Our Axial Age

The essence of our original vision of world history is that we are in the midst of a new Axial Age following that identified in the centuries surrounding 500 BC by renowned German philosopher and historian Karl Jaspers. Jaspers’ Age was of love and morality occurring in four far flung Eurasian locales—today’s China, India, Iran, and Greece.

With interaction impossible, each independently advocated a version of the Golden Rule— “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—as well as a ‘way’ that taken would lead to betterment and enlightenment. Out of this Age there emerged in these locales four great civilizations with their distinctive religions—Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West. With their spread, these religions today represent 85% of the world’s population.

We make note of an Eastern philosophical tradition holding that all sentient life has three
principal aspects: knowledge unto intelligence, love unto wisdom, and will unto power. It is
generally agreed that the span of recorded history goes back 5,000 years to the multiple centuries around 3000 BC or 2,500 years before Jasper’s Axial Age. It can be fairly said that in the civilizations emerging at the time knowledge had developed unto intelligence.

 

While dates like these are never precise, they can be discerned at some distance. Accordingly, we argue that about 2,500 years after Jasper’s Age we are in another Axial Age of our own that this time speaks to power. Dominant throughout since the start of civilization have been empires and authoritarian states where power has been concentrated in the hands of the very few. Since power is only manageable through its diffusion, the identifying feature of our Axial Age has been the sudden appearance of egalitarian republics over the past two centuries.

In 1800 there was only one true republic. Today 85% of the United Nations’ member states either have “republic” in their title (some like miscreants the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea feeling compelled to do so) or are “free” nations as reported in the most recent Freedom of the World publication of the highly regarded Freedom House.

In furtherance of the quip attributed to Mark Twain that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes,” we also offer instances such as a certain centurial rhythm and harmonies of history.

How do we make this diffusion of power work? How do we find our ‘way’ to channel the use of power in the world that we may be able to realize the potential of the inventions of our intellect without them destroying us? Is not this humanity’s ultimate battle toward which we have been evolving?