The following article is based on information gathered during more than 40 years of study. It addresses some of the most vexing problems of human existence through explanations that may seem speculative but also worthy of attention. The reader is simply asked to approach this material with an open mind.
We have discovered through the science of ecology what poets, lovers, and mystics have always known: that the Earth is a living being, amazingly complex, fertile and renewing, and wondrously beautiful.
Earth is the common mother of us all - humans, animals, plants, stones, mountains, rivers, and the sea alike.
If Earth is a mother, then the Sun is a father: the source of life-giving energy, the one whose light shines upon all, regardless of status in the chain of creation. Sunlight, when crystallized within the womb of Earth, becomes organic life, including our own human bodies.
At the terminal point of the chain is the Moon, a child perhaps to the Sun and Earth. Could it be that someday the Moon may become like the Earth, while the Earth may transform into a new Sun? Could this be how the Universe grows, stars becoming galaxies, then systems of galaxies, finally resolving into the mysterious All?
To esoteric knowledge the Universe is a vast living being, conceived in glory, resplendent in its multidimensional complexity. This idea of a Universe evolving in the direction of greater refinement is much different from the usual academic concepts which view it as an accidental sputtering mechanism doomed to expire like a cinder or collapse like a leaky balloon.
At the core is the one divine Spirit: God, the conscious essence of everything that exists.
Then what is a human being within such immensity and splendor, especially human beings of the type who walk the Earth today, lost in a daze of materialistic slumber, often so full of violence, greed, fear, heedlessness, and vanity?
Indeed, can the mass man of the 21st century be regarded as human at all - one who lives as he is told to live, manipulated by politicians, financiers, and the media, who goes to work as he is told to go to work, wears what he is told to wear, expresses the opinions he is told to have, afraid of every would-be terrorist hiding in a potted plant, poised to kill his fellow man when given the order? Even Earth herself is increasingly threatened by human maltreatment and abuse.
Is humankind as we see him today really and truly the being the Earth is obliged to give birth to and maintain? No wonder Gurdjieff referred to Earth as the "ill-fated planet."
According to esoteric science, man is a being brought forth to become a self-evolving entity, to become always more conscious of himself or herself, to realize his oneness with the Divine spirit that permeates every particle of the Universe, and to act as the good steward of Nature's bounty. The purpose of man is to develop oneself in response to a higher call. Social institutions should serve this purpose and provide the material basis for a communal life that promotes it.
Man is not the first such experiment upon the Earth, say the esoteric masters.
In the past, other creatures have served as vehicles of consciousness, including, it is said, the sharks, along with a type of bird long-since extinct. The human being, whose consciousness was grafted ages ago on the body of a primate, when God, they say, breathed his spirit into the biped He then called "Man," is just the most recent.
The intent, as was said, was to produce an entity capable of self-directed spiritual evolution. During the process, an outward culture was to be developed that would supply the cultural environment needed for the sustenance of human individuals and families. Children were to be raised in a loving and nurturing environment through an educational process that focused on stewardship of the environment and of spiritual growth. Religion was to be the means of providing the conceptual framework and the practical techniques for spiritual evolution. Human life was to be a true Garden of Eden.
Humans may have been intended to live to an advanced age - many centuries according to present-day reckoning. The Biblical accounts of people such as Methuselah, who lived for 969 years, may reflect this tradition. At the end of the journey, the evolved individual would consciously choose his time of transition, then step off into the next stage of experience, a passage reflected in the story of Elijah being transported to Heaven by a fiery chariot.
According to other traditions, perhaps the person, now dwelling within a more refined body, would take up residence on one of the splendid cities on the surface of the Sun that was visited in trance by the contemporary sage Shivabalayogi, or in one of the "parallel Universes" which the Hindus call lokas. In today's parlance, the person might become an "angel," perhaps one of our own individual guardian angels. After much more experience, he or she might even become the soul of a new planet.
Again according to esoteric knowledge, during the course of his lifetime on Earth, the evolving human being would emit a refined vibration that would become part of the cosmic exchange of energy needed to sustain the life and growth of the Universe. These vibrations, while often generated collectively, would be felt as individual mystical experience - the "peace of God" - which would become particularly intense during the rituals that attended such auspicious seasonal events as the recurrence of the solstices. These rituals, an example of which we can see today in the Christian communion service, would be conducted by trained individuals called "priests."
But instead of this life devoted to the unfoldment in individual consciousness of truth and beauty, look what we have made. Today, it seems, human individuals give off so few positive vibrations that Nature must perhaps create billions of us to generate what is required. Is this then the real explanation of world overpopulation?
Then there is war. Few are as puffed up with pride as the uniformed killers who stride the Earth armed with weapons of mass destruction or prowl the seas in submarines or surface ships bristling with guns or pollute the skies in their airplanes and helicopters with bombs, rockets, and poison gases capable of killing millions. Also bloated with vanity are the politicians who send their populations to war with stentorian speech and the financiers who gloat in boardrooms while waxing rich from the death and devastation.
