Intellectuals and researchers from all horizons gathered at UNESCO
(September 16-19) "to understand, anticipate and imagine"
what the 21st century will be like. Director-General Federico
Mayor challenged participants to "make a lucid diagnosis
of the present and shed light on the road that must lead us to
Ilya Prigogine, Nobel laureate for Chemistry, reflected in his
paper that "we will likely see a new conception of rationality
develop in the next century, in which 'reason' is no longer associated
with 'certainty,' and 'probability' with 'ignorance.'" The
debates spanned a spectrum of issues, with common challenges
emerging: eradicating poverty, finding more sustainable development
practices, and inventing new forms of regulation at the planetary
The participants at the conference agreed about
the need "to chart out a new social contract
and to counter the dominant logic of the short-term."
But whatever the field of action, the first step
is to change our way of thinking, and hence of
teaching, writes French sociologist Edgar Morin
in Unesco Sources (November 1998):
The great challenge to knowledge, education and thought in
our century - which will become even more important in the next
- is the contradiction between increasingly global, interdependent
and planetary problems on the one hand, and our learning processes,
which are more and more fragmented, divided and compartmentalized,
on the other.
We must aspire to what French writer and mathematician
Blaise Pascal had already clearly formulated
in the 17th century: "I consider it impossible
to know component parts without understanding
the whole, just as to understand the whole,
we must be aware of its parts." What we
need is a way of thinking capable of placing
the singular, the particular and the local into
context, and to a broader extent, to situate
the global in relation to its component parts.
Such a thought process can avoid various forms
of blindness, whether they come from ethnocentrism
or hyperspecialized reasoning, and the short-sightedness
that characterizes our outlook on the world.
Morin speaks of the four fundamental aims of teaching: (1)
To have a good head and not just a full head. (2) To teach the
human condition, which is a base of any humanist culture. (3)
To teach people to live - not just to gain techniques and know-how,
but rather to understand human beings and how to relate to others
and to oneself. (4) To form citizens not only of the nation but
of the Earth.
The ambition of humanism [says Morin] is not to dominate.
Its mission is conviviality on Earth. If there is a way of thinking
which we must embed in education, it is the knowledge that unity
contains multiplicity and that multiplicity embodies unity. Therefore,
we need a humanism that is biologically and terrestrially rooted,
one which inscribes us firmly on the Earth through the awareness
of a common destiny among humans faced with the problems of death,
whether in the form of the nuclear threat, the ecological threat,
the economic threat, the intellectual threat. Blind thought leads
to catastrophe. Reform in our way of thinking is not an intellectual
luxury. It is a necessity, a prerequisite for the safeguarding
of a humanity confronted with the terrifying forces it has unleashed
without yet having found a way to control them.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by nations
50 years ago, was inspired by the message that human rights are
universal and indivisible, in other words, valid for everyone
and all civilizations. Though there have been some major victories,
there have also been systematic and organized violations of human
rights in some States.
There are today new challenges to human rights
arising from scientific and technological progress.
The principles of the Universal Declaration are
inspiring legislation in a host of new fields,
from bioethics to cyberspace, says Robert Badinter,
former French Minister of Justice. (Unesco
Sources, December 1998):
There can be no human dignity [Badinter writes] wherever extreme poverty,
illiteracy, lack of medical care and of basic
welfare protection reign. The individual is
a whole, whose fundamental rights form an indivisible
whole. To deprive a human being of some basic
rights is to deprive that person of all rights.
Still, in today's world, some 1.3 billion people
are trying to survive with less than one dollar
a day, and 30,000 children die each day of preventable
diseases. On the eve of the 21st century - which
will undoubtedly be characterized by globalization
- the real question facing humanity is whether
that globalization will merely be a quest for
higher profits by multinationals, or a remedy
for the ills that negate the pledges made 50
We must not leave a burden for future generations.
I am thinking firstly of the repression of crimes
against humanity, which are the most violent
and total denial of human rights: genocides,
deportations, collective massacres and collective
We must also face the new challenges of our
times, such as protection of the environment.
The issue was completely ignored in the post-war
period, when the main goal was to rebuild what
had been destroyed and to constantly increase
production without any thought being given to
the consequences. The right to a healthy environment
is not only an imperative in terms of human
rights, but also a question of survival for
Similarly, scientific progress has opened up
a whole new field in the domain of human rights,
whether it be in the area of genetic engineering,
artificial reproduction, or the rapport between
the development of new information technologies
(especially the Internet) and fundamental rights.
In all of these areas, the Universal Declaration
provides us with a set of principles rather
than the means to deal with these issues. ...
Human rights are an ongoing creation.
For Western psychologists trained in the Freudian school,
psychology and spirituality have nothing in common; but things
are now changing and the two are converging in imperceptible
ways. According to an article in Life Positive (November
1998), spirituality, or rather ancient Oriental Philosophy, is
today setting the agenda for changes in psychology's understanding
of man, his motivation, purpose for living, and relationship
with the universe. Terms such as "spiritual psychology"
and "sacred psychology" are beginning to be used. The
article goes on to state:
Obviously, psychology and spirituality are compatible disciplines.
But where does one begin and the other end? Would we define concerns
such as helping an individual gain control over his life spiritual
or psychological? Is there room for two disciplines or is spirituality
only the undiscovered aspect of psychology?
Spiritual thinkers would vote for the latter. After all, they
argue, the Buddha and Krishna had disclosed deep insights into
human nature long before Freud came into being. What's more,
they had taken human understanding to its logical conclusion
by providing the way out. Look at this passage from the Bhagavad
Gita, dispassionately outlining the causes that lead to mental
"If a man meditates on the objects of sense, attachment
to them arises; from attachment, desire is born; from desire,
anger is produced; through anger comes bewilderment; through
bewilderment, wandering of memory; through confusion of memory,
destruction of the intellect; through destruction of the intellect,
he is destroyed." (II, 62-63)
It is no coincidence that many psychologists favour Buddhism.
... The Buddha's Four Noble Truths are well known: the inevitability
of suffering in a changing world; the cause of suffering, which
is attachment to desires; the fact that there is a solution;
and finally the way out, through the eightfold path which encompasses
right understanding, purpose, speech, conduct, occupation, effort,
attention and meditation.
The prescription is complete. Suffering is part of existence.
But there is a way out. In the conditional relative world of
psychology, Buddhism holds out the certitude of experiential
The New Age acknowledges both spirituality and psychology in
its journey towards wholeness. Both are necessary, mutually enriching.
The opening verses of the Buddha's Dhammapada contain a deep psychological
truth: our life is shaped by our mind; we become
what we think. Where Freud could only see the
tumultuous motions of the unconscious, the Buddha
had not only penetrated their root cause, but
in doing so gave us the key to self-determination.
Where Freud saw man as a helpless victim of the
power of the unconscious, the Buddha saw him as
fully capable of directing his destiny and pulling
out of the mire of pain and misery and pursuing
the path of happiness.
H.P.B. called ancient Psychology "the Science of the Soul,"
"the most important of all subjects of human study."
Indeed, many of the knotty problems in contemporary psychological
research were closely scrutinized by ancient Indian thinkers,
not only in a theoretical way, but also with a view to finding
the practical applications of the theoretical formulations. Modern
psychologists would indeed be the richer if they turned to the
ancient Psychology of the East for light and help. It is especially
necessary for them to learn that the mind is dual and has a higher
noëtic character which has till now been entirely ignored
Some scientists are in favour of human cloning, and the only
thing stopping them are technical problems. A small percentage
of the public wants it too. But have they considered the consequences?
In an article reproduced in The Times of India (January
12), Patrick Dixon, author of Futurewise, warns of some
of the dangers:
Making cloned babies has real dangers. Terrible mutations
could result as well as huge emotional risks to the child. ...
And there are serious risks of abuse by weirdos and the powerful.
People imagine that scientists can clone tissues for treatment
without making whole embryos, but they can't. The technology
is identical, whether you implant a clone to be born, cull it
for spare parts or cannibalize it before implantation to make
a human tissue factory out of embryonic cells. ...
Is it always absolutely right to pursue every possible treatment
option? ... Many people are deeply uneasy about deliberately
creating an identical twin embryo of an existing person with
the express purpose of destroying it for use of its tissues.
Human embryos are more than bags of biodata, wherever you stand,
on pro-choice or pro-life. They have all the promise of a beautiful
baby son or daughter.
As a doctor, I know we need gene technology to feed the world
and cure disease. But we don't need human cloning. We need a
biotech summit, a global ban to strongly discourage cloners from
making babies and a halt on further research until debate is
conducted and laws are in place. More than 170 nations have no
Will a cloned baby have a soul, or will it be a soulless creature,
a Frankenstein's monster? And what lies in store for those who
assist in creating such creatures? For scientists there is no
such thing as a soul; so the fact that every baby born is a returning
soul is completely ignored in all the controversy that is raging
over the issue of human cloning. Those who favour cloning as
"just another tool of science" would do well to ask
themselves, in the words of the New Testament: "For
what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and
lose his own soul?"
As we move into the next millennium, the world is facing new
challenges in infectious diseases. New diseases, from AIDS to
Ebola, are posing challenges to public health, and old ones,
which were claimed to have been controlled, are proliferating
with a vengeance. In this latter category are tuberculosis, measles
and malaria. A special feature in The World and I (October
1998) looks at these infections by addressing three defining
questions: What causes them? What impact do they have on society?
How can we protect ourselves from them?
Under the title "Fighting the Implacable Foe," science
editor Dinshaw K. Dadachanji points out that the battle against
infectious diseases requires not only international co-operation
but also individual responsibility. In another article, "Know
Your Enemy," G. Carroll Strait says that although they are
all too small, the agents that cause infectious diseases are
remarkably diverse, falling into the categories of viruses, bacteria,
fungi, protozoa and worms. These micro-organisms are as resilient
as they are varied, and attain new virulence through mutation
and resistance to antibiotics, writes Erin Eckert in "Diseased
Clearly, trying to fight infectious diseases merely with vaccines
and drugs has not proved effective enough. There is never just
one cause of disease. Just as diseases differ, so do their causes
and prevention. Fundamentally it is true that all disease is
a state of unbalance in the body, causing lack of resistance
to the onset of disruptive tendencies. But what causes this lack
of resistance? A Master of Wisdom wrote as far back as August
1882: "As for those who were knocked over by cholera, or
plague, or jungle fever, they could not have succumbed had they
not the germs for the development of such diseases in them from
There is now enough evidence, more even than previously suspected,
that our mind influences our body. Mental conditions can upset
normal physical functions, can weaken our resistance to infection,
and, most remarkable of all, can actually cause physical change
in vital organs. A study of tubercular patients, for instance,
revealed that those who were emotionally disturbed had a swifter
form of the disease than those free of strain.
As far as medical science is concerned, it can never conquer
disease per se. Many diseases which were once prevalent
have been wiped out; but new ones are developing. This fact may
seem disheartening, but it is easily comprehended if one understands
that diseases are but the outer manifestations of inner disturbances,
that ailments are the results of causes set in motion, for the
most part in the mental or moral planes of being. Unless the
cause which is not physical has been removed, it is bound to
come forth again under another form.
Evidence is emerging that early humans were much smarter than
scientists had hitherto suspected. They made organized sea journeys
more than 700,000 years earlier than previously thought - and
to co-ordinate their efforts, say the experts, they must have
had basic language abilities.
Palaeoanthropologist Mike Morwood and his colleagues at the
University of New England in northern New South Wales made an
intriguing find during their exploration of an ancient lake bed
on the island of Flores, about 500 kilometres east of Bali. A
technique called fission track dating showed that the layers
of volcanic ash surrounding the tools were between 800,000 and
880,000 years old. Fossil plants and animals found near the tools
dated from the same period. In the science journal Nature
(Vol. 392, p. 173), it is stated that the tools were used by
the early humans who are known to have lived in Java at the time;
and from there they must have made sea crossings to reach Flores
and other Indonesian islands. The evidence suggests, say the
researchers, that the cognitive capabilities of this ancestral
human species known as Homo erectus "may be due for
reappraisal." "Homo erectus was clearly not
just a glorified chimp," says Morwood.
The new findings will add fuel to a long-standing debate about
human origins. If Homo erectus had the capabilities of
early humans, it would seem to back the idea that modern humans
evolved in several parts of the world.
One of the postulates of the Secret Doctrine as regards the origin
of man on Earth is "the simultaneous evolution of seven
human groups on seven different portions of our globe" (S.D.,
II.1). This denies categorically the theory advanced by some
scientists that humanity began in one place with a single pair
- the "Out of Africa" hypothesis - and then spread
across the world.