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 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.
TABLE ---------------------------------------------------- Mortal Years
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.