Do human souls survive after death? In his
book The Afterlife Experiments, Dr. Gary E. Schwartz,
a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology
and psychiatry at the University of Arizona, chronicles
the experiments conducted with some well-known
mediums to verify their claims of contact with
the deceased. The "messages" from the deceased,
which were recorded and videotaped, are said to
have displayed an accuracy of between 77 to 95
per cent. Several questions arise:
But is this proof of contact with consciousness
that exists after death? Or are the mediums
just good guessers? Similar experiments were
conducted with students, who have no claim to
psychic abilities, in the medium position, and
they were able to achieve only 36 per cent accuracy.
So are the mediums just better at it, or are
they experts at doing "cold readings," as the
skeptics suggest, taking clues from the sitters¹
voice inflections and body language?
To eliminate this possibility, Schwartz and
[his research partner] Dr. Linda G. Russek's
experiments became more and more stringent,
to the point where the mediums were not allowed
to see or even directly hear the sitters....Even
with the tightest controls, the mediums' accuracy
was above 90 percent....
Are the mediums reading the sitters' minds?
(This might be discounted because the mediums
were sometimes able to relay information that
was unknown to the sitter at that time, but
was later confirmed through research.) Are the
mediums tapping into the collective unconscious?
Or are they contacting the dead? Even the mediums
say they don't know how it works....(Purity,
All these intriguing questions could be answered
once we accept the existence of the astral body
in man and the astral light in nature. Astral
light—tablet of the unseen universe—is the repository
of "all things that ever were, that are, or that
will be." Death is not the end. But these experiments
are not conclusive proofs that the human soul
survives death. The claims of the mediums to hold
communion with the spirits of the dead is baseless.
Mr. Judge observes:
The mass of communications alleged as made
day after day through mediums are from the astral
unintelligent remains of men or in many cases
entirely the production of, invention, compilation,
discovery and collocation by the loosely attached
Astral body of the living medium....The astral
man...has that which seems like automatic consciousness....Its
purely astral portion contains and carries the
record of all that ever passed before the person
when living, for one of the qualities of the
astral substance is to absorb all scenes and
pictures and the impressions of all thoughts,
to keep them, and to throw them forth by reflection
when the conditions permit. (The Ocean of Theosophy,
pp. 156-57 and pp.109-10)
Modern man suffers from two
great maladies—loneliness and depression. It appears
that we have lost the art of being alone. Ruby
Lilaowala has this to say (Afternoon Despatch
& Courier, August 14):
Our finest hours are not in the hustle-bustle
of our family, nor the noise and excitement
of friends, but in solitude. When we're alone
we enter into an intimate union with wisdom,
peace and happiness. At times, during the "doing
nothing" meditation, we touch divinity, so that
we function later, with a heightened sense of
...It's sheer bliss to be oblivious to the
attributes of human nature that have caused
us suffering—like gross selfishness, inevitable
misunderstandings, unworthy hatreds and jealousies.
...We may spend an entire evening socialising
with say, 150 people at a party and yet feel
"lonely," because while bodies come near each
other with "air-kissing" and "hello darlings,"
the hearts and minds may be so distant....
We've lost the art of being alone, and don't
know what to do with ourselves in solitude.
We don't know how to make ourselves happy with
our inner resources. So, we switch on the radio...the
TV...go to a movie or phone a friend, because
we crave companionship.
However, if, by daily practice, we "learn"
to be meditative while being alone, we can have
peace and joy and wisdom within ourselves.
When we are other-dependent for our happiness
it leaves us craving for more. To experience lasting
peace and happiness, it is necessary to turn within—every
day, for a few minutes. We may find this practice
difficult at first, but if kept up, it would yield
positive results. It is not enough to be alone,
but when alone we must learn to "think away from
ourselves". We have very encouraging words in
Light on the Path:
Listen to the song of life....Look for it and
listen to it first in your own heart. At first
you may say, It is not there; when I search
I find only discord. Look deeper. If again you
are disappointed, pause and look deeper again.
There is a natural melody, an obscure fount
in every human heart. It may be hidden over
and utterly concealed and silenced—but it is
there. At the very base of your nature you will
find faith, hope and love. (pp. 10, 23)
Although science has been able
to locate various centres of mental activity in
the cerebrum, mystery surrounds the exact function
of the cerebellum. "Long thought to be solely
the brain's coordinator of body movement, the
cerebellum is known to be active during a wide
variety of cognitive and perceptual activities,"
write James Bower and Lawrence Parsons in Scientific
American (August 2003). They observe:
The cerebellum clearly has an important job,
because it has persisted—and become larger—during
the course of evolution....
