Our Special Issue for this year focuses on some of the fundamental spiritual concerns that underlie the problems facing humanity today. Our contributors have dealt with these issues from a theosophic perspective and have cast what light they may have on certain basic questions that people of all ages ask: Who are we, and why are we born in the first place? What about old age and the process of dying, and death itself that many fear so greatly? What purpose have pain and the long drawn-out suffering that afflicts people seemingly without regard to character or circumstance? Where is the justice? Obviously there are no easy or pat answers, yet the process of reflecting on these themes does help us meet whatever comes with a degree of equanimity. If we could learn to live in harmony with ourselves, we would live in harmony with our neighbors, as well as with the earth.
In considering these topics, we need to take into account what a human being really is. According to the ancient wisdom the epochal event of lighting the mind in early humanity made us distinct from the animals. But the faculty of mind is double-edged: having power to think and make choices gave us knowledge but not wisdom -- this must be earned. Truly, the mind is a mystery, at one time near to godlike, rising to supernal heights, at another more bestial than the beasts. We can't help but question whether justice is fundamental in the cosmos, and if so how this is reflected in human behavior. When we hear, as many faiths claim, that we humans bear within our deepest essence the mystic seal of godhood, it is difficult indeed to reconcile this with the unconscionable injustices perpetrated on millions of the innocent. Clearly, as individuals and collectively as a humanity we have a backlog of unfinished business to handle and a stretch of maturing yet before us.
We are all intermeshed, and how any one of us thinks and feels affects others, perhaps hundreds of persons whom we don't know but who are, nonetheless, in synchrony with our thought-rhythms -- all of which adds to the peace or discord in our world. Our inner connectedness is a theme in tune with the emerging Aquarian age; already we are aware instantaneously of any trouble spot on our globe. This has built-in problems of course; but it points up as nothing else does our oneness as a species: that when one part of the soul of humanity is out of alignment a warp is felt throughout the whole, until we have set right the imbalance. It is a grievous thing to place obstacles in the path of another -- more and more we realize the far-reaching influence of thought-power for weal or woe.
Understandably, one of today's most pressing concerns is humanity's relations to earth and all her kingdoms below and above the human. If divinity, by whatever name, enlivens every atom of its creation, our earth -- Gaia -- is as much a vital, dynamic being as we are, divine in origin, with its own wisdom and a future of incomparable wonder. In truth, we are not only citizens of earth, but of the cosmos, and as such have a destiny cosmic in scope and possibility. The Kogi Elders of a little known tribe of South American Indians -- with extreme reluctance, and at the risk of the purity and integrity of their ancient culture maintained by disciplined fidelity for over four hundred years -- have come forth to urge their "very Younger Brother," ourselves, to make a complete turnabout in our ways if we would save our planet and ourselves. Their "message," as reported by Alan Ereira on film and in book form, is epitomized on pp. 105-13. Freedom to think, to choose, to know good from evil, imposes responsibility. We were not meant to be despoilers but custodians of our planet and of our fellow-humans, as well as of the animals, plants, and minerals.
One indication of the widespread concern about the issues facing humanity is the forthcoming Parliament of the World's Religions to be held in Chicago from August 28 to September 4 -- a centenary commemoration of the ground-breaking World's Parliament of Religions of 1893. The vision and courage of those who spearheaded the 1893 Parliament served as a catalyst that helped set in motion a chain reaction whose positive effects will continue through the coming centuries. Once the door is opened to independent inquiry and the hand of brotherhood extended, nothing can stop the momentum of interreligious and fraternal interchange. While honoring the 1893 assembly as a significant religious landmark, the near 150 Co-Sponsors of this year's Parliament, representing a broad spectrum of religious and philosophical communities, will focus on the critical problems that nations worldwide and their governments are struggling to solve. The last of four basic questions asked of the Co-Sponsors reads: "What alternative visions can your faith contribute to living peacefully and sustainably with others and with the earth?"
Why invite the leading figures of mainstream and alternative faiths to deliberate for several days on humanity's appalling plight unless the Council sponsoring the event were fired by a strong hope that the confluence of earnest minds and hearts could make a difference. But can a few individuals, however able and sincerely motivated, accomplish what the nations and peoples of the world most need? Without question, when there is a meeting of hearts for high purposes, with respect and appreciation for one another's integrity, the magic of synergy may occur, a spontaneous quickening of the spirit -- intangible yet very present. We are confident that the 1993 Parliament will close with a genuine fraternal feeling among all present that extends not only to the whole of humankind, but enfolds also our planet earth and all its kingdoms. This is the meaning of universal brotherhood.
Viewing with our mind's eye the manifold problems facing our humanity, we must ask: have we the required resolve to take those steps that will steadily erode the causes of the despicable conditions oppressing millions of our helpless brothers? Will our inner aspirations translate into a conscious reshaping of our thought-patterns so that these pressing issues remain alive in our consciousness? In this way we would add strength and possibly a touch of wisdom to those engaged directly in trying to resolve the immediate conditions wisely, compassionately, and where possible with long-range solutions. If not, we as a humanity cannot hope to execute the complete turnabout in our thinking and attitudes we so desperately need. This may loom as an impossible task, but have we a choice? Time is running out and the margins of tolerance are narrowing. Yet try we must: with minds and hearts that can embrace universes of stars and atoms, far better to venture a sea-change than to sink into quietism, "the paralysis of the soul."
Since all action has its seeding in the mind and emotions, it is patently clear that if we would achieve peace, justice, and harmonious relationships on a global scale, we have first to root out the deadly weeds of pride, self-righteousness, and greed in ourselves, breeding-ground of the pervasive hate and intolerance that result in the outrages of the day, and the rape and plunder of our planet. There is no call for despair, for much is happening on inner planes in the closing years of this decade, and its effects are being felt worldwide. Millions of people are breaking free from the straitjacket of credalism, and trusting their inner light, the divine spark within. Every human being is irradiated by the same light insofar as we open ourselves to it. This is our challenge and our opportunity, for nothing dispels the darkness of ignorance, selfishness, and egoism more swiftly than the light of our divinity illuminating our human nature. With our inner god as companion and friend, we will know that every brave attempt to mitigate and eventually solve the overwhelming problems of the times adds power and longevity to the totality of creative and light-bearing energies that are protecting humanity and Mother Earth as they circulate in and through the thought-continent surrounding our planet.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1993; copyright © 1993 Theosophical University Press)
Man is a center of light and joy that increase the more they are poured out. Is not the speaking man more than vocal cords, he who laughs a giver of joy, and is not his love a radiance that blesses all it touches? These are in the common lot of every man. By them is he continually renewed. -- Gertrude W. Hockinson