5. Symphony of Emergence 


Aryans, Hinduism, 
And a Buddhist Revolution


Section 5 .2.3

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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




  5. Symphony of Emergence  
     5.1 Cycle, System Return: The Axial Age  
        5.1.1 Non-genetic Evolution
        5.1.2 Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation
        5.1.3 Art, Evolution and The Tragic Genre  
     5.2 Stream and Sequence: The Axial Transitions   
        5.2.1 Archaic Greece: The Clue 
        5.2.2 The Old Testament as Eonic Data 
        5.2.3 Aryans, Hinduism, and a Buddhist Revolution
        5.2.4 Axial China: Continuity and Discontinuity
        5.2.5 A Flowering of Greek Tragedy and The Birth Of    Democracy  
     5.3 A Rebirth of Freedom...Cycle, System Return       
     5.4 On The Threshold of World Civilization  
        5.4.1 Slavery, Abolition, and Eonic Sequence
        5.4.2 Religion and Empire   

 6. Transition and Modernity


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     5.2.3 Aryans, Hinduism, and a Buddhist Revolution


The history of classical antiquity in the occident is a braiding of Athens, Jerusalem …and Benares. Beside Israel stands the mysterious India, the great foundry of religious consciousness in the history of civilization. The source of this contribution, we suspect, is very ancient, already so by the time of the emergence of Buddhism, which is a kind of reform movement, and baton transfer from the Jain tradition.

The Primordial Tradition It is incorrect to see the source of Indian religion in the Axial Age. The primordial ‘Shaivism’, the source of yoga/tantra, probably appears in the Neolithic period. The question of Indo-European invasion/migration has muddled the whole history with a confusing ‘something’ called ‘Hinduism’ and its Vedic interpolation. Note the further comic irony that the (spurious, no doubt) periodization of the ‘dread Kali Yuga’ puts the classic era of the Axial period, Hinduism included, in the rubric of decline!

Shiva and Dionysus Is much of what we see in the classical era a set of remnants from an earlier period of Neolithic religion, spread across an entire oikoumene from India to Europe? The thesis is plausible in the abstract, while the details remain controversial.[i]

Both Israel and India are considered ‘spiritual cultures’, but this prejudicial notion does not correspond to the real facts, and if we observe carefully, and then consider first China, and then Greece, we will see a spectrum, not a dualistic division. In fact the Axial period of India shows a remarkable resemblance to the Greek and Judaic cases combined, a system of city states suddenly crystallizing a tradition in a spectrum of philosophers and sages. The emergence of Hinduism is deceptive, for it is a hybrid created between the more ancient, probably Dravidian, tradition, and the peoples of the Aryan invasion.[ii]

The history of India, and of its religions, can be very confusing in this regard, due in part to the cultural contradictions of its different traditions. The question of the Aryan invasion has produced a set of attempts to deny the reality of that process whereby an Indo-European migration resulted in a hybrid cultural formation of the Aryan and Dravidian elements. The grafting of the Aryan rule of caste on a religious tradition in which it was absent creates the distorted phenomenon of Brahminism, and a subtle exploitative field of guruism.

Stream and Sequence: Buddhism The case of Buddhism in India is spectacular, and a classic case of our stream and sequence effect. The streams of primordial Shaivism and Jainism are sifted and refined to produce a world religion ready to ship outwards in parallel to Occidental monotheism. The streamlined Buddhism carries none of the baggage that will chaotify so-called Hinduism.

Dates of Buddha There is a considerable effort to revise the dates of the Buddha. This is quite suspicious, although a later date would in some ways conform better to our thesis: the seminal era of Axial innovations is followed (as with Ezra and Nehemiah in Israel) by a codification of a world religion.

Post-Axial Shaivite Revival The stream and sequence argument can help to sort out post-Axial Indian history, for the resurfacing of the primordial Shaivism generates a series of indirect effects that can be confusing, for example, the sudden odd appearance of ‘tantra’ in a Buddhist context.[iii]

Many commentators, and critics of the Aryan invasion hypothesis, have pointed to the great antiquity of Indian religion. But this is not an argument against the relatively late appearance of the Indo-Europeans, merely a suggestion that earlier, perhaps the Dravidian, cultures were the primordial vehicle of the ancient from which the core of Indian religion sprang. Once seen in this light, many of the problems that distract us from a correct picture of Indian history fall away. Beside this lies the tradition of Jainism, which seems to come to an end in the Axial Age, even as it spawns a successor tradition in the emergence of Buddhism. We must note the apt application of our ‘stream and sequence’ argument, and the way in which, through all the confusions, the Axial period seems to resolve the stream by creating an element of Indian religion for the sequence, by creating a global vehicle, Buddhism.[iv]

Thus India , if we care to set aside our western viewpoint, shows us something preserved from great antiquity, and it would seem that we have glimpses of the birth of the great religions in the Neolithic. In any case, the primordial ‘religion’ of Shaivism, from which springs the lore of yoga and tantra, lurks behind the later results that we see in Hindusim and Buddhism. Before the emergence of monotheism, the impulse of the sacred was preparing to leap beyond the notions of the transcendental or the conceptions of divinity to base religion on inquiry into consciousness.

