Winner of the USA Book News 2011 Award for New Age Non-Fiction
With far-reaching changes happening on virtually a daily basis, many are wondering if we are due for a world-changing global shift, and what the future holds for mankind. Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi) and his teacher, Sri Yukteswar, offered key insights into this subject nearly a century ago.
They presented a fascinating explanation of the rising and falling eras that our planet cycles through every 24,000 years. According to their teachings, we have recently passed through the low ebb in that cycle and are moving forward to a higher age—an Energy Age that will revolutionize the world. They declared that we would live in a time of great social and spiritual change, and that much of what we believed to be fixed and true—our entire way of looking at the world—would ultimately be transformed and uplifted.
In The Yugas, Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz present substantial and intriguing evidence from the findings of historians and scientists that demonstrate the truth of Yukteswar and Yogananda’s revelations.
For more information, visit The Yugas.
Chapter 1 – The Cycle of the Yugas
Chapter 2 – The Kali Yugas
Chapter 3 – Ascending Dwapara Yuga — The Energy Age
Chapter 4 – Ascending Dwapara Yuga — Currents
Chapter 5 – Ascending Dwapara Yuga — Emerging Trends
Chapter 6 – Ascending Dwapara Yuga — The Future
Chapter 7 – Ascending Treta Yuga — The Age of Thought
Chapter 8 – Ascending Treta Yuga — Trends
Chapter 9 – Ascending Satya Yuga
Chapter 10 – Descending Satya Yuga — Three Misconceptions
Chapter 11 – Descending Satya Yuga — Paradise
Chapter 12 – Descending Satya Yuga — Unexplained Anomalies
Chapter 13 – Descending Treta Yuga — The Vedas
Chapter 14 – Descending Treta Yuga — The Conscious Matrix
Chapter 15 – Descending Treta Yuga — Unexplained Knowledge
Chapter 16 – Descending Dwapara Yuga — The Great Pyramid
Chapter 17 – Descending Dwapara Yuga — Energy Awareness
Chapter 18 – Descending Dwapara Yuga — Trends
Chapter 19 – Descending Dwapara Yuga — Decline and Transition
Chapter 20 – Previous Yuga Cycles
Chapter 21 – The Tipping Point
Diagrams, Illustrations, and Images
In 1905 Albert Einstein turned the world of physics upside down—for the first time the world saw the now famous equation, E=MC². Einstein fundamentally altered our understanding of the physical universe by proving that all matter was essentially condensed energy.
The nineteenth century view of the physical world was primarily mechanical; all matter was considered solid and fundamentally immutable. Although matter was considered to be made up of infinitesimally small objects, these were seen as solid objects nonetheless, and were believed to obey the same basic laws as the sun and the planets. Time, too, was thought to be an unyielding constant throughout the universe, unaffected by changing conditions. In the nineteenth century the universe was seen as a very large machine, a clockwork of infinite size, functioning precisely and inexorably in its slow grandeur.
Today we hold a very different view of the physical world. All matter is understood to be energy in a condensed form. Not only do we consider matter mutable, we know that the tiniest atom is capable of being transmuted into vast amounts of energy. Both the incredibly destructive force of nuclear weapons, and the prodigious energy of nuclear power, testify to the profound implications of the deceptively simple equation E=MC².
Our view of the larger universe has also undergone a revolution. We now know that objects in space do not move in straight lines—because there are no straight lines. Space itself is curved and the universe is finite. No physical object can go faster than the speed of light. The speed of light is, in fact, the only constant in the universe—all else is measurable only in relation to that constant. Even time is understood to be relative to light.
The atom, previously conceived of as a constellation of tiny objects, like a miniature solar system with the nucleus taking the place of the sun (you probably made a model of one in sixth grade), has given way to a concept that cannot even be visualized. Physicists now conceive of the atom as a tiny area of space in which objects wink into and out of the quantum, sub-atomic world—a world where the very act of trying to observe the atom actually changes what is observed. Neils Bohr, the eminent early twentieth-century physicist and Nobel Prize winner, called the quantum world Potentia. Others have referred to it as quantum flux or quantum foam, an energetic maelstrom just below the threshold of measurable perception.
String theory, the latest “theory of everything,” goes even further. String theory posits that there are no actual physical structures at all, that even the unimaginably small sub-atomic structures that physicists try to study, such as quarks, are, in reality, made up of even smaller vibrating strings and rings of energy.
Just a little more than a hundred years ago we understood our world to be made up of matter, interacted with by energy. Now we understand our world to made up of energy, assuming the form of matter.
Today we are on the brink of another major conceptual change—this time, not in the field of physics, but in the field of history and the development of civilization. Just as Einstein overturned conventional thinking due to the anomalous, but undeniable fact that the speed of light is constant, history and archeology are similarly confronted with undeniable anomalies that are beginning to overturn conventional thinking about the course of man’s development.
The current theory of the development of mankind is linear, much as was the nineteenth century’s view of the universe. According to current theory, prior to roughly 8000 BC, mankind existed in wandering tribes of hunter-gatherers on the edge of survival. Sometime between 8000 BC and 3000 BC, mankind learned to cultivate crops and domesticate livestock. These agricultural skills are believed to have allowed groups of people to settle in one place permanently, and because they had adequate food supplies, to have significantly increased their chances of survival. Once populations were permanently settled, large structures were built for the first time, trading and commerce began, language developed, government became necessary, tools and implements became more complex and useful—and this development continued in a more or less straight line culminating in today’s modern civilization.
However, there are many facts that simply do not fit into the theory of mankind’s development as described above. Some of these anomalous facts that don’t fit into conventional theories have come to light recently as the result of applying modern scientific disciplines, such as DNA mapping and radiometric dating, to artifacts from the past. Other anomalous facts have been around so long that their very familiarity blurs their significance—but they are staring us right in the face!
The most famous structures in the world are the Pyramids of Giza, sited together with the enigmatic Sphinx. To this day, after thousands of years of conjecture, we still don’t know two of the most basic things about the pyramids: how they were built and why they were built.
