From The 10th World Congress of The Theosophical Society, Rome, July, 2010:
The Scientific Basis of Universal Brotherhood
Exploring the nature of unity and the nature of undivided consciousness is perhaps an urgent matter in a heavily-armed world torn apart by entrenched views, self-interest and ignorance of other races, religions and ways of life. In itself, this exploration may be a great source of wisdom, helping us to live in harmony with nature and with each other; for such an enquiry takes one into the nature of nonlocal consciousness, which reveals the oneness of life in no uncertain terms. As Erwin Schrödinger pointed out in What is Life? —‘Consciousness is a singular for which there is no plural’ (Schrodinger 1944).
If we wish to cultivate harmony among the religious, spiritual and other traditions of the world, without which it is unlikely that there will be any peace on earth, it would be helpful if more of us understood that universal brotherhood is not just an ideal towards which we might strive: it is the truth about reality, at both a spiritual and a physical level. Universal brotherhood as a fact in nature is a statement that refers to our physical and spiritual oneness; and to our shared origins and shared identity in the atman or universal Self, which permeates all of matter and nature as the source of our lives and the final goal of our endeavours. Though this level or quality of consciousness is barely even glimpsed in our general awareness it is the ultimate rationale to the brotherhood of mankind, with the potential to genuinely heal cultural, religious and social rifts. If each of us is literally made of the same stuff then there really is no “other”. The physicist David Bohm once remarked that the truth about reality is undivided wholeness: if we are fragmented we must blame it on ourselves.
It is highly appropriate that in The Theosophical Society stress is laid on brotherhood, and that the first Object is regarded as fundamental to the other two. 1) Certainly the care for others implicit in a feeling of brotherhood provides something of a safety measure in any exploration of the powers latent in man. Without selflessness, compassion or brotherhood as a foundation, the development of latent powers is fraught with pitfalls. However, I would like to suggest that, although it may not be obvious, the first Object is dependent upon the third Object for its actualization or realisation. This is because if universal brotherhood is to be something other than an utopian ideal there must be a solid foundation for it in fact and not just in myth or legend. It has to be more than just a matter of a number of theosophists thinking it important or worthy. Rather must it be shown to derive from the facts of life; from the radical unity of the ultimate essence of all the constituent parts of nature, which unity links everything together as surely as if it were all one organism or one being. This I believe is the only sure foundation for the brotherhood of humanity, indeed, the brotherhood of all of life not just of our own species. So while it is quite right to emphasise the first Object, it should perhaps be not overemphasized at the expense of the others. We often hear it said that Madame Blavatsky equated Theosophy with altruism. Indeed she did, in a few passages; but she devoted the vast majority of her writing to the furtherance of the third Object, and to a lesser degree the second. Of course this is not a competition for which is the most important Object. I wish only to commend to our attention the importance of backing up the proposition that brotherhood is a fact in nature with fact and not just fancy; for it has to be admitted that even within the ranks of the TS brotherhood at present is more like an idle dream than a reality.
THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD
Madame Blavatsky and her teachers pointed out that there is only one consciousness in existence expressing itself in multifarious modes; and that everything is made of the same Substance, which Spinoza called Deus sive natura — God or Nature, and which in The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters is sometimes referred to as Spirit-Matter. Similarly, in Cause, Principle, and Unity Giordano Bruno argued that there is only one Being, existing in various forms or modes. According to him, all the differences that we see are merely ‘the varying face of the same substance’ (Bruno 1962/1976, p.140). As one Bruno interpreter put it: ‘every creation is an alteration, the substance remaining always the same’ (McIntyre 1903, p.175). This is universal brotherhood writ large, with every race, creed, caste, religion and sex really being the One. The same idea is present in a key text of the Hermetic tradition, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. It begins with what is now rather a well-known idea: ‘That which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing’ (Dobbs 1988). There is only one thing in existence; that is, the Supreme Being. Both spirit and matter – that which is above and that which is below – reveal the glory of that One. This Being is essentially formless but it enters into every form in nature. As it says in the Katha Upanishad:
As fire which is one, entering this world becomes varied in shape according to the object (it burns), so also the one Self within all beings becomes varied according to whatever (it enters) and also exists outside of them all (Radhakrishnan 1953/1990, p.639).
