Looking at the dramatic impact of the massive Australian bushfires in January, the COVID-19 Pandemic since March 2020, and glancing back through the pages of history, there’s no doubting that life can be mighty tough sometimes for most people.

Buddhists call our Earth one of many ‘Hells’ – a ‘Myalba’ – ‘a World of Causes’, a place for the generation and working out of our Karma. Modern ‘Life-Between-Life’ (LBL) therapists, such as Dr Michael Newton in his book Journey of Souls, also note that their research indicates that Earth life is especially challenging and often very difficult for the souls incarnating here. Movies, magazines, and advertising encourage us to think that life is supposed to be ‘happy’ and fulfilling all the time. But it often doesn’t seem to work out that way. We have created Karma here in the past – and here on Earth it must be balanced if we are to grow and progress in spiritual awareness. This world is one of many classrooms of life we humans must attend if we are to grow spiritually. But why does Earth-life have to be such a tough classroom for the majority of people?

A World of Causes: Earth life is a very important classroom of life because all seven aspects of our inner constitution are functional during each lifetime. This means that we only have the opportunity to be functional in the higher aspects of our being across all seven planes of reality available in the manifest universe when we are alive in this world. People often say that they long for a rest from the stresses and strains we all experience in our daily lives. However, Theosophy tells us that when we are resting in the heaven worlds after death, we are functional in only the three higher aspects of our being and therefore we cannot initiate the ‘causes’ which will help us to find an enduring enlightened state of living. You might call the heaven worlds the ‘Worlds of Effects’ compared to this world as the ‘World of Causes.’ It is for this very reason that great teachers such as the Buddha and Jesus had to find enlightenment, ie. learn how to live in the higher aspects of their inner nature, whilst alive in this world. We are destined to follow their example, no matter how long it takes!

Cosmological Factors: The Ancient Wisdom teaches us our Solar System and Earth are living entities of which we are an essential component. Like all of us, the Earth has its own life and stages of growth in which we are enmeshed. Just as the Earth hurtles through space at 70,000 kph in the wake of the Sun, we humans are going where the Earth is headed and we have the choice to grow, or regress, within the larger life of the Earth. Our planet will indulgently give us time to grow as it progresses through its own life. But there are limits if we are not flowing with the current of its life-force.

At the present time the Ancient Wisdom tells us that the Earth is just beyond half-way through its present life-cycle, just coming around from its most material phase into an upward arc towards spirituality. Our planet has plumbed the depths of materialism during the 4th Root Race (Atlantean) for this 4th Round of its life, and we are now into the 5th Root Race of the 4th Round – the Earth as we know it with all of its beauty and terror. Are we prepared to flow with the Earth in its growth towards a more spiritual phase of its life?

The Earth and Humanity Working Our Way Through the Desire Principle: Just as every person has hidden qualities of character, emotion, and spirituality which are invisible to our eyes, our Earth has its own complex inner constitution. The Ancient Wisdom tells us that the Earth is in process of unfolding all the sevenfold aspects of its Desire or ‘Kama’ principle in this 4th Round of its life. Enigmatically theosophical teacher, G. de Purucker says that man is more highly evolved than our earth, on its own scale, of course. Because man corresponds to ‘Mahat’, or Cosmic Mind, while our earth corresponds to ‘Kama’, or Cosmic Desire, a stage lower. Understandably therefore there will be many problems for humanity inhabiting its surface related to Desire and Attachment to materialism. We see this everywhere in human behaviour.

It is worth remembering what the Ancient Wisdom teaches in the teachings of the Inner and Outer Rounds, that the Earth is our home for a very long time, but it is not our only home in the solar system.

Will we make the best of our opportunities to work through all the lessons related to the Desire principle and move on to higher challenges on other worlds in the distant future?

The Kali Yuga: No doubt the character of our present time, which in Hindu philosophy and Theosophy is called ‘The Kali Yuga’ or ‘Black Age’ of the majority of present Humanity, strengthens the hands of the servants of the Dark Side.

It should also always be said that the ancient sages advised that the Kali Age, and the activities of the servants of the Dark Side generally, whilst terrible in their assault on the finer instincts of man, are really a testing ground for our moral mettle so we can progress to higher states of consciousness in the distant future (we are 5,000 years into the Kali Age which is of 432,000 years duration according to Theosophy).

