My thoughts about the cycle of the yugas parallel those of Sri Yukteshwar Giri, the guru of Paramahansa Yogananda. In his book The Holy Science he synchronized the “Great Year” of the zodiac with the four yugas in a descending cycle from Satya to Kali and an ascending cycle from Kali to Satya, giving us seven stages in all. Accordingly the Satya Yuga, which in his system is centered upon Virgo, proceeds to the Treta Yuga, the Dwapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga, which is centered upon Pisces. Then the yugas ascend through the Dwapara and Treta back to the Satya Yuga in Virgo again. The entire cycle takes 25,800 years.
The cycle of the yugas, proceeding in an even, clock-like motion, is obviously natural and independent of human causation. Therefore those moralists are wrong who say that a particular person or particular event led to the end of the “golden age” of the Satya Yuga. We may as well say that the evil acts of men caused the bright day of noontime to fade in its glory, finally to end with the dark, cold midnight. Neither does the cycle of the year, from the bright Summer Solstice to the dark Winter Solstice, depend upon human moral action---and this cycle too resembles the cycle of the yugas in miniature.
It is accordingly wrong to blame human sexuality for the degradation of the golden age, as many commentators do. Compared to the daylight of the Spirit in the Satya and Treta yugas sex is a small light indeed, but it is a candle in the darkness and may be the only way that most people can experience love in the dark, brutal Kali Yuga. In the night of the world the light is within and is not to be found in the world, and this shapes the sexual and the spiritual habits of men.
If the cycle of the yugas is independent of human causation, it might be possible to say that good and evil can both be found in the Satya Yuga as in the Kali Yuga. Only the evil of the Satya Yuga will not present itself as an obvious evil. It will probably manifest itself as a excessive extravagance and a lack of inwardness. The next Kali Yuga will be burdened by the “seed” of evil which that extravagance produces and the people of that Dark Age must find the proper response to it. In similar fashion the character of the Satya Yuga will depend upon how well the burdens of the Kali Yuga were managed.
I would now like to suggest a possible cause for the cycle of the yugas. We do not believe that the sun orbits another star, as Sri Yukteshwar claimed. I have noticed, however, that there are two “poles” in our part of the galaxy which are light and dark respectively. One is the center of the galaxy at 26 degrees Sagittarius and the other is the star Algol at 26 degrees Taurus. Significantly, the midpoint between them in the “dark” part of the Great Year is 15 degrees Pisces, and the midpoint in the “light” part of the Great Year is 15 degrees Virgo. Therefore the light decreases as we enter the Age of Pisces until 1080 years have past, bringing us to the half-way point. At that time we have come to the midnight of the world. The light then increases for another 1080 years and continues to increase as we enter the Age of Aquarius and the ages that follow it.
It is not an easy matter, however, to determine when the Age of Pisces began, for different astronomers and astrologers provide us with different dates. These dates range from several hundred years before the birth of Jeshua (Jesus) in 6 BCE to several hundred years after his birth. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Age of Pisces began with the birth of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 215 BCE. Antiochus desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem by instituting the sacrifice of pigs there in honor of himself as an incarnation of Zeus. This act provoked the successful rebellion of Judas Maccabeus. Hanukkah celebrates the miraculous preservation of the sacred oil when the Temple was purified. 1080 years after Antiochus' birth places us within the 9th century, the time that historians call the “Dark Ages”. The exact year was 864 CE. Viking raids were common in the British Isles and the “Great Heathen Army” of the Danes conquered much of England. But there was also an event that marked the birth of the light, in 860 CE. This was the founding of the Buddhist University of Nalanda by Maharaja Balaputra in India.
The transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius did not involve an instant change in the zeitgeist or character of the time. Aquarian qualities can be discerned as early as the 16th century when two events occurred simultaneously on opposite sides of the earth. In the Punjab, India, Nanak founded the Sikh religion. When he neared the time of his death he did not give the leadership of the new religion to his son Sri Chand---who founded the ascetic Udasi movement---but to Bhai Lehna, who as Guru Angad, the second Sikh guru, continued to emphasize the importance of family and community just as Nanak had done. At approximately the same time the former monk Martin Luther married the former nun Katherina von Bora. The couple had six children and adopted four more. In place of monastic life the locus of the worship of God for all Protestants would henceforth be family and community. In this regard Martin and Katharina returned to the ideals of Judaism that preceded the Age of Pisces.
To continue with my example, if the Age of Pisces began in 215 BCE, the Age of Aquarius began in 1944. This year roughly marks the development of the atomic bomb. The beginning of the Age of Aquarius is also the beginning of Dwapara Yuga, in which mankind will come to understand and use the hidden energies of the natural world. Atomic energy was the first of these---but that is unfortunately not a happy precedent.
Below: A Roman carving of the Time God Zurvan of Persia, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. The building is a temple to Mithras in Armenia.