A Human History: Second Assignment 

 

The timeline for this natural-to-human history is recorded on the Internet. One useful reference can be found below at http://timelines.ws. Click on any time period and you find the events recorded in sequence.

 

Table I: History Timeline: Select period



Big Bang to 420 Million BP, 421 to 71 Million BP, 70 to 1 Million BP

1Million BP to 3300 BCE, 3300BCE to 1300 BCE,

1300BCE to 500 BCE, 500BCE to 1 BCE

 

1 AD to 299 AD, 300AD to 599 AD, 600AD to 999 AD

 

1000-1099, 1100-1199, 1200-1299, 1300-1399

1400-1449, 1450-1475, 1476-1499, 1500-1524, 1525-1549, 1550-1574, 1575-1599

1600-1625, 1626-1660, 1661-1699

1700-1724, 1725-1749, 1750-1770, 1771-1779, 1780-1789, 1790-1799

1800-1810, 1811-1820, 1821-1830, 1831-1840, 1841-1849

1850-1854, 1855-1859, 1860-1861, 1862-1863, 1864-1866, 1867-1870, 1871-1874

1875-1876, 1877-1878, 1879-1882, 1883-1884, 1885-1886, 1887-1890,

1891-1894 1895-1897 1898-1899 to the present.[1]

 

Natural history is based on science, which is a rational objective system of thought that developed in significant ways after the Renaissance and continues to inform us today with new facts about what is happening from moment-to-moment. But human history shows the beginning of an interior nature that includes science but also a non-science world that carries its own truth, its own reality, its own authenticity and meaning, as we shall see. 

In 1935, Will Durant began to chronicle the entire sweep of world history in “The Story of Civilization.” This project on world history grew into a work of eleven massive volumes and took forty-six years to complete. He used a narrative style he called "integral" history that was different from the usual method of writing history in separate categories—such as political history, economic history, religious history, history of philosophy, history of science. He said this older tradition did not capture the unity and flow of human life. He wanted to present history as "one complex, moving picture."  Academic historians accused him of shoddy scholarship and too much reliance on secondary sources, and scorned his work.[2]

I refer to Will Durant’s monumental work both as an example and as background for our investigation. With that in mind, the purpose of our cursory outlook on world history is to show how human events have continuity with a past that goes back to the Big Bang. It should generate a different view on history as a subject. It suggests the need for comparative studies that hopefully will encourage faculty to look at this story from this new perspective.

Human history is encyclopedic and well beyond the scope of anyone to narrate successfully, but our brief account should raise new questions about the nature of nature. We will ask: How do we study this “extended history”? Is there an inner perspective that develops as well as an outer perspective? Are there any patterns or principles held in common between external nature and human nature? Is there any design or direction to this far-reaching history?

We pick up where we left off with our previous lesson on natural history. As we shall see, the hominids began to change their forms of communication, and Homo sapiens starts to make a record of events, writing them down, in a chronological order.

We begin with the question: How does animal nature change into human nature? And we end with: How should we interpret this long story that we will call ”The Big History”? What does this natural-to-human narrative mean? Where are we going?

The Big History: The Continuing Saga

We left our story with tree shrews, a pre-human stage some 70 million years ago. Tree shrews lacked an upright posture and binocular and color vision. They had hands but no opposable thumbs, and no “developed” brain. Tree shrews eventually would evolve into human beings, but they had to lose their tails, fur, and long snouts before they did so.

Life in the trees required judging distances from branch to branch in ways that surely helped to develop binocular vision. Tree swinging required hanging on to things to keep from falling, and this demands a grasping hand. The three-dimensional world of trees also required a new awareness of things in every direction and must have stimulated the growth of brain size and development.

Some 25 million years later, some tree shrews developed into the prosimians, including those called the tarsier and ring-tailed lemur. The prosimians had more binocular vision and shorter snouts, but lacked erect posture. And then some 5 million years after that, monkeys evolved with greater intelligence and more developed hands and eyes. Then, from swinging through trees, apes moved down to the ground. This helped put them into an upright position; their heads had to switch position in order for the apes to see where they were going. A quadruped (four-legged) animal's head connects to the spine at the back of the skull, and so what was the ape's normal head position had to connect to the spine at the base of the skull in order for it to adapt to its tree swinging posture. This paved the way for the development of an erect posture to free the hands for using of tools.[3]

The term “hominids” refers to humans and their direct ancestors. The earliest of them were the Australopithecines, living from one to 5 million years ago.  Australopithecines were close to being human because -- compared to apes -- they had more advanced eyes, posture, hands, and brains. They were not humans because their brains were so much smaller, about 450cc in contrast to the brains of Homo Sapiens, which were around 1400cc. The hands of Australopithecines also developed a stronger “precision grip.” Some specialists would argue that Australopithecines are the “missing link” between apes and humans.[4]

Australopithecines developed into more human-like hominids—such as Homo Habilis—with a brain capacity of 650cc. And then came Homo Erectus, who had a brain capacity of some 750cc. Greater brain capacity gave Erectus a better ability to develop symbols, which are an advancement from hominid gestures and sounds. [5]

The earliest hunters and gatherers began to communicate with one another on a more complex level than did their ancestors. Social anthropologists argue that “symbolization” is the beginning of human history, and that hominids became human through “symbolic interaction.” This became a key for hominids in moving beyond their animal past. The earliest humans -- like Cro Magnon -- probably created symbols going beyond simple calls.[6]  Cro Magnon lived from 45,000 to 10,000 years ago, in the Upper Paleolithic period of the Pleistocene epoch. [7]

Symbolizing began when hominid cries and calls developed into words that were abstract and began to have “meaning.” Once humans began to think about themselves, they also thought about being mortal. The artifacts found in burial grounds suggest a sense of mortality, which would require symbolization.

The exact “beginning” of the human record depends upon one’s definition of “history,” “culture,” and human “anatomy.”

 Historians propose that the story begins with Herodotus in the fifth century B.C.E., when people began to write narratives about the sequence of human events. Herodotus produced a written story of the past that aimed to be objective. It was a record, then, to be passed on to succeeding generations.[8]

Anthropologists propose that the human story begins with culture. Culture is based on artifacts and the appearance of symbols as the bases for the first words spoken. Infants today learn to symbolize from their parents -- probably similar to the way this was already happening a hundred thousand years ago. The word is sounded and mimicked between child and parent and becomes the basis for transmitting a culture. Culture then substitutes for the DNA as the key to inheritance. Symbols are the carrier of the past to future generations.[9]

Archaeologists contend that human culture began with the invention of tools and art about 40,000– 50,000 years ago. According to them, the invention of tools—such as spearheads and axes—signals the beginning of humankind. [10]  

Paleontologists tell a different story. Recent findings point to fossil bones of Homo sapiens that date back around 195,000 years. Scientists had previously thought of humans as appearing “anatomically” around 100,000 thousand years ago, when Neanderthals showed up in Europe and the Near East. Neanderthals lived in the Middle Paleolithic period up to about 40,000 years ago. [11]

Now let’s return to the history of nature. The earliest human tools, those flaked stones, are nothing compared to what had been “invented” by nature prior to humans. Anthropologists say that humans were the first inventors, but the records show invention—in the broadest sense—takes place right from the beginning of time, from particles to atoms and forward. Could invention be a principle of nature itself?

Biologists study how birds invent nests, and anthropologists study how pre-humans invented a variety of things. In the 1960's, Jane Goodall discovered chimps digging termites out of mounds using sticks. The use of tools had previously been viewed as “the hallmark of humankind,” but Goodall’s discovery showed that chimps were far closer to humans than had been believed. But now, in this natural-to-human history, we conjecture rather that human beings were following the path of nature from the beginning of time.[12]

The succeeding period of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe, the Near East, and Asia begins about 40,000 years ago and goes to the beginning of the Mesolithic period, about l4,000 to l0,000 years ago, depending upon the geographic area.  The Upper Paleolithic period shows different art forms, such as paintings in caves; there were carved decorative objects, and personal ornaments made from bone, antler, shell, and stone. Settlements of huts made from animal skins appeared. Tent-like structures were built in caves as if to keep out the cold. [13]

Anthropologists report that human beings lived in the Americas between 25,000 and 50,000 years ago, after they had crossed the Bering Strait of Alaska. On the other hand, some argue that there is no convincing evidence until l2,000 years ago, during the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, while still others argue that the migration occurred even earlier. The exact epoch and migratory character of this population is still under investigation.[14] 

Around the world, people in the more populated regions began to depend less on “hunting and gathering,” and more on stationary food resources such as fish, shellfish, small game, and wild plants. Gradually, plants and the husbandry of animals were introduced into the Near East, around 8,000 B.C.E.[15]

When did the human language begin?

Julian Jaynes thinks that the steps from animal signs into human language developed slowly through word-symbols. He deduces his theory from archaeological findings and proposes that each new word created an expanded perception.

 During the Late Pleistocene Era, roughly from 70,000 to 8,000 B.C.E., Jaynes argues that language would have developed through stages. First comes a period of “intentional calls” (during the Third Glaciation Period), and then a period of “modifiers” (up to 40,000 B.C.E.); then comes a period of “commands” (40,000 to 25,000 B.C.E.), a period of “nouns” (25,000 to l5, 000 B.C.,) and finally an age of “names” (l0, 000 to 8,000 B.C). He says that a full-fledged language could not have developed before 50,000 B.C.E. and would not have been fully present until the Late Paleolithic.[16]

This appearance of language was critical to advancing civilization. Language transmits ideas between generations, as we said that genes transfer physical heredity. This means that a child learns information directly from its environment and passes it on to others without DNA. It goes from parent to child, and group to group without biological forces.[17]

But if we look into the history of nature, again we find that animals also learn freshly from their environment without hereditary factors being involved. Birds not only invent nests but they learn songs from their parents. Birds have become a model for studying social learning, because of the parallel of their songs with human speech learning. Field research and lab studies using live birds as tutors have proven that social factors play a major role in song learning.[18]

Did the origins of “replication” begin in the sociality of nature? Did it begin in chemical and biological communication systems? Self-replication begins in natural history and now, with speech, moves beyond the body and into the air, as it were. We know that, along with the action of the mind, speaking in turn, builds the brain. The replication and transfer of symbols in speech is based on the same principle as the DNA, but it is now transformed into a more advanced stage in human history.[19]

This transfer and transformation of words cannot be explained by neurons and biochemistry. It is another invention that began within the processes of nature itself. When animal consciousness becomes human, a form of “self-consciousness” appears. The “self” appears when words equivalent to the English words “I” and “me” and “we” are spoken and shared. Consciousness transforms from its animal condition of impulse and instinct, to a new level. The call for “mother” transforms into an idea that is socially shared.

