The Mysteries of Sacred Time
by Robert E. Wilkinson ©
In the early 1970’s a young woman named Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet began to publish a series of books on the subject of Vedic Cosmology. She had undergone a profound initiation into the cosmic mysteries and recognized in the scriptures and mythologies of ancient India evidence of a highly enlightened cosmological culture. She discovered that the astrologer priests known as Rishis, had developed precise formulas for calculating the cosmic cycles, and that these celestial equations had been woven into the structure of their myths and legends. Their knowledge of Time and the cosmic mysteries formed the basis of an ancient Yoga, the practice of which led to a supremely enlightened state known as "Truth-Consciousness" or "Swar" of the Veda. From the principles of these occult teachings, Ms. Norelli-Bachelet developed an ‘applied cosmology’ which she demonstrates in her book entitled, "The Gnostic Circle, a synthesis in the harmonies of the cosmos". Her work, which unveils the deepest mysteries of Time, represents a quantum leap in cosmological knowledge and contains the seeds of a unique synthesis which may open the way for a new and productive dialogue between ancient wisdom and modern science.
To appreciate the magnitude of Ms. Norelli-Bachelet’s discoveries one must go deeply into the mysteries of sacred time. In past millennia, wisdom traditions divided their secret knowledge into two distinct categories, "the lesser and the greater mysteries." "The lesser mysteries," available to a wider spectrum of the populace, dealt with mysticism, the secrets of the mind, psychism, and certain divinatory techniques which together resembled an early form of esoteric psychology. "The greater mysteries", which were taught under a seal of secrecy and only to initiates who had risen through the ranks of the lower knowledge, dealt with the most coveted secrets of Time and Space. Of these two eternal principles, Time was regarded as the greatest mystery because it contained the secret of a sacred and eternal order, the realization of which became the structural basis for an organization of all human knowledge. The ancient Vedic culture whose sophisticated scriptures and myths evidence the most highly developed understanding of Time expressed its preeminence in the iconography of Shakti, the divine cosmic force, dancing upon the inert body of Shiva, with a serpent, symbol of eternal time, wrapped around her body. The Rishis understood that while the spatial dimension was the field within which the phenomenal world appears, perception of that material reality could only occur in time. They taught that the essence of the physical manifestation was movement, or the presentation of constant change, having a fixed course and a given order. For change and movement to occur there had to be time for the two were inextricably linked. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of India’s oldest and most profound metaphysical texts, the symbol of the Horse is invoked to represent that principle of movement. "Time is its breath, the year is its body, the seasons its limbs, the months and the fortnights it joints, the days and nights its feet." Time was the Self of the Vedic Horse and contained the ‘secret of secrets’ which formed the basis of India’s greatest spiritual mysteries.
In his commentaries on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the philosopher-sage, Sri Aurobindo discusses the occult imagery associated with this fundamental principle:
" ... The [image of the] horse is a physical figure representing like an algebraical symbol, an unknown quantity of force and speed. (Time is its breath, the year is its body, the seasons its limbs, the months and the fortnights its joints, the days and nights its feet.) From the imagery it is evident that this force, this speed, is something universal. Time in its period is the Self of the Horse Sacrificial, so not Matter but Time, is the body of this force of the material universe... Space then, is the flesh constituting materially this body of Time which the sage attributes to his Horse of the worlds, by movement in Space its periods are shaped and determined. Hence the real power, the fundamental greatness of the Horse is not the material world, not the magnitudes of Space, but the magnitudes of Time... for Time is that mysterious condition of universal mind which alone makes the ordering of the universe in Space possible." Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads; 'The Great Aranyaka', Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1971
The key to unraveling the mysteries of Time is hidden in the metaphysics of creation or the Cosmogony. The creation myths of all cultures contain the details of how the cosmos came into existence and each tell the story of the primordial events which took place at the beginning of time. In the Indian scripture, the Rig Veda X, 149, the universe is said to have come into being from its center and spread out from a central point. This is revealed by the sages to be the most fundamental characteristic of all creation. This point or axis lies at the intersection of Time and Space, Spirit and Matter, the Implicate order and its Explicate expression. All material creation proceeds from this original involved point or "seed" as involutionary forms move across the event horizon and begin to evolve linearly in accordance with the laws of causation and the principles of time. In the language of scientific cosmology, this point or "seed" is the "singularity" from which the universe exploded into being. In metaphysical terms it is the sacred syllable OM, the primordial vibration or sound out of which the creation emerges and has its origin. Everything in the material universe evolves from this point/seed/singularity/ OM, according to an involved principle of order and unity known in the Vedic scriptures as "Rtam". And it does so in such a manner that allows the seer to follow and measure the evolving in time of the essence which was involved or compressed into that seed.
Time in its compressed form at the involutionary threshold is Being, crossing that threshold, a connection is made with the Spatial dimension and that compressed Time energy begins to evolve linearly as the Becoming. Once that event horizon is crossed, Time extends itself in accordance with an involved geometric structure and the great cycle of creation begins. All material forms are simply varied arrangements of this structure simultaneously expressing itself as the four elements, Fire, Earth, Air and Water, in each of the three energy modes, Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. These elemental principles lie at the core of the material creation and their twelve archetypal divisions are known in every culture as the Zodiac. They form the very structure of the creation and represent the central theme underlying all astrological knowledge.
The enlightened seer who has reached this threshold within his own being through an inward yogic penetration enjoys a unique temporal perception. He experiences the unfolding of time as a circular movement reflecting the image of an unmoving eternal harmony. Somewhat in the manner of Mandelbrot’s fractal sets, Time extends itself in a series of non-linear cycles repeating themselves in different octaves of experience like circles within circles. There is repetition in the wider movement but at the same time there is an imprinting of experience which evolve progressively higher systems of order.
For the ancient mystics, a glimpse into the core of time would have been an awesome and almost inexpressible spiritual experience. Without a mystical vocabulary, they would have described what they ‘saw’ in profoundly mythic and archetypal terms. One of the better known biblical accounts of this time vision may be found in the first chapter of the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. Unfortunately, these passages have been widely misinterpreted owing to a lack of understanding of the temporal reality.
"And I looked and behold a whirlwind came out of the north. A great cloud and a fire and out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And every one had four faces and every one had four wings. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a Man, [Aquarius] and the face of a Lion, [Leo], on the right side, and they four had the face of an Ox, [Taurus] on the left side and they four also had the face of an Eagle, [Scorpio]. Their appearance and their work was as if a wheel within a wheel; as for their rings, they were so high they were dreadful and their rings were full of eyes, round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went with them for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels." Ezekiel, Chapter 1
The mysteries of sacred or circular time were well known to the ancient alchemists and formed the basis of a sophisticated psychology of transformation. Long before the development of a technical language describing the transformational process, this occult knowledge was transmitted through an elaborate system of symbols. One of the most potent of these archaic images was the Ouroboros; the serpent, or dragon biting its own tail. It was an alchemical ideogram depicting the work of spiritual transformation as a circular, self-contained, cosmological process.
For the Alchemists, the ultimate goal of this process of transformation was the attainment of the legendary "Philosopher’s Stone", or Lapis Philosophorum. It was a magical object believed to have the power to change ordinary metals into gold, but in a larger sense, it represented the final goal of the initiation process, which was the attainment of a key of knowledge leading to the highest wisdom. "This stone", said the alchemist, "is under you, and near you, and above you and around you but mostly, it is within you; it is extracted from you for you are its ore." Its attainment is the magnificent condition resulting from reaching the goal of knowledge, to perceive and know with a certainty that one knows; and to see with an understanding, which can be infinitely extended to all situations.
The work of finding the stone was twofold, representing the double face of Alchemy; library and laboratory. The prescribed path was an active participation in the outer reality together with a dedicated study of the Zodiac and the principles of the Cosmic Order.
The Alchemist understood that the Cosmos was a whole organism, multidimensional and sacred in its structure and form. They also knew that the difference between man/woman and the Cosmos was a matter of degree, rather than essence; that the Macrocosm and Microcosm had a correspondent equivalence. Through the repetition of certain rites, the sages believed that man could recover an awareness of his intrinsic identity with the Cosmos and thus perceive the hidden order of the world. Since this order was embedded in the structure and periodic movement of the Macrocosm, it was understood that a corresponding order could be discovered by the individual in the cycles and events of his own life. If man could learn to align himself with the harmonies of Cosmic Time, he would gradually become imprinted with their rhythms and realize within himself an immutable center or axis, from which he could acquire an entirely new orientation to his lived experience. Since the same Zero Womb, which gave birth to the universe is also the core of the human being, the unveiling of this Soul/center/axis in the individual led to a simultaneous realization of Truth-Consciousness or Gnosis.
For centuries, the system of knowledge which emerged from the alchemical tradition represented the pinnacle of enlightened thought. It’s cosmology was based upon the known universe which at that time consisted of six planets and the central Sun and was symbolized by an occult ‘key’ known as "Solomon’s Seal". But, it was not until the 20th century, after the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, that the complete key of knowledge could be revealed and the integral transformation fully understood. Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet’s "Gnostic Circle" is that key and contains the highest wisdom of our age.
'The Gnostic Circle is merely the combination of the zodiac - the occult circle which contains the knowledge of the evolution - and the structural pattern of the solar system. The Circle of 12 is the zodiac, and the Circle of 9 is our actual solar system, each orbit representing one year of Earth life. The joint harmony of these two, superimposed or synthesized in one circle, is what constitutes our key to the evolution and flowering of the seed of the Spirit. In fact we can say that the Gnostic Circle is mainly for this purpose: it shows mankind the ultimate and ideal perfection that can be attained during this particular phase of the evolution, during this great transition point from animal-mental to the more divine mankind.'
The Gnostic Circle, p. 159, 1975, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
While the Alchemical tradition was unparalleled in its ability to describe the stages of the transformation process and did so in a series of chemical metaphors, they were never able to harmonize the cosmic and individual time scales. It was not until the seminal work of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet that the measures of Time and Space could be wed into a functional synthesis allowing the individual to follow his development in a timely and objective manner. With the "Gnostic Circle", one is able to determine exactly where he is within the developmental spectrum and with the benefit of that knowledge is able to cooperate more fully with his own evolution. It offers an integral vision of wholeness and reveals the organic process by which the soul or seed of the divine in each individual is made to flower.
The Rig Veda, India’s oldest and most sacred scripture reveals something of this temporal alignment when it declares:
"Certain eternal worlds are these which have come into being, their doors are shut to you (or opened) by the months and the years. Without effort one world moves in the other, and it is these that Brihaspati has made manifest to knowledge" Rig Veda (II.24.5).
These secret eternal worlds have been closed to us by our misperception of the cyclic movement of time. The months and the years, therefore have to be re-discovered and created in us by that same power. This, says the Rishi, is the mightiest work, the fairest achievement and it hinges on the recovery of a harmonious alignment of the Cosmic and Human time scales. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet’s "Gnostic Circle" is the most effective means of recovering that lost alignment because it defines the celestial correspondences between the Macrocosm and Microcosm and reveals the principles by which this re-ordering can occur at a conscious level.
Robert Wilkinson is a writer/astrologer and V.P. of Aeon Group, an international educational
organization which publishes and distributes the cosmological works of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet.