The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
May 2001 Vol. 4 Issue 3
A yuga is a specific "age" or period of time; derived from the verb-root yuj – "to unite." The evolutionary periods through which each of the seven great root-races of our earth passes are known as the yugas: satya yuga (Golden Age), treta yuga (Silver Age), dwapara yuga (Bronze Age), and kali yuga (Iron Age). The duration of each is respectively 1,728,000, 1,296,000, 864,000, and 432,000 human years, a ratio of 4, 3, 2, 1. This ratio is found to prevail in many sacred computa-tions. The four yugas together make 4,320,000 earth-years or what is called a maha-yuga or Great Age.
The four yugas play an important part in the qualitative aspect of the development of every major human cycle or root-race. But the yuga periods in connection with the root-race tell but part of the chronological story. The root-races preceding our own were all of greater length than the one maha-yuga for each. The kali yuga, which is the last and fourth of the cycles, is but the midpoint of a race. It is at this point that the race undergoes certain cyclic catastrophes; nevertheless it keeps lasting on for another four cycles while the new race is growing up, born from the middle of the preceding one, as Dr. de Purucker writes in the Occult Glossary: "a root-race from its individual beginning to its individual ending is about double the length of the composite yuga." These succeeding yugas or series of development are but a reflection in human history of what takes place on a greater scale in the evolution of a globe or of a planet.
The satya yuga, also called krita yuga, is the age of innocence, of innate goodness, the age when Dharma or Truth prevails. Satya means "truth," and krita is often rendered as "perfect," "well-done," being the past participle of the verb-root kri – "to do." The treta yuga is the age of only three-fourths of the truth, from treta meaning "three." The material forces then begin to exert their opposing influence. The dwapara yuga is the age of two parts or one-half of the truth, from dwapara meaning "twofold." Material darkness increases and brings about a decline of spiritual powers. The kali yuga, or the Dark Age, is the yuga in which only one part of the Truth prevails, because materiality and ignorance with their evil relations of selfishness and anger and indifference hold sway over human hearts. We are now in the kali yuga of our present fifth root-race. This Dark Age commenced at the death of Krishna at midnight between February 17th and 18th in the year 3102 BC. – Judith Tyberg
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. – G. de Purucker
This month "Dawn of a New Age or a Dark Age?" is our subject. What characterizes the transformations we see today in every field – religious, scientific, social, personal, international, and ecological? What is causing these changes, and are they on balance positive or negative? Can cycles help explain history and current affairs? Can religious traditions or science? Is human life progressive, periodic, or haphazard? What response can we make in our own lives to present trends? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
There must exist geological and physical cycles as well as intellectual and spiritual; globes and planets, as well as races and nations, are born to grow, progress, decline and – die. Great nations split, scatter into small tribes, lose all remembrance of their integrity, gradually fall into their primitive state and – disappear, one after the other, from the face of the earth. So do great continents. Ceylon must have formed, once upon a time, part of the Indian continent. So, to all appearance, was Spain once joined to Africa, the narrow channel between Gibraltar and the latter continent having been once upon a time dry land. – The Theosophist, "A Land of Mystery"
Our earthly home has been the shifting stage upon which the moving drama of humanity's life has regularly come and gone, over and over again, for millions of years. This planetary stage-setting has been shifted to and fro, back and forth, up and down, but always in keeping with the human plot of the unfolding racial drama for which it was the background. It was an unusually responsive background, too, because the earth being an entity itself – a magnet, scientists say – there was a constant electromagnetic play of currents between its electronic matter and the busy creatures who swarmed over its surface. Their bodies were made of its same stuff; and they affected the earth with what they thought, felt, and did. In return it affected them, so that they moved on together, progressing through every kind of small, intermediate, and great cycle.
There is an interesting analogy between the way the earth cycled through its early embodiment and our own physical beginning of each fresh incarnation. In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, the Master KH writes:
As you may infer by analogy every globe before it reaches its adult period, has to pass through a formation period – also septenary. Law in Nature is uniform and the conception, formation, birth, progress and development of the child differs from those of the globe only in magnitude. The globe has two periods of teething and of capillature – its first rocks which it also sheds to make room for new – and its ferns and mosses before it gets forest. As the atoms in the body change [every] seven years, so does the globe renew its strata every seven cycles. . . . The correspondence between a mother globe and her child-man may be thus worked out. Both have their seven principles. – pp. 93-4
There was the same intermingling and overlapping of human and continental cycles that is taking place today, although finally great cataclysms changed the surface of the globe. A haunting memory of these momentous events in racial history is the basis of similar traditions among all peoples. H. P. Blavatsky points out:
That worlds (also Races) are periodically destroyed by fire (volcanoes and earthquakes) and water, in turn and renewed, is a doctrine as old as man. Manu, Hermes, the Chaldees, all antiquity believed in this. Twice already has the face of the globe been changed by fire, and twice by water, since man appeared on it. As land needs rest and renovation, new forces, and a change for its soil, so does water. Thence arises a periodical redistribution of land and water, change of climate, etc., all brought on by geological revolution, and ending in a final change in the axis. . . . there is a secular change in the inclination of the earth's axis, and its appointed time is recorded in one of the great Secret Cycles. – The Secret Doctrine 2:725-6
Naturally, the intimate relation between human nature and Mother Nature would make so important an event as the beginning and ending of great human cycles coincident with planetary changes. Always and everywhere there is the combined action of the laws of karma (cause and effect), reimbodiment, and cycles. These laws rule not only in human life, but in the life-course of every atom of matter as well. Thus it is that the whole mass of matter constantly changes at the same time and exhibits alterations analogous to changes through which man the thinker is passing.