7. Conclusion

 
 
History and Evolution: 
A Paradox Resolved

  

Section 7 .1




 
World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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

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 CHAPTERS:
 

 

 
 

 
7. Conclusion  
     7.1 History and Evolution: A Paradox Resolved 
        7.1.1 Transition and Divide: A New Perspective on Modernity 
    7.2 The Eonic Effect As a Resolution of Kant's Challenge      
      7.2.1 Freedom’s Causality, Teleology and Politics  
        7.2.2 Free Will, Moral Action, and Self-consciousness       
     7.3 Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism    
      7.3.1 Modernism, Eurocentrism, Imperialism, and 'Western' Civilization
        7.3.2 Ecological Endgames: A Tyranny Of Markets
     7.4 Ends and Beginnings       
NOTES  
     7.5 Critique of Historical Reason  
        7.5.1 Spengler, Toynbee, and Cyclical Theories 
        7.5.2 Is There a Postmodern Age?  
        7.5.3 Evolution and The Idea of Progress
        7.5.4 The Case of the Missing Centuries 
     7.6  Beyond Darwinism: A Theoretical Self-Defense
         7.6.1 The Meaning Of Evolution
         7.6.2 The Great Transition

 

 
  
        

    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     7.1 History and Evolution: A Paradox Resolved

 

We reach the end of the broad indication of the historical eonic pattern, called the eonic effect, whose structure gives us a strange, and incomplete, glimpse of an evolutionary process that transcends the incidents of civilization, and yet is the source of its generation. Our emphasis has been empirical, avoiding theories, and, using only the simplest methods of periodization, we have uncovered a rich structure of universal history that we have also interpreted as evolution. The fallacy of evolutionary theories has been the attempt to create a universal generalization, mimicking a law of physics that will explain evolution in the abstract in all situations. But such generalizations are bound to fail, and the legacy of Darwinian natural selection can be seen to miss almost entirely the real substance of evolutionary dynamics. The eonic effect shows us that ‘evolution’ changes course along its sequence of action.  In the main we see that ‘man makes himself’, but that this self-evolution is directed by an intermittent macroevolutionary driver that seems to reset the course, or courses, of microevolution. This ‘stream and sequence’ relationship of the action of a system and the free action that operates inside it is the clue to understanding of evolution and history operating together.

History and Evolution: a paradox resolved We have found the resolution of the paradox of history and evolution with which we began in our brief outline of world history in light of the eonic effect, and the result is an unexpected and spectacular sense of its coherence and greater unity. Beyond the clear pattern of data, we detect the evidence of an abstract dynamical system, a process of discrete-stepping evolution, operating behind the scenes. We need not speculate about such a system, instead replacing it with careful periodization to help us follow the ‘track of evolution in history’ along a time-line: the deeper dynamic is hidden from us, as with the Kantian noumenal behind the phenomenal.

We constructed an evolution formalism  to deal with this pattern, as a simple model, not as a new theory of evolution, but as way to help us understand what we are seeing in world history. We then saw the relation of that formalism to a Kantian perspective. This exploration of an ‘evolution formalism’ fell short of deriving a theory, which requires a true ‘theory of everything’. Better to follow evolution as an empirical sequence. We see the reason that debates over evolution end in a chronic metaphysical dilemma. We can, however, with our simple method, track evolution and visualize its action over time, with a surprising result. Just as biologists distinguish the fact and the theory of evolution we can use the ‘fact’ of the eonic effect to understand world history in a new way. Everything we need is available with our basic model of the evolution formalism.

It is ironic that it should be world history that would show us the existence of non-random evolution, where the vistas of deep time fail to reveal the real clue to the evolutionary riddle, of man at least. The reason for this is obvious, we cannot zoom in on deep time to the proper evidence density, even as the eonic effect shows us sudden and decisive change occurring in intervals of mere centuries, a mere instant in relation to the scale of deep time. Strictly speaking our usage of the term ‘evolution’ is actually more precise than the usual sloppy Darwinian usage, and is arrived at by deducing that there must be an overlap between the evolution of passive organisms and the history of active agents. It is difficult at first to accept the use of the term ‘evolution’ for world history, but the logic is inexorable, and the evidence, given that logic, almost overwhelming. Upon reflection, it could hardly be otherwise, and yet Darwinian thinking has not proved capable of handling this simple necessity in any theory of human evolution.

A Non-random Pattern We have achieved our prime objective: the demonstration of a non-random pattern in world history. This is a remarkable example of something that is not supposed to exist, but does, right in our own backyard, historically speaking. It is possible to simply focus on this empirical perception, and construct an outline of world history that follows this pattern, a task we have accomplished in our ‘short history of the world’. But as we do this we begin to discover much more behind this pattern, and in fact we see that it represents the action of an evolutionary dynamic or system standing behind chronicle of events. We have constructed an ‘evolution formalism’ to help us understand what we are seeing, and this formalism can be further extended to become a systems model for our data. We simply savor the empirical demonstration of evolutionary emergentism that leaps out from our ‘non-random pattern’. 

Thus, where conventional thinking on evolution assumes a factor of randomness to rule all forms of emergence, we have found instead, given closely-tracked evidence, a dramatic pattern of self-organization in the directed emergentism of world civilization. In fact, we have something more than thermodynamic ‘self-organization’, we have stumbled on a progressive unfolding process, whose visible directionality portends a deeper teleological process behind it.

This dose of empiricism has lifted us out of the speculative thrashing about with ‘theories’ whose abstract character seems designed to conform to assumptions about science rather than to the facts that nature shows us. The theory of natural selection is attractive to those who wish a simple ‘law’ of some kind to make biological evolution analogous to physical laws. But this approach is clearly an oversimplification applied to the complexities of history or evolution.

Our approach to evolution has been to remain wary of theories and to attempt to look at the facts of man’s emergence into civilization. This strong dose of empiricism has transformed our perspective, and the result is a more solid insight into both universal history and the evolution of man, the key to human evolution. The connection between evolution and history, which at first seemed a contradiction, now seems like the most natural way to harmonize the two ideas, and bring them together into a unified account of the descent of man.

Evolution to History Our evolution formalism has connected evolution and history by interpreting the sequence of transitions in the eonic effect as macroevolution, or System Action, and the resulting free response, or ‘Free Action’, as microevolution. The result is to see the ‘evolution of freedom’, and the emergence of history, as human free action, from evolution. This elegant unity of the dual ideas is beautifully reflected in the data of the eonic effect. Thus, we can see that the Axial Age represents the macro factor of ‘evolution’, while the free action response that creates the details represents the micro factor creating the historical realization of the macro factor. This formalism is not a theory but a set of statements that assist us in understanding what we are seeing.

Evolution and Self-organization World history shows us a spectacular display of self-organization in the emergence of civilization, the problem here being that issues of teleology arise to demand an extension of the concept. We can easily detect this by systematically clocking this history against a frequency hypothesis. The result is, however, far more complex that the usual thermodynamic increase in order associated with self-organization. The result shows that natural selection reasoning is inappropriate to discussions of the dynamics of historical evolution.

Design Arguments and Natural Teleology The data of the eonic effect clearly falls into the category of self-organization, yet seems to outstrip this depiction in the complex details of the emergence of the highest forms of culture, as we have seen, for example, in the realm of art. It almost seems to demand an argument by design. But if we examine the data closely we can see that no designer would quite do things the way we see them in history. There is a clear indication of a teleological component to the directionality of the eonic sequence, and this is a part of what generates a sense of design.

Self-consciousness The ambiguity of our data arises from the way our ‘system’ promotes and fuels the self-consciousness of man in history, and it is this ambiguous relationship of ‘system action and free action’ that generates a sense of design. 

