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26 Dec, 1999

When Will Humanity Heed the Unseen Signs That Abound On the Road to Spirituality?

Originally Published: 26 Dec 1999

As the world stands poised on the threshold of a new millennium, numerous publications have paid tribute to the growth of human knowledge that has led to extraordinary discoveries in medicine, chemistry, physics and other sciences. But two inventions come closest to resembling the link between humanity and the message of spirituality.

The presence of some kind of electrical force had been known to the Greeks as far back as 600 BC, but it was not until 1600 AD that English physicist-physician William Gilbert, published a pioneer work on electricity that introduced such terms as electric attraction, electric force, and magnetic pole.

Nearly 300 years later, in 1878 and 1879, British inventor Thomas Swan and American inventor Thomas Edison developed the carbon-filament lamp. This allowed the wonders of electricity to light up the far corners of the world and provided the energy that carried the industrial revolution into a new age.

Suddenly, night became day. Thousands of generators, turbines, processors came into being. Air-conditioning, heating and transportation took on a new dimension. Combined with oil, gas, water and coal — all natural resources that help generate electricity — this wondrous source of energy is today impossible to do without.

The human body has its own source of electrical energy which powers its heart, kidneys, liver, brain, spleen and thousands of other little organs that function as refineries, generators, turbines, processors and other forms of machinery that keep us alive. Our bodies fight off disease even as they digest our food, clear the waste, allow us to think and perform a number of other jobs that we today call multi-tasking.

Electricity cannot be seen. It is a force that is known to exist because it generates power. It can vastly improve the quality of life. Or it can ruin it by igniting fires. It also has to be managed properly to ensure productive usage.

That it cannot be seen does not mean it does not exist. Without electricity, the world would come to a halt. It moved the world from darkness to light, a phrase that often appears in many a religious book.

Then, in 1895, Guglielmo Marconi developed apparatus with which he sent wireless signals to a point a few kilometres away by means of a directional antenna. In 1899, he sent radio signals across the English Channel between England and France, and in 1901 across the Atlantic Ocean between Poldhu, in Cornwall, England, and St. John’s, in Newfoundland, Canada.

People no longer had to send signals by using smoke, mirrors, or letters written on paper. This discovery made possible the radio and later the TV as well as satellite communications technology and today’s Internet, all of which have transformed the world just as electricity did and made possible the global dissemination of knowledge.

Radio signals, too, cannot be seen. Yet, they exist, and they too moved the world from darkness to light.

Within our bodies, too, silent communicators allow various parts to signal each other. Most important, there is something called a conscience and/or a soul. Neither has a physical form. Yet, someone, somewhere, somehow, communicates with the soul and/or conscience and strives to influence that part of our decision-making which rules our moral and ethical approach to life and helps us to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad.

“Radio signals” that beam out from somewhere “nag our conscience” when we do something wrong. That message is transmitted to the brain where another thought process sets in and converts ideas into action.

Like the unseen internal electricity that powers our physical side, the communication with our conscience and/or our soul is unseen but metaphysical and critical to the way we behave.

Much more cannot be seen but can be felt. Air, for example; no air, no breath, no life. The same air that sustains life can become a refreshing breeze atop a luxuriantly-forested hilltop or a force that generates electricity or a gale that powers sailboats or a deadly hurricane that can destroy entire coastline.

Just because air cannot be seen does not mean it does not exist. Gravity is another example. Time yet another.

Neither can we “see” forces like love and hate, yet they drive much of life. We protect, nourish, sustain and cherish those whom we love and destroy or attempt to destroy those we hate. Most of history has been dictated and continues to be dictated by how we harness and utilise these forces.

Love can take us from darkness to light, hate in exactly the opposite direction.

In this last Soul-Searching column of the 20th century, I will admit to being a firm and resolute believer in the august presence of one universal creator, call Him or Her what you will, who cannot be seen but is always felt.

The great inventions and discoveries of the past that we idiots think come from “human achievement” are nothing more than symbols by which that creator makes His/Her presence felt, things that have helped us move from darkness to light. Just as these mortal inventions were not forged without some prior process of detailed thinking, conceptualising, planning and design, so too the sheer unadulterated genius of this magnificent earth testifies to the presence of someone somewhere who undertook a similar process FIRST.

Every day of our lives, we are involved in understanding and interpreting signals. Language is nothing more than a collection of written and spoken “signals” that our brains interpret and understand. So are traffic signs, reflected in symbols that indicate “no left turn” or “no entry.”

To get a driving license, we sit for a test to prove that we know and understand these symbols. Fail the test, and no driving license.

Humanity has failed to understand and/or appreciate these symbols and signals regularly sent to us throughout these past centuries. Those who have come up with these “discoveries” and “inventions”, and whom we all laud, are merely people who have painted the “traffic signs” and then exulted about it, without realising that they could well have been part of a much larger, grander process designed to move humanity from darkness to light and prove that if mere mortals can have the puny power to “create” things like radio-waves and electricity, how great is the power of the ultimate creator who gives human beings the ability to manipulate those same molecules, minerals, metals, gasses and elements into “things” that we use in daily life.

In a sermon in his book The Divine Romance, Hindu cleric Paramahansa Yogananda says, “Every object in this universe, and every potential therein, has been produced first in the mind of God; and God sublets that power to the factory of the mind of man. From that little factory of man’s mind comes everything he accomplishes. Above all, in that mind-factory lies man’s unique ability to find God.”

The Qur’an says “Doth not man see that it is We who created him from a speck of sperm? Yet behold he (stands forth) as an open adversary. And he makes comparisons for us and forgets his own origin and creation.”

So, those who think that that which cannot be seen, does not exist, or it does not make any difference whether or not it exists, may want to think again in the light of the above. And then ask, are we reading the signs right? Because, just as he who fails to understand the traffic signs, fails the test and he who ignores the traffic signs is destined to be cursed by a fellow driver, or crash, or both, so too do those who ignore the wider signs of life are destined for the same fate in the 21st century.