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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 71. No. 4 - February, 2001

The subject of dreams continues to fascinate researchers and the public alike. Milton Kramer, M. D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and Director of their Sleep Consultation Service, says that 40 years of research suggests that dreams do have meaning; and the nature of that meaning helps determine our mood the next day. "That, in turn, determine how we function and what we can accomplish." (Psychology Today, September/October 2000)

Quite simply [Kramer goes on to say], the dreams we have at night set the stage for our actions the following day, priming us to either rise and shine and conquer the world, or crawl back under the covers and duck the challenges that lie ahead….

We all have multiple dreams across the night, but not all of them succeed at untying our emotional knots….What determines whether we will have a helpful or unhelpful sequences of dreams? It depends on two factors: whether there is in our emotional arsenal a solution to the kind of problem at hand, and whether we happen to be up to the task. Just as some days we are more productive than others, seemingly without rhyme or reason, so some of our dream experiences are more useful than others in solving life's quandaries.

Research has shown us that dreams are not just the machinations of the unconscious on random play. They have order, and they reflect important psychological aspects of our lives and personalities….Dreams vary from person to person-they are individualized, like fingerprints-as well as from day to day, reinforcing the idea that the events of each day play out in the night's dreams.

These psychological regularities prove that the dream experience has order, and as we have seen in the laboratory, order paved the way for meaning. The nature of that meaning can change our mood for better or worse from night to morning….How we feel influences how well we function in waking life. Happiness affects performance.

Our waking and dreaming lives have a great deal in common. With whom we spend the night and how well things work, awake or asleep, largely determine our happiness.

The key to the understanding of dreams lies in the recognition of man's inner nature, his inner Ego, with its own set of senses, the scope of which stretches far beyond the limit granted to the physical senses. As W. Q. Judge puts it in his article "Remembering the Experiences of the Ego"

The Ego, when thus released from the physical chains, free from its hard daily task of living with and working through the bodily organs, proceeds to enjoy the experiences of the plane of existence which is peculiarly its own. On that plane it uses a method and process of thought, and perceives the ideas appropriate to it through organs different from those of the body. All that it sees and hears (if we may use those terms) appears reversed from our plane….

What we have to do, then, is to learn the language of the Ego, so that we shall not fail to make a proper translation to ourselves. For at all times the language of the plane through which the Ego nightly floats is a foreign one to the brain we use, and has to be always translated for use by the brain. If the interpretation is incorrect, the experience of the Ego will never be made complete to the lower man….

Upon awakening, a great hindrance is found in our own daily life and terms of speech and thought to the right translation of these experiences, and the only way in which we can use them with full benefit is by making ourselves porous, so to speak, to the influences from the higher self, and by living and thinking in such a manner as will be most likely to bring about the aim of the soul. (U. L. T. Pamphlet No. 11)

In many countries, the last few years have seen a revolution in the way education is looked upon. That true learning, rather than mere knowledge acquisition, should be the goal is being increasingly recognized. The new instructional approaches "emphasize the student as the main agent of learning, who not only takes more initiative but does so in conjunction with other students to make learning a socially interactive rather than a one-way transfer of pre-packaged information," write Edmund J. Hansen and James A. Stephens under the heading "The Ethics of Learning-Centred Educated." (Change, September/October 2000)

Despite the talk and enthusiasm, however [state the authors], the reality in most classrooms remains strikingly different. The majority of faculty still rely on lectures as their prime teaching method. Those using collaborative learning, for example, tend to treat it as a toolbox of supplementary methods rather than as a new approach to teaching….

To confront this dilemma, our argument is that teaching needs to rediscover its moral base; doing so will enable students and teachers alike to do their job of developing minds with courage and integrity. Therefore, we argue that one cannot define or facilitate human growth without the use of moral categories….

Despite the ideological appeal of learner-centred instruction, the lecture remains the predominant teaching method on most campuses….Years of passive note-taking and silent absorption of information have convinced many students that this is the appropriate way to learn. Combined with a climate in which students' class preparation at home has become an almost negligible activity, this atmosphere has taught students that they can rely almost exclusively on the instructor to tell them what they need to know. Not surprisingly, this leads students to rely on memorization more than understanding….

The moral virtues of teaching and learning are based on a mutual interest in intellectual growth and development. Helping students become educated members of society constitutes a contract between three partners: the student, the teacher, and society at large. Each of them is responsible to the other two. Knowledge acquisition is only one element in this contract. More important is that the teacher help the student acquire the courage to grow and develop his or her potential. This can never be accomplished in a service relationship, which is by definition one-sided.

Teaching, then, is not so much a matter of professional skill as of certain attitudinal qualities, which are based on moral values. Essential teacher virtues, say the authors, include honesty, courage, care, fairness, and accountability. To fulfil their mission, educators need to rediscover the moral base of teaching and learning. Education is a moral act, and will fail if morality is treated as optional.

In The Key to Theosophy, written in 1889, H.P.B. outlines very briefly the method of education which Theosophy would recommend. She states there that the child must be considered as a unit; he must be taught self-reliance, to think and reason for himself, mutual charity, love for his fellow men, and, most importantly, unselfishness. The purely mechanical working of the memory, she says, must be reduced to an absolute minimum, and every effort must be made to develop the inner senses, faculties and latent capacities.

