In their book The Yugas: Keys to Understanding Man's Hidden Past, Emerging Present and Future Enlightenment, the two American “scientists” Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, have written a revisionist version of the Indian philosophy of the Yugas, the four-age cycles of history and time.
In order to give a critical review of this book I will first give an introduction to the traditional Yuga teaching, which is a cyclic view of history, and hereafter to evolutionism, the modern linear view of history. In this way I will show how the book is a complete turning the traditional Yuga teaching upside down, so that it fits into New Age, and therefore to evolutionism.
The Indian Yuga teaching is written down in the Vedas. Yuga in Hinduism is an epoch or era within a four-age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga. Our present time is a Kali Yuga, which started at 3102 BCE with the end of the Kurukshetra War (or Mahabharata war). What´s interesting about this view of our present day is that it has the direct opposite view of the linear history than evolutionism, namely that we are heading into a very long time of decline. If we describe the four Yugas:
Satya Yuga (also known as Krita Yuga "Golden Age"): The first and best Yuga. It was the age of truth and perfection. The Krita Yuga was so named because there was but one religion, and all men were saintly: therefore they were not required to perform religious ceremonies. Humans were gigantic, powerfully built, honest, youthful, vigorous, erudite and virtuous. The Vedas were one. All mankind could attain to supreme blessedness. There was no agriculture or mining as the earth yielded those riches on its own. Weather was pleasant and everyone was happy. There were no religious sects. There was no disease, decrepitude or fear of anything.
Treta Yuga: Is considered to be the second Yuga in order, however Treta means the "Third". In this age, virtue diminishes slightly. At the beginning of the age, many emperors rise to dominance and conquer the world. Wars become frequent and weather begins to change to extremities. Oceans and deserts are formed. People become slightly diminished compared to their predecessors. Agriculture, labour and mining become existent.
Dvapara Yuga: Is considered to be the third Yuga in order. Dvapara means "two pair" or "after two". In this age, people become tainted with Tamasic qualities and aren't as strong as their ancestors. Diseases become rampant. Humans are discontent and fight each other. Vedas are divided into four parts. People still possess characteristics of youth in old age. Average lifespan of humans is around a few centuries.
Kali Yuga: The final age. It is the age of darkness and ignorance. People become sinners and lack virtue. They become slaves to their passions and are barely as powerful as their earliest ancestors in the Satya Yuga. Society falls into disuse and people become liars and hypocrites. Knowledge is lost and scriptures are diminished. Humans eat forbidden and dirty food. The environment is polluted, water and food become scarce. Wealth is heavily diminished. Families become non-existent. By the end of Kali Yuga the average lifespan of humans will be as low as 70 years.
According to one Puranic astronomical estimate, the four Yuga have the following durations: Satya Yuga equals 1,728,000 Human years. Treta Yuga equals 1,296,000 Human years. Dvapara Yuga equals 864,000 Human years. Kali Yuga equals 432,000 Human years. Together, these four yuga constitute one Mahayuga and equal 4.32 million human years. According to one version, there are 1,000 Mahayugas in one day of Brahma or 4.32 billion human years. A Mahakalpa consists of 100 years of Brahma.
The ages see a gradual decline of dharma, wisdom, knowledge, intellectual capability, life span, emotional and physical strength. Dharma can shortly said be called philosophy, or philosophical life. Satya Yuga – Virtue reigns supreme. Human stature was 21 cubits. Average human lifespan was 100,000 years. Treta Yuga – There was 3 quarter virtue and 1 quarter sin. Normal human stature was 14 cubits. Average human lifespan was 10,000 years. Dwapara Yuga – There was 1 half virtue & 1 half sin. Normal human stature was 7 cubits. Average human lifespan was 1,000 years. Kali Yuga – There is 1 quarter virtue & 3 quarter sin. Normal human stature is 3.5 cubits. Average human lifespan will be 100 years.
In the present days we may be said to live in a Kali Yuga, which is said to have started in 3102 BCE with the end of the Mahabharata war. This date is also considered by many Hindus to be the day that Krishna left Earth and went to his abode. You could also say that this is when the disenchantment of the world started. And if the Kali Yuga lasts 432,000 human years, there is really no light at the end of the tunnel in the nearest future. We are just in the start of the decline.
The Vedas is said to have been written down at the beginning of the Kali Yuga, and the Shastras say that the Vedic civilization flowered in India much longer time ago than the 50.000 years which modern science claim to be earliest possible time where Homo Sapiens firstly appeared on Earth (characterized by behavioral modernity; that is: behavior which can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior - e.g., art, ornamentation, music - exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others). The Shastras (or Sastras) claim that the philosophers, Yogis and Rishis (Seers) lived for millions of years ago, and the Vedic Acharyas (Indian scholars) believe that the stories in the Puranic literature are factual stories, not only from this planet, but also from many planets in this Universe. Data taken from these planets have nothing to do with the data from this planet (as for example incredible life spans and the ability to fly without mechanical help). The Puranic literature describes a universe where the supernatural is trivial and miraculous births are everyday phenomena.
So, the Yuga teaching is a so-called cyclic view of history. In my Ebook Evolutionism – The Red Thread in the Matrix Conspiracy, I describe how a modern Western linear view of history has taken over and is gaining global accept. I see this as an example of the decline of the Kali Yuga. The linear view of history is seen as a straight line that goes from low to high, towards constantly progress. So this view doesn´t view itself as decline, but the opposite. However, in the Ebook I demonstrate that it actually is a sign of decline. I do this via philosophical arguments. I describe the decline in three chapters: 1. Illustration of evolutionistic absurdity as it is seen in the artworld. 2. Variations of evolutionism, and chapter 3: The Californian Ideology.
In chapter 2 I present some examples of the decline of philosophy (Dharma): The Self-production thesis, Historicism, Reductionism, Management theory, The Mythology of Authenticity, Protestant Work Ethic, and The Return of the Sophists. In chapter 3 I continue the presentation, moving towards USA as the new place of sophist propaganda spreading to the world. This is shown by examining topics such as The Justification of Confabulation, Transhumanism and Singularitarianism, The Pseudoscience of Nanotechnology, Whole Brain Emulation, Mind Uploading and Cryonics, Transhumanist spirituality, Technological Utopianism and the Matrix Hybrid.
I also claim that all the original wisdom traditions through this will disappear, and that we in fact can watch how this is happening right now. New Age systematically works against religion (together with atheist fundamentalism), either in an attempt altogether to eliminate religion, or through reductionism. With religion I mean a religion with a tradition for a spiritual practice that through experience has been adjusted and corrected through hundreds of years. Thus Gnosticism and Mysticism arised in the early and medieval Christianity, Sufism in Islam, Hasidism and Kabbalah in Judaism, Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism, Zen and Dzogchen in Buddhism. In China you´ll find Taoism. But even older are Shamanism and Paganism; religious practices which I under one call the old religion and the old art. These traditions are footprints of the earlier Yugas.
In New Age the anti-religious work is happening though an exploitative form of spiritual colonialism and one step in; first: the destruction of Indigenous cultures (plastic shamanism is today systematically organized, for example through ayahuasca journeys), and secondly: the destruction of all the other wisdom traditions. The latter is spreading under the slogan: “these traditions can best be understood when integrated with Western psychology and psychotherapy” (= reduced to). The ignorance in this is that spiritual awakening is connected to ancestral and ancient layers, cords, eventually your own soul, and therefore only can be understood within their original context.
One of the traits of New Age is its contempt for tradition, preparatory work, and experiences with such, and therefore its attempts to redefine the traditions into its own ideology.
And all this is precisely what Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz expose in their revision of the traditional Yuga teachings. The book can only be characterized as an attempt of presenting a philosophy of history. I will therefore treat it as philosophy.
