On the Human Condition

By Grace F. Knoche

Our Special Issue for 1992 deals with some familiar challenges we meet in our lives, not only as private persons but as vital participants in the evolutionary experience of the cosmos in which every life-form on our planet has a part to play.

For well over a century theosophic ideas have been inundating the thought-atmosphere which, circulating over the globe, is shared by all. Few have not heard of the liberating concepts of karma and reincarnation. Whoever links these with Jesus' statements that we are gods who ought to love one another and our neighbor as ourself, discovers a philosophy to live by that will withstand the turbulence of karmic impact, be it from within or impinging from without.

Yet confusion and mistrust, even despair, seem perennially to afflict so many. "Without a vision the people perish" — certainly the one-life theory has badly cramped our vision: instead of accepting our destiny as "unfinished gods" in process of developing our wondrous potential, we have succumbed to the seductive pull of matter. Little by little, as intellectual and psychic power gained dominance, pride took hold and temporarily crowded out our aspirational, diviner side. As a result, the eyes of our soul are half blinded by the glitter of the ephemeral and we wonder whether we are, after all, aliens in an alien universe.

But we are not aliens — unless we choose to cut ourself off from our divine parent — for universal wisdom affirms that we are intrinsic parts of the solar system, our bodies wrought in the furnaces of galaxies, our soul and spirit threshed from moon, sun, and stars. We need but acknowledge our ancestral bonding to know that the destiny of the cosmos is our destiny.

Given our kinship to earth and cosmos that gave us birth, why do so many carry a burden of anxiety, even guilt, born of a deep-seated sense of inadequacy? Even in those who never were tainted with the "original sin" dogma, an insidious residue lingers to cloud the nature. Still, like the proverbial silver lining, many have faith that there is a plan or design behind the cosmos; others recognize that in our frenetic need to fill our loneliness by external means, we may have alienated what we long for most: communion with our constant friend, our higher self, companion of ages. Sacred traditions — whether preserved in stone, scripture, or lore — emphasize the one salient truth: that consciousness, order, harmony, divinity is the source and origin of every living being; and that our physical bodies are transient, dissipating at death into myriads of atoms.

Has any of this meaning for us today? I think it has. In the last decade an elite group of scientific minds, drawn from several disciplines, have been in the throes of giving birth to a radically "new science" — of Chaos. (Cf. Sunrise (38:1), Oct/Nov 1988, I. M. Oderberg's review article " 'Chaos' — A New Science?," pp. 13-18) As one of them, Douglas Hofstadter, put it: "It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a fa\ccade of order — and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order."

Theosophically speaking, this is a thrilling conception, a metaphor not alone for the human family, but for every kingdom of lives: Is there an atom in space not born of chaos and destined to become a cosmos — be it small or large — where order, beauty, complexity of arrangement in ever more intricate patterns bring forth its latent potential? In Greek mythology Chaos, oldest of the gods, is a vast, unformed and unorganized expanse, prior to the creation of cosmos and the birth of Eros, Love, which in turn brought forth all the other gods (Hesiod's Theogony, 116). In theosophy chaos stands for pre-cosmic undifferentiated matter, the "kosmic storehouse of all the latent or resting seeds of beings" awaiting the karmic moment when the universe-to-be with its families of lives emerges from Darkness into Light (the derivation of chaos suggests the expansion and contraction of the Hebrew Qabbalah and the outbreathing and inbreathing of Brahma of the Hindus, as the word is traced back to an old Greek root cha — from which both chaino, to yawn, open wide (cf. ginnungagap or yawning void of the Edda), and chandano, to hold, contain, come. Cf. G.dePurucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, 2nd ed., pp. 367-8; also Fountain-Source of Occultism, pp. 70-3): chaos into cosmos, cosmos into chaos, again into cosmos — a perennial tidal flux, ebb, and reflux assuring the appearance and disappearance of countless universes as "manifesting stars" and "sparks of Eternity." (Cf. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:16)

What part of us is chaos, what part cosmos? And is the emergence of order out of chaos and vice versa cyclic with each life-form, the flow and ebb of kinetic energy within an atom of a newt as significant to it as that energy is to a galactic atom in a cluster of galaxies? The revolutionary science of Chaos — viewing the universe through a totally different lens — is rediscovering that "universal elements of motion" are inbuilt in every system, regardless of scale, in every part of the cosmos; that "universality," in fact, is a constant.

To the nonspecialist, Hofstadter's statement is a beautiful reminder that just below the seemingly endless chaos of personal and global tensions there is order, beauty, and a harmony that is universally present in all; given space and encouragement it will surface. By the same token, lurking below the order or karma of our lives is always the unexpected, the wild, the irrational — "randomness" or "chance," scientists call it. This is the blessing of the unexpected evolutionary surges that shock us out of our grooves, our habitual thought-patterns. Were there no growth impulses, entropy, disintegration, and death would follow before their time. Assuredly there is a cosmic design so beautifully architectured that our divine essence in the very deeps of ourselves is bonded with the divine essence of the cosmos — call it the Unutterable, God, or Brahman — the source of beauty and order, life and consciousness. Truly, we are part chaos, part cosmos.

Our present assignment as human beings, then, is quietly and purposefully to transform despair into hope, grief into acceptance, discord into harmony, corruption into honor and integrity, hate into love and, so very close to many these days, to resolve disease into healing of spirit if not of body, and know death as a friend — nature's gift of renewal to those leaving and those remaining.

Clearly, fresh light on every aspect of the human condition is universally needed, and whereas no one has the ultimate solvent, it is hoped that our readers will find stimulus in our contributors' sympathetic and perceptive handling of these more intimate areas of our common evolutionary experience.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1992; copyright © 1992 Theosophical University Press)


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The human soul, even unconsciously, reaches out to become more like its inner self. There have always been ways of knowing through a more direct experience of eternal realities, and these, if shared, can benefit others. Science, religion, and the arts are pathways of seeing and awakening, each essential to the growth of our being. Each has its own language to record inner experience. It doesn't matter whether this is conveyed through the artist's brush, poetry, a symphony, or the camera lens. All these ways and more are involved in the greatest art — the art of living and becoming. The intuitive process of creativity is essential to life, and in its highest expression, every language of consciousness is active in the eternal moment. — John Van Mater, Jr.