Sabine van Osta – Belgium
While in its earlier days the Theosophical Society was only one of the very few organizations to bring Eastern thought to the West, today it is one of the many voices in a vast choir. Yet, as a Society, we have as much right to exist as any other of its kind; and it is clear that we still have a strong, uplifting, and healing message to offer to the public at large, whose need for clarity and truth is ever-increasing. Even when at this moment some of the original reasons for establishing the TS have since long been achieved, much remains to be done to help one another convert parts of the outer and inner human wastelands into flourishing heavens of peace and sustainable spiritual prosperity.
In the field of the comparative study of religions and sciences—the second of our objects—religion and science are both getting closer to each other, and the embryo of a united scientific approach, an approach that combines religious investigation as well as a so-called scientific one, has in fact started to develop. This is visible in many ways, for example in research on meditation and its beneficial effects on all levels of human existence and the effect of religious thought on mental health. The vast and severe problem of illicit drugs will force Western material science to continue digging further and further into the material aspect of the inner being and urge the East to offer more and more of its knowledge about our inner being. And last but not least, the quest to fine infinitely small particles of matter may lead us into the very cornerstone of manifested life itself, which is what Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater once observed during their clairvoyant investigations. Many other examples could be cited.
Today the Theosophical Society needs to articulate in every possible and advisable manner the ways in which we can realize to the maximum our human potential, which is not accumulating all kinds of material richness in such a way that the right balance is lost. We should teach the way inside because the only salvation for humanity is to be found within ourselves. The third object of the TS, the investigation of the powers latent in humanity, has thus become more important than ever, not so much by encouraging all humans to start developing those powers, but more so in an attempt to control the damage that is often done by those who encourage the development of these latent powers without a deeper thought as to the profound and hard inner training that this development involves. The trouble is that this deeper thought can hardly be expressed in words in a book or during a public lecture. This type of profounder communication remains the privilege of the master-disciple combination or, in a broader sense, it pertains exclusively to direct contact.
The need for close interpersonal contact is hardly surprising or difficult to understand. In fact, it is the logical consequence of a fact already stipulated by our founders in the first Object of the Society: universal brotherhood. The basic principle of universal brotherhood is materializing in today’s world via the internet. Those who are connected to one another through this medium are more closely linked than they are probably aware. Let us not be mistaken: even without the Internet, universal brotherhood would still be a fact, a universal fact which means that its reality affects all parts of manifestation. However the Internet is one of those tools that can teach us a lot about how universal brotherhood might function on this planet.
Recently a report was published by two researchers at Harvard and Oxford Universities about the behavioral influence that internet users have upon each other when they are surfing or, more specifically, downloading applications on Facebook. Special attention was given to see when or under which conditions the number of downloads of these applications started to rocket and thus become very popular—or not. Based on the results of this investigation, the analysis showed that “two distinct regimes of behavior emerge in the system. Once applications cross a particular threshold of popularity, social influence processes induce highly correlated adoption behavior among the users, which propels some of the applications to extraordinary levels of popularity. Below this threshold, the collective effect of social influence appears to vanish almost entirely, in a manner that has not been observed in the offline world” (Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Felix Reed-Tsochas, “Spontaneous Emergence of Social Influence in Online Systems,” 2010, on www.pnas.org). Translated into less scientific language, this says that, once a critical mass has been reached, a “tidal wave of interest” occurs, which manifests itself by a sharp increase of individuals starting to download the same application.
The idea is quite thrilling: once a certain number of individuals have an interest in something—or as Theosophists would say—once they are engaged mentally with a subject, more and more individuals will be attracted rapidly into being interested and engaged into the same subject. To name but a few examples: war or peace, love or hate, compassion or oppression, unlimited and therefore inconsiderate freedom or responsibility. The choice between such options will always be ours; and the choice of our thoughts, which thoughts we think, and to what we dedicate our time and attention really make the difference. So, initiatives like global meditations for peace are not a bad idea at all. It probably is just a question of obtaining the right critical mass in order to generate a tidal wave of thoughts about peace to counterbalance the human tendency toward destructive strife and violence. A responsible use of the Internet, combined with a responsible use of the human mental potential, is very likely the right tool to bring this about. All Theosophists who truly understand this should be instrumental in this process in their daily meditations.