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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 69 No. 8, June, 1999

"Consciousness - the New Horizon" is the theme of a symposium in World Goodwill Newsletter (1999, No. 1). While it is in comparatively recent times that human consciousness is receiving attention by Western investigators, in the East a vast body of Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Sufi texts have since ancient times provided teachings on the subject. As stated in the introductory article:

There is no strictly human problem which does not ultimately have its roots, and therefore its potential solution, in consciousness. ...There is a growing perception that humanity is now going through a great collective upheaval in consciousness....
Thinkers are indicating that, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, the whole of humanity is undergoing a psychological transformation and is, however dimly, consciously aware of this. The deep significance of this epochal moment calls for our utmost efforts to understand it. To pierce through the turbulent outer scene to the subjective energies at play summons us to clear our own minds and to expand our vision and our capacity for expressing goodwill. In the past, traditional spiritual practices could help in this endeavour; but new energies may require new techniques for their investigation and integration, both in the self and in society. One sign of this is the rise in the number of new ideas concerning spirituality, both within the traditional religious, and outside them, in the ferment of activity called the "new movement."

Another article, "New Minds for a New World," contains reflections on new thinking in psychology, which is now turning its attention to the soul and the spiritual nature of human beings:

The unfoldment of the latent positive powers of the psyche is now receiving more attention in various schools of Western psychology. Here, as in many other areas, Jung sowed important seeds with his reflections on the centre of psychic energies he named the Self, which he saw as an image of Divinity. ... The broad title of transpersonal psychology has been applied to approaches which seek to uncover those areas of psychic life which transcend the everyday sense of personhood. ...

In focusing on that which lies beyond the personality, the transpersonal psychologists can be said to be exploring the psychology of the soul, the subtle inner essence of the individual which is usually veiled by the personality's focus upon lower appetites, desires and lines of thought....In order to understand this tremendous movement in consciousness, psychologists are faced with no choice but to attempt to blend together the insights of Western science with the spiritual wisdom of the East. Ken Wilber refers to this as "the Human Consciousness project, the endeavour, now well under way, to map the entire spectrum of the various states of human consciousness (including, as well, realms of the human unconscious)." As this project proceeds, it is becoming increasingly clear just how extensive the range of human consciousness is-a range which is potentially open to all. ...

The value of psychology today lies in the gradual revelation of the soul of individuals, notions, and humanity itself, thus helping humanity to take a significant step forward in evolution.

Consciousness is the seat of the real life of the human individual, of any being, in fact. It is the essence of the individual. In Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, H.P.B. speaks of "the great problem of Consciousness," which is opposed to Materialism:

For what is Consciousness? According to modern Science it is a faculty of the Mind like volition. We say so, too; but add that while Consciousness is not a thing per se, Mind is distinctly-in its Manvantaric functions at least-an Entity....Nevertheless, mind is a term perfectly synonymous with Soul. Those who deny the existence of the latter will of course contend that there is no such thing as consciousness apart from brain, and at death consciousness ceases. Occultists, on the other contrary, affirm that consciousness exists after death, and that then only the real consciousness and freedom of the Ego commences, when it is no longer impeded by terrestrial matter. (pp. 28-29)

While all the different cells of which the human body is composed are different and varying consciousnesses there is still a unit of consciousness which is the man. But this unit, so to say, is not a single consciousness: it is a reflection of thousands and millions of consciousnesses which a man has absorbed. (p. 100)


Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, has been hailed as one of the most influential and controversial figures of our century. His ideas have always attracted both backers and belittlers; and though he died 60 years ago, the debate over him still continues. A Freud exhibit in the halls of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., earlier this year has once again brought him into focus, with his supporters viewing the exhibition as a ratification of the major themes in his work, and his detractors seeing it as an opportunity to stage a public dethroning of him.

In Science News (Vol. 154, No. 22), Bruce Bower analyses what is being said about psychoanalysis and Freud:

Psychoanalytic theory took shape around Freud's clinical cases. Particularly disturbing conflicts flee the bright lights of awareness for unconscious cover in a process he called repression. Repressed sexual and aggressive desires act as perpetual sources of conflict, which unintentionally poke through their unconscious veil in the form of dreams, jokes, and slips of the tongue....In his writings, Freud treated the unconscious as a single mental entity. the holding area for unacceptable desires and conflicts and the prime motivator of mental life. ...

Freud's intellectual death has been heralded by various commentators since his first writings appeared. In 1905, for example, French psychiatrist Pierre Janet dismissed Freud as a reckless clinician who "suggests to his patients all sorts of notions (sexual for the most part) which are far more likely to be hurtful than helpful."...

According to Drew Westen, a Harvard University psychologist and clinician who takes a psychoanalytic approach, much scientific evidence indicates that Freud was right about several fundamental propositions still shared by his theoretical; offspring. These include assumptions that enduring facets of personality emerge during childhood; that mental frameworks for thinking about the self, others, and relationships develop early, guide social life, and contribute to many psychological ailments; that different mental processes operate simultaneously, so individuals can have conflicting feelings toward the same person or situation; that personality development requires learning not only to regulate sexual and aggressive feelings but to move from immature dependency on others to the give-and-take compromises of mature relationships; and that a bevy of unconscious processes-not the monolithic unconscious championed by Freud-shapes mental life.

Some psychoanalysts say that the ongoing debate stems primarily from clashing assumptions about the mind. They hold that a largely unconscious reservoir of meaning animates human thought and behaviour.

Freud discovered a number of truths (new only to non-theosophists) in regard to the workings of the Kamic principle, but the interpretations he and others placed on them led to a casting off of all moral restraint and self-control, and to a cramped view of life and morality. Psychoanalysis and Freud have many critics today, but it will take time to clean up the tendency of the human mind to justify its yieldings to unlimited and insatiable desires by the fallacious logic of the lower mind-a tendency which is the whole basis of Freudianism.

It will be some times before scientists will be able to probe the mysteries of the mind, notwithstanding all the knowledge gained about the physical brain and its functioning. Especially necessary it is to understand the distinction between the higher mind, which is divine, and the lower, which is animal, without conscience, insatiable, and limitless in its demands, when unchecked.


The recent interest in "emotional intelligence" makes it sound like a new concept in the realm of intelligence that has just been discovered by the scientists. In fact, till lately emotion and intelligence had been thought of as opposing each other-the heart versus the head. But over the past few years, in education, in business, and other spheres, "the awareness of their effect on each other has grown exponentially," writes Mala Kapadia in The Economic Times (March 23):

Emotional intelligence has become the latest mantra of success....Globalization has created work cultures that require IQ or technical expertise only as a threshold capability, which is then complemented holistically by emotional competencies. Research studies of star performers and leaders have all revealed one common thread: they are emotionally intelligent.

Emotions have largely been an unexplored continent for scientific psychology and denied a place in the realm of business intelligence. The conventional view of emotions is that of a weakness interfering with good judgement. A sign of vulnerability which obstructs reasoning, undermines authority and complicates business management. The paradigm shift with the advent of emotional intelligence concept portrays emotions as a sign of strength essential to good judgement, generating influence and building trust without authority and which sparks creativity and innovation. ...

In India, the scientific study of emotions and emotional intelligence is centuries old....The emotional centres, the storehouses of memories, and a scientific methodology to become emotionally intelligent is all described at length in the works of Patanjali. His Yoga Sutras also answer the debate whether emotional intelligence is genetic or acquired. Though we are born with the emotional centres and memories of our emotional make-up, emotional intelligence may be developed through practice.

