We are not going to put the whole text of WHEE online here: we have put up the Preface and Introduction: the latter is a mini-capsule version of the book. We will cite other passages with commentary and note the much better PDF and/or Amazon versions of the book.
The value of the ‘eonic model’ is that it forces you to try and visualize world history in its complexity and to see that ‘evolution’ is partly invisible to the naked eye. The darwinian perspective is almost pathetic in its sterile ideological dogmatizing. But it is of great value to those who wish to control public thought. That world history and the evolution of organisms could be related is too much for many, but the connection emerges gradually.
Our snaphot of world history has uncovered almost without trying the presence of a non-random pattern of universal history by simple inspection. This pattern of self-organization can give us an empirical basis for considering the questions of human evolution. Instead of speculative theories like Darwinism we can discover a sense of universal history, thence evolution, purely empirically. To sure, ‘facts’ are seen from a particular perspective, but this doesn’t alter the basic finding.
Our suspicion is confirmed that high-speed change can occur on the scale of just a few centuries, witness the Axial Age. And this effect shows us that evolution is hiding behind history in the form of a series of intervals of rapid emergence. World history yields its secret to simple periodization and shows from the invention of writing a clear developmental sequence, with a question mark about its probable source in the period of the Neolithic, the natural starting point for the rise of civilization. The great clue of the Axial Age suddenly provided the gestalt of a larger system at work. The Israelites were right, there is a process of greater evolutionary dynamism that frets the universal history of man.
The Eonic Effect: the hidden structure in world history We can call that sequence of three transitions and the epochs in between them the ‘eonic effect’, as a sequence of three epochs, and note the way that this pattern suggests ‘evolution’ at work, ‘evolution of some kind’. It is at first illogical, it seems, to confound evolution and history. But with a little reflection we will see, first, that the two must be logically connected, and, second, that the data we are discovering directly confirms that logic. This evolutionary sequence is a robust empirical foundation for understanding world history, in the context of evolution.
The relationship of evolution to history must resolve a paradox. The passage between the two could not take place instantaneously. It might show a series of transitional intervals that are evolutionary from one perspective and historical from another. But that is just what we are seeing: a series of ‘axial intervals’ or transitions that express a kind of evolutionary advance, and the epochs in between them that seem to express the historical carrying out or fulfillment of those transitions. What is remarkable is that we see this in historical times, and in a fashion documented by the rise of the technology of writing. It is futile to say that evolution must be purely genetic, since we can see that the ‘evolution’ of civilization is something more.
We have the first glimpse into the nature of human evolution: it is a larger process than the purely genetic development of the human organism. And we can see its last stages in the emergence of civilization. There are many more things to consider here as we proceed, but we have the basic insight into how we can revise our views of the meaning of evolution.
Almost as remarkable as the sudden onset of the Axial Age is its sudden waning and the return of what we should almost call ‘history as usual’. There is something odd about it. The world against which the Axial phenomenon reacts was itself a kind of middle age. And the succession to the Axial period is another. We are left to wonder what the significance of the Axial Age might be. And most of all we are confronted with a question of dynamics.
Continue reading “1.2.4 The Rise of the Modern: A Second Axial Age?”
Our search for causes is confronted with the phenomenon of the so-called Axial Age, a term invented by the philosopher Karl Jaspers who collated a whole series of observations of this phenomenon, as it came to be discovered in the nineteenth century.
Continue reading “1.2.3 Discovery of the Axial Age”
Against the backdrop of world history the rise of the modern must constitute one of the most explosive turning points since the beginning of higher civilization, or even the onset of the Neolithic. In the three centuries after 1500 beginning with the Protestant Reformation and the parallel Scientific Revolution an entirely new form of civilization has arisen, set to transform the entire planet via globalization. Such a massive transformation demands an explanation on the scale of evolution itself, and shows a remarkable discontinuity against the backdrop of medievalism. But this issue has been confused by debates over traditionalism or medievalism. It requires a larger context for a solution to the riddle.
Continue reading “1.2.1 Decoding Modernity: In Search of Evolution”
As we enter on the artificially created moment of the new Millennium set by the Christian calendar, an observer skeptical of the eschatological visions of doomsday apocalyptics might yet consider that mankind is passing through a crisis in human history as a whole, the end of a long beginning since the passing of the last Ice Age. Globalization and economic interpenetration, the onrush of technology, political cyclone, ecological and demographic alarm, coexist with futurist expectation, and the hopes of temporal salvation rendered over to providential certainties. Ideas of progress and decline seem finally to blend in the antique hope of ‘end-time’ redemption, to pass as the ultimate ‘quick fix’ uttered in slogans. Some see the end of the ‘modern age’, and in a postmodernist mood, survey twentieth century as the close of an era. At least, the expectation of millennial completion seems a desperate impatience in a vault of centuries and a progression of epochs barely underway, barely able to begin. The nature of futurist beliefs, themselves the source of endless confusion, generate historical misperception in the traffic between archetypal ‘crisis’ and the console red-warning lights of real issues.
Continue reading “1.2 Universal Histories: The Old Testament Enigma”
1.1 A Glimpse of Evolution
The legacy of modern historical research is an ambiguous one: the conductor’s baton of the Universal Historian taps the podium, in a concert of art, science and philosophy, the theme of evolution rising aggressively to the fore, soon becoming the basis of all further secular generalization about human origins. Although evolutionary research has proved a success as a project of empirical discovery, beside its cousin, the archaeological uncovering of man’s entry into civilization, the claims of evolutionary theory are much less certain than we might expect. Critics of Darwinism often point to the fossil record, upon which Darwin issued a claim of evidence to come, in favor of his thesis. This evidence would now seem less than clear.
But it is important to consider the ambiguity at the heart of evolutionary theory itself, where this pursues the timeless ‘laws of nature’ onto nature’s stage of life where time is of the essence, and the timely arrival of an abundance of creatures finds no reckoning in the orbits of mass and force. As if by a new law, the era of life finds refuge in a global moment, hideaway to beasts of a small planet, making engines of machines to consume mass and force. At last we find man whose claim is to cut history from evolution, graduate from all laws into a domain of freedom, as a law unto himself, in the court of small kingdoms and the self-realization of his individuality. In this ambiguity of chance and necessity we might search for the deeper meaning behind our use of the term ‘evolution’.
In parallel with the nineteenth century emergence of evolutionary research, the rise of archaeology has wrought a similar transformation of man’s record of his past. This chronicle has often seemed a disparate sequence of cultures and civilizations without overall meaning or coherence. And the enigma of this history has always been the misplaced origin, in classical times, of so much that we see as the content of man’s higher culture. This middle clustering of several civilizations in parallel is an entire mystery in itself, and it is no accident the heritage of the western field preserves its riddle in the haunting echoes of the Hebraic epic. One of the consequences of the archaeological revolution has been to suggest why this intermediate phasing is the case, for we had missed a similar generative period in the earlier interval. It is a phenomenon in sequence.
Now Gilgamesh speaks to us from the land of Ur and the chieftains of Upper and Lower Egypt are seen before their crowns are made one as the first Pharaohs. An age in itself has come and gone, glimpsed at its passing by the Prophets of Israel, witnesses to the vanishing Assyrians. A significant piece of a greater puzzle is joined to the form of perceived history, and the indirect signs of macrohistorical context suddenly show their presence. The elegant, yet fearsome, evolutionary unfolding of higher civilization in a cycling cone of ratchet progression all at once comes into view. As this veil is drawn, we get a glimpse, only that, of ‘evolution in action’, as if seen for the first time.