Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More about the maha-yuga and kalpas

I would like to talk a little bit more about the maha-yuga or Hindu cycle of four decreasing ages or yugas.

Perhaps the most vivid description of this key cycle is the one provided by the story of the bull Dharma as narrated in Bhagavata Purana 1, 4:17 ff. There is depicted how Dharma, “Religion,” steadily loses, one by one, his four legs on every successive age: In Satya–yuga, the primeval age in which mankind fully keeps the religious principles, and which is characterized by virtue and wisdom, he is supported by the four principles of austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness, and mercy; in Treta–yuga, the Era in which bad habits appear, he loses austerity; in Dvapara–yuga, as bad habits proliferate, he loses cleanliness; and in Kali–yuga, the Era of quarrel and hypocrisy and of the biggest degradation and spiritual darkness of all four, in which we are now, he additionally loses veracity and is only supported by mercy, which declines gradually as the time of devastation closes by.

This devastation occurs at the end of a final, ghastly period in which men become like dwarves, have extremely short life spans, and decay to unimaginable extremes of depravity. The description of this last period, which appears on the Twelfth Canto of Bhagavata Purana, usually arouses disbelief and rejection from Western readers, although such daunting images are by far not uncommon in the Western tradition (as attested, for example, on biblical texts such as Deuteronomy 28: 53, 57; 2 Kings 6:28–29; Ezekiel 5:10; Lamentation 4:10, etc., etc.). For the rest, in the current cycle such devastation would still take place about four hundred twenty thousand years from now, a date that awaits reassuringly remote in the future – at least from our limited historical perspective, and as long as we take it literally and not symbolically – and which greatly differs from those that other traditions like the Jewish and Persian establish, within the current era, as the end of time – although, as certain considerations that I will talk about in a subsequent post suggest, on the earthly-and-human proper levels the end of this cycle could very well be, so to speak, as close-by as around the corner.

Additionally, the Supreme Lord himself, as the avatara Kalki, is said to appear at the end of the Kali–yuga to destroy the demons, save his devotees and inaugurate another Satya–yuga, another Golden Age, thus starting a new cycle of four yugas.

As to the beginning of the Kali–yuga – a crucial date in our study, as it should let us calculate, once established its actual (and not symbolic) length, its ending date – Surya–siddhanta, which is perhaps the oldest astronomical treatise in the world, establishes it at midnight of the day that corresponds in our calendar to the 18th February of 3102 BC, when the seven traditional planets, including the Sun and Moon, were aligned in relation to the star Zeta Piscium. While this date certainly sounds implausible, as it contradicts all our notions about the known history on top of raising an apparently insoluble problem – i.e. the obvious incompatibility between the existence of multiple human cycles, on the one hand, and a single human cycle on the other – for the moment I will just mention that such alignment was not long ago confirmed by astronomical calculations made by computer software published in the United States by Duffet-Smith.

Let’s take a look now into the bigger cycles. If we remember, a Brahma’s day consists of one thousand maha–yugas, and his night of an equal number of them. The “day” and “night” therefore are 4’320,000 x 1,000 x 2 = 8,640’000,000 common years long. Now, since Brahma lives one hundred of his years (of 360 “days” each), a simple calculation (8,640’000,000 x 100 x 360) unveils the total length of the immense cycle of cosmic manifestation: 311’040,000’000,000 common years – a duration that theoretically is just that of a breathing period of the Maha–Vishnu, the Great Universal Form, and symbolically corresponds to the two complementary phases into which each cycle of manifestation is divided – in this case a dual, alternating movement of expansion and contraction, exhalation and inhalation, systole and diastole.

Some preliminary observations are in order here.

In the first place, regarding cosmic cycles, the Hindu tradition, like the Chinese and other ancient traditions, has always expressed their lengths mainly by symbolic numbers so as to conceal a certain knowledge that is considered confidential. Thus, in some cases, some figures may have been “disguised” by either multiplying or dividing them by a factor, or by adding to them a greater or lesser number of zeros – which does not modify their respective proportions; such may well be the case with the maha–yuga of 4’320,000 common years. For those Hindus who would not dare to question them, however, the plain, literal yuga lengths should perhaps be considered not so much strictly referred to the Earth but rather to the cosmic level; and in fact, all the difficulties inherent in the problem would be solved by including within the framework of the doctrine different planetary systems in which the cycles of four yugas unfolded successively. This hypothesis raises, however, metaphysical issues that are beyond the scope of our study, so while not excluding that in a next post I may deal with this cycle more extensively, here I have limited to mention it.

