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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 69 No. 9, July, 1999

Speculations are rife as to what the next century (or even the millennium) will be like. One thing is certain, says Sir John Maddox, former editor of Nature-in many fields the pace of discovery will be even faster than it is now, and the social and ethical dilemmas created by the exploitation of new knowledge even more haunting. Writing in Time magazine, he reflects on what can be expected in the future:

Our understanding of the world has deepened at an accelerating rate since the beginning of modern science 500 years ago. Our century, for example, has had the wit to ask how the universe is constructed, how even the tiniest particles of matter move and now life manages to exist in the face of all the odds against it....

The 20th century has made science more exacting. We demand more of its explanations. To say that the earth goes around the sun is no longer sufficient; we insist on knowing why. And in some fields-space research, for example-decades can go by while novel instruments are designed and build. A further complication is that every discovery provokes new questions. The more we know, the more we do not know.

To predict what lies ahead, we must often rely on guesswork. But the nature of our present ignorance points to problems science cannot avoid. The most obvious of these is the question of what happens in our head when we are thinking. Nobody yet has a compelling answer for that. People surmise, but no surmise can yet meet the tyrannical test that every assertion about the nature of the world must be proved by experiment or observation.

Maddox mentions some of the scientific and philosophical issues that will be studied in greater depth in the coming century: (1) Human evolution and the history of the human race from its beginnings. (2) The grander question of how life began and evolved over billions of years. (3) Understanding life, which means not only figuring out how the processes essential for survival are carried out within the cells of living creatures and what all the genes do, but also understanding the subtleties of human behaviour and how human personality evolves by the interaction of genetic and environmental influences. (4) How man manages to think- "a conundrum with a millennial time scale," says Maddox. (5) A theory of everything, which can explain how the universe began and what its true nature is.

Investigators in various fields of study are realizing how little they know in comparison to what needs to be known, and this is evoking in them a sense of humility. "We should discard the idea that scientific inquiry will ever be complete," says Maddox. "What we know so far is that each question answered merely spawns another."

As H.P.B. stated at the end of Volume I of Isis Unveiled:

The few elevated minds who interrogate nature instead of prescribing laws for her guidance; who do not limit her possibilities by the imperfections of their own powers; and who only disbelieve because they do not know, we would remind of that apothegm of Narada, the ancient Hindu philosopher:
"Never utter these words: 'I do not know this-therefore it is false'"
"One must study to know, to understand, understand to judge."

There is increasing apprehension that today's scientific discoveries and their application present certain risks for society. There is also a growing alarm that some decisions are taken without a full appreciation of their ethical implications and values.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) held a world conference on science in Budapest this June, bringing together several scientists, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and other representatives of civil society. This first global conference on science in 20 years was planned to adopt a "world declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge," and a framework for action, intended to provide scientists and others with new ground rules for common thinking and joint action.

According to UNESCO, new developments in the life sciences-including cloning and genetically modified organisms-have provoked great public concern and have made it imperative that ethical concerns be at the forefront of research in the 21st century. This concern stemmed from the birth of Dolly, the sheep, in April 1996 in Scotland-a living being produced by cloning a single mammary cell. The world-wide attention that followed raised urgent questions on the consequences of research in the life sciences.

Ethical issues, such as the potential misuse of genetic information, the question of who owns genes and genetic code, and the acceptability of cloning human beings for reproductive or other purposes "need serious reflection," UNESCO says.

Earlier, UNESCO's 55-member International Bioethics Convention (IBC) drafted a "universal declaration on the human genome and human rights" that explicitly outlawed human cloning for reproductive purposes as "contrary to human dignity." The declaration was adopted unanimously by UNESCO member states in November 1997 and subsequently by the U.N. general assembly in December 1998.

According to Noelle Lenoir, former IBC president, "Human dignity, inherent to each individual, excludes all practices that tend toward the 'reification' of an individual or his or her 'instrumentalization.' In other words, a human being is a subject, not an object for science."

Scientists admit that they have not always discussed with the public the problems that science sometimes brings. To the ICSU, which represents the scientific community world-wide, as well as to large parts of the public, the core of such problems is the fact that the gap between the scientifically possible and the ethically unacceptable is closing rapidly.

The pineal gland is perhaps the least understood of our physiological organs with regard to its exact function. At one time it was believed to be an entirely useless, although harmless, structure. But scientific investigators are now beginning to look into the purposes it serves.

It is now established that the rhythms of behaviour and of physiological functions of humans and animals do not depend merely on changes in the environment but are internally generated, and that it is the pineal gland which acts as the regulatory "biological clock." Roger Dobson writes in The Sunday Times (London):

Hidden deep inside the centre of the brain, it is no bigger than the size of a pea, yet it sees all and knows all. To Hindu mystics it is the third eye, while for ancient philosophers, the site of the pineal gland was nothing less than the soul, the spiritual heart of the body.

Some sects still believe that this tiny ball of living tissue is the departure point for the soul after death. But despite the reverence that has surrounded the pineal gland over the years, doctors and scientists are only just unravelling some of its mysteries.

What they now know is that it is part of the body clock, an internal timer that regulates the production of hormones, which, in turn, control human activities from sleeping and growing to sexual development and maternal instincts. Far from continually being in a steady state, our bodies fluctuate from hour to hour, from night to day, month to month, winter to summer, and our lives are dominated by these rhythms....

