7. Conclusion

The Meaning of Evolution 


Section 7.6.1

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

     7.6.1 The Meaning of Evolution


Even as we conclude our demonstration of this mystery we call the ‘eonic effect’, we must be wary of fixation in a simplistic conclusion among many conclusions or a stirring and enthusiastic introit to a new ideology. This arises because our perception of the eonic effect is out of focus and requires closing on the limits of observation, an immense task of study. At each stage of our description we have expressed a judgment or assessment of the meaning of our evidence, in the process selecting a path through a greater totality. Although the result is sufficient to describe, by pointing to, a system larger than ourselves, its potential is vastly greater than the outcome of our venture as eonic observers. Indeed, we have seen the way that the emergence of science shows the effects of macro-action as eonic determination. Since the activity of science is basically in the stream of micro-action, while its greater history shows the signature of macro-action, it would follow that the activity of scientists themselves is insufficient to set the directionality of the evolution of science itself.

This is a challenge to our objectivity in so far as the history of science itself is seen as a dependent process in the eonic sequence. The terms of our discourse are themselves output of our system, and therefore our knowledge itself is insufficient to produce a theory of the system’s action. This question, as we have seen already, haunts the conclusion of our eonic sequence as the ‘dialectic of freedom’ becomes a decidedly ideological conflict in the collision of emergent liberalism and the greater left that emerges in the nineteenth century. Thus, although we cannot claim the basis of our model to be free from ideological affirmations, we can say that our method is so comprehensive it forces us to summon up all the opposites in tandem. It is in this context that we have brought in the idea of an ‘eonic observer’. This observer, in the wake of the modern transition, is forced to select of strain of emergent themes in the overall manifestation of modernity, through which to assess the whole. Build ye not houses of straw, saith the philosopher Hegel, as he proceeds to concoct a system that will sublate the history of philosophy into a unity of the Concept. We took due note, going our own way, mindful our eonic observer should transmogrify to the shifty-eyed eonic observations of the sans-culottes.

Our model is designed to not get in the way of ‘current action’: no theory with an Oedipus effect needs to be computed in the present. You have no contact with the eonic complex seen in the model! Your business, a set decision to do theory apart, is with the eonic emergents it indicates. We called these streams of ‘practical reason’ action scripts.

Liberalism A good example of this might be the emergent liberalism so directly associated with the modern transition, sourcing after the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century, then cascading just at the point of our divide. A classic eonic emergent, i.e. it shows correlated timing, and we can see how the general tone of modernity settles into this gear almost immediately. That this ‘ism’ has multiple shifting meanings, suffers challenge from the later left, and turns from radical to conservative ideology mixed with economic thinking is no contradiction to our perception of its eonic status, looking backward, mindful of normative affirmations about the future. This gives us a mainline default ‘action script’ for our modern transition, but watch out, this one is tricky: in our fuzzy eonic map Karl Marx is a curious sort of liberal, also. Or not. Two new kinds of crypto-teleological fallacy, the Hegelian end of history, and a sort of economic teleological myth of markets, haunts this script, while our model reduces it at once to ‘eonic emergent’, no more, no less. Marx and Hegel/Adam Smith with grim precision give expression to the antinomies of teleological judgment in this instance. After we complete our account, it will be your move. The liberal action script is not a stable outcome.

Tracing the post-transtion We pick this example for its centrality, and as a reminder that, before we can use the eonic model, we need to trace the later history of eonic emergents in the wake of the post-transition. We need to see the paradox arising from the very fact of the eonic sequence: the possible mechanization of outcomes in the wake of the macro transitions. We can’t just be ‘liberals’ we must be eonic observers bringing self-consciousness to the rapidly crystallizing forms of the post-transition. Our system is going to lapse into mechanized outcomes. We could restate a leftist perspective as the spontaneous need to produce a meta-liberal, as eonic observer, and agent in the wake of the eonic sequence, etc,…

We have brought ‘evolution’ into our near present, yet how do we perceive it? As a dialectical cloud of eonic emergents (already downshifted into micro-action) split into fragments. We have no direct perception of ‘evolution’ beyond this higher level analysis of historical emergentism, and it grants no ideological finality to our assumptions of action.

Our model is designed to fret the music of a universal history, but does not get in the way of the data. We don’t start analyzing cultural categories to find their mechanics in a set of abstractions aiming at science. We simply see the contrast of the macro and the field of free action whose elements are predigested by the eonic sequence, quite user-friendly. The facts of the case in each cluster we call an eonic emergent require setting aside the model in order to study the details. The great ideological collision of liberalism and the far left in the nineteenth century simply enters our data set in toto, leaving us to zoom in and study its history. But our framework clearly exposes the claims of theory on universal history of false economic generalizations and/or the Marxist economic interpretation of history . Smithian laws of economics and Marxist theories of revolution both fail the test of our eonic sequence. Both are better off rewritten in terms of the eonic model. Strange circumstance! We end up embracing sets, or chords, of opposites.

