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What an amazing feat it is to be able to send rockets to Mars! But not only that – we are also able to send robotic vehicles that relay pictures and scientific data about the surface rocks and subsoil. Recently, David and I had the privilege of attending one of the programs from the National Geographic Live! series held at the Field Museum in Chicago. Films and narrative about the latest findings from Mars, our neighboring planet, were presented by Kobie Boykins, an engineer responsible for the solar panels used in the Mars Expedition rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
One of their striking findings is that, in addition to the polar icecaps, there may have been large bodies of water on Mars. Many of the formations on the surface appear to be dried lake or ocean beds. If this is true, and Mars did indeed have vast amounts of water, where are the lakes or oceans now? Is what happened to the water something that could potentially happen to our own vast bodies of water?
Of course no one knows for sure, as our science in this area is in its infancy. Yet when we can explore the surface of the moon or another planet, it makes us realise afresh the great gift of our little space-island home and the importance of working in cooperation with all who share this habitation, that we might sustain it and flourish. This is the reverberating message of all who have explored space and our relative place in the solar system.
Because of stories, legend, and even some of our Theosophical writings, a big question in the minds of many has been, “Is there or could there have been life on Mars?” The identification of ice caps in the polar regions certainly indicates the presence of water, and now the identification of probable lake beds makes it seem that there may have been vast amounts of water at some time in the distant past. The question of the presence of water is crucial because in our Earth’s environment, wherever water is to be found, there is life. This is true for the deepest oceans around the hot and toxic fumaroles, the icy waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as fresh water lakes, whether they be highly acidic, salty, or basic.
Water seems to be an essential element for life. It is the solvent in which minerals and proteins can combine and blend in order to build living forms. Even our bodies are composed of at least 60 percent water. Without the circulatory and lymphatic systems (our blood is 83 percent water), there would be no way to support the various chemical and biological processes necessary for life as a complex organism. The great solvent circulates chemical messages and nutrients, and washes away the wastes and impurities in such a way that the systems function as a cohesive whole.
In religious traditions and myths, water is used as a symbol for attaining a more meaningful life. If there is a desert, or dry and thirsty land, it is symbolic of a psychological state in which one feels empty or devoid of meaning. Jesus had to face his temptations in the desert. The Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 years before they could enter the Promised Land. And of course all of the lands around the avaricious dragon Smaug’s lair, of Tolkien fame, were parched and barren.
Where there is water, however, the desert blooms and life flourishes in abundance. The holy Mt Kailash in western Tibet is the traditional source of the four great rivers, the Ganges, Indus, Sutlej and Brahmaputra, and as such is considered sacred by the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Bon religions. It is said to be the abode of the Hindu god Shiva.
The sacred lotus flower of the East, while having its roots in the physical earth and its blossom in the open sunlight, requires water to support its stem. If the mud represents the physical and the blossom in the open sunlight above is emblematical of spiritual enlightenment, then let us consider the meaning of the intervening water. The moisture of life seems to be related to consciousness, but not just any consciousness. Angry, violent, or selfish people are conscious, but they would be said to still be living in the desert.
The way to drink deeply of the living waters is to apply consciousness toward meaning and wholeness. Though not easily achieved, this can be accomplished incrementally by directing attention to the inner life, studying the works of sages and being open to the insights that come from meditation. Slowly we can each cultivate our consciousness to become the living waters of compassionate unity. And gradually, as we learn to identify with a higher purpose, we breathe moisture around us to others who may also begin to wake up to a higher purpose.
Mars was known as the fierce god of war, and borne in that mythology is a truth for our instruction. Perhaps that warring energy is what turned his namesake planet into a desert, if it ever did support life forms. We should take note of the capability that we humans have to turn our unique garden spot in the solar system into a similar wasteland through our lack of concern for environmental issues and our bellicose and greedy natures. But the root causes lie within each of us as individuals. The moisture of the consciousness of each one of us, enlightened, or at least aiming in that direction, serves to water the gardens of earth and encourage the desert of our existence to flower.
In the Second Fragment of The Voice of the Silence, Madame Blavatsky compares this kind of consciousness to Amrita’s clear waters, which are an essential ingredient in the bread of Wisdom. Maya’s dew is the consciousness of hatred and selfishness.
"Great Sifter" is the name of the "Heart Doctrine," O disciple. (v.120)
The wheel of the good Law moves swiftly on. It grinds by night and day. The worthless husks it drives from out the golden grain, the refuse from the flour. The hand of Karma guides the wheel; the revolutions mark the beatings of the Karmic heart. (v. 121)
True knowledge is the flour, false learning is the husk. If thou would'st eat the bread of Wisdom, thy flour thou hast to knead with Amrita's [immortality] clear waters. But if thou kneadest husks with Maya's dew, thou canst create but food for the black doves of death, the birds of birth, decay and sorrow. (v. 122)
If thou art told that to become Arhan thou hast to cease to love all beings – tell them they lie. (v.123)
On a daily basis, consider your life and how you might add to the well-being of another; think of the beauty and treasures of this earth; explore the deep recesses of your heart for meaning and purpose in the realms of immortality. By doing so, each day you will be increasing the joy, gratitude and understanding that fills our lives and our planet with living waters.
First published in the Quest magazine, March-April 2007. Reprinted with permission.
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