“By the study of this Law of Cycles we learn that natural progress of all kinds does not occur in one steady stream, like the rush of a railway train on a straight track, but on the contrary, it proceeds by a spiral or screw-like course, in which the same points are successively and continually reached on higher circles of existence. It might, perhaps, be compared to the flight of an eagle, which soars upward in circles one above the other, until lost to sight in the vault of heaven. An onlooker would apparently see a periodic return to nearly the same place, but it is clear that the soaring bird occupies a more distant position on every turn of the circle in its spiral flight upward.
“These cyclic periods are so well defined in our everyday experience, that we are apt to pass them by, without recognizing their importance. Every day is a cycle, in which we pursue almost the same round of duty, and every day is followed by a night or period of rest in which the circle of twenty-four hours is rounded off and completed. Month by month, in a larger cycle we find similar occurrences in our business and home circles. Year by year we follow the same round of occurrences in Nature, so that spring, summer, autumn and winter promote the well-being of each other, and minister to the perfect whole of which they form successive phases. All these are well known to us, but because by habit we have grown familiar with them, we fail to perceive that herein lies a great secret of the world’s advancement.
“By pursuing the subject we may discover that the Law of Cycles rules every phenomenal experience in the world around us, that it governs even our states of passing happiness or misery, and rules also what men call life and death. Thus the continuous growth of Nature and of all beings is divided and punctuated by successive periods of rest and activity, or, to express it more completely, by rounds of birth, growth, subsidence and rest.”
— C.W., from the article The Laws of Cycles
Click on any of the headings below to delve into the concept of Cycles from a theosophical perspective:
From the writings of H. P. Blavatsky
The Second Fundamental Proposition of the Secret Doctrine
The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions: —
(a) An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible …
(b.) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically “the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,” called “the manifesting stars,” and the “sparks of Eternity.” “The Eternity of the Pilgrim”† is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) “The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux.” (See Part II., “Days and Nights of Brahma.”)
This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.
. . .
(c) The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or “Necessity”) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. …
† “Pilgrim” is the appellation given to our Monad (the two in one) during its cycle of incarnations. It is the only immortal and eternal principle in us, being an indivisible part of the integral whole — the Universal Spirit, from which it emanates, and into which it is absorbed at the end of the cycle. When it is said to emanate from the one [[Footnote continued on next page]]
The Theory of Cycles
The Theory of Cycles
It is now some time since this theory, which was first propounded in the oldest religion of the world, Vedaism, then taught by various Greek philosophers, and afterwards defended by the Theosophists of the Middle Ages, but which came to be flatly denied by the wise men of the West, like everything else, in this world of negation, has been gradually coming into prominence again. This once, contrary to the rule, it is the men of science themselves who take up. Statistics of events of the most varied nature are fast being collected and collated with the seriousness demanded by important scientific questions. Statistics of wars and of the periods (or cycles) of the appearance of great men—at least those as have been recognised as such by their contemporaries and irrespective of later opinions; statistics of the periods of development and progress at large commercial centres; of the rise and fall of arts and sciences; of cataclysms, such as earthquakes, epidemics periods of extraordinary cold and heat; cycles of revolutions, and of the rise and fall of empires, &c.; all these are subjected turn to the analysis of the minutest mathematical calculations. Finally, even the occult significance of numbers in names of persons and names of cities, in events, and like matters, receives unwonted attention. If, on the one hand, a great portion of the educated public is running into atheism and scepticism, on the other hand, we find an evident current of mysticism forcing its way into science. It is the sign of an irrepressible need in humanity to assure itself that there is a Power Paramount over matter; an occult and mysterious law which governs the world, and which we should rather study and closely watch, trying to adapt ourselves to it, than blindly deny, and break our heads against the rock of destiny. ore than one thoughtful mind, while studying the fortunes and verses of nations and great empires, has been deeply struck by one identical feature in their history, namely, the inevitable recurrence of similar historical events reaching in turn every one of them, and after the same lapse of time. This analogy is found between the events to be substantially the same on the whole, though there may be more or less difference as to the outward form of details. Thus, the belief of the ancients in their astrologers, soothsayers and prophets might have been warranted by the verification of many of their most important predictions, without these prognostications of future events implying of necessity anything very miraculous in themselves. The soothsayers and augurs having occupied in days of the old civilizations the very same position now occupied by our historians, astronomers and meteorologists, there was nothing more wonderful in the fact of the former predicting the downfall of an empire or the loss of a battle, than in the latter predicting the return of a comet, a change of temperature, or, perhaps, the final conquest of Afghanistan. The necessity for both these classes being acute, observers apart, there was the study of certain sciences to be pursued then as well as they are now. The science of today will have become an “ancient” science a thousand years hence. Free and open, scientific study now is to all, whereas it was then confined but to the few. Yet, whether ancient or modern, both may be called exact sciences; for, if the astronomer of today draws his observations from mathematical calculations, the astrologer of old also based his prognostication upon no less acute and mathematically correct observations of the ever-recurring cycles. And, because the secret of this science is now being lost, does that give any warrant to say that it never existed, or that, to believe in it, one must be ready to swallow “magic,” “miracles” and the like stuff? “If, in view of the eminence to which modern science has reached, the claim to prophesy future events must be regarded as either a child’s play or a deliberate deception,” says a writer in the Novoyé Vremya, the best daily paper of literature and politics of St. Petersburg, “then we can point at science which, in its turn, has now taken up and placed on record the question, in its relation to past events, whether there is or is not in the constant repetition of events a certain periodicity; in other words, whether these events recur after a fixed and determined period of years with every nation; and if a periodicity there be, whether this periodicity is due to blind chance or depends on the same natural laws, on which are more or less dependent many of the phenomena of human life.” Undoubtedly the latter. And the writer has the best mathematical proof of it in the timely appearance of such works as that of Dr. E. Zasse, under review, and of a few others. Several learned works, treating upon this mystical subject, have appeared of late, and of some of these works and calculations we will now treat; the more readily as they are in most cases from the pens of men of eminent learning. Having already in the June number of the THEOSOPHIST noticed an article by Dr. Blohvitz On the significance of the number Seven,1 with every nation and people—a learned paper which appeared lately in the German journal Die Gegenwart—we will now summarize the opinions of the press in general, on a more suggestive work by a well-known German scientist, E. Zasse, with certain reflections of our own. It has just appeared in the Prussian Journal of Statistics, and powerfully corroborates the ancient theory of Cycles. These periods, which bring around ever-recurring events, begin from the infinitesimal small—say of ten years—rotation and reach to cycles which require 250, 500, 700 and 1000 years, to effect their revolutions around themselves, and within one another. All are contained within the Máhá-Yug, the “Great Age” or Cycle of the Manu calculation, which itself revolves between two eternities—the “Pralayas” or Nights of Brahma. As, in the objective world of matter, or the system of effects, the minor constellations and planets gravitate each and all around he sun, so in the world of the subjective, or the system of causes, these innumerable cycles all gravitate between that which the finite intellect of the ordinary mortal regards as eternity, and the till finite, but more profound, intuition of the sage and philosopher views as but an eternity within THE ETERNITY. “As above, so it is below,” runs the old Hermetic maxim. As an experiment in his direction, Dr. Zasse selected the statistical investigations of all the wars, the occurrence of which has been recorded in history, as a subject which lends itself more easily to scientific verification than any other. To illustrate his subject in the simplest and most easily comprehensible way, Dr. Zasse represents the periods of war and the periods of peace in the shape of small and large rave-lines running over the area of the old world. The idea is not new one, for, the image was used for similar illustrations by ore than one ancient and mediaeval mystic, whether in words or picture—by Henry Kunrath, for example. But it serves well its purpose and gives us the facts we now want. Before he treats, however, of the cycles of wars, the author brings in the record of the rise and fall of the world’s great empires, and shows the degree of activity they have played in the Universal History. He points out the fact that if we divide the map of the Old World into five parts—into Eastern, Central, and Western Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Egypt—then we will easily perceive that very 250 years, an enormous wave passes over these areas, bringing into each in its turn the events it has brought to the one next preceding. This wave we may call “the historical wave” of the 250 years’ cycle. The reader will please follow this mystical number of years.
The first of these waves began in China, 2,000 years B.C.—the “golden age” of this Empire, the age of philosophy, of discoveries and reforms. “In 1750 B.C., the Mongolians of Central Asia establish a powerful empire. In 1500, Egypt rises from its temporary degradation and carries its sway over many parts of Europe and Asia; and about 1250, the historical wave reaches and crosses over to Eastern Europe, filling it with the spirit of the Argonautic expedition, and dies out in 1000 B.C. at the siege of Troy.”
A second historical wave appears about that time in Central Asia. “The Scythians leave her steppes, and inundate towards the year 750 B.C. the adjoining countries, directing themselves towards the South and West; about the year 500 in Western Asia begins an epoch of splendour for ancient Persia; and the wave moves on to the east of Europe, where, about 250 B.C., Greece reaches her highest state of culture and civilization—and further on to the West, where, at the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire finds itself at its apogee of power and greatness.”
Again, at this period we find the rising of a third historical wave at the far East. After prolonged revolutions, about this time, China forms once more a powerful empire, and its arts, sciences and commerce flourish again. Then 250 years later, we find the Huns appearing from the depths of Central Asia; in the year 500 A.D. a new and powerful Persian kingdom is formed; in 750—in Eastern Europe—the Byzantine empire; and, in the year 1,000—on its western side—springs up the second Roman Power, the Empire of the Papacy, which soon reaches an extraordinary development of wealth and brilliancy.
At the same time, the fourth wave approaches from the Orient. China is again flourishing; in I 250, the Mongolian wave from Central Asia has overflowed and covered an enormous area of land, including with it Russia. About 1500, in Western Asia, the Ottoman Empire rises in all its might and conquers the Balkan peninsula; but at the same time in Eastern Europe, Russia throws off the Tartar yoke, and about 1750, during the reign of Empress Catherine, rises to an unexpected grandeur and covers itself with I glory. The wave ceaselessly moves further on to the West, and, beginning with the middle of the past century, Europe is living over an epoch of revolutions and reforms, and, according to the author, “if it is permissible to prophetize, then, about the year 2,000, Western Europe will have lived one of those periods of culture and progress so rare in history.” The Russian press, taking the cue, believes that “towards those days the Eastern Question will be finally settled, the national dissensions of the European peoples will come to an end, and the dawn of the new millennium will witness the abolishment of armies and an alliance between all the European empires.” The signs of regeneration are also fast multiplying in Japan and China, as if pointing to the approach of a new historical wave at the extreme East.
If, from the cycle of two-and-a-half century duration, we descend to those which leave their impress every century, and, grouping together the events of ancient history, will mark the development and rise of empires, then we will assure ourselves that, beginning from the year 700 B.C., the centennial wave pushes forward, bringing into prominence the following nations—each in its turn—the Assyrians, the Medes, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Germanians.
The striking periodicity of the wars in Europe is also noticed by Dr. E. Zasse. Beginning with 1700 A.D., every ten years have been signalized by either a war or a revolution. The periods of the strengthening and weakening of the warlike excitement of the European nations represent a wave strikingly regular in its periodicity, flowing incessantly, as if propelled onward by some invisible fixed law. This same mysterious law seems at the same time to make these events coincide with astronomical wave or cycle, which, at every new revolution, is accompanied by the very marked appearance of spots in the sun. The periods, when the European powers have shown the most destructive energy, are marked by a cycle of 50 years’ duration. It would be too long and tedious to enumerate them from the beginning of History. We may, therefore, limit our study to the cycle beginning with the year 1712, when all the European nations were fighting at the same time—the Northern, and the Turkish wars, and the war for the throne of Spain. About 1761, the “Seven Years’ War”; in 1810 the wars of Napoleon I. Towards 1861, the wave has a little deflected from its regular course, but, as if to compensate for it, or, propelled, perhaps, with unusual forces, the years directly preceding, as well as those which followed it, left in history the records of the most fierce and bloody war—the Crimean war—in the former period, and the American Rebellion in the latter one. The periodicity in the wars between Russia and Turkey appears peculiarly striking and represents a very characteristic wave. At first the intervals between the cycles, returning upon themselves, are of thirty years’ duration—17I0, 1740, 1770; then these intervals diminish, and we have a cycle of twenty years—1790, 1810, 1829-30; then the intervals widen again—1853 and 1878. But, if we take note of the whole duration of the in-flowing tide of the warlike cycle, then we will have at the centre of it—from 1768 to 1812—three wars of seven years’ duration each, and, at both ends, wars of two years.
Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that, in view of facts, it becomes thoroughly impossible to deny the presence of a regular periodicity in the excitement of both mental and physical forces in the nations of the world. He proves that in the history of all the peoples and empires of the Old World, the cycles marking the millenniums, the centennials as well as the minor ones of 50 and 10 years’ duration, are the most important, inasmuch as neither of them has ever yet failed to bring in its rear some more or less marked event in the history of the nation swept over by these historical waves.
The history of India is one which, of all histories, is the most vague and least satisfactory. Yet, were its consecutive great events noted down, and its annals well searched, the law of cycles would be found to have asserted itself here as plainly as in every other country in respect of its wars, famines, political exigencies and other matters.
In France, a meteorologist of Paris went to the trouble of compiling the statistics of the coldest seasons, and discovered, at the same time, that those years, which had the figure 9 in them, had been marked by the severest winters. His figures run thus: In 859 A.D., the northern part of the Adriatic sea was frozen and was covered for three months with ice. In 1179, in the most moderate zones, the earth was covered with several feet of snow. In 1209, in France, the depth of snow and the bitter cold caused such a scarcity of fodder that most of the cattle perished in that country In 1249, the Baltic Sea, between Russia, Norway and Sweden remained frozen for many months and communication was held by sleighs. In 1339, there was such a terrific winter in England, that vast numbers of people died of starvation and exposure. In 1409, the river Danube was frozen from its sources to its mouth in the Black Sea. In 1469 all the vineyards and orchards perished in consequence of the frost. In 1609, in France, Switzerland and Upper Italy, people had to thaw their bread and provisions before they could use them. In 1639, the harbour of Marseilles was covered with ice to a great distance. In 1659 all the rivers in Italy were frozen. In 1699 the winter in France and Italy proved the severest and longest of all. The prices for articles of food were so much raised that half of the population died of starvation. In 1709 the winter was no less terrible. The ground was frozen in France, Italy and Switzerland, to the depth of several feet, and the sea, south as well as north, was covered with one compact and thick crust of ice, many feet deep, and for a considerable space of miles, in the usually open sea. Masses of wild beasts, driven out by the cold from their dens in the forests, sought refuge in villages and even cities; and the birds fell dead to the ground by hundreds. In 1729, 1749 and 1769 (cycles of 20 years’ duration) all the rivers and streams were ice-bound all over France for many weeks, and all the fruit trees perished. In 1789, France was again visited by a very severe winter. In Paris, the thermometer stood at 19 degrees of frost. But the severest of all winters proved that of 1829. For fifty-four consecutive days, all the roads in France were covered with snow several feet deep, and all the rivers were frozen. Famine and misery reached their climax in the country in that year. In 1839 there was again in France a most terrific and trying cold season. And now the winter of 1879 has asserted its statistical rights and proved true to the fatal influence of the figure 9. The meteorologists of other countries are invited to follow suit and make their investigations likewise, for the subject is certainly one of the most fascinating as well as instructive kind.
Enough has been shown, however, to prove that neither the ideas of Pythagoras on the mysterious influence of numbers, nor the theories of ancient world-religions and philosophies are as shallow and meaningless as some too forward free-thinkers would have had the world to believe.
— H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophist, July, 1880
From the writings of William Quan Judge
William Quan Judge on Cycles (from The Ocean of Theosophy)
The doctrine of Cycles is one of the most important in the whole theosophical system, though the least known and of all the one most infrequently referred to. Western investigators have for some centuries suspected that events move in cycles, and a few of the writers in the field of European literature have dealt with the subject, but all in a very incomplete fashion. This incompleteness and want of accurate knowledge have been due to the lack of belief in spiritual things and the desire to square everything with materialistic science. Nor do I pretend to give the cyclic law in full, for it is one that is not given out in detail by the Masters of Wisdom. But enough has been divulged, and enough was for a long time known to the Ancients to add considerably to our knowledge.
A cycle is a ring or turning, as the derivation of the word indicates. The corresponding words in the Sanskrit are Yuga, Kalpa, Manvantara, but of these yuga comes nearest to cycle, as it is lesser in duration than the others. The beginning of a cycle must be a moment, that added to other moments makes a day, and those added together constitute months, years, decades, and centuries. Beyond this the West hardly goes. It recognizes the moon cycle and the great sidereal one, but looks at both and upon the others merely as periods of time. If we are to consider them as but lengths of time there is no profit except to the dry student or to the astronomer. And in this way today they are regarded by European and American thinkers, who say cycles exist but have no very great bearing on human life and certainly no bearing on the actual recurrence of events or the reappearance on the stage of life of persons who once lived in the world. The theosophical theory is distinctly otherwise, as it must be if it carries out the doctrine of reincarnation to which in preceding pages a good deal of attention has been given. Not only are the cycles named actual physical facts in respect to time, but they and other periods have a very great effect on human life and the evolution of the globe with all the forms of life thereon. Starting with the moment and proceeding through a day, this theory erects the cycle into a comprehensive ring which includes all in its limits. The moment being the basis, the question to be settled in respect to the great cycles is, When did the first moment come? This cannot be answered, but it can be said that the truth is held by the ancient theosophists to be that at the first moments of the solidification of this globe the mass of matter involved attained a certain and definite rate of vibration which will hold through all variations in any part of it until its hour for dissolution comes. These rates of vibration are what determine the different cycles, and, contrary to the ideas of western science, the doctrine is that the solar system and the globe we are now on will come to an end when the force behind the whole mass of seen and unseen matter has reached its limit of duration under cyclic law. Here our doctrine is again different from both the religious and scientific one. We do not admit that the ending of the force is the withdrawal by a God of his protection, nor the sudden propulsion by him of another force against the globe, but that the force at work and determining the great cycle is that of man himself considered as a spiritual being; when he is done using the globe he leaves it, and then with him goes out the force holding all together; the consequence is dissolution by fire or water or what not, these phenomena being simply effects and not causes. The ordinary scientific speculations on this head are that the earth may fall into the sun, or that a comet of density may destroy the globe, or that we may collide with a greater planet known or unknown. These dreams are idle for the present.
Reincarnation being the great law of life and progress, it is interwoven with that of the cycles and karma. These three work together, and in practice it is almost impossible to disentangle reincarnation from cyclic law. Individuals and nations in definite streams return in regularly recurring periods to the earth, and thus bring back to the globe the arts, the civilization, the very persons who once were on it at work. And as the units in nation and race are connected together by invisible strong threads, large bodies of such units moving slowly but surely all together reunite at different times and emerge again and again together into new race and new civilization as the cycles roll their appointed rounds. Therefore the souls who made the most ancient civilizations will come back and bring the old civilization with them in idea and essence, which being added to what others have done for the development of the human race in its character and knowledge will produce a new and higher state of civilization. This newer and better development will not be due to books, to records, to arts or mechanics, because all those are periodically destroyed so far as physical evidence goes, but the soul ever retaining in Manas the knowledge it once gained and always pushing to completer development the higher principles and powers, the essence of progress remains and will as surely come out as the sun shines. And along this road are the points when the small and large cycles of Avatars bring out for man’s benefit the great characters who mold the race from time to time.
The Cycle of Avatars includes several smaller ones. The greater are those marked by the appearance of Rama and Krishna among the Hindus, of Menes among the Egyptians, of Zoroaster among the Persians, and of Buddha to the Hindus and other nations of the East. Buddha is the last of the great Avatars and is in a larger cycle than is Jesus of the Jews, for the teachings of the latter are the same as those of Buddha and tinctured with what Buddha had taught to those who instructed Jesus. Another great Avatar is yet to come, corresponding to Buddha and Krishna combined. Krishna and Rama were of the military, civil, religious, and occult order; Buddha of the ethical, religious, and mystical, in which be was followed by Jesus; Mohammed was a minor intermediate one for a certain part of the race, and was civil, military, and religious. In these cycles we can include mixed characters who have had great influence on nations, such as King Arthur, Pharaoh, Moses, Charlemagne reincarnated as Napoleon Bonaparte, Clovis of France reborn as Emperor Frederic III of Germany, and Washington the first President of the United States of America where the root for the new race is being formed.
At the intersection of the great cycles dynamic effects follow and alter the surface of the planet by reason of the shifting of the poles of the globe or other convulsion. This is not a theory generally acceptable, but we hold it to be true. Man is a great dynamo, making, storing, and throwing out energy, and when masses of men composing a race thus make and distribute energy, there is a resulting dynamic effect on the material of the globe which will be powerful enough to be distinct and cataclysmic. That there have been vast and awful disturbances in the strata of the world is admitted on every hand and now needs no proof; these have been due to earthquakes and ice formation so far as concerns geology; but in respect to animal forms the cyclic law is that certain animal forms now extinct and also certain human ones not known but sometimes suspected will return again in their own cycle; and certain human languages now known as dead will be in use once more at their appointed cyclic hour.
“The Metonic cycle is that of the Moon. It is a period of about nineteen years, which being completed the new and the full moons return on the same days of the month.”
“The cycle of the Sun is a period of twenty eight years, which having elapsed the Dominical or Sunday letters return to their former place and proceed in the former order according to the Julian calendar.”
The great Sidereal year is the period taken by the equinoctial points to make in their precession a complete revolution of the heavens. It is composed of 25,868 solar years almost. It is said that the last sidereal year ended about 9,868 years ago, at which time there must have been on this earth a violent convulsion or series of such, as well as distributions of nations. The completion of this grand period brings the earth into newer spaces of the cosmos, not in respect to its own orbit, but by reason of the actual progress of the sun in an orbit of its own that cannot be measured by any observer of the present day, but which is guessed at by some and located in one of the constellations.
Affecting man especially are the spiritual, psychic, and moral cycles, and out of these grow the national, racial, and individual cycles. Race and national cycles are both historical. The individual cycles are of reincarnation, of sensation, and of impression. The length of the individual reincarnation cycle for the general mass of men is fifteen hundred years, and this in its turn gives us a large historical cycle related closely to the progress of civilization. For as the masses of persons return from devachan, it must follow that the Roman, the Greek, the old Aryan, and other Ages will be seen again and can to a very great extent be plainly traced. But man is also affected by astronomical cycles because he is an integral part of the whole, and these cycles mark the periods when mankind as a whole will undergo a change. In the sacred books of all nations these are often mentioned, and are in the Bible of the Christians, as, for instance, in the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale. This is an absurdity when read as history, but not so as an astronomical cycle. “Jonah” is in the constellations, and when that astronomical point which represents man reaches a point in the Zodiac which is directly opposite the belly of Cetus or the whale on the other side of the circle, by what is known as the process of opposition, then Jonah is said to be in the center of the fish and is “thrown out” at the expiration of the period when that man-point has passed so far along in the Zodiac as to be out of opposition to the whale. Similarly as the same point moves thus through the Zodiac it is brought by opposition into the different constellations that are exactly opposite from century to century while it moves along. During these progresses changes take place among men and on earth exactly signified by the constellations when those are read according to the right rules of symbology. It is not claimed that the conjunction causes the effect, but that ages ago the Masters of Wisdom worked out all the problems in respect to man and found in the heavens the means for knowing the exact dates when events are sure to recur, and then by imprinting in the minds of older nations the symbology of the Zodiac were able to preserve the record and the prophecy. Thus in the same way that a watchmaker can tell the hour by the arrival of the hands or the works of the watch at certain fixed points, the Sages can tell the hour for events by the Zodiacal clock. This is not of course believed today, but it will be well understood in future centuries, and as the nations of the earth have all similar symbols in general for the Zodiac, and as also the records of races long dead have the same, it is not likely that the vandal-spirit of the western nineteenth century will be able to efface this valuable heritage of our evolution. In Egypt the Denderah Zodiac tells the same tale as that one left to us by the old civilization of the American continent, and all of these are from the same source, they are the work of the Sages who come at the beginning of the great human cycle and give to man when he begins his toilsome ascent up the road of development those great symbols and ideas of an astronomical character which will last through all the cycles.
In regard to great cataclysms occurring at the beginning and ending of the great cycles, the main laws governing the effects are those of Karma and Reimbodiment, or Reincarnation, proceeding under cyclic rule. Not only is man ruled by these laws, but every atom of matter as well, and the mass of matter is constantly undergoing a change at the same time with man. It must therefore exhibit alterations corresponding to those through which the thinker is going. On the physical plane effects are brought out through the electrical and other fluids acting with the gases on the solids of the globe. At the change of a great cycle they reach what may be termed the exploding point and cause violent convulsions of the following classes: (a) Earthquakes, (b) Floods, (c) Fire, (d) Ice.
Earthquakes may be brought on according to this philosophy by two general causes; first, subsidence or elevation under the earth-crust due to heat and steam, second, electrical and magnetic changes which affect water and earth at the same time. These last have the power to instantaneously make the earth fluidic without melting it, thus causing immense and violent displacements in large or small waves. And this effect is sometimes seen now in earthquake districts when similar electrical causes are at work in a smaller measure.
Floods of general extent are caused by displacement of water from the subsidence or elevation of land, and by those combined with electrical change which induces a copious discharge of moisture. The latter is not a mere emptying of a cloud, but a sudden turning of vast bodies of fluids and solids into water.
Universal fires come on from electrical and magnetic changes in the atmosphere by which the moisture is withdrawn from the air and the latter turned into a fiery mass; and, secondly, by the sudden expansion of the solar magnetic center into seven such centers, thus burning the globe.
Ice cataclysms come on not only from the sudden alteration of the poles but also from lowered temperature due to the alteration of the warm fluid currents in the sea and the hot magnetic currents in the earth, the first being known to science, the latter not. The lower stratum of moisture is suddenly frozen, and vast tracts of land covered in a night with many feet of ice. This can easily happen to the British Isles if the warm currents of the ocean are diverted from its shores.
Both Egyptians and Greeks had their cycles, but in our opinion derived them from the Indian Sages. The Chinese always were a nation of astronomers, and have recorded observations reaching far back of the Christian era, but as they belong to an old race which is doomed to extinction — strange as the assertion may appear — their conclusions will not be correct for the Aryan races. On the coming of the Christian era a heavy pall of darkness fell on the minds of men in the West, and India was for many centuries isolated so as to preserve these great ideas during the mental night of Europe. This isolation was brought about deliberately as a necessary precaution taken by that great Lodge to which I adverted in Chapter I, because its Adepts, knowing the cyclic laws perfectly, wished to preserve philosophy for future generations. As it would be mere pedantry and speculation to discuss the unknown Saros and Naros and other cycles of the Egyptians, I will give the Brahmanical ones, since they tally almost exactly with the correct periods.
A period or exhibition of universal manifestation is called a Brahmarandrha [in The Path, Nov., 1893, p. 259, Judge points out that this is a misprint for Brahmanda., that is a complete life of Brahma, and Brahma’s life is made of his days and years, which, being cosmical are each of immense duration. His day is as man’s 24 odd hours long, his year 360 odd days, the number of his years is 100.
Taking now this globe — since we are concerned with no other — its government and evolution proceed under Manu or man and from this is the term Manvantara or “between two Manus.” The course of evolution is divided into four Yugas for every race in its own time and way. These Yugas do not affect all mankind at one and the same time, as some races are in one of the Yugas while others are in a different cycle. The Red Indian, for instance, is in the end of his stone age, while the Aryans are in quite a different state. These four Yugas are: Krita, or Satya, the golden; Treta; Dvapara; and Kali or the black. The present age for the West and India is Kali Yuga, especially in respect to moral and spiritual development. The first of these is slow in comparison with the rest, and the present — Kali — is very rapid, its motion being accelerated precisely like certain astronomical periods known today in regard to the Moon, but not fully worked out.
|360 (odd) mortal days make||1|
|Krita Yuga has||1,728,000|
|Treta Yuga has||1,296,000|
|Dvapara Yuga has||864,000|
|Kali Yuga has||432,000|
|Maha Yuga, or the four preceding, has||4,320,000|
|71 Maha Yugas form the reign of one Manu, or||306,720,000|
|14 Manus are||4,294,080,000|
|Add the dawns or twilights between each Manu||25,920,000|
|These reigns and dawns make 1000 Maha Yugas, a Kalpa, or Day of Brahma||4,320,000,000|
|Brahma’s Night equals his Day and Night together make||8,640,000,000|
|360 of these Days make Brahma’s Year||3,110,400,000,000|
|100 of these Years make Brahma’s Life||311,040,000,000,000|
The first 5000 years of Kali Yuga will end between the years 1897 and 1898. This Yuga began about 3102 years before the Christian era, at the time of Krishna’s death. As 1897-98 are not far off, the scientific men of today will have an opportunity of seeing whether the close of the five thousand year cycle will be preceded or followed by any convulsions or great changes political, scientific, or physical, or all of these combined. Cyclic changes are now proceeding as year after year the souls from prior civilizations are being incarnated in this period when liberty of thought and action are not so restricted in the West as they have been in the past by dogmatic religious prejudice and bigotry. And at the present time we are in a cycle of transition, when, as a transition period should indicate, everything in philosophy, religion, and society is changing. In a transition period the full and complete figures and rules respecting cycles are not given out to a generation which elevates money above all thoughts and scoffs at the spiritual view of man and nature.
In advancing these few observations upon the doctrine of cycles, no claim to an exhaustive study of the matter is made. This paper is merely by way of suggestion.
The subject was brought before my mind by our discussion some evenings ago, when the question of the descent upon earth, or ascent from it, of celestial beings or progressed souls engaged our attention. It seemed certain that such ascent and descent were governed by cyclic laws, and therefore proceeded in regular periods. Some sentences from the Wisdom of the Egyptians by Synesius in matter furnished me by Bro. Chas Johnston, now of India, read:
“After Osiris, therefore, was initiated by his father into the royal mysteries, the gods informed him * * that a strong tribe of envious and malignant daemons were present with Typhos as his patrons, to whom he was allied and by whom he was hurled forth into light, in order that they might employ him as an instrument of the evil which they inflict on mankind. For the calamities of nations are the banquets of the evil daemons. * * *
“Yet you must not think that the gods are without employment, or that their descent to this earth is perpetual. For they descend according to orderly periods of time, for the purpose of imparting a beneficent impulse in the republics of mankind. But this happens when they harmonize a kingdom and send to this earth for that purpose souls who are allied to themselves. For this providence is divine and most ample, which frequently through one man pays attention to and affects countless multitudes of men.
“For there is indeed in the terrestial abode the sacred tribe of heroes who pay attention to mankind, and who are able to give them assistance even in the smallest concerns. * * This heroic tribe is, as it were, a colony from the gods established here in order that this terrene abode may not be left destitute of a better nature. But when matter excites her own proper blossoms to war against the soul, the resistance made by these heroic tribes is small when the gods are absent; for everything is strong only in its appropriate place and time. * * But when the harmony adapted in the beginning by the gods to all terrene things becomes old, they descend again to earth that they may call the harmony forth, energize and resuscitate it when it is as it were expiring. * * When, however, the whole order of mundane things, greatest and least, is corrupted, then it is necessary that the gods should descend for the purpose of imparting another orderly distribution of things.”
And in the Bhagavad Gita it is said by Krishna:
Declines, O Bharata! when Wickedness
Is strong, I rise, from age to age, and take
Visible shape, and move a man with men,
Succoring the good and thrusting the evil back,
And setting Virtue on her seat again,”
“At the approach of Brahma’s day, which ends after a thousand ages, all manifested objects come forth from the non-developed principle. At the approach of Brahma’s night they are absorbed in the original principle. This collective mass of existing things, thus coming forth out of the absolute again and again, is dissolved at the approach of that night; and at the approach of a new day it emanates again spontaneously.”
In the foregoing quotations two great aspects of cyclic law are stated.
The latter has reference to the great cycle which includes all cycles of every kind. All the minor cycles run their course within it. When it begins a new creation is ushered in, and when it ends the great day of dissolution has arrived. In Arnold’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita the beginning of this great cycle is beautifully called by him “this vast Dawn,” and of the close he reads:
“When that deep night doth darken, all which is
Fades back again to Him who sent it forth.”
The real figures expressing the mortal years included in this period are not given. Each Manwantara, according to the Hindus, is divided into the four Yugas or Ages, with a certain number of years allotted to each. Speaking on this subject in the “Key to Theosophy” (page 83), H. P. Blavatsky gives us a clue thus:
“Take as a first comparison and a help towards a more correct conception, the solar year; and as a second, the two halves of that year, producing each a day and a night of six months’ duration at the North Pole. Now imagine, if you can, instead of a solar year of 365 clays, eternity. Let the sun represent the universe, and the polar days and nights of six months each — days and nights lasting each 182 trillions and quadrillions of years instead of 182 days each. As the sun rises every morning on our objective horizon out of its (to us) subjective and antipodal space, so does the Universe emerge periodically on the plane of objectivity, issuing from that of subjectivity — the antipodes of the former. This is the ‘Cycle of Life.’ And as the sun disappears from our horizon, so does the Universe disappear at regular periods when the ‘Universal Night’ sets in. * * “
This is about the best idea we can get of it. It is impossible for the human mind to conceive these periods. No brain can grasp 182 trillions of years, much less if quadrillions are added. Few if any persons can mentally traverse the full extent of even a million. But we can make an approximation to the idea by using her suggestion of dividing the year and calling six months a day and six months a night, and then extending each into what is equivalent to infinity with us, since it is impossible to seize such immense periods of time.
And carrying out the correspondence suggested by her, we have at once a figure of the inclusion of all the minor cycles, by calling each day when we rise and night when we sleep as the beginning and ending of minor cycles. Those days and nights go to make up our years and our life. We know each day and can calculate it, and fairly well throw the mind forward to see a year or perhaps a life.
A quotation from Vol 1., at 31 of Isis Unveiled will give us the Indian figures. She says:
“The Maha Kalpa embraces an untold number of periods far back in the antediluvian ages. Their system comprises a Kalpa or grand period of 4,320, 000,000 years which they divide into four lesser yugas running as follows:
Satya Yug 1,728,000 years. Treta Yug 1,296,000 “ Dwapara Yug 864,000 “ Kali Yug 432,000 “ Total 4,320,000
which makes one divine age or Maha yuga; seventy-one Maha Yugas make 306,720,000 years, to which is added a sandhi, or twilight, equal to a Satya yuga or 1,728,000 years, to make a manwantara of 308,448,000 years. Fourteen manwantaras make 4,318,272,000 years, to which must be added a sandhihamsa or dawn, 1,728,000, making the Kalpa or grand period of 4,320,000,000. As we are now (1878) only in the Kali Yuga of the 28th age of the 7th manwantara of 308,448,000 years, we have yet sufficient time before us to wait before we reach over half of the time allotted to the world.”
Further H. P. Blavatsky clearly states that the other cycles are carried out within this greater one, as at 34, vol. 1.
“As our planet revolves once every year around the sun and at the same time once in every 24 hours upon its own axis, thus traversing minor cycles within a larger one, so is the work of the smaller cyclic periods accomplished and recommenced within the great Saros.”
Leaving the region of mathematics, we find this great period represents the extension of pigmy man into the vast proportions of the great man, whose death at the close of the allotted period means the resolving of all things back into the absolute. Each of the years of this Being embraces of our years so many that we cannot comprehend them. Each day of his years brings on a minor cataclysm among men; for at the close of each one of his days, metaphorically he sleeps. And we, as it were, imitating this Being, fall asleep at night or after our diurnal period of activity.
We are as minor cells in the great body of this Being, and must act obediently to the impulses and movements of the body in which we are enclosed and take part.
This greater man has a period of childhood, of youth, of manhood, of old age; and as the hour arrives for the close of each period, cataclysms take place over all the earth. And just as our own future is concealed from our view, so the duration of the secret cycle which shows the length of life of this Being is hidden from the sight of mortals.
We must not, however, fall into the error of supposing that there is but one of such great Beings. There are many, each being evolved at the beginning of a new creation. But here we touch upon a portion of the ancient philosophy which is fully explained only to those who are able to understand it by virtue of many initiations.
The Sandhya and Sandhyhamsa referred to in the quotation taken from Isis Unveiled are respectively the twilight and the dawn, each being said to be of the same length and containing the same number of years as the first or golden age — i.e. 1,728,000. It is in strict correspondence with our own solar day which has its twilight and dawn between day and night.
In going over the figures of the four ages, a peculiarity is noticed to which I refer at present as merely a curiosity. It is this:
The digits of Satya Vug 1. 7. 2. 8. added together make 18; those of Treta Yug 1. 2. 9. 6 make 18; those of Dwapana Yug 8. 6. 4 make 18; while those of Kali Yug 4. 3. 2 sum up only 9; but if those of the grand total of 4,320,000 be added together they make 9, and that with Kali give 18 again. 1 8 is a number peculiar to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and the poem has 18 chapters in it. If the three 18’s and one 9 found as above be added together, the result will be 63, and 3×6=18, and if added make 9, and 18 added gives nine. If we multiply the three 18’s and 9 produced from the different ages, we get 5. 8. 3. 2. which, if treated as before, give 18 again. And in the process of thus multiplying we discover a recurrence of the three eighteens and one 9, only inverted, as: The first 18 multiplied by the second one gives 3. 2. 4, which added results in 9; 324 multiplied by third 18 gives 5. 8. 3. 2, which being added gives 18; and the product of the multiplication of 5,832 by 9, which is the result of adding the figures of Kali Yuga, is 5. 8. 4. 1, which on being added gives 18 again. Now, as the last of these apparently fanciful operations, let us add together the results gained by multiplying the figures which were obtained during the various steps we have gone through and then adding the results.
The first figures are 1×8 = 8. The second 3x2x4 = 24. The third 5x8x3x2 = 240. The fourth 5x8x4x1 = 160. These added together give 4.3.2,
which are the digits of Kali Yuga.
Now turning to Isis Unveiled at p. 32 of Vol. 1, we find this remarkable paragraph:
“Higgins justly believed that the cycle of the Indian system, of 432,000, is the true key of the secret cycle.”
But in the following paragraph she declares it cannot be revealed. However, we may get some clues, for we see in the figures of Kali Yuga, 432,000, and in the great total (leaving out the Sandhis), 4,320,000. What this secret cycle is, I, however, am not competent to say I only desire to throw out the hints.
Having thus glanced over the doctrine of the great cycle which includes all others, let us now devote a little consideration to the cycle referred to in the passages from the Egyptian Wisdom first quoted.
This cycle may be called for the present purpose The Cycle of Descending Celestial Influences. By “descending” I mean descending upon us.
Osiris here signifies most probably the good side of nature, and his brother Typhos the evil. Both must appear together. Typhos is sometimes called in the Egyptain books the opposer, and later with us, is known as the Devil. This appearance of Typhos at the same time with Osiris is paralleled in the history of the Indian Krishna who was a white Adept, for at the same time there also reigned a powerful Black magician named Kansa, who sought to destroy Krishna in the same way as Typhos conspired against the life of Osiris. And Rama also, in Hindu lore the great Adept or ruling god, was opposed by Ravana, the powerful Black magician king.
In instructing Osiris after the initiation, the gods foresaw two questions that might arise within him and which will also come before us. The first is the idea that if the gods are alive and do not mingle with men to the advantage of the latter and for the purpose of guiding them, then they must necessarily be without any employment. Such a charge has been made against the Beings who are said to live in the Himalayas, possessed of infinite knowledge and power. If, say the public, they know so much, why do not they come among us; and as they do not so come, then they must be without employment, perpetually brooding over nothing.
The instructor answered this in advance by showing how these Beings — called gods — governed mankind through efficient causes proceeding downward by various degrees; the gods being perpetually concerned in their proper sphere with those things relating to them, and which in their turn moved other causes that produced appropriate effects upon the earth, and themselves only coming directly into earthly relations when that became necessary at certain “orderly periods of time,” upon the complete disappearance of harmony which would soon be followed by destruction if not restored. Then the gods themselves descend. This is after the revolution of many smaller cycles. The same is said in Bhagavad-Gita.
But frequently during the minor cycles it is necessary, as the Egyptian Wisdom says, “to impart a beneficent impulse in the republics of mankind.” This can be done by using less power than would be dissipated were a celestial Being to descend upon earth, and here the doctrine of the influence among us of Nirmanakayas (1) or Gnanis is supported in the Egyptian scheme in these words:
“For there is indeed in the terrestrial abode the sacred tribe of heroes, who pay attention to mankind, and who are able to give them assistance even in the smallest concerns.”
“This heroic tribe is, as it were, a colony from the gods established here in order that this terrene abode may not be left destitute of a better nature.”
These “heroes” are none other than Nirmanakayas — Adepts of this or previous Manwantaras — who remain here in various states or conditions. Some are not using bodies at all, but keep spirituality alive among men in all parts of the world; and others are actually using bodies in the world. Who the latter are it would of course be impossible for me to know, and if I had the information, to give it out would be improper.
And among this “sacred tribe of heroes” must be classed other souls. They are those who, although now inhabiting bodies and moving among men, have passed through many occult initiations in previous lives, but are now condemned, as it were, to the penance of living in circumstances and in bodies that hem them in, as well as for a time make them forget the glorious past. But their influence is always felt, even if they themselves are not aware of it. For their higher nature being in fact more developed than that of other men, it influences other natures at night or in hours of the day when all is favorable. The fact that these obscured adepts are not aware now of what they really are, only has to do with their memory of the past; it does not follow, because a man cannot remember his initiations, that he has had none. But there are some cases in which we can judge with a degree of certainty that such adepts were incarnated and what they were named. Take Thomas Vaughan, Raymond Lully, Sir Thomas More, Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, and others like them, including also some of the Roman Catholic saints. These souls were as witnesses to the truth, leaving through the centuries, in their own nations, evidences for those who followed, and suggestions for keeping spirituality bright, — seed-thoughts, as it were, ready for the new mental soil. And as well as these historical characters, there are countless numbers of men and women now living who have passed through certain initiations during their past lives upon earth, and who produce effects in many directions quite unknown to themselves now. They are, in fact, old friends of “the sacred tribe of heroes”, and can therefore be more easily used for the spreading of influences and the carrying out of effects necessary for the preservation of spirituality in this age of darkness. We find in our present experience a parallel to this forgetting of previous initiations. There is hardly one of us who has not passed through circumstances in early life, all of which we have forgotten, but which ever since sensibly affect our thoughts and life. Hence the only point about which any question can be raised is that of reincarnation. If we believe in that doctrine, there is no great difficulty in admitting that many of us may have been initiated to some extent and forgotten it for the time. In connection with this we find in the 2nd volume of the Secret Doctrine, at page 302, some suggestive words. The author says:
“Now that which the students of Occultism ought to know is that the third eye is indissolubly connected with Karma.
* * In the case of the Atlanteans, it was precisely the spiritual being which sinned, the spirit element being still the ‘Master’ principle in man in those days. Thus it is that in those days the heaviest Karma of the fifth race was generated by our Monads. * * *
Hence the assertion that many of us are now working off the effects of the evil Karmic causes produced by us in Atlantean bodies.”
In another place she puts the date of the last Atlantean destruction as far back as 11,000 years ago, and describes them as a people of immense knowledge and power. If we allow about 1,000 years for our period in Devachan, we will have only passed through some eleven incarnations since then; and supposing that many more have been our lot — as is my opinion, then we have to place ourselves among those wonderful though wicked people at the height of their power. Granting that we were guilty of the sinful practices of the days in which we then lived, and knowing the effect of Karma, it must follow that since then we have passed through many very disagreeable and painful lives, resembling by analogy dreadful situations in the years between youth and maturity. No wonder, then, if for the time we have forgotten outwardly what we then learned.
But all these historical personages to whom I have referred were living in a dark cycle that affected Europe only. These cycles do not cover the whole of the human race, fortunately for it, but run among the nations influenced for the allotted period, while other peoples remain untouched. Thus while Europe was in darkness, all India was full of men, kings and commoners alike, who possessed the true philosophy; for a different cycle was running there.
And such is the law as formulated by the best authorities. It is held that these cycles do not include the whole of mankind at any one time. In this paper I do not purpose to go into figures, for that requires a very careful examination of the deeds and works of numerous historical personages in universal history, so as to arrive by analysis at correct periods.
It is thought by many that the present is a time when preparation is being made by the most advanced of the “sacred tribe of heroes” for a new cycle in which the assistance of a greater number of progressed souls from other spheres may be gained for mankind. Indeed, in Isis Unveiled this is plainly stated.
Writing in 1878, Madame Blavatsky says in vol. 1 of Isis:
“Unless we mistake the signs, the day is approaching when the world will receive the proofs that only ancient religions were in harmony with nature, and ancient science embraced all that can be known. Secrets long-kept may be revealed; books long-forgotten and arts long-time-lost may be brought out to light again; papyri and parchments of inestimable importance will turn up in the hands of men who pretend to have unrolled them from mummies or stumbled upon them in buried crypts; tablets and pillars, whose sculptured revelations will stagger theologians and confound scientists, may yet be excavated and interpreted. Who knows the possibilities of the future? An era of disenchantment and rebuilding will soon begin — nay, has already begun. The cycle has almost run its course; a new one is about to begin, and the future pages of history may contain full proof that
“If ancestry can be in aught believed,
Descending spirits have conversed with man,
And told him secrets of the world unknown.”
Now the way to get at the coming on of the period or close of a larger cycle without wandering in the mazes of figures, is to regard the history and present state of mankind as known.
Thus in the darker age of Europe we find India almost unknown and America wholly so. That was a period when cycles were operating apart from each other, for men were separated from and ignorant of each other. In these continents there were great and powerful nations ruling in both North and South America, but they were not in communication with Europe or India.
Now, however, China knows of and communicates with England and America, and even dark Africa has constant visitors from all civilized nations, and to some extent is affected by us. Doubtless in the greater number of towns in Africa the white man and his doings are more or less like fables, but we with larger knowledge know that those fables rest upon the fact of our explorations there.
Judging, then, from the appearances in the affairs of men, we can conclude that now some great cycle is either ending or beginning, and that a number of minor circles are approaching each other.
At the same time with these social or material cycles, there are corresponding ones on a higher plane. One is quite easy to trace. It is the influence of Eastern metaphysics upon the Western mind. This higher cycle had been revolving for many years among the Orientals before we came within its power. Our falling under it is due to a physical cycle as a means. That one which is represented in the progress of trade, of science, of means for transportation. In this way the philosophical system of India and Tibet has begun to affect us, and no man can calculate its course.
Taking into account the spiritual cycles all so intimately connected with Karma and reincarnation, one would be compelled to conclude that this cycle will not be slow or weak. For, if we in Europe and America are the reincarnations of the ancients who formulated this philosophy, we must certainly be powerfully affected upon having it presented to our notice in this life. And as the very air is getting filled with theosophical ideas, and children are growing up every day, the conclusion is irresistible that as the new generation grows up it will be more familiar with theosophical terms and propositions than we were in our youths. For in every direction now, children are likely to hear Karma, Reincarnation, Buddhism, Theosophy, and all these ideas mentioned or discussed. In the course of twenty-five years, then, we shall find here in the United States a large and intelligent body of people believing once more in the very doctrines which they, perhaps ages ago, helped to define and promulgate.
Why not, then, call one of our present cycles the cycle of the Theosophical Society? It began in 1875, and, aided by other cycles then beginning to run, it has attained some force. Whether it will revolve for any greater length of time depends upon its earnest members. Members who enter it for the purpose of acquiring ideas merely for their own use will not assist. Mere numbers do not do the work, but sincere, earnest, active, unselfish members will keep this cycle always revolving. The wisdom of those who set it in motion becomes apparent when we begin to grasp somewhat the meaning of cyclic law. The Society could have remained a mere idea and might have been kept entirely away from outward expression in organization. Then, indeed, ideas similar to those prevalent in our Society might have been heard of. But how? Garbled, and presented only here and there, so that perhaps not for half a century later would they be concretely presented. A wise man, however, knows how to prepare for a tide of spiritual influence. But how could an everyday Russian or American know that 1875 was just the proper year in which to begin so as to be ready for the oncoming rush now fairly set in? To my mind the mere fact that we were organized with a definite platform in that year is strong evidence that the “heroic tribe of heroes” had a hand in our formation. Let us, then, not resist the cycle, nor, complaining of the task, sit down to rest. There is no time for rest. The weak, the despairing, and the doubting may have to wait, but men and women of action cannot stand still in the face of such an opportunity.
Arise, then, O Atlanteans, and repair the mischief done so long ago!
“Roll on, O Wheel, roll on and conquer;
Roll on forevermore!”
1. For Nirmanakayas see “The Voice of the Silence” and its glossary.
— William Q. Judge, The Path, December 1889
Cycles and Cyclic Law
Cycles and Cyclic Law
Ladies and gentlemen: This is our last meeting; it is the last impulse of the Cycle which we began when we opened our sessions at this Parliament. All the other bodies which have met in this building have been also starting cycles just as we have been. Now, a great many people know what the word “cycle” means, and a great many do not. There are no doubt in Chicago many men who think that a cycle is a machine to be ridden; but the word that I am dealing with is not that. I am dealing with a word which means a return, a ring. It is a very old term, used in the far past. In our civilization it is applied to a doctrine which is not very well understood, but which is accepted by a great many scientific men, a great many religious men, and by a great many thinking men. The theory is, as held by the ancient Egyptians, that there is a cycle, a law of cycles which governs humanity, governs the earth, governs all that is in the universe. You may have heard Brother Chakravarti say the Hindus are still teaching that there is a great cycle which begins when the Unknown breathes forth the whole universe, and ends when it is turned in again into itself. That is the great cycle.
In the Egyptian monuments, papyri, and other records the cycles are spoken of. They held, and the ancient Chinese also held, that a great cycle governs the earth, called the sidereal cycle because it related to the stars. The work was so large that it had to be measured by the stars, and that cycle is 25,800 and odd years long. They claim to have measured this enormous cycle. The Egyptians gave evidence they had measured it also and had measured many others, so that in these ancient records, looking at the question of cycles, we have a hint that man has been living on the earth, has been civilized and uncivilized for more years than we have been taught to believe. The ancient Theosophists have always held that civilization with humanity went around the earth in cycles, in rings, returning again and again upon itself, but that at each turn of the cycle, on the point of return it was higher than before. This law of cycles is held in Theosophical doctrine to be the most important of all, because it is at the bottom of all. It is a part of the law of that unknown being who is the universe, that there shall be a periodical coming from and a periodical returning again upon itself.
Now, that the law of cycles does prevail in the world must be very evident if you will reflect for a few moments. The first cycle I would draw your attention to is the daily cycle, when the sun rises in the morning and sets at night, returning again next morning, you following the sun, rising in the morning and at night going to sleep again, at night almost appearing dead, but the next morning awaking to life once more. That is the first cycle. You can see at once that there are therefore in a mans life just as many cycles of that kind as there are days in his life. The next is the monthly cycle, when the moon, changing every 28 days, marks the month. We have months running to more days, but that is only for convenience, to avoid change in the year. The moon gives the month and marks the monthly cycle.
The next is the yearly cycle. The great luminary, the great mover of all, returns again to a point from whence he started. The next great cycle to which I would draw your attention, now we have come to the sun—it is held by science and is provable I think by other arguments the next cycle is that the sun, while stationary to us, is in fact moving through space in an enormous orbit which we can not measure. As he moves he draws the earth and the planets as they wheel about him. We may say, then, this is another great cycle. It appears reasonable that, as the sun is moving through that great cycle, he must draw the earth into spaces and places and points in space where the earth has never been before, and that it must happen that the earth shall come now and then into some place where the conditions are different and that it may be changed in a moment, as it were, for to the eye of the soul a thousand years are but a moment, when everything will be different. That is one aspect of cyclic doctrine, that the sun is drawing the earth in a great orbit of his own and is causing the earth to be changed in its nature by reason of the new atomic spaces into which it is taken.
We also hold that the earth is governed by cyclic law throughout the century as in a moment. The beings upon it are never in the same state. So nations, races, civilizations, communities are all governed in the same way and moved by the same law. This law of cycles is the law of reincarnation that we were speaking of today: that is, that a man comes into the world and lives a day, his life is as a day; he dies out of it and goes to sleep, elsewhere waking; then he sleeps there to wake again the next great day; after a period of rest, he again enters life; that is his cycle. We hold in Theosophical philosophy it has been proven by the Adepts by experiment that men in general awake from this period of rest after 1,500 years. So we point in history to an historical cycle of 1,500 years, after which old ideas return. And if you will go back in the history of the world you will find civilization repeating itself every 1,500 years, more or less like what it was before. That is to say, go back 1,500 years from now and you will find coming out here now the Theosophists, the philosophers, the various thinkers, the inventors of 1,500 years ago. And going further back still, we hold that those ancient Egyptians who made such enormous pyramids and who had a civilization we cannot understand, at that dim period when they burst on the horizon of humanity to fall again, have had their cycle of rest and are reincarnating again even in America. So we think, some of us, that the American people of the new generation are a reincarnation of the ancient Egyptians, who are coming back and bringing forth in this civilization all the wonderful ideas which the Egyptians held. And that is one reason why this country is destined to be a great one, because the ancients are coming back, they are here, and you are very foolish if you refuse to consider yourselves so great. We are willing you should consider yourselves so great, and not think you are born mean, miserable creatures.
The next cycle I would draw your attention to is that of civilizations. We know that civilizations have been here, and they are gone. There is no bridge between many of these. If heredity, as some people claim, explains everything, how is it not explained why the Egyptians left no string to connect them with the present? There is nothing left of them but the Copts, who are poor miserable slaves. The Egyptians, as a material race, are wiped out, and it is so because it is according to the law of cycles and according to the law of nature that the physical embodiment of the Egyptians had to be wiped out. But their souls could not go out of existence, and so we find their civilization and other civilizations disappearing, civilizations such as the ancient civilization of Babylon, and all those old civilizations in that part of the East which were just as strange and wonderful as any other. And this civilization of ours has come up instead of going down, but it is simply repeating the experience of the past on a higher level. It is better in potentiality than that which has been before. Under the cyclic law it will rise higher and higher, and when its time comes it will die out like the rest.
Also religions have had their cycles. The Christian religion has had its cycle. It began in the first year of the Christian era and was a very different thing then from what it is now. If you examine the records of Christianity itself you will see that the early fathers and teachers taught differently in the beginning from that which the priests of today are teaching now. Similarly you will find that Brahminism has had its cycle. Every religion rises and falls with the progress of human thought, because cyclic law governs every man, and thus every religion which man has.
So it is also with diseases. Is it not true that fevers are governed by a law of recurrence in time; some have three days, some four days, nine days, fifteen days, three years and so on? No physician can say why it is so; they only know that it is a fact. So in every direction the law of cycles is found to govern. It is all according to the great inherent law of the periodical ebb and flow, the Great Day and Night of Nature. The tides in Ocean rise and fall; similarly in the great Ocean of Nature there is a constant ebb and flow, a mightier tide which carries all with it. The only thing that remains unshaken, immovable, never turning is the Spirit itself. That, as St. James said—and he doubtless was himself a wise Theosophist—is without variableness and hath no shadow of turning.
Now, this great law of periodical return pertains also to every individual man in his daily life and thought. Every idea that you have, every thought, affects your brain and mind by its impression. That begins the cycle. It may seem to leave your mind, apparently it goes out, but it returns again under the same cyclic law in some form either better or worse, and wakes up once more the old impression. Even the very feelings that you have of sorrow or gladness will return in time, more or less according to your disposition, but inevitably in their cycle. This is a law it would do good for every one to remember, especially those who have variations of joy and sorrow, of exaltation and depression. If when depressed you would recollect the law and act upon it by voluntarily creating another cycle of exaltation, on its returning again with the companion cycle of lower feeling it would in no long time destroy the depressing cycle and raise you to higher places of happiness and peace. It applies again in matters of study where we use the intellectual organs only. When a person begins the study of a difficult subject or one more grave than usual, there is a difficulty in keeping the mind upon it; the mind wanders; it is disturbed by other and older ideas and impressions. But by persistency a new cycle is established, which, being kept rolling, at last obtains the mastery.
We hold further—and I can only go over this briefly— that in evolution itself, considered as a vast inclusive whole, there are cycles, and that unless there were these turnings and returnings no evolution would be possible, for evolution is but another word for cyclic law. Reincarnation, or re-embodiment over and over again, is an expression of this great law and a necessary part of evolution.
Evolution means a coming forth from something. From out of what does the evolving universe come? It comes out from what we call the unknown, and we call it “unknown” simply because we do not know what it is. The unknown does not mean the non-existent; it simply means that which we do not perceive in its essence or fulness. It goes forth again and again, always higher and better; but while it is rolling around at its lower arc it seems to those down there that it is lower than ever; but it is bound to come up again. And that is the answer we give to those who ask, What of all those civilizations that have disappeared, what of all the years that I have forgotten? What have I been in other lives, I have forgotten them? We simply say, you are going through your cycle. Some day all these years and experiences will return to your recollection as so much gained. And all the nations of the earth should know this law, remember it and act upon it, knowing that they will come back and that others also will come back. Thus they should leave behind something that will raise the cycle higher and higher, thus they should ever work toward the perfection which mankind as a whole is striving in fact to procure for itself.
— Final address by W.Q.J. at Parliament of Religions, 1893.
The Reincarnation of Nations, Races, and Civilizations
The Reincarnation of Nations, Races, and Civilizations 1
Among the Adepts the rise and fall of nations and civilizations are subjects which are studied under the great cyclic movements. Standing on the immeasurable height where centuries lie under their glance, they see the great cycles and the lesser ones rolling onward, influenced by man and working out their changes for his punishment, reward, experience and development. Now these beings, under the sway of the law as they are, seem perhaps to be sometimes implacable. Occasions are met where to mortal judgment it would seem to be wise or just to save a city from destruction, or a nation from decay, or a race from total extinction. But if such a fate is the natural result of actions performed or a necessary step in the cyclic sweep, it cannot be averted. As one of the Masters of this noble science has written:
We never pretended to be able to draw nations in the mass to this or that crisis in spite of the general drift of the world’s cosmic relations. The cycles must run their rounds. Periods of mental and moral light and darkness succeed each other as day does night. The major and minor yugas (cycles) must be accomplished according to the established order of things. And we, borne along the mighty tide, can only modify and direct some of its minor currents.
The fire of patriotism cannot prevail against the higher destiny which will plunge a nation into darkness. All we can do is to change it here and there a little. The elder brothers are subject to law, but they have confidence and hope, because that law merely means that nations appear to go down, in order to rise again to a greater height.
And so in individual cases — even among those who are in direct relations with some Adept — the law cannot be infringed. Karma demands that such and such a thing should happen to the individual, and the greatest God or the smallest Adept cannot lift a finger to prevent it. A nation may have heaped up against its account as a nation a vast amount of bad Karma. Its fate is sure, and although it may have noble units in it, great souls even who are Adepts themselves, nothing can save it, and it will “go out like a torch dipped in water.”
Such was the end of ancient Egypt, of whose former glory no man of this day knows aught. Although to us she appears in the historical sky as a full-risen sun, she yet had her period of growth, when mighty Adepts sat upon the throne and guided the people. She gradually reached a high point of power and then her people grew material; the Adepts retired; pretended Adepts took their place, and gradually her glory waned until at last the light of Egypt became darkness. The same story was repeated in Chaldea and Assyria and also upon the surface of our own America. Here a great, a glorious civilization once flourished, only to disappear as the others did; and that a grand development of civilization is beginning here again is one of the operations of the just and perfect law of Karma.
In the eye of that great Law no country is first or last, new or old, high or low, but each at the right time is appropriate for whatever the work is that must be performed. Each country is bound up with all the others and must assist them.
Individuals and nations in definite streams return in regularly recurring periods to the earth, and thus bring back to the globe the arts, the civilization, the very persons who once were on it at work. And as the units in nation and race are connected together by invisible strong threads, large bodies of such units moving slowly but surely all together reunite at different times and emerge again and again together into new race and new civilization as the cycles roll their appointed rounds. Therefore the souls who made the most ancient civilizations will come back and bring the old civilization with them in idea and essence, which being added to what others have done for the development of the human race in its character and knowledge will produce a new and higher state of civilization. This newer and better development will not be due to books, to arts or mechanics, because all those are periodically destroyed so far as physical evidence goes, but the soul ever retaining in Manas, or mind, the knowledge it once gained and always pushing to completer development the higher principles and powers, the essence of progress remains and will as surely come out as the sun shines.
The length of the individual reincarnation cycle for the general mass of men is fifteen hundred years, and this in its turn gives us a large historical cycle related closely to the progress of civilization. For as the masses of persons return from devachan, or heaven, it must follow that the Roman, the Greek, the old Aryan and other Ages will be seen again and can to a very great extent be plainly traced.
This has a bearing on the question of the civilization in which we are a part ourselves. Who are we? Where are we going? Where have we come from? Both the Europeans and the Americans are old Atlantean monads, and the development of the American nation especially has a mysterious but potent connection with the wonderful past of the Atlanteans, whose name is forever set immortal in the Atlantic Ocean. The cycles in their movement are bringing up to the surface now, in the United States and America generally, not only a great glory of civilization which was forgotten eleven thousand or more years ago, but also the very men, the monads — the egos, as they call them — who were concerned so many ages since in developing and bringing it to its final lustre. In fact, the Americans, hearing of new discoveries and inventions every day, and dreaming of great advances in all arts and sciences, are the same individuals who inhabited bodies among the powerful and brilliant, as well as wicked, Atlanteans. The flower, so to speak, of this revival or resurrection, is and is to be on the American Continent. For there, ages ago, was a vast civilization. Perhaps we were in it then, perhaps anterior to the ancient Egyptians. It disappeared, when we do not know, and left the land arid for many thousands of years until it was discovered once more by the Europeans.
In America, just the place for the new race, is an arable land which has had time over and over again to destroy the poisons that were planted there ages and ages ago. It gives them a new land, with vibrations in the air that stir up every particle in a man who breathes it, and thus we find the people coming from the old world seeming to receive through their feet the impressions of an American country. All this bears upon our civilization and race.
The Americans are a new race in a new cycle, and persons who know say that a cycle is going to end in a few years and a new one begin, and that that ending and beginning will be accompanied by convulsions of society and of nature. We can all almost see it coming. The events are very complete in the sky. You remember Daniel says, “A time, half a time, and a time,” and so on, and people in the Christian system have been trying to find out the time when the time began, and that is just the difficulty. We do not know when the time began. And the only person who in all these many years has made a direct statement is Madame Blavatsky, and she said, “A cycle is ending in a few years, you must prepare.” So that it was like the old prophets who came to the people and said, “Prepare for a new era of things, get ready for what you have to do.” That is just what this civilization is doing. It is the highest, although the crudest, civilization now on the earth. It is the beginning of the great civilization that is to come.
The new civilization will begin to put out a hand once more to grasp that of the ancient East, who has sat there silently doing nothing all these years, holding in her ancient crypts and libraries and records the philosophy which the world wants, a philosophy you can understand and practice.
The Americans are as yet only preparers, much as we may exalt their plainly crude development. Herein lies the very gist of the cycle’s meaning. It is a preparatory cycle with much of necessary destruction in it; for, before construction, we must have some disintegration. We are preparing here in America a new race which will exhibit the perfection of the glories that I said were being slowly brought to the surface from the long forgotten past. This is why the Americas are seen to be in a perpetual ferment. It is the seething and bubbling of the older races in the refining-pot, and the slow coming up of the material for the new race. Here, and nowhere else, are to be found men and women of every race living together, being governed together, attacking nature and the problems of life together. This process will go on until in the course of many generations there will be produced on the American continents an entirely new race; new bodies; new orders of intellect; new powers of the mind; curious and unheard-of psychic powers, as well as extraordinary physical ones; with new senses and extensions of present senses now unforeseen. When this new sort of body and mind are generated — then other monads, or our own again — will animate them and paint upon the screen of time the pictures of 100,000 years ago.
In thus giving this larger and completer meaning to the law of evolution, the Occult philosophy entirely eliminates the “missing links” of modern science, and, by giving to man a glimpse of his nature and destiny, not only points out the line of the higher evolution, but puts him in possession of the means of achieving it.
Looking back into the past the historian finds his sight speedily striking a mist and at last plunging into inky darkness. Bound down in fact by the influence of a ridiculous dogmatism which allows only some six thousand years for man’s life on earth, he is unwilling to accept the old chronologies of the Egyptians or Hindus, and, while permitting the assumption of vast periods for geological changes, he is staggered by a few millions of years more or less when they are added to the length of time during which humanity has peopled the globe. The student of the ancient wisdom sees no reason, however, why he should doubt the statement made by his teachers on this subject, who say that the periods of evolution are endless.
The human races sweep round and round this planet as the cycles sweep resistlessly forward. Cave-dwellers, lake-dwellers, and those of a neolithic or any other age, appear and disappear over and over again, and in each of those we who now read, write and think of them were ourselves the very Egos whose past we are trying to trace. It is easy to prove that civilization of the highest order has periodically rolled around this globe and left traces great and small behind. Man’s civilization has travelled around the globe many times, filling now one country and now another with populous places, creating an enormous metropolis here and another there.
If you inquire into Egyptian history, the most interesting because the most obscure, you will find, as the writers say, that the civilization seems to rise to the zenith at once. We do not see when it began. The civilization was so great it must have existed an enormous length of time to get to that height, so that we cannot trace it from its beginning, and it disappears suddenly from the sky; there is nothing of it left but the enormous remains which testify to these great things, for the ancient Egyptians not only made mummies in which they displayed the art of bandaging that we cannot better, but they had put everything to such a degree of specialization that we must conclude they had many centuries of civilization. There was a specialist for one eye and a specialist for the other, a specialist for the eyebrow, and so on. And what modern work is to be compared to the pyramid of Ghizeh?
North and South America were evidently the seats of ancient races and not the habitation of wild undeveloped men. The red man of the Northern one has all the appearance and beliefs of a once great race. He believes in one God, a Devachan or heaven of happy hunting after death. Some tribes have diagrams of how the world was formed and peopled, that strangely resemble the Hindu cosmogony, and their folklore bears deep marks of having come down from an older and better time. Following the course of exploration southwards, we find accumulating evidences all the way of a prior civilization now gone with the cyclic wave which brought it up. Central America is crowded with remains in stone and brick; and so on south still we discover similar proofs. In course of time these continents became what might be called arable land, lying waiting, recuperating, until the European streams of men began to pour upon it.
And what of the great temples and the awe-inspiring underground constructions in India and the rest of the East; of those buildings cut out of solid mountains with mathematical precision? The caves of Ellora and Elephanta contain immense images and carvings which would do credit to this day. The caves of Kailas are 401 feet deep and 185 feet wide. Inside is a conical pagoda 100 feet high, with a music gallery, five large chapels, a large court, and a colonnade. Three immense elephants are there cut from the stone. An image of Lakshmi reposes with two elephants standing on their hind legs as if pouring water over her. A passage then opens right and left. Thirty feet on there are two obelisks carved, being 41 feet high and 11 feet square. Thirty feet more and you find a great pagoda carved inside and out. There are sixteen pillars, twenty-two pilasters, and five entrances. The roof is carved to represent cross-beams, and each pillar is different from the other. At Ajunta are twenty-seven cut caves. Can these be the work of people whose beliefs tend to stagnate human effort? I think not.
As Orientalists and archaeologists have abundantly shown, it is known that our fables come from India, that the Greeks drew much from that source, and that we are indebted to her for more than we have yet been able to acknowledge. Many Western minds have been delving into the Upanishads and Vedas, and every day there is growing more and more a widespread interest in ideas purely Hindu in their origin. Prof. Max Müller in his Cambridge Lectures upon India said:
If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found the solution of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant — I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life — again I should point to India. … I am thinking chiefly of India such as it was a thousand, two thousand, it may be three thousand, years ago. That India is full of problems the solutions of which concern all of us.
Just as Prof. Müller says, I am not thinking of the Indian people of today, but of the minds of her past who have left to us an enormous mass of records of their studies and solutions of the greatest problems that can engage the attention of the human mind.
Let us then make use of the material in the ancient storehouse of India, treasures that no man can be called a thief for taking, since the truths acquired by the mind respecting man’s life, conduct, constitution, and destiny are the common property of the human race, a treasure that is lost by monopoly and expanded by dissemination.
The Adepts insist that there are still in the earth bony remains of man which carry his first appearance in a dense body many millions of years farther back than have yet been admitted, and these remains will be discovered by us before much time shall have rolled away. One of the first results of these discoveries will be to completely upset the theory as to the succession of ages, as I may call it, which is given and accepted at the present time, and also the estimation of the various civilizations that have passed from the earth and left no trace except in the inner constitution of ourselves.
Of course, in order to be able to accept in any degree these theories, it is essential that one should believe in the twin doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation.
(1) NOTE.—This article is collated from the writings of William Q. Judge.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 59, No. 9, July, 1971
From other Theosophical Authors
G. de Purucker on Cycles from Fountain-Source of Occultism
Causative Nature of Cycles
The doctrine of cycles is one of the most important in the entire cosmic range of the esoteric philosophy, because repetitive or rhythmic action is fundamental in nature. As a matter of fact, every being and thing that exists is an expression of rhythmic pulsation: we are not only the children of cycles greater than ourselves, but actually within our own beings imbody cycles because we are cyclical in all our life processes. The same rule applies with identical force to any entity in boundless Infinitude, whether a galaxy or an atom.
We perceive cycles by the recurrences of moving beings and things in our world, and are deluded into thinking that these repetitions are caused by some intangible entity called time, while in reality they are caused by the cyclical movements of the bodies or of the consciousness of entities. The revolutions of the planets around the sun is an example; they are not caused by time. It is the moving entities themselves which produce in us the time-illusion, due to our imperfect understanding of their operations in Duration. As one of the Stanzas of Dzyan says: “Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration” — because moving things were then no more.
A human being is a cycle; an atom is a cycle — in this technical sense. We say that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, and we call it a cycle, a day. The time-illusion produced by the moving object — in this case our earth — gives us the notion that a day is produced by an absolute entity called Time, or is an integral part of such separate entity.
Cycles themselves are not caused as minor integrals of time by time. Where you have no space, there is no time; where you have no time, there is no space. Space is a substantial entity in occultism, and one of its mayavi attributes is what we call time. As Space is eternally enduring, this is the cause of the time-maya. That does not mean that time is nonexistent, but there is no absolute entity apart from things called Time, nor where there are no beings to perceive it.
All the various and varied phenomena of the infinitesimal worlds of physical chemistry; all the movements of nature everywhere, even astronomical and meteorological phenomena, like storms, periods of drouth, electromagnetic outbursts such as the aurorae; the periodic epidemics of diseases — all these are rhythmic, because cyclical. The pulsing of the blood in the human body and the heartbeat manifest cycles as fully as does the sunspot period, or that of the precession of the equinoxes, or the whirlings of the rivers of lives along the circulations of the universe. The unending succession of manvantaras and pralayas, whether smaller or greater, rounds and obscurations, etc. — all are cyclical.
What is it in universal Being that sets in motion the various cyclical processes which make up the movements of the worlds? The causes of these interwoven cycles are to be found in the fact that the very swabhava of the cosmic life is pulsatory, rhythmic (see the second fundamental proposition in The Secret Doctrine, I, 16-17). Yet to state thus baldly that the cosmic life pulsates throughout eternity is incomplete until we add that such rhythmically vibrational activity is the imbodied expression of the movement of cosmic intelligence.
Now the cosmic life itself from the standpoint of structure may be looked upon as but an incomprehensibly vast aggregate of all smaller beings and things, each such comprehended entity or thing in itself, in its essence, being a droplet of the cosmic life and intelligence, and therefore imbodying its own relative portion of all the cosmic powers and faculties. Thus we have the vibratory and rhythmic movements of the cosmic life, plus all the other interwoven cycles of its incomputable hosts of entities, each one in itself of cyclical character. We have cycles within cycles: cycles within others still greater; or, conversely, cycles of increasing vibrational frequency running into the infinitesimal.
From this we see that every cycle is the life movement of the heartbeat and hence the mind-beat of some cosmic, subcosmic, or infracosmic being or entity. The whirling of a galaxy is an expression of the rhythmic life-pulses of the galactic hierarch throughout all its planes of being, and manifesting, astronomically speaking, on the physical plane as the cyclical wheelings of the galactic body. Similarly so in the world of the infinitesimals, such as the whirlings of the electronic bodies in the atom.
Cycles, then, irrespective of scale or magnitude or hierarchical plane, are the expressions of the pulsations of the life and mind of the hierarchical hosts — of the web of interblending worlds — which not only infill the universe, but actually are it. In short, cycles are the inherent rhythms of life.
Cyclical Time Periods
Some students, after reading The Secret Doctrine, have spent years trying to apply the numerical keys given there in order to arrive at the exact length of the various kinds of Days and Nights of Brahma. There may be little harm in such adventures, yet one could waste a great deal of valuable time in this kind of theorizing. If given the final keys, a clever mathematician might closely approximate the correct time periods, and apply them to ascertain when some karmic event might come to pass. But, in view of the highly imperfect moral evolution of mankind, such knowledge would be replete with danger. Suppose that it were possible for a man to calculate just what is going to happen to him in the next week or month or year. The chances are that he would immediately begin to make new and bad karma for himself in trying to forestall the working out of nemesis, and thus involve himself in a new karmic web highly perilous not only to his moral stability but even to his intellectual equilibrium. Mercifully has this branch of the esoteric philosophy been most carefully shrouded in mystery throughout the ages.
Nevertheless, it is good that we should realize that all nature, as Pythagoras so wisely taught, is built on numerical relations, harmonically interacting in inflexible mathematical connections. For this reason there has never been any attempt to veil the general teaching, and even in some cases actual time periods have been disclosed. For instance, in The Secret Doctrine, Volume II, pages 68-70, we have Brahma’s Age, called the mahakalpa, set down as 311,040,000,000,000 years; and one of Brahma’s Days as 4,320,000,000, with a Night of equal duration, so that such a combined Day-Night period is 8,640,000,000. Furthermore, the total of the four general yugas, together making a mahayuga, is 4,320,000 years, and the full period of a manvantara is 308,448,000 years.
In examining the array of figures given by H.P.B., the difficulty lies in knowing just which manvantara or Day (or which pralaya or Night) is referred to. There are manvantaras of the entire solar system as well as of the planetary chain; and there are still smaller manvantaras, each one of which is the reign of a single Manu. Often terms are used which have different applications. For instance, the term ‘solar system’ may refer to our own planetary chain and its evolution. Thus seven chain-rounds of our earth chain might be called one solar manvantara for our earth chain, but the sun will be as lively as ever. When seven complete imbodiments of our planetary chain have taken place, that is a solar manvantara for our chain; for when a new manvantara for our chain shall again begin, a new sun will shine upon that chain; or, from the standpoint of our earth globe, we shall see that particular sun of the next higher cosmic plane of the solar chain on which our globe D will then begin to manifest.
