Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Cycles of Change

This post originally appeared elsewhere but I think it is relevant to the theme of this blog so I am putting it here too.

In his book The Order of the Ages (which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in the subject of this post) the author Robert Bolton gives the dates of the Kali Yuga as being from 3102 BC to 2082 AD. If you want to know how he arrives at those dates you must read the book but, suffice it to say here, his reasons for them seem plausible enough. For those not familiar with the term Kali Yuga, it refers to the last of four ages in Hinduism during which the world gradually descends from a natural spiritual state into materialism and disconnection from the divine order. This particular form of the doctrine is an Indian one but the idea of a spiritual disconnect as time goes by exists in many traditions, and we are all familiar with the sense of nostalgia for a Golden Age in the distant past. This is the polar opposite to the modern belief in progress but does not necessarily conflict with it if we understand the traditional concept to relate to matters of spiritual consciousness and awareness of the source while progress in the modern sense refers exclusively to the material world which includes the social, technological and political spheres. Of course, viewed from the spiritual standpoint, progress in these spheres is no progress at all if it derives from an ignorance of our true nature and results in a divorce between our material and spiritual selves. In fact, in this sense, it is the very opposite of real progress.

The beginning date of the Kali Yuga is interesting because it appears to coincide roughly with the start of recorded history. Thus all that we regard as our known past falls within the period of spiritual ignorance, the lowest point in the cycle that runs from a pristine new beginning when men walk with the gods to the time when the gods withdraw, spirit is gradually obscured and our external physical environment becomes the principal focus of attention. Now this may be a fall in one sense, it undoubtedly is a fall, but it is also a natural and inevitable occurrence that presumably has the purpose or effect of helping us develop aspects of our nature (primarily mental) that otherwise might remain in abeyance. How far it is taken, though, probably depends on us and our reaction to the cosmic winds of change. We can go completely with the flow of spiritual deterioration or we can recognise it for what it is and, to an extent at least, remain apart from it, remaining centred, insofar as possible, in higher truth. The old saying that the stars incline but do not compel is relevant here.

The constituent parts of a full cycle are often referred to as Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron (though this last, corresponding to the Kali Yuga, has nothing to do with the archaeological Iron Age when that metal was first used), and, temporally, they stand to each other in the ratio 4, 3, 2 and 1. Thus the Krita Yuga or Golden Age is four times longer than the Kali Yuga which we can see from the dates above lasts for approximately five thousand years. So the most recent Golden Age lasted for around twenty thousand years. Now, interestingly, because of the Law of Correspondences, each cycle can be broken down into mini-cycles which exist in the same proportion and bear the same relation to each other as do the parts of the main cycle. So within the Kali Yuga there are four sub-periods corresponding to Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron which last for 4/10, 3/10, 2/10 and 1/10 respectively of the total duration. Remember the Kali Yuga in this system runs from 3102 BC to 2082 AD so these sub-periods range from 2,076 years to 518 years, the period in which we find ourselves now, the tail end of the Kali Yuga. For ease of comprehension I'll put this in a table below in a form copied from Robert Bolton.
  • Gold of Iron   3102 BC - 1026 BC    2,076 years
  • Silver of Iron  1026 BC -  528 AD    1,554 years
  • Bronze of Iron 528 AD -  1564 AD   1,036 years
  • Iron of Iron    1564 AD - 2082 AD      518 years.
Those who wish can look for patterns in these periods. They are not hard to find. Robert Bolton points out that the second corresponds to the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome and the third to the Middle Ages. However I want to break them down further by taking the last period and applying the same process to it. I want to do this for two reasons. Firstly, this period falls well within historical times and so events are more familiar to us, but secondly, there is the idea that as the cycles progress so time and the rate of change speed up. Therefore the effects of cyclical change are easier to see. Once again I am copying Robert Bolton with this table whose fascinating book is the inspiration for this post. Please note that when it says 'Golden age' in the table what is meant is the first section of the fourth section of the Kali Yuga thus gold of iron of iron.
  • Golden age 1564 - 1770   206 years
  • Silver age    1770 - 1926  156 years
  • Bronze age 1926 - 2030   104 years
  • Iron age      2030 - 2082     52 years
It will be seen that we are now living in pretty grim times, spiritually speaking.

Looking at these dates the first thing that strikes me is that the so called Golden age of this sub-cycle went from the Reformation and the birth of science (as it is understood in modern terms) to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Galileo was born in 1564 and Beethoven in 1770. These are two individuals who can very well be taken as representing spirits of a new age. The one as a scientist who confronted religious authorities and the other as the most important artist of the Romantic period which was a definitive shift away from God as the centre to man as the centre. Whatever the quality of Beethoven's music might be, the fact is that it does signify a spiritual loss compared to what came before in that the certainty of God is no longer present as it definitely was in Renaissance polyphony and even was in Baroque music. Man felt his exile from heaven more than ever before. It's probably a coincidence that the dates are so neat. We can't always expect things to fall into place quite so smoothly as this. The system is not an exact science. Nevertheless these dates do speak eloquently from a symbolical point of view.

The Silver age takes us right up to the brink of modernity. The 1st World War swept away the past, and the twenties are always regarded as the start of something quite new. Art, politics, everything changed in ways too well known for me to need to set them forth here. So what I want to do now is break down the third period, the one in which we live and therefore, it could be said, the most important from our point of view. Please note that this time the golden age is the gold of bronze of iron of iron. I'm sorry - it's getting a little complicated at this point!

  • Golden age  1926 - 1968  42 years
  • Silver age    1968 - 1999  31 years
  • Bronze age  1999 - 2020  21 years
  • Iron age       2020 - 2030  10 years
The dates here are not quite exact because the periods do not break down into whole numbers precisely to the year, but they are near enough. 1968 is a significant date. It might be said to be when the momentum built up during the early sixties really kicked in and the new ways, a focus on youth, sexual liberation and so forth, spread from a select group right out to the whole populace. I believe it's when colour TV started in England and there's a whole symbolism right in that fact. 1999, apart from being the end of the millennium, can be seen as the time when computers and the internet started to enter every home. Of course, these things build up gradually, they don't come out of nowhere, but if you are looking for tipping points these dates are about the best there are.

You can carry on breaking these periods down endlessly. For instance, the bronze and iron ages of the period from 1926-1968 start around 1956 and 1964 which strike me as periods of significant change, while the silver age of the period from 1968-1999 coincides with the '80s, a time of increasing globalism, unregulated capitalism and the spread of what is called by its opponents and probably is, cultural Marxism. Obviously one can take this sort of thing too far but that does not discount the fact that, using this method, significant patterns emerge without them being forced to do so.

The question could nevertheless be asked what is the point of all this? Is it just a bit of fun, the truth of which you can neither prove nor disprove, or does it have any purpose? To be honest, I'm not sure. I do think, though, that studying these dates can prepare us for change and help us to respond to it in a spiritually intelligent way. Particularly when you bear in mind that the dates are turning points when what already exists for an elite or group of specialists spreads out into the mainstream. It looks as though the next bit of the cycle will be starting up in a few years time, and then the final phase in the whole process ten years after that. These may well be, to put it neutrally, interesting times and it might help to know that there is some kind of pattern behind it all. Forewarned is forearmed. As those who remain loyal to God find the world crumbling around them comfort can be found in understanding that this is more or less inevitable given the nature of things. But note that the fact of spiritual degeneration does not excuse those who go along with it or, worse, contribute to it for "Offences must come but woe to that man by whom the offence comes". Just because spiritual decline is naturally occurring in the world is no reason not to stand against it, especially since by doing so you may be able to mitigate its worst effects or help someone else struggling against it who might otherwise succumb. The situation is as it is but you can make it better or worse. 

As for why things are allowed to be like this I would say that the answer lies in the reality of free will and the need for a test.

A Note on the Krita Yuga.
To say that the Krita Yuga or Golden Age was a time of greater general openness to the reality of the spiritual plane, and an ordering of the world in accordance with that reality, does not mean that there were lots of saints and sages walking around then. In fact, it may need the relative spiritual darkness of the Kali Yuga to enable a true spirituality to be born, in which the soul on an individual level, through its own efforts, struggle and suffering, can awaken and develop the capacity for love and wisdom within itself. For a pre-lapsarian Adam to become a Christ you might say. The Krita Yuga was a time when the quality of the higher planes of existence still 'seeped through' into this world and the divine order of being could be more correctly discerned, but that would still only have been according to the degree of inner development of the people at that time.

Drug taking is an illicit attempt to recapture something of the consciousness of earlier periods. It is illicit precisely because it seeks to acquire the consciousness without developing the proper character. The aim now is to develop a spiritual character and not simply experience a spiritual consciousness. That is why wise teachers emphasise the importance of love and humility, and regard the search for mystical experience as largely unproductive and potentially even detrimental to true spiritual growth.

One further point. The idea of these ages and the spiritual degradation that occurs over their span is different to the idea of the Fall. The various ages are the result of natural changes in the cosmic environment as time goes by but the Fall was a failure of will, a deliberate act rather than a natural one. Very probably the way these ages work out would have been quite different had the Fall not occurred.


John Fitzgerald said...

I think the next tipping point, scheduled for 2020 in the above calculations, could feature the mass-imtrusion of artificial intelligence into our lives, with all the massive social repercussions that will bring. I also have a sense that violence against people with traditional views of marriage, the family, society, etc, might be legitimised by then. The works of Lewis, Tolkien and others could even be removed from bookshops and reading lists. All the problems we are currently contending with won't have gone away either!

On the plus side, I remember being greatly struck by Martin Ling's book 'The Eleventh Hour', where he says that as we get closer to the end of the Iron Age it is inevitable that some of the light from the approaching new Golden Age will shine through into the world. What form that light will take and who those lantern bearers will be I don't know, but it's a thought that fills me with hope. There are, as you say, valuable roles a-plenty for us to play as the Kali Yuga speeds up and approaches critical mass.

William Wildblood said...

Good points John. I like the idea that some light from a future Golden Age might shine over the horizon as it were. I suppose God never leaves us comfortless even in testing times.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I agree that there are periods of change, related to divine plans for Men - but I don't believe that they are related to numbers, nor that they can be projected ito the future. Such ideas seem to lack a place both for God's love of his children, and his children's agency. I think people push for more precision, in these matters, than is really possible (or desirable!).

William Wildblood said...

I know what you mean, Bruce, and I actually tend to agree with you about numbers. This piece may give the idea that the scheme is a lot more rigid than it really is. And yet I think the general idea behind it reflects a certain reality. There are patterns that do work themselves out in a certain way though that can always be altered or tempered by the actions of Man and, as you say, the love of God.