Modern anthropology rediscovers the ancient teaching about time-spirits

by Emil Páleš

It is a well known but unexplained fact of anthropology, that the growth of culture is not continuous, but occurs in waves. Great personalities, geniuses in every branch of art and science do not appear solitary, but in whole constellations, in groups. Let us recall the masters of classic music: Mozart, Paganini, Beethoven have been contemporaries. Or the great constellation of renaissance painters: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Tizian etc.

The  wave-like character of culture obviously can not be explained by genetics: since the same talents would have to be already in possession of the forefathers of these masters as well as their descendants. That is why the majority of anthropologists looks for the causes of such outbursts of creativeness in the sociological environment of the given culture.

The influence of environment is but excluded in cases, when great achievements in the same field have been made simultaneously in two or more different places on earth without being in contact. The best known example of such parallel event is the axial epoch of Karl Jaspers: between 600-300 B. C. the greatest religious founders and philosophers appeared at the same time in China, India, Persia, Israel and Greece: Lao´c, Kchung-fu´c, Buddha, Jina, Zoroaster, Jeremiah, Daniel, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle etc. They did not know about one another and yet taught the same main ideas! Since 150 years no scientist has been in grade to propose a plausible hypothesis, how this is possible.

A four-year research project of the Sophia foundation has been dedicated to the research of parallel and rhythmic phenomena in history. We found out, that since the stone age until now there can be ascertained dozens of such parallel phenomena or synchronicities in the history of art-styles, social forms or thought-movements, which can in no way be explained within the materialistic paradigm of science. Moreover, these synchronic waves of heightened creativeness in different fields of culture recur within certain rhythms and constitute a system.

The biggest surprise is, that this system, which can be ascertained empirically from history, has been already exactly known since millennia: it is based on 354 and 72-years rhythms, which have been known to the medieval as well as antique Europe and goes back as far as to the babylonian calendar used since the very beginning of history. A forgotten manuscript by an abbot, Johannes Trithemius, from 1508 speaks about seven archangels, who alternate every 354 years as spirits of time. Every 354 years one of them inspires the spiritual atmosphere of the world.

Indeed, the occurrence of the greatest physicians in history (like Hippokrates, Galenos, Avicenna, Charaka, Vagbhata etc.) falls together with the times of archangel Raphael, who was the traditional inspirer of medicine. The times of greatest achievement in mathematics fall into the time of archangel Zachariel, who according to tradition revealed arithmetics already to Abraham. The greatest world poets and musicians came under the patronage of Anael, the intelligence of Venus; and the greatest philosophers have been inspired by Michael, the archangel of clear thinking. Historians flourish in the Oriphiel-age and comics in the Gabriel-age – exactly as it should be expected according to their mythical attributes.

There have been attempts for falsification of this discovery. The opponents proposed – so as to avoid subjective selection of historical data – to compare it to some independent studies, which have been done several decades ago. Extensive studies on cultural dynamics have been done by two renowned scientists: american anthropologist Kroeber and Russian sociologist Sorokin. The curves of cultural growth given by them strongly confirmed our own results.

If we consider, that the discussed rhythm has been known already to the Sumerian priesthood at the very beginning of history, sooner than all these historical events took place – this knowledge about the rhythmic structure of time has not only a value of an supplementary ad hoc speculation, but the value of a prediction, which could be now – after 5000 years of history – verified!

The fact, that biggest cultural waves in history have been predicted, does not need to contradict human freedom, if we accept, that human spirits plan their incarnations in cooperation with great cosmic intelligences, who are inspiring whole cultural epochs, and that is why there is not a chaos but a system in history. Inevitable consequence of this is, that human being is not only a result of two factors – genetics and environment – but of three: genetics, environment and the spirit-self, which chooses its parents and environment, where it is going to be born. This is a serious and fundamental challenge to all contemporary scientific concepts of human being, of anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology and all materialistic science. What is their answer?

Is the Modern Psyche Undergoing a Rite of Passage?

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By Richard Tarnas

“A mood of universal destruction and renewal…has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos – ­­the right moment­­for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious human within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science….So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” – C. G. Jung

What are the deep stirrings in the collective psyche of the West? Can we discern any larger patterns in the immensely complex and seemingly chaotic flux and flow of our age? Influenced by the depth psychology tradition founded a century ago by Freud and Jung, and especially since the 1960s and the radical increase in psychological self­consciousness that era helped mediate, the cultural ethos of recent decades has made us well aware how important is the psychological task of understanding our personal histories. We have sought ever deeper insight into our individual biographies, seeking to recover the often hidden sources of our present condition, to render conscious those unconscious forces and complexes that shape our lives. Many now recognize that same task as critical for our entire civilization.

What individuals and psychologists have long been doing has now become the collective responsibility of our culture: to make the unconscious conscious. And for a civilization, to a crucial extent, history is the great unconscious­­history not so much as the external chronology of political and military milestones, but as the interior history of a civilization: that unfolding drama evidenced in a culture’s evolving cosmology, its philosophy and science, its religious consciousness, its art, its myths. For us to participate fully and creatively in shaping our future, we need to better understand the underlying patterns and influences of our collective past. Only then can we begin to grasp what forces move within us today, and perhaps glimpse what may be emerging on the new millennial horizon.

I focus my discussion here on the West, but not out of any triumphalist presumption that the West is somehow intrinsically superior to other civilizations and thus most worthy of our attention. I do so rather because it is the West that has brought forth the political, technological, intellectual, and spiritual currents that have been most decisive in constellating the contemporary world situation in all its problematic complexity. For better or worse, the character of the West has had a global impact, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Yet I also address the historical evolution of Western consciousness because, for most of us reading these words, this development represents our own tradition, our legacy, our ancestral cultural matrix. Attending carefully and critically to this tradition fulfills a certain responsibility to the past, to our ancestors, just as attempting to understand its deeper implications fulfills a responsibility to the future, to our children.

A paradox confronts every sensitive observer about the West: On the one hand, we cannot fail to recognize a certain dynamism, a brilliant, heroic impulse, even a nobility, at work in Western civilization and in Western thought. We see this in the great achievements of Greek philosophy and art, for example, or in the Sistine Chapel and other Renaissance masterpieces, in the plays of Shakespeare, in the music of Bach or Beethoven. We see it in the brilliance of the Copernican revolution, with the tremendous cosmological and even metaphysical transformation it has wrought in our civilization’s world view. We see it in the unprecedented space flights of a generation ago, landing men on the moon, or, more recently, in the spectacular images of the vast cosmos coming from the Hubbell telescope and the new data and new perspectives these images have brought forth. And of course the great democratic revolutions of modernity, and the powerful emancipatory movements of our own era, vividly reflect this extraordinary dynamism and even nobility of the West.

Yet at the same time we are forced to admit that this very same historical tradition has caused immense suffering and loss, for many other cultures and peoples, for many people within Western culture itself, and for many other forms of life on the planet. Moreover, the West has played the central role in bringing about a subtly growing and seemingly inexorable crisis on our planet, a crisis of multidimensional complexity: ecological, political, social, economic, intellectual, psychological, spiritual. To say our global civilization is becoming dysfunctional scarcely conveys the gravity of the situation. For humankind and the planet, we face the possibility of great catastrophe. For many forms of life on the Earth, that catastrophe has already taken place. How can we make sense of this tremendous paradox in the character and meaning of the West?

If we examine many of the intellectual and cultural debates of our time, particularly near the epicenter of the major paradigm battles today, it is possible to see looming behind them two fundamental interpretations, two archetypal stories or metanarratives, concerning the evolution of human consciousness and the history of the Western mind. In essence these two metanarratives reflect two deep myths in the collective psyche­­and let us define myths here not as mere falsehoods, nor as collective fantasies of an arbitrary sort, but rather as profound and enduring patterns of meaning that inform the human psyche and constellate its diverse realities. These two great myths in the collective psyche structure our historical self­understanding in very different ways. One could be called the myth of progress, the other the myth of the fall.

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Richard Tarnas featured in the film ‘Time is Art’ and is the founding director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he currently teaches. Born in 1950 in Geneva, Switzerland, of American parents, he grew up in Michigan, where he received a classical Jesuit education. In 1968 he entered Harvard, where he studied Western intellectual and cultural history and depth psychology, graduating with an A.B. cum laude in 1972. For ten years he lived and worked at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, studying with Stanislav Grof, Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, Huston Smith, and James Hillman, later serving as Esalen’s director of programs and education. He received his Ph.D. from Saybrook Institute in 1976 with a dissertation on LSD psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and spiritual transformation. From 1980 to 1990, he wrote The Passion of the Western Mind, a narrative history of Western thought from the ancient Greek to the postmodern which became a best seller and continues to be a widely used text in universities throughout the world. In 2006, he published Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network in the UK. Formerly president of the International Transpersonal Association, he is on the Board of Governors of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. In addition to his teaching at CIIS, he has been a frequent lecturer at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, and gives many public lectures and seminars in the U.S. and abroad.