This culture of ideas is then a new stage of reality.

The sociologist-philosopher George Herbert Mead explains that the human self is the only thing in the world that can be an object to itself. As soon as consciousness becomes an object to itself, the “self” is born. Human consciousness then continues to develop toward a greater selfhood that builds an interior mind. This leap into consciousness that comes to “know itself” is the beginning of human civilization.[20]

The Beginning of Civilization

Anthropologists propose that a radical change in social life takes place with the “Neolithic Revolution” or New Stone Age.  Food is cultivated. Seeds are now “self-replicated” as a food. This occurs around 6800 B.C.E. in different locations: in the plains of Southeast Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa by around 4000 B.C.E. and in the highlands of Mesoamerica after 5000 B.C.E.[21]

The anthropologist Gordon Childe describes how this new method of subsistence farming moves away from hunting and gathering. It leads to a new system of livelihood: bigger settlement patterns, new forms of government, social stratification, economic systems, and other traits distinguish civilization.[22]

People developed horticulture at first—more like today’s gardens—and then went on into agriculture with complex irrigation systems. Agriculture resulted in a food surplus by way of new tools, irrigation, and the development of crop rotation. Surpluses in grain could now be stored for a long time.

The surplus permitted people to do more things than just “survive.” We see new social roles: shamans, seers, magicians, priests, chiefs, artisans, and others with specialized tasks. The surplus of food results in a division of labor. A more diverse range of human activity appears to generate the rise of civilization.

 The anthropologist Elman Service classified human cultures as evolving with different forms of hierarchy. Cultures developed, he says, from: Hunter-gatherer bands (with a minimum of hierarchy), to Horticultural-pastoral societies (with social classes), to Highly stratified structures (with chiefdoms and kings) and finally to Civilizations (with institutional governments.)[23]   

People invented writing in the Middle East around 4100–3800 B.C.E. Tokens of exchange became symbols impressed in clay to represent a record of land, grain, or cattle. An early example was found in the excavations of Uruk in Mesopotamia, representing the peak of Sumerian culture.

Writing is considered a hallmark of civilization. Traders and bureaucrats soon began to rely on writing to keep accurate records. And simultaneously we see a greater size in settlements, the appearance of administrative bureaucracies, and increasing commerce.[24]

The city-state began around 6000 B.C.E. The records show greater household numbers, social inequalities, and more craft specialization. By 3500 B.C.E., small cities had emerged with full-time specialists, monumental architecture, and new governing systems.

But civilizations also appeared in other world regions: in the Near East about 3500 B.C.E., but also in northwestern India after 2500 B.C.E.; in northern China around l650 B.C.E.; and in Mexico and Peru hundreds of years before the Christian era.[25]

With the practice of farming, anthropologists describe changes in the perception of “time.” Australopithecus lived in the “present moment” so to speak, without much sense of time. It is fairly certain that they did not think much about a “before and after.” But farmers had to think ahead to prepare for planting and harvesting. The consciousness of a “future” appears with distant goals and rewards. In order to prepare for planting, Homo sapiens had to develop a sense of time by season. Also we can be sure that learning to control human impulses, and to postpone (sublimate) body-bound instincts, advances further.

People worked in farming with a “we-consciousness.” Individuals could identify each other by names as individuals and groups. The capacity of two parties to identify and bond with one another is an important feature of human history.

But if we look back into natural history we see that “the capacity of different things to identify with one another” starts with the Big Bang. Atoms “recognize” other atoms, and they bond to make molecules. Molecules “recognize” others like themselves and bond to make DNA. Glucose molecules (monomers) bond make a starch molecule (the polymer). And amino acid molecules linking together form a protein molecule. Cells recognize other cells and bond together. [26]

Mammals recognize—i.e., identify and bond with—other mammals by sex and kinship relations. Lions, that is, identify and bond with other lions. Dolphins identify and bond with other dolphins. Can we say that identity and bonding are in the nature of things?[27]

As soon as we are born, bacteria move into our bodies. They stake claims in our digestive and respiratory tracts, our teeth, our skin. They establish complex communities, like a forest that gradually takes over a clearing. By the time we’re a few years old, these communities have matured, and we carry them with us, pretty much for our entire lives. Our bodies harbor 100 trillion bacterial cells, outnumbering our human cells 10 to one. Bacteria are so small that they contribute just a few pounds to our weight. They are invisible to our eyes. But they are evolving with us. They are part of our own evolution.[28]

 Each stage of history, in other words, shows these features of bonding in common with every other, even at vastly different stages. Hydrogen atoms bond and lay the foundation for galaxies. And the bonding of humans lays the foundation for civilizations.

In civilizations, new inventions continued to take place: the calendar, the alphabet, arithmetic, money, and more.[29]  Money allowed people to reduce the act of trading to a coin. Rather than dragging material goods from one town to another, people could transfer symbols of goods for sale. Money-symbols, indeed, were capable of representing anything from wheat to a necklace. Instead of carrying five tons of wheat, people could carry five coins.  Money gained its own value as “wealth.” [30]

Now we shift gears and turn to the development of an interior life in humans. This is indicated in part through the myriad of “inventions” that develop in myth and religion. The anthropologist Joseph Campbell describes an unprecedented development in religious life during the period 4500–2500 B.C.E.: a sense of a mysterium tremendum emerges. This is seen in the growing numbers of religious rites and beliefs.

It was the duty of the shaman, for example, to restore the “oneness of heaven and earth” for his community.[31] “Specialists in the sacred,” shamans are found from the Ice Age forward, and from tribes in northern Siberia to the aborigines of Australia. Some were reported as having ascended up into the spirits of the sky to meet gods, and then descended back into the netherworld to fight the demons of sickness and death.[32]

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz says, "Religion is never merely metaphysics. For all peoples, the forms, vehicles, and objects of worship are suffused with an aura of deep moral seriousness. The ‘holy’ bears within it everywhere a sense of intrinsic obligation: it not only encourages devotion, it demands it; it not only induces intellectual assent, it enforces emotional commitment." Geertz describes how an informant from the Oglala (Sioux) depicts the concept of the sacred envisioned in terms of a circle. The circle, he says, became a symbol of “completeness” in the face of a need to separate from nature. [33]

Following this assertion of “a need to separate from nature,” let us look back once more at natural history. There we find that circle was also a part of nature. An example of the circle in physics would be those covalent bonds. Is the circle built into nature itself? Do certain patterns in nature (such as circles) repeat themselves in the development of human history?[34]

Ancient myths show the close identity of people with plants, animals, and stars and, paradoxically, a strong desire to break away from that identity by symbolization and myth. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss describes an early myth about the origin of certain stars:

An Indian, called Pechioco, married a toad-woman called Ueré. As she never stopped calling: “Cua! Cua!a Cua!...,” he became angry and struck her a blow which cut off her thigh just above the hip. When the leg was thrown into the water, it changed into a surubim fish, while the rest of the body went up into the sky to rejoin Epepim, the victims's brother.[35]

Lévi-Strauss weaves together artistic materials and themes into his analyses of the “savage mind.” He sees mythic “violence” as carrying a mysterious beauty. The analysis of myths for him is comparable to a “major musical score." He is fascinated by how "music resembles myth," how myths overcome "the contradictions between historical, enacted time and a permanent constant…Music has its being in me, and I listen to myself through it.” Thus the myth and the musical work are like conductors of an orchestra for him, whose audience becomes the silent performers.[36]

What is happening here?

Are principles of nature reappearing in, or as, culture? Is the history of culture reflecting the processes of nature, while bringing them to a higher level? Is nature’s practice of invention—e.g., from atoms to cells—continuing in human history in myth and music? 

Levi-Strauss suggests that the principle of opposition is active in all myths: "Mythical thought always progresses from the awareness of oppositions toward their resolution." This opposition, he says, tends to move from "two opposite terms with no intermediary," to two equivalent terms that admit of a third one as a mediator. He speaks of this resolution of opposites in myth as dialectical: "a series of mediating devices, each of which generates the next one by a process of opposition and correlation." Mythical thought always progresses from an awareness of oppositions toward some resolution.

Do we see repetitions of earlier periods of nature in myth? Are people looking for unity within a constant play of opposition?  

The Early Myths: The Quest for Meaning

Joseph Campbell described archetypes as “ground images” because they emerge from the unconscious and the body itself. Archetypes are constructed from within the physical brain as well as from social life.[37]

Neurologists speak of “neuronal switches and synaptic connections” that are important to the first nine months of an infant, but which also remain active into adolescence and beyond. The fertilized egg does not contain an exact program for growth but provides a range of options for how development might proceed, depending on the environment. The options and possibilities that are activated take place both within the child’s own body as well as outside of it.[38]

Natural history and human history meet in the womb. The history of the body and the brain therefore must be included in the cause of human dreams and archetypes. In 1917 Jung described archetypes as “deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity,” which are “grounded in the peculiarities of the living organism itself and … therefore direct expressions of life, whose nature cannot be further explained.”

Today, Jungian analysts believe that neurobiology should give some answers as to how archetypes appear in dream life. Also, the beginning of psychological “complexes” can begin in the embryo and fetus. The mother archetype becomes active within hours of conception, and complexes, such as hyperactivity and depression, can constellate in the womb. The emotional life of the mother influences the fetus. At birth, the child is already a combination of both “nature” and “nurture.”

Gerald Hüther and Inge Krens are neurologists who assert that humans never really learn anything “new without a prior association.” Human consciousness is linked to the history of the brain. Everything we learn is an addition to or a variation on something that we already know. A child is born with a vast storehouse of already existing knowledge, plus the drive to integrate new information with this pre-existing knowledge base. “Human knowledge” is found in the DNA sequences, which the zygote acquires from its parents. The DNA is passed on by the zygote with all subsequent divisions of cells, and so the knowledge contained in genes becomes available when they are stimulated or activated by signals from the environment.[39] 

 Is the body, then, a “ground” for archetypes and myths? Do archetypes begin within the nervous system and become freshly altered through social life?

