"Scientists have solved [or so they claim] the deepest mysteries of the cosmos. So why are they still confused?" asks William Underhill (Newsweek, October 20). Scientists hold on to the big bang theory and estimate the age of the Universe to be 13.7 billion years. Dr. Jeffrey Weeks, a mathematician in New York, argues that our Universe resembles a hall of mirrors with 12 sides. The universe is getting bigger all the time and the process of expansion has accelerated since the big bang. Such ever-increasing expansion has been attributed to a new mysterious force called "dark energy" that drives the galaxies apart against gravity, which is contrary to the expectations of the scientists. According to the "big crunch" theory, as the momentum of big bang lessened, the universe would begin to collapse. However, now the scientists at Dartmouth college have proposed still another theory: the "big rip." Eventually, the ever-growing power of dark energy will rip apart everything from galaxies to individual atoms.
What is the universe made of? It is believed to be made of "mysterious theoretical stuff" called dark matter, which in turn is comprised of "dark matter particles," designated WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) that do not reflect light.
H.P.B. mentions in The Secret Doctrine that scientists are looking for a homogeneous basis for apparently widely different things. Metaphysicians postulate "One Form of Existence" as the basis and source of all things (S.D., I, 46). However, this homogeneous matter cannot be discovered on our plane. She writes:
Theosophy affirms the 12-faced (Dodecahedron) shape of the universe. Thus:
There have been numerous tales of Near-Death-Experiences (NDEs), such as travels down tunnels and encounters with angels or deceased loved ones. These were dismissed at first by doctors as hallucinations caused by changes in the dying brain. But such hallucinations could only occur if the brain maintained some function. Could a dead brain hallucinate? "That apparent paradox—that perceptions occur during NDEs when there is no functioning of brain through which to perceive them—has scientists, theologians and ordinary folks groping for answers," writes Anita Bartholomew. (Reader's Digest, Indian ed., October 2003)
Scientists are led to believe that consciousness is independent of brain. Could consciousness be in every cell of the body? Dutch cardiologist, Pim van Lommel observes: "Each day, 50 billion cells die....This intensive cell turnover means that, eventually, almost all the cells that make up 'me' or 'you' are new. And yet we don't perceive ourselves as being different from what we always were." He is of the opinion that cells making up different organs of the body form a network and "talk" to one another, which may account for our continuity of consciousness—in spite of daily destruction of the cells.
NDEs have forced the scientists to reconsider questions such as: What is death? Where is the consciousness? Can science find the soul? If mind persists after the brain is dead, is it proper to transplant organs from the "brain-dead"?
According to Theosophy, every atom has consciousness and every cell in the body receives and gives out impressions. Thus:
As regards the function of the brain-cells H.P.B. observes:
Our forests and wildlife are facing a crisis and it appears that humans are to be blamed for that. We are uncaring and exploitative. "We kill and maim without remorse, almost as a form of mob entertainment. The Romans did a bit of that 2000 years ago, but that was less horrific than our blood sport," writes Valmik Thapar. (Sanctuary Asia, August 2003)
We are responsible for the vanishing wildlife, and destruction of forests. We have turned uncaring and have become very selfish and self-centred. We do not hesitate to fight our colleagues, neighbours and friends. Valmik Thapar writes:
Man is responsible for the evolution of the lower kingdoms. He has to raise "the entire mass of manifested matter up to the nature, stature and dignity of conscious godhood." The Voice of the Silence says, "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance."
It is hard to believe that slavery exists in the 21st century. Andrew Cockburn narrates the story of "27 million people worldwide who are bought and sold, held captive, brutalized, exploited for profit" (National Geographic, September 2003). There are more slaves today than were seized during four centuries of African slave trade.
An Editorial comment in the same issue of National Geographic cites the example of a ten-year-old boy, who winds thread 14 hours a day for looms in Kanchipuram. His fingers bleed and his body is being poisoned by dye. "Thousands of child slaves work in India's silk industry."
