Are humans programmed for spiritual experiences?

I had a spiritual experience in a Yoga Ashram. It was an incredibly emotional experience when I was in deep meditation. It was personal.

On the contrary, Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual exposure (refer a relatively recent post of mine) was about the underlying processes of the Universe. His description of the event – in a dream? – was unbelievable. It cannot be discounted. A real experience cannot be sneered away by professional sceptics. We know very little about ourselves and our Earthly home.

Is there a facility in the human brain (and psyche) which enables some of us to have religious or spiritual experiences?

Many years ago I read that some scientist had made the following discovery. When an electrical probe touched a particular part of the brain, the patient reported sensations which seemed to be, or were interpreted as, of a religious nature. What staggered me was the suggestion that the origin of religious experiences had now been found.

As I wrote in one of my books, this is akin to saying that the music, scenes, etc. we experience through radio or television actually originate in these machines!

However, I realised that a specific area of the human brain may be ‘programmed’ (by evolution?) to receive signals which we interpret as religious or spiritual. Surely, we have all been emotionally influenced by beautiful sights, inspiring music, religious chants, and suchlike – up to a level akin to ecstasy.

Neuroscientist Prof. V.S. Ramachandran said “ … with the lie detector we were able to show that the human brain apparently responds particularly strongly to religious ideas … … we concluded that evolution might have equipped the human brain with special circuits for spiritual experiences. That would explain why all people have a religion. … … these are highly speculative ideas … “ (Refer Ramachandran’s article on Consciousness ‘In the Hall of IIlusions’ in Stefan Klein’s ‘We are all stardust,’ – a most interesting book.)

In my view, it pays to have an open mind to achieve a glimpse of reality.

On religion – origin of the universe?

“The Chandogya Upanishad says that the universe came forth from the unknowable Brahman, and will return to Brahman. Brahman is held to be the essence of all existence. Brahman is ever-existing, from whom everything emanates, and to whom everything returns. Brahman is Consciousness, immanent in all that is created; yet transient.

It is out of this essence or Consciousness or Godhead that the Creator god Brahma, the one who experiences that day and night of existence, is said to have arisen. Brahma, the first of the Hindu gods, is thus merely a projection of Brahman. In terms of the cosmology, the other gods are not that significant, all the gods being manifestations of that uni­versal cosmic essence, the unknowable Brahman.

The nuts and bolts of this cosmology is that something tangible (the Cosmos) is said to have come forth from some­thing intangible, an essence or force beyond our descrip­tive capabilities.” … …

“Contradictorily, the Upanishads claim that the human mind is not conscious. It is only an instrument of conscious­ness, a seemingly all-pervasive phenomenon or facility. If so, could this amorphous consciousness enable some rare human minds to perceive the reality of the physical universe correctly, in spite of being unable to communicate this vision in a verifiable way?” … …

“I like the idea of a few evolved minds able to ‘perceive’ the Cosmos as it is, even if they are unable to tell us. I can believe that a Creator (not an anthropomorphic one shaped in the image of Man but perhaps an amorphous intelligence) did put out some form of energy, drawn from the Ocean of Consciousness, and that this had the capacity to evolve and to form extensions, forces, facilities, fields or what-have-you, all capable of evolving in their own respective ways – the process of evolution being variable too.” … …

“And I like the view that Brahman is not knowable ordi­narily, but can be experienced only through deep meditation. Since Brahman is believed to be immanent in all creation, we need to look no further than inward (that is, within our­selves) for that experience. I need to be very, very patient through quite a few Earthly lives.”

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’

Brahma is the Creator whose life span is 3.11 trillion years, to be replaced for yet another Creator and his creation lasting 3.11 years, ad infinitum. Refer Hindu cosmology about the many cycles of existence and non-existence (or suspension). It is both fascinating and incredible. Extraterrestrial input has been claimed. When? From where?    



On religion – an arm’s length Creator

“Studying the belief systems of the simpler societies at my university, and dip­ping into some anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the major religions, I realised that there has been, and is, an innate need in many, if not most, of us to understand what we humans are, and our place in the Cosmos.

