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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol. 69 No. 3 - February, 1999

FOR scientists around the world, the study of our planet's climate has become one of the most highly charged fields of modern inquiry. Humans and all other species live - and often die - in direct response to climate, and experts admit that the complexity of the climate system still baffles them.
That Earth has warmed and cooled in natural cycles over the aeons is a known fact, but the question now is: How much does human activity on the planet, especially our burning of oil and coal, increase the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change? An article in National Geographic (May 1998) encompasses both the human element and the natural fluctuations in climate over geologic time - with no human influence. Curt Suplee, a science writer, gives a picture of the efforts being made today to "unlock the climate puzzle":

In 1995, after years of intense study, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sponsored by the United Nations, concluded tentatively that "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." The amount of that influence, the group noted, is unknown because of "uncertainties in key factors," including the degree to which clouds and the oceans affect the rate of temperature change. It may take a decade or more of additional research to resolve those uncertainties.

Meanwhile, much is known. And although the specific consequences of human activity remain ambiguous, our ability to alter the atmosphere is incontestable. ...

For many scientists, the critical issues are magnitude and speed of climate change. While a number of temperature shifts have occurred since the end of the last glacial ice age, some 10,000 years ago, the 20th-century warming of 0.5 degree C is unusually large, abrupt, and widespread. "If climate keeps changing at the very rapid rate we think it will," says Thomas J. Crowley, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University in College Station, "the magnitude of future greenhouse warming will be large even on a geological scale."... How urgent is the need for immediate action of the sort contemplated at the 1997 climate change conference in Kyoto, Japan, in which the industrialized nations agreed in principle to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases? No question is more hotly debated among scientists and policymakers alike.

The Secret Doctrine tells us that there was a time during the early Races, down to the close of the Third Root-Race, when humans and the rest of life on Earth were not subservient to any climatic changes, for "eternal spring ruled over the whole globe" (II, 135). We are further told that subsequent fluctuations in climate, caused by violent shifting of the Earth's axis (II, 314), have affected humans in various manners, including changes in stature and complexion (II, 249, 777 fn.). "Humanity is the child of cyclic Destiny," and with climatic changes one sub-race after another has disappeared, only to beget another higher race on the ascending arc.(II, 446)

Species and genera of the flora, fauna, and the highest animal, its crown - man, change and vary according to the environments and climatic variations, not only with every Round, but every Root-Race likewise, as well as after every geological cataclysm that puts an end to, or produces a turning point in the latter. (II, 262-63) Science confesses its ignorance of the cause producing climatic vicissitudes and such changes in the axial direction, which are always followed by these vicissitudes; nor does it seem so sure of the axial changes. And being unable to account for them it is prepared rather to deny the axial phenomena altogether, than admit the intelligent Karmic hand and law which alone could reasonably explain such sudden changes and their results. It has tried to account for them by various more or less fantastic speculations; one of which would be the sudden, and as imaginary, collision of our earth with a comet...as the cause of all the geological revolutions. But we prefer holding to our esoteric explanation, since FOHAT is as good as any comet, having, in addition, universal intelligence to guide him. (II, 329-30)


A fossil find made by P. K. Bose and his team in Churhat, a town in Madhya Pradesh, has been hailed by experts across the globe as "staggering." Using refined fission-track and potassium-argon dating techniques, Bose and his colleagues, including two German scientists, have established that the twisted tracks on Churhat's typical sandstone must have been ancient worm-like animals which existed 1,100 million years ago, not 570 million as previously believed. (India Today, October 19, 1998)

Since shallow seas covered central India that long ago, say the scientists, these complex multicellular animals must have spent their lives burrowing in the sandy seabed. When the beds slowly turned to solid rock about 1.1 billion years ago, the animals got preserved forever. And what is left of them are these tracks.

The discovery has been reported by Bose, a professor from Jadavpur University in Calcutta, in the October 2 issue of Science - a prestigious American journal. For the first time, he says, there is hard proof for what molecular biologists voiced all along, that multicellular animals first showed up a billion years ago and then gradually evolved into bigger life forms. Scientists call it the slowburn theory of evolution.

What says Occultism regarding the evolution and age of life-forms on Earth?

The astral prototypes of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms up to man have taken ... 300 million years to evolve, reforming out of the cast-off materials of the preceding Round, which, though very dense and physical in their own cycle, are relatively ethereal as compared with the materiality of our present middle Round. At the expiration of these 300 million years, Nature, on the way to the physical and material, down the arc of descent, begins with mankind and works downwards, hardening or materializing forms as it proceeds. Thus the fossils found in strata, to which an antiquity, not of eighteen, but of many hundreds of millions of years, must be ascribed, belong in reality to forms of the preceding Round, which, while living, were far more ethereal than physical, as we know the physical. That we perceive and disinter them as tangible forms, is due to the process of materialization or crystallization referred to, which took place subsequently, at the beginning of the Fourth Round, and reached its maximum after the appearance of man, proceeding parallel with his physical evolution. This alone illustrates the fact that the degree of materiality of the Earth changes pari passu with that of its inhabitants. And thus man now finds, as tangible fossils, what were once the (to his present senses) ethereal forms of the lower kingdoms. (The Secret Doctrine, II, 68 fn.)


Not too long ago the only heavenly bodies astronomers knew of were stars, planets and comets. With the discovery of quasars, then pulsars, then black holes, the heavens seemed to expand. This October, scientists announced a new kind of celestial object - a magnetar. A burst of electromagnetic energy issuing from a "starquake" on this body smashed against Earth's atmosphere, ripping apart air molecules, disrupting radio communications and knocking a couple of satellites temporarily offline. Fortunately, this new-found star is 20 light-years away from our planet, and its radiation was so weakened by the time it got here that no one was harmed.