A chain-round is a passage of the life-waves or families of monads from the highest globe through all the globes once. (When a chain-round passes through any one globe we call it a globe-round.) When seven such chain-rounds have been completed, that is a Day of Brahma or planetary chain manvantara. Seven of these Days of Brahma make a solar manvantara for this chain because, taking our globe earth as an instance, at the end of seven such planetary Days the seven subplanes of the cosmic plane on which our globe earth is will have been passed through and every experience gained therein. Then, in order to begin its new solar manvantara, the entire chain within our solar Brahmanda will begin its evolution on higher planes. And therefore a new sun will appear.
For the benefit of those who may be interested in numerical relations: the “full period of one Manvantara,” mentioned by H.P.B. as being 308,448,000 years (The Secret Doctrine, II, 69), refers in this usage of the word manvantara to one half of a chain-round, which is the general time that it takes a life-wave to pass from the first globe (let us say globe A) of the chain to globe D, our earth. A similar time period is required in order to pass from the midpoint of our globe earth to globe G, let us say; so that one chain-round will take some 616,896,000 years. As the common teaching regarding the rounds gives their number as seven, when we multiply this last sum by 7, we obtain very closely the figure 4,320,000,000 years, which is one complete chain-manvantara, or one Day of Brahma, the Brahma in this case being the planetary chain Brahma. The difference between this rough and ready calculation and the full period of 4,320,000,000 is due to the fact that the sandhyas (twilights) have been omitted.
Furthermore, when a planetary chain has completed its chain-manvantara, there then ensues a rest period or Night of equal length — 4,320,000,000 years. In addition, the cosmic mahakalpa — here signifying the kalpa of our solar system or its complete manvantara or one Year of Brahma — is composed of 360 of the solar Brahma’s Days, which are the planetary chain Days, as above alluded to. As there are a hundred of the solar Brahma’s Years in the full period of a solar mahakalpa (Brahma’s Life), this last figure must be multiplied by one hundred, and we thus attain the figure 311,040,000,000,000.
It has taken some 320,000,000 years since the first geological sedimentary deposits were made on our earth in the beginning of this fourth round, and this is but a trifle more than the “full period of one Manvantara,” given by H.P.B. as being 308,448,000 years — which is but another way of saying the ‘manvantara’ of our fourth round inaugurated by Vaivasvata, the root-Manu of this round. (If the reader will analyze the various passages in The Secret Doctrine regarding the different reigns of the Manus of our planetary chain as applied to the time periods of the seven rounds, he will better understand these numerical allusions; in particular see Vol. II, pp. 709-15, as well as pp. 307-9.)
The fact of the repetitive analogies in nature is the master key in making computations dealing with all these time periods. Just because the small reflects throughout its structure and its destiny whatever is the structure and destiny of the great, the same general mathematical rules will apply both to a microcosm — whatever it may be — as well as to a macrocosm, such as a solar system.
It might be as well to state here that the esoteric year contains 360 days, equal to the 360° of the zodiac, whether of the signs or of the constellations; and in a past period of the solar system our earth year was actually 360 days long. Since then, due to a number of cosmic interacting causes, under the governance of the fohatic magnetisms of the zodiacal constellations, the speed of rotation of the earth somewhat increased, so that the present year contains roughly 365 1/4 days. This acceleration has now probably reached its maximum, in which case the rotation of the earth will slowly again decrease and in time pass through and beyond the median point of 360 days, so that the year will then contain somewhat less than 360 days, possibly as few as 354. When this minimum period has been reached, the earth’s rotation will again quicken slightly, and in time will pass through the median point of 360 days until it reaches again its maximum. Thus it is that during the planetary chain’s manvantara the average rotational yearly period is 360 days.
This is the reason that 360 days is recognized in occultism as the standard year; and many cultured nations, such as the Babylonians, Egyptians and Hindus, all famous throughout antiquity for their astronomical skill, used the 360-day period in their calculations for the length of a year. This is shown in the case of the Hindus by a passage in the very old astronomical work, the Surya-Siddhanta (I, 12,13) 1, which first states the standard occult year of 360, and then refers to the year as consisting of 365 1/4 days more or less.
Modern scientists, scholars and mathematicians ascribe to the ancient Babylonians our present reckoning of 360° in a circle, each degree divided into 60 minutes, although this same practice was as well known in ancient India as it was in Egypt and elsewhere. Why? Simply because of the vast knowledge of occult astronomy and astrology in the archaic Mystery schools, wherein the ‘standard’ year was usually employed for secret calculations, as well as being also the basis of civil and economic computations.
1. This is a truly profound and remarkable treatise, dealing with yugas and time periods of various lengths, divisions of time into infinitesimals, cycles of sun, moon and planets as well as with eclipses. In the opening verses it is stated that Surya, the sun, through his solar representative, communicated to Asuramaya “the science upon which time is founded, the grand system of the planets” (I, 5), and that this occurred at the end of the krita or satya yuga (I, 46-7). If we reckon back from the present day, we have already run through some 5000 years of the kali yuga, 864,000 of the dwapara, and 1,296,000 of the treta which followed the satya yuga. This would mean that the Surya-Siddhanta is over two million years old. As H.P.B. says in her Secret Doctrine (II, 49-50), the knowledge contained in this work was transmitted to this great Atlantean astronomer during the closing epoch of the fourth and the beginnings of the fifth root-race.
We should not think, however, that the sun came down from heaven and dictated these very words, but rather that the solar glory illuminated the brain of this adept. In other words, in paying homage to Surya, Asuramaya was raising his inner nature to the solar ray of which he was an incarnation, and thereupon was inspired and taught by his own solar divinity some of the secrets of the universe.
Racial Cycles and Yugas
What takes place within a race is but a copying of what takes place on grander scales elsewhere. Any planet, sun, or universe, has its own four periods of a length and magnitude corresponding to its life cycle. In Hindu cosmogony these are called yugas, their length in each case depending upon the scale of its arc, whether of a man or a sun.
The manner in which the great cycles in the evolution of a root-race are repeated in the small is an extremely involved one. The general rule is that the small repeats the great, that little yugas not only are included in the greater yugas, but repeat them on their own level. For example, our present fifth root-race, considered as a whole with all its minor subraces, is now in its kali yuga, which began over five thousand years ago at the death of Krishna, and will last into the future for about 427,000 years.
Now some of the minor cycles or yugas of this fifth root-race will be rising, and some will be falling, yet all interworking with each other and subject to the great kali yuga of the root-race. Thus, a minor yuga or race may be in its youth and rising to its flowering, yet, because it is included in the over-all kali yuga, will be subject to the general decline of the major kali yuga.
Every minor cycle, great or small, within the root-race is in its turn septenary and therefore has its own little kali yuga, and its numerical relations are about the same. Just as the great kali yuga is 432,000 years long, so a minor one may be only 432 years long, or 4320, or even 43,200. The Hindu or Aryan race, which was one of the very first subraces of our own fifth root-race, is now in its own racial kali yuga in addition to being in the longer kali yuga of the root-race. But it is striving to rise again, and will do so in the future. On a smaller scale, Spain is in its short kali yuga, as also Portugal. Italy has just ended a short kali yuga and is beginning to rise again.
Unfortunately, because our fifth root-race is a very materialistic one, heavily sunken in matter due to our fourth round, these rises are mostly along the lines of materialisms. Furthermore, the European general stock of races, which we might call the European subrace or family race perhaps, has been steadily rising since the downfall of the Roman Empire, and will continue to do so, with various smaller shocks and falls and risings again, for some six or seven or possibly eight thousand years more. And then there will be a rapid descent until its kali yuga is reached, a small kali yuga, when there will be a great European catastrophe of nature. This will be some sixteen to eighteen thousand years from now. This period will see the submersion of the British Isles. Most of France will be under the water, also Holland, some of Spain, a good deal of Italy, and other places. Of course all this won’t take place in a night, for there will be premonitory signs, such as slow sinkings of the coast, great earthquakes, etc.
The main fact is that, although the fifth root-race as a whole is in its kali yuga which began some five thousand years ago, its subraces may be rising or falling, each one according to its own time periods; and each such subrace has its own little kali yuga repeated after the great one, bearing the same proportion to the entire length of any such small race that the great kali yuga does to the root-race.
Another name for yuga or cycle in Sanskrit is kala-chakra, time-wheel. Just as a wheel revolves, so do the four yugas, the four time-wheels, following the numerical ratios of 4, 3, 2, and a period of pause; then again, the 4, 3, 2, pause, and so forth throughout the manvantaras. These same relative numerical ratios prevail in all divisions of nature. For instance, the globe manvantara can be subdivided into periods standing to each other in the relation of 4, 3, 2, pause or one, making the complete 10; and these can be called the satya yuga, treta yuga, dwapara yuga, and kali yuga, each with its rest period or sandhya, of the globe manvantara (cf. Occult Glossary, pp. 184-5).
Using exactly the same principle of repetitive workings in nature, an entire round, passing through all the globes, can be looked upon as a time period which is divisible into the same relative numerical portions. So we can say that the four yugas apply to any unitary period in the flow of time: to a planetary round, a globe-round, a root-race, or even to the period of a human life.
To illustrate: a man is not in his kali yuga when he is in advanced age. His kali yuga is reached in his most active portion of life, his middle age, when he is in the full plenitude of his physical powers, but still an infant as regards his higher powers. However, this fact did not apply to the early root-races, because they were on the downward arc and reached their kali yuga in their old age. Since we have passed the lowest point in our evolution and have begun to rise, our inner nature has evolved forth enough to make our later years, after our individual kali yuga period, a time of blossoming and realization. We now no longer die in the heyday of our physical age as did the early Atlanteans and the Lemurians. We live past the prime of physical activity, into the mellower, richer years, which older age brings. During the sixth and seventh root-races, curiously enough, our kali yuga will coincide with the rich point of our life, but we shall then be in the relative fullness of all our powers.
Applying these yugas or time cycles to the root-races: every root-race has its satya yuga, followed by its treta, dwapara, and kali yugas. Then comes a sandhya or rest period, a junction point, after which comes the birth of the new race. The seeds of the succeeding new root-race spring into being; but the old root-race continues along, although no longer having the mastery of the earth. The reason is that with the opening of the satya yuga of the succeeding root-race, all the stronger, more advanced egos of the race then in its kali yuga take imbodiment in the new race; whereas the bodies of the decaying race are given over to less developed egos which enter them. As these bodies of the old race continue living and propagating through several succeeding ages, egos of less and less degree of evolutionary advancement enter them, until finally these bodies through slow degeneration will house only the least developed egos of the human stock. But the dying-out root-race lasts almost as long as it takes the succeeding root-race to reach its kali yuga.
Here we have the key to these numerical periods, as they are given in the Brahmanical computations. A root-race takes four yugas or 4,320,000 years to achieve its growth and its physical prime. The last tenth of this period is its kali yuga. Then the new race comes into being; just as on a smaller scale the sixth subrace of our present fifth root-race is already having its seeds of birth in the Americas, where also the seeds of the sixth root-race to come are now being laid, beginning now in our kali yuga, but as yet merely an adumbration of what it will be. When our kali yuga reaches towards its end, some 427,000 years from now, the seeds of the sixth root-race will then be fairly numerous. Meanwhile our fifth root-race will continue as bodies for inferior egos until this series of bodies, not of egos, through degeneration towards its end will finally be the vehicles for only the least developed egos of the human stock. From this we see that a root-race on this globe, during this fourth round in the past and up to the present, has taken something like 8,640,000 years to live from its seeds to its disappearance, though only half of that time — the mahayuga or four yugas of 4,320,000 years — can properly be called the zenith of that root-race. The remaining 4,320,000 years represent its dying-out period.
As each root-race begins at about the middle period of its parent root-race, our own fifth root-race began to be born in the kali yuga of the fourth. The sixth root-race succeeding us will begin to be born in our kali yuga, upon which we are now entering. When a race begins, its forerunners are very few; they are strange people, and are considered almost as freaks of nature. By and by they find themselves in the majority, and that is when their root-race has become strong. It is the egos which make the root-races, and the egos really which make the yugas. What takes place in the great is repeated in the small: a root-race is but an analogy, a repetition, of a round; even of an entire solar manvantara. The life of a man is exactly the same: it is an analogy of a solar manvantara, of a round, of a globe-manvantara as well as of a root-race.
A root-race, then, from its seed to its death, since the beginning of the Lemurian or third root-race, has been running between eight and nine million years. If we reckon it in yugas, it is 8,640,000 years, but of this period only half, or the mahayuga, can be properly called that root-race, as a beginning, growing, and mature entity. As pointed out earlier, the remaining or second mahayuga is its slow disappearance, because the race becomes, as physical bodies, the receptacle of egos in a constantly decreasing scale of evolutionary advancement. Thus it is that we have amongst us today Atlanteans, but the egos inhabiting these degenerate ‘Atlantean bodies’ are much inferior to the best class of Atlanteans when Atlantis was in its prime. We have even a few of the ancient Lemurians amongst us, sorry remnants of once wonderful ancestors, for Lemuria was a magnificent race and continent in its day. These few ‘Lemurian bodies’ still going on and on — so called because they are of direct Lemurian descent — offer vehicles to the very lowest class of the human stock. Now these lower egos are not lost souls. They are simply the least evolved of human egos at the present time, and therefore trailers behind us. Each root-race contains the same egos that were evolving in the preceding root-race.
Turning again to the life cycles of the root-races as they relate to the yugas: the Lemurians and Atlanteans as a rule died quickly when their bodies, their lives, reached what we now would call the human kali yuga period. The reason for this was that they had not yet evolved sufficiently in higher intellectual power and spirituality. In other words, these early races died young because they had no old age of richness and fullness to look forward to.
We have passed in evolution that phase which was so noticeable in Atlantean times; and being in the fifth root-race and on the upward arc, we are slowly growing into the evolutionary stages of consciousness wherein the higher intellect and spirituality are becoming ever stronger with each hundred thousand years that pass, making the latter half of life, as time goes on, continuously richer of understanding and of feeling.
With the beginning of the fifth root-race the latter half of a man’s life began to develop. Some day old age will be the years when he will be in the plenitude of his power, physical and intellectual and spiritual. It will then be the time when childhood and youth will be proportionately shortened, the reason being that man will come into self-conscious functioning of faculty far more quickly than now. This process will continue through the ages so that, when we shall have reached the seventh root-race on this earth during this fourth round, the latter half of life will be considered as the only part worth living. Bodies then will be stronger, more flexible, very different from what they are now in some respects: more vital, with greater resisting power, yet more ethereal. In those distant days a man’s body before his death will be stronger than in what we would call his youth.
Although the Atlanteans died in what we would consider late youth or early middle age, the years that they lived were many more than ours. As time goes on, children will show a tendency to be born continuously more mature in interior faculties, as well as more mature in body, although not necessarily large physically. It was bodies which occupied the greater part of human life in the past. With us, things are beginning to reverse themselves. It will be the inner man — the mind, the spirituality — which will more and more show forth.
We live in a very interesting age. I do not think that in the recorded annals that are open to us at the present time there has ever been an epoch when serious-minded students of the ancient wisdom have had the opportunities that now are available.
Much has been said of the blackness of our age, the kali yuga, but it is just this stress and strain which are opening our hearts and tearing the veils away from our minds. It is the Iron Age, a hard, rigid cycle where everything moves intensely and where everything is difficult; but precisely the age in which spiritual and intellectual advancement can be made most quickly. In the Golden Age, in the so-called Age of Saturn, the era of man’s innocence, everything moved smoothly and all nature cooperated to make living beautiful and pleasant; and there is something in our hearts that yearns to return to it. But it is not what the evolving ego longs for.
It is a strange paradox that the hardest and cruelest of all the yugas is the very one in which the quickest advancement can be gained. It is the opportunity time, the time of choice, when the most advanced egos will become the seeds of the succeeding great root-race. Thus will be born the satya yuga of the new race out of the kali yuga of the old, and in the distant future there will be even greater things than in the past. Once again the lives of men will be attuned to the inspiration of universal compassion and of wisdom, and the archaic teachings regarding the light which flows from the heart of the spiritual sun, which each man is in the inmost arcanum of his being, will again become the most precious heritage of the human race.
The Laws of Cycles by C.W.
The Laws of Cycles
It is a matter of the deepest interest for every thinking man to obtain as clear an idea as possible of the way in which the progress of the world is wrought out in the kingdoms of Nature, and especially to realize how man — the king of Nature — advances toward that ultimate goal of perfection which is his destiny.
The ancient Wisdom Religion is the basis of all the real knowledge which man possesses, whether that knowledge be scientific or religious. This Wisdom Religion, or Theosophy, teaches that all progress is accomplished in revolving stages, or successive periods of time and experience; that these periods occur in exact harmony with each other, and that they bear definite relations to the effects accomplished in them severally. The law which governs these periods has been known for many ages as the Law of Cycles.
By the study of this Law of Cycles we learn that natural progress of all kinds does not occur in one steady stream, like the rush of a railway train on a straight track, but on the contrary, it proceeds by a spiral or screw-like course, in which the same points are successively and continually reached on higher circles of existence. It might, perhaps, be compared to the flight of an eagle, which soars upward in circles one above the other, until lost to sight in the vault of heaven. An onlooker would apparently see a periodic return to nearly the same place, but it is clear that the soaring bird occupies a more distant position on every turn of the circle in its spiral flight upward.
These cyclic periods are so well defined in our everyday experience, that we are apt to pass them by, without recognizing their importance. Every day is a cycle, in which we pursue almost the same round of duty, and every day is followed by a night or period of rest in which the circle of twenty-four hours is rounded off and completed. Month by month, in a larger cycle we find similar occurrences in our business and home circles. Year by year we follow the same round of occurrences in Nature, so that spring, summer, autumn and winter promote the well-being of each other, and minister to the perfect whole of which they form successive phases. All these are well known to us, but because by habit we have grown familiar with them, we fail to perceive that herein lies a great secret of the world’s advancement.
By pursuing the subject we may discover that the Law of Cycles rules every phenomenal experience in the world around us, that it governs even our states of passing happiness or misery, and rules also what men call life and death. Thus the continuous growth of Nature and of all beings is divided and punctuated by successive periods of rest and activity, or, to express it more completely, by rounds of birth, growth, subsidence and rest.
Of the forgotten cycles which men once knew all about, probably the most interesting to us is the cycle of life and death. Many centuries ago, the great philosophers and the wise ones of the earth taught this great Truth. The records of their teachings are found in many an ancient manuscript and rock inscription of old civilizations. Today more than two-thirds of the people of the earth make it a central point in their religious belief.
We are all familiar with the beginning and end of man’s appearance here. He comes upon the scene as a little child, grows into activity, attains his full strength, becomes feeble, and finally departs. We look upon the body through which he has functioned and we say: “He is gone.” Could we look further, we should know that he has but retired from the scene for a short period. He will soon return in a new body to carry on his continuous existence, and so on and on through successive lives, reaping each time what he has previously sown — until the final perfection.
Thus, as in other kingdoms of Nature each appearance of man on the scene of physical life is qualified and conditioned by the circumstances of those which preceded it, and the character of the man, which is the expression of his soul, his very self, progresses towards the goal of divinity, which is his potential inheritance.
Students of history have found that there is a periodic recurrence in the history of great empires. The fortunes of some great nation have been identified with each century of recorded history. Generally speaking the foundation of the power of the nation has taken place near the beginning of the century, and its waning or downfall has occurred near the close of the hundred year period. In Europe these periods of prosperity have succeeded each other, in Spain, Austria, Holland, France and England. There can be but little doubt that the twentieth century will be an era in which the American people will show an example to the rest of the civilized world, — an example founded upon the principles of humanitarian unselfishness and human Brotherhood.
Extending our view still further we cannot avoid perceiving that the very continents of the globe are successively the fields of an intense activity, and of a comparative desolation. Recent discoveries have shown conclusively that on the desert plains and hills of Arizona and New Mexico — once flourished cities, larger and more populous than the largest cities of the present day. Systems of irrigation existed ages ago in these Western States of America, constructed with the highest engineering skill. There is not the smallest doubt that where now is little but desert, once teemed a busy, educated and civilized people. And do we not see that period coming once again? Do not our daily papers continually announce new conquests of the forgotten desert which show a rapid return of the old cycle of past ages? Is it too much to expect that again the whole of Western America will — as in former ages — become completely re-established in the service of man, and will once more be the residence of teeming millions!
Such are the cycles which are easily recognized and commonly accepted.
So with man, by breath divine
Lifted like a transient wave
On life’s sea, in line on line
Rolls to break upon the grave.
Races, empires towering rise,
Each in turn, collapsing dies,
Schools and systems, proudly heave
Soon like them no vestige leave,
Far along the shore of time
Swells and sinks the sounding chime,
Gathered back in calm repose,
To the depths from whence they rose,
All are still. (1)
Yes, it is true that, for a time, all sink to rest and are still, but in the cycles of Nature all rise again into renewed activity.
The teachings of the Wisdom Religion show that at stated and regular intervals in the world’s history have occurred great reforms in the political, social and moral ideals of the people. These great reforms have been introduced by those who ever stand behind the scenes of world-life, ready to help when circumstances permit. The teachings of these great ones have been identical. They have always been founded upon the enduring truths of Theosophy. Such a teacher was Krishna, who appeared in India five thousand years ago, laying the foundation of the greatest world reformations of which we have record. Such a one was Gautama Buddha, who lived exactly twenty-five hundred years ago, and whose teachings have survived to the present day, through all the misconceptions, and degradations which they have endured at the hands of his followers throughout the centuries. Six hundred years later came Jesus with the same message and the same purpose of the regeneration of mankind.
A reference to these periods, each of which was a time of stress and trial in the history of the race, and a comparison of them with the present period, leads to the conviction that a crucial time in the world’s history is at hand when great reforms may be expected. Thoughtful consideration of the events of recent times amply confirms this. The last century was remarkable for great advances in man’s conquest with the forces of nature, and in his means, of intercommunication. Every part of the globe is now practically in instantaneous contact with every other point of its surface. Each nation can immediately feel the pulse of every other.
The facilities thus acquired have produced an increased desire for freedom from the bonds of medievalism and selfishness of all kinds. Politically, socially and morally every nation of the world is in the throes of a struggle with those forces which prevent human advancement towards happiness and liberation of soul. As these struggles become more and more evident, the onlooker perceives that now is the time of harvest, for all potentialities which men have been gathering for ages. The forces of evolutionary upliftment have been acting wheel within wheel, cycle within cycle until man stands today potentially nobler, more intellectually gifted, more far-seeing than ever before. One thing alone is wanting to complete the unfoldment, viz: that he shall put into practice what he has been taught throughout the ages; that he shall establish the bond of Brotherhood as the central feature of all his dealings with his fellow men; that the welfare of the community and the race shall stand in the place of the welfare of the individual. Thus the era of greed and selfishness will end and a new era of love and sympathy will dawn.
Then will men recognize that Life is one, eternal and indivisible. Both as regard the individual and the age, there is an everlasting continuity. That which has been sown must be reaped. Death must be followed by resurrection.
— C. W., Universal Brotherhood Path, July 1901
1. Mrs. Prideaux.
The Doctrine of Cycles by Lydia Ross and C. J. Ryan
The Doctrine of Cycles
The doctrine of Cycles is emphasized in Theosophy, as it is so many-sided and so far-reaching in its application to all phases of life and to all conditions of matter. A cycle means a ring or “turning.” It is not a closed ring; rather, it is a continuous rounding course, advancing on a rising level. Cycles may be likened to a circular stairway, where, in going up or down, we are always above or below the level of the preceding step or round. Another example of a cyclic course is seen in the thread of a screw, which winds around and upward from the point. A more typical form of the enlarging circle is found in the widening spiral of the common snail-shell. This type is symbolic of the evolutionary progress of all things; and not least of all, it symbolizes the natural expanding life-course of us human beings, as we return to Earth, again and again. We follow an absolutely universal
“law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.”
— The Secret Doctrine, 1,17
There are cycles within cycles. Man — both the individual and the race as a whole — though evidently rising and falling in lesser cycles, yet is ever becoming more aware of what is within his own nature as well as what is without him. While he is exploring widening fields of the material world and its forces, he is also becoming more at home in a grander range of humanhood.
The doctrine of Cycles was taught in one of the profoundest and at root oldest of all religions — Vedantism — and its importance was recognised throughout the ancient world. The Greek philosophers also taught it in their time. But the West lost sight of it in the narrow, dogmatic teachings of later centuries. Now, however, in the wider range of scientific findings, the recurrence of events and of conditions stands out in bold outline. Leading minds are observing and analysing the statistics of wars, of business eras of activity and depression, of the appearance of great men, of the rise and fall of arts and sciences, of earthquakes, epidemics, wet and dry seasons, of the rise and fall of nations, of sun-spots, etc., etc.
H. P. Blavatsky states that of old the learned soothsayers and augurs held the same place now taken by historians, astronomers, and meteorologists. A true knowledge of the relation of cycles in the realm of Nature to periodic events in human affairs enabled them to forecast important events with certainty. She also points out, in The Secret Doctrine, Volume I, page 646, published in 1888 — when no one thought of a World War:
“It is neither prevision, nor prophecy; no more than is the signalling of a comet or star, several years before its appearance. It is simply knowledge and mathematically correct computations which enable the WISE MEN OF THE EAST to foretell, for instance, that . . . Europe in general [is] threatened with, or rather, on the eve of, a cataclysm, which her own cycle of racial Karma has led her to.”
The Wise Men referred to here are a superior body of men, members of the great White Lodge, which has been active in all ages, and whose verified records of events and of human evolution go back to the night of time. These noble men are the Mahatmans or Masters of Wisdom whose training in true Occultism enables them, individually, to read in this racial history the larger truth that “that which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been.” (Eccles., iii, 15)
For centuries, the Masters have utilized the last quarter of the hundred-year cycle as a favorable time for making special efforts to awaken men to their own spiritual nature. Moreover, it was known, that near the end of the nineteenth century, several important cycles would end and new ones begin. Then there would follow a period of change and transition in every line of thought and activity — the period we are now in. Evidently we are being challenged to understand the finer forces of our own nature, as the next step in human progress.
The Masters, always timing their work in harmony with natural law and with human conditions, sent their Messenger, H. P. Blavatsky, to found the Theosophical Society, in 1875. She came to restore to the West the forgotten philosophy of life which, alone, could save our modern civilization from disaster. It is noteworthy that this work, starting with a new spiritual cycle, has succeeded, for the first time, in carrying an active, organized body of Theosophical students from one century into the next. The significant fact is that the Theosophical Movement has steadily grown in strength and influence, while the old order of things, in general, has been and is rapidly changing and passing away. The teachings of Karman, Reincarnation, Cycles, the Divinity of Man, etc., have permeated the thought-world and are common topics everywhere. Moreover, various intuitive scientists are openly recognising, in the truths of the Ancient Wisdom, the unifying link between man and the Universe, of which he is an inseparable part.
Cycles are so common that we take them as much for granted as we do the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the solid earth under our feet. Every heart-beat repeats a small cycle of activity and of rest, the rhythmic inflow and outgo of the blood-stream never ceasing while life lasts. In this momentary cycle, an incoming tide of vitality pauses at flood, only to surge out again. It is a miniature copy of the great cosmic sweep of worlds and of Universes, coming into being, reaching their apex of manifestation, and then dissolving in the ocean of Space, for a cosmic rest, and then another, grander round. The Ancients summed it up: “As above, so below.”
Every tick of the clock rounds out a tiny cycle of seconds, which make up the minutes whose recurrence marks the hours, which, in turn, expand into the rhythmic tide of light and darkness in day and night — wheels within wheels. The orderly round of days makes the weeks, which grow into the months and years and centuries. There is an endless succession of cycles within cycles of time, from the moment up to the majestic sweep of Universes coming and going in their cosmic “turning.”
Nature continually repeats itself, and follows the lines of least resistance in doing things over and over in aiming at perfect work. The ocean tides ebb and flow with clock-like regularity. The birds time their migrations to and fro with the seasons. The sap in the orchard-trees rises for the annual growth of leaves and buds and flowers and fruit, and then goes down to rest again. Each year the returning seasons repeat the unfolding picture of winter’s cold, of spring’s awakening, of the summer’s ripening growth; and then the harvest-home of autumn completes the yearly cycle of change, of progress. The return of New Year’s day finds everything different — all men and things have moved more or less along the common pathway of Life. Our growth, our evolution, does not go forward like a train on a straight track. We progress along a spiral path, ever returning toward a past circuit of our experience, but always bounding the curve in another, broader sweep. Even our Earth, following the Sun in space, traces a spiral journey onward.
The mere infant creeps but slowly through his tiny daily cycle. But on the whole, he moves on, leaving the small circuit of infancy to merge into the larger course of childhood. The child’s returning birthdays find him with a stronger body, a livelier mind, and a dawning moral sense. Thus the individual life-journey moves on and on through the varied “seven ages” which Shakespeare pictures. Helpless old age is but the twilight period of one earth-life. Meantime, the Inner Man, in gradually withdrawing from this plane, is preparing to emerge in the dawn of a new spiritual cycle in the invisible realms. For life itself is continuous; and the real Self, which shows forth on Earth when we are at our very best, is vividly conscious and at home during the after-death cycle of peace and bliss and rest. The deathless Self ever ingathers the essence and meaning of all our earthly experiences, and assimilates them during the mystic journey after death. Thus with each “return” to Earth, we come enriched and enlarged by all we have gone through, both when imbodied in flesh and when free to soar.
“Evolution is but another word for cyclic law.” The opportunities of these continued turnings and re-turnings enable us to bring forth and express the intellectual and spiritual faculties which are wrapped up within us. In the millions of years since we had the gift of mind and had free will to act, we have gone up and down on an enlarging spiral pathway of experience in good and evil. The karmic result of all this is reflected in our character, in our conflicting aspirations and desires of today.
Habits make character; for each time we do a thing it makes a deeper impression, so that we instinctively repeat it over and over. Sometimes a weakness which seems to have been conquered, reappears in a different form. For instance, a harmful appetite may give way to some other indulgence, or it may appear as selfish ambition or as self-righteousness. Our habits return again and again, helping or hindering us up or down in our career. But the stumbling-blocks we have put in our own pathway can be turned into stepping-stones, when we will to use them in that way. Instead of vitalizing a weakness by fighting it, we may use mind and heart and hands in some noble substitute. The returning impulses of gloom or anger or jealousy, or what not, may be connected with and finally replaced by the opposite emotion. We can start a new cycle at any time, to overlap the old one, just as a new and wider horizon opens up before the mountain-climber as he ascends.
The present is a significant time for all of us, individually and collectively. A dawning spiritual cycle is already overlapping the passing darkness of crass materialism. We have the privilege and the responsibility of working with the rising tide of spiritual force to make real progress and to help others. In the ebb and flow of human affairs there are periods of advancement and of retardation. Knowledge of cycles and of self, enables one to work with the progressive forces, and to avoid wasting energy when things generally are at a standstill. Now is a time to act nobly, courageously, and with trust in our own birthright of Divinity.
How often has archaeology uncovered evidences of mankind’s return to locations where superimposed cities, each in its turn, had arisen, flourished, and were buried under ages of dust? Whole civilizations have also cycled through their rise, development, and decay. The classical story of “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome” tells of familiar examples. Furthermore, the archaic records tell of many others, prehistoric eras of great racial attainment and decay. Visible evidences of these unknown times are seen in the strange archaeological remains in Central and South America and elsewhere, and in those more recent finds in Central Asia, Crete, Egypt, etc., that speak of the mighty past. Theosophy adds that no historical civilization has yet attained to the splendor reached by the Atlanteans. However, the same Egos who lived and loved and wrought and suffered throughout forgotten ages are evidently reincarnating again today.
The rapidity with which the modern world is re-discovering and reinventing, along every material line, points to recovery of former knowledge by the incoming souls. The average children are born more conscious than were their forebears; and our modern youth takes to the unfolding marvels of aviation, radio, etc., as matters-of-course. The savage races are mostly the degenerate and dying remnants of great civilizations. They too, will disappear as races. But the reincarnating Egos who lived as different types of men during the various racial periods, will cycle back, each in a time and place karmically suited to his own further progress.
The Theosophical history of mankind places our present humanity in the Fifth Race, somewhat past the mid-point of the great cycle of our earthly existence. The four earlier Races rounded out their careers on different continents, each only gradually giving way during the ages in which the next one was forming, until the final cataclysm ended the closing cycle. The Bible pictures a closing scene in the story of Noah and the flood — an event in racial history which is repeated, under various names, in the teachings of all great religions. A vague knowledge of the existence of the last two continents, Lemuria and Atlantis, survives in the myths and traditions of all peoples. Plato’s story of “Atlantis” relates to one of the last great remnants of the submerged continent to which we give that name.
In line with the foregoing evidence of the rise and fall of continents, Science is proving that similar changes are even now going on. For instance, parts of the American coasts are slowly rising and other parts are going down; the Himalayas, and California mountains, etc., are steadily rising. Moreover, recent North Pacific soundings reveal, not a level ocean bed, but a striking area of mountains, valleys, plateaus and plains, not unlike our familiar continents. Geologists agree that practically all present land has been submerged at some time. As for the four great Ice Ages and other cyclic cataclysms, evidence of their recurrence is geologically recorded by the Earth itself.
That Races, civilizations, nations, and men have come and gone, again and again, in many lesser cycles within the greater round of continental spirals, is merely one example of the universal law of repeated imbodiments. This law of Cycles is interwoven and interactive with the laws of Karman and of Reimbodiment. Man is especially affected by the spiritual, psychic, and moral cycles, and these, collectively, make up the individual, national, and racial cycles. Thus, as there is a close relation between the affairs of men and the operations of Nature, we see why, in this modern world of unrest and all-around transition, there are corresponding cyclic upheavals and distubances in the forces of Nature.
— Lydia Ross and C. J. Ryan, The Theosophical Forum, November 1944
The Evolution of Humanity and Its Civilizations by John Van Mater
The Evolution of Humanity and Its Civilizations
The story of mankind cannot be understood without considering the birth of the planet of which we are all inseparable parts. If our universe is a living being, and our sun and earth also, we are then children of the living cosmos. This implies that there are intelligences above man, and beings below the animals and even plants. Without the guiding and sustaining influence of the hierarchies of superior beings which form the inner fabric of the cosmos, nature would become a meaningless chaos. They instigate and ideate the design of nature’s working and are the forces behind its inbuilt healing system or ineluctable return to harmony.
As the human and other kingdoms each attain their evolution, so the earth achieves its form and embodiment. The elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and divine kingdoms are all essential to one another and to the whole. They are to the earth what cells, the life force, and thoughts are to human beings. Each individual enshrines a divine spark, and from the very beginning of our planet’s reimbodiment all the kingdoms were present, not as they now are, but as seeds about to unfold.
Let us briefly consider the birth of worlds as cosmic beings. When such a birth commences there is no form because the energies and characteristics of the systems of worlds about to come forth have been inrolled and dormant for ages. Hindu and other cultures give figures for the lifespan of planets, suns, and other cosmic entities. Planets, they say, live for 4,320,000,000 years, and the time spent in their rest periods or death-cycles is the same.
When the moment arrives for our world to reawaken, it does so on a very ethereal level. First the godlike beings and elemental forces issue forth, laying the pattern for the inner and outer aspects of the earth-to-be. This is followed by the awakening of the other kingdoms, which lay the tracks on inner, non-material planes. As the less evolved kingdoms build for themselves more evolved bodies to work through, the earth assumes the shape, circulations, and energy flow, inner and outer, that we associate with this living planet of ours. Earth achieves its expression by means of its lesser lives, just as we attain physical incarnation by means of atoms, molecules, compounds, and cells contributing to form the fluids, tissues, and organs of our bodies, all energized by life forces and infilled with emotional and mental activities stimulated by the indwelling consciousness. And so it is with the planet: as its kingdoms alter, growing more and more material, so does the earth achieve the various phases of its reimbodiment. The life cycle of a planet takes place in a series of pulsations or “rounds,” usually spoken of as seven in number. We are presently in the fourth and most material round; and henceforward our earth will grow increasingly ethereal until the end of its lifespan.
Evolution from the theosophic point of view extends through repeated reimbodiments, not only in the human kingdom, but for animals, plants, atoms, and worlds. Just as we have our invisible parts, so also does the sun with its planetary systems and their inhabitants, thus forming our living universe. All this presupposes an enduring part that lives in each person, each planet, each atom, something within that survives and gradually evolves through repeated reimbodiments — in our case, a higher self or reincarnating ego in which is stored the wisdom of experience. Evolution, thus, is the process by which the potentials of this divine essence may unfold. Because we have unfolded that which makes us human, we are at the human stage of our evolution. The animals have unfolded that which makes of them animals, and so forth. In a future planetary cycle the higher animals may develop from within themselves that which will make it natural for them to slip over into the human kingdom, as many did in the early part of this present planetary reimbodiment.
From the standpoint of reincarnation mankind is millions of years old, its civilizations stretching back into legendary times. If we study myths and epics comparatively and give some credence to them, we will find much suggestive material that should be taken seriously, though not always literally. H. P. Blavatsky held that these old myths were designed by adepts who wove into them the teachings of the ancient wisdom. They may therefore be interpreted on many levels, such as the spiritual, intellectual, psychological, and physiological. These legends have survived with the early races by oral tradition, coming down to us like a racial memory, for any records would have been destroyed in the often violent interregnums that have intervened.
The ancients divided human history into many cycles related to the cosmic clock. In modern theosophy these periods are called root-races, subraces, family races, tribes, nations — cycles of five hundred, a thousand, many thousands of years. Blavatsky projected the life cycle of humanity on this physical globe as divided into seven primary human stocks or root-races. Each root-race is divided into seven subraces, and each subrace into seven family races. These in turn consist of seven national cycles, each of which is built of seven tribal races. (Cf. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:642; G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy,. 294-5; also “The Root-Race and Its Sub-Divisions,” Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 35-9.)
One way to calculate the races and their subdivisions is to start with a figure for the ideal life of a human being (some 72 years) somewhat as follows: seven generations of men make up a nation, a cycle of some 500 years. Seven of these national cycles in turn go to form a tribal race, which endures some 3,600 years. An example of a tribal race would be the Slavs, including the Russians, Poles, Czechs, Bulgars, and so forth. Other examples would be those New World civilizations in full swing when Columbus came to the Americas; or the Teutons, such as the Germans and Scandinavians; also the Goths, Visigoths, and Vandal strains that settled Italy and Spain.
Seven tribal races form what Blavatsky termed a national race, enduring for a precessional cycle of some 25,920 years. The term “national race” is somewhat misleading, for it does not refer to a nation as we normally understand that word, but to a whole congeries of nations within the span of seven tribal races. An example would be the European national race, now one third done, including all the races of Europe — Poles, Germans, French, Swiss, Russians, Greeks, Bulgars, English, Scandinavian, Dutch, Spanish, etc. Seven of these national races constitute a family race, which endures some 180,000 years. One family race would be the original inhabitants of the Americas: pre-Inca, pre-Aztec, and Mayan — which in its lifespan included all the lesser cycles we have discussed. Another example would be the Mongolian, including such subgroups as the Chinese, Manchus, Japanese, Tibetans, Burmese, etc. Still another would be the peoples of Africa, which present an amazing diversity of languages, cultures, and physiological types. Seven such family races form a subrace, and seven subraces form a root-race.
All great civilizations result from the mixture of peoples — there is no such thing as a pure race. The English, for instance, are a mixture of what are now indigenous inhabitants, including the Celts, Romans, Saxons, Norse, Normans, and others. The civilizations in China, India, and the Middle East all resulted from a mixing of racial strains. The Americas in general are in process of creating new races of various types: perhaps another cycle of some 25,920 years will commence, or possibly another family race of 180,000 years will arise, composed of various tribal and national units, each of which will have its day in the sun.
Going back to the beginning of mankind, HPB suggests that the first two root-races were more astral than physical, and their lifespan was much longer than that of the subsequent root-races. During these earliest root-races the human body was in the process of being evolved. By the middle of the third root-race this cycle was more or less completed and two remarkable events took place: the division into the two sexes, something remembered in nearly all religions and mythologies; and the awakening of man’s inner nature, in particular the mind. This was achieved by the incarnation in each individual of his own higher self, thus inflaming the nascent mind into self-consciousness, a characteristic that differentiates us from the animals. Nearly all ancient traditions speak of this era as the time when divine instructors lived among humankind, impressing on their plastic minds certain root ideas that remain to this day. They also taught mankind the arts and sciences. These superior beings or adepts are sometimes termed divine kings, ruling by the right of their own effulgent divine nature.
The planetary cycle, however, was still on its downward swing into matter, and gradually as the fourth root-race came on, these instructors withdrew, at the same time founding the Mystery schools which preserved their noble wisdom. Tradition has it that these schools exist even today, although in our time they are not as openly professed as they were in the Classical world of the West and in other places.
It is said that the fourth or Atlantean root-race was the most material of the races. They produced magnificent civilizations, as hinted by Plato in one or two of his Dialogues. As Atlantis approached its midpoint, the seeds of our present or fifth root-race began to appear, because it is from the midpoint of the previous race that springs the following race. This midpoint is sometimes termed the iron age or kali yuga, an era when life grows increasingly intense. Time presses, and the lower and higher elements of humankind separate out. Finally the seeds of the next race are isolated geographically, while the old race in ever diminishing numbers runs out its course.
Our fifth root-race had its home in Central Asia, and in the course of thousands of years a variety of civilizations flowered there during the halcyon time of its golden, silver, and part of its bronze age. We are approaching the midpoint of the fifth root-race and have entered its iron age, which commenced according to Hindu figures with the death of Krishna in 3102 BC. This iron age is due to last 432,000 years. In the course of time forerunners of the sixth root-race will begin to appear in increasing numbers. In contrast with our fifth root-race, where the mental principle predominates, the sixth race will unfold more of buddhi or spiritual insight.
The subject of cycles is complex, for races overlap one another. The new race is born from the midpoint of its parent, and the two coexist side by side through a blurred and gradual transition. And often as the midpoint of a larger cycle approaches, nature conspires to give the earth a rest. She accomplishes this in all the ways familiar to students of geology, such as changes of climate, soil depletion leading to the creation of deserts; also, submergences of portions of lands and the flooding of others, or the raising of lands. As our European culture approaches its midpoint, Blavatsky speaks of such changes occurring in the Old World. On a much larger scale, the lands now occupied by our present root-race as it approaches its midpoint will unquestionably undergo vast changes — some gradual, some catastrophic — just as did the continents of Atlantis, which broke up over the long millennia and were replaced by new lands clean and free of old emanations.
Earth has seen many flowerings of human greatness and has had to suffer many depredations. But Mother Nature is still in command and in time will strike her balance. If we abuse the earth, then parts of it will become unlivable. Think of the titanic forces humankind is sending forth: not only the diverse energies of our technological civilization, but our hates, antagonisms, jealousies, greed; also their opposites, such as the forces of love, forgiveness, brotherhood, generosity, and understanding. Nature absorbs it all and will eventually react. No wonder there are times when earth seems to shake mankind as a dog shakes off fleas, until at the end of a cycle a new time emerges. Or perhaps a glaciation will occur covering an entire hemisphere under thousands of feet of ice, to lie fallow so that it can be revivified; or portions of continents may slip under the oceans and others rise.
What is the future of mankind? Just as it has taken the reincarnating souls of humanity a long, long time to reach where we are now, so it will take many, many more incarnations for mankind collectively to realize its destiny. The human race will begin gradually to achieve its potentials; to become truly human and then bring into human life the wise influence of its innate divinity. In some era in the far future a true brotherhood will surely be realized. The examples of the Christs and Buddhas illustrate what we too may one day become.
William Q. Judge writes that “nature exists for no other purpose than the soul’s experience,” words that summarize the cosmic process. Amid the rise and fall of races, the common ground is that all beings are souls on the pathway of unfoldment. The greatest and most enduring contributions of modern times may turn out to be the worldwide attempt to extend individual human rights and bring together all mankind into a brotherhood of thoughtful reciprocity. Of all the civilizations we know of and which have flashed their light across the horizon of time, our own may be unique in its global recognition of what is due each human soul. The very struggles which appear to be shaping are reflections of the awakening spirit of all human beings; and this pressure from below is breaking up the confining crust of tyranny, formalism, and orthodoxy, much as growing seeds burst through the earth.
The evolution of humanity takes place against the background of a living earth and a living cosmos, guided by superior beings. Reincarnation gives us insights into this panorama, for it pictures each person as an immortal pilgrim with a spark of the divine in his heart of hearts. All the potentials of this divine source reside within each of us — and also in all other beings and even forces and worlds: in the bird winging its way through the blue sky, in the lightning and the storm, and in our beautiful earth so patiently nourishing its kingdoms. The knowledge of our divine ancestry and the brotherhood of all life brings with it responsibilities. Those of this persuasion can no longer go through life impulsively and unthinkingly, for we have put our feet on a path, and the first step on this path is to live not for ourselves, but to benefit mankind.
By John Van Mater