WE ALL WANT PEACE, SO WHY ARE WE DIVIDED?
Edi Bilimoria – the UK
Introduction by Jan Nicolaas Kind
The article you are about to read is an important one. It doesn’t pretend to promulgate any definite truths; instead it places question marks and encourages the reader to continue the investigative journey we all are on. Theosophy Forward offers a podium for many different Theosophical approaches and that is why we ask your attention for this significant piece. Edi Bilimoria, a regular Theosophy Forward contributor, now living in the UK, has been an investigative and positive critical member of the Adyar-based worldwide Theosophical movement for many years. His articles are published in several Theosophical periodicals.
The renowned physicist and philosopher David Bohm (1) says 1 that the whole question of fragmentation and wholeness is much more subtle and difficult than those which lead to fundamentally new discoveries in science. He says that to ask how to end fragmentation and to expect a ready answer in a few minutes makes even less sense than to ask how to develop a theory as radical as Einstein’s and to expect a simple formula. But as this topic is arguably THE most important question for all of us perhaps we should consider it carefully… NOT by merely quoting others or even worse by resorting to platitudes like “our illusion born of our ignorance divides us” raised to the power of infinity. Platitudes and sermons can never solve problems as a speaker at the 2010 World Congress wisely remarked.
A LESSON FROM FLASH HARRY
Here is where the greatest musical festival in the world is held – the Promenade Concerts in the majestic Royal Albert Hall opposite Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park in London. As students at Imperial College across the road we would horseplay ring-a-ring-o’roses right around the circumference of this massive hall. In 1966 I heard the legendary English conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent conduct the “last night of the Proms” always a high octane jubilant occasion. His brisk tempi, impeccable manners and debonair appearance won him the nickname of Flash Harry – he always wore a red or white carnation in his buttonhole. Like Sir Thomas Beecham who was born on exactly the same day, Sir Malcolm loved Australia and nearly moved there as permanent conductor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Perhaps if the Sydney Opera House were built in his day he would have moved to Australia. Sir Malcolm imparted a very important piece of advice to his fellow musicians: when learning a new work, you must first learn it directly from the score; only THEN listen to recordings of it.
Even more, the young Beethoven so loved and revered Mozart that he deliberately avoided listening to Mozart especially the operas so that his own developing compositional style would be become overly influenced by Mozart.
There are many articles and lectures on the subject of what divides us. I avoided them at first. Although I certainly haven’t followed Sir Malcolm’s advice to the letter, or the last semiquaver, I have forced myself to consider this topic in some depth before turning to my two chief sources of inspiration on this matter: Krishnamurti and principally David Bohm his great admirer and colleague in matters philosophical.
WE ALL HAVE PREFERENCES – LET’S AGREE TO DISAGREE MOST AGREEABLY OVER THEM
(Please note that the first person pronoun has been used in the ensuing narrative in order to promote a feeling of mutual exploration and shared dialogue, as opposed to a formal “you be quiet and listen to me” conventional lecture which tends to inhibit a free-flowing exchange of ideas.)
We all have personal preferences: there is no issue over that. For example, in literature you may prefer Jane Austen, I may prefer Dickens: we are not going to burn each other’s libraries over that. We seem to have an unspoken agreement that Austen and Dickens are both authors in their own right and literature stands over and above any specific author. Then in music you may prefer Beethoven I may prefer Bach: but we’re not going to stab each other’s eardrums in a fight over this. We again have an unspoken agreement that music stands over and above any musical composer. Still over music you may prefer Heifetz’s performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, I may prefer Menuhin’s: but we are not going to smash each other’s record collections over this. We recognize that it is the Violin Concerto that matters over and above any of numerous interpretations of this sublime masterpiece. In fact we have another unspoken agreement that no single interpretation can do full justice to such a work, our appreciation of which is enriched by different interpretations from artists of differing backgrounds and cultures. In art you may like Rafael’s St Cecilia, but I prefer the Mona Lisa. We are not going to poke our eyes out in an argument over which is the superior since we both love art and physically see the paintings before us. And over food you may like quiche, but I like omelets. Are we going to throw eggs at each other in an argument over that since we both like a good meal and our taste buds are active? Even confirmed vegetarians don’t kill and eat carnivores!
So thank goodness there are such differences. How boring life would be if each of us went for exactly the same thing. In human relations amongst our friends and loves we have our differences, thank goodness. But now wait…
I am drawn to Jesus, you are drawn to Mohammed – then what happens? We’re going to FIGHT. We don’t say religion stands higher than any of its expressions. But before we fight just WHO, for Christ’s sake (pardon the expression) are we fighting over? Are we fighting over Jesus and Mohammed – do we know them? Have we met them? Or are we fighting over our images and thoughts ABOUT them?
In The Theosophical Society (TS), I may resonate most of all with H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters, you may find more practical wisdom in Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi – how do we handle that? Not with bloodshed, but still, in some quarters of the TS, with every respect, we handle these differences only a little better, quite seriously, than adolescent teenagers eulogizing over their favourite pop star idols to the virtual exclusion of all others.
So it seems to be, as summarized above, that preferences leading to differences cause no problems. But when differences turn to divisions then conflict arises. Why is this? And why are divisions caused in the realm of religion, politics and philosophical doctrines and not in other areas of cultural or aesthetic life?
