The Theosophical Society in America

Is This The End of the World of The Beginning of the New Age

By Alice O. Howell

Originally printed in the NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2007 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Howell, Alice O."Is This The End of the World of The Beginning of the New Age." Quest  95.6 (NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2007): 207-209.

Alice O Howell

There is a gathering anxiety concerning the "End Times" as predicted by many Christian fundamentalists and recent events certainly reinforce this anxiety. However, much of this worry results from confusing the end of the world with the end of the Age of Pisces.

When I was ten years old and attending a boarding school in Switzerland, I overheard one teacher ask another if she had heard that the world was coming to an end on June 10, 1933. This was already June 10 and my roommate Vera’s birthday! Before bedtime, I had shared the news with all the other girls on our floor. We agreed to meet in our dorm after lights out to face the end together. I noticed a gathering tension and excitement, mixed with disbelief, and sympathy for Vera. At about 9:30, one by one, we assembled silently and sat somberly in our pajamas on the four narrow cast-iron beds in our room. We whispered our fears, apologized for our meanness, and hugged little Vera.

As luck would have it, an absolutely terrible thunderstorm broke out, causing us truly to panic. We clung together crying and began to pray incoherently in various languages as the lightning lit up the terror on our faces. Then, as is the way with storms, the noise receded, the rain stopped, and the moon shone brightly through the departing clouds. You can imagine the uniform reaction I was to suffer at the hands of my classmates. Needless to say, this is a lesson I have never forgotten!

Today, throughout the world, a collective fear is rising again. This fear arises from concern over various prophecies of the End. For some, it is called the End Times, and involves The Rapture of all good evangelical Christians, along with the appearance of Jesus in the sky, the Battle of Armageddon and the horrible end of everyone else. This collective myth is somehow reminiscent of another powerful myth, which held sway over the collective unconscious of Hitler's Germany in the 1930s. At that time, innumerable rational and decent Germans were brainwashed by Hitler without knowing what was happening. Are thousands of rational, decent Americans being overcome by the unconscious collective power of another myth, today?

This time around, however, there is some truth in it that has not been clarified or explained. There are various other prophecies all pointing one way or another to an "End" which could possibly come in 2012. The Mayan calendar, according to scholars, suggests that we are in the last katun (cycle) ending in the equivalent of that year, at which time we can wake up to a new way of living in concert with one another. Carlos Barrios, an historian and anthropologist, writes:

Mayan Daykeepers view the Dec. 21, 2012 date as a rebirth, the start of the World of the Fifth Sun. It will be the start of a new era signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator and the earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy. At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years the Sun rises to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. This cosmic cross is considered to be an embodiment of the Sacred Tree, The Tree of Life, a tree remembered in all the world's spiritual traditions. Some observers say this alignment with the heart of the galaxy in 2012 will open a channel for cosmic energy to flow through the earth, cleansing it and all that dwells upon it, raising all to a higher level of vibration.

                        (From )

Meanwhile, Barrios says, a perilous struggle between positive and negative factors will arise; and it behooves humanity to choose wisely with respect to the environment, the impact of greed, hatred, and intolerance or else many lives will be lost. In Vedic (Hindu) astrology, which uses the sidereal zodiac of constellations, rahu, the Vedic point of destiny, will be reactivated during the last months of 2012, and help in changing consciousness for the better.

Is it simply a strange coincidence that these two prophecies came from cultures separated by almost half the globe? Whether it is a coincidence or not, the greater significance is that both are optimistic. Both are telling us one way or another that it is not the end of the world but the end of the Age that we call Pisces and the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Those of you out there thoroughly sick of hearing about anything "New Age," cheer up, we have at least 2000 years of the Aquarian Age to come. It will not be "New" for too much longer in the greater scheme of things.

The basis for these prophecies is not religious but astronomical. However, there seems to be little agreement among astronomers about the position of the Point of the Vernal Equinox, perhaps because the phenomenon of the Precession of the Ages was discovered by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century BCE, and it seems unclear where he assigned zero degrees of Aries to start the new Platonic Year. So there is a wide choice ranging from 2012 to 2150! On the other hand, 2012 seems to be an important year in those other prophecies, which all point to an end and a beginning of something highly significant.

Two Greek words, aeion and kosmos, which may have been interchanged, conflated, and mistranslated, are the most likely source of the confusion. Aeion refers to an eon, age or era of time. Kosmos refers to the universe or world, a place. It also is the root for beauty, as in cosmetics, which is nice. Words can be used for different purposes. It is possible that people in high places are using the end of the world concept to excuse global warming and the destruction of the environment in order to hasten the Second Coming (which allegedly is happening at the present).

I, for one, am confident that cats will go on having kittens, and that we will survive somehow. Hopefully, we will restore the health of Mother Nature, and finally learn that the light that shines in you and me is the same light! We need to remember that the flame on every candle is the same fire.

As for the Second Coming, there is truth in it, as well; surely it really means the coming of the consciousness of Christ (Atman, purusha, Divine Guest) within each one of us. This is the spiritual task of the coming Age—to recognize the unity underlying the diversity of manifestation. Perhaps a new commandment will emerge: "Love thy neighbors, they are thyself!" At the 1981 International Analytical Psychology Conference in Bombay (now Mumbai), I heard Mother Teresa put it in a nutshell: "I believe in person to person and that God is in everyone." The trap for the coming Age is that we may ignore the person-to-person part. This involves transpersonal love and not reducing individuals to numbers. "Don’t take this personally, bang! You’re dead!"

In terms of the science of astrology, the phenomenon of Ages is known as the Precession of the Equinoxes, which you can look up in any encyclopedia. It is the slow unfolding of the Platonic Year, measured by the twelve constellations, and is called a precession because the Point of the Vernal Equinox travels in a reverse direction through the sidereal zodiac of the visible stars of the constellations, e.g., Aries, Pisces, Aquarius, etc.; whereas the tropical zodiac goes in a forward direction, e.g., Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.. The latter is a theoretical circle based on the apparent motion of the sun around the earth in a year, divided neatly into twelve months or signs. The constellations vary in width and as do the interfaces between them. Astronomy measures the heliocentric positions of the planets transiting against the constellations, and astrology uses the geocentric tropical zodiac. (Skeptical scientists use this ignorantly to debunk astrology, not realizing that this is the way it is supposed to be!) We live, after all, not on the sun, but on the earth. Remarkably, this precession was discovered around 200 BCE by Hipparchus, a Greek living in Alexandria. This staggering discovery was made at the end of the Age of Aries; and we have now lived through the whole Age of Pisces and are entering the Age of Aquarius. If the dichotomy of Pisces is faith versus reason, the coming one is that of the individual and the collective; global/cosmic.

So keep in mind that there are two zodiacs: the sidereal and the tropical—a wheel within a wheel—as Ezekiel noted. Both zodiacs bear the same twelve names, and if the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples come to mind, you are right. In the Holy Land, there is a mosaic that shows a sign for each son of Jacob. In Cairo, at the Church of the Dormition of Mary, there is another mosaic that depicts both the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve disciples under their zodiacal signs. The number twelve is a clue to the solar myths: i.e., the gods on Olympus, the Labors of Hercules, and on and on. All of this goes back to the Sumerians, who gave us twelve months in a year, twenty-four hours in a day, sixty minutes in an hour, and sixty seconds in a minute. (They used the digital decimal system for business because they could count on their fingers and toes.)

So, what is the Point of the Vernal Equinox? In layman’s terms, it marks the moment in March that the sun appears to cross the earth’s equator. It is zero degrees of Aries and we call it spring. Stop the clock! Now imagine taking a celestial ruler, and using the two points of the sun and the earth, draw a line out into space like a clock hand. Where it lands with respect to a constellation determines the name of the Age. The tip of the clock hand is called the Point of the Vernal Equinox. This travels one degree every seventy-two years! It takes approximately 26,000 years to make a full cycle of one Platonic Year.

For biblical students, it is interesting that St. Paul infers a new dispensation, so it is conceivable that he knew of Hipparchus’ theory. We do know that Christianity actually coincided fairly closely with the beginning of the Age of Pisces, carrying with it not only ubiquitous fish symbolism, but naming Jesus the slain lamb (Aries means ram).

Judaism falls in the Age of Aries (Isaac was saved from sacrifice by a ram), and the shofar, a ram’s horn, is still blown ritually today. Moses was angry at the backsliding of some of his people because they were worshiping the Golden Calf. (The old Age of Taurus involved bull worship. Now bulls were out and rams were in!) If you are familiar with ancient history, mythology, or archaeology, there can be no disputing this sequence.

In conclusion, there is so much I can only hint at—the incredible synchronicity involved in the symbolism of the astrological meanings for the signs connected to the constellations, and the coincidence of these symbolisms with the symbolisms of the major religions, as well as the prevailing myths in an Age, and the steady evolution of human consciousness itself—and all of it inherent in the sequence of history.

This can be verified objectively in archeological evidence going all the way back to the Age of Cancer, the age of Mother Goddess worship. There have been many Platonic years going back into prehistoric times. Written history begins at the end of the Age of Gemini, (the sign that rules communication). It makes sense to me to start arbitrarily with the Age of Cancer, because the archaeological evidence provides tangible proof. We desperately need to learn more about this area of lore and knowledge and to communicate it to others, because it can be a source of comfort, faith, and hope. Here lies a potential reconciliation between science and religion; these insights can give spirituality its proof and science its lost sense of the sacred.

It has given me and others, the temerity to suggest that there is a divine plan in the unfolding of human consciousness, and a sacred implication that seems to be concealed in these awesome eons. This divine plan and its sacred implications reveal themselves in the immense mystery of the cosmos of Creation. Indeed, "The Heavens declare the Glory of God."

Alice O. Howell has taught at several C. G. Jung Institutes and has lectured worldwide. Widowed, she lives now in a quiet village in New England; however she has lived quite an extraordinary life. She grew up in hotels and boarding schools, visiting over thirty-five countries by the age of fifteen but she is also a late bloomer, coming to Theosophy and writing eight books after the age of sixty. Her book, The Heavens Declare: The Astrological Ages and the Evolution of Consciousness, is newly published by Quest Books. Howell is also the author of Jungian Symbolism in Astrology, The Dove in the Stone: Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace, The Web in the Sea: Jung, Sophia, and the Geometry of Soul, and The Beejum Book.