|Popular Science (November 2002) names 10 brilliant
scientists of the year 2002—those who caused
a stir within their disciplines—and comments
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.