Caste, Calendar and Cosmos - Part II

The fourfold One Circle is the Chaturvarna of caste. Its roots lie in the cosmic harmony like everything else the civilisation of the subcontinent has to offer of eternal value. But when that One Circle is dismissed in favour of the subjective relativism of science, and the Ayanamsha Chaos becomes the determining factor of our expression of the Sanatana Dharma, then of course caste must also degenerate since it too owes its being to that same geometric form.

Here is the very same diagram presented in Part I, page 5, but with each of the four castes entered in the positions they occupy in the Circle divided in four. In so doing we learn how indeed all can be one – but one within the correct perception of the cosmic harmony which the calendar regulates for collective purposes. Caste is one such means to regulate society.
This formulation can be found not only in India as inherited from ancient times but throughout the world, when we consider that globally the very same four-fold division exists. Here are the broad categories; they can be embellished further to include the full gamut of each quadrant: 1) labour, service, crafts; 2) finances/banks, industries, commodities; 3) government, military, judiciary. And finally the fourth and highest – equivalent to Uttarayana in the Hindu Calendar – which in contemporary society including the Indian has been usurped by elements that bear no credentials for the fourth position – in ancient times occupied by Rishis and Seers. Today intellectuals, philosophers, scientists are likely to occupy this important position; their writs often stand uncontested and any consideration of higher principles goes ignored or even ridiculed. The wiseman’s voice is lost in the din of political and social activism and the intellectualisms of think-tanks, bearing little or no relation to the duties of the fourth quadrant. This is the most interesting aspect of our transitional phase on the road to a new world order: the necessary call of the hour is the integration of the fourth quarter and to identify its role in the new global society. This integration of the fourth is essentially the all-encompassing subject of my treatment.
The point to bear in mind is that the Chaturvarna is a cosmic fact which has structured civilisations across the globe throughout history, disregarding cultural and ethnic differences. Indeed, this is the value of a cosmic-based vision: it influences the entire human species irrespective of caste or creed or political ideology. How much more valuable and effective is such a structure in a civilisation like the Vedic which, from its inception, followed superior cosmic laws?
When the Vedic prescription of One Circle is understood, we realise that this single geometric form can knit together all the diverse elements it contains in an experience of oneness which might otherwise appear disconnected when taken singly or linearly. The value of Oneness is irrefutable, but because it is a delicate balance when attained, if that One Circle is disturbed or erased from the collective consciousness, the element that unifies and integrates society is turned against itself. It is then that lesser formulations come to usurp the place of higher principles that might otherwise impact society. (In minor ways we see this happening when aspects of the democratic system such as freedom of speech, human rights, and so forth, are used against itself to bring down the system.) .
Consider the role of nationalism. It can be an energising sentiment in the population, with the ability to focus the collective consciousness on a single noble goal; but it can also degenerate into its shadow – Nazism, for example. As well, there are certain political ideologies that tend to disturb the fourfold balance by emphasis on one quadrant of the wheel. Communism is one example. There we find an overpowering of just one quarter, the first (Shudra, labour). While the ideal underlying such ideologies may be noble, due to a congenital imbalance the unregenerate human condition can carry the emphasis beyond tolerable limits. In so doing, this may lead to totalitarian means to reach a desired end, thereby extinguishing the very foundational premise of the new universalism: freedom.
Today, after the demise of Communism as a potential for global unification which its international ideology proposes, another section of the Circle has taken over the attempt to unify humanity by seeking to replace the Communist failed effort by imposing its values on the whole. The factors constituting the second quadrant (Vaishya – economics, financial powers, banks, industries, etc.) have come into prominence of late. The entire globe is sought to be brought under the umbrella of an economic system the opposite of Communism, but also holding as it does an international agenda. In both cases the universal character of the cosmic influence is sought to be given expression in one form or another because we cannot escape the pressure to cast aside dividing barriers, given that the Cosmic Dial has moved into the Age of Aquarius, the zodiacal sign bearing the most affinity with the cosmic harmony.
Thus, globalisation, liberalisation of economies, free market, and so forth, pretend to encourage in humanity the experience of oneness based on a projected economic well being. The inescapable result of this overpowering of one quadrant over the others is ultimately collapse under the weight of its own incompleteness and resultant contradictions, just as Communism collapsed for a similar reason. Witness the travails of the European Union, founded solely on elements of the second quarter which, standing alone, lacks true binding power.
The lack of freedom Communism demands brought about its downfall, insofar as freedom is one of the pillars of the new Aquarian ideal. In the Communist model the vital breath that a society requires to course through free and open spaces as a necessary ingredient for growth is suffocated. On the other hand, in open societies and their model of economy, freedom proves to be excessive, often degenerating into abuses such as greed and debauched excesses of various types, often aided by the trade of illegal substances that plagues societies across the globe; again, the openness of the society is used against itself. Clearly the two stand in apparent opposition to each other; but in fact they are simply sides of a single coin. The rise of one forces the emergence of the other. This has been the story of our entire 20th-century world affairs
We are still in the throes of an unprecedented economic upheaval, without really understanding the reasons why; whereas, the truth be told, it was brought about by the overpowering rise of the second quadrant as a reaction to the imbalance involving the first. This is the destiny of incomplete systems: they constantly seek to balance themselves out, but not being aware of the complete and integral ‘circle’, these attempts are never successful. Certainly through this latest collapse we have learned one lesson: the universalism of Aquarius has also been felt in the current crisis which has indeed affected economies across the globe. Interestingly, the least affected have been the Asian economies – perhaps indicating a sign of things to come.
The electronic media, which plays such a prominent role in our entire 21st-century civilisation, in politics, economics and culture, is another sign of the Aquarian times, perhaps more so than anything else. This is an especially interesting topic which may be left for another time, since space does not permit me to do it justice.

The fourth quarter of the circle is the great void. The origins of this vacuum lie in the innards of the quarter itself. That is where we must locate the root of the problem and study dispassionately all its ramifications. In the course of this treatment those roots will be uncovered, along with the means to heal the ills caused by the existent void. In a sense the fourth quarter is the cause of incompleteness and an inadequate expression of the other three quarters. Thus the blame for the failure to resolve societal issues harmoniously can be laid at the feet of the spirituality of escapism that had monopolised the higher reaches of human consciousness over the past two thousand years, leaving the lower regions to their own resources to seek some means to fill the resultant void.
We note that displacement is another key word. Regarding the final quarter, for example, the wisemen of old have in large measure been replaced by the judiciary. While the role of law and the courts plays an admirable role in contemporary democracies, it too has been displaced from its true position in the third quadrant of the Cosmic Order. The result is usurpation of powers, with the judiciary having to play the role the executive may often fail to do. As a consequence we see the new phenomenon of judicial activism on the rise, particularly in countries such as India. It not only sets a dangerous precedent but also overburdens the courts. This usurpation may not be desired by judges; rather, it can often be an instinctive reaction so as to fill a void for the good of society that had been left by the executive branch.
In all these cases we learn that the Cosmic Order has suffered because of a common factor: nothing is in its place. When that occurs naturally certain segments overstep, usurp and finally become overpowering by having taken on a burden which is legitimately another’s to carry. The same assessment can be carried out regarding all four quadrants of caste. But the fundamental issue remains: emphasis on any one over the others creates imbalance that finally leads to collapse.

The question may be asked, What is it that actually experiences collapse? In this treatment the nature of the elements in a state of collapse will be analysed. At this point we must focus on the subcontinent and its struggles to remake itself in a modern image, without entirely desiring or being able to discard the forms of old. One such is caste.
The first mention of the Chaturvarna is found in the world’s oldest scripture, the Rig Veda. In X, 90, 11-12, known as the Purush Shukta, it is stated,

11. When they divided up the Man
into how many parts did they divide him?
What did his mouth become? What his arms?
What are his legs called? What his feet?

12. His mouth became the brahmin; his arms
Became the warrior-prince [Kshatriya], his legs
The common man who plies his trade [Vaishya].
The lowly serf was born from his feet [Shudra].
(Translation, Raimundo Panikkar)

This imaginative description of the origin of caste could be dismissed as the mystical fantasies of a Rishi in ancient times, bearing little or no connection to our contemporary society. However, it is the calendar that once again makes caste eternal and for which reason it just refuses to die. Again, as long as the cosmos exists, which provides the structure for the real Vedic calendar, and insofar as caste arises from within that same structure, it will live on in spite of concerted efforts to extirpate it from society. Certainly attempts to eliminate caste have been relentless in independent India. But what if we approach the matter differently? What if we embrace caste as it is in its original highest cosmic sense and in the process try to discover just why and when that noble Order began to degenerate to what we now have in its place?
It may not be immediately apparent how the above Rig Veda verses can be equated with the calendar. To clarify the issue, another element of the ancient lore has to be added if that connection is to be understood. This is the zodiac.
The Vedic praises sing of caste as emerging from different portions of the body of the Cosmic Purush. All astrologers, east and west, know that the human body is ruled by different signs of the zodiac. In the Medieval design presented here, the animal and human figures connected to the signs have been placed on the body over the portions that they are said to rule and also in the circumscribing oval with its further details. This composition provides the first step to understand the correlation by the placement of the signs on the body and also in the surrounding oval; it helps to visualise the cosmic harmony as internal as well as external – or the oneness of inner and outer.

The Cosmic Person and the Zodiac

Next would be to visualise the same Man in a circular position, with his head located at the position of Aries (Mahavishuva – March Equinox, the beginning of the zodiacal year) on the wheel, his neck at Taurus, arms at Gemini, and so on through the circle until we reach Pisces and the feet. The knees, ankles and feet, upholding the upright human body, its distinguishing feature, are located in the final quadrant of the circle, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces respectively.
The Cosmic Purush in a circle would be similar to the ancient Ouroboros, the serpent biting its tail, representing precisely the ceaselessness of cyclic time. Its head and tail join at the location in the zodiac of the Zero Point or ayanamsha where the first sign Aries meets the last, Pisces. In this figure, as in the variations on the same circle presented in this treatment, the outstanding characteristic is that these months/signs ‘effortlessly move one into the another’, as the Rig Veda pointedly states to drive home the fact of a unified progression, a perception that is lost on most contemporary astrologers, especially in India. We are dealing with a continuous uninterrupted flow (of time) which Ouroboros depicts so clearly. As demonstrated in the course of this treatment, there are many symbols that have been handed down to us from ancient times, each one presenting the same vision of unity in one form or another.

OUROBOROS – and the six orbs of the old system

I must stress once again that if hostile powers seek to disrupt Hindu society, the simplest strategy is to disturb the calendrical connection to the cosmos, which has also been the binding power of a unified diversity in the societal order, i.e., caste. This is effectively done first and foremost by losing the correct ayanamsha or point of entry into the wheel – the Serpent’s head and tail juncture. In that wheel the zodiac provides the sense and purpose of evolution; it is our inheritance from the Ancients as a gnostic guide for our individual and collective journey through the months/signs of the year. This has been the secret doctrine of all Mystery Schools across the globe and across the ages.
Without that enlightened script there is no ‘soul of knowledge’ involved, let this be clear. We may even be in possession of the correct Zero Point as in the calendar employed in the West, but lacking the eternal wisdom the zodiac contains of the 12-month journey across the ecliptic plane, it is a lifeless and meaningless science, not dissimilar to our contemporary science which offers neither purpose nor goal but simply the mechanical and vacant directionless churning of a machine. With the addition of the zodiacal script, the ‘soul of knowledge’ finds a means of expression in society, a structure by which that cosmic essence can materialise on Earth through the human instrument. Failing which, a slow and steady disintegration sets in which caste and all things cosmic are experiencing on the subcontinent. But having an eternal foundation (the zodiac/cosmos), things once true and real just do not collapse and disappear: they degenerate and linger on as bodies in a state of decomposition. They persist as part of the culture, but in name only.
This has been a most ingenious strategy to set into disarray the only enduring civilisation with cosmic roots and an unbroken link to the Vedic and Sangam eras: structures are not sought to be eliminated; they are just distorted. Thus, though calling it Vedic, there is actually nothing left of that original oneness and authentic sense of unity of old.
However, and this is most important to note, if the things valid and true are to be restored, all we need to do is to retrace our steps and correct the ayanamsha that can in itself connect us to that cosmic harmony again.

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