This group focuses on key concepts as presented in theosophical literature. Each Phase will take up passages drawn from selected texts in order to fuel discussion among members.
This group explores the fundamental principles of theosophy as set out by H.P. Blavatsky and her predecessors in the larger Wisdom Religion tradition of mankind. We are looking at these key ideas from a variety of standpoints, philosophical, metaphysical, psychological, practical or scientific. The hope is to connect with the core ideas so that we can better understand both their esoteric meaning but also to find therapeutic applications.
Theosophical Tenets: Cycles
March 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm #6958
“This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.” -The Secret Doctrine
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Theosophical Tenets: Cycles
ModeratorTN March 10, 2018 at 7:02 pm #6961
From the Three Fundamentals of the Secret Doctrine:
(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.” (See Part II., “Days and Nights of Brahma.”)
Pierre WoutersModeratorPierre Wouters April 2, 2018 at 5:49 pm #7014
That’s indeed a good question Grace, and Barbara’s comment is certainly applicable. Essentially there is no difference between karma and cycles (just like spirit and matter are essentially one). So we could say that karma corresponds to spirit, as cycles (the manifestations of karma) correspond to matter. Cycles ARE karma in operation, or the effect of karma, in turn again relating to new causes.
We often think of cycles as just a sequence of time passing by at a steady pace, but there’s a lot more to it. Within any given cycle there are certain mechanisms and dynamics at play. Even graphically speaking – representing a cycle as a circle on paper – if you start a cycle at the top, there is a tendency to accelerate towards the bottom, and from the bottom a deceleration towards the top. At the same time there is a tendency towards materialization or condensation going down, and the reverse going up. Just like a circle representing for instance a horoscope divided into 12 houses, every cycle has subdivisions where every segment answers to a particular quality within a cycle with its own influences, so this answers to cycles within cycles. The actual movement of a cycle is also not exactly circular but helicoidal (like a screw), we usually refer to it as a spiral, but a spiral is basically two-dimensional, a helicoid three-dimensional. There is also the overlapping of cycles when they follow in sequence. A cycle doesn’t just finish off and then the next one starts at the end, the next cycle already starts when the previous one is still in the process of finishing its course.
So, the study of cycles – and thus karma – is a science in its own right, therefore called the Law of cycles/karma. An intrinsic knowledge of the dynamics at play in every sub-division of a cycle and its relation to other cycles gives the yogi insight into the past, the present and future of karmic activity.
I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of this deep topic. Mr. Judge has a collection of articles that deal with cycles.
Gerry Kiffe May 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm #7119
Karma is essentially the law of Cycles. It is the relationship between cause and effect which is the core idea behind a cycle. A cycle involves the movement from the unmanifest to the manifest and its return. This is the grand cycle upon which all other cycles are built. Every action begins with a thought, per se, and produces effects, which are manifestations.
ModeratorTN April 2, 2018 at 4:55 pm #7012
The Theory of Cycles
It is now some time since this theory, which was first propounded in the oldest religion of the world, Vedaism, then taught by various Greek philosophers, and afterwards defended by the Theosophists of the Middle Ages, but which came to be flatly denied by the wise men of the West, like everything else, in this world of negation, has been gradually coming into prominence again. This once, contrary to the rule, it is the men of science themselves who take up. Statistics of events of the most varied nature are fast being collected and collated with the seriousness demanded by important scientific questions. Statistics of wars and of the periods (or cycles) of the appearance of great men—at least those as have been recognised as such by their contemporaries and irrespective of later opinions; statistics of the periods of development and progress at large commercial centres; of the rise and fall of arts and sciences; of cataclysms, such as earthquakes, epidemics periods of extraordinary cold and heat; cycles of revolutions, and of the rise and fall of empires, &c.; all these are subjected turn to the analysis of the minutest mathematical calculations. Finally, even the occult significance of numbers in names of persons and names of cities, in events, and like matters, receives unwonted attention. If, on the one hand, a great portion of the educated public is running into atheism and scepticism, on the other hand, we find an evident current of mysticism forcing its way into science.
— H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophist, July, 1880
ModeratorTN May 5, 2018 at 5:05 pm #7081
Cycles From Mr. Judge’s Ocean of Theosophy
In advancing these few observations upon the doctrine of cycles, no claim to an exhaustive study of the matter is made. This paper is merely by way of suggestion.
The subject was brought before my mind by our discussion some evenings ago, when the question of the descent upon earth, or ascent from it, of celestial beings or progressed souls engaged our attention. It seemed certain that such ascent and descent were governed by cyclic laws, and therefore proceeded in regular periods. Some sentences from the Wisdom of the Egyptians by Synesius in matter furnished me by Bro. Chas Johnston, now of India, read:
“After Osiris, therefore, was initiated by his father into the royal mysteries, the gods informed him * * that a strong tribe of envious and malignant daemons were present with Typhos as his patrons, to whom he was allied and by whom he was hurled forth into light, in order that they might employ him as an instrument of the evil which they inflict on mankind. For the calamities of nations are the banquets of the evil daemons. * * *
“Yet you must not think that the gods are without employment, or that their descent to this earth is perpetual. For they descend according to orderly periods of time, for the purpose of imparting a beneficent impulse in the republics of mankind. But this happens when they harmonize a kingdom and send to this earth for that purpose souls who are allied to themselves. For this providence is divine and most ample, which frequently through one man pays attention to and affects countless multitudes of men.
“For there is indeed in the terrestial abode the sacred tribe of heroes who pay attention to mankind, and who are able to give them assistance even in the smallest concerns. * * This heroic tribe is, as it were, a colony from the gods established here in order that this terrene abode may not be left destitute of a better nature. But when matter excites her own proper blossoms to war against the soul, the resistance made by these heroic tribes is small when the gods are absent; for everything is strong only in its appropriate place and time. * * But when the harmony adapted in the beginning by the gods to all terrene things becomes old, they descend again to earth that they may call the harmony forth, energize and resuscitate it when it is as it were expiring. * * When, however, the whole order of mundane things, greatest and least, is corrupted, then it is necessary that the gods should descend for the purpose of imparting another orderly distribution of things.”
ModeratorTN May 12, 2018 at 6:17 pm #7105
The Doctrine of Cycles
The doctrine of Cycles is emphasized in Theosophy, as it is so many-sided and so far-reaching in its application to all phases of life and to all conditions of matter. A cycle means a ring or “turning.” It is not a closed ring; rather, it is a continuous rounding course, advancing on a rising level. Cycles may be likened to a circular stairway, where, in going up or down, we are always above or below the level of the preceding step or round. Another example of a cyclic course is seen in the thread of a screw, which winds around and upward from the point. A more typical form of the enlarging circle is found in the widening spiral of the common snail-shell. This type is symbolic of the evolutionary progress of all things; and not least of all, it symbolizes the natural expanding life-course of us human beings, as we return to Earth, again and again. We follow an absolutely universal
“law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.”
— The Secret Doctrine, 1,17
There are cycles within cycles. Man — both the individual and the race as a whole — though evidently rising and falling in lesser cycles, yet is ever becoming more aware of what is within his own nature as well as what is without him. While he is exploring widening fields of the material world and its forces, he is also becoming more at home in a grander range of humanhood.
The Doctrine of Cycles by Lydia Ross and C. J. Ryan
ModeratorTN June 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm #7158
The Evolution of Humanity and Its Civilizations
The story of mankind cannot be understood without considering the birth of the planet of which we are all inseparable parts. If our universe is a living being, and our sun and earth also, we are then children of the living cosmos. This implies that there are intelligences above man, and beings below the animals and even plants. Without the guiding and sustaining influence of the hierarchies of superior beings which form the inner fabric of the cosmos, nature would become a meaningless chaos. They instigate and ideate the design of nature’s working and are the forces behind its inbuilt healing system or ineluctable return to harmony.
As the human and other kingdoms each attain their evolution, so the earth achieves its form and embodiment. The elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and divine kingdoms are all essential to one another and to the whole. They are to the earth what cells, the life force, and thoughts are to human beings. Each individual enshrines a divine spark, and from the very beginning of our planet’s reimbodiment all the kingdoms were present, not as they now are, but as seeds about to unfold.
The Evolution of Humanity and Its Civilizations by John Van Mater
ModeratorTN July 15, 2018 at 6:44 am #7250
Causative Nature of Cycles
The doctrine of cycles is one of the most important in the entire cosmic range of the esoteric philosophy, because repetitive or rhythmic action is fundamental in nature. As a matter of fact, every being and thing that exists is an expression of rhythmic pulsation: we are not only the children of cycles greater than ourselves, but actually within our own beings imbody cycles because we are cyclical in all our life processes. The same rule applies with identical force to any entity in boundless Infinitude, whether a galaxy or an atom.
We perceive cycles by the recurrences of moving beings and things in our world, and are deluded into thinking that these repetitions are caused by some intangible entity called time, while in reality they are caused by the cyclical movements of the bodies or of the consciousness of entities. The revolutions of the planets around the sun is an example; they are not caused by time. It is the moving entities themselves which produce in us the time-illusion, due to our imperfect understanding of their operations in Duration. As one of the Stanzas of Dzyan says: “Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration” — because moving things were then no more.
A human being is a cycle; an atom is a cycle — in this technical sense. We say that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, and we call it a cycle, a day. The time-illusion produced by the moving object — in this case our earth — gives us the notion that a day is produced by an absolute entity called Time, or is an integral part of such separate entity.
Cycles themselves are not caused as minor integrals of time by time. Where you have no space, there is no time; where you have no time, there is no space. Space is a substantial entity in occultism, and one of its mayavi attributes is what we call time. As Space is eternally enduring, this is the cause of the time-maya. That does not mean that time is nonexistent, but there is no absolute entity apart from things called Time, nor where there are no beings to perceive it.
—G. de Purucker
ModeratorTN March 24, 2019 at 7:50 pm #7755
The illusion of time is within our own complex constitution. We ourselves are the makers of cycles — time-limits; the cycles of time run their course within ourselves; the circulation of blood in the human body is a cyclic process; the heart-beat and the pulse-beat are cyclic; cravings of the appetites and their satisfaction are cyclic; sickness and convalescence are cyclic; sleep and waking are cyclic; so are birth and death; prenatal life is cyclic; life on earth is cyclic — the four ashrama-stages, of (1) student-brahmacharya, (2) householder-grihashta, (3) contemplator-vanaprastha and (4) active altruist-sannyasin, were the device of the wise ancients who utilized the cyclic laws by making proper use of the four seasons of the human incarnation, which wise arrangement our civilization has set at nought. According to the teachings of the esoteric science, the commonly used definition for the age of man —”three score years and ten” — bespeaks an inner truth. The seventy years from one point of view indicates the perfect cycle for the development of the mahatmic being in seven decades in every new incarnation, which at a higher phase of development produces the unfoldment of the tenfold Dhyanic-avatara in cycles of seven years each. The same seventy year cycle works for the present stage of human evolution thus: the period is divided into halves, one of birth and growth, the other of decay and death. Each half is further divided into five periods of seven years each: (1) Birth of the human body, (2) the taking charge of his body by the Egoic consciousness at the age of seven, (3) the kamic change which matures the boy or the girl at fourteen, (4) the manasic fecundation which makes twenty-one the age of discrimination, (5) the spiritual unfoldment resulting from experience and suffering from the earlier stages at twenty-eight. Then the return of the cycle, also in five periods but in the reverse order, during which effectual maturing can take place: thus between thirty-five and forty-two the unfolded spirituality (on the corresponding cycle of the first half,i.e., between twenty-eight and thirty-five) is matured and perfected, and so on till the second childhood of innocence but not of ignorance, child-like but not childish, is shown forth between sixty-three and seventy. Just as the four stages of life are not observed by our civilization, just as there is caste-confusion in this Kali-yuga, so also is there dislocation, through ignorance, of the law above referred to, in our modern days, to the grave disadvantage of the individual and therefore to the race as a whole. In the light of what is said above, the student’s attention is called to the extracts from The Secret Doctrine which now follow:
When the Western Orientalists have mastered the real meaning of the Rig Vedic divisions of the World — the two-fold, three-fold, six and seven-fold, and especially the nine-fold division, the mystery of the cyclic divisions applied to heaven and earth, gods and men, will become clearer to them than it is now. … more than one physician has stood aghast at the periodicalseptenary return of the cycles in the rise and fall of various complaints, and naturalists have felt themselves at an utter loss to explain this law…. (II, 622.)
To demonstrate more clearly the seven in Nature, it may be added that not only does the number seven govern the periodicity of the phenomena of life, but that it is also found dominating the series of chemical elements, and equally paramount in the world of sound and in that of colour as revealed to us by the spectroscope…. (II, 627.)
