Theosophy | Weekly Quotes from “The Secret Doctrine”, by HP Blavatsky

Evolution and Intelligent Design in The Secret Doctrine – LXXII
The Comparative Anatomy of Man and Anthropoid Is Not a Confirmation of Darwinism

   We are told that while every other heresy against modern science may be disregarded, this, our denial of the Darwinian theory as applied to Man, will be the one “unpardonable” sin. The Evolutionists stand firm as rock on the evidence of similarity of structure between the ape and the man. The anatomical evidence, it is urged, is quite overpowering in this case; it is bone for bone, and muscle for muscle, even the brain conformation being very much the same.

Well, what of that? All this was known before King Herod, and the writers of the Ramayana, the poets who sang the prowess and valour of Hanuman, the monkey-God, “whose feats were great and Wisdom never rivaled,” must have known as much about his anatomy and brain as does any Hæckel or Huxley in our modern day. Volumes upon volumes were written upon this similarity, in antiquity as in more modern times. Therefore, there is nothing new whatever given to the world or to philosophy, in such volumes as Mivart’s “Man and Apes,” or Messrs. Fiske and Huxley’s defence of Darwinism. But what are those crucial proofs of man’s descent from a pithecoid ancestor? If the Darwinian theoryis not the true one – we are told – if man and ape do not descend from a common ancestor, then we are called upon to explain the reason of:

(I.) The similarity of structure between the two; the fact that the higher animal world – man and beast – is physically of one type or pattern.

(II.) The presence of rudimentary organs in man, i.e. traces of former organs now atrophied by disuse. Some of these organs, it is asserted, could not have had any scope for employment, except for a semi-animal, semi-arboreal monster. Why, again, do we find in Man those “rudimentary” organs (as useless as its rudimentary wing is to the Apteryx of Australia), the vermiform appendix of the cœcum, the ear muscles, 1 the “rudimentary tail” (with which children are still sometimes born), etc., etc.?

Such is the war cry; and the cackle of the smaller fry among the Darwinians is louder, if possible, than even that of the scientific Evolutionists themselves!

Furthermore, the latter themselves – with their great leader Mr. Huxley, and such eminent zoologists as Mr. Romanes and others – while defending the Darwinian theory, are the first to confess the almost insuperable difficulties in the way of its final demonstration. And there are as great men of science as the above-named, who deny, most emphatically, the uncalled-for assumption, and loudly denounce the unwarrantable exaggerations on the question of this supposed similarity. It is sufficient to glance at the works of Broca, Gratiolet, of Owen, Pruner-Bey, and finally, at the last great work of de Quatrefages, “Introduction à l’Etude des Races humaines, Questions générales,” to discover the fallacy of the Evolutionists. We may say more: the exaggerations concerning such similarity of structure between man and the anthropomorphous ape have become so glaring and absurd of late, that even Mr. Huxley found himself forced to protest against the too sanguine expectations. It was that great anatomist personally who called the “smaller fry” to order, by declaring in one of his articles that the differences in the structure of the human body and that of the highest anthropomorphous pithecoid, were not only far from being trifling and unimportant, but were, on the contrary, very great and suggestive: “each of the bones of the gorilla has its own specific impress on it that distinguishes it from a similar human bone.” Among the existing creatures there is not one single intermediate form that could fill the gap between man and the ape. To ignore that gap, he added, “was as uncalled-for as it was absurd.” 2

Finally, the absurdity of such an unnatural descent of man is so palpable in the face of all the proofs and evidence of the skull of the pithecoid as compared to that of man, that even de Quatrefages resorted unconsciously to our esoteric theory by saying that it is rather the apes that can claim descent from man than vice versa. As proven by Gratiolet, with regard to the cavities of the brain of the anthropoids, in which species that organ develops in an inverse ratio to what would be the case were the corresponding organs in man really the product of the development of the said organs in the apes – the size of the human skull and its brain, as well as the cavities, increase with the individual development of man. His intellect develops and increases with age, while his facial bones and jaws diminish and straighten, thus being more and more spiritualized: whereas with the ape it is the reverse. In its youth the anthropoid is far more intelligent and good-natured, while with age it becomes duller, and, as its skull recedes and seems to diminish as it grows, its facial bones and jaws develop, the brain being finally crushed, and thrown entirely back, to make with every day more room for the animal type. The organ of thought – the brain – recedes and diminishes, entirely conquered and replaced by that of the wild beast – the jaw apparatus.

Thus, as wittily remarked in the French work, a gorilla would have a perfect right to address an Evolutionist, claiming its right of descent from himself. It would say to him, “We, anthropoid apes, form a retrogressive departure from the human type, and therefore our development and evolution are expressed by a transition from a human-like to an animal-like structure of organism; but in what way could you, men, descend from us – how can you form a continuation of our genus? For, to make this possible, your organization would have to differ still more than ours does from the human structure, it would have to approach still closer to that of the beast than ours does, and in such a case justice demands that you should give up to us your place in nature. You are lower than we are, once that you insist on tracing your genealogy from our kind; for the structure of our organization and its development are such that we are unable to generate forms of a higher organization than our own.


1  Professor Owen believes that these muscles – the attollensretrahens, and attrahens aurem – were actively functioning in men of the Stone Age. This may or may not be the case. The question falls under the ordinary “occult” explanation, and involves no postulate of an “animal progenitor” to solve it.
2  Quoted in the Review of the “Introduction à l’Etude des Races Humaines,” by de Quatrefages. We have not Mr. Huxley’s work at hand to quote from. Or to cite another good authority:  “We find one of the most man-like apes (gibbon) in the tertiary period, and this species is still in the same low grade, and side by side with it at the end of the Ice-period, man is found in the same high grade as today, the ape not having approximated more nearly to the man, and modern man not having become further removed from the ape than the first (fossil) man. . . these facts contradict a theory of constant progressive development.” (Pfaff.) When, according to Vogt, the average Australian brain = 99. 35 cubic inches, that of the gorilla 30. 51 cubic inches, and that of the chimpanzee only 25.45, the giant gap to be bridged by the advocate of “Natural” Selection becomes apparent.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 680-682
H. P. Blavatsky

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