a strict sense, the “myth” of the Four Ages of
Mankind is generally assumed to have originated in
Greece around the eighteenth century BC, back in the
days the country was plunged into
desolation by the Doric people’s invasion. Around
that time, the poet Hesiod, probably influenced by
obscure legends about past cataclysms and the
happier times that preceded them, is said to have
set to the task of composing, in the solitude of the
countryside, his Works and Days, the most
intriguing of the two famous poems attributed to him
– the other being his famous Theogony.
As to the place of origin itself, some are inclined to believe it was India, considering the manifest identity between the four ages of the Greek tradition and the descending cycle of four yugas of the Hindustan tradition.
In this connection, however, we would still need to determine whether this is also the origin of many other myths in which the notion of four ages is equally prominent, such as the Maya and Inca and many other traditions; and even of all other “myths of return” where – irrespective of the number of ages – there stands out the universal, most ancient belief in the “fall” of man, a tradition that evokes the decline and alienation of mankind from a golden, paradisiacal condition to one of total degradation – usually ending in a catastrophic deluge – a most familiar and characteristic version of which can be read in the first pages of the Bible, from the “fall” of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Paradise to the events that led to the Flood.
The Precession of the Equinoxes
But let’s get back to the Four Ages and our next logical step, i.e. determine their lengths. In his Timaeus, Plato asserts that the seven planets, once the time to balance their respective speeds has elapsed, return to their starting point. This revolution is a “perfect year” and, considering the great significance it has for different traditions, must exert some sort of influence in the total length of a cycle of four ages.
In turn Cicero, while recognizing the difficulty of estimating the length of this vast celestial period, rates it as 12,954 common years, although the precise length appears to be 12,960 years (180 x 72) as certain concurring data suggest.
And in effect, this latter period, also called “great year” by both Greeks and Persians, is the exact half of the great astronomical cycle known as the precession of the equinoxes (or “Zodiacal Year”), the length of which has been traditionally calculated as 25,920 common years (360 x 72) and, as is widely known, is the one during which the projection of the Earth’s axis, responding to the rotation and oscillation (or “wobbling”) motions of the planet along its orbit, makes a full circle at a rate of one degree every 72 years and returns to the exact point of departure in relation to the Zodiac constellations so that the equinoctial point, one of the two times of the year in which the night lasts exactly as the day does, turns out to be the same again as it was at the beginning of the period.
Although this cycle is said to have been discovered in 139 BC by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, some authors believe the first to calculate its length as 25,920 common years were the ancient Egyptians, who would have come by this figure by matching the equinox with the same Zodiacal sign during 2,160 years; and still others say the first to know about it were the old Brahmanas of India, which knowledge would have been spread to Iran and Sumer and then to Egypt, where it was picked up by the Greek Hipparchus.
Be it as it may, the Egyptians, according to the Hermetic tradition, were trying to establish the length of the Divine Year, which was then fixed as approximately 168 Zodiacal years (or “creation days,” as they used to call them). This itself is extremely suggestive, as 168 times 25,920 is 4’354,560 common years, virtually the length of a Hindu cycle of four yugas (4’320,000 common years) with a difference of “only” 34,560 years. However, since the consideration of such remarkable coincidence would take too long, for the moment I will stop here. See you soon with more.
A Message from The Author
Luis Miguel Goitizolo
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