We can see ‘evolution’ acting direcly on human consciousness in the transformation of self-consciousness. The complex mystery of human evolution has too long been confused with the emergence of physiological or anatomical features, leaving out the evolutionary stages of his concisousness and culture, indeed the emergence of civilization itself. We are fixated by the contrast of the primitive, so-called, and the technological sophisticated aggregates we call ‘civilization’. But perhaps to a larger cosmic perspective the difference is more relative than we think, the stage of civilization being of piece with the onset of the Neolithic, thence the onset of behaviourally modern man. Nothing truly fundamental has changed in man throughout, as he remains in essence that creature that embarked on the journey of behaviourally modern man.

A Higher Power Acting Through History It is almost egregious to throw our data into the grabbag of ‘self-organization’. The eonic effect fills us with a sense of an almost ominous presence, of a mysterious process or action operating throughout history as a higher power. We see fine-tuning down to the level of poetic meters and even the whole genre Greek tragedy that might leave us floundering in design arguments. We need to realize that divinity would not act in this way. Conventional theism/atheism will not help us understand this situation.

In fact we have rediscovered, perhaps, the elemental sense of universal history first intuited by the Isrealites, pointing beyond god idols to IHVH, before that degenerated into monotheism. We have lost that tradition, and need to steer well clear of it. We cannot under any circumstance bring ‘god ideas’ to our depiction, at the risk of corrupting our clarity with the confusions of false design arguments. That would truly wreck our account. The same can be said of the sterile atheism based on the metaphyscis of Darwinian natural selection. The depiction of ‘evolution’ using systems analysis keeps our account honest. 

Our method of bringing ‘evolution’ into history has resolved an ambiguity that has always haunted even the most ordinary usage of this term, which somehow expected man to pass instantaneously beyond evolution to history. We see instead the far more reasonable picture of a transition between the two, in fact, a series of such transitions, precisely the pattern of our eonic sequence. As we examine human evolution we note that there is a uniformity, amidst diversity, to human ‘situations’, whether those be the primitive campfire culture or the cities of advanced civilization. This should remind us that we could not deprive those ‘primitive’ situations of earliest men of the description as ‘history’. Upon further reflection we realize that the reverse is, must be, true: we cannot deprive the contexts of human history of the term ‘evolution’. In fact, we have done better here: we have taken the two terms ‘history’ and ‘evolution’ to refer to two levels of action. Creating a standard ‘evolution formalism’ we have, armed with the evidence of the eonic effect, proved able to call the evidence of macrohistorical dynamics ‘evolution’ and the action inside these larger frameworks ‘emergent history’.

System Action, Free Action We began by looking at a very simple and common distinction, that of a system and the individuals inside it. There are many examples: consider an ocean liner and its passengers. The relationship of a causal system and the free individuals inside it is very common, and throws an especially cogent light on the eonic effect and shows the way that a macroevolutionary process, expressing system action, interacts with a microevotionary process, expressing free human action. The first we call ‘evolution’ and the second ‘history’. The two are braided together, but with greater human freedom coming to the fore as time goes on.

This double description, based on our characteristic distinction of System Action and Free Action, resolves at a stroke an immense number of paradoxes that have always beset the study of history.

Is there a science of history? This stubborn question lurks unanswered behind all forms of historical description, but comes to the fore with an answer in the context of the eonic effect. This answer, in principle at least (the full answer would be a very long treatise), plays nature’s trick on the data and exploits the idea of a ‘science of freedom’, and the eonic effect shows us some spectacular data to back this up, for example, the double birth of democracy, and in general the correlation of political systems to our ‘eonic sequence’. The point is that we can find actual examples of the ‘causality of freedom’ in our pattern, a very strong confirmation of our procedure.

There is a kind of tacit avoidance by scientists of the question of a science of history, mostly because of the stubborn refusal of the data to fit into a physicalist theoretical scheme. If we apply a causal analysis to human events, the result is a kind of denatured and lifeless account that presumes to have banished the idea of freedom from the chronicle. With biological evolution, on the borderline of this confusion, it seems as if natural selection, as a law of life, can reduce the issue to one of genetic mechanics. But surely that project was naïve, and improperly documented. We have seen that a different approach that considers the ‘evolution of freedom’ is adapted far better to the data as we find it.

We began by invoking Kant’s Challenge, which is really about this issue of a science of history, and we can see that the eonic sequence resolves Kant’s query in a spectacular way. Kant’s ambiguity arises very naturally from the fact that, as he seems to have sensed, he was too immersed in the events, and needed the perspective of the future to resolve his question.

It is ironic therefore that the intermittent character of the eonic effect allows us to infer a directionality to world history, short of the teleological conclusion that could only be derived ‘at the end of history’, so to speak. Thus as we pull away from the modern transition the pieces begin to fall into place for the perception of the directional character of world history based on the succession of epochs and their transitions. It is quite possible for us to do this without concluding anything about the absolute termination of history in the far future. We can see sense the existence of a teleological system even it we are unable to know its final ‘telos’.

Thus we can easily come to a positive conclusion about Kant’s question about nature’s secret plan, for the strange precision in the unfolding of successive stages of civilization uncovered by our careful periodization suggests indeed a ‘plan’ at work. We need to be careful with such terms, which tend to imply the existence of some kind of ‘design’ process at work. The question of design is, as we have noted before, ambiguous, for the ‘natural teleology’, a term from Kant himself, of systems of evolution in our sense is not at all the same as the ‘intelligent design’ of an exterior agent or designer. And this more specifically shows a direct relation to the unfoldment of a ‘perfect civil constitution’, for as we can see in our tracking of the emergence of democracy the direct correlation of political forms with our pattern of historical evolution.

Nature’s Secret Plan The eonic effect answers directly to Kant’s Challenge and shows in the process the clearest indication of ‘Nature’s Secret Plan’ in the directional character of the emergence of higher civilization, splendidly timed and organized, as visible in our sequence of transitions and epochs.

Progress Toward a Civil Constitution There could hardly be a clearer answer to Kant’s query about the directionality of political constructs than in the progression of poitical forms moving toward the realization of freedom, reaching a spectacular climax in the dawn of an age of liberal democracy at the Great Divide of the modern transition. We can see that this timing is not coincidence.

We have already noted the resemblance of the eonic effect to a process of ‘punctuated equilibrium’. The appropriateness of the terms, as if taken from the dictionary for the first time, is striking, and yet we confront the fact that Darwinists have already claimed this terminology for their own theory. And in general, it is true, we cannot subsume all the many cases of biological speciation under our rubric of ‘eonic evolution’. We should instead reinvent the terms, as it were, and think in terms of three ‘punctuations’ and the ‘equilibrium’ in between them, and the result is a remarkable depiction of the eonic effect as it partitions into periods of rapid transitional advance and the stabilization periods in between.

In general, it is essential to distinguish theories of evolution from depictions of patterns of evidence. One of the consistent confusions of Darwinists is the failure to produce an empirical foundation describing evolution. Instead we see the abstraction of natural selection applied, sight unseen, to a totality of situations as a ‘law of evolution’. The realization that one must first describe the long range pattern of evolution empirically resulted in the idea of punctuated equilibrium, as a description of how species emerge. This would in turn lead to a theory of evolution on the basis of that evidence. With the eonic effect we were constrained, quite willingly, to descriptive tactics from the first. And we have eschewed a final theory of the eonic effect on the grounds that it is complex beyond our easy hopes of theoretical reduction, and most importantly because we have not been able to describe the totality of the effect, confining ourselves to the range of evidence for intervals at the level of centuries or less. We have thus confined out account to relative beginnings, and relative transformations, and yet this approach, or tactic, has actually made our enquiry almost more robust, for it frees us of the demand to create artificial consistency in our account. This problem is what has bedeviled the account of human evolution: a reductionist consistency is demanded for the whole, from beginning to end, and the rubric of natural selection is pressed into service for this purpose. But we can see that this simply will not work, and that we must do careful archaeological work on the whole of our empirical base to assess its properties and evolution.

This fixation on theoretical abstractions, such as natural selection, has produced a false estimation of theories on the part of modern science, especially in the realm of biology, but implicitly on the question of history. This misuse of universal generalizations produces what we call the Oedipus Paradox, where the statement of theory and the actions of that agent collide and produce a confusion of meaning. Is the agent a passive executor of a natural law or the active agent of an ideology of theory he calls science? This confusion is precisely what lies behind the dangerous tendency of Darwinism to degenerate into Social Darwinism. It is the vice of incorrectly applied theories.

 We should note again the issue of Kant’s Challenge, which is essentially an application to the historical of the Kantian critique of scientism, with a demand to examine the place of human freedom in the context of causal analysis. Our attention to this Kantian perspective repaid itself a thousandfold by showing us that if we follow this demand, nature will show us the evidence for an ‘evolution of freedom’, and that nature is not constrained by the reductionism of Newtonian science. We cannot compute evolution by a law, instead, as with the eonic effect we must track the action of evolution in a systematic fashion, such as that provided by our outline of world history. The eonic effect shows us a way to follow the evolutionary dynamic by a tracking approximation, that doubles as a simple chronicle. This powerful method is free from the obsessions of universal generalization, and reductionist false consistency.

The result is a new perspective on history, in which a dynamic of evolution is brought into the discussion without interfering with the account of free human history. The two different perspectives are brought together in the eonic sequence, in the periods of what we call transitional history. It is remarkable that we are thus always looking backwards at the eonic effect, and that as we enter our present its action has ceased, leaving us to our own freedom. This strange, yet elegant, portrait of nature’s manner of ‘evolving man’ and ‘man self-evolving’ in tandem contains the resolution of the many contradictions and paradoxes that haunt the misapplication of Darwinism to universal history.

In the process we have produced a solid foundation to the study of world history, with the idea of evolution in the background. The eonic effect, or ‘eonic sequence’, turns into a Table of Contents for an outline of world history, beginning with the rise of Egypt and Sumer, the Axial Age, so-called, at the second phase, and concluding with the modern transition. Nothing could be simpler than this portrait of a series of epochs or ages each beginning with a dynamic phase, or transition, and a characteristic ‘middle’, or ‘medieval’ period in between. We suspect that this simple pattern, which is impossible to avoid, really begins in the Neolithic, or before, and we are left to wonder whether the same process is at work continuously throughout evolution, or whether it switches on at crucial periods of evolutionary development. This pattern provokes an old debate over fast and slow evolutions, and we can see that both forms are present, the eonic effect giving us almost for the first time a portrait of ‘fast evolution’ in action, as visible in our set of transitions. It is especially satisfying to catch the sasquatch of rapid development in world history itself, where we can zoom in to see the details.

The Axial Age The clearest case of this process of ‘rapid evolution in action’ is the second stage of our chronicle, the so-called ‘Axial Age’, where Archaic Greece, for example, shows an extraordinary developmental sequence in a matter of centuries. The question of the Axial Age is compounded by the additional wonder of several synchronous and parallel transitions all at once, across Eurasia, from Rome to China . This remarkable display gives us a strong suggestion of something operating at a global level, indeed, beyond space and time, and this the remarkable sense of an ‘age of revelation’.

Evolution of Religion This Axial interval gives birth to two world religions, in Indian Buddhism, and the Israelite ‘monotheism’, and these become the source for a whole epoch of religious development and history. It is important to see, however, that the Axial Age is not the source of either Christianity or Islam, as such, which arise centuries later from the seeds planted in the Axial phase, the second step in our sequence. This snapshot of religion formation is an eye-opener, and gives us for the first time a picture of how religion evolves in the context of civilization. We must suspect similar intervals of transformation in that most seminal of periods, the Neolithic.

 It is essential to see that the emergence of civilization is all of a piece, and we see religious and the socio-political development in the same rhythm and by the same logic. Thus the emergence of proto-secularism in Axial Age Greece, and (theocratic) monotheism in Axial Age Israel, seems at first a contradiction, and yet we see that our system is exploring different possibilities, and then blending them together.

 The Axial period by itself is such a remarkable phenomenon that we might be tempted to take it in isolation. But taken in that way the period doesn’t quite make sense, and we suddenly realize that the solution to the riddle is to see it as a step in a sequence with the dawn of civilization and the rise of modernity completing the (visible) pattern. Although this might at first seem speculative, a careful look at this expanded pattern shows the rightness of this conclusion. However, it is completely okay to simply revert to our perception of a non-random pattern, and simply note the empirical sequence of great turning points in world history, at the dawn of higher civilization in Egypt and Sumer, the mysterious concert of synchronous social transformations at the dawn of classical antiquity, and the rise of modernity. If anything it is the characteristic appearance of ‘medieval’ periods in between that shows the pattern clearly.

The rise of the modern, despite its curious disguises, is very similar to an ‘axial’ interval such as we see in antiquity. And our ability to see it at close range is especially instructive. The rise of the modern is chronically confused by debates over continuity and discontinuity, the contributions of the Middle Ages (often by religious proponents) and the nature of the so-called Renaissance. In the final analysis such debates are beside the point, and we are unable and not required to answer them. Many things can be the case at the same time in complexity of world history, and we don’t have to answer all questions to see the dramatic reality of the eonic effect.

And these other debates distract us from seeing the simplicity of our non-random pattern which shows the sudden beginnings of a transition in the sixteenth century, in the context of certain areas of Europe, and this rapidly produces the modern world by the period of the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. Whatever else may be the case with the medieval period or the Renaissance, the modern transitions stands out very clearly. The question of continuous or discontinuous evolution thus has no simple answer, save that both are the case. The eonic effect, however, shows us what we could not suspect, the real existence of rapid transitional or punctuational periods of fast evolution. And they are a remarkable complement to the companion, ‘slow evolution’. We need the knack for seeing ‘relative transformations’ at work.

Relative Transformations We need to see our periods of transition as ‘relative transformations’, which means that they produce a stage of relative growth, given the state of the system prior to the onset of a transition. Thus these transformations don’t necessarily invent anything, but develop further something with a prior history. If we turn on a sun-lamp in a greenhouse, that interval of light is a relative transformation, as opposed to the absolute growth from seed that is the total life of a plant. Our eonic transitions are always thus relative transformation of streaming entities undergoing accelerative transformation.

The idea of a relative transformation is really the same as ‘acceleration’ which is, however, a term from physics, not history. The point is that a relative acceleration in the evolution of history can produce a period of rapid development, and this is what we see in the eonic effect. Many defenders of tradition become stuck here and insist that many things, such as science, that seem born in the modern period were really born in the medieval period. In fact, we see that science was born much earlier, gestating even in the era of the Sumerians, and powerfully ‘born’ in the period of the Greek Axial Age. It thus seems as if it was born twice. What is going on? In fact, the idea of relative transformations can resolve the seeming paradox. We see the ordinary historical stream proceeding slowly suddenly amplified by the relative acceleration of our transitional periods. And how remarkable that is!

The rise of the modern world, and our interpretation of modernity, is beset with the confusions of Eurocentrism. In fact, we have developed a clear explanation for the appearance of our transitions with our discussion of the frontier effect, and we can see that the modern transition occurs with precise timing in the greater context of Eurasia , and is not a form or European ideology at all. It might help to consider that with time and some distancing from the rise of the modern age the pattern of the eonic effect beyond the locale of Europe will begin to stand out, especially as the transitional area begins to yield to the greater globalization to which it contributes. We have thus produced the solution to the Eurocentrism problem. 

Our short world history is a strong reminder that speculative theories of evolution can be a trap, and the empiricism of the eonic effect shows us forcefully that actually observing evolution is the first step, and this requires a meticulous chronicle of its action over long intervals of time. We cannot reduce this requirement to some evolutionary equivalent of a natural law such as natural selection applied sight unseen to an out-of-focus totality. For, as we have seen, the data of world history shows unexpected novelties and the action almost like feedback to fix outcomes of a previous step. Further, there is something almost strategic in what we have called the ‘eonic sequence’. In the Axial Age it seems to expand to embrace diversity to avoid homogenization, while in its next step it contracts to a single transitional area, as if to embrace that diversity with an homogenized modernity that is transcultural. This kind of effect reminds us that we can’t indulge in mechanical reductions of the eonic effect, and must stay within the field of empirical description against a backdrop of periodization. And that periodization must take the place of a law of evolution.

Our idea for a universal history, echoing a theme of the philosopher Kant, has been set in contrast to, and then reconciled with, the genre of Big History, the attempt to give a reductionist account of cosmology, and history, since the big bang. Our approach seems better able to resolve the contradiction of facts and values, to enlarge the explanation of the origin of life, its evolution, and the emergence of man with a demand for an account of the emergence of freedom. Remarkably the data of world history suddenly began to make sense once we adopted this approach. Surely this is related to the new findings of what seem like fine-tuning by cosmological physics. That the universe seems tailored to produce life is a discovery that should alert physicists to the way in which their subject approaches completion. Instead this finding seems to have generated another futile conflict between science and religion.  

In fact, we have a sense that there are two stages of advance in the wake of the Big Bang: the emergence of life, and the emergence of mind, in the subtle complexities of human self-consciousness. Man is more than the higher evolution of life, he is perhaps, in a sense still obscure to him, passing beyond life to a new form of evolution. This issue is somewhat beyond the scope of our argument and certainly not easy to resolve with current concepts and data. The point is merely that man’s chronic confusions over the spiritual reflect his transition to a new and higher stage of an almost cosmic consciousness. That this should sound like a theme of New Age mysticism is not inappropriate, but also a reminder that man’s passage to the stage of Mind has left him vulnerable to many illusions of ill-perceived spirituality. Here the philosophy of Kant will serve as a reminder of man’s propensity to metaphysical illusion in the phenomenal mechanics of his developing thought processes.

The questions of secularism and religion generate great confusion in the minds of many, and seem to produce an obsession of religious traditionalism in conflict with the seeming passage beyond religion that we see in modernity. That tension is in fact a healthy sign of our progression both through and beyond modernity. We saw the way in which the extraordinary passage through the Axial Age spawned a set of religious formations, and then we saw the rise of the modern age in almost eerie timing proceed to lead us beyond those traditions. But the issue is only the relation of the past and the future, and the renewal of human self-consciousness. The dilemma of religion and secularism is a false one, and the latent potential of modernity to recreate the essence of religion even as society moves beyond ‘religion’ so-called is as remarkable as anything we have seen in antiquity.

 Distinctions of the sacred and the secular are thus very misleading. The questions of human freedom, emerging so powerfully in the modern transition, are the equal of anything that we see in the history of religion, and deserve as much the rubric of the sacred. The period of the Enlightenment can thus be seen ironically as the gestation period for the ‘religion’ of the future, something better than the sterile cults spawned in the Axial Age, as it shows the way to the critique and better understanding of tradition itself. We have seen also the need to be wary of what we mean by modernity, and the ambiguity, almost dialectical of its complexity, which far surpasses the false legacy of scientism that came into existence in the wake of the Scientific Revolution.  

Despite the failures of revolution, we see that they are a distinctly modern phenomenon, implicit in all that came before in the eonic series, and that they pose the crucial question, still without answer, as to the nature of historical change, mechanical and free. And more specifically we see that the response to modernity taken as a staging ground for a particular economic formation, capitalism, was swiftly challenged in the very triumphs of the idea of freedom so powerfully present in the birth of liberalism. This unresolved issue will return to haunt the outcome of modernity and its globalization, but at the same time we should see that, as with scientism, the crystallized ideologies of revolution have failed to grasp the larger dynamic of history.

 The context of globalization is ambiguously cast as an economic drama of the spread of capitalist economies. But the projected endgame of this process, in the destruction of the biosphere, should remind us that the early critics of such economic ideologies and their fixation were prophets after their own fashion and that beyond their tragedies of revolutionary failure lies the simple futurism of man transcending the mesmerization of economic mechanics. It is difficult to see how this will play out, but surely the imitations of the political sequence embedded in the French Revolution have proven a false exemplar of what is needed. The gist of the issue is simply that a liberal society is a larger generalization than that of a capitalist economic society.

 These issues trouble us with their sophisticated complexity, but a closer look shows their almost primitive character, and the failures of mechanized consciousness that lie behind them. We sense, as so many New Age figures and movements have suggested, that the issue is the mechanization of our mentalities, and the consequent sandbanking inside an ideology that results. The solution is thus the liberation of our self-consciousness and will as the heritage of human evolved consciousness. We are threatened with the inertia of our own unrealized potential. And yet we can see that while the loss of advance so evident in the wake of the Axial Age is certainly possible, the latent energy of the emergence of civilization in its totality will serve we must hope to bring about the challenge of the real future.

It is in any case not our task to resolve the problems of the future so much as to clear away the obstruction of false evolutionary theories that wish to seize that future with false teleological ideologies. The rising of Darwinism was only a moment in the development of science, and we see from the example of Wallace that it was only a brief moment in his thinking as he moved on. In the process of examining Darwinism we stumbled on something much more remarkable, taken as ‘evolution’ in what we suspect is the real sense of that term. And we become aware of it just at the moment when the passive evolution of organism begins to transform itself into the active self-evolution of free consciousness entering its own history. This ‘idea for a universal history’ is both the resolution of an evolutionary paradox and a fitting matrix for resolving the enigma of scientific history within the context of human freedom.

One of the most intriguing aspects of what we have called the ‘eonic effect’ is that we only become aware of it as we begin to exit from its action. As we pull away from the modern transition, and as the results of archaeology begin to enlarge our perceptions of human origins, the pattern of macrohistorical dynamics becomes visible like a photograph in fixer, and we are filled with the sense of something like a higher power operating in history. It is interesting that the philosopher Hegel expressed a similar thought by speaking of the ‘cunning of reason’, as if there were a kind of indirection to the thrust of becoming, a spell cast on man as evolution acts through him. At the end of this ‘evolving of man’ a new and greater beginning must jolt him from passivity as he begins to realize his evolved freedom in the creation of true history for the first time. In fact, the passage from the eonic sequence might require a considerable interval of confusion as man confronts the immense challenge of his own self-evolution. And on that score the almost primitive character of current theories of evolution are a liability likely to degrade action. The idea of natural selection is simply a red herring that seems to justify the most limited version of how humans evolved and should behave. The implicit negation of ethics in the blind action thought to comprise evolution is the wrong lesson learned at the point where the self-evolution of real man into his real potential requires the highest standard of action. This confusion created by wrong theories is one of the liabilities of scientific development.

As we recede from the action of the eonic sequence, whose last visible interval of dynamism was the rise of the modern, we are left with a sense of the stupendous drama of the emergence of civilization, before the uncertainty, almost the suspense, of entering a future of our own creation, beside the mystery of evolutionary becoming that animates the ruins of past, and passing, civilizations.

End of Eonic Sequence? One of the strange mysteries of the eonic effect is the fact that we are outside of its action as we come to observe it. Our best estimate is that the modern transition is the last in the eonic sequence, for as we become aware of its action it could no longer act in the same way. The tremendous transformation since the Neolithic contains a still unrealized potential of tremendous scope. At the same time it is important to consider the dangers of decline and medievalization that can beset historical sequences outside of the eonic sequence.

 The existential sense of our self-consciousness in freedom must leave us to wonder at both the opportunities and the dangers of the completed passage that has brought us from the Neolithic to the stage of civilization, thence to a more sophisticated combination, wherein the secular sphere as civil society matches the false sanctity of the State with a field open to the potential of human individuality. The most difficult challenge lies in the relationships of these entities, whose transformations over the course of history have resulted finally in the ambiguous legacies of revolution. Our distinction of System Action and Free Action warns us of the perilous passage through mideonic worlds where the mechanization of consciousness becomes fixated in socially constructed identities.

 

    Notes

   Web:  chap7_1htm

 
 

 
 


 

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Last modified: 10/04/2010