TPP S3 E2: The Nature of Cycles — Notes

Compiled from Wikipedia.

Material Cycles

  • Social cycle theories are among the earliest social theories in sociology. Unlike the theory of social evolutionism, which views the evolution of society and human history as progressing in some new, unique direction(s), sociological cycle theory argues that events and stages of society and history are generally repeating themselves in cycles. Such a theory does not necessarily imply that there cannot be any social progress. In the early theory of Sima Qian and the more recent theories of long-term (“secular”) political-demographic cycles as well as in the Varnic theory of P.R. Sarkar an explicit accounting is made of social progress.

Vilfredo Pareto

  • He wrote that, as Mandelbrot summarizes: “At the bottom of the Wealth curve, he wrote, Men and Women starve and children die young. In the broad middle of the curve all is turmoil and motion: people rising and falling, climbing by talent or luck and falling by alcoholism, tuberculosis and other kinds of unfitness. At the very top sit the elite of the elite, who control wealth and power for a time – until they are unseated through revolution or upheaval by a new aristocratic class. There is no progress in human history. Democracy is a fraud. Human nature is primitive, emotional, unyielding. The smarter, abler, stronger, and shrewder take the lion’s share. The weak starve, lest society become degenerate: One can, Pareto wrote, ‘compare the social body to the human body, which will promptly perish if prevented from eliminating toxins.’ Inflammatory stuff – and it burned Pareto’s reputation.”
  • Pareto had argued that democracy was an illusion and that a ruling class always emerged and enriched itself. For him, the key question was how actively the rulers ruled. For this reason he called for a drastic reduction of the state and welcomed Benito Mussolini’s rule as a transition to this minimal state so as to liberate the “pure” economic forces. To quote Pareto’s biographer: “In the first years of his rule Mussolini literally executed the policy prescribed by Pareto, destroying political liberalism, but at the same time largely replacing state management of private enterprise, diminishing taxes on property, favoring industrial development, imposing a religious education in dogmas.”
  • Some fascist writers were much enamored of Pareto, writing such paeans as: “Just as the weaknesses of the flesh delayed, but could not prevent, the triumph of Saint Augustine, so a rationalistic vocation retarded but did not impede the flowering of the mysticism of Pareto. For that reason, Fascism, having become victorious, extolled him in life, and glorifies his memory, like that of a confessor of its faith.” But many modern historians reject the notion that Pareto’s thought was essentially fascistic or that he is properly regarded as a supporter of fascism.

Oswald Spengler

  • The Decline of the West introduces itself as a “Copernican overturning” operating as a paradigm shift involving the rejection of the Eurocentric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-medieval-modern” rubric. According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
  • According to Spengler, the Western world is ending and we are witnessing the last season—”winter time”—of Faustian Civilization. In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.
  • Apollonian/Magian/Faustian These are Spengler’s terms for Classical, Arabian and Western Cultures respectively.
  • Apollonian Culture and Civilization is focused around Ancient Greece and Rome. Spengler saw its world view as being characterized by appreciation for the beauty of the human body, and a preference for the local and the present moment. Magian Culture and Civilization includes the Jews from about 400 BC, early Christians and various Arabian religions up to and including Islam. Its world feeling revolved around the concept of world as cavern, epitomized by the domed Mosque, and a preoccupation with essence. Spengler saw the development of this Culture as being distorted by a too influential presence of older Civilizations, the initial vigorous expansionary impulses of Islam being in part a reaction against this. Faustian Culture began in Western Europe around the 10th century and according to Spengler such has been its expansionary power that by the 20th century it was covering the entire earth, with only a few Regions where Islam provides an alternative world view. The world feeling of Faustian Culture is inspired by the concept of infinitely wide and profound space, the yearning towards distance and infinity.

John Glubb

Summary of The Fate of Empires

Civilisations last 250 years, which represents 10 generations.  The stages of decline are as follows:

  • The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
  • The Age of Conquests
  • The Age of Commerce
  • The Age of Affluence
  • The Age of Intellect
  • The Age of Decadence

Supramaterial Cycles

Eternal Return

  • Eternal return (also known as “eternal recurrence”) is a concept that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. The concept is found in Indian philosophy and in ancient Egypt and was subsequently taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics. With the decline of antiquity and the spread of Christianity, the concept fell into disuse in the Western world, with the exception of Friedrich Nietzsche, who connected the thought to many of his other concepts, including amor fati. In addition, the philosophical concept of eternal recurrence was addressed by Arthur Schopenhauer. It is a purely physical concept, involving no supernatural reincarnation, but the return of beings in the same bodies. Time is viewed as being not linear but cyclical.


Yuga in Hinduism is an epoch or era within a four age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga. Our present time is a Kali Yuga, which started at 3102 BCE with the end of the Mahabharata war.

  • Satya Yuga: The first and best Yuga. It is the age of truth and perfection. Caste system is very flexible. Brahmanas are capable of achieving miracles by mere fiat of will. Kshatriyas are endowed with superhuman physical prowess. Humans are gigantic, powerfully built, handsome, honest, youthful, vigorous, erudite and virtuous. The Vedas are one. There is no agriculture nor mining as the earth yields those riches on its own. Weather is pleasant and everyone is happy. There is no religious sect. In the earlier part of the Yuga, all humans were Brahmanas and lived as siblings. There was no disease, decreptitude or fear of anything. There was no music, song, dance, buying or selling. There was no caste system. No animals were slain in sacrifices. There was no city, town or nation. In the later part of the Yuga, civilization is established and the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras perform their duties well. Human lifespan is 100,000 years and humans tend to have hundreds or thousands of sons or daughters. People must perform penances for thousands of years to acquire Samadhi and die. Significant people born in this age include Prithu, Ikshwaku, Nahusha, Yayati, Pururavas, Vishwamitra, Hiranyakshipu, Ravana etc.
  • Treta Yuga: Treta means third. In this age, virtue diminishes slightly. At the beginning of the age, many emperors rise to dominance and conquer the world. Wars become frequent and weather begins to change to extremeties. Oceans and deserts are formed. Majority Brahmanas become slightly less powerful. People are divided into various cultures and people of mixed classes are born. People become slightly diminished compared to their predecessors. Agriculture, labour and mining become existent. Significant people born in this age include Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Dasharatha, Raghu, Aja etc. Average age of humans is around 1000-10,000.
  • Dwapara Yuga: Dwapara means second. In this age, people become tainted with Tamasic qualities and aren’t as strong as their ancestors. Diseases become rampant. Humans are discontent and fight each other. Vedas are divided into four parts. People still possess characteristics of youth in old age. Significant people born in this age are Krishna, Balarama, the Pandavas, the Kauravas, Shantanu, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Draupadi and Abhimanyu. Average age is around a few centuries.
  • Kali Yuga: The final age. It is the age of darkness and ignorance. People become sinners and lack virtue. They become slaves to their passions and are barely as powerful as their earliest ancestors in the Satya Yuga. Society falls into disuse and people become liars and hypocrites. Knowledge is lost and scriptures are diminished. Humans eat forbidden and dirty food and engage in unrestrained sinful sexual practices. The environment is polluted, water and food become scarce. Wealth is heavily diminished. Brahmanas become ignorant, Kshatriyas become weak, Vaishyas employ questionable business tactics and Shudras treacherously acquire power. Families become non existent. Average age of people is barely 100 years though by the end of the Yuga, it will be up to 20 years.

According to the Laws of Manu, one of the earliest known texts describing the yugas, the length is 4800 years + 3600 years + 2400 years + 1200 years, for a total of 12,000 years for one arc, or 24,000 years to complete the cycle, which is one precession of the equinox. These 4 yugas follow a timeline ratio of (4:3:2:1). According to Srimad Bhagavatam 3.11.19, which is dated at 200 BCE-200CE, the Yugas are much longer, namely 1,728,000 years , 1,296,000 years, 864,000 years and 432,000 years:

  • “The duration of the Satya millennium equals 4,800 years of the demigods; the duration of the Dvāpara millennium equals 2,400 years; and that of the Kali millennium is 1,200 years of the demigods […] As aforementioned, one year of the demigods is equal to 360 years of the human beings. The duration of the Satya-yuga is therefore 4,800 x 360, or 1,728,000 years. The duration of the Tretā-yuga is 3,600 x 360, or 1,296,000 years. The duration of the Dvāpara-yuga is 2,400 x 360, or 864,000 years. And the last, the Kali-yuga, is 1,200 x 360, or 432,000 years in total.”

While the long yuga count is the most popular, it does not correlate to any known celestial motion found in the Astronomical Almanac. The value of 24,000 years fits relatively close with the modern astronomical calculation of one full precession of the equinox, which takes 25,772 years. Thus the yuga cycle may have some basis in known terrestrial cycles. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.11.19 describes the timespans of the demigods, in which a year of a yuga is a year of the demigods. It is this second sloka which appears to have been modified over the years.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s