Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Chapter 5: Cycles Imprinted on the Earth
Chapter 6: Recurring Civilizations and Archaeology
Chapter 7: Language Cycles
Chapter 8: Spiral Pathways among the Stars
Chapter 9: Conclusion
Return to Section 1
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"
Geologists are well on their way towards finding additional and convincing evidence that this "good earth" of ours has preserved records of colossal events in her wonderful career as a man-bearing planet. In fact, 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.
The earth tells its story — not in the language of any one time or people, but in the universal mother-tongue of nature. Hence, he who understands his own composite nature may see how the career of mankind and of the globe have been keyed to the same great purpose throughout all the changes of earth-life. Racial and planetary cycles have imprinted upon the earth geological hallmarks of their common evolutionary periods of change and growth. Therefore, the geologist who interprets his fund of scientific data in the light of the planetary history as given in The Secret Doctrine will find evidences of cyclic periods of Mother Earth's growth as plainly recorded as the annual rings in cross-sections of gigantic trees. The detailed record has been kept from age to age by the White Brotherhood, and sacredly guarded in teachings of the Mystery schools. Enough is now given out to answer the moot questions of racial and planetary evolution.
Agassiz said that "The crust of our earth is a great cemetery where the rocks are the tombstones on which the buried dead have written their own epitaphs." This quaintly somber reading of the geological data of humanity's earlier rounds of experience is enlivened by the theosophical story of humankind's reimbodiments. For the same deathless egos who began their many earth-lives in the "garden of Eden" period have never ceased to be. Even now some of them may be incarnated among the geologists who are studying the imprinted records which Mother Nature kept of their planetary childhood and youth.
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 K. H. 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
It is stated in The Secret Doctrine, 2:140, that the period of mineral and vegetable development was not less than 300,000,000 years before mankind, then present in its astral forms, acquired "coats of skin." At the time that the astral body became physicalized, the separation of the sexes occurred — some 18,000,000 years ago. Also, the latent fires of the human mind were lighted, and we began to revolve in experience as self-conscious human beings.
The most active cycle of development of the mineral and vegetable kingdoms occurred during the earth's earlier rounds before mankind's astral imbodiment became "physicalized." At present the combination of human mental and material nature is the dominant activity on the globe, while the lower kingdoms are in a cycle of relative quiescence. The present convulsions of nature, which to us are so disturbing, like earthquakes, volcanoes, etc., are mild compared with the periods of intense activity of the rocky earth in the globe's earlier stages. The theosophical teaching is that while the bodies of the late third root-race were physicalized enough to have left some fossilized remnants, yet the violent volcanic, seismic, and cataclysmic events that have occurred periodically since that time doubtless have ground any such records to pieces.
Moreover, continents have disappeared beneath the oceans, and new lands have arisen from beneath the waves in many parts of the globe since its matter solidified from its primeval state. The earth rounded out one of its continental birthdays, so to say, in the same time period of each one of the great root-races. The globe itself has evolved through its successive cycles corresponding to the rounding out of several root-races, of which we are in the fifth.
Of course, neither the root-races nor the continents which they specially inhabited were always sharply defined, any more than our birthdays mark sudden and complete changes in our body or in our character. 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. These convulsions wiped out the degenerate portion of a root-race. Meanwhile the worthy survivors had found refuge on lands which had been rising from the ocean as slowly as other parts of their former habitats had been sinking for ages.
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.
These concurrent evolutionary changes of mind and matter are consistent with the fact that all matter is alive and, in some degree, is conscious, though mankind only is self-conscious. Matter is somehow intangibly affected by its association with conditions of human life. For tangible evidence of human influence upon earth material, contrast the complicated equipment of twentieth century American life with the native Indian's simple demand upon nature's supplies in his day.
These two peoples, with similar bodies to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport, are ages apart in their viewpoints, both of which have been reflected upon the same country. Compare the light impress which the Indian made upon the earth he occupied, with the same area as it appears today. Now the landscape has been tunneled through, bridged over, deforested here and reclaimed there, soil and even weather modified, oceans joined by an artificial canal, electric and water power harnessed, highways and skyways charted — the whole nature picture changed to match a different cycle of human thought and feeling.
An interesting hint of the relation of man to nature is given in Isis Unveiled 1:395 where, in discussing human magnetic emanations, it is said:
Magnetic currents develop themselves into electricity upon their exit from the body.
In view of this interplay of forces, it is easily seen how a continued and unbalanced flow of certain magnetic human emanations would periodically reach a point of tension with a violent reaction upon the globe itself. The physical effects would result through electrical and other fluids acting with the gases on the solids of the globe. The exploding point, so to say, would coincide with the change of a great cycle, producing violent convulsions in the forms of earthquakes, floods, fire, and ice. William Q. Judge goes into this at some length in The Ocean of Theosophy, pp. 169-70, where he says:
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 convulsions. 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; . . .