While in some ways modern educational methods are aiming at all this, they yet lack one important key, and that is, the knowledge of the soul. Educational methods, in the present as in the past, are meant to cultivate the mind of the student, not the soul. Theosophy, on the other hand, teaches that the mind is a product of the soul, a tool or an instrument of the soul. Mere head-learning, as distinct from soul-wisdom, breeds selfishness.

Recognition of an immortal, reincarnating soul changes our whole basis of thinking and of acting. Any system of education that leaves out spiritual and moral education is a limited system. There must be the education of the soul, which is spiritual and moral, as distinct from education of the physical and intellectual faculties.

The British journal Nature reports that life on land may be more than a billion years older than previously thought. Scientists have come to this conclusion after discovering organic matter in ancient rocks in South Africa. Researchers now claim to have evidence that while primitive life has flourished in the oceans for the past 3.8 billion years, it appeared on land much later, between 2.6 and 2.7 billion years ago.

What, after all, if life? Is there anything inorganic in the entire Universe?

Occultism does not accept anything inorganic in the Kosmos. The expression employed by Science, "inorganic substance," means simply that the latent life slumbering in the molecules of so-called "inert matter" is incognizable. ALL IS LIFE, and every atom of even mineral dust is a LIFE, though beyond our comprehension and perception, because it is outside the range of the laws known to those who reject Occultism. "The very Atoms," says Tyndall, "seem instinct with a desire for life." Whence, then, we would ask, comes the tendency "to run into organic form"? Is it in any way explicable except according to the teachings of Occult Science? (The Secret Doctrine, I, 248-49)

Last month, "In the Light of Theosophy" commented on animal intelligence. Further instances, especially of what animal-behaviour specialists call the canines' "sixth sense," are to be found in an article by Lynn Waldsmith in Reader's Digest for November 2000 (Indian ed.)

Some dogs, rare though they are, can sense their owners' impending strokes or seizures and warn them in advance by head-butting behind their knees, or by grabbing hold of their arm and gently pulling them to the ground, or by other means. Such seizure-alert dogs allow epileptic patients to find a safe resting place before the seizure occurs. They are proving to be a boon to people whose health-and even lives-may hang in the balance. These dogs are given special training in much the same way that guide dogs are trained to assist the blind.

What signs and signals the dogs are picking up remains a mystery. One theory is that a canine's sense of smell, estimated to be at least 300 times more sensitive than a human's, is responsible. It might be the patient's sweating or some kind of unusual secretion that a dog can perceive by smell, opines one of the investigating doctors.

Animals are more or less clairvoyant and psychically sensitive, and can sense things that human beings cannot. According to Paracelsus,

Certain animals have inherited instincts that cause them to act in a certain manner, which will indicate other future events than a change in the weather. The peculiar cry of a peacock or the unusual howling of a dog indicates the approach of a death in the house to which they are attached, for every being is a product of the universal principle of life, and each contains the light of Nature.

"It is better to give than to receive" is an old adage, but few understand why this is so. "Giving" does not mean just tangible gifts, but also giving guidance or doing someone a service. Ellen J. Langer, Ph. D., professor of psychology at Harvard University, says that giving is a gift, not only to others, but to ourselves, because "it increases the bond between us and the person to whom we have given; it also tells us about ourselves and generally increases our feelings of competence." (Psychology Today, November-December 2000)

Most of us want to be loved [Langer observes], but it is actually the act of loving that is rewarding. Being loved is important mostly because it facilitates our opportunities to love. When we love, we give. Every time we do something for someone else we feel effective, useful and generous….

We usually think that the more we care about someone, the more we want to give to them. This is probably true. But what is even more interesting is that the more we give, the more we come to care about the person to whom we are giving. We feel alive in the activity. And it is the receiver who has provided the opportunity for us to feel this good, so we feel loving in return….Attending to someone else's needs leads to affection for that person…

Consider the bond between mother and child. Faced with the responsibility for a helpless infant, no one will argue that mothers give-and give a lot. With all the giving a mother has before her, it is no wonder the bond with her child grows stronger and stronger as the baby grows. And in this giving, a mom feels effective-perhaps tired, but effective.

Perhaps the best way to counter loneliness, depression and the feeling of being unloved is to find someone to give to. There is real joy in such giving.

Mr. Judge offered the following advice to a friend and correspondent, and it is equally applicable to all of us:

I think that you will be helped if you will try to aid some poor, distressed person by merely talking and expressing your sympathy if you are not able to help in money, though the very fact of giving…to someone who needs it is an act which, if done in the right spirit, that of true brotherliness, will help the one who gives. I suggest this because you will, by doing so, set up fresh bonds of sympathy between you and others, and by trying to alleviate the sorrows or sufferings of others, you will find strength come to you when you most need it.

Flushed with the promise
Of marvels dimly guessed
Tomorrow beckons;
Today's children
Will see the sunrise
In all its splendour
But we alone
Can bless it with a meaning.


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