Mainstream historians and archeologists maintain that the pyramids were built over two or three decades by thousands of workers, using simple tools. Even if we grant that a primitive culture could figure out how to transport the vast amounts of stone to the building site, we are still left with the mystery of how they cut, dressed, and placed 2.5 million blocks, at an average rate of one block every four minutes for twenty years. Some of these blocks weigh as much as 70 tons and were taken to a height nearly half that of the Empire State Building. Further, if conventional thinking is to be accepted, all this was accomplished using only wood, stone, or copper tools, and plaited ropes.
Even if a “primitive culture” can plausibly be shown capable of dealing with such major construction challenges, no one has been able to explain the degree of accuracy and skill achieved in the construction. Nor has anyone been able to explain how a “primitive culture” could have designed such complex structures (which needed to be designed in detail before they were begun), or how such a culture could have maintained the organizational commitment, for two or three decades, that was required to build the pyramids.
The accuracy and skill demonstrated by the construction of the pyramids is remarkable even by today’s standards. The base of the Great Pyramid, the largest of the three central pyramids, covers an area of thirteen acres, yet the level of its base does not vary more than five-eighths an inch. The joints between the stone blocks facing the pyramid are not mortared, and are cut so accurately that one cannot put something even as thin as a credit card between the stones.
Of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one still standing—and it may still be standing long after the skyscrapers of today fall down. It was built with amazing foresight: the site has been able to support the weight of the heaviest structure on earth for thousands of years, without the pyramid shifting or tipping.
Mainstream archeologists and historians date the construction of the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza to approximately 2500 to 2900 BC, but there is intriguing evidence that the Great Sphinx may be far older than the Pyramids. The age of ancient structures is often determined by carbon dating any wood or organic material found in the structure, but the Sphinx is made entirely of stone, offering nothing to carbon date. However, the long-term weathering effects of wind and water on stone do give us a rough estimate. Geologist Dr. Robert Schoch, a well-respected scientist and a tenured member of Boston University’s faculty, makes a convincing argument that the results of water erosion found on the Sphinx indicate that it was carved at least 7,000 years ago, far, far earlier than accepted by conventional theory.
We might be excused for ignoring the significance of the Sphinx and the Pyramids, if they were the only anomalies that didn’t fit into a linear view of history and man’s development of civilization.
But there are many more anomalies.
Mainstream thinking has it that man learned to cultivate crops and domesticate animals in a period of a few thousand years (8000 to 3000 BC), more or less haphazardly, in isolated areas such as the Fertile Crescent, the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, or the Yellow River Valley in China. New scientific methods applied to artifacts unearthed in recently excavated archeological sites around the world, however, indicate that domesticated animals and cultivated grains existed far earlier than 8000 BC. Evidence of domesticated goats and sheep has been found in Afghanistan dating back to 13,000 BC, and recent research indicates that cultivated spelt grains found in Israel date to 21,000 BC.
Mainstream thinking has it that mankind learned to build structures gradually, by trial and error, learning from mistakes and often literally building on top of the older, cruder structures. This pattern of development holds true back to about 500 BC. Archeologists working under modern Rome have found, for example, that the more recent, upper layers of their excavations employ more sophisticated building techniques, and that the older, lower layers employ more primitive building techniques.
There are even older archeological finds, however, that reveal the pattern of development in reverse. In the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-daro, near the Indus River in Pakistan, the oldest layers (from approximately 3000 BC) revealed the most sophisticated buildings. City streets were laid out in straight lines with cross streets and formed a grid similar to that found in modern cities. Houses had running water, radiant heat, and systems for sanitation. There were public baths and plazas. And perhaps most intriguing, there were standard-sized bricks and standard weights used consistently in the construction of buildings in an area of 100,000 square miles. By contrast, later development in the same area became increasingly less sophisticated over the succeeding centuries, until by 1500 BC the building standards were significantly poorer.
Mainstream historical and archeological thinking has it that language developed in isolated areas around the world, and that, through time, languages mixed and borrowed from one another until we have what we know today. Yet there is solid linguistic evidence that all Western languages from Finish to English, from Hebrew to French can trace their origins back to Sanskrit, the most ancient language of India. Furthermore, Sanskrit, one of the most complex and sophisticated written languages in the world, can be traced back to at least 7000 BC; even then, it possessed a greater degree of structural and grammatical sophistication than it has today. It would be more true to say that the Western languages of today devolved from Sanskrit rather than that they evolved from Sanskrit.
These and other anomalous facts and discoveries simply do not fit with the current linear theory of the development of civilization. Not only do we need to push back the dates of man’s development farther and farther into the past, but we have to find a way to understand how mankind knew many things in the distant past that are now considered modern knowledge. How is it possible that the Sphinx was carved perhaps as long as 7,000 years ago? How was it possible for the pyramids, some of the most well constructed structures in the world, ancient or modern, to be built with such accuracy and skill at the supposed dawn of civilization? How was it possible for ancient man to already be using cultivated grains 23,000 years ago? How can the first construction of an ancient city, such as Mohenjo-daro, be the best? How could Sanskrit have started out as one of the most complete and well-structured languages in the world over 9000 years ago?
The picture that emerges from these and myriad other mysteries is that mankind had highly sophisticated knowledge in the past, much earlier, than is commonly thought—and that mankind lost much of that knowledge for several thousand years between then and now.
What could explain this?
In 1894, near Calcutta, a small work was written—The Holy Science, by Swami Sri Yukteswar. In the introduction to this slim volume, Sri Yukteswar not only explained the knowledge and sophistication of the past, but also predicted the explosion of knowledge in the twentieth century. He further predicted that the keynote discovery for the twentieth century would be that all matter was made up of “fine matters and electricities.” Sri Yukteswar’s prediction was made over twenty years before, and a world away from, the publication in 1905 of Einstein’s theory of relativity, including E=MC², that energy and matter are equivalent. Sri Yukteswar did not write as a scientist, but as a seer and sage, and as a modern exponent of the wisdom long held in India’s ancient tradition of teachers and texts.
In The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar describes a recurring cycle of human development, called the cycle of the yugas, or ages. The complete cycle is made up of an ascending half, or arc, and a descending half, or arc, each lasting 12,000 years. In the ascending arc of 12,000 years, mankind evolves through four distinct ages, or yugas, reaches the peak of development, and then devolves through the four ages, in reverse order, in another 12,000 years of the descending arc. Thus, in the course of 24,000 years, mankind as a whole rises in knowledge and awareness, and again falls, in a cycle that occurs again and again.
Sri Yukteswar tells us we are currently in the ascending half of the cycle, in the second age, or Dwapara Yuga. Sri Yukteswar goes on to describe higher ages beyond our own when mankind will communicate telepathically; will understand the subtle laws of thought that underlie energy; will overcome the limitations of time; and will perceive the subtlest law of all—that Divine consciousness underlies all reality.
Sri Yukteswar explains that the cycle of the yugas is caused by influences from outside our solar system that affect the consciousness of all mankind. As mankind’s consciousness changes as a result of this influence, so also does mankind’s perception, awareness, and intellect. In the higher ages that Sri Yukteswar describes, mankind not only knows more but is able to perceive more than we do today; mankind as a whole not only has more advanced capabilities but becomes motivated profoundly differently as the ages unfold. In the higher ages described by Sri Yukteswar, perceptions and abilities considered highly unusual today, will be as normal to everyone alive at that time, as cars, planes, and telephones are to us today.
Where, you might be asking, is the evidence for the yugas? Much of it is right under our noses.
For centuries, during what Sri Yukteswar describes as mankind’s lowest age, or Kali Yuga, most Europeans believed that the world was flat. Intelligent, educated men and women held it to be self-evident that the world was flat. Today a child knows the world is round—and can tell you how one can deduce it for oneself. Watch a ship come into view far out to sea. You will see that the top of the ship appears first, and gradually the rest of the ship comes into view from top to bottom.
Today we hold it just as self-evident that the world is round, and we chuckle over the thought that people could have imagined it to be flat. In 1900 AD, scientists thought the earth and universe to be an enormous machine, running with clocklike precision from the beginning of time. We may perhaps chuckle over how wrong they were. Yet that was barely more than a hundred years ago, and now we take the Einsteinian view of the universe for granted.
Much of what is today considered self-evident support for a linear theory of mankind’s development may soon make us chuckle again. There are children’s puzzles that ask the child to try and find other objects cleverly “hidden” in a picture—perhaps the shape of a swan in a cloud, a trumpet in tree branches, or a wagon in a porch railing. These objects, initially hard to find, seem to jump out at us once we’ve identified them. So too, as we take a fresh look at our past with a cyclic view of human development in mind, evidence that has been hiding in plain sight “jumps out at us.”
Museums have thousands of artifacts that are not on display, stored in basements and vaults. These artifacts are usually considered to be of less interest—or, as is often the case, have not, for lack of time, expert resources, or money, been thoroughly examined. Some of these artifacts may well be unappreciated evidence of higher knowledge in the past.
For example, the Antikythera Device, considered to be at least 2,000 years old, was found underwater off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901. It was only recently examined thoroughly enough, using modern imaging techniques, to discover that it contained over 120 highly precise clockwork gears—evidence of technology that shouldn’t have existed so long ago. Who knows how many other objects, some in dusty storerooms, some on public display, will suddenly “jump out” at researchers and scientists as their new implications become obvious in the light of new understanding.
What’s more, there are thousands of ancient structures, such as the pyramids in Central America, that have not even been excavated or that, like the Pyramids of Giza, remain unexplained. As another example, the Nazca plains in Peru have stylized depictions of animals, such as a hummingbird and a monkey, “drawn” on the ground on such a large scale that they are recognizable as a hummingbird or a monkey only when one is hundreds of feet in the air—such as one would be in an airplane or helicopter. It remains unexplained why a society would invest years of toil in creating things they couldn’t see—unless they did have a way to see them!
Puzzling over both old and new finds is a new generation of scientists, archeologists, paleontologists, paleo-geneticists, paleo-astronomers, underwater archeologists, linguists, and practitioners of myriad other disciplines, taking a closer look at current assumptions, dogmas, and unsolved mysteries of history and prehistory. Many of these scientists are applying never-before-used techniques and state-of-the-art technology to re-examine ancient artifacts and sites. While often considered crackpots by mainstream historians and archeologists, these scientists are presenting findings that are increasingly hard to ignore—and their findings are often at variance with mainstream thinking.
In this book we highlight some of the most interesting discoveries of the new generation of archeologists and other scientists that shine a fresh light on our distant, often hidden, past. It is now known, for example, that science, astronomy, and mathematics were far more advanced in the India of the fifth and sixth millennia BC, than in Europe during the first millennium AD. Indian thinkers then knew that the earth and other planets orbited the sun. They used the concept of the zero within a sophisticated system of mathematics, and they had a concept of the atom not so different from ours of today.
We also explore the implications of Sri Yukteswar’s yuga cycle for our emerging present. Sri Yukteswar explains that we fully emerged from the lowest age, or Kali Yuga, into our present energy age, or Dwapara Yuga, in 1900 AD. The subsequent twentieth century discoveries and knowledge have changed not only our understanding of the physical sciences, but have also profoundly changed our culture and society. Business, government, popular culture, religion—everything—is currently undergoing rapid change, and, according to Sri Yukteswar, will do so for some time to come.
We also explore the future. According to Sri Yukteswar, mankind as a whole will become telepathic, and in the highest age, or Satya Yuga, will be aware of the Divine consciousness underlying all reality. According to Sri Yukteswar, mankind is just emerging from the darkest of ages, and the future holds the promise of much greater things to come—not just in the realm of technology and invention—but in expansion of knowledge, awareness, and perception, that will usher in an enlightened future.
We hope you will find this book both intriguing and inspiring. Many people lament the pace, and results, of the kaleidoscopic changes taking place in the world. Though our times show rapid changes, the cycle of the yugas shows us, reassuringly, that these changes are not random, but rather are the unfolding of man’s innate potentials. And though mankind’s future will bring lessons, some of them hard ones, we are moving forward into expanding awareness and undreamed-of potential.
Chapter 1 – The Cycle of the Yugas
An understanding of the cycle of the yugas gives us unparalleled insight into the past, present, and future development of mankind. Sri Yukteswar, a modern exponent of the yugas, and on whose insights this book is based, explains that mankind goes through clearly discernable ages, or yugas. Each yuga changes the consciousness of mankind. As mankind’s consciousness changes, so does civilization and human development.
An understanding of the cycle of the yugas reveals that, like two sides of the same coin, the development of mankind is inextricably bound together with the development of every man’s consciousness. The yugas are a unique contribution to the world’s knowledge because they unite the study of the inner and outer man. Historians have long sought a key with which to unlock the secrets of the past. But the key has eluded them because they looked only to the outer man. Only when the correlation of inner consciousness to outward behavior is made, does the chaos of history fall into a discernable pattern.
It is not, however, the pattern most modern historians and archeologists expect to find.
The yugas describe a cycle of human development that not only predicts highly advanced ages in the future, but indicates that they have occurred in the past as well. The yuga cycle also includes ages less advanced than our own, full of ignorance and darkness, and ages so much more advanced than our own present age that we cannot fully comprehend them. And, as is implicit in the meaning of the word “cycle,” we learn that once mankind’s peak in reached, there is inevitable decline, and once mankind’s darkest point is reached, there is inevitable advancement.
The yugas are a tradition in India that goes back thousands of years. Sri Yukteswar does not base his understanding of the yugas on tradition alone, however. Sri Yukteswar’s insights spring from self-realization. His understanding of the yugas is born of deep intuition. Yet his explanation is clear and succinct, and, as he intended, approachable by the Western scientific mind.
Sri Yukteswar outlines the yugas in the Introduction to his book, The Holy Science. Writing in 1894, Sri Yukteswar predicted several developments that have since come to pass—the rapid development of knowledge in the twentieth century, and the discovery that energy underlies all matter. Sri Yukteswar’s explanation predates Einstein’s E=MC2 by over ten years. These were not predictions in the usual sense of the intuitive perception of singular events; rather Sri Yukteswar’s predictions arose from an understanding of the consequence of the change of mankind’s consciousness from one yuga to the next. The most recent transition from one yuga to the next was fully completed in the year 1900 AD, just five years before Einstein’s conceptions fundamentally changed our worldview.
Sri Yukteswar’s prediction, however, was not about Einstein as an individual. Had it not been Einstein who perceived and formulated the relationship of energy and matter, it would have been someone else. What Sri Yukteswar predicted was the inevitability that this knowledge would come to light, due to the fundamental change in the consciousness of mankind taking place at that time.
Sri Yukteswar is known to the world primarily through the writings of Paramhansa Yogananda, his foremost disciple and author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda shared a mission to present the teachings of India in such a way that Western minds could appreciate and understand them within the context of Western thinking and modern science. Yogananda lived in the United States from 1920 until his death in 1952. He was a tireless and inspiring exponent of the teachings of yoga, and was able to present the ancient teachings of India in a fresh, clear, and thoroughly modern way.
This book continues their tradition by presenting the concept of the yugas in the context of Western thinking, science, and scholarship. We believe you will find that the simple concept of the cycle of the yugas—Sri Yukteswar needed only twelve brief pages to describe it—has profound implications for both the inner and outer man. For, as you will learn as you journey through this book, the inner and outer man are inextricably linked.
The basic concept is simple. As explained by Sri Yukteswar, in 1900 AD mankind fully entered Dwapara Yuga, the second of four ages. In Dwapara Yuga mankind as a whole can comprehend, as he put it, the “fine matters and electricities”1 that comprise all matter. Dwapara Yuga can be called the Energy Age, and it lasts for 2,000 years. The age preceding the Dwapara Yuga is called Kali Yuga, and is the darkest of all the ages, in which mankind can comprehend only gross matter. Kali Yuga can be called the Material Age and it lasts 1,000 years. The age which succeeds Dwapara Yuga is called Treta Yuga, and in this age mankind can comprehend the “divine magnetism”2 which underlies all energy, and in which man’s mental capabilities are highly advanced. Treta Yuga can be called the Mental Age and it lasts 3,000 years. The last and most advanced of the ages is called Satya Yuga, in which mankind can “comprehend all, even the spirit beyond this visible world”3. Satya Yuga can be called the Spiritual Age and it lasts 4,000 years.
Each yuga has transition periods from and to the next yuga called sandhis. Referred to as the dawn and twilight of the yugas, the transitions are 1/10 of each yuga’s length. So the transition into and out of Kali Yuga is 100 years for a combined duration of 1,200 years (100 + 1,000 + 100 = 1,200). Similarly, Dwapara Yuga’s transitions are 200 years in duration for a combined duration of 2,400 years (200 + 2,000 + 200 = 2,400). And thus you can see that Treta Yuga’s combined duration is 3,600 years, and Satya Yuga’s combined duration is 4,800 years.
The order of the four yugas, progressing toward greater advancement, is Kali, Dwapara, Treta and Satya Yuga. Adding together the duration of each yuga and its sandhis, (1,200 + 2,400 + 3,600 + 4,800 = 12,000), we see that the ascending arc of the yuga cycle requires twelve thousand years to reach the peak of mankind’s advancement. Then mankind’s consciousness begins to decline, and the yugas pass through the descending arc in reverse order, Satya, Treta, Dwapara to Kali Yuga, in another span of twelve thousand years. Together the ascending arc and the descending arc, or one complete cycle of the yugas, takes twenty four thousand years to complete (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Diagram of the yuga cycle
Sri Yukteswar’s dating of the yugas is calculated astronomically, as described by him in The Holy Science with elegant efficiency:
“We learn from the Oriental astronomy that moons revolve round their planets and planets turning on their axes revolve with their moons round the sun, and the sun again with its planets and moons taking some star for its dual revolve round each other in about 24000 years of our earth which causes the backward movement of the equinoxal points round the Zodiac.”4
We explore the nature of the dual and how it and our solar system “revolve around each other” in greater detail in Appendix A. But for now, briefly expressed, Sri Yukteswar indicates that there is a star, referred to as a dual, with which our solar system revolves, which can be deduced from the backward movement of the equinoctial points round the Zodiac.
The backward movement of the equinoctial points round the Zodiac is a well accepted astronomical phenomenon. The equinoxes, whether the vernal (spring) or autumnal (fall) are the days when the length of the day exactly equals the length of the night all over the world. Every year, at either of the equinoxes, which indicates we are in precisely the same position relative to our sun, it is consistently observed that we are not in precisely the same position relative to the Zodiac. We are very slightly short of a full revolution around the Zodiac. This phenomenon is called the precession of the equinoxes, and according to modern astronomy, will take approximately 26,000 years to come full circle again. There are various theories current in astronomy that suggest that the rate of the precession may not be constant. This may explain the discrepancy between the current estimate for the precession, which is 26,000 years, and Sri Yukteswar’s phrase that it takes “about 24,000 years”5 to complete a cycle of the yugas.
Sri Yukteswar attributes the precession of the equinoxes to the revolution around our dual, and most importantly, he indicates that it is the revolution around our dual that changes human consciousness through the yugas:
“The sun also has another motion by which it revolves round a grand centre called Bishnunavi which is the seat of the creative power Brahma the universal magnetism. It informs us further that this Brahma the universal magnetism regulates Dharma the mental virtues of the internal world. When the sun during its revolution round its dual comes to the place nearest to this grand centre the seat of Brahma—this takes place when the autumnal equinox comes to the first point of Aries—this Dharma the mental virtue becomes so much developed that man can easily comprehend all even the spirit beyond this visible world.”6
The last time the autumnal equinox occurred at the first point of Aries was 11,500 BC. At this time, our solar system was at its nearest point to Brahma and mankind at the peak of development. Twelve thousand years later, or 500 AD, mankind was at its lowest point of development, our solar system having moved to the farthest point away from Brahma.
In India, Brahma is understood to be the creative force that brings the universe into being. In this instance, Brahma has shades of meaning. From the perspective of physics, we now know that the center of our galaxy, and indeed this appears to be true for most galaxies, contains a super massive black hole. But more pertinently, it is now also believed that the black hole in the center of our galaxy is not the result of our galaxy forming but rather a significant cause of our galaxy forming. Thus, even on a physical level, one could say that the creative force that brought our galaxy into being lies in the “grand center” of the galaxy.
On a more subtle level, Sri Yukteswar explains that our solar system and all its inhabitants are profoundly affected by subtle vibrations, or the “universal magnetism”7, emanating from the “grand center” (which may well be the center of our galaxy). It is this influence that elevates mankind as we come nearer to the source, and which causes mankind to decline as we go farther from the source. Thus, as Sri Yukteswar phrases it, the universal magnetism or Brahma, “regulates Dharma the mental virtues of the internal world.”8
Dharma is another concept from India that can take many shades of meaning. It is often translated as righteousness, but this has more religious and judgmental connotation than is helpful to capture the proper meaning. Virtue comes closer to the meaning without the unfortunate connotations of righteousness; especially if we think of virtue’s secondary meaning, not just moral strength, but goodness. But even goodness doesn’t fully capture the subtleties of dharma.
These days goodness is often associated with dullness. A common theme in science fiction is to depict a future where war, poverty and disease have been eliminated, but apparently all that remains for people to do is stand around spouting platitudes and being insufferably and boringly “good.” Not an inviting future. Or goodness is associated with narrow mindedness. Not long ago, a fictional radio skit (done by a well known radio personality) portrayed a woman, a prominent pillar of society, who decided that she would “organize” her community’s Halloween celebration, i.e. take all the fun out of it. She was described, amusingly, as a “good woman in the worst possible sense of the word.” Not the kind of person we want to become.
Dharma, as we need to understand it in this context, is more than goodness and righteousness. Sri Yukteswar employs the phrase “the mental virtues of the internal world.” The “internal world” refers to our inner consciousness which implies more than outer behavior. People in whom dharma is elevated are alive, aware, creative, intuitive – far from dull and boring. They possess a lively and keen intelligence; deep, calm feeling; intuitive perception; the desire to enrich the world in which they live; a joyful, humorous, and warm embrace of life; and a continuous and conscious awareness of the Spirit within and without. To fully express dharma therefore, is to fully express our highest potential.
As we develop, we increasingly manifest our higher potentials. We express dharma more and more completely. So too does mankind as a whole. In any age there are those whose degree of development is greater than the norm. And there are also those whose degree of development is less than the norm. Today we have wise men and sages among us, as well as those who are considerably less aware. In describing the yugas, Sri Yukteswar makes the distinction that, “mankind as a whole,” shares a level of awareness, a degree of development of dharma or mental virtue, during each age or yuga. Yet there will always be men and women, in any yuga, who rise above the general awareness of mankind, who find their connection to Brahma, the universal magnetism, by other means.
The cycle of the yugas is profoundly reassuring in our tense and troubling times. Sri Yukteswar offers a vision of our times as a natural process of growth and development – not an apocalyptic powder keg. It is more like the teenage years before one settles into a mature adulthood. The cycle of the yugas also offers a very high vision of our own inner potential—far greater than you find in your average history text book!
Higher “Ages” in Other Cultures
One might think that Sri Yukteswar’s concept of the yugas is unique. It is unique in its clarity, but not in concept. Many other cultures express similar ideas through their traditions and myths. Giorgio de Santillana, a former professor of history at MIT, and co-author of the book Hamlet’s Mill, explores myth after myth about higher ages in the past, drawn from ancient culture after ancient culture. The idea of higher ages existing in the past appears to be woven into most cultural traditions; giving credence to their reality.
In the West the best known example of this is the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages of the ancient Greeks, which we know through the writings of Hesiod and Plato. During Hesiod and Plato’s time, roughly the beginning of what Sri Yukteswar tells us is the descending Kali Yuga, which began in 700 BC, the tradition was that mankind was then in the Iron, and lowest age, and that mankind had descended from the Golden Age, through the Silver and Bronze Ages.
The historian of philosophy, W.C.K. Guthrie, in his book In the Beginning: Some Greek Views on the Origins of Life and the Early State Of Man, describes the Greek Golden Age (also called the Age of Kronos) as:
“not wealth and luxury, but a sufficiency of natural food in conjunction with high moral character and a complete absence of wars and dissension. Ease and happiness are linked to simplicity and innocence of mind. . . . Kronos in his wisdom appointed gods or spirits to take care of men.”9
People lived very simply in the golden age. There were no wars and discord because they had no possessions to fight over. There was no agriculture but the land produced food of itself, the climate being agreeable.
The clear similarity of Guthrie’s description of the Golden Age and how Sri Yukteswar describes Satya Yuga is striking. If this were one isolated example, we could easily assume it was coincidence, but there are many more examples from other cultures: among them, Norse, Celtic, Hopi, Lakota, Persian and ancient Egyptian.
In ancient Persia, the Zoroastrian tradition, which existed around 500 BC in the area of present-day Iran, spoke of Zurvan daregho-chvadhata, or the time of the long dominion. This was a cosmic year that spanned 12,000 years, divided into four periods of 3,000 years. The four ages were symbolized by a tree with four branches of gold, silver, steel, and iron.
Norse myths describe a succession of ages: an age of peace, an age of the development of social orders, an age of increasing violence, and a degraded age of cruel winters and moral chaos, ending in an annihilation called the Ragnarok after which the world is restored.
The tradition of four ages appears also in the Celtic mythology of Ireland. The first Celtic age, Partholon, is associated with the white color of silver. The second age, Nemed’s, is associated with the red color of bronze and is followed by the Tuatna de Denann, the Golden (yellow) age. The fourth age, Milesians, is black. Interestingly, the Mahabharata, India’s great epic scripture, identifies the same colors, in the same order, as the “colors of god” during the corresponding yugas.
Manetho, an Egyptian priest of circa 300 BC, wrote a history of Egypt in the Greek language, of which only fragments have survived, mostly lists of kings. But Manetho also tells of an age when gods ruled humanity, which was followed by a period of rule by demigods and heroes, then an age of rule by ordinary men. The sequence once again clearly reflects a progression of descending ages.
The Hopi of the American Southwest speak of four worlds. Author Frank Waters, himself a Hopi, describes them in Book of the Hopi. In the firstworld the people were pure, happy and healthy. The people felt one with each other and with nature. By the third world, people lived in big cities and there was corruption and war, and by the fourth world people lived in a hard world marked by duality, “heat and cold, beauty and barrenness.”
Ancient Hindu traditions speak of the Bull of Dharma. The tradition involves a Sanskrit play on words; the term “Vrisha” means both “bull” and “virtue” or dharma in Sanskrit. As you may recall from earlier in this chapter, dharma increases and then decreases as the yugas go through the cycle of 24,000 years.
In the myth of the Bull of Dharma, in Satya Yuga, the highest age, Indian tradition records that the Bull of Dharma stood on four legs, while in the next age, Treta Yuga, the Bull stood on only three legs, in Dwapara Yuga, two legs and in Kali Yuga, one leg.
In Sri Yukteswar’s description of the yugas, he writes that dharma is only one quarter developed in Kali Yuga, one half developed in Dwapara Yuga, three quarters developed in Treta Yuga, and fully developed in Satya Yuga.
Since both the myth of the Bull of Dharma and the tradition of the yugas come from India, this clear conformance between Sri Yukteswar and the myth of the Bull of Dharma is not too surprising. But an extraordinarily similar myth can be found in North America – the myth of the White Buffalo.
The Native American Lakota (Sioux) have a traditional story of a visit by a celestial white buffalo woman who arrived from the West, clad in white and carrying a pack that held a sheaf of sage. Buffalo Woman gave the Lakota their ceremonies and religion. She taught them how to pray and sing, and how to use the sacred pipe, which she also carried in her pack. She taught that there were four ages, and that in the highest age, the sacred White Buffalo, which figures prominently in Lakota myths, stands on all four legs. During the second age, White Buffalo stands on three legs, and in the third and fourth ages, it stands on two and then one leg. After giving her teachings, Buffalo Woman departed toward the West, the same way she had come.
In the myths described above, we find many parallels, and several remarkable parallels stand out especially:
- All of these myths reached their current form sometime in Kali Yuga (700 BC to 1700 AD). Kali is the lowest of the yugas in the cycle of the yugas.
- All of these myths express the belief that the myth tellers lived in the lowest of the ages they describe.
- All of these myths describe a process in which mankind has descended from higher ages, in a succession from a highest age, through less evolved ages, and finally into the lowest age.
- All of these myths describe the highest age as a time of spiritual harmony, physical plenty and greatly expanded awareness.
These parallels, we are told by mainstream historians, anthropologists and archeologists, are only unremarkable coincidences, the result of shared archetypes in the human psyche. Many of these myths are considered by scholars to be origin myths; stories that primitive people told to explain how the world came to be. Yet the recurring theme of higher ages, and the remarkable similarities in their descriptions, suggests more than just a coincidence of archetypal imagination.
If, in fact, higher ages existed in the past, as Sri Yukteswar describes, knowledge of the ages would have been passed down to increasingly less aware generations, resulting in an increasingly inexact understanding, expressed through the language and symbols of their subsequent time and culture. It would be quite understandable then, if the resulting description of the higher ages—told from the perspective and understanding of the lowest age of them all—suggests only primitive understanding.
It is perhaps more remarkable than not that these age myths survived at all, given the opportunity for disintegration over time. That they have survived for thousands of years, across many diverse cultures, on different continents, is a likely indication of their importance to ancient man—and a likely indication that there is a core of truth in all of them.
“An amazing, mind-expanding investigation of the hidden cycles underlying the rise and fall of civilizations. I found The Yugas not only intellectually convincing but also spiritually and emotionally uplifting and deeply healing as well. Despite the dark signs of the times we live in, there is hope here for all of us.”
—Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods
The concept of the yugas is critically important for a clear understanding of humankind’s ancient past, our potential future, and the way the larger cosmic environment influences humanity’s changing consciousness. The conventional mainstream view of an overall linear progression in human history is no longer tenable; it is now clear that the ancients of 10,000 to 15,000 years ago were not “primitives” and we have much to learn from them. Based on the teachings of Sri Yukteswar, The Yugas by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz provides a perceptive analysis of history from the height of the last Satya Yuga (Spiritual Age) of circa 11,500 B.C. to our present age. Just as importantly, the authors discuss trends and developments that we may anticipate over the next 10,000 years as the cycle of the yugas comes full circle. The Yugas integrates and synthesizes disparate facts and apparent anomalies that are often ignored. This is a profound book on a profound subject. Intelligently written and fascinating, it provides new revelations on the unfolding of human potential over the course of millennia.
—Robert M. Schoch, PhD, author of Pyramid Quest: Secrets of the Great Pyramid and the Dawn of Civilization
“Move over Copernicus, another revolution is underway! The Yugas will not only change the way we look at history, it will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. This is a wisdom whose time has come. The startling revelations and sweeping vision of Selbie and Steinmetz deliver a story so timeless it will challenge and inspire generations to come!
“Our forefathers etched the phrase ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’ (‘New Order of the Ages’) on the Great Seal of our new nation, but few historians have understood its meaning. By resurrecting a lost knowledge, with exquisite and provocative detail, Selbie and Steinmetz unleash its full power and promise. The Yugas . . . I absolutely loved this book!”
—Walter Cruttenden, author of The Lost Star of Myth and Time
“Selbie and Steinmetz have produced a comprehensive and in-depth study of the yuga theory of Hindu and yogic thought. They have based their research upon the writings of Sri Yukteswar, the venerable guru of famed Yoga master Paramahansa Yogananda, and his profound insight. The book covers all aspects of the yugas, including the secret of what world age humanity currently resides in and what we can likely expect for the future.
“The book casts an important new light on the history and evolution of the human race and the mysteries of the great cycles of time that we must all honor. All those who want to understand our species and the hidden cosmic influences that govern our lives will benefit from its detailed examination. Those who study the book carefully will come away with a transformed vision of our world and its spiritual potentials.”
—David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), author of Astrology of the Seers and Yoga and Ayurveda
“The Yugas presents us with a glimpse into the future. Not only mankind’s future, but also our own personal future, as we journey through our way to enlightenment. An understanding of these cycles of Yugas as a natural process of growth and development, and not of wars and perpetual suffering, un-blurs our vision of our inner potential. Taken from the teachings of Sri Yukteswar and his student, Paramhansa Yogananda, The Yugas is a profound gift from a great master and his beloved disciple.”
—Robert R. Hieronimus, PhD, host of 21st Century Radio, author of United Symbolism of America
“This book may change your view of history and your understanding of the future. The Yugas by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz reveals the little known teachings of Sri Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda regarding the cycles of humankind’s cultural, social, and spiritual evolution—which differs greatly from the history of civilization to be found in our present textbook dogmas. The cycles of enlightenment that Sri Yukteswar began teaching nearly 120 years ago—and many of the discoveries that he predicted—are now being verified by modern science. The coming of the great Energy Age taught by the master teacher Sri Yukteswar and his most famous disciple Paramhansa Yogananda promises an enlightened future for all who recognize the coming of a raising of consciousness for the human species. Selbie and Steinmetz have produced a text that is both well-researched and an exciting, informative read.”
—Brad Steiger, author of Worlds Before Our Own, and Sherry Steiger, author of Indian Wisdom and Its Guiding Power
“The Yugas is a great and important book that will undoubtedly revolutionize our view of history and how it plays out. Selbie and Steinmetz have done a terrific job in demonstrating the scientific evidence of rising and falling ages of man, as opposed to the linear development of civilization favored by most historians.
“Before reading The Yugas, I was familiar with Sri Yukteswar’s and Paramhansa Yogananda’s concept, on which the book is based. After reading The Yugas, I understood more deeply this concept’s sometimes-surprising foundations in the past and its all-penetrating ramifications for the future.
“Reading this book was like being given a glimpse of the sweeping panorama of the ages. My mind shifted. My consciousness was transformed. I think The Yugas should be used as a textbook in universities. If you are at all interested in where humanity has been and where we are headed, I highly recommend that you read this book.”
—Richard Salva, author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln and Walking with William of Normandy
“This potentially transformational book, The Yugas by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, contains the most incisive and useful information on these cosmic epochs that I have ever seen. Backgrounded by interpretations by the great masters Sri Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda, and further supported by guidance from Selbie’s and Steinmetz’s teacher, Swami Kriyananda, these chapters shed revealing light on the meaning of these cosmic periods. Information is power, and in this case, interpretation and explanation is power—power toward personal transformation. The great wisdom of Yukteswar and Yogananda, which has been revered and uplifted by Yogananda’s disciple Kriyananda, is thus passed down through the ages. These two authors deserve our great thanks for their deep and informed look at the yugas. And the book’s appearance reminds me to be thankful to Swami Kriyananda for passing down the work of his master Yogananda, and now through his (Kriyananda’s) students.”