Some years ago, noted psychiatrist Dr. William C. Menninger listed six guideposts to judge emotional maturity-or call it emotional intelligence in modern parlance: (1) having the ability to deal constructively with reality; (2) having the ability to adapt to change; (3) having relative freedom from symptoms that are produced by tensions and anxieties; (4) having the capacity to find more satisfaction in giving than receiving; (5) having the capacity to relate to other people in a consistent manner with mutual satisfaction and helpfulness; (6) having the capacity to sublimate, to direct one's hostile energy into creative and constructive outlets.
This type of emotional intelligence is sadly lacking in our age.


The more that the affluent have of earthly goods, the more they want to acquire. They just cannot stop accumulating. Will-power and good intentions are not enough, say the psychologists. Stemming the tide of consumerism requires controlling human nature and sacrificing individual gain for the public good. This may not be easy, but it can be done, writes Scott Russell Sanders in Utne Reader.

A jolting return to his cluttered life after a peaceful holiday in Rocky Mountain National Park prompts the author to reflect on why we are so driven to acquire and what would happen if we could only stop:

Time in the wild reminds me how much of what I ordinarily do is mere dithering, how much of what I own is mere encumbrance. ... I realized that nothing will prevent us from extending our sway over every last inch of earth-nothing except outward disaster or inward conversion. Since In couldn't root for disaster, I'd have to work for a change of heart and mind. If we hope to survive on this planet, we must learn restraint. We need to say "Enough!" with relish and conviction. ...
The constant hankering for more has become a menace. Our devotion to growth exhausts resources, accelerates pollution, and drives other species to extinction; it upsets community by swelling the scale of institutions and settlements, and it harms the individual by encouraging a scramble for possessions and nagging discontent in the midst of plenty....For every voice that echoes Thoreau's plea, "Simplify, simplify," a dozen cry, "Amplify, amplify!"...
We're the only species capable of acting, through love and reason, to preserve our fellow creatures...We can choose to lead a materially simpler life not as a sacrifice but as a path toward fulfilment. In ancient terms, we can learn to seek spiritual rather than material growth. ...
As we increase the likelihood of strife by scrambling for more wealth, so we may increase the likelihood of peace by living modestly and sharing what we have. Thus our needs and the needs of the planet coincide.

What all this boils down to may be expressed in a single precept: Seek the meaning of life.


Using the Hubble space telescope, astronomers have discovered an old galaxy-the most distant detected so far. The galaxy is said to be 13 billion light years from earth, and its presence was detected by its faint ultraviolet light, which is invisible to conventional telescopes. The discovery by researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook was reported this April in the journal Nature Study.

It marks the third time in the past year that astronomers have found what were thought to be the most distant objects yet. Other astronomers say the finding can help them determine when galaxies formed and developed, and learn more about the origin of the universe and what makes life possible.

The deeper astronomers look into space, the further back in time they are looking. It takes so long for light travelling through space to reach earth that astronomers scanning the remote parts of the universe are seeing objects as they were billions of years ago.

Truly, life takes on a new meaning when viewed from the perspective of the vast expanse of space teeming with universes.

Results of studies showing the intimate link between mind and body deep pouring in. In a new study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 107 patients with chronic asthma or rheumatoid arthritis were asked to write continuously for 20 minutes, on three consecutive days, their "deepest thoughts and feelings" about their traumatic experiences. The health of the patients was monitored for the next four months using objective physiological measures. Doctors who took part in the study found that many of these patients showed significant improvement in their health compared to control subjects who spent the same amount of time writing about neutral topics.

Researchers suspect that the writing task may be effective because it lets patients synthesize and make sense of their experiences.

The findings add to increasing evidence that attention to patients' psychological needs can play and important role in the treatment of many physical illnesses, a view shared by many doctors and nurses but one that has only recently begun to draw the attention of the medical establishment.

In an editorial accompanying the Journal report, Dr. David Spiegel, professor and associate chairman of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, wrote: "We have been closet Cartesians in modern medicine, treating the mind as though it were reactive to but otherwise disconnected from disease in the body." The new study underlines the role of stress in physical illness and alerts doctors to their patients' emotional needs. 


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