It is said that the students of the mysteries (the “Chelas”) yearn for Kali Yuga as more progress can be made in its adverse moral atmosphere than at other times when conditions are easier. As a friend once described the challenge and opportunity of this present age from an esoteric viewpoint:  “You don’t build your muscles pushing against the air”.

Proximity of the Earth to the Planet of Death: It is worth taking a moment to consider the Earth’s spiritual status amongst the planets of our Solar System. It is not included amongst the Seven Sacred Planets associated with the administration of our Solar System. According to some spiritual teachers, the earth is not a Sacred Planet as it has not yet passed the planetary equivalent of the 4th initiation for humans. In fact, theosophical teacher, G de Purucker, says that humanity, being a reflection of ‘Mahat’ or Universal Mind, is more spiritually advanced than the Earth we walk upon! Seven Planets are especially connected with our Earth. The ‘Rectors’ of these planets mutually assist in the formation and administration of the seven or twelve globes of our Earth’s planetary chain of visible and invisible globes. They are counting away from the Sun: SUN (standing for the invisible planet ‘VULCAN’), MERCURY, VENUS, MOON (standing for the invisible  ‘PLANET OF DEATH’), MARS, JUPITER and SATURN. The other planets and ‘dwarf’ planets: Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and the ‘new’ dwarf planets recently discovered in the outer solar system, are either ‘captures’ or part of the ‘Universal Solar System’. Further it is said by the Ancient Wisdom to be close to the Planet of Death (interestingly one of the seven sacred planets) – the ‘sewerage system’ of the solar system connecting our solar system to the hierarchy below ours. No doubt we are not in close proximity to this dread place without its affect upon life on the Earth.

The Planet of Death: The ‘Eighth Sphere’, ‘Realm of Mara’, or ‘Lilith’ is said by the Ancient Wisdom to be located somewhere near the Earth’s Moon, but it is invisible to ordinary humanity due to its gross materiality. It is in its 7th or final Round of manifest life.

It is currently inhabited by beings suited to its, to us, terrible conditions. The ‘failures’ as humans – Black Magicians and Sorcerers – eventually descend from our hierarchy amongst the natural inhabitants of this world.  The Planet of Death is too dense for us to see. This is the highest Globe of the planetary hierarchy below our solar system.

It serves as a receptacle of negative influences from our solar system – not unlike a sewage system of the Solar System. The ultimate destination of black magicians if they do not change their ways.

Human Factors – ‘Push Me, Pull You’: Let’s forsake our ‘cosmological telescope’ for the ‘cosmological microscope’ and take a closer look at the micro-cosmos of human life from the perspective of the Ancient Wisdom. As we have seen, at this stage of our long spiritual journey on Earth, the majority of Humanity is functioning in the Desire aspect of Mind (Kama Manas) rather than the Compassion Mind (Buddhi Manas) – with all the problems this creates in our human world, ie. we are largely out of tune with our true spiritual Selves. Yet we feel the innate pull to the higher and finer aspects of our human nature. We live in a world of contrasts as a consequence with both physical and mental suffering; a natural feeling of kinship with others whilst struggling against each other; competing and collaborating at the same time; morally weak and yet sometimes strong in extreme situations; in a constant state of ‘Push Me Pull, You’ between the Lower and Higher aspects of our Being. As the great Buddhist Master, Asvaghoshya, advises us spiritual students:

“… [We] should contemplate the fact, that although all things are transitory and empty, yet, nevertheless, on the physical plane [of our Earth-life] they have a relative value to those who are cherishing false imagination; to these ignorant people [the majority of humanity], suffering is very real – it always has been and it always will be – immeasurable and innumerable sufferings. Ignorant beings have been immersed in suffering all their lives, and knowing how difficult it is to escape from suffering, are unconscious that all things and suffering are transient and empty and dream-like, all of which makes their condition more pitiable.

Because of all this, there is awakened in the mind of every earnest disciple a deep compassion for the suffering of all beings that prompts him to dauntless, earnest zeal and the making of great vows. He resolves to give all he has and all he is to the emancipation of all beings…After these vows, the sincere student should at all times and as far as his strength and mind permit, practice those deeds which are beneficial alike to others and himself…”

The Brotherhood of the Shadow: Just as there is a Hierarchy of Light trying to help humanity in their spiritual growth, there is also a Hierarchy of those beings who have deliberately chosen the Dark Side where Evil seems a flowery path and the fruits of selfish victory are considered as of larger worth than to walk with the Gods. Such is the Left Hand Path of the Brothers of the Shadow.

