THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 3, January, 1945
(Pages 95-100; Size: 18K)
(Number 36 of a 57-part series)



This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe. (The Secret Doctrine, 1888, Proem, p. 17.)
ON the day that the above was written, few Theosophists would have dreamed, and probably none would have believed, that before 1944 a serious and important international body would be involved in the scientific study of the above Proposition.

Such, however, is the case; that body is the Foundation for the Study of Cycles,(1) which has membership in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Its governing Committee consists of eleven members, all in good social and scientific standing, and some highly honored. The latter category includes Dr. Charles G. Abbot of the Smithsonian Institute (see November Lookout), Dr. Harlow Shapley of Harvard, and Julian Huxley.

The Foundation follows faithfully, if unknowingly, in the footsteps of the Secret Doctrine. One of its more important current publications is Foundations Reprint No. 7, containing the Introduction to Today and Destiny, by Edwin Franden Dakin. (Also a man of note and substance.)

This kind of undertaking is fraught with difficulties, and if the subject lent itself to easy understanding and quick popular notice, could hardly be done safely at all. Cycles involve a particularly inexorable sort of study which runs drastically counter to the moon-spun "optimism" that is an outstanding American trait.

Mr. Dakin writes:

It may be regarded as a matter of fundamental patriotism in this era, to try to put Spengler in the reading range of those responsible for American policy. Which is to say, of the many.

For Spengler, contrary to some of the ideas of those who have not read him, tends to be a complete realist in his views of the world and its political events. A people like our own, living in perennial conflict between what it wants to believe and what it has to do -- as Thurman Arnold would put it -- will perhaps need some realistic ballast rather desperately, as it sails through the tempestuous seas indicated for the next few years.

It is probably not to be expected that most readers will approach Spengler in agreement with his judgments on the weaknesses of "democracy" and the theories of the "intellectuals." It can only be said that, since today's events seem combined largely to confirm Spengler, his views are hardly to be ignored....

What Mr. Arnold says of the American people was said before, and better, by Herbert Hoover. "The great desire of the American people is to find a road that runs downhill all the way there and back." Such a road the American people have thought themselves to be following ever since Mr. Hoover's Presidential days. It is possible that some revisions of that notion are in order for the future, and even possible that revisions are beginning in more minds than may be suspected.
Spengler was writing in an age when belief in the destined progress of "democracy," and faith in the omnipotence of each man's free will, still burned with religious fervour half around the globe. The man who dared to assert that both were already tottering to a fall seemed slightly mad and even anti-social.

But time seems to be giving Spengler the status of a prophet -- perhaps the greatest of our age and culture. His prophecies have been coming true according to advance schedule. There is only one test for a prophet -- and this it. It is also one test for a scientist.

It is of no particular avail to repudiate this estimate with a passionate faith in the official version that a truly democratic world is, for the first time, "just around the corner" and awaiting immediately upon the consummation of military victory. If the karmic indication is in the opposite direction, it obviously can only be changed by a change in the direction of customary action and thought. Nothing can be accomplished by cant or shibboleths.

Let us examine the evidence.

Dakin harks back, as an example of cyclic action, to Dr. Raymond Pearl's curves of population growth. Dakin points out that the curve for the growth of a nation, a pumpkin, a mass of yeast cells, the body of a rat, or a culture, all follow the typical curve, beginning with a period of slow increase which augments for a time, then slows down to a static condition or zero rate, toward the end.

What follows that static period -- which is longer than any other part of the cycle -- is not too well defined by Dakin. He indicates a decline. History shows that this decline takes various forms nationally. Sometimes it is a continuous loss of population and power over a long period of time; sometimes it is quick destruction by an enemy, as in the case of the ruin of Carthage by Rome; an apparent "solution" which seemingly has presented itself violently for reconsideration as of 1914 and from then on. Sometimes it is a gradual merger with other races and nations. Sometimes -- as indicated by Theosophical teachings in regard to India -- it may be a decline to a low level of power and culture for ages, but without loss of identity, followed by a great resurrection. It may be sudden disappearance for other reasons.

The nature of the rising curve up to and somewhat beyond the culmination seems quite clear and uniform. Dakin has tabulated the periods of growth of four great cultures -- the Egyptian, the Classical, the Chinese, and the Western.

1. Precultural Period; primitive tribes and chiefs -- no nations or "politics." Duration about 500 years.

2. Early period; feudalism and country culture as contrasted with cities and industry, tending finally toward aristocracy. Duration about 500 years.

3. Development of defined and formal States, of absolutism, followed by revolution and Napoleonism; victory of city over country, and of "people" over privilege. Duration 300 years.

4. Domination of money and "democracy"; system of Great Powers; formation of personal dictatorships and political decay; apex of imperialism and wars of annihilation. Decay and the incursion of younger peoples.

This fourth period, which sees the culmination and crystallization of science and art, Spengler called the "Winter." Present European culture he placed at the beginning of "winter," and exactly 1500 years from the cultural beginning. Which beginning, of course, coincided with the ending of something else. The old Roman order came to an end in 475 A.D., and Spengler placed the "beginning" for Europe at 500 A.D. He estimates 200 years to come, of increasing tendency toward dictatorship, followed by an unknown period of decline and fall.

H.P.B. stated, significantly, that "by the year 2000" the world "would have lived through" one of the great periods of discovery, advance, and creativeness.

According to Spengler, the corresponding period for Egypt was about 1600 B.C., for the Classical culture about 100 B.C., and for China about 250 B.C. Egypt thereafter fell into a low level of futile existence, victim of a succession of conquering powers, during which the last vestiges of the great Egyptian character vanished. China did almost the same thing, but with many recrudescences of temporary brilliance. Rome came definitely to an end as a specific power, a little less than 600 years after what would correspond to the modern European period. Historically it is rather difficult to detect the boundary between the chaotic decline of Classical culture and the growth of a new and independent European order. In the Balkan States, for instance, it is difficult to see anything but a continued decay of Roman fragments. There has never been much reality in their supposed status as independent nations, and even less is promised for the years to come.

Thus according to the thought of Dakin and Spengler, the future of Europe can be dependably forecast by simply following the history of Rome from 100 B.C. onward, of Egypt from 1600 B.C., and of China from 250 B.C.

The "man in the street" will of course cry that it will necessarily be altogether different. "We have the airplane, the radio, and our great technical and chemical industries! No such repetition is possible!" To which we would reply that if such decay is in the moral fibre of the people and already engendered by past deeds, these agencies will not prevent it -- they will make it worse and more rapid. Moreover, the world interdependence which they enforce will infinitely increase the difficulties confronting any new cultures which might seek a different direction. Had it not been for modern technology, for instance, America would still be at peace, unreached and unreachable by the consequences of European decadence; nor would that decadence have been so deadly for its victims or so unescapable in every corner.

Dakin endeavors to palliate the nature of the period to come.

Convinced that the eras of great creative work in the arts and sciences were finished for our Culture, Spengler did view the completion of Civilization as a period of decline from great creative heights. ... Millions might live happily and joyfully after the Caesars had finally settled their battles, and the great age of complacent empire was at last established. But for Spengler, at least, all this would be as night after the glowing noonday of our Culture's magnificent creative work, in times when the imagination of its men soared to infinity, and conquered unknown dimensions not only of the earth, but of the Universe.

It would doubtless be the same in any coming age, if our own wars of decimation are at last ended, and Spengler's vision of a frozen sort of final Civilization were established in our world. Millions who even now hardly know the difference between a Titian and a Rembrandt would gladly trade our present for that future which Spengler foresees some two centuries hence. With an eye to that future, it is possible to say that The Decline of the West could as well be called On Our Way to World Empire and Peace.

Such a period would no doubt be enjoyable to the kind of people who would find such a period enjoyable. There are signs of an increase in the proportion of them everywhere -- those to whom creature comforts and the indulgence of the senses are everything, to whom creative liberty is unknown and undesired. The rise of this slave psychology is especially evident in our great cities.

What, then, of the American future? As all Theosophists know, America will be the inevitable scene of a new race and a new culture. What some have overlooked is that it is not particularly the United States that is meant but that it is the "New World" and "the Americas" to which reference is made in this sense. In fact, it is stated that when the sun of the new race rises, "there may be no United States for it to rise upon."

In the light of Spengler's charts it is therefore necessary to estimate the position of the Americas.

For the most part, Latin America (which is rapidly ceasing to be "Latin"), is clearly in the first or second Spenglerian periods, both as to population growth and state forms. Its real future seems to be in centuries to come, and these regions may well be fated to replace the United States in its decadence.

As to the latter -- our population curve and many psychological factors indicate a culture in its autumn days but still far younger than Europe. Politically, we are in the period corresponding to Rome just before Julius Caesar; internationally and militarily, we seem definitely to be entering the Caesarian epoch. Temperamentally, we are Byzantine to a great degree. Unquestionably, a long period of world power is ahead. (In all cases up to date such a period has involved political decadence and internal decay.) After the fall of Rome, Byzantium went into a thousand years of "frozen splendor" and continuous wars, infested throughout with creeping corruption. The governmental form was a curious compound of palace politics, mobocracy, and bureaucracy, which, with the continuous pressure of enemies increasing in number and power, made true progress impossible. At present, the United States shows deviations from this trend, but not enough to be reassuring.

The indication is that we represent the first "mutation" in the direction of a new race and a new culture, but that the new departure will not be consummated in us, who are as yet little more than transplanted and half-reformed Europeans.

Similar as all these cultural cycles are, no two successive cycles are exactly alike. The Western and American cycles are subject to an enormous acceleration in tempo, and moreover ride upon the back of a much vaster one.

Atlantis represented, not a mere local cultural cycle such as those of Egypt and China, but a world order. The directions taken at its crisis by the local cycles composing it were decisive beyond all their predecessors. The numbers involved and the powers wielded were enormously greater, and the results corresponded. The choices were wrong, and a civilization even more powerful than ours of today vanished almost in toto. We of the West became its descendants through a small number who escaped and founded the primitive original civilization of Central Asia.

It is evident that the Fifth or Aryan Race is in a crisis corresponding to the great -- and lost -- "moment of choice" of the Atlantean world order. The outcome will therefore be greatly more important than the fate of a Rome, a China, or an Egypt. In all those cases, there were rising cycles in other lands as these declined, and the total culture of the planet changed but little. But the failure of a Root Race culture is a matter that cannot be remedied short of hundreds of thousands of years. Moreover, with the powers now in play under a terrific accelerative process, the decision for good or evil may manifest its results with tremendous speed. The questions are whether Europe has nearly fought out its feuds to the point of a balance of imperialisms and the threshold of a long period of "frozen splendor," or whether it has now passed beyond the possibility of such a balance and can henceforth only pass through a period of extermination, and whether or not the United States, still largely free of will, is prepared to follow.

Or, in other words, will the European peoples go down to oblivion, holding tight to their breasts the obstinate greeds and hates that are their curse? Will America, poisoned by the inoculation of those same hates, intoxicated with newly discovered power, lay down for herself the same future fate? The time of choice is not past, but the time is very, very late. A few more years will tell.

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(1) New York 27, N.Y. (See Lookout, September, 1943.)
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