PRECISE NATURE OF MY INQUIRY
So the subject of my inquiry – let’s be crystal clear about this – is the mechanism and dynamics of division. I want to explore the factors and reasons why I am divided and to find a way out of it.
I am not inquiring into why we all have preferences. I am asking why, in the field of religion, philosophy and esoteric doctrine (which are not the same thing but become the same problem when emotions get in the way) such preferences and differences soon lead to so much ill-feeling and thoughts resulting in division, then to harsh words, and their natural consequence – violent deeds. Why is it that in just these fields do I maintain an attitude of “I have the Truth and You do not”, which strikes at the very tap root of any notion of brotherhood, let alone universal brotherhood. I am assuming from the start that undivided mind is a fact. Why then am I divided and prejudiced when at rock bottom I know that all the sages unequivocally declare as do increasing numbers of top modern scientists the fact (not hypothesis) of undivided mind? Some would say, and like to tell the whole world that the answer lies in reading The Secret Doctrine: that will sort out all problems and conundrums. Would that it were so!
Accordingly, we shall approach our inquiry into the dynamics of division – in three major parts:
I. The Causes of Division and Conflict
II. Sources of Confusion Leading to Division
III. My Choices Confronting Me.
THE DYNAMICS OF DIVISION
CAUSES OF DIVISION AND CONFLICT
It is obvious that wars don’t auto-start by themselves. All divisions leading to conflict and wars have their origin and root in thought. What then is the key factor behind all divisions? It is Confusion over Differences and Sameness as in the case of:
1. What is the relationship of thinking to reality?
2. What is the relationship of content of thought to the process of thought?
3. What is the relationship of the thinker (or thought producer) to thought?
Polarity vs. dualism
One reason why I am divided is that I fail to distinguish between uniting opposites or polarity and dualism. The one is perfectly natural. Polarity is a fact in nature – it causes no conflictual divisions. Dualism is a man-made delusion – an artificial concept born of Illusion. It causes divisions.
The bubble chamber shown in the diagram, displays two spiraling tracks of an electron (negatively charged), and its antiparticle, the positron (positively charged), the pair arising from their origin in a single high energy photon (light particle) having zero charge travelling through a magnetic field. (2) Reflect how the zero, 0, which is content less, can manifest polar opposites. Similarly, women and men are merely polarized – they are not divided. Their divisions and conflicts either across the sexes or within the same sex are the product of a concept of dualism born of isolated consciousness instead of a feeling of polarity uprising naturally from holistic consciousness.
When comparisons are meaningful and meaningless
If I want to purchase a washing machine it doesn’t make practical sense to have a Fisher & Paykel, Bosch, Miele and a Zanussi all in my kitchen. So it is meaningful to compare various models and choose the one best fitted for my purposes. “Washing machine consciousness” has its place within its appropriate field of application.
But does it make any sense for me to compare the scriptures of say, Buddha and Jesus, or the doctrines of Blavatsky and Besant in order to choose the “best” teaching? Do I not have a state of consciousness higher than washing machine consciousness? Would a musician ever compare the music of say Mozart and Beethoven to establish who is the greater? Why can’t I see that comparisons have meaning in the realm of practical and utilitarian living, but are meaningless, even dangerous, when dealing with big truths, sublime aphorisms and transcendent doctrines?
When divisions are meaningful and meaningless
Of course division has its place. If I want to learn all about mathematics I must sensibly divide up the subject into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus. To learn a difficult piece of music I must learn it in small chunks. As a farmer I don't have the whole of India or Australia at my disposal so I must buy a piece of land. The problem starts when my identification with the fragment blurs the original practical and functional reason behind the division and I start to see the world as actually and literally made up of separately existing fragments.
Confusion over the whole question of theory
The principal cause of division is the universal tendency augmented by scientific methodology (see later) to assume that the content of my thought – my theory about what is – is a true description of the world as it is. That there is a direct correspondence between my thought and objective reality. And since I assume that this direct correspondence between my thought and objective reality exists, since my thoughts are full of differences and distinctions, I regard these as watertight divisions which I then project upon the world and so I see and experience the world as ACTUALLY broken up into fragments. So the key problem and the solution to it is for me to look carefully into the relationship between thought and reality which is far more complex than just a matter of correspondence.
What is theory, that word given so much importance in scientific research? David Bohm explains that the term derives from the Greek „theoria‟ which has the same root as theatre, meaning „to view‟ or „to make a spectacle‟. The word spectacle will be an ominous metaphor for us as we shall see. Theory, then, is an IN-SIGHT, a sight into, therefore a way of looking at the world – not a form of knowledge of how the world or reality IS. If we supposed that theories gave true knowledge corresponding to „reality as it is‟ then we would have to conclude that the Newtonian theory of universal gravitation – in which all objects whether apples on earth or planets in the heavens were seen as falling towards various centres – that this theory was true until around 1900 after which it suddenly became false, while relativity and quantum theory suddenly became true. This ridiculous conclusion does not arise when we realize that all theories are ways of looking which are neither true, nor false, but clear and relevant in their context, becoming unclear and vague when extended beyond their legitimate domains. Newtonian theory is a new way of looking compared to the old Greek insights. Relativity and quantum theory is a new way of looking compared to Newtonian insights.
