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The Theory of Cycles
H P Blavatsky
IT is now some time since this theory, which was first propounded in the oldest
religion of the world, Vedism, 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. It is the sign of an irrepressible need in humanity to assure itself that there is a Power Paramount over matter; an occult and mysterious law which governs the world, and which we should rather study and closely watch, trying to adapt ourselves to it, than blindly deny, and break our heads against the rock of destiny. ore than one thoughtful mind, while studying the fortunes and verses of nations and great empires, has been deeply struck by one identical feature in their history, namely, the inevitable recurrence of
similar historical events reaching in turn every one of them, and after the same
lapse of time.
This analogy is found between the events to be substantially the same on the whole, though there may be more or less difference as to the outward form of details.
Thus, the belief of the ancients in their astrologers, soothsayers and prophets might have been warranted by the verification of many of their most important predictions, without these prognostications of future events implying of necessity anything very miraculous in themselves.
The soothsayers and augurs having occupied in days of the old civilizations the very same position now occupied by our historians, astronomers and meteorologists,
there was nothing more wonderful in the fact of the former predicting the downfall of an empire or the loss of a battle, than in the latter predicting the return of a comet, a change of temperature, or, perhaps, the final conquest of Afghanistan.
The necessity for both these classes being acute, observers apart, there was the study of certain sciences to be pursued then as well as they are now.
The science of today will have become an "ancient" science a thousand years hence. Free and open, scientific study now is to all, whereas it was then confined but to the few. Yet, whether ancient or modern, both may be called exact sciences; for, if the astronomer of today draws his observations from mathematical calculations, the astrologer of old also based his prognostication upon no less acute and mathematically correct observations of the ever-recurring cycles. And, because the secret of this science is now being lost, does that give any warrant to say that it never existed, or that, to believe in it, one
must be ready to swallow "magic," "miracles" and the like stuff? "If, in view of
the eminence to which modern science has reached, the claim to prophesy future
events must be regarded as either a child's play or a deliberate deception,"
says a writer in the Novoyé Vremya, the best daily paper of literature and politics of St. Petersburg, "then we can point at science which, in its turn, has now taken up and placed on record the question, in its relation to past events, whether there is or is not in the constant repetition of events a
certain periodicity; in other words, whether these events recur after a fixed and determined period of years with every nation; and if a periodicity there be,
whether this periodicity is due to blind chance or depends on the same natural
laws, on which are more or less dependent many of the phenomena of human life."
Undoubtedly the latter.
And the writer has the best mathematical proof of it in the timely appearance of such works as that of Dr. E. Zasse, under review, and of a few others. Several learned works, treating upon this mystical subject, have appeared of late, and of some of these works and calculations we will now
treat; the more readily as they are in most cases from the pens of men of eminent learning. Having already in the June number of the THEOSOPHIST noticed an article by Dr. Blohvitz On the significance of the number Seven,1 with every nation and people--a learned paper which appeared lately in the German journal Die Gegenwart--we will now summarize the opinions of the press in general, on a more suggestive work by a well-known German scientist, E. Zasse, with certain reflections of our own. It has just appeared in the Prussian Journal of
Statistics, and powerfully corroborates the ancient theory of Cycles.
These periods, which bring around ever-recurring events, begin from the infinitesimal small--say of ten years--rotation and reach to cycles which require 250, 500, 700 and 1000 years, to effect their revolutions around themselves, and within one another. All are contained within the Máhá-Yug, the "Great Age" or Cycle of
the Manu calculation, which itself revolves between two eternities--the "Pralayas" or Nights of Brahma. As, in the objective world of matter, or the system of effects, the minor constellations and planets gravitate each and all around he sun, so in the world of the subjective, or the system of causes, these innumerable cycles all gravitate between that which the finite intellect of the ordinary mortal regards as eternity, and the till finite, but more profound, intuition of the sage and philosopher views as but an eternity within THE ETERNITY. "As above, so it is below," runs the old Hermetic maxim.
As an experiment in his direction, Dr. Zasse selected the statistical investigations
of all the wars, the occurrence of which has been recorded in history, as a subject which lends itself more easily to scientific verification than any other.
To illustrate his subject in the simplest and most easily comprehensible way, Dr. Zasse represents the periods of war and the periods of peace in the shape of small and large rave-lines running over the area of the old world. The idea is not new one, for, the image was used for similar illustrations by ore than one ancient and mediaeval mystic, whether in words or picture--by Henry Kunrath, for example. But it serves well its purpose and gives us the facts we
now want. Before he treats, however, of the cycles of wars, the author brings in
the record of the rise and fall of the world's great empires, and shows the degree of activity they have played in the Universal History.
He points out the fact that if we divide the map of the Old World into five parts--into Eastern, Central, and Western Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Egypt--then we will easily perceive that very 250 years, an enormous wave passes over these areas,
bringing into each in its turn the events it has brought to the one next preceding. This wave we may call "the historical wave" of the 250 years' cycle.
The reader will
please follow this mystical number of years. The first of these waves began in
Eastern Europe, filling it with the spirit of the Argonautic expedition, and
dies out in 1000 B.C. at the siege of
A second historical
wave appears about that time in
leave her steppes, and inundate towards the year 750 B.C. the adjoining countries, directing themselves towards the South and West; about the year 500 in Western Asia begins an epoch of splendour for ancient Persia; and the wave moves on to the east of Europe, where, about 250 B.C., Greece reaches her highest state of culture and civilization--and further on to the West, where, at the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire finds itself at its apogee of power and greatness."
Again, at this period
we find the rising of a third historical wave at the far
East. After prolonged revolutions, about this time,
At the same time, the
fourth wave approaches from the Orient.
flourishing; in I 250, the Mongolian wave from
covered an enormous area of land, including with it
peninsula; but at the same time in
yoke, and about 1750, during the reign of Empress Catherine, rises to an unexpected grandeur and covers itself with I glory.
The wave ceaselessly moves further on to the West, and, beginning with the middle of the past century, Europe is living over an epoch of revolutions and reforms, and, according to the author, "if it is permissible to prophetize, then, about the year 2,000, Western Europe will have lived one of those periods of culture and progress so rare in
history." The Russian press, taking the cue, believes that
"towards those days the Eastern Question will be finally settled, the
national dissensions of the European peoples will come to an end, and the dawn
of the new millennium will witness the abolishment of armies and an alliance
between all the European empires." The signs of regeneration are also fast
If, from the cycle of two-and-a-half century duration, we descend to those which
leave their impress every century, and, grouping together the events of ancient
history, will mark the development and rise of empires, then we will assure ourselves that, beginning from the year 700 B.C., the centennial wave pushes forward, bringing into prominence the following nations--each in its turn--the Assyrians, the Medes, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Germanians.
periodicity of the wars in
Beginning with 1700 A.D., every ten years have been signalized by either a war or a revolution.
The periods of the strengthening and weakening of the warlike excitement of the European nations represent a wave strikingly regular in its periodicity, flowing incessantly, as if propelled onward by some invisible fixed law.
This same mysterious law seems at the same time to make these events coincide with astronomical wave or cycle, which, at every new revolution, is accompanied by the very marked appearance of spots in the sun.
The periods, when the European powers have shown the most destructive energy, are marked by a cycle of 50 years' duration. It would be too long and tedious to enumerate them from the beginning of History. We may, therefore, limit our study to the cycle beginning with the year 1712, when all the European nations were fighting at the same time--the Northern, and the Turkish wars, and the war for the throne of
Towards 1861, the wave has a little deflected from its regular course, but, as
if to compensate for it, or, propelled, perhaps, with unusual forces, the years
directly preceding, as well as those which followed it, left in history the records of the most fierce and bloody war--the Crimean war--in the former period, and the American Rebellion in the latter one.
The periodicity in
the wars between
But, if we take note of the whole duration of the in-flowing tide of the warlike cycle, then we will have at the centre of it--from 1768 to 1812--three wars of seven years' duration each, and, at both ends, wars of two years.
Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that, in view of facts, it becomes thoroughly impossible to deny the presence of a regular periodicity in the excitement of both mental and physical forces in the nations of the world.
He proves that in the
history of all the peoples and empires of the
cycles marking the millenniums, the centennials as well as the minor ones of 50
and 10 years' duration, are the most important, inasmuch as neither of them has
ever yet failed to bring in its rear some more or less marked event in the history of the nation swept over by these historical waves.
The history of
satisfactory. Yet, were its consecutive great events noted down, and its annals well searched, the law of cycles would be found to have asserted itself here as plainly as in every other country in respect of its wars, famines, political exigencies and other matters.
In France, a meteorologist of Paris went to the trouble of compiling the statistics of the coldest seasons, and discovered, at the same time, that those years, which had the figure 9 in them, had been marked by the severest winters.
His figures run thus:
In 859 A.D., the northern part of the
frozen and was covered for three months with ice. In 1179, in the most moderate
zones, the earth was covered with several feet of snow. In
depth of snow and the bitter cold caused such a scarcity of fodder that most of
the cattle perished in that country In 1249, the
In 1339, there was
such a terrific winter in
In 1639, the
In 1709 the winter
was no less terrible. The ground was frozen in
Switzerland, to the depth of several feet, and the sea, south as well as north,
was covered with one compact and thick crust of ice, many feet deep, and for a
considerable space of miles, in the usually open sea. Masses of wild beasts, driven out by the cold from their dens in the forests, sought refuge in villages and even cities; and the birds fell dead to the ground by hundreds.
In 1729, 1749 and 1769 (cycles of 20 years' duration) all the rivers and streams were
ice-bound all over
consecutive days, all the roads in
In 1839 there was
make their investigations likewise, for the subject is certainly one of the most
fascinating as well as instructive kind.
Enough has been shown, however, to prove that neither the ideas of Pythagoras on
the mysterious influence of numbers, nor the theories of ancient world-religions
and philosophies are as shallow and meaningless as some too forward
free-thinkers would have had the world to believe.
Theosophist, July, 1880
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