Common section

17

Cyclic Periods in History

Connection of Theory and Fact

The conclusions that have been reached about cyclic processes have the consequence that these processes inform all the eras of history and their changes, regulating them from within as the rules of harmony and counterpoint inform the audible properties of music. This analogy can help clarify the problems inherent in the application of a theory of time to history. Just as it can be argued that one can have music without musical theory, so it could be argued that knowledge of history will not be improved upon by relating it to a system of periodic functions which is not part of it. In either case it can be answered that the theoretical structure must be there, whether or not it is ignored, and that it can in any case only be ignored in a quite external manner. The limitation in this analogy is that music is an activity under human choice and direction, whereas history is an indefinite extent of activities which determine human choice as much as they are determined by it.

An analogy free from this limitation is provided by the realm of biology, which reveals the same kind of duality between the abstract and the concrete. From one point of view, it can be seen that this realm consists of species, genera, classes, orders, and phyla, while from another point of view it could be argued that it really consists only of individual living creatures; that the classifications are wholly products of human mentation. Like history, the realm of living organisms is something which simply exists and is not the expression of any conscious human purpose. There is an empirical sense in which it can be said that in the one case the true reality consists solely of individual historical events and periods, and in the other case it consists solely of individual animals. But if the conceptual counterpart is denied in either of these cases, the result is an inability to understand the relationships among the individual entities and the reasons for the differences and similarities between them. The confinement of knowledge to individuals and particulars is in any case futile in the long run because even knowledge of the particular is only possible because of an underlying knowledge of a universal. Even to know something solely as ‘an individual’ is dependent on the universal category of Individuality, and for this reason there is something artificial about attempts to make concrete realities independent of ideal ones.

The question of finding connections between the legendary and metaphysical realms and the facts of history is not in principle any different from the discovery of species and genera in nature. In the latter case, this discovery is a possibility by virtue of the inclusion of individual things in universals, however unnecessary it may seem for those whose interest in nature is either that of practical utility or aesthetic delight. If the historical application of the cyclic concept achieves nothing else, it should lead to a deeper understanding of the pitfalls involved in all attempts to work out a date for ‘the end of the world’. Doubts regarding the validity of these efforts, as well as the above difficulties in relating the abstract and the concrete, create resistance to theories of history, but this also comes from a fear that such theories would mean a denial of free will. In reality, the study of world-cycles presupposes a free will which is able to adjust to them and counteract their ill-effects. No one can be morally good or bad solely because of the age they live in.

Mythical History and the Bible

A preliminary step in the connection of theory and history can be made in a realm where cyclic laws remain almost unsuspected, namely, that of biblical history. One of the most surprising results of numerological research has been the discovery of the universal cyclic number in the Bible despite a complete lack of prima facie evidence for it. It has been shown to enter into the measure for the period of the Patriarchs from Adam to Noah, thanks to the discoveries made by the Assyriologist, Julius Oppert,7 with the result that there is no unbridgeable gulf between the chronology of the Book of Genesis and that of the ancient cyclic systems. It has already been mentioned how the writings of Berossos give a total period for the antediluvian kings as 432,000 years, this being the biblical period from the Fall to the Flood. From the figures given in Genesis, the period in question evidently totals 1,656 years, this being the total of the ages of each of the Patriarchs at the birth of the sons who succeeded them (not their total lifetimes). According to the Talmud, the Patriarchs were rulers of all mankind, so that the distinction between ‘patriarch’ and ‘king’ is only conventional in this context. The names and figures given by Berossos8 can best be appreciated in conjunction with those given in Genesis chapter 5, as follows:

These two totals, like the numbers they are respectively made up from, would seem to be as unrelated as any figures could be, but Oppert began by showing that they have a common factor of 72: 432,000 = 72 x 6,000 and 1,656 = 72 x 23.

These factors of 6,000 and 23 are then treated as though the Babylonian figure were expressed in days and the biblical figure in years. Both periods are then converted to periods of weeks by dividing the larger figure (6,000) by the number of days in the Babylonian week and by multiplying the smaller figure (23) by the number of whole days in a year. Both periods are then enumerated in the same kind of unit. For the Babylonian period, this means division by five, since the week in question was one of five days, i.e., 6,000 ÷ 5 = 1,200 weeks of this kind.

