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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 70. No. 5 - March, 2000

Dr. Karan Singh, Chairman, Temple of Understanding, New Delhi, in his address to the Third Parliament of the World's Religions held in Cape Town in December 1999, stressed that we have reached a crucial crossroad in the history of humanity and that the need of the hour is "a paradigm shift in consciousness".

What we are now involved in will certainly be the most crucial and difficult of all the transitions that we have encountered so far-the transition to global society. Impelled by science and technology, all aspects of life on our planet are, for better or worse, undergoing a process of globalization....The great religions of the world also have burst geographical boundaries and assumed global dimensions. While we are thus being irresistibly propelled towards a global society, the consciousness needed to sustain such a society is still imperfectly developed.

It is this dangerous time lag which is at the root of much of the tumult and turmoil that we see around us today, and if the truly religious impulse is creatively projected, it can go a long way in forging a new consciousness that would unite rather than divide the peoples of the world....

Religion remains a major motivating force for the vast majority of the six billion inhabitants of Planet Earth. This being the case, the question before us is whether we are going to revert to the mediaeval pattern of religious wars and internecine conflicts, or move onwards to a new dimension of Interfaith dialogue, harmony and understanding....

One of the measures necessary is a paradigm shift in the traditional pattern of present-day education. Instead of clinging to fixed ideas and rigid patterns, what is needed is a rediscovery of some of the insights of various religious and cultural traditions for a decisive breakthrough, a quantum leap into a new spiritual dimension.

All over the world there is a growing number of individuals and organizations who are searching for methods to expand human consciousness in order to bring about a spiritual transformation. This can be achieved through a new education based on co-operation, collaboration, reciprocal altruism and personal and social responsibility. Only a comprehensive and hostile system of education can bring about a change in our consciousness and expand our personal and global awareness so as to ensure harmony in the emerging global society.

The universal values inherent in all the great religions of the world are often overlooked with all the preoccupation with ritual and theology. It is, in fact, these universal spiritual values that ultimately link all human beings into one great extended family-Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, as the Vedas have it. Fanning the spark of potential divinity within each individual, irrespective of race or creed, sex or nationality, caste or colour, into the blazing fire of spiritual discernment, is the true role of the great religions of humanity.

How, looking at the record of history, can we foster harmony between various religions and cultures and avoid repeating past conflicts? This is what a group of experts asked themselves when they met to discuss Models of Philosophical Encounters: Conditions for a Fruitful Cultural Encounter, organized by UNESCO's Division of Philosophy and Ethics at the organization's Paris headquarters. (Unesco Sources, October 1999)

Religion, the participants said, is not a collection of rigid practices, fixed once for all and removed from any context. Religions borrow from one another, change constantly and are continually enriched, not always accompanied by violence. Conflict arises whenever a religion claims dominance and control over others.

The main problem, the experts agreed, is how to draw lessons from history to bring about "active" tolerance. Past conflicts can teach us things about the present, but their example cannot be applied in entirety to modern times. And the nature of conflict itself has changed. These days people argue less over sacred texts and more about culture and lifestyle.

Today, conflicts often arise between liberal and conservative wings of the same faith. Another modern feature is that the worst conflicts are occurring within multi-ethnic societies, such as the countries of the former Soviet Union. "This cultural rivalry," said Dr. Notker Schneider of Cologne University, "which erupts in societies with a big immigrant population, requires new solutions. Solutions which have yet to be found."

Would not one solution be the comparative study of various religions, cultures and customs, and the selection therefrom of universal elements-the good and the noble which is beneficial to all? Such study should be made a part of the school curriculum, for it is best to begin with the young, whose minds are still pliable and free of prejudices and predilections.

Speaking at the 87th session of the Indian Science Congress held early this January at Pune, Richard Ernst, the 1991 Nobel laureate in chemistry, cautioned against indiscriminate pursuit of science and technology, without any respect for nature. It could spell doom for humanity, he said. The purpose of science and technology, he reminded his audience, was to help understand nature and improve life for the common man, not to destroy life. (The Times of India, January 5)

Dr. Ernst scoffed at the vision of colonizing planets and termed the enormous expenditure on space exploration as an absurd pursuit which was not aimed at improving the life of man. He stressed the need to temper scientific and technological pursuits with respect for universal and ethical principles. Eastern schools of thought, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, he said, contained essential treatises which could guide man in coexisting with nature:

Science and humanity need to coexist. We should be guided by wisdom and compassion in our scientific pursuits....India is in a unique position to provide leadership in several such aspects....
The heroes of our time are people helping street children rather than those developing a moon rocket.

The eminent scientist urged his fellow scientists to address themselves to the needs of society and make relevant contributions which would help improve the life of the common man.

What is a myth? A schoolboy once described it as "something that is true on the inside but not true on the outside." "A myth is true, perhaps not in the outer, physical sense, bit as an accurate expression of a psychological situation of the inner condition of the psyche," writes Marguerite Theophil in The Times of India, January 20:

While myths can be understood to be somewhat like dreams, dreams are messengers of the individual and personal unconscious mind, whereas myths serve to express the dynamics within the collective mind of a specific society, culture or race.

Myth can be seen as the collective "dream" of an entire people at a certain point in their history. It is as if we can imagine something like an entire population dreaming together, and the dream, the myth, bursting forth through its poetry, songs and stories. At a personal level, the study of myth allows us to see our ordinary lives from a different perspective, to see that many "characters"-noble and heroic as well as base and uncouth-dwell in us. Myth helps us get an intuitive sense of who we truly are at many levels, and what is truly important to us.

