Originally published 1907, 1911.
Chapter 1. Cyclic Law Universal
Chapter 2. Rounds or Human Evolution
Chapter 3. Cyclic Impression
Chapter 4. Evolution through Cyclic Return
Chapter 5. Ancient Knowledge
Chapter 6. Importance of Present Cycle
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Whatever attention scientists may have given to the action of cyclic law in some realms of nature, it is certain that in recent times little notice has been taken of it by most Western peoples. We are doubtless more or less conscious of the reign of law in terrestrial as in sidereal affairs. "History repeats itself" is a trite saying, often applied to the petty as well as to the larger events of life. But we have surely not gained more than a faint notion of the universality of this law -- in everything from tiniest atoms to circling universes; in living forces; in our emotions, aspirations, intelligence; in individual and racial consciousness: in all the panorama of life, whether visible or invisible. Nor do we seem to have learned so to use or respect cyclic laws as to free or transmute outer ones, and thus to open the path of a true and boundless freedom within the regions of equally true and illimitable law.
The doctrine of cycles, one of the teachings met with in the study of theosophy, is not merely metaphysical fancy, but will be found to be something which can be not only verified by study and observation, but seized upon and applied practically in everyday life; and this even without very much effort, yet producing results beneficent, sane, and far-reaching.
We shall first glance at some manifestations of cyclic law in the world about us. In the effort to do so, we shall be inevitably confronted with some apparent "mysteries," which will probably suggest the action of definite laws belonging to inner causal realms. We may be led to perceive a fact which the latest scientific thought has already formulated regarding the phenomenal world -- namely, that there are very few laws known to science or philosophy behind which there may not be higher laws capable of either "upsetting," "reversing," or at least modifying effects hitherto considered inevitable under given circumstances. In short, our knowledge of nature's laws being relative and limited, we shall perhaps realize that the barriers of the known continually recede; and thus we may be encouraged fearlessly yet reverently to press onward. We shall never rise above the domain of Law, but we may reach places where the picture of formerly imagined laws -- e.g. the "law of universal gravitation" -- will be seen to be nothing more than a necessary though passing stage in the evolution of human intelligence, itself under cyclic laws of development.
In the domains of biology and pathology the existence of cyclic law has not escaped attention. The following passage is from the Medical Review, July 1844:
There is a harmony of numbers in all nature; in the force of gravity, in the planetary movements, in the laws of heat, light, electricity and chemical affinity, in the forms of animals and plants, in the perception of the mind. The direction, indeed, of modern natural and physical science, is towards a generalization which shall express the fundamental laws of all, by one simple numerical ratio. We would refer to Professor Whewell's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, and to Mr. Hay's researches into the laws of harmonious color and form. From these it appears that the number seven is distinguished in the laws regulating the harmonious perception of forms, colors and sounds, and probably of taste also, if we could analyse our sensations of this kind.
So much so, indeed, that more than one physician has stood aghast at the persistent septenary return of the cycles in the rise and fall of various complaints, and naturalists have felt themselves at an utter loss to explain this law. As H. Grattan Guinness, V.R.G.S., wrote:
The birth, growth, maturity, vital functions, decay and death, of insects, reptiles, fishes, birds, mammals, and even of man, are more or less controlled by a law of completion in weeks,
i.e., cycles of seven days. Dr. Laycock (Lancet, 1842-3), writing on the Periodicity of Vital Phenomena, records a "most remarkable illustration and confirmation of the law in insects," and having given a number of illustrations from natural history, the doctor adds:
The facts I have briefly glanced at are general facts, and cannot happen day after day in so many millions of animals of every kind, from the Larva or Ovum of a Minute Insect up to Man, at different periods, from a mere chance or coincidence. I think it impossible to come to any less general conclusion than this, that in animals, changes occur every three and a half, seven, fourteen, twenty-one, or twenty-eight days, or at some definite number of weeks,
or septenary cycles. Again, the same Dr. Laycock states that:
Whatever type the fever may exhibit, there will be a paroxysm on the seventh day,. . . the fourteenth will be remarkable as a day of amendment . . . [either cure or death taking place]. If the fourth [paroxysm] be severe, and the fifth less so, the disease will end at the seventh paroxysm, and . . . change for the better . . . will be seen on the fourteenth day, namely, about three or four o'clock a.m., when the system is most languid.
Thus materialistic science -- medicine, the most materialistic of all -- applies occult laws to diseases, studies natural history with its help, recognizes its presence as a fact in nature, and yet must needs pooh-pooh the same archaic knowledge when claimed as part of the truths known to the ancient wisdom-religion! For if the mysterious septenary cycle is a law in nature, and it is one, as proven; if it is found controlling evolution and involution (or death) in the realms of entomology, ichthyology and ornithology, as in the kingdom of the animals, mammalia and man -- why cannot it be present and acting in kosmos, in general, in its natural (though occult) divisions of time, races, and mental development? And why, furthermore, should not the most ancient Adepts have studied and thoroughly mastered these cyclic laws under all their aspects? Indeed, Dr. Stratton states as a physiological and pathological fact, that
in health the human pulse is more frequent in the morning than the evening for six days out of seven; and that on the seventh day it is slower. -- Edin. Med. and Surg. Journal, Jan. 1843
Why, then, should not theosophy show the same in cosmic and terrestrial life in the pulse of the planets and races? Dr. Laycock divides life by three great septenary periods: the first and last each stretching over twenty-one years, and the central period or prime of life lasting twenty-eight years, or four times seven. He subdivides the first into seven distinct stages, and the other two into three minor periods, and says that:
The fundamental unit of the greater periods is one week of seven days, each day being twelve hours; [and that] single and compound multiples of this unit, determine the length of these periods by the same ratio, as multiples of the unit of twelve hours determine the lesser periods. This law binds all periodic vital phenomena together, and links the periods observed in the lowest annulose animals, with those of man himself, the highest of the vertebrata.
