David M. Grossman – USA
“It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness."
When our main view of human history only takes us back four or five thousand years, and here in the west it all fades away prior to the Greeks for the most part; it becomes difficult to entertain concepts of human cycles of development that could span hundreds of thousands more less millions of years. When we consider that relatively recently, a few centuries back, the world’s continents and countries for all practical purposes were like separate planets, the present situation is actually a very recent phenomenon. There was very little communication between countries and even regions within a single country; and for the “average person” working in mainly agrarian societies the main occupations were growing food, building shelters and most people never traveled much beyond a few miles from where they were born. If you add to that the fact that literacy for the majority is a relatively recent milestone it becomes apparent that there was not really a great deal of meaningful communication in the world.
Of course we shouldn’t paint an overly bleak picture of human kind from the past when we consider the great historical monuments of human endeavor. The massive architectural structures of Egypt, India and Central America are amazing and also reflect great mathematical and astronomical knowledge without the technological tools we have available today. The art from ancient China down to the Italian renaissance is breathtaking. We have the great visionary thinkers and spiritual philosophers, true teachers of a higher order, that religions and philosophies have grown up around.
It is not the villains of the distant past but rather the great teachers, the benefactors of mankind whose insights into the purpose of life and the path that all beings must consciously walk that we seem to remember. The Buddhas, Christs, Krishnas, teachers who various religions have grown up around, are still available to us through their teachings and examples that have remained in the collective memory of the human race.
Yet the fact remains that everyday life for most humans has always been a struggle, finding and growing enough to eat, fighting the elements, as with the terrible heat wave in Northern India at present or fending off disease as we see with the recent world Covid pandemic and all this punctuated by cruelty towards each other through various forms of slavery, wars, autocratic rule and actions that in the final analysis serve no-one very well. Even the most powerful “Caesars” of the world often have had a bloody end to their so-called reigns. Theosophy points to the fact that different groups have actually gone through different cycles at the same time. When Europe was in what we call the “Dark Ages “other areas were doing better. We find relatively advanced and great civilizations throughout the globe appearing at different times in different places from the Sumerian civilization starting around 6500 years ago or the Egyptians, later the Mayan civilization and Ancient Greece on the other side of the Atlantic. We can’t forget the Roman Empire. There are many others we could mention.
But now with the world so interconnected we find ourselves in a kind of “hodgepodge” of “Psychic Currents,” high and low, sweeping over us at the same time. As a result the tension between our higher and lower natures is causing great stress and instability in the collective human psyche.
According to Theosophy and the Ancient Vedic system we find ourselves in the cycle called Kali Yuga, Kali meaning dark, Yuga meaning cycle. Its span, we are told, is about 432,000 years, which is actually the shortest by far of the four yugas or cycles that make up a Maha Yuga, a cyclic age or evolutionary epoch. The time line is difficult to comprehend in linear terms. So let us focus on where we find ourselves at the moment, in the Kali Yuga or Dark Age. It is dark in the sense that it is heavy, we are encased in the densest forms of matter. It is difficult to penetrate the long term meaning of things, especially our collective actions at present. We might say our world is floundering, there is no coherent agreed upon vision for the future, we have no “Unified Field Theory” concerning the development and destiny of the human family.
Metaphysically speaking the Theosophical teaching from The Secret Doctrine is that we are in the fifth race in the middle of the fourth round in this great evolutionary journey known as a Manvantara. There are seven rounds and being in the middle of the fourth puts us in the most concretized phase, most diverse manifestation in the great journey. In other periods the polarization between spirit and matter is not so acute, our forms are more rarified, you could say the matter is at a higher vibratory rate. A rough analogy might be; it is like the difference between ice, liquid water and steam. Because of this there is a stronger “gravitational pull;” the effects stemming from causes happen at a faster rate than in other cycles. As a result we can actually progress faster than at other times but also the inharmonious outcomes of our actions hit us extra hard compared to , say in the Satya Yuga (Golden Age.) We are also more susceptible to the pull of matter and the allurements of the MayavicLlife, the illusions of separateness. These express themselves as what we seem to value as a society. Wealth, notoriety, popularity and intellectual prowess are considered more valuable than honesty, moral and ethical consistency, generosity and self-sacrifice.
Something has drastically changed recently in the human timeline at least on the face of things. All of a sudden the world made up of its continents, countries, and peoples are all interconnected in an undeniable way. While not that many generations ago if you wanted to contact someone in another country or even in a distant part of your own you could write a letter and get it to them somehow and then hear back from them. This could take weeks, months or even longer. Today mail might go around the world in a matter of days and e-mail in a matter of seconds. But even mail is becoming obsolete now. The communication technologies of science fiction stories from just decades ago we participate in daily. How many of us were imagining just decades ago that you could pull a flat little instrument out of your pocket, tap a couple of marked points on a screen and not only speak to a particular individual but actually see him or her in “live time” on the other side of the world?
In some ways we are more advanced than our ancestors. In terms of living conditions, life expectancy, industry, means of transportation, communication, and technologies we are light years ahead of just a few generations ago. Yet the 20th century alone was arguably the most cruel and bloody in human memory.
In her article ‘Occultism versus the Occult Arts,’ Lucifer, Vol. II, May, 1888, H. P. Blavatsky says:
“We are in the Kali Yuga and its fatal influence is a thousand-fold more powerful in the West than it is in the East; hence the easy preys made by the Powers of the Age of Darkness in this cyclic struggle, and the many delusions under which the world is now laboring.”
In 1889, a year later HPB, wrote to the TS Convention:
“We need all our strength to meet the difficulties and dangers which surround us . . . the cure [against the strong psychic trend] is ‘ALTRUISM’. And this is the keynote of Theosophy and the cure for all ills….”
The contradictions we display in the Kali Yuga can be overwhelming. Let’s take a few relatively recent examples in the United States where this writer finds himself at present.
The American Declaration of Independence, later followed by the United States Constitution were to a great degree inspiring documents embracing human equality, freedom of religion, thought, and offered a new continent where there seemed to be unlimited space, beauty and resources for all who wanted to settle in America.
Unfortunately the expression of this vision was carried out in the wake of destroying the lives of the peoples who lived there already. Also the “land of the free,” to a great degree, was built by manpower and energy harnessed and implemented through slavery, one of the most heinous crimes and totally antithetical to the high ideals the country was founded upon. The “dark age” mainly refers to spiritual darkness.
It has been said that things are sped up in the Kali Yuga. HPB referred to this time as a great karmic thaw taking place. Against the backdrop of Western history we’ve seen things happen so quickly, in less than 200 years. From the advent of the commercially viable steamboat in 1807 by Robert Fulton to the airplane, just a little over a century later, to Morse code in the 1830s that revolutionized communications, to the telephone, radio, tv, to internet communication today. This explosion of human interconnection, interdependence and mutual dependence and responsibility has happened so fast and has had such a dizzying effect on humanity that we are just beginning to come to terms with it.
In the Kali Yuga, which the whole earth is basically immersed in now, more than ever, the moral ethical core teachings at the root of all great religions and philosophies must be discerned beyond the concretized separating and dividing forms they have come to be. The Kali Yuga is a time of materialization and division. In spite of the karmic effects that are all around us manifesting as disease, irrational wars, destroying eco-systems and degrading the most basic and necessary elements to sustain life on the planet, air, water, earth, we continue not to take full responsibility for our actions but live in a state of denial about where we are heading. All this reflects an out of control form of mental and moral deviance. The social fabric woven by economic and social stability is quickly unraveling along with economic and political alliances in many areas of the world.
In Theosophy we have the teaching concerning past races of mankind and we have the example of the Atlantean race which destroyed itself during its Kali Yuga. Those who learn from history don’t have to repeat it. Unfortunately the world at large does not embrace the Theosophical view of human history but it can embrace common sense morals and ethics based on the demonstrable fact that we are all interconnected and effect each other for better or worse each step of the way. As Blavatsky states so clearly in The Key To Theosophy:
“It is an occult law moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such thing as 'separateness' and the nearest approach to that selfish state which the laws of life permit is in the intent or motive.”
Thus theosophists have a work to do at this time to spread the core inspiring teachings of Theosophy which show that through moral and ethical causation we can offset the dark tendency of the age. The doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation can ground us in the overall purpose of life and help us to act in a way that humanizes and transforms our natures giving us the spiritual awareness that will heal the race.
It is not more science or technology that will save us. We must break the spell of materialism that has never satisfied the misinterpreted soul yearnings of our being. Only then can we achieve wholeness and peace within. Only by embracing the fact of our interconnectedness and that love and reliance on the goodness found deep in the heart of each will we conquer the fear, the irrational appetites that never quench our thirst or bring satisfaction to our soul nature. As HPB states in the preface of Isis Unveiled:
“We accept the saying of the gifted author of Festus, that the human heart has not yet fully uttered itself, and that we have never attained or even understood the extent of its powers.”
"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
Francis Of Assisi