Jungian analysts speak, too, about how the “deposits of constantly repeated experiences of humanity” are transmitted physically from generation to generation. The deposits are not immutable, and so can be positively affected by bringing about the healing of “ancestral complexes.” [40] Analyst Rainer Maria Kohler, for example, says the “symbols of the self” arise in the depths of the body. They express “the materiality of mythic origins” every bit as much as “the structure of the perceiving consciousness.” Like the archetypes, myths begin at the time of the earliest development of the human person, when both physical and psychic components begin to unfold.[41]

 

Archetypes in the unconscious could begin in the physical body. As alluded to above, Carl Jung describes archetypes as patterns of psychic perception common to human beings. The archetype is not an inherited idea or a common image. Rather it is the “psychic form” into which individual experiences are poured and where they take shape. It produces the images that are apprehended by consciousness.[42]

If archetypes have origins in the structure of the brain and then innovate through social life, were the hominids that eventually became humans creating a way to say how they had felt physically? Do physical (instincts) and social (symbols) combine to give meaning to the physical condition? Anthropologist Claude Levi- Strauss would say this is the way the “raw” becomes “cooked.”

Natural history changes into human history as it moves into the creation of symbols that carry emotions. Archetypes represent the sensibilities that Rainer Maria Kohler calls the first expression of spirituality. History is now an “inside story,” not just a scientific story about the external world.

According to Joseph Campbell: “Myths put you in touch with a plane of reference that goes past your mind and into your very being, into your very gut. The ultimate mystery of being and nonbeing transcends all categories of knowledge and thought. Yet that which transcends all talk is the very essence of your own being, so you're resting on it.” The function of mythological symbols, Campbell contends, is to give you a feeling of being centered. And whatever you do can be discussed in relationship to “this ground of truth.”[43]

Campbell writes of people coming to a harmonization (unity) between one's self and all things through myth. “The function of mythology," Campbell writes, "is to render a cosmology, an image of the universe." This could include how time, space, and the body are organized. It involves figuring out how the universe and earth creatures came to be and how long that took over time, and what the universe is made of.[44]

The earliest myths speak of a female giving birth, or in some cases laying eggs, often connected with water. The Sumerian creation story tells of the goddess Namu, the incarnation of the sea, giving birth to the world. The Babylonian myth -- parallel to the Sumerian Mother -- is the Sea goddess Tiamat. A Micronesian myth tells of Ligoupup, also a great goddess who was never born because she created the world; she is the mother of the oceans and the underworld, and the gods of the sky. Another Micronesian Ocean goddess is Pere, who created the sea itself and gave birth to the islands.[45]

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan, speaking of the Big Bang, said, “Everything begins from within.” You cannot stand outside the Bang. You cannot understand anything outside that explosive beginning. Do myths reflect how “everything begins from within”?

Biologists Humberto Maturana and Francis Varela have written on autopoiesis as a continuously self-creating, self-producing, and self-maintaining activity of all living entities. Does this principle of our biological nature continue in myth making?[46]

These myths, like that of the “Great Mother,” may be anthropomorphic and subjective but they are also the first objectification of this story of human consciousness. The Mother Earth image broke the hominid’s close link (“virtual fusion”) with the earth. Symbols (words) began to separate people from nature. The Great Mother represented water and earth.[47]

Ken Wilber distinguishes between the appearance of the Great Mother and subsequent appearances of the Great Goddess (c. 3500–2350 B.C.E.) in Sumer. As he explains it, the difference between the two represents the development of more abstract emotions, so to speak. How did this happen?

The Great Mother image had arisen to symbolize connections with birth, breastfeeding, and separation anxieties; she became the notion of “the earth as the mother of farmed crops.”  It was this capacity to generalize an awareness of the “oneness” of all things that later spawned a higher and more complex image of the Great Goddess. Wilber describes the transformation from the Great Mother to the Great Goddess in the sayings of Queen Isis in Egypt:

I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in hell, the principal of       them that dwell in heaven, manifested alone and under one form of all the gods and goddesses.  At my will, the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds of the sea, and the lamentable silences of hell are disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout the world, in diverse manners, in variable customs, and by many names.  But the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me by the true name, Queen Isis. [48]

The Mother of the Earth became the Goddess of a Universe. Wilber proposes that the Goddess’s words become “manifested alone and under one form,” the signature of a higher consciousness, no longer caught in the polytheistic fragments, animistic separations, or diverse nature of gods and goddesses. People began to gain insight into a transcendent image of Oneness that represents not only Mother Earth, but a broader mythic consciousness of a larger universe.

Is the Goddess another invention, like others we have detailed following those principles already in nature – like molecules building more complex cells? Is “invention” a practice of nature that continues along with, and as part of, human history?[49]

It is significant to note that “hierarchy” is also a “fact” repeated in this whole history. The organization of protons in the nucleus of the atom has a positive charge and is surrounded by other particles—negatively charged electrons—which spin about the nucleus, like a king in a circle of subjects. Are the hierarchies of cells, animals, and humans – as was the case of kings, with courts and vassals -- all expressions of “hierarchy” expressed throughout natural history? If so, how does this change in hierarchy take place over time?[50]

It is worth recalling the metaphor of “life and death” expressed by astrophysicists. For them, “life and death” began with particles and the stars. Life and death are integral to the history of bacteria, animals, and human beings. Is this organic metaphor – the movement from birth (life) to dissolution (death)–a principle built into the nature of things?[51]

I raise these questions without attempting to answer them now. They are part of our own-going investigation. … But let’s move on.

By 9000 B.C.E., the Natufians of Israel were thinking about life and death. They were burying their dead in ceremonial graves and looking for meaning. They built structures with paving, and had three different towns with about 200 people. At this point in human development, the psychologist Julian Jaynes suggests that “social control” was based on bicameralism. It was by way of hallucination—a voice “inside,” “sounding from within oneself or one's king,” coming from the right side of the brain as if the voice of a god, heard from within.[52]

History at this point joins inextricably with myth. It is said that the earliest god-kings were ritually immolated after a prescribed span of years, a sacrifice to the Great Mother. The god-king-consort of the Great Mother had to die -- or life would disappear. The king in some cases appears to believe in his fate and submits willingly to his civic duty.[53]

Why the human sacrifice? Why the immolation? Why the physical violence among humans? Is the unconscious bringing forth early energies of nature by mythic representation? Is the mind becoming aware of its past and acting out, in a process of resolving the past? Is the conscious brain attempting to represent and reconcile nature’s clashing forces? [54]

Well, it has been a long way in our historical account to reach those later kings in dynasties who began to transcend the practice of self-immolation. Kings changed the death rites, at first substituting other members of royalty who would be sacrificed in their place. Theirs was a slow process of self-realization.

In ancient Babylon the ritual was weakened. At the New Year Festival in the temple, the king was only stripped of his garments, humiliated, and struck, while his substitute, who had been ceremonially installed as king in all his glory, was delivered to death by the noose. When a priestly substitute was provided for his death, the king’s vision and energy were then released to the temporal world.[55]

According to one Greek myth, the world began in Chaos, with a gaping void encompassing the entire universe. An unending stream of water ruled by the god Oceanus surrounded chaos. A goddess named Eurynome wanted to make order out of Chaos, and so she coupled with a huge and powerful snake, Ophion, and gave birth to Eros, the god of Love, also known as the "firstborn." Eurynome then separated the sky from the sea by dancing on the waves of Oceanus. She created great lands upon which she could wander, generating exotic creatures such as nymphs, Furies, Charites (the Graces), beasts and monsters.[56]

In Norse myth there was a chasm in the beginning (Ginnungagap), bounded on either side by fire and ice. When fire and ice met, they combined to form a giant, named Ymir, and a cow, named Audhumbla, to nourish Ymir. She survived by licking the salty ice blocks. From her licking emerged Bur, the grandfather of the Aesir. [57]

We could continue with the list of myths but we must shorten the story. When kings were evolving toward the close of the Age of Bronze and at the dawn of the Age of Iron (c. l250 B.C.E.), the goddess myth was receding, and patriarchal myths of thunder-hurling gods came into prominence. In the myth of the hero, a monster is slain, captured, or subjugated, as Campbell says:

The principle...represented by the freely willing, historically effective hero, not only gained but held the field, and retained it to the present.  Moreover, this victory of the principle of free will, together with its moral corollary of individual responsibility, establishes the first distinguishing characteristic of a specifically Occidental myth...All stand first and foremost as a protest against the worship of the Earth and daimones of the fertility of the Earth.[58]

The essential characteristic of the new hero was the personal, free, willing ego. The hero had to break free of all Great Female figures, and Campbell calls this action of the hero of humanity, “the break with the mother image.” In his zeal for independence, the hero transcends the Great Mother and appears to repress her power.

These myths, of course, are varied, complex, and beyond the scope of this summary, but Campbell argues that during the second and first millennia B.C.E., an ego (an “egoic structure of consciousness”) emerged.  He describes how the “individual” triumphs over the Great Mother, and soon defeats and transforms her. To help explain the universality of the Hero Myth, Campbell envisioned a kind of diagram—the Circle of the Hero's Journey. Let us summarize the story:

In this circle we see that the hero passes through several stages on his journey: He begins an ordinary life. He then receives the call to adventure and encounters a helper along the way. Next he crosses the Threshold of Adventure (brother-battle, dragon-battle, dismemberment, abduction, night/sea journey, wonder-journey, whale's belly, etc.). Now the hero enters into the other world where he undergoes tests (strength, courage, intellect, ability, faith, will, etc.) and meets more helpers. Finally the hero realizes his peak experience (sacred marriage, father atonement, apotheosis, etc.). And then he takes flight (rescue, threshold struggle, resurrection, etc.) to return to his old life with a boon (wisdom, elixir, etc.).

 

In other words, Campbell proposes that “myth” helps people experience the past with a sense of the divine in their lives. He says, a "living mythology" will "waken and maintain in the individual an experience of awe, humility, and respect, in recognition of that ultimate mystery, transcending names and forms, 'from which,' as we read in the Upanishads, 'words turn back.'"[59]  He writes of myths, as coming to a revelation of the unity between one's self and all other things.[60]

Levi-Strauss takes a different approach to myths. He looks at their structure. He says the myth’s content -- the specific characters and events -- can differ widely, but their similarities show a “structural sameness.” The creation of myth is like language in the sense that it is made of units put together according to certain rules. These units form “relations” with each other, based on binary pairs or opposites; they provide the basis for its structure that he calls “bundles of relations.”[61] 

Every culture organizes knowledge based on a bundle of relations that connect binary pairs. These opposite pairs or contradictions have to be reconciled logically, and so myths are the way to do it. Myths "provide a logical model for overcoming a contradiction." A contradiction would consist of believing in two precisely opposite things, such as selfishness and altruism. For Levi-Strauss, every culture has these contradictions that must be explained to create some unity for social life.[62]  

As we shall see shortly, ancient sages and religious prophets also began to see binaries built into the nature of things, but first let us go over the dates in this objective history.