The biblical factor of 23, taken as a period in years and multiplied by 365 gives: 23 x 365 = 8,395 days. As this period is between twenty and twenty-four years, there will be five leap-year days to be added. This brings the figure up to 8,400 days precisely, and it derives from figures belonging to Jewish tradition for which the week contained seven days, no doubt as a reflection of the seven days of creation. Thus the period of 8,400 would have to be divided by seven for the same purpose as before: 8,400 ÷ 7 = 1,200 (seven-day) weeks, just as there were 1,200 Babylonian weeks.

The original removal of the factor 72 was only to obtain a simpler basis for the demonstration, and it can now be restored to both periods, so as to show that they are both periods of cosmic weeks, i.e., 72 x 1,200 = 86,400 cosmic weeks. (n.b., This is also 200 x 432.) If this period is now taken as a period of natural Babylonian five-day weeks, it gives a period in days as follows: 86,400 x 5 = 432,000 days. Thus two different traditions, one of which is supposed to have no use for cyclic concepts, can both be seen to reckon sacred history in quantities which depend on numbers beginning with 432 and 864. The implications of this conclusion go beyond pure chronology, since it unites biblical tradition which includes the idea of free will with a cosmic conception which is widely believed to exclude it. This is an indication that the common sense conflict between free will, and a position tied to cosmic rhythms that underlie outward events, will need to be considered more closely.

The Platonic Year or Great Year

For the present purpose, this recurrence of the number 432 in the Bible underlies the need to find an identifiable historical period to which it could correspond. If such a historical period could be ascertained, the one known date in this system, 3102 bc, would enable us to calculate the other cycles that form part of the system, including the beginning of the Manvantara, and the relevance of that for the present era. In the previous chapter, the relation between the 432 number and the precessional period of the equinoxes and the ‘nuptial number’ in Plato’s Republic (1,296 = 3 x 432) was considered. The period of 12,960 years is also said to be the period of a Great or Platonic Year. It is the length of periods referred to in Plato’s Timaeus9 as the ‘long intervals’ at the ends of which the world is devastated alternately by catastrophic changes in the natural order: at the end of the last such period the world was said to be devastated by flood, and it would be devastated by fire at the end of the next.

The importance of this cycle lies in the fact that its length in years is both scientifically determined as the precessional period, and has a numerical value which places it among the symbolic numbers of cyclic arithmetic. It is therefore an essential means of building a bridge between the realms of symbolism and historical fact. In the same text quoted above, it is claimed that the destruction of Atlantis was part of the latest of these devastations, which was by flood. If a realistic date for this event could be established, we should then be able to estimate the time of the next one, and the position of the present century in the course of this 12,960-year period. Plato continues the same account by quoting an Egyptian sage who claimed that the sacred records kept by the institutions of his country spanned a period of eight thousand years. The dialogue refers to the time of Solon, so that the cataclysm must have taken place at least 9000 bc:

The age of our institutions is given in our sacred records as eight thousand years, and the citizens whose laws and finest achievements I will now briefly describe to you therefore lived nine thousand years ago.10

This means nine thousand years before Plato’s time of course, (about 350 bc), in which case it would seem that the Atlantis cataclysm must have happened somewhere between eleven and twelve thousand years ago, possibly a period approaching that of the Platonic Year in length. There is still a margin of uncertainty here, owing to the length of time which must have elapsed before the resumption of the civilization recorded eight thousand years earlier in Egypt. Modern estimates for the date of the disappearance of Atlantis range from 8000 to 11000 bc, which is consistent with a gap of one or two thousand years between this event and the beginning of the eight thousand year history which Solon was told about in the dialogue. It also indicates that the present time is relatively close to the next devastation, the one with which cycles of this kind end and by which they are divided from the succeeding one, since it would thus be between twelve and thirteen thousand years from the last one. This is a period of six ‘Platonic months’ of 2,160 years each (as 6 x 2,160 = 12,960), this being the time taken for the sun’s position at the spring equinox to traverse thirty degrees of a sign of the zodiac. It can easily be seen that the Great Saros, or 216,000 years, is one hundred ‘Platonic Months’, i.e., 60 x 60 x 60.

The Length of the Kali-Yuga

Although one cannot be quite sure that the end of the present Platonic Year will coincide with the end of the Kali-Yuga, it is at least a precisely-known period by which the four Yugas can be measured. Their apparent total period, 4,320,000 years, can be taken to represent a whole number of Great Years or Platonic Years in view of the simple relation between their length and the multiples of 432. Given the starting date for the Kali-Yuga, it would be possible to fix the length of this cycle if that of the Manvantara was known. The simplest assumption is that the latter, the sum of all four Yugas, comes to just one Platonic Year. In this case, the length of the Kali-Yuga would have to be only 1,296 years, since it is one-tenth of the whole. But this would mean that it had already ended, as 3102 bc–1,296 = 1806 bc. The impossibility of such a result appears from the fact that historical records go back to 1800 bc and beyond, whereas the end of the Kali-Yuga is by definition a cosmic revolution too great to allow any such continuity.

Similarly, if the total period were taken to be two Platonic Years, the length of the Kali-Yuga would then be 2 x 1,296 = 2,592 years, whence its end would have been at 3102 bc–2,592 = 510 bc; if, once more, its supposed length were three Platonic Years, it would have ended at 786 ad, as 3 x 1,296 = 3,888, and 3888 ad–3,102 = 786 ad. These answers are useless for the same reasons as before, but a new range of possibilities opens up if the main period is taken to be four or more Platonic Years in length. If the required number were four, the Kali-Yuga would be of 4 x 1,296 = 5,184 years, so that its end would be at 5184 ad–3,102 = 2082 ad, which is the first date in the sequence to lie in the future, and therefore the first to be a possibility. Bearing in mind that the first three results of this calculation are impossible by definition, we may now tabulate a number of them so as to draw attention to those which are possible:

As this table is extended, the end of the Kali-Yuga recedes by an additional 1,296 years for every additional Platonic Year assigned to the whole period, so there is no arithmetical limit to the number of possible answers. However, the answer closest to the present time, 2082 ad, deserves special attention, and not only because the final crisis of the present age is said to be in the 21st century, according to many estimates of material resources. A theoretical reason for considering the date nearest the present time arises from the property of cycles according to which the first and last subordinate or secondary cycles always have a unique character within the whole system. This property can be applied in reverse, so that it could be said that if a period has no historical parallel, it must be the last cyclic subdivision of which the whole is capable. This conclusion is not affected in substance by the question as to whether such a concluding cycle be one-tenth or one-hundredth of the full universal era. If it were the hundredth, it would have the same ratio to the Kali-Yuga as the latter has to the total cycle, in which case it could be called the ‘iron age of the iron age’.

Since the historically unprecedented character of the modern world results from the rise of modern science, we may reasonably take 1600 ad as a not-too-arbitrary date for the beginning of the final era. (It was in the first decade of the seventeenth century that Galileo made his discoveries.) In this case, 1600 ad would by definition be the date at which nine-tenths of the Kali-Yuga must have passed, since this last part of the Kali-Yuga similarly bears a proportion of one-tenth to the whole of it. The period in question would thus extend from 3102 bc to 1600 ad, that is, 4,702 years. As this is nine-tenths of the period we wish to determine, we need only divide it by nine to obtain the tenth part to be added, i.e., 4,702 ÷ 9 = 522 years to the nearest whole year. When this period is added to 1600, the total will be equal to the date at which the cycle should end: 1600 ad+ 522 = 2122 ad. There is an arbitrary element in this date which stems from the choice of 1600 for simplicity’s sake. For all that, it falls only about forty years beyond the date 2082 ad and this difference would in any case be very small in comparison with the intervals of 1,296 years. This method is independent of the previous one, so that its approximate date of 2122 ad is close enough to confirm the date of 2082 ad. The latter date can therefore be provisionally accepted, as it is based on criteria which are perfectly exact in their relations, regardless of whether they are valid as a whole.

According to the assumption that the whole universal era is equal to four Platonic Years in length, the total period is one of 4 x 12,960 = 51,840 years, of which one-tenth or 5,184 years, forms the Kali-Yuga ending in 2082 ad, as 5184 ad –3,102 = 2082 ad. If a late date is chosen for the onset of the modern age, say, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1770, a date for the end of the Kali-Yuga or Iron Age can be worked out by the same reasoning as before. As the last age, or ‘iron age of the iron age’ is by definition one-tenth of the Iron Age, and therefore one-hundredth of the whole, nine-tenths of the Kali-Yuga would have passed by 1770 ad, and its length up to this date would have been 3,102 + 1,770 = 4,872 years. Dividing by nine as before, the tenth part is given by 4,872 ÷ 9 = 541 years. In this case, the Kali-Yuga would end at 1770 ad + 541 = 2311 ad. This date is over two hundred years beyond 2082, but even this difference is quite small compared with the additional 1,296 years there would be if the total cycle was of five Platonic Years and not four. Despite the lack of a clear starting date, the modern age certainly began between the latter part of the sixteenth century and the middle of the seventeenth, in which case the end of the cycle should be within one or two centuries from the present time.

The Mayan Chronology

There is at least one other ancient chronology which contains a precise date for the beginning of the present universal era, namely, that of the Mayas. Their ‘long count’ dates the present world from what was apparently a recreation of the world dated at 12th August 3113 bc in terms of our calendar. It is significant that this date lies only eleven years before that of 3102 bc given by Aryabhata. This system uses a conventional year of 360 days, the tun. Four hundred of these make up an important cycle, the baktun, which comprises 144,000 days, as 400 x 360 = 144,000.

The present world-cycle is defined by this system as a period of thirteen baktuns or 1,872,000 days, as 13 x 400 x 360 = 1,872,000. If this period is divided by 360, i.e., 1,872,000 ÷ 360 = 5,200, this answer is 5,200 tuns or 360-day years. To convert this period to our years, the period in days must be divided by 365.242 instead of 360, i.e., 1,872,000 ÷ 365.242 = 5,125 years to the nearest year. From this period it is easy to show that the end of the cycle must be in 2012 ad, as 5125 ad – 3,113 = 2012 ad.

This date occurs seventy years before 2082, which is a small difference in relation to the world-cycle, but large in relation a human lifetime. Those who thought that this world-cycle should have ended in 2012 should have been aware that it has always been possible to obtain a different result from the same data, and it does not take long to arrive at. From the above arithmetic, it can be seen that if we substitute a correct figure for the year in place of the 360-day tun, the full period in days results as follows: 13 x 400 x 365.242 = 1,899,258.4 days. If this period is now converted to years, the result is 1,899,258.4 ÷ 365.242 = 5,200 years. This answer is of course exactly 5,200 because the calculation eliminates the 365.242-day period just as completely as it eliminates the one of 360 days, leaving only 13 x 400 = 5,200 in either case. This shows that the number 5,200 could refer to years just as well as to tuns. The Mayas knew as well as we do that the year contains 365.24 days, so it is possible that their system allowed all periods in tuns to be numerically identical with periods in years.

The round number 360 could then have been simply an arithmetical symbol for the year, and its exact length would not be an issue in calculations of this kind. It is obvious to anyone, let alone the Mayas, that a figure like 360 days could only yield exact dates in the trivial sense of points along a series of numbers, but never in relation to the solar year, unless some compensating factor is involved. At any rate, it is hardly conceivable that the Mayas did not wish to evaluate their world-cycle in years, and unless there are original Mayan calculations converting periods in tuns to years by substituting 365.242, we have the right to take the 5,200 as meaning solar years.

In this case, the cycle would now end at: 5200 ad–3,113 = 2087 ad. This date is within five years of 2082 ad, the one calculated for the four Yugas, and these two dates are roughly as close as the corresponding dates for the beginning, 3102 and 3113 bc. These two results are mutually supportive, the more so as the Mayas in the Yucatan Peninsula and the inhabitants of ancient India are about as geographically and culturally unrelated as any two cultures are likely to be.

To Find Intermediate Dates

Since the lengths of all the cycles deriving from the Kali-Yuga are fixed by the proportions 4 : 3 : 2 : 1, there will be no difficulty in finding the dates at which their component parts begin and end, now that we have a figure for the overall period. This can be done on the basis of a total length of the four Platonic Years proposed earlier, but before using this quantity, at least one alternative to it should be considered. It appears that Guénon held that the full period of the universal era was not four, but five Platonic Years, totalling 64,800 years: 5 x 12,960 = 64,800.

As a tenth of the above, the Kali-Yuga would be of 6,480 years.11 Thus if the date 3102 bc is used, this cycle would not end until 6480 ad–3,102 = 3378 ad, i.e., there would be another 1,296 years. However, it does not appear that Guénon was dating any cycle from 3102 bc, so that his date for the end of the cycle should be held inconclusive, especially as a date so far in the future conflicts with his known belief that the end of the Kali-Yuga was historically quite close. There is of course the possibility of maintaining the end-date at some time in the 21st century, say 2080 ad, and reckoning backward to a different beginning, which would have to be at about 6480 bc– 2,080 = 4400 bc It would still be necessary to find some special significance for the latter date, either in the ancient chronologies or on the borders of prehistory, which seems not to be possible.

The choice between four and five Platonic Years is also affected by the fact that the unit in question, 12,960 years, is just half the time taken for the sun’s equinoctial position to traverse the whole ecliptic. And so a universal era of four such periods would bring the sun back to the original position at its end, whereas an odd number of them, such as five, would leave one half of this solar cycle uncompleted.

From the figures which have now been reckoned, the date for the beginning of the Golden Age or Krita-Yuga can be placed at 51840 bc –2,082 = 49758 bc, albeit with the reservation that time spans of this length will be subject to the contractive distortions which were outlined in chapter 15. The division of this period into four Platonic Years is further supported by the complement they make to the four unequal divisions of the Yugas. This would be in keeping with the ‘cosmic’ character of the number four which corresponds to the emergence of the physical creation after the last of the transcendental realities. Consequently there are the four cardinal points, the four seasons, the four states of matter (or philosophical elements), the four solar stations of the year, the four natural levels of being (mineral, vegetable, animal, and human or rational), the four branches of the animal kingdom, the four forms of physical energy, the four elements of organic matter, and the four worlds of the Kabbalah (AtziluthBriahYetzirah, and Assiah), of which this world is the fourth. The centrality of the number four in this system can further be seen where the defining numbers of the four Yugas are all simple multiples of 4 and 108: 4 x 108 = 432; 2 x 4 x 108 = 864; 3 x 4 x 108 = 1,296; 4 x 4 x 108 = 1,728.

Any further confirmation for the dates for the beginning and ending of the cycle can only come from the relevance, or otherwise, of the historical applications the system gives rise to. The first set of dates to be deduced is that of the four secondary cycles, these being four-tenths, three-tenths, two tenths, and one-tenth of the 51,840-year period respectively:

Krita-Yuga (Golden Age)

49758 bc

29022 bc

Treta-Yuga (Silver Age)

29022 bc

13470 bc

Dvapara-Yuga (Bronze Age)

13470 bc

3102 bc

Kali-Yuga (Iron Age)

3102 bc

2082 ad

These four periods are roughly of 20,000, 15,000, 10,000, and 5,000 years, and have boundary dates which are obviously far too remote for historical relevance, but within the Kali-Yuga itself we can now repeat the same analysis in the ratios of 4 : 3 : 2 : 1 as before, using the names of the symbolic metals for convenience’s sake:

This latest set of four comes third in order of size from the 4 x 12,960 years with which we started, and the periods comprised therein are roughly 2,000, 1,500, 1,000, and 500 years in length. Between them they cover almost the whole of recorded history. When it comes to showing how they correspond to some of the most fundamental divisions of history, the most difficult correspondence to make is with the first, or golden age of the iron age. This is the period of the earliest recorded antiquity, which saw the building of the pyramids at Giza and Dashour, and the megalithic monuments of north western Europe. The next date in order, 1026 bc, has a historical relevance inasmuch as it is about as early as Greco-Latin civilization can be traced. It comes within about a century of the Trojan War, which was about as far back as classical civilization was accustomed to trace its own history. By 500 ad the barbarian invasions had triumphed, so that the period roughly from 1000 bc to 500 ad gives therefore realistic limits for classical antiquity, while it corresponds to what I have called the silver age of the iron age.

The calculated date of 528 ad has some symbolical historical interest on its own account because it was only one year after this that Justinian caused the Academy to be closed down after it had existed for over nine hundred years. This termination of one of the major institutions of the ancient world gives an effective ‘official’ date for the end of that civilization. By 529 ad a process of transition which began over a century before reached completion, and the next tertiary cycle had begun, corresponding to the ‘bronze age of the iron age’ which has a duration of just over a thousand years according to the figures shown above.

In fact the Middle Ages do occupy a period of about one thousand years, for which the boundary dates of 500 ad and 1500 ad are clearly appropriate. In most of Europe the sixth century was a time of obscurity besides being the time of most rapid transition to the new age, while the sixteenth century saw the most rapid and decisive changes from Medieval to modern civilization. While it is true that the sixteenth century contains a number of dates which could be taken as historical turning-points, it is not inappropriate that the calculated date, 1564 ad, is also that of the Council of Trent, which established the new post-Medieval Christendom, divided between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. It also has some symbolic significance from the fact that it saw the births of both Galileo and Shakespeare.

According to the same system of dates, the minor cycle containing the twentieth century should extend for some 520 years up to 2082, and we must now have entered the final century of this period. Thus the latter part of the twenty-first century should see the end of the whole ‘era of Manu’ or, in Mayan terms, thirteen baktuns. Although this final half-millennium is short in relation to the other cycles, its importance for us makes it worth analyzing numerically into its own secondary cycles in the same ratios as before. In theory no cycle is too short to reproduce within itself the greater order of which it forms part, only the shorter they are the less the impact of the historical changes which mark its divisions. Even so, the dates calculated on this basis have enough relevance to the major transitions of the past four centuries for there to be more than coincidence involved:

‘Golden age’

1564

1770

206 years

‘Silver age’

1770

1926

156 years

‘Bronze age’

1926

2030

104 years

‘Iron age’

2030

2082

52 years

The first internal date here, 1770, is appropriate for the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and however localized it was at the time, its later impact on the rest of the world makes it a significant point in the historical process.

The second date, 1926, is at least near the beginning of the new era following the First World War, the aftermath of which saw the end of Europe’s thousand-year order of its imperial monarchies. (In early Christianity, prayers for the Emperor were justified on the grounds that the end of the Empire was believed to herald the reign of the Antichrist, and tradition maintained this view.) This new order was completed by the political East-West polarization owing to Russian communism which prevailed for over seventy years. The date at which this period ends, 2030, is a realistic date for the completion of the transition from one Platonic month to another, that is, from the Piscean to the Aquarian ages. This would give a date of 130 bc (i.e., 2,160–2,030 = 130), for the beginning of the Piscean Age, though these dates cannot be precise because the 30-degree arcs assigned to each sign of the zodiac cannot be positioned definitively, owing to the shapes of the constellations.

What may be said of the final half-century which then follows is dependent on the assumption that the end of the Kali-Yuga would also be the time of the Second Coming. In that case, the last half-century should culminate with the Antichrist and a bringing to completion of the anti-spiritual order that has imposed itself to an increasing degree for two centuries now. If the same cyclic proportions are applicable to this present period from 1926–2030, it should be noted that two important internal dates that result are 1968 and the notorious 1999. The indication is that these are both times at which change is at its most rapid and decisive. One can in any case see an effect of the cyclic principle in the twentieth century when at certain times events seem to be racing forward to an apocalyptic conclusion, and at others the pace subsides and a relative stability prevails once more, without this being attributable to any visible agency.

The only way in which such unseen forces are ever manifest directly in the general consciousness is in the form of an expectancy both strong and vague at once. Eventually, the pace of change rises toward a new climax, under pressure from a confused popular expectation of some event which is never really defined. This motivation, repressed most of the time, is a catalyst for change which works unrecognized for what it really is, an inverted and secularized form of the Messianic hope. This disposition is inbuilt into human nature, and it will still attach itself to something or other, even when the religion it belongs to is not believed in. The modern appetite for change at any price can readily be explained as a materialized form of the striving toward the infinity of God which was a catalyst in the older civilization. The separation of this essentially spiritual drive from its native ‘vertical’ dimension and its relegation to the ‘horizontal’ one of natural life is thus part of the means whereby our experience of time is made to elapse the more rapidly, in conformity with the contraction of duration which increases markedly at the end of temporal cycles.