The book follows an Indian astrologist, Sri Yukteswar, who wrote a book called The Holy Science in 1894. Sri Yukteswar is obvious fascinated by the scientific revolution and technological progress, and therefore eager to get the Yuga teaching adjusted so that it can explain this progress, which, with a first glimpse, is in opposition to the view of a world in decline. Sri Yukteswar therefore broke from Hindu tradition in stating that the earth is not in the age of Kali Yuga, but has advanced to Dwapara Yuga. He does this by decreasing the duration of the Yugas.
Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz both lives in Ananda Village, a spiritual community in Northern California. It is a community devoted to the spiritual ideals of Paramhansa Yogananda, a disciple of Sri Yukteswar. This explains why they in the book take Sri Yukteswar´s claim that he received his ideas in an “intuition”, at face value. Sri Yukteswar was apparently an enlightened master, and can therefore not be wrong. But in the beginning of my Ebook The Tragic New Age Confusion of Eastern Enlightenment and Western Idealism, I have explained why I can´t take any truth by association to enlightenment seriously. Intuition is not a valid argument, neither philosophical nor scientifically. The authors are very impressed by Sri Yukteswar predicting something which could sound like Einstein´s theories. But Ray Kurzweil has also made a lot of correct predictions. This doesn´t make his junk philosophy valid. The question is therefore whether Sri Yukteswar, and therefore Selbie and Steinmetz, can offer a better philosophical argument than the traditional Yuga teaching. My claim is that they not only can´t do that, but that they end in a philosophical shipwreck, which seems caused by ideology, and not philosophy.
Sri Yukteswar´s theory is that the end of the Kali Yuga, and beginning of the Dwapara Yuga, began in 1600 AD. This fits into the beginning of the scientific revolution. Is this a result of pure coincidence, or pure intuition? I find it highly unlikely. This could have been notable if it was a prediction. But Sri Yukteswar lived from 1855 to 1936 (a time where the ideology of evolutionism found footage). A more likely explanation is that Sri Yukteswar was completely conscious in an attempt to get the Yuga teachings to fit the scientific revolution. And Selbie and Steinmetz are also overall describing technological progress (and even capitalism and individualism) as identical with progress in Dharma. This is a misunderstanding of the concept of Dharma, which shortly said means philosophy, or philosophical life (included all the subdisciplines of philosophy).
I agree with the authors when they claim that the current explanation of history cannot explain ancient anomalies, such as the Pyramids and advanced scientific and mathematical knowledge contained in India's hoary Vedas. The book is a good source of knowledge about such anomalies.
But the authors try to get evolutionism to fit into the Yuga cycle, by decreasing the duration of the Yugas (using Sri Yukteswar´s astrological calculations – click here), and can hereby claim our current age to be the Dwapara Yuga. They can therefore condemn the tragedies of the known past by simply stamping it as Kali Yuga. But the way they explain away, or ignore, current signs of decline is eye catching. I could write a much longer article about the degree of selective thinking used, just say that it praises just about anything I in my Ebook on evolutionism has demonstrated to be signs of decline.
The book is filled with selective thinking, as well as questionable arguments. As an example of selective thinking, you can mention that the book completely omits to explain what the original Yuga teachings actually consisted in. The authors just say that the book breaks with tradition. I carefully read my way through the book in order to find any explanation of the tradition it breaks it. Not a word. This is unacceptable in a book where the title is The Yugas.
Furthermore: the authors omit to explain the problems we witness today: It condemns earlier societies for slavery and human sacrifice, and correctly stamps them Kali Yuga, but omits to explain that today we have seen much worse tragedies in form of Communism, Nazism, and the recurring examples of war and ethnic cleansing. Add to this the problems of climate change and pollution. Again: such problems are not mentioned with a word. This is a strikingly example of selective thinking. I will return to the problems of today, just say that the traditional Yuga teaching gives a better explanation of both the earlier and present problems.
The authors also give questionable descriptions of the progress of our age. In the chapter called Thoughts are Universal the book correctly says:
It is commonly thought that civilization has advanced to today´s level by mankind simply adding new knowledge to what was already known […] Ideas, therefore, can be said to exist outside of any person´s mind. Thoughts are perceived, not created.
