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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 70. No. 1 - November, 1999

Thirty years after the moon landing, search for life beyond Earth continues-and will go on continuing in the century to come. Scientists’ fascination with outer space and alien worlds is the theme of a special report in Newsweek for July 26. Oliver Morton writes:

Science is reaffirming a potential for life far from Earth, envisioning a biological universe of which Earth is an extension, not an exception. We are learning of far-off solar systems where life may exist while seeing new possibilities for its past presence closer to home. The search for life will be the dominant theme of the next 30 years of space-flight, a grand attempt to mend the breach between the heavens and Earth….
In the great catalog of extreme environments where life manages to persist-around volcanoes on the ocean’s floors, in the rocks of deep bore holes, in the cores of nuclear reactors, under the surfaces of antarctic pebbles-water is the one thing always present. It may not be there all the time, bit it’s there just enough. And if the same holds true on Mars, should once have been alive. Its rocks should hold fossils….
But the planets and moons of our solar system are not the only ones there are-or even the only ones we can study. In the past four years, astronomers using Earth-based telescopes have discovered indirect but compelling evidence for about 20 large planets around other stars.
These big planets are interesting in and of themselves; but small, Earthlike ones would be much more so. And they, too, should soon be discovered, if they are out there. In the next 10 years space-based telescopes should provide indirect evidence for the existence of planets as small as the Earth or smaller. Soon after that, more ambitious instruments should be able to detect those planets directly, and perhaps to sense the presence of water and life in their atmospheres. That will mark the second great triumph of the next 30 years of exploration….
The new planetary systems found in the past three years look very unlike our own, which reduces the chance that we will find a place like Earth around these particular stars….
In the coming century the science of life and the powers it brings will be central to the human experience, central to our technology, our politics, our values. Biology, not physics, will be the key science. Space exploration, born out of the physics of the rocket and the bomb, is mutating to mutating to reflect this change in its intellectual environment. It is finding a new way to matter, a new way to mean something: only by discovering life elsewhere will we truly be able to understand the life we already know.

Since no single atom in the entire Kosmos is without life and consciousness, how much more then its stars and planets? The whole of antiquity believed in the universality of life, but it would be the height of absurdity to believe that life in other worlds could be judged by the standard of terrestrial life. The section “On Chains of Planets and their Plurality” in The Secret Doctrine (II, 699-709) has this to say:

Unconsciously, perhaps, in thinking of a plurality of inhabited “Worlds,” we imagine them to be like the globe we inhabit and peopled by beings more or less resembling ourselves….While accepting the old Hermetic axiom: “As above, so below”-we may well believe that as Nature on Earth displays the most careful economy, utilizing every vile and waste thing in her marvellous transformations, and withal never repeating herself-we may justly conclude that there is no other globe in all her infinite systems so closely resembling this earth that the ordinary powers should be able to imagine and reproduce its semblance and containment….
The ordinary man has no experience of any state of consciousness other than that to which the physical senses link him…Even great adepts (those initiated of course), trained seers though they are, can claim thorough acquaintance with the nature and appearance of planets and their inhabitants belonging to our solar system only. They know that almost all the planetary worlds are inhabited, but can have access to-even in spirit only those of our system….
Scientific reasoning, as well as observed facts, concur with the statements of the seer and the innate voice in man’s own heart in declaring that life-intelligent, conscious life-must exist on other worlds than ours. But this is the limit beyond which the ordinary faculties of man cannot carry him. (II, 700-702)

Although people know in their heart of hearts that forgiveness of someone who has hurt them, offended them, abused them, even taken the life of someone they love, would liberate them from the past and help them to move on with their lives, yet they are often reluctant to grant it. They see no reason why, from their own pain, they should summon feelings of compassion for that person. “The art of letting go” may not be easy, argues Stephanie Dowrick (Utne Reader, March-April 1999), yet it marks a triumph of the human spirit.
Dowrick, who is the author of the book Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love, writes:

