|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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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