I’ve spoken before about The notion of aeons, written about in Peter J. Carroll’s Liber Null, though this is one of those chapters, and concepts, that has been largely forgotten in the popularization of Chaos Magic.
According to Carroll, humanity has passed through four great Ages or “aeons.” And the fifth, he says, “may develop into an Aquarian Age or a totalitarian tyranny” (p. 102.). We cannot know yet.
The first aeon, says Carroll, “was an age of Shamanism and Magic” in which man needed psychic forces in order for the “puny naked” human being to survive “the dangers of a hostile environment.”
The second was a pagan era. Man settled and began to farm the land. The “psychic forces became confused” and superstitions arose.
The third aeon was one of monotheism, appearing inside of “the pagan civilization” — Buddhism inside of Hindu India, Christianity in Europe, and so on.
The fourth (and continuing) aeon is one of atheism.
The fifth is still embryonic and its character will be decided by what actions we take today (pp. 88-89).
Other Conceptions of Time:
There have, of course, been numerous other conceptions of the Ages. The Hindus conceive of time as consisting of four great Ages or Yuga.
The first and most spiritual of these is the Satya Yuga.
The second, the Treta Yuga, is a time of mental development.
The third, the Dwapara Yuga is a time of mixed divine and demonic qualities.
The fourth, least spiritual and most material is the Kali Yuga (who many believe we are living in now).
Well-known in his own time, the medieval monk Joachim of Fiore founded his own monasteries and wrote popular apocalyptic literature. He believed that there were three great Ages:
The Age of the Father, characterized by obedience to the divine law.
The Age of the Son, characterized by love and brought about by Jesus.
And (most controversially since it succeeds Jesus), the Age of the Holy Ghost, in which people will finally become true individuals.
Joachim’s schema is similar to Aleister Crowley’s, who believed that there were three Ages or aeons:
The Aeon of Isis, in which matriarchal cults reigned supreme.
The Aeon of Osiris, in which monotheism was supreme, but which is now ending.
The Aeon of Horus, in which there will be true freedom, individuality, self-fulfilment, and personal expression in accordance with Crowley’s religious doctrine Liber al Vel Legis (The Book of The Law).
And, of course, there are still other conceptions of the Ages, from the Norse conception of Ragnarok (a final battle between the gods and their enemies when they, along with mankind, would be destroyed), through the writings of the Arab social historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), to those of twentieth century German intellectuals Oswald Spengler and Jean Gebser.
Notably, while some conceive of mankind moving to ever more freedom (Joachim of Fiore, Crowley, Gebser), some see us as heading towards spiritual decline (Hinduism, Norse religion, Ibn Khaldun, and Oswald Spengler).
If it wasn’t already, it is clear, now, that we are living in a time of change. If you want to understand where we might be and how we can live through this transition, I explore the various conceptions of the cycle of time in my book The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality: Craftsman, Warrior, Magician (which you can purchase at Amazon dot com here, Barnes&Noble here, or from other major booksellers).
However, let me leave you with this thought. Since we know that, broadly speaking, the archetypal vocations of the craftsman, warrior, and magician (priest or mystic, etc.) appear during each age, often with one archetype dominating, we can conceive of the cycle of time being one of the Age of the Craftsman, Age of the Warrior, and Age of the Magician.
We might think of the founding of Rome, for example as the Age of the warrior. (And, notably, the founders of the city are the mythical warriors Romulus and Remus, fostered by a she-wolf — the predator wolf being one symbol of the warrior.) The subsequent building of Rome we might equate with the Craftsman. And the collapse of Rome, with the introduction of new ideas, and the sweeping away of paganism in favor of Christianity, with the Magician.
Again, we might think of the medieval period, with its Crusades, as a time of the warrior, the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution as a time of the Craftsman, and the modern era as a time of the Magician.
Notably, we do see characteristics of the magician in mainstream, Western culture. The most ancient magician — the shaman — was often a gender-ambiguous figure (a man dressing in female clothes, for example). Today, of course, gender ambiguity has become a focus and a force within politics and, consequently, a feature of the establishment media, the universities, and corporate culture.
The magician was a figure who conjured through the use of words and language, and who understood the soul (or the psyche), and who was concerned with transformation. Today, mainstream culture is increasingly therapeutic, concerning itself with well-being, safety, not offending anyone. There is an increasing belief that the language or the words we use is more important than expressing the truth (especially if the truth might be hurtful) and, looking at the media, government, and giant corporations, language is manipulated to give the casual observer (i.e., most people) a false and much friendlier impression of their ethos.
The influence of the magician is not necessarily bad. And it is especially appropriate in the realm of art and ideas — music, painting, design, and so on — and among small groups of creative elites. However, in our own time, the characteristics have become political, “mass,” group-oriented, and critical, rather than individualistic, daring, and creative.
The cycle continues to turn. Ages go out of balance. Thus, what was shocking yesterday is normal today, and will be considered backward tomorrow. Most people are swept up in the cycle of events and are overwhelmed by it, changing their personality and beliefs, unconsciously, to fit the time. The ability to become one’s true Self and to move through the cycle intact and Self-aware depends on the ability to develop ourselves as a whole — an individual of the whole, rather than of a moment in time; to develop ourselves as a craftsman, warrior, and magician in one.