I realised further that: the complexity and beauty, as well as the observable but inadequately explicable aspects of the experienced world; the exceedingly complex patterns of inter-linked cause and effect, action and reaction, and the inter-dependencies of the physical, chemical and electro­magnetic forces affecting us; the uniformity, the invariability, the predictive capacity of the laws of nature; the ecological balance between mobile and fixed forms of life; the intuitive yearning by sensitive souls for communion with sublime or higher forces not clearly understood; and the inferred influ­ence of the spirit world, all of which affect our lives, could not have occurred purely by chance.

Instead, they might, I felt, reflect the mind and soul of a Creator. How else could all that have occurred? By chance? Is that another name for an inexplicable cause, akin to the gods of simpler people?

I did conclude, logically, that there had to be a Creator of all that exists. I then noted, with great interest, that an aca­demic and confirmed atheist had reached the same conclusion after a lifetime of non-belief in a Creator, for exactly the same reasons. There has to be a Creator, he now accepts, thereby upsetting most severely his former fellow-believers in that causal mechanism named Chance. Like me, he doesn’t claim to know; only that a creator god makes (unverifiable) sense.

There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the sta­bility of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.

In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve. An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced. There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth. The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflects, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny.

This is not fate, not something unavoidable. It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives. With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.”

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’.

On religion – a belief based on free will

“What of those of us who hold beliefs which range from the religious to the psychic? My dialogue with the spirit of my uncle (we did have a three-way exchange) led me somewhat reluctantly to an acceptance of the spirit world. Why reluctant? Because it did not fit into my then understanding of reality. Since then I have had other exposures to the spirit world. I now have reason to believe that I have benefited from the involve­ment of this domain in my life. Proof? None! It is, however, not so much a gut-feeling as a subconscious intellectual awareness. Otherwise I remain as rational as humanly possible.

This belief in the reality of the world of souls supports what I was taught to believe in my youth, enhanced by my recent understanding of Hinduism. This understanding was obtained late in life through my reading of the Upanishads. These writings represent, to me, the highest level of meta­physics of any religion. A succinct summary of my beliefs follows. I have been reading about religion and society since I was about 24.

At death, I would join the souls of my predecessors (except those who have been reincarnated). After a period of learning in whatever dimension I find myself, I would be reincarnated on Earth. Let me make clear that I was never taught to believe in a spirit domain from which the soul of a former relative or, for that matter, the soul of perhaps a guru, could enter my life and offer me advice. Or that those in this domain might be able to influence the direction of my life at some significant point – as has apparently happened more than once!

Moving on – each Earthly life would involve me paying for the sins of my past lives while being offered opportunities to learn to better myself morally, possibly spiritually. After many, many rebirths, I might be permitted to return to that Ocean of Consciousness from which, it is said, we had origi­nally arisen. The ultimate objective of this extended process? To improve the stock of human souls? So, is there meaning and purpose in human existence?

The above belief would give meaning where none exists for the unbeliever. It would give more meaning than the claim that human existence has meaning but only for each Earthly existence. A concept embodying continuity through lifetimes, of opportunities to move up some moral scale, life by life, and of exercising free will rather than being carried blindly through time on Earth, is enticing, because it offers a path of purpose, and of hope – with free will.”

These extracts are from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’.

Has mankind’s collective morality been improved?

If – and there is always an ‘if’ to any belief – the process of reincarnation is intended to offer each human soul repeated opportunities to refine itself morally, Earthly life by Earthly life, one would surely expect the level of accumulated morality in humankind to rise progressively. A rising tide of new souls should not have any long-term adverse effects.

Looking at the behaviour of people, including my extended families, in my place of birth in south-east Asia and in my country of adoption:

  • social behaviour was both courteous and considerate in both regions in the early post-war years, when I migrated
  • yet, the East is communitarian, while the ethos of the West is individualism
  • in both regions, those on the bottom of the socio-economic scale then became better off progressively through official social policies.
  • participation in civil society (community groups contributing to the betterment of those in need) has increased everywhere
  • however, increasing impersonal welfare largesse in Australia (including some middle class welfare) has led to the transfer of responsibility from family to state; and to the virulent rise of demands for heightened services reflecting a new ethos – of expectation that other peoples’ money (taxation) should provide whatever is sought
  • but, in spite of Westernisation in social behaviour, the state is not standing in the shoes of family in Malaysia and Singapore
  • and personal effort continues to be necessarily high in the Asian surrounds, while the unemployed in Australia are seemingly free to reject jobs offered, while living on welfare. Three generations of unproductive families reportedly live reasonably comfortably
  • this ethos is said to been readily adopted by most of Australia’s ‘boat people,’ the asylum seekers, aided and encouraged by irresponsible Australians, some in high places (see unemployment data)
  • as well, illegal arrivals, who cannot be sent home in spite of not satisfying the UN’s definition of a refugee (“in genuine fear of persecution”), are apparently better off in Australia, while living on other peoples’ money, than they were back home.

Overall, the level of morality has lessened in Australia, in my view, through welfare and the increasing role of the state. Such a change has not been evidenced in Malaysia and Singapore, according to my relatives.

However, the close bonds manifest in my generation within the extended family has weakened in subsequent generations. Westernisation and wealth have weakened clan links. Relatives do not know one another to the same extent. Societal relations are wider and more complex. Perhaps globalisation is responsible.

Nevertheless, at the individual level, one’s morality will continue to reflect one’s progress through lifetimes. That is the hope for mankind, while we are led into wars which are unnecessary, with millions of innocent people being obliterated, and damaged physically and psychologically. Most of those responsible for such holocausts are probably new souls – who have not learnt why they are on Earth.


Does my soul influence my mind?

The soul is believed to be a living entity whose existence transcends time; where time is a record of a sequence of events. The soul would be the etheric, essential core of each human being, said by Hinduism to reside within the heart of each of its embodiments on Earth; and to leave each body at death.

The mind is (in my limited experience) an integral component of a single Earthly life of a human being. After bodily death, together with the memories it had accumulated during that life, it seems to be carried into the After-life with the insubstantial spirit of the former human being, but not into the next Earthly life.

Can (or does) the soul, with its accumulated memories of multiple lifetimes (or a record of the pathway traversed) communicate with the mind of its current incarnation during the life of that embodiment?

The above concept of soul is held by, at least, the forest religions of Asia and their adherents; as well as by independent thinkers who accept that a continuity of human existence on Earth (or possibly elsewhere) is more meaningful than a single life with neither history nor future.

As for the mind, the spirit of my uncle (sent by ‘higher beings’ to guide me spiritually – refer my earlier posts) demonstrated both the ability to communicate silently with a clairvoyant (a transaction between minds), and the retention of his Earthly memory – all without a brain as we know it. As well, at re-birth, human beings do not remember their experiences and memories of the preceding Earthly existence.

A few children who remember (up to age 6 or thereabouts) some aspects of a previous life are exceptions – which also validate the reincarnation process.

To add further depth to the concept of mind, Hinduism advises that the human mind is only an instrument of Consciousness; and that Consciousness is the source of all that is in the Cosmos, and which pervades all existence ephemerally.

Is Consciousness then that which links all existence insubstantially, enabling connections to be sensed by components of life? Would this enable my soul to guide me in each embodied life, were I to seek such an input? After all, my soul is indeed the essential ME, with my current body of form and substance a temporary Earthly extension; and in need of guidance.

Fragmentary glimpses of a past life have arisen through my efforts, via auto-hypnosis, to view where I have been and what I did. Significantly, 2 clairvoyants, claiming to be able to perceive a couple of my past lives, with help from their spirit guides, have confirmed at least one of my past lives. This is supported by a sort of ‘gut feeling’ I have about that life.

Did my soul participate in this matter? That raises 2 important issues. During a course at a yoga ashram on meditation, we were repeatedly asked “Who is the Watcher?” This is a profoundly interesting concept; that behind our thoughts and actions stands a part of us which is aware of what is happening. This seems to be close to conscience, whose origin may not all be learned.

Strangely, on the 2 occasions during my life when I displayed great anger, another part of me clearly said “What are you doing?” For that to happen, there has to be a third part of me viewing this play.

Another reason for somehow becoming aware oF a past life would be to outgrow certain attitudes which may have been appropriate in that life, but which need to be discarded to enable progress morally. For example, if I have fought for justice in my previous life, I would now have to learn to work for justice.

As Dr. Radhakrishnan, a former President of India, said, “We are born, not to  enjoy life, but to learn.” But, why not combine the two?


Tribalism – the negatives

In the history of mankind, the imperatives of tribalism would, on balance, be the greatest curse of existence. Were we created by God, or through some other means (refer ‘the Adam’ in both the Christian Bible, and the Sumerian writings as interpreted by Zachariah Sitchin) to ignore, or exploit, or fight (to destroy), one another? Surely not!

Evolution from the animal kingdom would, however, explain the primacy of the integrity of tribal conduct. Not only is every other species ‘the other’; but ‘not one of us’ separates tribe from tribe within the same species. Co-operation – by necessity, and its derivative, habit. Competition – by nature!

Competition within the tribe, reflecting greed (especially for power and possessions) would also seem to reflect Nature. We were obviously not formed in the image of anyone’s god.

At the individual level, I have first-hand evidence of efforts made to ensure that one is not bested or out-run in the race to success by any member of the clan. At tribal level, in a multi-ethnic conglomeration, individuals will favour others in the tribe or sharing a nationality; though a shared nationality or citizenship implies – indeed, requires – non-discriminatory conduct and attitudes.

Yet, exploitation of one’s own people is the simplest means to wealth and power – as widely demonstrated within one’s nation; or as expatriates on foreign soil.

The imperatives of an un-domesticated animal nature seem undeniable. Creating ‘the Adam’ by commixing alien DNA and the optimal animal species (homo sapiens?) on Earth (as suggested by Sitchin) would seem to have been a terrible error; an unforeseen consequence.

However, could mankind’s inherited animal nature explain the devastation caused by tribalism at the institutional level? The oldest human institution would seem to be religion. Institutions involve co-ordination and control, with a rising hierarchy. The display of power within, and competition without, seem to be obverse sides of the same visage. However, does power necessarily corrupt the human spirit, or does it simply demean those subject to the power of controlling priests, or both?

When will the leaders of competitive institutional religions, especially their sects, cleanse themselves of any abuse of power, and positively preach the commonality of creation, the shared Earthly existence, and a co-operative and caring mindset covering all humanity? It would, however, be too much to expect the animal nature driving most of business and governance to follow suit.

Humanity needs to be weaned from tribalism. But only after the Sixth Extinction? I hope not!

Were the ancient Hindus, in their cosmology, correct in postulating repeated closures of all existence, followed by renewals? The extra-terrestrials who probably taught them that perspective may have understood the logic of what they taught; that repeated ‘cleansing’ is a must. Improved products may result.

Varying visages of the sea

Some say that humans – that’s us – came out of the sea. I doubt that. I fear the sea. Yet, one cannot deny the possible birthplace of the species. Indeed, the ‘slippery’ ones amongst us seem to confirm a watery origin of the species. Anyway, it is said that our body fluids are either the same as, or are compatible with, sea water. But that does not prevent us from drowning in the sea.

The threat of drowning loomed large when I was a passenger on a 2,000 ton ship crossing the Timor Sea. It was a little ship. We were travelling from Fremantle (on the west coast of Australia) to Singapore. After crossing the Timor Sea, the ship ‘sailed’ between the Indonesian islands to reach Singapore.

The sea was peaceful initially, edged on the east by white beaches (in the main), until we reached waters known for their turbulence. The ship was loaded with fruit, vegetables, and huge, black, big-horned cattle. The horns had sharp points. The red eyes of the animals were not friendly.

Then the ship began its rock-and-roll. The front of the vessel first rose high into the air; then dropped so low that that the sea rushed in through the holes for the anchors. This was followed by a sideways roll. This dance, with the ship then moving up and down while simultaneously lunging from side to side like a football player, ruined many appetites at meal times. Strangely, the ship successfully managed to bob up and down on these rumbustious waters.

