In the Light of Theosophy

The "Call of the Time" group—a world forum instituted by the Brahma Kumaris—met in New York this September for a week of presentations and workshops. Their closing Declaration on the "Inner State and the Outer State of the World" makes some salient points. It states among other things:

It is becoming increasingly evident that the "outer state" of the world is just the mirror image of the "inner state" of its citizens. As the inner is the outer, this calls for new solutions to world problems—solutions whose point of departure must be the transformation of the mind, soul, heart, values and beliefs. The limits of "manipulating the outer" have been reached, notwithstanding the importance of many outer elements of our lives. Thus, if peace is to be attained, we must start with inner peace. If social coherence is to be achieved, inner coherence is the point of departure. If crime is to be eliminated, we must eradicate crime from our minds. If world stability is needed, we must start by inner stability. We cannot offer the "supermarket solutions" to the world problem any longer. Peace will be sold in these markets.

The inner solutions are holistic and all-embracing and, therefore, when we easily assert our rights we cannot fail in accepting our corresponding responsibilities. When technology enables us to amplify and broadcast the cries of the world's people, it must also help us listen to people. When we act in response to our individual interest, we must also be deeply concerned with the collective (or public) interest—the needs of others. When we strive for material prosperity, we must also strive for spiritual prosperity....

The key responsibility and fundamental need is to change ourselves first. Change will start when we focus on our inner transformation. This is a very concrete and practical guide to changing the state of the world in which we live....On the personal front, we have to reach towards the highest values and a deep respect for life in its several forms. We must love and respect each and every one and enliven our own lives, for example, with the cultural and ethnic diversity that is with us on this planet. Inner transformation and outer transformation are part of the same wheel of life in all its forms and manifestations, including economics, finance and development. (Purity, October 2000)

In brief, we are the architects of our own future. We are all interconnected in a global community of seekers of common interests. World leaders are so preoccupied with the outer state of the world that the inner state of the individuals making up that world is hardly ever thought of. The needed transformation is within our reach and we cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

It is now a matter of common knowledge that sleep is not just an interval of quiet rest, but is filled with intense mental activity. Research over the past several years has led scientists to new findings on the function of sleep. The latest among the theories is that sleep can improve memory and enhance learning. Some experts say the findings are "stunning," others are unconvinced; yet the dispute has created quite a stir in the scientific community. (The Sunday Times, London)

The latest research comes from a team led by Pierre Maquet at the University of Liege, in Belgium, using a Pet scanner to monitor brain activity before and during sleep. The volunteers were taught to perform a computer task before going to sleep. It was found that their skill improved after a night's sleep. What is more, while the volunteers were sleeping their brains showed patterns of activity very similar to those when they were awake and performing the keyboard task. This may be evidence, say the researchers, that sleep plays a role in strengthening memories.

Similar studies were carried out in America by Robert Stickgold, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, and the results were almost identical to those of the Belgian studies. To find out exactly what part of the sleep cycle was important, the student volunteers were monitored in a sleep laboratory. Sleep researchers recognize two main types of sleep—rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, so called because of the flickering eye movements taking place (which is mainly when we dream), and the deeper kind called "slow wave" sleep. The study showed that students performed best only when allowed to have both during the course of a night. Other researchers say that it is really the "slow-wave" sleep or deep sleep that is essential for learning.

Professor Stickgold believes his research provides more proof that the brain is tracing out memories as we sleep, strengthening them overnight. Anyone trying to learn a skill, he says, "really needs a good sleep after intensive studying or training." Although the research is far from complete, there are many who believe the findings hold important clues to the role of sleep.

Theosophy has always asserted that the states of consciousness during sleep are an extension of the waking state. Consciousness continues to function in the dream state and in the dreamless state. Freed from the trammels of the senses and organs, the consciousness assimilates the experiences of the waking state and gains the benefits and knowledge of Sushupti or deep sleep.

Scientists are so preoccupied with the theory that it is certain structures in the brain that are reactivated during sleep, that the nature and function of real sleep activity remains terra incognita to them. The key to what is still an unsolved mystery to science is knowledge of man's dual nature—the existence of an immortal Ego, the inner man (not to be confused with the Higher Self), which acts independently during the sleep of the body. The dim recollection we might have of experiences of this inner man during the hours of sleep becomes more or less distorted by our physical memory at the moment of awakening.

Research into the relationship between sight and sound is continuing apace. A new study shows that sound can help direct visual attention. Dr. John J. McDonald and his colleagues report in the British journal Nature (October 19) the results of their study at the University of California at San Diego. People were more accurate at detecting a flash of light when a sound was produced at the same location, suggesting that sound can help direct visual attention. It will be interesting to see, say the researchers, what happens to the ability to pay attention when one of the senses does not function as well as it should, as in a person who is blind or hearing impaired. They also noted that research into the relationship between sight and sound could affect the way we look at people with attention disorders—those who have a hard time paying attention. In some people, the researchers say, the problem may stem from hearing or sight deficits, or in relating sight and sound together.