Apart from cyclic theory, there are material reasons for thinking that at most the present world cannot continue for more than another century. Natural resources are being consumed on an unprecedented scale which has no prospect of decreasing as long as world population remains anywhere near its present level. The modern technology and industry which consumes these resources has penetrated to every part of the world, with the effect of making the whole human race into a single collective entity. This means that the world has lost an essential means of survival and renewal, namely, a large and uninvolved section of the human race, unaffected by the onrush of the same civilization. At the same time, there is no prospect of history taking a different direction because all cultural changes which may arise and form the conditions for an alternative value system are smothered or absorbed by the existing system before they can establish a sustainable identity and produce consequences of their own. This means that no change is likely to be made to the pattern of overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources, whether as mineral deposits, topsoil, or forests.

Such destructive forces, together with those of global pollution, are all comprehended under the conception of rising entropy, which has been outlined in earlier chapters. Contrary to appearances, entropy rises nearly as much in the finished products of industry as in the destruction and waste involved in their production. In itself, this is wholly inevitable, but its evil comes from the vast scale on which it is conducted. Even when new, industrial products are part of the dispersal of materials into smaller and ever-less recoverable quantities, and when their useful life is over, this dispersal is aggravated by their lack of re-usability, except of course when subjected to processes which disperse yet more ordered matter and available energy. Nevertheless, these things can be seen to form part of an overriding order. The theoretical explanation of these things matches observation, and the temporal divisions deduced in the foregoing match the main transitions of recorded history.

An Alternative Time-Scale

Reverting to the period of 51,840 years calculated for the total cycle, another reason for this, with its consequent period of 5,184 years for the Iron Age or Kali-Yuga, can be found from the date for the midpoint of this era: 5,184 ÷ 2 = 2,592 years, whence the mid-point is at 3102 bc–2592 = 510 bc. From the mid-point of a cycle it is natural to find a new beginning, and the longer the cycle the more marked this kind of change is liable to be. Binary division is also manifest because the division in the ratios 4 : 3 : 2 : 1 dictates a significantly greater complexity in the second half compared with the first, and this will in itself give the appearance of a new beginning. In this instance, 510 bc, or the early part of the sixth century bc, is a specially significant time because it is from this time onward that a true historical continuity emerges. In the actual year 510 bc, Rome became a republic, marking the end of the half-legendary era of the kings. Around this time, the Jews were returning from their Babylonian exile, and their history under the successive empires which ruled the Near East was beginning. Athens also entered a new era, and soon afterward defeated the Persian invasion. This was the time when Pythagoras was publicly teaching the spiritual wisdom he had gathered, so as both to spiritually regenerate the ancient Mediterranean world and to prepare the way for Christianity. In Asia, Confucius and the Buddha were living and creating the spiritual traditions descended from them. From all these sources in the later sixth century bc continuous lines of historical development can be traced, and for this reason one can date the effective beginning of history from this period.

It is also significant that if the period 510 bc to 2082 ad is divided in the ratios 4 : 3 : 2 : 1 as before, the divisions it gives coincide with those already worked out at 528 ad (as on p. 229), while the subsequent ones have historically relevant relations with them. They would, however, end the Medieval period over two centuries earlier, in the early fourteenth century, which would correspond to the decisive interior changes in Medieval civilization which set in train the events culminating in the Renaissance.


7. See Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Oriental Mythology, chap. 3, iii, ‘Mythic Time’. The antediluvian patriarchs and kings in the above text were figures of world importance, and not just for the Near East. This is confirmed by Chinese tradition, also quoted by Campbell (see ibid. chap. 7, ii, ‘The Mythic Past’), where it records China’s ten antediluvian emperors, namely, (1) Fu Hsi, (2) Shen Nung, (3) Yen Ti, (4) Huang Ti, (5) Shao Hao, (6) Chuan Hsü (or Kao Yang), (7) K’u, (8) Yao, (9) Shun, (10) Yü. This said to be the age of ‘The Great Ten’, which followed ‘The Age of Perfect Virtue’. Correspondences between Noah and Yü are referred to by Campbell. These corresponding successions of ten are evidence for a ‘primordial tradition’ which came before the separate revelations we know today.

8. Ibid.

9. Timaeus, 22 d.

10. Ibid., 23e.

11. See Gaston Georgel, Les Quatre Âges de l’Humanité, chap. 3.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!