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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 69 No 6, April, 1999

Why does the Universe behave the way it does? Why does Nature obey one set of equations and not another? Max Tegmark, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, New Jersey, believes that there may be a way to answer these questions. It needs to be accepted first of all, he says, that all the stars and galaxies we can see are simply an infinitesimal subset of reality. There are "universes which dance to the tune of entirely different sets of equations of physics." If he could work out the conditions necessary for life to evolve, Tegmark claims, he should be able to explain why we find ourselves in the Universe that we do.

Marcus Chown writes about Tegmark's theory in New Scientist:

The idea that there is a vast "ensemble" of universes is by no means new. "Nature has been telling us for a while and from many different directions that the ensemble of universes is much bigger than anyone imagined," adds Tegmark. In the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory, which is increasingly being embraced by physicists, the Universe "splits" into parallel realities at every quantum instant....Also, according to a theory of the early Universe known as "inflation," our Universe is no more than a tiny bubble in a tremendously bigger universe....

But the main reason for believing in an ensemble of universes is that it could explain why the laws governing our Universe appear to be so finely turned for our existence....Wherever physicists look, they see examples of fine-tuning. Many physicists have taken this as evidence for an ensemble of universes, with each corresponding to differences in the constants of physics or the initial conditions of the Universe. In proposing that there are universes corresponding to entirely different equations that are subject to different starting conditions and with different constants, Tagmark is taking this concept to its extreme. "I call the ensemble the 'ultimate ensemble' because it embraces all other ensembles," he says....

So how can we explain why our Universe behaves the way it does? This is the clever part. The laws of physics would be slightly different for every universe containing life....In other words, creating all possibilities is much simpler than creating one very specific one.

Science is seeking only for physical causes of existence and the laws that govern them. It knows nothing of the metaphysical causes, the chief of which, says The Secret Doctrine, "is the desire to exist, an outcome of Nidana ['a concatenation of cause and effect in the whole range of existence through 12 links'] and Maya ['the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible']."

This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun, and is a reflection of the Divine Thought propelled into objective existence, into a law that the Universe should exist. According to esoteric teaching, the real cause of that supposed desire, and of all existence, remains for ever hidden, and its first emanations are the most complete abstractions mind can conceive. These abstractions must of necessity be postulated as the cause of the material Universe which presents itself to the senses and intellect; and they underlie the secondary and subordinate powers of Nature, which anthropomorphized, have been worshipped as God and gods by the common herd of every age. It is impossible to conceive anything without a cause; the attempt to do so makes the mind a blank. This is virtually the condition to which the mind must come at last when we try to trace back the chain of causes and effects, but both science and religion jump to this condition of blankness much more quickly than is necessary; for they ignore the metaphysical abstractions which are the only conceivable cause of physical concretions. These abstractions become more and more concrete as they approach our plane of existence, until finally they phenomenalise in the form of the material Universe, by a process of conversion of metaphysics into physics, analogous to that by which steam can be condensed into water, and the water frozen into ice. (S.D., I, 44-45)

We are further told that universes are built in the likeness of older universes-i.e., those that existed in preceding Manvantaras (periods of manifestation) and went into Pralaya (period of obscuration or repose),

because the LAW for the birth, growth, and decay of everything in Kosmos, from the Sun to the glow-worm in the grass, is ONE. It is an everlasting work of perfection with every new appearance, but the Substance-Matter and Forces are all one and the same. But this LAW acts on every planet through minor and varying laws. (S.D., I, 145)


Over the last few years, psychological researchers have amassed sufficient that affluence does not necessarily bring happiness. Not only does having more things prove to be unfulfilling in the long run, but people for whom money, material goods or fame are priorities in life also tend to experience an unusual degree of anxiety and a lower overall level of well-being.

Recent studies by Dr. Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and Dr. Tim Kasser, assistant professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois, U.S.A., reveal that people who value "extrinsic goals" are not only more depressed than others, as the satisfaction they seek is very fleeting, but also report more behavioural and physical discomfort, and score lower on measures of vitality and self-actualization.

Outlining the finding of the two researchers, Alfie Kohn writes in The New York Times:

A preoccupation with money bodes ill regardless of how much money one already has. The effects also appear not to be limit to any one culture. Dr. Kasser and his associates have now collected date from subjects in 13 countries, including Germany, Russia and India. The fact that pursuing wealth is psychologically unhelpful and often destructive, he reports, "comes through very strongly in every culture."

Affluence, per se, does not necessarily result in an unsatisfying life. Problems are primarily associated with "living a life where that's your focus," Dr. Ryan said. Nevertheless, the negative psychological picture does seem to be associated with the extent to which people believe they are already on the way to attaining extrinsic goals....

Another study by the same researchers found that college students who were already "relatively high in the attainment of appearance, financial success and popularity" were nevertheless "lower in well-being and self-esteem." Those who aspired to affluence also had more transient relationships, watched more TV and were, more likely to use cigarettes, alcohol, etc., than were those who placed less emphasis on extrinsic goals.

The Ryan-Kasser research raises questions about the proclivity of some psychologists to analyse the dynamics of what is often called goal-directed behaviour while, in effect, ignoring the nature of the goal. Likewise, it challenges the advice to "follow one's dream," whatever it may be. According to the researchers, pursuing goals that reflect genuine human needs, like wanting to feel connected to others, desiring to help them, turns out to be more psychologically beneficial than spending one's life trying to impress others by acquiring money and fame.


