The need for an ethical 21st century is the main theme of the January
issue of Unesco Sources. For many people, writes Editor-in -chief
Sue Williams, the new century simply means business as usual. Nonetheless,
The passage into 2000 is symbolically charged. The 21st century
has been built up in the collective consciousness as a science
fiction era in which technology reigns supreme. There are undoubtedly
elements of truth in this vision, exemplified by the rise of
the internet and the "virtual" worlds it is opening
The dazzling technology which has become a sort of emblem for
the 21st century, can be a powerful tool in achieving a more
harmonious, sustainable development, and to redress the glaring
inequalities between peoples and nations. But it is only a tool.
And it can only be an effective one if its use is rooted in strong,
Increasingly, people everywhere are demanding that this dimension
be taken into account, whether it be in the area of trade relations,
the environment, the application of scientific developments,
or the sharing of knowledge
. Perhaps this is the real revolution
that will mark our entry into the third millennium, and define
A report on the round table on ethics
and the future appears in the same issue of Unesco Sources.
It addressed three major issues facing the world today: "Ethics
of the Future and Policy-Making," "Bioethics and the
Future of Life," and "Development in the 21st Century."
French philosopher Edgar Morin, who examined the relationship
between ethics and politics, said:
Ethics are not necessarily unrealistic, just as utopia is
.Good utopia is based on possibilities that
we have not yet achieved. The idea that humanitarian principles
might win out over political rules belongs to the future
Ethics must strengthen the dilapidated state of democracy. The
relationship between mankind and the individual requires that
we move toward global citizenship, citizens who feel responsible
for the earth and concerned for others.
Ryuichi Ida, the Japanese president of UNESCO's International
Bioethics Committee, showed how advances in genetics force us
to address the definition of life. The concept of human dignity
provides the foundation of bioethics. An urgent task, he said,
given that human dignity, which is based on the sanctity of human
life, on the principles that human beings are equal, and that
manipulation of human life is forbidden, stands to be eroded
by scientific progress. "We must also take up the issue
of animal and plant life," he stated, as human dignity is
closely associated with all life.
Lord Meghnad Desai, the British economist, in his presentation
"Development in the 21st Century," called for equity
and the rule of law in international relations and took the rich
countries to task for not giving enough assistance to the Third
World and wanting to slow industrialization there.
Again and again and in various ways it is brought home to us
that without ethics material progress is not only meaningless
but even dangerous. Ethics is the only solid foundation on which
globalization, which is so mush talked of today, can rest.
In "Nature Your Nature: Daily
Actions for Future Success" (The Futurist, December 1999),
Jim Cathcart shows how to guide our own future by assessing the
kind of person we would like to become and analyzing what we
would like to do. The author, who is a psychological researcher
and author of many books on professional and personal development,
reassures us that our future is in our own hands:
Success is not a contest, not is it a mountain you must struggle
to climb. Success is your birthright. It is your natural state
Sure, you'll have to work at it. You may even have to develop
some new habits. But personal growth (the natural process that
creates a successful life) is not drudgery. It is fun! Ask anyone
who is living a highly productive and happy life, "What
is it like to develop new abilities and bring out your best?"
He or she will pause, then smile and tell you, "It is great!
I can't imagine living any other way!"
The people at the top of every field have a different way of
looking at life from those who are still struggling to keep up.
It is not a difference in talent. It is a difference in outlook
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Desire is possibility seeking
expression. "The essence of your nature is expressed in
your true desires. Once you have described the person you'd like
to be, you can begin to shift your focus to the areas you should
emphasize today in order to make your dreams a reality tomorrow
The seed of your future successes already lives within and around
you. The seed's only job is to grow, to live fully. The oak sleeps
within you. Growing season is here.
"The way gets clearer as we go on," says W. Q. Judge,
"but as we get clearer we get less anxious as to
the way ahead."
A disturbing trend today is the steady
increase in youth crime in many parts of the world. Reducing
juvenile crime may depend more on the steps that parents and
teachers take than on law enforcement officers. The best way
to prevent misbehaving children from joining the criminal ranks
is to teach them how to respect other, says Gad Czudner, a clinical
psychologist who works with troubled children and juvenile offenders.
(The Futurist, December 1999)
I have found that neither punishment nor reward are effective
methods for teaching morality [writes Czudner]. To change problem
behaviour, the concept of arousing moral feeling -namely, empathy
and guilt-is essential
Since self-centredness is the primary factor in the development
of a budding criminal, all activity reducing self-centredness
must not only be encouraged but continually reinforced.
Czudner identifies seven warning signs
of potential criminality among children: self-centredness, lying,
low frustration tolerance, lack of empathy, lack of discipline,
stealing, and power and control. Because young children depend
heavily on the approval of parents and other adults, Czudner's
approach to children's bad behaviour calls for parents to forge
strong relationships with their children as a foundation for
teaching values. Teachers can encourage respect in their classrooms
among children who need to experience empathy as a first step
toward learning how to behave responsibly.
In his book Small Criminals Among Us, Czudner offers these
practical suggestions to adults responsible for children:
1. Assert control. It may take many battles and tantrums,
but a child must learn that certain rules are not negotiable.
2. Accept no excuses. There is no excuse for stealing
or lying. The adult must refute all rationalizations and the
child must accept full responsibility for what he does.
3. Describe the criminal behaviour. Explain what right
and wrong are. Make the child realize the effect his actions
have on others; help him develop his capacity for empathy.
4. Instill a sense of guilt. A young criminal should feel
appropriate guilt when he harms other people. This is not the
negative emotion of guilt toward oneself, but is focused on others
as a guide to moral action.
5. Promote moral behaviour. As an alternative to punishment,
require the child to engage in positive actions that help others.
6. Build a good relationship. Foster a relationship of
trust and honesty with the child. Be consistent and persistent.
Early intervention can indeed deter
the development of adult criminality. But often it is the parents
who need to reform themselves before they can reform their children.
The God-idea has been expressed differently
in different traditions, some at variance with the Theosophical
concept and others coming close to it. Here is one way of expressing
it. S. H. Venkatramani writes in The Times of India (January10):
We, as human beings, instinctively
sense deep down in our minds and marrow the existence of a deeper
power governing the destiny of the universe
we seem to catch a fleeting glimmer of a power beyond and beyond
and behind all that we perceive, a power that guides the course
of all that is around us and determines all that ever will be.
It is this universal backdrop that man has traditionally referred
to as God
But can God be understood, comprehended
of even vaguely glimpsed by the human mind? Can the aspen sensors
of the most subtle mind even tentatively grip, albeit for an
evanescent moment, the delicate petal of that universal essence
that we call the divine?
Historically one of the arguments that
theists who were rationalists have advanced for proving the existence
of God is what is called the first cause argument. Every event,
we find, is a caused event; and the cause itself is the result
of a prior event. The history of the universe can therefore be
traced back in an effect-cause sequence. Going back thus in time
from effect to cause, we should, theoretically, be able to arrive
at a first cause. This first cause is the original uncaused cause,
which is God.
However, this historical and intuitive
argument poses an interesting and serious problem. The problem
is that it makes out God to be as much a creature of time and
space as anything else. God as the culmination of the process
of going backwards down the history of the universe in a temporal
effect-cause sequence is circumscribed by the boundaries of the
universe of time and space But should not God be beyond time
and space? If everything around us is God's creation, are not
time and space as much God's creations as everything else?
It is this transcendental nature of the
divine that the Upanishads evoke in vivid metaphor. The universal
spirit, the purusha, "is all this, what has been
and what will be; he is also the lord of immortality," says
the Svetasvatara Upnishad. The human symbolism is carried
farther: "It hands and feet are everywhere, its eyes and
head are everywhere, its ears are everywhere, it stands encompassing
all in the world."
Therefore, while God may be immanent,
he is also transcendent. "He is beyond all the forms of
the world and of time, he is the other, from whom this world
moves round." To adapt what Albert Camus said in a different
context, God may be with the world, but he is not of the world.
Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity makes the profound
point that to understand the effects of gravitation, we need
to view the universe as a four-dimensional space-time continuum;
we need to transcend our traditional historical perception of
the universe as a three-dimensional world coursing through time.
Similarly, to experience the divine, we need to grow into a supra-mental
and spiritual dimension.
The widespread belief that everything
can be made right with a pill obtains as much among psychiatric
patients as among those with physical conditions. Paul R. McHugh,
Henry Phipps professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, deplores this belief and writes on how psychiatry
has lost its way (Commentary, December 1999):
With help from the popular media,
home-brewed psychiatric diagnoses have proliferated in recent
years, preoccupying the worried imaginations of the public
Most worrisome of all-wherever they look, such people find psychiatrists
willing, even eager, to accommodate them. Worse: in many cases,
it is psychiatrists who are leading the charges, But the exact
role of the psychiatric profession in our current proliferation
of disorders and in the thoughtless prescription of medication
for them is no simple tale to tell
Indeed, many of the profession's troubles,
especially the false starts and misdirections that have plagued
it from the beginning, stem from the brain-mind problem, the
most critical issue in the natural sciences and a fundamental
obstacle to all students of consciousness
Psychiatrists have for too long been
satisfied with assessments of human problems that generate only
a categorical diagnosis followed by a prescription for medication.
Urgently required is a diagnostic and therapeutic formulation
that can comprehend several interactive sources of disorder and
sustain a complex programme of treatment and rehabilitation
That is not all. In its recent infatuation
with symptomatic, push-button remedies, psychiatry has lost its
way not only intellectually but spiritually and morally. Even
when it is not actually doing damage to the people it is supposed
to help, it is encouraging among doctors and patients alike the
fraudulent and dangerous fantasy that life's every passing "symptom"
can be clinically diagnosed and, once diagnosed, alleviated if
not eliminated by pharmacological intervention. This idea is
as false to reality, and ultimate to human hopes, as it is destructive
of everything the subtle and beneficial art of psychiatry has
meant to accomplish.
Modern psychiatry derived from Freud the assumption of the
basically animal nature of man, and this bias of animalism remains
in greater or lesser degree with the majority of psychiatrists.
There are, today, good psychiatrists-men and women qualified
by temperament and thoughtful study to give successful treatment
to sick minds. But who is working on problems of tracing and
eliminating from our culture the causes of psychiatric
ailments? This is the real social problem, and it cannot
be solved unless philosophical rather than purely statistical
analysis is employed.
Plato would seek the cause of mental
illness in failure to understand correctly the contradictory
impulses of two parts of ourselves-the "nous" and the
"psyche" (the soul-mind and the psychic center of animal,
sensory intelligence). This is also the Theosophic teaching -that
the Ego must subordinate the lower self to its purposes and understand
why this is done, in order to be completely "sane."
The soul, psychiatrists must come to learn, is a reality. Treatment
of psychiatric disorders should be modified and relieved of dogma
by making allowance for the soul.
Despite their lack of belief in the soul,
some practicing psychiatrists have discovered the need for a
better, a more basic morality, than that offered with the pretensions
to virtue which overload our hypocritical mores.
THALES was asked what was most difficult to man; he answered:
"To know one's self."