A Time of Transition
By Hugh H. Harrison
There are numerous ancient and fundamentally significant ideas about man and life now quietly gaining currency among thoughtful people. These portray man and his companions in life as being far more than generally believed: beings involved in more dynamic, complex, and continuous evolutionary processes than Darwin ever dreamed of.
These powerful ancient ideas are generally incompatible with many concepts that support today’s established order. Those who uphold the establishment, and others whose sense of reality depends upon its validity, become anxious when confronted with new and conflicting ideas. For some, new ideas are presumed to be unfounded because they are unfamiliar. Many seemingly new concepts — based on the rediscovery and restatement of the ancient wisdom or perennial philosophy — tend to be dismissed as being at best the fanciful products of inferior and superstitious minds. Identifying and considering a few of these idea conflicts reveals the cause of some of the uncertainty and anxiety encountered in our daily life.
The science of our day has been developed from information gathered by our five senses and their mechanical extensions — microscope, telescope, and the like. Scientists of our day tend to deny the possible existence of other than what is sense detectable. To them man (and any other form of life) is but a body: there is nothing that preceded this life, nothing to survive this death. All is explained as resulting from fortuitous, random encounters of inert bits of matter.
On the other hand, the ancient wisdom holds that man and all other lives are invisible (not sense detectable) entities dwelling within bodies composed of more minute forms of life. There can be no inert being: all is alive whether it be atom, stone, plant, bug, animal, human, planet, star, or galaxy. The ancient wisdom holds that the universe is a vast learning arena in which individual life entities, living multiple lives, successively don different life forms or bodies appropriate to the learning at hand. The goal of this evolutionary process is to produce advanced humans, like Buddha or Jesus, from the likes of us (graduates of the school of learning how to be an atom, bug, bird, or animal). In turn, we will then face the daunting task of evolving into grander forms of life — always assuming greater responsibility for the continuance of this incredible process which always was, is now, and ever shall be.
Christianity, the dominant religion of industrialized Western nations, is the source of much of what we believe. Christian belief is more generous than materialistic scientific belief in that man is credited with having a soul as well as a body, and that soul is believed to continue to exist after the death of the body — residing forevermore in heaven or in hell. Such religious belief makes no provision for the preexistence of either the body or the soul: no herebefore nor hereafter for the body; no herebefore but an infinite yet fixed hereafter for the soul (sort of like a stick with only one end). Such belief is captured in the current ethic of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”
The ancient wisdom’s doctrine of reincarnation provides for a never-ending succession of lives, involving new embodiments following preceding deaths, for all entities traveling life’s endless evolutionary pathway. That pathway is sometimes conceptualized as an endless helix. Each body occupied by one of life’s evolving entities provides special opportunity for the unique experiential learning called for at that time for that entity. Since we know that no two snowflakes are ever identical, it follows (as the ancient wisdom holds) that no two evolving life entities have ever been or will ever be identical.
The doctrine of reincarnation or reembodiment is central to most other major world religious beliefs. It is interesting that reincarnation was part of early Christian Church doctrine until the preexistence of the soul was anathematized in 553 AD (see Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery by Sylvia Cranston).
Christianity generalizes the importance of cause and effect in daily life by its famous injunction: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” But the Christian outcome of evil sowing seems to be limited to an eternity in hell for the soul; the outcome for good sowing, an eternity in heaven. The ancient wisdom holds that each and every human deed or thought is a cause that will be met by a consequent and proportionate effect. This effect will be sufficient to return the universe to the equilibrium it was in prior to the intervention of the cause in question, whether this cause and effect interaction takes an hour, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime, or hundeds of lifetimes to complete. This dynamic complex of cause-and-effect interactions involving all of life’s entities is known as karma.
Turning to the purpose of life, materialistic science can assign no purpose to life if All is but the random and fortuitous interaction of tiny bits of matter. Christianity tends to limit life’s purpose to avoiding hell as the final, eternal residence of the soul. Indirectly, modern business does offer purpose to life. That “the purpose of business is to make money” is taught at most advanced business schools. It is believed by most business managers and by those who serve the needs of business — workers and suppliers. Others who depend upon business activity to supply needed and desired goods and services in addition to income, come to share in this belief. Those sharing this belief will in time, unconsciously for the most part, come to believe that the purpose of life is to make money. This life purpose is revealed by our actions, vividly evidenced by our near total preoccupation with our own and others’ efforts to acquire, save, and spend money. We do hunger for purpose in life!
The ancient wisdom, on the other hand, holds that the purpose of life is to learn, evolve, and grow; to realize in time that we share responsibility for all that is; knowingly to assume an ever increasing role in seeing that it goes well for all entities involved in this mighty drama of repeated births and deaths. As we evolve and grow our concerns will increasingly take into account all entities — not just ourselves, our loved ones, our countrymen, our fellow humans, but all beings with whom we now share earth experience, including the earth itself.
The inadequacies and inappropriatenesses of most of our institutionalized ways of thinking and doing — science, religion, business, governing — are revealed more clearly each day. Shaped to serve the needs of another day and of other people, they must now be reordered to serve new needs. This reordering will be based on new ways of thinking. The thought-world of the next century is now being shaped by the thinking and writing of little known men and women. Most of them act alone, without institutional support or encouragement of colleagues.
Examples follow of emerging new/old thoughts (and their thinkers), which are at odds with much that supports the established order and which will do much to determine and shape the thought-world of the next century:
Albert Schweitzer, holder of three doctorate degrees, beloved caregiver to the natives of Equatorial Africa, and patient searcher after truth, wrote in his book, Out of My Life and Thought, how he finally found his way to “Reverence for Life” — “the idea in which world- and life-affirmation and ethics are contained side by side!” He manifested this idea the rest of his life in the hospital by the Ogowe River where animals, birds, insects, lepers, patients and their families, visitors and helpers all lived harmonious and equal lives.
Marilyn Ferguson put us on notice in 1980 about the nature and extent of the winds of thought-change gathering around us as we move toward the next century and the next millennium in The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s.
Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird called our attention to the fact that plants had awareness of human intentions and each others’ welfare; felt pain, responded to music, and were mobile (among many other unsuspected capabilities) in The Secret Life of Plants.
Elmer Green and his wife, Alyce, co-directors of research at the Menninger Foundation, used the results of their study of Oriental traditions as well as traditional scientific training in their pioneering work exploring the mind’s power to control the body and its unconscious functions, the emotions and states of consciousness. Their book, Beyond Biofeedback, tells their story.
Amit Goswami, a nuclear/quantum physicist, wrote The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World, in which he asserts that “consciousness is the ground of all being.”
Arthur Young, founder of The Institute for the Study of Consciousness and inventor of the Bell helicopter, wrote The Reflexive Universe: Evolution of Consciousness and The Geometry of Meaning to report the essential findings of his lifelong search for meaning.
Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull captured the excitement and spirit involved in experiential learning.
Finally, as to the ancient wisdom, the knowledge referred to by these people was comprehensively gathered, authenticated, and reexpressed in the extensive and revealing writings of H. P. Blavatsky in the late 1800s. Included in her writings — still in print — is the history of how and by whom this wisdom has been guarded and transmitted over the ages. Colleagues and followers have restated and expanded upon her disclosures, especially material contained in her seminal books, The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled. The history of all of the great religions is reviewed in these books, with their common core values highlighted. The cosmology of the universe is laid out. Human origins, evolutionary development, and role in the universe are expounded.
This literature is more widely read now than ever. Since Blavatsky made this material available, many of those who generate compelling ideas that will shape our future have used her writings as primary source material.
It took a long time for man to create the limited view he currently holds of himself, his fellow creatures, and his universe. It will take a long time to transform this view to a more expanded one based on more accurate and extensive information; however, the necessary material is at hand.
(Printed with permission of the International Journal of Humanities and Peace, in Sunrise magazine, December 1998/January 1999.)