Slavery is not unique to India but is spread all over the globe. Annual contribution by slaves to the global economy is estimated to be 13 billion dollars. There is "a large network which uses Internet and bank accounts." Women to be used in the flesh trade are categorized (qualitywise) and their price could be negotiated. Stringent restrictions on legal migration to countries promising employment is partly responsible for making the buying and selling of people a profitable business. Trafficking mafias and smugglers have been bringing people into Western Europe from Moscow and so also from Central America to U.S.A. "In Brazil slaves make charcoal used to manufacture steel for automobiles and other machinery; in Myanmar slaves harvest sugarcane and other agricultural products; in China child slaves manufacture fireworks; in Sierra Leone slaves mine diamonds. Slave labour has also been reported in the production of coffee, tea, and tobacco crops worldwide."
Slavery is a crime against humanity. "Our voice is raised for spiritual freedom, and our plea is made for enfranchisement from all tyranny." (Isis, I, x1v)
An article on "Slavery" expresses the Theosophical viewpoint thus:
"What makes you you? How does it feel to be you?" asks Graham Lawton (New Scientist, September 13). Psychologists resort to various means to measure and describe various types of personalities. However, they have not been able to answer these questions: Why do human personalities differ so much? Where does personality come from? According to the 2nd-century Greek physician Galen, personality is created by imbalances in the body's four humours: black bile (melas khole), yellow bile (khole), blood (sanguis) and phlegm—giving rise to the terms melancholic, choleric, sanguine and phlegmatic. Since the last few years, scientists are searching for a biological basis for personality. Some studies suggest that our personality is mainly determined by genes rather than by environment or upbringing.
Today, biologists divide human personality into five dimensions: "extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience." It has been found that the Lesch gene [named after Klaus-Peter Lesch]—a gene concerned with the transmission of mood-regulating chemical serotonin—exists in two different forms, "long" and "short." Anyone with at least one "short" version of this gene tends to be more neurotic and is more likely to be depressed after stressful events. This is because this version of the gene makes the brain's amygdalae—structures involved in processing fear stimuli—more sensitive. Similarly, another gene has been identified, which also comes in two forms. People with a copy of "long" form of this gene markedly display a personality trait called "novelty-seeking," equivalent to extroversion.
Many scientists are skeptical and feel that the links between genes and personality traits are not conclusive. It is felt that genetics and brain imaging cannot fully explain something as complex and human as personality. "And the distant goal of altering personality for the better isn't even on the radar screen."
Theosophy teaches that our personality is the result of the skandhas or aggregate of attributes generated by the Ego in past lives. The body includes one set of skandhas, the astral man another, and so on. These skandhas are being created from day to day, because every thought instantly combines with an elemental force and becomes an entity. The skandhas maintain a magnetic link with the Ego that evolved them. As to the link between the personality and heredity, Mr. Judge has this to say:
"Thou art That," teaches the Chandogya Upanishad. "You are what you seek," writes Suma Varughese (Life Positive, September 2003). We appreciate and accept it intellectually, but as our acts constantly belie our beliefs, doubt arises. For instance, after having taken credit for our subordinate's work, cheating on our income tax, coveting our neighbour's wife, we wonder whether "we" are that ineffable majesty and power that created us and sustains us. The purpose of the spiritual journey is to bridge the gap between "the poor miserable creature" and the "High Lord." Remove the self-doubt and the gap melts away, so that "one fine day, you wake up to find that the ineffable is clothed in you." We can extend this belief to others around us. Varughese writes:
Even when someone does behave contrary to our belief, if we hold on to that belief steadfastly—and learn to separate the sin from the sinner—we will be able to settle the matter calmly and dispassionately, without hurting anyone's self-esteem. "A creative power can be yours if you would use it. Like a gardener cultivating his plants, you will cause your people to flower."
Theosophy teaches that we are potentially divine and hence inherently perfect. But, we are what we think and it is important to have right beliefs. Mr. Crosbie writes in The Friendly Philosopher: