Researchers claim that they are making great strides in extending the human life-span. Living past 120 with the aid of medicines is now considered more than a possibility. Such attempts at prolonging life, however, are attracting their fair share of controversy and criticism. The law of science, the critics say, is not the law of the good but the law of the possible, and its loyalty is not to humanity but to its own truth.
Dr. Donald B. Louria of the New Jersey Medical School and director of the Healthful Life Project has this to say (The Futurist, January-February 2002):
Common sense would suggest that excessive population growth could have some very unpleasant consequences. At some point, the number of people may become so large that it exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet, making life miserable for the vast majority of humans (and impossible for many other species), even sowing the seeds for our own destruction.
It is indeed the quality of life of the aged that matters more than lengthening the life-span. Aging has many aspects. In a sense, it begins before birth and is more or less predetermined for each one. The occult side of the question is hinted at by Mr. Judge in The Ocean of Theosophy (Chapter IV). The body, he says, is subject to physical, physiological and psychical laws which govern the race of man as a whole. "Hence its period of possible continuance can be calculated just as the limit of tensile strain among the metals used in bridge building can be deduced by the engineer."
It is a duty we owe to the body which is ours under Karma to keep it in good working condition as long as possible through natural means; e.g., through applications of the principle of the "middle way"—moderation in all things pertaining to individual existence, whether it be in eating, or sleeping, or work, or recreation. But clinging to bodily existence so common in our day reflects the failure to understand the purpose of life, the soul's immortality and the function of the body as a tabernacle of the dweller within. To make of the dwelling a primary entity and to prolong its existence by all manner of means appears to be a reversal of the natural state of things—though of course allowing the body to decay prematurely would imply the neglect of an obligatory duty. If the idea of many lives for the soul is grasped and this life is regarded as only one in a long series of such existences, there is immediately seen a higher purpose than physical survival, or life-at-any-cost.
While some scientists the world over are pressing ahead with plans to duplicate human beings, there are others who are gravely concerned over the prospect of cloned human embryos becoming a reality. "It's inevitable that someone will try, and someone will succeed," predicts Dolores Lamb, an American infertility expert. Many biotechnologists agree that, within a few years, news will break of the birth of the first human clone.
An article reproduced from Time in Reader's Digest (March 2002, Indian ed.) makes some scary predictions:
The meaning of what it is to be human—which until now has involved the mysterious melding of two people's DNA—will shift forever. And the conversation that has occupied ethicists for years, about how much man should mess with nature when it comes to reproduction, will drop onto every kitchen table, pulpit and politician's desk.
Attention is invited to the item on human cloning in "In the Light of Theosophy" for March 2002. As stated there, the issue of what it is to be human requires primary consideration. Are scientists who recognize no more than the physical mechanics of human reproduction competent to make experiments whose consequences might prove disastrous for us and for future generations? The risks, both immediate and long-term, are mind-boggling.
From the beginning of time there has been light. In all its forms, visible and invisible, it saturates the universe. Our lives are built around it; our daily existence is continuously shaped by it. But what exactly is light? Joel Achenbach writes in National Geographic (October 2001):
Light reveals the world to us. Body and soul crave it. Light sets our biological clocks. It triggers in our brains the sensations of colour. Light feeds us, supplying the energy for plants to grow. It inspires us with special effects like rainbows and sunsets. Light gives us life-changing tools, from incandescent bulbs to lasers and fibre optics. Scientists don't fully understand what light is....A wave? A particle? Yes, the scientists say. Both....Usually, though, we don't see light, we merely see with it.
Light sets in motion and controls all in nature, from the tiniest molecule in space to man—and not just outer light. It was discovered some time back by Russian scientists that all living things glow from within. This faint light is invisible to the eye, but it is there. Scientists are still seeking answers to many questions pertaining to light.
Fire is the father of light, light the parent of heat and air (vital air). If the absolute deity can be referred to as Darkness or the Dark Fire, the light, its first progeny, is truly the first self-conscious god. For what is light in its primordial root but the world-illuminating and life-giving deity? Light is that, which from an abstraction has become a reality. No one has ever seen real or primordial light; what we see is only its broken rays or reflections, which become denser and less luminous as they descend into form and matter. (Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, p. 115)
The fears that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11 have proved paralyzing for some. For others, the anxiety has led to extreme overreactions. In time, such fears can be put to constructive use if we do not let them defeat us, says Ohio State University's Brad Schmidt, an expert on fear (Psychology Today, January/February 2002):
Psychologists study many kinds of fear. There are common phobias, such as the fear of spiders, and post-traumatic stress, the fears that spring from memories of dramatic, sometimes life-threatening events....In particular, psychologists will look for symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, which creates an exaggerated fear response in people who have been emotionally scarred....
Fear is a psychological inhibition and has to be exorcised by real knowledge. It is an emotion which affects the will, weakens thought and causes emotional upsets. Here in India there are fears of different kinds: the fear of Pakistanis, the fear of the Hindus on the part of the Muslims and vice versa, the fear of one State getting hold of the trade and industries of another State, and so on and so forth. Men and women individually are fearful of their own security, their life and possessions.
Yet there is a higher aspect of fear, hinted at in the Old Testament saying: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." But whether we mean by the word "Lord" the Inner Ruler or some outside force or authority makes all the difference in our understanding of this saying. One of the names of Maheshwara, the Great Lord seated in the heart of each, is "the admonisher," according to the Gita. This admonisher is the voice of conscience, which in its lower aspect is the accumulated experience or knowledge garnered by the senses and the lower mind, and, in its higher aspect, the voice of intuitive discernment or of Buddhi.
The indissoluble unity of the race demands that we should consider every man's troubles as partly due to ourselves, because we have been always units in the race and helped to make the conditions which cause suffering.