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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol. 69 No. 12, October, 1999

"Peace is much more than absence of conflict. It involves, above all, democracy and development." These were the words of UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor at the opening of a culture of peace conference in Moscow this May. (Unesco Sources,June 1999)

Representatives from different parts of the world attended the International Forum for "a Culture of Peace and Dialogue among Civilizations in the Third Millennium." The forum aimed to draw the attention of public opinion to the fact that a culture of peace and dialogue between different peoples and civilizations requires the acquisition of a general culture-cultural, civic and social awareness-and civil society therefore plays an important role in establishing the conditions allowing for the development of this culture of peace and dialogue.

Culture is the equivalent of the use by the Romans of the word for the humanities, humanitas. To humanize is to render humane, to mellow, to make gentle by overcoming cruelty, indifference, brutality. To be cultured is to be made more humane; to unfold the sensibilities common to humanity; to bring out the kind feelings, dispositions and sympathies of human beings. Culture is thus truly the cultivation-that is its derivation, from the Latin, cultura-of the nobler qualities; the training, the refining of the moral and intellectual nature.

And whence springs such humane culture? From the intellectual recognition that humanity is a great Brotherhood. Humanity is one and indivisible, but the mind must perceive this fact, must understand the Laws of Brotherhood, must realize the Great Self of which we are all integral parts. There is an intimate connection between true culture and peace. Both are of the spirit. When people recognize and practise Brotherhood, they will cease to follow the law of the jungle, which is that of violence, and will exemplify instead the Law of Love. In mutual co-operation they will become true brothers and when Brotherhood is lived up to, Peace will be established. We all dream of a World Order, of World Unity, of Concord and Understanding. These will all come when human minds recognize the reality of the One Self and begin to act for and as the Self of all creatures.
Thus the Peace of the Spirit and the Culture rooted in Brotherhood are so intimately related that the one cannot be without the other. It is Culture that transcends all differentiations and varieties of form which is the foundation for lasting Peace.

Countless cultures around the world have disappeared, along with the myths that once united them. Authors Stanley Krippner, Ann Mortifee and David Feinstein write in The Futurist of the need of creating a new unifying mythic vision for the future-using the word "myth" in the sense of an expression of the customs, traditions, institutions, attitudes, etc., of a people:

If we are going to avoid the fate of the Easter Islanders, we must change the myths that are leading us toward extinction and find inspiring visions of a plausible and appealing future. The old myths have collapsed, but no new ones have emerged to fill the vacuum. For transformation to occur, human beings must actively shape the future, an enterprise that goes to the heart of mythmaking. If we are each a cell in what Peter Russell calls "The Global Brain", then this is an individual as well as a collective venture.

Framing a problem in mythological terms can point toward solutions at deeper mythic levels. For centuries, the guiding myth of Western culture has been what might be called the "Grand Narrative of Progress." It is the story of movement toward a goal-achievement, improvement, and conquest. Modern science and technology have propelled this myth, extending the human life-span, harnessing natural resources and the power of the atom, carrying sounds through the atmosphere, and exploring outer space by defying gravity itself….

But as the Grand Narrative of Progress came to dominate other values and views, it cast a malignant shadow….Indeed, the Grand Narrative of Progress is a myth that stands in need of criticism…

Philosopher Sam Keen has urged us to shift from the myth of progress to a myth of sustainable growth in order to create the compassionate political order needed to avert humanity from its self-destructive course. Keen has identified some of the radical changes in values and principles of political action needed to achieve the myth of sustainable growth. They include:

Shifting personal identity from the egocentric to the community-rooted person.
Shifting from competition to economic co-operation.
Shifting from sanctified violence and the myth of just wars to peaceful means of conflict resolution.
Shifting from population explosion to zero population growth.
Shifting from a secular view of nature as raw material to the belief that nature is sacred.
Shifting from a world divided between the poor and the rich to a more just distribution of wealth and resources….

Yet, if systems design and policy planning veer away from the Scylla of the Grand Narrative of Progress and the Charybdis of the a Millennium Myths, it is still possible to foster mythologies based on sustainability and connection. The inhabitants of Island Earth can avoid the fate of the Easter Islanders as we set sail for the twenty-first century.

The belief that natural phenomena and objects, like rocks, trees, the wind, heavenly bodies, etc., are alive and have souls, is ingrained in tribal societies. This view that all life is produced by a spiritual force separate from matter is called animism by anthropologists.

Some present-day investigators portray animism as a useful and universal human tendency. Despite Western canons of thought that rigidly divide animate and inanimate, human and non-human, natural and social, people in modern societies tend to hold animistic convictions with no less fervour than members of primitive nonliterate societies. As stated by Bruce Bower (Science News, June 5):

In hunter-gatherer societies, according to this view, keen attunement to the subtleties of trees, stones, heavenly bodies, and other facets of the world becomes a kind of conversation with these entities; it amounts to socializing with them as beings in their own right….
"Habitual movements of the sun in the heavens, of trees in the wind, of animals and humans as they go about their everyday tasks take place as part of a total life process of continuous birth, through which the world itself is forever coming into being," Tim Ingold [of the University of Manchester in England] maintains. "In short, living beings do not move upon the world but move along with it."…
Consider the ease with which people see life forms in the smudgy blots of a Rorschach inkblot test and name and talk to ears, computers, and other valued possessions. Think of the many writers and poets who avidly animate the natural world and human-made objects in literary descriptions. Even scientists find it difficult not to assume that nonhuman animals, natural phenomena, and theoretical entities operate on the basis of intentions and beliefs….
Animism in modern societies arises through a process of attaining familiarity with specific aspects of one's surroundings. In the high-tech world, however, it may be mechanical and electronic entities that are treated as at least potentially conscious. The distance from a chess-playing computer to a silicon comrade, for example, seems particularly short.
Ingold agrees that as people forge closer relation with features of their environment, animism flourishes.

