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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 74 No. 4 - February, 2004
Certain observations regarding stars and galaxies have led scientists to take a fresh look at Gravity—the most mysterious and pervasive power in the universe. Scientists were forced to conclude that Newton's laws work fine on our earth and solar system but not beyond. It has been observed that four spacecrafts—Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Galileo and Ulysses—as they pulled away from the sun, slowed down much faster than expected, covering significantly less space than they should have (Discover, October 2003). In other words, these spacecrafts seemed to be pulled back to the sun by an unknown force. The effect shows no sign of getting weaker as the spacecrafts travel deeper into space. Such behaviour seems to violate Newton's laws of gravitation, which posit that as the distance from the sun increases, the gravitational pull must decrease. What could be the unknown force slowing them down?

Another anomaly has been observed regarding the movement of galaxies. Since gravitational force at a distance is less, objects at a distance must move slowly as per Newton's second law of motion. However, observations have shown that stars and gas clouds moving around the centre of a galaxy continue to move fast (at speeds higher than expected as per Newton's laws) even when their distance from the galactic centre increases. Anything that has a mass exerts the force that we call gravity. Since the mass concentrated at the centre of the galaxy cannot account for such high gravitational pull and resulting speed, scientists are forced to assume the existence of an immense amount of invisible, mystery matter, called "dark matter," in and around the galaxies, exerting gravitational pull and raising their speed. While an overwhelming majority of astronomers accepts the existence of dark matter, a few suggest modification of Newton's laws.

Milgrom, a physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, feels that there is something wrong with our understanding of gravity. He argues that perhaps different rules apply to movements of galaxies. He finds it unnecessary to assume the existence of "dark matter," but seeks to explain the mechanics of galaxies by postulating a theory called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). He explains that gravity accelerates things, i.e., increases speed. When we jump off a cliff, we are pulled down by earth's gravity at an ever increasing speed—a speed that increases every second at a rate of 32 feet per second. However, this "speed increase" or acceleration observed in the movement of our sun and other stars towards the centre of the Milky Way galaxy is very nominal—just one 10-billionth the acceleration we feel from gravity on Earth. He proposed that Newton's laws might change at such low accelerations.

Scientists may be forced to modify Newton's laws—as has happened in the past—in case they are unable to prove the existence of "dark matter."

Theosophy explains that gravitation is half the law, the other half is levitation. Mme. Blavatsky writes:

Astronomers who see in gravitation an easy-going solution for many things, and an universal force which allows them to calculate thereby planetary motions, care little about the Cause of Attraction. They call Gravity a law, a cause in itself. We call the forces acting under that name effects, and very secondary effects, too. One day it will be found that the scientific hypothesis does not answer after all; and then it will follow the corpuscular theory of light and be consigned to rest for many scientific aeons in the archives of all exploded speculations. Has not Newton himself expressed grave doubts about the Nature of Force and the corporeality of the "Agents," as they were then called? So has Cuvier, another scientific light shining in the night of research. He warns his readers...about the doubtful nature of the so-called Forces, saying that "it is not so sure whether those agents were not Spiritual Powers after all." (S.D., I, 490)

Spiritual freedom is detachment from the ego and its fears, anxieties and desires. Awareness is the first step towards achieving such freedom. Andrew Cohen suggests that making a conscious effort to be aware of all that we do, constitutes one kind of awareness. But as we learn to surrender more and more to our desire for freedom, we will begin to discover a more mysterious awareness, i.e., the awareness of the true Self. We can never hope to understand the profound mystery of our own Self only with the mind. Thus:

The true, spiritual conscience, is experienced as caring. And this caring is painful—a painful emotional experience—but it's this caring that finally liberates us, slowly but surely, from the attachment to the ego and its endless fears and desires.

It is the emergence of this conscience that gives us the energy, strength and inspiration to give ourselves to the most important task that there is. So if we want to be free, it's very important to ask ourselves: How much do I care?

The degree to which we are able to liberate ourselves from self-concern will be the degree to which we are able to recognize that our true nature as human beings is love.

The nature of this love is not personal....Love is literally liberated from the depths of our own being and just emerges of its own accord. Anybody can know this miracle if they really want to. (The Times of India, September 19)

The Voice of the Silence describes Self-knowledge as the child of loving deeds. Mr. Crosbies says, "Knowledge of the Self is beyond relativity; relativity cannot be known by relativity, but only by that which is beyond all relativity. 'To blend thy Mind and Soul' is to make the Mind subservient to the purposes of Soul, an instrument for use, not a cage of relativities in which to imprison ourselves." (The Friendly Philosopher, p. 51)

Every night we surrender to the mysterious power of sleep. Why? Unlike eating and breathing, the real function of sleep still eludes science. However, "the reasons that we sleep are becoming less enigmatic," writes Jerome M. Siegel, professor of psychiatry and a member of the Brain Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center (Scientific American, November 2003). It has been found that lack of sleep gives rise to a rare brain disease called fatal familial insomnia, gradually leading to death. Studies have shown that bigger animals need less sleep, while smaller animals like voles, rats and cats spend most of their time sleeping. Smaller animals have higher metabolic rates than larger animals, and high metabolic rates generate "free radicals"—extremely reactive chemicals that damage or even kill cells. It is believed that reduced temperature and metabolic rate during quiet sleep or dreamless sleep, known as "non-REM sleep," may give these damaged brain cells a chance to repair themselves.

The cell-repair hypothesis, it is claimed, explains the function of non-REM or dreamless sleep. But what could be the significance of REM sleep? REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is marked by most vivid dreams, wherein, brain cells are as active as during the waking state. The function of REM sleep remains largely a riddle for scientists.

However, experiments with sleeping subjects have revealed that REM sleep helps learning and mood regulation during waking hours. Moreover, it is said to equip the brain to cope with waking experiences. Michel Jouvet, the pioneering sleep researcher, believes that REM sleep helps to establish the genetically programmed neuronal connections that make so-called instinctive behaviour possible.

Brain researchers hope to acquire, in future, a more comprehensive and satisfying understanding regarding sleep and its functions.

In Transactions, Mme. Blavatsky explains that just before going to sleep, we are too strongly saturated with Life, and we must "seek relief in the shadowy side of that essence, which side is the dream element, or physical sleep, one of the states of consciousness." Thus:

[The process of going to sleep] is said by Occultism to be the periodical and regulated exhaustion of the nervous centres, and especially of the sensory ganglia of the brain, which refuse to act any longer on this plane, and if they would not become unfit for work, are compelled to recuperate their strength on another plane or Upadhi. First comes the Svapna, or dreaming state, and this leads to that of Shushupti [dreamless sleep]. Now it must be remembered that our senses are all dual, and act according to the plane of consciousness on which the thinking entity energises. Physical sleep affords the greatest facility for its action on the various planes; at the same time it is a necessity, in order that the senses may recuperate and obtain a new lease of life for the Jagrata, or waking state, from the Svapana and Shushupti....Sleep is the shady nook in the sunlit valley of life. (pp. 70-71)

Can religion improve health? It may be a moot question for medical schools, but patients are beginning to have more faith in religion and prayers than in medicine. It is well known that a person's mental state has bearing on his health. Medical establishments are seeking effective ways of combining patients' spiritual beliefs with high-tech treatment. Millions of dollars are being spent to support projects that aim to explore the nature of God or "mind-body" relationship. "There's been a tremendous shift in the medical profession's openness to this topic," says Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is studying the biological effects of meditation and prayer on the brain. (Newsweek, November 17)

What is the role of prayers? Although prayers are a source of comfort to patients and their family members, prayer studies have not shown any clear effects. An experiment conducted with 750 patients undergoing angioplasty or heart catheterization, revealed that the group of patients, who were prayed for, did not fare better than those, who were not. How do you measure the power of prayer? "Studies prompt questions that no one will ever be able to answer: Can one extra prayer mean the difference between life and death? Can prayer be dosed, the way medicines are? Does harder praying mean better treatment by God?"

Studies have shown that religious beliefs can interfere with the recovery. In an experiment conducted with 600 patients—with diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to cancer—it was found that those who thought that God was punishing or abandoning them, were up to 30 per cent more likely to die over the next two years.

Thus, the role and place of religion in healing remains controversial, concludes Newsweek.

"The influence of mind over the body is so powerful that it has effected miracles at all ages," observes Mme. Blavatsky. She attributes many cures to faith and the will of the patients. Thus:

Healing, to deserve the name, requires either faith in the patient, or robust health united with a strong will, in the operator. With expectancy supplemented by faith, one can cure himself of almost any morbific conditionŠ.In thousands of instances, the doctor, the priest, or the relic has had credit for healings that were solely and simply due to the patient¹s unconscious will. (Isis Unveiled, I, 216)

Mr. Judge mentions in Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita (pp. 139-40), that prayers recited by millions of people, asking various favours—to stop the earthquake or end the dryness—go unanswered. It is "perfectly impossible" to prove the efficacy of such prayers. He observes that when prayers are offered to an unseen and unknown God, the faith of the person is not firm, whereas for an idol-worshipper, the presence of the image is an aid to constancy in faith. "All this applies of course to prayers for personal and selfish ends. But that prayer or aspiration which is for spiritual light and wisdom is the highest of all, no matter to whom or what addressed."

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