...the cerebellum is more involved in sensory
than pure motor function and in particular...it
is highly active during the process of acquiring
As the number of conditions that involve changes
in cerebellar activity has grown, researchers
have attributed more and more functions to the
cerebellum. Motor coordination studies suggest
that people with cerebellar damage slow down
and simplify their movements.... An interesting
and important extension of this idea is that
the continued operation of a faulty cerebellum
would have more serious consequences than its
complete removal. Although other brain structures
can compensate for the outright lack of sensory
data control, ongoing faulty control would be
expected to cause continuing dysfunction in
other brain regions attempting to use bad data.
This type of effect might explain the recent
implications for cerebellar involvement in disorder
such as autism, in which patients fail to respond
to incoming sensory data....
It is clear that how we think about this brain
structure—and therefore how we conceive of the
brain as a whole—is about to change.
In Transactions, Madame Blavatsky observes that
the human brain is a complex structure. She compares
the nature and function of cerebrum and cerebellum
The brain is such a complex thing, both physically
and metaphysically, that it is like a tree whose
bark you can remove layer by layer, each layer
being different from all others, and each having
its own special work, function, and properties.
Cerebellum is the organ of instinctual animal
functions, which reflect themselves in or produce,
dreams which for the most part are chaotic and
inconsequent. (p. 32)
With man during sleep the functions of the
cerebrum cease, and the cerebellum carries him
on to the Astral plane, a still more unreal
state than even the waking plane of illusion....
The function of the cerebrum is to polish,
perfect, or coordinate ideas, whereas that of
the cerebellum produces conscious desires....
For a long time now, the oracle
of Delphi was considered to be a myth by scholars
and scientists. In the light of recent scientific
research, this view has changed. John Hale writes
(Scientific American, August 2003):
Tradition attributed the prophetic inspiration
of the powerful oracle to geographic phenomena:
a chasm in the earth, a vapor that rose from
it, and a spring....
For the past century, scholars have discounted
as myth the traditional explanation that vapors
rising out of the earth intoxicated, and inspired,
the prophesying priestesses at Delphi.
Recent scientific findings show that this description
was, in fact, extraordinarily accurate. In particular,
the authors have identified two geologic faults
that intersect precisely under the site of the
Furthermore, the petrochemical-rich layers
in the limestone formations of the region most
likely produced ethylene, a gas that induces
a trancelike state and that could have risen
through fissures created by the faults.
Could we attribute the prophecies to ethylene
alone? H. P. Blavatsky observes that the prophesying
priestess was called Pythia or Pythoness and describes
her as half medium and half magician. She writes:
A Pythia, upon the authority of Plutarch, Iamblichus,
Lamprias, and others, was a nervous sensitive;
she was chosen from among the poorest class,
young and pure. Attached to the temple, within
whose precincts she had a room, secluded from
every other...she had no communications with
the outside world, and her life was more strict
and ascetic than that of a Catholic nun. Sitting
on a tripod of brass placed over a fissure in
the ground, through which arose intoxicating
vapours, these subterranean exhalations penetrating
her whole system produced the prophetic mania.
(Isis Unveiled, pp. xxxviii-ix)
Scientists have begun to question
the validity of the data resulting from brain-damaged
animals. Researchers who study the behaviour of
rodents, at the University of Zurich, feel that
the living conditions of mice affect their performance
in experiments. "In a typical animal research
lab, most rodents' lives are spent in shoebox-size
enclosures containing food, water, bedding, and
nothing else, all stacked from the floor to ceiling
on uniform steel racks," writes Barry Yeoman (Discover,
July 2003). Hanno Wurble, the young animal behaviourist
discovered that mice living in such barren housing
often develop bizarre behaviour. When observed
in the night, after the experiments, they resembled
patients in a psychiatric hospital. They were
seen to perform useless tasks repeatedly, for
example, performing the backflips, one per second,
for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Mark Rosenzweig, a biological psychologist at
the University of California at Berkeley, found
that an animal's living environment does affect
the development of its brain. Hanno Wurbel has
launched a crusade to improve the housing conditions
for mice, arguing that scientists risk their data
when they use such brain-damaged animals. He says,
"I have this vision that there will be a time
when we will have natural-like, although heavily
managed, populations of rats or mice, maybe in
big enclosures, representing whole populations.
Depending on the needs of study, we can then choose
our study population, as we do in human trials....it's
an interesting vision to keep in mind.... If we
get to the stage where we think that we need to
treat the animals this way, experimenting on them
will probably become impossible—because that would
mean they would almost achieve the same status
that we have."
It is heartening to see scientists taking a humane
view regarding the animals used for research.
Why do we consider animals as inferior? At the
root of animal experiments is, perhaps, the belief
that man being the crown-piece of evolution and
superior to animals, his life is more important.
