The Internet, an Instrument of the Forces of Light and of Darkness
Mary Harkness – Northern Ireland
The advent of the internet towards the end of the last century, from the 1980s onwards, has strongly impacted on our lives and, with ever advancing technology, is swiftly changing the face of human relationships, human behavior and modes of contact. We must be ever mindful that with every increasing opportunity comes increasing responsibility.
On the plus side, use of the internet broadens our knowledge by opening a new window on the world; it helps us to communicate swiftly with each other and from many respects exercises a positive influence on our minds. Having friends and links through the web enhances self-esteem, allows freedom of expression, and also facilitates regular contact between colleagues, friends, home, work and office. Time spent on the internet at home or elsewhere can help reduce the feeling of isolation or loneliness. Research on any chosen topic is made available through the press of a button accessing Google, whereas in former times extensive reading of books or visits to the library was deemed essential. There are various web facilities available to us, to name a few: e-mail, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, Wikileaks, Google Research, Google Earth, Skype, current news & information etc. In a sense, the internet has become a “super power.”
All peoples, all countries, irrespective of race, creed, sex, age, geographical distance, and time zones, are able to inter-communicate, share greetings and intelligence. Online interaction also creates and strengthens groups of people sharing common interests or goals. Most Theosophical sections, regional associations and countries linked to the headquarters in Adyar, have their own special Theosophical website allowing members, enquirers, or the general public access to a plethora of Theosophical material, history, and notification of events via the links on their websites. There is the potential for easier and rapid research on a range of topics for school pupils and university students thus facilitating their quest, enhancing learning, and widening their depth of knowledge. It provides an important and swift facility for remaining in regular touch with family and friends and therefore to some extent has replaced the art of letter writing. The web has also proved to be more cost effective for business as postal mail can be expensive.
With this rapidly advancing phenomenon, much of it weighing on the positive side, it behooves us to be aware of the web’s negative side and its darker influence: Friendships created over the internet can prevent close ties as there is no physical contact, no eye to eye with opportunity to sense or read facial expressions. All contact is through the medium of a machine. Family life can greatly suffer through the amount of time some members spend in isolation on the computer. The lack of quality time spent together can prove detrimental to young children and teenagers and to family bonding. Cyber bullying is a real concern and is known to have adversely affected vulnerable and susceptible women and children causing untold misery. We frequently hear of and read reports of those who have been duped of their savings by cunning spammers and hackers using deceitful means. Then there are numerous people who pour their hearts out on blogging sites, on Twitter and Facebook —posting too much personal information about themselves and are surprised whenever their homes are burgled during their well-advertised holiday away. Information given out can never be retracted. On the more sinister side, there are suicide sites encouraging extremely vulnerable people to commit the final act, there are evil sites set up to groom and harm young children, self-harming sites, and casual date and partner sites for one night stands. The internet can be used to facilitate gangs intent on violence which can morph into mass lawlessness. Many of the blogging sites set up are ego-based, frequently used by attention seeking individuals. There are social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube which allow users to create their own pages to post blogs, photos, and videos but this service has been abused by some posting videos depicting crimes against animals.
In many ways, as mentioned earlier, the facility of e-mail has greatly helped communication at all levels but there is another disturbing side—the unpleasant or nasty e-mail. These can cause much distress, and again one must look carefully and question the motive and state of mind of the sender of such e-mails, prime examples of great unkindness. Reputations of famous sports people and celebrities have been ruined by news blogs and the numerous negative comments which follow such postings. Some have elicited hundreds of comments, a few in defense of, but the majority condemning the individual concerned. Such an accumulation of ill will only serves to make matters worse and to strengthen the so-called vice or evil in the person concerned. Another misuse of the internet is that of anonymous postings letting off steam and the anonymous letter, deriding some unfortunate person with the express expectation on the part of the sender, that others will denounce or react based on the vitriol sent, despite the fact that the writer lacked the courage to sign their name. Generally in police stations, courts of law, and other establishments, such letters are not given any credence.
Such abuses of the internet deliberately cause harm or hurt to the individual, can hinder a person’s own spiritual development, and distract from higher, nobler thinking. Some may be unaware of the effects of their postings or in some cases rants, hitting others like bricks, they don’t stop to think. Many replies are rattled off with no proper thought behind them. Karma makes no allowances. “Each man is personally responsible to the Law of Compensation for every word of his voluntary production” KH (ML, 258).
Those of us who are earnest in serving the Theosophical Society, the blessed movement so dear to the Masters’ hearts, must try to consciously use the internet as a vehicle for the Light, as a tremendous medium for Their Work. HPB maintained that “co-workers must work like the fingers of one hand.” Care must be taken at all times not to be judgmental, to remember to send a blessing and goodwill with every single reply or e-mail, even when deleting nuisance postings or spam mail. We must be aware that the intent or motive behind the words we send will have a greater impact or influence on the receiver. Presently, the internet is an instrument of, not only the forces of Light but also those of Darkness. As beings with free will, both are necessary for us to grow, to learn to discriminate, in time to be that which we essentially are. This is the age with emphasis on the development of higher mind and for the members of the TS movement to make the best use of the internet as a vehicle, and to function at optimum level with full awareness, the advice from the Master KH is most apt, “be steadfast, wary and united” (ML, 318).
And finally inspiring words from Lord Gautama Buddha:
“The thought manifests as the word
The word manifests as the deed
The deed develops into habit
And habit hardens into character
So watch the thought and its ways with care
And let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.”