7. Conclusion

Transition and Divide: 
A New Perspective on Modernity


Section 7.1.1

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

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





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       
     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

     7.1.1 Transition and Divide: A New Perspective on Modernity


Our eonic data has uncovered a very remarkable result, and we have a very useful way of looking at modernity, as a transitional interval. The modern world is, in many ways, the key to antiquity. The detail of the modern transition shows us what is going on at the dawn of higher civilization and then in the Axial period. The Axial Age will suddenly become clear. In fact, this perspective on modernity is exactly what historians have been using all along, so to speak, but without seeing the reason for it. Author after author has observed this pattern and attempted to understand it, but without placing modernity in the context of world history as whole the riddle proves elusive. In the next section we will uncover something still more remarkable, in the evolution of democracy.

Thus our data, now organized in a larger matrix, produces a very dramatically stylized yet appropriate interpretation of the rise of the modern. Beware, however, of theories, or even of our elaboration: the data speaks for itself, when it is not covered over by attempts to disguise the obvious. Our approach, beside a little fancy descriptive language, leaves the data completely alone, and yet enriches its interpretation. It makes explicit what has always been a part of the discussion of modernity by those not quite able to put their finger on what they meant by using the term at all. Nothing could be simpler , take the interval using the differential of two dates from 1500 to 1800 as a kind of transition in the eonic sequence, which, in the interpretation of a finite interval transition, concludes some time around 1800. That’s a strange thing to do to the data, at first sight, but in fact the data conforms to this the simplest of periodization schemes almost perfectly. This approach highlights the obvious discontinuity in the rise of the modern, and connects it to a larger interpretation. There are undoubtedly factors of continuity, but it is the discontinuity that is of interest. There is no metaphysical contradiction, since we see that continuity and discontinuity both apply, without contradiction. Modernity proceeds from the medieval, but it also echoes the Axial Age of antiquity. The Euro-stream intersects with the eonic sequence, and we see all of a sudden why the rise of the modern has such a compelling resemblance to the Greek transition, almost like a restaging of the Ionian Enlightenment. One more secret lurks in our periodization, a direct connection to our findings on the questions raised by Kant.

Students of medievalism or the Renaissance will object, but in fact there is no contradiction, and once we see that the issue is one of relative changes of direction, these other periods will stop getting stuffed into ‘pre-modern’ lead up boxes, where they don’t fit. Medieval Christendom was one of the great periods of world civilization, and it makes little sense to say that modernity evolved from that (apart from common parlance usage). The rise of the modern is a change in direction, not a continuous ‘evolution’ from antecedents, so says this new model. Looking at the eonic sequence we can see that its ‘next step’ echoes antiquity, not the period just before 1500. Such statements undoubtedly oversimplify, and this can be amended, complexified still further, to reintroduce, not continuity, but successiveness from the medieval period. But the streamlined version highlights the fact that modernity seems to echo the Axial era as much as anything else. And please note that we unconsciously take it this way, because we speak of the ‘middle ages’. Middle of what?

Looking at the Axial Age, we see that the chronic confusions of historical theories trying to explain the sudden take-off of the ‘West’ are really confronted with exactly the same phenomenon that we see in antiquity, which seems suddenly to stand out as the next phase in our eonic sequence. The telling clue is the signature rebirth of democracy, a low probability event in the general stream of history. Another is the (second) birth of Science. Look carefully, the rise of the modern shows a remarkable resemblance to the

The rise of modernity is one of the most contentious of theoretical subjects, theory after theory, with attempts to explain its sudden rise invariably getting into a snafu over discontinuity, the Renaissance, and secularist ideology. But the high-level perception of its placement in the direct mainline of the eonic sequence solves most, if not all, of all of the problems, at the price of clipping the data at both ends with discontinuities. One reason for confusion is the tendency toward an economic interpretation. The problem is that while capitalism seems to emerge in this period it doesn’t characterize modernity in and of itself. Forget capitalism, for just one moment.

Axial Greece and Modernity One thing we can focus on is that there is an astonishing resemblance of the modern transition to the Greek. We almost have an identical set of emergents. We see the ‘birth of science’ twice. We see the birth of democracy twice. We see a philosophical spree echoing the Greek Ionian Enlightenment, another ‘enlightenment’ in fact. Most of the key emergents in the Greek case barely survived the mideonic period. We see a strange recursion of the ancient case. And this tends to create confusion because it seems like something to do with ‘Western Civilization’. That is misleading. What we see is a frontier effect in the wake of the Roman Empire. And there is a difference in the modern case, in so far as the Indic, Israelite, and Greco-Roman diffusion fields sourcing in the Axial are blended in the final result.

The sudden partition created by the Protestant Reformation is the key discontinuity. Note that it is not the cultural evolution of ‘ Europe ’ that produces modernity. No, it is the divisive partition of Europe, at a frontier, that produces the modern phase transition, Europe cut in two in an unmistakable case of the frontier effect, and the defensive barrier for innovation. The sheer ferocity of that partition (due to the ‘filling up’ of world space, and the closure of frontiers) and the resistance to it should sink any illusions Europe was going through spontaneous cultural evolution due to superior anything. Not Christianity but the eonic relative transform of the same is what lays the groundwork. And it is not Protestantism but the partition itself, and the resulting flow of information from innovations created behind this partition that produces the modern phase. These innovations are not Protestant or religious and flow as well across the partition. However, it remains true that Protestant countries rapidly outstrip the rest in terms of their modernist transformation. Again it is not Europe, but the core zones behind the partition, in the frontier area, along with their diffusion fields and sidewinders, such as the new American continent, that produce the changes. It is a question of the partition and the flow of information, with much of the result in the sidewinders, that is important, not the future evolution of Europe. In any case, please note the fine grain of modernity, with the depth of its spectrum, and its many ‘Enlightenments’ behind the basic partition, Scottish, German, French (half and half, as to the partition).

The Modern Divide We have a way to put our idea to a simple test: if the phenomenon is not a continuous history (it is that too) but a transition, then its endpoint will show its hand. With that idea we discover the modern ‘divide’. We can see it clearly just at the time of the French and Industrial Revolutions. Our transition climaxes and comes to an end, a new (mideonic) period underway. Many systems have such a property. A slingshot just at release point, a rocket at liftoff at the end of countdown, and so on.

We see that our ‘modernity’, the rise of the modern, is really two things, the transition and the period that starts after that transition. We are ready to dig deeper, in the next chapter. But, if we recall our ‘frequency deduction’, we note that our model faithfully reflects the paradox of ‘freedom evolving’ in producing a ‘something causes freedom contradiction’, and our data directly mirrors this unexpectedly significant piece of jargon. Finally, we should note the spectacular appearance of democracy, as a recurrence of the great Greek experiment.

Freedom Evolves? The Discrete Freedom Sequence Our periodization of the eonic effect uncovers one of the most remarkable mysteries of human history, and evolution, a windfall that leads us to the core of the Kantian philosophy of history. It is the only clue we have to the otherwise invisible action of the eonic sequence. On the surface the eonic effect is a transparent phenomenon, almost widget-like in its system action . But the basic dynamic never shows its hand. However, like a dropped handkerchief it does leave behind the traces of a bare something, reminiscent of the Kantian intimations of the noumenal.

Thus, to define terms, one of the most interesting things we can observe about this pattern is the double appearance of democracy  in two successive turning points, in both cases near a divide. If only we had a longer sequence, more data, but this is unnerving. This is the piece de resistance of the eonic effect. We will call this the discrete freedom sequence, a subset of our eonic pattern.

Discrete Freedom Sequence Looking at the eerie and exact timing of our eonic sequence we suspect that the double emergentism of democracy is, however we might conceivably explain it, not chance. A look at the general backup in the deep modern emergent core shows this to be a more than reasonable guess, since the ‘evolution of the idea of freedom’ is itself a crucial component of the modern transition. The resemblance to questions raised by Kant is quite extraordinary, emboldening us to proceed. But our demonstration of a non-random pattern doesn’t require closing on some oversimplification as theory.

A Kantian antinomy Confronted with our black box we have few clues to its action behind the scenes. Its depth is locked and sealed. But in the discrete freedom sequence we get an inkling. On the one hand the eonic sequence generates a ‘causal nexus’, on the other hand the discrete freedom sequence is generated in the mainline in an opposing, yet embedded, trend. This, most remarkably, resembles the Third Antinomy  of Kant. Our system is ‘evolving freedom’ over millennia, in some formal sense.  

This sequence is the crux of the whole question of theory. Think in terms of a simple question, where does Freedom come from?

 We simply point to a mystery. We have a modern divide. Backtracking 2400 years, we should have another, ca. -600. Right on schedule we see the rough comparison (as our later discussion of the Old Testament will make clear). So what do we find in the Greek case?

Solon The emergence of democracy in ancient Greece is a complex subject, and the slow progression from monarchies to city-states should, by any standard of sociological analysis, be confined to local social causative explanations. Yet if we zoom out and adopt eonic periodization we see that the appearance and timing of Solon is non-random, occurs near a transitional divide, and becomes otherwise inexplicable by standard canons. To finish the question off, we jump 2400 hundred years to the next divide, and what do we find, another democratic take-off. Chance? Not likely, dumbfounded or not.[i]

We must be careful and distinguish two levels of evidence, the non-random pattern of the eonic effect, and the subpattern of the discrete freedom sequence, which might give us an inkling of what’s going on in our black box, for here we discover some familiar issues of the philosophy of history dropping some historical hints. The issue of theory, teleology, and ideology will prove desperate in this case. The question of the emergence of freedom is taken here as an exercise in demonstrating a non-random pattern. Pointing to something is not as such an explanation. This is one of the most complicated problems in the whole of human knowledge. So we won’t pretend to solve it via the fantastic.

But this example will show us the real complexity of historical theory, where reductionist scientism simply strikes out ad infinitum. We should note that Hegel attempted to exploit this situation for a theological approach. And Marx, moving to the opposite extreme, produced his historical materialism. We need to start over in ultra-cautious fashion and simply describe the full puzzle, which has a kind of Kantian simplicity and sublimity in its stark mystery. 



   Web:  chap7_1_1.htm


[i] W. J. Woodhouse, Solon The Liberator (New York, Octagon, 1965).





Last modified: 10/04/2010