It is of no small significance that key findings in modern science support the proposition that the ultimate essence of every part of nature is one undivided consciousness present alike in all. Science has now revealed what the ancient wisdom has long affirmed that an undivided reality lies at the heart of matter, subsuming the world of appearances. Unity may seem like an abstraction but a number of philosophers, mystics and scientists have argued that there is a unity to the world that is far more deeply real than the diversity which is readily apparent. Whilst science will never be able to seize on that which is truly universal, truly infinite; like thought, it can point towards it and highlight its significance. And that is what is currently taking place at the cutting edge of science.
In very simple terms, the trend might be summarised as follows. Borrowing from the work of William A. Tiller, we might say that for the past few hundred years science has viewed the world largely through the lens of a fairly simple reaction equation Mass = Energy, with each quality being convertible to the other via the well known relationship E=mc2. This view of nature is giving way to a new reaction equation, namely: Mass = Energy = Consciousness, with each unique quality being somehow convertible one to the other (Tiller 1997).
In Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos, Ervin Laszlo argues that current findings in quantum physics, cosmology, biology and consciousness research indicate the presence of a hitherto unrecognised field in which instant or quasi-instant connections between organisms and their environment, and within organisms themselves routinely take place. As he put it, recent findings:
… suggest that there is more to the universe than matter and energy, space and time. There is also an element that connects and correlates. This element is as much a part of the universe as the electromagnetic, the gravitational, and the nuclear fields. It, too, is a field – a field that is as fundamental as electromagnetism and gravitation, and the fields of the atomic nucleus (Laszlo 2006, p.24).
This field appears to be of the nature of consciousness. Thus, there is now a sound scientific basis for universality, nonduality and the transcendence and selflessness which is the way to it. It seems that the real basis of universal brotherhood is a universal ELEMENT – the atman – and a universal STATE – which we might call the integrated state of pure consciousness – both of which may be pointed to by science. For example, David Bohm once made this remark:
... if we accept the idea of the explicate order of everything outside of everything else, everything manifest, then it becomes absurd to think of human beings all becoming one... But now we say that that earlier view ... was a tremendous abstraction ... and that by following science itself we have been led to a view which is compatible with the wholeness of mankind, or its holiness (Weber 1982, p.71).
THEOSOPHY AND THE SCIENCE OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD
Physicists around the world have been demonstrating the existence of nonlocal consciousness for quite some time now. This has not necessarily brought them any closer to it personally, but at least it gives a strong theoretic underpinning to similar propositions made in the distant past by sages in the East and the West. Let us now take a closer look at what a number of theosophists have said on the matter, or how they might address the ills of our time, particularly those exacerbated, if not caused by, religion. In brief, some of the key ideas are as follows:
1. In The Key to Theosophy Madame Blavatsky proposed that theosophy is not a religion, it is religion itself. The idea that religion itself stands over and above any and every religion would help all concerned to treat each religion as an equal but different expression of the impulse to transcendence, completion and wholeness common to all of mankind;
2. Universal brotherhood as a fact in nature, provides the essential rationale for living in harmony with all of life, encompassing as it does not only the human being but all of existence — and finally;
3. The existence of Immutable Law as the substratum of all the things and lives and minds that make up the tangible world takes all the arbitrariness out of existence and removes the need for an external creator and an external authority.
In the works of H.P. Blavatsky, and in The Mahatma Letters, IMMUTABLE LAW replaces God; universal brotherhood is the foundation of all ethics; and the law of karma replaces divine retribution, heaven and hell. The basic argument against God and in favour of Law is summarised in The Mahatma Letters as follows:
There are some modern philosophers who would prove the existence of a Creator from motion. We say and affirm that that motion - the universal perpetual motion which never ceases, never slackens nor increases its speed, not even during the interludes between the pralayas, or “nights of Brahma”, but goes on like a mill set in motion whether it has anything to grind or not (for the pralaya means the temporary loss of every form, but by no means the destruction of cosmic matter which is eternal) – we say this perpetual motion is the only eternal and uncreated Deity we are able to recognise ... we ... say that it is motion that governs the laws of nature; and that it governs them as the mechanical impulse given to running water which will propel them either in a direct line or along hundreds of side furrows they may happen to meet on their way and whether those furrows are natural grooves or channels prepared artificially by the hand of man. And we maintain that wherever there is life and being, and in however much spiritualized a form, there is no room for moral government, much less for a moral Governor ... (Barker (Comp.) 1923/1979, p.135-6).