So instead of saying that older theories are falsified as new theories develop we could say that man is CONTINUALLY developing unending, new forms of insight which assimilate the key features of the older insights as relativity does with Newtonian theory, but all of which have a useful range of meaning up to a point and then become unclear. So there are no grounds for saying that there is an ultimate theory or absolute truth or even ever closer approximations to this ultimate truth. Because we have put the emphasis on ever-continual development with all theories as intermediate sighting posts, we avoid the fragmentation that results when we adopt the attitude of this is true and that is false. (This does not of course mean that anything goes: conjectures and wild hypotheses are not the same as theories.) Therefore there is no absolutely standard in theosophical doctrine or a definite or definitive body of esoteric knowledge. So if I think and tell others that H. P. B. or anyone else sets a sort of gold standard of esoteric instruction I am indulging in major delusion of myself and others. Such a misguided attitude is really no different from those who think that Buddha or Christ have set an absolute yardstick against which all religious teaching can be benchmarked. Substituting the authority of a Christian’s Bible for the authority of a Theosophist’s The Secret Doctrine merely shifts the hot potato from one hand to the other. This means that if Theosophical doctrine is taken as theory in the almost universally accepted sense of an acclaimed definite body of esoteric knowledge about how reality is, then disharmony and schisms are absolutely guaranteed, and no amount of sermons and platitudes about love and universal brotherhood will come to the rescue. In fact we’ll soon start arguing over what brotherhood means. Fighting over the meaning of brotherhood is somewhat ironical! But if such doctrinal theory is seen as new ways of insight and looking into reality there will be ever closer bonding and unity based on a celebration of our differences.
So when I look at the world through my theories while assuming that my theories provide actual knowledge of the world, then the so-called factual knowledge I gain will be colored and shaped by my theories. The vast majority of scientists do precisely that. For example, the ancient Greeks represented the fact about the motion of planets in terms of Ptolemaic epicycles. In Newton’s time this same fact was described in terms of precise planetary orbits. Later the same fact was described relativistically through Einsteinian concept of space and time; still later very differently in terms of quantum theory which gives a statistical probability of an event. The fact is always the same, the way scientists have look at it – their theories – have changed.
So does the problem lie fundamentally with thought? With our mental models? If you say, yes! Then I could counter by saying that the methodology of science is to make independent and repeatable observation the primary and to fit our theories to what we see – after all, surely what we physically see and touch cannot be denied. Not so simple. We do not always observe the “what IS”; invariably we see is what we want to see, as the following experiment demonstrates dramatically.
We see what we expect and want to see (3)
During the course of a lecture on paranormal topics as part of a University Conversazione, Professor Arthur Ellison suggested to the audience that they try to levitate a bowl of flowers placed on a table. This was to be done by imagination and concentration, and also by chanting the word „OM‟ believed in the East to be a sacred sound. After the proceedings commenced, the bowl of flowers levitated about 20 millimeters into the air and then crashed down again.
The audience in the main were staggered by witnessing something for which there was no normal explanation. However one lady invited to sit in the front row said she noticed a ‘greyish substance under the bowl lifting it and the same greyish substance under the legs of the table lifting that.’ Then a Professor of Physics also invited to sit in the front pronounced ‘Well, I saw nothing!’ and left the room. Nobody, least of all the lady and the Physics professor, were aware that the actual levitation was caused by a purely physical arrangement of an electromagnetic levitator artfully concealed under the table; the OM chant was suggested in order to hide the humming sound of the levitator!
To see and hear is not necessarily to look and listen
Neither the lady nor the Physics Professor observed the true, objective fact of the actual levitation of the flower bowl, but rather „saw‟ what they both expected (and therefore in a sense wanted) to see according to their own subjective states, conditioned by their own cultural make-up and belief systems, i.e. according to their own mental re-presentational models – their own cracked “mental glass”. The lady was presumably a Spiritualist and therefore saw the greyish „ectoplasm‟ lifting both the bowl and the table (her mental model) whereas in fact only the bowl levitated, the table having been screwed to the floor. By contrast, the Physics Professor saw nothing at all since his materialistic outlook (his mental model) would admit of no silly nonsense like levitation by imagination, concentration and chanting OM.
The flower-bowl experiment thus shows that, despite the laudable intention to strip out extraneous influences that could bias the results, what happens in practice is that the latter invariably hold sway; for both the lady and the Physics Professor were seeing according to their subjective states and neither was truly looking. Only the general public presumably having no particular persuasions (towards either Spiritualism or materialism) were able to look objectively and truly.
All this demonstrates that the disarmingly simple phrase „physically observed‟ has deeper undertones of significance. Observation cannot always be relied upon for the „real test‟ of a scientific theory. Perhaps it also shows that there is no sharp dividing line between the Cartesian notion of res extensa (what we fondly believe to be the observable matter) and res cogitans (mind substance). The corollary to this is that we also hear what we want and expect to hear, but listen imperfectly – a statement too obvious to warrant comment, as an exasperated chairman of any disorganized committee would willingly testify.
So theory is indeed confirmed by experience and nature will respond in accordance with the theory with which it is approached as Heisenberg and Bohm have shown. For example, as atomic theory developed it provided the backbone for a fragmentary approach to reality. Instead of being one way of looking and questioning nature, it became the one and only way so that scientists and now humanity in general believing all that science tells us, regard as absolute truth the notion that the whole of reality is constituted of nothing but atomic building blocks working mechanistically – as exemplified in the experiments at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN).. So to take any physical theory as absolute truth – and no one has seen an atom – only its effects put together by theory and experiment – must fix the forms of thought in science and contribute to fragmentation. Equivalently in the esoteric field, to accept literally the Anthropogenesis portions of story in The Secret Doctrine as the superior and definitive story of evolution, whilst remaining blind to the large metaphorical import of the doctrine, will also lead to fragmentation. How many of us have actually met the Manasaputras? (4)
So for example, independent and repeatable corroboration from dozens of scientists all over the world about evolution driven by chance and necessity is not independent corroboration at all, when they all share exactly the same paradigm about the Darwinian mechanistic concept of evolution – in other words, they are all looking though the same fragmented mental spectacles and so they will all see essentially the same thing.
