The Seven Yugas

The Yugas in Theosophy

It is quite well known that Hinduism teaches the existence of four Yugas or Ages which together comprise the Maha-Yuga or “Great Age,” which is itself but an extremely miniscule and fleeting part of the entire Maha-Manvantara, the life cycle of the manifested Universe.

The names and durations assigned to the Yugas are as follows:

1st – Satya Yuga (also called Krita Yuga) – Golden Age – 1,728,000 years

2nd – Treta Yuga – Silver Age – 1,296,000 years

3rd – Dvapara Yuga – Bronze Age – 864,000 years

4th – Kali Yuga – Iron Age – 432,000 years

Total: 4,320,000 years (The Maha-Yuga)

According to Hindu tradition, we are currently in the Kali Yuga, which is said to have begun around 5,000 years ago with the death of Krishna, the great divine Teacher and Reformer who is the central figure of the Bhagavad Gita, and who is proven to have really once lived on Earth.

In the teachings of Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky informs us in “The Secret Doctrine” that “The year of the Kaliyuga is said to have begun between the 17th and 18th of February in the year 3102 B.C.” (Vol. 2, p. 435) and clarifies that in fact “the instant of the beginning of Kali-Yuga” was “2h. 27m. 30s. a.m. of February 16th” of that year, 5,116 years ago (Vol. 1, p. 662).

It’s easy to work out that the Kali Yuga still has 426,884 years remaining, an almost unimaginably lengthy period of time!

But are these numbers to be taken literally? In his article titled “Cycles,” William Quan Judge shows the hidden numerical code present in the figures of the Yuga chronology.

The Satya Yuga is said to last for 1,728,000 years. Add 1+7+2+8 and the result is 18.

The Treta Yuga is said to last for 1,296,000 years. Add 1+2+9+6 and the result is 18.

The Dvapara Yuga is said to last for 864,000 years. Add 8+6+4 and the result is 18.

The Kali Yuga is said to last for 432,000 years. Add 4+3+2 and the result is 9.

Add 18+18+18+9 and the result is 63. Add those two numbers, 6 and 3, together, and the result is 9. Multiply 6 by 3 and the result is 18. Add that 1 and 8 together and the result is 9. This is undoubtedly of great significance but its real meaning has not been revealed, neither by Mr Judge nor by HPB nor by any of the Masters.

In his important book “The Ocean of Theosophy” (p. 126) Mr Judge writes that, “At the present time we are in a cycle of transition, when, as a transition period should indicate, everything in philosophy, religion and society is changing. In a transition period the full and complete figures and rules respecting cycles are not given out to a generation which elevates money above all thoughts and scoffs at the spiritual view of man and nature.”

Whilst the above figures from the chronologies of exoteric Hinduism are generally used and mentioned in the Theosophical teachings and are even said by HPB to be “almost identical with those taught in esoteric philosophy” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 67), we might do well to avoid taking them too literally. This applies also to the staggeringly lengthy periods of time allotted to the existence of root races and the rather astounding 850,000 years said to have passed since the final destruction of the main part of Atlantis.

Why do we say this? For two reasons. One is that along with the statement just quoted from “The Ocean of Theosophy” we have these words from HPB herself in “The Secret Doctrine”:

“It had been declared from the first and has been repeatedly asserted since that no Theosophist, not even as an accepted chela – let alone lay students – could expect to have the secret teachings explained to him thoroughly and completely, before he had irretrievably pledged himself to the Brotherhood and passed through at least one initiation, because no figures and numbers could be given to the public, for figures and numbers are the key to the esoteric system.” (Vol. 1, p. 164)

“The figures belonging to the Occult calculations cannot be given – as the Masters have many times declared – outside the circle of pledged chelas, and not even these can break the rules.” (Vol. 1, p. 170)

“We are not given the figures of the Great Kalpa, and are not allowed to publish those of our small Yugas, except as to the approximate duration of these.” (Vol. 1, p. 206)

We are not taught figures which are and will remain secret with the Masters of Occult Science, as justly stated in “Esoteric Buddhism.”” (Vol. 2, p. 251)

The other reason is because a surprisingly little known article by HPB lifts the veil to some degree on the true esoteric system, revealing that there are in fact seven Yugas, a truth which should have already presented itself to the intuition of the student of Theosophy, who knows well that all manifestation is of a septenary nature and that the golden key to understanding the mysteries of the Universe is to apply the law of correspondence and analogy.

Instead of passing through the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age (“an age BLACK WITH HORRORS” – “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 645) and then starting the fourfold cycle all over again with a new Golden Age, the Maha-Yuga actually follows the same type of involutionary and evolutionary arc as the seven rounds of the seven globes of our planetary chain. There is a gradual arc of descent, beginning at a pure, high, but relatively unconscious and unintelligent state, which eventually reaches the very lowest point to which it can go, after which there is a gradual arc of ascent, back up the same scale through which it had descended, but this time with the invaluable addition of acquired consciousness, intelligence, and soul experience. This is described as “the shadowy arc” and “the luminous arc.”

This information comes from a brief article by HPB published in January 1884 under the title “Premature and Phenomenal Growths”. One might not expect an article with such a title to contain such an important key but this is all the more reason why – as the articles on this site frequently emphasise – we should always pay very close and studious attention to everything HPB has written, for there is not one single unimportant or irrelevant sentence or paragraph in all the many thousands of pages of her writings.

Towards the end of that article, which is published today in the first volume of “H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” by Theosophy Company for the United Lodge of Theosophists, she quotes the text of what she calls “a prophecy in certain Asiatic old books.” Its content and style can be seen to be of the exact same type as the many esoteric commentaries quoted from a few years later throughout the two volumes of “The Secret Doctrine,” particularly in the second volume which is titled “Anthropogenesis.”

We have put in bold the sentence which most relates to this present subject:

“And as the fourth (race) was composed of Red-yellow which faded into Brown-white (bodies), so the fifth will fade out into white-brown (the white races becoming gradually darker). The sixth and seventh Manushi (men?) will be born adults; and will know of no old age, though their years will be many. As the Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali (ages) have been each decreasing in excellence (physical as well as moral) so the ascending – Dvapara, Treta, and Krita will be increasing in every excellence. As the life of man lasted 400 (years in the first, or Krita Yuga), 300 (years in Treta), 200 (years in Dvapara) and 100 (in the present Kali age); so in the next (the 6th Race) (the natural age of man) will be (gradually increased) 200, then 300 and 400 (in the last two yugas).”

This is clear enough – there is a Krita Yuga, a Treta Yuga, a Dvapara Yuga, a Kali Yuga, and then another Dvapara Yuga, another Treta Yuga, and another Krita Yuga, which closes the sevenfold cycle. This has been illustrated in the diagram at the top of this article.

It has still not been clearly revealed by the Masters as to how the Seven Yugas relate or correspond to the Seven Root Races but this is simply an indication that there is not yet any need for us to know it, although we are of course welcome and indeed invited to use our own intuition and contemplation when it comes to such matters.

Although we cannot say for definite how long the Kali Yuga or any Yuga actually lasts, one thing which is made very clear and definite throughout the Theosophical literature is that the closing of the first 5,000 year cycle of the Kali Yuga would be an extremely serious, important, and momentous event in the evolution of humanity. There are many references to this in many places. In “Letters That Have Helped Me” (p. 97) Mr Judge writes, “The present cycle, which closes Nov. 17th, 1897 – Feb. 18th, 1898, is one of the most important of any that have been.”

To quote from part of the article Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom:

“The closing quarter of the 19th century was an extremely important and crucial period in humanity’s history and evolution. Three great cycles all intersected at the same time, a very rare and uncommon occurrence. The first 5,000 year cycle of the Kali Yuga was due to draw to a close between late 1897 and early 1898. The Age of Pisces was rapidly fading out and the New Age of Aquarius was to gradually begin its 2,155 year course from the dawning of the new century in 1900.

“In 14th century Tibet, Tsong Kha-pa – the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha – had ordained that the Esoteric Brotherhood was henceforth to send one of their own to the Western world in the closing quarter of each century, to help bring about further spiritual awakening and enlightenment. It was known and understood that only a particular 25 years in each century could be actively used for this purpose, such were and are the very real restrictions of Cyclic and Karmic Law.

“Now the “centennial cycle,” as the Masters have called it, coincided with the closing of the other two cycles. Someone had to appear; someone had to be sent forth into the world; someone with sufficient power, knowledge, and capability to make a real and lasting difference, not only for the West, not only for the East, but for the whole of humanity.

“The “rubbish of the ages” had to be forcibly cleared away from the minds of men, so that the seeds of Truth could be planted and grow to full fruition, although neither the Masters nor their Messenger were under any illusions about the tremendous difficulties, hindrances, and opposition – both seen and unseen – that would be in the way of the fulfillment of their mission.

“That great “Someone” appeared on the scene inthrough, and as a Russian woman named Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. A handful of those who were closest to HPB (as she preferred to call herself) came to recognise and realise that it was actually a male Eastern Initiate who had assumed that female European personality, in order to fulfill the mission of the Masters to the greatest extent possible. The Masters stated that although known to the world as “HPB” she was known to them by quite another name. They asserted that she was their “Brother” and their “Direct Agent.”

“In 1875, she and several others founded the Theosophical Movement in New York, USA. She was later to move to India and finally to London, England. The time had come for a re-presentation of the Ancient Wisdom, under the name “Theosophy,” a word derived from the Greek “Theosophia,” meaning “Divine Wisdom.””

It is only the first 5,000 years of the Kali Yuga that have come to a close, not the Kali Yuga itself. The idea popular in the New Age movement that we are already in the Golden Age, or that it began in 2012, is not only unphilosophical but is simply ridiculous and has no basis or foundation in anything at all other than the wild imaginations and fantasies of deluded psychics and “lightworkers.” As HPB once wrote, “Has the “last age” – the Age of Iron, or Kali Yuga – closed since then? Quite the reverse, since it is shown to be in full sway just now, not only because the Hindus use the name, but by universal personal experience. … Is it this age of ours that is the promised “Golden Age” – in which neither the venom of the serpent nor of any plant is any longer lethal, and in which we are all secure under the mild sway of God-chosen sovereigns? The wildest fancy of an opium-eater could hardly suggest a more inappropriate description, if it is to be applied to our age or to any age since the year one of our era.”

We are going deeper and deeper into the Kali Yuga with each passing year and “it is not in the Kali yug, our present terrifically materialistic age of Darkness, the “Black Age,” that a new Saviour of Humanity can ever appear.” (“The Secret Doctrine”, Vol. 1, p. 470)

Fortunately, Theosophy shows us how to save ourselves, while at the same time showing that there is in fact nothing to be saved from, except the darkness of spiritual self-ignorance. A true “Saviour” is simply one who points the way to self-liberation and self-emancipation. As said by Buddha, “No man can redeem another,” “Buddhas are only signposts pointing the way; you yourself must make the effort.” Theosophy maintains that “Buddha is the last of the great Avatars and is in a larger cycle than is Jesus of the Jews” (William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 119). There are cycles within cycles and one cycle in which we are presently is what some Theosophists have called “The Buddha Cycle.” The work and teachings of HPB served to reiterate and re-emphasise the Message of the Lord Gautama Buddha, who the Masters have described as being the greatest and holiest man that ever walked this Earth.

On p. 377 of the first volume of “The Secret Doctrine,” HPB remarks that “It is curious to see how prophetic in almost all things was the writer of Vishnu Purana when foretelling to Maitreya some of the dark influences and sins of this Kali Yug.” She then quotes from this ancient Hindu scripture known as the Vishnu Purana, which in describing the development of the Kali Yuga says amongst many other things:

“Wealth and piety will decrease until the world will be wholly depraved. Property alone will confer rank; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the sole bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation; and women will be objects merely of sensual gratification. ….. External types will be the only distinction of the several orders of life; ….. a man if rich will be reputed pure; dishonesty (anyaya) will be the universal means of subsistence, weakness the cause of dependence, menace and presumption will be substituted for learning; liberality will be devotion; mutual assent, marriage; fine clothes, dignity. He who is the strongest will reign; the people, unable to bear the heavy burden, Khara bhara (the load of taxes) will take refuge among the valleys. … Thus, in the Kali age will decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches its annihilation (pralaya). … When the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being which exists, of its own spiritual nature … shall descend on Earth … (Kalki Avatar) endowed with the eight superhuman faculties. … He will re-establish righteousness on earth, and the minds of those who live at the end of Kali Yuga shall be awakened and become as pellucid as crystal.”

In the first of the two booklets titled “Conversations on Occultism,” Mr Judge presents a conversation between himself (as “Student”) and HPB (as “Sage”) under the title “The Kali Yuga – The Present Age.” In this, the Sage says, “There is one thing peculiar to the present Kali-Yuga which may be used by the Student. All causes now bring about their effects much more rapidly than in any other or better age. A sincere lover of the race can accomplish more in three incarnations under Kali-Yuga’s reign than he could in a much greater number in any other age. Thus by bearing all the manifold troubles of this Age and steadily triumphing, the object of his efforts will be more quickly realized, for, while the obstacles seem great, the powers to be invoked can be reached more quickly.”

The Student asks, “Even if this is, spiritually considered, a Dark Age, is it not in part redeemed by the increasing triumphs of mind over matter, and by the effects of science in mitigating human ills, such as the causes of disease, disease itself, cruelty, intolerance, bad laws, etc.?”

To this comes the answer: “Yes, these are mitigations of the darkness in just the same way that a lamp gives some light at night but does not restore daylight. In this age there are great triumphs of science, but they are nearly all directed to effects and do not take away the causes of the evils. Great strides have been made in the arts and in cure of diseases, but in the future, as the flower of our civilization unfolds, new diseases will arise and more strange disorders will be known, springing from causes that lie deep in the minds of men and which can only be eradicated by spiritual living.”

This particular dialogue ends with the question, “Are there any causes, other than the spread of Theosophy, which may operate to reverse the present drift towards materialism?”

The Sage replies, “The spread of the knowledge of the laws of Karma and Reincarnation and of a belief in the absolute spiritual unity of all beings will alone prevent this drift. The cycle must, however, run its course, and until that is ended all beneficial causes will of necessity act slowly and not to the extent they would in a brighter age. As each student lives a better life and by his example imprints upon the astral light the picture of a higher aspiration acted in the world, he thus aids souls of advanced development to descend from other spheres where the cycles are so dark that they can no longer stay there.”

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SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Chains, Globes, Rounds and Root Races, The Seven Planes, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom, An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, Who wrote “The Secret Doctrine”?, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky, Who was William Quan Judge?, The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge, Maitreya in the Light of Real Theosophy, Alaya – The Universal Soul, Christos – The Christ Principle, Human Evolution in The Secret Doctrine, True Materialism and True Spiritualism, and Elementals and the Astral Light.

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