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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 73 No 6 - April, 2003
The age of the universe is a subject of perennial interest to scientists, and with changing theories, the figures also keep altering. According to a Reuter's report from Washington, scientists using a robotic NASA probe have determined the age of the universe to be 13.7 billion years, and have figured out when the stars appeared. NASA researchers claim that a spacecraft about a million miles form Earth was able to "look back to nearly the dawn of time" to find the answers. (The Times of India, February 13)

Students of Theosophy will find it of interest to compare the figures arrived at by present-day researchers with those given in The Secret Doctrine (II, 68-70) from an old Brahmanical calendar, which H.P.B. calls "the best and most complete of all such calendars." According to this ancient chronology, 1,955,884,687 years have elapsed "from the beginning of cosmic evolution, up to the Hindu year Tarana (or 1887)." A footnote explains: "The esoteric doctrine says that this 'cosmic evolution' refers only to our solar system." As for the whole Universal System, or "Brahma's age," it requires 15 figures to express its duration. It is perhaps futile to talk of the "age" of that which is eternal, for though numberless universes manifest and disappear, the "boundless plane" where all this is enacted, ever remains.

Interest in Indian psychology in the West was evident at a conference on "yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology," held at Pondicherry. It drew delegates from different universities and institutes from India and abroad, and over 80 papers were presented. Dr. Matthijs Cornelissen from the Netherlands, one of the main organizers of the conference sponsored by the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and the Infinity Foundation of U.S.A., stated that there is a big demand for Indian psychology in the West.

A report of the conference prepared by Maria Wirth of Germany appears in Life Positive. The report states in part:

In his keynote address, Prof. Ramakrishna Rao, president of the Institute of Human Science in Vishakhapatnam and former vice-chancellor of Andhra University, said: "Isn't it ironical that there is no Indian psychology in any of our great universities?" He asked why psychology was in such a pitiful state and answered the question himself: "Because psychology as it is taught now appears irrelevant in the Indian condition."...

Psychology in India is completely ignoring the Indian tradition in spite of the great treasures hidden in its ancient scriptures. The textbooks here are written by Western authors and many teachers are trained abroad....

The Indian tradition, according to Prof. Anand Prakash from Delhi University, is a powerful, robust and all-encompassing system with its emphasis on consciousness as the primary reality. It offers invaluable tools for psychotherapy, education, management and social work. Prof. Rao stressed that it has global relevance and can reduce the glaring and unhealthy asymmetry between outer and inner science....

Now what is Indian psychology? Indian psychology encompasses the vast body of India's wisdom that concerns the human being. Indian philosophy and Indian psychology share a framework and believe the human has enormous potential hidden in its being. Indian psychology also has the "technology" to raise the consciousness of a human being. It is "sophisticated, rich and practical," Prof. Rao pointed out, and deals with the most basic human questions, for example: who or what is a human being? What is the purpose and goal of life? Who is an ideal human being? How can one live a happy and peaceful life? What is the cause of suffering? What is death? Has every person his own "battery" or is he or she connected with an all-pervading power? Is there free will?

The Indian tradition gives profound and intuitive insight into the human condition. It also gives practical methods to find peace, joy and love, which, it claims, are inside everyone. These qualities are aspects of one's true self—of pure consciousness. In the Indian tradition, a person is not a separate fragment but on a deeper level one with all—a claim that is in tune with the findings of modern physics. To find one's true Self, and thereby disidentify from the ego, which one mistook for one's self, is the goal of life.

At the conference, papers mainly discussed the view of the Bhagavad-Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. However, there is much more. For example, Buddhist and Sufi texts also give extraordinary insights. It is high time Indian psychology was given its rightful place in the colleges and universities. It is "a living force for the future," Dr. Cornelissen predicted.

Many scientists the world over are disturbed about recent experiments in the medical field. With the ostensible motive to end aging, disease and pain, researchers are using means which are far from ethical and which are an affront to human integrity. Reader's Digest (February 2003, Indian ed.) publishes a special report on what goes on behind lab doors and raises the question: Are we changing what it means to be human? J. Alex Tarquinio gives us a glimpse:

Pigs cloned to produce transplant organs to save the dying. Computer chips implanted in the brain to conquer paralysis. Human embryos manufactured and destroyed for their genetic building blocks. It's the stuff of science fiction—yet startling advances like these are unfolding in research laboratories right now.