It is largely accepted that animals do not have
souls. Theosophy teaches that animals are endowed
with intelligence and souls.The kingdoms below
man look up to him for their progress and evolution.
Let us hope with Mme. Blavatsky that the day is
not far off when man will recognize his responsibility
towards dumb creatures. She writes in "Have Animals
For verily when the world feels convinced—and
it cannot avoid coming one day to such a conviction—that
animals are creatures as eternal as we ourselves,
vivisection and other permanent tortures, daily
inflicted on poor brutes, will, after calling
forth an outburst of malediction and threats
from society generally, force all Governments
to put an end to those barbarous and shameful
As we live our humdrum existence,
we often wonder, Does life have a purpose? What
is my place in the scheme of things? "Each one
of us has a unique purpose in life, and in its
realisation lies our happiness, growth and success,"
writes Anil Bhatnagar (Life Positive, June 2003):
No human is born without the potential to grow
and achieve extraordinary accomplishments. Yet
very few are lucky enough to identify and find
the right soil, conditions and nurturing to
transform this potential into a reality....
If we follow the inner voice and sustain the
urge for unfoldment, we can surely fulfil our
The deeper inner purpose of life, as we all
know, is to rediscover our oneness with the
unity consciousness that is—and be with it.
The more sincerely we adhere to the timeless
principles that are the very nature of Nature,
by virtue of which God puts this universe together,
the more our own nature becomes one with that
of Nature. And we cannot follow these timeless
principles of Nature in vacuum—we need a context
or a "field of action." Therefore, interwoven
with that deeper inner purpose is an external
purpose allocated specifically for this current
incarnation, which provides us with a context
or "field of action." You become aware of the
inner purpose when you become aware of the outer
one. You take a quantum leap and begin moving
faster towards the inner, when you discover
and dedicate your 'current life' to the outer,
against all odds.
How do you find your life's purpose? The author
quotes from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "You are
what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire
is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your
deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." He
adds: "Your ability to fulfil your life's purpose
depends on having a dream that harmonizes with
your endowments and the contribution you make
to society and the world."
We are all here for a purpose. "If it is remembered
that the purpose of life is to learn and that
it is all made up of learning, the ordinary duties
of everyday existence are seen to be the means
by which we learn many things.... Does not the
whole of life's purpose point to a realization
of Unity in Diversity; seeing all things at once
and as One, instead of separately and in detail?"
asks Robert Crosbie. (The Friendly Philosopher,
pp. 4 and 55)
How do we describe modern city
life, always in a rush for achievement and survival
in an aggressively competitive world? Medical
professionals—conventional or belonging to alternative
therapies—are equally busy. Their hands are too
full to cope with their patients' problem of "stress."
The causes are easily identifiable: Frustrated
high expectations, artificial living, incessant
striving to keep up the tempo of production and
achievement. It all begins, according to Ayesha
Chawla (Indian Express, July 11), with our anxiety
to admit our children into top-class nursery school,
and does not end with admission into elite professional
colleges. She writes:
Look around you, it is everywhere—the search
for a deeper meaning to life; the search for
solace amidst the hectic pace of everyday life;
a vent for frustration and anxiety, perhaps
even anger; a thirst for spirituality with a
gusto not seen before....
Alternative forms of healing such as pranic
healing and reiki...yoga and meditation, are
all geared towards making the individual feel
in touch with his or her real self, unobstructed
by the stresses and strains of daily living....
The world has become a very stressful place.
One no longer has the time to meet friends and
kin, to eat a decent meal at one's workplace,
to spend time with children. Yet the demands
made on us keep increasing, our limits are constantly
stretched. In this environment it is normal
to seek solace and strength in something. We
need to heal our minds as much as our bodies,
and if we seek that peace in "new religious
movements," alternative forms of healing, meditation,
dance, music or art, then so be it. Let no one
judge us for the paths we choose, for we are
products of the society we have created.
Can turning to outside agents—however well meaning
and competent—supply "spirituality" in a package?
Can there not be forces other than frustration
and breakdown of health that make people turn
to exotic remedies and "new spirituality"? Madame
Blavatsky wrote in 1887: "In a few years the psychic
idiosyncrasies of humanity will enter on a great
change.... Psychologists will have some extra
work to do." Her prediction in 1887 about a definite
cycle of psychic upsurge is demonstrated by the
fact of rapid "transition" at all levels which
is now upon us. Observers will witness unusual
"sensitivity," increased interest in non-conventional
remedies, mushrooming counselling centres, workshops
on self-development, daily religious discourses
by pundits, swamis and Babas from platforms and
T.V. channels, as the global phenomena.
Two things indicate weakness—to be silent when
it is proper to speak, and to speak when it
is proper to be silent. —Persian Proverb