We now continue our study of Theosophical tenets with the first in a series of explorations of those definitive, foundational ideas that constitute the core principles of The Ageless Wisdom: Periodicity.

Periodicity has been chosen as the first tenet to focus on because it is so deeply connected with the whole of Theosophy. Many of the other tenets that we will be exploring are particular manifestations of the universal principle of periodicity. So important was this principle in The Secret Doctrine that H.P.B. named it as one of the Three Fundamental Propsitions given in the Proem:


Further, the Secret Doctrine affirms: —

(b.) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing," called "the manifesting stars," and the "sparks of Eternity." "The Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux."

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.


HPB's reference to "the appearance and disappearance of Worlds" echoes that which is affirmed in the Rig Veda and the Bhagavad Gita, describing the universe itself as a vast cycle of creation and dissolution, the one after the other, without beginning or end. In all of these examples, periodicity is illustrated on the grandest possible scale, yet it is something that permeates every facet of our lives, manifesting on all levels great and small.


Far from being exclusive to the Eastern scriptures, the concept also appears in The Bible, in Ecclesiastes 3:



To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The Tarot, that repository of The Ageless Wisdom which bequeaths its riches via symbolic imagery, conveys this principle (along with some of the others derived from it) in Trump X, The Wheel of Fortune.

Appearing in scriptures and teachings the world over, and also under our very noses, cycles surrounds us everywhere we look and it is easy to see why periodicity is recognized as a universal principle of The Ageless Wisdom.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Thanks for getting us started on this topic, Daniel. Periodicity is so central and so important to the study of theosophy!

A good question to open with, and one I ask myself continually, is: how does theosophy differ in its approach to cycles than common notions? No one can deny the movement of day/night and the like, but what light does Theosophy shed on the concept of cycles that might help us understand these movements on a deeper level?


This isn't particularly a deeper level, Jon, but I guess just the huge scale involved in the cycles invites us to wonder what grand aims are entailed in the evolutionary process, from the smallest atom up to the largest universe.


I think this is quite important. For theosophists cycles exist in 'larger' and 'larger' measure (or 'smaller' and 'smaller', ad infinitum, or "until the mind reels and is exausted by the effort". Modern scientists (along with many religions), recognize a handful of cycles (atomic cycles, breath, heartbeat, seasons, planetary orbits, etc.), but then they view the life of the universe as completely linear, and the life of any sentient being as linear. I find that recognizing cycles everywhere, from the lowest to the highest, has really effected (positively) my view of reality.


We see cycles in the cellular to the galactic level, from the small to the big.  It appears in the visible and disappears into the invisible. 

What gives meaning is to couple this law with the other fundamental idea of evolution.    In theosophy,  it starts from the spirit down to matter and back to spirit, the journey of the Soul.



What gives meaning is to couple this law with the other fundamental idea of evolution.    In theosophy,  it starts from the spirit down to matter and back to spirit, the journey of the Soul.

This is a good observation. Theosophy holds as sacred a cycle that many other worldviews do not even consider, and every other cycle, seen in this context, does have a whole new meaning.

One consequence of losing sight of this depth is that it can lead eventually to appreciating the significance of all cycles. In the more materialistic mindset that dominates the world today, it seems people spend more time working against cycles, seeing them as irregularities that need to be tamed or beaten back. We seek to defy the natural cycles of day and night with electric lights, the natural cycles of sleeping and waking with chemical stimulants, the seasonal cycles with fertilizers and other artifice...what has been the result?


what has been the result?

Just speaking for myself, but whenever I've tried to deny or avoid a cycle in my life the results have been disastrous.

"Chafe not at Karma, nor at Nature's changeless laws..."


Just speaking for myself, but whenever I've tried to deny or avoid a cycle in my life the results have been disastrous.

Yup, same here. The cycle always manages to manifest itself no matter what, and the process that unfolds as the natural cycle eventually re-establishes balance always brings on more of whatever it was I was trying to avoid than I would have had to accept had I just gone with the flow.


Could examples please be given of how people deny or avoid cycles?


The major one that comes to mind for me is one I mentioned in another post: Caffeine addiction! It's one of my vices (Yes, I consider this a vice even though it is so ingrained in society--especially here in Norway), though I am currently on the wagon. But it disrupts the natural circadian rhythm, which is a very important cycle for the body.

In fact, the very "buzz" one gets from caffeine is actually the symptoms of bodily cycles being  "hijacked." It's not the caffeine itself that gives the imbiber energy--that comes from one's own adrenaline, released as part of a false-alarm fight-or-flight response that gets triggered when the caffeine blocks certain receptor sites in the brain, which itself is essentially the disruption of what is a normal cycle of flow in the brain.

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted by caffeine, our sleep/wake cycles become driven by the need to maintain a certain level of caffeine in the blood to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Many different parts of a coffee drinker's day are actually governed by their habit. Heart rate gets artificially raised, and on a constant basis this is not a good thing for the body either. The kidneys and adrenals must certainly take a blow. Living every day in a state of artificially-induced stress for the sake of the short-term benefits of caffeine consumption is a microcosmic analogy of what humanity at large is doing to the planet.

The list goes on and on, but it's all really a cascade effect starting from one tiny disruption, leading to another, which triggers another. This is actually another good example of how cycles connect with karma.


In theosophy,  it starts from the spirit down to matter and back to spirit, the journey of the Soul.

This, to me, might be the most fundamental and important recognition in the theosophical treatment of cycles. Seems to me that Theosophy sees cycles as operating between or through the various planes. So cycles are more than just the visible, periodic circulations of time and events on the physical plane; cycles are operations that run from high to low and back to high, from spiritual to physical and back to spiritual, from within without and back within, from one to many and back to one, from cause to effect and back to cause, etc.

I think we see a reflection of this outline in something like photosynthesis. Water flows down rivers and into lakes and oceans (in visible, liquid form), where it settles for a time. Then it is evaporated and rises (in invisible (to us), gaseous form) into the sky, where it gathers until it finally condenses (back into visible, liquid form) and falls back to Earth, where it again flows down rivers into lakes and oceans, only to evaporate again.

So, how does this type of cycle (from high to low and back to high) relate to the cycles we see on this plane (like the seasons, or day-night, etc.)? And is it accurate to see these as distinctly different types of cycles? Do the former underlie the latter?



Great choice on the song.  Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds.  I have always loved this song and loved both the music and the message.  Thanks for bringing it back!   It was written by none other than Pete Seeger who seems to have had a hand to play in almost every important social movement in the US for over 70 years.  This man is real hero of the human spirit and an advocate for human fellowship.  And like the seasons keeps coming back when ever something important needs to be said.


How do we connect the concept of periodicity with the concept of karma?

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Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 18, 2012 at 11:30am

The relationship between periodicity and karma can be complex in its details, but is simple in essence.

The two can hardly be separated. From one point of view, karma is periodicity and vice versa. To take some of the more obvious natural cycles that we see around us as examples, all can be interpreted as karma playing out. The cycles of day and night are brought about as the sun and the earth "dance" around each other, and this is karma as the principle of cause and effect. Same with the cycle of seasons, which are also manifestations of the way in which the same phenomenon plays out. All of these are consequences of the motion of the earth and sun in relationship with one another, and as that motion is cyclic, so are its results.

Does karma always move in "cycles?"

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 18, 2012 at 4:24pm

We often read about karmic cycles.  The causes set up in one life cycling back as effects in another life.  I much agree with you the two ideas cannot be separated.  Karma  does seem to work in cycles as you say and ask,. Cycles seem to be a rhythmic flow of action of cause and effect. Perhaps we are talking about archetypal patterns here. Could we say Cycles have rhythm?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 18, 2012 at 1:03pm

The law of cycles includes periods of activity and rest.  

Karma is the law of cause and effect which is always in the field of action (karma).

 In addition Karma is a moral law not simply a mechanical law.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 18, 2012 at 4:17pm

OK, how are they connected.  You gave us two definitions.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 18, 2012 at 8:13pm

 In addition Karma is a moral law not simply a mechanical law.

As I understand things, I think it is we who project moral meaning onto the law of karma. It is easy to do, but karma is not about moral judgment. The physical aspects of cause and effect as reflected in the course of physical laws governing motion are the same in essence as the laws that determine what we experience in one life as the result of past actions. The difference is simply the level(s) on which the law is acting. Our actions in one life generate skandhas that we bring with us into the next life, not because of their moral value but simply because of their nature. That is the effect that they set in motion.

We can see this by looking at that sort of karma that has its effect within the same lifetime (we must remember that not everything waits for another lifetime to come back to affect us, either). Many of our acts become etched in our very bodies, and this is analogous to what happens when we carry skandhas with us from one lifetime to the next--it's just a different body. For example, it is fairly well known that negative attitudes and beliefs can physically make us ill. Living with a constant frown etches different sorts of lines on the face as one ages than smiling all the time does. The person with frown lines is not being morally punished for being negative, they are just impressing their face with those wrinkles that result from frowning as opposed to smiling. Take this same concept and deepen its activity by following the way it plays out over multiple planes and multiple lifetimes and that is karma, as I understand it.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 18, 2012 at 8:16pm

Though I digress here--this discussion is about periodicity, and karma will be dealt with in a later phase of Theosphical Tenets.

Permalink Reply by Catherine Austin on October 24, 2012 at 6:12pm

As above, so below. I was alerted to a level of understanding of cycles when I mentioned to an older member that there seems to be less interest in Theosophy at present, looking at membership. She merely spoke to me of the cycles of the seasons and related that to the coming and going of members. I found this ceased my worry about the issue. When I look at the subject of Karma, (which I have been reluctant to study because of the limited understanding of "punishment"), I now see as life's/Karma's action to "call forth the evolution of the soul". Every event is Karmic in that sense, and seen, in higher realms as beautiful for our advancement. So now I am going to have series of talks and discussions on such things as Karma and the Masters and other basic tenets of discipleship in the Lodge, which I see as the core for us to have Brotherhood (as most of us do, of course). I am quite excited about Lodge membership as two of us meditated in the Lodge that it be a Lighthouse for members, and that we have the skills to assist them on their journeys. The very next week, about 6 extra people came in, some of them saying they had been looking for us for some time. I had been holding a pack of booklets as I meditated (At the feet of the Master) and most of them were taken at the end of the Speaker's talk and subsequent fellowship. Some of them have become members as well.

So, what do I make of this. Low membership was a cyclic pattern. The Karma involved in this was getting me to ask the question "How to bring people to the Ideals of Theosophy". Another Lodge President told me to meditate that we be a lighthouse. We did it and got the result. I see that the Masters are behind, within and absolutely integral to The Theosophical Society flourishing. I think that being engaged in the work of Theosophy, and good works (Theosophical Order of Service) brings us under the notice of the Masters, and they can move us to pure impulses, and bless our work in blessing others.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 18, 2012 at 10:19pm

HPB makes what seems to me to be a profound statement in the SD (1:641) when she says:

"There is a predestination in the geological life of our globe, as in the history, past and future, of races and nations. This is closely connected with what we call Karma and Western Pantheists, "Nemesis" and "Cycles." The law of evolution is now carrying us along the ascending arc of our cycle, when the effects will be once more re-merged into, and re-become the (now neutralized) causes, and all things affected by the former will have regained their original harmony. This will be the cycle of our special "Round," a moment in the duration of the great cycle, or the Mahayuga."

That notion of effects re-merging and re-becoming their causes certainly seems to put a new spin (pun intended) on the concept of cycles.

Any thoughts on this quote?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 19, 2012 at 5:08am

Dan, You've raised a very good point. As I understand it Karma is not a conscious entity which judges our actions as "good" or "bad". This seems to be in line with what you are saying.

However, while Karma no doubt includes the kind of good examples you gave, there are two important ways in which the Law of Karma is more than just a linear type of cause and effect action applied to every plane of being.

Firstly, the Law of Karma is said to have an underlying aim, namely, to restore equilibrium and Harmony in the Universe.

"For the only decree of Karma -- an eternal and immutable decree -- is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit."     (SD I 643)

Hence it is said that Karma ADJUSTS the effect to its cause. Physical laws of motion (cause and effect) act in the same manner whenever the same cause occurs in identical conditions. Karma "adjusts" the effect according to what would bring about harmony and equilibrium in relation to the cause. It does not always act in exactly the same way in all identical circumstances as do physical laws of cause and effect. If it did then Karma would be merely a mechanical operation in nature.

"Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable." (Key To Theosophy, p201)

This is where the second aspect, the moral element, of Karma comes in. The moral element in the Law of Karma is intimately connected to this *tracing back of the effect to its producer*.  As you wish to leave an in depth of discussion of Karma to a later date I will just mention the following from HPB in relation to the Moral element of Karma:

'The ONE LIFE is closely related to the one law which governs the World of Being -- KARMA. Exoterically, this is simply and literally "action," or rather an "effect-producing cause." Esoterically it is quite a different thing in its far-fetching moral effects.'       (SD I 634)

We describe Karma as that Law of re-adjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world. We say that Karma does not act in this or that particular way always; but that it always does act so as to restore Harmony and preserve the balance of equilibrium, in virtue of which the Universe exists.      (Key To Theosophy, p205-6)

Karma is action, the Cause; and Karma again is "the law of ethical causation"; the effect of an act produced egotistically, when the great law of harmony depends on altruism.  (SD 2 302)

'The law of ethical causation' sums up the moral dimension of Karma.

An interesting insight can be gained into this moral dimension of Karma when the Men of the 3rd Race are discussed in the Secret Doctrine.  It states that because they did not have personal egos at that stage capable of making moral decisions (i.e. because lacking in Manas they lacked free will), they were "Karmaless".     (See SD II 610)

Likewise, HPB cites an occult truth in the Key to Theosophy that "..a child does not acquire its sixth principle — or become a morally responsible being capable of generating Karma — until seven years old.." (HPB explains by sixth principle, Buddhi-manas is really meant.)

It is Buddhi-manas (the reincarnating ego) which is the moral agent and consequently the agent for generating both 'good' and 'bad' karma.  Hence the Law of Karma and its operation over cycles of time is intimately connected with free will, i.e. Manas. This in turn is affected by whether Manas identifies itself with the separate self of the personal ego or the universal nature of Atma-Buddhi.  Both of these choices have moral effects on the individual and humanity at large.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 19, 2012 at 7:52am

Thanks for those clarifying passages, Peter. This helps me to understand karma a bit better and sheds some light on how it operates. I can't wait to see what else you have to offer when we come to our discussion of Karma!

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 19, 2012 at 10:07am

Well, I wouldn't count on anything in advance, Dan.  If it should have any value at all, it will be because it brings to light HPB's words and the teachings of her Teachers.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 19, 2012 at 11:50am

Something else of interest in relation to karma and cycles is the mysterious role of Narada. HPB touches on this in the SD 2:48, etc.:

"Narada -- who is called in Cis-Himalayan Occultism Pesh-Hun, the "Messenger," or the Greek Angelos -- is the sole confidant and the executor of the universal decrees of Karma and Adi-Budh: a kind of active and ever incarnating logos, who leads and guides human affairs from the beginning to the end of the Kalpa.
"Pesh-Hun" is a general not a special Hindu possession. He is the mysterious guiding intelligent power, which gives the impulse to, and regulates the impetus of cycles, Kalpas and universal events. He is Karma's visible adjuster on a general scale..." etc.

She also says that "Esoterically Nârada is the Ruler of events during various Karmic cycles, and the personification, in a certain sense, of the great human cycle; a Dhyan Chohan." (TG)

I believe we can begin to glimpse the conscious/intelligent working of karmic law (and cycles) through these subjects, which would seem to go along with what Peter is saying in regards to these not being solely mechanical processes (indeed, it would seem that nothing in nature is purely mechanical). There seems to be a correlation here between what is said about Narada and the relationship between the Ego and Karma (as Peter states).

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 19, 2012 at 5:27am

OK, how are they [Karma and Periodicity] connected.  You gave us two definitions.

Gerry,  Apologies for not saying more.  I was intending to be brief in my reply to compensate for the length of my other posts.

The law of Periodicity could also be called the Law of Evolution which is active and passive by stages. For the underlying thrust of life behind all these grand cycles is a triple scheme of evolution: Monadic; Intellectual; and Matter (See SD I 181).  While each grand cycle has its own heights and depths, descents and ascents, each grand cycle after a period of rest is followed by another round of development on a higher plane of being.

The spiritual pilgrim (Buddhi) has to follow that scheme and either succeed or fail. It's progress through all of its own cycles of activity and rest (periodicity) in that grand cycle depends on its own efforts and these efforts are checked by the Law of Karma - which endlessly seeks to restore all to harmony and equilibrium. 

In other words, the law of periodicity is not random activity and rest - it appears to be purposeful. That purposefulness (the underlying plan in the divine thought) and the beings on the journey are both aided by the Law of Karma.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 19, 2012 at 11:49am

Could we say periodicity has to do with the interplay of opposites?

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 19, 2012 at 12:10pm

What would those opposites be, Gerry?  Was there something you had in mind or intuited?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 19, 2012 at 2:47pm

Day and Night, Positive and Negative, Manifest and Unmanifest, One and Many, etc. etc.

Take your pick.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 19, 2012 at 3:16pm

These 'opposites' seem to be of two distinct types.

Day and night, positive and negative being one type - opposites in the sense of polarity.

Manifest and Unmanifest, One and Many being another type - not polar opposites, but rather conditions (?).

Take One and Many for example. If we're talking of the One, then we're talking of Be-ness, which contains both being and non-being (i.e. the opposites). Thus, in this sense it is within the many that polar opposites reside. One can say that bothnight and day are illusion (neither exists per se), but one cannot say that boththe One and the Many are illusions, since the One is the One Reality.

To my mind, periodicity is the motion (result of Absolute Abstract Motion) from one to many and back to one, from cause to effect and back to cause, from no-thing to thing and back to no-thing, etc., and the polar opposites are but a phenomenal result of that motion, or of conditions established by that motion.

Would love to hear other's thoughts on this...

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 19, 2012 at 3:41pm

Could we say what causes motion is opposites being attracted to each other as the yin yang symbol suggests?  As if the two parts want to become whole again.  Does this offer us any clues about cycles and how to harmonize with them?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 19, 2012 at 4:52pm

Hmm... I don't believe Motion can be said to have a cause. If indeed it is an aspect of the Absolute. I would say Motion IS, and opposites arise as a phenomenal manifestation of Motion (as also of the other aspects of the Absolute).

However, since all opposites are in fact One (Up and Down cannot exist apart from one another, neither can negative and positive, light and dark, etc., etc.), then it would seem that there would be, as you say, an inherent attraction between them. To my mind there is an inherent "attraction-repulsion", which operates "periodically and by turns", as HPB says. I would envision a center with polar opposites merged in it, then the poles extending apart due to the inherent power of repulsion, reaching a certain maximum extent (for any given system), and then returning by the equally inherent power of attraction. This would seem to go with the ideas of centripetal and centrifugal force spoken of in the SD. Because of Motion is essentially cyclical, attraction and repulsion, as forces, are always centripetal and centrifugal.

What I wouldn't go so far as to say is that these forces are the cause of cycles; rather they seem to be effect of or aspects of cyclical motion.

I suppose harmonzing with cycles is likely a matter of acting from the highest in us, as it is rooted in that fundamental harmony beyond polarity. How to do that in daily life... now that's a bigger question ;)

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on September 19, 2012 at 4:15pm
I'm thinking that Be-ness or Parabrahm (same thing) is the same as the "Universe in toto", which acts as the background or as the text says - "playground", in or upon which cyclic phenomena takes place. If we picture cycles and periodicity as a painting, then Parabrahm would be the canvas. The idea that periodicity is the result of Absolute Abstract Motion (an aspect of Parabrahm) is interesting. The concept of causation is one that I don't fully understand as it relates to Parabrahm. Does Parabrahm cause anything? Perhaps cycles of Mahamanvantara to Mahapralaya are cycles that continue perpetually and eternally by force of their own momentum.
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 19, 2012 at 4:42pm

Seems to me that motion is intrinsic, simply an aspect of the absolute and thus without cause per se. And in that sense Parabrahm would be both the canvas and the painter, and the paint ;).

So, if you take the symbol of a boundless circle - the circumference being the "Ever Incognizable Presence", the plane being Universal Soul, and then apply the third aspect of the absolute, Motion, we might get an analogy of why motion is inherently cyclical: the boundless circle being imbued with motion can move in but one way - rotatory. It is helpless to move in any way except to 'rotate upon its center' (for where or how else could it move?).

So... if absolute abstract motion is a aspect of the absolute, being itself without cause, then we could imagine that periodicity is even without a cause. That would seem to match with "eternally by force of their own momentum", if the term eternal is understood to here mean "endless duration".

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 20, 2012 at 4:04am

Jimmy,  I think you are right, it is beyond our understanding.  It's said that even the Logos bows down before the mystery of Parabrahm.  The only insufficient thought that occurs to my mind is that Parabrahm is the rootless-root of everything but is not the cause of any thing - being beyond the range of cause and effect.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 7, 2012 at 10:57pm

Found this in a recent study:

 In Kosmos, the equilibrium must be preserved. The operations of the two contraries produce harmony, like the centripetal and centrifugal forces, which are necessary to each other—mutually inter-dependent—"in order that both should live." If one is arrested, the action of the other will become immediately self-destructive.


SD I. page 416


This touches on the relation of opposite poles.  Interesting.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 20, 2012 at 3:59am

When we talk about periodicity we might need to distinguish between a) those grand alternating cycles when the universe as a whole is active and at rest (maha-pralaya) and b) those alternating cycles of activity and rest which are an aspect of the manifested cosmos.

Strictly speaking, we can only speak of "opposites" as they appear in Cosmos. These are the dual aspects of 'the manifested ONE'.   The Unmanifested ONE is beyond the opposites.

As Jon says, Motion as an 'attribute' of the Absolute doesn't have a cause - it "..is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion.." (SD I 2)  Therefore we can't say Motion is the result of some cause or other.

Later on in the SD, HPB states:
" Motion is eternal in the unmanifested, and periodical in the manifest," says an Occult teaching. (SD I 91)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 20, 2012 at 10:28am

How can a knowledge of cycles and periodicity help a person become more calm?

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on September 20, 2012 at 2:38pm
I suppose if a person is anxious or stressed about a situation, knowing that everything changes and better times are ahead may calm the mind.

Or one could just take a valium every four hours. - kidding ;)
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 20, 2012 at 4:08pm

Otherwise known as PLAN B.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 20, 2012 at 3:03pm

A more complete understanding of cycles has, for me, helped establish a sort of trust orfaith in the motions of life, which has helped with calmness and acceptance of cycling situations.

I'm reminds of the old proverb: "This too shall pass".

Or the notion that "the dark of night always leads to dawn", i.e. that troubled times are only ever temporary appearances.

A real-world example: In Canada there's a phenomenon in the middle of winter (February-ish) where many fall into a sort of slumbering depression. It happens every year, like clockwork, and so is a predictable cycle. It can be easy to get 'caught up' in the 'darkness' of this period, and when that happens the lower mind tends towards a kind of suffering based on the false idea that this state is somehow permanent - i.e. it longs to escape what it interprets as an enduring state. Those who weather this period well are those who remember that this happens every year, and eventually March and April will arrive and it will pass. So there seems to be an inner strength that comes with that knowledge, and a type of 'overview' of the situation (a "higher" perspective of the cycle) that allows one to more easily move through it.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 20, 2012 at 8:38pm

How can a knowledge of cycles and periodicity help a person become more calm?

In so many ways! I really appreciate Jon's example regarding winter depression, and it is one that I would have used too. Instead, I will use an example from the other end of the spectrum: Summer overtime at work. I work at an industrial laundry and summer is hotel season, during which the volume of linens we handle skyrockets. We work twice as hard as usual and tack several extra hours onto each day. The stress starts getting to people after a few weeks.

Knowledge of cycles helps in this situation as it does in many others. I begin with simply honoring the fact of cycles, reminding myself that this is just another manifestation. Then I consider the purpose or essence of this phase of the cycle. Is it an active or passive phase? At this point I find that not only reminding myself of the reasons or the meaning of the cycle, but then actively working to align my thoughts an actions with that essence, basically to "swim with the current," really helps. Lots of work to do? Dive in! Easier said than done, but it can be extremely liberating to stop resisting so much work and to just go at it.

Winter blues? Why? For me, it is partly physiological (no sun for several months) but partly that I am much more at home in the "active" phase. In winter things slow down, people stay inside and don't get as much done and this can drive me nuts. But going with the flow, and using the time to go inward and reflect some more, process the fruits of the previous phase of the cycle, and lay some plans for the next phase. Striving for harmony in this way is a big help.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 20, 2012 at 10:22pm

Then I consider the purpose or essence of this phase of the cycle.

This really jumped out to me, Daniel. I think in theosophical matters, as in many aspects of life, we may tend to miss the purpose of certain phases, particularly if we fall into the trap of looking at them merely as means to an end.

In theosophy, a good example is the trap of falling into the idea that Kama (desire), or Earth-life (lowest plane, globe, etc.) are wholly 'bad', or that the Kali Yuga, for example, is wholly bad and/or serves no purpose except to overcome or rush through it to 'better' times.

In our daily lives, how easily do we honor our waking hours and how easily do we look at sleep/night as but something necessary to get us to the next day? How many of us miss out on the purpose and value of winter because during it we 'live in the future', looking with longing to the summer instead of being present?

Seems to me that all phases of the cycles serve their purpose, and as you explain, aligning ourselves with that, working with each step, must certainly be an element of being in harmony with Nature's Laws (as mentioned beautifully in the Voice of the Silence).

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 21, 2012 at 8:28am

In theosophy, a good example is the trap of falling into the idea that Kama (desire), or Earth-life (lowest plane, globe, etc.) are wholly 'bad', or that the Kali Yuga, for example, is wholly bad and/or serves no purpose except to overcome or rush through it to 'better' times.

This seems a very important statement on a few levels. I reflected on this today at work and it points to a way that the Theosophical view of cycles can help us with struggles that go beyond our personal sphere. It is a very difficult time to live on this planet, especially for one who is sensitive to the suffering of others. There is so much to point to that seems wrong or unjust. I know so many people who have grown cynical  and resigned to a world growing worse and worse in their eyes. It can be difficult to hold onto hope, but the perspective that views time in terms of vast ages that run in a cycle is a blessing. It may mean that we will not see an end to all of these painful manifestations anytime soon, but it is a perspective that offers hope in these troubled times--this kind of situation has happened before, it will happen again, but conditions do improve and it serves a purpose. This makes it much easier to turn one's attention toward cultivating compassion and working to improve the world we live in, knowing that one's efforts will not be in vain.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 21, 2012 at 2:16pm

There's a sobering passage in the Secret Doctrine which suggests we can't rely solely on the momentum behind/within the changing cycles to bring better times. In the passage below HPB has just been discussing the first three and a half root races where the physical form is perfected with a proportionate loss of spirituality.  HPB continues:

Then, from the turning point, it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it whenever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution -- at least they ought to be so. The fact that mankind was never more selfish and vicious than it is now, civilized nations having succeeded in making of the first an ethical characteristic, of the second an art, is an additional proof of the exceptional nature of the phenomenon.    (SD II 110)

Reading this brings to mind what is stated in the 3rd Fundamental Proposition of the SD (I:17).  Namely, that the first stage in evolution occurs by natural impulse, then comes a point (the turning point mentioned above) when our spiritual progress depends on "self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by... Karma)" 

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 21, 2012 at 10:25pm

Reading this brings to mind what is stated in the 3rd Fundamental Proposition of the SD (I:17).  Namely, that the first stage in evolution occurs by natural impulse, then comes a point (the turning point mentioned above) when our spiritual progress depends on"self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by... Karma)" 

Absolutely. Nonetheless, the momentum behind changing cycles is an aid to those self-devised efforts which we should each undertake regardless of where we are or where we "should" be in a given cycle. One should not expect the universe to do it all for oneself but when the universe offers a current in which to swim, that is always nice.   :)

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 21, 2012 at 11:47pm

Nicely put, Daniel, and it might be foolish of us not to avail ourselves of such currents when they occur. I wonder if there's something here that relates back to Gerry's good question at the beginning of the week:

"How do we connect the concept of periodicity with the concept of karma?"

It may well be that one result of our self induced and self devised efforts is to create the kind of Karma that does result in just those favourable currents in future lives, or at least enables us to better make use of those phases of future cycles that are more favourable to spiritual development.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Noga on September 22, 2012 at 1:36am

It may well be that one result of our self induced and self devised efforts is to create the kind of Karma that does result in just those favourable currents in future lives, or at least enables us to better make use of those phases of future cycles that are more favourable to spiritual development.

I agree, and I think this is a good thing to keep in mind. Our amazing creative potential as human beings notwithstanding, we will may find ourselves coming up against certain karmic limits to our development, but even if we suspect this may be the case, it is well to continue striving. I believe that even if this happens to us, we can continue to lay further groundwork for development in a future life. This takes faith.