Today I have part six in a series in which I'm looking at the beliefs on ancient astrologers. In this talk, I'm taking a look at the notion of cyclical time.
Hi everyone this is Acyuta-bhava from Nightlight Astrology. And today I'm doing the sixth part of my series on the beliefs of ancient astrologers. So in today's episode, we are going to take a look at the notion of cyclical time. And before I dive in, I want to remind everybody, this series started because a couple of years ago, as I was getting more serious about the path of bhakti yoga, I wanted to know what the most likely beliefs of ancient astrologers were, we of course, don't know exactly which school of philosophy or which kind, what exactly what kinds of metaphysicians were the ones responsible for creating the system. If it gradually evolved over time, if there was a school that was responsible, there's a lot of debate about all of these things. But what I really wanted to know was, what were the most pervasive beliefs or ideas about the universe, about the soul about God about reality about time about why we're doing astrology? And while I'm still content to hug the question mark, in many ways, what I found was really affirming because some of the working ideas, you know, that, that are a part of my faith practice, and certainly a part of the path of bhakti. It turns out were probably shared in many ways by early astrologers. So for me, that was just kind of confirming to, you know, to just know how to find congruency between my faith path and my astrology practice, which is also a central part of my spiritual life. So, and I find that year round, I get questions from people all the time asking me the same thing. What do you have to believe to be an astrologer? Is there something you have to believe and I'm gonna let you guys decide that for yourself, obviously, but I hope that this series contributes to your path as an astrologer and helping you consider the ideas that ancient astrologers had and and, you know, kind of how they sit with you today. To me, there's nothing better because clarifying why you're doing what you're doing, not necessarily having to come to final answers about the nature of reality, because whose mind can circumscribed reality, but if you have a little clearer sense of what ancient astrologers believed and what you believe about astrology, and why you practice it, whether you're a student practitioner or a casual listener, I think it can do nothing but strengthen the foundation of your relationship with this ancient craft. So that's what we're doing today.
Part Six on cyclical time. Now we talked about a number of topics to refresh already, I recommend listening to this series in order but in case you haven't, we started off talking about the notion of an ordered cosmos. And we went into conversations about the one in the many, we talked about the reality of divinity, the soul and its kind of problematic relationship with the material world. We talked about reincarnation and karma, and we talked about enlightenment or liberation. So today, we're going to talk about cyclical time. What is cyclical time, it's the idea that time is not a straight line moving in a linear fashion. But that time is cyclical. In fact, the universe might be cyclical, in some ways, the universe runs through repeating cycles and circles of time. This has a lot of interesting ramifications for us as modern people especially and I think this particular view, even though it's a subtle one, has made one of the biggest differences in my life. And I'll try to speak to how it's affected me personally at the end, but so this one to me has been an important one on the list.
So stick with it, even if the topic sounds a little dense. I think you'll like this. Many Greek and Indian thinkers around the dawn of Hellenistic astrology which again we're dating to say the last 500 years BCE to the birth of horoscopic astrology as we now know it in practice it are the earliest you know the earliest form that we would recognise. During that time many Greek and Indian thinkers the two main cultures that practice horoscopic, astrology 12 houses, signs, seven planets, etc. Both held beliefs in cyclical time. Impedocles for example, circa 494 to 434 BC, BC, he was highly influenced by the Pythagoreans and proposed a system of cyclical time, based on quaternity. So in it was in relation to the four elements. The first age in the cycles and age of love and unity. The second indicates the gradual appearance of strife and division, the third is that full of hate and separation and then the fourth in gradually love appears again before reestablishing the age of love and unity. Now that four part system has counterparts in Eastern philosophy, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions all closely mirror that exact same cycle. So you find a similar cycle for, for example, outlined in the Buddhist, Abhidharmakosha. Another similar cycle is presented in the Hindu Manovadharma shastra. And the Jains also held a similar view. So, you have an idea of the universe as moving through for ages in cycles or circles through in the for ages are correspondingly similar in terms of their themes and sometimes mapping of elements as well. The circular view of time that time in history move in circles and cycles was espoused by Hesiod, Protagoras, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Diogenes of Apollonia, Xenophanes and Plato, those are big, those are heavy hitters, you know. So this view would have probably been pervasive at the time that astrology came about. The stoics, who come a little bit later closer to the turn of the Common Era, if I'm not mistaken from my research, I'm not an expert. They would later take up also a circular or cyclical view of time, you could argue that the it's a little different in Taoism, and I'm again I'm not an expert, but Taoism certainly recognises cycles of time, the eaching is really an a full on exploration of cycles of time and movements of the Tao in cycles and circles. Anyway, the orphics took a cyclical or circular view of time, another major school that we know probably had an influence on early astrology. All of these philosophers and traditions had ways of measuring the length of each age and each part of the cycle, and many of which were astronomical, of course. So there's probably a sense in which ancient astrology moved alongside of these cyclical conceptions of time and ages. One thing that I will say is that sometimes people mistakenly think that the Age of Aquarius is a really, that it's an idea that comes with ancient astrology and all the evidence, there's a really good book written by Nicholas Campion. In fact, I'm going to put it up on the screen just because I feel like a lot of people could would really benefit from reading some of Nick campion's work, but let me just put it up.
