic description of targets hidden in the parapsychology laboratory can. This means that judging failure or success in the remote viewing of subatomic particles is not straightforward. In order to assess the validity of someone's claim to be able to "see" objects too small to be visible even in an electron microscope, parapsychologists have to rely on the opinions of experts with the necessary professional knowledge of what is scientifically known about their structure. But such consultants realise that they will be risking their academic reputations (if not even their careers) if they offered positive assessments that might become public and attract scornful publicity or adverse comment from their colleagues. It is far easier for them to put the issue to rest by making some distorted, biased evaluation that focuses on what they regard as a weakness of the claim but which ignores all its merits. Negative evaluations of claims about ESP are not going to get picked up by science journalists as an interesting story because they are not newsworthy. They merely confirm what most scientists already believe about the paranormal! Scientists examining the paranormal tend to get into the news only when they appear to debunk long-held, popular beliefs about the supernatural, thereby perpetuating the illusion of yet another triumph of scientific materialism over irrational superstition. The few that are brave enough to confirm or defend such claims publicly are ignored for the most part, often being refused publication in mainstream, peer-reviewed academic journals unless the latter specialize in paranormal topics.
Annie Besant (neé Wood) was born in London at 5.39 p.m. on October 1st, 1847. Her father, William Wood, a doctor, died when she was five years old and she was brought up for some years as the second of three children by her Irish mother, Emily Morris, whom she adored, describing her early childhood as the "happiest time of my life." Later, a friend of her mother took responsibility for her upbringing. In December 1867, at the age of 20, Annie married with some reluctance an Anglican vicar, Frank Besant. Shortly after their wedding, they moved into a vicarage in Lincolnshire. Their marriage proved disastrous from its onset, for they were an ill-matched couple. Annie was proud and hot-tempered, with a free-thinking, independent mind, whilst her conservative husband was a domineering individual who, like most Victorian men, firmly believed that a wife should obey her husband at all times and never argue with him (as Annie did) about ‘male’ topics of conversation, such as politics or religion. Because of her heart-felt concern for the
Annie Besant (1847-1933)
poor and unemployed, which extended beyond the superficial, charitable sentiments of a vicar's wife, Annie became deeply interested in politics. But her social (and increasingly Socialist) views were not shared by her husband, who became more and more violent towards her when she attacked the widespread hypocrisy among Christians, who, whilst teaching and professing to believe that people should love their neighbours as themselves, never helped nor showed concern for those who needed more than pious sermons, namely the poor. As a result, Annie's marriage cooled in inverse proportion to the growing intensity of her passionate concern for the working class.
Annie began to realize that she had a great gift of oratory that could command the attention of influential audiences. At the age of 25, she took what for a woman of her social class was the rare and audacious step of leaving her husband and son, although it was a legal separation, and taking her daughter Mabel with her to London, where she began a career in journalism. Renouncing her Christian faith, Annie joined the company of radicals and atheists, among whom she befriended the notorious Charles Bradlaw, who was scandalizing Victorian society with his atheistic views. They collaborated in the writing of what became known as the "Knowlton Pamphlet." This was the first publication to set down in plain, non-medical language advice to ordinary women about contraception and birth control. Annie became a public speaker and writer who outraged ‘polite,' bourgeois society with her forthright free-thinking, atheistic opinions — all the more because they were expressed by a woman! She published with Bradlaw a book called "Fruits of Philosophy," which described methods of birth control in plain English for uneducated people. As a result, they were put on trial on June 18th, 1877 for publishing and selling a pornographic book for 6d. Spurning the assistance of a lawyer, Annie Besant became the first woman in legal history to defend herself in an English law court, speaking for two days about the great Victorian taboo of sex! Not surprisingly, both were found guilty by the all-male jury. On appeal, however, they were cleared of all charges.
Impressed both by the eloquence and by the substance of her defence, the young writer and playwright George Bernard Shaw introduced Annie to his Socialist friends. However, her colleague Bradlaw criticised and disowned her for making this move into Socialism. In 1878, Annie's estranged husband managed to gain legal control of her daughter Mabel, arguing successfully in court that her publicly professed atheism made her an unfit mother. She was even denied the right to visit the girl. This traumatic loss of her daughter left her for a while filled with self-doubt as a mother. During the next few years, however, her loneliness and introspection gave way to her natural passionate concern for the plight of the poor and homeless. In June 1888, a few months before the notorious "Jack the Ripper" murders, she took up the cause of the young girls working at the Bryant & May Match Company in the East End of London. Writing in a Socialist newspaper, she began to expose their appalling working conditions. By July, the dispute became a strike supported by Annie's campaign of newspaper articles and letters, which was soon vindicated by an independent inquiry. The resulting public outrage forced the directors of the well-known company to look into the complaints of their workers, who returned to work two days later with the promise of improvement in their pay and conditions of work.