In fact, "each of us runs on an internal clock that deeply affects our individual moods, performance and health," says Professor Michael Smolensky of the Chronobiology Center at Texas University. This realization of the importance of body rhythms is influencing the treatment of a wide range of diseases and disorders, from asthma and arthritis to cancer and epilepsy....

According to Professor William Regelson, an expert on body rhythms...there is still much to learn about body clocks and, in particular, the pineal gland....The pineal gland enables us to live in perfect harmony with our environment.

The pineal gland has other important functions as well, about which modern science knows nothing so far. A study of the section entitled "The Races with the 'Third Eye,'" in the second volume of The Secret Doctrine (pp. 289 et seq.), will reveal many truths on the subject. In The Key to Theosophy (p. 119), H.P.B. describes the pineal gland as "in truth the very seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man, his omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing mind."

Scientists at the National Science Foundation's Center for Biological Timing have discovered that the body's 24-hour cycle may be controlled by tissues and cells throughout the body, not just by the brain. The researchers found that fruit fly tissue responds to light with no message from the brain, leading them to speculate that the skin, liver and other tissues of humans may also have their own "clocks." (Health and Nutrition, April 1999)

This amounts to an admission on the part of modern science that every organ, tissue and cell in the body has its own peculiar discrimination, intelligence and consciousness.

Occultism tells us that every atom, like the monad of Leibnitz, is a little universe in itself; and that every organ and cell in the human body is endowed with a brain of its own, with memory, therefore, experience and discriminative powers. The idea of Universal life composed of individual atomic lives is one of the oldest teachings of esoteric philosophy....If plants can be shown to have nerves and sensations and instinct (but another word for consciousness), why not allow the same in the cells of the human body? (H.P.B. in "Kosmic Mind": U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 20)

What makes some youngsters engage in violent behaviour? The recent U.S. school massacre has stirred a debate over parental responsibility and the role of movies, music and video games in shaping a culture of violence among young people. That and relatively easy access to guns often been cited as possible factors in the Columbine High School rampage by two student gunmen. Most ethicists interviewed were hesitant to place the entire blame on parents for the behaviour of their children, saying it reflected wider societal woes. The general feeling is that everyone involved is accountable, including the entertainment industry.

In India, too, the rise in the juvenile crime rate has become a cause for concern. Ranjit Khomne writes in Bombay Times (May 21):

Crime thrillers on TV are very popular among kids, say industry sources...."Not all but certain gory details or visuals do affect certain vulnerable children," says psychiatrist Yousuf Machiswala of J. J. Hospital. He sees at least five parents a day who complain that their wards are exhibiting behavioural problems. "It's the same problem with slum children since TV and newspapers are everywhere now. But few seek medical help except in extreme cases if the child has scholastic or temper-related problems," says.

Psychiatry points out that a timid child watching gory visuals tends to become an introvert or fearful, while the child with conduct disorders turns aggressive. "Kids like to experiment. They steal, smoke, watch uncensored films. It gives them a kick. But these tendencies disappear over time. It's when they don't, that it becomes a behavioural tendency."

Psychologist Dayal Mirchandani too receives a lot of children with phobias/nightmares. "Some are inhibited and feel that the world is a dangerous place while others are hardened and become aggressive. They often quarrel, thinking that revenge is the only way of getting justice. I consider violence more dangerous than sex," he says. "Unfortunately, newspapers or TV programmes are home-delivered, leaving little scope for discretion."

True, good parenting is fruitful. True also that violence in the media affects child behaviour. Yet psychologists and other behavioural experts have no answer to the question why it is that not all children who watch the same movies and TV shows resort to crime, as also why children belonging to the same family and brought up in the same home environment do not behave alike. Is it not because these "experts" are oblivious of the fact that each child is a returning soul who brings his own samskaras-germs of propensities and impulses from previous births, to be developed in this or coming incarnations? These impressions and tendencies from the past are connected with Karma and its working.

Even with closed eyes, some people have the feeling, and rightly so, that they are being looked at. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake conducted a study of 5000 people over two years and discovered that most people, even if blindfolded, could tell that somebody was looking at them. The volunteers guessed correctly 55 per cent of the time, the success rate rising to 90 per cent in some cases. (The Times of India, May 7)

Sheldrake, while admitting that the phenomenon depends on factors as yet unknown to science, suggests that perhaps some sort of field is generated by the act of looking which the person being looked at can detect.

Is not the explanation to be found in the fact that the real senses are centred in the astral body, "those in the physical body being but the mechanical outer instruments for making the co-ordination between nature and the real organs inside"? (The Ocean of Theosophy, p. 37)

People who can forgive offences, studies find, have better emotional health than those who nurse grudges, a habit that is tied to high anxiety and low self-esteem. (Health and Nutrition, May 1999)
Trying to get even with those who have hurt us only leads to a vicious circle of retaliation. Genuine forgiveness is not passive but is a positive act that requires spiritual strength. It has more than a therapeutic effect.

"Forgive, forgive and largely forget." "Cast no one out of your heart." These sayings of Mr. Judge have a mantramic value. 

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