Then there is the ultimate sacrilege whereby the vibration that creates the stars - nuclear energy - is packaged into weaponry that could wipe out the entire solar system through one of the wars which the corrupt intellectuals known as "analysts" feverishly involve themselves in planning within the confines of their "think tanks."
Some teachers of esoteric science say that Earth is the only planet in the Universe where war among creatures endowed with the potential for divine consciousness even exists.
Why? What went wrong?
The importance of answering this question cannot be exaggerated, though theories abound.
Perhaps it is true that at some time in the past a tragedy occurred which the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - refer to as the "Fall of Man." The Biblical account of the events in the Garden of Eden, where Eve was seduced by the serpent before offering the forbidden fruit to Adam, may be a highly-symbolic attempt to explain what may have happened.
There are traditions that assert mankind once lived on a much higher intellectual and spiritual level than today. See for example P.D. Ouspensky's (1878-1947) A New Model of the Universe.
Modern pseudo-science often sees things upside down. For instance, the Darwinist theory of evolution may have been invented by European intellectuals of the 19th Century largely to justify their own low level of consciousness. The theory allowed them to claim that the humanity of the modern era was the result of a long period of mechanistic development which somehow gave them the right to lord it over other creatures and their fellow human beings in a world that was becoming increasingly "dog-eat-dog."
Such people began to fancy themselves ruling the world, once the Bank of England, Standard Oil, and the Federal Reserve replaced Jesus Christ and His Church as the supposed lords of creation. Part of the process by which the intellectual apologists prevailed on humanity to turn their backs on their religious faith seems to have been to portray such parables as the Fall of Man as just another childish myth written by primitive people.
But at some time in the past, the "Fall" must have in fact occurred for us to arrive at where we are today. For the state of mankind in 2009 is obviously one of accelerating degeneration, not evolution.
According to one tradition, a catastrophe took place within the Galaxy whereby the archangels who oversee this part of the Universe came to Earth and were forced by circumstances to implant a special organ into every human being on the planet.
This catastrophe is said to have occurred in the vicinity of 50,000 years ago. The organ that was implanted completely halted the spiritual development of mankind for thousands of years. During this time, people lived in caves and relapsed to a primitive culture that still worshipped Nature spirits and buried their dead but reached no higher. Humans of that era are known today as the Neanderthals.
To anthropologists the arrival and disappearance of the Neanderthals is a complete mystery. They may actually have been the means by which the human race was temporarily anesthetized. Such ancient fairy tales as Sleeping Beauty may be an account of the event as recalled in the collective unconscious.
As time went on and the danger to cosmic equilibrium passed, the implanted organ was removed. The problem was that even without the organ being present, people still had a tendency to act and live in a barbaric fashion. Today we may be living amid the results of a phase of mankind's history which, even if once deemed necessary by cosmic powers, is still having tragic results.
Even today, people of a crude, violent disposition are called "Neanderthals." And throughout history, despite the fact that the heavenly powers repeatedly sent Messengers to Earth to recall mankind to its divine destiny - Messengers such as Zoroaster, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed - those of a Neanderthal-like disposition continued to rule through their predisposition to force, cunning, and lying. They do so today at a time when the worst people on Earth seem to be the ones who have the most money and power.
Further, the events herein described likely produced so much disharmony, including near-constant warfare among various groups of humans different from each other in not-very-important ways, that people had a need to explain how life on this beautiful Earth had gotten so bad. Unable to rise very high in their thinking or accept their own responsibility for the results of their behavior, they invented a mental construct which they called "The Devil."
This construct became so vivid in their imagination that it took on a life of its own and congealed into a semi-independent psychic entity known as an "egregor." This and other egregors can be dispelled only through the light of awareness brought consciously to bear. Such egregors include those which appear as the universal beliefs resulting in various disease states. There may be an egregor of cancer, for instance, a disease which today has reached epidemic proportions.
Another result of these sad events was that the consciousness of mankind collapsed into a state far below what would normally exist for them on Earth, thus reaching the level of the Moon; i.e., one major step down in cosmic evolution. Hence huge numbers of humans became "lunatics," living perpetually in a state of negative imagination. Thus life on Earth today is a "loony bin," where "the inmates have taken over the asylum."
Another name for this state is "Hell." With their being rooted in that deficient condition, humans became prey to possession by inferior psychic entities living on the astral plane known as "devils," "demons," "djinn," etc. These creatures are not "evil," since in God's perfect creation nothing that is truly evil can possibly exist.
Demons rather are psychic beings that feed on rotten human souls the way buzzards or maggots feed on carrion. Things have gotten so bad today that in some places virtually every human being in any position of wealth, power, or authority is so possessed.
A result of humanity's inferior state of consciousness has been various products of culture during past millennia that have only served to deepen our psychological slumber. One example with far-reaching consequences was the pastime of dreaming up new systems of philosophy practiced by the ancient Greeks. One product was Plato's fictional Republic, where a self-anointed caste of "Guardians" would be allowed to take children away from their families to be raised by the state. The Guardians also were allowed to lie to the public as a matter of public policy, supposedly for their own good.
If this sounds familiar, it should, as Plato's Republic was a model for such modern secret societies as Cecil Rhodes' Round Table, the Tavistock Institute, the Club of Rome, etc. Other examples of harmful cultural products are modern systems of speculative babble such as psychoanalysis, totalitarian ideologies like communism and Nazism, and many works of contemporary entertainment like "splatter art," "action" films, and satanic rock music.
The modern age has also seen an accelerated growth in scientific knowledge. Monstrosities have been created, including development of the previously-mentioned nuclear weapons. Others are cloning of plants and animals and the genetic modification of seeds which could eventually result in the extinction of food plants, leading to mass starvation.
The explosion of technical knowledge has led to superficial conveniences but also to the excessive utilization of Earth's resources, pollution, and the dislocation and destruction of human and animal populations. The Frankenstein Monster, described in a novel by Mary Shelley near the start of the modern era (pub. 1818/1831), was the perfect emblem of the period of history then approaching, when intellect divorced from ethics had begun to turn the powers inherent in Nature into forces that would threaten to extinguish beauty, truth, and goodness altogether.
The present-day Neanderthals have been extremely aggressive in laying claim to the Earth's bounty through "property rights" laws that are nothing more than organized robbery. They work through such organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization, NATO, the Mafia, etc. One of their primary means of racketeering is control of currencies through bank lending. Others are money laundering and drug trafficking. Their staple is war.
The technology the Neanderthals have appropriated as a source of "privatized" wealth could actually benefit mankind if utilized properly. Technology could be channeled for beneficial ends to serve the needs of mankind regardless of social standing, and it could free people from much of the burden of work and give them more time for the pursuit of spiritual well-being. The fruits of technology could free people, for instance, to spend several hours a day in prayer and meditation, artistic creation, or works of philanthropy.
Instead, technology is monopolized to destroy whole nations and cultures and exploit Earth's resources for private profit. The crimes of the Neanderthals are unfolding on such a massive scale that cataclysms afflicting the Earth may even be expected. Those humans who have higher aspirations than to live and die, perhaps prematurely, as hypnotized automata are obviously confronted with a daunting challenge.
Not only are we faced with the age-old ingrained need to develop and grow in Self- and God-Realization, but we must do so in social, economic, and political conditions that on the surface are stressful, if not catastrophic.
Yet we must move forward with faith and confidence. Every human being has the opportunity to become a conscious son or daughter of God. That is why genuine schools of spiritual development exist and are so important. These schools may be found both within and outside of organized religions. To locate such an authentic school is the first task of a person once he or she has been touched by grace and begins to seek the truth..
Richard C. Cook's books, articles, and DVDs are available at www.richardccook.com.
 "Esoteric" in this instance refers to the age-old knowledge that lies at the heart of all authentic spiritual traditions, not to the cults that engage in various forms of practices through which their members attempt to satiate their egotistical desires.
 G.I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Tarcher/Penguin, 1992/2006. Gurdjieff was one of the great spiritual masters of modern times whose life and work are almost unknown to the general public. His 1132-page magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales, contains answer to many of life's conundrums, though often in highly-encrypted form. He grew up in the Orthodox Church and referred to his teaching as "esoteric Christianity."
 Abdullah Dougan, The Quest, Gnostic Press, 1981. Dougan (1918-1987) was a New Zealander who became a sheikh of the Naqshbandi Sufi order during extensive travels in Asia.
 Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj (1935-1994) of Adivarapupeta, India, was a devotee of Shiva (the Indian Christ) who eventually founded a worldwide movement based on Yogic meditation. A biography may be found in the book Tapas Shakti. For more information on lokas, also see Swami Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi.
 G.I. Gurdjieff, op.cit.
 Ouspensky, a spiritual master in his own right, was also a leading expositor of Gurdjieff's teaching and author of In Search of the Miraculous, a detailed record of Gurdjieff's oral discourses in Russia during and after World War I. During and after World War II Ouspensky lived and taught in Mendham, New Jersey.
 Gurdjieff, op. cit.
 For a discussion of egregors see the works of Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov (1900-1986). Among his amazing teachings are statements that flying saucers belong to an advanced race of beings living deep beneath the surface of the earth. Aïvanov, who was born in Bulgaria and taught in France, was a devotee of the branch of esoteric Christian teaching he said derived from St. John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelations. His works are available through Editions Prosveta.
 According to Sheikh Abdullah Dougan, the "djinn," as they are called in Islam (cf. "genies"), are the wandering spirits of beings from a failed experiment in consciousness prior to man which he called "goaffhad birds."
 Christian teachings also have many references to possession by unclean spirits which is much more common than people usually acknowledge.