This had been the first strike in Britain by unskilled workers, who had of course no union to support them. Moreover, it had been organized by a woman — Annie Besant, for whom the winning of the strike represented a great personal victory. She felt, however, still unsatisfied as a champion of the rights of poor, working people. Annie began increasingly to believe that something more than the Socialist movement was needed to establish the true brotherhood of man. She despaired at not finding any organisation with the right kind of vision. Then in 1889, she was asked to review a book called The Secret Doctrine, written by the Russian aristocrat and occultist, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky:
This enormous, erudite work purported to demonstrate the existence of an ancient esoteric wisdom linking all religious mythologies and handed down by initiates of this mystical tradition in both the East and the West. At once, Annie's despair and frustration vanished, for she knew she had found the movement and philosophy she had been seeking in vain until then, namely, Theosophy. She joined the Theosophical Society and became its second President in 1907. Through her many books on Eastern mysticism and the spellbinding eloquence of her public lectures worldwide, she was largely responsible for the upsurge of public interest in Theosophy in the first two decades of this century. Her reforming campaigns on behalf of Indians led to the establishment of the first National Hindu University in India. She also formed the Home Rule for India League in 1916, which led to her internment the following year. She was released after Subramania Iyer, Vice-President of the Theosophical Society, smuggled a letter to President Wilson of the United States, asking him to intercede with the British Government to release her, which he did. On her release, she became President of the Indian National Congress. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru later acknowledged their debt to her pioneering efforts, Gandhi saying that Besant awoke India from the deep sleep. A three-part film about her life can be viewed at the link below.
In 1894, Annie Besant met Charles W. Leadbeater, who was a clergyman in the Church of England and the secretary of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. The next year, she invited Leadbeater and his Indian colleague, C.J. Jinarajadasa, to live at the London Theosophical Headquarters, a house in Regents Park where Madame Blavatsky had passed away in 1891 and which was now Annie's home. Thus began a literary collaboration that lasted until Annie's death in 1933.
& Leadbeater professed to have received instruction by their Indian gurus in a certain form of yoga known as
kundalini yoga in order to develop certain psychic powers. In particular, they claimed to have acquired the
paranormal ability to see invisibly small objects, such as atoms. This is one of the eight siddhis, or
psychic powers, mentioned often in Hindu folklore about great yogis and in the ancient sacred writings of India. In
Aphorism 3.26 of the Yoga Sutras (date unknown, possibly circa second or third century CE), which
is the earliest known treatise on yoga, its author, Patanjali, refers to this siddhi by stating that a yogi can
gain "knowledge of the small, the hidden or the distant by directing the light of a superphysical
The Uttara Tantra is a treatise on Buddha nature. It is a highly revered Mahayana Buddhist text said to have been written in a previous incarnation of Maitreya, whom Buddhists believe will be the future Buddha. Verse 44 (see above) of the Uttara Tantra also makes reference to this ability as one of the powers of a Buddha. In modern parapsychological terms, the faculty to acquire "knowledge ... of the hidden or the distant" is called remote viewing. The ability to gain "knowledge of the small" or "see ... small things" may likewise be understood as remote viewing of the microscopic world. As a form of remote viewing, it is virtually unknown to parapsychologists, although long recognized in India as one of the siddhis that can be acquired by yogis, having the Sanskrit name of anima. For this reason, the author has given it the self-explanatory name of micro-psi. An account of the two ways in which Besant & Leadbeater used anima can be found here.
Before discussing what they claimed to have observed with this yogic faculty, the following point needs to be made: even some people who are willing to accept that Leadbeater had genuine psychic ability refuse to believe that Annie Besant was clairvoyant as well. So they attribute solely to Leadbeater all the material generated by their investigations with micro-psi. For some, the motive for their disbelief is, no doubt, that they cannot reconcile with this highly practical woman (a social and political reformer who is still honoured in the British trade union movement and throughout India) her extraordinary claim that she "saw" subatomic particles, human auras, etc. They eliminate what to them is a troubling inconsistency by denying that Besant played any active role in her pioneering, paranormal researches with Leadbeater, suggesting that she merely added her name to his work. The letter shown below refutes this opinion beyond all doubt by indicating that, whilst she admitted that she was not a natural psychic, she was sure that she had acquired clairvoyant ability:
I will tell you about the first occasion on which I saw my Master. Soon after I had joined the Society, it happened that I was in England at a time when H.P.B. was in Fontainebleau, France, where The Voice of the Silence was written. She wrote me to go over and join her, which I did with joy. She was living in a delightful old house out in the country, and I was put in a bed-room near hers, a door connecting the two. One night I awoke suddenly owing to an extraordinary feeling that there was in the room. The air was all throbbing, and it seemed as if an electric machine was playing there; the whole room was electric. I was so astonished (for it was my first experience of the kind) that I sat up in bed, wondering what on earth could be happening. It was quite dark, and in those days I was not a bit clairvoyant. At the foot of the bed a luminous figure appeared, and stood there from half a minute to a minute. It was the figure of a very tall man, and I thought, from pictures I had seen, it was H.P.B.’s Master. Near him was another figure, more faintly luminous, which I could not clearly distinguish. The brilliant figure stood quite still, looking at me, and I was so utterly astounded that I sat perfectly still, simply looking at Him; I did not even think of saluting Him. So I remained motionless and then gradually the figure vanished. Next day I told H.P.B. what had happened, and she replied: ‘Yes, Master came to see me in the night, and went into your room to have a look at you.’ This was my first experience of seeing a Master; it must have been clearly a case of materialisation, for as I have said, I was not in the least clairvoyant at the time.
Source: Besant, Annie. "In the Twilight." The Theosophist (Adyar, Madras, India), May 1910, pp. 1098-1100.
"H.P.B." was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whose magnum opus "The Secret Doctrine" had persuaded Annie Besant to join the Theosophical Society. Soon after 1913, according to one of her assistants who was in the best position to know (see below), Besant stopped her clairvoyant work because she felt that it was producing mental strain that interfered with her political work in India. Sceptics who deny that she possessed any psychic ability have to face the implication of their denial, namely, that she must have been lying when she reported her experiences in this letter, for she says that "in those days I was not a bit clairvoyant" and that ""I was not in the least clairvoyant at the time" — two statements which imply that she was admitting that she later acquired clairvoyance. Given her stainless character and reputation, who other than the most desperate and cynical sceptic could believe that it is plausible that she was lying in this letter!? It does not, of course, mean that we have to accept every claim that she (and Leadbeater) made as true. A psychic can honestly misinterpret what he or she experiences. If they are proved wrong sometimes, it does not mean that we have to go to the extreme of accusing the person of either cheating or lying about their psychic abilities, nor does it give us permission to dismiss him or her as either misguided at best or a charlatan at worse. As a last resort, whenever they cannot prove that cheating occurred, sceptics like to assert that sincere misinterpretation of impressions or visions as 'psychic' must have occurred; according to them, the self-proclaimed psychic merely 'got lucky.' Sceptics are rarely able to substantiate this conclusion because it is merely a vacuous supposition on their part, necessitated by their irrational unwillingness to evaluate evidence dispassionately when it appears to contradict what current science dogmatically says is possible. As long as it cannot be disproved that the psychic's success was due to chance — however improbable it may be — that residual uncertainty is all the sceptic needs to dismiss paranormal claims. However, the more intellectually honest (indeed, scientific) position is not to prejudge the issue for ideological reasons or for issues that focus on the psychic's character or past deeds or statements. Instead, it should be to examine and to assess the evidence on its own merit without concern for whatever paradigm-shifting implications it might have for science or for whatever controversy any positive evaluation might ignite.
As further evidence that Besant believed that she had acquired clairvoyant ability, Leadbeater wrote in 1895 to the Theosophist Francesca Arundale, a close friend of Madame Blavatsky and Besant, that she had started to develop "astral vision" whilst taking a holiday that year in Surrey. See his letter here. This statement of Leadbeater's belief concerning Besant's acquisition of clairvoyance does not, of course, amount to any kind of independent proof that Besant acquired such powers. Rather, it serves, simply, to rebut the view that Besant did not play any active role in her paranormal investigations with Leadbeater. Both said that she did, and this was attested by their assistant, C. Jinarajadasa (see below).
