Inherent Rhythms of Life

By Scott J. Osterhage

Over one hundred years ago H. P. Blavatsky wrote briefly but powerfully about nature when she urged us to "Help Nature and work on with her," for then "Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance" (The Voice of the Silence, p. 14). This is our great task: to live in accord with the nature which brought us here and which guides us through the aeons as reincarnating egos. Nature does not toil unnecessarily, but rather moves in the path of least resistance. It seeks not for the survival of the fittest, but for the harmonious interaction of All.

We move within a cosmic hierarchy whose parts are each a mirror of the whole — microcosms of the macrocosm. One can think of the universe as a clock. Its antique gears intermesh in harmonious relation and thereby produce motion in the hands. There are the small movements of seconds, which build to minutes, hours, days, lives, and so on, all interrelated and aligned in a hierarchical relationship. Blavatsky, in her masterwork The Secret Doctrine, talks about three fundamental propositions which form a basis for the more recondite teachings of the perennial wisdom. The second of these propositions she describes as "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature" (1:17).

The law of cycles is the law of nature's repetitive operations. The word "cycle" comes from the Greek kyklos, which means circle, wheel, ring, disk, orb; also any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated, or a round of years or a recurring period of time, especially one in which certain events or phenomena repeat themselves in the same order and at the same intervals. A cycle in the esoteric sense is not like a ring "which runs into itself, but more properly like a screw thread which takes the form of a spiral, and thus beginning at the bottom, turns on itself, and goes up." (1) This describes the concept of evolution versus a simple revolution, which is only a turning round and round without advancing. All hierarchies move in a spiral-like way, progressing along with their movement. This may be seen not only in the cycle from day to day, but in the cycle from life to life, and on up through various visible life forms unendingly:

We are familiar with the cycle of growth from seed to flower and flower to seed; the cycle of change from the bare branches of winter to the glossy bud, the green-gold foam of spring, and then the full leaf of summer and the brown-gold rustling of the autumn leaves. We watch the bird and the nest, the egg and the fledgling. Growth, change and reproduction are all outward signs of what we call life. . . . The open spiral leads outwards into space, to the cosmos and to consciousness beyond our present range. Thus life ever grows richer, wider and more beautiful. — E. W. Preston, Life and Its Spirals, p. 5

Cycles represent a steady progress towards perfection in nature, an inherent quality of being.

The ultimate destiny of each cycle is likened unto the uroboros, the serpent swallowing its own tail. The circle formed by this serpent

shows the cycle of eternity or the great spiral of evolution . . . This is the circle of necessity of the Egyptians, the path of the numerous reincarnations of the soul . . . Its tail running into its mouth [implies a] perpetual turning of the circle, or the periodical coming forth and disappearing of the manifested Universe. Nearly every bible has this. Saint John speaks of the great dragon who swept with his tail one-third of the stars to the earth. That is, in the course of this great evolution the serpent brought egos from the stars down to this globe . . . In the form of a circle it symbolizes perfection, as that is the most perfect figure, which, too, in its different relations shows us the great doctrine that the Universe was built by numbers, . . . and is controlled or presided over by harmony now disturbed and now restored. — E. C. Krupp, Echoes of the Ancient Skies, p. 173

All cycles are bound and interwoven together, hierarchically and numerically. They are, in fact, the inherent rhythms of life. We are one with ourselves, with humanity, with our earth, and with our kosmos.

Most of us are familiar with the passage from Ecclesiastes: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven" (3:1). This is not an idle statement meaning simply that there is a right time to everything that happens, but rather it signifies that everything is timed; that there is an underlying order amidst seeming irregularity, accident, and confusion or chaos. Not long ago it was the continuous cycle of the seasons that regulated the course of human life and work, and the farmer's relation with the earth was a holy one. Vegetation growth cycles are obviously deeply connected with the seasons, as are human lives. The earth is fertilized by rain from the sky — the union of earth and sky — symbolically, matter and spirit. The male seed is planted into female soil — father sun and mother earth working together in secret, behind the veil of our immediate perceptions, to produce visible life. The sun (and moon) are thus perceived as the givers of time because time is measured by their motions (moon even means "measure"), with the sun as the regulator of the cycle of the seasons. L. H. Bailey in The Holy Earth cautions that "a useful contact with the earth places man not as superior to nature but as a superior intelligence working in nature as a conscious and therefore as a responsible part in a plan of evolution, which is a continuing creation" (p. 53).

When we were children we had a much closer contact with the earth. Without inhibitions, we dug in it with our hands, squished mud between our toes, ate bits of grass, exploded dirt clods, and treasured all the days' trophies, the found things of nature which came out of our pockets at night. But as adults many of us lose that intimate relationship with the soil, the earth, vegetation, rocks, and insect and animal life — much to our detriment. It is as if humanity has tried to remove itself from the workings and cycles of nature, in an attempt to become separate, or above. As Dr. Krupp, Director of the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood, observes:

We have struggled — successfully — to shelter ourselves from the elements, and we have managed to shut out the sky. In the process, we also have removed ourselves from one of the fundamental components of our culture. . . .
For our ancestors, what went on in the sky was metaphor. It meant something. It was both the symbol of the principles that they felt ordered their lives and the force behind those principles. There was power in the sky. The tides resonated with the phases of the moon; the seasons fell into place in concert with the sun and stars; the world and its inhabitants followed the seasons. Modern, urbanized peoples [for the most part] have lost this sense of coherence between what goes on in the sky and in their lives, but some traditional peoples still have it. — Echoes of the Ancient Skies, pp. 1-2

Even most of our religious seasonal festivals have lost their close connection with the universal clock. Those celebrations should be there to remind us of another passing phase of the mighty organism of the cosmos.

The seasons as the quaternary division of the year may stand for various relationships as follows:

Spring — Fire (Ethereal), Morning, Youth, East, Sowing.
Summer — Air (Gaseous), Noon, Adolescence, South, Growing.
Autumn — Water (Fluid), Evening, Adulthood, West, Harvesting.
Winter — Earth (Solid), Night, Age or Birth, North, Tilling.

As the four divisions of the year, the seasons relate astronomically to an alternating equinox or solstice, but occur geographically at different dates in different hemispheres. The accepted custom is for the year to commence with the vernal equinox. Accordingly, we have the vernal equinox beginning around March 21st, the summer solstice beginning around June 21st, the autumnal equinox beginning around September 21st, and the winter solstice beginning around December 21st. These are esoteric dates and contain much symbolism in their inner relationships. As G. de Purucker says: "All the esoteric anniversaries, like the four Sacred Seasons . . . were based upon the science of relating the destiny of man to the timing of the celestial orbs."

The seasons in turn relate to larger cosmic movements calculated from the perspective of the earth. The seasonal changes of the sun, and obviously the seasons themselves, result from the earth's rotation and revolution in space. These tie in with great cycles such as the Messianic cycle of 2,160 years, twelve of which form the Great Sidereal Year of 25,920 years, and on up to the yugas or ages of mankind and the life of the earth and of the solar system. All these cycles were known to the ancients, who knew how to regulate human life by the reckonings of the cosmic clock of nature which is infallible. "That clock is the heavenly vault; and the sun, the moon, the seven [sacred] planets . . . and the stars, are the 'hands' marking time-cycles." (2)

Considering these themes gives us a greater understanding and respect for some of the cyclings of the cosmos, and a greater idea of the deep interconnectedness we humans have with the very core of being manifesting itself as the universe which we see and feel around and in us. Plato has said that

the motions akin to the divine part in us are the thoughts and revolutions of the universe; these, therefore, every man should follow, and . . . by learning to know the harmonies and revolutions of the world, he should bring the intelligent part, according to its pristine nature, into the likeness of that which intelligence discerns, and thereby win the fulfillment of the best in life set by the gods before mankind both for this present time and for the life to come. — Timaeus, §90

We should strive to be like those ancient people whose whole life was a spiritual existence — and not merely an existence, but a sacrifice, every act in some way a sacred offering. The sense of being connected to the earth and nature is something we need only evoke from within ourselves next time we step outside and stop to perceive with all our senses the natural cycles surrounding and interpenetrating our very being and life.

  • (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Theosophical University Press)

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    1. William Q. Judge, Echoes of the Orient, p. 492. (return to text)

    2. G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 244 (2nd ed.) (return to text)