… we believe in matter alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist … The existence of matter then is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self-existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure spirit as a Being or an Existence - give it whatever name you will - is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity (Barker (Comp.) 1923/1979, p.56).
All, they say, is the result of natural law, meaning, the unconscious powers or attributes of universal mind, which they prefer to think of as infinite FORCE. Fundamentally it all boils down to motion. But this motion, whilst involuntary and mechanical in some respects, is not devoid of spirit or soul: it is the expression and the manifestation of the Absolute; and it appears to be of the nature of Consciousness.
This model of the oneness of life, in which every apparently separate entity is part of an integrated whole, readily gives rise to the following view of karma, expressed by HPB:
All men have spiritually and physically the same origin … As mankind is essentially of one and the same essence, and that essence is one - infinite, uncreate, and eternal, whether we call it God or Nature - nothing, therefore, can affect one nation or one man without affecting all other nations and all other men. This is as certain and as obvious as that a stone thrown into a pond will, sooner or later, set in motion every single drop of water therein (Blavatsky 1889/1987, p.41).
EVIDENCE FROM PSYCHIC RESEARCH
(THOUGH STILL DENIED BY BIASED SCIENTISTS)
A sorely neglected area in The Theosophical Society in recent years is that aspect of the third Object dealing with the powers latent in the human being. There is however a tremendous body of evidence-based research into what are now known as anomalous mental capacities — conducted by bona fide scientists (albeit ignored by other bona fide scientists). I have no doubt that HPB would be making significant mileage out of this fact and the implications of the research, one of the most important features of which is that it clearly and unequivocally points towards the existence of nonlocal consciousness and also suggests the way to it. The significance of the research and the techniques studied might be summarised in the following remark by Russell Targ in his book on remote viewing:
… our experience with remote viewing shows without a doubt that we can learn to expand our unconditioned awareness through all of space and time — to directly explore the timeless existence described by the mystics (Targ 2004, p.151).
So there is much more to psychic capacity than fortune-telling. Targ is a physicist who worked at Lockheed Missiles & Space but now teaches remote viewing. He left his former employ with the remark: ‘I launched myself on a different path to spaciousness that didn’t require a missile’.
J.B. Rhine coined the term extra-sensory perception for various anomalous mental capacities. In 1934 he published an academic title: Extra-Sensory Perception, which much to his surprise became a bestseller reaching millions of readers. The vilification that also followed the success of the publication led Rhine to make the profound observation that: ‘In the history of more than one branch of research, the stone which a hasty science rejected has sometimes become the cornerstone of its later structure’ (cited in Mayer 2007, p. 89). The father of American psychology William James made an interesting remark when writing about his own conversion to the study of anomalous states such as those exhibited by mediums in trance:
Science, so far as science denies such exceptional facts, lies prostrate in the dust for me; and the most urgent intellectual need which I feel at present is that science be built up again in a form in which such facts shall have a positive place (William James cited in Mayer 2007, p.78).
Sadly, most scientists are now as far away from this achievement as they were in 1875. On the other hand, some, like Henry Stapp, make clear that:
The new physics presents prima facie evidence that our human thoughts are linked to nature by nonlocal connections. What a person chooses to do in one region seems immediately to affect what is true elsewhere in the universe. This nonlocal aspect can be understood by conceiving the universe to be, not a collection of tiny bits of matter, but rather, a growing compendium of “bits of information”. And I believe that most quantum physicists will also agree that our conscious thoughts ought eventually to be understood within science and that, when properly understood, our thoughts will be seen to do something: They will be efficacious (cited in Targ 2004, p.132).
I hardly know what further corroboration of the third Object we could hope to expect; this much is certainly sufficient substantiation of the entire project launched with the foundation of The Theosophical Society in 1875. All that remains is for us to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, as HPB did with the then fervent interest in mediumistic phenomena — and to try to drive things further towards their natural conclusion. All the pieces seem to be in place, but still the picture on the puzzle remains largely unrecognised by those whose pecuniary interests make them unwilling to see what is right before them.
Here we have modern Western science, in the form of what has long been regarded the epitome of science – namely, physics – affirming that there is indeed something that connects all parts of nature’s empire, and that thoughts are things. The reference to nature’s empire, and to the power of thought, refers to a statement in The Mahatma Letters:
Nature has linked all parts of her Empire together by subtle threads of magnetic sympathy, and, there is a mutual correlation even between a star and a man; thought runs swifter than the electric fluid … (Letter 47 in Barker 1993).
But still the facts are resisted by many scientists. In 2001 Royal Mail in Britain issued a series of stamps to commemorate the Nobel Prize centenary. The set of stamps was accompanied by a booklet containing a statement by Brian Josephson, a Nobel prizewinning physicist from Cambridge University. Royal Mail had requested a statement of around 130 words, from a winner of each of the six different categories of the prize, a statement which was to speculate about the future direction of research in their respective fields. The following words closed Josephson’s description of Physics and the Nobel Prizes:
Quantum theory is now being fruitfully combined with theories of information and computation. These developments may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/-bdj10/stamps/text.html.
Royal Mail received a number of vociferous complaints from other physicists who wish to deny all evidence for the existence of telepathy. As Josephson points out, journals such as Nature and Science blatantly censor this research. If a coherent theory with inconvenient or uncomfortable implications cannot be disproved in science then it is generally ignored; and so it has been, in the field of anomalous human capacities.
In conclusion I might just point out that were there is a real feeling of brotherhood there is probably no need to speak about it; and that speaking about it probably never brought it about. Instead of universal brotherhood perhaps TS members could aim a little lower for a while and at least try to be law-abiding citizens, polite, treat people inside and outside the TS with respect, and devote some time each day, or each week, to looking at things afresh. At an institutional level there is plenty of work to be done: but little time for it and very few willing or able to take it on. Theosophy may well turn out to be the cornerstone of the future religion, as once predicted, but that may not involve The Theosophical Society in any way. For all we know, Theosophy is thriving in the world outside our ranks, in the field of science, in the deep ecology movement, and in the more enlightened areas of the business world. What is perhaps unique about the TS is that it is a community of enquirers into divine wisdom and the meaning of life. The price of this freedom is eternal vigilance, so let us be vigilant against the great foe of Conclusion, and perhaps stress the community aspect of our Society rather more than has often been the case.
Barker (Comp.), A. T. (1923/1979) The Mahatma Letters To A.P. Sinnett, Adyar, Madras, The Theosophical Publishing House. Barker, A. T. c. (1993) The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. & K.H., Quezon City, Philippines, Theosophical Publishing House.
Blavatsky, H. P. (1889/1987) The Key to Theosophy, Los Angeles, California, The Theosophy Company.
Bohm, D. (1980/1997) Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London and New York, Routledge.
Bohm, D. and M. Edwards (1991) Changing Consciousness: Exploring the Hidden Source of the Social, Political, and Environmental Crises Facing Our World, San Francisco, Harper San Francisco.
Bruno, G. (1962/1976) Cause, Principle, and Unity. Five Dialogues by Giordano Bruno. Translated and with an introduction by Jack Lindsay, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press.
Dobbs, B. J. T. (1988) Newton's Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus: Its Scientific and Theological Significance, Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, I. Merkel and A. G. Debus, USA, Folger Books.
Laszlo, E. (2006) Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos, Rochester, Vermont, Inner Traditions.
Mayer, E. L. (2007) Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind, New York, Random House.
McIntyre, J. L. (1903) Giordano Bruno, London and New York, Macmillan.
Radhakrishnan, S. (1953/1990) The Principal Upanisads, Delhi, Oxford University Press.
Schrodinger, E. (1944) What Is Life?, Cambridge University Press.
Targ, R. (2004) Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness, California, New World Library.
Tiller, W. A. (1997) Science and Human Transformation, California, Pavior.
Weber, R. (1982) The enfolding-unfolding universe: a conversation with David Bohm, The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes, K. Wilber, Boulder and London, Shambhala.
— o O o —
- Declared Objects of The Theosophical Society:
1) To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity,
without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
To encourage the study of Comparative Religion,
Philosophy and Science.
To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers
latent in man.