Besant & Leadbeater said that they began using micro-psi in 1895 to study the atoms of the elements. Firstly, they examined with micro-psi the atoms (let us call them "MPAs" in order not to prejudge whether they really were atoms) of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, publishing diagrams of what they had seen in the November, 1895 issue of the Theosophical journal Lucifer. During a summer vacation in Germany, they visited a museum in Dresden and studied many minerals on public display. Sir William Crookes, the famous chemist and inventor of the cathode ray tube, was a member of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. He provided the two Theosophists with specimens of some elements that are difficult to obtain in a pure state. By 1907, they had examined 59 more elements, noting variations in the MPAs of the elements neon, argon, krypton, xenon and platinum despite the fact that scientists did not then suspect that an element could have more than one type of atom. Indeed, the English chemist Frederick Soddy did not give the name "isotopes" to atoms of an element differing in mass until five years after Besant & Leadbeater reported in November 1908 in the Theosophical journal The Theosophist (vol. 30) their discovery by psychic means of a variation of neon. Their discovery of isotopic variations in atoms years before scientists even suspected that such variations exist and many more years before the latter detected the isotopes in question must count as one of the rare occasions in the history of parapsychology referred to earlier when ESP has been used to make predictions (later confirmed by science) about things no one at the time even imagined existed, let alone knew of. A sceptic might argue that this could have amounted merely to a fortuitous piece of imaginative thinking. However, astute guessing can plausibly explain neither the mathematical correlation between the details of the Theosophists' observations of isotopic MPAs and the known mass numbers* of these isotopes (as we shall learn shortly) nor the detailed, qualitative consistency between these observations and facts of nuclear and particle physics (see my first three books), such information not existing during the period 1895-1908 of the major part of their investigations. If, therefore, the sceptic wants to dismiss their anticipation of isotopes as lucky guessing, he is forced to regard in the same way the encyclopaedic volume of similar correlations with nuclear and particle physics that I accumulated in my book. Such a position stretched credulity beyond its breaking point — at least for minds that are not unbalanced by ideological prejudice towards the paranormal. For this reason, chance and guessing are completely untenable alternative explanations for how Besant & Leadbeater described isotopic variations in MPAs years before any scientist suspected that isotopes exist.
Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa (1875-1953), a colleague of Besant and Leadbeater who became President of the Theosophical Society in 1946, assisted during their investigative sessions by making sketches and notes, based partly on their own drawings. His account of the modus operandi they used, in which he confirmed that Besant believed that she had acquired clairvoyant ability, can be found here. On January 8th, 1943, long after their deaths and by this time now himself president of the Theosophical Society, Jinarajadasa wrote to Professor F.W. Aston, inventor of the mass spectrograph (a scientific instrument for detecting isotopes), informing him about their paranormal observations of atoms. He pointed out in particular that they had discovered in 1908 the neon-22 isotope four years before neon was found scientifically by Aston to have an isotope, and that an MPA, which he believed corresponded to the helium-3 isotope whose discovery Aston had announced in 1942, had been described in The Theosophist as early as
January, 1908. Four days later, the distinguished experimental physicist and Nobel Prize winner sent back the following cursory reply:
"Dr Aston thanks Mr Jinarajadasa for sending his communication of Jan. 8 and begs to return same without comment as he is not interested in Theosophy."
(see his letter here). This disingenuous remark hid the fact, recently discovered by Dr Jeff Hughes,** a scientific historian at the University of Manchester, that Aston, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1922 for his studies of nuclear isotopes, had delivered a scientific paper in 1913 at the British Association (now known as the British Association for the Advancement of Science) in which he labelled as "meta-neon" the neon isotope that he had extracted, although he had thought it to be a new element. In a footnote on the last page of his paper, Aston referred, amazingly, to the clairvoyant investigations of many elements by Besant & Leadbeater, but, of course, did not state whether he took their claims seriously. He, did, however, mention the label "meta-neon" that they had invented and borrowed it in his paper, although he thought that he had detected a new element, whereas the two Theosophists correctly interpreted the different MPA as a new form of the neon atom that, a few years later, became recognised by scientists as an isotope of neon. Moreover, Hughes found that Aston's measurement of the atomic mass of the isotope (22.1, with H =1) agreed to within one per cent with the value 22.33 published by Besant & Leadbeater in 1908 in both The Theosophist (Vol. 1) and the first edition of their book Occult Chemistry! Aston had obviously either read or learnt about their various Theosophical publications announcing their unorthodox discovery. But he did not want to admit to Jinarajadasa that not only had he done so but also he had borrowed their term for this neon isotope, even though he had acknowledged both them and doing this in the paper he delivered to the British Association, announcing his discovery of a new gas in the atmosphere! Was Aston's detection with his new mass spectrograph of an isotope of neon with an atomic mass of 22.1 actually guided by the figure that they had published for its mass five years earlier? We shall never know, although it is quite possible. But, if it had been, Aston was not going to talk about it with a stranger. As the recipient of a Nobel Prize awarded partly for the first experimental detection of an isotope, he could hardly risk making the admission that others had led him to his discovery. Nor could he have repaired the damage to his scientific reputation if it had ever become known that a Nobel Prize-winning scientist had paid serious attention to the work of two clairvoyants! Pride had to come before honesty. Hence his curt reply to Jinarajadasa.