In all spheres of life, especially in the business world, the concept of stress management has been gaining ground. The requirement of one-up-manship propels the need for a highly efficient work culture in the entire rank and file of any corporation. Stress management courses have become quite popular, especially in the West. Continuous pressure to perform affects a person in many ways, and the mind needs to be properly equipped and trained to cope. Sometimes it leads to the total collapse of the person, and he may resort to drugs or alcohol or some such intoxicant.
Writing in The Economic Times (February 8) S. K. Shelgikar says that the best prescription for stress management and counselling on the spot is in the Bhagavad-Gita. Arjuna was under tremendous pressure to win the Mahabharata war, but he was distressed at the thought of fighting against his relatives, friends and elders. Great warrior though he was, he broke down under the stress, and laying aside his weapons declared to Krishna, his charioteer, that he would not fight.

Lord Srikrishna utilized all his persuasive skills [writes Shelgikar] to help Arjuna emerge from the after-effects of stress, by taking him through the path of sankhya/dhyana marg, karma marg, bhakti marg, and made him come to the conclusion, "I am now ready to do whatever you say to fight the great war." From this episode of stress management and counselling session, evolved a profound theory for the rest of the world for the rest of the time.

The prescriptions given by Krishna are timeless and also applicable to the human race as a whole, whether in the East or West, irrespective of sect or stream that any person follows.

One who can understand and practise the code of conduct of a true Karmayogi as outlined in the Gita, writes Shelgikar, "will never require a single lesson of stress management in his life, even if he is part of the proverbial rat race in the global market place."


One of the problems that is occupying the mind of our generation, on account of its importance and the mystery that surrounds it, is that of sex. All the world over it presents itself with unmistakable urgency as something that needs to be solved, for the root of many mischiefs lies in the perversion of man's creative power. In the schools of the young, in the slums of the poor and the haunts of the rich, in town life or country life, everywhere, some evil arising out of this one source works havoc, which statutes and churches have failed to grapple with. When and how the sexes originated, how to preserve their utility for the evolution of humanity and at the same time eradicate the weeds that have entwined round the idea of sex, and how to raise the level of public morality-these are some of the problems that have remained unsolved for the world at large.

Valso Thampu, who teaches at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, addresses the issue of sex-related crimes in his article in The Indian Express for January 23:

Sexuality is at the core of our humanity. How it is understood and practised in a particular society is, therefore, an index of its health. Not surprisingly, strong sentiments have been associated with this sphere of human experience in societies around the world. The rise in sex-related crimes and the increasing fragility of the family, are matters of serious concern today....

Our aberrations result from violating the harmony between means and ends. Spirituality is both a mandate to harmonize the two, and the means for doing it. Nothing can be healthy or holy if, in using it, the means are divorced from the purpose and turned into an end in itself. When that happens, it creates a culture of indulgence harmful to human dignity and fulfilment.

Purified by the fire of love and reinforced by responsibility, human sexuality becomes a sacred thing. It is the ultimate cementing force, and is the foundation for family and society. Divorced from its purpose and unbridled by love, human sexuality increasingly becomes a demonic force.

Sexual aberrations and sex-related crimes are not the primary malady. They are, rather, the symptoms of a socio-cultural epidemic: the rise of a culture of unbridled indulgence with its necessary accompaniments of lust, impersonality and cruelty. Such a culture tends to focus all of human energies on self-gratification, leaving little for any altruistic purpose. It erodes our sense of humanity and creates a society that is sexually hyperactive, but socially exhausted and enervated ....The need of the hour is to create a healthy society founded on love, where the worth of every human being is respected.

The duality of sex exists not only in the human kingdom but also in the animal; yet one does not come across there the many gross blunders that are prevalent among humans. The sensuality of man is verily worse than the bestiality of the beast. The root of the mischief, therefore, lies deeper than in the physical organism. The passions and emotions, which bring in their train follies and vices of all kinds, are really responsible for the mischief-passions and emotions that come into play with the birth of mind in humans. It is the awakening of mind that is to be taken into account and then only can we find the real cause of the curse of Karma called down upon humanity for abusing the creative power (cf. The Secret Doctrine, II, 410-15). H.P.B. has explained fully "the real CURSE from the physiological standpoint" and the birth of the "chronic animalism and sensuality....which hang over humanity like a heavy funeral pall." "The lower aspect of Manas of the animal (Kama) having remained unchanged, instead of 'an untainted mind, heaven's first gift' (Aeschylus), there was created the eternal vulture of the ever unsatisfied desire."


The limitation of words in imparting spiritual or metaphysical ideas, or even in conveying one's deepest thoughts, is well known. "Watch words....they are traps. Catch ideas," advises Mr. Judge. And he adds that "Language only expresses the experience of a race, and since ours has not reached the upper levels of Being we have as yet no words for these things."

Even for scientists, writes Ralph Estling (New Scientist, October 3, 1998), "language is no substitute for reality. Some facts just cannot be expressed in words, and scientists who ignore this, "mire themselves in meaningless hypotheses":

How long is infinity? What is a singularity? Or a space-time foam? Scientists create words for indescribable states of physical being. Yet if something cannot be described-such as the "absolute nothingness" whose constituents formed the Universe-then does having a word, or a bunch of words, bring us closer to comprehending it?

Some words actually hinder our understanding, because they delude us into thinking that we have a grip on a problem. We seem to believe that as long as we have a word for something, we're in business, we can cope, we can hypothesise. The reality is that we confuse our invention-the word-with the external state of things. We mistake the word for what it is supposed to represent....Of course, we must invent words, create languages, because without them we can't even begin to discuss things, let alone think about them. The words I object to are the ones we create to take the place of thought and understanding....

Sometimes our physics breaks down, and all we can do is hope that somebody will eventually be able to make sense of it, if only partial, tentative, limping sense. For that is what science is meant to do: make sense. 



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