Since Judge wrote this in 1893, evidence of ancient areas formerly covered with ice have been found in tropical sections of Africa and elsewhere, showing that these were once polar regions. The theory of the shifting of the poles is now commonly accepted by scientists. The ancient teaching is that, in addition to alternations of the warm ocean currents and the hot magnetic currents of the earth, cataclysmic effects include alterations of the poles which have been inverted several times. Each time there was a complete change of the earth's surface, alternately affected by fire and water, upon which event is based the Biblical story of the Noachian flood. Noah and all living things in the ark stand for the surviving men and things of the doomed fourth root-race, which were the beginnings of the succeeding root-race. This story of our Deluge, recorded from the remotest antiquity, is a universal tradition. It is found in beliefs of so varied nations as the Peruvians, Aztecs, Chaldaens, Chinese, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Hindus etc., as well as among primitive peoples.
Geology proves that the polar regions were once warm and flourishing countries; and theosophy tells us that mankind was even then present and imbodied. Both Arctic and Antarctic explorers have found fossils of subtropical plants in very high latitudes, coral that flourished on the shores of Greenland, etc. There are many geological footprints of the migrations of the great ice sheets which, as one scientist graphically states, marked "a sliding scale of climatic values on the changing cycles of time."
Modern geology has a fairy-tale fascination for a student of theosophy because, far from dealing with a dry-as-dust subject, one is studying a planetary entity which has kept a graphic sketch of vast cycles in our wonderful past. The evolutionary plan running through those periods of experience is prophetic of greater unfoldment in the future. Intuitive researchers will find that the phenomena of earth and of nature forces are the natural language which matter speaks in its own behalf, in the universal drama of unfolding, imbodied, cyclic life.
H. P. Blavatsky's knowledge of cycles enabled her to predict discoveries in the twentieth century that would prove many of the ancient teachings. Her explanations of the rounds and races and the continents they inhabited did not fit in with the current theories and, in her day, they were then thought to be wholly lacking in tangible proof. Nonetheless, anthropologists are slowly pushing back the dates for prehistoric humanity, while a few scientists are examining the idea of Atlantis seriously. Moreover, observations such as submarine explorations reveal many changes in the elevation of the water line, which seems to be part of the universal ebb and flow of things. Of course, it is well known that changes in elevation are going on now in many parts of the earth. Some of the American coasts are slowly rising, while others are going down; the Himalayas and the California mountains are steadily rising, etc., all of which is in keeping with the overlapping and intermingling of great and small cycles, both in the history of root-races and of continents. Even today, an overlapping geological cycle dating back to the third root-race includes parts of California, Ceylon, and Australia.
These geologic evidences of conditions which we and Mother Earth have passed through together have something more than a scientific meaning. Looking backward, they give us a mountain-peak perspective of the soul's continued journey. The background of spiritual purpose of the whole picture dignifies and ennobles the pathway of our everyday life. The past, present, and future are the eternal Now for the inner self who cycles beyond the limits of time into limitless Eternity. Each person is told in The Voice of the Silence, page 31:
Thy shadows live and vanish; that which in thee shall live for ever, that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life; it is the man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.
The revolution of the physical world, according to the ancient doctrine, is attended by a like revolution in the world of intellect — the spiritual evolution of the world proceeding in cycles, like the physical one.
Thus we see in history a regular alternation of ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from which it had before descended. — Isis Unveiled 1:34
But these cycles — wheels within wheels, . . . — do not affect all mankind at one and the same time — as explained in the Racial division of Cycles. Hence, as we see, the difficulty of comprehending and discriminating between them, with regard to their physical and spiritual effects, without having thoroughly mastered their relations with, and action upon the respective positions of nations and races, in their destiny and evolution. This system cannot be comprehended if the spiritual action of these periods — pre-ordained, so to say by Karmic law — is separated from their physical course. -- The Secret Doctrine 1:641-2
A volume might be written about the facts given in the above quotation. Indeed, many volumes would not suffice for the vitally interesting subject. The teachings in The Secret Doctrine are not theories or hypothetical half-truths. They are a matter of actual records which have been kept all down the ages by the most highly evolved and noble representatives of the human race. These records are safe in the secret annals of the great White Lodge of Masters who sent H. P. Blavatsky forth as the messenger to their fellow-men.
In these ancient records, the prehistoric part dwarfs all that is known historically about the life story of mankind and the globe. In the vast perspective of the whole, all the confusing data of evolution, archaeology, geology, etc., fit into consistent times and places in the picture. A significant example in the picture is the fact that in the working out of human progress, the whole mass of mankind does not reach the same level of attainment at the same time. This accounts for the confusing archaeological finds of high and low grade civilizations in the same geological strata. The ancient record also explains the finding of superimposed cities, where the lower levels show that a higher degree of culture preceded later levels of more primitive conditions.
In different parts of the globe, at the same time, there have been cave-dwellers, lake-dwellers, tribes of wandering hunters, pastoral peoples, and flourishing civilizations, all rounding out their separate careers.
It is perfectly natural that certain larger or smaller numbers of the human race should be karmically grouped together according to their general status of evolution. Moreover, contemporary grouping of different grades is the general rule of life. For example, in educating a single generation, are not the students graded from the alphabet level on up to the university degrees? The analogy holds good with members of the whole human family who are revolving in different orbits of racial childhood, youth, maturity, and old age, all at the same time. In fact, mankind has here and now, as always, its different age groups of evolutionary growth. Each group is rounding out its own rightful "place in the sun" of mental and spiritual illumination. It is all as natural as that the day should be dawning at one place, while the sun is at full meridian at another point, is setting at the third, and only faintly reflected by the midnight moon at the fourth quarter of this one world.