—Katherine Diehl, journalist
“This consciousness-raising study, which presents a profound and necessary challenge to conventional science, is a vital addition to the growing recognition among independent researchers that ancient civilizations were often far more technologically or spiritually advanced than we are today. In Sri Yukteswar’s concept of the yugas, charting the 24,000-year cyclic rise and fall of human endeavor throughout history and into an inspirational future, we have the East’s counterpart to the Platonic Year, more familiar to Westerners as signaling the Aquarian Age. In an indispensable work, both intellectually and emotionally satisfying, Selbie and Steinmetz bring us a stirring new paradigm which reveals how our power to transform ourselves is the measure of our power to transform the world in accordance with the cosmic pattern.”
—Geoff Ward, host of Mysterious Planet, author of Spirals: the Pattern of Existence
“[The Yugas] sets forth a framework suggesting that man, and more specifically man’s consciousness, alternates on a 24,000-year cycle consisting of a 12,000-year period of ascendancy and 12,000 years of descent. This framework is taken from the teachings of Swami Sri Yukteswar as set forth in his book, The Holy Science. The cycles are further subdivided into four particular ages of which the authors suggest we are in the second age of ascendancy. In our current age the authors believe, according to the Swami’s teaching, that we are experiencing a period of great discovery and enlightenment.
“In order to make their point, the authors track back through history to illustrate how history matches up with the cycles put forth in The Yugas. This is where the book gets very interesting; Selbie and Steinmetz do an excellent job of highlighting some of the major holes apparent in modern archaeology. They address some of the standard questions we are all familiar with: the Great Pyramid at Giza, Neolithic stone structures, and the Sphinx. However they also do a superb job of addressing many of the misconceptions commonly accepted in the limited and linear view of man’s development: including those concerning the start of agriculture (seed stores in Israel greatly pre-date the accepted date), the domestication of animals (evidence highly suggests horses were domesticated as far back as 15,000 years ago), and many of the parallel mythologies and shared technologies that exist in history.
“The Yugas by Selbie and Steinmetz is an excellent and easy read that challenges the notion that ancient man was simplistic and unaccomplished, within the framework first put forth by Swami Sri Yukteswar in The Holy Science. The authors succeed at fitting their premise within this framework and provide an entertaining and thought-provoking read.”
—Michael Kane, host of Distopian Times
“If you’re one of the people who has been asking yourself, ‘What’s going on these days?’ and not finding an answer that resonates with you, this is a book you will want to read and study. Based on the teachings of Sri Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda, the book explains about the Yugas, or ages the planet goes through every 24,000 years.
“Not only does the book provide compelling evidence of the veracity of these cycles, it goes much further by telling us about our possible future cycles and how we and the planet can be much different than we are today. The Yugas is comforting by giving meaning to today’s events, and it is intriguing by putting the world into a more easily understood evolutionary picture.
“This is a don’t miss read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding and appreciation of our past, present, and future.
“A great gift for anyone on a spiritual path, and for those who love history.”
—Krysta Gibson, New Spirit Journal
“We ‘moderns’ tend to believe we know more than those who have lived before us, especially those of earlier millennia. In its detailed research and fascinating revelations, this book pricks the bubble of that linear conceit with its wealth of extraordinary insights and evidence to the contrary. Here is proof once again that ancient wisdom and truth, though often overlooked or long forgotten, is never superceded.
“As we learn in this brilliant detective-like study that probes the arc of time, greater civilizations than ours have preceded and exceeded us, more advanced in spirituality as well as science, borne to higher awareness by a cyclical dance of cosmological forces. Contained in this ‘new’ history of humankind is a divinely inspired examination of why we were as we were in ages past, why we are as we are in this ascending age of energy and understanding, and what we can anticipate about ourselves and our world in ages yet to come. Selbie and Steinmetz have given us a thesis that is uncompromisingly accurate in its chronicle of significant events and their correspondence to the yugas—cycles of human consciousness—in which they occurred. What emerges is an astonishing, compelling, and altogether enlightened view of evolution itself.”
—James Surendra Conti, Manager, East-West Bookstore
“After years of intensive research, Selbie and Steinmetz have turned their findings into a complete and comprehensive whole with some amazing and revolutionary looks on human history—and have brought to light long-forgotten wisdom of ancient civilizations far more advanced than previously thought in spirituality, philosophy, and maybe even science. If you are interested in the history of humanity and the anticipations and possible enrichments that their teachings might bring us, both now and in the future, then this book is definitely a must-read.”
—A. G. Pietnow, Founder of Parascientifica.com
“The Yugas is a brilliantly written text based on extensive historical research validating the theory of the ages of human development proposed by Swami Sri Yukteswar in The Holy Science. This book provides us with an optimistic view of our future as we leave the remnants of Kali Yuga or the dark age in our past. The Yugas explores the current electrical age of Dwapara Yuga. This enlightening age brings the opportunity of illumination and peace on our planet as we navigate toward the divine light of the central Sun.”
—Dennis M. Harness, PhD, Vedic Astrologer, writer, and author of The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology
“The Hindu traditions are perhaps the most well-studied of all World Age systems, with the important distinction that they are very much alive today.
“‘Yuga’ is Sanskrit for ‘World Age.’ In their fascinating book, The Yugas, Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz offer an updated reading of the works of two of India’s greatest twentieth century teachers, Sri Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda. The Yugas opens our eyes to aspects of consciousness and spiritual development that are largely absent from the Western discussion of human history.
“The Yugas presents the optimistic view that the rapid changes that we see in our times are inexorably leading us to a better day for humanity; we are at just the beginning of a journey through a series of ascending epochs, during which the expression of mankind will only improve.”
—Alexandra Bruce, author of 2012: Science or Superstition and Beyond the Bleep
“The Cosmic Mysteries School recommends The Yugas as an extraordinary source of detailed information about the little known concept of the Cosmic Cycles of time. The details given in The Yugas can be used as a source of knowledge and inspiration for understanding the natural movements occurring in our earthly existence.”
—Patricia Morris Cardona, Cosmic Mysteries School