THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 5, March, 1964
(Pages 145-150; Size: 16K)


No devotee, O son of Pritha, who knoweth these two paths is ever deluded; wherefore, O Arjuna, at all times be thou fixed in devotion.
The Bhagavad-Gita
SIR Charles Lyell tells us: "Respecting the cosmogony of the Egyptian priests, we gather much information from writers of the Grecian sects, who borrowed almost all of their tenets from Egypt, and amongst others that of the former successive destructions and renovations of the world. (Continental, not cosmic, catastrophes.) We learn from Plutarch that this was the theme of one of the hymns of Orpheus, so celebrated in the fabulous ages of Greece. It was brought by him from the banks of the Nile; and we even find in his verses, as in the Indian systems, a definite period assigned for the duration of every successive World.

"The returns of the great catastrophes were determined by the present period of the Magnus Annus, or great year -- a cycle composed of the revolutions of the sun, moon, and planets, and terminating when these return together to the sign whence they were supposed at some remote epoch to set out. We learn particularly from the Timaeus of Plato that the Egyptians believed the world to be subject to occasional conflagrations and deluges. The sect of the Stoics adopted most fully the system of catastrophes destined at intervals to destroy the world. These, they taught, were of two kinds -- the cataclysm, or destruction by water, and the Ecpyrosis, or destruction by fire (submarine volcanoes). From the Egyptians they derived the doctrine of the gradual debasement of man from a state of innocence" (nascent simplicity of the first sub-races of each Root Race).

Isis Unveiled teaches that Eternity is pointed off into grand cycles, in each of which twelve transformations of our world occur, following its partial destruction by fire and water alternately. So that when a minor period sets in, the earth is so changed, even geologically, as to be practically a new world. Of these twelve transformations, the earth after each of the first six is grosser, and everything on it -- man included -- more material, than after the preceding one. While after each of the remaining six the contrary is true, both earth and man growing more and more refined and spiritual with each terrestrial change.

When the apex of the cycle is reached, a gradual dissolution takes place, and every living objective form is destroyed. But when that point is reached humanity has become fitted to live subjectively as well as objectively. And not humanity alone, but also animals, plants, and every atom. After a time of rest, say the Buddhists, when a new world becomes self-formed, the astral souls of animals, and of all beings, except such as have reached the highest Nirvana, will return to earth to end their cycle of transformations, and become men in their turn. This stupendous conception the ancients synthesized for the instruction of the common people into a single pictorial design -- the Zodiac, or celestial belt.

In earlier cycles, however, less was revealed. From the Egyptians down to the Jews it was held as the highest sin to divulge anything pertaining to the correct measure of time. It was for divulging the secrets of the Gods, that Tantalus was plunged into the infernal regions; the keepers of the sacred Sibylline Books were threatened with the death penalty for revealing a work from them. Sigalions (images of Harpocrates) were in every temple -- especially in those of Isis and Serapis -- each pressing a finger to the lips; while the Hebrews taught that to divulge, after initiation into the Rabbinical mysteries, the secrets of the Kabala, was like eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge: it was punishable by death. And yet, we Europeans accepted the exoteric chronology of the Jews! What wonder it has influenced and coloured ever since all our conceptions of science and the duration of things!

But let one, well acquainted with astronomy and mathematics, throw a retrospective glance into the twilight and shadows of the Past. Let him observe, take notes of what he knows of the history of the peoples and nations, and collate their respective rises and falls with what is known of astronomical cycles -- especially with the Sidereal year, equal to 25,868 of our solar years. If the observer is gifted with the faintest intuition, then will he find how the weal and woe of nations is intimately connected with the beginning and close of this sidereal cycle. True, the non-occultist has the disadvantage that he has no such far distant times to rely upon. He knows nothing, through exact science, of what took place nearly 10,000 years ago; yet he may find consolation in the knowledge or -- if he so prefers -- speculations on the fate of every one of the nations he knows of -- about 16,000 years hence.

Our meaning is clear. Every sidereal year the tropics recede from the pole four degrees in each revolution from the equinoctial points, as the equator rounds through the Zodiacal constellations. Now, as every astronomer knows, at present the tropic is only twenty-three degrees and a fraction less than half a degree from the equator. Hence it has still 21/2 degrees to run before the end of the Sidereal year; which gives humanity in general, and our civilized races in particular, a reprieve of about 16,000 years.

There are other cycles, of course, cycles within cycles --and this is just that which creates such a difficulty in the calculations of racial events. The circuit of the ecliptic is completed in 25,868 years. And, with regard to our Earth, it is calculated that the equinoctial point falls back 50 minutes ten seconds, annually. But there is another cycle within this one. It is said that "as the apsis goes forward to meet it at the rate of eleven minutes twenty-four seconds, annually, this would complete a revolution in 115,302 years. The approximation of the apsis is the sum of these motions, sixty-one minutes thirty-four seconds, and hence the equinox returns to the same position in relation to the apsis in 25,868 years." We have mentioned this cycle in Isis in relation to other cycles. Each has a marked influence on its contemporary race.

Millions of years, embracing such cycles, have now dropped into Lethe leaving no more recollection in the memory of the profane than the few millenniums of the orthodox Western chronology as to the origin of Man and the history of the primeval races. Add to this the fact that our present-day Orientalists and historical writers are to ancient history that which white ants are to the buildings of India. More dangerous even than those termites, the modern archaeologists -- the "authorities" of the future in the matter of Universal History -- are preparing for the history of past nations the fate of certain edifices in tropical countries: "History will tumble down and break into atoms in the lap of the twentieth century, devoured to its foundations by her annalists," says Michelet. Very soon, indeed, under their combined efforts, it will share the fate of those ruined cities in both Americas, which lie deeply buried under impassable jungles of modern hypotheses, denials and scepticisms. But very happily actual history repeats herself, for she proceeds, like everything else, in cycles; and dead facts and events deliberately drowned in the sea of modern scepticism will ascend once more and reappear on the surface.

We of the present time call an age a century. They of Plato's day, the initiated writers at any rate, meant by a millennium, not a thousand but 100,000 years; Hindus, more independent than any, never concealed their chronology. Thus, when saying 9,000 years, the Initiates will read 900,000 years, during which space of time, i.e., from the first appearance of the Aryan race, when the Pliocene portions of the once great Atlantis began gradually sinking and other continents began to appear on the surface, down to the final disappearance of Plato's small island of Atlantis (11,000 years ago).

Plato, being an Initiate, had to use the veiled language of the Sanctuary, and so had the Magi of Chaldea and Persia, through whose exoteric revelations the Persian legends were preserved and passed to posterity. Thus one finds the Hebrews calling a week "seven days," and "a week of years" when each of its days represents 360 solar years, and the whole "week" is 2,520 years, in fact. They had a Sabbatical week, a Sabbatical year, etc., etc., and their Sabbath lasted indifferently 24 hours or 24,000 years -- in their secret calculations of the Sods.

At the close of the past and the beginning of this [nineteenth] century, relying upon the purposely mutilated accounts of Hindu chronology, brought from India by certain too zealous and unscrupulous missionaries, Bailly, Dupuis, and others built quite a fantastic theory upon the subject. Because the Hindus had made half a revolution of the moon, a measure of time; and because a month composed of only fifteen days ... is found mentioned in Hindu literature, therefore it is a verified fact that their year was only half a year, when it was not called a day.

The years of the Naros, being (in India) counted in two ways -- either "100 years of the gods" (divine years), or 100 mortal years -- one can see the tremendous difficulty for the non-initiated in comprehending correctly this cycle, which plays such an important part in St. John's Revelation. It is the truly apocalyptic Cycle; yet in none of the numerous speculations about it have we found anything but a few approximate truths, because of its being of various pre-historic events.

The Chinese divided their Zodiac into twenty-four parts, hence their year into twenty-four fortnights, but such computation did not prevent their having an astronomical year just the same as ours. And they have a period of sixty days -- the Southern Indian Roodoo, to this day in some provinces. Moreover Diodorus Siculus ... calls "thirty days an Egyptian year," or that period during which the moon performs a complete revolution. Pliny and Plutarch both speak of it; but does it stand to reason that the Egyptians, who knew astronomy as well as any other people did, made the lunar month consist of thirty days, when it is only twenty-eight days with fractions?

This lunary period has an occult meaning surely as much as the Ayanam [two periods of time per annum] and the roodoo of the Hindus had. The year of two months' duration, and the period of sixty days also, was a universal measure of time in antiquity. The Chinese, according to their own books, divided the year into six seasons, each composed of two months; in the Chinese astronomical work called Kioo-tche, it is said that two moons make a measure of time, and six measures a year; and to this day the aborigines of Kamchatka have their year of six months, as they had when visited by the Abbé Chappe.

It is the knowledge of the natural laws that makes of seven the root nature-number, so to say, in the manifested world -- at any rate in our present terrestrial life-cycle -- and the wonderful comprehension of its workings that unveiled to the ancients so many of the mysteries of nature. It is these laws, again, and their processes on the sidereal, terrestrial, and moral planes, which enabled the old astronomers to calculate correctly the duration of the cycles and their respective effects on the march of events; to record beforehand (prophecy, it is called) the influence which they will have on the course and development of the human races. The Sun, Moon, and planets being the never-erring time measurers, whose potency and periodicity were well known, became thus the great Ruler and rulers of our little system in all its seven domains, or "spheres of action." The spheres of action of the combined Force of Evolution and Karma are the Super-spiritual or Noumenal, the Spiritual, the Psychic, the Astro-ethereal, the Sub-astral, the Vital, and the purely physical spheres.

The Present is the Child of the past; the Future, the begotten of the Present. There exist such things as evolutionary cycles, an eternal spiral progress into matter with a proportionate obscuration of spirit -- though the two are one -- followed by an inverse ascent into spirit and the defeat of matter, active and passive by turns. Pralaya is not a term that applies only to every "Night of Brahma," or the world's dissolution following every Manvantara, equal to 71 Mahayugas. It applies also to each "obscuration" as well, and even to every Cataclysm that puts an end, by fire and water in turn, to each Root-Race. Pralaya is a term like that of "Manu" -- the generic name for the Sishtas, who, under the appellation of "King," are shown in the Puranas as preserver "with the seed of all things in an ark from the waters of that flood" (or the fire of a general volcanic conflagration, the commencement of which we already see for our Fifth-Race in the terrible earthquakes and eruptions of these late years, and especially in the present one [1888?]) ... which in the season of a pralaya overspreads the world" (the Earth).

We are only in the Fourth Round, and it is in the Fifth that the full development of Manas, as a direct ray from the Universal MAHAT -- a ray unimpeded by matter -- will be finally reached. Nevertheless, as every sub-race and nation have their cycles and stages of developmental evolution repeated on a smaller scale, it must be the more so in the case of a Root-Race. Our race then has, as a Root-race, crossed the equatorial line and is cycling on the Spiritual side; but some of our sub-races still find themselves on the shadowy descending arc of their respective national cycles; while others again -- the oldest -- having crossed their crucial point, which alone decides whether a race, a nation, or a tribe will live or perish, are at the apex of spiritual development as sub-races.

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(1) NOTE.--A students' collation from Theosophical works.
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