The Kali Yuga and the Sacred Hoop

I’ve been working my way through Georg Feuerstein’s Structures of Consciousness: The Genius of Jean Gebser (which can be yours for the measly sum of CDN$113.00 on Amazon for a used copy, $518.00 for a new one — ridiculous). I got my copy directly from Feuerstein’s widow, Brenda, who is a near neighbour, relatively speaking. Lucky me, (and I have to thank Brenda Feuerstein for her generosity in rounding me up a copy of Georg’s book).

(Even worse, Feuerstein’s Jean Gebser: What Colour is Your Consciousness is listed on Amazon for a mere $1,666.42! )

It’s probably safe to say that most people, in the English-speaking world anyway, who have been made aware initially of Gebser’s work became so through Georg Feuerstein. I’ve read some critiques of Structures of Consciousness that have suggested Georg misconstrued Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. That would be unusual, since he knew Gebser and worked directly with Gebser in preparing an introduction to his Kulturphilosophie. So far in my reading, I’ve found nothing to take issue with in any case.

Georg Feuerstein was a renowned scholar of Yoga, and in that regard has quite a list of credits to his name.

Here, I want to comment on something I came across while reading his interpretation of Gebser’s mythical consciousness structure, as it pertains to the Hindu concept of the “yugas” or world ages, which are stated as being fourfold, and which Feuerstein links to the four structures of consciousness named by Gebser

satya-yuga — archaic consciousness
tretā-yuga — magical consciousness
dvāpara yuga — mythical consciousness
kali-yuga — mental-rational consciousness

These, presumably, correspond to the classical Greek theory of the “four ages of Man”, being Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron respectively, each with some connection with the four primal elements or essences of earth, air, fire, and water (although the Greeks could never agree on which element was the true “archon” or elder element. For Heraclitus, fire was the true archon. For others, water was the true archon, as for example in the Book of Genesis).

What I found of interest, though, was Feuerstein’s association of each yuga with a particular colour as much as an emphatic structure of consciousness, and I’ll quote from his book,

Of particular interest is the color symbolism associated with these world ages. Thus the color associated to the first or golden age is white, symbolising the complete absence of all contrareity; in the satya-yuga, humanity was still all-related and immersed in the undifferentiated origin. God Nārāyana, of white hue, signifies the soul of all beings in its pure state, untainted by egoic impulses. In the second world age, Nārāyana’s color is said to be a deep red. This is an unequivocal indication of the emotionality of the magical consciousness; its world experience is defined by visceral instinct and ‘blood’. In the third age, Nārāyana’s hue is yellow, and this undoubtedly symbolises the solar (self-consciousness) of the mythical consciousness, especially its preoccupation with luminous inner experiencing by way of mystical introversion. Finally, in the fourth world age, Nārāyana assumes a black color. (p. 85).

This association of certain colours with the yugas or world ages, and therewith also certain structures of consciousness, is of interest because these are the primary colours also of the aboriginal Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel, as I’ve discussed that symbol in earlier posts in connection with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

The correspondence is quite intriguing, and even suggesting that the colourations of each age or consciousness structure are not arbitrary.

Feuerstein makes a further interesting observation that the words yuga and yoga are obviously related in the meaning of “yoke”, but less in the sense of “burden” and more in the sense of binding together or joining, or articulating. Although Feuerstein doesn’t make the connection, that is also the explicit function of grammar. Recall that, as my aboriginal friends say, “the Sacred Hoop is in language”, and it makes sense to say that grammar is the yoga of the supermind.

Or, as Rosenstock-Huessy put it, “God is the power that makes men speak”, or vox populi, vox Dei as was said of old — The voice of the people is the voice of God.

This interpretation of yoga, and association with yuga, as a joining or articulation suggests that, rather than the cycle recurring endlessly, as some have interpreted the world ages, there is a state of integration or unification that is not ouroboric, fatalistic, or eternal recurrence of same, but a true integration that transcends this cycling through world ages. In that sense, it would correspond to Gebser’s meaning of  “time freedom”, for it’s also perhaps worth noting that the word “kali“, as in this present kali-yuga (or “dark age”) also means “time” as well as “black”.

The prospect of such an integration, rather than a recurrence of the cycle, would indeed constitute a major “mutation” in consciousness, as you can probably surmise. And that seems also to be the theme of the German mystic Jacob Boehme’s illustration of transcendence,

Jacob Boehme

Jacob Boehme

As Nietzsche (and William Blake) knew also, insight freezes action. It’s a significant principle, especially applied to insight into the nature and meaning of time, about which today we are greatly confused.

It might also be worth pondering the variable significance of Jakob Boehme’s illustration of “transcendence” with another — the famous Flammarion engraving called Urbi et Orbi, which appears to be a “transcendence” only as a transition from the mythical to the mental-rational, and that appears to have much to do with the changing nature of time, from mythic time to mental-rational time.

Urbi et Orbi

Urbi et Orbi





4 responses to “The Kali Yuga and the Sacred Hoop”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    God has spoken through the prophets across human history and prophets asserted that they are speaking the word of god and god continues to speak through peoples until they realize who is making them speak. If only we recognize the breath, the soul through which we perceive, understand and speak. It is unhealthy to confine god manifestations in one form, since we have come to realize the formlessness of god. We are the fruits of his roots. This truth must not be forgotten. He who have endowed us with the faculty of speech and expression How little we thank and how oblivious we are of the creator of everything irrespective of the small brains that deny. It is true that he who have no divine light, live in darkness. We are all from him and it is a great mistake to underestimate any one or anything. In his presence we shall meet.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    I only like to add that not only god speaks through us but satan also and others, that is why human attention and intention are required. It seems wrong doing becomes institutional.

  3. davidm58 says :

    Very interesting. Congrats on getting a copy of Feuerstein’s book – the high price you mention has precluded me from adding it to my library.

    As you know, my blog is entitled “integral permaculture,” indicating my interest in blending these two disciplines. David Holmgren, co-initiator of Permaculture has said little about spirituality or philosophy, but he concludes his book Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability” with a discussion about “Long-term thinking, Large-scale cycles” and references the Kali Yuga. Here are the last 4 paragraphs of the entire book. Note that he emphasizes the cyclic nature of time, but that at the very end mentions “the spark of insight and integration (integrity), which informs and transforms the practice.” Without any knowledge of Gebser, et al. he seems to be intuiting an integration beyond the cycles:

    “This cyclical view of time is not some new idea, but simply a rediscovery of ways of understanding that are embedded in human cultural history and our collective unconscious.

    For example, the ancient Hindu cosmology gives us a breathtaking perspective on the cyclical nature of time and proportional pulsing balance between change and stability. A 60,000-year cultural cycle is dominated by a long matriarchy phase composed of three great enduring ages; it collapses in a vortex of chaos before the birth of the patriarchy phase, the Kali Yuga. The Kali Yuga (or Age of Conflict) lasts only 6000 years before another vortex of change leads to the next cycle. By the very precise reckoning of the Hindu numerologists, we still have over 440 years of chaotic change within the Kali Yuga before the new matriarchal age emerges. No time at all in the scheme of things!

    Without granting any particular credence to this or any other predictions, it is reasonable to conclude that life for our children, grandchildren and their descendants is hardly likely to be characterized by either a steady state of illusory continuous growth or by a quiet,predictable, sustainable culture. We must prepare them for uncertainty and rapid change, while instilling in them a living appreciation of the enduring rhythms of nature along with the value of long-term thinking, persistent ethical behaviour, and the importance of the simple, ordinary, even mundane, aspects of life.

    Permaculture is a dynamic interplay between two phases: on the one hand, sustaining life within the cycle of the seasons, and on the other, conceptual abstraction and emotional intensity of creativity and design. I see the relationship between these two as like the pulsing relationship between stability and change. It is the steady, cyclical and humble engagement with nature that provides the sustenance for the spark of insight and integration (integrity), which in turn, informs and transforms the practice. The first is harmonious and enduring; the second is episodic and powerful. The joyful asymmetric balance between the two expresses our humanity.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      As we might surmise from the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the imagination of space and time, IS space and time. And while we all experience a physical reality — a world of space and time — we certainly don’t experience that space and time in exactly the same way everywhere. Time is a paradox because life is a paradox.

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