Confusion between territory and maps
One way of describing the confusion over theory with reality is that it is confusion between the several “thought maps” that describe the one territory. Thought maps comprise our thought forms, namely our mental images and concepts, the way in which we model experience. When there are differences between Christianity and Islam, we haven’t actually met Jesus or Muhammad. We only have our thought maps ABOUT them. Because we fail to see the actual territory, we argue over the maps. But just having different maps shouldn’t engender conflict. It does that and the problem arises because we claim and possess our mental concepts, we identify with them like we identify with our own name. If you cut me up you won’t find an Edi in me or an Indian or an Australian. Similarly there is no identifiable component called Christianity or Islam in me – or will you will you find in me a lover of H. P. B. or disliker of Dawkins, or a Theosophist. These are the things we identify with and claim as our property whereas in reality they are just the forms of thought. Why do these thought maps, attain such fixity?
SOURCES OF CONFUSION LEADING TO DIVISION
What are my conditioning factors? Authority, pressure to conform, insecurity, fear of ridicule, fear of losing my job, emotional dependence on my authority figure, saying what is expected to climb up the ladder, saying I believe in brotherhood just because I might be asked to give an important lecture. All of these are just ASPECTS OF ESSENTIALLY ONE THING: the weight of my memory and experience of my past either blinds me, block me or pushes me off my course. Now wait! Experience is necessary for practical living.
An example: Say I came to a lecture hall 20 years ago and I found that it had a dry acoustic, so I had to speak louder than I normally do. Unless acoustic engineers have been on the scene my past memory and experience should determine how I should speak in this same hall today. But say I was extremely nervous giving my debut talk in that hall 20 years ago. Do I need to harp on that memory and experience which has no relevance now. The hall is the same hall 20 years ago, but I am a new person 20 years on.
Part of the reason and not the whole story is my childish emotional attachment to an authority figure – dead or alive – be it my father, mentor, friend, whatever, but if alive, then invariably a much older person. Fatally confusing deference for servility I lap up uncritically every word and opinion he expresses. But that’s not all. My beloved teacher may like quiche, I prefer my omlette, but I don’t go and change my diet and go ranting and raving around the world that all of you should start eating quiches instead of omelets, because my teacher who knows it all said so.
But if my teacher now says H. P. B. is the greatest of all teachers, then I – god forbid not all of us, will gladly do that. Tell others, argue tooth and nail, using all sorts of flimsy justifications to show that Besant got it wrong. Now why? This is the dynamic we both exploring. Why is it that Man ever yearns for wholeness at all levels, individual, social, mental but does just about everything to cause fragmentation. Could it be that our very thinking process sustains this fragmentation and defeats our longing for integrity and wholeness?
What better example in the TS than the enumeration and taxonomy of the Principles of Man where the H. P. B. camp take up an intransigent stance. For this faction, there is one and only one way to enumerate the principles, as stated earlier. Apparently Besant got it all wrong when she introduced Anupadaka and Adi. How dare she upset the H. P. B. applecart and confuse the structure that H. P. B. set out for us. Pause for breath… Do we know what Anupadaki means other than as a wordy concept? Have we ever actually OPERATED on that plane? Have we experienced that plane as vividly as we experience the plane of our own emotions? If not then how can we say with such confidence that Besant was wrong other than using such lame arguments that HPB got it from the Masters and so by definition they were right, therefore she must be. Alright, say HPB was entirely right. She spoke about the Causal Body. Do we know it? Have we experienced it ACTUALLY? If not how can we be so cocksure? Is not the sensible approach to say something like: “I really and truly don’t know but I wish to find out. What I know is more a question of what I think I know rather than what I REALLY know. That way I won’t cause division by imposing my ideas on another.”
Supposing arbitrarily and hypothetically that H. P. B. was right and Besant got it all wrong. But as Krishnamurti has pointed out, in what way has your belief actually CHANGED you for the better? Has it done this or just made you more presumptuous about your own opinions?
Knowing nothing ACTUALLY, but thinking I know all about it just because I have my own thought map, on what grounds do I stand in judgment?
Part of my problem is to do with my use of language.
Language and notions of measure in the West
The subject-verb-object structure of our language implies that all action arises in a separate subject which acts on a separate object or on itself considered separately.
Two solutions suggest themselves:
1. Placing the emphasis on VERB rather than noun. This means emphasizing the doing, or process aspect. Indeed the Bhagavad Gita counsels us to be action-orientated rather than dwell upon the fruit of action.
2. Bearing in mind the inherently divisive tendency of our language, being aware of what is left out in what is said restores the whole. For example, to say „doubt is the humble servant of truth‟ leaves out the other half that is unspoken, name, „without faith, nothing is possible‟. Put these two statements together and we have a whole picture.