The many ramifications of the sight-sound relationship are now receiving due attention. Many sensitive people see a colour for every sound. "It is sound which produces the colour, and not the opposite," says H.P.B. ("Occult Vibrations," The Path, June 1893). In Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (p. 44), she further explains:

In the Eastern philosophy, the sense of sound is the first manifested, and next the sense of sight, sounds passing into colours. Clairvoyants can see sounds and detect every note and modulation far more distinctly than they would by the ordinary sense of sound—vibration, or hearing....Such vibrations can be seen at a greater distance than they can be heard....

One sense must certainly merge at some point into the other. So also sound can be translated into taste. There are sounds which taste exceedingly acid in the mouths of some sensitives, while others generate the taste of sweetness; in fact the whole scale of senses is susceptible of correlattions....

The senses are interchangeable once we admit correlation. Moreover they can all be intensified or modified very considerably. You will now understand the reference in the Vedas and Upanishads, where sounds are said to be perceived.

The notion that tiny creatures like parasites are an immensely dominant force might seem disturbing to many. Scientists are just beginning to discover exactly how powerful these hidden inhabitants can be for every ecosystem on Earth. Discover magazine (August 2000) prints an article adapted from Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex, which gives an inkling of the role parasites play:

Scientists have no idea of the exact number of species of parasites, but they do know one fact: Parasites make up the majority of species on Earth. Parasites can take the form of animals, including insects, flatworms, and crustaceans, as well as protozoa, fungi, plants, and viruses and bacteria. By one estimate, parasites may outnumber free-living species four to one. Indeed, the study of life is, for the most part, parasitology.

Most of the past century's research on parasites has gone into trying to fight the ones that cause devastating illness in humans, such as malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis. But otherwise, parasites have largely been neglected. Scientists have treated them with indifference, even contempt, viewing them as essentially hitchhikers on life's road. But recent research reveals that parasites are remarkably sophisticated and tenacious and may be as important to ecosystems as the predators at the top of the food chain. Some castrate their hosts and take over their minds. Others completely shut down the immune systems of their hosts. Some scientists now think parasites have been a dominant force, perhaps the dominant force, in the evolution of life....

As scientists discover more and more parasites and uncover the extent and complexity of their machinations, they are fast coming to an unsettling conclusion: Far from simply being along for the ride, parasites may be one of nature's most powerful driving forces...and may shape an entire region's ecology.

Even after Copernicus took Earth out of the centre of the universe and Darwin took humans out of the centre of the living world, we still go through life pretending that we are exalted above other animals. Yet we know that we, too, are collections of cells that work together, kept harmonized by chemical signals. If an organism can control those signals—an organism like a parasite—then it can control us. And therein lies the peculiar and precise horror of parasites.

All this goes to show that even the most inconspicuous and primitive of organisms has its place and function—beneficial or otherwise—in the scheme of things. Scientists are realizing that their idea of how even physical nature really works needs revision. That there is more to nature than just its physical side is still beyond their ken.

Recent archaeological finds go to show that Asians were technologically advanced long before what is known as the "modern" age commenced. The evidence comes from the discovery by Chinese and American palaeoanthropologists of thousands of sophisticated stone-cutting tools in a region of southern China called the Bose basin. The tools have been dated to the time of a large meteorite impact 803,000 years ago. The significance of the find, says excavation co-leader Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, is the date. Until now, he says, it was believed that Africans made sophisticated tools long before East Asians; but now that theory has been turned upside down. (The Sunday Review, October 15)

Those who know have ever maintained that civilization has proceeded from the east westward.

Is today's young generation "going up in smoke"? A recent WHO survey of 13-15-year-olds says that one in five school-children in developing countries smokes. Nearly 25 per cent of them started the habit before the age of 10. More than half, and in some countries almost 90 per cent of them, wishes to stop the habit, and two-thirds had actually tried to do so in the 12 months before the survey. (India Today, October 9)

According to another study, reported in the American Journal of Pediatrics, teen-agers who smoke cigarettes may damage more than their lungs. They are four times more likely than non-smokers to develop symptoms of depression. The study concludes that nicotine and other by-products of cigarettes smoke have a depressive effect on the central nervous system.

The WHO report mentions that tobacco companies are now targeting developing countries as the anti-smoking lobby gets more vociferous in the industrialized nations.

The dangers of smoking, mental, moral and physical, and the millions of teen-agers who are getting addicted, are of little concern to the tobacco companies out to make a profit. Teen-age smoking, like alcohol drinking, is but a symptom of the underlying malaise of our age. It is one of several signs that all is not well with the form of civilization we are evolving.

Tobacco prohibition, however, is not the answer. Unless we go to the root of the problem it would only lead to some worse form of indulgence and increase the consumption of alcohol and sedative drugs. The right policy is educational.

As H.P.B. said: "Educate! Educate!! The children are our salvation."

Humanity only seems to progress in achieving one discovery after the other, as in truth, it only finds that which it had lost. Most of our modern inventions for which we claim such glory, are, after all, things people were acquainted with three and four thousand years back. Lost to us through wars, floods and fire, their very existence became obliterated from the memory of man. And now modern thinkers begin to rediscover them once more.


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