A 62-year-old French woman gave birth to her own nephew in 2001, after undergoing in-vitro fertilization with an embryo from her brother's sperm and a donated egg. That's unsettling enough. But consider this: US scientists have now grown pig and goat sperm in mice using testicular tissue from newborn pigs and goats. The idea is to use mice as "bio-incubators" for the sperm of endangered species. Why not incubate human sperm in the future? Imagine a grieving mother giving birth to the child of her dead baby boy. Possibilities like this reinforce fears that can chill legitimate research....

Scientists are almost giddy about stem cell research....The more potent embryonic stem cells have triggered a furious debate...."Today, it's just the embryo. What if it turns out a two-month-old foetus is more valuable for body parts? We'll find a way to desensitize ourselves," says Leon Kass, chairman of the US President's Council on Bioethics. Pro-life groups worry about a slippery slope that could lead to an increase in abortions....

Science at the speed of light. Even as we embrace new treatments and cures, we will need to wrestle with ethical questions, and quickly. To some, experimenting with animals for human benefit is troubling enough. But to many others, the real moral issue is whether we should be tinkering with our fundamental human nature. "Our very concept of human rights stems from the fact that we have a natural human essence," says political scientist Francis Fukuyama, author of Our Posthumous Future. "If we modify people to the point that this essence begins to change, that raises questions as to what kind of rights they have and whether their rights are equal to that of a normal human being."

Scientists foresee further experiments and breakthroughs in the years ahead. Others who are worried about the long-term consequences are asking: "Will we wind up abusing science, experimenting with the human body not because we should, but because we can?" What, after all, does it mean to be human? This is the broader question that needs to be answered.

Several scientists, including some Nobel laureates, have taken issue with the retiring majority leader to the US House of Representatives, Dick Armey's view that "occupations of the brain in fields like engineering, science and economics" are better than "occupations of the heart." "Armey is completely wrong," says Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin; and Nobel chemist Ronald Hoffman of Cornell calls the assumption "crazy." "For solving human problems, we need both the brain and heart," says Hoffman. (Popular Science, December 2002)

In another article, "The Art of Science" (New Scientist, 21/28 December 2002), Alan Lightman, a physicist and Adjunct professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes:

It has been my good fortune to have worked both as a physicist and as a novelist. And I have found that the "creative moment" feels the same in both professions. Indeed this particular sensation, one of the deepest and most beautiful of human experiences, provides the basis for a powerful understanding between the scientist and the artist....

I am not sure why scientists have been more reluctant than artists to write about their creative moments. But I believe that a major factor must be the understanding of objectivity in science. What is most important in science is the final, dispassionate, impersonal result: the experiment that can be duplicated in any laboratory in the world....Somehow, this understanding of science has spawned the more dubious notion that any sign of personal struggle or emotionality in the individual scientist will compromise the whole enterprise....

It is certainly true that scientists, with the exception of behavioural scientists, study objects that reside outside the emotions while for artists the emotional life lies at the centre. But the process of doing science is human. Individual scientists have all the passions, the prejudices and biases, the psychological hills and valleys of other creative people. Acknowledging the passions and struggles and creative moments of individual scientists will not diminish the discipline at all. Instead, it will help strengthen the understanding between scientists and others.

As chemist Michael Polanyi so forcefully describes in his book Personal Knowledge, these personal emotions are perhaps essential for the success of science. The scientific and the philosophical, the physical and the mystical, cannot be separated into watertight compartments, but mix and mingle. Scientists Are Human is the telling title of a book by David Lindsay Watson. In it he writes:

The recent return of philosophy to a reputable status in the minds of scientists is a sign that the next oscillation has begun, and the extroverts are losing their grip. There are always jobs to be done in science with which only the introvert personality can hope to grapple successfully.

It is my belief that the science of the future will more and more turn away from its present mechanistic devices towards the use of the intuitive discernment of similarity—as the foundation on which its whole structure rests.