As to the kalpa of 4,320 millions of years – an appropriate study of which would indeed require a whole treatise – I must, for one thing, make it clear that its frequent identification by Western scholars with the total cosmic manifestation has been overrun by the age that modern science attributes to the universe, an age that would place it rather on a planetary level or, at best, galactic. And in effect, according to the orthodox Hindus for whom the kalpa is simply synonymous with a Brahma’s day without its corresponding night, the end of the kalpa comes with a partial dissolution of the universe by water; and as regards its duration, the doctrine abides strictly by the aforementioned figure. Now, the fact that this length of time virtually matches the 4,500 millions of years estimated by modern science for the Earth’s age (let alone the “ultimate” figure of 4,310 millions mentioned in my introductory post), certainly points to the possibility that it represents the lifetime of our planetary system; if so, it would not be unlikely that the Earth were currently very close to the end of a Brahma’s day and that its corresponding night was now approaching, even if it takes ten or twelve millions of years yet to arrive. However, all this is not by far that simple: For one thing, the related texts are in some cases quite enigmatic as suggested, for example, by the reiteration of the phrase “Those who know...” (Bhagavad–gita 8:17), so the possibility remains that the 4,320 millions of years do not actually mean the daytime but the full Brahma’s day, so that the length of the daytime would be 2,160 millions of years, and an equal number of years that of the night. So here again, the possibility that the figures may have been somehow disguised should be taken into account.

Finally, the immensely vast length of 311’040,000’000,000 common years that the texts implicitly assign to the great cycle of cosmic manifestation accommodates indeed comfortably the 15 billions of years estimated by modern physics as the age of the universe; and even if such length were deemed exaggerate – say it was a thousand times lesser, i.e. the actual figure was only 311,040’000,000 years, which is certainly not impossible if we stick to the foregoing considerations – even so the 15 billions of years would fit comfortably within that period. At any rate, it would mean that our universe is still very young and that we are now, within the immense cycle of universal manifestation, virtually at the beginning of an expansion period.

And indeed, it is amazing that it took literally millennia for the modern scientific circles to again conceive this ancient notion of a universe that “breathes,” i.e. a universe that has two phases, one in which it expands and the other in which it contracts; two phases which, by virtue of the correspondences to which cycles of any order of magnitude are subject, can be respectively assimilated to a Brahma’s day and its corresponding night, as well as to both phases of what the Hindus call a Manvantara – an old Hindu measure of time which, in my effort to integrate what we may call the Western and Eastern sides of the doctrine, I will deal with very soon in some detail .

(First published Qassia Feb 15, 2008)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Hindu Doctrine of Cosmic Cycles

In essence, the Hindu doctrine of cosmic cycles conceives a qualitative, “circular” time that cyclically affects our universe and everything in it. A universe that on its part is eternal, without beginning or end, and which manifests itself, together with other billions of universes, from a state of development to another of equilibrium, and then to another of decadence, after which there occurs its dissolution – or pralaya – and back to start again, forever. A universe, in sum, governed by recurrence, in which, from manifestation to pralaya, there flow in countless numbers the immensely vast Brahma’s days, or kalpas, preceded by their corresponding nights; and where within each kalpa there follow, one another, one thousand “human cycles” or maha–yugas – a study of which, reversing the order, I will attempt in the first place.

Let us begin by noting that every maha–yuga consists of four cyclic ages or yugas, of decreasing length, which mark an equal number of gradual stages of degradation of mankind and so correspond exactly with those ages that the Classical tradition has designated always as the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron ages – except for a most important aspect of the doctrine: the magnitude of the durations involved. In effect, the length ascribed to the maha–yuga, 4’320,000 common years, is in appearance so disproportionate to represent a human cycle, that it usually startles the Westerner unfamiliar with these matters; because even without mentioning that we are talking about cycles – of which there are as many as one thousand in a Brahma’s day – such length exceeds that of the existence of mankind on Earth, a span of time which, while in a very broad sense can be tracked back some millions of years into the past, in a more strict sense – i.e. in relation to modern man, or Sapiens Sapiens – is, nevertheless, estimated at best as fifty thousand to one hundred thousand years.

On the other hand, why should the lengths of the yugas be proportional to the scale 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10 and not rather equal, as the four ages of the Classical tradition are? We will very soon see, however, that these difficulties are not unsolvable as might be thought, nor is the problem as a whole as complex as it appears to be; so for the moment, and without further delay, we will take a look into these lengths as can be deduced from the relevant texts.

Table 1 – The maha–yuga or cycle of four yugas 

Length in divine years
Age or   yuga
   Length in 

 human years


So the lengths are 4,800, 3,600, 2,400 and 1,200 years for the yugas named Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali respectively. But they are “divine years,” and translated into “human years” they become the product of those lengths by 360 – according to the statement in Bhagavata Purana 3, 11:12 that “a day of the demigods is like a year of human beings.” A careful study reveals, however, what is perhaps the most significant fact in all of this analysis (and a perfectly logical one at that) : at least in “human years” all the lengths are “circular,” that is, not only are they divisible, by reason of their ending in two or more zeros, by 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, etc, but they are also divisible, because the sum of their digits is nine, by 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 72, 108, 144, 180, 360, etc – all of them “sacred” numbers for most traditions. This essential feature not only fits in with any numerical system based on the circle of 360 degrees, which is most suitable for representing a circular time as it makes it possible to get exact divisions, but it also enables the “human” lengths to be related to the period of precession of the equinoxes of 25,920 common years – the sum of whose digits is also nine. Thus, 72 x 60 = 4,320 and 72 x 360 = 25,920 (the total length of the cycle of precession of the equinoxes, and remember the equinox precessions by one degree every 72 years), and again, 4,320 x 6 = 25,920, all of which is actually not surprising, as the division of the circle is naturally effected by multiples of three, six, or nine – the latter being the one that affords the greatest possibilities.

Now, in connection with these two key numbers, 72 and 25,920, there are extremely suggestive coincidences that evidence a perfect correspondence between the life of man, the “microcosms,” and that of our universe, or “macrocosms.” For one thing, 72 corresponds to the average number of beats of the human heart in a minute, and a quarter of 72, or 18, to the human breathings in the same period, so that in one day a man will have breathed 18 x 60 x 24 = 25,920 times. On the other hand, after 72 years, which is the average length of life of man at present, a man will have lived a total 25,920 days (assuming an ideal year of 360 days), while the Earth’s axis will have barely traveled a degree of the equinoctial circle of 360 degrees or 25,920 common years. In other words: from a cosmic view, man’s life lasts only one day.

In the other hand, the number 72 appears frequently in connection with cosmic cycles. For example, it appears in the Chinese magical square and corresponded, in the Far–Eastern tradition, to the division of the year in five parts (5 x 72 = 360), out of which three (3 x 72 = 216) were “Yang” or masculine, and two (2 x 72 = 144) “Yin” or feminine. I will mention, in passing, that this division of the year was also used by the ancient Incas. Among the ancient Egyptians, in turn, 72 are the plotters who stand by Seth in his scheme to kill Osiris.

Again, remember that 72 were the disciples of Jesus, 72 the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and, in the Middle Ages, the articles of the Rule of the Order of the Temple were also 72. But however interesting all of these numerical considerations may be – and they could certainly multiply to tedium ­– I will leave them at this point so as to turn back again to the maha–yuga – some time in the future.

(First published Qassia Feb10, 2008)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Egyptian Tradition and Cosmic Cycles

Let me tell you a little bit more about the old Egyptians and the Divine Year of 168 zodiacal years.

Like most of the old traditional cultures, the ancient Egyptians are known to have conceived a universe built on mysterious numerical relationships in which the various orders of magnitude matched each other both quantitatively and qualitatively. In this way, they believed that the Divine Year of 168 zodiacal years consisted of three “divine times of work” each divided in 56 zodiacal years (168 : 3); each “divine time of work” of four “seminal seasons” consisting of 14 zodiacal years each (56 : 4); each “seminal season” of two “divine conception weeks – equivalent to Day and Night – consisting of seven zodiacal years each (2 : 2); and each “divine conception week” of seven “creation days” of 25,920 common years each (7 : 7), this being the duration of a cycle of precession of equinoxes or Zodiacal Year. This established a first analogy between the Zodiacal Year and a “creation day.”

Additionally, they divided the “creation day” of 25,920 common years in 12 “differential hours” – equivalent to 12 zodiacal months – of 2,160 common years each (25,920 : 12), i.e. the period during which the equinox coincides with the same sign of the Zodiac.

Now, since the ascent of every new sign is considered to be escorted by events that are catastrophic or in some other way crucial to the Earth, this “differential hour” or zodiacal month of 2,160 common years has received particular attention from the hermetic tradition. For example, it is said that when the Age of Leo was coming to an end and the one of Cancer was about to arrive, about 10,000 years ago, there took place the downfall of Atlantis. In turn, the shift from Cancer to Gemini would have witnessed the passage of an enormous comet that shook up the Earth. The shift from Gemini to Taurus, about 6,000 years ago, is supposed to have marked the start of new civilizations and the beginning of the worship of the bull – and the goat – at several places of the world: the ox Apis in Egypt, the winged bulls in Babylon and Assyria, as well as holidays associated to the spring time and procreation. In turn, the arrival of Aries, about 4,000 years ago, is known to have concurred with the appearance of the paschal lamb, a symbol of Judaism. Finally, the shift from Aries to Pisces would have heralded the appearance and propagation of Christianity, the main symbol of which, at least at its beginning, was, as we know, the fish.

Be it as it may, as a “differential hour” within the “creative day” of 25,920 common years, and continuing with the hourly analogy, the Egyptians divided the period of 2,160 years into 60 “minutes” of 36 common years each (2,160 : 60) and the “minute” of 36 common years into 36 “specific tasks” of one common year each (36 : 36), thus establishing two important hourly analogies by matching, first, the common hour with the “zodiacal month”; and secondly, each minute of that “hour” with a cycle of 36 common years, equivalent to a half of a degree of the zodiac circle. Finally, they divided the “specific task” or common year into seven “creative aptitudes” of 52 weeks and fraction each (365 : 7) and the “creative aptitude” into seven “human virtues” of seven days and fraction each (52: 7), which established a correspondence between the common week and the Divine Year of 168 Zodiacal Years and fundamentally, although by resorting in this case to imperfect divisions and fractions, between the common week and the seven “creation days” of 25,920 common years each.

Whatever the practical value of these latter calculations, it is clear that the ancient Egyptians, as well as the Greeks, Persian and Chaldeans, dispensed a most special relevance to this cycle of 25,920 years (or its half of 12,960 years), which would very likely represent the length of a full cycle of four ages. If so, what would be the length of each age?

According to the hermetic tradition, the “Adamic race,” which we belong to, would have evolved through four ages of 6,480 years each and would now be nearing the end of the full cycle. These four ages, naturally equivalent to the same number of “zodiacal seasons” of three “zodiacal months” each, would have been marked by four key events: (I) Formation, from the start of the Zodiacal Year to the Sin or “fall down” of man; (II) Sin, from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden to Tribulation, which began with the Flood; (III) Tribulation, from the Flood to Redemption; and IV) Redemption, consummated by Christ. Thus, while the Sun is about to enter the first degrees of the Aquarius constellation – after retrograding past the Taurus, Aries and Pisces constellations – the Zodiacal Year would be about to complete its last cycle, and the “Adamic race” that of its redemption and deliverance.

I would like to make some observations here. These periods or “seasons” – the description of which certainly sounds a little bit fanciful – which some traditions automatically round up at six thousand years, clearly correspond to a more general, and therefore more extensive, cycle than the one made up by the ages depicted by Hesiod, who was clearly talking about more local and contingent periods and about cycles already concluded in his time. On the other hand, they strongly crash, both in their magnitude and by their equal lengths, with the four yugas of the Hindu tradition, which are of an incredible elaboration and whose lengths, proportional to the scale 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10, are amazingly 1’728.000, 1’296.000, 864,000 and 432,000 common years respectively, equaling a total length of 4’320,000 years for the full cycle. Incidentally, it is most significant that this scale, although reversed, is the same as the Pythagorean Tetraktys expressed as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10. Let me briefly address the latter.

Among the Greeks who exposed on the doctrine of cosmic cycles – great philosophers like Anaximander, Empedocle, Heraclitus, and subsequently Plato and the Stoics – there clearly stands out Pythagoras, whose intellectual interests were primarily mathematic. It is said that his most transcendental discovery, which would signify a sort of disclosure of the nature of the universe, was that certain intervals of the musical scale can be arithmetically expressed as relationships among the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 – which combined sum up 10, a symbol of the Supreme. Originated – according to legend – in the pitch of the sounds issued by an anvil on which hammers of different sizes were beating, this discovery demonstrated the existence of an inherent order in the nature of sound and, moreover, a mathematical organization in the formation of the universe, of whose structure, harmonious and beautiful as music itself, time participates as a key element.

Now, in times of Pythagoras, as well as later on, the Greek scholars used to make study journeys to various countries, mainly Egypt and Mesopotamia and even beyond, to India itself, considered throughout history as the ultimate goal of the lovers of knowledge. It is uncertain whether Pythagoras undertook such journey; if he did, it could explain the real origin of his famous Tetraktys – the “Hindu version” of which I will deal with very soon.

(First published Qassia Feb 5, 2008)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Four Ages Myth and the precession of the equinoxes

In a strict sense, the “myth” of the Four Ages of Mankind is generally assumed to have originated in Greece around the eighteenth century BC, back in the days in which the country was plunged into desolation by the Doric people’s invasion. Around that time, the poet Hesiod, probably influenced by obscure legends about past cataclysms and the happier times that preceded them, is said to have set to the task of composing, in the solitude of the countryside, his Works and Days, the most intriguing of the two famous poems attributed to him – the other being his famous Theogony.

In the former, Hesiod relates how up until his time, the human race had lived four main ages: the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, with an additional age, that of the Heroes, apparently inserted between the Bronze and Iron ages only to accommodate the great heroes of the Iliad.

Within the same tradition but many centuries later, the Latin poet Ovid (43 BC – 18 AD), in his Metamorphoses, additionally alludes to the deluge that ensued at the end of the Iron Age and from which were spared Deucalion and Pyrrha, who gave birth to a new humanity.

This much for the classical version. In a broader sense, however, the tradition would have an older, possibly Oriental origin. According to scholars, it would have originated in the primitive peoples’ longing for a natural life, which, coupled with considerations about the recurrence and regularity of the disasters that afflict the world as well as the speculation inspired in such quaternary cycles as the four yearly seasons, four phases of the Moon, four stages in the life of man, and so on, would have crystallized in the “myth” of the Four Ages of Mankind brought to light by Hesiod. As to the place of origin itself, some are inclined to believe it was India, considering the manifest identity between the four ages of the Greek tradition and the descending cycle of four yugas of the Hindustan tradition. In this connection, however, we would still need to determine whether this is also the origin of many other myths in which the notion of four ages is equally prominent, such as the Maya and Inca and many other traditions; and even of all other “myths of return” where – irrespective of the number of ages – there stands out the universal, most ancient belief in the “fall” of man, a tradition that evokes the decline and alienation of mankind from a golden, paradisiacal condition to one of total degradation – usually ending in a catastrophic deluge – a most familiar and characteristic version of which can be read in the first pages of the Bible, from the “fall” of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Paradise to the events that led to the Flood.

But let’s turn back to the Four Ages and our next logical step, i.e. determine their lengths. In his Timaeus, Plato asserts that the seven planets, once the time to balance their respective speeds has elapsed, return to their starting point. This revolution is a “perfect year” and, considering the great significance it has for different traditions, must exert some sort of influence in the total length of a cycle of four ages. In turn Cicero, while recognizing the difficulty of estimating the length of this vast celestial period, rates it at 12,954 common years, although the precise length appears to be 12,960 years (180 x 72), as certain concurring data suggest. And in effect, this latter period, also called “great year” by both Greeks and Persians, is the exact half of the great astronomical cycle known as the precession of equinoxes (or “Zodiacal Year”), the length of which has been traditionally calculated as 25,920 common years (360 x 72) and is, as is widely known, the one during which the projection of the Earth’s axis, responding to the rotation and oscillation (or “wobbling”) motions of the planet along its orbit, makes a full circle at a rate of one degree every 72 years and returns to the exact point of departure in relation to the Zodiac constellations so that the equinoctial point, one of the two times of the year in which the night lasts exactly as the day does, turns out to be the same again as it was at the beginning of the period. Another consequence of the slow circular motion of the Earth axis projection is that it will successively point to a different Pole Star in the course of those 25,920 years.

Although this cycle is said to have been discovered in 139 BC by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, some authors believe the first to calculate its duration as 25,920 common years were the ancient Egyptians, who would have come by this figure by matching the equinox with the same Zodiacal sign during 2,160 years; and still others say the first to know about it were the old Brahmins of India, which knowledge would have been spread to Iran and Sumer and then to Egypt, where it was picked up by the Greek Hipparchus. Be it as it may, the Egyptians, according to the hermetic tradition, were trying to establish the length of the Divine Year, which was then fixed as approximately 168 Zodiacal years (or “creation days,” as they used to call them). This itself is extremely suggestive, as 168 times 25,920 is 4’354,560 common years, virtually the length of a Hindu cycle of four yugas (4’320,000 common years) with a difference of “only” 34,560 years. However, since the consideration of such remarkable coincidence would take too long, for the moment I will stop here. See you with more very soon.

(First published on Qassia Feb 2, 2008)

More Scriptural Evidence Regarding Time

On my previous post, titled “Some Scriptural Evidence Regarding Time,” I presented a story from Bhagavata Purana that clearly implies the ancient Hindus were all familiar with the relativity of space and time... hundreds, probably thousands of years before it was formulated by Einstein!

While curiously inverse, a similar story from the Islamic tradition adds force to our case: Muhammad visits the seventh heaven riding the resplendent mare Alburak. At the moment that the mare takes flight, she overturns a jar filled with water. On Muhammad’s return after countless eons, the Prophet reaches down to lift the jar from the ground... and lo, not a single drop has been spilt!

In another passage from Bhagavata Purana (3, 29:43) is stated, with astounding ease, that the complete universal body is expanding. This fact, only in recent times confirmed by astronomical observation supporting the ‘Big–Bang’ theory, could hardly be described as a product of either chance or imagination even by the most obstinate skeptics; and on the other hand, such theory does not exclude the possibility of a recurring expansion – contraction of the universe through immense periods of time, a derivation that in turn perfectly fits with the framework of the Hindu doctrine of cosmic cycles and many other similar concepts. In effect, this idea is found in the majority of the traditional doctrines. In Taoism, for example, the Tao has a reverting motion of withdrawal and return to the origin (See Tao The Ching of Lao Tzu, particularly Chapters XXV and XL). Hermetism, in turn, asserts that the world “begins from where it ceases.” (Corpus Hermeticum I, 11, 10.7). Again, according to the Neo-Platonist Proclus: “...Everything moves on and returns, has a cyclical activity... unites the end with the principle.” And also the Stoicism attributes this motion to its Logos.

We can see the list is lengthy. But let us now focus on history, where modern archaeology has repeatedly confirmed information from the Bible and other Western texts. For example, Assyrian king Sargon II was for long known only from the narration in Isaiah 8:1 and the critics rejected this reference as devoid of any historical value. Later on, archaeological excavations shed light on the magnificent palace of Sargon at Korsabad and on numerous inscriptions alluding to his reign, such as the siege and conquer of Samaria and the subsequent exile of the Israelite people. Similarly, not long ago was confirmed Sennacherib’s expedition to Israel which, according to the Old Testament version (2 Kings 6:13 ff, 7:36; Isaiah 36: 1, 37: 37), ended in failure and the subsequent return of the Assyrian king to his own country. (While this piece of information is not found on the mural inscriptions within the royal palace, such exclusion is perfectly understandable from a natural reluctance to admit one’s own defeats.)

A special mention deserve, for their great significance, the dramatic discoveries made by the amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. As is widely known, this remarkable German archaeologist, defying the general view that would see in the Iliad but an imaginary story, started excavations at the site designated by the poem as the seat of the old Troy and found not one, but nine superimposed cities, with the sixth, counted from below, being the one sung by the epics; and then in Mycenae, described by the same poem as “most superior materially to Troy,” brought to light huge stone walls, carved lions and the fabulous treasure of Atraeus – all of them wonders which, were it not for him, would most likely be regarded as legendary until our days.

From these examples, it would seem that where it comes to science, and to a certain extent history, the great scriptures and sacred texts of the world are indeed reliable; in this sense, not only can we conclude that “the Bible was right”, as was the title of a famous book, but also that other writings of the world were right as well; similarly, based on the same examples, it might be inferred that the Hindu texts appear to be valid for the longer periods of time, of millions and trillions of years, while the Bible and other Western texts would be valid for the “shorter” periods of thousands or, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of years. Of course this is not accurate as, for one thing, some passages of the Bible, notably the first verses of Genesis, obviously cover immense periods of time; but at least for the purposes of our present query, we can very well afford this generalization.

As to the Hindu texts, we will have many an opportunity to learn the intricacies of their elaborate doctrine. I will just say right now that, as occurs with many other traditions, the word millennium – as well as other similar terms like “great year,” century, etc – is synonymous with any great cosmic cycle and not only one thousand years, as might be thought, and is usually applied to them by properly using it in the sense of any “indefinite” length of time. This should be stressed out not only by reason of the fact itself, essential to the study of the doctrine, but because it is in some way consubstantial with the existence of all sorts of correspondences and assimilations between cycles of various orders and magnitudes, so that such expressions as “day” and “night,” where it comes to immense periods of time, sound perfectly natural.

A question naturally arises from the above: if it was not purely and simply invented, or was not the result of mere fortunate speculation, where did the compilers of these Scriptures obtain such information, whose origin vanishes back into the night of time? That the various cultures were spontaneously and simultaneously born around the world, all sharing a strangely similar lore, is hard to accept; the numerous analogies rather suggest an unknown common origin and, in fact, it would appear to be more logical, or at least more plausible, that there previously existed an older civilization that was the depository of the knowledge based on such information, and that all other cultures received from it such knowledge, which was then modified and, for the most part, distorted by the particular circumstances of time and place. This notion of a common ancestral culture, which would account for the universality of a certain “hidden” lore, has been widely supported and developed by renowned researchers such as René Guénon and others, according to whom, in the apparently chaotic assortment of most ancient myths and legends that describe the nature and origin of the universe, traditionally handed down by societies throughout the world, there is evidence of such primeval civilization. This archaic society would be prior to all ancient known civilizations, including those from Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, not to mention the American continent; and so, stories whose original meaning has been lost, but have otherwise been preserved in a fragmentary and distorted form, might provide genuine, essential information about the great mysteries of the universe.

By way of example, I shall quote but one of such stories: The Sioux Nation in North America talk about a cycle of four eras; there is a buffalo that loses one leg at every era; now we are in the last era, which is of great degradation, and the buffalo has but one leg left. In Bhagavata Purana (1, 16: 18 ff) the same story is told about the bull Dharma (“Religion”). We are currently in the last age – the Age of Kali, an era of quarrel and hypocrisy – and Dharma is supported by only one leg...

(First published Qassia Jan 28, 2008)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Some Scriptural Evidence Regarding Time

From the last century onwards, remarkable coincidences have been observed between the Bible and certain texts of the Western tradition, on the one hand, and certain Eastern sacred books, mainly Hindus, on the other. To mention the best known, the Bible speaks of a Universal Flood that takes place at the end of a period of sheer degradation of the human race, and the Puranas and other sacred texts, both from the East and West, talk about periodic, partial devastations of the universe by water. (Actually, memories of one or several “universal floods” remain alive in ancient traditions throughout the world.) But there are many other coincidences, as will be seen below.

For example, the Book of Genesis (1:2) relates how, in the beginning, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters;” Bhagavata Purana (5, 25: 1, ff), in turn, says that at the beginning of creation, Vishnu (God) is lying over the Causal Ocean.

In the Gospel of St John (John, 14:2), Jesus states: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” Brahma–samhita (5:40), in turn, says God’s glow, the "brahmajyoti," contains countless planets.

Again, in a passage of the “Gnostic” gospel of Thomas (77), says Jesus: “I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained.” Svetasvatara Upanishad (4:11), another well–known sacred Hindu book, states: “He [God] governs all the sources of creation; the universe emanates from Him, and to Him it comes back in the end.”

On the other hand – and herewith we are drawing further into matter – the book of Genesis (3:23, etc.) describes the “fall” and exile of man from Paradise, a recurring topic in the scriptures and traditions from all around the world that is closely associated to the idea of world ages and cosmic cycles. While not that obviously, also in John 14:3, 15, 19, 15, and in his announcements of the end of time, Jesus would be referring to them; also Daniel 2:21, 29 ff, 7:1 ff, other prophets from the Old Testament, St John’s Revelation, etc.

Last but not least, some authors have observed remarkable concordances on these issues between some Eastern scriptures, like the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and the Hindu Upanishads, on the one hand, and several stoic, hermetic, and neo–platonic treatises on the other.

The modern science has in turn validated various passages from the Bible. Some of the best–known examples, like the predominance of an evolutionary order in the creation of species (fish – birds – beasts), accurately reflected in Genesis 1: 20 ff, and the fact that in the last ten or twelve thousand years there might indeed have occurred such a great disaster as to produce a “universal flood,” as evidenced both by the rings of the Californian sequoias and the fossils and corpses deposited and preserved in frozen mud, are just a few of them. Other examples include a knowledge of the spherical shape of the Earth in Isaiah 40:22, where the Hebrew word chugh, commonly translated as “circle” or “orb,” may also mean “sphere;” of the Earth floating in space, in Job 26:7; of a primitive Earth cloaked in darkness and in a watery steam, in Genesis 2:6; and of the very steps of the Creation in Genesis 1: 3 ff, whose sequence – if considered from the point of view of a terrestrial observer, as well as that each “evening” with its corresponding “morning” represent vast periods of time – perfectly harmonizes with the one postulated by the most recent cosmological theories.

However, it is among the Eastern scriptures themselves that we can find extraordinary examples of scientific information.

Bhagavata Purana (9, 3:30–34), for example, recounts the trip of king Kakudmi to Brahmaloka, the highest planet in the universe, governed by the powerful demigod Brahma, the creator of the world, to ask for his advice on a good husband for his daughter Revati. When the king reaches Brahma’s palace, the god is hearing musical recitals by the Gandharvas, the celestial musicians, and Kakudmi waits in the anteroom; when the music is over, he expresses his desire. Brahma breaks in laughter: “O King, he answers, whoever might have been thought of by you have been swept off by Time. Twenty–seven chatur–yugas [27 x 4’320,000 terrestrial years] have rolled by and we hear no more even of the races of their sons, grandsons and great grandsons…” Now, although a space–time bend as the one exemplified by this story may result from the different translation speeds of “higher” and “lower” planets around the Sun according to the Hindu tradition, it still remains illustrative of the well–known paradox anticipated by the theory of relativity for interstellar traveling at close to light–speed velocities...

(First published Qassia Jan 24, 2008)

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Wheel of Time

A Quest into the Nature of Time

Among the great mysteries of the universe, few have exerted so strange a fascination upon the mind of man as that of time. Indeed, time is not a mere enigma. Unfathomable at its deepest core, time is, in its own right, a mystery of mysteries.

Throughout the centuries, this mystery has persisted and captivated the world’s greatest intellects: Solomon, Pythagoras, Plato, St. Augustine, Newton, Descartes, each fell in turn irresistibly attracted to it. Even in our days, it has troubled great scientists like Einstein and his “successor,” Stephen Hawkin.

However, already at this point we are assaulted by wonder. For it appears that Einstein was not the first, nor was he the only, to discover that time is relative to space. From time immemorial, such knowledge has been in the possession of the ancient Hindu people, as some of their most sacred texts – particularly the Puranas – corroborate (a point upon which I shall elaborate later on). As to Hawkin, he was not long ago wondering if time merely advances in a linear fashion, as the orthodox physics has always postulated, or it rather does it by circles – as has always been conceived by the Eastern traditional doctrines.

We will do well, therefore, to review two of our deepest-rooted notions – namely, that it is only in the last few centuries that the greatest scientific discoveries have been made, and that the ancient peoples had absolutely NO scientific knowledge of the world at all.

A third example will help us reinforce this point. Based on radioactive measurements, the modern science has for some time been estimating the age of the Earth as approximately 4,500 millions of years since it was formed within the solar system. More recently, the analysis of stones from the Moon has produced an even more accurate – and apparently definitive – length of time: 4,310 millions of years, a figure I unfortunately have not been able to verify although it certainly matches the former. Well, this length is nearly identical to that of 4,320 million years which, according to the Puranas and some Indian astronomical treatises, is the duration of what the Hindus call a “Brahma’s day” (or kalpa) within the immense cycle of cosmic manifestation.

It may, indeed, be argued that the Hindus came by this figure by mere accident or that it simply was invented, as was also invented everything connected with the ages and cosmic cycles. To refute such objections we would need to determine whether the whole of these notions is backed up by other sacred writings of the world – i.e. whether there is agreement on these issues between the Hindu scriptures and other sacred books of the world – and then, as a collateral evidence, to establish whether the remaining information the said scriptures contain is reliable enough; all this with a view, at least at a preliminary stage, to cloak them with a certain degree of respectability when faced to the most obstinate skeptics, those who plainly make fun of these theories.

This is a task I will leave for my next post… time and God permitting of course.

(First published Qassia Jan 23, 2008)

A Word From the Author

Dear fellow Bloggers,

As a youth I was fascinated by Oriental wisdom and particularly by the Hindu doctrines. However, it was not until a few years ago that I undertook the task of studying the ancient doctrine of cosmic cycles from different perspectives - though mainly using the most relevant sacred texts from all around the world. In time, I felt the urge to write a book about my studies in that matter in my mother tongue, Spanish, which I titled "La rueda del tiempo" (in English, "The Wheel of Time").

More recently, after some years as a networker promoting various programs, I decided to translate my book into English, a task that is currently in process and will hopefully be completed by August 2008. During the past few weeks I have been publishing a number of fragments of this translation online from a novel program, Qassia, and I will additionally post them here beginning today.

All good feedback is welcome.

Thank you,

Luis Miguel Goitizolo
Lima - Peru