Writing on "Two Cultures" (New Scientist, October
7), Michael Snowden argues that science thrives where people
learn to confront authority and reject religion.
The philosophical base for modern science [says the author]
- the pursuit of knowledge through deductive reasoning and facts-has
often been attributed to the Renaissance of Western Europe. W.
T. Jones made this point in 1952 in his book. A History of
Western Philosophy: Hobbes to Hume in which he argued that
the pursuit of science emerged from a society that became increasingly
disillusioned by religion. I'd go even further than Jones and
argue that a desire for pure science might actually depend upon
that historical development. Thus countries
.that did not
experience the Renaissance do not have the cultural attitudes-such
as a willingness to confront authority and status quo-that are
necessary to the pursuit of pure science.
There is in reality no conflict between true religion and
true science. Reconciliation between the two was urged by H.P.B.
in her article "Is Theosophy a Religion?" Both are
important elements in the social wisdom of mankind. They are
not opposed but mutually complementary. Conflict arises when
religion is equated with "churchianity" and science
with crass materialism. Says H.P.B.:
The modern Materialist insists on an impassable chasm between
the two, pointing out that the "Conflict between Religion
and Science" has ended in the triumph of the latter and
the defeat of the first. The modern Theosophist refuses to see,
on the contrary, any such chasm at all. If it is claimed by both
Church and Science that each of them pursues the truth and nothing
but the truth, then either one of them is mistaken, and accepts
falsehood for truth, or both. Any other impediment to their reconciliation
must be set down as purely fictitious. Truth, is one, even if
sought for or pursued at two different ends. Therefore, Theosophy
claims to reconcile the two foes. (U.L.T. Pamphlet No.1)
In some countries, including India, the belief persists that
watching a solar eclipse may be so stressful that it is bad for
one's health. British researchers Omar Main at Manchester University
and Rubina Mian and Doug Thake at Coventry University were skeptical
of tales about eclipses making people sick, and even causing
deformities in unborn babies. To find out if there was any evidence
either way, Rubina Mian took her graduate students to a field
in Briey, France, to watch the 1999 summer eclipse. By analyzing
their blood samples with a luminometer, the researchers found
that leukocyte activity increased by 8.7 per cent during the
eclipse. These white blood cells usually help; our immune system,
but if overstimulated they can damage DNA by releasing free radicals.
Experiments after the eclipse showed that darkness, silence and
temperature had no effect on leukocyte activity. But in other
studies being prepared for publication, Rubina Mian has found
that stress can have a big effect.
If watching the eclipse was stressful, by her own admission,
for impartial researchers, then, she says, "it must be worse
for those who don't understand what an eclipse is, or who believe
legends about the phenomenon."
There are other "legends" relating to the phenomenon
besides its effect on physical health. Referring to solar and
lunar eclipses, The Secret Doctrine states that their
.we find to this day in India
and Ceylon, where anyone can study the allegorical narratives
and traditions which have remained unchanged for many thousands
of years" (II, 380). The Secret Doctrine goes on
to explain the mystic meaning behind the mythological tale of
Rahu, a Daitya, a demi-god the upper part of whose body
represents a Dragon's or Serpent's head, and the lower part the
tail; the two being the ascending and descending nodes. He is
said to devour the Sun and Moon occasionally, thus causing eclipses.
So little does Christian theology understand the paradoxical
language of the East and its symbolism, that it even explains,
in its dead letter sense, the Chinese Buddhist and Hindu
exoteric rite of raising noise certain eclipses, to scare away
the "great red Dragon," which laid a plot to carry
away the light! But here "Light" means esoteric Wisdom,
and we have sufficiently explained the secret meaning of the
terms Dragon, Serpent, etc., etc., all of which refer
to Adepts and Initiates. (S.D., II, 94 fn.)
Scientific researchers have yet to recognize that physical
phenomena often mirror circumstances or conditions of quite another
sort-developments of a moral, intellectual, or spiritual nature,
or all combined.
Many decades of thought and experiment have been devoted by
researchers in animal behaviour to the question: Do animals think?
In this book Wild Minds, Marc Hauser examines what makes
animals behave the way they do, and whether they have any mental
abilities and emotional lives. Do they have a sense of self?
Can they learn or teach? "Humans," he argues, "may
be the only species to have evolved the mental tools for imitation
and teaching." Hauser concludes that animals are not moral
agents; they are not responsible for their actions, do not know
right from wrong, and feel neither guilt nor shame. Yet he does
believe that some animals have thoughts, though they are without
language, or at least language as we characterize it.
The animal is certainly endowed with intelligence, but intelligence
in kingdoms lower than the human is of a general or class order.
Animal intelligence, though seen now in a new light, differs
from human intelligence in kind, not merely in degree.
H.P.B.'s article, "Have Animals Souls?" (THE THEOSOPHICAL
MOVEMENT, March, April and May 1970), raises some interesting
points on animal consciousness, that consciousness being hierarchical
rather than individual as in man. In The Secret Doctrine
(II, 525 fn.) H.P.B. makes this suggestive statement: "The
monad of the animal is as immortal as that of man, yet
the brute knows nothing of this; it lives an animal life of sensation
just as the first human would have lived, when attaining physical
development in the Third Race, had it not been for the Agnishwatta
and Manasa Pitris"-the celestial hierarchies responsible
for awakening the mind in man. Earlier in The Secret Doctrine,
H.P.B. explains the mystery of, and the gap between, "the
informing principle in man-the Higher Self or human Monad-and
the animal Monad, both one and the same, although the former
is endowed with divine intelligence, the latter with instinctual
faculty alone." (II, 102-3)
Scientists see man as just another animal, leaving out the
thing that makes him special, writes Kenan Malik in The Sunday
Times London. The barbarous history of the 20th century has
left many people disillusioned about what it means to be human.
Such pessimism has also helped shape scientists' views of what
it is to be human.
However much we learn about our brain, our genes, or our evolutionary
history [writes Malik] we will not learn fully what it is to
be human. Because humans are not simply natural creatures, and
cannot be understood as if they were. A paradox of science is
that its success in understanding nature has created problems
for its understanding of human nature
Humans do possess consciousness and will. Most of us are happy
to view human bodies as machines; but what we value about our
fellow human beings is that they do not act as animals or machines
but as people. Humans are unique because, alone among organisms,
we are both objects of nature and subjects that can shape our
We are biological beings, and under the purview of biological
and physical laws. But we are also conscious beings with purpose
and agency, the possession of which traits allows us to design
ways of breaking the constraints of biological and physical laws.
This is another way of saying that human beings are transcendent,
not in a religious, but in a very human way. We are able to transcend
our immediate circumstances, break free both from our culture
and our nature. We are shaped by our genes, as we are shaped
by our environment. But we also have the capacity to transcend
both our genetic and our cultural heritage. It is this transcendental
quality that makes us human, not animal.
It is our Mind, Manas, the self-conscious Thinker,
that makes us unique among all creatures. It is "our tempter
and Redeemer, our intelligent liberator and Saviour from pure
animalism" (S.D., II, 513). It can make us rise higher
than the gods or make us sink lower than the worm or gnat. The
choice is ours.
"Manas is dual-lunar in the lower, solar
in its upper, portion," says a commentary. That is to say,
it is attracted in its higher aspect towards Buddhi, and in its
lower descends into, and listens to the voice of its animal
soul full of selfish and sensual desires; and herein is contained
the mystery of an adept's as of a profane man's life. (S.D.,
The phenomenon of "phantom sensation" in amputated
limbs is not uncommon and has been the subject of medical and
psychological studies. The amputees retain the feeling of still
having the lost extremity and sometimes experience pain which
remains undiminished for years. Neuroscientists believe this
is because neurons in the brain that used to receive sensation
from the limbs are still firing. "Most people think sensory
representations of ourselves do not develop in the brain unless
there is sensory input," says Peter Brugger of the University
of Zurich Hospital. If we have never had an arm, goes the theory,
"we never develop the neurons that 'feel' an arm."
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol.
97, p. 6167)
But some people born without limbs also say they feel "phantoms."
These claims, once dismissed as fantasy, are now being taken
seriously. "This is an intriguing observation," says
Vilayanur Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego,
a leading researcher on phantom limbs. "It shows that the
brain's map is genetically specified," he adds.
What scientists call the "inner sensory map that we are
born with," is in Theosophical parlance the astral body.
