“Professor Balfour Stewart, whom no one would think of classing among illiberal minds; who, with far more fairness and more frequently than any of his colleagues admits the failings of modern science, shows himself, nevertheless, as biased as other scientists on this question. Perpetual light being only another name for perpetual motion, he tells us, and the latter being impossible because we have no means of equilibrating the waste of combustible material, a Hermetic light is, therefore, an impossibility.
Noting the fact that a “perpetual light was supposed to result from magical powers”, and remarking further that such a light is “certainly not of this earth, where light and all other forms of superior energy are essentially evanescent”, this gentleman argues as though the Hermetic philosophers had always claimed that the flame under discussion was an ordinary earthly flame, resulting from the combustion of luminiferous material. In this the philosophers have been constantly misunderstood and misrepresented.
How many great minds, unbelievers from the start, after having studied the “secret doctrine”, have changed their opinions and found out how mistaken they were. And how contradictory it seems to find one moment Balfour Stewart quoting some philosophical morals of Bacon, whom he terms the gather of experimental science, and saying “…surely we ought to learn a lesson from these remarks, and be very cautious before we dismiss any branch of knowledge or train of thought as essentially unprofitable”; and then dismissing the next moment, as utterly impossible, the claims of the alchemists!
He shows Aristotle as “entertaining the idea that light is not any body, or the emanation of any body, and that therefore light is an energy or act”; and yet, although the ancients were the first to show, through Demokritus, to John Dalton the doctrine of atoms, and through Pythagoras and even the oldest of the Chaldean oracles, that of ether as a universal agent, their ideas, says Stewart, “were not prolific.” He admits that they “possessed great genius and intellectual power”, but adds that “they were deficient in physical conceptions, and, in consequence, their ideas were not prolific.””
H. P. Blavatsky