In his book Occult Investigations, Jinarajadasa points out that Besant & Leadbeater at first found only meta-neon, describing later the more common isotope of neon:
"I recall one interesting incident. If anyone will look at the diagram of the inert gases Helium, Neon and Argon in the book, he will note that Neon is placed unusually in the diagram, squeezed in a curious way. What happened was that only one variety of Neon was found, curious why. What happened was that only one variety of Neon was found, while two varieties were discovered of Argon, Krypton, Xenon, and “Kalon.” So I drew the diagram, labelling as Neon what is marked in the diagram as Meta-Neon. But after the diagram was finished, the true Neon was discovered. There was no time to draw another diagram and place the meta variety by its side, as done with Argon. So, as the new Neon diagram was small, I squeezed it into the completed diagram, and changed the old label Neon to Meta-Neon."
For more details, see part of his Occult Investigations here, in the paragraph entitled "C. Jinarajadasa as draughtsman."
Besant & Leadbeater published in 1908 a summary of their initial work in their book Occult Chemistry. A year later, twenty more elements were studied, notably so-called "illinium," which was recognised later to be the element promethium, discovered by science in 1945. A second edition of Occult Chemistry appeared in 1919, though it contained none of the new material that had been published since its first edition. Purported descriptions of the molecules of methane, benzene and other chemical compounds were published in 1924. The following year, Leadbeater published in The Theosophist (vol. 46) a model of the atomic structure of diamond. In 1926, he correctly described the hexagonal arrangement of carbon atoms in
WEB: Occult Chemistry (2nd ed,)
eBOOK: Occult Chemistry (3rd ed.)
graphite. More material was published in 1932. It included descriptions of the MPAs of so-called "element 85" (named "astatine" by science in 1940), "element 87" (called "francium" by science in 1939) and "element 91" (isolated by chemists in 1921 and called "protactinium"). In 1909, Besant & Leadbeater had recorded (though never published) their observation of the MPA of an element they called "masurium." Moreover, it can now be seen that they placed it correctly in the periodic table used by chemists to classify the chemical properties of elements. Leadbeater described it again in 1932 in The Theosophist (vol. 54) five years before the element was detected and called "technetium" by science. In the same year, the two Theosophists reported finding atoms of an element with an atomic weight of 2. They assumed (mistakenly, as it turned out) that it was a new element unknown to science. They did not correctly identify the element as deuterium (a heavy isotope of hydrogen), which the American chemist Harold Urey and his colleagues had discovered the previous year, because they had earlier misidentified another MPA as that of deuterium. In the last year of their investigations, Besant & Leadbeater published their observations of the MPAs of all the inert gases (including several isotopes) and reported the existence of two forms of the hydrogen MPA, three isotopic varieties of oxygen and two species of ozone. Finally, Jinarajadasa, with the able assistance of Elizabeth Preston, a fellow Theosophist and former convener of the Science Group of the Theosophical Society in England, compiled all the research material that had accumulated over thirty-eight years and published it in 1951 in a third, enlarged edition of Occult Chemistry. A new edition of this book is available here.
A website dedicated to the life and writings of C.W. Leadbeater is http://www.cwlworld.info/index.html. Listen here to a rare audio talk by Leadbeater, believed to be from 1913. Below is rare footage, thought to be from the mid 1920s and found in the archives of The International Theosophical Centre, Naarden, Netherlands, of C.W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant and the young Krishnamurti, who later in 1930 resigned from the Theosophical Society and became well-known internationally as a speaker and teacher:
*The mass number of an atomic nucleus is the number of protons and neutrons that it contains.
**"Occultism and the Atom: The Curious Story of Isotopes," Jeff Hughes, Physics World (September, 2003). Read a newspaper article about the story here.
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