7. Conclusion

 
 
Ends and Beginnings

  

Section 7.4




 
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

     7.4 Ends and Beginnings

 

The discovery of evolution was one of the most revolutionary turning points in man’s perception of himself and the cosmos, but this breakthrough, by becoming the province of reductionist scientism, was immediately turned into a narrowed perspective of flatlanders. The formulation of Darwin was a severe contraction of the full shotgun spectrum of proto-evolutionary speculations that appeared, along with so much else, near the Great Divide. As so often with the eonic effect the first attempts show ‘System Action’ and had a quality that the later work lost. The insight of Lamarck despite its still inchoate form saw the essential structure of evolution, not unlike our ‘evolution formalism’. The attempt to produce ‘science’ in the age of Darwin and beyond succeeded in one way, but lost its contact with the full complexity of evolution.

This confusion over evolution has prompted the endless and intractable Darwin debate and the collision of science and religion that has made the correct application of evolutionary thinking a problematical struggle of ideologies. In addition the theory was a hostage to both Social Darwinist distortions and the ideology of market economics, inappropriate confusions that arose from the overfocus on natural selection. The confused misuse of theories, as seen in our depiction of the Oedipus Paradox, led to the absurd consideration of natural selection as a kind of ethical substitute in the appearance of Social Darwinism, hybridized, as with Spencer, with classical liberalism, and extreme forms of social conservatism.

 Much debate has revolved around the fact and the theory of evolution. But, as we have seen, the question of theory is not trivial, and requires something far more than the technical methodology that has produced the triumphs of physics. The obstinate refusal of biology to yield to ‘theory’, even as the empirical basis expands with ever deeper discovery and insight, suggests the obvious right path: constructing chronicles of evolution as empirical ‘histories’, the same tactic we have adopted for the phenomenon of ‘evolution’ seen in the eonic effect. There is thus no constraint on a vigorous pursuit of biological knowledge. The question of evolution turns out to be something far more complex than selectionist fantasies of hard science. We should note our Kantian insight: the deeper dynamics of evolution has a noumenal aspect beyond observation, the probable reason for our chronic perplexity.  

Lamarckian histories We noted how it was Lamarck who produced the first real framework for evolution, and the perception that evolution operated on two levels, one a drive toward complexity, the other an interaction to produce adaptation, was potentially superior to the one-level reductionism of later biologists, such as Darwin. This two-level analysis is powerfully present in our discussion of the eonic effect as evidence of macro and micro ‘evolutions’ in tandem.

Our resolution of this question was to adopt an empirical study of world history based on the realization arising in the wake of modern archaeology that the dynamic of evolution is visible there behind the flow of historical events in a fashion that is more than genetics. This stunning discovery of eonic effect where unexpected resolved at a stroke many of the obscurities of both evolutionary analysis and historical dynamics. This interpretation might seem controversial in its use of the term ‘evolution’, but in fact we may use the term in this way because we define it that way. That done, we discover to our surprise that this different definition, comprising the balanced totality of culture and individual, beyond the genetic, is probably the clue to the earlier stages of human evolution that have been so misinterpreted by Darwinian assumptions. We should suspect that a genetic component to this differing perspective awaits the future analysis of geneticists. Our use of the term ‘evolution’ is far superior, because it is not an abstraction of theory but a tracking sequence of historical chronicle and enforces the discipline of looking at the facts in detail. We discover further that this ‘evolution’ changes its direction and mode of action in successive stages, a fatal challenge to generalizations such as that of natural selection, applied sight unseen to all situations.

The eonic effect as an empirical pattern Our portrait of the eonic effect is a rock solid pattern in world history, whatever filters of perception our ‘evolution formalism’ creates for those facts. That formalism might be open to challenge, but the utterly simple and logical pattern of evidence in a non-random pattern is the essence of simplicity. The simple progression of three epochs with massive transitional beginnings, always in different starting points, but connected in a larger sequence, is a dead giveaway to a hidden system at work, one whose action we can intuit with the plainness of guessing the pattern in a partially completed puzzle. This empiricism shows us the trap of trying to generalize from the diversity of complex historical/evolutionary sequences, which change gears, jump from one zone to another, and operate across the most complex, even esthetic, parameters of culture.

