In the Light of Theosophy

Universes appear and disappear in an endless cycle of birth and death and rebirth. There is no beginning; there is no end. It is an old idea now getting fresh attention, writes Marcus Chown in his article "Cycles of Creation." (New Scientist, March 16):

What happened before the big bang? According to two cosmologists, before the big bang there was another big bang. And, before that, another. "If we are right," says Neil Turok of the University of Cambridge, "the big bang is but one in an infinite series of big bangs stretching back into the eternal past." And into the eternal future...

If both expanding and re-collapsing universes are permitted, it's a simple step to imagine the one changing seamlessly into the other. From the big crunch the Universe would bounce or rebound in a new big bang and the whole cycle would begin again....

Stars, galaxies and life may therefore have existed in previous cycles of the Universe. But, if the cycles are all identical, wouldn't such endless repetition be mind-numbingly dull? Turok and Steinhardt [of Princeton University] think not, because random events will change the details each time. You won't get the same galaxies, planets and people each cycle." Just because the cycles repeat does not mean the events in each cycle are identical," says Turok..."The laws of physics could change from cycle to cycle."

Many speculations have been made by present-day investigators about the age of the Universe and of our own Earth; yet the truth of the matter has been known to the Orientals for untold thousands of years. Modern astronomers are invited to check up their own data with the astronomical and other computations given by Manu and the ancient Hindu Puranas, which are almost identical with those taught in Esoteric Philosophy. They are summarized and reproduced in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, pages 67-70. As stated by H.P.B., the ages prior to the farthest date to which documentary record extends is now generally regarded by Anthropology as but "the earliest distinctly visible point of the pre-historic period."

It is with those specified "Ages" that we shall begin. They are "prehistoric" to the naked eye of matter only. To the spiritual eagle eye of the seer and the prophet of every race, Ariadne's thread stretches beyond that "historic period" without break or flaw, surely and steadily, into the very night of time; and the hand which holds it is too mighty to drop it, or even let it break. Records exist, although they may be rejected as fanciful by the profane; though many of them are tacitly accepted by philosophers and men of great learning, and meet with an unvarying refusal only from the official and collective body of orthodox science.

The idea that the universe is a continuous creation bears out The Secret Doctrine assertion, made way back in 1888, regarding "the Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically 'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing.'..."

Recent developments in science have brought about a dramatic change in our understanding of the cosmic landscape. It is now realized that the Universe is constantly unfolding. Against this backdrop, religion seems to be pitted against science, writes T. K. Datta (The Times of India, June 15):

In fact, it appears that science has made religion intellectually implausible. Many feel that science rules out the existence of a personal God. Others think that the theory of evolution makes the entire idea of divine providence implausible.

Is religion really opposed to science? The answer, perhaps, lies in how one perceives the relationship between the two....According to an American theology professor, J. F. Haught, there are four different ways of describing this relationship. The first way is the belief that science and religion are fundamentally opposed to each other....The second way is that of contrast....The third is the contact approach. It tries to establish meaningful interaction and dialogue between the two....The fourth way is the confirmation approach. The advocates of this approach propose that religion is supportive of the entire scientific enterprise....Science, no less than religion, is a quest for unified knowledge.

Religion, taken as a confirmation of the trust in limitless rationality of the real, will not obstruct; it will only promote the work of science.

The two divine abstractions, true religion and true science, Theosophy insists, are and must be one. They are mutually complementary. The irrational and the irrelevant in religion are of course bound to be weakened by the impact of the scientific spirit. At the same time, science is certainly less materialistic today than it used to be. The dogmatism of a few generations ago, both of scientists and theologians, is giving way to a more liberal spirit; and all who are searching earnestly for truth are considered to be worshippers at the same shrine.

R. Chidambaram's views on "The Culture of the Indian Scientist" are published in Bhavan's Journal for May 15. An eminent Indian scientist, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Adviser to the Prime Minister, Chidambaram addresses the question: What makes a great scientist?

The distributed belief in the validity among scientists from all parts of the world gives rise, in fact, to a kind of Universal Consciousness, not usually found among the practitioners of social sciences like economics or politics. The concepts of the wave-particle duality introduced by Quantum Mechanics and of the conversion of mass into energy and vice versa by the Special Theory of Relativity, both introduced in the early part of the 20th century, had also deep philosophical implications.

In the Bagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: "Whatever inspires you as radiantly beautiful and mightily and truly powerful, recognize it as an aspect of my splendour."

In most scientists, this statement strikes a resonant chord. For many of them, the stability of Nature's laws, and the manifestation of these laws in various natural phenomena (many of which are still not understood), is an expression of God. Beyond that, religious perceptions (or the absence of them) vary with the individual and the cultural environment he or she is brought up in....

Einstein once said: "Most people think that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong, it is the character." This, of course, does not mean that anyone can do great science. High intellect is necessary but not sufficient; character is more important. The definition of character is, however, not easy. Character means integrity; it means pursuit of excellence within the individual's limitations, of course; it means perseverance in the face of adversity; it means commitment to national and social causes; and it means also a commitment to justice and social equity....

A true scientist has to be a Sthithaprajnya. He is an individual with an open mind, unaffected by personal inclinations. He accepts results (of experimental observations or theoretical calculations) as they come, pleasant or unpleasant. He is not swayed by emotions of elation or disappointment. He stays steadfast and uncompromising in his search for truth.

