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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 73 No. 5 - March, 2003
Popular Science (November 2002) names 10 brilliant scientists of the year 2002—those who caused a stir within their disciplines—and comments editorially:

It's a conceit of the modern mind to believe we live in the most interesting, volatile, and momentous of times. Measuring and documenting change has become a sort of ticker-tape obsession....In a culture supercharged by marketing pressure, a cellphone that plays La Cucaracha when you're within 500 feet of a margarita bar can plausibly be cited to advance the case for human progress, or at least Lifestyle Progress.

Still, when you read about the men and women on our roster of some of the new bright lights of scientific research—you can't help but get excited about a quickening, a stirring in the huge, amorphous organism that is the scientific enterprise. What may distinguish science in the 21st century is a breaking down of barriers between disciplines. The life sciences, materials science, computer science, chemistry, physics, and the rest now conspire to solve problems at the nano scale junction of the animate and the inanimate—all this happening in an increasingly wired and networked world.

The recognition that all scientific disciplines are interlinked is one of the encouraging signs of the time. The next step for men of science should be to accept what Theosophy has always asserted, that all knowledge is a unified synthesis, and that true Science, Religion and Philosophy have all sprung from the same source and have a common purpose—the pursuit of truth. As H.P.B. wrote in her article "Is Theosophy a Religion?"

Truth is one, even if sought for or pursued at two different ends. Therefore, Theosophy claims to reconcile the two foes [science and religion]. The teachings of the two are incompatible, and cannot agree so long as both Religious philosophy and Science of physical and external (in philosophy, false) nature, insist upon the infallibility of their respective "will-o'-the-wisps." The two lights, having their beams of equal length in the matter of false deductions, can but extinguish each other and produce still worse darkness. Yet, they can be reconciled on the condition that both shall clean their houses, one from the human dross of the ages, the other from the hideous excrescence of modern materialism and atheism. (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 1)

Astronomers have always been fascinated by Venus, whose position as our nearest planetary neighbour makes it one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Though now considered inhospitable for harbouring life, new research shows that it might once have been Earth's twin planet, complete with giant rivers, deep oceans and teeming with life. The Sunday Times (London) reports that two British scientists have found "powerful evidence" that rivers as big as the Amazon once flowed for thousands of miles across Venus's landscape, emptying into seas similar to our own. They have used radar images from a National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA) probe to trace the river systems, deltas and other features that, they say, could only have been created by water.

Adrian Jones, a planetary scientist at University College, London, who carried out the research, says the findings suggest that life on Venus could have evolved parallel to that on Earth. "If the climate and temperature were right for water to flow, then they would have been right for life too. It suggests that life could once have existed there," says Jones.

Life of the sort we know may not be present on Venus; but how much do our scientists know of the type of life that exists on other planets? The Wisdom of the Ages asserts that wherever there is an atom of matter, a particle or a molecule, even in its most gaseous condition, there is life in it, however latent and unconscious (The Secret Doctrine, I, 258). We are further told:

Venus is the most occult, powerful, and mysterious of all the planets; the one whose influence upon, and relation to the Earth is most prominent. (II, 30)

According to the Occult Doctrine, this planet is our Earth's primary, and its spiritual prototype....Archaic tradition...states that Venus changes simultaneously (geographically) with the Earth; that whatever takes place on the one takes place on the other; and that many and great were their common changes. (II, 31-32)

Every world has its parent star and sister planet. Thus Earth is the adopted child and younger brother of Venus, but its inhabitants are of their own kind....All sentient complete beings (full septenary men or higher beings) are furnished, in their beginnings, with forms and organisms in full harmony with the nature and state of the sphere they inhabit. (II, 33)

...Venus is in her last Round. (I, 165)

The power of talk and the art of listening make a pair. In a special section in Utne Reader (July-August 2002), the opening article by Margaret J. Wheatley stresses the need for meaningful conversation and how it "gives birth to actions that can change lives and restore our faith in the future." More, it can "initiate significant social change." When people sit down and think together, "when they discover that they share a common concern, that's when the process of change begins." Unfortunately, conversation sometimes gets soured and degenerates into people shouting angrily.

For conversation to be meaningful, we have first to train ourselves to become patient listeners. When we listen attentively to other people's viewpoints, it broadens our perspective and moves us closer to one another. "When we listen with as little judgment as possible, we develop better relationships with each other," writes Wheatley.

In another article, "Deep Listening," Jaida N'ha Sandra and Jon Spayde dwell on the "surprising pleasure of not talking":

Listening is the foundation of conversation. Through hearing others carefully, we are able to step imaginatively and empathetically into their shoes, and to experience the world from an entirely different point of view, if only for a few moments. California salon enthusiast Shelley Kessler advocates listening "between the lines" as someone speaks, "hearing the feelings and the intentions as well as the words. It requires tremendous discipline."

Active listening is not easy. For one thing, most people think about four times faster than they speak. When you're listening, it's easy to tune out a speaker while you turn over your own ideas....If you regularly jump to conclusions about where someone is headed and then stop listening, discipline yourself to pay attention long enough to find out whether your assumption was correct....

As any group becomes accustomed to active listening and unprepared speaking, you'll find everyone's words growing in feeling, meaning, and impact.

