Two Souls: Four Lives

The Lives and Former Lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda
by Catherine Kairavi

Historians see the advance of civilization in terms of progressive sophistication from primitive “hunter-gatherers” to farmers, to city dwellers, to our own age of unprecedented scientific achievement. Their teaching is that basic human nature has remained more or less the same throughout history. They quite naturally dismiss the possibility that man, though he lives in a cosmic environment, is affected by cosmic influences.

Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, gave us a very different view of history, based on the reality of those influences. He said the earth passes repeatedly through great cycles of increasing and diminishing awareness—from deep ignorance to steadily greater enlightenment, then back again to its former depths. Relying on ancient tradition as well as on his own intuition, Sri Yukteswar attributed these cycles to the sun’s movement around a dual, a revolution which brings our solar system alternately closer to and farther away from a cosmic center of highly conscious energy, or Vishnunabhi.

Interestingly, numerous ancient peoples throughout the world believed in these cycles of time. They even divided each of them into four ages, which Greek tradition symbolized with the words gold, silver, copper, and iron. Orthodox historians today, of course, don’t admit the possibility that such cycles exist. Yet it is from history itself that we get the first glimpses of those cycles’ reality.

These great cycles of time, as Sri Yukteswar explained them, reached their nadir, or lowest point, in the year 500 AD. Indeed, one discerns in the centuries prior to that year a gradual decrease of knowledge, awareness, and sensitivity, amounting to a steady decline in human awareness. Since 500 AD, moreover, there has clearly been a steady increase in that awareness, resulting in evergreater clarity.

The possibility of the earth’s going through a cycle of ascending and descending ages gives credence to the evidence, rapidly accumulating in our own day, that high civilizations existed in the past. Many books today make a case for some of those civilizations, at least, having reached far higher heights than our own. As for there being cycles of time due to the movement within the galaxy of our sun, at least two books so far address this subject in depth: Lost Star of Myth and Timer, by Walter Cruttenden, and The Yugas*, by Joseph Selbie and Byasa Steinmetz.

Consider one simple, known reality which points to the general debasement of consciousness approaching 500 AD: the Roman “games,” in which gladiators ferociously slaughtered one another in the Colosseum, to the applause and delight of many thousands. Today it seems hardly credible, but even Saint Augustine, in his youth, was addicted to those games.

Consider also the widespread poverty and squalor of those times; the general illiteracy; the violence and insensitivity; the brevity of life combined with the prevalence of disease. These and many other symptoms of emotional and intellectual darkness prevailed everywhere.

Since 500 AD, there has been a general rise in human consciousness. Sri Yukteswar corrected old Kali Yuga reckonings as to the correct length of each age, which assigned to Kali Yuga a duration of 432,000 years. Sri Yukteswar said that, in fact, a whole cycle lasts only 24,000 years, and the darkest age lasts only 1,200 descending, and 1,200 ascending years.

The present age, Dwapara Yuga, will, he said, endure a total of 2,400 years. A sandhya, or bridge, occurs between each yuga and the next: 100 years at the end of ascending Kali Yuga, followed by a 200-year bridge into ascending Dwapara.

Thus, the bridge leading out of Kali Yuga, which brought the first hints of approaching Dwapara, occurred from 1600–1700 AD. This century was followed by two more, from 1700–1900 AD, that led into Dwapara proper. There were “rumblings” of the end of deepest Kali Yuga as early as the Italian Renaissance, but the sixteen hundreds saw the true dawn of a new understanding with those pioneers of modern physics: Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and many others. These men introduced the scientific method, which was a completely new way of thinking based not on a priori assumptions, but on demonstrated facts.

During the next two-hundred-year bridge, or sandhya, into Dwapara proper, we see the Industrial Revolution; the acceptance and increasing use of electricity; social upheaval to affirm the natural dignity of man; the Michelson-Morley experiment (in 1887), which revealed that light is both a particle and a wave; and the dawning realization that the universe is not a giant mechanism, as scientists had believed, but is a manifestation of far subtler realities. Matter itself was seen to be a manifestation of energy. These were but a few of the radical changes human understanding underwent during the sandhya into Dwapara Yuga proper.

Today (2009) man is well into the second century of ascending Dwapara Yuga. Conflict is increasing between old, Kali Yuga ways of thinking and those of Dwapara: between self-aggrandizement and a more generous wish for universal upliftment; between the wish to control situations, things, and people and an impulse to flow with wholesome change in one’s own life, and in the lives of others; between the tendency to close one’s mind to anything new, and an opposite tendency to be open to improvement. The conflict is bringing increasing tension to the human spirit, one that may well soon explode into widespread and major social upheavals: a deep economic depression; global warfare; perhaps even earth cataclysms. After the “dust” has settled, however, I believe that things will simmer down peaceably, and this new Age of Energy will begin in earnest with its more fluid view of life, of human existence, and of objective reality.

The age of William the Conqueror was much darker than our own. Historians, unaware of these great cycles of time, have no choice but to believe that human consciousness itself hasn’t changed much over the centuries. From the knowledge they possess, they cannot but believe that what people did in the past they would do as readily today, if society had not advanced to levels that have made such behavior unacceptable. Naturally, too, people without special knowledge of the yugas believe that what people understood centuries ago has changed only to the extent that gradual, linear developments in society itself have influenced human understanding. How, indeed, could anyone imagine another explanation for the great changes that have affected society over the past one thousand—indeed, fifteen hundred—years, since 500 AD?

In this book, Catherine Kairavi describes a society much more primitive than our own in both knowledge and consciousness. Historians will inevitably object that mankind was the same in William’s day as it is today. They will give facts and figures to defend that belief. For they are intellectual scholars, and there is no aspect of human consciousness more disposed to argument than the intellect. It is kept vital and alive, after all, by argument. Indeed, historians—experts in their field—may well need at least a generation to change this view. In that case, it will probably be other historians who grow up with this new and broader perspective on their subject.

Catherine depicts the days of William and Henry as having been far more brutal than our own, despite the much greater capacity for destruction of modern weaponry. The developing consciousness of our age, however, is certainly toward deeper concern and respect for others, with an increasing desire for worldwide peace and harmony. Ms. Kairavi’s statement that the difference lies in a change toward increasing expansion of human consciousness itself, and not in mere social developments, cannot but be opposed by historians who (by their own lights, necessarily so) reject any thought that human consciousness itself can be essentially improved.

Historians will certainly protest also against some of Catherine’s “value judgments”—for example, her description of Harold Godwinson as a “scoundrel.” Yet she takes the trouble in these pages to explain at length her reason for this adjective. Historians claim to know the whole story of the Conquest, yet many different conclusions can be drawn from the same set of facts. Scholars who are prejudiced on the Anglo-Saxon side naturally view Harold as an Anglo-Saxon hero, and ignore—whether deliberately so or not—such inconvenient facts as his own mixed Anglo-Saxon and Danish blood, and his truly scurrilous family heritage. Those on the other hand who, like Hillaire Belloc, favor the French side underscore William’s very real greatness. A case can be made for either side. The novels of Sir Walter Scott and others, however, who staunchly defended the Anglo-Saxon “cause,” must be classed simply as romances.

I myself was raised, until the age of thirteen, in the English system, and was conditioned to consider William the Conqueror one of history’s great villains. Imagine my shock, therefore, to find (at the age of twenty-two) that the man to whom, after prolonged and anguished searching, I had pledged my life as a disciple, had himself been, in a past life, that great warrior king, William the Conqueror! Yogananda made this statement to his disciples quite openly. Needless to say, I had to revise my opinion of William, for my own experience of my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, was—yes, certainly—that he was gifted with the strong personality of a born leader, but also that he emanated powerfully the supreme virtues: kindness—indeed, compassion—humility, gentleness, truthfulness, universal respect, and all the marks of true spiritual greatness.

What had been his purpose, I asked myself, in even making such a statement?

Years later, when Warren Hollister’s book, Henry I, came out, I felt the time had come to explore this issue in greater detail. For by then I had also come to believe deeply that I myself had been William’s youngest son, Henry I, whose role it was to complete his father’s mission.

The thought of my identity with Henry had been growing in me steadily for years. Indeed, in all my reading about Henry, I found that I saw the world through his eyes, rather than looking at him in the third person. When I read about “Conan’s Leap”—you’ll read that story in these pages—I found my heart racing with the stress and excitement of that day. When Henry appeared at Winchester after his brother’s death in the New Forest, and claimed the royal treasury, and was confronted there by William of Breteuil as he sought to prevent Henry’s entry, I felt I was myself on the scene at that crucial moment.

Historians will surely oppose much that Catherine has written in this book, as, on many issues, they oppose even one another. Nevertheless, Catherine devoted ten years of her life to carefully researching her subject. For the rest, I think Paramhansa Yogananda’s statement that he himself was William will outweigh, for many readers, any intellectual beliefs, doubts, and challenges that may be presented to disprove certain statements in this book.

On the other hand, if you don’t believe this account, then I suggest you take it as a fascinating slant on a well-known period of history. Read it—if you prefer—as a novel! At any rate, read it. To me it is intensely real, but if to you it seems too large a chunk to swallow whole, read it at least as a first-class adventure story! I think it will give you, among other things, a completely new take on present and future trends in modern society.

See Also: Contents  Sample Chapter  

Return to Two Souls: Four Lives