Bohm has proposed the rheomode – meaning flowing mode, as a new mode of using language so that actions flow and merge into each other, without sharp breaks so that language will be in harmony with the unbroken FLOWING movement of existence as a whole. And since language is the brother of thought, there would be a consequent reflexive action on thought.
The true notion of measure among the Ancient Greeks was a universal sort of inner ratio or proportion perceived through both the senses and through the mind. Hence Protagoras’s remark that “Man is the measure of all things”, and the notions of measure in music (as in rhythm, right proportion in tonality, sound, etc) and in the visual arts (for example, in the „Golden Mean‟) all show how far the notion of measure went beyond what it is now. But this notion became rigidified and objectivized such that measure is now seen outwardly as some sort of comparison of an object with an external standard or unit. In the TS the SD has become the external standard against which any other esoteric book is measured.
Something I now need to be acutely aware of is my culturally conditioned assumptions.
My assumptions about reality embedded in our science-based culture
Science-driven assumptions about reality embedded in our culture that have contributed to fragmentation are:
1. Thinker is completely independent of the reality he thinks about
2. Things are regarded as intrinsically and inherently divided and disconnected
3. So therefore things are able to be broken down into ever smaller elements that are independent and self-existent
In science the Cartesian rectilinear grid modified as the curvilinear grid or cylindrical coordinates or polar coordinates are all ways of fixing an object rigidly in 3D physical space. This Cartesian order used for centuries is perfect for analyzing the world into separately existing parts as fields or elements. But it has led to serious contradictions and confusion in relativity and quantum physics because both theories and their experiments imply that the actual state of affairs is unbroken wholeness of the universe. The latest science informs us that a radically new notion of order is needed that pertains to a universe of unbroken wholeness. This is the implicate order.
Until the advent of modern physics the notion that the ultimate reality can be known through physical laws has led to much confusion. This is because the new religion of our age – materialistic science has avoided such questions and argued that all that matters is the development of mathematical equations that allow us to predict what we observe and control the behavior of objects. But science itself is now demanding a non-fragmentary world view first from relativity and especially quantum physics both of which bristle with mathematics. Bell’s theorem implies that the apparently separate parts of the universe could be intimately connected at a deep and fundamental level. Bohm asserts that this fundamental level is an unbroken wholeness, in his words „that which is‟. All things including space, time and matter are abstracted forms derivedp/strong style=p stbr /yle=p style=p style= from the deeper order of the „that which is‟: the explication of the implicate.
Dynamics of division - feedback mechanism
Metaphysically, space and mind are analogous; hence I can use this analogous relationship to understand why I tend to have fixed ideas and concepts. The above figure shows how my “mental coordinates” fix my “mental objects”, (which are my thoughts and concepts) just as Cartesian coordinates fix the position of a physical object in 3D physical space. My mental coordinates are none other than my three science-driven assumptions about reality stated above. A pernicious feedback loop is established as shown in the figure to the right in the form of a flowchart of the process. The advantage of flowcharts is they put the emphasis on flow – movement – on the verb.
MY CHOICES CONFRONTING ME
So we come back to the central issue. If I look through my cracked physical spectacles the sky outside will appear fragmented. I will immediately realize this and choose clear spectacles or no spectacles to look outside. Alas! That I could do just this with my thoughts. Instead I continue to wear my cracked mental spectacles and say that my theory does fit the experiment. But what I have seen is not the WHAT IS, but an appearance conditioned by my mental model. I don’t see the actual sky through clear glass or no glass but a sky fragmented according to my own brand of fragmented thought. And because I have overlooked the fact that I myself am fragmented, I believe that I have a proof of the correctness of my fragmentary self-world view.
If you and I look at a flower pot from different angles we will never argue over our differing viewpoints. But if we regard our particular views as fixed and definite knowledge about Flower Pots, equating our partial viewpoints with the whole picture, then inevitably there is conflict since my fragment of fixed and definite knowledge is different from yours.
Now that I am confused, I seek an artificial sort of security which I call unity by using Occam’s razor, the intellectual knife, to cut out all differences and impose a rigid structure to uphold my own ideas. Such structure can take the form of starting a group, or trust to promote set ideas and beliefs whilst eschewing different ideas.
So my choices are either:
1. to continue to look through my cracked mental spectacle glass – my usual moronic state
2. or to look with clarified vision through clear mental glass, preferably to remove my spectacles, meaning to be critically aware of my thought process (not so much thought content) and its resultant conditioning
Let’s consider these two alternatives.
My normal and predictably moronic reaction
If like the very vast majority of men I choose to continue looking through cracked glass, my splintered world-view will result in corresponding actions that break up the world into pieces corresponding to my mode of thinking. BUT WITHIN MY DEEP SELF I LONG FOR UNITY AND WHOLENESS. So what do I do? As just stated, I join a group of like-minded people MEANING LIKE MIND FRAGMENTS to try and unite what is really not unitable. Even worse, I form, or join a group within a group calling that core group by some sanctimonious name having an ostensibly lofty motive and thereby break a splinter off what is already fragmented. Whether this group is economic, religious, social or so-called spiritual, it will create a sense of division because it separates me from the rest of the world and the whole, with whom I am intrinsically connected. So even if men try to hive themselves off from the rest of society and attempt to unite by identifying within a group – even if the identification is with a group that talks of Universal Brotherhood – the group will eventually develop internal stresses and strife leading to cracks in its unity. Soon we will hear words unspoken, but evident by their actions such as: “my version of truth is truer than yours”; or “all men are my brothers but some are more brotherly than others”, which is a polite way of saying that all those who disagree with me are not my brothers.