This hierarchy is dedicated to directing Humanity into materialistic life – because that is what it knows and from whence it derives its tremendous power. During the present Kali Yuga period where materialism holds an enormous attraction for everyday people, they have great power.

Their activities involve seeding the ‘thought-atmosphere’ with thoughts and aspirations related to the material and sensuous life. They can only work by tempting people and leading them to fulfill their inner urgings toward evil. We can see the effects of their thought-forms in every field from popular entertainment through to our education system, recreational and prescribed drug addiction, even the ‘dumbing-down’ effects of popular technologies such as smart phones.

Agni Yoga teachings warn of the downside to our current fascination with technology and artificial intelligence and how this approach, blindly taken before by earlier civilizations (especially Atlantis), actually contributed to their demise:

“Technocracy should be regarded as a device of the Dark Ones. The Dark Ones have often led people on to mechanical solutions, thereby hoping to occupy the attention of humanity, only to divert it from spiritual growth. Yet the problems of life can only be solved by the expansion of consciousness. It can be seen how mechanical hypotheses can easily ensnare the hopes of humanity. Such also was the Maya (illusion) of the ancients.” – Agni Yoga, The Fiery World 1, 349.

Psychic Epidemics: Teachers of the Brotherhood of Compassion of all traditions have warned us of the dangers of ‘Psychic Epidemics’ when the barriers between the physical and astral world have thinned and negative thought-forms from the lower astral have access to vulnerable individuals in the physical world. Now is such a time at the conjunction of several cycles, principally the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and the sunset of the Piscean Age. These energies can affect the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual states of people by breaking through their protective auric nets. At the very least, this can cause distress for the affected person, perhaps physically in the form of headache, nausea, or tiredness, or emotionally, as in feeling temporarily depressed or anxious.

At worst, such thought forms can propel a person into harbouring thoughts, speaking words, or committing actions – sometimes quite alarming ones – that they might not even have considered normally.

Theosophical teachers have warned us of these epidemics, eg: HP Blavatsky:

“Psychism, with all its allurements and all its dangers, is necessarily developing among you, and you must beware lest the Psychic outruns the [mental] and spiritual development.

Psychic capacities held perfectly under control, checked and directed by the [mind] principle, are valuable aids in development. But these capacities running riot, controlling instead of being controlled, using instead of being used, lead the student into the most dangerous delusions and the certainty of moral destruction.” – HPB to the American Conventions 1888-1891, p34.

Agni Yoga similarly says: “…the danger of psychic epidemics is increasing. In the Puranas it was predicted that toward the end of the Kali Yuga, humanity would be driven to acts of madness.”

Perhaps the description of a ‘Mad World’ is not so far from the mark if these teachings have any credence!

Psychic Epidemics: Positive Effects: “…The present thinning of the demarcation between the astral and physical worlds is proving of mixed value, and much depends on what we choose to identify with. At present, the astral light seems to be disgorging more than usual of its basest content; on the other hand, a greater number of persons are becoming responsive to energies from higher levels and, at times, receiving ideas and inspirations of sufficient worth to change many lives for the better.

All the more reason to maintain a balanced outlook and not give way to feelings of hopelessness – either about ourselves or about the future of humanity. The debilitating influence such moods have on us infects the vital circulations of thought energies through our planet. Too much is at stake for any of us to wantonly add negative thinking to the world karma…” – Grace Knoche from her book, To Light a Thousand Lamps.

Effects of Ancient Karma: Why me? It’s the natural question when we feel the impact of this ‘Mad World’ in our lives. What have I ever done to suffer the way I do when so many people doing the wrong thing seemingly get away with it Scot-free?

This is where we must consider questions related to karma and its dual doctrine reincarnation. We have a vast history behind us as reincarnating beings. As we are in the process of learning to be better human beings, then we most likely were much worse at some times in the past than what we are now. Thus, we must set the karmic balance right, here in this world where we created karmic imbalances in the past. We all contributed with our thoughts and actions in making the world as it is, and it is up to us to put it right and feel the effects of our past actions.

In this regard we might consider what we know of the Atlantean phase of human development where excessive evil prevailed in the general community as the norm. The Ancient Wisdom tells us that we carry an enormous burden of karma from this time even now thousands of years later.

Other mass behaviours of our culture such as the mistreatment and exploitation of animals must surely have their general karmic effect on humanity as we can see with the CODIV-19 Pandemic in 2020.

What Can this ‘Mad World’ be Teaching Us? No energy is wasted in Nature, so, there must be a reason, and there must be positives to be derived from the state of the world as it is. We know that the world is a classroom for spiritual development so difficult conditions must be there for us to learn and overcome.

As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the Tough get going’ and ‘We don’t build our spiritual muscles from pushing against the air’. These conditions of the Kali Yuga present us with numerous opportunities to learn, grow, and prove our sincerity in the spiritual search and helping others along the Path.

In India there is the saying: ‘The Chela’s (ie spiritual student’s) heart longs for the Kali Yuga (ie the Dark Age that we live in). Meaning when the opposition is greatest you can learn the most and proceed faster in spiritual evolution if that choice is made.

The world will never be at peace until we are at peace with ourselves. The challenge then is not to stamp out personality but to refine and elevate it – to make it a fit vehicle for the Inner God.

What practical measures can we take here and now to achieve this and help transform ‘Mad World’ into ‘Compassionate World’?

Practical Ways to a Better World: The Paramitas (Perfections): Spiritual growth is essentially converting our life experience into opportunities for letting the Inner God at the core of us shine in this world. All systems of spiritual initiation to attain this goal are basically putting what the Buddhist’s call ‘The Paramitas’ or ‘Perfections’ into action in the reality of daily life.

These spiritual qualities are the enumerated and called by different names in the world’s mystery traditions but they can be boiled down to six qualities:

Generosity; Ethical Discipline; Patience; Joyous Perseverance; Meditative Stabilization; Wisdom. 

Why should we develop these particular qualities along the Path of spiritual learning?

 “To achieve the aims of others for spiritual understanding you must first help them with material goods as they won’t appreciate spirituality if they have an empty stomach! Since no benefit will come from Generosity accompanied by harmfulness towards living beings, you need Ethical Discipline, which has great purpose for others; this is the state of desisting from harm to others and the causes of harm. To bring this to its full development, you need Patience that disregards the harm done to you. You need to develop the ability to fix your mind on your ideals so you need to develop Meditative Stabilization. Calmness and single-mindedness in the service of others lead to Wisdom. None of this is attainable by laziness, so you need Joyous Perseverance in pursuit of wisdom through service to others and so this quality is the basis of the other Perfections.”

[These comments are based on Tibetan spiritual teacher Tsong-Kha-Pa, from his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment]

Positives: Learning to be More Compassionate: Other positives to be taken from the state of the world:

  • Suffering is a necessary background to the development of empathy and compassion. When there are dramatic conditions in the world by so much greater are our opportunities to show compassion and develop understanding.
  • Don’t think that we have ever been abandoned by the spiritual hierarchy of light. They are constantly at work guiding and assisting our efforts to make a better world – but it is up to us to reach up to them as they reach down to us to help.
  • We all have the opportunity to be better people no matter how outwardly humble may be our status in this world. We can add to the ‘reservoir of good karma’ which is all that the Masters of Wisdom can use to help us. What we are from day to day is therefore terrifically important.
  • This doesn’t have to be an intellectual exercise – attending lectures, seminars, etc. but living a sincere and good life is equally if not much more important. It is as though we are living in a fog of negative thought with the Sun of spiritual reality shining above the fog. Intellectual effort and living a good life can equally poke holes in this fog. As Plato said: ‘Living the Good Life is a work of art’.

A Glorious Future: A More Peaceful World: Bear in mind the glorious future of the world when it emerges from Kali Yuga into the next phase of the Earth’s life called by the Hindus the Satya Yuga (The Age of Truth).

The Earth will not always remain in its present state. But as embryo-gods, we have the ability to see through the illusion of separateness and to come to understand that we are all children of the cosmic spirit, offspring of the one life, and that it is our duty to assist the upwards course of nature by helping one another along the spiritual path.

But in order to realize our spiritual potential, an enormous number of lives are necessary.

Most of us have a very long way to go before we can become a Boddhisattva.

A Boddhisattva is one who has achieved spiritual liberation and earned the right to a long period of rest and bliss in Nirvana, but hears the voice of compassion within her or him asking:

‘Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?’

But we can all make a real contribution to changing the world for the better by making every effort to correct our own faults, and by helping those around us with encouraging words, kind deeds, and uplifting thoughts. Every step along this path is a step towards a more peaceful and caring world for all.