Why, then, should science scorn occult information, namely, that (speaking Dr. Laycock's language) "one week of the manvantaric (lunar) fortnight of fourteen days (or seven Manus), that fortnight of twelve hours in a day representing the seven periods or seven races -- is now passed"? This language of science fits the esoteric doctrine admirably. Mankind has lived over "a week of seven days, each day being twelve hours," since three and a half root-races are now gone forever, the fourth is submerged, and we are now in the fifth root-race. We shall return to glance at the meaning of this statement presently, and meanwhile it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for week is "seven"; and any length of time divided in seven parts would have meant a "week" in their day -- even 49,000,000 years, as it is seven times seven millions. But their calculation is septiform throughout.
In these days of continual discovery of new sets of invisible rays and radioactivity of various kinds, it need surprise no one to learn that certain rays from the moon exert potent influences upon both vegetable and animal life. And it will be noted that the four quarters of the moon's cycle are each a week in duration. Granting other influences from the sevenfold radiance of the sun, and having regard to the daily, monthly, and annual cycles of these two orbs, it is easy to see how vast a network of subtle invisible forces controlling vital phenomena are swayed by the movements of sun, earth, and moon alone. Nor would it be altogether fatuous or unscientific in these days to imagine that the other bodies in the solar system also exert definite and cyclic influences in majestic correspondence with their apparent movements across the firmament.
Were we to admit all this as ascertained scientific fact, it is at least easy to perceive that we have in the solar system a perfect mechanism to serve as the foundation of much in the cyclic phenomena of all terrestrial life, something in fact which would illuminate many problems in biology, to go no further.
If we ventured a step further, however, remembering that all the elements, cognitions and forces that make us human (or at least potentially human) are themselves invisible and imponderable -- for what ordinary mortal ever saw our thoughts, aspirations, emotions, or desires? -- remembering also that the most subtle and elusive powers in nature (e.g., "gravitation") are being daily proved to possess dynamic and formative power in inverse ratio to their perceptibleness (the subtler the force, the more powerful its effects ), we surely need not hesitate to conclude that all the formative intelligent and dynamic powers that lie back of these cycling orbs in space, or of the tiniest atom, do in fact reside in the invisible and imponderable side of nature; while suns, moons, earth, plants, and animals with their countless emanations, are but outer appearances or effects, and in fact are further away from reality, in exactly the inverse ratio of their apparent solidity.
Granting so much for the sake of argument, it would be evident that the true cyclic laws controlling these planetary movements and their corresponding influences on terrestrial life must reside wholly in the noumenal, invisible, causal realms, as conjectured by both Newton and Leibnitz; and a further obvious inference would be that there must be different regions of subtlety in these realms -- some for instance, determining the spheres of huge aggregated living and conscious forces; others supervising the myriads of minor elemental lives that build up the outer vestures of each great center, just as there is a unit-consciousness controlling the action of the myriads of tiny lives in our body.
The ancient teaching is that everything in the universe, including the universe itself, is under cyclic law. Analogy being one of the great keys in such studies, we should expect to find that just as we have day and night, summer and winter, waking and sleeping, birth and death; so worlds, suns, universes, and the kosmos each has its days and nights, summers and winters, waking and sleeping states, "births" and "deaths."
And so, in the noumenal realms, vast periods of time are necessary to build up the different strata of form and conscious life which finally converge upon the objective world as we know it. From a kind of idealized cosmic substance, which is both spirit and matter, cosmic will and intelligence spin a web reaching through the seven worlds or states from the purely spiritual side of nature down to the objective and material. The details of the process are naturally too vast and complex to be comprehended, but so much of the later processes can at least be outlined as will enable a glimpse of the action of cyclic laws to be reached.
As a result of the sevenfold cosmic forces -- intelligence, motion, vital electricity, magnetism, astral radiation or emanation, heat, and light -- each center of life, planetary or atomic, becomes finally endowed with a septenary nature, swept by and responding to these septenary forces under cyclic laws. Thus in the case of the earth (which according to the ancient teaching is the "child" of the moon) the real earth exists on four distinct "planes" or realms of inner nature, the visible world being the lowest of these. The degree of materiality or density of this lower state, itself changes throughout the aeons of time.
The teaching is that "countless millions" of years ago (approximate figures will be found in The Secret Doctrine) evolutionary forces passed through that sevenfold center in space which was later to become the earth over periods called "rounds," and that we are now in the fourth of these "rounds." Each "round" was concerned with the building up of elements and vehicles for various forms of mineral, vegetable, and animal life under various hierarchies of cosmic powers, and at a certain stage suitable vehicles for the entrance of higher hierarchies, of a divine consciousness belonging to older cycles, were finally produced. This was the "Fall" of the angels, who sacrificed their divine natures in order that a consciously divine race should ultimately reign on earth. These have to pass through their self-elected pilgrimage through matter, under the cyclic laws sweeping round the sevenfold world, of which the visible earth is the lowest and most material; and it is accomplished during each round through seven great races called root-races, of which in this fourth round "three and a half" are gone, the fourth (the Atlantean epoch) submerged, and the fifth is now in progress. Each great race is further divided into seven great subraces, of which the present is the fifth.
Moreover, each round, race, and great subrace is, according to the laws of correspondence, concerned mainly with the involution and evolution of one or other of the principles which go to make up the future complete man.
Thus we learn that the present great race is destined primarily to develop, within the limits of cyclic law, the higher intuitional mind or human soul, as distinguished from that other aspect of mind which is more connected with our emotions, desires, and passions. This evolution, however, will only be fully attained during the next or fifth round.
The next point to remember is that these cyclic waves of superterrestrial forces and intelligences, which vibrate through every atom of the very air we breathe, are themselves involved in greater and lesser subdivisions, so that in studying the question we can step down in thought from millions to thousands of years, thence to centuries, single years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds, and still be tracing the action of the particular element, force, or intelligence under review. (Some scientific writers have recently been tracing analogies between the conditions of the infinitely small and the infinitely great.) As an instance of our independence, in such a study, of time as a bar to comprehension, a period of 100,000 years will be found to bear the same proportion to the duration of one grand era of objective conscious kosmic life, as one second of our time bears to a hundred years.
THE THREE, SEVEN, AND TEN
While seven is the "number of the manifested" on all planes of being, three is philosophically the number of the overshadowing noumenal; hence we should expect to find cycles of both seven and ten and their multiples having an appreciable influence in our progress toward the goal of fifth root-race evolution.
Thus, for example, if a wave of spiritual aspiration lasts for thirty years, we should expect to see it followed by an attempt at realization lasting seventy years, to be succeeded by another wave of spiritual energy. If one of these initial waves happened to coincide with several similar ones of larger cyclic sweep, we should expect to see the force enormously intensified.
A careful study of Eastern chronology -- which embraces periods so vast as to be beyond the dreams of even the most prominent Western geologists, and withal so accurate in astronomical calculation as to put in the shade our vaunted modern knowledge of astronomy -- combined with a study of modern history, will be found to confirm the teachings of theosophy: on the one hand, that waves of such aspiration and effort have occurred every hundred years; and on the other, that several larger cycles recently culminated simultaneously with the appearance on earth of the teachers and teachings of the ancient wisdom-religion in fuller public form than has been known for five thousand years. This of course must correspond to something in humanity capable of receiving and rising to these tremendous though subtle cyclic forces.
This must affect all on earth, whether at first conscious of it or not, and the teachings of theosophy are therefore a necessity of the age we live in, a response to an inner demand for truth in human hearts and souls at this time, and for this century; and they are thus seen to be in harmony with cyclic law.
We may turn our attention to the action of cyclic law in our own lives and read if we please something of the inherent or implied correspondences to the larger cycles of human destiny. Its mode of action is by impression. The growing form, whether it be a nucleated cell, an egg, an embryo, a plant, an animal, or man, responds to and is affected by the different cyclic forces impinging upon its inner nature. These result in gradual modifications of form and of capacity to receive further cyclic impulses or impressions. Thus the thoughts and acts performed by a nation constitute a collective impression. When we take part in gatherings -- religious, social, scientific, or what not -- definite impressions accrue. When we have a quarrel and get angry, an impression remains in our natures, as much subject to cyclic law as the moon and the stars and the world, and it is one far more important as affecting our personal development or evolution than all these other great things; for while these affect us in the mass, those little ones affect us in detail.
This law of impression may be illustrated. If we look at an incandescent lamp the light makes an image on the retina, and if we then shut our eyes, the bright filament will still be seen. If we keep our eyes closed and watch intently we shall see the image come back a certain number of times, it will stay a certain number of counts, go away the same length of time and return, always changing in some respect but always the image of the filament, until at last it disappears, apparently because other impressions have covered it over. So there is a return even in the retina of the impressions of this filament. After the first time, the color changes each time, and so it keeps coming back at regular intervals, showing that there is a cyclic return of impression in the retina. And when we look into our moral character we find the same thing, for as we have tides in the ocean, so in man we have tides, which are called return of these impressions; that is to say, we do a thing once, there will be a tendency to repeat; we do it twice, and it doubles its influence. And so on all through our character we have this constant return of cyclic impression.
We have these impressions from every point in space, every experience we have been through, everything that we can possibly go through at any time, even those things which our forefathers went through. And that is not unjust for this reason, that our forefathers furnished the line of bodily encasement, and we cannot enter that line of bodily encasement unless we are like unto it; and for that reason we must have been at some point in that cycle in that same line or family in the past; so that we must have had a hand in constructing the particular family line in which we now exist, and are once more taking up the cyclic impression returning upon us.
Now this has the greatest possible bearing upon our evolution as particular individuals, the evolution of our bodily life. An opportunity arises for us to do something; we do not do it; we may not have it again for a hundred years. It is the return before us of some old thing that was good, if it is a good one, along the line of the cycles. The opportunity may not return until another life, but it will return under the same law.
Or to take another case: a man is trying to find out things about his psychic nature, perhaps, but pays no attention to the return of the impression which he creates. He has times of depression which he cannot explain, and perhaps someone draws his attention to the fact that these are periodic. He does not know what to do, however, until possibly a friend, who knows something of these cyclic laws, advises him to compel himself to feel joyous, even against his will, and if he could not have done that, then to have tried to feel the joy of others. By doing that, he would have implanted in himself another impression, that is of joy, so that when this thing returned, instead of being of the same quality and extension, it would have been changed by the impression of joy or elation, and the two things coming together would have counteracted each other, just as two billiard balls coming together try to counteract each other's movements. This applies to every person who has the "blues." When it comes, start up something else, start up cheerfulness, be good to someone, then try to relieve some other person who is despondent, and another impression will have been started which will return at the same time. It does not make any difference if we wait a day or two to make the attempt, for when the old cyclic impression returns it will have dragged up the new one because it is related to it by association.
It has been said that the great end and aim is the great renunciation. That is, that after progressing to great heights, which we can only do by unselfishness, we will not say to ourself, "I may take the ease to which I am entitled." For what prevails in one place must prevail in another, and in the course of progress we must come at last to a time when we can take our ease. But if we say, "I will not take it, but as I know this world and all the people on it are bound to live and last for many thousand years more, and if not helped perhaps might fail -- I will not take it, but I will stay here to aid and I will suffer, because of having greater knowledge and greater sensitiveness," -- this is the great renunciation.
We do not often talk this way, because many of us think that people will say to us, "I don't want it, it is too much trouble." So generally we talk about the fine progress, and how we will at last escape the necessity of reincarnation, and at last escape the necessity of doing this or that and the other; but if we do our duty, we must make up our mind when we reach the height, when we know all, when we participate in the government of the world -- not of a town, but the actual government of the world and the people upon it -- that instead of resting in our wisdom and power, we will stay to help those who are left behind; and that is the great renunciation. That is what is told of Gautama Buddha, and of Jesus the Christ. Doubtless the whole story about Jesus, which can hardly be proved historically, is based upon the same thing that we call renunciation. He was crucified after two or three years' work. But we say it means that this divine being resolves he will crucify himself in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of others, so that he can save men from the thralldom of their lower, personal natures. Gautama did the same thing long before Jesus is said to have been born. He made the great renunciation instead of escaping from this horrible place, as it seems to us. For this is indeed horrible, as we look at it, surrounded by obstructions, liable to defeat at any moment, liable to wake up in the morning after planning a great reform and see it dashed to the ground. Instead of escaping all that, he remained in the world and started his doctrine, which he knew at least would be adhered to by some. This great doctrine of renunciation, which is general to all the great world-religions, teaches that instead of working for ourselves, we will work to know everything, to do everything in our power for those who may be left behind us, just as H. P. Blavatsky says in The Voice of the Silence, "Step out of sunshine into shade, to make more room for others."
Is that not better than a heaven which is reached at the price of the damnation of those of our relatives who will not believe a dogma? Is this not a great philosophy which includes the salvation and regeneration, the scientific upraising and perfecting of the whole human family, and every particle in the whole universe, instead of imagining that a few miserable beings after seventy years of life shall enter into paradise, and then look behind to see the torments in hell of those who would not accept a dogma? How any man can continue to believe such an idea as the usual one of damnation for mere unbelief is hard to comprehend. One would rather, were a choice required, believe almost anything, and be left with one's common reasoning, than believe in such a doctrine as that which permits one to suppose that his brother who does not believe a dogma is sizzling in hell while one, by simply believing, may enjoy one's self in heaven.
If we turn to Buckle, a great writer of the English school, we find him saying that there is no doubt that cyclic law prevails in regard to nations, that they have come back apparently the same, only slightly improved or degraded, for there is a downward cycle included within those that rise; but he did not discover a law. He simply once more stated what the ancients had said over and over again. And it would seem that if such writers would pay a little more attention to the ancients, they would save themselves a great deal of trouble, for he obtained his law by much delving, much painstaking labor, whereas he might have gotten the law if he had consulted the ancients, who always taught that there were cycles and that there always will be cycles.
A very suggestive work by a well-known German scientist, Dr. E. Zasse, appeared in the Prussian Journal of Statistics some years ago, powerfully corroborating the ancient teaching about cycles. These periods which bring about ever-recurring events, begin from small periods like ten years or so, 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 maha-yuga, the "great age" or cycle of Manu's 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 planets gravitate around the 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 still 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 axiom.
As an experiment in this direction, Dr. Zasse selected the statistical investigations of all the wars 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 comprehensible manner, he represents the periods of war and those of peace in the shape of small and large wavelines running over the area of the Old World. The idea is not a new one, for the image was used for similar illustrations by more than one ancient and medieval mystic, whether in words or pictures -- by Henry Khunrath, 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 displayed in the universal history. He points out the fact that if we divide the map of the Old World into six parts -- into Eastern, Central and Western Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Egypt -- then we shall easily perceive that every 250 years an enormous wave passes over these areas, bringing to 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 first of these waves (in the period under review) began in China 2000 years BC in the "golden age" of that empire, the age of philosophy, of discoveries, of reforms.
In 1750 BC the Mongolians of Central Asia establish a powerful empire. In 1500 BC Egypt rises from its temporary degradation and extends 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 BC at the Siege of Troy.
The second historical wave appears about that time in Central Asia.
The Scythians leave her steppes, and inundate toward the year 750 BC the adjoining countries, directing themselves towards the south and west; about the year 500 BC, in Western Asia begins an epoch of splendor for ancient Persia; and the wave moves on to the east of Europe, where, about 250 BC 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 AD a new and powerful Persian kingdom is formed; in 750 -- in Eastern Europe -- the Byzantine empire; and in the year 1000 -- 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 1250, the Mongolian wave from Central Asia has overflowed and covered an enormous area of land, including 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 glory. The wave ceaselessly moves on further to the West; and beginning with the middle of the eighteenth century, Europe is living over an epoch of revolutions and reforms, and according to the author:
if it is permissible to prophesy, then about the year 2000, Western Europe will have lived through one of those periods of culture and progress so rare in history.
The Russian press taking the cue, believed 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 abolition of armies and an alliance between all the European empires.
The signs of regeneration are also fast multiplying, as everyone knows, in Japan and China, as if pointing to the rise of a new historical wave in the extreme East.
If from the cycle of two-and-a-half centuries we descend to that which leaves its impress every century, and, grouping together the events of ancient history, mark the development and rise of empires, then we shall find that, beginning from the year 700 BC, 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 Teutons.
After analyzing the periodicity of wars, this author finally 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.
Among the ancients they had a great many large and important cycles. In their classification the Babylonians had a saros and a naros, the exact nature of which is not generally known today. The Egyptians taught that there was a great sidereal cycle, and this is recognized today, at last, as the period during which the sun passes through the complete circle of the zodiac. That is to say, if the sun occupies at a given date, say at the vernal equinox, a certain position, it takes 25,000 and odd years before it again occupies the same apparent position among the stars at the vernal equinox. It is now called the cycle of precession of the equinoxes.
But as the sun itself moves onward through space round a center, as known to the ancients, our real course around the sun is a spiral which in truth corresponds to the way in which cyclic law acts throughout nature. We ascend and descend and re-ascend, as individuals and as races, but the culminating point of re-ascent on the upward-moving cycle is always a step higher than before. On the "downward" or outward cycles during the first half of the evolution of man on a world, the spirally acting septenary forces pass round the septenary world-chain as already said, each wave gradually perfecting and materializing the embodied forms of conscious life in the different kingdoms of nature. And thus it happens, too, that in the lower or physical world of any chain, on earth for instance, there are perceptible gaps in any septenary classification hitherto attempted by science, as in the sevenfold grouped tables of the chemical elements.
It follows also from the movement of the sun with its attendant orbs through space, whether round Alcyone or some other center, that the earth moves into new regions of space continually, into cosmic spaces where things are different, where the subtle invisible forces are different; and thus it is that changes must be induced in the earth itself, for changes in cosmic matter in the air and in the new spaces traversed by the earth must affect the earth and all its inhabitants.
Just so, in the complex events of human history, when the waves of involutionary force -- destined to lift man from his too close contact with the external back to a perception and realization of the subtler powers latent within himself and nature -- impinge upon him and stir his inmost nature, impelling him to action on new and higher lines, such forces in their recurring cycles, great or small, are the same yet not the same. Always there is some new quality in the balancing of forces and subtle influences, and as his material body becomes gradually more refined and responsive to the administration of the indwelling subtle nature and its manifold spiritual essences, the more varied and beautiful will become the possibilities of soul expression and expansion.
While the dark ages through which we have passed are in part karmic effects of prior racial cycles, yet they are but the stepping-stones on which through experience we may rise to better comprehension of our place in nature, if we take courage and learn the lessons. For if the cyclic truth of reincarnation, one of the most self-evident laws in nature, be once fairly grasped, we may discern the importance, not only to ourselves but to humanity as a whole (with whose destiny each of us is indissolubly connected) of trying to read and understand something of the meaning of the dark ages.
These ages were for Europe dark in regard to any true teaching publicly given on man's inner nature and destiny. They were not dark for all Europeans by any means, for the light some of them have shed into every nook and cranny of our modern life and thought is brilliant indeed. Yet dark were the times which commenced with the murder of Hypatia, since when men have scarcely dared proclaim their disbelief or doubt except at peril of torture chamber, guillotine, or fagot.
But who were the culprits? We are prone to lay these things at the door of ecclesiasticism and priestcraft. But who supported and succumbed to ecclesiasticism, who condoned and upheld it? We did. If there was a teacher of the law of compassion some nineteen hundred or two thousand years ago who was crucified, who crucified him? We did. For that matter, who killed Hypatia or Joan of Arc? We did. It does not matter whether we were actually present at such events or not, we belong, most of us, to just that stage of human undevelopment which makes us participants, aiders and abettors, in them. We are morally responsible for all these happenings, no doubt in greater or less degree, but still responsible. We individually may or may not have been incarnated at the time of a particular crime, but that does not affect the question. Human consciousness so far as incarnated through these times was in the main too strongly immersed in a false psychology and too occupied with material affairs to act otherwise.
Human consciousness has not fully incarnated -- yet -- except to some degree in a minority; and thus it is still largely true that if you scratch a man you find -- something else! It is the main purpose of the present fifth great root-race to effect the incarnation, up to a point, of the true human soul within its bodily encasement of passions, emotions, and intellectualism, thus transmuting them, for none of these latter are soul in any true sense. They are the instruments or vehicles through which the soul will eventually absorb through ripe experience the half-tragic, half-humorous effects of its contact with outer material existence; in its turn refining and raising these vehicles to its own conscious stature, where laws of ineffable harmony, beauty, and truth beyond our highest dreams constitute the inner keyboard of our marvelous divine nature.
In truth we need be dismayed at nothing, not even at the tragedies in which we have taken guilty part, so long as we press upward and onward with a passionate belief in the inner beauty that resides in the awakening soul of humanity.
Long, long ago, in the initiation crypts of remotely ancient Egypt, before the Mysteries commenced to degenerate gradually under the stress of karmic and cyclic law, and then to disappear, what was it we chanted over the prostrate form of the neophyte lying in that mystic trance, from which perchance he might not rise until another cycle passed:
. . . Now in the ring, does not the past stand out like a sheeted fury?
Dost thou behold the list of evil committed?
Listen! Those echoes are the battle shouts, and those shrieking harsh voices are thine own saved against thee.
Writhe now, poor soul; alas! thou must suffer.
See now the time has passed, and thou art lifted from thy ring of suffering.
Whence comes this change? Thy shadow has gained intensity, and thy form person.
Now take the key, terror-stricken dove, and unlock that vast chest.
Why tremble? Those bodies are but the victims which thou hast sacrificed to thy evil lusts.
Those ghastly white staring skulls thou hast slain with thine own hand,
Oh! Those terrible bruised hearts are only those upon whom thou hast trodden.
Blench not, those maimed bodies are thy handiwork.
Oh; pale face, take brave hold. Thou hast gloried over these deeds -- why shudder now? Life taken is life left.
Slain souls wait in the fields of Aanru. Long lost hearts burn in the oil of the lamp of the King.
Hopeless maimed ones rest in the water queen's bosom.
Remember not to forget, but forget to remember.
Excavations near the Pyramids show that long before the period of the known dynasties the Egyptians had attained to a refinement and perfection calculated to excite the wonder of even the most ardent admirers of Grecian art. Far below the stratum of sand in which lay the remains gathered into the collections of Lepsius, Abbott, and the British Museum, were found buried the tangible proofs of the Hermetic doctrine of cycles. And since then abundant evidences have been found, in the Troad and elsewhere, of the gradual change from civilization to barbarism and back to civilization, and from civilization to barbarism again. Why then should we feel so reluctant to admit the possibility that if the "antediluvians" were so much better versed than ourselves in certain sciences as to have been perfectly acquainted with important arts, which we now term lost, they might equally have excelled in psychological knowledge? Such a hypothesis must be considered as reasonable as any other until some countervailing evidence shall be discovered to destroy it.
