Astrological World Cycles

By Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt)

excerpted from


September, 1932 Vol.4—11


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IN a series of articles, of which this is the first, the writer proposes to demonstrate the profound connection of an astronomical phenomenon, known as the Precession of the Equinoxes, with the history of mankind and the great cycles of the world. The true Age, or Yoga, of the present world-period, in reference to the Grand Cycle of Time, symbolized by the stars in their courses, will be pointed out, and certain erroneous ideas that have been circulated by modern philosophical literature, due to misunderstanding of the ancient Hindu Scriptures, will be corrected. The writer will attempt to make all astronomical and astrological references clear enough to be understood by those with only a very elementary knowledge of those sciences.

Authority Is Great Hindu Sage

Readers of EAST-WEST will be interested to know that the chief authority for the writer’s central thesis, which will be developed mainly in the second article of this series, is a small work, published privately in India, entitled: "The Holy Science," by Swami Yogananda’s Guru and Master, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giriji Maharaj, founder of Sadhumandal (counsel of sages) and its various Sat-Sanga (fellowship ) branches in different parts of India. This saintly Guru is a learned and illuminating commentator on the Bhagavad Gita and other Scriptures, including the Christian Bible, and has, in addition, a grasp of modern science that entitles his views to a very respectful hearing.

Systems of Chronology

The many systems of chronology adopted by different nations at various times are usually the source of great confusion to later historians and archaeologists in their attempts to fix the periods of history. However, whenever the ancients mentioned the position, during their own times, of the planets or of the Equinoxes in reference to the Zodiacal Constellations, the chronological era of such men in world-history can be determined with exactness. An illustration of the truth of this claim, and one which incidentally proves the great astronomical learning of the ancient Egyptians, who could so correctly place the planets, is a mummy’s coffin, now in the British Museum, which bears on its cover a Zodiacal representation of the planetary positions at the time the dead Egyptian was embalmed. Calculations by modern astronomers have proved that on the precise date of October 7, 1722, B.C., the planets and luminaries were in the exact positions shown on the coffin design. The mummy can thus be assigned an undeniable antiquity of seventeen centuries before Christ.


All ancient and modern methods of measuring years are based either upon solar or lunar phenomena. Just as a sundial will show the exact time of true noon in any locality, regardless of what system of mean or standard time may be used there, so man has no accurate reference of the passage of time in world cycles through the ages, except the testimony of celestial phenomena.

Precession of the Equinoxes

As every student who goes deeply into the study of any religion, philosophy, or history will find himself confronted with the necessity of understanding the astronomical and even astrological significance of the Precession of the Equinoxes, it is well that this subject be simply and briefly dealt with here.


The equinoctial times are about March 21 and September 22 of each year, when day and night are equal in length all over the earth. This is due to the fact that only on those two days does the earth’s axis come to an exact right angle (90°) with an imaginary line running from the center of the Sun to the center of the earth (the equator). The second of time when this right angle is exactly complete, and the Sun is directly in line with the earth’s equator, the Sun is considered to have reached the equinoctial points of Aries 0° (the Vernal Equinox, or spring in the northern hemisphere, about March 21) and Libra 0° (the Autumnal Equinox, or fall, in the northern hemisphere, about September 22). The ecliptic, or Sun’s annual apparent path around the earth, is measured off, starting with the equinoctial point of Aries 0°, into 360°, 12 signs of 30° each, called the Zodiac of the Signs. This Zodiac, or imaginary belt in the heavens, with the ecliptic as its middle line, is considered to be 16° wide, in order to include the latitude, north and south of the sun’s path, of all those planets belonging to our particular solar system. The Sun completes its circuit of this Zodiac of 360° in about 365¼ days, our solar year.

Zodiac of the Constellations

The Equinoxes having been explained, we shall now consider the meaning of their precession. Modern astronomers have classified every fixed star in the heavens into groups called Constellations. Those groups, however, which lie close to the plane of the ecliptic, were arranged into Constellations in very ancient times, and were considered to form the belt of the natural and actual Zodiac, through which the Sun appeared to travel in its yearly pilgrimage around our earth. This was the Zodiac of the Constellations, and the ancients divided it into 360° or 12 signs of 30° each.


What is the difference between the Zodiac of the Constellations and the Zodiac of the Signs? There is no difference in their division into signs and degrees, or in the astrological influences ascribed to their various parts, but there is, at present, a difference in space between them. There would be no necessity for dual Zodiacs if the Sun, each year, reached its equinoctial point of Aries 0° at exactly the same point of space, measured by reference to some fixed star of the Constellations. However, it has been mathematically determined by astronomers that each year at the moment when the Sun reaches its equinoctial point of Aries 0° and is in exact line with the earth’s equator, the position of the earth in reference to some determinant fixed star is some 50" of space father west than the earth was at the same equinoctial moment of the previous year.


The position of any fixed star near the ecliptic and near the border line of the Constellation Aries could be chosen to be the determinant, or standard reference point, in order to observe this yearly precession of the Vernal Equinoctial Point among the fixed stars. The Hindu astronomers selected Revati (Zeta Piscium) as the determinant fixed star, and considered this star as marking Aries 0° of the constellations. Each year the equinoctial point of Aries 0° of the signs will be found to have precessed some 50" of space farther west of Revati than it was the previous year. The meaning of the term, "Precession of the Equinoxes," is now clear. It refers to the slight annual increase in distance of the equinoctial points from a standard fixed star, which is considered as Aries 0° in the Zodiac of the Constellations, while the Vernal Equinox is considered as Aries 0° in the Zodiac of the Signs.

The Central Sun of the Universe

The cause of precession has not been finally established by modern astronomers, some claiming it is due to a slow change in direction of the earth’s axis, while others believe they have mathematical proof that the phenomenon is caused by the motion of the Sun in space along its own orbit, whereby all the bodies of our solar system are being brought nearer to a Grand Central Sun, around which our own Sun and every other Sun (fixed star) in the universe is revolving.


All ancient nations considered Alcyone, brightest star of the Pleiades, to be this Grand Central Sun. To the Babylonians it was Temennu, "The Foundation Stone." The Arabs had two names for it—Kimah, the "Immortal Seal or Type," and Al Wasat, "The Central One." It was Amba, "The Mother" of the Hindus, and its present name of Alcyone was derived from a Greek word signifying Peace. It is so far distant from us at present as to appear to be a star of only the third magnitude. There is a significant passage in the Bible (Job 38:4-31) about the Constellation containing Alcyone (From our perspective it appears in the constellation of Taurus, ed.), where the Lord asked Job: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?"

24,000 Years For One Circuit

The great sages of ancient India, whose knowledge of astronomy has not been surpassed by any modern nation, claimed that by the phenomenon of precession the equinoctial points of our Sun would take 24,000 years to complete one circuit around the Zodiac of the Constellations. Modern science tells us that the present rate of precession is 50.1" yearly, or 1°0" in 72 years. At that rate, it would take, not 24,000, but 25,920 years for the Vernal Equinox to make one whole circle of the Zodiac of the Constellations and return to any given starting point (fixed star). However, there is no proof that the present rate of precession, or 50.1" yearly, is constant, and the ancients claimed that at certain stages of the cycle the rate of precession is slightly more rapid than at other stages......

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