So here's Nicolas Campion. And if you are interested in the history of astrology, he's one of the better modern writers on the history of astrology. He has this history of Western astrology volumes one and two, which you can see on the screen here. Astrology and Cosmology in the world's religions is one of my favourite texts in terms of a really comprehensive look at the different forms of astral divination around the world. The Great Year is fascinating. That's a book in many ways that has to do with the history of apocalyptic thinking, and cosmology, time cycles and circles of history. So that's a good one. But he also has one that he wrote called the New Age and the Modern West: Counterculture Utopia and Prophecy from the Late 18th century to the Present Day. And he also has one that I really highly recommend called Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West. And in one of the early chapters in that book, they're kind of expensive, because I'm guessing they're sort of just like scholarly books that never got, you know, like, maybe it was like his dissertation or something. But at any rate, especially astrology and popular religion in the modern West, that text by Nick Campion, is brilliant, and it explains the history of the idea of the ages in the New Age, like the Age of Aquarius, and in that chapter, what he demonstrates really nicely as a, you know, kind of academic historian of astrology is that that idea is actually really, really recent. There's some precedent in the ancient tradition, certainly of the idea of cycling's of ages, but what I'm outlining in today's talk is closer to the most likely view of ages that ancient astrologers had.
So anyway, the cyclical notion of time in various guises also appeared in Greece, India and Mesopotamia in the ancient world, as well as other places. Perhaps the oldest instance of cyclical time in India comes from the Rigveda where it was written, "formed with 12 spokes, by length of time awakened, rolls around the heaven, this wheel of enduring order, here in established joins in pairs together 700 suns and 20 stand," 720, of course, is the number of days and nights in a solar year. So you have the idea of this cyclical, enduring order of time that's even present in the rigveda. Of course, you have the Yugas in yoga philosophy and the Vedic wisdom, literature's as well. So one of the things about cyclical time is that it really challenges what I would call a very modern idea of linear progress through time. So in astrology, you'll hear many people conceptualising, the growth of the soul in a linear way through successive lifetimes, you learn this, you progress to the next stage, the next ladder, you go upward on a ladder of progress through time, lifetime, after lifetime. And there's often what comes along with that as the idea that you're starting at some kind of base condition at the bottom of a ladder, that you're born sinful, or that you have some kind of fallen past that you're trying to move up from through linear time. And that's really, as far as I have studied, that really wouldn't have been a part of the way that ancient people looked at the evolution of the soul. Not that simply.
There's a word in Sanskrit that's used, which is the word anadi, which means without beginning, or sort of time timeless, and the soul is said to have been struggling in the material energy, timelessly, and that when one awakens, it's as if one is awakening from a dream, in which you could say the appearance of linear time was a part of the, the condition that keeps the dreamer asleep. So at any rate, cyclical time really challenges us to imagine that this material world is and always has been existing in a kind of flux, changing and impermanent without beginning or without end. And therefore not really the place to find any ultimate or eternal or material based solutions to our problems, happiness, redemption, salvation, how can you find those in a circle that's always circling. So that seems to be a part of the way that ancient people looked at life in the material world. And when we think about what they were looking for, they were looking for a way of perceiving in, in their, both in their epistemology, their metaphysics, their ecstatic rituals, and practices, their contemplative lifestyles, they were looking for a way of perceiving themselves as eternal. And as an understanding that there is something like an eternal order or essence, behind the, or within the fluctuating appearances of things.
Of course, you know, different schools are going to have different ways of dealing with time, I was just conversing with a viewer on the channel over the past year, who's a Buddhist monk. And he was talking a little bit about the conception of time and momentaryness. And there's some, there's different ways of dealing with these things. But the point is that the idea of linear time is, is really not the model. And Plato said, for example, in the time as that time is the moving image of eternity, that's a really beautiful thing about that. So, when we see this flow of time, and especially if we notice the circles and cycles of time, which of course the planets reflect, the planets are intimating that if we study the planets, and we study the movements and seasons and cycles of archetypes in our lives, that we're starting to develop a closeness of in proximity of heart and mind to that which is eternal. So we study the cycles of time why, according to Plato's Timeaus at least one idea would be that we study it because time is the moving image of eternity if you want to understand yourself as an eternal soul, if you want to understand the higher forms in the mind of God or some thing like that, then you might study the circles and cycles of time, because it's a moving image of eternity.
So because the universe itself is endless and beginningless, constantly cycling, it's a reflection or an image of that which is unchanging, divine eternal. It is constant in its inconstancy, and therefore thought of as something like the reflection or image of eternity. So think about how different that is from the idea that we have that everything in the past is outdated, and everything new is better. I mean, it would be just as silly to say that everything in the past is better. And everything in the in the future is somehow losing touch with the Golden Age. So I had a teacher once say, you know, you can't worship at the altar of the past, and you can't worship at the altar of the future. And that's not to say that there is no past or future to relate to, it's just that when we're relating to them in a linear way, we tend to say, you know, oh, a bygone era, it was all good back then. And now it's all, you know, gone to hell, or in the current era, we say, you know, everything so problematic, and everything will be better in the future. Or look at how good it is now compared to how it was then or so the comparisons like that are in some ways, not that there isn't a place for them, but this cyclical view of time, asks us to consider progress in a completely different way. almost as though, progress is measured by our ability to be reflective, soulful beings who are able to see time as the moving image of eternity. We find a similar call in the Tao de Ching, we find a similar call, I think, even if you go into some of the intricacies of what my friend was telling me about Buddhism, you find a similar call there. And you find you certainly find a similar call in western esotericism, hermeticism, platonism, Socrates etc. So each of the mystical philosophers and tradition mentioned in the series so far, really, they all have discussed at one point or another, our propensity to get caught in the Wheel of Time thinking that our time bound nature and time bound progress is leading us somewhere final or absolute, when actually everything that goes up will go down, and round and round. So liberation of different kinds from identification with these linear views of time are thus offered across the board. For me, the spiritual takeaway is to recognise that ancient astrologers mostly likely believed that time was cyclical that the universe was perhaps even cyclical, not linear, that the material.
For example, there was a book, another book, and I don't know if this is, you know, in vogue anymore, but a physicist was essentially proposing the same thing. And I read this a while ago, and I thought it was interesting. It's called the Endless Universe Beyond the Big Bang. And this is by Paul Steinhardt, and Neil Turok, and I believe they're professors physicists. In endless universe, Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, both distinguished theoretical physicists present a bold new cosmology. Steinhardt and traq contend that what we think of as the moment of creation was simply part of an infinite cycle of Titanic Titanic collisions between our universe and a parallel world. They were counter remarkable developments in astronomy, particle physics and superstring theory that formed the basis of the groundbreaking cyclic Universe Theory. According to this theory, the Big Bang was not the beginning of time, but the bridge to a past, filled with endlessly repeating cycles of evolution, each accompanied by the creation of new matter in the formation of new galaxies, stars and planets. Of course, you know, whether physicists are still, you know, jamming on that one or not, I don't know. But it's interesting that even modern physicists have considered such ideas which were clearly present to ancient philosophers and mystics.
For example, we have in a number of the Puranas and the the sort of Vedic wisdom literature. So the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharat, and even to certain extent the Upanishads, we have a view of, you know, the universes, plural, emanating out of the pores of Vishnu and sort of spawning and then eventually being sucked back in and then breathed back out and then sucked back in. So it's that that kind of view, which makes sense, if you're looking at I mean, I'm just kind of imagining, like, if you're looking for an understanding of reality, and you are reflecting deeply on the nature of what you see around you, it all moves in cycles and circles, so do the heavens. So this view to me is really helpful, because I find that the most malignant, like ideas that I deal with every day when I look at advertising, or media or anything around me is this idea that, hey, your life is just about to get better if you consume this, if you buy this if you do this or that. And of course, mainstream New Age spirituality often participates in that, by this supplement, take this kind of yoga class that you'll get better. So there's a lot of betterment of self, which is always going to participate in this kind of progression through time. That's not to say that ancient philosophers did not believe in improvement of character, improvement of virtue, or elevation, in a sense, but it's being understood within the backdrop of cyclical time and of this kind of eternality. It's a different way of talking about progress. And it's worked on me in really positive ways over the years as an astrologer. So I hope you guys find this interesting. It's another interesting piece of the puzzle of what ancient astrologers might have believed. I hope you found this series interesting so far. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. And we'll be back soon. We have a few more installations in the series. We're going to talk about purification, austerity and ecstasy In our next segment. Alright, that's what I've got. Take it easy, everyone. Bye.