Myth lives not only in literature and imagination, it finds its way into the behaviour daily lives of people. At the social or cultural level, mythology allows us to see what is significant to any group of people claiming a common belonging.

The interpretation of myths and symbols is a vast subject and H.P.B. has dealt with it at length in her Secret Doctrine.

Allegory and a mythical ornamentation around the kernel of tradition, in no wise prevent that kernel being a record of real events....All the so-called myths of the Hindu, Grecian, Chaldean and Jewish Pantheons are found to be built on fact and truth. (S.D., II, 235-36)

The so-called "myths," in order to be at least approximately dealt with in any degree of justice, have to be closely examined from all their aspects. It truth, every one of the seven Keys has to be used in its right place, and never mixed with others, if we would unveil the entire cycle of mysteries. (Ibid., II, 517)

Myths were cloaked in allegory and symbolism for their better preservation. The ancients knew that nothing could be preserved in human memory without some outward symbol. Paper, papyrus and parchment decay, stone crumbles and languages change, but "the ideas underneath symbols do not alter, no matter what might be the language, and symbols are clear immortally, because they are founded in nature itself."

Beliefs are the bedrock upon which all experience is built. What we believe can affect our life, our attitudes, our actions, says Noell Nelson, clinical psychologist and author of many books. An article in the January-February Futurist, adapted from her book Winner Takes All, speaks of the power of beliefs:

All of your beliefs-about yourself, your abilities, your potential, your "place" in the world-affect how you live your life. In fact, beliefs are so powerful that they can even affect whether you live or die....

The good news is that, if you have beliefs that limit your ability to create the future you want for yourself, you can change them....By changing your beliefs, you take the first step toward changing the way you live your life. The bad news is that you can't change your beliefs unless you know what they are. Even though our beliefs run our lives, most of us have little conscious awareness of what those beliefs are....

To discover your beliefs about the future, start by looking at your "core beliefs," the ones that make broad, sweeping statements about life...."The future is wide open; it is whatever you make of it" is a typical winner's core belief. It stresses the enormous possibilities available in the future and the degree to which an individual is in charge of his or her own future. From this belief, winners will generate secondary beliefs such as "Where there's a will, there's a way" and "As one door shuts another one opens."...Winners' beliefs imply a future full of positive possibilities and support their ability to go into the unknown with confidence and hope....

No matter how grim your present seems, be willing to accept the belief that the future holds positive possibilities. The wonderful thing about possibilities is that they can be turned into probabilities, and from there into actuality.

On the other hand, seeing the future as only full of bright promises might lead to disappointment and dejection sooner or later. Helpful as an optimistic attitude is, we have to be prepared for any eventuality and accept it not only as what we deserve under Karma but also as just what we in fact desired.

"For the love of heaven do not take any tales or information from any person to any other," advises Mr. Judge. We are apt to forget the precept, and gossip has become the pastime of the thoughtless. The real occult reasons for avoiding gossip, small talk, backbiting, etc., are pointed out in Theosophical philosophy, but are often not so clearly perceived even by its students.

Even from the physical health angle, gossip has deleterious effects. According to a report from New Delhi (The Time of India, January 22):

Gossips are more prone to heart attacks and heart diseases, doctors have warned. When a person gossips or criticizes another person, they say, negative thoughts run through his or her system. These thoughts become responsible for the release of neuropeptides. These substances then oxidize LDL, a component of cholesterol....

While diet control and exercise are said to be essential to reduce the chances of a heart attack, doctors feel that negative thoughts go a long way in harming the heart. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital cardiologist Dr. K. K. Aggarwal says that efforts should be made to remove negative thoughts as much as possible. If one is angry and upset about something, think of the positive sides of life, like the people you love and the people who love you, he explains.

Chief cardiologist at Batra Hospital, Dr. Harbans S. Wasir, points out, "When a person is angry, chemicals like adrenaline and noradrenaline are secreted into the blood. These increase the pulse rate and blood pressure and can cause damage to an already sick heart." On the other hand, positive thoughts and action result in the release of nitric oxide into the bloodstream. Nitric oxide has healing powers and ensures good health, he says.

Our thoughts and speech are more potent even than acts-for good or for ill.

Two teams of scientists have found evidence of bacteria living in Antarctic ice, above a freshwater lake that lies beneath the thick frozen surface. Lake Vostok, as it is called, is one of the deepest bodies of water on Earth and is located more than two miles under East Antarctic ice cap. According to John Priscu of Montana State University, who led one of the two teams, "From a biologist's perspective, this is the Holy Grail of lake biology." (The Times of India, January 6)

The ice core, eighteen inches long and four inches wide, was drilled from 11,800 feet into the ice sheet and 393 feet above where the ice and the waters of the lake meet, suggesting life can survive cut off from nutrients and light. The existence of such "extremophiles" in Lake Vostok and elsewhere has given scientists hope that life could exist in similarly forbidding conditions on other planets.

Indeed Life and the lives exist everywhere, even in the unlikeliest of places. "There is not one finger's breadth (Angula) of void Space in the whole Boundless Universe," says an Occult commentary. (The Secret Doctrine, I, 289)

UNTIL you can help your enemy and converse with him, until you can be of use to your fellow man, you have no human rights at all.

"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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