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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 70. No. 8 - June, 2000

Some of today's scientists are admitting that science and spirituality are not as separate as once thought. The awareness of this relationship, says Rolf Sattler (Biology Department, McGill University) "is important for the further evolution of humankind and our planet Earth." In his essay published in Holistic Science and Human Values (Transaction 4), he states:

If spirit is opposed to matter, a dualism arises and thus spirituality becomes fragmenting as is characteristic of mechanistic materialism. To cut through this "spiritual materialism," one has to go beyond dualisms such as matter-spirit, embracing reality in its undivided wholeness, which evokes a sense of reverence and awe so that the experience of wholeness and oneness becomes holy. It is significant that the words "whole" and "holy" are etymologically derived from the same root. Thus, to many native people universe is sacred.

In spite of the strong tendencies of fragmentation there are also more holistic threads in the fabric of modern and especially postmodern science. It is through these holistic aspects that science is beginning to come closer to spirituality. This rapprochement is noticeable at the unorthodox fringes of many sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology. According, it can be illustrated at the levels of atoms and subatomic particles, molecules, cells, organisms, populations, species, ecosystems and beyond.

It is well known that physics has moved towards a recognition of wholeness and oneness. According to Bohm, there is an implicate order underlying the explicate order. We are used to thinking in terms of the explicate order which is the world of separateness as manifested in particles and entities. However, this separateness vanishes in the underlying implicate order in which we find "undivided wholeness in flowing movement."

In biology…a similar conclusion can be reached: underneath the apparent separateness of cells, organisms and other entities is unity. This means that cells, organisms and other entities do not ultimately exist as separate units, but are integrated into a more inclusive whole. From this point of view, there is no thing such as a cell or an organism. Obviously nothingness and oneness are only different verbalizations of the same underlying unity….

Now, integration and oneness extend beyond individual species, since species as individuals are not separate entities but continuous in time and space. They have evolved from each other in time and they are integrated into an ecosystem. Ecosystems in turn are integrated with each other and the Earth so that according to the Gaia theory the whole planet Earth can be seen and experienced as an organism or a system of a higher order. Since our planet is integrated with the universe, the ultimate oneness encompasses the whole universe. Again, this holistic view can have profound consequences for our consciousness and behaviour.

Sattler goes on to say that basically everything is one. His own research in plant morphology has shown that there is no separation between the plant and its environment. Since we are part of the plant's environment, we too are integrated with the plant. This holodynamic view indicates the illusion of separateness as also the impermanence of everything.

Such holodynamic realization [Sattler concludes] has profound consequences for everything we think, feel, and do. Although we may continue to focus our attention on specific things, we realize that ultimately there is no-thing. Therefore, everything is seen in the perspective of the whole and the holy….

Science, at its unorthodox fringes, has become increasingly holistic and holodynamic, thus approaching at least to some extent the recognition and experience of oneness that is central to spirituality. Furthermore, spirituality as reflected in the transformed consciousness of an increasing number of practicing scientists, is enlarging the scope of scientific observation and theorizing . Thus, science and spirituality, although different in many ways, are also related.

Such pronouncements by men of science reflect the modern revolution in scientific thinking. They remind us of the Secret Doctrine prophecy that in the 20th century portions, if not the whole, of the teachings of the Occult Sciences would be vindicated (S D., II, 442). In the 21st century, even more is expected. There is really no conflict between science and spirituality. The partition separating them is slowly being dissolved. They have their meeting-ground in the recognition of the One Life, the One Divinity, in and behind all objective manifestation, and in the very perception of the majestic working of immutable Law.

In the last couple of decades, archaeologists have done a fair amount of digging in the Sahara and have found remains of settlements from the region's greener days. Time was when the Sahara was a fertile savanna with lakes and rivers, and was teeming with animals and people-people who were agriculturists and cowherds, who built houses with stone foundations and hearths, and who carved in a distinctive style. That region now gets less than two-tenths of an inch of rain. Did the loss of that ecosystem lead to the rise of ancient Egypt? And will the sands of the Sahara be covered with green again?

Hans-Joachim Pachur, a geographer at the Free University of Berlin, has been exploring the Sahara for the last quarter century. Discover magazine (January 2000) highlights his work and describes the region as it once was:

Pachur believes the Sahara then was an Eden. "People did not experience this region the way we do, as a hostile environment," he says. "For them, it provided enormous possibilities to blossom." On rock walls west of the Murzuq, or in the Gilf Kebir highlands of southwestern Egypt, the Saharans carved and painted scenes from their lives. They depicted themselves driving cattle, hunting, and swimming, or sometimes just sitting around drinking

But then the climate began to change, and the desert came. It began sometime after 6,000 years ago. Within just a few centuries, a gentle fertile region the size of the United States was transformed into one of the harshest, most barren places on Earth. The Saharans had to leave. Many must have migrated east into the valley of the Nile, their closest source of water. That exodus, some archaeologists think, may be the event that triggered the rise of the pharaohs in Egypt a little more than 5,000 years ago. Eden gave way to one of the planet's great civilizations.

What turned the Sahara into a desert is still being debated. Climatologist Martin Claussen says that ultimately what keeps rain from falling on the Sahara is a lack of plants, for vegetation has an influence on climate and attracts rainfall. At some point enough vegetation had been lost, enough bare ground exposed, and barrenness began to spread like wildfire. "Suddenly things went downhill very rapidly," observed Claussen. Within a few centuries the cool moist soil became sand.

The message for us is that feedbacks in the Earth's climate have in the past produced abrupt climate changes that disrupted human societies tremendously-and we are not yet capable of predicting what changes lie in our future.

Recent discoveries in the Sahara region corroborate what H.P.B. wrote in The Secret Doctrine in 1888:

There was a time when the whole of the Sahara desert was a sea, then a continent as fertile as the Delta, and then, only after another temporary submersion, it became a desert similar to that other wilderness, the desert of Shamo or Gobi. (II, 405)

There might yet come a time, Claussen believes, when the desert will again become fertile land.

How much the interconnectedness of life matters in the Earth's systems is the theme of Bittu Sahgal's editorial comments in Sanctuary Asia (April 2000):

Everything is magically linked. The swell of the oceans, cells and molecules, insects making insects…and the heavy silence of a noontime forest. Everything is connected.

Scientists call the magnificent hum of life around us biodiversity…and virtually everyone alive now admires the wondrous lifeforms that flash at us through television screens or the pages of an increasing number of print and Internet publications. Very few people, however, fully comprehend just how the quality of their own lives is determined by the buzz of bees, the silent padding of an anonymous tiger, the soft flight of a moth or the migration saga of the blue whale….

At another level, after a period of denial, the economic system seems to have accepted the inevitable. Mudslips in Mexico, starvation deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, folds in Bangladesh, forest fires in Indonesia, cyclones in Orissa and melting snow caps and glaciers hand-maiden of ecological collapse.

We need to remind those in whose hands the short-term future of the earth lies that protecting ecosystems improves the quality of life of millions, that forests feed and protect people by regulating hydrology, that only a healthy biosphere can guarantee jobs and livelihoods and that investing in safe energy alternatives is the way forward. More than ever before we need to insinuate into everyone's reality the acceptance that protecting the planet is good for both the earth…and the earth-dependent.

A Sanctuary report on the biodiversity of India, published in the same issue, concludes that "diversity and equilibrium, within and between species, are keys to the survival of the earth as we know it." Everything fits like a massive jigsaw designed for life. Yet the destruction of our natural wealth continues apace.

A surprisingly large number of infants born each year are hermaphrodites -those who cannot be classified as male of female. Discover magazine (January 2000) focuses on one such baby, Emma McDonald, who soon after birth was "fixed" surgically and turned into a female. For decades surgery has been resorted to in such cases, but now parents wonder if their children should not be left untouched. Of late, a debate has been raging on the issue and ethical concerns are being expressed.

Emily Nussbaum writes in Discover under the title "A Question of Gender":

Intersexuality, in a variety of forms, occurs in about one of every 2,000 births-about the same proportion as cystic fibrosis. Sex, in reality, is more than the simple blueprint learned in high-school biology-XX for female, XY for male. All embryos are identical for the first eight weeks of gestation, and then several factors nudge the infant toward male or female development. But some embryos step off track. The cause can be chromosomal of hormonal….

One thing all intersexual children have in common, however, is that modern medicine regards them…as a "social and psychological emergency." Surgeons typically perform plastic surgery early on to protect the child-and, not incidentally, the parents-from any sense of ambiguity. Nearly all intersexual babies are assigned to be female, because the surgical techniques are better….

The Intersex Society of North America, an organization that has grown to 1,500 members, lobbies against unnecessary genital surgery on infants and…advocates a noninterventionist approach: No surgery unless medically necessary and full disclosure to parents and ultimately the child….With therapy and a supportive family, an intersexual could make his or her own decision whether to choose cosmetic procedures-or not….

Will Emma grow up to be one of the will-adjusted women the doctors have told Vicki [Emma's mother] about? Or will she regret the surgery-identifying as male or feeling sexually damaged?

Emma and others like her are vestiges of an earlier evolutionary era when separation into sexes had not yet taken place. According to Occult teachings, the earliest humans were of no sex; then they altered into hermaphrodite, and lastly separated into male and female. This separation of the sexes took place over 18 million years ago. (The Ocean of Theosophy, pp. 29-30)

It needs must follow that the method of reproduction in earlier times was not what it is today. The successive stages-self-division, hermaphroditic reproduction, and finally bisexual reproduction as we have it now-must have gone hand in hand with the growth of individual consciousness, and must have merged into one another. Full bisexual reproduction came into effect in the middle of the Third Race, when the Manasaputras-"mind-born Sons"-incarnated in the hitherto mindless bodies. Moreover, it would appear that the ancient method of self-reproduction will at a future time again be in vogue, representing the perfection, in the individual, of racial evolution. (Cf. The Secret Doctrine, II, 118-19, 132-33, 184, 657-60.)

The following item from Health and Nutrition, February 2000, illustrates how some ancient beliefs are returning today in a new garb and are gaining corroboration from modern science:

According to Native Americans, everything on the planet has a spirit. They believe that the earth and its animals, plants, and rocks are all living beings. So, too, water, fire, lightning, wind, and air. And, to believers, we're not just part of everything that surrounds us-we're actually kin to it all. So when an Apache Indian gathers herbs for medicine, hunts animals, harvests plants for food, or turns on the tap for water, he does so with respect and gratitude.

Guess what? Science is beginning to confirm this theory. In the past few years, a new area of study called environmental psychology has emerged, which is devoted to the environment's impact on our health. Its scientists, called environmental psychologists, examine the relationships between people and their physical surroundings. The results of several studies confirm what Native Americans have known for centuries: Viewing natural scenery affects the para-sympathetic nervous system and calms people who are under stress. Which is why even a quick trip to a park can restore serenity to people who are feeling stressed.

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