THE END OF THE AXIAL AGE
A multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the evolution of human consciousness. The author assumes that there has been no significant development of consciousness since the great Axial Age advances of the early Iron Age. The further development of meaning and purpose as human cultural creations, together with a further increase in the sense of self as a free agent, is postulated is likely to follow the rapid spread of electrical communication technology. This of course is provided the collapse of the present late Iron Age global civilisation through the sudden deflation of the credit bubble takes place before the Earth’s ecosystems are damaged beyond repair.
Unlike academics in general the author is not chained to the inside of a safe institutional cave observing the shadows thrown on the walls from the light outside but has broken his academic chains and is playing outside and experimenting using role theory and symbolic expressions to find out what is really happening.
The present situation greatly resembles that preceding the total collapse of the Bronze Age civilisation around 1200 BCE. After a period of chaos lasting for hundreds of years in most parts of Euro-Asia, the Iron Age Civilisation emerged. The fundamentally new technological, economic, political, moral and intellectual institutions of the Iron Age endured with a few interruptions until the late Nineteenth Century. Most of the rational-philosophical-ethical and religious ideas dominant today, even if in refined form, appeared between the seventh and sixth centuries BCE.
To illustrate the point it is necessary to greatly simplify a very complex set of phenomena. Agricultural societies in general developed a less materialistic understanding of reality. Conversionist monotheistic religions based on obedience and conquest, and religious dualism accepting the existence of good and evil in constant tension, came from Asia and the Middle East. Immortality after death as a reward for ethical behaviour derives largely from Egypt. The mercantile Greek materialist philosophers of the Axial Age gave us reductionist scientific materialism, atomism, idealism and subject-object dualism. However from China came ecological beliefs in balance and harmony with the ecosystem, including status-based human governing hierarchies.
Science, as a system of beliefs and practices, has delivered understanding of the mechanistic aspects of reality and promises apparently unlimited economic development. Although evolving psychologically, socially and culturally the world is a closed energy system, yet the political ideologies, which derive from previous religious beliefs, promise continual economic growth. In most stable traditional human cultures closed biological eco-systems had been recognised and accepted as parameters to their expansion. This was often compensated for by open-ended, transcendental status-reward systems that characterised the various early Iron Age Civilisations. There is an urgent need to reassess the aspects of the present world view that encourages rampant unsustainable growth.