Evolution is but another word for cyclic law. The race does not move en masse in an end-on evolution. That fact is evident in watching the same tide of human development which is both ebbing and flowing at different places of the modern world. The contrasting levels would speak for themselves to an observer, now that aviation and radio are bringing the ends of the earth together. Imagine the aviator filming a bird's-eye view of the human conditions which he flew over as he circled round and round Mother Earth. He would find, between the most contrasted types, living pictures of all the mental, moral, and material strata from savagery to civilization. In fact, if this modern world were suddenly overwhelmed by a cataclysm and preserved in statu quo, like Pompeii, the far distant archaeologist would find a buried past as paradoxical as the present excavators do, in looking backward.
Just as our rotating earth swings us around from one morning to the next, when we carry on further our yesterday's affairs, so the rounds of whole civilizations come and go, flourish and fade away, again and again. Each reincarnating ego is attracted back to earth karmically at the time, to the place, and in the conditions where it can take the next step on its journey of becoming humanly perfect. How rapidly and how far each one will go in one lifetime depends upon himself. Conditions which are stumbling blocks to a weak character may be used as stepping stones by another of strong will and courage. Each person is reborn with the character which he has made for himself, and each life holds opportunities for bringing out more of his own inner power and knowledge. The karmic law makes no mistakes in grouping individuals together in any stage of any kind of a culture. The greatest and the least of them, as well as the general average of individuals, are more or less closely linked by their personal, national, and racial karma.
The recent unexpected findings in various places of a series of superimposed cities of different grades of culture are evidences of the living ebb and flow of human affairs in one or another country. The puzzling situation points to the naturally cyclic course of our evolution. These finds are the common homesites of people of different degrees of development, and they were separated, layer from layer, by the dust of ages. The question is not only, Who were these forgotten peoples, but Why were they all drawn to the same place to settle? It may be that it was a favorable site for the general interests of a community. Possibly, numbers of them reincarnated in several strata of the series. Most likely, each level was a lesser round in some larger cycle of a purpose working in the whole series. In that case, the first city would leave behind it something of its influence which, unconsciously, attracted after-coming men, collectively, to settle there. Thinking man leaves his impression on something more than the material earth. The vital impress of his own inner life of thought and feeling is reflected in the surrounding astral light which retains all these pictures. Thus, besides, the tangible relics which mark the levels of recurring habitations, the inhabitants must have impressed the locality with a certain psychomagnetic quality which had an intangible attraction for other minds and hearts.
Much has been done in discovering these old sites since H. P. Blavatsky wrote of them in 1888:
Tradition asserts, and archaeology accepts the truth of the legend that there is more than one city now flourishing in India, which is built on several other cities, making thus a subterranean city of six or seven stories high. Delhi is one of them; Allahabad another — examples of this being found even in Europe; e. g., in Florence, which is built on several defunct Etruscan and other cities. — The Secret Doctrine 2: 220-1
Some of these buried cities are helping us to realize that much which has stood for traditional events and mythical figures was founded on actual history of an unrecorded past. For instance, it is reported that the oft-quoted Hill of Hissarlik where Troy stood is now revealing the site of the Homeric city, "the seventh from the bottom of a stack of nine cities that comprise the hill."
The same author adds that there are ancient cities in the western world of the Americas which have not even a legendary history. She points out that
There, all along the coast of Peru, all over the Isthmus and North America, in the canyons of the Cordilleras, in the impassable gorges of the Andes, and, especially, beyond the valley of Mexico, lie, ruined and desolate, hundreds of once mighty cities, lost to the memory of men, and having themselves lost even a name. . . . As regards prehistoric buildings, both Peru and Mexico are rivals of Egypt. Equaling the latter in the immensity of her cyclopean structures, Peru surpasses her in their number; . . . Works of public utility, such as walls, fortifications, terraces, water-courses, aqueducts, bridges, temples, burial-grounds, whole cities and exquisitely paved roads, hundreds of miles in length, stretch in an unbroken line, almost covering the land as with a net. . . . Of the long generations of peoples who built them, history knows nothing, and even tradition is silent. . . . Whole forests have grown out of the cities' broken hearts, and, with a few exceptions, everything is in ruin. But one may judge of what once was by that which yet remains. — The Theosophist, "A Land of Mystery"
There is a pathos in that thought of the cities' broken hearts, where once upon a time the vital currents of human life pulsated to and fro, moving with the ebb and flow of hopes and fears, aspirations and desires, joys and sorrows, even like our own. Archaeology is no dry-as-dust study when we begin to read the continued story of human earth-life. These excavated homes and temples and battlefields — if we but knew it — are scattered chapters of the history of the past — of our own past.
Human nature ever plays the same dual role in the drama of a god living in an animal body. The usual archaeological "finds" of both altars and weapons everywhere are symbols of the same contrasting impulses that move us today in our forms of worship and of conflict. Sometimes, merely the fragments of prehistoric pottery excavated from old kitchen middens give us glimpses of an artistic side to an unknown people's life. Thus art and archaeology are allied in passing on some evidence of our heritage of that strain of creative beauty which runs in the veins of the human family. How could many of us who are untaught in the arts so often thrill with the harmony expressed in color, or line, or sound, if we had not known and felt the like before? Why should our busy lives ever seem to be, at times, a mere round of drab and aimless days, if our inner self had never revolved in some past period of a broader and brighter existence? Our innate ideals are often the spiritual aroma of rounds of experience which the real self remembers. The new brain that is born with each recurring incarnation, cannot remember all the details of its own life-term. But the enduring soul harvests and stores all that is best in every round. There is both truth and poetry in Emerson's words:
What is excellent,
As God lives is permanent;
Hearts are dust, hearts' loves remain;
Heart's love will meet thee again.
A subject of perennial interest is the location of the cradleland of mankind. Of course, the continents of the first four root-races were gone, and new lands were ready when the time was ripe for the present fifth root-race of evolving egos to begin its wheeling. The scientific idea that civilization originated where now stretch the great plateaus of Central Asia, and the theological tradition of the Garden of Eden, both point to the cradleland of our fifth root-race. The ancient records tell of a vast Central Asian homeland, with two widely separated epochs of racial history. The fifth root-race, in germ, dates far back to some egos then among Atlantean tribes. This early stock left the continent of the powerful sorcerers and migrated in serial surges, under spiritual guidance, to the then rising lands of Central Asia, now the region of the Gobi desert. Then, this vast continental tract was an aggregate of beautiful, fertile lands, with a mild and equable climate, and with outlying islands and countries in the surrounding seas. HPB speaks of an inland sea, consecrated and called "the Abyss of Learning" (The Secret Doctrine 2:502). The sacred records tell of the wonderful civilizations there which sprang up and flourished for ages.
Then, in the revolving cycles of time, the land rose, the seas receded, the fertile land turned barren, and the climate became severe. The people migrated, in turn, to newly risen lands, and spread out to the west, the east, and the south. This diffusion of the old culture into new lands went on for thousands upon thousands of years. In time, knowledge of those early Asian civilizations receded into a far-off past, until even their history became legendary. The migrants were the people who far later became the Chinese, the Tartars, the Hindus, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persian, the Greeks, the Romans, the Celts, and the Germanic and Scandinavian tribes.
The present archaeological urge to search these dim corridors of the past is timed with the new cycle of spiritual awakening, and of recovery of sacred knowledge of the sublime purpose that runs through unnumbered incarnations. Dr. de Purucker, in an interesting article from which the above data are culled, says:
Some day I believe that our archaeologists and other scientists, delving in the wind-swept deserts, sandy, arid plains of Turkestan, Persia, Baluchistan, will uncover remains showing that there there was at least a civilization the equal of anything we have today. . . .
There was a civilization, some few thousand years before the earliest history that we know about Greece and Crete and Asia Minor, in what is now the arid lands of Persia, that would have put to shame anything that ancient Greece or Rome or Egypt or Babylon could show — a civilization gentler, greater even than ours. That was the mother-land of the Greek and Roman and Italiot peoples. . . .
Central Asia is not only the cradle of civilization of our Fifth Root-Race, but our motherland. To it, in the earliest beginnings when the Fifth Root-Race began to be itself as a stock separate from Atlantis, to it the earliest Fifth Race colonists went and settled there. It was then a land rising above the waters and from its lofty plains and plateaux — through age after age, as age succeeded age — the germinal new races tried to work off the deviltry of their own Atlantean forefathers now rushing to their doom. Protected of karma, protected by the Lodge, the early Fifth lived there. Sub-race succeeded sub-race, as they slowly climbed from innocence to knowledge and from knowledge to a modicum of wisdom — and its abuses, until now we have reached our kali-yuga and are beginning to pay. When will men learn that the only road to happiness and peace, to prosperity and increase in possessions, both spiritual and material, is obedience to the spiritual and moral law, and service. . . . Selfishness defeats its own ends. -- The Theosophical Forum, June, 1937
These glancing headlights on a wonderful past in Central Asia appeal to our intuition as events belonging to our individual history. The average you and I have been egos in this human life-wave from the beginning. Looking back, one's mental horizon expands with thought of the endless revolving of wheels within wheels of our past lives. The many incarnations have been mere epicycles along the great spiral of this fifth root-race which is still in its prime. Our imagination pictures this Asian focus of civilizations broadcasting its human life and light by way of those migrant groups whose cultures evolved into the characteristic types of different nations. In time, there must have been — must still be — recurring points of contact between the egos who there took separating paths for one or many lives.
Consistent with the karmic repetition of old contacts would be the historical welter of converging influences during the decline of the Roman Empire. At that period, the fixed forms of belief and custom became fluidic and unsettled. The strange mixture of thought and character was, in its origin, Indian, Druidic, Germanic, Syrian, Persian, and from other strains, all typical expressions of some national trend of the human mind and emotions. Today, America is another melting-pot of nationalities. Are not the age-old contacts being renewed again — this time with peculiar responsibility to profit by past mistakes, and to build more wisely for the common good? Especially in the New World, life in the precocious generations is fluidic, restless, dynamic, seeking — sensitive to impulses that go far, right or wrong.
Because present world conditions were foreseen, provision was made for spreading abroad such a light of liberating truth that, in the signs of the times, we may read of the real issues being worked out. The great White Lodge which sent guides to lead our young race from doomed Atlantis to the Asian homelands, sent H. P. Blavatsky with the ancient knowledge by which we must find our way out of our selfish mistakes. Our humanity has outgrown its irresponsible infancy, and it must round this turn of the cycle with self-conscious will and the right motives.
It was part of the great plan for universal brotherhood that the fresh land of the New World was to be the birthplace of the Theosophical Society. It was not chance that, a century earlier, the obverse side of the United States seal was subscribed: "Annuit coeptis. Novus ordo seclorum." Then it was that a New Order of Ages was started on its grand round upon the upward arc. It was part of the end-of-the-century work for humanity that is brought out from behind the scenes. Timely efforts were also being made in Europe to warn those in power of impending disaster. The messengers tried to awaken the many who pursued secret methods of gaining wealth and power and long life, that the real "philosopher's stone" was the faculty within our own spiritual nature. But the warnings, and the noble and extraordinary work of Cagliostro, Mesmer, and Saint-Germain were understood only by the few.
It is most significant that the outer work of the Great Lodge for the end of the Nineteenth century has been carried over in the Theosophical Movement into the twentieth century. It is the first time since the fourteenth century that "light from the East" has grown brighter and stronger in the West. It is being recognized by ever larger numbers of those who are willing to go forward. We find hints of the larger issues running deep in the changing current of affairs. For instance:
. . . Occult philosophy teaches that even now, under our very eyes, the new Race and Races are preparing to be formed, and that it is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already silently commenced.
Pure Anglo-Saxons hardly three hundred years ago, the Americans of the United States have already become a nation apart, and, owing to a strong admixture of various nationalities and inter-marriage, almost a race sui generis, not only mentally, but also physically. . . .
Thus the Americans have become in only three centuries, a "primary race," pro tem., before becoming a race apart, and strongly separated from all other now existing races. — The Secret Doctrine 2:444
As languages have their cyclic evolution, their childhood, purity, growth, fall into matter, admixture with other languages, maturity, decay and finally death, so the primitive speech of the most civilized Atlantean races — that language, which is referred to as "Rakshasi Bhasa," in old Sanskrit works — decayed and almost died out. While the "cream" of the Fourth Race gravitated more and more toward the apex of physical and intellectual evolution, thus leaving as an heirloom to the nascent Fifth (the Aryan) Race the inflectional highly developed languages, the agglutinative decayed and remained as a fragmentary fossil idiom, scattered now, and nearly limited to the aboriginal tribes of America. — The Secret Doctrine 2:199
But language, proceeding in cycles, is not always adequate to express spiritual thoughts.-- Ibid., footnote.
Hearing was the first of humanity's five senses to be developed, and language was destined to play its important part in the recurring events of unfolding life on earth. As language is coeval with reason, the vocal sounds made by the earlier root-races, before solar deities had lighted their fires of mind, were more copies of nature sounds than articulate speech. However, the last subraces of the third root-race, under their divine instructors did build cities and begin civilizations while they were still limited to monosyllabic speech.
Naturally, the vocal medium of expressing human thought and feeling evolved pari passu with the cyclic expansion of consciousness. Thus, as human beings gradually rounded out more and more of their human nature, little by little, they gained the means of finding a wider range of vocal expression. By the time of the late fourth root-race, there had been developed the first languages of inflectional speech. These languages, adopted by the overlapping early fifth root-race, became the root of the Sanskrit. The Devanagari script was invented by the Kabiri (see The Secret Doctrine 2:364.)
H. P. Blavatsky says of her great work, The Secret Doctrine, that, in writing it,
The attempt to render in a European tongue the grand panorama of the ever periodically recurring Law — impressed upon the plastic minds of the first races endowed with Consciousness by those who reflected the same from the Universal Mind — is daring, for no human language, save the Sanskrit — which is that of the Gods — can do so with any degree of adequacy. — The Secret Doctrine 1:269
The ancient origin of Sanskrit is given in an article entitled "Was Writing Known Before Panini?" and is found in Five Years of Theosophy (pp. 419-20). This article, written by "A Chela," explains that classical Sanskrit was only restored, if somewhat perfected, by the celebrated grammarian Panini, who did not create it. It had existed throughout cycles and would pass through others still. The author continues:
Every one sees — cannot fail to see and to know — that for a language so old and so perfect as the Sanskrit to have survived alone, among all languages, it must have had its cycles of perfection and its cycles of degeneration. And, if one had any intuition, he might have seen that what they call a "dead language" being an anomaly, a useless thing in Nature, it would not have survived, even as a "dead" tongue, had it not its special purpose in the reign of immutable cyclic laws; and that Sanskrit, which came to be nearly lost to the world, is now slowly spreading in Europe, and will one day have the extension it had thousands upon thousands of years back — that of a universal language. The same as to the Greek and the Latin: there will be a time when the Greek of Aeschylus (and more perfect still in its future form) will be spoken by all in Southern Europe, while Sanskrit will be resting in its periodical pralaya; and the Attic will be followed later by the Latin of Virgil.
