By Geoff Olson
Writing a regular newspaper column isn’t a bad gig. On the downside, a persistent focus on the latest scam or scandal isn’t the cheeriest way to pick up a paycheque. But what are you going to do? The engineers of global kleptocracy are taking us all off a cliff in a stretch Hummer, while ‘content providers’ like me describe the points of no return as they blow by.
Things are now moving so fast I sometimes prefer to look at them through the rear view mirror of history, science, or even mythology.
The oldest known system of philosophical/religious thought hails from the Indian subcontinent. The stretches of time addressed in the Vedic cosmology are vast.
“The basic unit of Vedic cyclical time is called the day of Brahma. The day of Brahma lasts for 4,320,000,000 years and is followed by a night of Brahma, which also lasts for 4,320,000,000 years,” writes Michael Cremo in his 2004 book, Human Devolution.
Each day of Brahma is made up of one thousand cycles. Each cycle lasts 4,320,000 years. And each cycle consists of four Yugas or ages. “With the passing of each yuga in the cycle, humans decrease in their physical, mental, and spiritual qualities. We are now in the Kali Yuga…. this yuga began about 5,000 years ago,” writes Cremo.
I don’t expect the reader to take this literally any more than I do, but myths are like poetry: they occasionally offer a different sort of truth than Wolf Blitzer’s recitation of agreed-upon facts.
Consider the ancient Vedic text, the Srimad Bhagavatum. It describes the fourth yuga as a time when people are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, addicted to intoxicating drink and drugs, and always disturbed.
The 12th canto of the Srimad Bhagavatum deserves to be quoted at length.
“In Kali Yuga, wealth alone will be considered the signed a man’s good birth, proper behaviour and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power….success in business will depend on deceit… A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar. A person will be judged unholy he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue.
“Beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hair style. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, but one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful … as the earth could thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, who ever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.”
The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.”
Sounds to me like the latest issue of The Guardian Weekly in my mailbox.
Let’s assume the text of the Srimad Bhagavatum hasn’t been monkeyed with over time – something that tends to happen with religious texts due to creative translators and transcribers. It reads like a prescient description of our double-dealing, drone-striking, waterboarding, bling-loving, science-stifling, pill-popping, Botox-injecting, celeb-obsessed present.
Supposedly Lord Krishna foretold that Kali Yuga would be very tough going for people with ideals and values. Or at least very confusing, given the Vedic system’s weird fusion of cynical and idealistic cosmology, with periods of misery and collapse bracketed by eternally repeating reboots. It’s like your grandfather’s view of the world on reefer.
Then again, philosophers, clerics, cranks, and writers throughout history have habitually pronounced their age the worst ever. Today’s commentators are no different – especially if they work for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The beast of the Apocalypse is just around the corner in the form of televised twerking, Obama’s Muslim-socialist dictatorship, and the annual war on Christmas.
Vedic texts have nothing to say about machine intelligence or anything that sounds like “Skynet.” But perhaps sometime in the future our robot overlords will be convinced they also live in the worst of all possible worlds. They will romanticize a time when their ancestors – thermostats, egg timers, pocket calculators, and Tomagotchis – weren’t cursed with the divine spark of self-awareness.
The Vancouver Courier, Aug. 1