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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 71. No. 5 - March, 2001

The devastation wreaked by the recent earthquake in Gujarat has once again aroused speculation about the cause of such calamities. While scientists attribute them to physical causes, Theosophy has this to say:

It is absolutely false, and but an additional demonstration of the great conceit of our age, to assert (as men of science do) that all the great geological changes and terrible convulsions have been produced by ordinary and known physical forces. For these forces were but the tools and final means for the accomplishment of certain purposes, acting periodically, and apparently mechanically, through an inward impulse mixed up with, but beyond their material nature. There is a purpose in every important act of Nature, whose acts are all cyclic and periodical. But spiritual Forces having been usually confused with the purely physical, the former are denied by, and therefore, have to remain unknown to Science, because left unexamined. (The Secret Doctrine, I, 640)

The Secret Doctrine (I , 644) also states: "It is a law of occult dynamics that 'a given amount of energy expended on the spiritual or astral plane is productive of far greater results than the same amount expended on the physical objective plane of existence'." And W.Q. Judge says in The Ocean of Theosophy:

Man is a great dynamo, making, storing and throwing out energy, and when masses of men composing a race thus make and distribute energy, there is a resulting dynamic effect on the material of the globe which will be powerful enough to be distinct and cataclysmic.

Occult philosophy holds that all the forms of major cataclysms are manifestations of electrical and magnetic changes, proceeding under the rule of cyclic laws. "Not only is man ruled by these laws, but every atom of matter as well, and the mass of matter is constantly undergoing a change at the same time with man. It must therefore exhibit alterations corresponding to those through which the thinker is going." The effects of these cyclic changes occur on many planes; on the lowest, the physical, they are brought about through "the electrical and other fluids acting with the gases on the solids of the globe." Mr. Judge has written:

Earthquakes may be brought on according to philosophy by two general causes; first, subsidence or elevation under the earth-crust due to heat and steam; second, electrical and magnetic changes which affect water and earth at the same time. These last have the power to instantaneously make the earth fluidic without melting it, thus causing immense and violent displacements in large or small waves.

Although the exigencies of evolution make cataclysms necessary, still their reaction on man in the form of suffering need not be. It is only because man has violated the laws of harmony that the convulsions of nature bring death and destruction in his midst.

The sympathy of the world has been aroused by the devastating earthquake in Gujarat, and we add our humble thought-energy to the cumulative flow of condolence towards out brethren who are sufferers.


Newsweek, in its Special Edition dated December 2000-February 2001, looks at the issues that will dominate the world during the year and how they can be met. Prominent among the challenges is the intersection between human beings and technology.

What makes us who we are? What is the measure of man? Asks Peter McGrath in his essay "Building a Better Human":

 

Today some researchers believe that machines might be so assimilated to us-or we to them-as to raise the most fundamental questions. As technology fills you up with synthetic parts, at what point do you cease to be fully human? What part of us is irreplaceably human? The brain? Or is the brain merely a conductive medium, our humanity defined more by the content of our thought and the intensity of our emotions than by the neural circuitry? At bottom lies one critical issue for a technological age: are some kinds of knowledge so terrible they simply should not be pursued? If there can be such a thing as a philosophical crisis, this will be it….

There have always been dangerous technologies. The 20th century, which might as well be called the age of industrialized murder, is only the most obvious example. But technology is upping the ante by creating fields where benign intentions could lead to brutal outcomes….

Is human civilization equipped to keep pace? Engineers tend to associate history with progress. But what in our history inspires confidence in our ability to channel technology away from destructive uses? "Technology is evolving a thousand times faster than our ability to change our social institutions," says Bill Joy [chief scientist at Sun Microsystems].

But if bioengineering really "turn off" cancer cells, what's wrong with that? If nanotechnology can develop devices that extend our physically active lives for decades, is that a problem? If robots can for most purposes end our need to do physical labour, should we object? Joy's answer was that "with each of these technologies, a sequence of small, individually sensible advances leads to an accumulation of great power and, concomitantly, great danger."….

In the end, the measure of humanity is a philosophy matter. Philosophy, however, has almost nothing to say about such things….As Bernard Williams wrote in his 1972 book "Morality": "Contemporary moral philosophy has found an original way of being boring, which is by not discussing moral issues at all."

Who, then, can speak on moral issues? Certainly not the engineers….They are the last people "to understand what is an acceptable risk."

This will be the great decision of the next decade. It goes well beyond the mere commercial viability of new technologies, though many will think that is all we need to know. It goes to who we think we are. One way: every possibility is welcome, no matter how dangerous, because we are a species that loves knowledge. The other: we don't want to be overcome by technology.

But that's what it means to be human. You have a choice. Take your pick..

What all this boils down to is that knowledge alone, without the moral perspective to use it wisely, can prove a dangerous thing. The present is an age of which a characteristic is its failure to understand the status of its own creations, and this, perhaps, is the inevitable fruit of the divorce of science from metaphysics. The dignity of Man is seldom considered. That man was not made for science and technology, but science and technology for man, who remains more and greater than his creations, is often lost sight of.


After its retreat in the face of modernity's march from the West, spirituality is once again on the ascendant in India, writes Sudhir Kakar in the India Today Special Millennium Issue:

From ancient times, travelers from other civilizations-starting with Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to Chandragupta Maurya's court-have remarked on the Hindu preoccupation with the spiritual quest. For centuries, every cultural endeavour, whether in the sciences or in the arts, explicitly acknowledged the fostering of the spiritual dimension of life as its ultimate goal. Spirituality in India, in spite of dissenting voices in the past and even more so in the present, continues to be regarded as the highest knowledge-sarva vidya pratishtha.

At the beginning of the new millennium, this ancient Indian preoccupation that had been shaken by the blasts of modernity coming from the West is once again on the ascendant. Ironically, whereas it was the hopes for human progress held out by modernity which made a large number of educated people doubt the spiritual message, it is now that the ills of modernity-ecological exploitation and political oppression, economic inequality and the loss of meaning-which is leading to a call for the revival of the spiritual dimension of life. In this era of global markets and triumphant capitalism, a large number of thinkers from around the world are advocating a turn inwards as a remedy for contemporary ills….They all agree that real freedom is liberation from desire, not from circumstances.

If spirituality has formed at the core of the Indic world image, it would be reasonable to expect that it has also conditioned the Hindu mind, colouring its intellectual, artistic and emotional responses in certain distinctive ways. One of these is the pervasive presence of hope, even in the most dismal of life circumstances. For centuries, the Indic civilization has conveyed to the growing child an almost somatic conviction that there is a hidden, even if unknown order to our visible world. That there is a design to life, which can be trusted in spite of life's sorrows, cruelties and injustices. From the very beginning, the Hindu mind has been instilled with a vision of the world in which virtue will ultimately be rewarded in spite of life's trails and tribulations….

Another gift of the spiritual preoccupation is tolerance. Over millennia, the Hindu spiritual quest has traversed many paths. In the absence of a single religious orthodoxy, the seekers have worn many garbs and held different, often contradictory opinions on the nature of spiritual truth and the best way to realize it. At its core, then, Hindu mind has come to be pervaded by the idea that truth is relative, not absolute, leaving it no choice but to be tolerant of the truth of others.

What, after all, is a spiritual renaissance? Wherever we see enlightened thought and action helping people find freedom from selfishness, separativeness, sensuality and vice, we see the blossoming of the spiritual. Wherever we see the sacrifice of self-interest and the emergence of concern for the betterment of all life, we are seeing the flowering of the spiritual potential of humanity.

India has much to give to the West, but merely priding itself on its past glory is of little use today. Mr. Judge, in his article on "India and her Theosophists," which originally appeared in The Theosophist for September 1893, refers to "spiritual pride" as having caused India's decadence. That pride must be rooted out if a regeneration of this ancient land is to be brought about. The Indians of today also need to understand truly their ancient teachings. This would be greatly facilitated by a study of the Theosophical writings of H.P.B. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge.


The United Nations General Assembly has designated the year 2001 as the "Year of Dialogue Among Civilization." The transition to a global society is a major concern today, and a series of international and interdisciplinary dialogues are scheduled for the year.

Way back in 1993, Samuel Huntington, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, wrote in a widely quoted article, "The Clash of Civilization":

Difference among civilizations are basic, involving history, language, culture, tradition, and most importantly, religion. Different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and Man, the citizen and the state, parents and children, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy. These differences are the product of centuries. They will not soon disappear.

Commenting on this, Rene V.L.Wadlow states in World Union (December 2000):

While recognizing the truth that civilizations change slowly and that the past is always in the present, we must also recognize that we are at a time of a major change in history. The accelerating pace of change in the political, social, technological, economic, cultural, and spiritual arenas of human affairs has created new opportunities for dialogue as the world is inexorably being transformed into a global society. The term "globalization" is increasingly used to characterize these changes. Some writers on globalization stress the economic forces at work pushing globalization, but many recognize that there are deeper currents at work.

One of the central tasks of today is to develop a problem-solving, future-oriented global view which addresses the important concerns, issues, and problems of humanity as a whole….

The year 2001 should provide real opportunities for dialogue among civilization. It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences, schools and universities all over the globe. In itself such meetings are not dialogue. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance and an ability to take a long-range view.


Why is there life? Cosmologists have offered several possible explanations. British Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, theorizes that it took innumerable "big bangs" giving birth to a multitude of universes-"and one turned out just right." (Discover, November 2000)

Some scientists and philosophers argue that our life-friendly universe is "one of a kind." Rees objects, and proposes that our universe is a small corner of what he terms the "multiverse." His theory is that a possible infinite array of separate big bangs erupted from a primordial dense-matter state. "If there are many universes, each governed by a differing set of numbers, there will be one where there is a particular set of number suitable to life. We are in that one."

Another scientist, Andrei Linde at Stanford, speaks of the "self-reproducing inflationary universe." The multiverse, Linde contends, is like a growing fractal, sprouting inflationary domains that sprout more inflationary domains, with each domain spreading and cooling into a new universe. Our universe, says Linde, is just one of the sprouts. In his view, each particular part of the multiverse, including our part, began from a singularity somewhere in the past, but that singularity was just one of an endless series that was spawned before it and will continue after it.

What intrigues Rees is that Linde's theory permits differing fundamental constants and differing numbers of dimensions in this ever-blooming collection of universe. Universe A could feature six dimensions, universe B could sport ultraweak gravity. The possibilities are literally endless….Rees is also tantalized by the fact that our universe displays a certain "ugliness and complexity" that goes along with the idea that it is a subset of a larger series….

The totality of the mystery, he emphasizes, will most likely never ultimately yield to the prying of cosmologists. "Why are we here?" is a big question, but Rees concedes that a bigger mystery probably resides outside the grasp of science altogether. "The fundamental question of 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' remains the province of philosophers," he concedes.

The Secret Doctrine, drawing from archaic astronomy, has much to say about the origin and development of the world and why and how life originated.

The doctrine of a common origin for all the heavenly bodies and planets, was, as we see, inculcated by the Archaic astronomers, before Kepler, Newton, Leibnitz, Kant, Herschel and Laplace. Heart (the Breath), attraction and repulsion-the three great factors of Motion-are the conditions under which all the members of all this primitive family are born, developed, and die, to be reborn after a "Night of Brahma," during which eternal matter relapses periodically into its primary undifferentiated state. The most attenuated gases can give no idea of its nature to the modern physicist. Centres of Forces at first, the invisible sparks of primordial atoms differentiate into molecules, and become Suns-passing gradually into objectivity-gaseous, radiant, cosmic, the one "Whirlwind" (or motion) finally giving the impulse to the form, and the initial motion, regulated and sustained by the never-resting Breaths-the Dhyan Chohans. (S.D., I, 103)




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A section in the monthly magazine: discussing current developments in science and the world and relating them to the teachings of Theosophy
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