Finding Meaning in an ‘Age of Measurement’
An unsettling riddle lies at the heart of esoteric philosophy:
"What does the smallest thing in existence have in common with the largest?" The answer is: neither of them exists! Matter is not an ‘objective substance’. In Helena Blavatsky’s words: "It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built." 1 This view is supported by Hindu philosophy, which regards the phenomenal world as ‘maya’ – a Sanskrit term meaning illusion. If this is so, the question then arises as to what extent can measuring things and comparing them with one another assist humanity on its journey from the Unreal to the Real?
Of course, measurement helps us to live more effectively in the world of illusion, but it offers no real hint as to where the key to freedom might be found. This lack of direction is a cause for concern as we are living in an age that is preoccupied with measurement and the resulting deluge of statistics; it heavily influences educational systems as well as the way that we relate to one another and the world around us – arguably defining our very sense of identity.
In his book, Good Education in an Age of Measurement, Gert Biesta asks: "are we indeed measuring what we value, or are we just measuring what we can easily measure and thus up valuing what we (can) measure?" Biesta contends that the focus on measuring educational outcomes has displaced questions about educational purpose and fed the competitive spirit. In another book,
The Rediscovery of Teaching, he envisions an education that is "neither child-centred nor curriculum-centred but world-centred, that focuses on making a grown-up existence in and with the world possible – a process in which teaching, not understood as an act of control but an act orientated towards freedom, plays a crucial role."2
If we think back to our early childhood, we may recall a favourite teacher who made such an impression on us that it influences us to this day – not so much in terms of knowledge perhaps, but in the way we think and view the world, and the way we conduct ourselves and relate to others. Although it may have been a long time since we thought of that teacher, we may recognize that their quality continues to resonate deep within us. This is the effect of the type of teaching that Gert Biesta is referring to, one that establishes resonances with the good, the true and the beautiful in each and every child and has a life-long influence. This is the teaching art.
But what is this phenomenon of resonance that can have such an enduring effect? The principles at play are discussed from many angles in the Alice Bailey writings even though the word itself is not used. These days resonance is a familiar term: to resonate with another’s feelings or to find resonance with a point of view or ideology is well understood. It is beautifully illustrated by the ‘sympathetic string’ found on many Indian musical instruments. This string vibrates in response to the tones that are played on the main strings – a principle known as ‘sympathetic resonance.’
The way in which words enter a language, the way they then diversify and merge into common dialogue, reflect subtle changes that are taking place in consciousness. And the use of words such as ‘resonance’ and ‘resonate’ signifies a meaningful shift towards abstract thinking. Furthermore, the compassion that is now flourishing in humanity is rooted in the principle of sympathetic resonance. Compassion is, in essence, a musical phenomenon;
can we imagine the beautiful tones that will be heard by the inner ear as ever greater numbers of people identify with one another
and resonate together?
If resonance is a musical phenomenon far more extensive than the small scale of vibrations detected by the physical ear, what then is the medium through which it operates? The age of measurement cannot answer this, for it has long abandoned natural philosophy and the concept of the aether that fills Space. Sometimes, it is necessary to regain a former perspective on which to build anew. And as many of the ancient philosophers were well aware, Space is a plenum filled with a divine substance, the essential nature of which will never reveal itself to measuring devices of any kind. Only sympathetic resonance with the music of the spheres will bring apprehension of such mysteries:
Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to you naturally. Whenever you are able to attune your consciousness to any of the seven chords of ‘Universal Consciousness,’ those chords that run along the sounding-board of Kosmos, vibrating from one Eternity to another; when you have studied thoroughly ‘the music of the Spheres,’ then only will you become quite free to share your knowledge with those with whom
it is safe to do so….3
The way we may hear the music of the spheres and resonate to the truths it reveals is through the intuition. It is the means by which the great sages and poets have accessed the inner realms where the true nature of things lies waiting to be discovered by all of humanity. Until such time, unexpected resonances may fleetingly occur through the chamber of the intuition, momentarily transporting us out of ourselves:
Gazing into the glinting fire of a diamond, something wondrous flashes across the inner senses; a moment’s revelation igniting the whole being…. then all is dark again, the mind left reeling in the tail of the comet that has just passed through. Such is the speed of revelation until the aperture that exists in each and every moment is passed through. Then a new sky lies overhead greeting, a new landscape surrounding. All is still, yet bursting with melody and vibrantly dancing to the music of the spheres.4
We will be exploring these and other matters further at the upcoming World Goodwill Seminar: In Resonance with the Living Earth. The event is being held in New York, Geneva and London on 10 November, and we hope many of you will come along and participate in person.
In lighted companionship,
1. Secret Doctrine, p. 520, H.P. Blavatsky
2. Gert Biesta – Website: https://www-gertbiesta-com.jimdosite.com Paper: Good Education in an Age of Measurement,
3. Secret Doctrine, p. 167, H.P. Blavatsky
4. Arcane school student