It is in keeping with the above data that the sacred language should have been preserved, and should have begun to reappear with the ancient wisdom which was brought from the introspective and philosophical Orient. When the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875, the teachings were so new to the matter-of-fact West that often no suitable English words could express them. It came about, in explaining finer shades of meaning or more universal concepts, that Sanskrit terms crept into the literature and lectures. For instance, the term karma, meaning "action," "consequences," or "cause and effect," soon became common, especially as applying to human life. This one word covered the meaning of the Bible phrase that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Moreover, the logical process of such harvesting was explained by the periodical series of reincarnations — though the teaching of cycles was less emphasized then than it is now when it is being recognized both in science and philosophy. At first, however, the strange words were sometimes objected to by critics like the reporter to whom W. Q. Judge replied prophetically that
the Sanscrit language will one day be again the language used by man upon this earth, first in science and metaphysics, and later on in common life. Even in the lifetime of the Sun's witty writer, he will see the terms now preserved in that noblest of languages creeping into the literature and the press of the day, cropping up in reviews, appearing in various books and treatises. . . . So this new language . . . will be one which is scientific in all that makes a language, and has been enriched by ages of study of metaphysics and the true science. — The Path 1:58
Judge's confidence in the adoption of Sanskrit terms by the West is already justified. Not only do they appear in the press and current literature, but university courses in Sanskrit find increasing enrollments. This is significant of something more than getting mere literary "light from the East." It shows a growing need of terms for voicing larger ideals and deeper feelings of men and women who are heart-hungry for truth and light. These seekers are such as will form the nucleus of a subrace of the new cycle with its undercurrent of natural mysticism awakening their own muted sense of an inner reality.
The revivifying of this ancient tongue makes for a better understanding between the thinking world of the mystical, introspective East and that of the practical, intellectual West. The two have much of value to share with each other and reap mutual benefit thereby. It was H. P. Blavatsky's understanding of the inner treasures of truth possessed by India's learned pundits, which gave her and her work the support of some of their best native scholars and cultured citizens. She early helped to found schools for the Indian boys and, later, for the girls, in which Sanskrit was taught — an innovation at the time. This work, recorded in early numbers of her Theosophist, is significant of her methods in founding a nucleus for a universal brotherhood. Instead of bringing a new religion or an alien philosophy to different peoples, her appeal to each was to awaken them to the hidden, liberating truths in their own teachings. The vibrations of her keynote of international understanding have been kept alive by her students ever since. This keynote rings stronger and clearer than ever today — a saving minority of harmonious vibrations in a chaotic world.
Words are living things. A language reflects the quality of the time, of the events, and of the character of the people, when and where it circulates as the medium of mental and emotional exchange. An everyday instance is noted in the way the restless, vivid, intensive strain in modern life is finding typical expression in newly-coined words and catch phrases. Travelers from abroad note the quick coinage of so-called Americanisms which keep pace with new elements entering into the flowing current of daily life in the western republic. Some of the hybrid terms are so apt as to find a place, finally, in standard dictionaries.
Language is one of the valued keys of the ethnologists. What puzzles some of them who hold to an end-on evolution for mankind, is to find many barbarous and savage peoples who speak, even imperfectly, languages which are elaborate in both vocabulary and syntax. If these people were nearer a supposed ape-ancestry than Europeans, their language should be correspondingly crude and simple. However, this apparent contradiction proves to be a paradox which is explained by the law of cycles. These cases are good evidence of the spiral evolutionary course pursued through great rounds and races. These peoples are moving on the last turn of a wheel of untold antiquity.
It is noted that the Australian natives, for example, "use a complicated grammar with three genders." Presumably, these egos now incarnating in a disappearing race are finishing the final curves of a downward cycle dating back to old Lemuria of which Australia is a remnant. These echoes of former greatness point to the long ages which these egos have spent in fulfilling the law of sowing and reaping. For us, too, they are words of warning. They are tragic evidence of the essential nature of ethics in the fabric of the universe. Right and wrong are not human inventions, but are part of the universal law of balance and harmony. The law of retardation slows the wheel of our progress when we break the moral law of our own being. Likewise, nature, on her part, calls a halt by means of sickness — or even death — when we persistently break her laws of health. When she halts us with sickness where we are on the wrong course, the pain and limitation are her stop signals, lest a worse thing befall us.
The cultural echoes in the life of these peoples hark back to their past experience both in cycles of growth in true wisdom and in periods given over to evil magic. In some degree, do we not all vaguely feel, at times, a sense of having attained to better and to worse things than belong to this life? Emerson points out in his essay on History that
Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history.
"The Sun is the heart of the Solar World (System) and its brain is hidden behind the (visible) sun. From thence, sensation is radiated into every nerve-center of the great body, and the waves of the life-essence flow into each artery and vein. . . . The planets are its limbs and pulses. . . ."
. . . there is a regular circulation of the vital fluid throughout our system, of which the Sun is the heart — the same as the circulation of the blood in the human body — during the manvantaric solar period, or life; the Sun contracting as rhythmically at every return of it, as the human heart does. — The Secret Doctrine 1:541
The italicized part of the above quotation is from the archaic records, here interpreted by commentaries "compiled by generations of adepts." As The Secret Doctrine is based upon these records, the striking analogy between the solar and the human heart is presented therein as a logical part of the one universal evolution. When the book was published some seven years before the discovery of x-rays, H. P. Blavatsky predicted that if the living and throbbing heart could be made luminous and visible, one would see the sunspot phenomenon repeated every second. Today, the growing interest in, and the deep study of sunspots and of the electromagnetic and other influences of the celestial spheres, open the way for still other of the ancient teachings which relate man to universal nature.
Our solar system is a big cosmic family with its sun and moon, and the older and younger planets, comets, nebulae, etc., visible and invisible. Each shining orb imbodies an intelligent being, a deity of some grade, rounding out its own cycle of suitable experience and growth. Our earth also imbodies a planetary entity. Mankind, too, has its rightful place in the solar family, for
the "Serpents of Wisdom" have preserved their records well, and the history of the human evolution is traced in heaven as it is traced on underground walls. Humanity and the stars are bound together indissolubly, because of the intelligences that rule the latter. — The Secret Doctrine 2:352
These "Serpents of Wisdom" are the few most highly evolved spiritual and intellectual individuals of each succeeding round and race. Through initiation in the Mystery-schools, they learned to verify the inner teachings about man and the universe. The divine instructors of early humanity had directed men's minds to the invention of all the arts and sciences through which the creative impulse again comes forth and operates in recurring civilizations. These teachings included laws and legislation, architecture, metallurgy, agriculture, the medical use of plants, various modes of magic, astronomy, etc. Echoes of all these things have remained in the earth's inner atmosphere and are the source of the "innate ideas" that haunt our minds. Each ego must round this part of the cycle of constructive knowledge by becoming aware of it within himself. We are reminded that
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun. — Eccles. 1:9
Every human being has a background of infinity and a limitless future. To have reached the human stage means that we were all in that majestic procession which started with our earth's life cycle. Then it was that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Among those rejoicing at the birth of this infant humanity were our spiritual ancestors who had perfected their human cycle long, long ages before. They are aware of a karmic relation to us which calls for their help in following them on the destined way.
The unity of man and nature is given voice in "Locksley Hall" where Tennyson says:
Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.
In keeping with the earth's cycling onward, astronomers' advance in knowledge and technique has enabled them to reach out into new regions of space. They are finding many extra-galactic systems all evidently revolving and evolving on their own pathways as we are on ours. This is added evidence of intelligent direction and common purpose everywhere. The very thought of it broadens the mind that can see here the working of universal law. Moreover, the harmonious and orderly interrelations of the countless orbs point to the essential nature of cooperation and ethics in the universe itself.
The paths of the celestial bodies are spiral curves of the utmost complexity. Moreover, as our sun moves around its orbit, it brings its whole family of revolving globes into new regions of space where they have never been before. Nor will they be there again. New conditions of mind and of matter, and of their influences, are met and intermingle with those of the receding past.
There is the cycle of 25,920 years during which the solar family travels around the zodiac of which each sign has a different influence upon the earth and upon us. Speaking of this in 1887, H. P. Blavatsky said that when, in a few years, we entered the sign of Aquarius, "psychologists will have some extra work to do, and the psychic idiosyncrasies of humanity will enter on a great change" (Lucifer 1:174). Her words are being fulfilled in the increase of mental and nervous diseases, the craze for psychism, the numbers of "sensitives" and mediumistic types, phenomenal occurrences, etc. These conditions were far more rare fifty years ago.
When the twentieth century opened, the thought world was dominated by the opposing forces of a scientific materialism and those of an illogical theology. Neither was prepared to meet the problems of the unfolding nature of composite man who is essentially linked with all the universe. Nor did both together make provision to meet the psychological phase of evolving humanity which is manifesting in the disorders now confronting physicians, statesmen, publicists, and, indeed, individuals and nations generally. In short, the selfish, egocentric view of men and nations today is logically and morally on a par with the mediaeval belief in a flat earth as the center of attendant globes. The modern world sadly needs the practical help of the mysticism of the ancients. Our statesmen might change the course of history by understanding the deeper causes of recurring events. Such knowledge is as scientific as the foretelling of a coming comet or a star. For instance, looking back to the signs of the times in 1888, we read:
It is simply knowledge and mathematically correct computations which enable the Wise Men of the East to foretell, for instance, that England is on the eve of such or another catastrophe; France, nearing such a point of her cycle, and Europe in general threatened with, or rather, on the eve of, a cataclysm, which her own cycle of racial Karma has led her to. — The Secret Doctrine 1:646
The Masters of wisdom do not meddle with politics. Their warning meant what is so slowly dawning on the disordered world. Its rapid progress having interwoven and intermingled its every material and mental interest, it can go no farther save with brotherly regard for humanity's common welfare. The Masters, vitally alive to world conditions and to sidereal influences, know the zodiacal periods calling for help.
This linking of the sidereal cycles with mankind was, with the ancients, the esoteric or sacred part of astronomy. With them, astrology was a science as infallible as astronomy, and still is for its interpreters who are equally infallible. The secret records go back to those of the great Atlantean astronomer, Asuramaya. It is said that the Atlantean records cannot err, as they were compiled under the guidance of early mankind's divine instructors in astronomy. However, what has survived to our time, and is even publicly known, is but a fragment of the vast and noble science of ancient astrology. The ancients considered the position and influence of all the heavenly orbs as the bodies of intelligent entities. This knowledge, manifestly, is beyond the attainment even of the many intelligent men and women who feel the appeal of the starry spaces and are looking there for more light on life here.
The modern horoscope, even if correct in some things, may be more of a detriment than a help. The person who depends upon its decrees as inevitable, is less inclined to use his spiritual will to meet and work through his difficulties impersonally. To regard unfavorable issues merely by their conflict with our personal desires and plans is to lose the benefit of the karmic experience as a means of gaining more self-knowledge and strength of character. We cannot change our past sowing of unhappy causes; but how we face and deal with the harvest of effects is in our power. "The stars impel but do not compel."
The ancients knew how to regulate human life by the reckonings of the cosmic clock of nature which is infallible.
That clock is the heavenly vault; and the sun, the moon, the seven planets (as the ancients reckoned them), and the stars, are the "hands" marking time cycles. — Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 206
All the esoteric anniversaries, like the four sacred seasons — the winter and summer solstices, and the spring and autumn equinoxes — were based upon the science of relating the destiny of mankind to the timing of the celestial orbs. Man is a son of the spiritual sun, and his body and all his life on earth are sustained by solar vitality. Man is an embryo divinity, even as the divinities were once men in their aeonic evolutionary cycle of "self-becoming." The quickening spirit ensouls alike every manifesting form of matter from the least to the greatest on the one grand round.
From center to circumference, from the imperceptible vesicle to the uttermost conceivable bounds of the Kosmos, those glorious thinkers, the Occultists, trace cycle merging into cycle, containing and contained in an endless series. The embryo evolving in its pre-natal sphere, the individual in his family, the family in the state, the state in mankind, the Earth in our system, that system in its central universe, the universe in the Kosmos, and the Kosmos in the ONE CAUSE . . . thus runs their philosophy of evolution, . . . — The Secret Doctrine 2:189
In conclusion, the doctrine of cycles, as presented in this manual for inquirers, is by no means completed. Further theosophical study based upon the different aspects of the subject in the several chapters, will repay specialists in scientific and in other lines of research. For this doctrine imbodies a scientific, philosophic, and religious basis for a comprehensive philosophy of life itself. And the deeper one goes in any and in all lines, the more evident becomes the mystic and vital unity between man and great nature. Thus, in the periodic recurrence of human imbodiments, with such harvesting of its past conditions as may free the personal field for wiser sowing, the human soul evolves its innate powers, with the natural purpose of becoming more than merely human. All the currents of life — cosmic and terrestrial — are flowing towards realms of greater light and greater perfection of forms, of more intelligent ideas and of more spiritual ideals.
Each person as a self-conscious unit is in his own place in the general stream of the human race which is moving on at an average speed to fulfill its planetary career during the seven ages of the earth's life. However, each one is free to train himself to run ahead of the mean average pace. The results of such self-directed efforts appear among us, in different degrees, as superior individuals, geniuses, masters, and saviors. Somewhere, in our future, we shall reach the racial "moment of choice," the outcome of which will decide whether each will go on and complete the great planetary round on the ascending arc. Those who are unprepared to keep up with any grade of the trained climbers, will fall behind, stranded on some sandbank of time. There they must await another manvantara to continue their evolution with the slow unfolding of a new race. The point is, that the divine impetus manifesting throughout the cosmos is keyed to progress; each individual, being an integral part of the universe, must go with it, however much he delays and thereby wrongs himself. The cycle of necessity is inevitable. Thus, the origin of ethics is not a man-made ruling, but it is a reality woven into the very fabric of the universe.
In the justice of the natural law the final "moment of choice" is but the summing up and balancing of the daily choice of right and wrong through many lives of using free will as a self-conscious being. At present, we each are the human battlefield of our own dual mind which is fighting for selfish, personal ambitions and desires on the one hand, and for spiritual thought and impersonal feeling on the other. We all have our pet weaknesses which are so unworthy of our best traits. The general trend of our dual thoughts and impulses seems to play upon our minds and feelings automatically, because each one is a cyclic repetition of its own kind. They are the elements of our self-made character. Each one of them is vitalized with our own life force, and it gains strength each time it returns and is given play. If our thoughts and feelings are petty and selfish, their quality of jealousy, envy, anger, hatred, suspicion, deceit, etc., colors our reaction to both new and old associations and conditions. We instinctively express our character.
If we have vitalized the opposite traits of generosity, kindliness, sympathy, love, trust, aspiration, sincerity, and the like, these also return to us on their ennobling rounds. Our dual impulses both use the brain-mind to make out a case for right and wrong in the inner struggles between conscience and desire. When we decide aright, our lower nature loses the strength that is gained by our better side. In recognizing this power of creating a noble character, step by step, we find opportunities of winning point by point in meeting the routine affairs of daily life. These seemingly small victories unite their force and make us equal to the larger issues which try our souls severely. Even the failure to win at times may count as success, for the person who keeps on trying builds up his moral strength, and diffuses something helpful into the very air around him.
Every day is a new beginning for all, no matter what the past has been. To unfold, to advance, to "become" is the natural and vital impulse of everything and every being. The most dreary and difficult life outwardly, may be a cycle of opportunity for the inner self to show its heroic courage and impersonal power.
The Soul knows only the Soul; the web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed. — Emerson
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