As challenging as it is, forgiveness may be the supreme virtue, the apotheosis of love, for it declares: “I will attempt to go on loving the life in you, or the divine in you, or the soul in you, even when I totally abhor what you have done or what you stand for….
Simply contemplating the act of forgiveness may bring us closer to a person, to events, or to our own most painful and vulnerable feelings than we want to be. Holding on to our anger, outrage, or fantasies of revenge may be harmful for our physical and emotional well-being. But we do it because we believe that it keeps us separate-and safe. Or we do it because we believe we owe it to someone else who has been wronged.
Yet it is one of life’s most terrible ironies that betrayal can be as connective as love. It can fill your mind and colour your senses. It can keep you tied to a person or to events as tightly as if you were bound, back to back-or worse, heart to heart. The person you want to think of least may become the person you think of constantly.
It may only be by giving up while not surrendering that you catch your first, precious glimpse of freedom. You do this by withdrawing your attention from the person who has hurt you and returning it to yourself and whoever else is in your care; by taking your attention from the past and bringing it into the present moment. You do it by giving up the illusion that your prolonged suffering will ultimately affect that other human being and teach a meaningful lesson. You do it by abandoning that person to fate, and abandoning the desire to affect that fate….
We often talk about forgiveness in a context that suggests we are giving something away when we forgive. Or that we are accepting something in return when others forgive us. This is illusory. Offering our forgiveness, or allowing forgiveness to arise in whatever nascent forms within us, takes nothing away from us. It restores us to something that is always within us but from which we have become unbound: a sense of unity expressed through the qualities of trust, faith, hope, and love.

Genuine forgiveness is not passive but is a positive act that requires moral and spiritual strength. It helps the forgiver even more than the one who is forgiven. The greatest of psychologists, Gautama the Buddha, sums it up thus: “In this world never is enmity appeased by hatred; enmity is ever appeased by Love. This is the Law Eternal.” This seemingly simple yet profound prescription could be applied to many a problem plaguing humanity, not only at the personal level but in all walks of life-even in the national and international spheres.

Child behaviour experts are saying that children from a very young age lead a richer moral life than adults often assume. We hear the grim news about children going on a rampage in their schools and communities, engaging in antisocial acts, committing thefts and even murders. But these are exceptions rather than the rule, says William Damon, a developmental psychologist who has studied intellectual and moral growth, educational methods, and peer and cultural influences on children. In his article “The Moral Development of Children” (Scientific American, August 1999) he writes:

What many people forget…is that most children most of the time do follow the rules of their society, act fairly, treat friends kindly, tell the truth and respect their elders. Many youngsters do even more….Young people have also been leaders in social causes….
All children are born with a running start on the path to moral development. A number of inborn responses predispose them to act in ethical ways. For example, empathy-the capacity to experience another person’s pleasure or pain vicariously-is part of our native endowment as humans…Although the emotional disposition to help is present, the means of helping others effectively must be learned and refined through social experience. Moreover, in many people the capacity for empathy stagnates of even diminishes….
A scientific account of moral growth must explain both the good and the bad. Why do most children act in reasonably-sometimes exceptionally-moral ways, even when it flies in the face of their immediate self-interest? Why do some children depart from accepted standards, often to the great harm of themselves and other? How does a child acquire mores and develop a lifelong commitment to moral behaviour, or not? Psychologists do not have definite answers to these questions, and often their studies seem merely to confirm parents’ observations and intuition….
The study of moral development has become a lively growth industry within the social sciences. Journals are full of new findings and competing models. Some theories focus on natural biological forces; others stress social influence and experience; still others, the judgment that results from children’s intellectual development. Although each theory has a different emphasis, all recognize that no single cause can account for dither moral of immoral behaviour….
How does a young person acquire, or not acquire, a moral identity? It is an incremental process, occurring gradually in thousands of small ways: feedback from others; observations of actions by others that either inspire or appall; reflections on one’s own experience; cultural influences such as family, school, religious institutions and the mass media. The relative importance of these factors varies from child to child.

Moral or immoral conduct during adulthood often has roots in childhood experience. Children need to be presented with realistic expectations and structural guidance that challenge them to expand their moral horizons. Parents, teachers and multiple social influences, all contribute in giving the child a moral identity-the key source of moral commitment throughout life. Children must hear the message enough for it to stick.

The profound impact of behaviours and attitudes on health is now widely recognized. Behavioural medicine is today a growing trend and a new relationship is emerging between patient and doctor. Patients want doctors who will dictate less and educate more, and doctors are now better able-and increasingly more willing-to advise patients on what to do, not just what to avoid. An increasing number of doctors are now recommending for some disorders a change in the patient’s lifestyle as a better method of treatment than drugs.

