As a young man, one remembers to have come across a statement which said - God is in Heaven and all is well with the world. Over the decades, however, observing all that has been happening in the world, one sometimes feels like putting a question mark to that statement, for all is not well with the world today or at least does not seem to be so. There are diseases which cannot be controlled, much less cured, despite all the remarkable research in modern medicine; pollution has become rampant and pervasive, both in the environment and the human mind; global and local wars have erupted time and again; weapons of destruction are more deadly and more devastating; terrorism with its ruthless killings of innocent persons is assuming international proportions, and religious fundamentalism is raising its ugly head. There is more selfishness, leading to deprivation for the underprivileged and to ruthless competition in life, in national and international trade and commerce.
One sometimes wonders whether all this is not a pointer to the world moving towards darkness, decay and an end to all that could represent basic human values of goodness and beauty in life. One begins to question - is this why the universe was created? Is there any purpose behind what is called, God's creation?
At this stage of questioning and doubt, comes to one's mind a statement one had come across in "At the Feet of the Master" many years ago - that God has a plan and that plan is evolution; that this plan is so beautiful, so glorious that once a person has seen it, he cannot help working for it, making himself or herself one with it. Recollection of this positive statement gives some comfort, revives some hope and one begins to seriously think further what is it all about; is there really a purpose, a plan behind this creation and what is our place and role therein?
A theosophist is an optimist and, therefore, explores further. As a result, he or she is able to discover many encouraging statements, many references to evolution, to the onward march of creation and of individual human beings, who are an indivisible part of that creation and therefore affect it by their attitudes and conduct in life. One finds that Madame Blavatsky and others, in their writings, have dwelt extensively on the divine plan for human progression and perfection. There are also statements to say that while this plan is orderly, it does not progress vertically; it moves in cycles or in spirals. It has been referred to as 'a tremendous gyratory progress'. In "The Secret Doctrine", H.P. Blavatsky states that the whole order of Nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life and that there is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. She then adds that the purpose of evolution, so far as human beings are concerned, is the spiritual evolution or unfoldment of the inner immortal being.
Looking at the index to "The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett", one finds about eighteen references to evolution. Letter No. 9 states at one point:
Propelled by the irresistible cyclic impulse the planetary spirit has to descend before he can reascend. On his way, he has to pass through the whole ladder of Evolution, missing no rung, to halt at every star world as he would at a station.
This onward movement towards goodness and beauty has been referred to in the spiritual traditions in various ways. To mention only two:
The Muslim Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, after tracing evolution from the mineral to man, proceeds further to a stage where 'I shall be that one which no mind ever conceived', and refers to it as a state of non-existence, where one ceases to be a separate entity and merges in consciousness with the One and therefore sees all life as one whole.
"The Revelation" of St. John taken in a larger time-frame says:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away...And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them.
That the universe is not just a fortuitous concurrence of atoms, but seems to be imbued with, and guided and governed by a superior intelligence, is now being discerned by some of the modern scientists also. They marvel at the intricate homeostatic processes that regulate and control the chemical balance of the oceans, soils and atmosphere, the complex and yet finely tuned functioning of life in all its manifestation and the orderly movement of innumerable spheres in this vast cosmos. In a now well-known statement, Einstein mentioned that his religious feeling took the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law which revealed an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all man's systematic thinking and acting was an utterly insignificant reflection. It seems to be sound common sense to infer that this superior intelligence or 'pervasive mind' biologist George Wald speaks of, would not be functioning without a sensible purpose. That despite some apparent setbacks to this movement towards the true, the good and the beautiful, it will go on unhindered is brought out in passages in "The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett". In Letter No. 48, the Mahatma refers to 'the streaks of twilight, upon the Eastern sky, at morning's early dawn, after a night of darkness; the aurora of a more "spiritually intellectual" cycle'. And in Letter No. 23, He asserts: 'Nor do we feel in any way concerned about the revival of our ancient arts and high civilization, for these are as sure to come back in their time, and in a higher form...Fear not;...The Keepers of the sacred light did not safely cross so many ages but to find themselves wrecked on the rocks of modern scepticism. Our pilots are too experienced sailors to allow us (to) fear any such disaster.'
Mystic poet Gerald Hopkins captures the certainty of a beneficent Presence thus, in one of his poems, 'God's Grandeur', quoted in an article by Elsie Hamilton in the June 1995 issue of "The Theosophist":
There lives the dearest freshness
deep down things;
... ... ...
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and
with ah! bright wings
An important point that comes out in almost all the references to the divine plan for human progression and perfection is the stress invariably laid therein on the need for us, human beings, to co-operate consciously with that plan by rising above the separative self with its self-centered desires, and moving towards a life of larger love, of service and of dedication to the good of mankind.
Evolution is thus linked with our consciously seeking the welfare of the rest of mankind - indeed all life. In the "Bhagavadgita" one on the upward path of yoga, is seen as working for the welfare of the whole world. Christ asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Buddha laid stress on compassion - love all life like a mother who loves her child, her only child. The Buddhist teaching goes even further, for a true Buddhist is expected to grow so much in selflessness and love for others that he or she renounces nirvana for oneself and seeks to labor on till all are able to attain that blissful state.
Nobody should, therefore, be led to believe that because evolution is bound to go on, one need not stir oneself and thus remain indifferent to the present-day ills of society, making no effort to correct the distortions that have surfaced in the life of the world. As Madame Blavatsky puts it, the burden of 'co-operative work with nature' has been cast on each one of us. Hence, the sluggards will lag behind, while the worst, she warns, 'the failures of nature - will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family, without even leaving a trace behind'.
Mankind has been bestowed with freedom to think and act, but not the freedom to override or thwart the Great Will which moves to the good. Both mythology and history tell us that evil has never ultimately triumphed, and therefore, mankind's aberrations at any point of time, like those we observe in the world today, are only like flitting clouds in a vast sky; even like whirlpools, froth and foam on the surface of a large river which continues to flow on inexorably towards its destination - to be one with the great ocean of bliss, from which it had risen originally as vaporous clouds.
Mr. Surendra Narayan, former Vice-President of the Theosophical Society, resides at its International Headquarters in Adyar.