It is possible to feel arms and legs even though the physical
limbs have been amputated or are missing from birth, because
the real seat of sensation lies in the astral form. In some rare
cases, when one is born without physical arms and legs and yet
"feels" them, the astral counterparts are evidently
still intact, and for some physiological reason the molecules
did not have the chance to make the physical limbs.
Scientists have known for some time that bacteria can exist
even under the most inhospitable conditions-in the interior of
the Earth's crust and underneath the ocean floors. The latest
discovery is that they can be revived from suspended animation
even after millions of years. Bacteria in a salt crystal have
been reawakened lately after 250-million-year-sleep. (The
Express Maganize, November 5)
The bacteria's age beats longevity records set by other organisms.
Scientists say that this could open a window onto a prehistoric
world "that was both dying and being reborn." DNA tests
indicate that the prehistoric germ is related to the present-day
bacillus, found in soil, water and dust, says Russel Vreeland,
a study author and biologist at Pennsylvania's West Chester University.
Not only is Life everywhere, but it is also eternal. It never
was not, nor shall it ever cease to be, from the beginning till
the end of a Manvantara or life-cycle.
Let tolerance be the world's religion, suggests Feodor Starcevic,
Director, United Nations Information Centre. In a talk on the
International day of Tolerance, November 16, in New Delhi, he
Tolerance, as defined by UNESCO Declaration of 1995,
is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity
of the world cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being
human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and
freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony
in difference. It is the virtue that makes peace possible and
it contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a
culture of peace
There is potentially no greater agent of tolerance than religion.
All religions preach morality, civility, kindness, compassion,
love, tolerance and peace. So prominent is the teaching of universal
love among all religions that it could be taken as a common goal
to them all. Yet, people have been persecuted, tortured and killed
in the name of religion throughout history. Religion has been
misused in the cause of division, discrimination and death
But one thing should be clear: religion itself is not to blame.
As UN secretary-general has said, the problem is usually not
with the faith, but the "faithful." All great religions
are equal streams of a civilized human co-existence, parallel
depositories of spiritual wisdom and complementary sources of
social guidance. All must therefore learn to give due respect
to each other, and to each other's view of human life. The key
to it is to foster knowledge, understanding and profound respect
for all the world's spiritual traditions
The question is not whether the religious communities and
their leaders should co-operate. The question is only how best
they will co-operate is an imperative if religious intolerance
is to be kept in check and hopefully eradicated in this 21st
The question is also how to prevent religious intolerance
through education, in schools and elsewhere. How do the individual
communities in their religious education view other religions?
How is religion treated in the education curricula of schools
in the country? Do textbooks reflect the diversity of the society
and do they impart sufficient, equitable, unbiased and sympathetic
knowledge about every religion, leaving no room in young minds
for bigotry later? And if they do not, how can religious leaders
co-operate in improving curricula and textbooks? And many more
Everything in space is in motion, heading somewhere. Even
galaxies trudge along-giant packages of stars moving in unison
toward unknown places, or sometimes toward other galaxies.
According to an AP report, when two galaxies collide, the
collective gravity of all the stars and other matter in each
causes a colossal interaction that forces the creation of new
stars. A newly-released Hubble telescope image shows such an
interaction. A large spiral galaxy is stripped into an odd shape
while its central area hangs together. The wispy edges of the
galaxy are pulled across space toward a smaller passing galaxy,
only partly visible in the image.
From atoms to galaxies, everything is in continuous motion-not
just at the physical level. The Secret Doctrine refers
to "the philosophical metaphysics of a beginningless and
endless series of Cosmic Re-births."
The immutable law of Nature is ETERNAL MOTION, cyclic and
spiral, therefore progressive even in its seeming retrogression.
The one divine Principle, the nameless THAT of Vedas, is the
universal total, which, neither in its spiritual aspects and
emanations, nor in its physical atoms, can ever be at "absolute
rest" except during the "Nights" of Brahma. (S.D.,
Outside the boundaries of the solar system, it is other Suns,
and especially the mysterious "central Sun" (the "Abode
of the invisible deity" as some reverend gentlemen have
called it) that determines the motion of bodies and their direction.
(S.D., I, 673)