4. Idea For A Universal History


Fields of Diffusion 


Section 4.3.1

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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





4. Idea For A Universal History  
    4.1 A Short History of The World  
       4.1.1 The Modern Turn: Looking Backward          
    4.2 Big Histories, Universal Histories  
       4.2.1 In Search of The Big Bang 
       4.2.2 From Life's Origin to The Dawn of Human Culture  
    4.3 Neolithic Beginnings  
       4.3.1 Fields of Diffusion  
       4.3.2 Genesis of the Great Religions 
       4.3.3 The Tower of Babel           
   4.4 Egypt, Sumer and The 'Rise of Civilization'  
      4.4.1 Sumer and The Cuneiform Civilization
      4.4.2 Egypt: A Synchronous 'Axial' Effect
   4.5 From Akkad to The Assyrians...and Israel...  
      4.5.1 The Indo-European Migrations   
      4.5.2 The Curse of Mideonic Empire 

 5. Symphony of Emergence


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     4.3.1 Fields of Diffusion 


As we develop our outline it becomes obvious that we are dealing with a series of transitions and their oikoumenes, a more useful framework than that of the ‘civilization’ which is often a set of layers of different cultures. This makes the study of diffusion central, as it should be. Our transitions create a series of diffusion fields where a high degree of sequential dependency reigns. The fields can overlap, please note, and tracing the layers is often a considerable study. Because of this factor, among others, it is more useful to recast our ‘fundamental unit of analysis’ as a series of transitions and their fields of diffusion, rather than as a series of civilizations. The point is flexible, since the study of civilizations has its own tradition and sets a pattern hard to break. But the point is that civilizations are too amorphous to have a dynamics, this belongs to the eonic sequence alone.

Theories of the birth of civilization, such as Toynbee’s consideration of challenge and response and many others, are confounded by the relativity of the term ‘civilization’ and the clear evidence of its gestation, if not outright early appearance as ‘civil evolution’, in the primordial transition, village, town, state. And yet the rapid crystallization of the forms of the state, the invention of writing, indeed most of the foundations of later social organization, seem to cross a threshold in the centuries clustered around -3000, to stabilize for an immensely enduring era that will last until a new period seems to dawn at the time of the Classical Greeks and the world of Canaanite ‘Israel’. In a word almost everything that comes later is sequentially dependent on the world of Sumer. Almost. In a word,  Sumer was important.

This emergence of higher civilization, as a relative onset, is highly concentrated in the Fertile Crescent , and we suspect, despite every possibility of the independent emergence of the discovery of agriculture, that the appearance of advanced civilizations occurs uniquely in one source. This challenge to theories of the independent evolution of civilization is controversial, and depends on the consideration of issues of diffusion. But it is difficult to defend, for example, the absolute independence of the New World civilizations from any contact with the Old World sources. As Cyrus Gordon notes,

Prehistoric and primitive men may have ‘invented’ in isolation a number of ways of life belonging to the domain of cultural anthropology. For historians of civilized man, however, the entire globe has for thousands of years constituted One World. If high independently invented civilizations have existed, they were not on this planet.[i]

Although we strongly suspect this to be the case, we need not commit, and our perspective is more flexible, and allows a looser, our stream and sequence, interpretation. Indeed, we have created a two-level construct, and nothing disallows both the independent emergence of proto-civilization, and the distinctly driven eonic evolution we see in our mainline. The eonic sequence simply amplifies a selection of cultures in its direct path. These independent sources, however, can’t compete with the impact of the eonic sequence. And, after careful study, it is hard to believe even the far flung Olmecs aren’t sequentially dependent on Sumer/Egypt in Transition 1. These two possibilities, stream and sequence, can then interact, creating a complicated situation. But as time goes on the mainline is likely to predominate.

This would go a long way toward explaining the complex situation we see in the New World civilizations, whose status we cannot determine without better data. But these civilizations, so far from Eurasia , have a hard time, and can’t advance very far. Finally, the appearance of synchrony as seen especially in the Axial transitions should advise us to exercise extreme caution about the sources of anything. The fields of diffusion provide raw material, but the eonic mainline performs the major effects of advance. Yes, we do see this synchrony, but we also see that in each case, that there has been diffusion from the Mesopotamian world. Not easy to discover with China, but it is there. The advantage of our approach is that it uses ideas of relative changes, and from this perspective we don’t have to commit our model to extravagant assumptions about poorly observed civilizations. But, despite this, we should be strongly suspicious in favor of diffusion in many cases where independent evolution is claimed.

 Our stream and sequence approach requires both perspectives. But we should predict at once that some element of diffusion is present in the worlds of the Olmec, Maya, and other New World civilizations. But since we don’t have the full data we won’t commit ourselves in advance, save as a prediction: you’ll find that connection someday. Note that the issue is one of relative free action in a field of diffusion, in this case diffusion of information (from bad sources like the Phoenicians) and very little direct imitation. This allows a huge scope for diverse realizations with predominant stream inertia. Civilizations aren’t autonomous, and ideas and technology spread rapidly. If someone arrives with new information, that is overlaid on the resulting civilization. If the information is at second hand often the result is less than stellar. The New World cultures were no doubt unfortunate to receive the diffused influences of the Phoenicians, even as their cousin culture in Canaan is about to spawn the ‘protocols of intertribal mediation’ that we see emerging in the Old Testament during the Axial interval. These never reach the New World until too late and defunct in the imperialist form of the Holocaust of Columbus, Christianity taken over by thugs. This effect of packaged literature appearing in the Axial interval as diffusion instruments is crucial for the foundations of modernity, and the struggles over animal (and human) sacrifice, just to take one example, show the way a new stage of culture is reached in global form from localized transitions.

This double aspect in our model is clearly present in the New World. As to diffusion, the legends of the Maya, Inca, Aztecs even said so! It is not prejudicial to take this stance. Quite the contrary, once we see that there is a mysterious driver behind the great advances, the sluggishness of many sectors ceases to be some sort of judgment on other cultures. Behind the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent lies the whole history of the Neolithic. A great preparation occurred, almost five thousand years! That’s a lot of preparation. So far all we see in the New World is the sudden emergence of the Olmec. We don’t see, at least not yet, the equivalent lead up in the New World . We must therefore suspect diffusion .

But note that both viewpoints are possible, up to a point. Civilizations evolve in isolation, but their integration and manifestation of advanced features almost always shows direct diffusion from the Sumer and Egypt phase. This does not rule out prior influences however from an earlier period. With or without extensions to the eonic sequence. This does not contradict the basic model, but it does leave the pattern ragged. It would be very nice to know what was going on throughout the Neolithic, for we see definite cases where diffusion has clearly occurred from some earlier phase of the Neolithic.

In conclusion, the question of diffusion is controversial because it puts a premium, it seems, on biased cultural sources connected to the eonic sequence. This and many other examples put our sequence in a somewhat ambiguous light because it seems to favor the mainline of the sequence. We have to face the fact that this is what the evidence shows, along with the catastrophe of anti-semitism and the dangers of Eurocentrism, false universalization, and that we are nonetheless one world evolving towards a greater unity, and the temporary advantage of the transitional areas near the mainline sequence is not a function of cultural superiority but the action of the eonic effect itself. The immense reserve diversity of greater universal history must not be sacrificed to this. But small wonder the modern transition produces its convulsions of globalization  and Eurocentric imbalance!

In general, diffusion reigns. As Thor Heyerdahl notes,

The isolationist sees it as an insult to the intellect of the American Indian to look for outside inspiration behind the aboriginal American civilization. But is it not more of an insult to the bulk of American Indians, who lived outside the high culture areas and who had no civilization, to overlook the possibility that they simply have lacked corresponding helpful influence? Can we Europeans say that we descend from independent inventors of civilization? Do we forget that Europe was still the domain of illiterate barbarism when the literate Olmecs erected masterpieces of sculpture with hieroglyphic inscriptions and complicated calendar dates...[ii]

Note the implications of the stream and sequence argument, taking the case of Greece . The stream of Greek culture shows two periods of early flowering, the first is the Mycenaean. This is out of the master sequence, and shows diffusion and sequential dependency on the first phase, the transition of Sumer and Egypt, mediated via the mideonic world of the Minoan. It actually collapses and goes into decline, then takes off like a rocket in the next phase of the master sequence. Only a model of the type we have constructed can do justice to this complex of relations in three and four dimensions on the surface of a planet.    



   Web:  chap4_3.htm


[i] Cyrus Gordon, Before Columbus (New York: Crown, 1971), p. 35.

[ii] Thor Heyerdahl, Early Man and the Ocean (New York: Doubleday, 1979), p. 70. Patrick Huyghe, Columbus Was Last (New York: Hyperion, 1992).





Last modified: 09/23/2010