THEOSOPHY, Vol. 81, No. 8, June, 1993
(Pages 239-244; Size: 14K)

THEOSOPHY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

VII -- WATER

[Part 7 of a 16-part series]

In The Secret Doctrine, H.P.B. makes a number of references to the "Waters of Space," or "Primordial Waters." This does not refer to the compound "element" we call water. The "Primordial Waters of Space" are the matrix in which the universe was formed, also called Chaos or Ether (S.D. I, 431, 460). These waters are "dry" (I, 625). Water itself is symbolic of the Third Round and Third Race; none of "the so-called elements were, in the three preceding Rounds, as they are now" (I, 252-3 and fn). All seven elements, of which we know four, came from one Element:

METAPHYSICALLY and esoterically there is but One ELEMENT in nature, and at the root of it is the Deity; and the so-called seven elements, of which five have already manifested and asserted their existence, are the garment, the veil, of that deity; direct from the essence whereof comes MAN.... (S.D. I, 460).
Water is abundant on the earth in its solid, liquid, and gaseous states. As a crystalline solid, it assumes the forms of snow, ice, and frost. The beauty and perfect symmetry of snow crystals illustrate the nearly infinite variety of natural forms. No two snow crystals are exactly the same, but all follow classic mineral patterns based on the numbers three and six.

In its fluid form, water is the familiar clear liquid that sustains all life. We depend upon it daily for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Less apparent, it also occurs as small, floating, visible droplets in clouds and fog. As a gas, water and vapor is present invisibly in the air, where we "feel" it as humidity.

Two less common varieties of water, so-called "heavy water," are deuterium and tritium, isotopes (variations) of hydrogen two and three times its normal weight. Heavy water is used to make thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs and is a potential source of electric power once its control has been mastered.

It is an interesting phenomenon of matter that unique chemical elements often have two or more forms with different atomic weights or other attributes. In human beings a similar phenomenon is present in our two lowest forms -- the physical and astral bodies, each having unique attributes. Perhaps it is also an indication that the properties of matter, like its indwelling intelligence, are somewhat flexible and can be impressed and influenced by the mind.

The Water and Human Cycles

As it changes from one state to another, for example from liquid to gas, water undergoes a symbolic regeneration and purification, following a pattern that is perhaps analogous to the human evolutionary cycle of reincarnation, in which the inner astral body is gradually purified as the soul develops "from the lowest to the highest Manas" (H.P.B.'s third fundamental proposition). A second analogy is that liquid or solid water evaporates into the air as a purer substance, just as after death human consciousness enters the state of devachan after sloughing off psychic impurities in kamaloka. Our nightly sleep repeats a similar process when the dreams of the lower nature are left behind in reaching the high spiritual state of Sushupti (deep, dreamless sleep). Thus we see natural processes follow the patterns of subjective, soul processes.

To return to the water cycle, snow and ice melt to form liquid water. Under some conditions, the solid form, e.g., "dry ice" (carbon dioxide) may go to the gaseous by "sublimation" without becoming liquid. As a liquid, water evaporates from land, from various basins, and from the surfaces of plants, animals, and people. The cooling effect of evaporation helps regulate the temperature of animals, humans, and areas near oceans and lakes. Finally, water as a vapor condenses as rain, snow, and ice particles to complete the water cycle.

Evaporation is the natural way to purify water; we emulate and hasten this process by distillation. The reverse of evaporation occurs when temperatures fall and liquid water freezes and solidifies. Just as distillation removes minerals, so does freezing; pure water first precipitates from an unsaturated solution.

Two newer methods of purifying water are de-ionization and reverse osmosis through a membrane. Osmosis is a process used by plant roots to absorb and purify water from the ground; pure or nearly pure water moves through root membranes to the denser plant fluids. In reverse osmosis, water without minerals is made to move through a membrane as tap water is "purified."

Just recently it was discovered that narrow rivers of water vapor stream through the atmosphere from the equator toward both poles (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1993, "Huge 'Rivers' of Water Vapor Found"). The effects of these rivers, containing as much water as the Amazon, are being investigated.

The Flow of Water on Land

If it can, water flows to points of lower elevation with the aid of gravity. It travels down "streamlines" to form small streams, which flow into larger streams, creeks, and rivers. A collection system formed by Nature creates lakes, seas, gulfs, and oceans. The flow is something like the flow of blood, lymph, and other fluids through many miles of suitable vessels in our bodies to places where the fluids are needed to nourish or remove waste products from our body cells.

Just as Nature recycles water on a collective scale, so does the body. As it recycles its diverse materials, they are imprinted by the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the individual, renewing or modifying karmic ties and obligations. Mr. Judge in Ch. VIII of The Ocean of Theosophy writes of man "raising the entire mass of manifested matter." What we have described is the physical part of an occult process.