What of the scientist's responsibility to society? Cannot scientists themselves control the purposes to which their discoveries are put? This is a basic question. The scientist is also a citizen; his oft-repeated declaration that science is socially and politically neutral does not absolve him from social responsibility. But the suggestion is raised only to be dismissed. The scientist may be a citizen, but he is a powerless citizen. For one thing he has no qualifications for social interference and management. For another, if he had them, his fellow-citizens would not allow him to exercise them. Science does not change human desires or alter human purposes; it only makes it easier for men to gratify the desires they already have, to further the purposes that already seem good to them. Nor, until there is a science of human nature, will scientists as such be capable of directing these desires or of dictating these purposes.

Theosophy asserts that there is a science of human nature, which teaches "the common man" what it is that he has to control, and how he himself can and should assume responsibility for controlling the effects of science upon his life.

Four leading thinkers participated in a debate on man's relationship with nature, co-hosted by Greenpeace and New Scientist. What is "natural"? Are humans part of nature or have we risen above it? The debate raised questions about everything from the ethics of genetic engineering to whether humans can rise above the evolutionary laws. A summary of what the panelists had to say is given in New Scientist for April 27. A few excerpts follow:

Patrick Holden: I have a deep fear of deductionism and the idea that we can improve on nature with technical fixes without knowing the consequences. We are part of nature, and with that relationship should go respect, humility, and above all responsibility. In the past we've waited for evidence of harm before we've acted. That is no longer good enough. In making decisions we need to take into account the role of intuition, emotional influences, even spiritual influences—things we might not yet understand.

Aubrey Manning: I've ended up with an absolutist position that everything is natural....I don't think you can draw the line. The tragedy of the present inbalance between human numbers and the demand for resources is that so often human beings are put in direct conflict with the rest of the natural world. Unless we can achieve a balance again, we're not going to get anywhere. We are unique in the sense that we have that ability to be responsible. That doesn't make us unnatural.

Richard Dawkins: Popular views of nature often regard it as benign and self-preserving until man comes along with his unnatural greed and ruins it. But this disagreeable quality of ours is not new, is not peculiar to us. This doesn't make it good. On the contrary, it's something to be fought against. All animals look after their short-term interests. Homo sapiens is the only species that can rebel against the otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse. We are Earth's last best hope. Our brains follow their own rules, which can rise above the rules of natural selection.

What is peace? Is it just a situation in which there is no war between nations? People in general, as also most world leaders and international organizations, seem to think so; but this is a negative attitude, writes B. K. Ashima Sachdeva (Purity, June 2002):

By defining light as the "absence of darkness" or, life as the "absence of death," we assign greater importance to the powers of darkness and death, or in the case of peace, to war, rather than peace....The challenge today is in creating peace, and not in appreciating peace as a concept. And this cannot be done if we keep concentrating on destruction.

It's time now to literally construct peace. But, peace is intangible. Peace is not just a feeling or a state of being. It is not just something that one would achieve only during long hours of prayers or meditation. And it is certainly not end-of-war alone. So, what is it?

Peace is life itself. It is our original religion. It is like an eternal spring within us....Peace is a natural instinct and if we wish to construct a peaceful world, then all we've got to do, is to let it manifest in our lives....

If the mind has been conditioned to think positively and peacefully, it will have a similar effect on its connections with others. This explains the tangibility of peace in an individual's life....

To achieve peace, three things have to be borne in mind: that peace is our natural religion; that all that we do affects those who surround us; and that to recharge our pure energies, we need to connect to the Supreme Source.

A life operating on these three laws of peace will tangibly transform everything to a peaceful state and recreate the one culture that we all wish to re-establish in the world—that is, the culture of peace.

Peace is a positive condition of individual and social consciousness which is conducive to healthy, joyful and progressive activities, leading to a life which is more and more human and less and less beastly, and to the establishment of the law of truth and non-violence as the basis of life.

Peace can come only after a long and intense striving for a total change, change in our ideas of culture, change of social institutions and of man himself; in other words, a change from the law of violence and competition to the law of non-violence and mutual aid. It is a change necessary for the prevention and solution of conflicts in future and the establishment of a new creative order where the good of all and not the greatest good of the greatest number will be the goal.

In the words of Spinoza: "Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice."

The biblical saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone," might seem like a hackneyed cliché to some, yet it is profoundly true.

The Dalai Lama's views on love as the foundation of human existence contain food for thought. (Sunday Times of India, June 16):

The reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply because our nature cherishes them above all else. They result from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skilful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.

Interdependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings which, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual co-operation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence....

We have to consider what we human beings really are....Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require....From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others is vital for our happiness.

I recall meeting scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high—around 12 percent of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not lack of material necessities but deprivation of the affection of others.

I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that—although some modern schools of thought seek to do so—human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.

Every thought leaves a seed in the mind or manas of the thinker, no matter how fugitive the thought was. The whole sum of such small seeds will go to make up a larger seed for thought, and thus constitute a man of this, that, or the other general character. Thoughts, then, are highly important, for, as the Buddha said, we are made up of thought and built of thought; as we think, so we act and will act, and as we act and think so will we suffer or rejoice, and the whole world with us.

—W. Q. Judge

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