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Thoughts on the Future (from the 20th century)

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Universal truth always has been, is, and will be; it is eternal and immortal. At the same time its expressions are infinite in number and variation. The modern theosophical movement uses as its motto: “There is no religion higher than truth.” In the sense of devoting itself to universal truth, which is ever approached but never fully reached, there is no difference between theosophy yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

If I were asked, “Do you think that theosophy will be the same in the 21st century as it is in the 20th?” I would answer Yes. Because someone who directs his thoughts and actions continuously in harmony with universal truth carries brotherhood always in his heart. This will not change in a century, a millennium, or a million years, as long as there are theosophists worthy of the name.

If I were asked, “Will theosophy be different in the 21st century?” I would also answer Yes. Because the ways of expressing truth are infinite. Indeed, every human expression and every action is based on truth, however imperfectly conceived; though it comes from universal truth, it has but a temporary existence. The world as it appears to us is not the same for a split second, and therefore we must be endlessly adaptable, ready to face every new situation with the eyes of a newborn child, mindful of the deep silence where the voice of truth speaks. Were we to establish a truth for Truth we would have created a terrible monster. Its name is dogma. Fallible as we are, we have sometimes, even with the best intentions, been feeding such creatures, taking our understanding of nature’s laws for those laws themselves.

To ask ourselves what the world will be like in the 21st century and what part theosophy will play in it is of course a matter of speculation. One thing we know is that the seeds we sow today will be the trees of tomorrow. There are also seeds sown in the past, perhaps the far past, that unexpectedly may germinate and play a role of importance we couldn’t have foreseen. Only if we were wise enough to see in the present the karmic lines of the whole past could we make comprehensible and reliable prophecies.

One of several lines along which human culture proceeds is science. Within the last hundred years we have discovered the equivalence of energy and matter, we have seen that a perceiver influences the perceived, and we have penetrated into the depths of the atom. We have delved into many secrets of our environment with all its ecological complexities and gained understanding of the most refined processes within the living cell, unraveling the chemical code of physical heritage, DNA and its ally, RNA. In just over a century we left our horses behind and replaced them with “miraculous” means of transport and communication. We have, in fact, lived through one of the most remarkable centuries in known history. Theosophy has had a hand in this, though almost unknown and invisible to the world at large. Some of our greatest scientists as well as artists and others have studied theosophical books or the wisdom traditions of non-Western cultures. Others, who may not have heard of theosophy, have intuited glimpses of truth.

We may ask ourselves, “Have we become wiser with all our knowledge? Are we nobler now than before this golden age of science and technology?” In one sense, Yes. There is, thanks to our expanded means of global communication, a growing awareness of the sufferings and troubles in distant parts of the world. This leads to greater compassion and action-taking for the benefit of others. In another sense we have not ennobled ourselves very much as yet. Wars, environmental and other forms of destruction, crime, drugs, and suicide know perhaps no equal in history. Have theosophists worked in vain to better the world, or have they been too few and powerless? Wouldn’t a theosophical writer of a hundred years ago, speculating about the 20th century, have given up if he or she could have foreseen the agonies that were to come?

In my opinion the answer is emphatically No. Though there have been failures and weaknesses, and we could perhaps have done better, I think this century has laid a firm foundation on which to build for the future.

In the last, say, fifteen years, a new era seems to be dawning. We may call it the holistic approach. Now we begin to realize on a wide scale that all aspects of nature are connected in an organic wholeness. In the medical world we watch a growing tendency towards holistic healing, in which man is regarded as a oneness, physically and psychologically, and where illness is seen as a disturbed equilibrium within the organism, and between the organism and the outer world. In biology, the Gaia hypothesis is showing that the earth in its completeness is kept in balance by the living organisms that grow and walk on it. They exert a stabilizing influence on a system that is far bigger than they are, and that stretches far beyond the reaches of their own personal struggles for life.

Computers and micro-technology have revealed that processes that seem chaotic often form a beautiful pattern of regularity of a new order that is as important for living systems as is order in the traditional sense. At the same time old wagons are tumbling over or cracking. Newtonian and Cartesian thinking have had their value for the early development of modern science, but are no longer adequate. Darwinism is discussed and heavily attacked and perhaps has already lived its longest days. At the same time we are beginning to appreciate the traditional and ancient wisdom of East and West, even though this recognition is expressed at times in too superficial terms. Nevertheless, this foreshadows a general acceptance of the insight that all cultures together, ancient and modern, are a brotherhood which exists throughout the ages and to which each makes a valuable contribution.

Holistic ideas are still mere saplings in the woods of science and are constantly threatened, but they look healthy and we are optimistic about their survival. All these developments point toward a general recognition of brotherhood as a fact in nature, which is, after all, the primary objective of every theosophical organization throughout history.

But much, very much remains to be done. There is the separation between matter and consciousness. Even the more daring and progressive among today’s scientists mostly seek mechanistic explanations rather than pronouncing the mysterious words “consciousness” and “mind” as factors in nature. This may be due partly to fear of a return to religious fundamentalism. Certainly theosophists of today and tomorrow must support the understanding that mind and consciousness are inseparable from every manifested being. Once we accept the analogy between the constitution of nature and ourselves, we have in the interplay of our own mind and our desires and passions a key to comprehending the multiform expressions of planetary life.

More than mind there is the buddhic principle, as clear as crystal by its very nature, in which the true, the beautiful, and the ethical are united. Up to now scientists have consigned beauty to the discipline of art, and ethics to religion and philosophy (though many philosophers are not interested in ethics, because it is too metaphysical, they say). In a real holistic approach there is no room for the exclusion of anything, no separation between religion, science, philosophy, and art.

Today a ripple of new hope is vibrating through the consciousness of humanity. It is too early to jubilate, for the saplings of peace and cooperation are as yet young and fragile, but nobody can avoid the impression that some thoughts of genuine brotherhood have touched the minds of persons in key positions, and this is what millions have hoped for. All human beings are karmically linked and co-responsible. Together we build the conditions of society including its imperfections, with which some fail temporarily to cope. But if we exclude “criminals,” “addicts,” and the like, from our thoughts of brotherhood, we drive them into isolation and even greater despair, and our joint karma will be a world full of crime and terror. Why not at least try to understand the agony in human souls from a background of compassion? Seeds have been sown in this century, not least by Katherine Tingley in the early decades, and while few of them have visibly germinated it is our present task to nurture them.

The key to all progress is education. Beautiful initiatives have been taken, because we all love our children. But not until the harmonious unity of the whole human being is recognized, will we as a humanity understand the importance of a balanced education in ethics and the arts, in psychological, mental, and spiritual faculties as well as in the practical aspects of life.

We can’t know precisely how tomorrow will be, but it is worth working for. And let us hope that a reader of this article in, say, 2089 will shake his head and smile: how dull were the well-meant visions of those a hundred years ago; we have accomplished much more than they could ever dream of.

(From Sunrise Magazine, April/May 1989; author:  Rudi Jansma

copyright © by Theosophical University Press)

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