Water Pollution

Care must be exercised in selecting and maintaining good sources of fresh water for direct bodily use. Water supplies are usually purified with sunlight, aeration, and chemical additives. Testing must be frequent, however, because toxic wastes and other impurities may seep into ground water. Tap water usually is a mixture of ground water and water from other sources. Even though toxic wastes are now under better control, years of careless dumping, both legal and illegal, have generated long-term problems.

Aquifers, large underground water sources, have been both depleted and polluted. Environmental degradation often leads to depletion of water and other resources. When Nature's delicate balances are disturbed, everything goes awry. For example, destroying rain forests changes water distribution and patterns of rainfall and evaporation. This in turn lowers water tables and depletes aquifers.

Water is polluted in many ways other than by dumping toxic wastes in the ground or into surface water. Untreated sewage, storm drain runoff, garbage, industrial wastes, and other cast-offs reach and pollute water. Sunlight and aeration help to remove some of the impurities but cannot remove heavy metals or plastics.

Water Storage and Conservation

Lakes, marshes, and aquifers are natural reservoirs, but the oceans provide the ultimate storage for water, although in a form not easily used. Reservoirs intercept some of the runoff of rain and melted snow before it reaches large rivers and oceans, storing it for use in urban areas. The ancient Romans collected water during the rainy season by channeling it into large underground cisterns. Mayas and Incas built similar systems on the surface of their rocky land. Homes in isolated areas usually use water stored in the ground.

The plentiful supply of water in many parts of the world is a thing of the past. The needs of a growing population have placed increased demands on usable water, making it a scarce commodity at times. In addition, formerly clean sources have been polluted, and we may someday turn to icebergs as sources of fresh water or purify it from the oceans through desalination, a process now in limited use.

Suggestions for conserving water in the home are given by water companies. The installation of toilets that use less than two gallons per flush would save large amounts of water. Older toilets took as much as seven gallons per flush. More efficient showerheads and shorter showers also help.

In the state of California, where farming is a large industry, irrigation uses over 80 percent of the fresh water available. Therefore the use of more efficient drip irrigation methods has been promoted and given much publicity by the Los Angeles Times: articles for May 13, 1990, "Drip Irrigation Is Efficient in Times of Drought"; Oct. 28, 1990, "Starting a Drip Irrigation System"; Feb. 10, 1991, "Drop by Drop"; and June 2, 1991, "Maverick Farmer's Drought Solution ... growing better crops with less water." Non-agricultural grounds that use much water are also good candidates for drip methods.

Alternatives to having water-hungry grass lawns is to use rock lawns (in hot dry areas especially), or to plant vegetation that uses little water (Los Angeles Times for April 29, 1990, "Garden Offers Lesson on How to Be Water-Wise"), or to combine the options in a pleasing landscape design. An alternative for large lawns and golf courses is to use reclaimed or recycled water from sewage treatment plants. In some areas the use of gray (wash) water may be allowed on a limited scale; it is recommended that such water first be treated.

Ocean Currents and Pollution

Although the water cycle purifies water from land and oceans alike, heavy pollution of the oceans occurs from garbage, pesticides, and toxic wastes collected on the journey to the sea. The ocean has become a big dump, which has adversely affected the rich variety of ocean life, from seaweeds to fish, much of which we depend on for food.

Ocean currents at all depths carry man-caused pollution throughout the breadth and depths of the ocean's vastness. To remove such pollution would be a Herculean task, a situation which Rachel Carson lamented. Some really ingenious engineering will have to accomplished to make amends for our trashing of the oceans. It will be a slow and costly job, but the technology that has made space achievements possible should be able to address this most important problem of the environment. If we do not meet our responsibility to Nature, we will most surely face a heavy karma in future lives.

Even clean effluent flowing into the oceans from sewage treatment plants disturbs the natural balance of life at the seashore. Underwater and shore life is markedly changed by sewage and desalination plants and by the heat from seawater used to cool nuclear reactors. How carefully we must plan what we do to land and water to sustain the wise ecological balance that Nature has provided!


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

The people who use the watershed hold in their hands the lives and well-being of the millions who depend on it ... all the communities of plants and animals that together make up the whole.

And so we see that every community may be divided into four parts: first, its members with their immediate environment; second, the distant and unknown lands that send out their influence by stream and wind, by wing and padded foot to affect the local environment; third, the actions of men whose influence spreads out to affect in some way nearly every community living on the earth; and last, but most important, those influences that mold the minds of men, giving them the incentives to wise or unwise action; for in the end these lie at the very center of earth's great web of life. To support this web, the soil must be maintained alive and functioning. 


--John H. Storer,
The Web of Life

Next article:
THEOSOPHY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
VIII -- AIR POLLUTION (Part 1)
[Part 8 of a 16-part series]

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