Reverting to the ongoing and futile debate between the Blavatsky and Besant enumeration of the planes of nature and principles of man, those who are confused will dogmatically stick to one book and one teaching and gravitate towards a “back to Blavatsky” movement (by whatever name) which is basically fundamentalist (or whatever more gracious term we may use, but a “rose is a rose by any name”) and therefore inherently divisive, because the implied message, however politely it may be given out is “we have the core teachings of pure theosophy and the truth, and you do not”. (Incidentally Occam’s razor is meant to cut out the superfluous, not what is meaningful but inconvenient.) To impose a rigid structure upon the ever-flowing eternal wisdom and imprison the SD in it is the mark of one who fears – not loves – truth. When we fear truth we cut out what we don’t wish to consider and impose tight structures to contain what we do. But the truth lover prefers to step outside the confines of Plato’s cave and not to confuse the shadows on the walls for realities, or to mistake the volume of his cave for the limitless expanse of the universe. At the very least, he would like to explore other caves.
So for example in the TS, you may be drawn to Besant, I to Blavatsky. There’s only difference. The moment I say “back to Blavatsky – she gave us the gold standard of truth” there is division and a deep crack appears in an otherwise integrated society; and I am not saying something that has not actually happened. I have completely forgotten what was said earlier about how the true notion of measure has degenerated into one of outward comparison with an external standard. So I now make the fatal error of treating the SD – rather, my own limited understanding of this great book – as my arbitrary yardstick of esotericism against which I “measure” all other books and ideas. Whereupon I react to you saying immature things like “H. P. B. is superior because she got it from the Masters” whom incidentally, I must confess, I’ve never met. Worst of all I say there are irreconcilable divergences between H. P. B. and AB – that’s me looking through my cracked glass. Of course there are such “divergences”; that’s precisely what I set out to find in the first place – my cracked glass effect. Then you may say there are no such divergences, they are completely in agreement. That’s you looking through YOUR cracked glass. You set out to find agreement in the first place. Better for me just to look clearly with no cracks interposed. But instead what do I do? I form or join a splinter group allying itself by whatever fancy name it chooses, but with the aim of making men believe the picture I see through my cracked glass is the ultimate reality that theosophy has given us. Enormous time and energy has been wasted in this useless debate that has caused no end of acrimony. The H. P. B. and Besant enumeration of the principles are therefore different maps, different ways of looking at the one territory, the occult constitution of Man. They are not fixed and definite knowledge about the human being from which we have to choose from one of two irreconcilable versions. It goes against the grain of the TS ethos to promote any one teacher (even H. P. B.) or teaching as the highest authority or fundamentally superior to all else. To do so is indicative of emotional prejudice and quite irresponsible. Does my friendship with you have to depend upon how we each enumerate the principles of man? And that too in a Society ostensibly devoted to freedom of thought? My love and appreciation of great music, (say Beethoven’s violin concerto) is enriched by listening to different interpretations. But why can’t I apply the same principle to esoteric instruction? Why can’t I see that my understanding of the principles of man and nature is deepened by looking at the H. P. B., Besant and other systems with an equal eye? Why has the Second Object of The Theosophical Society lost its meaning to me?
So if I form or join an interest group for mutual exploration I cause no division. But the moment I identify that group with the whole thinking its message to be over and above all others, I have created division. Let’s use an engineering analogy to see the difference between an interest group and a divisive group – how one engenders goodwill and the other provokes division.
But in my wiser moments ….
I see how I try and divide up what is one and indivisible and then try to identify emotionally and personally with what is different. That way a difference becomes a division. Let’s have a real example of what I could do instead in my wiser moments?
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in England has various interest groups in transport: railway, aerospace, motor cars. Any Mechanical Engineer is drawn to one of these according to his inclinations and skills. Mine happens to be aerospace. I recognize that this is different from railways and motor cars. But the moment I say aerospace is SUPERIOR to the others, so all engineers should join the Aerospace Group, because that’s the best and only way to travel, there is division. Of course it’s a perfectly absurd notion to hold. Travelling from Brisbane to Caboolture I prefer to go by car. To Sydney from Brisbane I prefer an aeroplane powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent – unless I want a long drive. One mode is no superior to the other: each has its domain of relevance.
Given that insight I am not so confused now, in which case I positively welcome differences of ideas and philosophies which enrich instead of obfuscate my overall appreciation of the subject of my inquiry. So I will look with an equal eye at the Blavatsky system, the one by Besant as well as the systems by those not directly connected with The Theosophical Society, such as by Ramana Maharshi, Paul Brunton, Sri Aurobindo and others. I will simply LOOK at these realizing that all these systems are not definite bodies of knowledge but different maps of the one territory. Regarding Blavatsky I will realize that to take her system and structure literally and blindly believing every word she said without due regard to the metaphorical significance of large truths is a mark of my adolescent gullibility (unfortunately, I may not be the only one so naïve in this regard); however, not to look at her writings with utmost care and seriousness is a mark of my presumptuous arrogance. But by looking at different teachings I can negotiate the razor’s edge between doubt and credulity more expertly than by sticking to one or other side. I will realize that as a musician does equal justice to such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, putting music over and above any specific composer, so I will not go back to Blavatsky but move forwards with Blavatsky, Besant, Brunton and others, putting the search for truth above the expositions of any individual teacher. Then my whole approach will be inquiry- and learning-based rather than conclusion- and authority-based. I now see with consternation how I had for decades been fooling myself: that my former teaching and preaching attitude had practically naught to do with actual experience but merely a parrot-like regurgitation of what I read in books, gaily assuming that what I read about I actually know all about just because I can perform gymnastics with my thoughts. I see that all my previous attempts to “keep Theosophy pure” were largely ego-based attempts. I realize that Theosophy can no more be kept “pure” by eradicating all teachings and doctrines, save one, any more than a race can be “purified” by ethnic cleansing, or a family trait enhanced by inter-marriage to preserve the same gene pool, or water maintain its purity by leaving it stagnant, or the quintessential nature of music can be appreciated by playing just one composer. I have finally awakened to the fact that all such attempts to carve a niche for (my version of) theosophy (and so to make a name for myself) have been highly divisive. Besides subverting the inquiry into truth by affording truth a lower status than my one single chosen exposition of it, my approach would have fossilized theosophy into some kind of conforming sect or cult, thus preventing it from being a union of science, religion and philosophy – all against the spirit of that absolute freedom of inquiry enshrined in the core ethos of The Theosophical Society. Prizing Theosophy as the never-ending quest for truth and an experience of divine wisdom I cannot now reconcile this search for truth with blind obedience to supposed dogmas, from whatever one-single source, even Mahatmic. At last, I am free. My exhilaration by being so liberated bears no comparison to a mere out-of-the-body experience about which we hear so much these days. I have tasted an “out-of- my-thoughts” experience!
I finally actually see how fragmentation actually occurs
Fragmentation then occurs when I am confused around the whole question of differences and sameness: what is different and what is not. The principal source of this confusion is the almost universal presupposition that the process of thought is sufficiently separate from and independent of its content so that we can carry out clear thinking in order to judge the content as correct or incorrect, rational or irrational, fragmentary or whole. But process and content are not two separately existing things, but two aspects of one whole movement. The fragmentary process and content have to end together. Otherwise it’s as absurd as trying to eliminate turbulent whirlpools in a flowing stream without at the same time changing the formative activity of the fluid process that is causing these whirlpools as its “content”.
Let us draw upon an engineering analogy. The figure to the left shows the stresses in a metal plate. The picture on the left shows a plate with no imperfections and the stress lines are straight and smoothly distributed. This represents the stresses in the field of humanity as a whole. The next figure shows a rounded hole in the plate with the stress lines flowing evenly around the aperture. This depicts a harmonious group or nucleus within humanity dedicated to some specific purpose. Next we see how a square hole with its sharp corners causes a distortion and concentration of the stress lines, representing the divisive effect caused by a dysfunctional group. This fact is reinforced in the picture to the right which shows how a sharp indentation or crack in a stressed plate can propagate into the body of the material – such is the effect of malicious individuals in a society. This point is worth stressing. The next two pictures below show how even a small crack in a stressed plate can split it in two: even one or two malevolent individuals within an otherwise harmonious group can swiftly break up the group in two.
As an aside it is precisely this phenomenon of high stresses concentrated at sharp corners that caused the metal fatigue and ensuing crack to propagate along and rip open the fuselage resulting in the catastrophic explosive decompression of three Comet airplanes in the 1950s. The primary solution was disarmingly simple: to replace the original sharp-cornered square windows with rounded windows. The picture to the left on display in the Science Museum in London shows two square windows in the fuselage roof fragment of Comet G-ALYP which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. It is quite amazing that a mere case of window shape was responsible for Britain losing its supremacy in commercial aviation. (It took four years to investigate and redesign the Comet during which the Boeing aircraft company in America took the lead with its 707 jet.) But what does the square with its sharp corners and the circle with no corners signify to us not only physically, but psychologically?
What can I do about it? Two things
Some help from light
Metaphysically speaking, thought and light are analogous. Hence we can draw upon the physical aspects of the latter to understand the operations of the former.
In optics, the refractive index is a measure of the bending of a ray of light when passing from one medium into another, as from water to air, which is why a stick appears bent in water. Using this example, the figure below on the left shows a source of light submerged in a still lake. We see that a ray of light emerging at any angle to the perpendicular is distorted or “bent” at the water-air interface. If the incident angle is so large, no light can escape at all and the incident ray is totally reflected back into the water. Undistorted transmission occurs only when the incident ray is perpendicular to the surface.
The figure above shows the analogy with my own thoughts. The equivalent of optical refractive index is “mental refractive index”, namely the degree to which my conditioning, prejudices, assumptions and suppositions collectively “bend” or distort true perception. This is not as fanciful as it sounds for H. P. B. has also used a similar analogy (albeit in a slightly different context) to illustrate the distorting and fragmenting characteristic of ordinary mind. (5) Any “thought ray” that is one-sided emerges from the mind as distorted or “bent”. Undistorted perception or unified vision only occurs when my thinking is global taking all sides of the argument into consideration. The worst case scenario is when I am so one-sided in my thoughts that my own thoughts never “escape‟ from me. I fool myself that I am seeing reality whereas in fact I am only seeing my own thoughts beamed back to me. Then I am truly deranged. This is the classic feature of the fundamentalist who simply cannot factor in any arguments and considerations other than his own, or change the subject, or change his mind.
My solution then is to look straight ahead, not to any one side. What does this mean in real terms? To reiterate, it means looking at the WHOLE problem, not a partial view sideways on. With total internal reflection I see my own thought images beamed back to me and think that that is the nature of reality. It is only my concoction of it.
Truth therefore is not just a point of view – it is all points of view considered as a whole. Lama Govinda said:
“All our logical definitions are one-sided and partial, since they are bound to their starting point: the judging intellect and the particular angle of vision. What people generally regard as truth is little more than a one-sided statement, [namely, a mental fragment]”.
The ideal remedy is that I should NEVER resort to logical definitions and intellectual apparatus at all, since these are, by their very nature: one-sided; bound to their starting point; and therefore partial.
But if I cannot at this stage avoid intellectual discourse, then the practical remedy is to ensure that I adopt a 360 degree intellectual perambulation around my object of consideration instead of pulling in one direction. The result will be that all my „logical definitions and judging intellect will be multi-sided and therefore even-handed, since they will maintain a global balance of „intellectual tension‟. Truth will not be just a particular point of view, a one-sided statement or mere opinion, but a rounded and unified vision.
The practical outcome of this is that I do not now need to impose on others my ego-driven ideas about which books should be eradicated and burnt in order to effect a cleansing of Theosophy. My enhanced level of intelligence and attentiveness will of its own accord keep Theosophy alive and vital weeding out the unessential. What is irrelevant or inimical to eternal wisdom will be burnt in the fire of my intelligence and fall away by natural attrition, not by external authority or imposition. From now on I only share my learning and enthusiasm with others, but I have no business to teach them anything or tell them what they should or should not read and study.
Twisting the tail of reality – my way out and sigh of relief
The picture to the above (on top) shows a cylindrical strip and it is obvious that the words yin and yang will forever remain on opposite sides. But by giving one end of the strip a half-twist I create what is known as a Mobius band. Fixing my eye on the yin I visually trace a path along the band and eventually reach the yang. Continuing to trace further I again reach the yin. So I can consider the Mobius band as a sort of “underlying unity”. Harking back to the quotation on page 1, by making the slightest distinction, by cutting the band and taping it without the half-twist, I have set yin and yang for ever apart. (6)
MY TEN-TATIVE COMMANDMENTS TO END FRAGMENTATION AND REALIZE UNDIVIDED MIND
I shall not:
1. Make anyone or anything the common enemy. To be united by animosity towards a common enemy is no unity at all. Remove the common enemy and the disunity is apparent. So let’s not make even scientific materialism or religious dogmatism the common enemy.
2. Regard Theosophy as H. P. B’s or anyone else’s answers and conclusions, or a body of instructions that we have agreed to hold on to as “Theosophical doctrine.”
3. Be blinkered by the notion that theories give true and definite knowledge or direct descriptions about “reality as it really is”.
4. Conform, NEVER
5. Discern who we truly are from our accumulations and ideas about ourselves.
6. Regard new theory as a new way just of looking – as ever-changing forms of insight
7. Be crucially aware of the activity and process of thought as such, not its content regarded as a “copy of reality”
8. Realize that Knowledge is not about some separate experience. Experience-knowledge are inseparable aspects (two sides of the coin) of one undivided and whole movement.
9. Discriminate polarity and difference from dualism and division.
10. Live in a state of everlasting inquiry. A body of concluders will ultimately fragment through the rigidity of its own content: a body of inquirers is undivided owing to the flexibility engendered by the very process of inquiry. “There is No Religion Higher Than Truth‟ surely means to live in such unending inquiry, never concluding, ever seeking.
Let the final word rest with that diamond soul, Annie Besant. In this short extract she alludes to the great danger that a powerful, iconoclastic figure such as H.P.B. can have on generations of Theosophists. The danger lies in the fact that the overwhelming impact and authority of her teachings can quell the individual search for truth. Personal effort and intellectual development can be sacrificed to mute submission and mimicking what H. P. B. stated. Besant is clearly reminding us of that which H. P. B herself warned: the danger of aspiring Theo-Sophists becoming conforming “theo-parrots”. Indeed when the eagles of Theosophy fall silent, the parrots start jabbering! (7)
1) David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implacate Order, ARK Paperbacks (Routledge), 1994.
2) Taken from „The Passion of Yin and Yang‟, Quest, Fall 2010
3) This is a summarized account of a private communication to the writer by Professor Ellison in August 1996. An inaccurate version of the story is given in the book by Kit Pedler, Mind Over Matter. Arthur J. Ellison is Emeritus Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The City University, London. He has twice been President of The British Society for Psychical Research (a scientific body for studying paranormal phenomena) and the author of a comprehensive and lucidly presented book „The Reality of the Paranormal,‟ Harrap, 1988.
4) H. P. B. warned us as much in the Proem of The Secret Doctrine not to take the statement therein as literal facts that can be verified by comparison and ratiocination: „The history of cosmic evolution, as traced in the Stanzas, is, so to say, the abstract algebraically formula of that Evolution...The Stanzas, therefore, give an abstract formula...‟
5) As the white ray of light is decomposed by the prism into the various colours of the solar spectrum, so the beam of divine truth, in passing through the three-sided prism of man's nature, has been broken up into vari-coloured fragments called RELIGIONS. H. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, Chapter X11, p. 639.
6 ) See „The Passion of Yin and Yang‟, Quest, Fall 2010.
7 ) Adapted from the famous saying of Sir Winston Churchill.