6. Transition and Modernity

An Age of Enlightenment


Section 6.2

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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





6. Transition and Modernity 
     6.1 A New Age Begins  
        6.1.1 From Reformation to Revolution  
     6.2 An Age of Enlightenment  
        6.2.1 The Crisis of The Enlightenment  
        6.2.2 Theory and Ideology: Das Adam Smith Problem
        6.2.3 Toward a New Enlightenment 
     6.3 The Great Divide 
        6.3.1 Revolutions Per Second: The Rebirth of Democracy 
        6.3.2 Econostream != Eonic Sequence          
    6.4 System Shutdown: Between System Action and Free Action  
       6.4.1 The Curse of Mideonic Empire?      
     6.5 1848: End of Eonic Sequence?  
          6.5.1 Last and First Men
          6.5.2 Theory and Ideology: Out of Revolution
     6.6 New Ages
          6.6.1 The (Eonic) Evolution of Religion  
          6.6.2 The 'Axial' New Age
          6.6.3 The Great Freedom Sutra 
          6.6.4 Schopenhauer and The Caveman Buddhas
          6.6.5 Coda: Amlothi's Mill

 7. Conclusion


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     6.2 An Age of Enlightenment


With uncanny timing, the period of the Enlightenment climaxes at the end of the modern transition just before the point of the divide. This period is especially significant in our account since it is the last manifestation of the enigmatic macroevolution we have discovered, followed by the rapid shutdown of the eonic sequence in the next generation.

We see that this ‘evolution’ generates fields of mass action, not a unilinear doctrine and notice at once the immense spectrum of synchronous realizations that appear in concert. It is almost like grand opera and the masterchord of Reason in History reverberates like a downstage soliloquy as the era of secularism comes into being. We are already in a later period, suffering the misleading postmodern reaction to this, the most pointed of Axial moments in our matrix of transitions.[i]

This chord endures many descants between the philosophes, the French, English, Scottish and German Enlightenments, the Romantics, but this diversity merely enriches its potential and its overall tenor is the classic redirection of the secular age emerging after the great Axial experiments in religion whose legacies arrive at modernity burdened with metaphysical claims on the course of history. Keep in mind, however, that our transitions are time-slices and geographical regions, and the restriction of thought to some ‘project of the Enlightenment’ (soon the object of much hue and cry and declarations of failure) will beggar the whole. The success or failure of the ‘Enlightenment Project’ is not the fundamental issue, in so far as the redirection of the globalization of world history relative to antiquity has been swiftly accomplished with prodigious energy, a roaring success in the tumult of effects. The action of our system is a fait accompli by the end of the eighteenth century, and it is not a question of philosophic viewpoint.

Kant’s classic question, “What is Enlightenment?” unwittingly throws down the gauntlet, but in an already transposed form that is moving with the rise of Romanticism. Now the world of Buddhism, in a great irony, appears with a challenge more sophisticated than that which the Enlightenment confronted in the legacy of metaphysical monotheism. Could the new dawn fail? Given the strategies of all too many New Age movements with their postmodern emphasis we can see they have already miscalculated history, a severe failure of tactics and perspective that must downgrade their stock. We see the significance of the transposed ‘Enlightenment’ of classic German philosophy which contains its concealed Upanishad. The mysterious logic of modernity as a whole is more than a match for the challengers.

The Enlightenment It was the philosopher Kant who said that while the men of his age might not be enlightened it was an Age of Enlightenment. This catches the correct issue of periodization. And yet the period referred to is more complex than it seems because of the ambiguity of places, times, and themes taken to represent its keynote. Even as the subtheme of rationality undergoes a crescendo, deeper currents are stirring, that will answer to the riddle of why, amidst the triumph of science, the finished work will cross into the nineteenth century in revolution, a romantic descant and Reason bearing the orphan of Dialectic. We should note the great irony of the real sense of the Kantian version of Reason in the complex of his two seemingly contradictory critiques.

Although we associate the Enlightenment with the eighteenth century, its roots are really in the seventeenth century, and its true parentage still earlier in the era of the Reformation , as it rises to the Thirty Years War. There is a unity to the steps, from the breakdown of the Catholic world of theocracy, the partition of Protestantism, the ambiguity of authority followed by the disposition to reinvent the state or secure the elements of new sovereignties, Hobbes and the English War, in the ‘bourgeois’ economic and liberal mode of civil society, followed by the focus on the place of the individual discovered in freedom, to search for a new ethical self, and encountering the physics of the new materialism  found from the rebirth of science as a system of the world. An almost timeless age in itself, and yet a moment in a larger sequence, the Enlightenment is seen best in its own context, which is its challenge to the past, more even than the future, as the birth of the idea of Progress bears witness to the rising breeze against doldrums of slow centuries. The confusions of postmodernism disappear, if we see that we are merely post-Enlightenment, find the dialectic a premonition of the world of Gödel and the limitations of systems, beside the birth of engines of steam in the timely arrow of thermodynamic times of departure from Newtonian timeless laws, Industrialism of the new Locomotive. A New Age is born.[ii]

Little noticed in standard accounts of the Enlightenment is the sudden, late, injection by diffusion of Indian religion into the secular sphere, and this will prove a considerable groundswell of anti-modernism in the equivocations of New Ages and New Age movements. The counterattack of the gurus against modernity is a serious long term threat, a point that can be seen in the post-Axial onset of the great religions.

Schopenhauer and Indian Religion The modern transition produces a remarkable flow of reverse diffusion, as Indian religion, exactly at the point of the divide starts a new world expansion. The ‘Upanishadic’ meanings of the term ‘enlightenment’ will prove an ironic counterpoint in the rising flood of New Movements beginning in the nineteenth century. In one of the most neglected incidents of the period, Schopenhauer beats this phenomenon at the draw with an instant home-grown remorphing of the Kantian legacy into a reflection and independent recreation of Indian spiritual psychologies.[iii]

The Theme of Autonomy Religion is hardly possible without the individual’s freedom! Thus the secular age is just as well seen as the moment of first birth of religion, as the degenerate remnants of monotheistic theocracy are subject to attack. A more subtle danger lies in the occulted side of the Eastern religions, whose remnants will generate a subtle reactionary trend in the nineteenth century. The New Age movements in reaction to modernity and the Enlightenment are suspiciously nervous about a figure such as Kant who explicitly defined ‘Enlightenment’ in terms of human autonomy:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding![iv]

This battle is being fought all over again. Now, why is it that the gurus (and religious priesthoods) are terrified of this essay, and, especially the gurus, who hope to maintain their legacy among those who have no allowed concept of autonomy?  



   Web:  chap6_2.htm


[i] Paul Hyland et al., The Enlightenment (New York: Routledge, 2003), Roy Porter, The Creation of The Modern World (New York: Norton, 2000).

[ii] Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 ( Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2002), J. B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Roy Porter (ed.) et al., The Enlightenment in National Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

[iii] Alexander MacFie (ed.), Eastern Influences On Western Philosophy ( Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 2003).

[iv] Carl Friedrich, Kant’s Moral and Political Writings (New York: Modern Library, 1949), “What is Enlightenment”, p. 132





Last modified: 09/28/2010