Human Cycles of Unfoldment - 1
When one deals with human beings, two basic sets of factors have to be considered. A third no doubt exists which, however, transcends ordinary knowledge and cannot be discussed here. A man or woman is first of all a human organism, operating at the level of human nature, which itself has to be considered part of the Earth's biosphere and subject to planet-wide rhythms and influences. Then this man or woman may present characteristics indicating that an individualizing process has been operating, not merely in terms of surface modifications of a particular type of human nature, conditioned also by environmental sociocultural patterns, but in terms of truly individual responses to events and everyday pressures.
In my book Fire Out of the Stone: A reformulation of the basic images of the Christian Tradition (1960-1961), I spoke of three souls in man, or three fundamental levels at which what we call "Soul" — the essential power of integration operating wherever there are organic manifestations of life — can operate: living soul, individual soul, and divine soul. The existence of these three stages of Soul-evolution which exist at least in potentiality in the human kingdom are clearly indicated in the Bible. In Genesis 2, God operating under the symbolic name of JHVH (Jehovah or Yahweh) endows man with a "living soul." This living soul does not basically differ at first from the soul of animals and it is given the same name. But in man the potentiality of a higher mode of Soul-activity was latent even at the beginning of human evolution in the passive Edenic state.
It was latent in the ability Adam — a symbol for the early Root Races of theosophical lore — to name everything he saw or met. This potentiality of objective consciousness became developed through various crises in consciousness, and particularly with the coming to the Earth of the Ben-Elohim (the "Sons of God-Elohim") who "married" the daughters of men. These were the Promethean or Kumaric Spirits who gave to Man the fiery spark of self-consciousness, self-determination and, therefore, moral responsibility. The result turned out to be largely destructive, leading to the Deluge and a totally new humanity (the fifth Root-Race, born, according to The Secret Doctrine, in central Asia a million years ago).
The development of the "individual soul" is symbolized in the Biblical tradition by Moses' meeting with God in His aspect of "I Am That I Am" — which means God as the spiritual-cosmic Principle of Individualization. With the coming of Christ, the possibility for mankind as a whole to develop the "divine soul" was revealed. But very few individual human beings have actualized such a potentiality in their lives. According to the symbolism of number briefly mentioned in a preceding chapter, the living soul vibrates to 4, the individual soul to 5, and the divine soul to 6. The student of Theosophy will no doubt identify these numbers with the fourth, fifth and sixth "principles" in the constitution of man — kama, manas, and buddhi.
As already stated, because we are in a fourth Round — and the American Indian traditions speak of "the fourth world" — the fundamental vibration of human nature (and of the Earth's biosphere as a whole) is 4. It is the vibration to which life on our planet generically responds. It is the vibration of man's living soul. And students of occult philosophy should know that Number 4, by a process known as "Kabbalistic addition," becomes 10 (1+2+3+4 equals 10). At the level of the living soul 10 is therefore a highly important number and the basis of the decimal system of measurement,
soon to be universally adopted.
Another number, 7, figures prominently in occult tradition. It is seen to be definitely related to the most basic patterns of evolutionary unfoldment, at least in our present world system. It can also be shown to refer to the most important cycle in the development of a human being at all levels, as the pattern of man is a microcosmic reflection of the pattern of the great cosmos. Around a circle, and tangent to it, six circles of the same size and tangent to each other can be drawn. This illustrates the relationship between the six and a central seed-unit which is the seventh — or the first, depending on the way one looks at the situation, i.e. pastward back to the One, or futureward in terms of a synthesizing process (a harvesting).
It is this seven-year cycle which we wish now to study. It should be stressed, however, that such a cycle does not imply that particular events repeat themselves every seven years; for, as already stated, cycles refer to structural patterns in the development of specific qualities of existence and of human faculties at particular levels, but not — or at least not essentially — to the actual events making possible or hindering this development. We shall discuss, first, the basic character of any seven-year cycle in a human life, according to which every year of the cycle can be given a very general, yet often most revealing, meaning; then we shall study the series of seven-year cycles during a man's life-span.
The length of the life-span of human beings obviously varies; yet traditionally one can speak of an archetypal life-span, whether or not any particular human being actually lives a shorter or longer period. We shall discuss, however, two archetypal life-spans: a 70-year period which refers specifically to the level of development of the "living soul," and an 84-year period in terms of the "individual soul."
The Seven-Year Pattern
In occult analysis a cycle of seven units can generally be divided into two hemicycles, each lasting 3 1/2 units. The first hemicycle represents an involutionary sequence and the other a symmetrical evolutionary ascent. The involutionary descent operates through the three basic levels of cosmic energy-spirit, mind and life — and the movement of return (evolution) passes in reverse order through these same levels.
The figure shown below schematizes this wave-process; but while it assuredly helps to grasp something of the structure of the process, it also tends to crystallize an unfortunate picture of up-and-down movement of spirit, mind, and life as separate layers. A better diagram would be produced by two spirals within a circle, one centrifugal (from center to circumference) and the other centripetal (the return movement); but it would be far more complex and still not really adequate in two dimensions.
The first three years of the process — most of the involutionary hemicycle — represents the progressive unfoldment outward and clarification of the new cyclic impulse, and the gradual response of the new materials drawn into the field of energies produced by that creative or transforming impulse. The fourth year is the turning point, the bottom of the cycle — and this constitutes a probable critical state; the impulse may scatter itself and lead to disintegration and failure, or it may find in the integrated materials gathered into the field the organized concrete vehicle for complete actualization and fulfillment. The process of concrete actualization operates through the last three years of the seven-year cycle, the seventh year being both the seed-consummation of the cycle and the seed-foundation out of which the new cycle will unfold.
The year-by-year analysis which follows is made in as broad terms as possible; it has to be reformulated with reference to whatever the actual situation, heredity, and environment of the individual are in the particular instance being considered.
First year — (the first, eighth, fifteenth, twenty-second, etc. years of a human life). The type of development which will characterize the entire seven-year cycle manifests as a new impulse, or a new compulsion of destiny, on the basis of what has developed in the last year of the preceding cycle. The impulse, or new beginning, is usually not clear; even though some definite occurrence may set the stage for it. Very often, that year is peculiarly elusive and uncertain in character, or filled with emotional confusion. The real things which occur take place inside, below the level of individualized consciousness. Life seems neither one thing nor another. Yet in some cases there is great impulsiveness and emotional intensity; perhaps a sense of freedom and of new beginnings.
Second year — (the second, ninth, sixteenth, twenty-third, etc. years). On one hand, the new impulse and the new destiny should then begin to repolarize the life and the substance of the person's feelings; on the other hand, a great deal of resistance against the new is likely to manifest. What was developed in the preceding cycle may oppose the new trend; or else the new trend has to push through the old ideas step by step. Psychological conflicts may well occur. Decisions may have to be taken. Financial or social issues may arise.
Third year — (the third, tenth, seventeenth, twenty-fourth, etc. years). The new trend takes on a more definite form. The mind usually receives, clearly or not, the vision of what life offers to the individual. A definite period of exteriorization and action should begin, even though one may feel very lonely and the ideals may seem unrealizable and one's abilities most inadequate. This lack of technique and of adequate means is often acute; yet there is a deep sense that one has to go on, perhaps amounting to emotional, irrational enthusiasm or
Fourth year — (the fourth, eleventh, eighteenth, twenty-fifth, etc. years). This is theoretically the period of "embodiment" of the impulse-idea, the leaf stage of vegetation. But while new energies are likely to be released and new forms of living consolidated, it may also mean conflict and struggle or at least a choice or decision at the core of a more or less acute personal or social crisis. At three and a half (i.e. at the mid point of the fourth, eleventh, eighteenth, etc. years of the life) a turning point may be experienced; yet it often need not take the form of a sharply defined event. Events are not actually what count, but rather what response we give to them; it is the quality of the response which will mean, at the end of the cycle, relative success or failure.
Fifth year — (the fifth, twelfth, nineteenth, etc. years). This is the symbolical stage of the flower. Theoretically, the "vision" phase of the third year now comes to a phase of actual manifestation and enjoyment — provided the growth has proceeded healthily! 5 on the 6 "evolutionary" ascent balances 3 on the "involutionary" descent. If the process is completely negative, the five-pointed star is inverted, a symbol of destruction.
Sixth year — (the sixth, thirteenth, twentieth, etc. years). This is the symbolic stage of the fruit. The seeding process has begun within the flower; now the consciousness should begin to be aware of a "mystery," of deeper depths, of a center of spiritual energy, of the "(God within." The urge should be to feed this transcendent realization, to "sacrifice" the past to the future. The creative impulse of the cycle, which has built the "plant" organism of consciousness and individuality (only with reference to this particular seven-year cycle of course!), is now drawn inward, towards the mothering of the seed of the future. Compassion and understanding should be cultivated at whatever level one is operating, and if difficult experiences come, they should be faced with inner strength and peace.
Seventh year — (the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, etc. years). This is the seed period when a particular seven year cycle is being concluded and the need for some new life-values and a new phase of destiny or character development should be felt. It may be experienced with poignant intensity, or in a confused way, or not at all if growth has been arrested or dormant. It could be a year of consummation witnessing some high points of consciousness, but in many cases negative factors may be as apparent as the positive ones, if the original impulse of the cycle has been weak and the pressure of family, group, society has been oppressive or repressive. This seventh-year is both an end and the implied promise (or at least possibility) of a new beginnings synthesis and a prelude evoking or at least suggesting the main theme of the coming seven-year period. It is an important year because it requires at the same time the willingness to bring some past to a conclusion — as perfect and liberating a one as is possible under the circumstances — and a consciousness open, in inner expectancy and faith, to whatever prompting or intuition of possible development may appear upon the stilled and receptive mind.
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