February 16, 2013 at 2:02 am

Ask Randall: Duration of the Great Year

PDF pageEmail pagePrint page

The Portal of Judgement at Chartres Cathedral (The Tympanum)

This is just one of many responses penned by Randall Carlson during his tenure as the “Author of the Month” on GrahamHancock.com for the month of December 2012.
We are honored to have Randall be able to be featured in as esteemed a forum as GrahamHancock.com and encourage everyone to visit his site and participate in the countless fascinating forums of exchange present therein. Thank you to Graham Hancock for leading by example, teaching and popularizing this incredible information which has the power to liberate humankind from the curse of cyclical annihilation…. if we do heed the message of our ancestors and change course appropriately that is….there is still time.

Via GrahamHancock.com

Author: Randall Carlson (71.56.54.—)
Date: 29-Dec-12 23:48

Greetings All
As 2012 draws rapidly to a close.
As much as I appreciate the comments and questions that have been directed my way, and I do, only a few of them have actually addressed issues raised in my December article on the Great Year. A posting by ‘caugusto’ raised the question of the duration of the GY and this has prompted me to post a rather lengthy response as an addendum to the article. There was considerably more material I could have elaborated upon, but due to time constraints I had to omit much. For any discussion of the Great Year the work Hamlet’s Mill is an obligatory starting point. The authors of Hamlet’s Mill, the work that more or less brought the Great Year concept to the attention of modern scholarship, frame the GY in terms of a full precessional cycle. I will quote them at length, some of which will be redundant from my Author of the Month article, but I have expanded the scope of the quote from that of the article:


“ . . . the equinoctial ‘points’― and therefore, the solstitial ones, too ― do not remain forever where they should in order to make celestial goings-on easier to understand, namely, at the same spot with respect to the sphere of the fixed stars. Instead they stubbornly move along the ecliptic in the opposite direction to the yearly course of the sun, that is, against the ‘right’ sequence of the zodiacal signs. This phenomenon is called Precession of the Equinoxes, and it was conceived as causing the rise and the cataclysmic fall of ages of the world. Its cause is a bad habit of the axis of our globe, which turns around in the manner of a spinning top, it tip being in the center of our small earth-ball, whence our earth axis, prolonged to the celestial North Pole, describes a circle around the North Pole of the ecliptic, the true ‘center’ of the planetary system, the radius of this circle being of the same magnitude as the obliquity of the ecliptic with respect to the equator: 23 ½ degrees. The time which this prolonged axis needs to circumscribe the ecliptical North Pole is roughly 26,000 years, during which period it points to one star after another: around 3,000 B.C. the Pole star was Alpha Draconis; at the time of the Greeks it was beta Ursae Minoris; for the time being it is alpha Ursae Minoris; in A.D. 14,000 it will be Vega. The equinoxes, the points of intersection of ecliptic and equator, swinging from the spinning axis of the earth, move with the same speed of 26,000 years along the ecliptic.
The sun’s position among the constellations at the vernal equinox was the pointer that indicated the ‘hours’ of the precessional cycle—very long hours indeed, the equinoctial sun occupying each zodiacal constellation for about 2,200 years . . . The Greeks still had the old idea, but they asked themselves questions about it. What moved was the sky, but questions about the sky posed abstruse problems. The greatest one was, of course, the slow motion of the tilt of the sky…which went through a Great Year of 26,000 years….Hipparchus in 127 B.C. called it the Precession of the Equinoxes. There is good reason to assume that he actually rediscovered this, that it had been known some thousand years previously, and that on it the Archaic Age based its long-range computation of time.”

Another comprehensive work dealing with the Great Year is by scholar/journalist Nicholas Campion, entitled simply ‘The Great Year’ (1994, Arcana) in which the author explores the many ramifications of the Great Year concept in historical and political terms, documenting the broad effects that a belief in cyclical time has had upon social and philosophical evolution, beginning with Sumerian and Babylonian ideas and proceeding through Egyptian, Greek and Roman traditions, Judaism, Christianity, the Middle Ages and concluding with the Enlightenment. The author provides a context for thinking about the Great Year by invoking the idea of biological cycles:


“The biological birth-maturity-death conception of time and historical development also suggested that, just as winter followed summer, history itself . . . might come to an end. In the most dramatic versions of this myth the world will be destroyed, and time and physical existence as we know it will cease to exist. The end is known as the ‘eschaton’, from which we derive the word eschatology . . . Closely related to these central myths is the belief that society moves through periods of history analogous to the solar year, known as ‘Great Years’. Each historical phase within a Great Year may be seen as a ‘season’, a natural phase of development in which each set of historical circumstances at any particular moment fulfils a purpose within the whole, leading on to the next set of circumstances in the sequence.” p. 6

In his discussion of Mesopotamian civilizations Campion describes the relation of time to its expression through number.


“The relationship of the number six to history appears to have held greater fascination for the Mesopotamians than that of any other number. Their main focus of attention was the sar: 62 x 100 = 3,600. The use of this number is clearly of great antiquity, for it occurs in Egypt as early as 2000 BC. From Mesopotamia and Egypt it was passed on to Israel and classical Greece around fifteen hundred years later. From there the tradition of periods of history based on the number six entered European historiography, where it remained until the seventeenth century. Our use of hours of sixty minutes and minutes of sixty seconds is the enduring legacy of the Mesopotamians’ fascination with this number. So important was it that it is no overstatement to argue that it measured the historical process as a whole . . .It was 62, 36, which had the most power. . .It signified not a mere god, but the universe as a whole. It is possible that the number derived its significance from the fact that the ideal year with 12 months of 30 days consisted of 360 days in all, and that it was therefore thought to embody one complete revolution in the life and death of the Sun . . . the celestial vault itself was divided amongst thirty-six constellations or ruling stars.”

That the Mesopotamian measurement of time was influenced by Vedic traditions is indicated by further discussion of the sar as is the fact of confusion in the ancient world as to what exactly constituted a Great Year:


“Berossus used three units of time to measure the duration of each king’s reign: the sar of 3,600 years, the ner of 600 years and the soss of 60 years. Using these measurements he systematized the middle period of history between the first descent of kingship and the Flood by allocating a clearly symbolic duration of 120 sar, a total period of 432,000 years . . . He may also have used an expanded ‘Great Great Year’ of 2,160,000 years, or 600 sar . . . It is widely argued that the Great Year as a cosmically measured period of history took its cue from the astronomical advances of the sixth century BC onwards, the Persian and Hellenistic periods . . . and the allocation of specific periods of time to planetary rulers. However, the truth is rather more complex; by Berossus time the Hellenistic world of Greece and the Near East was host to a number of different theories of what exactly constituted a Great Year, some astronomical, some based on numerology, others a combination of the two.” P. 98

Further support for the span of a Great Year being a full precessional cycle is provided by Campion, where he also calls attention to the Persian Great Year, which was in fact, close in length to one half of the precessional cycle:


“A series of astrologers, notably the Persian Abu Ma’shar (787 – 886) and the Jewish Masha’allah, compiled astrological histories in which the rise and fall of civilizations were attributed to complex series of planetary relationships . . . Abu Ma’shar and the others working in the Muslim world took the Platonic doctrine of periodic cataclysm . . . and adopted from the Hindus a series of extraordinarily huge periods . . . Abu Ma’shar’s longest cycle was a Great Year of 100 Babylonian sar (360,000 years) . . . His use of other astrological measures of historical time, based on the precession of the equinoxes, was to reinforce in the European mind the belief that the interval between cataclysms was measured by one complete precessional cycle, supposedly of 36,000 years. He also used the 12,000-year Persian period, though as a sub-cycle rather that a Great Year in itself.” pp. 354 – 355

Orientalist Edward S. Kennedy studied Persian cosmological ideas and in 1962 wrote:


“By Sasanian times (and perhaps since the 5th century B.C.) the notion of a world-span of 12,000 years was current in Iran.” (see The World Year Concept in Islamic Astrology, in Studies in the Islamic Exact Sciences, p. 365)

That macrocycles and subcycles of the full precessional cycle were in use seems evident. For example the duration of the Vedic Treta Yuga is given as 1,296,000 years. This is 50 precessional cycles measured at 25,920 years. The standard astrological age, or ‘month’, i.e. the Age of Pisces, the Age of Aquarius, etc. is one twelfth of the full cycle, typically rounded off to 2,100 or 2,200 years, but actually one twelfth of 25,920 is 2,160 years. For purposes of demonstrating the analogy between the different scales of phenomenon it would seem that it is not only intuitively correct but logically correct to associate the annual year of 4 seasons and 12 months with the Great Year of 4 seasons and 12 months. In this case a month of the GY being an astrological age of 2,160 years while a season would consist of 3 months with a total duration of 6,480 years. Despite several early references to a GY of 12,000 + years it is only half of the natural cycle and does not yield the correspondences that appear when employing the full cycle. In the symbolism of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and in Christian iconography we always see the 4 ‘Beasts of the Apocalypse’ representing the 4 fixed signs of the zodiac and the 4 seasons of the Great Year, thus implying the full precessional cycle. Scholar Anna Krasnowolska sees the important correspondences between cycles on different scales:


“The Iranians, like most of the peoples coming from a temperate zone, perceived an analogy between the year, the day and night, and the human life cycle. A parallel was drawn between the yearly and cosmic cycles. Thus the vernal beginning of the year was equated with dawn, birth and youth, and with the creation of the world. On the other hand, winter was associated with night, old age and death, and with a disastrous end of the world’s duration.” Some Key Figures of Iranian Calendar Mythology: Anna Krasnowolska (1998) University at Krakow, Poland

I think the point of all this is that the determination of the length of the Great Year was subject to the vicissitudes of time and place, being redefined according to various criteria, not least of which was the evolving knowledge of the temporal periodicities related to grand astronomical cycles. The estimate of 36,000 years for the length of the Great Year was based upon an inaccurate determination of the rate of precessional motion at 36 arc seconds per year, instead of the more accurate rate of 50 arc seconds. Actually, as someone on the board noted, the rate of precession at the present time is closer to 50.25 arc seconds per year, which would make the entire cycle about 25,780 years, yet most astronomy texts will round off the number and say ‘about 26,000 years.’ Since we don’t know that the rate of precession holds constant throughout the full cycle it is entirely reasonable to use the ancient number of 25,920 years. Even assuming the present rate of 50.25 arc seconds to be constant through the whole cycle, the traditional number of 25,920 is still 99.9 % accurate. This is more accurate than calling our tropical year 365 days long, rather than its actual length of 365.242 days. But by using the traditional number the elegant harmonic relations among the various cycles are revealed. Please refer back to my Author of the Month article for more elaboration. But in any case, even though an inaccurate estimate for the rate of precession, a duration of 36,000 years for the Great Year demonstrates that it was definitely tied to a complete cycle of precession. While I could go on with still more elaboration I hope you get the point that if these ideas of grand cycles have any validity they must be tied to natural cycles, and as accurately as possible.
While not delving into it here, or in the Author of the Month article, I have amassed an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that a whole series of catastrophic natural events stretching back over several hundred thousand years has a tempo accurately defined by the traditional Great Year models. In the 4 hour 2 disc DVD available through Sacred Geometry International much of this evidence is presented. Interestingly, there does indeed seem to be a strong signal of global change events showing up with a periodicity very close to 12,900 years. If anyone were interested in a sampling of this empirical evidence I would be happy to make a short posting. For anyone interested in pursuing a dialogue around these important questions or some of the other questions raised on the forum I will be happy to continue posting, in fact, I appreciate the opportunity to continue making contributions to this website.

Best Wishes to All as we head into 2013.

Randall Carlson

Randall Carlson: Architectural Designer/Builder, teacher, geometrician, geomythologist