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IN THE LIGHT OF THEOSOPHY

From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 73 No. 2 - December, 2002
The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, recently remarked that we have become a society in which "tacit atheism prevails."

In his essay, "The Poverty of Unbelief" (Index on Censorship, Winter issue), Jonathan Ree comments:

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 mistaken.

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 same.


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 stressed-out society.

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 of life....
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 within us.

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.



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