Keep your eyes on the thought of the sacredness of the hour, every moment how it tells for the weal or woe of the world! For we are working not for a family, not for a nation, but for all the nations and for the unborn. As we do now, so will others do hereafter. -- Katherine Tingley
The terrible uncertainties of the times are forcing all of us to reexamine our thinking, to come to terms with the central questions of life and death, and how to prepare our children for the world they are inheriting. While science with its "miraculous pitcher" of marvels has confirmed our interdependence as a humanity, as participants in an ecosphere whose families of entities all share in the one life-flow, we have not yet discovered what we most need: how to live in harmony with ourselves and with each other. As a result, many are despondent, fearful of themselves and of the future, wondering seriously where our civilization is heading. Is it doomed to extinction, as others before it have vanished?
It should not surprise us that the Fundamentalists are urging us to "believe" and be saved because the "perilous times" of which Paul wrote are soon to come, when the corrupt and the covetous, the truce-breakers and despisers of all that is good, will walk the land, and the heavens will pass away and "the elements melt with fervent heat" -- in many respects the epithets uncannily portray the present decadence of norms. (Cf. 2 Timothy, 3:1-5 and 2 Peter, 3:3-13.) We cannot altogether discount the warnings, for no species can escape the consequences of action, much less we humans who know better than to live in violation of natural law. Of course, since everything in nature flourishes, declines, and then renews itself, so both our present civilization and earth itself with its kingdoms of lives will eventually fulfill their respective life-cycles.
It is significant that the destruction of earth and the retreat of gods as the race of man becomes degraded is a recurring theme in many ancient cultures. The narratives vary and may in this or that instance refer to a period or a people that has already passed, but most of them appear to be predictions of what is yet to be. At first blush the cataclysmic ending of everything is terrifying, whether we ponder the cryptic verses of Nostradamus (1503-1566), Revelation, or rabbinical writings. But when we read further, especially in the Puranas of India and in the Hermetic documents ascribed to Egyptian-Greek sources, we realize that the dying of the old cycle is followed in time by the emergence of the new: earth comes forth fresh and without blemish, and a new humanity arises.
The theme is beautifully suggested in the Icelandic Edda in the prophecy of the Sibyl who forecasts the coming of Ragnarok or the "doom of gods," with "sun growing dim, earth sinking, and stars falling" with fire rising high to complete the desolation. At length, another earth rises from the waters, the eagle flies, and gods again "decree peace in the land and what is to be held sacred." So, too, the same pattern of death and renewal is seen in the discourse with Asclepius and his friends attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the "thrice-greatest." When everything seems hopeless and "all things hostile to the soul" are committed by man, then the chief of gods stays "the disorder by the counterworking of his will." He calls back to the path all who have strayed, earth is purified, now with flood or again with fire, making way for "a new birth of the Kosmos" and a "holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature."
The Vishnu-Puranalikewise emphasizes the elements of hope and renewal. After describing the iniquities of mankind toward the close of the kali yuga or "black age," our present Iron Age, it speaks of the renovation that will occur when a portion of the divinity who comprehends all shall appear on earth as an avatara or divine incarnation. This is Kalki, the tenth in the series, who will reestablish dharma, the law of truth, purity, and duty. Those whose minds will be awakened and whose souls changed by the influences of that exceptional period "shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age (or age of purity)" -- sometimes called satya yuga or "age of truth."
It seems important to mention here that, according to the Brahmanical records, kali yuga is the lowest of four ages with a lifespan of 432,000 years, having begun as recently as 3102 BC with the death of Krishna, the ninth avatara. Presuming that these time-cycles are reasonably accurate, this means we have completed only a little more than 5,000 years, with practically 427,000 years yet to run! Moreover, as kali yuga is held to contain but one-quarter of satya or truth in contrast to the four-quarters of truth manifest in the krita age, it looks as though humanity is literally on a downhill slide -- a discouraging prospect, to say the least, unless we are able to view the present period within the larger context of the evolutionary cycle of earth. The crucial factor that H. P. Blavatsky brings out in her writings is that earth and its inhabitants have already evolved beyond the halfway point in their evolution; in other words, have completed their downward thrust and, having passed the nadir, have begun the climb upward out of matter toward a more spiritual expression of potentiality. In brief, kali yuga is a minor cycle of descent within a larger cycle of ascent, and even within it there will be epicycles, as it were, in which will occur periods of relative spirituality. Some writers have suggested that kali yuga has intrinsic advantages because of its accelerated pace, in that it allows one to progress spiritually more rapidly than in other ages (cf. The Dialogues of G. de Purucker 2:134).
