An exclusive faith in science, and its offspring and partner
technology, appears to be the hallmark of modernity, says Wolfgang
Smith, Ph. D., who has held faculty positions at MIT, UCLA and
Oregon State University, U.S.A. What is lacking, he argues, is
the "dimension of verticality"-meaning an inward dimension, "something
spiritual." An avowed critic of contemporary scientific beliefs,
he writes in Modern Age (Winter 2001):
The inner and the external, it turns out, are profoundly related.
As Huston Smith points out: "A meaningful life is not finally
possible in a meaningless world."
We stand in need of a new cosmology: of a cosmos incomparably
more vast than the universe of contemporary physics. I am not
of course referring to spatial dimension: the physical universe
encompasses light years enough. I speak rather of things which
cannot be measured or weighed, of things, in fact, which can
only be spoken of in traditional terms: of an integral cosmos,
namely, made up of distinct ontological levels, which we may
picture as so many horizontal planes or concentric spheres.
I speak thus of a cosmic hierarchy, a universe with an added
dimension: the dimension of verticality, which has to do with
value and meaning, and ultimately, with first origins and last
ends. It is the dimension that transforms the cosmos from a
mere thing into a bona fide symbol: into a theophany,
in fact; it is thus the dimension that nourishes the artist,
the poet, and the mystic in us-the dimension, as I have said,
which enables us to be fully human….
Since the Enlightenment, Western man has lived intellectually
in a flattened cosmos, a truncated universe of mere particles,
persuaded that science had so decreed; and now one knows that
we have been deceived. It was scientism, it turns out, that
perpetrated the fraud; and this we know today on the authority
of science itself. What, then, must be the role of science in
the restoration of culture? What else could it be than to break
the scientific spell.
Nothing however can be accomplished without the recovery of
authentic metaphysical wisdom. Philosophy must cease to be a
sterile academic discipline, marginalized by science, and must
reclaim its central position….One needs to realize once again
that human reason is not per se enlightening-is not itself
"the true Light, which lighteth every man." And so too one needs
to realize that science as such is inherently incapable of self-interpretation….It
falls to philosophy, therefore, to bring into view what science
discloses enigmatically. In the final count, only a restored
philosophy can provide intellectual access to the true world-and
in so doing, can enable the restoration of culture.
The Secret Doctrine calls metaphysics "the informing soul
and spirit" of physics and other sciences. The minority among
scientists who enter the domain of metaphysics "are wise in their
generation. For all their wonderful discoveries would go for nothing,
and remain for ever headless bodies, unless they lift the
veil of matter and strain their eyes to see beyond." (I,
To make of Science and integral whole necessitates,
indeed, the study of spiritual and psychic, as well as physical
Nature. Otherwise it will ever be like the anatomy of man, discussed
of old by the profane from the point of view of his shell-side
and in ignorance of the interior work….Without metaphysics,
as Mr. H. J. Slack says, real science is inadmissible.
Animal conservationists are now recognizing what Theosophists
have been saying all along, that the anthropoid apes belong to
an altogether different category than other animals. Yet the treatment
meted out to them by humans is truly deplorable. Animal rights
lawyer Steven Wise is among those who speak out especially for
the chimpanzees. While conservationists seek to protect the chimps'
habitats and improve their treatment in captivity, Wise promotes
a more radical approach. In Rattling the Cage, he proposes
that; chimpanzees be declared "legal persons" and share some of
the rights of humans, including freedom from all forms of bodily
harm. Discover magazine (September 2001) reports Wise as
Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, can solve problems, develop
culture, even express self-consciousness, but they are struggling
for survival-the wild population is 200,000 and dropping….
Today every human being who is born is a legal person under
international and domestic law. But every nonhuman animal is
a legal thing. There is a great legal wall that has been constructed
over the centuries between the two. I think that that wall arbitrary,
unfair, and irrational.
What rights do chimps deserve? First, bodily integrity. You
shouldn't use them in vivisection, you shouldn't eat them, and
you shouldn't do anything to them that you can't do to a three-year-old
human child. Secondly, bodily liberty. You should not be permitted
to enslave them by putting them in steel and concrete cages….
Any nonhuman animal who is self-conscious should not be experimented
on….If you can't justify doing a procedure on a human child,
then you can't justify doing it on a chimp. If someone says,
"If we torment and kill 10 chimpanzees, we'll find a cure for
AIDS," should they be able to do that? No, they should not,
any more than if someone says, "Hey, if we just torment and
kill 10 human children, we will save millions of lives of people
with AIDS." Wise believes that "a strong legal case" can also
be made for gorillas, orangutans, and other intelligent animals
like dolphins and elephants.
Among the flying reptiles from Earth's distant past, pterosaurs
are considered to be the largest and the oldest. "They were the
first vertebrates to fly, and they did it long before birds and
bats," says Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at the University of
California, Berkeley. New discoveries of pterosaur remains, found
in sedimentary rocks formed at the bottom of relatively shallow,
calm waters, are intriguing present-day researchers.
When first discovered, the fossil was named Pterodactylus,
combining the Greek words for wings and finger. A few decades
later the term Pterosaur, or winged reptile, was coined to describe
the growing list of similar fossils. Pterosaurs are sometimes
popularly called "flying dinosaurs," but they are a distinct lineage.
Richard Monastersky writes in National Geographic (May
Like their cousins the dinosaurs, pterosaurs stand out as one
of evolution's great success stories. They first appeared during
the Triassic period, 215 million years ago, and thrived for
150 million years before going extinct at the end of the Cretaceous
period. Their endurance record is almost inconceivable compared
with the span of humans….Uncontested in the air, pterosaurs
colonized all continents and evolved a vast array of shapes
Until recently most paleontologists would not have put pterosaurs
in the same league as birds in terms of flying ability. Because
pterosaurs were reptiles, generations of scientists imagined
that these creatures must have been cold-blooded, like modern
snakes and lizards, making them awkward aerialists at best.
