One of the great
mysteries of world history is the so-called Axial Age. As historical research
began to take out in the nineteenth century it suddenly began to be noticed that
a remarkable synchrony existed in the emergence of the classical civilizations.
The foundations of a new order of culture were laid very rapidly in Greece/Rome,
the Middle East, India and China. The remarkable phenomenon of 'Israel/Judah' is
part of this mystery, as is the emergence of Buddhism. Greek democracy is born,
along with the foundations of 'Western' philosophy and science. This data was
summarized by the philosopher Karl Jaspers who gave it the terminology 'Axial
Age'. A recent work by Karen Armstrong has created some confusion on the
issue. Here are three
Axial Age and the Eonic Effect
Was There an Axial Age?
The work of
Karen Armstrong is analyzed here:
of short essays will attempt to guide you through the online text of World
History and The Eonic Effect, which gives an indirect resolution of the
Axial enigma by seeing it in a larger context.
with Karl Jaspers and the basic pattern of the
next two pages can be taken together: if we examine the case of Greece in the
Axial Age, using periodization, the nature of the phenomenon starts to become
clear. Archaic Greece begins a sudden
take-off and goes into an extraordinary flowering, the so-called Greek Miracle.
As remarkable as this is, it is equally surprising that this period is so
swiftly completed, as the system moves into the Hellenistic, which is of a
different character. With this example we can rapidly decode the other cases to
see the nature of the Axial phenomenon as a kind of transitional period.
the Axial period in isolation seems to make no sense. We suspect that it is part
of a larger pattern: the eonic effect. We have it, the
enigma clarifies itself as a spectacular historical/evolutionary system.
we can decipher the question of the Old Testament. We see that Israelite
history in the centuries before the Exile, the era of the Prophets, is really an
Axial Age phenomenon.
tendency on the part of interpreters of the Axial Age has been to take this
period as some kind of 'spiritual age' producing religions. But we can see that
the issue is broader. Further, the Axial Age is by no means the absolute source
of either monotheism or any of the religions that seem to source in this period.
What is going on? Once we broaden the scale we see the way in which religions
are undergoing 'relative transformations' at each step of the eonic series.
There is a kind of micro and macro evolution of
is a considerable internet lore speculating about a Second
Axial Age, in a kind of postmodern reversal of modern secularization.
Seen in light of the eonic effect, we can see that the rise of the modern is the
true 'second Axial Age', and that sudden reversals of this new advance would
likely prove retrograde.
next page looks at the concept of the 'eonic
observer' and the embedded nature of any theory proposed to explain the
we connect our method of study to some ideas of
Kant, to keep straight the questions of metaphysical/reductionist
histories, and try to connect a type of 'eonic model' with the classic
'philosophy of history'.