The Geometry of the End of Time
Western Intellectuals, Esoteric and New Age authors, explore the Yuga cycle
I apologize if what follows may seem, to some, a bit longwinded and pedantic. Perhaps fanatical. This is for those who want to go a bit far down a particular rabbit hole… At the end of the piece, I have added, as afterword, an AI-created poem on the topic that may help lighten things up.
For next week’s Secret Traditions and Spiritual Revolutions seminar, I am taking another look at models of cyclical time — repeating octaves of creation, destruction, and recreation — we find woven through the works of the most significant 19th and 20th Century occultists. These authors based their ideas on what they could glean from earlier texts and ancient tradition, albeit filtered through their own psychology and philosophy. According to René Guénon, Julius Evola, Alain Danielou, and Helena Blavatsky, among others, we are living at the nadir of the Kali Yuga, the fourth, final, degenerate epoch. In ‘The Yugas: Their Importance in India and their Use by Western Intellectuals and Esoteric and New Age Writers’, the scholar Luis González-Reimann writes:
The theory posits that the world goes through a series of four historical periods named yugas that define the characteristics of society and human behavior. The marker for the quality of the four yugas is dharma, a term that refers to how close or far society is from the Brahmanical ideal of social and moral conduct. Dharma descends as time goes by, meaning that in the first yuga, it is followed by all, while in the last yuga, there is social chaos, and morality is at an all time low.
This archetype of an inevitable cyclical return has been extremely influential in Traditionalist, modernist occult, and New Age thought. It also filtered through religious studies via the work of Mircea Eliade, a closet traditionalist and ally of Guénon’s. In texts by 1960s authors such as Barbara Marx Hubbard, proponent of “conscious evolution,” and David Spangler, founder of Findhorn in Scotland, the cyclical model fused with Christian ideas of a “Second Coming,” anticipating Apocalypse, messianic return, Revelation, and the New Jerusalem.
All of these ideas remain current. One can track variants throughout the post-New Age spiritual culture, expressed in different form by channels such as Bashar, Ascension, Elizabeth April, and so on, and writers like David Wilcock, Alexandr Dugin, Robert Lawlor, and more. The basic idea is that we are at the spiritual low point, but soon there will be either planetary death-and-rebirth, or perhaps a spiritual metamorphosis — a collective transformation of humanity — that doesn’t require a literal annihilation.
We find the original reference to the Yuga cycle and the Kali Yuga in ancient Hindu scriptures called the Puranas, as well as the Mahabharata. These scriptures are believed to have been written down in the early centuries of the Christian Era (3rd - 4th Century CE), but may represent a much older oral tradition. According to the Puranas, the Kali Yuga began around 3100 BCE (midnight on February 2, 3102 BCE, to be exact) very close to the start of the classic Mayan Long Count calendar on December 21, 3113 BC. It will go on for 432,000 years, while the duration of the complete cycle of the four Yugas is 4,320,000 years.
The duration of the yugas was established according to the 4:3:2:1 ratio. In terms of years, Kṛta [often called Satya] was said to last 4,000, Tretā 3,000, Dvāpara 2,000, and Kali 1,000. Additionally, transitional periods between yugas of one tenth of the duration of every yuga were established at both the beginning and end of each. This amounts to a total of 10,000 years for the four yugas without transitional periods, and 12,000 years including them. … But the duration of the yugas was soon increased astronomically when these 12,000 years were explained as divine years. In order to convert them to human years, they must be multiplied by 360, the number of days in an ideal year. This resulted in the enormous duration of the yugas that appears in the later literature.
Some modern scholars propose that the doctrinal belief in these vast spans of time was not based on some lost science or ancient knowledge. Instead, it may have developed as a reaction to a period of decline, war, and corruption in India in the beginning of the Christian era.
In many cases, it appears that mythologies — and interpretations correlating mythic and historical events — function as open and fluidic, rather than closed and static, systems. Perhaps this idea that we are currently at the apex of the Kali Yuga is best understood as an archetype in the Jungian sense. For his part, Jung explored the Judeo-Christian archetype of the Apocalypse, which he believed was “constellating” in our time.
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