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Cycles of Life and the need to be co-workers with Nature

Throughout Theosophy, there are constant references to the cyclical nature of everything – evolution, the universe, life and death – from the huge cosmic ages to our own cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.

The launch of this third edition of Hermes magazine comes at a strange time, as we suffer upheavals in the world with viral pandemic and racial tensions all presenting vibrational turmoil as we move into the Age of Aquarius.  When we decided on this theme a few months ago we had no idea that world events would turn out as they are now.

However, with the launch of Hermes 3 come some interesting publications, accompanying written interviews, and fascinating articles and videos.

In an interview/discussion between Tim Wyatt and Debbie, ‘Karmic Cycles in Current Time’, the basic tenets of Theosophy and the relevance of the global pandemic and materialism vs spirituality are discussed in a modern way. As Tim says The Secret Doctrine is an extremely important book but is not an easy read – which makes this video piece a refreshing and up-to-date view.

Meanwhile, going back to the basic Theosophical teaching, for me The Secret Doctrine shows the blueprint of the Cosmos, the Earth and all of life everywhere – and its cyclical nature, which is shown throughout this work. A particularly powerful piece is the chapter ‘Cyclic Evolution and Karma’ (volume I, pages 634-647, which is attached as a PDF if you’d like to investigate further). In it are to be found the basic themes and cycles: the one life and its relation to Karma; how the one Cosmic atom splits into  seven and develops into the worlds and all our different species; the angelic hosts of Dhyan Chohans (635); Karmic Cycles (637) and those of Matter and Spiritual evolution (638); Buddhas and Avatars (638); that “our destiny is written in the stars!” (639) …

The Grand Cycle

On page 642 HPB writes:

“The Grand Cycle includes the progress of mankind from the appearance of primordial man of ethereal form. It runs through the inner cycles of his (man’s) progressive evolution from the ethereal down to the semi-ethereal and purely physical: down to the redemption of man from his coat of skin and matter, after which it continues running its course downward and then upward again, to meet at the culmination of a Round, when the manvantaric ‘Serpent swallows its tail’ and seven minor cycles are passed.”

As part of mankind’s progress, we start as ethereal beings, and via the Path of Descent, of Involution, we descend into matter. At the present time we are in the 5th Root Race of the 4th Round, just past the half-way point of greatest material density, which was in the 4th Root Race – the Atlantean. Now we are supposed to be on the ascending arc, developing greater spirituality.

HPB’s commentary on the Karmic cycles continues:

“For the only decree of Karma—an eternal and immutable decree—is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we, who reward or punish ourselves according to whether we work with, through and along with nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or—break them.

Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony, instead of disunion and strife … Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for, nor weapons to act through. It is the constant presence in our midst of every element of strife and opposition, and the division of races, nations, tribes, societies and individuals into Cains and Abels, wolves and lambs, that is the chief cause of the ‘ways of Providence.’  We cut these numerous windings in our destinies daily with our own hands, while we imagine that we are pursuing a track on the royal high road of respectability and duty, and then complain of those ways being so intricate and so dark. We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making …” (643)

HPB then discusses the role which the Angelic beings play in this, and comments: “Therefore, if any one is helpless before these immutable laws, it is not ourselves, the artificers of our destinies, but rather those angels, the guardians of harmony.”  (644)

The concepts which grip my imagination are the nature of the cycles and that far from being the chaotic, random place that the modern material world would have us believe, the universe follows ordered, cyclical patterns. This also impressed the artist Kandinsky:

“Theosophy, according to Blavatzky, is synonymous with eternal truth …. Skeptical though we may be regarding the tendency of the theosophists toward theorizing and their excessive anticipation of definite answers in lieu of immense question-marks, it remains a fundamentally spiritual movement. This movement represents a strong agent in the general atmosphere, presaging deliverance to oppressed and gloomy hearts.”

Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky, written 1910, published 1912. Publ. George Wittenborn Inc., New York 1947, page 33.

The Circle of Necessity

In the meantime, each individual has their own cycles of birth, life, death, after death state then rebirth to work through. Reference to this is made regarding initiation ceremonies which were carried out in Ancient Egypt, in the crypts of Thebes and Memphis, where in the Serpent’s catacombs were performed “the sacred mysteries of the kuklos anagkes, the ‘Unavoidable Cycle,’ more generally known as ‘the circle of necessity’…”  (SD II 379)

“It is only the knowledge of the constant re-births of one and the same individuality throughout the life-cycle; the assurance that the same Monads — among whom are many Dhyan-Chohans, or the “Gods” themselves — have to pass through the “Circle of Necessity,” rewarded or punished by such rebirth for the suffering endured or crimes committed in the former life; that those very Monads, which entered the empty, senseless shells, or astral figures of the First Race emanated by the Pitris, are the same who are now amongst us — nay, ourselves, perchance; it is only this doctrine, we say, that can explain to us the mysterious problem of Good and Evil, and reconcile man to the terrible and apparent injustice of life.” (SD II 303)

One of the major messages of Theosophy is that we are all part of evolution, and that we are here to help not only the rest of humanity and the celestial hierarchies, but also the world and all that lives – that is the essence of the Bodhisattva Vow. What then is our relationship with the celestial hierarchies? HPB tells us:

“[N]either the collective Host (Demiurgos), nor any of the working powers individually, are proper subjects for divine honours or worship. All are entitled to the grateful reverence of Humanity, however, and man ought to be ever striving to help the divine evolution of Ideas, by becoming to the best of his ability a co-worker with nature in the cyclic task.”   (SD I, 280)

For me, the Circle of Necessity or the cyclical nature of our lives is brought out in this poem by T.S. Eliot (the end part of the larger work, The Four Quartets) and while not being a theosophical piece, nevertheless brings a mood of calm and quiet reflection.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

The last part of ‘Little Gidding’ from The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, published 1944.

SD Vol 1 pages 634-647
Written by

Janet Hoult studied graphic design at Hornsey College of Art in London, where she also researched the work of the artist Kandinsky and the symbolism of the dragon. She has an interest in dowsing, ancient history, archaeology and Theosophy. In connection with these fields she co-edited 'The Essential T.C. Lethbridge' and has written and produced 'Dragons: their history and symbolism'. More recently she has been a speaker on Theosophical subjects, including 'The Secret Doctrine'.

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