There is a growing belief, endorsed by some scientists, that there is nothing inanimate in nature and in the universe. Every natural phenomenon, every object, every entity, is thrilling and throbbing with life.

There are certain common symbols recognizable in most of the world's cultures, and the dragon is one of them. Yet, in different traditions it has acquired different connotations. Rachel Hajar writes in The World and I of the beliefs associated with the dragon.

Today, we tend to dismiss mythical beasts as relics from a superstitious past. Yet, in modern fiction and art worldwide, dragons survive. Myths are more than simple tales from a primitive past. They are an important means of validating that our ways of governing and organizing ourselves are part of the natural order. Linking and incorporating a variety of perceptions and themes, myths can have multilayered meanings. Myths endure because they belong to the realm of the sacred; they reflect in symbols the deepest concerns of our minds.
Dragons figure prominently in recitals of the creation, maintenance, destruction, and restoration of cosmic order. Whether negative or positive, dragons remain potent symbols of nature beyond man's control. Besides reflecting the role of cosmic order in human affairs, there is another dimension to dragon lore, and that is our struggle to master the dark, demonic forces of our nature to attain harmony with our true inner self.

Many today think of the dragon as the incarnation of evil, darkness and other negative forces, yet in antiquity it had quite a different connotation. "No peoples or nations except the Christians gave the significance to the Dragon that is given to it now," says The Secret Doctrine (I, 657).

In Occult symbolism, the Dragon, or Serpent, represents Divine Wisdom.
We find….the "Dragons" held throughout all antiquity as the symbols of Immortality and Wisdom, of secret knowledge and of Eternity; and the hierophants of Egypt, of Babylon, and India, styling themselves generally the "Sons of the Dragon" and "Serpents." (S.D., II, 379)
The "Dragon of Wisdom" is the One, the "Eka" (Sanskrit) or Saka…The "One" and the Dragon are expressions used by the ancients in connection with their respective Logoi. Jehovah-esoterically (as Elohim)-is also the Serpent of Dragon that tempted Eve, and the "Dragon" is an old glyph for "Astral Light" (Primordial Principle), "which is the Wisdom of Chaos." Archaic philosophy, recognizing neither Good nor Evil as a fundamental or independent power, but starting from the Absolute ALL (Universal Perfection eternally), traced both through the course of natural evolution to pure Light condensing gradually into form, hence becoming Matter or Evil. It was left with the early and ignorant Christian fathers to degrade the philosophical and highly scientific idea of this emblem (the Dragon) into the absurd superstition called the "Devil."…The Pagans have always shown a philosophical discrimination in their symbols. The Primitive symbol of the serpent symbolized divine Wisdom and Perfection, and had always stood for psychical Regeneration and Immortality….Yet they all made a difference between the good and the bad Serpent (the Astral Light of the Kabalists)-between the former, the embodiment of divine Wisdom in the region of the Spiritual, and the latter, Evil, on the plane of matter. Jesus accepted the serpent as a synonym of Wisdom, and this formed part of his teaching: "Be ye wise as serpents," he says. (I, 73-74)

Materialistic people are lonely, according to Dr. H. B. Danesh, a psychiatrist. "They are alone in the journey of life, in their struggle for existence, and in their happiness and sadness. They are preoccupied with themselves, their health, their success, their position in society, their acceptance by others, their need to love and be loved." Such people seek power in their quest for security and become competitive in their attempt to feel worthy. Power and competition combined in the lives of the lonely and the insecure, become potent sources of destruction and violence, according to Dr. Danesh.
Detailing the theme in this book, The Psychology of Spirituality, he argues that

The materialistic approach does not help in fostering positive human relationships. Such people drift apart, become suspicious of one another and become incapable of meaningful communication and intimacy. Alienation and mistrust are the end results.
The spiritual person, on the other hand, acts on the premise that man is made for relationships. He is conscious of the interdependence and unity of the human race. Spiritual people feel a closeness to one another as they look to the same source for meaning, inspiration and love. Relationships among them may remain loving and secure. It is easy for them to overlook the shortcomings of one another; not to be unduly disappointed or angry when expectations are not fulfilled….
In the case of the spiritually-minded, the power of love functions as a magnet that draws people together, eradicates estrangement and service….The root of many problems in interpersonal, marital, familial and international relationships today is the absence of fidelity….
Dr. Danesh feels that we are approaching a new era in which science and religion are reconciled and a profound change in attitudes and habits is needed. This would mean diligently searching for the truth, wherever it comes from; unconditionally loving one another; and seeing planet Earth as our collective home rather than as a battlefield of divergent ideologies, interests and backgrounds. (The Times of India, August 17)

PEACE is not absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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