Richard A. Lippin, founding president of the International Arts-Medicine Association and chair of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, writes in the June-July Futurist on the psychology of health and stress-reducing behaviours:

Good and caring physicians have always tried to supplement their classic medical (pharmacological) prescriptions with sensible advice for living. Recently, however, empirical advice has advanced this common practice to a new level of scientifically based advice, or “behavioural prescription.”….
One trend contributing to the rise of behavioural medicine is what I call “the democratization of psychiatry.” Examples include growing acceptance of behavioural medicine as approved treatments for addictions to alcohol, tobacco, and (more recently) food-related compulsions. Cardiologists, rheumatologists, and other traditional medical specialists are also now applying behavioural medicine principles….
The number of behavioural-medicine techniques now being widely used in many health venues demostrates the enormous contribution that modern psychiatry has made to the redefinition of health itself. It is time to formally recognize and integrate modern professional psychiatric principles into all health-care endeavours and to provide appropriate training of doctors.
The behavioural prescriptions Lippin offers his patients include “responsible pleasures” such as participating in the arts, enjoying nature, doing work that is meaningful and gratifying, encouraging specific stress-releasing physiological behaviours such as laughing (the mirth response), engaging in intellectual pleasures, reading, being creative, solving problems, playing games, being appreciated, appreciating others, and many more. Given the creative changes in medical advice we are already seeing, the future of behavioural medicine appears bright.

Can the Bible be trusted? And does it matter? Asks Hillel Halkin in his article in the July-August Commentary. He comments on two recently published books-one arguing that almost everything in the Bible that is commonly thought to be history is myth; and the other, that almost everything therein commonly thought to be myth is history.

Thomas Thompson in his book, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the myth of Israel, presents archaeological evidence to show that “the Bible’s stories….aren’t about history at all, and that to treat them as if they were history is to misunderstand them.” On the other hand, David Rohl’s Legend: The Genesis of Civilization, claims that “much of the Old Testament contains real history. Archaeology disproves some of the Bible stories; but “what does this text tell us about its own history?” asks Halkin.

The answer, of course, is many things-nearly all of which have been commented on ad infinitum since modern biblical scholarship began. That the books of the Bible have different strands and different authors, for example. And that different parts of them appear to have been redacted in different places and at different times. And that not all of those who wrote or edited them shared the same point of view. And that all had some point of view that they sought to impose on their material. And that some of this material is clearly fanciful or imaginary….
Although the Bible may not be telling the truth, then neither is it making much up. It is using literary techniques to transmit a tradition-or, rather, a large number of traditions.
This is hardly a revolutionary proposition. It is what nearly all biblical scholarship prior to the minimalists has maintained. Nor does even Thompson deny the presence of traditional material in the biblical text. Neither he nor his fellow minimalists, however, quite face up to the implications of this, or of the fact that an oral tradition, unlike a text, is inherently undatable….
The fact is that we know a great deal about the transmission of oral traditions among peoples all over the globe-and what we know tells us, above all, two things: that such traditions can have extremely long histories, and that they constantly mutate in the course of them…There is relatively little in the Bible that cannot conceivably be a distant echo of something that once happened. Unfortunately, distinguishing an echo from an echo of an echo is for all practical purposes impossible….
National myths and passions run deeper than the excavations of archaeologists.

Those ignorant of the Bible’s symbolical meaning and of the universality of the truths underlying and concealed in it, are able to judge only from its dead-letter appearance. It reveals its verities only to those who, like the Initiates, have a key to its inner meaning, says H.P.B., and is “quite misleading to anyone ignorant of its Esotericism.”

The worship of the dead-letter in the Bible is but one more form of idolatry, nothing better….The Bible is not the “Word of God,” but contains at best the words of fallible man and imperfect teachers. Yet read esoterically, it does contain, if not the whole truth, still, “nothing but the truth,” under whatever allegorical garb. Only: Quot homines tot sententiae. (H.P.B. in “The Esoteric Character of the Gospels”)

There is the esoteric interpretation of the Christian texts which, read in the light of, and translated into, “the language of the Mysteries,” show us the identity of the fundamental and definitely universal truthe; by this means, the four Gospels, as well as the Bible of Moses and everything else, from the first to the last, clearly appear to be a symbolic allegory of the same primitive mysteries and the Cycle of Initiation. (H.P.B.’s Notes on Abbe Roca’s “Esotericism of Christian Dogma”)

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