Cycles,Gyres, and Yugas, Part 1

Turning and turning in widening gyres

Over the last year, I’ve thought a lot about the idea of cyclical time, time without beginning or end, as opposed to the view time as linear, which implies a start and an ending.

Time as a never ending series of cycles is a core feature of eastern cosmology, but has also shown up in the west.  The Greek deity, Aion, representing “unbounded” time, was associated with the Hellenistic mystery religions.

Time without beginning or end is also feature of more recent western esoteric groups, such as The Golden Dawn, a secret society founded in the 19th century, that sought to restore the knowledge and practice of western mystery traditions. W.B. Yeats was an initiate, and his visionary poem, The Second Coming, (1919) gives a vivid picture of time as a rising and falling series of spirals, or “gyres:”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The tone of The Second Coming is consistent with all sources, eastern and western, that deal with time cycles. They are unanimous in saying this is the dark time, the Iron Age, the Kali Yuga, and in Buddhist terms, the time of “Five Degenerations.” Continue reading

Last night I dreamed Roy Rogers died…

Roy Rogers was my first boyhood hero. For a time, around the age of three or four, I refused to answer to “Morgan,” insisting that my parents call me Roy.

Me as Roy, probably age 4.

No matter that any residual appreciation for him collapsed during the Vietnam war, after he came out as a hawk – Roy Rogers was the first person who carried for me, the imagination of what a life well lived might look like.

Upon waking, it seemed strange that I should dream of his death as a present day event, when it happened 20 years ago. Not so strange, after a moment’s reflection, as the nation watches, in real time, the complete collapse of any remaining shred of heroism among our ruling class and their paid minions in Washington. We still live in the world T.S. Eliot described in “The Waste Land.”

There is no way this ends well!

For 20 years, I followed the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), a Hindu master who moved to this country in 1920, to found an international organization that teaches the core unity of all religions and gives instruction in meditation practices to enable people to make this discovery for themselves.

In May, 1940, he gave a talk that was later published as a pamphlet called World Crisis. In it, he said:

“a great crisis is going to come, a crisis such as never before has hit this country…There is a world revolution going on. It will change the financial system. In the karmic firmament of America I see one beautiful sign; that no matter what the world goes through, she will be better off than most other countries. But America will experience widespread misery, suffering, and changes just the same. You are used to the better things of life, and when you are obliged to live simply, you won’t like it. It is not easy to be poor after being rich. You have no idea how this change is going to affect you through the years. Never before in the history of this land has there been so deep a contrast in living standards as will visit this country – the contrast between riches and poverty.”

I remember in college, how I used to marvel at the tragic heroes and their flaws, in Greek Tragedies and in Shakespeare – how their every action to escape their fate led them deeper into the jaws of the trap. We are seeing in real time, how a nation can tread the same course to disaster.

Last night’s dream reminded me of the discussions one of my latter day heroes, Joseph Campbell held with Bill Moyer’s in the mid 80’s. In their dialog on the “Heroes Adventure,” there was this exchange:

MOYERS: “Given what you know about human beings, is it conceivable that there is a port of wisdom beyond the conflicts of truth and illusion by which our lives can be put back together again? Can we develop new models?”

CAMPBELL: “They’re already here, in the religions. All religions have been true for their time. If you can recognize the enduring aspect of their truth and separate it from the temporal applications, you’ve got it…One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.”

MOYERS: “Not the first cause, but a higher cause?”

CAMPBELL: “I would say, a more inward cause. ‘Higher’ is just up there, and there is no ‘up there.’ We know that. That old man up there has been blown away. You’ve got to find the Force within you.”

No single suggestion seems more relevant for our times: “You’ve got to find the Force within you.”

John Believer’s Prophecy

The Fool in the Tarot de Marseilles

When I was a college freshman in Oregon, a bearded fellow in a long black coat would sometimes harangue the crowds in the quad at lunch time. He’d bring a box to stand on and a Bible to wave. He called himself John Believer.

This was the late 60’s and though he tried for hell and brimstone, I think he’d done too much acid to pull it off. Out of his sometimes interesting theological mishmash, one of his ideas stuck with me and resonated with teachings I would hear later from two spiritual masters.

John Believer said the spiritual center of earth was right there in Oregon, (that’s why he’d moved north from Berkeley), but we should expect trouble. The spiritual center is always on the move, he explained, and it was about to head back to the orient. During it’s long Pacific crossing, humanity would experience an age of darkness.

In May, 1940, the Hindu master, Paramahansa Yogananda, gave one of several lectures predicting a coming time of travail for humanity.  The transcript of the May talk  is available as a pamphlet, World Crisis, published by Self-Realization Fellowship. Seventy-seven years ago, Yogananda said:

“A great crisis is going to come, a crisis such as never before has hit this country…There is a world revolution going on. It will change the financial system. In the karmic firmament of America, I see one beautiful sign; that no mater what the world goes through, she will be better off than most other countries. But America will experience widespread misery, suffering, and changes just the same. You are used to the better things of life, and when you are obliged to live simply, you won’t like it. It’s not easy to be poor after being rich. You have no idea how this change is going to affect you through the years. Never before in the history of this land has there been so deep a contrast in living standards as will visit this country – the contrast between riches and poverty.” (emphasis added)

Yogananda predicted that though the darkness would last several centuries and even threaten the future of life on the planet, it would likely pass and usher in a time of spiritual growth for humanity. Continue reading

About Affirmations

“Affirmations are simply the practice of repeating to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want.” – Scott Adams

For a long time, the word “affirmation” brought to mind, “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.” When you see it in print like that, it’s hard to believe and easy to dismiss. The phrase was created by Emile Coué (1857-1926), a French psychologist and pharmacist who developed a method of psychotherapy based on autosuggestion.

Later, when I studied the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, I found a broader concept of affirmations and why certain types of suggestions work for certain types of people.  In Scientific Healing Affirmations, (1925), Yogananda wrote:

“Imagination, reason, faith, emotion, will, or exertion may be used according to the specific nature of he individual – whether imaginative, intellectual, aspiring, emotional, volitional, or striving. Few people know this. Coué stressed the value of autosuggestion, but an intellectual type of person is not susceptible to suggestion, and is influenced only by a metaphysical discussion of the power of consciousness over the body. He needs to understand the whys and wherefores of mental powers. If he can realize, for instance, that blisters may be produced by hypnosis…he can understand the power of the mind to cure disease. If the mind can produce ill health, it can also produce good health.”

Recently, I found an even simpler testimonial to the power of affirmations in Scott Adam’s book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Discussing affirmations in an earlier book, Adams drew negative email from people who claimed he believed in magic. In two chapters of his latest work, Adams lays out the principles of affirmations without venturing any guesses on why they have worked for him, with the exception of one simple principle:

“The pattern I have noticed is that the affirmations only worked when I had a 100 percent unambiguous desire for success.”

He then summarizes his experience with affirmations, leading up to the big one in his life: “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.”  As the book makes clear, he was already working in the field and committed when he practiced this suggestion.

I recommended How to Fail when I reviewed it, and the chapters on affirmation alone are worthy of another recommendation.

The wishing tree revisited

I spent a lot of time this week staring at a blank screen while trying to sum up two recent posts (No discouraging words 1 and 2). The ways in which thought/stories create reality is a massive topic. Not only has it been central to eastern thought for thousands of years, but I wrote several chapters along those lines in a master’s thesis in psych. So that particular screen is going to stay blank.

I did, however re-read one of my early posts where I discussed an Indian story that centers on the creative power of mind. The story itself provides a nice summary. “The Wish Fulfilling Tree” is recorded in Hindu scripture as a story Shiva told Parvati. I quoted a version written by Paramahansa Yogananda which I like for its clarity:

Embed from Getty Images

In their kindness toward spiritual seekers, the gods placed certain “wish fulfilling trees” in remote Himalayan regions so pilgrims could refresh themselves. Once a young man with mixed aspirations climbed to the heights in search of one of these trees. At last, out of food and seemingly out of luck, he spied a solitary tree at the center of a small valley, and hurried toward it.

Under it’s branches he wished for a meal, and instantly, servants appeared and set out a feast before him. After his hunger was satisfied, he wished for wine and music, and then dancing girls, and all of his thoughts materialized. Enjoying himself immensely, he wished for a castle, with fruit trees, fountains, and soldiers to defend it.

By then he was tired and sought out the lush master bedroom for a rest. As he closed his eyes, he noticed a jungle not far away and felt a prickling of danger. “There are no bars on the window to keep jungle beasts out. A tiger could easily leap into this room.” Sadly, that was the last thought he ever had.

In his commentary, Yogananda said everyone spends their life beneath a wish fulfilling tree. Fortunately, ours don’t work as fast as the one in the story, but in the end, inexorably, they manifest what we hold steady in our minds. The name of this tree is imagination, and it is important to realize its power and be mindful of how we use it. it.