As we examined the data of the so-called Axial Age, for example, we were confronted with a spectacular display of global action across the whole of Eurasia in a display of synchronous action that defies the logic of ordinary sociological reasoning. The data shows us that an almost Gaian perspective is needed to address the issue of evolution, and the suspicion arises that the understanding of ecology in terms of Darwinian biology has produced an unbalanced style of reasoning about natural environments. We are left with the suspicion that the oversimplifications of Darwinism have produced a completely misleading view of the overall context of evolution.

There is no real way around this difficulty, and as we examine the earlier stages of the descent of humans, stretched over millions of years, we begin to realize that the imposition of Darwinian assumptions on the mostly absent data in such vast intervals is a methodological fallacy, and closer to magical thinking and wishfulfilment than science. This conclusion is highly undesirable to conventional science which seems to assume that human evolution is a simple mechanical problem like something from physics and solved by a law of evolution such as the selectionist scenario. But as the study of history shows clearly the problems of developmental emergence are staggering in their complexity and subtlety, and quite possible beyond simple human understanding. The evolution of language, of consciousness, and of ethical action, defy simple accounts on their own terms, their evolutionary career remaining quite simply unknown, and without data to conclude anything. The rote application of simplistic reasoning to these complexities is a discredit to science. We must face the possibility that these complexities are beyond the forms of science now known.

It is important to reiterate that our empirical approach, which resulted in the discovery of the ‘eonic effect’, can show us ‘evolution in action’, but prevents us from producing a general theory. This issue is the more significant in that we discover the way in which evolution is almost creatively infinite in its action, and that it changes its character at different periods, still another warning against the application of universal generalizations. The solution is to track evolutionary sequences empirically, at close range. We found that one of the few such sequences with data at the level of centuries, that is, virtually in real time, is that of world history itself.

Such findings seem almost to invite the conclusions of intelligent design at work in historical evolution. Our stance here was at all costs to steer clear of such design thinking on the grounds that, even if true, we would distort the meaning of such design with primitive theism, and thus would entirely distort the hard won gains of ‘systems thinking’ that have thrown a considerable light on historical dynamics. The question of design is quite simple: we don’t know, and have no way to establish the proof for any such conclusion. What’s more the data we have examined shows a suspiciously mechanical character in many instances, as a flourish on mechanics. Thus the clear symmetry of causality and freedom in a generalization beyond physics is suggestively present in the system under examination, advising us that at this level of discovery the deeper discovery of nature is the probable outcome of our searches.

We should note the excellent premonition of such issues in the thinking of the philosopher of Kant, who prepared a considerable set of discourses on issues of teleology. If we feel drawn toward design thinking, like Odysseus tied to his mast, we should consider rather that an insight into natural teleology may be lurking in our data. But we have found only the elements of directionality in our examination of the so-called ‘eonic sequence’, and while this strongly suggests teleology, it is still short of any final conclusion on that score. Nonetheless, we can see from the eonic effect that something seems to be operating beyond space and time to reset systems over time, great intervals of time. We see this even in the comparatively short interval of five thousand years of world history.

We have used the idea of system analysis because it is a neutral generalization of science, and can bring the elements of analysis beyond the assumption of causality to a set of situations that are very general. If we must examine the elements of freedom in the context of causal environments (our example, before the example of history, was the ocean liner and its passengers) then the overall ‘system’, which embraces a dialectical contradiction, is something larger than a deterministic enclosure. And this approach, like a draught of water in a desert, produced instant clarity in our study of history which is too often condemned to scientific reductionism, even as the entire account demands the chronicle of human events, which are in mysterious hybrid of self-conscious action, between determinism and freedom.

