Keep your eyes on the thought of the sacredness of the hour, every moment how it tells for the weal or woe of the world! For we are working not for a family, not for a nation, but for all the nations and for the unborn. As we do now, so will others do hereafter. — Katherine Tingley
The terrible uncertainties of the times are forcing all of us to reexamine our thinking, to come to terms with the central questions of life and death, and how to prepare our children for the world they are inheriting. While science with its "miraculous pitcher" of marvels has confirmed our interdependence as a humanity, as participants in an ecosphere whose families of entities all share in the one life-flow, we have not yet discovered what we most need: how to live in harmony with ourselves and with each other. As a result, many are despondent, fearful of themselves and of the future, wondering seriously where our civilization is heading. Is it doomed to extinction, as others before it have vanished?
It should not surprise us that the Fundamentalists are urging us to "believe" and be saved because the "perilous times" of which Paul wrote are soon to come, when the corrupt and the covetous, the truce-breakers and despisers of all that is good, will walk the land, and the heavens will pass away and "the elements melt with fervent heat" — in many respects the epithets uncannily portray the present decadence of norms. (Cf. 2 Timothy, 3:1-5 and 2 Peter, 3:3-13.) We cannot altogether discount the warnings, for no species can escape the consequences of action, much less we humans who know better than to live in violation of natural law. Of course, since everything in nature flourishes, declines, and then renews itself, so both our present civilization and earth itself with its kingdoms of lives will eventually fulfill their respective life-cycles.
It is significant that the destruction of earth and the retreat of gods as the race of man becomes degraded is a recurring theme in many ancient cultures. The narratives vary and may in this or that instance refer to a period or a people that has already passed, but most of them appear to be predictions of what is yet to be. At first blush the cataclysmic ending of everything is terrifying, whether we ponder the cryptic verses of Nostradamus (1503-1566), Revelation, or rabbinical writings. But when we read further, especially in the Puranas of India and in the Hermetic documents ascribed to Egyptian-Greek sources, we realize that the dying of the old cycle is followed in time by the emergence of the new: earth comes forth fresh and without blemish, and a new humanity arises.
The theme is beautifully suggested in the Icelandic Edda in the prophecy of the Sibyl who forecasts the coming of Ragnarok or the "doom of gods," with "sun growing dim, earth sinking, and stars falling" with fire rising high to complete the desolation. At length, another earth rises from the waters, the eagle flies, and gods again "decree peace in the land and what is to be held sacred." So, too, the same pattern of death and renewal is seen in the discourse with Asclepius and his friends attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the "thrice-greatest." When everything seems hopeless and "all things hostile to the soul" are committed by man, then the chief of gods stays "the disorder by the counterworking of his will." He calls back to the path all who have strayed, earth is purified, now with flood or again with fire, making way for "a new birth of the Kosmos" and a "holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature."
The Vishnu-Purana likewise emphasizes the elements of hope and renewal. After describing the iniquities of mankind toward the close of the kali yuga or "black age," our present Iron Age, it speaks of the renovation that will occur when a portion of the divinity who comprehends all shall appear on earth as an avatara or divine incarnation. This is Kalki, the tenth in the series, who will reestablish dharma, the law of truth, purity, and duty. Those whose minds will be awakened and whose souls changed by the influences of that exceptional period "shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age (or age of purity)" — sometimes called satya yuga or "age of truth."
It seems important to mention here that, according to the Brahmanical records, kali yuga is the lowest of four ages with a lifespan of 432,000 years, having begun as recently as 3102 BC with the death of Krishna, the ninth avatara. Presuming that these time-cycles are reasonably accurate, this means we have completed only a little more than 5,000 years, with practically 427,000 years yet to run! Moreover, as kali yuga is held to contain but one-quarter of satya or truth in contrast to the four-quarters of truth manifest in the krita age, it looks as though humanity is literally on a downhill slide — a discouraging prospect, to say the least, unless we are able to view the present period within the larger context of the evolutionary cycle of earth. The crucial factor that H. P. Blavatsky brings out in her writings is that earth and its inhabitants have already evolved beyond the halfway point in their evolution; in other words, have completed their downward thrust and, having passed the nadir, have begun the climb upward out of matter toward a more spiritual expression of potentiality. In brief, kali yuga is a minor cycle of descent within a larger cycle of ascent, and even within it there will be epicycles, as it were, in which will occur periods of relative spirituality. Some writers have suggested that kali yuga has intrinsic advantages because of its accelerated pace, in that it allows one to progress spiritually more rapidly than in other ages (cf. The Dialogues of G. de Purucker 2:134).
More than anything we should remember that in spite of the pull toward material concerns in descending cycles, no one has to be downtending in his thinking or aspiration. This is the saving point, and the history of mankind from the earliest era confirms that in every age, whether one of spiritual clarity and upward reach or one of spiritual darkness and downward bent, always there have been (and will be) pioneers, forward-thinking men and women who have kept alive the fires of aspiration. The stronger the trend matterwards, the more powerfully they have swum against it in order to produce the needed countercurrent.
We can take heart also from the natural fact that at the heyday of any cycle the seeds of the new are already being sown; during the blooming of the rose the haw is in the making. So too in the depths of our present age, the "seeds of human beings" to come in the succeeding age are germinating now in those who prepare the soil of their consciousness. The challenges before us are great, so also are the opportunities. It will depend on us whether we proceed weighed down with fear, or go toward the future as free spirits acting in harmony with rather than against the evolutionary intent.
Surely the applicability of all this to the problems of our twentieth century is plain. If we believe that the odds are overwhelming against our steadfast efforts to hold aloft the torch of hope, let us recall Mother Teresa. When a reporter asked her recently how she could stand the enormity of the suffering she witnessed daily, when there was no possibility of her stemming the tide appreciably, she replied: "One and one and one: I look only at the child or the old man or woman I am tending; if I thought of the millions and millions who need my help I could do nothing."
It seems to me that every human being has within him the power to do what is required, and that is privately and unnoticed to follow the lead of his higher self. But we have to persevere in this practice; above all, we have to trust unreservedly in the potency of our inner light to illumine our lives. In this manner will we strengthen the light-impulses that are gaining in number and momentum despite the efforts of their opposites, and by so much fortify the compassionate labors of those who work unceasingly for all nations and for the unborn and who are, even now, readying the way for the dawn of a brighter age.
(From Sunrise magazine, February 1980. Copyright © 1980 by Theosophical University Press)