An important step for the Theosophical student in living the Higher Life is the control of speech, without which one cannot become a Listener, a Shravaka. One cannot hear and speak at the same time. The art of listening can and should be cultivated, for it is the key to real study and to real service. Through it the student can delve deep through words and phrases to reach the underlying ideas. Theosophical writings often deal with subjects far beyond the listener's knowledge and therefore it is more difficult to get at the underlying idea, free from preconceptions and prejudices. Also, it should be borne in mind, the listener hears in terms of his own language, preconceptions and knowledge, emphasizing what appeals to him, and "fighting" or ignoring what does not. The art of listening is, then, to cut away all non-essentials till the idea stands clear.

Difficult, uneasy times come in the lives of all. Some feel overwhelmed on such occasions, while others face them with patience and fortitude. In Psychology Today (November-December 2002), clinical psychologist Robert Markman, Ph. D., gives the instance of Diana Solomon and how she coped with her problems. Markman comments:

So much happens in our lives that is unplanned. This uncertainty seems to be a factor of living and not something resulting from mistakes or personal inadequacy. Those who survive and creatively continue seem to have developed a strategy, a way of transforming obstacles into bridges. The intrinsic value of such a worldview is that it enables one to weave daily events (desired or undesired) into a workable pattern. Diana appears to be one of those people who when faced with life-changing challenges (divorce, single parenthood, possible bankruptcy) has marshaled the wisdom of her beliefs to not only cope with the unexpected but also to be proactive in the pursuit of her goals. We can all benefit from the example of her ability to keep life in perspective. However, the decisive element may be the creation and implementation of a viable perspective before bad times come.

Mr. Judge offers this advice:

I would never let the least fear or despair come before me, but if I cannot see the road, nor the goal, for the fog, I would simply sit down and wait; I would not allow the fog to make me think no road was there, and that I was not to pass it. The fogs must lift.

A spiritual perspective of life is the soul of all development, says the Statement of the Brahma Kumaris to the United Nations, presented at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg, South Africa (Purity, January 2003). The Statement reads in part:

Our world remains under the dark cloud of an excessively materialistic paradigm, one of the consequences of which is that development is too often a narrow concept largely understood only in economic terms. This narrow concept of development can find its roots in a narrow concept of the Self that neglects the larger reality of heart and soul, dims the inner light of the spirit and values, and forgets the essential oneness of the human family.

Lasting development within society will not happen without development of the individual. We need to move from an overly materialistic approach to one that includes the broader and deeper realities of human life and experience: the inner world of our thoughts and values and the innate spirituality on which our worth and dignity are based. We will not be able to get the outer world in order until we have first learned to get our inner world in order and transcend short-term selfishness, consumerism, disregard for others and a corruption of values. We will not see the changes we look for in the world around us—such as the elimination of poverty, violence and injustice—until we first bring about these changes in ourselves....

A spiritual understanding of the self indicates that human worth is not derived from matter and material possessions or measured in consuming, having and doing. We then see poverty not just as relating to a material state; in fact the near-bankruptcy of values such as honesty, love, respect, care and compassion is the greatest poverty afflicting the world today as well as itself causing material poverty. Values and spirituality then are at the heart not just of who we are but also of the political, social, economic and environmental issues we are facing. It is also they, rather than words and numbers, that constitute the foundations of the world we are seeking to build....

Distinguishable from religion, and possible doctrinal divergency, spirituality is concerned with the primary challenge of putting our inner house in order. It is not antithetical to material progress but believes that such progress yields a bitter fruit and carries within itself the seeds of its own demise if values such as responsibility, justice, honesty, sharing and respect are not its guiding polar star.

Human beings do not live by bread alone; nor can the world be changed with words and plans alone. It can only change when our values, attitudes and actions change. Sustainable development, and development that sustains all people, depends at least as much on inner transformation and growth as on material progress and prosperity.

Prof. Ranjit Nair, director of the Centre for Philosophy and Foundations of Science, believes that scientists must address global issues and transcend the idea of the nation-state. In the course of an interview with The Times of India, he said:

So far as science is concerned, there's a unity of life beginning from the simplest living organisms to the most complex—from single-cell amoeba to humans....A foundational insight of Indian philosophy is, ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti, or "the real is one, though the sages describe it variously." Modern science has provided a way of translating this philosophical statement....

Science is concerned with "hows" rather than "whys." As far as the meaning of life is concerned, science may have no ultimate answers, if indeed there are such answers. But science has fundamentally transformed question about the origins of life, that were once considered the preserve of religions. Today, even religious traditions seek to reconcile what we know with their own special insights. If they acknowledge human rights and equal opportunity, it's thanks in part to science. The fundamentals of culture have been influenced by science....

The ethical challenges are profound, now that we're able to intervene at the molecular level. There's a debate on therapeutic versus reproductive cloning. Then there's the interface between humans and machines, the issue of "cyborgs." Genetically modified foods and organisms are areas of contention. These are issues which can only be decided by the whole community. Regulatory norms should be established after a broad debate. We have to tread a middle path between the extreme anti- and pro-factions. We also have to guard against technology-fundamentalists.

Scientists must address global issues....We have to ask ourselves why there are still so many poor despite scientific advancement. Ethics and science have to be mobilized for larger goals that are well within our reach.

"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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