Every true savant admits that in many respects human knowledge is yet in its infancy. Can it be that our cycle began in ages comparatively recent? These cycles, according to the Chaldean philosophy, do not embrace all mankind at one and the same time. Professor Draper partially corroborated this view by saying that the periods into which geology has "found it convenient to divide the progress of man in civilization are not abrupt epochs which hold good simultaneously for the whole human race"; giving as an instance the "wandering Indians of America" who "are only at the present moment emerging from the Stone Age." Thus more than once scientists have unwittingly confirmed the testimony of the ancients.
The impenetrable veil of arcane secrecy was thrown over the sciences taught in the sanctuary. This is the cause of the modern depreciation of the ancient philosophies. Much of Plato's public teachings and writings had therefore to consist of blinds or half-truths or allegories, and just as Jesus spoke in parables, so the Mysteries were ever reserved for special groups of neophytes -- and, needless to say, they did not reach the Church of the days of Constantine, which never held the keys of the Mysteries, and hence can hardly be said to have lost them.
The ancient philosophers seem to be generally held, even by the least prejudiced of modern critics, to have lacked that profundity and thorough knowledge in the exact sciences of which our century is so boastful. It is even questioned whether they understood that basic scientific principle: ex nihilo nihil fit. If they suspected the indestructibility of matter at all -- say these commentators -- it was not in consequence of a firmly established formula, but only through intuitional reasoning and by analogy.
We hold to the contrary opinion. The exoteric doctrines of these philosophers as regards matter were open to public criticism; but their teachings in regard to spiritual things were profoundly esoteric. Being thus sworn to secrecy and religious silence upon abstruse subjects involving the relations of spirit and matter, they rivaled each other in their ingenious methods for concealing their real beliefs.
With the old philosophers, evolution was a universal theorem, a doctrine embracing the whole, and an established principle; while our modern evolutionists are enabled to present us merely with speculative theoretics; with particular, if not wholly negative theorems.
The philosophers themselves had to be initiated into perceptive mysteries, before they could grasp the correct idea of the ancients in relation to this most metaphysical subject. Otherwise -- outside such initiation -- for every thinker there will be a "Thus far shalt thou go and no further," mapped out by his intellectual capacity, as clearly and unmistakably as there is for the progress of any nation or race in its cycle by the law of karma. Much of current agnostic speculation on the existence of the "First Cause" is little better than veiled materialism -- the terminology alone being different. Even so great a thinker as Herbert Spencer speaks of the "Unknowable" occasionally in terms that demonstrate the lethal influence of materialistic thought which, like the deadly sirocco, has withered and blighted most of current ontological speculation. For instance, when he terms the "First Cause" -- the Unknowable -- a "power manifesting through phenomena," and an "infinite eternal Energy," (?) it is clear that he has grasped solely the physical aspect of the mystery of Being -- the energies of cosmic substance only. The co-eternal aspect of the ONE REALITY -- cosmic ideation -- (as to its noumenon, it seems nonexistent in the mind of this great thinker) -- is absolutely omitted from consideration.
Without doubt, this one-sided mode of dealing with the problem is due largely to the pernicious Western practice of subordinating consciousness, or regarding it as a "byproduct" of molecular motion.
The doctrine of metempsychosis has been abundantly ridiculed by scientists and rejected by theologians, yet if it had been properly understood in its application to the indestructibility of matter and the immortality of spirit, it would have been perceived that it is a sublime conception. Should we not first regard the subject from the standpoint of the ancients before venturing to disparage its teachers? The solution of the great problem of eternity belongs neither to religious superstition nor to gross materialism. The harmony and mathematical equiformity of the double evolution -- spiritual and physical -- are elucidated only in the universal numerals of Pythagoras, who built his system entirely upon the so-called metrical speech of the Hindu Vedas.
In the Vedas we find positive proof that so long ago as at least 2000 BC, the Hindu sages and scholars must have been acquainted with the rotundity of our globe and the heliocentric system.
In the Surya Siddhanta, slokas 29 to 34, we read as follows:
In an Age, the revolution of the Sun, Mercury and Venus, and of the conjunctions of Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, moving eastward, are 4,320,000. Of the Moon, 57,753,336; of Mars, 2,296,832; of Mercury's conjunction, 17,937,000; of Jupiter, 364,220; of Venus' conjunction, 7,022,376; of Saturn, 146,568; of the Moon's apsis in an age, 488,203; of its node, in the contrary direction, 232,238; of asterisms, 1,582,227,828.
Dividing the number of revolutions of the moon in an Age by those of the sun in the same period to obtain the number of sidereal lunar months per annum, we get 57,753,336 divided by 4,320,000 = 13.3688+. Making the same calculation with the figures of modern science, we have 365.2564 divided by 27.32166 = 13.3688-.
Next take Mars and compare the relative lengths of the terrestrial and Martian years: 4,320,000 divided by 2,296,832 = 1.8808, the terrestrial year equaling of course 1. And by modern figures, 686.9897 divided by 365.2564 = 1.8808. And so on. By means of this accurate knowledge of the planetary periods, the ancient Hindus divided time into ages, and could calculate the epochs of great conjunctions in the past and future. It will be observed that the key number of these calculations is a period of upwards of four million years, termed a yuga or age. It is a number unknown to and undreamed of by modern science, and yet it is only one of the minor cycles known to the wisdom-religion.
In view of the fact that we have this extremely ancient astronomical treatise, of such wonderful accuracy, wealth of detail, and far-reaching scope, what is to be said of those who declare and even teach that the ancients were ignorant heathen? It comes to this, that our modern "authorities" must plead guilty to one of three things: (a) willful falsehood, deceit, and trickery; (b) unpardonable ignorance of their subject; (c) self-deception sufficient to brand them as persons whose judgment is hopelessly feeble and altogether unreliable.
We are just emerging from the bottom of a special cycle, and therefore in a transitory stage. No stronger proof of the theory of cyclic progression need be required than the comparative enlightenment of former ages and that of the Patristic church, as regards the form of the earth, and the movements of the planetary system. Even were other evidence wanting, the ignorance of Augustine and Lactantius, misleading the whole of Christendom upon these questions until the period of Galileo, would mark the eclipses through which human knowledge passes from age to age.
According to Arabian descriptions, each of the seven chambers of the Pyramids -- those grandest of all cosmic symbols -- was known by the name of a planet, this in its turn symbolizing one of the perfectly definite states of consciousness, plus its realm of superphysical objectivity or actuality. The peculiar architecture of the Pyramids shows in itself the drift of the metaphysical thought of their builders. The apex is lost in the clear blue sky of the land of the Pharaohs, and typifies the primordial point lost in the unseen universe whence started the first race or the spiritual prototypes of mankind. Each mummy, from the moment that it was embalmed, lost its physical individuality in one sense; it symbolized the human race. Placed in such a way as was best calculated to aid the exit of the "soul," the latter had to pass through the seven planetary chambers before it made its exit through the symbolical apex. Each chamber typified, at the same time one of the seven spheres and one of the seven types of physico-spiritual humanity alleged to be linked to our own.
Every three thousand years, the soul, representative of its race, had to return to its primal point of departure before it underwent another evolution into a more perfected spiritual and physical transformation. We must go deep indeed into the abstruse metaphysics of Being before we can realize the infinitude of the subjects embraced at one sweep by the majestic symbolism of its ancient Adepts.
Starting as a pure and perfect spiritual being, becoming far later the Adam of the second chapter of Genesis; not "satisfied" with the position allotted to him by the Demiurgos (who is the eldest first-begotten, the Adam Kadmon), Adam the second, the "man of dust," strives in his pride to become creator in his turn. Evolved then out of the androgynous Kadmon, Adam thus became himself an androgyne; for according to the oldest teachings, presented allegorically in Plato's Timaios, the prototypes of our race were all enclosed in the microcosmic tree which grew and developed within and under the great mundane or macrocosmic tree. Divine spirit being considered a unity, however numerous the rays of the great spiritual sun, man has still had his origin like all other forms, whether organic or otherwise, in this one fount of eternal light.
Were we even to reject the hypothesis of an early androgynous mankind, in connection with physical evolution, the significance of the allegory in its spiritual sense, would remain unimpaired. So long as this androgyne humanity, symbolizing the two opposite principles of creation unified, the dual male-female element, had no thought of good and evil it could not hypostasize sex. It was only when, as a result of the evil hints of the serpent, matter, as the latter condensed itself and cooled on the spiritual man in its contact with the elements, that the fruits of the man-tree -- who is himself that tree of knowledge -- appeared to his awakening physical understanding. From this moment the androgynal union ceased, and man evolved out of himself in course of aeons the present humanity. They have broken the unity between pure spirit and pure matter. Henceforth they will create no more spiritually, and by the sole power of their will; man has become a physical creator, and the kingdom of spirit can be won only by a long imprisonment and experience in the illusions of matter.
To begin further back: at the dawn of a fresh maha-kalpa the Invisible "assumed form when It called the universe (again) into existence," says the Zohar. The first light is its soul, the infinite, boundless, and immortal breath; under the efflux of which the universe heaves its mighty bosom, infusing intelligent awakening life throughout sleeping creation. The second emanation condenses cometary matter and produces forms within the cosmic circle; sets the countless worlds floating in the electric space, and infuses the intelligent life-principle into every form. The third, produces the whole universe of molecular matter; and as it keeps gradually receding from the central divine light its brightness wanes and it becomes darkness and the bad; pure matter becomes the "gross purgations of the celestial fire" of the Hermetists.
Speaking Kabalistically: When the Central Invisible saw the efforts of the divine scintilla (unwilling to be dragged lower down into the degradation of matter) to liberate itself, it as a necessity of karmic law "permitted" it to shoot out from itself a monad, over which, attached to it as by the finest thread, the divine scintilla (the soul) had to watch during its ceaseless peregrinations, from one form to another. Thus the monad was shot down into the first form of matter and became encased in stone; then, in course of time, through the combined efforts of living fire and living water, both of which shone their reflection upon the stone, the monad crept out of its prison to sunlight as a lichen. From change to change it went higher and higher; the monad with every new transformation borrowing more of the radiance of its parent scintilla, which approached it nearer at every transmigration. For "the First Cause had willed it to proceed in this order," and destined it to creep on higher until its physical form became (once more) the Adam of dust, shaped in the image of the Adam Kadmon. Before undergoing its earthly transformation, the external covering of the monad, from the moment of its conception as an embryo, passes in turn once more through the phases of the several kingdoms. In its fluidic prison it assumes a vague resemblance at various periods of the gestation to plant, reptile, bird, and animal, until it becomes a human embryo. At the "birth" of the future man, the monad, radiating with all the glory of its immortal parent which watches it from the seventh sphere, becomes senseless (see Plato's Timaios). It loses all recollection of the past, and returns to consciousness but gradually, when the instinct of childhood gives way to reason and intelligence.
At death, after the separation between the life-principle (astral man) and the body takes place, the liberated soul-monad exultingly rejoins the mother and father spirit, the radiant Augoeides, and the two, merged into one, forever form, with a glory proportioned to the spiritual purity of the past earth-life, the Adam who has completed once again the "circle of necessity." Long before this it was freed from the last vestige of its physical encasement. Henceforth, growing more and more radiant at each step of its upward progress, it mounts the shining path that ends at the point from which it started around the grand cycle.
