How strangely the pictures are thrown on the screen of time! Look and behold! Spain was mighty. Where is her strength now? France dominated Europe. Whence has her influence departed? Holland ruled the seas. Who can find her navies today? The glory of Venice is a thing of the past, the gods have left Olympus; the mighty halls of Luxor and Karnac tumble into dust; not one stone is left upon another in Babylon; Atlantis is a word; Lemuria as the memory of a dream.
Did ever the shadow of a conception of the passing away cross the minds of the dwellers in these mighty lands? Yet the passing away has occurred and its record is stored in the archives of the past.
Wherefore this rise and fall, and then the rise and fall again, to be followed by but another rise and fall, like the steady cadence of the sea?
Man lives on the surface of a globule floating in space. How can he understand the nature of the starry realms of which his little globule is so insignficant a part? If he cannot understand the nature of these realms how can he understand the nature of his own star? If he cannot understand his own star, then how can he understand the nature of its satellite — the earth on which he lives? If he cannot understand the nature of the earth on which he lives how can he understand his own nature?
That man cannot entirely understand the great creation of which he is a part is true. But he should not underestimate the value of that knowledge which he does possess, because it is limited, nor imagine those limits less than they are. The organ of sight, though so small a thing, has a field of vision of enormous extent, in which field of vision may be mirrored countless worlds. If the eye can grasp so much on the physical plane, why may not the mind do likewise on the mental?
All existence is cyclic. In matter it is shown in the movements of its own component parts from the atoms (hypothetical) whirling in their vortices (hypothetical) to the heavenly bodies revolving in their orbits. This cyclic condition holds good in the divisions of time, in mathematics, music, art and every living organism. It is, likewise, true of mental moods and all intangible forms of activity. It also applies to everything historic, and to the various civilizations, concurrent and consequent, which have lapsed upon and followed one another over the face of the earth.
If, then, cyclism is unavoidable, why pursue the subject further? Why continue a bootless investigation? But is it bootless? May it not be that the cyclic periods are not fixed but variable quantities? And if variable may they not be varied somewhat at will?
Sleep is cyclic. But is the length or time of the cycle always the same? Does a man begin to sleep at nine o'clock one evening, and the same the next, and the next? Surely not! He may begin his sleep at nine, or ten, or eleven, or twelve, and may sleep many or few hours. The cycles must come, but they can be modified.
Now, this is exactly the case with civilizations. The length of any one is not a fixed quantity. It can be altered. It can be increased or it can be diminished. It will be increased or diminished by those who have part in it, and it can be increased or diminished by them at will. That it is often so diminished is shown by history and the query arises what caused such diminution? An extended answer to this is impossible here, so only a phase will be taken up.
Back of all action lies the picture of the action. The action is the objectivization of this picture in matter. Thus, in the simple act of stepping, the picture first arises in the mind. Unless it did the stepping could not occur. There is nothing to which this does not apply, as literally and almost as perceptibly as the artist's production on the canvass. And it is just as true that all subjective pictures tend in time to become objectivized, though they may be modified before objectivization takes place.
Amongst any mass of people the recognition or non-recognition of man as a soul is a pre-eminently determining factor in the nature of these pictures. If man is recognized as a soul, then the terrestrial consciousness is placed near its correct center. Per contra, if man is looked upon as merely a highly intelligent animal, then terrestrial consciousness tends to function away from its normal center. When consciousness functions at its normal center harmony results; when away, discord and lack of balance. From lack of balance come disturbed relations; from disturbed relations, destruction.
To trace these workings in their many ramifications would involve endless detail; the basic principle, however, is correct. It is this, that the nearer man's consciousness functions to its normal center — soul life — at any period, the longer will be the civilization of that period; the more man's consciousness functions away from that center, the shorter will be that period.
Universal Brotherhood PathTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE