THEOSOPHY, Vol. 27, No. 6, April, 1939
(Pages 254-259; Size: 53K)
(Number 81 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
SWING OF THE SOLAR SCYTHE
IN 1888, H. P. Blavatsky predicted that the science of chemistry would die and be reborn in its successor, "METACHEMISTRY or New Alchemy."(1) The choice of these terms alone, with their vivid characterization of modern chemistry, should establish her views as prophetic in more than a chance sense, to which may be added her multifarious and accurate indications of developments that these words suggested.
She also described, but did not name, the NEW ASTROLOGY, by indicating that astrology, as currently understood, is really a relic of ancient knowledge, so materialized by ignorance and degraded by charlatanry as to be rather misleading than indicative of what was once a real science on the same footing with the other branches of Theosophy more fully presented and discussed in the teaching. One phase of its general nature she illustrated with a passage from Hermes Trismegistus:The creation of Life by the Sun is as continuous as his light; nothing arrests or limits it. Around him, like an army of Satellites, are innumerable choirs of genii.... They fulfil the will of the gods (Karma) by means of storms, tempests, transitions of fire and earthquakes; likewise by famines and wars, for the punishment of impiety.... It is the sun who preserves and nourishes all creatures; and even as the Ideal World which environs the sensible world fills this last with the plenitude and universal variety of forms, so also the Sun, enfolding all in his light, accomplishes everywhere the birth and development of creatures.... All these Genii preside over mundane affairs, they shake and overthrow the constitution of States and of individuals; they imprint their likeness on our Souls, they are present in our nerves, our marrow, our veins, our arteries, and our very brain-substance. (S.D. 1888, I, 294.)Astrology is at the present time creeping into science, unrecognized and unnamed, but as unmistakably as its predecessors -- the physics and chemistry of the ancients. The savants who have been timidly and tentatively connecting solar cycles with cycles of animal abundance and the like little realize what they are letting into the modern arena in disguise; fortunately, the attempts of modern economists to correlate stock-market fluctuations with outbursts of solar energy have been but slightly successful! But the road is open, and would mankind but grasp the opportunity, it might make "the world in the next century a heaven as compared with what it is now"; not by means of predicting stock prices -- which would be more likely to pave the road in the opposite direction -- but by studying the solar cycles to gain self-knowledge, and thus self-control. A startling idea, perhaps.
Every man worthy of the name of thinker has noted in himself tides of thought, will, and feeling which cannot be ascribed to the familiar factors of environment, good or bad. Psychologists have attempted weekly chartings of the cycles of human feeling, but none has dared the brand of "superstition" by trying to correlate such changes with the moon! Remembering one's feelings for a week at a time is something of a mnemonic feat for the average individual, and we may look for a long period to elapse before monthly and yearly charts are made; longer still before a vastly more momentous cycle -- of eleven years and a fraction -- with its vast consequences to humanity, is discerned and studied. Meantime we may suggest a psycho-historical correlation between the above quotation from Hermes and the following Secret Doctrine statements:The real substance of the concealed (Sun) is a nucleus of Mother substance. It is the heart and the matrix of all the living and existing Forces in our solar universe. It is the Kernel from which proceed to spread on their cyclic journeys all the Powers that set in action the atoms in their functional duties, and the focus within which they again meet in their SEVENTH ESSENCE every eleventh year.... (I, 290.)The individual ego may regard himself as a "knot" in the network of universal space -- a point of meeting for all the cosmic forces. He is not only a creative participant in the affairs of the cosmos, but also he reflects to a greater or lesser degree all the universal or cosmic alterations in the corresponding departments of his microcosmic nature. Add to this the fact that there is no true dividing line between the spiritual and material aspects of universal force, and further thought will show that in some manner or other almost every spiritual change in the cosmos must be indicated by material signs, and that these in turn are capable of correlation with internal states of emotion and perception. The aspirant to wisdom may thus possess a chart which, rightly understood, will enable him to anticipate and guard against ill-omened pulsations of his own nature, to look forward to and avail himself of periodic perceptive openings into the spiritual mysteries of Nature -- his own included. Such were the uses of the ancient, the true astrology.
Thus, 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. Only, instead of performing the round in a second or so, it takes the solar blood ten of its years, and a whole year to pass through its auricles and ventricles before it washes the lungs and passes thence to the great veins and arteries of the system.... Could the human heart be made luminous, and the living and throbbing organ be made visible, so as to have it reflected upon a screen, such as used by the astronomers in their lectures -- say for the moon -- then every one would see the Sun-spot phenomenon repeated every second -- due to its contraction and the rushing of the blood. (I, 541-2.)
Western knowledge of sunspots dates from the year 1610, when Fabricius of Holland used them to ascertain the rotation of the sun. In the following year Galileo determined the duration of the solar rotation by means of sunspots. Since that time astronomers have watched with interest the passage of dark spots across the solar orb, despite the fact that an eminent Jesuit Father denounced the discovery as a delusion, saying, "I have read the whole of my 'Aristotle' several times, and can assure you that I have found nothing similar there." Careful enumeration of the spots, year by year, was begun by the amateur astronomer, Baron Schwabe, of Dessau, who started counting them in 1826. Since 1878 observers have measured the area occupied by the spots, as well as recording their number. The periodicity of solar disturbances was first noted by Schwabe, and soon other astronomers made the cycle the basis of their own observations with the result that careful studies of the dates of maxima and minima of the spots are now available. M. R. Wolfe, of the Zurich observatory, investigated past records and fixed the dates of maxima and minima from the beginning of the observations in 1610 up to 1878. Records since that time are of course abundant.
There has been much discussion in both scientific and popular literature of the most recent solar disturbance, which occurred in 1937-38. It may be suggestively noted that if we extend the maximum period to include the preceding year or so, making a maximum "epoch," many of the recent political disturbances of the world are included within the limits of the period. Thus, in 1936 Ethiopia was invaded by Italy and the Spanish Civil War broke out; in 1937 Japan invaded China and there was an Afghan revolt in the orient. The European crisis occurred in 1938.
A similar tabulation of the events occurring during or near the epochs of other maxima proves equally interesting. The discovery is made that the great preponderance of warlike human events during a century or more show an intimate relation to the dates of maxima. Space will not permit the presentation of such a compilation, some of the results of which, however, may be illustrated.
Select three dates of special historical significance in the nineteenth century. Choice naturally falls on 1815, 1848, and 1870. The two last are maximum years, while the first date is only a year distant from a maximum year! Another year of political importance was 1859, also a sunspot maximum. During the epoch of this cycle of sunspot manifestation the following human disturbances, not all well known, occurred: Mexican Civil War, 1858; John Brown's Rebellion, 1859; Civil War in America, 1861; Indian Mutiny, 1857; Italo-Austrian War, 1859; Garibaldi's Revolt, 1860; Seven Weeks' War, 1861; Caucasian Wars, 1859; Anglo-French War against China, 1857; French Invasion of Mexico, 1862.
There are, of course, exceptions -- cases where important conflicts came in years distant from the epochs of sunspot maxima. But the general picture remains true, that the great majority of belligerent disturbances are grouped close to or in the year of a sunspot maximum.
As to events of a constructive nature and their cycles, human history in Kali Yuga gives but little material; there were, however, the liberation of the Russian serfs -- without war or rebellion; the foundation of the Theosophical Society, of U.L.T.; and the formation of the Society for Ethical Culture -- all at or near minima. The dates of the founding of the various American societies organized for peaceful or beneficial purposes bear similar significance. Of these:12 were founded at sunspot maxima.Perhaps now a little more of the meaning of the following statement is clear:
22 were founded within 1 year of maxima.
16 were founded within 2 years of maxima.
19 were founded within 3 years of maxima.
24 were founded within 4 years of maxima.
40 were founded at or near minima.... Yet in the prognostication of such future events, at any rate, all foretold on the authority of cyclic recurrences, there is no psychic phenomenon involved. It is neither prevision, nor prophecy; no more than is the signalling of a comet or star, several years before its appearance. 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 reliability of the information depends, of course, on the acceptation or rejection of the claim for a tremendous period of historical observation. Eastern Initiates maintain that they have preserved records of the racial development and of events of universal import ever since the beginning of the Fourth Race -- that which preceded being traditional....What, then, from this past, can we prognosticate of the future? The data are imperfect and fragmentary, but if we study them in connection with the well-known century cycle there is indication that the opening years of the latter are a time of general international trouble followed by revolutionary movements; the middle decades appear as distinctly a revolutionary period, but without much external trouble.
It is now amply proved that even horoscopes and judiciary astrology are not quite based on a fiction, and that stars and constellations, consequently, have an occult and mysterious influence on, and connection with, individuals. And if with the latter, why not with nations, races, and mankind in bulk? ... (S.D. I, 646-7.)
As to our own time, we have just passed the danger peak of the present sun cycle. The facts as we see them (which may be somewhat different from what they really are!) suggest that if world affairs can be held under control for between two and three years more, the next danger cycle will not begin until about 1945, building up to a crisis in 1949. Whether that crisis will take on an international form, bringing dangers of a new World War, depends, perhaps, on the future relations of certain distressed countries with the rest of the world. If international trouble does not arise we may expect widespread revolutionary movements in the next sunspot cycle -- 1946-49. If international tension remains high, the pressure will serve to strengthen and consolidate national unity and thus direct the explosive tendencies toward a world war. This is merely another way of expressing the well-known fact that preparation for war breeds war! If world war supervenes, a world revolutionary terror will certainly follow, the parallel of which history will never before have seen.
As for our own nation during the rest of the century, there appears to be hope of readjustments without serious or armed conflict. The Theosophical Movement wields a power that is little suspected, and in more ways than one, as was not the case in 1859. In any event, however, it is quite improbable that the American citizen of 1975 will be able to recognize in his day much of our present social, financial, and governmental system.
We may be assisted to mind our own business during the coming years by "benefits" of nature, which, as blessings, will truly arrive in disguise. Prof. Rafaele Bendandi, who has an imposing record of successful earthquake forecasting (including Avezzena, 1915, Tokio, 1923, and Santa Barbara, 1925), claims that within the next seven years, 1939-1945, North America will be visited by violent earthquake disturbances. Physical evidence of the coming crisis is already at hand, he says.(3) (The recent upheaval in Chile may be a premonitory event.) Madame Blavatsky left some hints as to possible convulsions this century, and her "hints" are gradually assuming the character of commands to destiny!
What use could or should be made of such information? Shall we endeavor to "sell" the diplomats on astronomical statesmanship? Hardly. Wide knowledge of such laws would lead to militaristic preparation for the dangerous cycles on the one hand, and attempts by troublemakers to exploit such crises. Unfortunately, men must continue in general ignorance of these laws "until we begin acting from within, instead of ever following impulses from without; namely, those produced by our physical senses and gross physical body." And truly, the only palliative is a Brotherhood in actu, and altruism not simply in name.(4) Such studies as the present can serve our time only by strengthening theosophists in their knowledge and in their Cause, for in their hands alone is hope for the ultimate triumph of Brotherhood.
Compiler's note: Two articles are found below. The first one is the article that was referred to in footnote number (3), entitled: "The Theory of Cycles", by H.P.B. I decided to scan a much later reprinting of it because it included introductory comments by the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine, along with their pointing the reader to more related information printed in a portion of the "On the Lookout" section of an earlier issue -- which is the second item found below.
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 10, August, 1942
THE THEORY OF CYCLES[Fifty years ago, writing an introduction to the discussion of Cycles in The Ocean of Theosophy, William Q. Judge observed that western thinkers paid but scant attention to the periodicities of nature, regarding them simply as measures of time, without any significant relation to recurring events in human affairs. The key, of course, to the cyclic aspect of history, the rise and decline of nations and races, and smaller but no less important cycles within the limits of our historical epoch, is the law of Reincarnation. While modern scientific students of cycles have as yet no inkling of the moral and spiritual causes behind these alternations, measurable progress has been achieved in recognition of the bearing of natural events on history, more or less in development of studies noted by H. P. Blavatsky in the last century. The present article, which first appeared in the Theosophist for July, 1880, shows the importance she placed upon such research, and reference to a recent Lookout discussion will show how extensive has been investigation of this sort since (see THEOSOPHY XXIX, 373-8). As the evidence piles up, more and more consideration will be given to the psycho-physiological correlations of natural cycles, with the result that the minds of men will gradually open to the moral and psychological teachings of Theosophy. In such ways the prejudice against the spiritual doctrine of Reincarnation is slowly worn away. --Editors, THEOSOPHY.]IT is now some time since this theory, which was first propounded in the oldest religion of the world, Vedaism, then taught by various Greek philosophers, and afterwards defended by the Theosophists of the Middle Ages, but which came to be flatly denied by the wise men of the West, like everything else, in this world of negation, has been gradually coming into prominence again. This once, contrary to the rule, it is the men of science themselves who take it up. Statistics of events of the most varied nature are fast being collected and collated with the seriousness demanded by important scientific questions. Statistics of wars and of the periods (or cycles) of the appearance of great men -- at least those as have been recognized as such by their contemporaries and irrespective of later opinions; statistics of the periods of development and progress at large commercial centres; of the rise and fall of arts and sciences; of cataclysms, such as earthquakes, epidemics; periods of extraordinary cold and heat; cycles of revolutions, and of the rise and fall of empires, etc.; all these are subjected in turn to the analysis of the minutest mathematical calculations. Finally, even the occult significance of numbers in names of persons and names of cities, in events, and like matters, receives unwonted attention. If, on the one hand, a great portion of the educated public is running into atheism and scepticism, on the other hand, we find an evident current of mysticism forcing its way into science. It is the sign of an irrepressible need in humanity to assure itself that there is a Power Paramount over matter; an occult and mysterious law which governs the world, and which we should rather study and closely watch, trying to adapt ourselves to it, than blindly deny, and break our heads against the rock of destiny. More than one thoughtful mind, while studying the fortunes and reverses of nations and great empires, has been deeply struck by one identical feature in their history, namely, the inevitable recurrence of similar historical events reaching in turn every one of them, and after the same lapse of time. This analogy is found between the events to be substantially the same on the whole, though there may be more or less difference as to the outward form of details. Thus, the belief of the ancients in their astrologers, soothsayers and prophets might have been warranted by the verification of many of their most important predictions, without these prognostications of future events implying of necessity anything very miraculous in themselves. The soothsayers and augurs having occupied in days of the old civilizations the very same position now occupied by our historians, astronomers and meteorologists, there was nothing more wonderful in the fact of the former predicting the downfall of an empire or the loss of a battle, than in the latter predicting the return of a comet, a change of temperature, or, perhaps, the final conquest of Afghanistan. The necessity for both these classes being acute, observers apart, there was the study of certain sciences to be pursued then as well as they are now. The science of today will have become an "ancient" science a thousand years hence. Free and open, scientific study now is to all, whereas it was then confined but to the few. Yet, whether ancient or modern, both may be called exact sciences; for, if the astronomer of today draws his observations from mathematical calculations, the astrologer of old also based his prognostication upon no less acute and mathematically correct observations of the ever-recurring cycles. And, because the secret of this science is now being lost, does that give any warrant to say that it never existed, or that, to believe in it, one must be ready to swallow "magic," "miracles" and the like stuff? "If, in view of the eminence to which modern science has reached, the claim to prophesy future events must be regarded as either a child's play or a deliberate deception," says a writer in the Novoyé Vremya, the best daily paper of literature and politics of St. Petersburg, "then we can point at science which, in its turn, has now taken up and placed on record the question, in its relation to past events, whether there is or is not in the constant repetition of events a certain periodicity; in other words, whether these events recur after a fixed and determined period of years with every nation; and if a periodicity there be, whether this periodicity is due to blind chance or depends on the same natural laws, on which are more or less dependent many of the phenomena of human life." Undoubtedly the latter. And the writer has the best mathematical proof of it in the timely appearance of such works as that of Dr. E. Zasse, under review, and of a few others. Several learned works, treating upon this mystical subject, have appeared of late, and of some of these works and calculations we will now treat; the more readily as they are in most cases from the pens of men of eminent learning. Having already in the June number of the THEOSOPHIST noticed an article by Dr. Blohvitz On the significance of the number Seven, [see Volume I, pp. 345-50] with every nation and people -- a learned paper which appeared lately in the German journal Die Gegenwart --we will now summarize the opinions of the press in general, on a more suggestive work by a well-known German scientist, E. Zasse, with certain reflections of our own. It has just appeared in the Prussian Journal of Statistics, and powerfully corroborates the ancient theory of Cycles. These periods, which bring around ever-recurring events, begin from the infinitesimal small -- say of ten years -- rotation and reach to cycles which require 250, 500, 700 and 1000 years, to effect their revolutions around themselves, and within one another. All are contained within the Máhá-Yug, the "Great Age" or Cycle of the Manu calculation, which itself revolves between two eternities -- the "Pralayas" or Nights of Brahma. As, in the objective world of matter, or the system of effects, the minor constellations and planets gravitate each and all around the sun, so in the world of the subjective, or the system of causes, these innumerable cycles all gravitate between that which the finite intellect of the ordinary mortal regards as eternity, and the still finite, but more profound, intuition of the sage and philosopher views as but an eternity within THE ETERNITY. "As above, so it is below," runs the old Hermetic maxim. As an experiment in this direction, Dr. Zasse selected the statistical investigations of all the wars, the occurrence of which has been recorded in history, as a subject which lends itself more easily to scientific verification than any other. To illustrate his subject in the simplest and most easily comprehensible way, Dr. Zasse represents the periods of war and the periods of peace in the shape of small and large wave-lines running over the area of the old world. The idea is not a new one, for, the image was used for similar illustrations by more than one ancient and mediæval mystic, whether in words or picture -- by Henry Kunrath, for example. But it serves well its purpose and gives us the facts we now want. Before he treats, however, of the cycles of wars, the author brings in the record of the rise and fall of the world's great empires, and shows the degree of activity they have played in the Universal History. He points out the fact that if we divide the map of the Old World into five parts -- into Eastern, Central, and Western Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Egypt -- then we will easily perceive that every 250 years, an enormous wave passes over these areas, bringing into each in its turn the events it has brought to the one next preceding. This wave we may call "the historical wave" of the 250 years' cycle. The reader will please follow this mystical number of years.
The first of these waves began in China, 2,000 years B.C. -- the "golden age" of this Empire, the age of philosophy, of discoveries and reforms. "In 1750 B.C., the Mongolians of Central Asia establish a powerful empire. In 1500, Egypt rises from its temporary degradation and carries its sway over many parts of Europe and Asia; and about 1250, the historical wave reaches and crosses over to Eastern Europe, filling it with the spirit of the Argonautic expedition, and dies out in 1000 B.C. at the siege of Troy."
A second historical wave appears about that time in Central Asia. "The Scythians leave her steppes, and inundate towards the year 750 B.C. the adjoining countries, directing themselves towards the South and West; about the year 500 in Western Asia begins an epoch of splendour for ancient Persia; and the wave moves on to the east of Europe, where, about 250 B.C., Greece reaches her highest state of culture and civilization -- and further on to the West, where, at the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire finds itself at its apogee of power and greatness."
Again, at this period we find the rising of a third historical wave at the far East. After prolonged revolutions, about this time, China forms once more a powerful empire, and its arts, sciences and commerce flourish again. Then 250 years later, we find the Huns appearing from the depths of Central Asia; in the year 500 A.D. a new and powerful Persian kingdom is formed; in 750 -- in Eastern Europe -- the Byzantine empire; and, in the year 1,000 -- on its western side -- springs up the second Roman Power, the Empire of the Papacy, which soon reaches extraordinary development of wealth and brilliancy.
At the same time, the fourth wave approaches from the Orient. China is again flourishing; in 1250, the Mongolian wave from Central Asia has overflowed and covered an enormous area of land, including with it Russia. About 1500, in Western Asia, the Ottoman Empire rises in all its might and conquers the Balkan peninsula; but at the same time in Eastern Europe, Russia throws off the Tartar yoke, and about 1750, during the reign of Empress Catherine, rises to an unexpected grandeur and covers itself with glory. The wave ceaselessly moves further on to the West, and, beginning with the middle of the past century, Europe is living over an epoch of revolutions and reforms, and, according to the author, "if it is permissible to prophetize, then, about the year 2,000, Western Europe will have lived one of those periods of culture and progress so rare in history." The Russian press, taking the cue, believes that "towards those days the Eastern Question will be finally settled, the national dissensions of the European peoples will come to an end, and the dawn of the new millennium will witness the abolishment of armies and an alliance between all the European empires." The signs of regeneration are also fast multiplying in Japan and China, as if pointing to the approach of a new historical wave at the extreme East.
If, from the cycle of two-and-a-half century duration, we descend to those which leave their impress every century, and, grouping together the events of ancient history, will mark the development and rise of empires, then we will assure ourselves that, beginning from the year 700 B.C., the centennial wave pushes forward, bringing into prominence the following nations -- each in its turn -- the Assyrians, the Medes, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Germanians.
The striking periodicity of the wars in Europe is also noticed by Dr. E. Zasse. Beginning with 1700 A.D., every ten years have been signalized by either a war or a revolution. The periods of the strengthening and weakening of the warlike excitement of the European nations represent a wave strikingly regular in its periodicity, flowing incessantly, as if propelled onward by some invisible fixed law. This same mysterious law seems at the same time to make these events coincide with astronomical wave or cycle, which, at every new revolution, is accompanied by the very marked appearance of spots in the sun. The periods, when the European powers have shown the most destructive energy, are marked by a cycle of 50 years' duration. It would be too long and tedious to enumerate them from the beginning of History. We may, therefore, limit our study to the cycle beginning with the year 1712, when all the European nations were fighting at the same time -- the Northern, and the Turkish wars, and the war for the throne of Spain. About 1761, the "Seven Years' War"; in 1810 the wars of Napoleon I. Towards 1861, the wave has a little deflected from its regular course, but, as if to compensate for it, or, propelled, perhaps, with unusual forces, the years directly preceding, as well as those which followed it, left in history the records of the most fierce and bloody war -- the Crimean war -- in the former period, and the American Rebellion in the latter one. The periodicity in the wars between Russia and Turkey appears peculiarly striking and represents a very characteristic wave. At first the intervals between the cycles, returning upon themselves, are of thirty years' duration -- 1710, 1740, 1770; then these intervals diminish and we have a cycle of twenty years -- 1790, 1810, 1829-30; then the intervals widen again -- 1853 and 1878. But, if we take note of the whole duration of the in-flowing tide of the warlike cycle, then we will have at the centre of it -- from 1768 to 1812 -- three wars of seven years' duration each, and, at both ends, wars of two years.
Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that, in view of facts, it becomes thoroughly impossible to deny the presence of a regular periodicity in the excitement of both mental and physical forces in the nations of the world. He proves that in the history of all the peoples and empires of the Old World, the cycles marking the millenniums, the centennials, as well as the minor ones of 50 and 10 years' duration, are the most important, inasmuch as neither of them has ever yet failed to bring in its rear some more or less marked event in the history of the nation swept over by these historical waves.
The history of India is one which, of all histories, is the most vague and least satisfactory. Yet, were its consecutive great events noted down, and its annals well searched, the law of cycles would be found to have asserted itself here as plainly as in every other country in respect of its wars, famines, political exigencies and other matters.
In France, a meteorologist of Paris went to the trouble of compiling the statistics of the coldest seasons, and discovered, at the same time, that those years, which had the figure 9 in them, had been marked by the severest winters. His figures run thus: In 859 A.D., the northern part of the Adriatic sea was frozen and was covered for three months with ice. In 1179, in the most moderate zones, the earth was covered with several feet of snow. In 1209, in France, the depth of snow and the bitter cold caused such a scarcity of fodder that most of the cattle perished in that country. In 1249, the Baltic Sea, between Russia, Norway and Sweden remained frozen for many months and communication was held by sleighs. In 1339, there was such a terrific winter in England, that vast numbers of people died of starvation and exposure. In 1409, the river Danube was frozen from its sources to its mouth in the Black Sea. In 1469 all the vineyards and orchards perished in consequence of the frost. In 1609, in France, Switzerland and Upper Italy, people had to thaw their bread and provisions before they could use them. In 1639, the harbour of Marseilles was covered with ice to a great distance. In 1659 all the rivers in Italy were frozen. In 1699 the winter in France and Italy proved the severest and longest of all. The prices for articles of food were so much raised that half of the population died of starvation. In 1709 the winter was no less terrible. The ground was frozen in France, Italy and Switzerland, to the depth of several feet, and the sea, south as well as north, was covered with one compact and thick crust of ice, many feet deep, and for a considerable space of miles, in the usually open sea. Masses of wild beasts, driven out by the cold from their dens in the forests, sought refuge in villages and even cities; and the birds fell dead to the ground by hundreds. In 1729, 1749 and 1769 (cycles of 20 years' duration) all the rivers and streams were ice-bound all over France for many weeks, and all the fruit trees perished. In 1789, France was again visited by a very severe winter. In Paris, the thermometer stood at 19 degrees of frost. But the severest of all winters proved that of 1829. For fifty-four consecutive days, all the roads in France were covered with snow several feet deep, and all the rivers were frozen. Famine and misery reached their climax in the country in that year. In 1839, there was again in France a most terrific and trying cold season. And now the winter of 1879 has asserted its statistical rights and proved true to the fatal influence of the figure 9. The meteorologists of other countries are invited to follow suit and make their investigations likewise, for the subject is certainly one of the most fascinating as well as instructive kind.
Enough has been shown, however, to prove that neither the ideas of Pythagoras on the mysterious influence of numbers, nor the theories of ancient world-religions and philosophies are as shallow and meaningless as some too forward free-thinkers would have had the world to believe.
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 29, No. 8, June, 1941
ON THE LOOKOUT
CYCLES--OCCULT AND "NATURAL"
During the lifetime of H. P. Blavatsky the ancient Greek and archaic Aryan doctrine of cycles had few believers in the West. Except for an occasional Christian Kabbalist, the occult number theories of Pythagoras and the Hermetic teaching of correspondences were too deeply embedded in Christian superstition for them to attract any serious attention. The doctrine of avatars was known solely in connection with the visitations of Christ; old teachings of race evolution were hidden in Genesis and Revelation, and planetary and solar cycles confused by medieval acceptance of the Ptolemaic cosmology. It was inevitable, therefore, that nineteenth century thought should be contemptuous of all conceptions evenly remotely suggesting the reality of spiritual and moral cycles, and look to physical science for guidance on the subject of nature's periodicities. In The Secret Doctrine and in various articles, H.P.B. labored to show the validity of the occult teaching of cycles by separating the ancient doctrines from the theological context they had acquired during the Middle Ages, and by drawing attention to such scientific studies of cycles as were then available and correlating them with Theosophical teachings. This purpose is clear in the sections of The Secret Doctrine entitled "Cyclic Evolution and Karma," "The Zodiac and Its Antiquity," "The Days and Nights of Brahma," and "The Solar Theory." Among her articles, "The Theory of Cycles," reprinted in THEOSOPHY (III, 592), deals with western statistical studies of political and climatic cycles.
PATTERNS OF HISTORY
There has been enormous progress in the study of cycles in the past fifty years, and, as theosophists might expect, the investigations have taken the various lines suggested by H.P.B. Sun-spot research has brought far-reaching conclusions as to the effect of the solar body on all phases of life on earth, and today scientists are beginning to correlate these cycles with other types of periodicity. In the field of history, careful comparisons between epochs of civilization cause students to write confidently of the patterns followed by nations and cultures in their rise and fall. One such study appeared in Barron's for April 28, a leading financial weekly periodical. Contending that "ancient China suggests Europe's future," the writer, Barnett Ravits, shows that the last 800 years of European history have reproduced virtually all the major social changes of China during a corresponding period 2,200 years earlier. This interval approximates the duration of the so-called "Messianic" cycle of 2,155 years -- one-twelfth of the Zodiacal Year. The European repetition of Chinese history Mr. Ravits has tabulated in terms of the following correlations:
TIME-EVENTS CORRELATION OF EVENTS IN ANCIENT CHINA
AND MODERN EUROPE
CHINA EUROPE 1122-722 B.C. 1100-1500 A.D. Early Chou dynasty.
Chou Kings exercise paramount authority over their vassals, proclaiming universal dominion.
Sacrosanct position of the emperor.
Catholic Church at height of its power, claiming supreme dominion over all the states of christendom.
Holy Roman Empire.
Plantagenet ascendency in England.
Capet ascendency in France.
722-249 B.C. 1500-1940 A.D. Princes become absolute sovereigns in their own territories. King a figurehead.
Each state, irrespective of size, holds itself politically equal with all others.
Growth of towns and urban civilization.
Old religious and social order breaks down.
Nobles pursue the ideal of the "superior man," the Confucian gentleman.
Revival of individuality.
1517 A.D. -- Martin Luther starts his attacks on the authority of the Catholic Church.
Towns gain in power.
City-states of the Renaissance.
Princes emulate the standard of the cultured men of Erasmus.
Money exchanges at Antwerp and Lyons.
After 1700 A.D. -- Democracies take form. Emergence of capitalistic power.
249 B.C.-221 A.D. 1940-2400 A.D.? 249 B.C. -- Chou dynasty comes to an end.
221 B.C. -- Unification of China by the State of Ch'in.
206 B.C. -- Collapse of Ch'in dynasty.
206 B.C.-221 A.D. -- Han dynasty.
German domination of Europe?
Revolt against German control?
Definitive empire under ...?
AMERICA REPEATS ROME
Commenting on the striking parallelism of trends in Chinese and European history, the Barron's writer observes: "This particular time relationship seems to be more than a solitary historical curiosity, for the United States likewise has been repeating events in ancient Rome on an average of about 2,200 years later." The table printed above shows the Chinese cycle as divided into three periods, the first two of which correspond to similar divisions of the European cycle. The third phase of the Chinese cycle has correspondence only in terms of prophecy, for its European parallel lies in the future.
TIDE OF EMPIRE
In China, the first period, from 1122 to 722 B.C., was an age of empire and centralized authority -- matched in Europe by the all-embracing rule of the Church during the High Middle Ages. Then in the second phase of the Chinese cycle, power was decentralized, giving way to what might be termed the principle of state sovereignty and a larger measure of individual liberty. In the corresponding European period, the three great trends of nationalism, political freedom and liberty of conscience slowly replaced the old order. The third division of the Chinese cycle saw a return to centralized authority accomplished by a military aggressor, Ch'in, who seems to have anticipated all the techniques of modern dictators, from blitzkrieg military tactics to the adoption of an official ideology and pitiless suppression of "unorthodox" scholarship. The Ch'in empire, however, collapsed with the death of its founder, and the succeeding Han dynasty established a period of relative calm, modifying strong central control with elements of feudalism. Han emperors thereupon ruled over China for 450 years.
Study of these transitions forms the background of Mr. Ravits' generalization:From today's near-sighted view, occurrences in Europe these past few years seem like an idiot's narrative, past comprehension. But, from the lookout tower of history, the European situation becomes part of an orderly sequence that has manifested itself time and time again.... Europe is no exception to this process and to the cyclical destiny that has characterized the civilizations of Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, India, China, Japan, Greece and Rome.We continue with a passage from Isis Unveiled: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. (I, 34.)THE MISSING FACTORS
The Theosophical teaching of cycles is closely approximated in portions of the Barron's article. Remains, however, the difficulty of understanding these cycles in particular -- for, as the author of The Secret Doctrine remarks, they "do not affect all mankind at one and the same time."Hence, as we see [H.P.B. continues], 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. (S.D. I, 642.)Manifestly, the spiritual and moral significance of national cycles can be perceived only when the events of history are regarded in the light of the principles of the human constitution as taught in Theosophy, and correlations made between this scheme and the various sub- and family races through which the inner or psychic and moral growth proceeds.
While a true history of mankind must await recognition of Reincarnation and Karma as the laws under which all social evolution proceeds, modern students continue to pile up evidence of the fact of historical cycles, chiefly in terms of what H.P.B. called their "physical effects." Raymond H. Wheeler, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, has drawn from an immense quantity of data numerous indications to show the close relationship of human affairs with changes in climate. Extremes on the climate scale are "cold-dry" conditions at one end, and "warm-wet" at the other. His divisions of history fall into the same general categories set up by Mr. Ravits -- centralization of power versus individualism and independence. There is foundation in fact for the observed correlations, inasmuch as changes in climate are associated with cycles of race evolution (see S.D. I, 183-4, II, 262), but the resulting naturalistic theory that cultural developments and declines are merely a result of weather alternations is far from a necessary conclusion. Following is Prof. Wheeler's basic formulation, taken from his article in the Social Frontier for May, 1939:Consistently down through history, culture epochs marked by temporarily stable governments and "Golden Ages" have begun as climate shifts from the cold-dry maximum to the warm-wet. It is evident that these climatic shifts of historic time are miniatures of the long and more severe shifts of geologic time, during which climate was subtropical over large areas of the earth on the warm side and cold enough for glacial expansion, amounting at times to ice ages, on the cold side....CLIMATE AND OPINIONA culture pattern, or behavior pattern of human beings in social groups, has consistently shifted from an emphasis on one set of variables to its opposite along with shifts from cold-dry to warm-wet maxima. Some 250 of these variables have been studied and more are constantly being added. Democratic, republican, and "romantic" epochs fall on the cold side, while socialistic, totalitarian, and "classical" epochs fall on the warm side. The mentality of classical, warm periods is much more profound than that of cold periods, as measured by philosophy, science, art, and literature. These are periods when culture is dominated by a wealthy aristocracy. Cold periods are dominated by a democratically minded middle class of more humble, but of no less important achievements. Warm periods are organic; cold periods, atomistic. The warm are idealistic, the cold, utilitarian; the former, rational, the latter, empirical; the former, "time minded," the latter, "space minded."MERGING PATTERNS
Prof. Wheeler makes abundant citations from history in support of this thesis, then turns to the perilous task of anticipating the future development of contemporary trends in history, as indicated by climatic conditions. Without going into the particulars on which his predictions are based, this is the reading Prof. Wheeler gives of our present weather cycle:In general, the picture is that of cultural outbursts of two kinds, ... the one classical, aristocratic, abstract, and toward federations, dictatorships, and socialism; the other romantic, proletarian, concrete, and toward decentralization, individualism, and local autonomy.... It would appear that [climatically] we are approaching a middle-of-the-road position. This is also true culturally. The aristocracies, class rule, regimentation, socialism, totalitarianism of warm peak times are blending with the proletarianism, individualism, and competitive economics of cold, valley times. Organic rational philosophies are blending with the atomistic and empirical. Times when the culture pattern emphasized wholes at the expense of parts, and times when it emphasized parts at the expense of wholes, are converging.This hopeful vision, recorded in 1939, has little support from the events which began to occur in Europe a year later. However, Prof. Wheeler himself offered a caveat by saying that the "long-time trend is one of acceleration, both in climate and culture," and that "the pulsations can soon become too short to be meaningful." Rather than in the accuracy of specific predictions, the interest of his research lies for the theosophist in its general approach to the problem of historical cycles, and the clear recognition of the law of periodicity in the tide of cultural evolution. Researches like those of Mr. Ravits and Prof. Wheeler help to make men think in terms of cycles and thus prepare their minds for consideration of the occult teachings. Only Theosophy can point to the real significance of the facts that modern students are now weaving into a design of material unity.
This means that totalitarian and democratic vectors are gradually resulting in a world-wide socialized democracy or democratized socialism -- the same thing.
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
THE FADING BOUNDARY
(Part I of II)
(Part 82 of a 103-part series)
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THREE (3) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) The Secret Doctrine, I, 622.
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(2) [Compiler's Note: There must have been a simple numbering error, since I did not find a footnote number (2) up in the text or down here.]
(3) Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1938. (See also "The Theory of Cycles," THEOSOPHY, October, 1915.) [Compiler's note: I have included a copy of this article by H.P.B. It follows the article that you are now reading.]
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(4) The Secret Doctrine, I, 644.
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