Finally, the sea settled. There was no sound anywhere. Watching from a darkened lounge in second class, I observed the sky lit by a million stars, but the starlight did not enable me to see the black sea.

Such is life. The sea’s many faces reflect the changing experiences of human life. The lesson is to ride with the currents of life, however they change, the way the little ship rode the waves.

Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society

‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

Near what I considered to be the end of my life (as erroneously forecast by an otherwise accurate clairvoyant), I decided to take a rear-vision-mirror look at the nation into which I had been sent by the spirit world (I did once think of it as exile). Having survived the White Australia era unscathed; having had my career path blocked four times unfairly; having a creditable record of accomplishments during my contributions to civil society; having experienced a full life in a Western milieu while retaining the spiritual values of Asia which had formed me, I was in a position to place on record my considered conclusions about Australia and its society.

During a 30+ year career as a public official, I had spent 14 years dealing with the private sector, and 9 years with leaders of our immigrant communities, with some contact with ministers of government, and a slight tussle with a shire council about citizen rights. I had also received a Meritorious Service Award from my trade union. I feel that I understand my country of adoption to be able to write objectively, while being proud of its achievements.

An endorsement pre-publication

Raja Ratnam has lived a full life and made significant contributions to Australian life over six decades.  His experience as an Asian in Australia from the time of White Australia to that of multiculturalism is unique.  This book is a final distillation of the wisdom he has gained over that time. He provides insight into a wide range of areas from society and culture to religion.  And even better, his insights reflect his unique experience.  There is wisdom here and, like all of his work, this book is rich, intelligent and provocative. A major contribution to Australian culture.’ –Prof. Greg Melleuish, History & Politics, Wollongong University

A review

Recommended by the US Review of Books, as follows:

“Before I leave this shell, my body, I need to recognise what it is that I have learnt from my turbulent but interesting life.”

“This book is a commentary about how Australia has changed since the author first moved there in 1948. This work stands on its own merit, however his previous nonfiction work, The Dance of Destiny, describes the prejudices he, as an Asian from British Malaya, experienced. Those experiences are discussed in this latest book, as they relate to his observations of how society has reacted to different races, nationalities, languages, and religions.

Ratnam witnessed a change from White Australia to a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation. During his years of public service, he achieved several high-ranking positions in areas of refugee settlement and migration, education, and humanitarian work. He was also denied positions because of his ethnicity. Even though he was well-known in his field, including serving as an advisor at a government level, he still faced racism from time to time. In the early 1970s, the country developed an official entry policy that was non-discriminating. Skin color was no longer an official issue. In fact, as more immigrants arrived from ethnically diverse backgrounds, more social workers were needed who could speak those languages and understand the cultures.

This well-written book flows easily from one point to another. It is excellent for anyone studying sociology, public service, immigration policies, and related categories. It is also a recommended read for those who are not necessarily students, but who are interested in how a nation went from being “very British” to one of diversity acceptance. To use the author’s words, “Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.”


Presentation at Beijing Book Fair 2016

The book was presented at this fair by Dr. Irina Webster of the Australian Self-Publishing Group.


Quotes on re-birth

Karma brings us ever back to rebirth, binds us to the wheel of births and deaths. Good Karma drags us back as relentlessly as bad, and the chain which is wrought out of our virtues holds as firmly and as closely as that forged from our vices. Annie Besant
Assimilation of the fruits of each past life takes place before the spirit descends to rebirth, and consequently, the character generated is fully formed and readily expressed in the subtle, mobile mind-stuff of the Region of Concrete Thought, where the archetype of the coming dense body is built. Max Heindel
A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures. James E. Faust
One thing I want to make clear, as far as my own rebirth is concerned, the final authority is myself and no one else, and obviously not China’s Communists. Dalai Lama
Everyone focuses on the earthly state, but how cool might death be? I believe in spiritual rebirth, and I can’t wait to experience that. Barry Zito

“Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe