Theosophy on the New Age of Aquarius

It’s important to understand that whatever Theosophy says about “The New Cycle” and “The Dawning of The New Cycle” applies to the New Age of Aquarius, just as it also applies to the second sub-cycle of the Kali Yuga.

There may be a few years’ difference between the beginning of these two new cycles (the first 5,000 years of the Kali Yuga was due to end between the occultly significant dates of 17th November 1897 and 18th February 1898, and it was indicated that the new astrological age of Aquarius would begin “about” the year 1900) but, after that, they proceed parallel to one another, hand in hand with each other, until the Aquarian Age eventually closes and the Age of Capricorn (Makara) begins, which will still also be within the vastly larger and longer great cycle of the entire Kali Yuga, a period which is said to extend in total for 432,000 years and whose beginnings coincided with the death of Krishna in ancient India. The Kali Yuga is known as the Iron Age, Black Age, and Dark Age.

So the numerous references by H. P. Blavatsky and her closest colleague William Q. Judge to the “New Cycle” must inevitably apply just as much to the new Aquarian cycle as to the new Kali Yuga sub-cycle.

It is not directly stated whether this new Kali Yuga sub-cycle will last 5,000 years as its predecessor did. As for the Age of Aquarius, this, like all twelve astrological or zodiacal ages, lasts close to 2,160 years. A full precession of the sun through the circle of the Zodiac requires 25,920 years, visiting each of the twelve signs or constellations for 2,160 years each. Each occupies 30 degrees of celestial longitude; a 1 degree shift occurs every 72 years.

The only specific statement H. P. Blavatsky made with reference by name to the “Aquarian” Age or Age of “Aquarius” was in her 1887 article “The Esoteric Character of the Gospels.” There she says:

“There are several remarkable cycles that come to a close at the end of this century. First, the 5,000 years of the Kaliyug cycle; again the Messianic cycle of the Samaritan (also Kabalistic) Jews of the man connected with Pisces (Ichthys or “Fish-man” Dag)It is a cycle, historic and not very long, but very occult, lasting about 2,155 solar years, but having a true significance only when computed by lunar months. It occurred 2410 and 255 B.C., or when the equinox entered into the sign of the Ram, and again into that of Pisces. When it enters, in a few years, the sign of Aquarius, psychologists will have some extra work to do, and the psychic idiosyncrasies of humanity will enter on a great change.”

If one does the mathematics, her statement indicates the year 1900 as the ending of the “old age,” the Age of Pisces, and the dawning of the New Age of Aquarius.

But one important word she used in that statement ought not to be overlooked, namely the word “about”: “lasting about 2,155 solar years” not “exactly and definitely 2,155 solar years without fail.”

So, with this in mind, we cannot say that HPB definitively pointed to the year 1900 as the exact year in which the Aquarian Age would be due to begin but we can say that it must have been fairly close to the year 1900. Her words and figures definitely lead one to deduce that the Aquarian Age has now already begun. And when we look at the almost unimaginable amount of major transformative changes in almost every field and aspect of human life, thought, and civilisation, that occurred from the early 1900s onwards it makes sense.

But Theosophy says that no cycle just begins and ends suddenly; there is always a slow and gradual crossover period, in which the occult energies and influence of the old cycle are increasingly fading out and those of the new cycle are increasingly coming to the fore.

The New Age Movement is often said to take its name from the “idea” or “belief” that a new astrological age or cycle is now dawning for our Earth and its humanity, namely the Age of Aquarius, superseding the Piscean Age. But this is more than just an idea or a belief; it is also an astronomical and scientifically undeniable fact, regardless of what one may choose to believe about the astrological side of it.

But sincere seekers ought to be aware that Theosophy actually has extremely little in common with the New Age Movement, despite sharing an awareness of the dawning New Age itself. Many of the most popular and pervasive “New Age” ideas and practices stand in direct opposition to those of genuine Theosophy and are warned about in the teachings of the Masters of Wisdom. Those who wish to explore this further could start with some of the articles listed under the headings “SPIRITUAL LIVING AND PRACTICE” and “THE MASTERS” on our Articles page.

As for the actual term “New Age,” this phrase, made popular over the past few decades largely through the New Age Movement, is generally attributed to have originated with Alice Bailey. While it’s true that the quite frequent use of the term in her books was what led to its initial popularisation around the 1930s, it had actually been used occasionally before then by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar.”

H. P. Blavatsky herself never used the specific term “New Age” although, as we just saw, she did make reference to the dawning of the Aquarian Age (which is what the New Age is) and used phrases such as “The New Cycle.”

But it seems the term may have initially originated with her colleague and co-founder of the modern Theosophical Movement, William Judge. It is used three times in his extensive writings.

In “A Year on The Path” (an article published in his magazine “The Path” in March 1887) he says “A new age is not far away.”

In “Stray Memoranda” (in “The Path” for February 1889) he speaks of “the dawn of a new age.”

In the fourth part of “The Synthesis of Occult Science” (“The Path” May 1892) he states that “it will not be possible to prevent the new age from entering the occult realm.”

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In the Introductory to Vol. 1 of “The Secret Doctrine, after describing the origins of the Secret Book of Dzyan on which the book is based, HPB states:

“But there exists another book. None of its possessors regard it as very ancient, as it was born with, and is only as old as the Black Age, namely, about 5,000 years. In about nine years hence [i.e. around 1897, as “The Secret Doctrine” was published in 1888], the first cycle of the first five millenniums, that began with the great cycle of the Kali-Yuga, will end. And then the last prophecy contained in that book (the first volume of the prophetic record for the Black Age) will be accomplished. We have not long to wait, and many of us will witness the Dawn of the New Cycle, at the end of which not a few accounts will be settled and squared between the races. Volume II. of the Prophecies is nearly ready, having been in preparation since the time of Buddha’s grand successor, Sankaracharya.” (p. xliii-xliv)

HPB’s article titled “The New Cycle” (dated 21st March – the Vernal or Spring Equinox – 1889) is perhaps the source most often referred to by students of the original Theosophical teachings in relation to this New Era we are now living in.

There we read that the New Cycle involves the manifestation of a new element, unknown until now, but described over and over again by HPB in terms of “water,” “waves,” “tide,” “flood,” etc.

It is well known that the two symbols for Aquarius in astrology are (1) two zigzag lines, one over the other, representing waves, (2) the “water bearer,” a man pouring out water upon the Earth. The very name “Aquarius” is AQUA-rius, “aqua” being the Latin word for water.

That is in Western astrology but in the ancient Indian Vedic astrology the significance and meaning of Aquarius are almost exactly the same. Called by its Sanskrit name “Kumbha” – which means “water pot” – it is strongly associated with altruism, humanitarianism, idealism, creativity, imagination, philanthropy, social reform, service, mysticism, spirituality, philosophy, elevated thinking, unity, non-dogmatism and unsectarianism, and the breaking down and dissipation of dogmatic and traditional forms and structures. Western and Eastern astrology agree in all this and although HPB and WQJ did not specifically go into or directly enumerate many characteristics of the New Cycle, it seems so well attested to as to be reliable.

Modern Western astrology believes Aquarius to be “ruled” – astrologically speaking – by Uranus; ancient astrology maintains it is Saturn. Whether either of these are correct according to the true esoteric astrology of the Masters of Wisdom – and which They still keep almost entirely secret for the time being – it is not really possible to say.

Every zodiacal or astrological sign refers to a constellation. A constellation of stars – which are suns – in the sky, in space. But what is a constellation in reality? According to Theosophy, a constellation is the abode of one or another of the twelve Great Orders or Hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans, i.e. celestial beings. (See “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 213) These Hierarchies are also connected with the seven sacred planets within our solar system. So one of those Dhyan Chohanic Hierarchies is specially CONNECTED WITH, and the SOURCE OF, the distinct ENERGY or FORCE or INFLUENCE or ELEMENT or “WATERS” – the beneficent, regenerative, life-giving “tidal wave” – of AQUARIUS and the Age of Aquarius, which has begun and began around or just under 1 ¼ centuries ago and has just over 2,000 years remaining.

This may help to give us a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what is really meant by “the influences of the New Age” that people often speak about.

Here are some particularly powerful excerpts from “The New Cycle” by HPB, which is well worth reading in its entirety. It, and the other two HPB articles quoted further on, can both be found in Vol. 1 of “H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles” and HPB Pamphlets #4 “Theosophy and H.P.B.” and #37 “The New Cycle,” published by Theosophy Company on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists.

“Once again the hour has struck for the great periodical return of the rising tide of mystic thought in Europe. . . . Happy those who understand the language of the elements. But, where are those heading to whom the word element conveys no other meaning than the one given to it by materialistic physics and chemistry? Will the great waters carry them toward familiar shores when they will have been swept off their feet in the oncoming flood? Will they be carried toward the summit of a new Ararat, toward the heights where are light and sun and a safe spot to stand on, or toward a bottomless abyss that will engulf them as soon as they attempt to fight against the irresistible waves of a new element?

“Let us prepare, and let us study Truth in all its aspects, trying not to ignore any of them, if we do not wish, when the hour will have struck, to fall into the abyss of the unknown. It is useless to rely on chance, and to await the approaching intellectual and psychic crisis with indifference if not with total incredulity, saying to oneself that if worse comes to worst, the tide will carry us quite naturally to the shore; for there is a strong likelihood of the tide stranding but a corpse! The battle will be fierce, in any case, between brutal materialism and blind fanaticism on the one hand, and on the other philosophy and mysticism – that more or less thick veil of the Eternal Truth. It is not materialism that will have the upper hand. Everyone fanatically clinging to an idea isolating him from the universal axiom – “There is no Religion higher than Truth” – will find himself separated like a rotten plank from the new ark called Humanity. Tossed by the waves, chased by the winds, buffeted by this element so terrible because unknown, he will soon find himself swallowed up.

“Yes, thus it must be, and it cannot be otherwise when the flame of modern materialism, artificial and cold, will be extinguished for lack of fuel. Those who cannot conceive of a spiritual Ego, of a living Soul, and of an eternal Spirit, within their material shell (which owes its illusory life only to these principles); those for whom the great wave of hope in a life beyond the grave is a bitter draught, the symbol of an unknown quantity, or else the subject of a belief sui generis, the result of mediumistic or theological hallucinations – those will do well to be prepared for the keenest of disappointments the future could have in store for them. For, from the depths of the muddy black waters of matter, hiding from them on all sides the horizons of the great beyond, a mystic force is rising towards the closing years of this century. A mere touch, at the most, until now, but a superhuman touch, “supernatural” only for the superstitious and the ignorant. The Spirit of Truth is at this moment moving upon the face of these black waters, and, separating them, forces them to yield their spiritual treasures. This spirit is a force that cannot be either checked or stopped. Those who recognize it and feel that this is the supreme moment of their salvation, will be carried by it beyond the illusions of the great astral serpent. The bliss they will experience will be so sharp and so keen that were they not in spirit detached from their bodies of flesh, this beatitude would wound them like a sharpened blade. It is not pleasure that they will feel, but a bliss which is a foretaste of the wisdom of the gods, of the knowledge of good and evil, and of the fruits of the Tree of Life. . . .

“. . . the flood of unfolding mysticism, . . . the moral and psychic evolution . . .

“All of you who waver on the path of Theosophy and of the occult sciences, who tremble on the golden threshold of Truth, the only Truth still open to you, since all the others have failed, one after the other – look the Great Reality now offering itself to you straight in the face. These words are for the mystically inclined only, for them alone they will be of some importance; for those who have already made their choice they will prove vain and useless. But you Occultists, Kabalists and Theosophists, you know well that a word as old as the world, though new to you, has been sounded at the beginning of this cycle, and lies potentially, although not articulate for those others, in the sum of the ciphers of the year 1889; you know that a note, never before heard by the men of the present era, has just been sounded, and that a new kind of thought has arisen, fostered by the evolutionary forces. This thought differs from all that has ever been produced in the 19th Century; yet it is identical with what was the keynote and the keystone of every century, especially the last one: “Absolute Freedom of Human Thought.”

“Why try to kill, to suppress, that which cannot be destroyed? Why fight when one has no other choice than either to allow oneself to be lifted up to heaven on the crest of the spiritual tide, beyond stars and universes, or to be swallowed in the gaping abyss of the ocean of matter?”

In her article “The Tidal Wave” (written in November 1889, eight months after “The New Cycle”) we find these words:

“The age of crass materialism, of Soul insanity and blindness, is swiftly passing away. A death struggle between Mysticism and Materialism is no longer at hand, but is already raging. And the party which will win the day at this supreme hour will become the master of the situation and of the future; i.e., it will become the autocrat and sole disposer of the millions of men already born and to be born, up to the latter end of the XXth [20th] century. If the signs of the times can be trusted it is not the Animalists who will remain conquerors. . . .

“Like a clear, definite, far-reaching note of promise, the voice of the great human Soul proclaims, in no longer timid tones, the rise and almost the resurrection of the human Spirit in the masses. It is now awakening in the foremost representatives of thought and learning; it speaks in the lowest as in the highest, and stimulates them all to action. The renovated, life-giving Spirit in man is boldly freeing itself from the dark fetters of the hitherto all-capturing animal life and matter. Behold it, saith the poet, as, ascending on its broad, white wings, it soars into the regions of real life and light; whence, calm and godlike, it contemplates with unfeigned pity those golden idols of the modern material cult with their feet of clay, which have hitherto screened from the purblind masses their true and living gods. . . .

“It is not he who repeats obstinately and parrot-like the old literary formulae and holds desperately to publishers’ traditions, who will find himself answering to the new needs; not the man who prefers his narrow party discipline to the search for the long-exiled Spirit of man and the now lost TRUTHS; not these, but verily he who, parting company with his beloved “authority,” lifts boldly and carries on unflinchingly the standard of the Future Man. It is . . . those who . . . will have bravely fought for human rights and man’s divine nature, who will become, if they only win, the teachers of the masses in the coming century, and so their benefactors.

“But woe to the XXth [20th] century if the now reigning school of thought prevails, for Spirit would once more be made captive and silenced till the end of the now coming age. . . . Take advantage of, and profit by, the “tidal wave” which is now happily overpowering half of Humanity. Speak to the awakening Spirit of Humanity, to the human Spirit and the Spirit in man, these three in One and the One in All.”

You may have noticed that despite the great positivity, promise, and assured optimism in these passages, there is also an implication of a possibility that the New Cycle might not work out in the glorious way intended. This is emphasised much more strongly in another article by HPB, “Our Cycle and The Next,” written in that same year, 1889, in the month of May:

“But what has the new cycle in store for humanity? Will it be merely a continuation of the present, only in darker and more terrible colours? Or shall a new day dawn for mankind, a day of pure sunlight, of truth, of charity, of true happiness for all? The answer depends mainly on the few Theosophists who, true to their colours through good repute and ill, still fight the battle of Truth against the powers of Darkness. . . .

If Theosophy prevailing in the struggle, its all-embracing philosophy strikes deep root into the minds and hearts of men, if its doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma, in other words, of Hope and Responsibility, find a home in the lives of the new generations, then, indeed, will dawn the day of joy and gladness for all who now suffer and are outcast. For real Theosophy IS ALTRUISM, and we cannot repeat it too often. It is brotherly love, mutual help, unswerving devotion to Truth. If once men do but realize that in these alone can true happiness be found, and never in wealth, possessions, or any selfish gratification, then the dark clouds will roll away, and a new humanity will be born upon earth. Then, the GOLDEN AGE will be there, indeed.

“But if not, then the storm will burst, and our boasted western civilization and enlightenment will sink in such a sea of horror that its parallel History has never yet recorded.”

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The words “Then, the GOLDEN AGE will be there, indeed,” are important. This should not be confused with the beginning of the Satya or Krita Yuga, which is called the “Golden Age” in Hinduism. The “golden age” HPB is speaking of is akin to a golden age within the Dark Age of the Kali Yuga. Let us remember what was explained at the start, that we have only just entered the second sub-period of the extremely long Kali Yuga. But the energies of Aquarius are such that that period has the potential for great brightness.

Sri Aurobindo, in his poem “The Mahatmas – KUTHUMI” (which can be read at the end of our article Sri Aurobindo, Raja Yoga, and Theosophy), declares:

“. . . the golden age

In Kali comes, the iron lined with gold.

The Yoga shall be given back to men,

The sects shall cease, the grim debates die out,

And Atheism perish from the earth

Blasted with knowledge, love and brotherhood

And wisdom repossess Sri Krishna’s world.”

One may compare the essential message of this poetic verse with a striking passage from HPB’s first book “Isis Unveiled” (Vol. 1, p. 613): “Be this as it may, the religion of the ancients is the religion of the future. A few centuries more, and there will linger no sectarian beliefs in either of the great religions of humanity. Brahmanism [i.e. Hinduism] and Buddhism, Christianity and Mahometanism [i.e. Islam] will all disappear before the mighty rush of facts. . . . But this can only come to pass when the world returns to the grand religion of the past; the knowledge of those majestic systems which preceded, by far, Brahmanism, and even the primitive monotheism of the ancient Chaldeans.”

Another emphasis on the “IF” is on the last page (p. 307) of HPB’s book “The Key to Theosophy”: “If the Theosophical Society survives and lives true to its mission, to its original impulses through the next hundred years [i.e. throughout the 20th century] . . . earth will be a heaven in the twenty-first century in comparison with what it is now!”

So Earth can be a heaven (relatively speaking, obviously) and a golden age can be here, during this New Age of Aquarius. The unseen but extremely potent Aquarian energies are there – above us, beneath us, all around us, as well as striking a spiritual chord within us – but nothing is ever simply done for us. “You yourselves must make the effort” is the constant message of the Buddha in the Dhammapada.

We can see from the above that so much hinged and crucially depended on Theosophy and Theosophists. Unfortunately and tragically, the Theosophical Society did not “live true to its mission, to its original impulses” throughout the whole of the 20th century. By as early as 1910, the original and authentic Theosophical teachings had been almost entirely subsumed by a very different and contradictory version of “Theosophy” within the initially founded Theosophical Society and this proceeded to become the most popular and most well known form of “Theosophy” worldwide.

The world – and even the majority of Theosophists – remained ignorant to the full scope and content of what H. P. Blavatsky (the only one who the Masters called “Our Direct Agent”) had written and taught for the benefit of humanity. Thankfully, there were numerous Theosophists awake to this and to the importance and necessity of keeping alive and accessible those “original impulses,” “original lines,” “original programme,” “original system,” and “original teachings,” as they had been variously called by the Mahatmas and HPB. One such person was Robert Crosbie, who for this purpose established the United Lodge of Theosophists in 1909, thus making it an Aquarian Age Theosophical association, the older Theosophical Society organisations having been founded at the end of the Piscean Age, though that fact does not limit their potential within the Age of Aquarius.

Clearly, when one looks at all the good things that have happened and are happening in the world since the New Age began – whilst taking care not to deny or ignore or downplay the bad things – it can be concluded that there is still some very real possibility for a Golden Age to emerge at some point within the next two millennia, even if it currently appears unlikely to happen within the next hundred years or so. We are still only at the beginning and the situation is still mixed.

Another factor to be aware of is that when it is said – by Theosophists or others – that the Aquarian Age heralds “a new humanity,” this also relates to the fact that what is called the sixth sub-race of our Fifth Root Race is taking shape at this moment, predominantly in the USA and the Americas, where such a vast merging, intermixing, and intermarrying of all imaginable races, nationalities, and cultures has taken place – and continues to do so – that a new and more evolved type of physical body will be the evolutionary result.

As the souls of all humanity continue to evolve and progress, new and higher physical forms are always eventually required, as a necessary adaptation to the inner development of man. This can be learned about in greater detail elsewhere on this site, including in The Seven Sub-Races.

HPB ends her article “The New Cycle” with these words:

“Ah! those who would make this effort would soon find that the “narrow gate” and “the thorny path” lead to spacious valleys with unlimited horizons, to a state without death, for one rebecomes a God! It is true that the first requisites for getting there are absolute unselfishness and unlimited devotion to the interests of others, and complete indifference as to the world and its opinions. To take the first step on this ideal path requires a perfectly pure motive; no frivolous thought must be allowed to divert our eyes from the goal; no hesitation, no doubt must fetter our feet. Yet, there are men and women perfectly capable of all this, and whose only desire is to live under the aegis of their Divine Nature. Let these, at least, have the courage to live this life and not to hide it from the sight of others! No one’s opinion could ever be above the rulings of our own conscience, so, let that conscience, arrived at its highest development, be our guide in all our common daily tasks. As to our inner life, let us concentrate all our attention on our chosen Ideal, and let us ever look beyond without ever casting a glance at the mud at our feet.”

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