B.P. Wadia Studies in the Secret Doctrine
ModeratorTN April 21, 2019 at 4:11 pm #7806
“By the study of this Law of Cycles we learn that natural progress of all kinds does not occur in one steady stream, like the rush of a railway train on a straight track, but on the contrary, it proceeds by a spiral or screw-like course, in which the same points are successively and continually reached on higher circles of existence. It might, perhaps, be compared to the flight of an eagle, which soars upward in circles one above the other, until lost to sight in the vault of heaven. An onlooker would apparently see a periodic return to nearly the same place, but it is clear that the soaring bird occupies a more distant position on every turn of the circle in its spiral flight upward.”
C.W. The Law of Cycles
ModeratorTN May 14, 2019 at 5:29 pm #7869
Let us briefly consider the birth of worlds as cosmic beings. When such a birth commences there is no form because the energies and characteristics of the systems of worlds about to come forth have been inrolled and dormant for ages. Hindu and other cultures give figures for the lifespan of planets, suns, and other cosmic entities. Planets, they say, live for 4,320,000,000 years, and the time spent in their rest periods or death-cycles is the same.
When the moment arrives for our world to reawaken, it does so on a very ethereal level. First the godlike beings and elemental forces issue forth, laying the pattern for the inner and outer aspects of the earth-to-be. This is followed by the awakening of the other kingdoms, which lay the tracks on inner, non-material planes. As the less evolved kingdoms build for themselves more evolved bodies to work through, the earth assumes the shape, circulations, and energy flow, inner and outer, that we associate with this living planet of ours. Earth achieves its expression by means of its lesser lives, just as we attain physical incarnation by means of atoms, molecules, compounds, and cells contributing to form the fluids, tissues, and organs of our bodies, all energized by life forces and infilled with emotional and mental activities stimulated by the indwelling consciousness. And so it is with the planet: as its kingdoms alter, growing more and more material, so does the earth achieve the various phases of its reimbodiment. The life cycle of a planet takes place in a series of pulsations or “rounds,” usually spoken of as seven in number. We are presently in the fourth and most material round; and henceforward our earth will grow increasingly ethereal until the end of its lifespan.
Evolution from the theosophic point of view extends through repeated reimbodiments, not only in the human kingdom, but for animals, plants, atoms, and worlds. Just as we have our invisible parts, so also does the sun with its planetary systems and their inhabitants, thus forming our living universe. All this presupposes an enduring part that lives in each person, each planet, each atom, something within that survives and gradually evolves through repeated reimbodiments — in our case, a higher self or reincarnating ego in which is stored the wisdom of experience. Evolution, thus, is the process by which the potentials of this divine essence may unfold. Because we have unfolded that which makes us human, we are at the human stage of our evolution. The animals have unfolded that which makes of them animals, and so forth. In a future planetary cycle the higher animals may develop from within themselves that which will make it natural for them to slip over into the human kingdom, as many did in the early part of this present planetary reimbodiment.
From the standpoint of reincarnation mankind is millions of years old, its civilizations stretching back into legendary times. If we study myths and epics comparatively and give some credence to them, we will find much suggestive material that should be taken seriously, though not always literally. H. P. Blavatsky held that these old myths were designed by adepts who wove into them the teachings of the ancient wisdom. They may therefore be interpreted on many levels, such as the spiritual, intellectual, psychological, and physiological. These legends have survived with the early races by oral tradition, coming down to us like a racial memory, for any records would have been destroyed in the often violent interregnums that have intervened.
-John Van Mater
ModeratorTN June 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm #7938
From Mr. Judge
THE word “evolution” is the best word from a theosophical standpoint to use in treating of the genesis of men and things, as the process which it designates is that which has been always stated in the ancient books from whose perusal the tenets
of the wisdom religion can be gathered. In the BhagavadGita we
find Krishna saying that “at the beginning of the day of Brahma all
things come forth from the non-developed principle, and at the coming
on of Brahma’s night they are resolved into it again,” and that this
process goes on from age to age. This exactly states evolution as it is
defined in our dictionaries, where it is said to be a process of coming
forth or a development. The “days and nights of Brahma” are immense
periods of time during which evolution proceeds, the manifestation of
things being the “day” and their periodical resolution into the Absolute