In Tune With the Universe

By Radha Burnier


Originally printed in the JULY-AUGUST 2006 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Burnier, Radha. "In Tune With the Universe." Quest  94.4 (JULY-AUGUST 2006):150-152.


Theosophical Society - Radha Burnier was born in Adyar, India. She was president of the Theosophical Society Adyar from 1980 until her death in 2013. She was General Secretary of the Indian Section of the Society between 1960 and 1978, and was previously an actress in Indian films and Jean Renoir's The River.

The subject of attunement is of vital importance to humanity. Being out of tune with other people, with the environment, and with ourselves, we have done enormous damage to mutual relationships and to our own progress. The damage we do to ourselves can at no time be separated from the damage we do to others. We are responsible for the whole. Those who are inwardly well tuned and integrated, radiate harmony and happiness wherever they go and whatever they do. On the other hand, when there is discord inside, it breeds discord outside. Further, as The Voice of the Silence says: "Before the soul can see, the harmony within must be attained." All discord blinds the vision and human progress is retarded

The universe is not a chaos but a cosmos, so perfectly tuned that those who realize it through study and contemplation are left speechless in utter amazement. In his book, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe, the author Sir Martin Rees writes about six numbers, some of them very small and some very large, which constitute the "recipe" for the universe. If any one of them were to be increased or decreased even minutely, there would be no stars and no life. For example, if the existing ratio between gravity and expansion energy had been even slightly different, the universe would have collapsed long ago, or no galaxies or stars would have been formed. He asks the question: "Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence?"

According to ancient Indians the cosmic order was called rta. The unimaginably high level of tuning which maintains the cosmic order relates not only to the perceivable measurable facts of which scientists take cognizance; it exists in subtle dimensions with which science does not concern itself. Rta, for the ancients, was all-comprehensive harmony, the ground of all phenomena in the visible and the deep invisible fields and dimensions of existence. David Bohm might have had an insight into this aspect when he wrote, in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, about unpided wholeness in flowing movement and an implicate order which "constitutes a fundamental aspect of reality."

An expert musician's ear is so sensitive that he or she becomes aware of even the slightest deviation from the harmony of sounds. A musician hears fine distinctions the listeners may not notice, and every time there is need, adjusts the string to maintain perfect accord. Every musician in an orchestra also takes care to preserve musical excellence: Even slight nuances are important, for they are integral to the whole.

The cosmic order or rta, on a vast, almost inscrutable scale, may be similar. There is an intelligence and creative power (the master musician) that restores the harmony of the universe, if it is disturbed in even the slightest degree. This is the working of Karma or Karma-Nemesis as Madame Blavatsky calls it in The Secret Doctrine. She says that "the only decree of Karma—an eternal and immutable decree—is absolute Harmony in the world of Matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we who reward or punish ourselves, according as we work with, through and along with Nature, abiding by the laws on which that harmony depends, or—breaking them" (11.368). HPB also says in this context that so long as the effect of having thrown into perturbation "even the smallest atom in the Infinite World of Harmony" has not been readjusted, the "evil-doer" suffers what he thinks is retribution. He experiences what we call pain and strives to escape it, and, being ignorant of what is happening, he acts in such a way as to create further perturbation.

Ancient tradition also affirms that invisible to our perception there exist many types of beings, endowed with intelligence in varying measure, who are in a state of unconscious harmony with Nature and spontaneously carry out the "Great Work." They joyously play their own scores in the cosmic symphony. So do all the subhuman creatures that we know. For the human being alone, the question arises of how to be in tune with the universe. We, who are so out of tune, feel the misery of strife and long for peace, love, and beauty.

But fortunately, the human consciousness has the power to observe, think over, and understand enough about the universe in which it finds itself to realize the responsibility of the inpidual in preserving the harmony. By our own effort to see and understand life, we must realize that the chaotic conditions in human society result from the contradictions within ourselves. Therefore the remedy is in our hands. If we give attention to understanding, our consciousness may make the transition into a new level of knowledge of the universal order, its meaning and beauty.

Evolution is not merely a development from lesser to greater degrees of complexity of form, but also a blossoming of consciousness into higher levels of awareness. This awareness includes an appreciation of the fundamental energies in the cosmos; it does not necessarily refer to knowledge of details. It is a vision of the pine principles which manifest themselves in every detail as well as in the general flow. The Buddha's omniscience, tradition says, consists of the power to know everything rather than knowledge of such details as how many hairs there are on a person's head!

The flow of manifestation reveals these pine principles in varying degrees through various phenomena and functions. In the flow of a waterfall, we see a steady movement although there is constant change. The sparkling changes against the background of a steady state cause us to experience a refreshing delight and a sense of newness at every instant. The shadow or phenomenal world is endless movement and never-ending change, but underlying the movement is immovable and everlasting Being—a paradox which is repeated in other ways. The order of the universe embraces an immense persity of forms and patterns. The creative energy which upholds it constantly gives birth to new things; but nothing is repeated, not even one leaf of a tree being the same as another. Nature seems to abhor cloning and conformity. Yet amidst the astounding persities of life, a mysterious bond exists uniting all things into a whole. The human being is like a drop in the vastness and depth of the ocean of existence, seemingly separate, but inseparable from it.

These paradoxes are all part of the music of the spheres. The great symphony of Nature is played with perse instruments, musicians, melodies, rhythms, and so on. In a Sufi parable it is related that when the hoarse cawing of a crow irritated some persons and they drove it away in anger, the Lord summoned his assistants and asked why a member of his orchestra was missing. Each particular element derives its value from enriching the whole, but it is the whole which is the "music of the spheres." It is wonderful to be human, because we can rejoice in the beauty and the newness of all the different elements and also realize that they are not other than the wholeness. They are, in fact, the Whole displaying a part of its self-nature, just as Light displays the colors of the rainbow. Every unity has the potential for persity, and all persities merge with unity.

The human problem is that our internal contradictions have their base in the great paradox of manifestation, when the Supreme appears other than Itself. Pierre Lecomte de Nouy, in his book Human Destiny, as well as others have speculated on the aims underlying evolution and have suggested that they include harmony, freedom, and inpiduality. In the average human, the assertion of inpiduality destroys harmony and appears to establish freedom. The persification of forms and species is a means to evolve more and more inpidual characteristics. There is a vast difference, for instance, between a mosquito and an elephant, not just because of size, but because in the former there is hardly any inpiduality, while the latter is markedly inpidual in looks, behavior, and intelligence. The human being has advanced even further in this direction. But through millennia, evolution of consciousness has also been developing freedom and a sense of harmony. Organically, there have been such developments: the animal is physically freer than the plant, and humankind is even freer. Inwardly also, progress is being made towards freedom. There is, however, the seeming contradiction between the need for harmony on the one hand, and inpiduality on the other in the lives of most human beings. This is resolved in the earlier pre-human stages by Nature's own adjustments. But in the self-conscious human being there is conflict and struggle. He wants relationships, and yet his egoism spoils the chances of experiencing them joyfully. Assertion of inpiduality, (which is egoism) is the prime cause of our disharmony. Similarly, we want freedom, but we also need order—this is not only an inpidual, but also a social and national dilemma.

Hence our major problem is: Can we be free without creating chaotic and painful situations? Can we nourish the latent uniqueness within us, without being at war? Much depends on how we understand ourselves and those values which are of the basic substance of the universe.

The universal and timeless values of the cosmos are unconnected with and independent of external things. As the poet Richard Lovelace said:

Stone walls do not a prison make

Nor iron bars a cage.

"To Althea: From Prison"

Someone in prison is no less free than another so-called free man who is a slave to the passion of greed, anger, or envy. Similarly, true inpiduality is not a matter of asserting one's importance or exhibiting knowledge. What we call fundamental values—freedom, uniqueness, harmony, happiness, peace—are soul characteristics. They are not dependent on anything outside for their existence. Belief that we must find them outside by manipulating relationships, acquiring possessions, or changing circumstances is the cause of discord and suffering. These values are facets of our true nature and of universal consciousness. When we realize our true nature, we are absolutely in tune with the universe.