The Yuga Cycle
Another system that has a series of dark and golden ages are the Vedic Yugas from classical Indian culture. These ages have different qualities. The Satya Yuga is a long-lasting golden age, full of peace and spiritual enlightenment. The silver age, or Treta Yuga, follows this and is slightly shorter and not quite as harmonious. This then gives way to the Dwapara Yuga, or Bronze Age, where spiritual practices start to become forgotten and neglected and the world becomes more orientated toward materialism. Then follows the Kali Yuga, an Iron Age or Dark Age, of ignorance, war, suffering, and the collapse of civilization. The cycle then repeats in the reverse order.
A relatively modern proponent of the Yuga system was the Sanskrit scholar Swami Sri Yukteswar, author of The Holy Science, which was first published in 1894. Yukteswar was also the guru of the famous Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. His writing radically revised the existing traditions of the Yugas by fundamentally questioning the established dates.
Hindu tradition states that we are now in the darkest age of all; Yukteswar disagreed and challenged both the timing and the very long periods of time that had been ascribed to each of the Vedas. He suggested that the astronomers and astrologers who calculated the almanacs had been misled by wrong annotations of certain Sanskrit scholars about the length of the Kali Yuga. This led them to maintain that it was 432,000 years long, of which only 5,000 years or so had passed. He described this as, “A dark prospect! And fortunately one not true.”
The Ascending Bronze Age
Yukteswar linked the Yuga cycle to a 24,000-year period. He described this great year as moving in an ascending arc for 12,000 years, raising the consciousness of humanity, and then a descending arc of 12,000 years, lowering it. He also specifically attributed the cause of this to the fact that the sun “takes some star for its dual and revolves round it.” Yukteswar, in fact, was presenting a complete binary star-based theory of precession more than 100 years ago. He believed we are currently in the ascending Dwapara Yuga and that we had left the Kali Yuga some 300 years before.
The historical precedents for this look promising. This would mean that the height of the Kali Yuga corresponded to the Dark Ages, where European civilization, at least, was at its lowest ebb. Followers of Yukteswar also claim that our current technologically obsessed era is a clear sign that we have entered the Dwapara Yuga, which is characterized by a fascination with mastering the physical world. It also means we have much better times to look forward to, as we are now moving back toward the time of the Golden Age.
Yukteswar even theorized that a binary motion might allow the rise and fall of human consciousness to occur. In The Holy Science he states, “When the Sun in its revolution around its dual comes to the place nearest to this grand center . . . dharma, the mental virtue, becomes so much developed that man can easily comprehend all, even the mysteries of the Spirit.” This grand center is the shared equilibrium point around which both of the two stars orbit. The Vedic name for this point was Vishnunabhi, and it was considered a magnetic center and seat of the great creative power of the god Brahma.
In the Vedas, one day of Brahma was equivalent to the time taken for 1,000 cycles of all four Yugas. A day of Brahma is followed by the night of Brahma. The Universe is considered to be many days and nights of Brahma old. By this reckoning, one day of Brahma is 24 million years long. This would be very close to the 26 million-year period of the mass extinction cycle proposed by Raup and Sepkoski. If this is the case, a companion star might possibly be the missing link that connects precession, extinction cycles, and the rise and fall of ages.