In the Light of Theosophy

Hide away in each of us is a permanent record of our past, "How do we hold on to memories for a lifetime? Could our histories be inscribed in our genes?" asks Bryant Furlow (New Scientist, 15 September 2001). The popular idea among scientists has been that all experiences a person goes through from childhood on are permanently inscribed somewhere amid the billions of neurons in the brain. There are, they say, connections joining neurons up into intricate networks that can recreate sequences of brain activity days, weeks or even years later.

A handful of researchers are now suggesting a new theory—that long-lasting memories are inscribed in our brain's DNA. Perhaps, they say, we create gene-like codes in which we permanently record the blueprints of our memories. "There are still some big holes in our knowledge of how permanent stable memories form," admit the scientists, and not everyone is convinced that new genes are created in the brain.

According to Asiatic Psychology, memory is not solely a faculty of the brain or even of the whole body but must inhere in consciousness itself. There is consciousness in every atom of the physical body, hence there is also bodily memory; but as the body is only the instrument of the inner soul and this soul is dual, there are two other sets of memory independent of the body. One is that of the personality, the other belongs to the individuality. Much has been said about the problem of memory in H.P.B.'s writings, especially in her long article "Psychic and Noetic Action" (reprinted in Raja-Yoga or Occultism). Elsewhere she wrote:

Nothing that takes place, no manifestation however rapid or weak, can ever be lost from the Skandhaic record of a man's life. Not the smallest sensation, the most trifling action, impulse, thought, impression, or deed, can fade or go out from, or in the Universe. We may think it unregistered by our memory, unperceived by our consciousness, yet it will still be recorded on the tablets of the astral light. Personal memory is a fiction of the physiologist. There are cells in our brain that receive and convey sensations and impressions, but this once done, their mission is accomplished. These cells of the supposed "organ of memory" are the receivers and conveyers of all the pictures and impressions of the past, not their retainers. Under various conditions and stimuli, they can receive instantaneously the reflection of these astral images back again, and this is called memory, recollection, remembrance; but they do not preserve them....There are cases on record of long months and years of insanity, of long days of fever when almost everything done or said, was done and said unconsciously. Yet when the patients recovered they remembered occasionally their words and deeds and very fully. Unconscious cerebration is a phenomenon on this plane and may hold good so far as the personal mind is concerned. But the Universal Memory preserves every motion, the slightest wave and feeling that ripples the waves of differentiated nature, of man or the Universe. (Note in "Problems of Life," Lucifer, October 1891)

The healing power of faith has become a much discussed topic, and even doctors are now finding medical evidence that faith is a complement to medical treatment. Patients who have had extraordinary cures generally credit them to their belief in God, religion and prayer; but it is not all that simple, writes Lydia Strohl in an article reprinted from Washingtonian in Readers's Digest (October 2001, Indian ed.):

It's not just organized religion giving some patients strength, though. "Everyone has spirituality" says Reghan Foley. "it's basically what gives your life meaning."

The connection between spirit and body may be age-old, but as healing became a science, Western practitioners moved away from spirituality and religious faith. Now patient demand, coupled with scientific studies correlating faith with good health, is slowly converting a skeptical medical community. Scientific journals and many new books are taking up the subject. Doctors are attending conferences on faith and healing in increasing numbers....

Says Joe Semmes: "Healing is a movement towards wholeness—waking up to where you are, being connected to others, and loving. Spiritual growth in the time of physical collapse is tremendous."...

"Healing may come in the form of acceptance, dealing with yourself and others in a different way, maintaining a sense of peace in the face of affliction," says Diane Rehm. "Disease has a physical basis," says Howard University's Jones, a cancer survivor himself, "but there is a hierarchy: the physical level, the emotional level, the intellectual level, and the spiritual level." Jones foresees a subtle shift in medical practice, from treating disease to treating the whole person....

In other words, not faith healing, but faith in healing.

Medical science has increased life expectancy by almost two-thirds in the 20th century. But science is not the total picture. There is much more to healing than just scientific advance. Man is not merely his physical body. Both doctors and patients need to recognize this to make "total treatment"—healing of the whole man, not just his body—a reality.

Theosophy recognizes no miracles as infractions of the laws of nature, but it says that, if there be in the patient

a faith supreme and unshakable in the power of a healer, of a holy relic, of the touch of a shrine, of the waters of a well, of a pilgrimage to a certain place and a bath in some sacred river, of any given ceremonies, or repetition of charms or an amulet worn about the neck—in any of these or many more agencies that might be named, then the patient will cure himself by the sole power of his predisposed faith. (Unsigned article: "The Power to Heal" in The Theosophist, Vol. IV, p. 158)

The havoc that violence has wreaked in recent months has shaken mankind's faith in man. Hate and violence only create more hate and violence, and even though there may later be a semblance of peace, feelings of anger and hate once aroused remain deep-rooted in the human psyche—to erupt again into a fresh wave of macabre acts.

S. K. Venkatramani, writing in The Times of India (November 10, 2001) has these suggestions to offer on conquering hate and violence:

No amount of fortification, police security and physical vigilance can protect humanity from these mindless acts of violence that manifest hate and anger. Vigilance and force can pre-empt and suppress acts of violence, but they cannot ensure that the demon of violence, springing up from hate and anger, does not rear its ugly head in a remote cranny of the mind. Indeed, like a sleeping ulcer or an internal injury, it may silently gnaw away at the very core of the human mind....

To tackle the issue of violence in human society, we need to fundamentally address the source of violence, intolerance and hatred in our own minds. It is the anger, hate and violence in the microcosm of our mind that gets magnified and manifests itself as international terrorism on the macrocosm of the world....

The Cartesian mechanistic paradigm is passé. The whole is no longer the sum of the parts. In fact, the whole is contained in each one of its parts. So what is the source of this hate in our minds? Hate can spontaneously well up as an impulsive feeling in the mind. All such spontaneous impulses are the result of your having been conditioned by your own past sensory experiences. A feeling of hatred can also arise from evaluation and judgement based on your own subconscious but subtly obtrusive ego. The ego intangibly manifests itself as your deeply embedded likes and dislikes. The liking gains in fervour through experience imbibed through your own jaundiced perspective; and gradually looms into fanaticism. Your dislikes similarly snowball into intense hatred.

So it is the maya of the self that divides the world into one's own self and the other, comes with attendant emotional baggage, and sows the seeds of violence and war in the human mind....The illusory sense of the self provides a comforting cocoon of a system of beliefs and faith. Fortifying the self, it incubates the pupa of hate. Suddenly and unpredictably, a volcano of violence erupts from the cocoon. When you perceive this clearly, not as words or a concept, but like the blistering heat of fire on your skin, you will transcend hate from the innermost depths of your being.

There is hardly a word more misunderstood than "religion," writes Ajit Singh in The Times of India for October 31. throughout recorded history, there have been those who have thought, without a ripple in their conscience, that they could kill, maim, set ablaze, destroy, demolish, for the sake of their religion.

Every heinous crime [writes Ajit Singh] becomes respectable if larded with the name of religion. The great library at Alexandria was burnt down with a holy book in one hand and a burning torch in the other; the crusades were carried out to recover the holy land....The accepted form of religion has also become a subterfuge for some sections—the worthless, the fear-ridden, the greedy and the cunning....It serves their inadequacy and low self-esteem very well. Since they are not sure of anything, they behave menacingly and argue in terms of the absolute while a man of understanding always talks in terms of the relative....

There are others for whom religion, a euphemism for rites and ceremonies, is a by product of fear—fear of loneliness, of retribution, of the unknown. They are quite hollow from the inside. For them religion is a teddy bear to be hugged desperately for comfort, consolation and a protracted sense of security.

Materialist spiritualists build huge organizations and a theology and an impressive rhetoric. They convert culture into cult, spiritualism into ritualism and God into dogma....

The world outside is only an extension of the world inside. If we find ourselves closed in with hatred, misery and squalor, it is an infallible pointer to the well-entrenched wasteland inside us. Maybe it is time to define man not by his ability to hate but by his ability to love, not by his ability to hurt but by his ability to heal, not by his ability to destroy but by his ability to build.

Only an individual, that is, one not divided against oneself, can imbibe this humanizing state and claim to be religious....Religion is the symbiotic relationship between man and his environs, promising a homogenized and congenial ambience.

"Your future is in your hands, or, rather, is in your mind. What you think today determines what you become tomorrow," writes A. B. Carlson (East and West Series, Vol. 43, No. 7):

The power inherent in the mind is shamefully wasted. Only a small fraction of this mental potential is ever employed.

Many people complain about life—how they have been deprived of the things that others enjoy. And they blame it on misfortune or bad luck. Or, they blame it on other people. But the blunt fact is that, by neglecting to use his mind properly, man himself has produced that which he does not want.

To increase the efficiency of the mind, Carlson recommends the method of what he calls "inspiration," using the word in the sense of "the act of drawing in," the exercise of contemplation or meditation is another way of expressing it.

We open ourselves [remarks Carlson] to an inflow of ideas that come from a universal fountain or source of ideas....By daily opening yourself to the in-breathing of this universal mind or intelligence, you can be guided unerringly in every phase of your life. Through this process you can discover your hidden talents and start moving in the direction of your life goal.

At the outset, fifteen minutes a day should be enough to use this plan. Select the time of day that suits you the best and start putting it into effect right away, giving your attention to this thought: There is a universal intelligence that contains every idea necessary for the fulfillment of my every need. I now open my mind to the inflow of these ideas. My own talents are expressed through me easily, bringing success and prosperity into my life and affairs....Remember, of course, only wholesome, constructive ideas can come to you from this universal source, because it doesn't contain any ideas of a destructive or negative nature.

Remember too that every idea which comes to you has within itself the power to carry it out to a fruitful conclusion. This creative power within the idea enables it to express itself when you give your consent to it....

The value of this method cannot be over-emphasized. Frustration will be replaced by a sense of achievement, failure will give way to success. In fact your life will never be the same again.

People by and large fight shy of the word "meditation," though nowadays it is being increasingly used. A daily endeavour to purify and elevate the mind can indeed prove beneficial in many ways. Meditation has been defined as

silent and unuttered prayer, or, as Plato expressed it, "the ardent turning of the soul towards the divine; not to ask for any particular good (as in the common meaning of prayer), but for good itself—for the universal Supreme Good" of which we are a part on earth, and out of the essence of which we have all emerged. (The Key of Theosophy, Indian ed., p. 10)

All numbers are multiples of one, all sciences converge to a common point, all wisdom comes out of one centre, and the number of wisdom is one.


to return to the table of contents