Man's Fate and God's Choice: An Agenda for Human Transformation

Man's Fate and God's Choice: An Agenda for Human Transformation

by Bhimeswara Challa

Paperback

$28.60
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, April 24

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426953989
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 02/07/2011
Pages: 608
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.23(d)

Read an Excerpt

Man's Fate and God's Choice

An Agenda for Human Transformation
By Bhimeswara Challa

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2011 Bhimeswara Challa
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4269-5398-9


Chapter One

Man in Context

God gotten weary of Man!

The turn of any millennium is always a time for thoughtfulness, a rugged moment for intrepid introspection, a hinge of history for an honest audit of human conduct, for a moral inventory of our presence on earth, a juncture for a steadfast look at a nebulous — and numinous — stage in the life of our blessed (and baffling) species. Although it is but a twinkle in the cosmic calendar and a trifling stretch in the geological calculus, a thousand years is a huge hiatus in human history and deserves a moment to pause and ponder. In the long, tempestuous tale of man's search for the substratum, his endeavors to understand the nature of the basic 'reality', the 'meaning of his being' and to bend fate, as it were, to his wanton whim and will, this is a period of pregnant profundity, the twilight of a dusky dawn. We are stranded between the crumbling past and a convulsive future, the ground underneath giving way, in our attempt to know why things are as they are. Whether we are simply the secular and stray descendents of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm, or an arbitrary product guided by no objective value, or the special creation of an All-Wise and All-Merciful God and with a manifest mission that has somehow gone terribly awry, what the human presence has wrought on earth has come to a boil. We do not know what the future holds. Is it likely that a new species could evolve from Homo sapiens with improved or additional senses, with the ability to perceive and experience new dimensions, and with the capacity to develop a higher or different intelligence? Could it be that new species would manifest in a completely different form and shape with an entirely new life pattern?

In the 'magical' drama of the origin and evolution of life on earth, spread over a span of nearly four billion years, the present period is indeed a pivot without parallel when, as astronomer Martin Rees tells us, a lone species — the human, for now — has grasped the earth's future in its hands, casting on it a responsibility never before borne by any other species. In his book, Our Final Century (2004), Rees argues that humankind, with the devices it has on hand, is potentially the maker of its own demise and the demise of the cosmos. He says that "what happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life, and one filled with nothing but base matter." He adds that the odds are fewer than 50:50 that humans will survive till the end of this century; and brings the matter closer home — and heart— by reminding us that the decisions that man makes in the next few decades are possibly the most important that man has ever made.

Even if the time-frame is debatable, clearly we are poised at a pivotal point, and by the time this millennium passes and the year 3,000 CE arrives the human race would have either perished or would have become a radically different form of life on earth. Some astrobiologists calculate that the planet has already has begun the long process of devolving into a burned-out cinder, eventually to be swallowed by the sun. Whatever is the course of the future, it is becoming unmistakably obvious that we are in the middle of much more than a mere quantitative change in rates of growth, pace of application of technology, information explosion, or declining moral standards. While we talk of post-human as the next, perhaps the final, phase in evolution, the fact is that the base itself is eroded: we humans have already become other than only human for at least half a century, both in terms of our creative and destructive potential. With the result, we need new tools to govern our own behavior and new yardsticks on what or who a 'moral man' is or ought to be. We must bring into clearer focus what Scottish historian Adam Ferguson called in his essay History of Civil Society (1767) 'a principle for affection for mankind' and the conviction that "an individual is no more than a part of the whole that demands his regard".

The Socratic axiom that "an unexamined life is not worth living" is even more germane to the life and loves of a species that prides itself as the most 'intelligent' on this planet and that now has turned to be the most menacing mammal. Man, having largely succeeded in his labor to extricate himself from the rigors and limits inherent in the laws of Nature, has now shifted his greedy gaze towards the natural (or divine) determinants of earthly life — disability, decay, disease, and finally death. The other 'D'of human life is a congenital delusionary disorder. Deluded by his visions of anthropocentric grandeur, man is audaciously aiming at individual immortality, space colonization, and species-scale eternity, and has summoned science to his aid. For science, the defining driving force now on earth, has the primeval power to make things indistinguishably different from what they originally were, to transform their basic features, make them vanish and reappear as an altogether different substance — the attributes that hitherto God alone had. Man is now turning that 'transformational' power towards himself, trying to direct his own destiny. But unlike God's power, the power of science is, although awesome, still finite. And it can, in a trifle, like God, destroy not only incrementally but also exponentially.

The tantalizing prospect is this: can science be a tool not to hasten the passage of humankind into the dustbin of evolution, but rather be, as physicist Paul Davies (God and the New Physics, 1992), who in the past had denied divine possibility, put it, 'a surer path to God than religion'? And be a channel for the spiritual goal of self-discovery? For now, the copulation of man's greedy gaze and god-like power sets up the epic stage for a titanic struggle between human ambition and Nature's stoicism and divine forbearance. Most people have a 'gut feeling' that the world we have grown accustomed to is drawing to a rather messy end, and the Mayan apocalyptic date of 2012 is too close for comfort. There is erudite talk of a 'flat world' and of what really constitutes 'life', but it is the reality of living that has become flat without fizz, utilitarian sans idealism, a ritual devoid of the sense of the sacred, leaving a silent scream in the souls of sullen and stricken men. While the world is gluing electronically, it is fractured emotionally. Many seek solace through frenetic activity and seamless sensual pleasure through all kinds of devices and drugs, gurus and gadgets, religion and recreation, sermons and spiritualism.

And such is the extravagant extent of human rapacity, that life on earth is approaching or passing through, according to many experts, the sixth great wave of mass extinctions (the last, some 65 million years ago, was that of the dinosaurs). Scientists project that as much as 20 to 30 percent of species on earth could well vanish by the end of this century, triggered this time primarily by the predatory activity of a single biological species: the Homo sapiens. But it also means that, unlike the previous extinctions, we have the wherewithal to preempt or abort this one by the way we live each of our otherwise matter-of-fact lives. This could be the meaning — and the mission — we are all searching for. However much we might wish to lead prosaic lives of perfect peace and perpetual prosperity, this day and age is a moment with celestial import and doomsday odds. The gods of fate have cast us all a part to play sans the reassurance of rehearsal or reprieve; and in so doing, destiny has ceded a chunk of its own zealous domain. In everything we do in the immediacy of our lives, as individuals and as a collective unit, we must never let this central thought slip out of our mind.

Looking at man as he is and the world as it is, a clutch of questions grab us by our throat and brook no dillydally or shilly-shally, nor the proverbial 'Nelson's eye'. At this stage in the passage of the paradigm of life on earth, is the human, in the words of scientist Gordon Rodley, a 'monstrous, meaningless accident' and mankind fated to fail by the weight of its own frailty? Is Man's Fate — and what might befall him — just man's fate; does it matter for anyone else? And is God's choice only His preserve? At what point are we in God's watchful reckoning or Nature's forgiving indulgence? Are we mere puppets on a cosmic string or a blessed species blinded and brooding on the brink? Is man, in the words of the great Indian spiritual humanist Swami Vivekananda (Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893), "a tiny boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foaming crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolled to and fro at the mercy of his own good and bad actions, a powerless, helpless wreck, in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect, a little moth placed under the wheel of causation, which rolls on crushing everything in its way, and waits not for the widow's tears or the orphan's cry?" Is man, as the German philosopher and self-styled 'immoralist' Friedrich Nietzsche puts it, a mere condition to be overcome — for the good of the world? And is that 'overcoming' really to become extinguished, winging its way to a nobler species? At a time when the future seems grey and grim such questions seem increasingly pertinent. Such is our comprehensive incomprehension — or the lack of it — of what is happening around us that, while visualizing the world that awaits our grandchildren, we are puzzled if we should shudder or smile, feel scared or be elated. The great 19th century theosophist and occultist Helena Blavatsky wrote "Our age is a paradoxical anomaly. It is preeminently materialistic and as preeminently pietistic." That clash between the two, intensified over the last century, now threatens to blight our future. Clearly, so much in this world is so unfair, unjust and, one might even say, unforgivable that we are almost forced to give up trying to make sense of the 'why' of it. Often, the 'why not' seems more appropriate to the vagaries of life.

The scriptures might say 'it is all in the mind', and science might say that it is the undue agitation of some specific parts of the brain, but the daily reality is that we are confronted by perplexes that seem hopeless, vexed by ills and crushed by wrongs that we can barely perceive or prevent, forces we can scarcely comprehend or control. We often get a gnawing sense that we are surrounded by, in the words of William Wordsworth, "the fleet waters of a drowning world" and that, tormented, many feel they "have no rightful way to live." No rightful way to live and no place to escape to from the ruthless ritual of life. A huge chunk of humanity is afflicted with a sinking sense of visceral emptiness, a volcanic void deep inside and no help appears within reach from any quarter. Suffering, either 'deep, unspeakable', in the words of George Eliot, or as chronic and low- grade, is what defines and unites much of mankind. The feeling that 'no one cares', or even that someone is inwardly gleeful at our suffering, causes disillusionment and bitterness, much like an inmate of a concentration camp who, on his release, discovers that no one awaited him or really missed him. But suffering, as the Buddha told us, is the central fact of human life and it is its denial that causes more suffering.

After thousands of years of contemplation, reflection, analysis, evocation, and spiritual seeking, of 'rationally' ruminating over the most profound problems of identity, life, and afterlife, and despite our greater understanding of the 'micro-behavior' of Nature, man still finds himself at war, within and without, nowhere near the shores of sanity, safety or stability, none the better or wiser for the effort. The real 'problem' we are trying to fix is us, all of us. What man does not understand, and cannot come to grips with, is his own 'behavior', rather his misbehavior; his deportment, rather his depravity. He seems more able to tame the turbulence of the elements but not the sway of his senses. And every man is in conflict with another man for material gain and divine favor. Whenever we try to free our lives from circumstances and constraints that hurt and limit us, we inevitably create others of the same or of a more abstruse order that shackle us tighter.

New knowledge reveals new mysteries. Every 'solution' seems to contain the seeds of another problem because both are filtered through the same sieve: the human mind. As a sequel we appear afloat and adrift, rootless and rudderless, not sure which path to tread or what to do for that mercurial and much-sought-after 'peace of mind'. Mindful that we are equally the children of the earth and the sky, the sun and the moon, air and water, dust and darkness, and that order in human affairs is intertwined with oneness of life, many a thoughtful person is searching for a symbiotic synergy between man and Nature, and between God and man, as a way to move forward. Restive but with reverence, they yearn to experience the ecstasy of resonance with the rhythms of empty space, to savor the silken whisper of fragrance of the wind and of the rumblings of the rafting rivulet as a way to the divine. Such wistfulness is also a part of a larger, and deeper, longing for self-transcendence, a hunger for a comforting shoulder, a quickening quest for 'meaning' that has endured all through history, cutting across all cultures and civilizations, myth, magic, and mythology.

Still, too many of us live in a fractured state of doubt, dismay, dread and denial, afraid of what the morning might bring to our kith and kin and what we might see in the mirror of our soul that might haunt us. Theories abound, but we really are unawake why so much of our existence is so disagreeable, distasteful, and destructive. We know a lot more of what matters in life than we are prepared to do what it takes to make it matter. We want to prevail; we want to succeed; we want to 'progress'. What we have achieved since the twentieth century is what British author F.J.P. Veale famously called 'advance to barbarism'; the savagery of a Genghis Khan'. What we do not want at any cost is being called a 'loser'. Indeed the most unwelcome putdown, the dreaded name-calling, worse than being called a rogue or rascal, is the use of that 'L' word. We are getting tired not of evil but of being good, not of greed but of God. The cause, pundits tell us, is because our mental capacity for moral imagination or indignation, evolved through Darwinian 'natural selection', is not able to cope with the pressures and temptations of modern life. Man's very sense of the divine has increasingly become a reckless thought, propelling us to do things we would not otherwise do. Much of mankind, turning ancient wisdom upside down, has convinced itself that it does not pay to be caring, considerate and compassionate except to the shrinking circle of 'the near and dear'. Such is the state of 'quiet desperation', to borrow a phrase from Henry David Thoreau, that, exhausted with what existence entails we pine for a quick getaway to the safe shadow of a 'green mansion', to somehow end it all, no matter if it means suicide or homicide. The promise of our genius, the premise of our genus, is converted into a toxic peril.

