5. Symphony of Emergence 


On The Threshold 
Of World Civilization


Section 5.4

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

     5.4 On The Threshold of World Civilization


The great era of world transformation passes, and by -400 we can see the waning of the effect. The outside date, -200, for Jaspers’ Axial Age is far too late. By then the Athenian world is gone, the Roman Republic is beginning to suffer strains, and era of Empire is soon to come. The great religions are coming into being. We can see the difference in the post-transitional period at once in the passage of the Greek world to the Hellenistic Age. In Greece, the difference is dramatic, visible by the fourth century. Polis is turning into cosmopolis. Indeed it was in this period, as the classicist H. Kitto notes in an essay on the decline of the Greek polis, that the word itself, ‘cosmopolis’, was coined to serve the passage to an allegiance to the greater community of man. A great expenditure of history grew from this point to prepare a first universal cosmopolitanism.[i]

In The Harvest Of Hellenism, F. E. Peters opens his depiction of the great oikoumene that is unfolding by noting, “This is a book about a second generation’, the first generation being that of the Hellenes from Homer to Aristotle, the second one ‘without a name’, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Syrians, Jews, Egyptians. They came “under the spell of the Hellenes…condemned or blessed to reap where their spiritual fathers had sown.” [ii]

In fact, Plato and Aristotle are a bit late, but show the last consolidation of our transition, before the rapid waning of the eonic dynamic. The period of the transition from the classical flowering to the Hellenistic world is the most solid, and the most confusing, period where the evidence of historical directionality, and a mysterious misdirection, come together. One aspect of the change is evidenced in the neo-authoritarianism of Plato denounced by Popper and can be found in the minor classic, The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics, by Eric Havelock. The use of the term ‘liberal’ for the Classical Greeks will not work. However, the basic point that Havelock is making is valid, by any terminology, in showing the change of character that came over the Greek world in the generation of Plato. The Sophists are maligned, but they are exemplars of the inchoate transition figures.[iii]

Our eonic model shows us at a glance the psychology of religion that arises in the Christian world, and the compulsion men had to think there were spiritual forces operating on their future, generated from the transition. They were correct, and correctly produced a myth of the eonic effect! But it is not the action of divinity. Only secular thought can summon the brusqueness to remind his religious brethren that a divinity would never act according to the hopelessly confused outcomes of monotheism, as the mideonic stream jackknifes and produces Anti-Semitism, and the rival emergent teleological vehicles struggling with medieval inertia.

The world into which the transition passes is one aspect of the perception of cycles that can do harm to progressive advance. As the sociologist Krishan Kumar notes in Prophecy and Progress,

the backward-looking spell of the memory of the world of classical antiquity remained, to bewitch thinkers into a sense that the great, golden age of man was really in the past, by comparison with which present times were mean and secondhand. This spell was decisively broken only towards the end of the seventeenth century.[iv]

Our framework now highlights the great historical drama of ‘decline and fall’, the progression toward religion and empire as oikoumene generators that will characterize the immense interval, the mideonic period, from the end of the Axial Age to the rise of modernity.

Decline and Fall The succession to the Axial Age provides us with an awesome display, and partial explanation, of the mechanics of ‘decline and fall’, and in the Occident the final collapse of the Roman Empire about a millennium after the onset of the ‘new age’ is the demarcation point for the tellingly named ‘middle ages’. We should be careful to distinguish the mechanics of our eonic effect, as self-organization, from declines of civilizations, which are due to other processes. This pattern is the mirror image to the eonic sequence, and is often the source of comparisons for critics of modernity. But the two situations are quite different. Please note that there is no inherent inevitability for this mideonic decline. It is possible for the system to advance from its transitional periods, and do that consistently. But we can see how the logic of disorganization slowly overtakes the larger system created by our eonic sequence, and this requires ‘restarting’ at the point of the next cycle. A frequent comparison of modernity, or else the ‘American Empire’, to the decline of Rome enters into an ideological sermonizing against the imperialistic capitalisms of modern nation-states. But these comparisons are misleading. Even if we accept the possibility of comparison of such different eras and cultures, the modern system would still be at about the point corresponding to -400, with almost a millennium to go! The decline of the Roman Republic into Empire, and of the Empire into medievalism are two separate things.[v]



  Web:  chap5_4.htm


[i] H. Kitto, The Greeks (New York: Penguin, 1958), p. 159.

[ii] F. E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970), p.18.

[iii] The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), by Eric Havelock .

[iv] Krishan Kumar, Prophecy and Progress (New York: Penguin, 1978), p. 14.

[v] James O’Donnell, The Ruin of The Roman Empire ( New York : HarperCollins, 2008), Adrian Galsworth, How Rome Fell ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).





Last modified: 09/27/2010