THEOSOPHY, Vol. 90, Summer 2002
(Pages 4-11; Size: 15K)

FACETS OF INQUIRY

[Article number (19) in this Department]

Is there anything in the theosophical teachings to help explain the present widespread phenomenon of globalization and what it may lead to?

My backyard is where a line is drawn, and people should not pass over it without invitation. Call it respect for or integrity of the individual, if you wish. Yet increasingly, external influences blur the boundaries of this backyard. While freedom and empowerment are always to be fought for, chances are anyone reading this is standing on fairly firm ground. In a world in which 80 percent of adults are illiterate, chances are you (the reader) are going to help define those changes. You may not want a large backyard, but you definitely expect to find some place to stand and to plant a garden. Action requires a foundation. Archimedes (ca 220 BCE) was theoretically correct: "Give me a place to stand, ... and I will move the Earth "

Many people have a utopian vision for a healthy, peaceful, socially just, economically secure and environmentally sustainable world. This ideal is the self-realized world. For the literati, globalization already offers the potential for accessing information, in astoundingly encouraging varieties. We travel more easily. We plan more grandly. Our science is state of the art. Our virtual eyes have seen the planet as a little blue globe. Is the world a better place for it? The complexity challenges everyone. For some, infringement is painful. For the rest, alternatives create new communities of friends and associates. Simplicity movements, for example, are afoot among those who can choose a lifestyle. Online, theosophy students from four corners of the planet correspond regularly on blavatsky.net, browse wisdomworld.com [Note: This is a mistake, as it's wisdomworld.org, not ".com", that the Editors refer to here.--Compiler.], and build similar distribution sites. Another example, the message of the Bhagavad-Gita -- fearless action, in knowledge and faith -- is read throughout the world and available freely online. The glass is half full for those who see its potential.

Think, however, of the concerns being expressed: over-abuses of power, culture clashes bringing unwanted changes, threats to religious underpinnings, environmental havoc created by corporate greed, and health debacles based on economic racism. Well-educated and less-privileged people alike are standing against the trends of globalization. True enough, UNICEF statistics speak of the long-standing gap in suffering, with twenty percent of the world's population controlling eighty percent of the world's wealth, and yet globalization is more than about runaway capitalism and free markets. Many people fear the standardization designed to make it easier to converse and interact -- they fear losing the independence of mind as well as body for the sake of the global good and world peace. Being politically incorrect is gaining favor. Goodwill is turning into the anti-Christ, at least for some. The glass is half empty for the victimized and alienated. The lines being drawn are not easy to categorize.

The reader's question: Is there anything in the theosophical teachings to help explain the present widespread phenomenon of globalization and what it may lead to? Several students offer the following perspectives, among many possible facets of inquiry.

WHO ARE WE?

The globalization we hear about today is mainly a materialistic phenomenon. It is not based on the Gaia hypothesis, the idea that the earth is a living organism and that each individual life form has a part to play in its health and well being. It is not based on the fact that each of us emanate from one spiritual source that we generally refer to as god or deity. The globalization in our day is not the conscious realization that we are essentially spiritual beings, one (life) on the spiritual plane.

The globalization of the present has its roots in the perverse idea that human progress and society's well being is measured primarily by production and consumption and that unless a company, large or small, usually large, not only makes a profit each year, but an ever expanding profit, it does not deserve to stay in existence. This breed of economic Darwinism, "the survival of the biggest," is essentially what is driving our late 20th, early 21st century globalization. An earlier era of industrialism showed us that unbridled capitalism would allow the dark side of human nature to rule and cause untold suffering to workers as well as children. Thus we put certain checks into the system by passing laws to protect individuals and curb the abuses created by our short sightedness. The present globalization of products, popular culture, forms of government and economic markets seems to essentially be the same beast raising its head once more. Multi-national corporations are the driving force behind "the new world order" and until the individuals, which to some degree are all of us who work for these companies, create a corporate conscience and put people before profits, globalization will polarize rather than unify the human family.

At best, the present rush toward globalization is the distorted shadow cast by the bright sun of spiritual unity, which is resident in the force of life itself, according to the great spiritual traditions. An amazing impulse in every atom strives for resolution, harmonious expression, symmetry, and unification. The world is shrinking; what goes on in far off countries affects us here in the USA and what we do here governmentally, economically, and culturally has a huge impact all over the world. What is missing is the realization that we are one earth and one family. And as recent events have shown when there is unrest, poverty, inequality and isolation anywhere in the world, the whole is affected. We should not be so naive to think that we do not play some part in the destiny of other nations. We are indissolubly connected.

We need a globalization of consciousness, and we need to cultivate an awareness and responsibility and hold our representatives responsible for our actions as a country. Theosophy advocates a globalization of the heart and an active recognition that what is essentially good for me must be good for my neighbor. If our actions affect others in a negative way, they should be stopped. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" should [be] the first commandment of globalization.

PAX AMERICANA

There is a natural process of development that humanity undergoes repeatedly, cyclically. First there is a period of unification, a coming together of the different peoples of the world, with their different cultures, different languages, different experiences and knowledge. During this period, they share the specialized and refined experiences and knowledge they had gained separately, and they intermix to produce new kinds of bodies, minds and speech. This is followed by a period of dispersion, in which the larger unity breaks down into smaller, discrete groups, which are now able to focus on and develop specialized skills and powers. And then the cycle repeats. The process can be compared to the way different foods are ingested and assimilated into a single body, the way they are transformed as they undergo this process, the way they are eliminated and go their separate ways into great nature.

During the period of amalgamation, a central power becomes the focus of the development. Atlantis was once that focus. Various peoples united under this central influence, and then that mighty influence spread throughout the world, globally, so that eventually places like Egypt and the Yucatan became its colonies, partook of its knowledge and culture, and constructed buildings -- such as pyramids and sphinxes -- along Atlantean designs. Gradually, Atlantis was destroyed, and a great period of decentralization followed.

More recently, ancient Rome was the focus. For many centuries, the known world became increasingly united under the Roman banner, the Pax Romana, the peace imposed by Rome over its dominion. Cultures, races, ideas, religions, arts intermingled and were thereby transformed. Then followed its disintegration and many years of darkness: the age of feudalism, an age of small independent groups, each distinct and distant from the other, each developing its own language, arts and thought.

And now, once again, we are undergoing a period of vast and mighty unification encompassing the entire world, and we call it globalization. The United States is now the focus of this development. Here people from all over the world, with their different racial developments, cultures, skills, talents and languages are intermarrying, producing new bodies and minds. And its influence -- its language, its political structures, its economy, its technological advancements -- is being felt worldwide.

How will the process unfold? Is it good or evil? The process itself, as we have seen, is neither good nor evil. It is absolutely essential. It is built into the very fabric of nature itself. But how it unfolds will depend on the motives and attitudes of the nation and, more importantly, the individuals who compose it. If we proceed out of selfishness, from a desire to profit from other people's misery and weakness, a dark and violent end will inevitably result (as occurred with both Atlantis and, to a lesser extent, Rome). If on the other hand, we proceed out of a motive to help, to teach and to learn, then a harmonious and enlightened period will follow, a Pax Americana, if you will. No doubt, it will be a mixture of the two, the dark and the light, the selfish and the selfless. One thing, however, is perfectly clear: at some point in the distant, or perhaps not-so-distant, future, there will once again be a dispersion. The mighty empire will be dismantled, and people will go off into their own separate groups. How this plays itself out -- peacefully or violently, nobly or ignominiously -- that is up to us.

PLANE REASONING

From a theosophical point of view, the present times may be thought of as a great transition. When viewed in terms of the great cycles of evolution, globalization is an indication of worldwide integration and a step towards universal "brotherhood."

When we look around at nature; we perceive a systematic process that unfolds. As an example, view the cycle of a simple flower. It begins with a germinating seed that grows into a flower at full bloom. After the duration of its innate life energy, it begins to disintegrate until it falls completely apart leaving only its seeds to carry on at a later time, but with the hereditary strength that its parent roots have developed. This process is enacted throughout the universe from the minute seed to the life of planet, i.e., creation, preservation, destruction and regeneration.

The physical plane is a bundle of effects. That is to say, what we see and experience on this outer plane is the reflection of the causes initiated on the inner or causal plane of consciousness. In this age of transition, our social, educational, religious and scientific views reflect the causal side of human thought. All of our thoughts are registered as on a giant screen called the astral light. These thoughts are, in turn, reflected back to this plane in forms, trends of thought, and the behavior of all the people throughout the world. When a thought or action is enacted anywhere in the world, the whole of life is impacted through this medium called the astral light. Since we are of one life, we are reciprocally affected. This, then, calls for an awareness of our responsibility in all the considerations of our lives.

When we see some occurrence on the other side of the globe, we tend to think, what have I to do with such violence or atrocity? Since karma works on the physical, mental, and spiritual planes, the degree to which we are affected is proportionate to the degree to which we have contributed to the quality of thought engendered by these ideas. This means we have a choice at all times to improve or degrade the quality of life through our thoughts and actions that are registered in the astral light. If we see only on the linear or physical plane, we are viewing the effects and are unaware of our own involvement as initiated on the inner planes consciously or otherwise. This is why all the great teachers have emphasized the great importance of ethics, for the motivation of our thought in word and deed.

Universal brotherhood can only be effected through an awareness of our interconnectedness on all the planes of consciousness that theosophy delineates. The absence of this awareness is the cause of separative thought and action, and it will continue to compound separative action through the process of creation, preservation, destruction, and regeneration. Hence the trend toward globalization will be in harmony with the law of life and the unfolding of our innate spirituality to the degree that we can find common denominators among all factions of the world and act reciprocally.


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