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From The Theosophical Movement
Vol 74 No. 5 - March, 2004
It is a well-known fact that music affects moods and plays a vital role in curing disease. Both Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer believed that in some respects music is more effective and useful than any language invented by man. Music helps to deal with and counteract sorrows, disappointments, depressions and emotional upheavals in life. It helps eliminate negative emotions and enhance positive emotions. It seems to work on the principle of "like cures like." "Are you short-tempered and prone to bouts of anger? Then try listening to any of these ragas: Atana, Deepak, Gauri Manohari, Hamsadhwani, Sankarabharanam, Simhendra Madhyama or Todi among others," urges T. V. Sairam (Dignity Dialogue, December 2003). He has shown that "a musical form representing a certain emotion could help to destroy the very same emotion." Thus, "listening to a fiery composition of Vivaldi...representing the moods of rage can actually melt away years of accumulated anger and frustration in an individual." It appears that curing the disease amounts to restoring the disturbed harmony. All biological activities follow definite cycles and involve certain rhythms. Disease is caused by disturbance in these cycles and rhythms.

H.P.B. writes in Isis Unveiled about the power of music over human beings and animals. She affirms that the philosophers of antiquity knew about the singular power of music over certain nervous diseases. Music has helped to cure diseases like epilepsy, impotence, insanity, lameness, dropsy, etc., believed to be incurable. Thus:

The sound has an attractive property; it draws out disease, which streams out to encounter the musical wave, and the two blending together, disappear in space. Asclepiades employed music for the same purpose, some twenty centuries ago; he blew a trumpet to cure Sciatica, and its prolonged sound making the fibres of the nerves to palpitate, the pain invariably subsided. Democritus in like manner affirmed that many diseases could be cured by the melodious sounds of a flute. Mesmer used...harmonica described by Kircher for his magnetic cures. (Isis Unveiled, I, 215)

Certain kinds of music throw us into frenzy; some exalt the soul to religious aspirations. In fine, there is scarcely a human creation which does not respond to certain vibrations of the atmosphere. (Ibid., p. 275)

The spirit of giving, or charity at all levels—physical, mental and emotional—has always been held in high esteem by all religious scriptures. "The best kind of giving involves sacrifice," writes Suma Varughese (Life Positive, December 2003). When charity is not out of the surplus—but involves an element of sacrifice—it leads to inner transformation in both the giver and the receiver. Varughese writes:

It is spiritual giving at its highest. And when we engage with it, it is a path that leads to liberation. For sacrificial giving involves going beyond the ego with its narrow focus on our needs, desires, comforts and feelings....

Sacrificial giving is rigorous, and calls for discipline and self-restraint. We can start off small. Giving up a seat in a bus for someone who needs it more, gracefully acknowledging one's fault in an argument, allowing others to stampede to the buffet table first, giving up one's lunch to a hungry beggar....

The concept of sacrifice is endemic to most religions and is central to Hindu philosophy. The world is considered to owe its origin to the great sacrifice of purusha. The Vedic concept..."the world is one family" emphasizes both interconnection and the need to focus on the larger good. So strong is the current of altruistic thought that the Bhagavad-Gita says: "He who cooks for himself alone is a thief."...

Giving, then, is a two-edged sword that can only be wielded safely when our motive is pure. Through awareness, we must move away from using giving as a means of bolstering the ego, of gaining power and control over others, of gaining social recognition or fame, of one-upmanship.

The Voice of the Silence describes Charity as one of the transcendental virtues and asks us to step out of sunlight into shade so as to make more room for others. Altruism is the keynote of Theosophy. In the article "Practical Occultism," H.P.B. defines a true Theosophist as he "who finds more joy in helping his neighbour than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasure for the sake of other people...." In The Key to Theosophy, H.P.B. puts emphasis on personal exertion, mercy and kindness, while exercising charity, as that would call forth gratitude in the receiver and "gratitude does more good to the man who feels it, than to him for whom it is felt." The Gita considers the sacrifice of knowledge (Jnana Yajna) as the best and the highest. So does Theosophy. Mr. Judge describes the highest kind of philanthropy thus:

Each Theosophist should therefore not only continue his private and public acts of charity, but also strive to so understand Theosophical philosophy as to be able to expound it in a practical and easily understood manner, so that he may be a wider philanthropist by ministering to the needs of the inner man. This inner man is a thinking being who feeds upon a right or wrong philosophy. If he is given that one which is wrong, then, becoming warped and diseased, he leads his instrument, the outer man, into bewilderment and sorrow. (Vernal Blooms, p. 61)

Demographers have observed gradually increasing life spans over the last two centuries. Worldwide, average life expectancy has gone up from about 27 years to more than 65, and in the United States it has shot up from 50 years in the last century to an average of 78 at present. Could we expect children born today to live to be 150? Some researchers support this view, others feel there is no upward limit on longevity. James Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, predicts that the average life span in industrialized countries will be 122.5 years, in the year 2150. "Most researchers agree that the biggest boost in human life expectancy will not come from curing diseases. Instead, the rate of aging itself has to be slowed down," writes Karen Wright (Discover, November 2003). However, there are many gray areas. Why do our bodies begin to deteriorate when we reach our thirties? It is difficult to explain longevity in terms of genes. There are genes responsible for growth, metabolism and reproduction. But there is no life-extending gene found in the human genome or any physiological determinants of mortality.

Steve Austad, a gerontologist at the University of Idaho, ascribes longevity in human beings to "the low-risk environment we have created for ourselves." Geriatrician Tom Perls of the Boston University School of Medicine, feels that those who live to be hundred, lack genes that predispose them to old-age diseases, but "possess genes—as yet unidentified—that protect them from the ravages of time."

But is it true? In her comments on ³A Treatise on the Yoga Philosophy² (The Theosophist, September 1880), H.P.B. mentions that "the greater the number of respiratory movements per minute the shorter is the life-period."

"The Elixir of Life," reprinted in "Five Years of Theosophy" (The Theosophical Movement, July and August 1966), deals at length with the subject of "longevity." Thus, in each species—including human—there is a "well-known limit within which the Race-life lies, and none are known to survive beyond it." Even when disease, accidents and famine are avoided, there comes a time "when the particles of the body would feel the hereditary tendency to do that which leads inevitably to dissolution." However, it is possible to live beyond the limits determined by heredity. Thus:

The whole rationale then, of the first condition of continued existence in this world, is (a) the development of a Will so powerful as to overcome the hereditary (in a Darwinian sense) tendencies of the atoms composing the "gross" and palpable animal frame, to hurry on at a particular period in a certain course of Kosmic changes; and (b) to so weaken the concrete action of that animal frame as to make it more amenable to the power of the Will. To defeat an army, you must demoralize and throw it into disorder....

The aspirant to longevity then...must beware especially of impure and animal thoughts. For Science shows that thought is dynamic, and thought-force evolved by nervous action expanding outwardly, must affect the molecular relations of the physical man....

To do this then, is the real object of all rites, ceremonies, fasts, "prayers," meditations, initiations and procedures of self-discipline enjoined by various esoteric Eastern sects.

The wayward life of the teenagers in India, is a cause of grave concern. Piali Banerjee and Somit Sen give a graphic description of the deplorable state of the younger generation (Sunday Times of India, January 11). Thus:

Beginning with cheating, and going on to shoplifting, stealing money, car theft, rash driving, vandalising, kidnapping for ransom, and sometimes even indulging in prostitution or the stray murder, teenagers today seem to be driving down the fast lane of crime without a glance in the review mirror. Greed is God on the college campus, while the world outside is a big object of youthful desire, whether it's the Big Apple, big bucks or the big kicks of life....

Psychologists point out that teens today are more like adults. They know their rights and have wrested liberties for themselves that were till recently associated with older generations. College girls shrug that no one at home minds if they walk in at 4 a.m.—something for which the previous generation would probably have had hell to pay....

The solution, say counsellors, lies in communication, and more communication. Since the consumerist clock can't be turned back now, the best way forward for parents is through "talking, talking, talking, to their kids."

Society must play its role too—in leading by experience. "When children see adults achieving success through crooked means, and these same adults being feted by society, naturally, their belief in values goes down one more notch," says counsellor Anjali Chhabria.

In a way, the life of teenagers is a mirror of our civilization, with its consumerism, free play to sexual passions, self-centredness, etc. Ever-increasing consumerism, materialism, sexual perversion are all indications of "desire principle" going out of control. The solution lies partly in the adults setting an example. H.P.B. describes our present race thus:

As we are in the mid-point of our sub-race of the Fifth Root Race—the acme of materiality in each—therefore the animal propensities, though more refined, are not the less developed for that: and they are so chiefly in civilized countries. (S.D., I, 611)

She describes graphically the state of civilization in the 19th century, and the same is applicable to our present civilization. Thus:

As civilization progresses, moral darkness pervades....The chosen symbol of our boasted civilization ought to be a huge boa constrictor. Like that monstrous ophidian, with its velvety black and brilliant golden-hued spots, and its graceful motions, civilization proceeds insidiously, but as surely, to crush in its deadly coils every high aspiration, every noble feeling, aye, even to the very discrimination of right and wrong.

Conscience, "God's vicegerent in the soul," speaks no longer in man; for the whispers of the still small voice within are stifled by the ever-increasing din and roar of Selfishness. (Lucifer, August 1888)

What is the best method for reforming the criminals? The World and I (December 2003) carries a Special Report discussing the efficacy of rehabilitation, incarceration (imprisonment) and religious rehabilitation programmes—regarded as the three alternatives. The United States locks up its citizens at a rate of 700 per 10,000, and leads the world in incarceration. It has been found that it is not the most effective way to deter crime. Increase in incarceration is not matched by a corresponding drop in crime. In fact some critics suggest that high incarceration of adults may produce socially destabilizing results—affecting family stability and child supervision—in turn sustaining high rates of crime. Unfortunately, prisons, which seek to improve the character of prisoners, tend to degrade it instead, as they lack empathy and self-control. "How can inmates learn to empathize with the rights, needs, and feelings of others and not view their fellow citizens as mere objects to be exploited or harmed when so many of the guards regard them as objects of gratification, derision and contempt?" Prisons are taking refuge in the conclusion of the research finding—30 years ago—that "nothing works." Recent scholarly literature has challenged the "nothing works" conclusions, claiming that rehabilitative programmes can have a positive impact. Religious rehabilitation programmes have met only with partial success. It is felt that there is no simple solution to the problem.

H.P.B. warns against the "nothing works" attitude, as she writes: "Selfishness, indifference, and brutality can never be the normal state of the race—to believe so would be to despair of humanity—and that no Theosophist can do" (The Key to Theosophy, p. 233). Moreover, measures taken should be restrictive and not punitive. No lasting reform can be achieved unless human nature is changed. She writes:

Make men feel and recognize in their innermost hearts what is their real, true duty to all men, and every old abuse of power, every iniquitous law in the national policy, based on human, social or political selfishness, will disappear of itself. Foolish is the gardener who seeks to weed his flower-bed of poisonous plants by cutting them off from the surface of the soil, instead of tearing them out by the roots. (The Key to Theosophy p. 229)

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