This restriction to directionality is, in a way, a blessing, because it is based on empiricism, and frees us of the near-metaphysical quagmire of teleological speculations. But the fact remains that we have received a strong indication that the methodology of modern science is misleadingly anti-teleological, a possible reason for its confusions as the realm of physics yields to that of biology. The history of science can be misleading here, since the rejection of teleology in early modern science was a lesson hard learned and made scientists wary of the legacy of false reasoning here inherited from antiquity. But a closer look shows that a kind of dialectical clearing of the air swept away the forms of antiquated reasoning, leaving the field open to both the causal analyses of modern physics, and the possibility rediscovery of teleological thinking in that context.

We should face the fact that our account collides with the Biblical history of Axial Israel where a powerful design argument was injected into the historical record. But we should point out that the perception of historical action over many centuries, as with the Axial Age, would strike a person of pre-scientific perceptions as theistic action.  

Documenting Evolution The issue of Biblical history has been missed. We see that the Old Testament is a priceless account of an evolutionary interval by the participants or immediate successors to its action. It is thus, theological issues aside, an important documentation of something we suspect of earlier phases of evolution, but absent to the empirical record. That high speed change can occur  in a set of transitions, invisible prior to the invention of writing, is the insight bequeathed to us by this first fruit of the invention of alphabetic historical writing. 

 The problem here is that, first, the terms of divinity now current were nowhere present in the declarations of the Israelites, who were aware of the spurious conceptual confusions of polytheism, and equally aware that a monotheistic confusion was a likely outcome of the challenge to paganism. They thus left a warning about the very usage of theistic references, a warning lost to latter history, it seems. We should note that a design interpretation must now in our broader framework apply as well to the multiple fields of transitional action, and in this context the idea of a divinity plummets as the idea of a system comes to the fore. No divinity would act through a discrete-continuous system of the type we see, but if that entity did, then it would imply that its action was extremely minimal, and only active in marginal fashion during periods of transition, thus an entity never subject to the prayers of human beings.

Once again we see the rightness of the perspective of systems analysis, as a neutral descriptive portrait of an evolutionary sequence of stupendous potency and subtlety. We should nonetheless not feel overconfident as to explanation of the emergence of Judaic religion which contains many mysteries now unknown to us. The issue of cosmological divinity is so primitive in retrospect as to be unbelievable in an age period where the scale of the universe is so vast. All we can do is to hope that archaeology will provide us a closer look on the way to a finer-grained analysis of the interval of the Israelite religious phase. Any such account is challenged by the clarity and simplicity of the parallel instance of Archaic Greece, leaving us suspicious the two cases are isomorphic, less the mythological wrapper.

The contrast of sacred and secular is a misleading one. The birth of secularism in Greece in parallel with the emergence of monotheism in Israel suggests that we have created a division that is false, or limited. In fact, the context of ancient Israel was that of a state creating a cultic theocracy, which then set up a powerful literature that diffused into its oikoumene, there generating religions in its wake. That historical record does not suggest any absolute division. In fact, the emergence of monotheism in the chaos of decaying polytheism was an ‘enlightenment’ of reason, after its own fashion, and should caution us against the misinterpretations created by modern religious debates. In fact, as we examine the rise of modern secularism we note that the Protestant Reformation was one of its phases, and that the forms of religion appearing in its wake are as secular as any other modernist institutional outcome. We have pointed briefly to the many New Age movements arising in the wake of the modern transition as evidence of the ‘religious sprawl’ on the way to novel religion-formation in the new era. However, there is a powerful case to be made that secularism itself has all the elements of real religion in its powerful philosophies of freedom and liberal action. The transformation of consciousness as self-consciousness in a vertical dimension beyond the horizontal is a potentiality probably more fruitful to the secularist than the tradition-bound New Ager caught seemingly forever in a post he cannot recover.

This aspect of the eonic effect constitutes a truly surprising discovery, that the eonic sequence in its ‘evolution’ is fine-tuned down to the level of art, poetic genres, and philosophical universes. It is hardly chance that a stupendous flowering of philosophy occurs at the exact point of the Great Divide at the conclusion of the modern transition. This baffling wonder is a sign that we are immersed in a larger mystery demanding our evolutionary progression to a higher understanding! These grand dramas of the Enlightenment have been filtered out of the culture of scientism that came to the fore in the wake of the Enlightenment climax and the result is a loss of the full dna of modernity. In many ways the rise of modernity is far more a spectacle of revelation that the mythological projections of ancient religion.

Our analysis of civilizations echoes yet surpasses the analysis of Toynbee and Spengler because we focus on the correct application of analysis to flux-like entities: our ‘differential intervals’ of eonic evolution show us that the civilization is not the real entity of dynamics. Rather there is a larger sequencing of progression beyond the ‘streams of civlization’ in the succession of ‘axial-like’ intervals, an elegant simplification of the analysis. The application of science to the amorphous and seemingly chaotic flux of civilizations would seem to be impossible but we have found precisely the way in which those irreconcilable opposites can be reconciled in practice.

The analysis of historical cycles that Toynbee and Spengler projected on the sequence of civilizations is better understood thus as a systematics that transcends those civilizations in a global system that integrates cultures beyond the level of civilization rise and fall. In fact, the almost cultic theme of declinism that appears in the wake of Spengler, pointing to the ‘decline of the West’, is a misreading on theory, whatever its superficial cogency as an attack on modernity. It is entirely possible that a decline might occur in the wake of the modern transition, even as a host of cultural factors are showing progression against the tide of antiquity.  

Spengler’s analysis has lead to endless ideological charges of decline, often of the American ‘Empire’. But this analogy is misleading and false. To be sure, we could compare the early stages of the Roman Republic in the early centuries after its appearance, or the appearance of Greek democracy after an earlier ‘divide’, to the case of the American Republic two centuries from the Great Divide (which shows the American Revolution!), and issue a warning against the decline of the American system of freedom, or its future degeneration into Empire (as opposed to its current phases of imperialism, distinct from empire). By that analogy, the onset of empire would be four centuries away, and the decline of that empire a full millennium in our future. Thus, assuming the analogy has any meaning at all, it is to a future of the modern system as it pulls away from the Great Divide and enters a mideonic interval of many millennia. But it is our assertion that perception of this system in action has come upon us suddenly as we pull away from the modern transition, with the result that its mechanical action is likely to dissolve before our conscious manipulations. Indeed, we must consider that the eonic sequence is complete, at least to the degree that our developing freedom will no longer need this evolutionary driver.

We cannot speculate safely about such things, but should be vigilant to preserve the gains of civilization that came with modernity. And we must be equally vigilant to see the rapid decay of quality, the distortions of Eurocentrsim, economic globalization, and imperialistic pseudo-democracy. Our system is not about nations and cultures, or civilizations, or the West, but about the gestation of a global oikoumene in the wake of certain (here Euro-centered) temporary transition areas. Unfortunately the obsession with economic ideology, and the downshifting of consciousness inside market systems, is clearly a distortion of the real meaning of modernity.

Those who preach Spenglerian decline (rooted in the Nietzschean attack on modernity) fail to grasp that these cultural manifestations are themselves evidence of decline. Indeed we can see that Darwinism is a decline for the original insights at the rebirth of evolutionism in the Enlightenment, that scientism is a decline from real science, and that in general the high octane fuel of the modern transition suddenly seems in short supply as the mechanization of consciousness threatens the hopes of steady advance. It is possible that, as with the end of the Axial Age, the steady decline into medievalism and social collapse could occur again over a time-frame of one to two thousand years. But as noted already our sudden realization of the system we have been in and are exiting will inform our better efforts to realize our freedom beyond ‘System Action’, to use our terminology from the ‘evolution formalism’.

The talk of modernity is still forever mixed up with Eurocentric questions. But this localized factor of the progression of greater history will soon rapidly yield to the creation of an open space for the realization of dozens of global cultures entering the global oikoumene. It is essential therefore that the initial transitional regions not indulge in imperialistic distortions of the emerging system. We see in that respect the fallacy of the Roman Empire and its collision with the oikoumene integrator of the Judaic succession, e.g. Christianity. A close look at world history in light of the eonic effect shows that the eonic sequence never generates empires, and never polices its mideonic eras. Thus the appearance of imperialistic strains in the nationalistic sectors of the modern transition are thus more than arguably no part of System Action, instead the deviating field of Free Action that our system cannot police. Look to the emergence of democracy in antiquity even as the institution of slavery was amplifying from its late appearance in civilization. The eonic sequence operates on a minimum principle, it seems, and the parallel appearance of the seeds of freedom and expanding slavery is a good example of the kind of discrete-continuous system in action that we have described, and a reminder that without something like that systems analysis world history will prove confusing, and a source of a false lesson learned.

A kind of Machiavellian cynicism seems to overtake the powerful man witnessing the chronicle of the usual history, leading to a misunderstanding about the larger dimension of the ideal that appears so rarely yet so powerfully to change the course of history over the long term, and toward the more distant future. It is essential to understand therefore the possible falseness of judgment pronounced against history when the outcome in the end, as already visible from the short record available to us, counsels the hoped for realization of seeded ideals. And here the fallacies of Darwinism have done great harm because they have convinced too many that the riddle of the future lies, not in any ideal, but in the rough conflicts of competing organisms. Whatever else is the case, we can now see the false perspective in that.

  In general the onset of positivism and Darwinism should better be seen as declines from the peak energy of the modern transition. The progression from the eonic sequence beyond its last transition is a potential passage of peril, as the misunderstandings of modernity multiply and are replaced with artificial products, such as Darwinian scientism, or economic fundamentalism. Surely, despite its powerful insights into the malfunction or mechanization of economic ideology, the revolutionary left that arose in the nineteenth century is threatened with an analogous set of deviations, or declines. The replacement of revolutionary liberalism with its rich protocols of liberty and right into Leninist revolutionism is surely another instance of the ‘instant decline’ seen in the wake of the Great Divide. Nonetheless these issues of revolutionary change pose the dilemma of the future, which is beyond the sterile shibboleths of ‘slow evolution’, so much the religion of the conservative. We can at least discipline facile proponents of revolutionary futurism that, while their impulse might be correct, the real revolutions are visible in the eonic sequence and these are balanced and finally enigmatic stages of a larger evolutionary progression far beyond the denatured versions proposed by much of the left born in the revolutions of modernity. These revolutions are almost afterthoughts, and the real revolution is something more intangible, visible only in the greater eonic sequence itself.

We need to stand back from the perception of the eonic effect, with the realization that certain paradoxes of history require analysis and historical models, but in broader strokes theory can be a trap: we need to see that our ‘model’ is simply a set of facts, and that our response to those is not theoretical but practical, and historically informed by chronicles that don’t require the study of abstractions. In other words, we act on the basis of the ordinary histories that are intuitive depictions of the incidents of civilization. As we attempt to come to an understanding of the larger issues or time-scales then the question of the eonic effect can be taken off the shelf to attempt to come to an understanding of what perplexes us. Thus the suggestion that a postmodern civilization will arise in the wake of a discarded modernity is a false one, one that ordinary chronicle history might leave us believing. But a larger perspective of the eonic sequence might suggest the fallacy of this reasoning.

 The point here is that we don’t need to dispense advice on the eonic effect in order to act. Our model is designed to never get in the way the practical facts that history produces for us as the agenda of action. But as we attempt to puzzle over the issues of a science of history, or theories of evolution, of the emergence of religion, of the many questions of history in the large, then the study of the eonic effect becomes less optional and a resource to free oneself from the mechanical thinking that overtakes ordinary. In any case, we see powerfully the way in which the emergence of values in the midst of facts is the essence of evolution, and this can help us to evade the misleading implications of wrong-headed theories such as Darwinism. In general all the elements of religion lurk in the background of our analysis, even as we portray a secular emergentism and future. That potential to religion might just as well be left in that background without the falseness that arises from its crystallization and cultification. The pieces of hundreds of religion lurk in our analysis as information to inform the realization of post-eonic history, the point being that the secular is as well the true ground of the religious, as the tenor of self-consciousness in action. Thus on the way to the realization of secularism, we see that it is an opportunity to realize religion for the first time beyond cultic formations in the immediate potential of human self-consciousness as the vehicle of freedom.

 

    Notes

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Last modified: 10/04/2010