Such is the broad outline of human destiny, sketched so as to show the absolutely dual nature, essentially, of every particle and organism in the universe; the main fact, in short, which modern scientific thought is reaching towards, but has not yet by any means fully grasped. Dual, that is, as having two broad aspects, the material and the spiritual. Triple, in reality, as both spirit and matter rest upon something within -- the Rootless Root or Causeless Cause, the only reality in truth, all else being more or less transitory, even though lasting for periods so vast as to be absolutely beyond the reach of human thought. And septenary, still more exactly and scientifically, owing to fundamental laws which are more fully treated of in The Secret Doctrine.
Many figures could be given, having both general and astronomical significance, but the truth of the matter is, as has already been hinted, that there is no subject connected with the sacred mysteries of human fate, of life and death, upon which less has been definitely stated by the messengers of the ancient wisdom. And for very good reasons, which are indeed so obvious to any thoughtful mind that loves the human race, that it seems hardly necessary to say more.
The important thing at present for us to know in this connection, is that there are cycles in human destiny and in the destiny of all races; and the world may erelong be aroused to a perception of the fact that the cycle now commencing is one of the utmost importance to all on earth, because in the course of a very few years the whole world, whether it knows it or not, will be obliged in a measure to take sides for or against the higher progress of the human race. People will gradually be found arrayed for or against the recognition of human solidarity as a fact in nature. For there is something in the nature of the cycle now breathing its fire upon the world, something so compelling in its essence -- withal so uplifting -- that everyone will be as it were driven to make a choice within his own nature; he will become clearly aware of something within tending to ennoble and to imbue his soul with some of the lost "diviner drink" of soul-life.
The unrest of the world at its root and foundation (however varied the surface eddies) is a divine unrest, and belongs to a fresh summit gained on the great spiral stairway of progress. It is a wind blowing into our hearts, the wind of a better and purer life, destined to affect swiftly for good the advancing nations of the east and the west, although a touch of this wind may complete the ruin of some decadent places.
Being is an endless cycle within the one absolute eternity, wherein move numberless inner cycles finite and conditioned. Gods, "created" as such, would evince no personal merit in being gods. Such a class of beings, perfect only by virtue of the special immaculate nature inherent in them, in the face of suffering and struggling humanity, and even of the lower creation, would be the symbol of an eternal injustice quite satanic in character, an ever-present wrong. It is an impossibility in nature.
The cycles of septenary evolution in septennial nature proceed, then, as follows: the spiritual or divine; the semi-divine; the intellectual; the passional; the instinctual, or cognitional; the semi-corporeal; and the purely material or physical natures. All these evolve and progress cyclically, passing from one into another, in a double, centrifugal, and centripetal way, one in their ultimate essence, seven in their aspects. The lowest, of course, is the one depending upon and subservient to our five physical senses (which are in truth seven, however). Thus far, human, animal, and vegetable life; each the microcosm of its higher macrocosm. The same for the universe, which manifests periodically, for purposes of the collective progress of the countless lives, the outbreathings of the one Life; in order that through the ever-becoming every cosmic atom in this infinite universe, passing from the formless and the intangible, through the mixed natures of the semi-terrestrial down to matter in full generation, and then back again, reascending at each new period higher and nearer the final goal -- that each atom, we say, may reach through individual merit and efforts that plane where it rebecomes the one unconditioned ALL. But between the alpha and the omega there is the weary "road" hedged in by thorns, which goes down first, then "winds up hill all the way, yea, to the very end."
Starting upon the long journey immaculate; descending more and more into matter, and having connected himself with every atom in manifested space -- the pilgrim, having struggled through and suffered in every form of life and being, is only at the bottom of the valley of matter, and half through his cycle, when he has identified himself with collective humanity. This he has made in his own image. In order to progress upwards and homewards, the "God" has now to ascend the weary uphill path of the Golgotha of life. It is the martyrdom of self-conscious existence. Like Visvakarman he has to sacrifice himself to himself in order to redeem all creatures, to resurrect from the many into the one Life. Then he ascends into heaven indeed; where, plunged into the incomprehensible absolute being and bliss of paranirvana, he reigns unconditionally, and whence he will re-descend again at the next "coming." As The Secret Doctrine says, our ignorance of the laws of karma and of the scope of cyclic impression --
which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate; while another sees in them the action of blind Fatalism; and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to guide them -- would surely disappear if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With right knowledge, or at any rate a confident conviction that our neighbors will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, the two-thirds of the World's evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for, nor weapons to act through. It is the constant pressure in our midst of every element of strife and opposition, and the division of races, nations, tribes, societies and individuals into Cains and Abels, wolves and lambs, that is the chief cause of the "ways of Providence." . . . We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the riddles of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us. But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or another life. If one breaks the laws of Harmony, . . . "the laws of life," one must be prepared to fall into the chaos one has oneself produced. For . . . "the only conclusion one can come to is that these laws of life are their own avengers; and consequently that every avenging Angel is only a typified representation of their re-action."
Therefore, if anyone is helpless before these immutable laws, it is not ourselves, the artificers of our destinies, but rather those angels, the guardians of harmony. Karma-Nemesis is no more than the (spiritual) dynamical effect of causes produced and forces awakened into activity by our own actions. It is a law of occult dynamics that "a given amount of energy expended on the spiritual or astral plane is productive of far greater results than the same amount expended on the physical objective plane of existence."
This state will last until man's spiritual intuitions are fully opened, which will not happen before we fairly cast off our thick coats of matter; until we begin acting from within, instead of ever following impulses from without; namely, those produced by our physical senses and gross selfish body. Until then the only palliative to the evils of life is union and harmony -- a brotherhood IN ACTU, and altruism not simply in name. -- 1:643-4
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