The immediate task is to turn back that peril into a promise, even if it is paradoxical. We must explore how to become more fully human and still be saved from the fate of being merely human. Or put differently, inject humaneness into everything human. The challenge is prodigious and we must remember that out of any deep agony can spring enchanting ecstasy and that any in-depth inquiry, like any inquest, might show up surprises that might not always tally with the expected intent. Yet we must bring to bear the audacity of unvanquished courage and steel ourselves to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that might come our way. But the reckoning must be right, the coordinates correct and the goal crystal clear. And we must not fight shy of reviewing the most basic of all, our hallowed assumptions about the nature of reality, of human worth and human way of life. While there could be many intermediate stops on the journey, the finishing line has to be to "consciously reinvent the human as a dimension of the emergent universe" and evolve into a mode of being, a form of life, in which we are deeply able to feel in our bones a cascading compassion and responsibility for all of life. Nothing less would do either to save man or the world. We need a new 'moral fire' within to propel us to unveil a fuller and kinder model of human essence that brings man closer to another man and thus to God. That is the trembling task; this is the convulsive challenge and the chaste choice that lays before Man — the queerest creature of all on earth that walks on two legs, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton (The Everlasting Man, 1925).

So much of our life is a show and style, sound and fury, grounded on pride and pretence, vanity and venality, that if we were to go anywhere in our age-old aspiration to make life more luminous than the daily grind of drudgery and drift, we must be prepared to be more skeletal and more candid in our confessions about the true nature of our innermost thoughts, dark passions and deep feelings, and be prepared to explore the more obscure and frightening reaches of our souls. For what comes under the rubric of 'human way of life' has had its mixed moment on earth; and the moment is now to invent a new framework for and a frame of reference of living. It means letting go many things that have become almost 'living' parts of our organic life and which give us such a soothing sense of smug but sterile satisfaction. It also means, at once, to let go a huge chunk of us at the core, to renounce many trappings of modern life and to let something unknown, something still wrapped in the veils of virginity, to emerge from the womb of our being. We need to reappraise and reconfigure concepts like 'progress', 'success' and 'goodness', as we have come to instinctively understand them.

It is not to abandon or to turn the clock of history back. We need 'progress'; otherwise life becomes a zero-sum game. We need 'success'; otherwise we will lapse into inertia. The world needs 'good persons' if only to prove that human behavior is not beyond reform. But simply the status quo is untenable; it does no good to anyone, not to man or Nature or even to God. One of the little-noticed facts of evolution is that the environment of human habitation is changing so fast that it is outpacing the ability of the human organism to adapt. A new field of science called epigenetics is showing that the environment we are polluting and the lifestyle choices we routinely make, and our reflexive addictions to violence and to 'good life' can not only mar our lives but influence our very genetic code — and, ominously, that of the next generation (Why Genes Are Not Destiny; Time, 18 January 2010). In other words, our life is not the business of us alone; the way we go on with our daily activities, the myriad choices we make, whether volitionally or by default, carry consequences not only for us but for the very future survival and sustainability of the human race. If this 'finding' were further corroborated, it would cast on us an awesome responsibility, and to fulfill that we have to add a new dimension to how we spend every minute of our life.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Man's Fate and God's Choice by Bhimeswara Challa Copyright © 2011 by Bhimeswara Challa. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................1
Chapter 1 Man in Context....................25
Chapter 2 Human Condition — Paradox to Peril....................99
Chapter 3 Of Human Baggage and Bondage....................191
Chapter 4 The Sacred, the Secular, and the Profane....................295
Chapter 5 From Mind to Heart — the Odyssey Within....................357
Chapter 6 Contours of Consciousness Change....................397
Chapter 7 Transformation and God....................429
Chapter 8 Models and Metaphors for Human Transformation....................507
Reference Notes....................547

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews