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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 73 No. 3 -January, 2003

Interest in life on Mars has revived since definite evidence was found by NASA's Odyssey probe that there is water there. Water is considered essential for life, though it is not the only prerequisite. Earlier theories that water must have existed on the Red Planet were based more on scientific conjecture than on conclusive evidence; but the data Odyssey has been sending back reveals that water lies frozen in the Martian soil and that it once ran freely on the surface. The news, announced in the Journal Science, puts the solar system in a new light, say the scientists.

The question that is now being probed is whether life first appeared on Mars and from there was transferred to Earth by a big asteroid impact. The notion that life began on one planet and spread to others—the panspermia theory—is gaining currency among scientists. According to Michael Meyer, a NASA exobiologist who is investigating the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the solar system, "Mars and Earth have been exchanging materials for quite some time. If you get one planet in our solar system that has life, it's reasonable to imagine that you could infect all the other planets that are habitable."

In view of these new revelations, some of the prevalent scientific notions about our origin and destiny will have to be radically revised. Further probes might reveal more about the Martian atmosphere, but the first clear evidence of extra-terrestrial life will not come as a surprise to many who have always held that life is a cosmic principle and a property of matter which induces it to become organized and complexified, at the same time strictly observing the laws of evolution.

The Secret Doctrine states:

It is quite correct that Mars is in a state of obscuration at present (I, 165). Theosophists will remember that, according to Occult teaching, Cyclic pralayas so-called are but obscurations, during which periods Nature, i.e., everything visible and invisible on a resting planet—remains in status quo. Nature rests and slumbers, no work of destruction going on on the globe even if no active work is done. All forms, as well as their astral types, remain as they were at the last moment of its activity. The "night" of a planet has hardly any twilight preceding it. It is caught like a huge mammoth by an avalanche, and remains slumbering and frozen till the next dawn of its new day—a very short one indeed in comparison to the "Day of Brahma." (II, 660)

In many countries, the race is on to stop human cloning. The UN General Assembly met in New York recently to set out the broad areas to be covered by a proposed treaty banning human cloning. The treaty is expected to be formally drafted soon.

Almost everyone agrees that cloning for reproductive purposes—producing cloned babies, in other words—should be outlawed. But opinion is sharply divided over therapeutic cloning, where an embryo is used solely for the purpose of extracting cells to treat a matching patient. Some countries are pressing for a ban to cover this kind of cloning too. "It's a race against time," says a source close to the negotiations.

New Scientist comments:

Those who want to outlaw therapeutic cloning argue that an early embryo consisting of little more than a ball of cells is still a living human being, even if it is never introduced into a womb and would normally stand no chance of survival. To sacrifice it to provide stem cells for treatment or to change it into tissue for transplant is no different from killing an adult, they say.
Because such views are usually based on religious principles, the arguments for and against therapeutic cloning could quickly become bogged down. So the best strategy might be to concentrate first on a ban on reproductive cloning, leaving more time to reach an agreement on therapeutic cloning.

For further comments on this highly debatable issue of human cloning, readers are referred to "In the Light of Theosophy" for March and May 2002. Human cloning is like a Pandora's box which, once opened, can lead to unforeseen disastrous consequences. Man is more than his body, and scientists might well end up creating not humans, but a race of soulless beings—Frankenstein's monsters.

New studies in animal behaviour reveal that they have intelligence and skill unthought of before. New Caledonian crows, for instance, are experts at toolmaking. Their tool kit includes stick probes, hooks and pandanus leaf tools which they use mainly to flush out prey. These secretive forest birds' talents come to them naturally. The crows are said to show a keener understanding of form and function than even chimps. "Their skills do challenge current ideas about how early humans became master toolmakers," writes Stephanie Pain in New Scientist. (17 August 2002)

"Maybe when we've got to the bottom of what makes crows such skilled toolmakers we'll have to think again about how toolmaking evolved in humans," says Russell Gray, an evolutionary biologist....The crows habitually use a range of tools that they make themselves. "The whole species relies on tools to get food," says Alex Kacelnik, an expert on animal behaviour at Oxford University. In the wild, they use the same tools repeatedly and carry them around from place to place. Gavin Hunt, a biologist at the University of Auckland, has been watching wild crows for the past decade, and he has collected an entire tool kit of stick-like probes, nifty hooks and long, barbed tapers....
The way crows manufacture and manipulate stick tools is clever, but biologists are more impressed by what they can do with hooks....Even children don't realize what a hook can do until they are two or three years old....

The diversity of the tools in the wild crows' tool kit does suggest they might use different implements for different purposes....Their ability to select an appropriate tool on their first exposure to a novel task is impressive. It tells us they understand something of the functional properties of the tool.

The question of what's going on in a crow's mind will take time and a lot more experiments to answer. What is clear is that they can construct sophisticated tools without large brains or symbolic language.

Such advanced toolmaking is very rare. How did New Caledonian crows acquire this skill? This triumph of instinct, inexplicable to the naturalists who observe it, can never be understood along purely materialistic lines. Animal instinct is a form of psychic clairvoyance. It exists even in the acephalous animals as well as in those with heads, and its manifestations run the gamut from so-called reflex or automatic actions to the intuitional powers of man, "which are the crown and ultimatum of instinct," and "the unerring guide of the seer" (Isis Unveiled, I, 425, 433). Of its manifestation in the animal kingdom H.P.B. says:

This instinct of the animals, which act from the moment of their birth each in the confines prescribed to them by nature, and which know how, save in accident proceeding from a higher instinct than their own, to take care of themselves unerringly—this instinct may, for the sake of exact definition, be termed automatic; but it must have either within the animal which possesses it or without, something's or someone's intelligence to guide it. (Ibid., I, 425)

It is a reflection on man's inhumanity to his "younger brothers" that primates, who are genetically the closest to humans, are among the most threatened species. Apes and monkeys have been declining in population for years, and the latest survey by Conservation International confirms the worst. Since January 2000 the number of threatened species has swelled from 120 to 195; 55 are on the verge of extinction. Many of the newest names on the list live in Asia, where efforts to fight forest destruction and poaching have made little headway. It is estimated that one in three primates is headed for extinction. (Newsweek, October 21, 2002)

To students of Theosophy who know about the ancestry of the higher apes especially, their ill treatment and decimation by man seems most revolting. How long will it be before science considers the Theosophical teaching that "the ape is....the transformation of species most directly connected with that of the human family—a bastard branch engrafted on their own stock before the final perfection of the latter"?

The pithecoids, the orang-outang, the gorilla, and the chimpanzee can, and, as the Occult Sciences teach, do, descend from and animalized Fourth human Root-Race, being the product of man and an extinct species of mammal—whose remote ancestors were themselves the product of Lemurian bestiality—which lived in the Miocene age. The ancestry of this semi-human monster is explained in the Stanzas as originating in the sin of the "Mind-less" races of the middle Third Race period. (The Secret Doctrine, II, 683)

The controversy in India over the mass conversion of Dalits to Christianity has evoked concern about the beliefs, practices and objectives of the Indian Church. Christianity arrived in India even before it reached Rome, yet only 2.32 per cent of Indians are Christians, according to a 1991 census. Why did Christianity fail so spectacularly in getting Indian followers? Tony Joseph, an editor associated with the Anand Bazaar Patrika group, writes in The Sunday Express for October 20:

In recent centuries, missionaries from all over the world, and all kinds of sects, were warmly welcomed into India's bosom, and allowed to preach their religion. Not many civilizations can claim such confidence, such generosity of spirit....Nor have Christian churches spared either money or men in their efforts to spread the word of Christ. Still, despite all this, Christianity has failed to grow on Indian soil....
Could it be that compared to the rich intellectual fare that Indian civilization offers, the Christian fare is bland, and no amount of missionary zeal can make up for it? That the intellectual framework of Indian philosophy is broader and stronger than what Christianity has to offer and, therefore, India looks at Christianity as just another particular method of worship which can be accommodated within that framework rather than as the stand-alone, one-and-only-true-path to God?

Christianity's problem in Indian is not that Indian philosophy rejects its essential message; it is that it accepts it so naturally and unself-consciously that it feels no necessity for it! In other words, while the Indian mind is at home with the message of Christ, it wholeheartedly and intuitively rejects the vessel that message comes in: the vessel of exclusivity, the one-prophet-one-book-one-way mindset, the corporeal structure of the church with its rigid, official hierarchy....

It would be a nice gesture if the church put a voluntary ban on all conversions into Christianity for a period of time....Pro-active conversion of people from one religion to another, based on the unshakable belief that there is only one road to God, is an outdated idea. Irrespective of its success or failure, it increases social tension, threatens other people's cultures and is, generally, a rude way of social behaviour....If the Church absorbs new ideas from the Indian civilization, it might even rediscover its relevance in the Western world, where it has been on the downward slope in recent centuries.

The word "Christianity" itself needs to be redefined. Christianity can never hope to be understood, H.P.B. wrote, "until every trace of dogmatism is swept from it, and the dead letter sacrificed to the eternal Spirit of Truth, which is Horus, which is Crishna, which is Buddha, as much as it is the Gnostic Christos and the true Christ of Paul." The growth of the Christian Church from the few first followers of spiritual life as taught by Jesus into the rich body of today, a mass of dogmas and doctrines, ritual and ceremonies, is sad to contemplate. Until all dogmas and doctrines are tossed overboard and the true teachings of Jesus restored, Christianity will remain what it is—a way of life the very antithesis of that advocated by Jesus.

"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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