The Path of Integral Knowledge & the Twelve Months of the Year

The Gnostic Circle (image constructed by Lori Tompkins)
A rendition of PNB's Gnostic Circle, constructed by Lori Tompkins (©2017)

[Originally written and posted on the IYS website which I am in the process of migrating to this IYS blog]

In The Secret of the Veda, the founder of Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), translated the symbolism of the Vedic Sacrifice in terms of a journey by which the knowledge or true perception of reality and a heavenly Earth [Swar] was recovered. Another name given for the journey was the ‘path of the Truth’. It was a path of constant growth and evolution towards a superior consciousness and expression of life.

‘[T]he possession of our complete divine consciousness delivered from all falsehood by the free descent of the truth, gives us the secure possession of the world of Swar and the enjoyment of mental and physical being lifted into the godhead above darkness, falsehood and death by the in-streaming of our divine elements. This victory is won in twelve periods of the upward journey, represented by the revolution of the twelve months of the sacrificial year, the periods corresponding to the successive dawns of a wider and wider truth, until the tenth [month] secures the victory.’ (1)

The more recent work of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (1938-) suggests that this twelve-part journey, the ‘path of Truth’ by which the divine consciousness is made manifest and visible on Earth as written of by the Vedic Rishis and Sri Aurobindo (2), is literally the Tropical zodiac, i.e. the Earth’s year, precisely established and measured by the four equinoctial and solstice points of the Earth’s 360 degree journey around the Sun. Each of those four quadrants is divided again by three gunas or energy flows for a total of twelve equal segments or ‘months’ of 30 degrees each.

According to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet this direct correlation between the Vedic Sacrifice and the Tropical zodiac is a recovery of a lost truth. From her viewpoint, learning to orient properly within the parameters of this journey is a basic and essential starting point for those interested in full and integral knowledge of self and world, basic information for those interested in the truth regarding the Vedic journey of recovering the ‘Lost Sun’, basic information for those interested in developing a cosmic or universalized consciousness, and basic information for those interested in grasping the evolutionary, contemporary and historical movements of the Earth and its populations.

Scientific, academic, and religious thought over the past couple of millennia has for the most part deemed the study of the Tropical zodiac (astrology) a completely obsolete, ignorant superstition that has nothing to do with material (or non-material) reality. The world-renowned cosmologist Carl Sagan wrote ‘authoritatively’ on the matter in 1973:

‘Many thousands of years ago a pseudoscience called astrology was invented. The positions of the planets at the birth of a child were supposed to play a major role in determining his or her future. The planets, moving points of light, were thought, in some mysterious sense, to be gods. In his vanity, Man imagined the universe designed for his benefit and organized for his use.’ (3)

Sagan’s dismissal is tantamount to not knowing how something is (or has been) useful, and dismissing it as un-useful. Not knowing the real mechanics and functionality of an ancient and eternally relevant system, he and many others have dismissed it as unreal and insignificant in the pursuit of real knowledge (i.e. gnosis) and serious Earthly progress. But it is truly possible and likely that astrology is not a psuedo-science, but rather a misunderstood, mis-practiced and forgotten one.
In the Rig Veda, written at least 5,000 years ago according to some Vedic scholars, real knowledge of the 360 degree circle divided by twelve, was certainly not considered a psuedo-anything. It was known to communicate profound secrets of manifest reality. It was known to communicate a ‘mighty mode of being’:

One is the wheel; the bands are twelve;
three are the hubs – who can understand it?
Three hundred spokes and sixty in addition
have been hammered therein and firmly riveted…
Though manifested, it is yet hidden, secret,
its name is the Ancient, a mighty mode of being;
in Skambha is established this whole world;
therein is set fast all that moves and breathes.
                             – Atharva Veda X, 8

According to Sri Aurobindo’s archives, he himself had more than a passing knowledge of the zodiac. Evidence of this fact is offered via an archived letter he wrote to his wife, Mrinalini, on 2 July 1902:

'I have faith in astrology - ten years' experience confirmed. But also amongst a thousand, nine hundred know nothing about it. Few know but more make mistakes ...' (4)

It is also evident in The Secret of the Veda that his translation of a Vedic passage regarding the three steps of Vishnu the Preserver, refer to the symbols of the Preservation or Fixed signs of the zodiac, in the order of the backward movement of the Precession of the Equinoxes through the astrological signs. (5) Vishnu, whose vahana (vehicle) is an Eagle, a symbol for the astrological sign Scorpio, takes his first step to the ‘mighty Lion’, the symbol for the sign of Leo; his second step to the ‘wide-moving Bull’, the symbol for the sign of Taurus; and his last and ‘highest step’ is to the ‘Friend of men who is the fount of the sweetness’. Of course the Friend is the symbol creature for the sign of Aquarius.

Sri Aurobindo’s yogic collaborator, the Mother of Pondicherry, apparently had some connection to this secret of the zodiac, as she designed her own three-tiered symbol as a reflection of the year – the outer circle consists of twelve petals, the middle circle of four petals, and the inner circle is undivided. The measurement of the Earth’s year in 12 months also figured heavily in her designs for the Matrimandir (the Mother’s Temple), as does the measurement of the Earth’s day of 24 hours.

‘Everything is symbolic,’ the Mother told her disciple Satprem regarding her vision of the temple design. Since we decided to build that temple, I have seen – I have seen the inside ... It is a kind of tower with the twelve regular facets representing the twelve months of the year, and absolutely empty .... (6)

The Mother also determined that the diameter of the temple floor was to be 24 meters : ‘12 meters on each side of the globe.’ These measurements, and other design specifications as well, were to be symbolic of the Earth’s day, the Earth’s year, as well other cosmic harmonies – symbolic not in the mundane sense that we are use to but in the greater sense of direct expression of the higher laws of manifestation in Time and Space. (7)

Herein arises an enigma for humans to chew on (humans who care to give the Vedic Rishis, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother any due credit for being truth seers and harbingers of a Divine consciousness on Earth). An overwhelming majority of scientists, academics, historians, religious groups, integral yogis, and integral theorists have little to no insight into, respect for or knowledge of this ‘secret’ circle (its symbolic and real content) that is ‘manifested ... yet hidden’. This same majority (and many modern astrologers as well) fail to consider the glaring possibility that our modern understanding and use of the zodiac (‘the wheel of life’), and our own twelve-month calendar system, is a seriously atrophied and distorted version of a greater system of eternal knowledge about ‘all that moves and breaths’.

Just about the same time Carl Sagan dismissed astrology in ‘The Cosmic Connection’ and elsewhere, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet began writing about the ‘secret’ knowledge contained in the zodiac, clarifying and reinstating the actual and integral purpose of astrological study:

'[T]he purpose of the study of astrology, is to give man a means by which he can learn to perceive integrally – that is, to gain a view of the total movement, but at the same time of the fragments which make up the whole.' (8) 

The actual purpose of studying astrology and the Earth’s year, according to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, is equivalent to the purpose of the eternally relevant Vedic sacrifice or Vedic journey. This purpose is apparent in Sri Aurobindo’s translations of the following passages of the Rig Veda:

'It is in the revolution of the year that the recovery of the lost Sun and the lost cows [i.e. Truth-consciousness] is effected, for we have the explicit statement in X.62.2 ... ‘by the truth, in the revolution of the year, they broke Vala’ [the Ignorance].' (9) 
'Certain eternal worlds (states of existence) 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 into the other, and it is these that Brahmanaspati [teacher of the Gods] has made manifest to knowledge.' (10)

It is clear in these translations of the Vedic text and in the Mother’s temple vision that somehow the year and the twelve months of the year play no small part in gaining access to a higher and more complete (i.e. integral) perspective of reality. Yet somehow this piece of wisdom, this instruction, has become unfathomable to our rationale and hence is either largely ignored or labeled as ignorance by the world’s foremost authorities on material and spiritual existence. Perhaps it is to be expected that mainstream of scientific, academic and religious thought would disregard the possibility that the zodiac, when properly understood and used, describes and reveals an evolutionary and integral path to the highest vision and highest potential of material existence; but what is more puzzling is that those who have become the prominent spokespersons for the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, integral theory, integral studies, holistic or noetic sciences and education and evolutionary spirituality have basically turned a blind eye to the Earth’s year as measured by the equinoxes and solstices. 

It remains extremely difficult to get anyone on the ‘cutting edge’ of world and self transformation to consider the damage that has been and is being wrought by this particular blindness and to consider a restored vision of the very real dynamics of Earthly life. The damage done can be summed up as disharmony, disorientation and a suicidal dismissal of the true soul and seed which is common and glorious in all Being and all Becoming. The first infantile yet amazing ‘baby’ steps towards restoring a higher vision of our simultaneously material and spiritual journey, are simple, yet have proven to be seriously daunting to the modern intellect. A first step would be to consider that there has been a serious blockage in the way of our individual and collective ability to fathom a deep knowledge of time, of the Earth’s year, its months and its day (and larger cycles of time), and also more profound knowledge of our own number system in relation to consciousness and evolution. As a second step one might consider that such deep knowledge is absolutely necessary for spiritual and earthly transformation. A solid third step would be to seek out such real and deep knowledge of the World Play, being extremely weary of what is ‘old wine’ in a new and well-marketed bottle. But if one really wants to fathom the truly ‘vast Truth and infinite being of Aditi [the Divine Mother]’ (11), one must apply the new knowledge to one’s own journey in time and space. 

Our civilization has, for at least two millennia, been in a deep ignorance of the Earth’s own inherent spirit and consciousness, which is expressed in what else if not in her own movements and her own measure? It is because of this ignorance, disregard and even denial of ‘Mother’ Earth, that many of us who strive for a shift or transformation towards a higher gnosis and world organization, do not recognize that it is actually necessary to consider the Earth’s cyclical 360 degree journey, when attempting an integral and holistic perspective or ‘theory’ of our spiritual growth and our lives on planet Earth. Otherwise one is ignoring the actual dynamics of the body and the consciousness that one proposes to transform, and this, one might see, is a proverbial dead end. By this ignorance, the inherent integrity of the living system we inhabit continues to be lost to our minds.

When one becomes aware of what has been disregarded in the very masculine drive for transcendence beyond the ‘illusions’ of time and material existence, one begins to lament that Ken Wilber’s integral theorizing and ‘Kosmology’ can be considered to be the epitome of integral thought, the epitome of bridging spirit and science in a recent What Is Enlightenment magazine article entitled ‘The Real Evolutionary Debate’. (12) One also laments to see that the prestigious California Institute of Integral Studies can host a four-day ‘AUM Conference’ beginning on the summer solstice of 2007 entitled ‘Integral Yoga in Dialogue with the World’ with no indication of a workshop or discussion regarding Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet’s extensive insights into how the ‘path of Truth’ (much-illumined by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the course of their yoga), is made irreversibly manifest and clearly visible to those who care to see. (13)

Will there be a time when more people concerned with integral transformation and gnosis begin to seriously ponder how a world teaching or approach to reality can be considered ‘integral’ or ‘gnostic’ if it does not address the Earth’s actual dynamics? What is there to learn about the Earth’s 360 degree journey around the Sun? What is the significance of the Earth’s 360 degree rotation in one day of 24 hours, or the Earth’s 360 degree Precession of the Equinoxes in 25,920 years? And what is the significance of our own birth on any given day and month of the year? What more is there to consider about the 360 degrees of latitude and longitude of Earth’s geography? Why is our traditional clock a circle of 12 hours? How is it that the radius and diameter of the Earth and Moon in miles are multiples of 360? How does this 360 degree figure, which is oddly close to the 365 days it actually takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun, connect and harmonize these various measurements of time and space; and how does it function as both a map of the evolution of consciousness throughout the Earth’s ages and as a force of integration for human consciousness and material reality? How is it a secret of all that moves and breathes as indicated by the Vedic sages?

Even though both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother made reference to the importance of the Earth’s year, neither fully addressed the issue in the course of their own Integral Yoga. (14) The issue has been fully addressed by Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, yet those who control the curriculums and agendas of various ‘integral’ institutions and magazines, as evidenced in the curriculum of the CIIS 2007 AUM Conference, do not seem to be much interested in allowing space for such ‘esoteric’ matters. Somehow, the four decades of yoga and writing that Ms. Norelli-Bachelet has contributed toward the Integral and Supramental ‘adventure in consciousness’ are considered too far off the beaten path for the mainline Integral Yoga community. This community proceeds as if her yoga had absolutely nothing to do with their subject matter and world mission, as if her contributions were avoidable in the pursuit of Self Knowledge and World Gnosis.

One wonders if any of our modern integral and evolutionary spirituality ‘authorities’ would ever admit to unwittingly prolonging a dis-integrated view of material reality, unwittingly prolonging a linear consciousness, detached from the cyclical processes of the Earth; and unwittingly delaying a world-transforming understanding of ‘a manifested yet hidden eternal secret of all that moves and breaths.’ What is for sure however, is that if the ‘authorities’ do not make such admissions, it remains the task of individuals to consider and learn for themselves what truly deserves the name ‘Integral’ and what is not That.

Lori Tompkins
31 May 2007

References & End Notes:

(1) Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1999 (4th edition, 2nd impression), p. 182. (Bold face added.)

(2) IBID, p. 173 and p. 197.

(3) Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection: an Extraterrestial Perspective, Anchor Press, 1973. 

(4) Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo archives.

(5) Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The New Way, Volumes 1&2, New York: Aeon Books, 1981, p. 400-401. 

(6) The Mother, The Mother’s Agenda, Volume 11 (3 January 1970), Faridabad, India: Thomson Press, 2000, p. 19.

(7) Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The New Way, Volumes 1 & 2, New York: Aeon Books, 1981, p. 193. TNW Vol(s). 1 & 2 contain a full discussion of the Matrimandir’s original blue prints. The ‘Matrimandir’ in Auroville, built after the Mother’s passing (1973), was not build with a diameter of 24 meters. See: 

(8) Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The Gnostic Circle, New York: Aeon Books, 1994, Chapter 1, ‘The Essential Purpose of the Study of Cosmic Harmonies’, p. 8.

(9) Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1999 (4th edition, 2nd impression), p. 177 [Text in brackets added].

(10) IBID, p. 179 [Text in brackets added].

(11) IBID, p. 197 [Text in brackets added].

(12) What is Enlightenment magazine, Issue 35, January - March 2007.

(13) Craig Hamilton (ex-editor in chief of What is Enlightenment magazine), is scheduled to speak at the 2007 CIIS AUM Conference. He is presenting a workshop on "Living on the Edge of Evolution: Spirituality and Mysticism in an Evolving Universe" and is also a panel member of a discussion entitled: "Facing the Challenge of Fundamentalism and other Shadow Issues in the Ongoing Evolution of Integral Yoga". Perhaps he will use that opportunity to discuss his 2002 interview with Ms. Norelli-Bachelet at Aeon Centre for Cosmology in Southern India. Mr. Hamilton’s interview was never published by WIE and was never released to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet as a courtesy for making time for an all-day interview with Mr. Hamilton.

(14) In The Secret of the Veda, directly after Sri Aurobindo discusses the supreme victory of the Veda which is ‘won in the twelve periods of the upward journey, represented by the revolution of the twelve months of the year, he indicates that according to the Vedic rishis, that ‘the tenth [month] secures the victory’. He then admits, ‘What may be the precise significance of the nine rays [i.e. months] and the ten, is a more difficult question which we are not yet in a position to solve ...’ (p. 182). For clarification of the equivalence of the words ‘ray’ and ‘month’, one can see that Sri Aurobindo refers to the nine and ten months/rays of the twelve month year by which the ‘lost Sun’ is recovered, on page 177 of The Secret of the Veda. In The Mother’s Agenda, the Mother related an experience ... ‘an absolutely clear perception (not a thought, a clear perception) of ... the why and the how of the creation.’ Further along in her account of the experience she stated, ‘The figure 9 has something to do with all this .... There are so many things we don’t know!’ (19 November 1969). [Text in brackets and bold face added.]


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