Stars move in their courses, planets in their orbits, we live in an ordered universe, in which law rules. And one of the laws whose workings is most plainly evident is the law of periodicity. What happens once, happens again, given the right moment. When Halley's comet flashed into the western sky in May, 1910, appearing for the 27th recorded time, it came because it was time for it to come. It is possible to make astronomical calculations of the positions of the heavenly bodies in distant periods of the past and of the future. For instance, in the great cycle called the Precession of the Equinoxes the Sun returns to its original position in relation to the zodiacal constellations. In the interim the Cosmic Family has swung through vast and varied regions of Space, as the Sun moved from one zodiacal house to another, and has gained untold wealth of experience as yet unrecorded by us. And for man, who has the mind to conceive of an ordered universe and observe the working of its laws, is there no organised history of his part in the vast whole? Is it not possible so to widen the horizons of human history that a more ancient past may suggest what conditions may recur in the future life of mankind? Has no one ever read around the clock of human progress? Is there such a clock?
The conditions prevalent in the world at present clamor for such wider horizons. We must "look before and after" — the present is so poignant an experience that it tears veil after veil from our eyes — but humanity has not yet seen where the earliest dawns broke or where the light breaks through ahead of us. We know that civilizations fall, and that present conditions echo those that were a portent of fall in the past; but we cannot be resigned to this; something stirs in us that forbids us to entertain the idea of inevitable, irretrievable fall. We seek a new unity of history. We feel intuitively that there is a rationale of enduring progress that includes and explains the problems we are facing. We desire, in fact, to orient ourselves to the Cosmos. Has the world lasted 3000 millions of years, as the scientists are telling us in 1935, without anyone having found the way to do this?
Only 60 years ago amazingly few persons in the West had begun to doubt what is known as the Biblical chronology, according to which the world was created in 4004 b. c., or to question the view that man's cycle of life in this world was for three score years and ten with an eternity somewhere else to follow. The view of materialists was that man had descended (or ascended) from the brutes, acquired mind in some way not thoroughly understood, and that, when his one life on earth was over, that was the end. Limited horizons these. How construct a cosmic history of mankind upon such a basis? But the West was soon to have a salutary awakening to the fact that the whole world had never held such inadequate, such parochial notions. It was to learn of the existence of an Archaic Science, a complete science of man's life-cycle, recorded and tested during hundreds of thousands of years, a science which at stated times in that long period of development is restored to the knowledge of man.
It was as a Messenger of the Guardians of the Archaic Wisdom and Science that H. P. Blavatsky, in 1875, came to the Western World. The Message that she brought, the systematic and universal restoration of the Archaic and the Ancient which her work initiated, mark the end of the nineteenth century as an extraordinary crisis in the writing of the history of history. Isis Unveiled and her writings in The Theosophist, led the way to The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888, which presents an outline of the dawn of a period of manifestation, the development of a universe with its family of Sun and planets, with particular reference to the history of the Earth and Man. In this great system, which spans millions and millions of years, man is shown as developing pari passu with the universe from the beginning, living in form after form corresponding to the state of matter of the Globe on which he was functioning, storing in his enduring individuality the experience gained in race after race, civilization after civilization, the forms perishing, the essential entity never, rounding many lesser cycles of life, descending and ascending, but ever moving forward in the Great Cycle of his destiny with his home-planet and his home-universe. H. P. B.'s statement in 1888 that man in his present form had 18,000,000 years of history behind him was at that time a startling one, but every year since then has witnessed the receding of the horizons of human history, towards the long chronology, with which the Brahmanical system and some of the Hindu records are in harmony, and of which traces are to be found in many ancient and prehistoric religions, including the Hebrew. H. P. B. thus boldly placed the history of the human race in its cosmic setting, thereby accomplishing that basic "historical orientation" now recognised as an urgent need of our time.
Here, then, in this vast system covering millions of years we find the long range that permits of correlated recurrences quite impossible to perceive without it, a range including not only all that the scientific observation of the last few hundreds of years has found but taking into account an intelligent plan in the whole, and the interaction of visible and invisible planes of human and cosmic life. Here we find the possibility of reading the clock of human progress. And in the ascending arc of some of these mighty cycles that opened in the morning of time we may read of spiritual heights, of ages to recur, when the Inner Light shall be less obscured than in the lower arcs, those valleys of experience that must be traversed in every cycle.
As to the import of the hour towards which the hands of the great clock were moving surely and swiftly in 1888 when The Secret Doctrine was published, its statements were explicit; and H. P. B., in many articles in Lucifer as well, uttered stern notes of warning and of challenge, pointing out that beneath the surface of comfortable security of the 1880's there lurked all the menacing conditions which characterize what is called in the Eastern chronology the Kali-Yuga or Dark Age. She stated that owing to the fact that several cycles would close in 1897, this would be a fateful turning-point in human story, and that striking changes would occur in scientific, religious, and philosophical ideas. We have now no difficulty in recognising the changes, nor the peculiar conditions that mark a Dark Age — long ago clearly described in the Laws of Manu and the Vishnu-Purana — inordinate desire for riches, enjoyment of luxury on the one hand and dire poverty and misery on the other, increase in the number of criminals, inharmony between the classes of society, decay of spiritual ideals, and disregard of the spiritual life. Every day now brings its stint of war-omens, political upset, and calamitous destruction of human life.
Where in all this shall we find and "follow the gleam"? The twentieth century finds great rents in the materialistic conceptions of man and the universe, as H. P. B. prophesied, and the menace of a retrogressive scientific dogmatism may be averted. Distance has vanished. The whole world now can know the whole world's woe and weal. There is what might be termed a physical basis for the united life of Humanity. There are indications that the human heart does more fully utter itself in compassionate acts. The teaching of the Ancient Wisdom is that in the Dark Age — the shortest of the yugas, though there are 426,962 years of it left to run — effects can be more rapidly brought about than at any other time, and that any effort in behalf of the whole of humanity invokes more direct assistance from the spiritual hierarchies in the universe, makes a channel for such help to reach us. Why should there not be descending celestial influences in time of test and need? It is in this very Kali-Yuga that an awakened human race must bend their backs to create the conditions of the Krita-Age that follows — so far it seems, but we must bring it to pass — when, as the teaching is, "Justice is four-footed and entire, and so is truth; nor does any gain accrue to men by unrighteousness." Every brotherly act, every unselfish aspiration, every sincere desire to help the whole of humanity, draws upon the spiritual resources of mankind and awakens the higher intelligence that makes it possible for man consciously to move onward with the cosmic purpose.
To be able correctly to read the clock of human progress would mean the power to avail oneself of the outflow of energy that accompanies the opening of all the myriad lesser cycles in the life of nations, races, etc. H. P. B., in presenting the Theosophical system in The Secret Doctrine, gives us the key to this knowledge concerning the destiny of man. Moreover she sounded the call to right action here and now. Modern life offers possibilities for united life hitherto undreamed of, though preoccupation with the material aspects of these possibilities and the manipulation of means of increasing power and enjoyment have so far been the rule. The kernel of united life is in the spiritual oneness of all that lives, in the belief in this and in the inner divinity of man, which can illumine the outer life and lead to the establishment of a Universal Brotherhood of humanity — the avowed object of the Theosophical Society H. P. B. was sent to found. For it is Brotherhood in actu only that will enable us consciously to ascend in our cycle, to ride the hurricane and rule the stars in the present crisis of human affairs.