An infinite universe holds infinite possibilities, and astronomers determined to know more about it may in due course well discover other celestial objects they know nothing of today.


According to today's scientists, all of humanity is genetically interconnected. "Race doesn't matter; in fact, it doesn't even exist in humans," says Alan R. Templeton, an evolutionary and population biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. He has analysed DNA from global human populations that reveal the patterns of human evolution over the past one million years.


In his paper, "Human Races: A Genetic and Evolutionary Perspective" (American Anthropologist, Fall 1998), he concludes that in the scientific sense the world is - or should be -"colourblind":

Race is a real cultural, political and economic concept in society, but it is not a biological concept, and that unfortunately is what people wrongfully consider to be the essence of race in humans - genetic differences. Evolutionary history is the key to understanding race, and new molecular biology techniques offer so much on recent evolutionary history. I wanted to bring some objectivity to the topic. This very objective analysis shows the outcome is not even a close call; there's nothing even like a really distinct subdivision of humanity. ...

For race to have any scientific validity and integrity, it has to have generality beyond any one species. If it doesn't, the concept is meaningless. ... In many other large mammalian species we see rates of differentiation two or three times that of humans before the lineages are even recognized as races. Humans are one of the most genetically homogeneous species we know of. There's lots of genetic variation in humanity, but it's basically at the individual level. The between population variation is very, very minor.


Colour complex and racial arrogance have been the bane of human societies for too long, and Templeton's findings are a strong indictment against such discrimination. Not only does it engender bitterness and hatred in its victims, but its effects are morally and culturally disastrous to those who indulge in it. But, while genetic findings can convince us of the identity of our physical origin, that by itself, as H.P.B. writes in The Key to Theosophy,

makes no appeal to our higher and deeper feelings. Matter, deprived of its soul and spirit, or its divine essence, cannot speak to the human heart. But the identity of the soul and spirit, of real, immortal man, as Theosophy teaches us, once proven and deep-rooted in our hearts, would lead us far on the road of real charity and brotherly goodwill. (p. 43)


A group of scientists and animal rights activists have appealed to the New Zealand parliament to grant the right to life to man's closest biological relatives, such as gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. If the parliament consents, then New Zealand will become the first country in the world to grant a special status to the great apes and recognize their rights The activists argue that there is now "a mountain of evidence that the great apes are as intelligent as young human children and very similar in their emotional and cognitive development. (The Times of India, November 2)

If many more countries adopt similar resolutions, killing, maiming or hurting the apes would become a crime punishable by law. And if, as the Great Ape Project of New Zealand argues, the animals' emotional development or response is similar to ours, non-physical crimes against them too should be penalized in the same manner as we punish those who, say, inflict upon us mental torture, sexual harassment or unjust discrimination.

Although all animals have varying degrees of intelligence and are entitled to a more just existence, the anthropoid apes belong to an altogether different category. They are half-ape and half-man - the offspring of human and animal parents. The Egos caught in these anthropoid bodies as the result of man's bestiality are destined one day to be men. They are known in esoteric teaching as the "Delayed Race," for they will become fully human when the time is ripe.


"It's time our schools stopped teaching the divided life," writes Parker J. Palmer in the September Shambhala Sun. We should search instead for "the heart of knowing":

Most educators know that what will transform education is not another theory or book, but a transformed way of being in the world. In the midst of the familiar trappings of education - competition, intellectual combat, obsession with a narrow range of facts, credits, credentials - we seek a life illumined by spirit and infused with soul. ...

Today, we must seek what is life-giving in the midst of a system that deadens learning. The profound human transactions called knowing, teaching, and learning are not just about information, and they're not just about getting jobs. They're about empowerment, liberation, and transcendence. They're about healing and wholeness, about reclaiming the vitality of life.

The question that we now must wrestle with is why there is so little life-giving power in the words education, teaching, learning. They've become boring words, flat words, dull words, pointing to experiences that are also boring, flat and dull.

Education is dull because we've driven the sacred out of it. ... My definition of sacred is very simple: It is anything worthy of respect. And as soon as we see that, the sacred reveals itself to be everywhere, for there is nothing rightly understood that is not worthy of respect.


THE emergence of the global society, impelled by science and technology, demands a new, holistic paradigm that stresses convergence in place of conflict, complementarity in place of competition, compassion in place of cruelty, and a global ethic that would link the deepest insights of science and religion. Without such a new structure of thought and action, the future of human civilization on this planet itself can be in real danger. ...

Whether this happens will depend upon the way present generations respond to the unprecedented challenges that we face as we hurtle into the 21st century. The process of globalization has become a reality in many spheres. But, unfortunately, people's minds are still largely imprisoned within pre-global concepts and approaches. This gap between the emergence of a global society on the one hand, and the non-emergence of a global consciousness on the other, is fraught with grave danger. ...

Ultimately, the harmony we seek lies in the deepest recesses of our consciousness. It is there that we must find the divine light, what the Bible calls the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world; the Roohani Noor of the Sufis; the Ek Onkar of the Sikh Gurus; the Light of the Atman of the Vedanta. In the darkness and confusion that surrounds us, it is this light alone that can give us the passion to move onwards astride the irreversible arrow of time, into the future that awaits us.
- KARAN SINGH



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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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