This is a Platonic philosophy, which I support. But on page 50, they write:
On the human level, mankind has discovered a subtle self, also governed by laws of energy, but highly personal and unique to each individual. This new awareness has awakened personal self-interest, and with this new awareness has come the conviction that one can, using one´s own energy, affect one´s circumstances and achieve one´s goals. And so we might also call Dwapara Yuga the age of the individual. And finally, mankind´s intellect has awakened. Rational thought and logical arguments are but the obvious expressions of a world in which rational thinking is the norm.
Energy awareness, the awakened intellect, and the empowered individual have already reshaped our world – and the process is just beginning. Dwapara Yuga is but 300 years old. There remains another 2000 years of development.
That rational thinking is the norm is simply wrong. On the contrary we live in an age of relativism and irrationalism. This is demonstrable so (see my article Anti-intellectualism and Anti-science). I will return to this.
As other examples of the “positive” signs of Dwapara Yuga the authors praise the development of many cities and large cities,
The size and number of cities around the world is one of the most visible ways the Dwapara consciousness has reshaped the world (page 55)
The authors praise the world economy and the importance of money, hereunder capitalism and the business world. On page 55 there is given a negative picture of the tradition of barter and a positive view of the use of money. Again: it is highly questionable whether this is positive. Not according to me. And I would claim that gift economy is supported by all spiritual traditions.
In a chapter called The Pursuit of Happiness, the authors praise the internet:
Dwapara man´s interests are also legion. The World Wide Web, the world´s exponentially growing repository of information gives us glimpses of the variety Dwapara man is exposed to (page 56-57).
They claim that the internet simply has made Man happier. Let me share a different view of this, which I agree with. In his book Antisocial Media – How Facebook disconnect Us and Undermines Democracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains what the consequences are when The Silicon Valley ideologists ignore the more dark human traits (this is obviously also what the authors of The Yugas do). He also explains why our age certainly not is the age of reason and logical argument, as the authors claim.
The internet has namely fertilized the ground for the return of the Sophists, and a global spreading anti-intellectual and anti-scientific movement (about the Sophists, see the last part of my article The Matrix Conspiracy). The problem is much more dangerous than Donald Trump, much larger than the United States. Vaidhyanathan claims that the autocrat, the de-territorialized terrorist organization, the insurgent group, the prankster, and the internet troll share a relationship to the truth: they see it as beside the point. If they can get the rest of us scrambling to find our balance, they have achieved their goals. Those who oppose or dismiss democracy and the deliberation and debate that make democracy possible do not care whether claims are true or false, or even how widely they are accepted as true. What matters is that a loud voice disrupts the flow of discourse, and that all further argument will be centered on the truth of the claim itself rather than on a substantive engagement with facts. Power is all that matters when trust and truth crumble.
Much of the world is suddenly engaged in a reignited battle over truth and trust. “Credibility” and “authority” seem to be quaint, weak concepts. Experts are derided for their elitism, their choice to reside in comfortable social and intellectual bubbles. Scientific methods are dismissed for reflecting class interests of the scientists and institutions that produce and certify knowledge. Vast bodies of knowledge are doubted repeatedly by elected officials through powerful media outlets to the point where substantial portions of Americans have cease to believe basic facts about the oceans that are rising around them. Across the globe communities of doubters invite renewed outbreaks of deadly measles among children because publicity-seeking, soft-minded doubters have fooled just enough parents into believing that the risks of vaccines outweigh the benefits (Oprah Winfrey is considered a larger medical authority than the medical experts). Journalism has collapsed as both a practice and an industry as advertisement revenue fled to online platforms and a cacophony of new voices asserted their newfound potency, certified by high Google search ranks or millions of Twitter followers.
Vaidhyanathan says that the erosion of truth and trust is more acute in the United States than it is in Canada, The United Kingdom, France, or Germany. But much of the rest of the world is shaking as well, since America is the leading storyteller. We see how authoritarian governments assumed control of Turkey, Hungary, and Poland and economic and political chaos has tested institutions in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece in recent years. Pluralistic, liberal democracy finds too little favor these days in Russia, India, the Philippines, or Venezuela. Democracy has seen better days in Brazil and Mexico, both of which danced for a while with competitive elections and peaceful transitions of power, only to see traditions of grift and graft creep back again. Egypt flashed an interest in democracy, then quickly reverted to brutal military rule. Tunisia and Myanmar offer some hope for the sort of transitions to democracy and the rule of law we so recently celebrated as the emerging norm, but ethnic and sectarian strife threaten to bludgeon any hopes in both of those countries.
I have warned against the return of the Sophists many times. The whole debate between the Sophists and philosophy (Socrates), which Plato´s work was all about, is back. Also Vaidhyanathan believes this. He says that sophistry (relativism and irrationalism) is the dominant cultural practice of the moment. People can´t agree. We can´t agree on what distinguishes a coherent argument from a rhetorical stunt. But despite the erosion of trust in long-established institutions, there are, according to Vaidhyanathan, two sources of trust that are growing in their power to claim truth: Google and Facebook. Americans trust Google search results and links much more than they trust traditional news outlets. My own concern here is the original wisdom traditions. New Age, with its infringement of experience and tradition, have completely taken over the internet so that everytime you do a google search on spiritual topics, you will find links to New Age websites.
Google is, with the words of Stewart Justman, a “Fool´s Paradise”. And Facebook users judge the trustworthiness of information that comes across their News Feed based on who posted it rather than the source of the original post itself. Many people judge whether a claim is true or false based on how much prominence Google gives it or which of their Facebook Friends choose to push it forward to others. Vaidhyanathan believes that we are collectively worse off because of Facebook. If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook.
Vaidhyanathan asks you to step back from your experience for a moment. Would the world be better today if Facebook had never been invented? If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, as Twitter could at any time unless it figures out how to make money, would the world improve? Vaidhyanathan claims that there is a strong case for the affirmative. While the Guardian story you encountered yesterday might have led you to a new novel or an interesting thinker, millions of others came across a story from Breitbart.com that drove up the barometer of bigotry in our society. Someone else decided not to vaccinate a baby because of something she read on Facebook. Someone else now believes climate change is a conspiracy constructed by Big Science.
So, what we are facing with The Californian Ideology, is the return of the Sophists, who come in the disguise of philosophers and scientists. Following the Californian Ideology and its technological utopianism, they are all in for scientism, the ideology of science: the believe that you can do philosophy instead of the philosophers, and then avoid the difficult task of philosophical argumentation, by claiming that what you do is science.
In this way we today have a peculiar situation, which the traditional Yuga teaching explains with the concept of parallel up-cycles and down-cycles. We have solved almost all technical problems, a number of countries have democracy with large political freedom, but at the same time the human problems still flourish, and the attempt to solve them technically, seems to have brought about a condition of total confusion, of fragmentation, decay of values, consumerism. A condition, which is spreading globally. The decline of Dharma (philosophy) is precisely the cause of the rise of such human problems.
We live in an age, where we are on the way into crises, which are of a size, that never before have been seen in the history of mankind. Mechanization, automation and introduction of new technology have created new forms of work, but also a massive unemployment. On the background of modernization the increase of population is fastly rising, and this growth is in the long term quite untenable, and will unavoidably involve increased problems of distribution between the richest and the poorest areas. In addition to this, we are getting closer to that moment, where there not will be food enough to the population of the earth – regardless which discoveries and inventions, that might see the light of the day.
The industrialization has also had global consequences. The ”side effects” of industrialization in the form of emptying of resources, climatic changes and pollution of earth, water and air, are now so massive, that it is obvious, that the now known forms of industry and industrial agriculture not will be able to continue unchanged, not to talk about spreading to the whole world. The enourmous growth in productive power has also been accompanied by a perhaps even larger growth in destructive power. The spread of weapon of mass destruction makes possible the extinction of all human life, and perhaps all life on the planet. We must expect, that the mutual economical dependency the nations between will be larger and larger, and that public mixing and clash of cultures will heighten. Terrorism has in this connection seen the light of the day.
And humans´ existential experience of this condition, are characterized by unreality, alienation, meaninglessness, a thorough boredom and ennui. All this are especially caused by the elimination of the meaning which were to be found in the original wisdom traditions. Boredom has become connected with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, smoking, anorexia, promiscuity, vandalism, depression, aggression, hostility, violence, suicide, risk behaviour etc. etc.
And the meaninglessness, and the decay of values, can lead people to begin to take extreme ideologies up to consideration again, perhaps even in the name of democracy. It is a fact that we have begun to bring about democracy through war, without investigating the question about cultural traditions, not in the others, or in ourselves. In spite of the fact, that we have introduced outside democracy in a number of countries, then this namely doesn´t make the mind democratic. A democratic mind requires a human being, who both in mind and heart is clear-sighted and peaceful, a human being, who has gone through a philosophical revolution. And before that has happened, any democracy is a process that dissolves itself from the inside, and a ticking bomb.
Herein is lying a gigantic, world political and local political challenge to think again concerning the relationship between Man, society and nature, and not only automatically continue thought-patterns from the liberalist and socialist traditions, which have grown out together with the industrial modernization.
All this as a philosophical challenge, a necessity of Dharma. Only by emphasizing the primary things, the secondary can be understood and solved. The economical and social evils can´t be solved without first understanding, what has caused them. And in order to be able to understand them, and in this way create a radical change, we must first fully understand ourselves, since we are the cause of these evils.
Unfortunately this won´t happen. Our age is on its way into a down-cyclic age of decline which we can´t avoid. This is especially seen in the decline of philosophy, which is the overall term for what the traditional Yuga teaching called Dharma.
If you look at one of the traditional Dharma laws, then it says: since the Wholeness is a reality then all parts of this Wholeness are defined by each other. If there is put too much energy in one part then this unbalance will be contra-balanced by the energy´s swing over in the part´s opposition.
Now, if we take the growth fanatism and ego-fixation that characterize the humans of today, then this Ego-extreme is reflected in countless fields. Too much energy is invested in armament; too many atomic weapons; too much pollution; too unequal distribution of the riches of the Earth; too unequal distribution of the food and fruits of the Earth. And first of all: too many people are too focused in their Ego; they accumulate energy to their Ego, to oneself; or to the family Ego; the company's Ego; the national Ego.
If you look at the energy-law, then this is the energy in its one extremity. With necessity the energy will swing over in the opposite extreme. And this will not happen in a silent way, when you consider the enormous moment which is in the actual extreme, and it will happen very simple: through pollution of the environment, through disease (aids, cancer and other) through warfare, terror, crises, inner mass psychotic collapses, and through natural disasters.
We can of course discuss forwards and backwards about progressivism versus traditionalism, optimism versus pessimism, but the most strikingly fact is that the book itself, since its topic is the Yugas, becomes a sign of the Kali Yuga as it is described in tradition.
The authors praise the age of enlightenment, but omits to discuss that the age of enlightenment also is the age of beginning scientism (reductionism in different forms), which again is a sign of the decline of knowledge, and the rise of junk thought.
The Yugas therefore places itself in an area between bad philosophy of history, historicism and pseudohistory. The authors even admit that they are a part of “the work of many researchers and authors in the field of alternative history”.
They therefore place themselves in the company of other New Age pseudoscientists; especially Joseph Selbie, who, in one of his other books, The Physics of God - Unifying Quantum Physics, Consciousness, M-Theory, Heaven, Neuroscience and Transcendence, wallows in all this New Age scientism. It is no surprise that the authors are praised and featured on Graham Hancock´s website, a leading author on the New Age propaganda site Gaia.com.