The Theosophical Forum – February 1945


The life-period of a planetary chain — and for the sake of simplicity we will dismiss from our minds the upper five globes, although they are the most important, and consider only the seven lower ones which H. P. B. speaks of — the life-period of a planetary chain, before it dies, is called a Day of Brahma and consists of 4,320,000,000 years. It is followed by an equal time-period called a Night; so that Day and Night together make 8,640,000,000 years. Then the chain reimbodies itself. This time-period you already know from H. P. B.

What is the length of what H. P. B. calls a Manvantara? Here we get into trouble at once, because there are at least ten and maybe twelve different kinds of manvantaras. H. P. B. calls a minor manvantara a passage of the seven root-races on any one globe. It does not matter what globe it is. She calls that a minor manvantara. She calls a major manvantara the passing of a life-wave around the chain of twelve globes. Why? Because a Manu opens a Round on Globe A — called the Root Manu — and closes it on Globe G — called the Seed Manu. Manvantara means Manu-period, or Manu-time, the essence of Manu, that which a Manu produces or brings forth, and this essence comes forth in the evolving life-waves passing among the globes There is likewise a Manu opening a globe life-period, and a Manu closing it. All these things you will find in our Theosophical books.

But now let me ask: What is the length of a manvantara when H P. B. used the words without any descriptive epithets? You have to search for what she means. Mostly she means this: The time it takes a life-wave, any life-wave, to pass from Globe A through Globe B, through Globe C, to the middle period of Globe D. She calls this the pre-septenary manvantara; I would phrase it the prior-septenary manvantara. The post-septenary manvantara would follow through the other half of the globe-chain. You will find this described in The Secret Doctrine, Vol II.

Now what is the length of such a manvantara from A to the central time-period of Globe D? 306,720,000 years; and if you add the Dawn and the Twilight each of a Dvapara-Yuga, or 860,000 years, together forming a Satya-Yuga in length, you will get a time-period for a manvantara equalling 308,448,000 years, and that is the time-period from A to D. Here we reach the middle point. From D to the end of G is another manvantara, another half-round, 308,448,000 years The whole round therefore is double that — something like 617 million years.

Where are we now? We are in the Fourth Round, and at the middle point of our lowest globe, Globe D. There is still half of this present Round Four to finish, and then Rounds Five, Six, and Seven, before our chain dies and goes into Nirvana, preparing itself there for its return as a new chain.

From what has been told you, you can get certain scientific facts in geology, for instance. How long has it been since sedimentation began on our earth D? Something like 320 million years; for you must count in the 308 — nearly 309 — million years for the various life-waves, ten in number, following each other in serial order, to come down from Globe A, run through its course there then through Globe B, run through its course on Globe B, and so on through Globes C and D. 308 million would take us to the middle of the Fourth Root-Race on Globe D. Again we have the critical fourth. Half of the round is then completed. But we are now in the Fifth Root-Race, about the middle point. How many years have lapsed since the middle of the Fourth Root-Race to our present middle of the Fifth? Nearly 9 million years. So to the 309 million of the prior-septenary manvantara, you must add this 9 million more or less — a little less - — to bring our time-period to where we are now. 309 plus 9, in round figures, makes 318 million years. I said 320; that is just taking a round figure. So you now know how long ago it was that the Fourth Round began.

How long has our own human life-wave been on Globe D? That is a different question. Remember what these life-waves are. You see how these things are entangled. Every moment you meet with a dozen new difficulties. The life-waves are these: First, Second and Third Kingdoms of Elementals; 4) Mineral Kingdom; 5) Vegetable Kingdom; 6) Animal Kingdom; 7) Human Kingdom; 8) Lowest Kingdom of Dhyan-Chohans; 9) Middle Kingdom of Dhyan-Cho-hans; 10) the Highest Kingdom of Dhyan-Chohans. Ten life waves; and they follow each other in serial order as rounds around the globes.

How long, then, has the human life-wave, our human kingdom in other words, been on Globe D? With certain modifications, the general rule is that each root-race on Globe D, our Earth, takes nearly nine million years from its very beginning to its very ending. 9 million years back brings us to the middle of the Fourth Root-Race. We are the Fifth; the Atlantean was the Fourth. 18 million years back brings us to the middle of the Third Root-Race, then man first became, because of the entrance into him of the manasaputras, a thinking, reasoning entity.

But here we come upon a difficulty that throws out of line this neat calculation. You notice I carefully limit my remarks to three Races only. These are Races 3rd, 4th, and 5th. I do not allude to Root-Races 1 and 2, and 6 and 7 still to come. Root-Races 3, 4 and 5 are pretty much the same length in years — around 9 million years each. But Root-Races 6 and 7 to come will be shorter, and Root-Races 1 and 2 were much longer. Why was this? It was because Root-Race 1 was practically purely astral, the individuals were intellectually unconscious, and they passed ages in a dreaming, intellectually unawakened state like little children today.

Root-Race 2 was still astral, although verging to the physical, and almost as intellectually asleep as Root-Race 1. Root-Race 3 in its beginning was still semi-astral, but became physical at about its middle point.

Why were Root-Races 1 and 2 so much longer in time-length than the following races? And here is the crux, the difficulty. It was because Root-Race 1, in the manner in which H. P. B. speaks of it, was not only astral but, as she describes it, really represented the sishtas from the preceding Round, the Third. This Root-Race 1, beginning with sishtas, took ages before actually settling down into a root-race, that is, typically a root-race of the new round, no longer merely sishtas. The cause of the awakening and slow evolutionary processes was that the forerunners of the life-wave began coming in millions and millions of years before the First Root-Race as a race apart so to speak could be said actually to have begun.

Every life-wave, as you know, is preceded by its forerunners, sometimes millions of years ahead. Then come more forerunners in larger groups; and finally the life-wave as an aggregate body arrives. When the life-wave as an actual body arrives, then can be said to begin or to have begun the First Root-Race as an actual race sui generis. Previous to that time they were sishtas slowly being unfolded or affected or changed by the arriving forerunners of the life-wave. This whole process, astral in type on an almost physical globe, as I have said, took ages, before the First Root-Race came into being as a race sui generis. Then it lived its time — how long I would not venture to say: certainly 9 millions of years and perhaps a great deal more, when Root-Race 2 began slowly to come into being, but as yet hardly distinct from Root-Race 1. In fact, Root-Race 1 did not die out and give birth to Root-Race 2, as later root-races did; but Root-Race 1 can be said to have become swallowed up or merged into Root-Race 2, thus producing Root-Race 2. As H. P. B. phrased it, the old waters mixed with the new. A graphic explanation and very true.

There was no death in those early days of Root-Races 1 and 2. Thus Root-Race 2 is at the time I speak of on the scene distinct in notable particulars from the First Root-Race, yet still almost astral, more astral than physical. Towards the end of Root-Race 2 death began to appear but was still unusual, so that the bulk of the individuals of Root-Race 2 could be said to have shifted over gradually into Root-Race 3. With Root-Race 3 death of the individuals became the common order as we have it now. Do you see how difficult all this is to explain? To the best of scientists it would be looked upon as speculatory, and by more materialistic scientists looked upon as theosophical dreaming, although there are examples of such procedures or events in the lower kingdoms even on the earth today.

We are now at Root-Race 3 — ethereally physical but still physical and growing grosser all the time. Death has now arrived; the human shape is already common although of course there were no men and women then. The early Third Race was an androgynous race, changing over finally into the two sexes at about the middle point of the Third.

Now as to time-periods; and the relation between the Root-Races and the geological periods: It is difficult to unify our theosophical occult racial periods in their geologic eras with scientific time-periods, and it is this very difficulty which has caused these relations to be kept strictly hidden by the Teachers, as H. P. B. points out in The Secret Doctrine; hidden not because of any especial sacredness about them but rather passed over with just a hint or reference, because of the impossibility in her day, and even in ours, of ordinary untrained non-theosophic people understanding what it would be about.

Theosophical evolution is so utterly different from scientific conceptions of it, both as regards processes and time-periods, that the Theosophist, knowing the facts and attempting to explain, is confronted at each instance by a blank wall of non-comprehension on the part of his theosophically untrained auditors — or readers if he tries to write a book. The worst of these untrained people are the scientists themselves, because even among themselves their own views are recognised as being so uncertain and speculative. And even to trained Theosophical students the matter is not easy to elucidate.

I think it would be foolish to try to twist Theosophical doctrines into conformity with modern geologic time-periods or modern evolutionary ideas, because it simply can't be done, and one day writing of that kind will be bitterly regretted by the Theosophists who attempted it; because science is changing and growing; and it is much better to tell the truth as far as you know it in the best way you can, stating the difficulty and then going ahead. I have never believed in straddling these matters and trying to win adherents among the scientists when at every turn we could only do so (excepting among a few intuitive minds) by disloyalty to our own consciences.

The remarks, then, that I shall make are based on H. P. B.'s geological figures in Vol. II of The Secret Doctrine, which I believe are those of Sir Charles Lyell's, the English geologist. Of course the figures of modern geology as regards time-periods have been enormously enlarged, even swollen beyond anything we Theosophists require; so that for instance what might now be called the Secondary Period would be much farther back in actual years or time than H. P. B.'s Secondary Period. Modern geology as you know, has given millions more years to nearly all the time-periods that H. P. B. adopted for illustration following Lyell. So I will use H. P. B.'s names.

The Fourth Root-Race reached its peak of development in H. P. B.'s Miocene, yes even in H. P. B.'s preceding Eocene. The Third Root-Race probably began in the Jurassic or even perhaps at the end of the Triassic and was certainly fleshing during H. P. B.'s Cretaceous, all of these belonging to H. P. B.'s Secondary Age. This places the Third Root-Race pretty well. The Second Root-Race still ran over into the Triassic, and perhaps can be said to be fleshed in the Triassic, ending in it probably, possibly itself beginning at the end of the Primary age of the Permian period. Whereas the First Root-Race was actually Pre-Secondary, therefore originating in the Primary (I personally think in the Carboniferous or Coal period) and perhaps could be said to have attained its peak and possibly its ending in the Permian period of the Primary age. This would take the First Race back many millions of years — how much, it would be guess-work to say. My own guess is that the First Root-Race probably originated in the Carboniferous or Coal period of the Primary age, and perhaps about 130 to 150 million years ago.

But in this connexion you must remember what I have said above about its astral character, the ages and ages of the sishtas which H. P. B. evidently included in the beginning of the First Root-Race; and how long the First Root-Race actually existed as a race sui generis I would not care to speculate upon. It would require more knowledge of geology and of zoology and of botany than I have any acquaintance with.

Thus it is clear that our Fifth Root-Race belongs to the Quaternary and originated in H. P. B.'s Tertiary; that the Fourth attained its peak of evolution in the early Tertiary and probably originated in the later Cretaceous of the Secondary; that the Third probably attained its peak of evolution in the Jurassic of the Secondary, and may have originated at the end of the Triassic of the Secondary. The Second probably attained its peak in H. P. B.'s Triassic of the Secondary, possibly originated at the beginning of the Triassic, possibly even at the very end of the Permian of the Primary Age. At any rate the Second Root-Race we can place more or less clearly around somewhere in the Permian of the Primary age, and the First Root-Race in the Carboniferous or the Coal period of the Primary. H. P. B. gives some of the best hints about these matters in her Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, pages 711-16.

Now as regards the Root-Races 6 and 7 to come: these will be, as I said, shorter in actual length, and my own opinion is that the Sixth will be close to a Maha-Yuga and a half, say something over six million years; and the Seventh will be still shorter — how long, it would be just speculation to say.

Thus, you see, the life-waves evolve through the Maha-Yugas, but are not closely geared into the Maha-Yugas, for they overlap in both directions very considerably. Finally, while it is very tempting to try to collate the figures I have given about root-races and life-waves and to try to make these figures run with regularity through all the seven root-races, yet it just simply can't be done; and as said above I have carefully limited my own remarks to Root-Races 3, 4 and 5, because here mind had entered into humanity, things had become grossly material and therefore more or less mechanical, and Root-Races 1 and 2 were not so to speak inflexibly and mechanically geared to the yugas and Root-Races 3, 4 and 5 more or less were.

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