The mere threat of bioterrorism is likely to kill at least some people in the coming months. President George Bush announced in December that a million Americans would be vaccinated against smallpox by early this year, and 10 million more a little later. But the "precaution," if such it is, will be costly, warns New Scientist (21/28 December 2002): "the contagious vaccine will sicken and almost certainly kill a few people." Those who submit to vaccination need to know the price they might have to pay:

The vaccine consists of live vaccinia virus. In some people it can cause inflammation of the brain, death of the skin around the vaccination site or a severe form of eczema. And vaccinated people can infect others for up to three weeks afterwards.

Two studies in the 1960s found that there were "life-threatening" reactions in between 14 and 52 people per million vaccinated, and one or two per million died. The side effects now will almost certainly be more severe....

Another cause for concern is that there are now many people with suppressed immunity, due to HIV or therapy for cancer or transplants....The danger is that these high-risk groups could catch vaccine forms from those vaccinated.

In brief, the benefits of vaccination against smallpox are suspected, and its adverse effects far too many to be overlooked. The case against other vaccines and serums is equally strong. They have little impact on the incidence of the disease they are supposed to control, and are far from harmless.

Hellenic philosophers found divine music in the movement of celestial bodies. Harmony in the heavens was called by the Greeks the "music of the spheres." Now genome scientists have stumbled upon musical scores inside our bodies. Spanish researchers have recently come out with an audio version of the human genome, called Genoma Music, and it is being held up as a novel way of bringing science and music closer together. Collaborating with the scientists, a French composer is helping them translate snippets of DNA's chemical alphabets into regular sheet music, generating a rudimentary melody for each DNA type—what could be described as an individual's genetic "signature tune". The Times of India (January 29) comments editorially:

It's a nice feeling, that we have music within us, a melody that denotes the very composition of life. We could well be carrying the resonance of that primordial, all-encompassing sound of life, the beginningless, endless AUM that saturated the cosmos when Creation happened. This could be a reason why music has been found to be so effective in mind and body healing.

It is believed by some that underlying all the sounds and signals of Nature there is "a continual music." Dr. Lewis Thomas, an eminent biologist, wrote many years ago in one of his essays, "The Music of This Sphere":

If, as I believe, the urge to make a kind of music is as much a characteristic of biology as our other fundamental functions, there ought to be an explanation for it. Having none at hand, I am free to make one up. The rhythmic sounds might be the recapitulation of something else—an earliest memory, a score for the transformation of inanimate, random matter in chaos into the improbable, ordered dance of living forms.

All this perhaps links up with what the sages and mystics have been trying to tell us for millennia about the nature of the universe. W. Q. Judge in his article "AUM" has this to say:

Now we may consider that there is pervading the whole universe a single homogeneous resonance, sound, or tone, which acts, so to speak, as the awakener or vivifying power, stirring all the molecules into action....This is creation, for without this resonance or motion among the quiescent particles, there would be no visible universe. That is to say, upon sound, or, as the Aryans called it, Nanda Brahma (divine resonance), depends the evolution of the visible from the invisible....

Just as the tone of manners, of morals, of painting, of music, means the real character of each, in the same way the tones of the various creatures, including man himself, mean or express the real character; and all together joined in the deep murmur of nature, go to swell the Nada Brahma, or Divine Resonance, which at last is heard as the music of the spheres.

Man is invincible if his spirit asserts itself. He has endurance and capacity for compassion. He can stand up and say, "I will not bow down to circumstances; I am more powerful than the material forces which confront us." Man is higher than the forces which overwhelm him. If this principle of the inward presence of the spirit is taken by us as an assertion of human dignity, we will realize the interwovenness of human life. If one man suffers, the whole of humanity suffers, for all humanity has become one today. It is that concept to which we must make a great contribution. We are passing through trying times, our civilization is being tested; it may be destroyed or renewed. What will happen to it depends on ourselves, not on our stars, nor upon the impersonal forces which surround us. It depends on the spirit of man, on the will of man to take these things seriously.

—Dr. S. Radhakrishnan

"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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