Even if the end of the world will not come on the 21 of December, we never seemed so close to it. Ozone holes, atom bombs, overpopulation, despiritualisation, hurricanes and melting ice caps are just a few signs for the rising water at our feet. According to these clues, we could rightfully assume that we are indeed in the age of vice, Kali Yuga.
If we believe the Manvantara, we are in the last astronomical period, where hate, avarice and confusion reign. But is this true? Are we so close to drowning? The Old Greeks would agree, for they also differed between four time periods. Like in the Hindu doctrine, we are supposedly in the last, the worst, the iron age.
The pre-socratic philosopher Empedocles believed in something similar. He argued that the world is governed by two successive cycles. On the one hand, the centering cycle of love, which unifies everything in an intermixture of the four elements.
On the other hand, the cycle of hate, which decentralizes everything, until the four elements are separated into four homogenous and concentric heaps. According to him, we are now also in a phase where hate gains momentum.
The traditionalist René Guénon, who believed in the Manvantara, argues in the same fashion that “contrary tendencies are to be traced in everything”, such as the centrifugal and the centripetal force. He also points out that every cyclic development “necessarily implies a gradually increasing distance from which it proceeds”.
There are many other thinkers and religions, who believe that we are on the road to perdition, such as Christianity, which proclaimed the approaching apocalypse. After a certain interpretation of Christianity and astronomy, we find ourselves presently in the astronomic period of the fishes, that is duality, hence divisiveness.
However, there are also those, who believe that we live in better times. Would not some Darwinian argue that evolution is perpetually propelling at least the fittest of us towards the better? One such Darwinin, interestingly a Christian Darwinian, is the Jesuit Teilhart de Chradin.
His theory is a combination of Christian thought and the concept of evolution. De Chardin argues, through God and the driving force of love the world becomes increasingly organized and united. The final aim is this love itself, which was already personified in Jesus, the Omega. So maybe there is still a chance for a kingdom of heaven on earth.
Also some philosophers, such Richard David Precht, argue that we have improved, at least morally, to an unprecedented high level. For instance, human rights would give written prove to that. Are we not more civilized and have more mores as well as morals?
Someone like the psychologist Steven Pinker would agree with Precht. Pinker writes in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that voilance has decreased in its scale and magnitude over time.
Having said that, the ethnologist Jürg Helbling would not entirely agree with him, for he argues that war only came into existence among humans, after the nomadic lifestyle ceased and humans could not evade each other anymore.
What to do?
This debate shows that empirical and historical evidence is either to little or not existing at all, in order to prove that things have improved or worsened. In the end of the day, it is about what we want to believe in and how this will effect us.
If we are really doomed, should we not give up, as there is nothing we can do anyways? No, because, firstly, there is no 100% agreement of when exactly the age of the demon will end, when it exactly started, or what will precisely happen afterwards.
Some say Kali Yuga starts with the death of Krisha at about 3102 BC, although we do not know when Krishna existed and if he did at all. Even if there will be a Brahma-night before the cycle begins again, we most likely have a few thousand more years to go.
Secondly, as Guénon writes, “it is always the partial point of view that is ‘malific’.” In the big picture the cycle is good as it is, or maybe there is no good and bad at all.
Thirdly, in case we really have both tendencies in us, the centripetal and the centrifugal, love and hate, we should believe that we can use either of them to make this world a better place.
That is what makes us human: hope, even if the water reaches up to our chin. Even though all evil escaped from the Pandora’s box, Elpis, the spirit of hope, lies at its bottom.
In between times
I personally find it very appealing what the writer Herman Hesse, the author of Siddhartha, once wrote. He reckoned that every age has its very own crises. None is better than the other. (Of course, he talks about the recent recorded human history and not the history of the entire universe like that Manvantara.)
Is it not true that the so called dark ages might have had less interpersonal morality, but more spirituality and more respect for nature? It is time to overcome the crises of our epoch.