In the past three decades, however, a surge of fossil discoveries
around the globe has prompted researchers to reexamine their
views. The emerging picture of pterosaurs reveals that they
were unlike any modern reptile….Scientists reason that many
pterosaurs were gifted airborne predators, built to feed on
Even with the new discoveries, the rarity of fossils leaves
major gaps in knowledge about pterosaurs. No one knows how they
evolved flight. When they vanished, or exactly what they looked
like. Debate swirls around these reptiles like the air currents
they once rode.
As to the question of origins, which to paleontologists still
remains open, The Secret Doctrine has this to say:
If spontaneous generation has changed its methods now, owing
perhaps to accumulated material on hand, so as to almost escape
detection, it was in full swing in the genesis of terrestrial
life. Even the simple physical form and the evolution of species
show how Nature proceeds. The scale-bound, gigantic sauria,
the winged pterodactyl, the Megalosaurus, and the hundred-feet
long Iguanodon of the later period, are the transformations
of the earliest representatives of the animal kingdom found
in the sediments of the primary epoch. There was a time when
all those above enumerated "antediluvian" monsters appeared
as filamentoid infusoria without shell or crust, with neither
nerves, muscles, organs nor sex, and reproduced their kind by
gemmation: as do microscopical animals also, the architects
and builders of our mountain ranges, agreeably to the teachings
of science. Why not man in this case? Why should he not have
followed the same law in his growth, i.e., gradual condensation?
According to two neurobiologists of the French Institute of
Health and Medical Research in Lyons, humans have an empathy instinct
innate in them. Jean Decety and Pierre Ruby carried out tests
on subjects, using a PET scanner, and the results, they say, suggest
that we understand another's behaviour by imagining him or her
carrying out an action and then mentally projecting ourselves
into that situation. (Discover, September 2001)
"Evolution has shaped our minds not only to express emotion
but also to empathize with others," Decety says. "But aggression
is also part of human nature. We have to find a balance between
our instincts and the way we express them."
In an interview with the editor of Life Positive, His
Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his views on what is essential
for happiness, which all crave. "Undoubtedly we need to be more
compassionate," he said, not only to make our own lives happier
but also to make our world a better place. The practice of compassion
requires that we act with greater "awareness," he remarked, and
to gain awareness we need wisdom. Wisdom and compassion go together:
I think that ignorance and afflictive emotions, called klesh
in Sanskrit, give rise to unwanted circumstances. As far as
ignorance is concerned, not just Buddhism, every religion recognizes
it as the source of suffering….Now I see well-educated people
who are so unhappy. It is because of too much desire, hatred,
and jealousy. The antidote to weaken that is increasing the
right kind of knowledge. I think, perhaps knowledge coupled
with a warm heart brings wisdom.
Compassion, or karuna, stems from wisdom….Attachment
awakens feelings of klesh. If there is less attachment
and jealousy, we are able to focus within. I believe that whether
a person follows any religion or not is unimportant, he must
have a good heart, a warm heart. This is essential for a happy
life. This is part of what I call "secular ethics."
Compassion is not being kind to your friend. That is attachment
because it is based on expectation. Karuna is when you
do something good without expectations, even without knowing
the other person. It is in realizing that the other person is
also just like me. That recognition is the basis on which you
can develop karuna, not only towards those around you but also
towards you enemy….
Compassion thus is the force of growth and development while
anger is destruction. The Dalai Lama called the Buddha "a great
psychologist because he taught the science of the mind." The
following seemingly simple yet profound verses from the Dhammapada
bear this out:
Cling not to the pleasant, nor to the unpleasant. Not seeing
the pleasant as to see the unpleasant-both are painful.
Therefore do not be attracted to anything, for loss of a loved
object is painful. No fetters exist for him who neither likes
From attachment arises grief; from attachment arises fear.
There is no grief for one who is free from attachment. Whence,
then, can there come fear? (Verses 210-212)
Likewise, goes on the Buddha, affection, indulgence, desire,
craving-all ultimately lead to grief. Those who indulge in such
emotions miss out the purpose of human life and move further away
from the path of happiness.
Life expectancy has gone up in recent times, and so have health
problems among the aged. In The Futurist (September-October
2001), Michael Brickey, psychologist and author of Defy Aging,
suggests strategies for happy and healthy longevity. The biggest
factors distinguishing those who age well from those who don't,
he says, are mental, or what he calls the four "Be-attitudes":
1. Be optimistic for long-term health. Many people think of
optimism in terms of positive thinking, such as asserting that
a glass is half full rather than half empty. But optimism also
affects how we think about the causes of good things and bad
things that happen to us.
2. Be grateful: Gratitude builds a healthy perspective. Maintaining
a sense of perspective can help us stay calm when life's irritants
threaten to trigger an angry, unhealthy response….Gratitude
is a powerful antidote to stress.
3. Be proactive: deal with your problems. Worrywarts are self-absorbed,
playing the same mental "audio tapes" over and over. It is more
helpful to get absorbed in something purposeful.
4. Be a learner: embrace life-long learning and change. You
need to maintain enough ties with your past to give you a sense
of being rooted, while embracing enough change to meet your
needs to adapt and make life interesting. As Alvin Toffler puts
it: "The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read
or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
These strategies and attitudes are a product of how we choose
to think. We are thought-formed. It is our thoughts that make
or mar our lives.