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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 70. No. 3 - January, 2000

Our age has been called the transition age and humanity today is transiting into what might be called a global society. The nation-state has become one of the major hurdles to human unity, and in many spheres of life a rapid process of globalization is in progress.

Wm. Van Dusen Wishard, president of World Trends Research, hails globalization as "humanity's great experiment" (The Futurist, October 1999):

The world has embarked on the most ambitious collective experiment in history: globalization. If it succeeds, humanity may enter an epoch of opportunity and prosperity for a greater proportion of the earth's inhabitants than ever before. If it fails, it could retard progress for generations.

Globalization is the long-term effort to integrate the global dimensions of life into each nation's economics, politics, and culture. National development has ceased to be an isolated procedure and has now become part of a global process. …

Economic globalization has inevitably led to political globalization. Already we see national sovereignty diminishing. …Relations between nations can no longer be founded on respect for sovereignty - they must be founded on respect for human rights. … Cultural globalization entered a new phase with the advent of global TV and the Internet. …

If globalization is going to fulfil its potential, it must be more than just a technical process. It must be a human process, a psychological process, a spiritual process, a process of deepening consciousness and increasing sensitivity to other people and cultures. …

Globalization is not simply an abstract activity "out there" somewhere. It makes personal demands on each of us as individuals. Globalization requires each of us to become a more integrated personality, for common sense suggests that it takes integrated personalities to create an integrated world.

In the final analysis, globalization is the result not only of technological achievement, but also of the quality and harmonization of human attitudes and perspectives.

Globalization is more than harmonizing the world's separate economies, governments, and cultures. The process of globalization may be defined as one whereby the world becomes a single place in consciousness. There are people all around the world in different countries who have a sense of one world, a sense of a common origin and destiny of the human family, of belonging together. This unity needs to be realized concretely in political and social structures and in the way people organize life on the planet.


British scientist James Lovelock has for 30 years promoted the idea that Earth regulates itself as if it were one huge living organism, not just a collection of millions of relatively independent life forms. He called this system Gaia, after the earth goddess of the ancient Greeks.

The idea that the Earth is alive and that organisms act with a sense of purpose, interacting with one another to maintain conditions suitable for life, was once dismissed by scientists, but now even skeptics are taking a second look, writes Oliver Morton in Discover (October 1999). Some of the ideas flowing out of Lovelock's thinking have been proven correct, and a growing number of scientists have decided to centre their work on the Gaian concepts. Some of them gathered at Oxford for the third meeting of the Gaia Society, which sponsors this sort of research. These scientists are searching for insights to prove the Gaian theory that life and the environment come together to form a self-regulating whole.

Even among believers [says Morton], there is no real consensus as to what Gaia is or how it really works. … Lovelock started to think that Earth was in some sense alive, its various cycles part of a great physiology.

Of all those who objected to the idea, no group was more vehement than evolutionary biologists. They believe creatures are out to help themselves and their relatives survive, not to help strangers. The idea that some creatures waste effort making the world a better place for others didn't make sense to them. …

For the hard core, Gaia is about biology, not earth science or complex systems. Their battle cry is symbiosis, the many varied ways that creatures have of coming to depend on one another. That's something Gaians think traditional evolutionary biologists don't know how to deal with. William Hamilton, who has done more than anyone else to understand how genes can, in some circumstances, make the creatures that bear them nice to one another, disagrees with that. But he agrees that there seem to be long-term stabilities in the environment that he and his colleagues may have underplayed. This intrigues him deeply - and that may help bring Gaia a new respectability.

That all forms of life are closely interrelated and go to form a gigantic whole is no new idea. It was certainly known to the ancients and it is gratifying to find some present-day scientists rediscovering this old, old truth. "Let us make peace with Gaia on her terms," says Lovelock, "and return to peaceful coexistence with our fellow creatures." We must recognize that we are "a part of, or partner in, a very democratic entity," and not the masters of the planet. We resist this view at our peril, for nature may retaliate.


Startling progress has been made with computers. The computer age has been characterized as "both the greatest wonder of technology and our worst nightmare" (Discover, November 1999). In only a few decades, these often mystifying machines have transformed our existence, "yet there is something in most people that does not love a computer. We remain suspicious of its power and potential."

Recently, Discover magazine, in conjunction with the Disney Institute, invited a group of outstanding scientists to Orlando, Florida (U.S.A.), to discuss the issues of the computer age in a daylong debate. What follows are a few excerpts from their dialogue:

The real impact of the computer, as with the car and the telephone, is that it is dramatically changing the way we interact. Automobiles and phones changed social life. They changed families, dispersing them throughout the nation. The real impact of computers today is on the communications network. The computer is the computational brain behind it. Now, suddenly, we can always be in touch with each other. That's what the real revolution is about. It's not about a better keyboard. (Don Norman)

Computers really don't do very much yet except computations. … Computers today don't understand the simplest thing that even a five-year-old understands pretty well. At some point, people will figure out how to get computers to understand what words mean and how they fit together and represent ideas. And then, suddenly, there will be a new entity that's may be as smart as you. Then, as many science fiction writers have noticed, if it can be as smart as a person or smarter, we'll have a new set of problems. (Marvin Minsky)

On this business of feeling some emotional attachment: There's a real paradox in society that has nothing to do with technology at all. … We have a culture that has gotten so complex that most people can't understand it. And people are not comfortable with what they can't understand. Computers fall into that group. So there has been an attempt to imbue them with emotional characteristics, and we've given them some anthropomorphic properties that really dazzle people, like you can talk to them and people actually think: It listened to me. (Dean Kamen)

I think we're heading for some altogether new relationship with technology, which seems to be becoming fundamentally incomprehensible and fundamentally self-generating. I think our relationship is going to be more like the one we have with nature. Namely, we can influence it in certain ways, but we won't be able to really control it in the way we are used to controlling machines. All we may be able to do is try to keep the weeds out of the garden. (Danny Hillis)

The subject of "computer intelligence" keeps cropping up again and again. It is important to understand what thinking and intelligence are, since there prevail today as many misconceptions about the concept of mind as of matter. A good "thinking" machine can remember, classify, choose between alternatives on the basis of logic and, acting on past experience, can even correct itself; but the activity of any one machine is strictly limited to the instructions with which it is fed. In spite of its speed, precision and infallibility, the most "intelligent" computer cannot correlate dissociated ideas and events spread out in time and space, or present an original thought, or answer an unexpected query. Truly creative thought must forever remain in the province of the human mind.


Concepts about God are changing along with people's advancing comprehension of the universe. Is God dead today? Not according to philosopher Robert Mellert, who suggests that scientific progress may change humanity's conception of God rather than extinguish faith (The Futurist, October 1999). The transcendent image of God as someone "out there" and separate from nature and man may well be dead, or at least in its last throes, says Mellert. At the same time most people are loath to embrace atheism. He offers instead a "reconceptualization of God" that will be more acceptable to humanity of the future:

As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead put it, "It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God as that God is immanent in the World." Whitehead developed a notion of the "consequent nature" of God that encompasses all of reality, every puff of trivial existence. A similar idea of God and His relation to the world can be found in a grand synthesis developed by the French Jesuit thinker, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, for whom God is all in all, the final cause of reality, overcoming all evil and drawing all things into his ultimate Self.

This image of God is in some ways similar to the Eastern (especially Hindu) idea of pantheism, which literally means that God is all. Every bit of matter and energy is a part of God; every event is a manifestation of divine Being. God is these things, not a cause of them and not separate from them. …

The Western counterpart of pantheism, as expressed by Whitehead and Teilhard, for example, can better be called panentheism, which means that God is all, yet more than all. Like pantheism, it identifies God with the totality of reality, but it also asserts that God is more than the sum total of everything. It is based upon the notion that the whole is actually more than the sum of its parts, just as a person is more than the sum of his cells or organs. In other words, the whole (God) is more than the sum of His parts (all the elements of reality), yet He is made up of these parts. …

I am convinced that this general way of thinking about God will become more widespread in the future. Pantheism and panentheism accord with many important themes in contemporary thought. … The presence of God is the force behind change and the unity of the evolving universe itself.

These are old, old truths finding support today, and they may become even more acceptable in the future, as Mellert predicts. The idea of a personal, anthropomorphic God, a God who rewards or punishes and who can be propitiated, has been the bane of humanity's soul-progress for centuries. How much more elevating is the concept of God as "a Universal Divine Principle, the root of ALL, from which all proceeds, and within which all shall be absorbed at the end of the great cycle of Being"!

Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality. (H.P.B. in The Key to Theosophy, p. 64)


India is teeming with astrologers and with people who have faith in their predictions. The true science of astrology, however, has long been gone from public knowledge and what passes under that name today is the degenerate and largely haphazard descendant of something once rigidly scientific and accurate. It is upon cyclic law and the "mystic and intimate connection between the heavenly bodies and mankind" (S.D., II, 500 fn.) that genuine astrology is built. There is enough evidence for the view that movements of the planets have a relationship to events on earth.

If astrology is a science based on sound principles, then why do astrological predictions go wrong? asks Kireet Joshi in The Times of Astrology Annual Issue for 1999. Apart from the fact that those passing off today as astrologers are often lacking in scholarship, proficiency, and above all in intuitive power, Joshi advances various other reasons:

It is not a matter of debate that astrology is basically a psychological science, or that it deals mainly with psychological concepts. It is also not debatable that astrology deals with individuals in their highly complex individualized situations. It is, therefore, not surprising that applications of general principles of astrology could be highly misleading if individual differentiations are not sufficiently understood and appreciated. …

Are events so predetermined that they will inexorably occur? In fact, this is the real issue. … This brings us to the issue of the nature of events and to the issue of determinism, predeterminism and free will. If all events happen by chance, then there is no standing-ground for predictability of events, and there is no justification for astrology at all. If, on the other hand, there is an intelligence working in the world, one can expect design, teleology and even some kind of determinism. … It is only of we can arrive at a sound knowledge of the nature of determinism, predeterminism and freedom that we can decide the right criteria for judging the claims of astrology with regard to its predictions and with regard to certainties and probabilities of these predictions.

Now it is very well known that Indian astrology assumes the law of Karma. … According to the scientific theory of Karma, soul or spirit or spiritual state is superior to Karma, since Karma is only a machinery and it does not constitute but is constituted by the soul or the spirit. What is in the chain of Karma is determined, but the soul in itself is free and there is always a possibility, in varying degrees, for the soul to intervene freely and change the determinism of Karma.

Astrology recognizes this basic truth….It recognizes both determinism and predeterminism but it admits clearly that the course of events can be altered by free will.

There is a real and a false use of astrology, and Occult Science warns of the dangers of the latter and the value of the former. Are we at the mercy of the planets and the stars, moved hither and thither without our will? The key to the value of a knowledge of astrology is the Law of Karma, as rightly pointed out by Kireet Joshi. We are self-produced beings. "We produce CAUSES, and these awaken the corresponding powers in the sidereal world; which powers are magnetically and irresistibly attracted to - and react upon - those who produced these causes" (S.D., I, 124). We do not have to submit passively to the influence of the stars, nor do we need to try to fight it. We need to use it. As was written by H.P.B. in her article on "Astrology" in The Theosophist for June 1884:

All our thoughts and actions thus produce the vibrations in space, which mould our future career. And astrology is a science which, having determined the nature of the laws that govern these vibrations, is able to state precisely a particular or a series of results, the causes of which have already been produced by the individual in his previous life. Since the present incarnation is the child of the previous one, and since there is but that ONE LIFE which holds together all the planets of the Solar system, the position of those planets at the time of the birth of an individual - which event is the aggregate result of the causes already produced - gives to the true Astrologer the data upon which to base his predictions. It should be well remembered at the same time that just as the "astronomer who catalogues the stars cannot add one atom to the universe," so also can no astrologer, no more than the planet, influence the human destiny.


I BELIEVE internal happiness produces health. Not always, but most of the time. The greatest medicine is to have a positive outlook. To be satisfied with what one is doing, to trust people. When you're distrustful and angry, you're setting up an internal enemy which undermines your body, nullifying all the healthy effects of diet and exercise.
- BITTU SAHGAL



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A section in the monthly magazine: discussing current developments in science and the world and relating them to the teachings of Theosophy
2004
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 2001
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 2000
 Vol 70 No. 3- January
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1999
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1998
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