|The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey,
recently remarked that we have become a society
in which "tacit atheism prevails."
his essay, "The Poverty of Unbelief"
(Index on Censorship, Winter issue), Jonathan
The distinction between atheists and believers
is perhaps beginning to lose its point: the
real distinction is between those who are willing
to be intelligent about the problems of existence
and those who are not. And if tacit atheism
has become the default belief of our age, it
needs to be noted that it is no longer the badge
of a courageous free spirit but, more often
than not, the "do not disturb" sign
hung out by the intellectually inert. Of course
there are ways in which religious belief can
lead to dogmatic folly. Any fool can see that
believers are liable to think their gods the
only true ones, and such exclusive certitudes
can lead by well-trodden paths to fanaticism
and murderous intolerance. But that is not the
only logic of religious belief; nor is it the
most interesting one. Believing in a God also
means recognizing the possibility of an intelligence
that sees things differently from you, and far
better too. In that respect religious belief
is a standing lesson in tolerance and pluralism,
and indeed in relativism. Relativism in this
sense is just a humble tautology, trivial or
profound depending on how you take it. It is
simply a reminder that the way you look at things
is only the way you look at things, and that,
however well supported it may seem, it could
still, for all you know, be thoroughly and ridiculously
Science is no longer the final answer to all
questions, and scientists themselves know this
more acutely than anyone else. They do not know
enough to deny the existence of God. Increasingly
a pattern is seen in nature, clear signs of a
supreme intelligence, a mind at work in the cosmic
scene. This view, today shared by nearly all investigators
of truth, makes atheism totally irrelevant.
Nor can the conception of God or Deity be relegated
any longer to the realm of the metaphysical. The
more science discovers about matter, the more
it outgrows its earlier materialistic ideas and
has to accept the viewpoint that something other
has to be taken into account—Spirit, God,
the Divine Plan—whatever name may be used.
Whither science? Many are not
happy about its trends. Should governments be
in control of science, or do individual members
of society have a say in the matter? The journal
Purity (September 2002) has this to say:
Science today has acquired an awesome hold
on civilization. Scientists themselves can no
longer look upon their work merely in a private
or personal way. The love of research or the
challenge of an immense technical problem is
no longer the major justification for scientific
work. It is now necessary for scientists to
look at their work as an integral part of human
living and the world picture....They each have
a profound obligation to examine their work
in the light of possible results....
Governments should not be in control of science.
Scientists must be left free to think, explore
and create without interference of ideology
or politics. However, the price of freedom is
always responsibility, and therefore, scientists
must be responsible to civilization as a whole
and to its well-being....
This brings us, inevitably, back to the individual.
The values we choose to live by as individuals
will qualify the values of our civilization. If
enough of us choose to live by the value of sharing,
then the world economic problem can eventually
be solved. If we pursue justice, then we can create
a world in which all people live in right relationship
to one another. If we live with a spirit of co-operation
and harmlessness, then we can secure the peace
for our children, and their children, and all
children to come. And if enough of us live by
a love of truth, then the tyrants and demagogues
will wither and fade for lack of fertile earth
in which to flourish.
Instances of people certified
as dead by a doctor later reviving, are not uncommon.
In one recent case, a policeman in Osaka who was
summoned to a hospital to assist with a post-mortem
investigation was shocked to find the man still
breathing and moving in the mortuary, after he
had been pronounced dead from a heart attack.
He actually died four days later, still unconscious.
Such cases might be more common than anyone realizes,
say Hitoshi Maeda and his colleagues from Osaka
City University Medical School, who cover the
case in the journal Forensic Science International.
There have been 25 recorded cases worldwide of
the "Lazarus phenomenon" in recent years,
says Maeda. His team recommends that medical authorities
exercise caution and not be hasty in pronouncing
a person dead.
H.P.B. sounded a strong warning against disposing
too soon of seemingly dead bodies and explained
the possibility of resuscitation of an apparent
corpse by the re-entry of the astral body—that
possibility existing until decomposition of the
vital organs has proceeded so far that if reanimated
they could not perform their customary functions;
until, in other words,
the mainspring and cogs of the machine, so
to speak, are so eaten away by rust, that they
would snap upon the turning of the key. Until
that point is reached, the astral body may be
caused, without miracle, to re-enter its former
tabernacle, either by an effort of its own will,
or under the resistless impulse of the will
of one who knows the potencies of nature and
how to direct them. The spark is not extinguished,
but only latent—latent as the fire in
that flint, or the heat in the cold iron. (Isis
Unveiled, I, 483-84).
How long can a person live without
food? A 64–year–old Gujarati mechanical
engineer, Hira Ratan Manek, is said to have survived
only on boiled water and sunlight for 411 days.
American scientists are investigating the feat,
in the hope that they could develop a technique
to enable astronauts to go without food for long
periods. The team of eight U.S. doctors and scientists
examining him includes eminent neuroscientist
George Brainard, currently at Wilmington, Delaware.
(The Times of India, August 27)
A panel of 20 Indian doctors headed by neurophysician
Sudhir Shah had earlier monitored the fast in
Ahmedabad. They had scanned the subject's body
with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) before and
after the fast, in addition to a host of other
tests. The most amazing part of the feat was that
the subject was physically active and carried
on all normal activities during his fast.
Such feats of fasting are not uncommon among
yogis and ascetics. The rationale of such phenomena
is given to us in a succinct statement in the
Supplement to The Theosophist for December 1883
(p. 32): "Akasa is the mother of all phenomena
and the source of nourishment of him who knows
how to use it."
Elsewhere it is stated by H.P.B.:
Yogis and ascetics are not the only examples
of such protracted fastings; for, if these can
be doubted and sometimes utterly rejected by
sceptical science as void of any conclusive
proof—for the phenomenon takes place in
remote and inaccessible places—we have
many of the Jainas, inhabitants of populated
towns, to bring forward as exemplars of the
Does laughter have any beneficial
effects on health? The evidence is mounting that
it does. Studies at the Laughter and Stress Busting
Clinic in England suggest that we are laughing
much less today than in the past. This is because
of the hustle and bustle of modern living in a
Laughing and smiling do improve our health. If
we look at two patients with similar health problems,
the one with a sense of humour is more likely
to recover faster, say the experts. Laughter relaxes
the body and reduces stress levels and tension
by releasing "endorphins" (chemicals)
in the brain which lighten our mood and create
a feeling of well-being.
Scientists have found that facial expressions
have a profound effect on our emotions and that
we feel much better when we smile than when we
frown. Robert Holden, who is the leading authority
in this field and author of Laughter, the Best
Medicine, says that a sense of humour has a beneficial
effect on the body's immune system and hormonal
system, whereas serious expressions are damaging
and destructive. People who laugh and smile are
less likely to have stress-related disorders.
Laughter is relaxing, but a warning needs to
be sounded. Let laughter be free and clear; let
it not be nasty, mean or sneaky. It shows bad
taste to laugh, far less to rejoice, at the discomfiture
of another. It is one thing to "laugh with,"
quite a different thing to "laugh at."
There is a laughter of the lower order, of which
one should be really ashamed; that is not for
Man, the unfolding god, but for creatures degraded
to conditions lower than the beasts of the jungle,
whose prey are the unwary, the ignorant, the innocent.
Let our laughter be that of "sweet fun"
which restores sanity—the sanity of truth
and of wisdom that sees beneath the seeming incongruity
of things their fundamental unity.
Spirituality is not confined
to any special practices, any set rules, or metaphysical
studies. "Make everyday life your spiritual
practice," writes Suma Varughese in Life
Positive (August 2002). How spiritually evolved
we are, reflects in our day-to-day lives: at work,
at home, in the discharge of our duties or in
our recreation. How we relate to people, how we
react to provocations or respond to adverse or
favourable circumstance, is what really counts.
Spirituality in the truest sense is the science
and art of living, says Varughese:
Even the most sublime philosophy or spiritual
experience is of no use if it does not transform
our lives. Spirituality in the truest sense
is meant to be hands-on, experiential, applied.
It is meant to be the alchemy that can convert
the dross of our everyday lives into the purest
gold; the formula that can transform the uncertain
wins and gains of our lives into the most glorious
paen of triumph; the master key to the mystery
Spirituality is the discovery of our true self.
Hidden beneath the sheaths of our body, emotions,
thoughts, feelings and personality, is the subtle
essence of who we are, immortal, immutable,
whole, perfect and complete—spirit. The
spiritual quest involves coming in touch with
this aspect of ourselves and eventually to establish
ourselves within it....
In order to herald the true self, we must first
eliminate the false. We must learn to disidentify
with our body, emotions, thoughts, etc. We can
only do this by becoming aware of the conditioning
that has created these identities in the first
place. The sum total of our past thoughts, experiences,
upbringing and genetic inheritance have created
the likes, dislikes, interests, talents, habits
and attitudes that we falsely believe is us.
This conditioning must be allowed to unspool
if we are to arrive at what is real and unconditional
Life becomes more meaningful and purposeful
as we find that all the random events of our
lives are adding up to a definite pattern....This
creates awareness of the intrinsic link between
us and the universe and between all living beings.
A reverence for all that lives pervades us.
We have the potential to realize this "higher
life". How we can do this through everyday
living is something each one must work out for
himself or herself.