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Four Ages and Yukteswar's Argument
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A priest-astronomer in the Chinese tradition. Detail.
Adequate thinking?: "Sometimes 24 equals ca. 26 to the understanding yogi to whom a clod of earth and a piece of gold are the same." (See Bhagavad Gita 5,18; 6,8; 6,32).

In Brief

The kriya yogi, guru and astrologer Yukteswar (1855-1936) wrote a slim treatise called The Holy Science (1894). In the first part of it, he erroneously postulates that a 24,000 year long cycle is as long as an astronomical cycle of about 25,770 years, the so-called Great Year, and builds time calculations as if the Great Year were 24,000 years. That is a mistake, and time calculations that are based on that error, will grow worse as time passes.

What to do? An error should be acknowledged and then corrected, if that can be. But if a sect or cult publishes the work, normal corrective enough activity may not happen. Instead, proselytes may pop up and hail what is wrong, closing their eyes to what is bad. Such failings are detrimental to scientific advances.

Improper ways, wrong numbers

Schoolboy findings to compare with. A schoolboy may find errors in the textbook and make aware of it without being thrown to the wolves for it. He may not be fiendish and plotting for it either, not free from errors himself, but just candid. In a decent class and in a scientific discipline such detective work is good.

Ages. In ancient India and Greece of old there are mentions of four eras, ages. The Greek ages are Gold, Silver, Brass and Iron. The yugas, eras, of India are: Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga. Yukteswar says in The Holy Science that we are in the Dvapara Yuga ("Bronze Age").

Speculation going into calendars for folks. It stands out that Yukteswar uses improper calculations for telling the times. He says the bottom of a main cycle was reached around 500 CE. But the data for saying so should be questioned. Also take into account that others have other such "cycle bottom" and "cycle start" years. There are divergent views.

Yukteswar encouraged that the public should use his era calculations so that we no longer use CE (AD), BCE (BC) and the like. Such counsel may not be expected to take root after it has been shown (1) the calculations are at fault, and (2) their set low ebb and "bottom" smacks of idiosyncratic speculation.

Much is intertwined. Astrological time periods intertwine with mythology, each age lasting for about 2000 years. Such ideas have an astronomical footing. Today we are in the Age of Pisces, heading for the Age of Aquarius, is the idea many hold. What Yukteswar does in his work The Holy Science, is to combine the astrological eras with time periods that are described in ancient Hindu works, notably the The Laws of Manu. The four eras delineated in it correspond to the four ages (eras) in Greek mythology. They are:

  1. The easy-going Greek Golden Age of continuing spring and honey distilled from oaks, and no fear of punishments. The tempered climate allowed all to go without clothes in the open air, and nobody worked, for the earth gave them all they needed. Those who cherish an easy livelihood are thus attuned to Golden Age living where people grew younger as they lived . . . Where could that end?
  2. In the Silver Age people sought the shelter of houses and planted seeds of grain. A child played by his mother's side for a hundred years.
  3. The sterner Bronze Age was when a race of hard-hearted humans sprang from ash-trees and loved violence, and perished. Still another god-like race of heroes at that time was called demigods. They were transported to better places than here.
  4. The Iron Age is this age, where people have to toil. In this age, tricks, plots, traps, violence, and unbridled love of profit replace truth and modesty, and boundary-lines and fences replace common grounds and common possessions. Wars are fought through iron and for gold. Affection becomes rare. Comrades, right, and agreements give way to dishonour and might. People praise evil-doers and admire their audacity and violent dealings. Life turns ugly. The wicked will hurt the worthy by falsity and the like. Bitter sorrows will fall on people of this age as it is heading for its final doom. [Ovid's Metamorphoses]

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The Thirteen Constellations

Basic star lore. The zodiac is a belt of areas that the sun seems to pass through for each years, and this belt contains twelve star signs. Each of them is equipped with a mnemonic symbol: Aries, Taurus, Gemini and so on. The backdrop of the zodiac is the constellations (groups of stars) as seen from Earth. There are thirteen such constellations. They are slowly changing as the universe expands. What is more, the constellations are not right behind the star signs, but slowly drifting. Today the first point of the Aries sign (the vernal equinox) is in the first third of Pisces, and slowly moving toward Aquarius.

Scriptural Backdrop and Recap

1. Laws of Manu 1,68-71; 81-86) speaks of eras, also called yugas. One such era is 24,000 years long, it is stated, and it has an "ascending and descending half". Thus, a whole cycle consist of two golden ages, two silver ages, two bronze ages, and two iron ages with transmutation periods, skandas. That is what the Laws of Manu (without interpolations) says. As mentioned above, such cycles or ages may have but scriptural evidence to speak for them. Also, Manu Samhita's cycles are fraught with added interpolations. Without these interpolations, the length of the Platonic Year (Great Year) is the astronomical cycle that comes closest. However, Manu's cycles of 24,000 years have altogether little to show for them. Good, hard evidence is lacking, som they can better be handled as mythical rather than factual, much similar to how we manage the ages of the ancient Greeks.

The astronomically calculated Platonic Years of 25,770 years cannot be squared full well with Manu's yugas, since 24,000 is not 25,770. Should we seek to resolve the mismatch by stretching the Manu yugas so that they become Platonic Years? If so, we get other yuga calculations than Yukteswar. If not, we are out of step with current astronomical knowledge.

2. Institutes of Vishnu (20,1-10) supplies further shreds of yuga descriptions.

In The Holy Science (1972) Yukteswar Giri (1855-1936) speaks from The Laws of Manu (1984) ( and aligns the Manu eras of 24,000 years with the Platonic Years of 25770 years by disregarding the differences. That is not a passable error.

In other words, he claims that the Ages Cycle of 24,000 years is the same as the cycle of the retrograde movement of the vernal equinox – in astronomy it is also called the precession of the vernal equinox around the heavenly equator, a movement that is considered to take ca. 25,770 years, which is called the Great Year and the Platonic Year. Yukteswar's time calculations will be wrong for thousands of years.

Something to Deal With

Clearly mistaken notions of old are best left alone. And undocumented, unverified notions should be treated as speculation. If so, there is little left to deal with, for the one who claims something bears the burden of proof, and not the listener or reader. It is a sensible norm in science. Has Yukteswar proved that Manus yugas (eras) are real, true to fact? I do not think so.

So it is best to leave Yukteswar here and use the time saved by it to good and rewarding ends. That is what I would do. However, some may like the added material that follows, so I include it still.

For Astrologers about Constellations

Star signs are of 30 degrees each, but constellations are of irregular polygon shapes and unequal length Can anyone resolve this without "yodeling" a bit off tune here and there? [Cf. Maso 148; Alk]

Constellation whereabouts
Name Star sign dates* Constellation dates* (2000) Days/ degrees
Aries Mar 22–Apr 21 Apr 18–May 13 25
Taurus Apr 22–May 21 May 13–June 22 40
Gemini May 22–June 21 June 22–July 21 29
Cancer June 22–July 21 July 21–Aug 10 20
Leo July 22–Aug 21 Aug 10–Sept 16 37
Virgo Aug 22–Sept 21 Sept 16–Oct 31 45
Libra Sept 22–Oct 21 Oct 31–Nov 23 23
Scorpius Oct 22–Nov 21 Nov 23–Nov 29 6
Ophiuchus*   Nov 29–Dec 18 19
Sagittarius Nov 22–Dec 21 Dec 18–Jan 21 34
Capricornus Dec 22–Jan 21 Jan 21–Feb 16 26
Aquarius Jan 22–Feb 21 Feb 16–Mar 11 24
Pisces Feb 22–Mar 21 Mar 11–Apr 18 38
Rooted in a table by David Hasenauer in the Encyclopedia Britannica. [Link a] Or: [Link b] Besides, see Wikipedia, "Ophiocus" and all the others.


  1. THE DATES given in the column of "star sign dates" may vary with a day or at most two in a leap year cycle of 4 years. They are approximate, then.

  2. OPHIUCHUS, 'Oph', is the Serpent Holder or Serpent Bearer:

    This constellation is not part of the zodiac, but the sun passes through it in December each year. When the Babylonians drew the zodiac 3000 years ago or so, the sun passed through just the twelve constellations we still refer to as the zodiac. Because of the Earth's precession (wobble) the apparent way of the sun through the sky has changed through the millenniums.

    "While the sun still traverses Scorpius, it only takes nine days [sic] to do so; most of the time is spent in neighbouring Ophiuchus (which is the only constellation that the sun enters but which is not a part of the zodiac)."

    "Each year the Sun spends . . . only six days within the boundary of Scorpius. . . . And . . . for those born in early December, the Sun spends some time within Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. Although it's one of the largest constellations in area, Ophiuchus is the unrespected Rodney Dangerfield of the zodiac."

    There is a rich mythology around the Serpent Holder too.

  3. DATE AND DEGREE DIVERGENCES: Astrodienst in Zuruck does not operate with exactly the same DATE AND DEGREE DIVERGENCES as D. Hasenauer in their strict-looking calculations.

    The handy purpose of presenting the "Hasenauer survey" is to show how widely the spans of constellations vary – it's seen from the right column above by "one day is approximately one degree of arc". – As for Scorpius and Ophiuchus, they are taken as 'one Scorpius' too.

World Cycles

Lord Bertrand Russell
"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine (...) this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true." [Sir Bertrand Russell, from "Introduction: On the Value of Scepticism", in Sceptical Essays published by Allen and Unwin in London, 1928]


Swami Sri Yukteswar writings and comments, Literature  

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946. Online.

Yukteswar, sw: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.

Bühler, G. tr: The Laws of Manu. Banarsidass (Reprint from Oxford University's 1886-edition). Delhi, 1984.

Jolly, Julius tr: The Institutes of Vishnu. Banarsidass. Delhi, 1965.

Harvesting the hay

On many pages are simple markers, brackets and some symbols. What they stand for and how they are used for academic harvesting is shown on the page that the 'Gain-Ways link below will open.

Swami Sri Yukteswar writings and comments, To top Section Set Next

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