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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 69. No. 1 - November, 1998

One would expect that the staggering pace of scientific achievements in recent times would widen the rift between religion and science, but an increasing number of scientists are now coming forward to say that their very discoveries are making them turn their attention towards spirituality and God. Astronomer Allan Sandage, for instance, speaks for many other scientists when he says, "It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science." And for physicist Charles Townes, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics, recent discoveries in cosmology reveal "a universe that fits religious view" - specifically, that "somehow intelligence must have been involved in the laws of the universe."

"Something surprising is happening between these two old warhorses, science and religion, "writes Sharon Begley in Newsweek (July 27), under the title "Science Finds God":

Rather than undercutting faith and a sense of the spiritual, scientific discoveries are offering support for them, at least in the minds of people of faith. Big-bang cosmology, for instance, once read as leaving no room for a Creator, now implies to some scientists that there is a design and purpose behind the universe. Evolution, say some scientist-theologians, provides clues to the very nature of God. And chaos theory, which describes such mundane processes as the patterns of weather and the dripping of faucets, is being interpreted as opening a door for God to act in the world……

Physicists have stumbled on signs that the cosmos is custom-made for life and consciousness. It turns out that if the constants of nature-unchanging numbers like the strength of gravity, the charge of an electron and the mass of a proton - were the tiniest bit different, then atoms would not hold together, stars would not burn and life would never have made an appearance. "When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see," says John Polkinghorne, who had a distinguished career as a physicist at Cambridge University before becoming an Anglican priest in 1982, "that conspires to plant the ideas that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it."…

Although skeptical scientists grumble that science has no need of religion, forward-looking theologians think religion needs science. Religion "is incapable of making its moral claims persuasive or its spiritual comfort effective unless its cognitive claims" are credible, argues physicist-theologian Russell…To make religions forged millenniums ago relevant in an age of atoms and DNA, some theologians are "incorporating knowledge gained from natural science into the formation of doctrinal beliefs."…

"Science produces in me a tremendous awe," says Sister Mary White of the Benedictine Meditation Centre in St. Paul, Minn. "Science and spirituality have a common quest, which is a quest for truth."….Profoundly religious people and great scientists are both driven to understand the world.

Science and religion are indeed not fully reconciled, yet both are now beginning to talk to each other, both are viewing the universe and its phenomena in a new light. What is really needed is a "scientific religion" and a "religious science," and perhaps the day is not far off when that becomes a reality.


Why do some people cave in when faced with disasters, or even challenges and difficulties, while others have the buoyancy of strength - strength not as brute force, but as the ability to take their fate into their own hands and to reshape their lives? Psychologists are studying resilience - as the field itself is known - how we can be resilient ourselves, and how we can help those close to us become strong in the face of adversity. Is resilience inborn or can it be deliberately acquired? - is the question they are asking.

Deborah Blum's report in Psychology Today (May/June 1998) reveals that resilience is a complex issue, and encompasses a whole cornucopia of traits and qualities. Some of the key aspects of resilience research are thus outlined:

· There is no timeline, no set period, for finding strength, resilient behaviours and coping skills. People do best if they develop strong coping skills as children….but the ability to turn around is always there.
· About one-third of poor, neglected, abused children are capably building better lives by the time they are teenagers, according to all resilience studies…
· Faith - be it in the future, the world at the end of the power lines, or in a higher power - is an essential ingredient…
· Most resilient people don't do it alone…You need the lifeline of love and connection to others….
· Setting goals and planning for the future is a strong factor in dealing with adversity….
· Believing in oneself is important. And it's equally important to actually recognize one's own strengths.

"All people have the capacity for resilience; we just have to learn to draw it out and to support them," says Edith Grotberg, Ph. D. , who heads an international resilience project and tries to help people organize their strengths into three simple categories: I have (which includes strong relationships, structure and rules at home, role models); I am (a person who has hope and faith, cares about others); and I can (ability to communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships). This is a breakthrough change from the approach of psychology just a few decades ago, when it was believed that people were shaped by environment. New research on people's coping skills has disproved this. This year's annual American Psychological Association meeting was focused on recognizing human strengths. Studies of people who had troubled childhoods reveal that a large percentage got over the trauma of their early years and did well in later life.

One of the unexpected spinoffs of resilience research (writes Deborah Blum) is that it has begun breaking down myths of failure - that having a bad beginning makes one a bad person; that abused children grow up to be abusers….Everyone in the field of resilience emphasizes the importance of someone else's presence. Parents, first and best of all, who believe in you, and, if that fails, neighbours, friends, teachers. The foremost element in transcending trouble is not having to do it alone.

Resilience, as studies reveal, is many different things. It is multifaceted. We all respond differently to different challenges. Researchers admit that there is a lot to it that they do not understand as yet-why some people are strong while other's strength fails them. And how can they understand unless they accept Karma and Reincarnation? These twin doctrines are the key to many a problem researchers are trying to solve.


"What despair and agony of doubt exist today in all places!" Mr. Judge exclaimed in writing to a correspondent. One of the reasons for this is lack of love and trust-the bedrock of human relationships and the panacea for many an ill afflicting us.

In Psychology Today (July/August 1998), Hara Estroff Marano writes editorially on the human need for trust:

Without trust, there can be no meaningful connection to another human being. And without connection to another, we literally fall apart. We get physically sick. We get depressed. And our minds run away with themselves.

Trust develops early, in the first year of life, researchers tell us. It is an intrinsic part of the emotional bond and infant develops in response to a reliably attentive parent or other caregiver. From this primal interaction, children build a mental representation of relationships that they carry forth into life, one reason most individuals tend to create fairly consistent patterns of relationships.

Those whose early care is unreliable or unpredictable, the thinking goes, grow up handicapped in their ability to trust others. They are sitting ducks for paranoia….

The absence of trust brings bad things. To have one's sense of trust shattered by an unwanted or unexpected event is one thing. To actively teach distrust-to schoolkids or to anyone-is, to me simply unimaginable. A truly impeachable offense.


A narrow meaning of education has constricted human minds for too long. In its wider aspect, education can build bridges of goodwill, create mutual respect and understanding, and provide a lasting solution to many of the conflicts in the world today. The following thoughts on the purpose of education are worth reflecting upon:

 

Education is a process whereby unity or a sense of synthesis is cultivated in human beings. It guides individuals to think of themselves in relation to the group, to the family unit and to the nation in which their destiny has put them.

Education prepares a person for citizenship, parenthood and for understanding the world; it is basically psychological and should convey an understanding of humanity. When this type of training is given, we shall have men and women who are both civilized and cultured and who will be able to perceive the underlying meaning of the world of outer phenomena and also possess the capacity to view human happenings in terms of the deeper spiritual and universal values.

In this light, schools and colleges must be revered places of learning and their most valuable lessons should be those that teach the wisdom of peace, which is not just about absence of conflict but a spirit of active goodwill linking each to all in a harmony of right human relations…

Such an educational policy should be founded on the following guiding principles: understanding and respect for all peoples, their cultures, civilizations, values and ways of life; awareness of the increasing global interdependence between peoples and nations; understanding of the necessity for international solidarity and co-operation; responsibility and readiness on the part of the individual to participate in solving the problems of his community, his country and the world at large. (Purity, July 1998)


A team of paleontologists from China, Canada and the United States came out with the announcement this July that they have discovered two new species of small dinosaurs, each of which was clearly covered with feathers. According to their report in the science journal Nature, the specimens support the popular theory that birds are descended from dinosaurs. They also suggest that several dinosaur species may have belonged to the feathered variety. A co-author of the report, Philip Curie, calls it "one of the most exciting discoveries of the century."

Scientists have in the past proposed the theory of a dinosaur-bird link, but detailed evidence to back it up had been lacking. The new find, it is said, is enough to convince most dinosaur experts.

This is in conformity with the occult doctrine. "The missing links representing the transition process between reptile and bird are apparent to the veriest bigot," says The Secret Doctrine.


With respect to surgery, modern practitioners have humbly and publicly confessed the total impossibility of their approximating to anything like the marvellous skill displayed in the art of bandaging by ancient Egyptians. The many hundred yards of ligature enveloping a mummy from its ears down to every separate toe, were studied by the chief surgical operators in Paris, and, notwithstanding that the models were before their eyes, they were unable to accomplish anything like it.

Thus Isis Unveiled (I, 10). Now a detailed chemical analysis of a 4150-year-old skeleton from Egypt's Old Kingdom is said to be providing clues to ancient Egyptian embalming techniques (Discover, May 1998). The mummified skeleton of Idu II, who lived around 2150 B.C., was found at Giza and brought to the Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany. Analysis of a liquified bone sample reveals an abundance of antiseptic organic compounds common to wood tars. These substances are know to destroy bacteria and fungi that decompose dead bodies and bones. The mummification of the skeleton was so perfect, in fact, that it enables an enzyme needed to build up the bone mineral apatite to remain intact and active for more than four millennia.

The new study suggests that "it may be time to rewrite the history of Egyptian mummification." The remarkable condition of Idu II's skeleton shows that at least some of the mummification techniques described by Herodotus were well established very early in Egypt's history.

Isis Unveiled (I, 539) goes on to say:

None but the those who have made special study of the subject, can estimate the amount of skill, patience, and knowledge exacted for the accomplishment of this indestructible work, which occupied several months. Both chemistry and surgery were called into requisition. The mummies, if left in the dry climate of Egypt, seem to be practically imperishable; and even when removed after a repose of several thousand years, show no signs of change. "The body," says the anonymous writer, "was filled with myrrh, cassia, and other gums, and after that, saturated with natron….Then followed the marvellous swathing of the emblamed body, so artistically executed, that professional modern bandagists are lost in admiration at its excellency."



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A section in the monthly magazine: discussing current developments in science and the world and relating them to the teachings of Theosophy
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1999
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1998
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