The Dawn of a New Age?

I. M. Oderberg
There are strong reasons for believing that there is much more to the universe than meets the eye! — P. D. B. Collins, A. D. Martin, E. J. Squires, Particle Physics and Cosmology, p. 389.

A fresh outlook upon life and the universe is emerging from modern scientific research. It is not a wholly new view, however. Some old texts and traditions imply an inner urge in the cosmos that drives the entities that compose it towards ever more perfect expressions of qualities — a view of evolution different from the theory prevalent since the mid-19th century which focused entirely upon the functions of the physical body. That materialistic concept proposed advances of faculty by means of changes originating in the body in response to needs arising out of interaction with the environment, these changes being transmitted afterwards from generation to generation. Such development of forms (transformation) does not refer to changes originating inwardly (transmutation), which came about in past time after the entities concerned desired or felt impelled to express preexisting but latent faculties and qualities not yet in an objective state. In other words, feeling the need for the means to express urges arising within them, entities tried to adapt their physical bodies to enable the manifestation of their budding talents.

Through the 19th century and much of the 20th, Western culture has tended to view the universe materialistically as a sum of separate objects. Now a different picture is emerging out of ongoing research, and in the language of Gaston Bachelard, "materialism is the product of an initial abstraction, which seemingly inevitably maims our notion of matter forever after." (Le nouvel esprit scientifique, Paris, 1934; The New Scientific Spirit, trans., Arthur Goldhammer, 1984, p. 62.) A practicing scientist who researched in the field of physical chemistry as well as being chairman of the department of the history and philosophy of science at the Sorbonne, he was criticizing the influence upon his colleagues of Descartes' dualism of soul (or mind) and body. Bachelard's own view was that together with the rest of what makes up the world, we are fundamentally part of this whole.

An illustration of the emerging world picture appears in a remarkable, indeed exciting, study of the life and work of Erwin Schrodinger, Nobel Prize winner for his pioneering efforts in the field of wave mechanics. The philosophical side of his genius stands out in this book by Walter Moore (Schrodinger, Life and Thought, 1989). According to him, Schrodinger claimed that

consciousness is associated with learning by a living substance. The knowing how of life is consciousness, whether it occurs in an animal nervous system, a plant or an amoeba. Living processes in general are associated with consciousness whenever they represent the emergence of something new. . . Schrodinger suggests further that such consciousness is intimately associated with organic evolution. — pp. 463-4

Schrodinger felt that the claim made by his colleagues that his concept of the "real world" and consciousness arises merely out of his own consciousness, was a "false conclusion," and if this interpretation were widely accepted it would let loose "a pandemonium of logical consequences" (p. 464). One would be the "fruitless quest for the place where mind acts on matter or vice-versa." In this connection, Schrodinger quoted Carl Jung:

"All science is a function of the soul, in which all knowledge is rooted. The soul is the greatest of all cosmic wonders, it is the conditio sine qua non of the world as an object. It is remarkable that Western mankind, with few exceptions, has accorded so little value to this fact. The flood of external objects of cognizance has made the subject of all cognizance withdraw into the background, and often into apparent nonexistence." — 1946 Eranos Meeting, Switzerland, quoted in Moore, p. 464

Professor Moore adds that "Schrodinger agrees with Jung that science must be made over again, but great care will be needed in changing foundations that have endured for at least two thousand years" (ibid.)

A sign that this has already begun is the crossing of disciplines, as in the development of biochemistry and biophysics, and in the application of knowledge gained from nuclear research and theory to problems in astrophysics. What seems bound to emerge is the recognition of the oneness of the universe and the consequent bonding of all its components. Furthermore, there may come the realization that there are not many competing life-forces, but only one such energy manifesting its stimulus through many forms.

This is one of the main thrusts of the three fundamental propositions of The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky. The volume on Cosmogenesis, the birth and evolution of the cosmos and all it contains, deals with the universe at large. The second volume, Anthropogenesis, elaborates on the unfoldment of the distinctively human quality that emerged when the mind was fanned into a flame long ago, much further back than scientific theory has ascribed to this magical event. There is a remarkable uniformity in the narratives transmitted to us about this moment in time, especially in those sacred myths expressed in various widely separated places and eras. The terms may differ, but the meaning is clear.

When humankind first saw the world and its inhabitants through the lens of self-consciousness and began differentiating through the perspectives of space and time, noting outer variations between a diversity of beings and phenomena, all these manifestations marked the emergence of the cycle of consciousness at the human level on earth. And similarly, the flareup of mind in the early organism of mankind must epitomize a comparable event on the cosmic scale. All of our inherited traditions of pantheons of "gods" — the name given to families of beings evolved beyond the human stage — relate the apotheosis of former humans into more evolved levels of self-expression. A phrase that has been applied to this process is the entry into more and more refined realms of "free and conscious life." In the infinity of space and time, there can be no end to it.

While The Secret Doctrine's two volumes seem to be about separate subjects, they are actually united by one theme: there is a single consciousness-energy within all nature directing its operations and manifestations. The only difference is of scale or degree of unfoldment, if indeed such can be called a difference. Cosmic entities function according to the same "laws" that operate among the relatively small.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies, for example, reports in his recent contribution to The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies, 1989; many of the world's leading physicists contributed to this important work) that a revolution is occurring in physics, reaching from the very small to the farthest locations in space of the large: the themes of modern cosmologists. He states:

It is fashionable to suppose that science advances in revolutionary leaps. Physicists often talk of the imminence of the 'third revolution' in physics. The first revolution is identified with the work of Galileo, Newton and their contemporaries, for it was in the seventeenth century that the foundations were laid for the systematic study of matter, force and motion by what we would today call the scientific method. The second revolution occurred around the turn of this century, with the theory of relativity, the quantum theory and the discovery of radioactivity. — p. 1

While some nonphysicists believe that quantum and relativity theories are the "New Physics," Dr. Davies comments that whereas the first two revolutions released a number of new and catalytic ideas, "the 'third revolution' is taking place across a broad front," dealing with topics "as diverse as black holes, subatomic particles, novel materials and self-organizing chemical reactions" (ibid.). Opposing the "oppressive" view of French scientist Laplace that everything in the universe has been predetermined, Professor Davies has stated that

The emerging picture of cosmological development is altogether less gloomy. Creation is not instantaneous; it is an ongoing process. The universe has a life history. Instead of sliding into featurelessness, it rises out of featurelessness, growing rather than dying, developing new structures, processes and potentialities all the time, unfolding like a flower. — The Cosmic Blueprint, 1988, p. 200

Professor Davies' view is that:

The very fact that the universe is creative, and that the laws have permitted complex structures to emerge and develop to the point of consciousness — in other words, that the universe has organized its own self-awareness — is for me powerful evidence that there is 'something going on' behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming. Science may explain all the processes whereby the universe evolves its own destiny, but that still leaves room for there to be a meaning behind existence. — Ibid., p 203

As Laurie Hammond commented in The Age, a Melbourne newspaper ("Weekend Supplement," July 14, 1990): "The intersections of the new cosmology with philosophy, theosophy and religion . . . are providing fresh approaches that promise to bridge the contrived gap between science and other areas of thought."

The heritage of human cultural insights is not limited to the small spectrum covered during the past three or four millennia and intersected by an interregnum caused by the cutoff of Western civilization from that of other races and periods. As the main founder of the theosophical effort of the 19th century and onwards, stated

It is not in polemical pamphlets or sensational newspaper articles that its permanent record will be made, but in the visible realisation of its original scheme of making a nucleus of universal brotherhood, reviving Oriental literature and philosophies* —

to be shared as the common possession of humanity as a whole and not confined to a few expert scholars. This is indeed a remarkable program, the achievement of which we can begin to discern when we consider the climate of opinion in the 1880s, through the early years of this century, and into our own period. The idea of a brotherhood relationship felt by all human beings regardless of their labels of race, color, religion, or any other — even as male and female — was unthinkable then, or at any rate unacceptable! Today, however, we find groups in practically every country, especially of young people, advocating the same theme.

*H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House, 2:392-3; cf. also The Original Programme of the Theosophical Society, BCW, 7:45.

Moreover, sharing with the rest of humanity the large treasury of Oriental and other philosophical, religious, and scientific thought is an important contribution made by HPB. She was the first to disseminate among the public at large ancient and modern transmissions of mankind's heritage regarding human and cosmic origins and possible destiny. Western academia had some of this inheritance pigeonholed under separate labels related to cultures that had flowered in different eras and places, but no one had previously brought together the common factors to reveal the universality of the traditions and symbolism, when she offered her findings publicly.

The Secret Doctrine does bring together many expressions of the same teachings preserved in the old forms, and shows the commonly-held meanings locked up in the terms of the various languages. All tell of humanity's origins in an unself-conscious state of purity, and its gradual immersion in material earth-life in order to objectivize latent capacities and by degrees express more and more of the divinity that is the real center of every life-form, from the smallest subparticle onward.

In essence, the restatement of old truths carried into our time by the work of HPB, revolves around the themes that the universe is alive and that life has not been added to it. It is not a "something" in the sense of absolute lifelessness, for there is no evidence of dead matter anywhere. The creative process has not been limited to the past: it is an ongoing, continuous unfoldment of qualities that spans the entire cosmos, driving forward every particle and aggregate of particles in a stream of evolving consciousness-centers that are the hearts of them.

We need to have our own inner dialogue with the text if it is to come alive in us. If we do, we become aware that we indeed participate in a universal process. The essence of the SD, together with that of her classic The Voice of the Silence, must be experienced rather than read.

The energy liberated by her endeavors has burst the bonds of utter materialism that have held back advances since the time of the fall of more spiritual cultures. The duality of "God" and "matter," proposed by Descartes, following upon the faulty science of Aristotle, has certainly held back Western culture for centuries. In this sense, HPB's work initiated a catalysis, as well as a process of catharsis which has a long way to go before achieving a complete cleansing of the human heart. It seems evident from signs in different parts of the world that a new age is dawning.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1991. Copyright © 1991 by Theosophical University Press)

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