THEOSOPHY, Vol. 86, No. 8, June, 1998
(Pages 229-233; Size: 10K)


Cycles are nature's way of recording within space and time the continual movements of consciousness, much like the conductor who orchestrates the movements of the orchestra. Cycles strike the notes which integrate the overtones and undertones within the whole.
A CYCLE is a ring or turning as the derivation of the word indicates -- not like a wedding ring which runs into itself -- but more properly like a screw thread which takes the form of a spiral and turns on itself. But what do we mean by a cycle in our investigations of nature, man, civilization, our origin and destiny? We mean just what the Egyptians, the Hindus and the philosophers of the Middle Ages meant -- that there is a periodical return or circling back of something once more. That is why it is called cycle, inasmuch as it returns upon itself, seemingly; but in the ancient doctrines, it is always a little higher in the sense of perfection or progress.

A cycle does not begin on a specific day or year clear of any other cycle; they interblend, so that the wheel of one period is still turning when the initial point of another has arrived. Cycles have no hard lines or points of departure or inception. They overlap and shade into one another, as day does into night. It is only when one has completely ended, and another has begun by bringing out its blossoms, that we can say we are in a new cycle. It can be illustrated by comparing two adjacent cycles to two interlaced circles, where the circumference of one touches the center of the other, or by imagining a man in the act of walking the progress of cycles. His rate of advancement is obtained by taking the distance covered by his paces, the points at the middle of each pace, between the feet, being the beginning of cycles and their ending.

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. The theosophical theory is that cycles are actual physical facts in respect to time, and that they have a great effect on human life and the evolution of the globe with all the forms of life thereon.

There are great cosmic cycles that proceed slowly to our comprehension, because they cover such stupendous periods. They do, however, powerfully affect mankind and can only be faintly imagined by students. The ancient Egyptian civilization illustrates the power of one of the greater cycles long since run down. That brilliant civilization rolled on through a vast stretch of years with no appearance of diminishing glory, but gradually the change took place. The sweep of that mighty cycle, however, has merely moved on to other spheres. When Earth once again meets the same impulse, the old civilization will return -- the old force will revive within a better body.

Thus a period of activity is followed by a period of repose, and this followed by renewed activity. "The out-breathing and in-breathing of Brahma," involves every atom and every object, no less than every organism. 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. In the Bible, for instance, we find the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale, which is an absurdity when read as history, but not so as an astronomical cycle.

During these progresses changes take place among men and on earth signified by the constellations when read according to the right rules of symbology. It is not that the conjunction causes the effect, but that ages ago Sages worked out the problems with respect to man and found in the heavens the means for knowing the exact dates events will recur. Then by imprinting in the minds of older nations the symbology of the Zodiac they were able to preserve the record and the prophecy. Thus the Sages know the hour of events by the Zodiacal clock. This will be well understood in future centuries, as the nations of the earth all have similar symbols for the Zodiac, as do the records of races long since dead. In Egypt the Denderah Zodiac tells the same tale as the one left to us by the old civilizations of the American continent. 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 those great symbols and ideas of an astronomical character, which will last through all the cycles.

The ancients had many large and important cycles. They had a Saros and a Naros, which are not understood by us today. The Egyptians taught that there was a great sidereal cycle, which is recognized today. It is the cycle of 25,000 years -- the length of time for the sun to travel through the signs of the Zodiac. In going through that period the sun comes back to the same point again. This is called the precession of the equinoxes.

As the sun is the center of our solar system, the earth revolves around it as she turns upon her axis. The sun, it is known by astronomers, as it was by the ancients (who were in fact ourselves), revolves around a center. Thus while we are going around the sun, the sun is going around some other center. So we can describe in the sky not a circle around the sun but a spiral, as we move with the sun around its enormous orbit. There is a star somewhere in the sky, we do not know where -- some think it is Alcyone or some other star, some think it may be a star in the Pleiades. But they do know that the sun is attracted by some unknown center, and that it turns around it in an enormous circle drawing the earth with it. In the course of 25,000 years the earth is taken into spaces where it has never been. The sun must draw the earth into cosmic spaces where things are different, and thus cause changes in earth itself. Changes in the cosmic matter of the atmosphere affect the earth and all it inhabitants.

The Metonic cycle is that of the moon. It is a period of about 19 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 28 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.

Affecting man especially are the spiritual, psychic and moral cycles. Out of these grow the national, racial and individual cycles. Race and national cycles are both historical. The individual cycles are of reincarnation, sensation and impression. What do we mean by that? You go into the street and see a brawl which creates an impression. That impression is subject to cyclic law, just as the moon, the stars and the world. This law of impressions may be illustrated in this way. If you look at an electric light, the light makes an image on the retina. Then, when you close your eye, the light will be seen by you in your eye. You will see the image return a number of counts, stay a number of counts, and move away for an equal amount of time. The image changes with each return until eventually it disappears. You do a thing once and it creates a tendency to repeat itself; do it twice, it doubles in influence and so on. Our characters show this constant return of cyclic impression.

Both Egyptians and Greeks had their cycles. The Chinese always were a nation of astronomers and recorded their observations farther back than the Christian era. Our present cycle is known as the dark one -- Kali Yuga, or the black age in Sanskrit. It is dark because spirituality is obscured by materiality and pure intellectualism. It is governed chiefly by the mind apart from spirit, and its characteristic gain is physical and material progress. In this sense it is the Kali Yuga.

The first 5000 years of Kali Yuga will end between the years 1897 and 1898. Soon we will have the opportunity of seeing whether the close of this five-thousand-year cycle will be preceded or followed by any great changes -- political, scientific or physical, or all of these combined. Year after year the souls from prior civilizations are being incarnated in this period, when liberty of thought and action are not so restricted as in the past by dogmatic religious prejudice and bigotry. At the present time we are in a cycle of transition which indicates that everything in philosophy, religion and society is changing.

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(1) Collated from the writings of William Q. Judge.
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