Most of all our method should graduate to projects of study. Just tracking the fate of the eonic emergents arising in the early modern to our contemporary times is an immense task. Consider the biography of the term ‘liberalism’ in the period from the Enlightenment to our present. And this is a reminder that such projects are very difficult for earlier periods. By the time we catch up with the ‘eonic emergents’ of our earlier eras, they have turned we can be sure into ideological complexes. The Old Testament emerges from disparate sagas almost fully formed as a complex package in the wake of the Exile, and we cannot easily produce the resolving power to see what forgotten but seminal sources it codifies in a new religious ideology. And the centuries between the appearance of Pharaoh Narmer and the Pyramid Age (our putative expression of a civilization called ‘Egyptian’) are nearly a void. The transformations, or reversals, possible in that lost sequence must caution any simplistic analyses. We can see from the modern transition that the character of system’s expression really requires decade’s level data, not just the centuries level standard we allowed ourselves to demonstrate a basic pattern.

It is also important to see that just as our ‘New Age’ is getting underway, our system transits from macro-action to micro-action in the conclusion of its transitional passage. It downshifts immediately to a lower octane, even as it begins its reversal from localization toward globalization in this mechanizing lower octave. The result might be that a gang of thugs becomes the agent for the critical passage from the era of seminal transition to the formation of its oikoumene generation. We can see why our modernity seems to get off on a wrong foot, and the way in which potential and result, easily seen in the sudden dominance of a new form of economic civilization, produces the turbulence of the new era.

Nonetheless our eonic model does indicate our precarious position with a useful abstraction in our concept of evolving freedom. Despite the contradictions and ideological histories of this idea, we are left armed with a practical insight into the nature of historical action in the context of the descent of humans. Our end is thus a beginning, and that is the self-evolution of man beyond the eonic sequence into history itself, in the wake of what would seem the probable shut down of a massive macro-evolutionary episode in the descent of homo sapiens, originating in the Neolithic. This abstraction crystallizes with empirical force and voids the dangers of thinking along the lines of ‘historical inevitability’, but, at the conclusion of its action our system goes into neutral and therefore our model says nothing further, leaving us to the uncertainties of our emerging post-eonic future. Great Nature becomes silent in the circumstance of our existential aloneness near the Voices of Silence, heard softy in the reckoning many millennia, now past.

There is something apt in the postmodern critique of metanarratives. At the same time we have discovered, or stumbled upon, the embedded coherence of a just such a master narrative, that category dismissed in the supposed implications of random evolution, or postmodern deconstruction. We have ‘deconstructed’ flat history. Something mysterious and wonderful animates the plodding scene changes of greater epochs, and bestows the gifts of realized self-consciousness on the moments of the eonic sequence. We detected this shadowy presence in the sudden perception of three turning points discovered almost as an afterthought in the accumulation of historical records, now achieved in our own time as a data set five thousand years in length. Crossing this threshold we can see empirically that a long-range dynamic rouses from latency in a timed interval to drive a progression of eras in succession.

This drumbeat sequence of transitions or punctuations, so reminiscent of what we should call ‘punctuated equilibrium’, leaves us with the fortunate circumstance in the match with special type of so-called ‘discrete-continuous’ model that can allow us to express the evolution of a larger system without hazarding a metaphysical generalization wishing to reify ultimates. Instead, we can devise a framework on two levels, macro and micro, whose interaction takes form as the eonic effect itself, a drama of successive ages in the emergence of civilization. The most basic evidence of this phenomenon in action was seen in the second of its visible progressions, the so-called Axial Age, whose discovery at once transformed our image of world history and left us with a question about its greater significance. That question could only be answered with the hypothesis of a system operating in a frequency pattern, and we were driven successfully to the discovery of the greater pattern behind the brief interval of the Axial transformations.

The appearance of synchrony in the manifestation of the Axial interval in the multiple realizations of culture across the field of Eurasia confronted us with the phenomenon of the discontinuous action interrupting the causal flow of history. There is no lead-up or causal runway to the sudden parallel upsurges of relative motion seen from East to West, from the age of Confucius in China and the Buddhas in India , to the Occidental concordance of religious emergence in Israel and the proto-secularism of the Archaic and Classical Greeks.

Despite the confusion possible with notions of discontinuity our evidence speaks for itself with a vivid example and gives us a clue to our mystery in the obvious connection to a classic antinomy of the philosophy of history. This Kantian paradox of causality and freedom unlocked the riddle of a system working on two levels and gave us an elegant interpretion of our data as the interplay of macro-action and micro-action in the oscillation of degrees of freedom. There are more aspects to our eonic series than that of the history of emergent freedom, the clue provided by the Kantian deliberations on divinity, self, and free will. We see, most remarkably, separate Axial windows on each of these mysteries in separate civilizations and should move to see this triplicity as a unity of triple perspectives.

This interplay of system action and free action, seen by analogy in many examples such as that of a ship and the relative motion of its passengers, resolves the confusion in our perceptions of antiquity, and more specifically the Axial Age, if we can see our system acting via the self-consciousness of its exemplars, and thus expressed in the elements of their time and place. Armed with this insight we can uncover the remarkable testimony of the Old Testament behind its primitive dross to the transformations of the Axial era. Seen through the lenses of a Canaanite people and a polytheism remorphing in marching time to an incipient monotheism at once progressing to a new phase of religion and a self-referential account of their own Axial saga. This kind of stripped-down account is far more remarkable than the original concoction of mythological history, and we see that the Old Testament puts its message in a bottle for a future time better able to detect the meaning of its riddle for a secular age.

Beside this transient episode in the evolution of religion the parallel instance of the Greeks surging from their Archaic period to the seminal achievements of their brief flowering in the Classical Age gave us as much the evidence for the birth of secularism in some broad sense, in an almost prophetic anticipation of the last of our Axial intervals the rise of the modern. The sense of the Israelites of an ‘age of revelation’ is confounded by the parallel exemplars, isomorphic and analogous, in its parallel Axial synchronies. This must drive us to a broader interpretation than that of so-called ‘sacred history’. Indeed, our age of revelation shows the emergence of both theistic and atheistic religions, leaving us confronted by the nature of our evidence to conclude that the revelations of the Axial Age were precisely of the progression of ages in the macro-action of greater history.

Although we can but see the worlds of antiquity through the lenses of secular modernity, we must refrain from any glib reduction of our evidence to a sausage of simplistic univalent explanation and do justice to the parallel play of opposites so obviously exploited in our Axial moment. If we see the emergence of Israelite monotheism we must transcend its primitive circumstance and yet do justice to its affirmation of divinity. We cannot really upset the balance between the atheist Buddhism and theistic monotheisms of the Occident if we are to do justice to the original chord of contradictions. In fact, we have created a framework to accomplish this at stroke, were we even the modern atheist sort, and can take the hint from the history of the Israelites themselves in their equivocations of divine names seen in the glyph of the Tetragrammaton, IHVH.

This is a powerful prophecy and warning of the abuse of ‘god talk’ as degenerated religious pidgin that overcomes the traditions arising in the wake of emergent monotheism. The problem is more cogently addressed in the quite synchronous Taoism of China, whose indication that the ‘tao’ that can be named is not the true ‘tao’ solves at once our difficulties with the imposition of theological mythologies on what we plainly see is the revolutionary insight of the Israelites that a higher power operates through history (but we should be wary of transposition of the diverse realizations of the Axial Age, the Old Testament was not a Taoist document). We have ourselves discovered such a power, inclined to a better terminology than that of the ersatz Axial remorphing of Canaanite temple religion. We must wrest the Old Testament to its proper secular heritage in the evolution of man, free of the mideonic distortions of theology have disguised its meaning.

The Israelites thus take their place in our account, not as the founders of some putative new category of religion, but as precursors to labors of the eonic observer, in the perception of the reality of macrohistorical evolution. To grasp the Old Testament we have to understand how the perceptions of the eonic observer, seeing the action of a greater power able to realize over great times and places, could so easily ascribe such a spectacle to the designs of a theistic agent. The end result was a calamity of theological confusions. But our view is larger now, and we can see that our data, however mysterious, responds better to an analysis of an evolutionary system.

If our insight that the triple metaphysical antinomies of the Kantian critique of reason, those of divinity, self, and free will, are explored in three separate phases of the eonic sequence, then we can easily see the unity beyond atheistic and theistic mindsets in the parallel world of Indic religion, spawning first the Upanishadic then the Buddhist versions of the evolutionary psychology of self. These classic yogas, almost primordial in their antiquity, are recast as Axial updates of a perennial theme, and proclaim the latent potential of the species to be, man, and his alienation from the proper expression of his self-consciousness. The world of the Axial Greeks in concert with these manifestations thus sounds the first clear clarion of the Idea of Freedom, in the evanescent flowering as the staging area for the world’s earliest democracy.

We have the clue to the rise of the modern in this early intimation of the category of freedom, and the spectacle of something almost like a recursion of the Greek transition in the fast passage, so seemingly discontinuous in its explosive generation from the sixteenth century, of the new era of secularism, whose effect is not so much the passage beyond religion as its attempted reabsorption into a new dialectic of universal concepts, at the moment of creative renewal. It is too facile a version of modernism to write off the revolutionary Protestant Reformation as anything but the prelude to the Enlightenment, and the endurance of this infrastructure into our own time leaves us with its ambiguity as the first-born of the New Age of Science. The problem we soon discover is the sudden crystallization of scientism in the wake of the modern transition, and this produces a social mindset unable to encompass the full complexity of religious evolution as seen in the greater spectacle of world history.




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Last modified: 10/04/2010