More than anything we should remember that in spite of the pull toward material concerns in descending cycles, no one has to be downtending in his thinking or aspiration. This is the saving point, and the history of mankind from the earliest era confirms that in every age, whether one of spiritual clarity and upward reach or one of spiritual darkness and downward bent, always there have been (and will be) pioneers, forward-thinking men and women who have kept alive the fires of aspiration. The stronger the trend matterwards, the more powerfully they have swum against it in order to produce the needed countercurrent.
We can take heart also from the natural fact that at the heyday of any cycle the seeds of the new are already being sown; during the blooming of the rose the haw is in the making. So too in the depths of our present age, the "seeds of human beings" to come in the succeeding age are germinating now in those who prepare the soil of their consciousness. The challenges before us are great, so also are the opportunities. It will depend on us whether we proceed weighed down with fear, or go toward the future as free spirits acting in harmony with rather than against the evolutionary intent.
Surely the applicability of all this to the problems of our twentieth century is plain. If we believe that the odds are overwhelming against our steadfast efforts to hold aloft the torch of hope, let us recall Mother Teresa. When a reporter asked her recently how she could stand the enormity of the suffering she witnessed daily, when there was no possibility of her stemming the tide appreciably, she replied: "One and one and one: I look only at the child or the old man or woman I am tending; if I thought of the millions and millions who need my help I could do nothing."
It seems to me that every human being has within him the power to do what is required, and that is privately and unnoticed to follow the lead of his higher self. But we have to persevere in this practice; above all, we have to trust unreservedly in the potency of our inner light to illumine our lives. In this manner will we strengthen the light-impulses that are gaining in number and momentum despite the efforts of their opposites, and by so much fortify the compassionate labors of those who work unceasingly for all nations and for the unborn and who are, even now, readying the way for the dawn of a brighter age.
From Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings which contain Religious or Philosophical Teachings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus 1:341-7; translated into English by Walter Scott from a Latin text, itself a translation attributed to Apuleius from a Greek original which is now lost.
Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven, or, to speak more exactly, in Egypt all the operations of the powers which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below? Nay, it should rather be said that the whole Kosmos dwells in this our land as in its sanctuary. And yet, since it is fitting that wise men should have knowledge of all events before they come to pass, you must not be left in ignorance of this: there will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honored the deity with heartfelt piety and assiduous service; and all our holy worship will be found bootless and ineffectual. For the gods will return from earth to heaven; Egypt will be forsaken, and the land which was once the home of religion will be left desolate, bereft of the presence of its deities. . . .
In that day will our most holy land, this land of shrines and temples, be filled with funerals and corpses. To thee, most holy Nile, I cry, to thee I foretell that which shall be; swollen with torrents of blood, thou wilt rise to the level of thy banks, and thy sacred waves will be not only stained, but utterly fouled with gore. Do you weep at this, Asclepius? There is worse to come; Egypt herself will have yet more to suffer; she will fall into a far more piteous plight, and will be infected with yet more grievous plagues; . . . The dead will far outnumber the living; and the survivors will be known for Egyptians by their tongue alone, but in their actions they will seem to be men of another race.
O Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale, which thine own children in time to come will not believe; nothing will be left but graven words, and only the stones will tell of thy piety. And in that day men will be weary of life, and they will cease to think the universe worthy of reverent wonder and of worship. And so religion, the greatest of all blessings -- for there is nothing, nor has been, nor ever shall be, that can be deemed a greater boon -- will be threatened with destruction; men will think it a burden, and will come to scorn it. They will no longer love this world around us, this incomparable work of God, this glorious structure which he has built, this sum of good made up of things of many diverse forms, this instrument whereby the will of God operates in that which he has made, ungrudgingly favoring man's welfare, this combination and accumulation of all the manifold things that can call forth the veneration, praise, and love of the beholder. Darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be thought more profitable than life; no one will raise his eyes to heaven; the pious will be deemed insane, and the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good.
As to the soul, and the belief that it is immortal by nature, or may hope to attain to immortality, as I have taught you -- all this they will mock at, and will even persuade themselves that it is false. No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy of heaven and of the gods of heaven, will be heard or believed.
And so the gods will depart from mankind -- a grievous thing! -- and only evil angels will remain, who will mingle with men, and drive the poor wretches by main force into all manner of reckless crime, into wars, and robberies, and frauds, and all things hostile to the nature of the soul. Then will the earth no longer stand unshaken, and the sea will bear no ships; heaven will not support the stars in their orbits, nor will the stars pursue their constant course in heaven; all voices of the gods will of necessity be silenced and dumb; the fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will turn barren, and the very air will sicken in sullen stagnation. After this manner will old age come upon the world. Religion will be no more; all things will be disordered and awry; all good will disappear.
But when all this has befallen, Asclepius, then the Master and Father, God, the first before all, the maker of that god who first came into being, will look on that which has come to pass, and will stay the disorder by the counterworking of his will, which is the good. He will call back to the right path those who have gone astray; he will cleanse the world from evil, now washing it away with waterfloods, now burning it out with fiercest fire, or again expelling it by war and pestilence. And thus he will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Kosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence, and God, the maker and restorer of the mighty fabric, will be adored by the men of that day with unceasing hymns of praise and blessing. Such is the new birth of the Kosmos; it is a making again of all things good, a holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature; and it is wrought in the process of time by the eternal will of God.
For God's will has no beginning; it is ever the same, and as it now is, even so it has ever been, without beginning.
Book IV, chapter xxiv; translated from the Sanskrit with Notes by H. H. Wilson.
[There will] be contemporary monarchs, reigning over the earth; kings of churlish spirit, violent temper, and ever addicted to falsehood and wickedness. They will inflict death on women, children, and cows; they will seize upon the property of their subjects; they will be of limited power, and will, for the most part, rapidly rise and fall: their lives will be short, their desires insatiable; and they will display but little piety. The people of the various countries intermingling with them will follow their example; and, the barbarians being powerful in the patronage of the princes, whilst purer tribes are neglected, the people will perish. Wealth and piety will decrease day by day, until the world will be wholly depraved. Then property alone will confer rank; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the sole bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation; and women will be objects merely of sensual gratification. Earth will be venerated but for its mineral treasures [that is, there will be no Tirthas -- places held sacred, and objects of pilgrimage; no particular spot of earth will have any especial sanctity]; the Brahmanical thread will constitute a Brahman; external types (as the staff and red garb) will be the only distinctions of the several orders of life; dishonesty will be the (universal) means of subsistence; weakness will be the cause of dependence; menace and presumption will be substituted for learning; liberality will be devotion -- simple ablution will be purification; mutual assent will be marriage; fine clothes will be dignity; and water afar off will be esteemed a holy spring. Amidst all castes, he who is the strongest will reign over a principality [Bhu-mandala, "the earth"] thus vitiated by many faults. The people, unable to bear the heavy burthens [the original has kara-bhara, "load of taxes"] imposed upon them by their avaricious sovereigns, will take refuge amongst the valleys of the mountains, and will be glad to feed upon (wild) honey, herbs, roots, fruits, leaves, and flowers: their only covering will be the bark of trees; and they will be exposed to the cold, and wind, and sun, and rain. No man's life will exceed three and twenty years. Thus, in the Kali age, shall decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches its annihilation. [We read in the Bhagavata-Purana, XII, ii: "When the splendor of Vishnu, named Krishna, departed for heaven, then did the Kali age, during which men delight in sin, invade the world. So long as he continued to touch the earth with his holy feet, so long the Kali age was unable to subdue the world."]
When the practices taught by the Vedas and the institutes of law shall nearly have ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists, of his own spiritual nature, in the character of Brahma, and who is the beginning and the end, and who comprehends all things, shall descend upon earth: he will be born in the family of Vishnuyasas -- an eminent Brahman of Sambhala village -- as Kalki, endowed with the eight superhuman faculties. By his irresistible might he will destroy all the Mlechchhas [foreigners] and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will, then, reestablish righteousness upon earth; and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as pellucid as crystal. The men who are, thus, changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age (or age of purity). As it is said: "When the sun and moon, and (the lunar asterism) Tishya, and the planet Jupiter are in one mansion, the Krita age shall return." [The Bhagavata agrees with the text in these particulars. The chief star of Tishya, also called Pushya, is in the constellation Cancer.]
(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, February 1980. Copyright © 1980 by Theosophical University Press)
World Spiritual Traditions Menu