The tendency of Westerners to see a single linear track of civilization, the ‘rise of the West’, and forgets that the modern transition in its sudden unbalancing westward of the eonic sequence, is a very recent phenomenon in a once relatively backward zone of world civilization. It is almost impossible to sort out the emergence of, and relationships between, the forms of the classic yogas as they appear already before the Aryan entry into India, and reappear blended with Vedism and its issues of sacrifice, polytheism, and caste in the later Hinduism. The sudden eruption of Jainism and Buddhism, in period, is a clue to the later loss of the correct picture.

The earliest period of Indian history has already seen the civilization of the Indus come and go as the entry of the Vedic Aryans finds their religious culture to be typical of the proto-Iranian, and proto-Germanic spiritual cultures and the elements of the divisions into castes that are still visible in some aspects of Greek and Roman culture. The mystery is where the elements of the great yogas come from if not from the Vedic culture that shows a completely different character. Already these elements are visible in the famous cylinder seal of the meditating yogi found in the Indus archaeological nexus. A considerable revisionist literature is now challenging the standard version of the Aryan invasion. But the picture is still unclear.

Upanishad It is almost impossible to grasp the complexity of Indian religious history without seeing the context of the eonic effect, or the Axial Age. The sudden appearance of the Upanishads in the exact time-frame of the transition, morphing out of quite different elements, is one of the most remarkable emergent processes of the transition. The transformation does its job, even if the result is misleading, i.e. it seems the outcome of some kind of Aryan Vedism. But in fact it is a primordial tradition picked up in the field of the eonic transition.

Jainism It is Jainism that is carrying the great tradition of yoga from an earlier age, and these elements flow into the timely recreation of that tradition in Buddhism, and then in so-called Hinduism. The figure of Parshvadeva, a Jain teerthankar in the eighth century BCE suggests that a seminal transition now almost invisible to us was the decisive action in the gestation of the later Hindu and Buddhist outcomes.[v]

For our account, we can remain neutral, but the eonic context clarifies at once the way in which Buddhism suddenly appears in still another example of the ‘relative transform’ effect applied to an incoming stream, taking a bird’s eye view over millennia. In essence, and in exactly the same time frame, we see localized cultural elements turn into a global religion rendered independent of cultural context. By the time of Ashoka we see the same passage to ‘oikoumene integrator’ in the early mixed forms that are characteristic of the Persian Empire . This eonic isomorphism with the Judaic case is entirely remarkable, and explains why Buddhism seems to stand out from its Hindu background. The great Hindu comeback against the Axial Buddhist ‘revolution’ produces the world of the misleading Bhagavad Gita.

The emergence of Buddhism in the standard accounts is just after our divide, ca. -600. Some scholars now put this date forward, which would be appropriate also, since we can see that Buddhism is appearing about the time of the Ezra era in Israel. Our actual transitional era is almost lost to us, in detail, and produces the sources of the remarkable Samkhya, and a great deal more in a great flowering. All this is almost perfectly matched to our eonic model, which should allow us to stand back and put this era in perspective. Please note the appearance of another classic example of the relative transform (of a religion) that we have seen already in the steps of the eonic sequence. That is, the stream of Indian history already contains what the Axial Age will amplify and turn into the exteriorizing world religion of Buddhism. We should note, however, that ‘Hinduism’ in the post-Axial period is essentially still another relative transform of itself, and thus on its own terms an ‘eonic emergent’.

The interruption of the rationalistic Buddhism  between Vedism and the later Hinduism is the giveaway, however indirect, of the redirected stream so evident in the synchronous world of Israel and Greece.[vi]

As Prem Nath Bazaz notes in The Role of the Bhagavad Gita in Indian History :

The seventh and sixth centuries B.C. witnessed in India, as in Greece, an intellectual ferment. Dissatisfaction with the Vedic natural religion gave rise to speculations about the origin of the universe and things contained in it…There arose early in the sixth century B.C. an order of paribrajakas (literally ‘wanderers’) who were intellectuals devoted to search after truth…The movement of paribrajakas spread far and wide in Northern India; they were accepted as harbingers of a new age…[vii]            

The views expressed in this flawed and highly charged but useful book suggest the fact that Buddha was not only a religious founder, but a social revolutionary, a view with a bit of its own myth perhaps, but the account gives an apt descant on the Axial period compared with the later destruction of Buddhist India. It is time for some fact checks on all accounts until the record is straight. The stage of the Bhagavad Gita represents the reactionary phase of Neo-Brahmanism that came later. This history deserves an account by a modern leftist, and may cure our contemporary New Agers of sentimental views of the history of guruism.

East and West? There is no ‘philosophic’ East and West, although over time a kind of misleading differentiation arises. Those who find a something called ‘Western civilization’ are really speaking about an artificial construct built around two transitions, whose final effect is a transmission of this mainline out of Sumer back onto the full Eurasian field. The mutual influence of East and West is continual throughout the classical era. Thus, many are the speculations about the interactive influences, viz. the influence of Buddhism on Jesus. We can hardly spot the exact blends, yet we can easily discover the overlap in the Indian, Judaic-Persian, and Greek-Roman cones of diffusion.

Lokayata The Upanishadic age was a close cousin, that is, temporal parallel, of the world of the Pre-Socratics and Sophists, and its spirit was extraordinarily broad, and in many ways deeper. Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India describes the contemporary rescue of over fifty thousand Sanskrit manuscripts on what, given the extensive destruction, must have been the great quantity of ancient literature. “Among the books that have been lost is the entire literature on materialism which followed the period of the early Upanishads.” This is the lost world of the ‘lokayata’, reflected in the Samkhya. We have become so conditioned to the ‘material’/ ‘spiritual’ distinction that we can barely appreciate the way the realm of religion was once cast (among a spectrum of such) as a naturalistic philosophy.

Quest for the Historical Gita The history of Indian religion is a highly difficult swamp laced with the propaganda of the Hindu reaction to Buddhism. The Gita As It Was, Rediscovering the Original Bhagavadgita, by Phulgenda Sinha , attempts to uncover the text of the original non-theistic Gita from the layers of distorted interpolation that brought it to its present state. The idea of a Buddhist revolution is partly an anachronism, but we do see in the contrast of Buddhism and Hinduism another smoking gun example of an ‘eonic effect’.

An Evolutionary Psychology: Classical Samkhya The legacy of ancient Samkhya with its universal naturalism might prove of help in a period of extreme reductionist materialism. Charged with materialism Samkhya is then again charged with idealism, and dualism, and shows a remarkable collation of opposites, and a distant resemblance to Kantian thinking. One problem is that this discourse has already been appropriated for any number of metaphysical speculations about cosmic involution, which don’t do justice to the original. At the point where it appears in the Bhagavad Gita it has already lost its original significance. The world of Samkhya points in principle to everything known in the ancient sutras, and this material is late in terms of our eonic Axial period, but still close to its source.

The history of Indian philosophy seems determined to place a Kapila right on schedule as an eonic sage, as the creator of Samkhya in the time-period 600 B.C, as though to assist our delineation of eonic architecture. The evidence suggests that it was emerging from an Upanishadic phase that is registered even in the Mahabharata. The exact form that it took in the age of Gautama is not clear, but the influence on Buddhism is so obvious that we can feel confident that the main features of the system were more or less in place in the time of Buddha. This is slightly out of character in the Upanishadic context, as these progress into the consolidation of Hinduism, but we should note that the whole tradition here has never truly been shown to have anything to do with Indo-European, or Vedic, religious traditions.

The fate of this system was denunciation by the later Shankarans who had quietly expropriated its terminology and concepts, witness the references in the misleading Bhagavad Gita. And they were not the last. Great later embarrassment rings through the history of mysticism and religion in the fact that the great breakthrough of the classical Indian transition produced a ‘materialist’ mysticism. But such a thing was quite natural in the age of Buddha and Mahavir, although we cannot say what the true original form of all this was, for the Shiva cult and its yogi far predate Buddhism. All we see now are the later redactions of the Hindu medieval period, so concerned under the influence of Islam to conceal the whole subject in a monotheistic wrapper.

The sutra posits a dualistic distinction of prakriti and purusha. This double aspect model is the key. The ‘spiritual’ principle is strictly segregated from the sources of natural manifestation, and these include mind and soul. The ‘spirit’ of man is higher ‘material’, and not the same as purusha, which is uncreated, and uncreating. Prakriti comes in two aspects, uncreated, created. It is this unmanifest prakriti that is the obstacle to easy self-realization. The value of the Samkhya approach is to see that one mistakes one’s spirituality for what is in reality a material manifestation in subtle form. The beauty of the system of Samkhya, the codified echo of some unknown Buddha, as ancient as the speculations of Thales and as deserving of a place in the Smithsonian of proto-science, is its consistency and simplicity: everything is ‘material’ in an all-encompassing naturalism, that is, all is of a piece, matter, energy, mind, purpose, god, and yet beside this is a witness, perhaps misunderstood as ‘consciousness’, a term they did not use, and which mis-portrays the element ‘purusha’. It is misleading indeed to translate the term ‘purusha’ as consciousness. This ‘dualism’ then receives a sort of myth of the relation of the two in a striking image of a kind of evolution as punctuated equilibrium. This witness does nothing, and is neither god nor creator. Everything comes into existence from primordial matter as a cascade of evolutionary triads or gunas, doubling in number in some later formulations: 3, 6, 12, 24, 48,... This aspect is speculative and has degenerated into its own form of bogus cosmic mechanics that found its final burial grounds in the pastiche of such as Ouspensky.

The dualism of ‘spirit’ and ‘matter’ disappears and becomes a ‘dialectic’ or triad, in a tetrad including purusha. It is not a dualism of matter and spirit, but a dualism between the ‘unnamable, but named, purusha’ and a natural triad, of three ‘matters’. Some of these ‘matters’ are unmanifest, and that’s what causes the confusion of spiritual samsara. The point is that the higher range of this triad, the ‘sattwic’ is confused with the spiritual. Perhaps it is the spiritual, but there is something beyond that. This dialectic is biophysical, the fact of the body, the mind, and the triadic ‘connector’, ‘e-motion’, desire, etc,… Science might have grown better in this acidic soil, as it thrashes about in Cartesian schizophrenia (although Descartes is attempting a similar gesture), sinking deeper even as Descartes is denounced, unable to get its ‘materialism’ in order. Samkhya is one great key to the labyrinth of Indian spirituality, tracing its origins to the era of Buddha.

Samkhya can be useful as a reminder that religions are not spiritual but upsurges in prakriti. Yogis hitchhike on the form and one day are found to have slipped away as the purusha element, allergic to religion, subtracts their name from the religious roll call. We see the point looking at the eonic effect with its ambiguous, now material, now spiritual, eonic emergents. The distinction of matter and spirit in Western language tends to divide the ‘sattwic’ from the whole man to call that the spiritual.[viii]



  Web:  chap5_2_3.htm


[i] Alain Danielou, Gods Of Love And Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1984). The works of Danielou contain a clue in plain sight to the confusions of Indian religious history, but must be taken with caution.

[ii] Diana Eck, Banaras: City of Light (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).

[iii] Alain Danielou, Shiva and the Primordial Tradition ( Rochester , Vermont : Inner Traditions, 2003), cf. Chapter 2, “The Shaivite Revival From the Third To the Tenth Centuries C.E.”.

[iv] Alain Danielou, trans. Kenneth Hurry, A Brief History Of India (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2003).

[v] Danielou, op. cit., pp. 32-35.

[vi] And why is it that Buddha and Mahavir are of the Kshatriya and not the Brahmin caste? This is one of the strangest facts of Indian religious history, the grafting of an older or indigenous spirituality onto the Vedas. Cf. N. R. Peat, in The Origins of Indian Psychology, discusses Heinrich Zimmer’s view of Indian spirituality in Philosophies of India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), that the Vedic tradition was merged with an indigenous spiritual tradition. As Peat points out, the doctrines of the immortal soul, rebirth, and spiritual release are nowhere apparent in the ancient Vedas. The source of this earlier tradition, and its relation to an equally ancient Goddess worship, is a mystery, although the presence of yogic seals in the Indus civilization stretches the mystery backward one step.

As Professor Paul Deussen remarked, “When it is considered that in these passages on the knowledge of brahman as atman, of atman as the all-ensouling principle, and of the destiny of the soul beyond death, the most important points of the doctrine of the Upanishads are announced, and that in these not only are the kings portrayed as the knowers, but the Brahmins specifically shown to have been the non-knowers, but the Brahmins specifically shown to have been the non-knowers or wrong-knowers (the texts, moreover, being communicated by the Vedic schoolmen, who were Brahmins themselves), then one can only draw the conclusion—if not with absolute surety, at least with considerable likelihood—that the doctrine of the atman, which is actually opposed to the whole spirit of Vedic ritual lore, even though it may at first have designed by Brahmins, nevertheless was taken up and cultivated not in the circle of Brahmins, but of Kshatriyas, and only later adapted by the Brahmins.” As Joseph Campbell remarks of this passage, “Deussen wrote in the late nineteenth century, before anything was known of the Indus Civilization; yet he recognized already—as no Indians seem ever to have seen—that between the Vedic and Upanishadic views the difference is so great that the latter could not possibly have been developed out of the former.” N. Ross Peat, The Origins of Indian Psychology (1990), p. 2, Campbell (1962), op. cit., p 203.

[vii] Prem Nath Bazaz, The Role of the Bhagavad Gita in Indian History (New Delhi: Sterling, 1975), p. 82.

[viii] Classical Samkhya, An Interpretation of its History and Meaning (1979), Gerald Larson





Last modified: 09/27/2010