3. Descent Of Man Revisited     

Stream and Sequence: Transition and Oikoumene


Section 3.5.2

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon






3. Descent Of Man Revisited 
     3.1 Climbing Mt. Improbable: The Eonic Effect  
        3.1.1 An Evolution Formalism and The Eonic Model 
     3.2 History and Evolution: A Paradox  
        3.2.1 Huxley's Contradiction and Evolution #1 and #2 
        3.2.2 Deconstructing Flat History  
        3.2.3 Conflict Theories: Incredulity Toward 'Infranarratives' 
     3.3 An Unexpected Challenge to Darwinism  
        3.3.1 The Great Explosion   
        3.3.2 Measures of Evidence Density  
        3.3.3 A Photo Finish Test 
     3.4 From Fisher's Lament to Kant's Challenge 
        3.4.1 A Certain Strangeness: Beyond Space and Time? 

     3.5 A New Model of History: Eonic Evolution  
        3.5.1 A Gaian Matrix: Detecting A Global System  
        3.5.2 Stream and Sequence, Transition and Oikoumene
        3.5.3 An (Eonic) Outline of History
        3.5.4 World Line of The Eonic Observer


 4. Idea For A Universal History


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

   3.5.2 Stream and Sequence, Transition and Oikoumene


We need a few more ideas that can help us in our descriptive portrait of historical evolution, that of stream and sequence, and of transitions and their oikoumenes. In addition we need to see that economic history is a separate history. We can introduce a new and useful metaphor for the ‘eonic effect’, the stream and sequence relationship. We can use this as another way of describing our eonic series. Another related metaphor is a relay race: a series of runners stream in parallel, but the baton passes between different runners (streams). In the same way, we see a series of streams of culture, their long histories, but a set of short intervals promote a larger ‘sequence’.

Stream and Sequence Consider the dynamics of the Greek or Israelite Axial intervals (or any other for that matter). A stream history leads up to the Axial interval and shows transformation. This transformation generates a higher level step in a greater eonic sequence. This is the ‘stream and sequence’ effect. We now have two levels to our account, the evolution of the stream of cultures, and the evolution of the high level sequence. And this allows us to give expression to ideas of evolutionary directionality and progress at the higher level. Or perhaps progression would be a better word. However, the idea of an eonic sequence allows us to proceed without committing ourselves on generalizations about progress which always end up confronted with various contradictions.

Culture Streams We can think of the historical timeline or streaming of cultures as their continuous chronicle in time, e.g. the Greek stream: the total history of Grecian culture from primordial Indo-European times to the present. The intersection of this stream with the eonic series in the Axial interval produces a distinctive burst of macro-history. We can consider any subset, superset, or other cultural variable in the same way, the science stream, the history of science, the poetry stream, the technostream (technological history), the econostream, the history of economic systems, etc,…

Economic Streams Note that economic history is distinct from the eonic sequence. Economic activity is continuous and globally omnipresent, while the sequence is intermittent. We are coming to see the problem with the ‘economic interpretation of history’: it is a dependent process. Note that the explosion of the Industrial Revolution occurs when an econostream intersects with the eonic sequence.

The Eonic Sequence Our non-random pattern is clear: we see a macrohistorical sequence associated with the emergence of civilization in a long frequency or directionality, analogous to (although not the same as) feedback, able to act on cultural streams in intervals of several centuries. We can reverse-engineer this data with a question, Does world history show evidence of any kind of sequence? The answer is yes, and we see very strong correlation with an intermittent sequence pattern that can only be called ‘evolution’. This sequence is intermittent and intersects with the various streams of culture it finds in its direct path. This sequence can show synchronous parallelism, and follows a frontier effect, as we will see, and works in a kind of leapfrog effect.

Our system generates two kinds of histories, the stream history, and the isolated ‘sequence’ intervals in those streams. Consider the idea of ‘Greek history’, a stream of historical culture. This proceeds throughout the course of world history, from the era of Indo-European differentiation to modern times. It is in some fashion ‘Greek’. But, for some reason, this stream shows a remarkable flowering in the period from -900 to -400. There is no ‘causal antecedent’ or general explanation possible from simple examination of ‘Greek culture’. We are left baffled, until we see that this stream suddenly becomes a part of a larger, eonic, sequence. As the stream and sequence intersect we see the ‘Greek Axial interval’, one of our transitions. 

Transition And Oikoumene We need one more idea to describe our eonic series, as we look at the complement to our transitions, the oikoumenes they create. And this leads us naturally into the question of the ‘mideonic periods’, where the center of gravity of history lies. We will attempt below to rewrite our eonic system as an ‘evolution of freedom’. But note that in a system ‘evolving freedom’ the system must finally switch off to allow freedom to develop outside the field of system action. We can see that the initial results in the mideonic periods are mixed at best.

How Evolve Civilization(s)? The eonic sequence shows an ingenious way to ‘evolve’ civilization(s). The whole is too large, work on a series of localized regions. These in turn generate a set of oikoumenes or diffusion fields. The Axial religions begin to spawn universal trans-cultural diffusion  fields, armed with literatures able to apply across cultural boundaries, although as we can see, the Old Testament is a curiously sluggish mixture of particularized culture elements pressed into service for ecumenical purposes.

Related to the idea of a ‘transition’, is the mirror image, an oikoumene. The eonic effect is not about civilizations, but the way they are generated, or regenerated. As we studied our sequence we found a definite series of properties that unlock its riddle. The first, as we have seen, is that of sequence and its transitions, and then of parallelism. Another we will come to is the frontier effect. Finally we can consider what we can call ‘sequential dependency’, which is related to diffusion, and to the way the transitions create a high level of culture that tends to create ‘sequential dependency’ in its descendants creating oikoumenes. The question of these transitions can be restated in terms of transitions and oikoumenes, and the sequential dependency of the mideonic period. It is very difficult to transcend this factor of sequential dependency since any attempt to do so might backfire and degrade the eonic sequence from its peak potential. We should hardly wish to do so. We are sequentially dependent on the eonic history of science. We should therefore wish to do science, not react against our sequential dependency to its system generated momentum. In general, each of our transitions creates, if not a new civilization, then a field of diffusion, or oikoumene.

Transition and Oikoumene We can begin to see what our system is up to. Instead of evolving civilizations, we see a series of transitions like time-slices of particular civilizations generating new oikoumenes in their wake.

 Fields of Diffusion Each stage of our sequence creates a plateau from which diffusion occurs. The cultures in these fields show a kind of sequential dependency. In many ways the breakthrough to higher civilization at TP1 is unique, to the best of our knowledge, and all subsequent civilizations show a ‘sequential dependency’ due to diffusion from these sources. This does not preempt other independent cultural evolution, but this is likely to be sluggish. This pertains to large-scale civilizational constructs, viz. the onset of State formations. It does not follow that smaller scale anticipations of the future as high culture did not exist very early in other places. But we never hear of them! Our eonic sequence is really about global integration, and pumped diffusion. Our system garlands many long lost cultural innovations. A good example is Buddhism. The ‘Hindu stream’ was an unknown until it regenerates as Buddhism in the Axial interval and then starts its course of globalization .

Another property is the acorn, or frontier, effect: our sequence never steps twice in the same place, but always in an adjacent area just at the fringes of its previous expansion. Notice the way that Egypt and the Mesopotamian fields don’t enter the Axial Age list of areas of transition. A tiny corner of Canaan in between the two takes off and produces a new tradition of religious culture. The Greeks are just at the fringes of the core area of higher civilization. Another spectacular case of the frontier effect is the rise of modernity at the boundary of the Roman Empire . In each case the transitional eras generate oikoumenes, and at the next stage, just at the fringes, the sequence resumes its action. We think this a ‘European’ phenomenon, but that is misleading. We can see already that it is misleading to speak of ‘Western Civilization’.

The Frontier Effect A key property of our eonic pattern is the ‘acorn or frontier effect’. Note that something global is occurring starting in a series of local areas. But the sequence restarts in a new place each time, like an acorn, just at the frontier of its predecessor. The world of Canaan, spawning ‘ Israel ’, does not look like a frontier now, but in the era of the mythical Abraham it certainly was, and we even have a ‘pioneer’ story about his leaving the city of Ur in a prime diffusion source, the world of prior Sumer . Greece and Rome in the Axial period were definitely still frontier areas, relative to the by then ancient world of Egypt and Mesopotamia . Each of our transitions creates a hotspot, then expands to create a new civilization, better, oikoumene. Cultural acorns sprout in this field, and then at the next cycle one of them becomes a new transition. Note how our sequence is generating ‘evolution in the large’ via local hotspots, ‘short term evolution in the small’. We must study the diffusion fields of our turning points.

This property makes complete sense. If we restart over too far away, the sequence can’t continue. But if we are too close, the momentum of the earlier stage will overwhelm advance or make novelty abortive.

As we pursue our eonic riddle we see that its effects transcend the particulars of individual civilizations. We need to consider a new fundamental unit of analysis , beyond the idea of civilization, in a challenge to Toynbee and Spengler. We see that the key to the whole pattern is the way that our transitions create a series of oikoumenes, perhaps overlapping. Basically the perception of transitions is paired with the formations they generate: a series of cultural diffusion zones that spread out from the source. This reflects the reality better because it reflects what we always actually see, a series of cultural layers superimposed, overlapping, or mixing elements from different sources. And a civilization is a territorial entity, perhaps well-defined thus, but the development overall of the whole system proceeds by the flow of information which is not so geographically bound. This point is essential, since the Axial Age, as with the case of the account of Israel , produces its effect with a series of geographical displacements, the result being a literary document, well able to travel beyond cultural boundaries. The same is true of Buddhism, which almost seems to extract the essence of Hinduism, and create a universal transcultural vehicle.

The Unit of Analysis We notice something strange. Development is occurring over a long interval, longer than the individual civilization. Thus, we have a problem with the use of the term ‘civilization’ in the first case, the ‘birth of civilization’. The eonic effect is transparent, and follows the contours of the mainline of development in the emergence of civilization, and at the same time demonstrates the relationships of all civilizations to each other. It is therefore at a higher level than the ‘evolution of civilization’ (whatever that is). Note the singular and plural usage of the term ‘civilization’. We might be better to speak of one World Civilization. World historians, such as Toynbee, tend to think in terms of civilizations as self-contained dynamic units, while anthropologists in terms of cultures evolving in linear fashion. Toynbee posits some very dubious structure for these civilizations. The cultures of the anthropologists are temporal streams proceeding more or less as static kaleidoscopes from the Paleolithic. The only points of evolution are precisely where they cross the eonic effect. We are not really looking at the evolution of civilizations, but of the stepping stone intervals when the eonic sequence finds a civilization in its mainline.

Econostream, Technostream ,…And Eonic Sequence We need to begin to distinguish between technological, economic, and ‘eonic’ evolution. We can see by direct correlation that technological evolution proceeds in many cases outside the eonic sequence, and economies are universal or omnipresent factors of culture. The rise of the modern world is confusing because it is the climax of a long development, and mixes technological and economic breakthroughs in a more abstract cultural evolution that sets the framework. That is our eonic effect, and it transcends economic and technological histories. In the modern case, the three separate components suddenly come together in a tremendous climax, but they should be seen as separate processes. The point is that macro-history in our sense doesn’t control these other sequences. It influences them where they overlap, but, by and large, they are human sources. A man can create something, innovate with a new technology, but that can happen at any time. Technological discovery can happen anywhere, anytime. And economic behavior stretches over vast areas, and occurs at all times. But the eonic sequence is carefully concentrated in its effects. In fact it seems to act by a minimum principle. Suppose you had a limited amount of energy to interact with civilizations, and you wish to act on the whole set of them. How would you do that? The eonic effect shows, amazingly, one way to do that. Pick a set of hotspots, act briefly, hope for good diffusion, and make sure the next time you interact that it is not in the same place, but not to far away to have to start over.

The Greek Axial, by comparison Separating these different components can be done by considering the comparison of the modern transition and the Greek Axial. The structure of the two transitions is roughly the same, yet in the first case we do not see the emergence of capitalism, the printing press, or the technological explosion of modern science.

The eonic sequence is different from the random activity of economies, it stands in relation to a larger pattern. Economies are large fields of economic free agents. Economic activity spreads over a large area, occurs continuously, has its own history. Its dynamic is different. All these things can overlap, interact, but essentially they are different processes. Note that ‘something like capitalism’ is almost present from the beginning of world history, since Paleolithic man starting trading in obsidian. But the intersection, overlap, of ‘econostream’ and ‘eonic sequence’ can sometimes produce a dramatic effect. The Industrial Revolution is a good example. The eonic sequence generates a new form of capitalism. But, from then on the result proceeds as econostream. This approach resolves, by the way, the severe confusions that caused Marxists to tie their heads in knots with incorrect theories. There is something broader than the evolution of economic systems.

In general, in our distinction of ‘eonic determination’ and ‘free action’, technical innovation is a function of the discoverer’s abilities, hence falls into our category, ‘free action’. It doesn’t really need that ‘extra’ from the eonic effect. In a similar way, economies spread out over large areas, indeed globally. These, therefore, also fall into the category ‘free action’. It may of course happen that econostream, technostream, and eonic sequence overlap briefly with spectacular results. A good example is the Industrial Revolution, and one reason we tend to take it as the generator of modernity, but that won’t work.

The truly foundational advances, especially the most elusive cultural ones, tend to be clustered, and, no doubt because they are energy intensive, intermittent. These, and consider for example the case of ancient Greece , tend to be non-randomly distributed, hence are something more than ‘free action’. We assign them to our (undefined, save by periodization and geographical focus) ‘eonic determination’. We cannot avoid this distinction if we see that the innate abilities of members of particular cultural streams are probably evenly distributed in every generation, while periods of great advance are non-random, indeed in a sequential pattern. We see at once why people are puzzled by the Gutenberg Revolution, and the Chinese inventions of gunpowder, printing, the compass. The field of technical innovation can occur at random, hence to the most technically savvy. The flow of these innovations into the eonic sequence supercharges that sequence, but doesn’t cause it. We will note later the strong resemblance of the Greek transition, so-called, to the rise of the modern. Note that the first had none of this technology, while the second surged even further with them.

There is more to history than economics then. Historical materialism , left or right, was a great idea, but it is misleading us. The reason is that while economic activity can obviously influence society, the superstructure, its action is dependent on the social evolution of institutions to make it work at all. The modern world is often said to be a ‘capitalist age’, but that is not really the case, in the sense of a fixed stage of history, in the Marxist sequence. The rise of the modern, the transition, after all, was mercantilist. What we call capitalism suddenly crystallized near our ‘divide’. The general change of culture was very open ended. So far from being the teleological outcome of economic stages of history, the new capitalism is an ad hoc outcome whose effects required and received immediate challenge from the left.



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Last modified: 09/21/2010