Ancient History

There is a comprehensive literature on the history of ancient civilization – again with details too extensive to explore here, but we can summarize some of it in the timeline below.[63]

 Table II: Ancient History

Early ancient history

753 BCE: Founding of Rome (traditional date)

745 BCE: Tiglath-Pileser III becomes the new king of Assyria. With time, he conquers neighboring countries and turns Assyria into an empire.

728 BCE: Rise of the Median Empire

722 BCE: Spring and Autumn Period begins in China; Zhou Dynasty's power is diminishing; the era of the Hundred Schools of Thought

700 BCE: the construction of Marib Dam in Arabia Felix

653 BCE: Rise of the Persian Empire

612 BCE: Attributed date of the destruction of Nineveh and subsequent fall of Assyria

600 BCE: Sixteen Maha Janapadas ("Great Realms" or "Great Kingdoms") emerge. A number of these Maha Janapadas are semi-democratic republics.

c. 600 BCE: Pandyan kingdom in South India

563 BCE: Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), founder of Buddhism, is born as a prince of the Shakya tribe that ruled parts of Magadha, one of the Maha Janapadas.

551 BCE: Confucius, founder of Confucianism, is born.

550 BCE: Foundation of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great

549 BCE: Mahavira, founder of Jainism is born.

546 BCE: Cyrus the Great overthrows Croesus, King of Lydia.

544 BCE: Rise of Magadha as the dominant power under Bimbisara.

539 BCE: The Fall of the Babylonian Empire and liberation of the Jews by Cyrus the Great.

529 BCE: Death of Cyrus

525 BCE: Cambyses II of Persia conquers Egypt.

c. 512 BCE: Darius I (Darius the Great) of Persia, subjugates eastern Thrace; Macedonia submits voluntarily, and annexes Libya. Persian Empire at largest extent

509 BCE: Expulsion of the last King of Rome, founding of Roman Republic (traditional date)

508 BCE: Democracy instituted at Athens in 500 BCE: Panini standardizes the grammar and morphology of Sanskrit in the text Ashtadhyayi. Panini's standardized Sanskrit is known as Classical Sanskrit.

500 BCE: Pingala uses zero and binary numeral system.

490 BCE: Greek city-states defeat Persian invasion at Battle of Marathon.

480 BCE: Invasion of Greece by Xerxes; Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis

475 BCE: Warring States Period begins in China, as the Zhou king becomes a mere figurehead; China is annexed by regional warlords.

469 BCE: Birth of Socrates

465 BCE: Murder of Xerxes

460 BCE: First Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta

447 BCE: Building of the Parthenon at Athens begun

424 BCE: Nanda dynasty comes to power.

404 BCE: End of Peloponnesian War between the Greek city-states

Late ancient history

331 BCE: Alexander the Great defeats Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Gaugamela.

326 BCE: Alexander the Great defeats Indian king Porus in the Battle of the Hydaspes River.

323 BCE: Death of Alexander the Great at Babylon

321 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya overthrows the Nanda Dynasty of Magadha.

305 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya seizes the satrapies of Paropanisadai (Kabul), Aria (Herat), Arachosia (Qanadahar) and Gedrosia (Baluchistan) from Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of Babylonia, in return for 500 elephants.

273 BCE: Ashoka the Great becomes the emperor of the Mauryan Empire.

257 BCE: Thục Dynasty takes over Việt Nam (then Kingdom of Âu Lạc)

250 BCE: Rise of Parthia (Ashkâniân), the second native dynasty of ancient Persia

232 BCE: Death of Emperor Ashoka the Great; Decline of the Mauryan Empire

230 BCE: Emergence of Satavahanas in South India

221 BCE: Qin Shi Huang unifies China; end of Warring States Period, marking the beginning of Imperial rule in China, which lasts until 1912. Construction of the Great Wall by the Qin Dynasty begins.

207 BCE: Kingdom of Nan Yueh extends from North Việt Nam to Canton.

202 BCE: Han Dynasty established in China, after the death of Qin Shi Huang In this period, China started to open trading connections with the West, i.e., the Silk Road.

202 BCE: Scipio Africanus defeats Hannibal at Battle of Zama.

c. 200 BCE: Chera dynasty in South India

185 BCE: Sunga Empire founded.

149–146 BCE: Third and final Punic War; destruction of Carthage by Rome

146 BCE: Roman conquest of Greece (see Roman Greece)

140 BCE: China was officially made a Confucian state by the imperial examination of Han Wu Di.

111 BCE: First Chinese domination of Việt Nam in the form of the Nanyue Kingdom.

Eastern Hemisphere in 100 BCE [[Are you including Roman History (and ancient Palestine) in this timeline of the “Eastern Hemisphere?—ed]]

c. 100 BCE: Chola dynasty rises in prominence.

49 BCE: Roman Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great

44 BCE: Julius Caesar murdered by Marcus Brutus and others; End of Roman Republic, beginning of Roman Empire

6 BCE: Earliest theorized date for birth of Jesus of Nazareth

4 BCE: Widely accepted date (Ussher) for birth of Jesus Christ

Beginning of the Common Era

9 CE: Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Imperial Roman Army's bloodiest defeat

14 CE: Death of Emperor Augustus (Octavian), and ascension of his adopted son Tiberius to the throne

29 CE: Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

68 CE: Year of the four emperors in Rome

70 CE: Destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus

117 CE: Roman Empire at largest extent under Emperor Trajan

192 CE: Kingdom of Champa in Central Việt Nam

Eastern Hemisphere in  Third Century of the Common Era

200s CE: The Buddhist Srivijaya Empire established in the Malay Archipelago

220 CE: Three Kingdoms period begins in China after the fall of the Han Dynasty.

226 CE: Fall of the Parthian Empire and Rise of the Sassanian Empire

238 CE: Defeat of Gordian III (238–244), Philip the Arab (244–249), and Valerian (253–260) by Shapur I of Persia (Valerian was captured by the Persians.)

280 CE: Emperor Wu establishes Jin Dynasty, providing a temporary unity of China after the devastating Three Kingdoms period.

285 CE: Emperor Diocletian splits the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western Empires.

World in 300 Common Era

313 CE: Edict of Milan declares that the Roman Empire will be neutral toward religious worship.

335 CE: Samudragupta becomes the emperor of the Gupta empire.

378 CE: Battle of Adrianople; Roman army is defeated by the Germanic tribes.

395 CE: Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlaws all pagan religions in favour of Christianity.

410 CE: Alaric I sacks Rome for the first time since 390 BCE.

c. 455 CE: Skandagupta repels an Indo-Hephthalite attack on India.

476 CE: Romulus Augustus, last Western Roman Emperor is forced to abdicate by Odoacer, a half Hunnish and half Scirian chieftain of the Germanic Heruli; Odoacer returns the imperial regalia to Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno in Constantinople in return for the title of dux of Italy: most frequently cited date for the end of ancient history.

End of ancient European history

The date used as the end of the ancient era is entirely arbitrary. The transition period from Classical Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages is known as Late Antiquity. Some key dates marking that transition are:

293 CE: Reforms of Roman Emperor Diocletian

395 CE: Division of the Roman Empire into the Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire

529 CE: Closure of Platon Academy in Athens by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I

 

Ancient Cultures

Such timelines are useful to gain perspective on these phases of history, but they do not show the details of human experience. They do not take you to the “inside story” of people’s lives, that is, how human history might be linked experientially with natural history.[64]

In Table II above, it is not possible to see how the first mystics and sages speak about the emerging of this interior world. The Book Of Changes shows this, however. It is the oldest of the Chinese classics, and describes a world arising out of the forces of opposition and the interplay of parts. The Book speaks of this change as a continuous transformation of one force into the other and partly as a cycle of complexes of phenomena, in themselves connected, such as day and night, summer and winter. The important thing for people to do, the Book says, is to look inward, not outward.

Look, and it can't be seen.

Listen, and it can't be heard.

Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Seeing into darkness is clarity….

Use your own light,

and return to the source of light.

This is called practicing eternity...

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”[65] 

 

In Table II, you see the name of the mythic figure Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu began to speak about the permeation of opposites, claiming that human beings are a microcosm of the universe. He spoke about how oppositions in nature occur in the mind.

Around the fifth to the fourth centuries B.C.E., Lao Tzu and other Chinese philosophers talked about an inner way of life that came to be known as Taoism. They spoke of how people should cooperate with the direction and course of nature. The principles of nature could be discovered in the flow patterns of water, gas, and fire.[66] Don’t fight against this flow, they said

Gautama Buddha, in turn, spoke about principles of living that could be understood only by an interior vision: “Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” And “Find your own light.”

Jesus of Nazareth changed the practice of people looking “outward” for answers to life with a new meaning. Look at how the lilies grow, he said. In effect, he too was saying, Don’t fight it; don’t fight against nature. The “kingdom is within,” he said. Look inside to find a heaven just as you would look outside for a treasure buried in the earth. And, according to the Gospel of Thomas: “If those who lead you say to you, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ the birds will get there first. If they say ‘It is in the ocean,’ then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you.” 

Jesus talked of hidden sources of energy and deep powers buried “within” that must be channeled in a new way: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”  What is he saying?

There are oppositions within the mind and feelings that must be brought into harmony and unity: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!”

The Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth were separated by over four hundred years, three thousand miles, and two drastically different cultures. But they both said similar things about nature and the inventiveness of its interior.[67]

What are those hidden sources of power and energy? From where did Mozart hear whole symphonies inside his head, as he said, “all at once”? It took him some time to write them down entire. What was the source of those harmonious chords he heard inside his head? 

And from a larger purview, what principles help explain the course of human history and natural history? Let us speculate.

Joseph Campbell and Levi-Strauss both write about the mythic quest for unity and oneness in the midst of growing differences. Is there a tension between opposite forces operating throughout nature? Is there a constant drive to resolve them? In both histories, is there a constant thrust toward “tension resolution” between opposites, such as between unity and plurality? We saw how the Big Bang was an incredible unity of all things, and that in its aftermath an amazing plurality was the result. Then, within that plurality, we see an unremitting process of resolution that involves recombining the old with the new. Repeatedly we see this dividing and recombining of old things into new things. It is as though there were a natural drive to find some unity within an ongoing divergence in nature. In human history, we see a similar quest for unity attended by ongoing change and plurality.

In nature, it is new atoms and molecules that are created and freshly recombine; in culture, it is new words and languages, new ideas and technologies. Things keep multiplying (pluralizing) and then recombining (unifying) at new levels.

In the story of civilization, historians see a tension appear between what is deemed by humans to be sacred and profane. It is an opposition that would be described later in history as the secular and the sacred. People in ancient cultures sought to unify all differences in a sacred myth, but at the same time they kept going outside the boundaries of the most sacred. There was a continuous change taking place, an alteration of things that kept moving outside what was most holy.[68]

These terms—unity/plurality—refer to what we observe in nature, but the terms sacred/secular represent the interior world, building through civilization with its own diversity, seeking resolution again in unity. In other words, this history looks like a constant “working out” of oppositions. The interplay between unity and plurality is similar in principle to the interplay between what is sacred and secular.[69]  

Does this long history exhibit a common feature: a constant process of breakdown and recombination, a continuous tension between what is fixed and coming unfixed, with striking moves toward resolution? Is there some inherent drive for wholeness in this long story?

We illustrate below how the sacred and secular is written into the life of societies in ancient history. It is a further stage in this continuing narration of the human story. The secular is associated with change, while the sacred is associated with what seems whole in each period and place. We see secular activities diverge from what is sacred, while at some point in this process a broader field of the sacred is invented and reappears. A sense of the sacred simply changes with the expansion and development of differences in these divergent ways of life in society.[70]

Ancient Egypt

Ancient civilizations were unified in what was deemed sacred. Egypt -- with its huge pyramids, bureaucracy, and complex religious beliefs -- came to be well known by its architecture and bureaucratic development, but the supreme ruler at any one time—the Pharaoh—was representative of all that was sacred in this civilization. He symbolized Egypt’s unity at the top of a tightly integrated aristocracy. The organization of Egypt could be described as a mirror of the exterior of a pyramid; “steps” had to be taken one-by-one up to the top of its bureaucracy—a stone-like, tightly fixed hierarchy, an aristocracy staffed with the higher echelons of a religious order joined with government.[71]

The sociologist Max Weber argued that its “bureaucracy” was less complex (i.e., less pluralized) than modern bureaucracies. (Egyptian bureaucracy should not be compared to modern forms, he said, for it resembles patrimonial organizations.) The mobilization of the masses to work in unity on behalf of the great Pharaoh was brought about by religious commitment; it lacked the differentiated system that characterizes modern bureaucracy.

The power of the empire was unified by sacred beliefs. The historian of ancient times Wallis Budge said that Egyptian monuments demonstrated the observance of religious festivals, and “the performance of religious duties in connection with the worship of the gods absorbed a very large part of the time and energies of the country.”[72]

Religious life developed with two dimensions: one emerging through people interpreting the world from a sacred perspective, and the other emerging as a formal set of rituals and beliefs that came to characterize mundane life. Everyday life in the mundane world could be seen as changing in the sense that not every action was consciously related to the whole.[73]

At the end of the nineteenth century, Sir Wallis Budge said that the casual visitor to Egypt should be pardoned for declaring that the Egyptians were a people given to the worship of beasts and the cult of the dead.  The Egyptians believed themselves to be a divine nation, whose kings were gods incarnate. Egypt’s earliest god-kings did not disdain living on earth, going about and mingling with ordinary people. Egyptians believed that they were of direct divine origin. When the physical body of a king died, the divine portion of his being, his spiritual body, returned to its original home with the gods.[74]

The Pharaoh was king-and-god (Horus), bringing unity, closing the gap between divine and human, the link to the most holy, the “son” of the Sun god, and believed to be the primary source and ground of all life. Distanced from Mother Nature in his past, he was now the offspring of a divine parent, the Goddess. Historians see him as having been deeply implicated in nature’s cyclical processes: the movement of the seasons, the planting and harvesting of crops, and the flooding of the Nile each year.

An interior life was developing alongside of what early visitors saw as Egyptian bureaucracy. The great master alchemist Hermes Trismegistus -- believed to be a contemporary of the Hebrew prophet Abraham -- proclaimed a fundamental truth about the inner and outer universe: "As above, so below; as below, so above." This maxim implied that a transcendent power beyond the physical universe was immanent in all humans, as One. Hermes said that history is a series of mirrors. Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, the invisible and the visible worlds, is one Being, to which all humans are intimately linked.[75]

Historians claim that the figure Hermes Trismegistus was a combination of the wisdom gods Hermes and Thoth. Since antiquity, this legendary "wise Egyptian" has been honored as the creator of mystical writings around alchemy, astrology, and medicine. Philosophers of the Renaissance celebrated Hermes Trismegistus as the founder of philosophy; Freemasons called him their “forefather,” and thinkers in the Enlightenment championed religious tolerance in his name. To this day, Hermes Trismegistus is a central figure of the occult, or secret knowledge, linked with the esoteric.[76]

Mesopotamia

During the same period, Mesopotamian societies established their unity in a different way.  They lacked the tight bonding (command) structure of the Egyptian empire. They were organized as multiple “urban communities.” In comparison to Egypt, political authority was more divergent. Religious and secular organizations were closely related at the local level. The gods were the ultimate proprietors of the land, which made the temples the major places of economic organization.

The city-states were like a confederation of several land-holding temples, the largest being first among equals.  The chief priest of the “first” temple assumed the role of governor, responsible for operating irrigation systems and managing trade with other communities. The Mesopotamian people were in a less tightly bound system of city-states.[77]

Mesopotamian cities – unlike the Egyptian empire -- maintained a greater distance between the “religious” and the everyday worlds, while at the same time having a sense of interdependency.  In Egypt, the primary obligation had been to preserve the established sacred order, but in Mesopotamia it was to manage a precarious relationship between mundane life and religious life. A yearly renewal of the Mesopotamian king’s connection with the religious powers was considered essential to prosperity. Its New Year ceremonies allowed room for separation between the kingship and the religious order.

Mesopotamia began to separate its religious and everyday (mundane) institutions. The Code of Hammurabi, inscribed in the first half of the second millennium B.C.E., prescribed the separation of governmental law from religious law. It treated a wide (secular) range of subjects on legal matters of state, including property, contracts, and the family.[78]

The legal system in Mesopotamia made distinctions between members of the common class versus aristocratic lineages, with regard to formal rights and the status of slaves (captured in war).  The idea of “equity” was introduced in codes that obligated the king to uphold standards of even-handedness and protect persons in weak positions. The rudiments of “international law” might be seen—so to speak—in the loose (weak-bonded) confederation of city-states. We might say it prefigured the United Nations.

The city-states developed a common law to guide their government and political relationships. The codes included agreements about the rights of trading groups passing through a territory and the extradition of criminals to other territories. We see the non-religious (secular) legal order begin to separate from the religious order of life.[79]

Ancient China

In ancient China, a system of patrimonial states had a semi-feudal foundation, extending rights to expansive patrilineages. In the early Chou period, Confucius unified the society by codifying a written tradition. That Code became the basis for a unified political and religious life. The educational system of the empire embraced this as a tradition, including requiring examinations for holders of imperial public office. An educated class of Mandarins (high public officials) soon became the empire’s governing body. Their authority was based much on prestige, different from the direct (unified) command of a military: a type of intellectual class began to appear in history.

The Chinese Empire, beginning around 200 B.C.E., stabilized with the Han dynasty, which lasted for almost 400 years.  The Han established the first forms of a scholar-bureaucracy, but the Chinese emperor was not as closely identified with a divinity, as was the case of Egypt. His functions were reportedly more ritualistic. He held a vague “Mandate of Heaven,” a status closer to a Catholic pope than that of a supreme god. 

Secular development took place as Mandarins assumed responsibility for government policies, accountable to the emperor but more autonomous in their own right of authority. The religious and the secular orders continue to differentiate.[80]

And in this gradual differentiation, the religious and secular domains remain interdependent. The growing differences required more mindfulness. The coexistence of the two different orders became rationalized by the Confucian ethic as it valued harmony (unity) between these different levels of society.[81]

Confucianism did not fully differentiate the cosmic (religious) order from the social (secular) order, but Hinduism and Buddhism achieved more separation. Historians like Max Weber argue that Eastern religions cannot be explained by any Western concept of progressive change toward secularity.

Ancient India

The known history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization that spread in the northwestern part of India from c. 3300 to 1300 B.C.E. Its Harappan period lasted from 2600–1900 B.C.E. This Bronze Age civilization collapsed at the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E. and was followed by the Iron Age Vedic, which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms.

The Vedic religion in India involved the worship of a pantheon of gods, with a sense of a sacred sacrifice.  The Brahmans, its priestly group, pictured souls undergoing an endless series of incarnations and reincarnations. The death of the body was not final; everything on earth was sacred, while part of a class-caste hierarchy. 

All things—from the human species to lowly worms—were part of this sacred hierarchy. Only great souls and the “Ultimate” in the universe, known as “Atman” or “Brahman,” were exempt from mortality. The purpose of life was to escape from the “wheel of karma,” the constant round of causes and effects which keep people earth-bound, but which are ultimately transformed into the most holy, the Absolute.

The path of salvation in everyday life required a personal withdrawal from its associations, that is, toward ascetic exercises and mystical contemplation. Max Weber notes that there is no equivalent here to China’s Confucian ethics and obligations to secular (public) life. And there was no comparison to the Puritan “calling” into a secular career in the West.  Social responsibility was religiously sanctioned, but it was not the prime obligation of life.

The doctrine became more individualistic, setting a different tone from the strongly bonded identities of earlier periods. It was also different from the consciousness of the Jewish community, in which each person was to seek his or her own salvation in the common (religious) community.[82]

 

Hinduism, led by Brahmans, became the basis for unity.  Although Hinduism was distinct as a religion, it was not totally separate from the everyday (mundane) order.  Hinduism legitimized the hierarchy of castes.  Society was the arena where karma operated. Karma is roughly understood in terms of the cause-and-effect relations in everyday life. It supports the Hindu belief in the transmigration of souls.

Merit could be gained in the everyday world, but it was also gained through the performance of the religious obligation to one’s caste. People gained virtue and transcended karma insofar as they observed these obligations. If people were meritorious in their performance of duties, they would move up the hierarchy in their next incarnation. The social structure was intertwined with religious belief, even while ostensibly relatively separate from it.

Buddhism did not sanction caste in the same manner as the Brahman-Hindu tradition. It considered secular matters to be of little consequence to the good life. It emphasized a withdrawal from the everyday world; its devotees developed monastic communities, known as the Sangha, where monks lived apart from the world.

Unlike Egypt, India established no large, stable, long-term bureaucratic political organization. The subcontinent was united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.E. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next ten centuries. Its northern regions were united once again in the 4th century A.D., under the Gupta Empire.[83]

Ancient Israel

Israel began in small settlements as a tribal confederation. Jahweh was the God of unity in this confederation of Hebrews that implicated all aspects of tribal life. Max Weber stresses that Jahweh was above all the principal deity in worship; yet because of a belief in the captivity of Jews in Egypt and early experiences in the Promised Land, Yahweh was not yet thought to be fully omnipotent, capable of guaranteeing success against all odds.

Israeli society was agricultural and patriarchal, based on a system of city-states not too different from Mesopotamia. As a system of kings developed, the society began to resemble the Mesopotamian, but was not stable as a single kingdom. The reigns of David and Solomon consolidated the people of Israel into a single entity, but that entity soon split into northern and southern kingdoms. During the final reign of Solomon, the kingdom had become a kind of temple cult—a patrician class, with a rudimentary legal system, a semi-free peasant and artisan class, and a market trade.

Ancient Israel’s most distinctive characteristics were its conception of God (Yahweh, the Holy One) and the metamorphosis of different forms of Covenant. The Covenant was God’s agreement with the Jews to protect them if they kept His law.  It was modeled partly on treaties between vassal states and kingdoms in the Near East, especially the Hittite Empire. The Covenant developed at least three themes: (l) the absolute sovereignty of God, (2) the reciprocity between God and His people, and (3) the relations among people themselves.  According to Weber, no document at this time so clearly expressed the division between the religious and mundane (secular) life of people.

The concept of an absolute God differentiated the divine from the human. God could not be conceived in human terms, and therefore could not be judged or evaluated. This concept of God (the Absolute) changed the fetishistic fascination with religious objects to a reverence for something unseen, and ended the earlier attitude that people could barter with the gods.  At this point, there is a concept of “being an instrument of God,” and a perception that the people of Israel were the “Chosen People” endowed with a sacred mission to fulfill His will on earth.  That mission remained to motivate the life of Jewish people, including those who later migrated to other parts of the world.

No king in the land of Israel could claim divinity within the bounds of Hebrew religion. The king became only a leader of the human community that took its collective mandate from God.  There was no broad Israeli priesthood class connected to the kingship and set apart, as was true in other societies.  Max Weber thought this degree of secularity helped to open the society for radical change.

Following the tradition of Moses and the First Commandments, Judaism’s conception of the law was different from the law in other civilizing groups.  The law was a human charter of the people, interpreted (relatively) independent of a specific political authority.  Historians point to a shift to a greater sense of consciousness, based on self-development within the community.

A religious (sacred)-human (secular) tension remained as part of Israeli life. People were defined by being “chosen,” while at the same time having voluntarily chosen to associate with one another as a community. Their identity as a “people” established a foundation for maintaining that identity over the centuries. A common identity has survived the pressures against Jews in societies throughout the world. 

Ancient Greece

The city-state in Israel bore a distinctive religious unity through Yahweh and His law, but the city-state (polis) in Greece was not so unified. There was more inter-polis warfare and more mutual alliances, exemplified in the alliance against Persia in the fifth century.

Ancient Greece is distinguished by its literacy, exemplified by the early poems of Homer and Hesiod. So the quest to develop the mind and the arts suggests to some historians that this period may be known for its cultural rather than its religious character. Yet the Greeks’ emphasis on the arts and ideas should not imply a disappearance of religion, or what was deemed sacred.

Greece maintained religious sites, such as the Shrine of Delphi, and the centers at Olympia and Epidaurus.  Masses from the entire Greek world assembled at these locations, and each center engendered reverence and awe. At the same time, Greece became the locus of philosophy, art, and theater for Western society. 

Classical Greece is remembered for its philosophy and political order, more than its religious order. It developed as a series of aristocratic, oligarchic, and democratic governments. All these governments were organized around the notion that the city was the corporate body within which basic rights with some equity should be retained, including participation in the polity. Several cities, but notably Athens, developed a system of democracy for male citizens, and developed other human rights before the law, including the right to be judged by a jury of peers.[84]

The religious ground of Greek life contrasts sharply with that of other ancient states, like Israel.  The people of Israel believed in a single divinity, God, who was Absolute and who transcended the poly-gods, the multiplicity of gods worshipped by their neighbors.  This shared belief gave Israel its unity, its security, and strength. It made their society safe to endow the secular domain with its autonomy.

The Greeks began to humanize the poly-gods, giving them mundane feelings and even making them prone to failure. Both gods and humans became subject to the laws of nature. Some historians say this view may have robbed them of the communal bonds that developed in Judaic culture, but also that change became more characteristic of Greek life. Greek concepts of social order underwent great alterations during this earliest time. The changes were dramatized in theater. It is through those early plays you can feel the changes taking place between the sacred and the secular domains. The changes were writ large, so to say, projected onto the stage.

In the Oedipus trilogy of Sophocles, the fundamental concern is the irreversible consequence meted out by nature for acts of incest.  The tragedy of Oedipus, which resulted from his acts of patricide and incest, was considered an inescapable fate.  At the end of the story, however, Sophocles absolves Oedipus from his wrongdoings through the intervention of Theseus, who represents Athenian civilization.  Some literary critics suggest that Sophocles is arguing, through the dramatic arts, that the kinship-based, incestuous life of the tightly bound older (sacred) society has metamorphosed into a higher life of civic (secular) order, which is a less intensely bonded way of life.  The unity of the whole (the sacred) is now founded upon citizenship, not narrowly on kinship.[85]

The legends of Greece penetrate incisively into the meaning of “nature.”  They speak of “the secret of a sun" that does not shine from above and down; rather of a sun deep in the earth that shines up; an analogue, that is, to the scientific story, similar to the biochemical theory that life began from volcanic fires deep within the seas, rather than merely from the sun shining above and down upon the earth.[86]

Greek stories are like those in other societies. For example, the story of Apollo’s conquest of the earthbound serpent, the first lord of Delphi, is similar to the story of Krishna in Hindu myth. This serpent-python sends up revelations through a fissure in the rock below the seat of a priestess, the Pythea, who, inhaling the potent fumes, is inspired to give voice to cryptic utterances, the prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi. Then the great god Apollo challenged and overcame the demon-dragon slew it and took over its seat. Thereafter, Delphi was the sanctuary of the Olympian, a god related to solar power and standing for enlightenment, wisdom, moderation, and proportion. Now the patron and owner of the sanctuary was no longer a “primitive” earth demon, but the Olympian Apollo, the Pythic god.[87] A celestial presence (Apollo) had replaced the terrestrial presence (the serpent), but without completely erasing the latter. The priestess remained in her ancient, long-established role, and the Delphic Oracle continued in operation.

 

The Roman and Islamic Empires

The Roman and Islamic empires followed on the heels of Israeli and Greek societies, developing a pattern of the sacred in society that contrasted with China and India.  The city-state (Greek polis; Roman urbs) was the unity, indeed, the unit of membership in the Roman Empire. It maintained relations with foreigners but retained its communal identity. It was different from the more centralized systems of China and India, where the classes that stemmed from the high orders of Confucianism and Brahmanism, respectively, separated themselves from the fetishistic and polytheistic life of the lower classes. The religious order in the Roman and Islamic empires became less fixed, in some ways more directed toward change.[88]

 

The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire went further than Greece in creating a system of secular law and order beyond the religious order; that is, it had a sense of social organization separate from the divine.  The boundary of the Empire changed many times, but the government ruled all the lands around the Mediterranean Sea.  Rome was the greatest city of the Empire, and other cities served as administrative centers, copying Rome’s features. Roman farms varied in size from a few acres to huge estates worked by hundreds of slaves. Wealthy Romans often owned both city and country houses. Agriculture was the basis of the economy, but by conquering other peoples, the Empire developed a strong system of trade in manufactured products, transforming Rome into a commercial center.[89]

This new level of secular law developed early in Rome and played a more powerful role in the coherence and stability of Roman rule than the gods did. Legal rights were extended beyond just the heads of lineages to all males, each of whom could act legally on his own behalf.  Roman law, which was highly systematized, was founded on Stoic principles of the law of nature.  By applying broad principles of Greek philosophy, the Roman legal order was applicable to all people within its domain.

The religion of Rome was local and could not have legitimized a legal order, as did the Israeli religion. Rome could not rule its diverse peoples by military might alone, and so its basis for order was a system of legal (secular) beliefs about the rights of citizens to govern themselves. Roman citizenship was extended first to local elites and later to more common people. The people of Italy were the first to receive common citizenship, followed by Greece, then Gaul, Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Eventually, all free (non-slave) men of the Empire were accorded citizenship, but the significance of this was diluted.  One means for extending citizenship to men in all territories was through a six-year service in the military legions.  This democratization crisscrossed the divisive internal stratification of the countries ruled by the Empire and helped solidify its power. [90]

The extension of citizenship did not imply the existence of an overarching sacred deity or religious order; yet it still granted protection under the “rule of law” throughout the Empire. The Jus gentium (the common law of peoples) worked in concord with the central law of Rome; it extended regulations based on its principles through all remote territories, and was backed by a system of courts and judicial procedures. In later periods, legal professionals began to advise clients and judges about technical points of law.  In sum, the Roman Empire represented the most highly developed secular (legal) system that had developed in any society up to this point.  It was now a cosmopolitan society, in which people enjoyed more freedom of movement throughout its expansive territories.[91]

The collapse of Rome was like the implosion of a primal star. In astrophysics, an implosion takes place with hydrogen and helium atoms. This occurs when they are pulled together by their mutual attractions and then collide with each other with huge friction, leading to ever-higher temperatures and eventually bringing those temperatures beyond the capacity of atoms to endure, at which time every atom is destroyed.  The star implodes to a pulsar, that is, into a huge dense mass of neutrons, and it then may collapse down to a black hole.  There is no longer any capacity to integrate its parts. The Roman Empire was an advanced civilization that collapsed. But, on the other hand, the parts did come together again into small kingdoms.

 

The breakdown of the Roman Empire becomes the starting point of the Middle Ages somewhere in the fifth century A.D.; perhaps in 476, the year a German chieftain deposed the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, the son of Orestes. Augustulus was banished to Campania, and the barbarian chieftain Odoacer, not wanting to call himself Emperor, conferred upon himself the title of “king.”

In the midst of the on-going disorder, another king, Theodoric, descended upon Italy from the Alps, followed by his people, the Ostrogoths, who came to claim their share of Italy. Others followed them and soon a medley of kingdoms spread across the Italian provinces.

From the 800s and through the end of the Middle Ages, the kings of Europe had not made themselves strong enough to obtain absolute obedience. Every baron or high-church dignitary was a little king reigning over his parcel of land.  His farmers and servants were his subjects: he could command them, fine them, put them in prison, or even execute them. A knight might control a single village, and a baron usually controlled a number of villages. The largest landholder in a region was called a count or a duke. The king had the highest dignity in the land, but he was not always the most powerful among the nobles. The Duke of Normandy and the Count of Toulouse, for example, owned larger holdings than the King of France throughout most of the Middle Ages. The great lords bound themselves to the king in a solemn ceremony, but sometimes disregarded their oaths and even made war on him. The democratic bent that developed in Greece and was visible in Rome appeared again in the developing legal system.

Disputes within the noble class—between vassals and lords—began to be heard before a feudal court. People followed hardly any written laws, but the customs of ancestors instead.  A feudal court was composed of a lord, and those nobles holding land directly from him.  (The House of Lords in Great Britain originated in such a feudal court.)  A lord or vassal might choose to disregard the verdict of a feudal court, with war as the likely result.

A sense of the sacred was never lost in the West. The Catholic Church was the greatest force binding European countries together during the Middle Ages. It touched every person at some point in life.  The Church baptized people at birth, married them, and conducted the burial services at their death. People had the hope of salvation in a life to come.[92]

The growth of the towns brought about big new changes. Wealth began to accumulate, and strong organizations were formed among merchants and craftsmen. With their markets and fairs, towns were attractive; people were drawn to them. Their populations grew rapidly, and lower classes of people began to huddle in districts of ramshackle tenements and filth.

Kings found that the growing towns were a source of monetary support in their struggles with barons and nobles.  With the help of the towns, royal power overcame the barons in parts of Europe, and states began to develop. The discovery of the New World opened up new roads to wealth and power for kings and merchants, making the landholding nobles less important. The landowning classes remained powerful long after the Middle Ages, but they were no longer the master-framers of society. Farm workers and serfs could find work in town or become sailors and seek a fortune overseas. People ceased to be bound to the soil, which had been the staple of life during the Middle Ages. Ties to the lord of the land loosened, undermining the foundation of feudal life.

 

The Early Modern Period: A New Perspective

We have been recording mostly the “objective history” of humankind, that is, a narrative described in terms of “empirical” events. This is what historians do at least in part, document observable events, but we have said there is also an interior story often told in other ways. We mentioned the way in which ancient Chinese masters like Lao Tzu and religious teachers like Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, were telling another story. We also referred to how Greek theater (e.g., through its dramaturges, like Sophocles) led its followers inside the emotional lives of people. In theater, the audience could assume the actors’ role on stage, insofar as they were able. There are interior changes in feelings and intuitions that cannot be recorded in an historian’s record of objective behavior. They are understood better through the arts: theater, music and painting, novels and literature, parables, operas, and poetry. This story of the personal and interior life presents a different reality.

So telling history in its full scope shows a tension between what can be documented outside and what people feel inside while experiencing these same events. Historians move between what is empirically observable and what people actually feel in the action. 

At the time of the Renaissance, we see a very new outlook on this history. The philosopher Jean Gebser has argued that a profound shift in human consciousness took place in 1336 when the Italian Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch made his ascent of Mt. Ventoux in France.  Gebser claims that this was the first time someone had bothered to climb a mountain for the express purpose of seeing the view.  People had encountered mountains many times, but always as obstacles. Gebser connects Petrarch’s climb to the rise of perspective in European painting, and to a new realistic and rational understanding of nature. 

People were no longer fixed in place, as their medieval ancestors had been; they could rise above their station, survey the landscape of the past, and map out a destiny.  Gebser points to that new perspective, beyond Herodotus’s history, and beyond Plato’s vision of ideas. This was the beginning of the Renaissance, which signaled a major change in consciousness.[93]

One of the distinguishing features of the Renaissance was art, which was developing a realistic form of linear perspective. Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) is credited with the first painting of a window into space, a perspective that became a wider trend towards realism. Painters began to develop special techniques that involved a new vision, studying light, shadow, and—in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, Mantegna, and others—the human anatomy.[94]

 People looked back into the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome to protest the religious (sacred) orientation of the Middle Ages. Artists turned for inspiration to Classic points of views, rather than to the outlook of the church. Modern science began; voyages to the Orient were made; moveable print was invented; and universities were born in towns that became centers of learning. The Renaissance brought science, with its emphasis on facts, objectivity, and prediction, but it also brought a whole new feeling to people about themselves.

People in early history did not think much about time, and about how they could collectively shape their future. In the Neolithic period, we noted how primitives started to plan for sowing seeds (thinking ahead) in season; but they assumed mostly that outside forces—foretold by astrology or other forms of divination—determined the future for them. Greek philosophers and playwrights also often thought that fate and forces outside themselves played a major role in shaping their lives.

This fateful outlook brought forward key questions in this history. What is determined inside? What is determined outside?

In spite of the way in which Carl Sagan saw, perceptively, that we are all inside the Big Bang and cannot describe it from the outside, scientists are constantly attempting to do precisely this: produce an empirical accounting of natural history as “outside.” However, if Sagan is right, the notion of things outside -- as observed through telescopes and microscopes -- is a premise that cannot hold as a broad metaphysic. Some might call it part of the modern myth that shapes our perspective of the universe.

The atoms and molecules that are thought to be outside—in the stars, for example—are equally inside the brain, composing our physical condition. The atoms that laid the path to human consciousness are inside us. We need the facts of science, but we still need to acknowledge that we are inside the subject. This inextricable opposition (subject/object) should open a door to a new perspective on this Big History.

 In human history, we see how an interior perspective emerges from the scientific story, a new meaning to this interplay between binaries, such as subject/object. In the science of nature we see how things are determined outside, and in human history we see ourselves making choices, shaping things outside from within ourselves. And humans have also begun to see themselves as free, making choices from the inside. Changing atoms on the outside is a subject of nanotechnology; changing ourselves from the inside is a subject of psychology.[95]

But this perspective took time.

In the mid-1600s, philosophers were speculating about determinism and free will. Thomas Hobbes asserted that human minds operate according to mechanisms and could not exhibit free will. In the late 1700s, philosophers such as Immanuel Kant -- agreeing with an earlier work by Gottfried Leibniz -- claimed that at least some parts of our minds are free and not determined by definite laws.

The existence of free will became a major debate. Scientists like Pierre-Simon Laplace argued for determinism throughout the universe, based on mathematical laws. And with the increasing success of science in the 1800s, it came to be widely believed that there must be definite laws causing all human actions.[96]

From the medieval point of view, much was determined by the Church and by God, but now a different perspective emerged. It was focused on “free will” and became accented with the rise of democracy. People could view themselves as collectively self-organizing and determining their own form of government. Together they could shape their future and not be shaped by the church or other outside forces.

In England and the Low Countries, the change toward democracy was sudden, but in Spain, the German states, and elsewhere, the transformation was slower. Some historians argue that in a few areas, such as East Prussia, the trappings if not the substance of feudalism persisted all the way to the defeat of Germany in the Second World War.

The Last Few Centuries

How can we interpret the last few centuries? Many scholars have tried to do so by selecting “themes.”

Richard Tarnas, a cultural historian, says, “The modern self began to emerge, with astonishing speed, just over five hundred years ago. There is scarcely a major figure or idea in the preceding cultural and intellectual history of the West that did not contribute to the formation of the modern self, nor has there been any aspect of our existence subsequently untouched by its unique character and potency.”

Tarnas sees two resonant events. One is Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man in 1486 and the other is Descartes’ Discourse on Method in 1637. Descartes’ Method inaugurated science, and Mirandola’s Oration put together a new vision of “Creation” by synthesizing Ancient Greek and Judeo-Christian sources. Mirandola prophesized a new human being who would be “dynamic, creative, multidimensional, protean, unfinished, self-defining and self-creating, infinitely aspiring, set apart from the whole, overseeing the rest of the world with unique sovereignty, centrally poised in the last moments of the old cosmology to bring forth and enter into the new.”[97]  

Max Weber contends that “rationalization” is the master theme of the last few hundred years. The modern period is characterized by an increasing rationality for everything, from bureaucracy to music.  Other historians point to the increasing powers of science and technology. They speak of capitalism and its sub-themes of profit, productivity, and competition.

The sociologist James Coleman tried to characterize contemporary polities. These last centuries, he said, have involved a new “ultimate loyalty” to the nation; the centralization of power; the development of participatory institutions; the integration of democratic goals; the distribution of government power to bring about economic growth and mobilize resources to “mass demands and expectations.”[98]

In other words, people organized democratic states and a market system in which life in society became governed more by business and politics than by the church and religion. The key position for an individual in the new nation became that of the “citizen.” A citizen carries all the ideals of freedom and democracy. Individuals became the decision-makers, no longer the king or the pope, or the priest or minister; it was the people, individually and collectively. The duties, obligations, and responsibilities of citizens would consummate in a polity: the nation state. The nation became the basis for unity and in the final analysis, what would be deemed sacred.[99]

What does this mean?

Today, generally speaking, men and women do not die for a religion, such as Catholicism or Unitarianism, as a cause. Rather, they sacrifice and die for their nation with its ideals. Many American soldiers die for their country. Israelis die for their country. Islamists also die for their respective countries. The power of a nation-state over the lives of people has led social scientists to speculate on the way in which national governments have themselves become a religion. These social scientists call it a “civil religion.”[100]

So how do we interpret all of the elements we have been presenting of this Human-cum-Natural History or, as we say, the Big History?

The answer is so complicated, intricate, indeed, so multifaceted that we propose that the long story become part of university studies.[101]

University Studies: The Big History

The Big Bang did not just lead to atoms and molecules, cells and organisms, and to Homo sapiens and civilizations, it also led to great universities with their proliferation of subjects. Every subject in the university owes its existence to this extensive past. Could universities help students understand the meaning of this history?

Some scientists work on the issues brought forth by theories of Creationism and Intelligent Design. John Polkinghorne is a prominent physicist who had previously worked on theories of elementary particles and played a significant role in the discovery of the quark. He now struggles to find a connection between his Christian faith and his training in physics. He writes about the “intelligibility of the universe.”[102]

Ervin Laszlo also works on principles governing natural history. He argues that there is a continuum of size, organizational level, and "bonding energy" at every stage, from basic particles to the highest-level systems of the biosphere. Binding energy at the human level is like the changing bonds in the nuclei of atoms and molecules.[103] 

Where is he going with this?

Laszlo is exploring a scientific question about nature that could have its parallel in human history. “Proportionate to the decrease of binding energies, there is an increase in the level of organization.” There is a change in bonding energies, and a hierarchy that takes place, all the way through this big history. Nature is about binding, loosening, and refastening.[104]

And natural history, Laszlo says, is not just about “increasing complexity.” It is also about simplicity. Each stage has more complicated types of organization, but his theory is that simplicity goes with complexity. This Big History, according to Laszlo, changes based on the principles of both complexity and simplicity. He writes:

For example, the structure of a molecule such as H2O is considerably simpler than the atomic structure of hydrogen and oxygen. The structure of a cell colony is simpler than the structure of the constituent cells, and the structure of a termite colony, a baboon society, [and] ecology is simpler than the organic structure of their individual members.[105]

 

Could everything become simpler at the same time that it becomes more complex?  Most scientists acknowledge that things are becoming more complex because each new form incorporates “elements” from previous stages into its own, while adding still more. This cumulative principle, then, explains how change becomes much more convoluted, but we need studies on Laszlo’s assertion of greater simplicity.[106]

 

Here, we are in new territory, so to speak, and speculating.

It took over 13 billion years for nature to create humankind. So we have to assume that the point at which we have arrived today is not the end of the story. Could a new species arise? Scientists have classified over 1.5 million species; so it should not be surprising to see a new one. It could arrive from outer space, or it could come, perhaps, from inner space. It looks like we have just begun to evolve.[107]

Historians have a mission to record past events accurately and are reluctant to generalize—at least not too much, yet the very size of this history calls for new thinking.  It looks like the events in both natural and human histories show a tendency to work from the past to create something new. They both reveal a tendency to synthesize and save and recombine and invent something new.

It seems that there is indeed a proclivity in nature to synthesize and create a new unity within this ongoing plurality. And people in civilization match this proclivity by creating something sacred along with continuous secularization. What more might be said?

This story is not finished. Hence, this final question: Can universities study this big history? Could this subject be part of campus conferences? Could students be offered a seminar to study this joint history of the human and the natural?

On the Origin 

On November 24, 1859, Darwin published his seminal work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. He could never have imagined that in the next century the origins of humankind would be traced back to the origins of the universe. And this leads us to the question: How do we get to the truth?

Darwin’s theory of natural selection does not apply to the history of atoms and molecules. It does not apply to the history of civilization. It does not apply to the history of art and music. So, how could his history of humankind be studied from a new perspective? 

Below in Table III is a list of questions that have not been answered in universities. They would seem too daunting and difficult to think about there, but risk-taking professors might be willing to explore them freshly, perhaps innovatively. Faculties would then become a model for students. They would offer students an opportunity to explore such questions and think in new ways about this long narrative.

Table III: Unanswered Questions

Philosophy. Does this Big History have its foundation in matter and energy? Or, does it have its foundation in life and consciousness?[108]

Could there be a new outlook that brings such competing philosophies together? Does the whole universe have its foundation in light? [109]  

Is this history an objective record of events? Or does it show subjectivity right from the start?[110]  

Is this history explained by principles of causality alone, i.e., by cause and effect? Or, does it also involve principles of purpose, i.e., means and ends?[111]

Linearity: Is this Big History linear (chronological) or does it also reveal cycles? In nature we see weather cycles, geological cycles, and cycles in the electromagnetic spectrum. In human history, we see cycles of poverty and prosperity, expansions and contractions, peace and war, and more.  Can anything new be said about what is held in common? [112]  

Vibrations: Physicists assert that everything is composed of vibrations -- the stars, the earth, organisms, and human bodies. For physicists, vibration is the common denominator in this long history. Could this fact generate a new perspective?

Is there a change in the frequency of those vibrations since the beginning of time, starting with particles developing into atoms and onward? There is certainly a change in frequency when atoms become molecules, and when molecules become cells. Is there a pattern of changing frequencies with the movement into each new level? The questions should be testable in science.

The question continues with the human body: How do frequencies differ in each organ? How are the vibrations of the liver different from those of the heart? [113]  

Art: Do artists have a legitimate place, along with scientists, in depicting this history? Do patterns (like fractals) in chemistry have a connection with the arts? Is a tree a work of art? Is there music in the spheres? Could all sorts of things in this history—such as constellations in the sky, landscapes on earth, and “human eyes”—be works of art? What are the criteria for determining what is fine art?

The Self: Scientists talk about the “self-organization” of atoms, molecules, and cells. Historians talk about the self-organization of civilizations. Psychologists talk about the self-organization of the mind. What is going on here? [114] 

What is “the self?” Is there a connection among these different usages of the concept of self? Could students ask -- from this perspective of history -- Who am I? Who are we?[115]

Synthesis: Synthesis means putting together elements to create something new. Is there is a tendency for all things to synthesize, to unite-divide-and-reunite. Is this how “changing” takes place in the Big History? Is the biology of “genetic recombination” an expression of this process of synthesis? Is synthesis a principle in nature that holds true right from the beginning? [116]  

Do civilizations follow this same rule of nature: unite, divide, and re-combine? Does this happen at the most complex levels of civilization?[117]  

Opposites: Does the long history show binaries (i.e., antinomies or polarities) all the way from the Big Bang to the myths of civilization? For example, are there types of unity/plurality, freedom/order, and attraction/repulsion in each phase of history? Are there degrees of freedom/order in the binding powers of atoms and molecules, just as there are different degrees of freedom/order in the organization of authoritarian states and democracies?[118]

Could the binary (polar) forces of attraction versus repulsion in physics also operate in biological and human history? Do the same forces of attraction/repulsion that are studied in astrophysics reappear in animals and humans? And do they work more complexly at higher levels of social organization? Are the “binaries” of this history the Gordian knot to be resolved in all subjects of the university?[119]

Hierarchies: Do faculties see hierarchy operating from the beginning of time -- from atoms and molecules to the formation of society and civilizations? Does a hierarchy exist as a fact throughout this Big History? Is it built into nature?

How does hierarchy change from atoms to molecules? How does “hierarchy” then continue to change in human history? Is more freedom developing in these different stages of hierarchy – from atoms to molecules to kingdoms and democracies? What are the criteria for defining degrees of freedom that exist in different hierarchies?

Change: What is the main pattern of change? Is this a history of synergistic convergence? Is it a story? Is it a narrative of transformation and transcendence?[120]

Are faculties too departmentalized to explore such questions? Do faculty in each department believe their subject has the whole answer? Does this make them too arrogant and isolated from others to participate in an investigation of the Big History? Do professors need training in cross-disciplinary studies?[121]

This is clear: students need guidance in such a large undertaking. They need adventuresome, risk-taking professors. The battle between religion (creationism) and science (evolution) has been active in the courts for over a century. Students need teachers forging and modeling the way, willing to think freshly about the issues.  Scientists, humanists, artists, and religious scholars need to work together. [122]

Some pioneers have been looking into tough questions like this, under such names as Morton, Wilber, Lazslo, Beck, Morton, Pearce, Harman, Wilczek, Davies, Young, Bloom, Wheeler, Teilhard de Chardin, Lonergan, James, and so many others.

Oliver Morton says that photosynthesis is not just a thing that plants do: “It is a thing that planets do, too.” Look at the concepts. Such integral acts as production and consumption appear throughout history. The sun is producing energy and consuming (itself); plants are consuming sun energy and producing oxygen. These processes (synthesizing, consuming and producing) appear at every level of planet history.[123]  

William James once said that “theological rationalists” are portrayed as “tender-minded” thinkers, with too much optimism for the ordinary person who lives and feels the real world. Scientific empiricists are in turn seen as “tough-minded,” and too empirical in nature to understand the human spirit. James suggests the way out of this impasse is through mediation; a way of thinking that would satisfy the temperaments of both those religious rationalists and fact-loving empiricists.[124]

Hence, this question:

Could an interdepartmental program begin on a liberal arts campus? What would happen if a dean introduced an honors seminar, with professors each lecturing on his or her subject in relation to this Big History, inviting students to discuss it with them? Could students participate in researching questions raised by this history?[125]

Is history what William James calls “a mediating process” that is built into the nature of things—from particles to politics? Has this process shaped history toward self-direction and self-determination?

What do faculties think?

What do students think?

 

 

 

 

 



[1]  For the history up to the 20th century, see http://timelines.ws/20thcent/TWENTIETHCENT.HTML.  For the 21st century, see http://timelines.ws/21stcent/21st.HTML.

[2] One reviewer of these books said that Durant’s work reduced “everything to a soft-minded pulp." Defenders of Durant said critics failed to understand that these works were intended to initiate non-specialist readers to the past, and praised his efforts as a good undertaking. Any failings in his scholarship were to be expected in such a monumental work and they were of minor significance compared to the achievement of the whole. Durant produced a finished manuscript every three to four years for 40 years, from 1935 to 1975.The whole set of volumes can now be downloaded on the Internet. 

 

[3] We can say that apes had a lot going for them. So, why did they not all evolve into humans? Does natural selection not favor changes in animals, unless circumstances force them to occur? Well, according current thinking, the chimps had an easy niche in nature and seem not to have had a need to evolve. Gorillas were large in size and also did not need to evolve further. Gibbons and orangutans swung in trees for so long that their arms became over-specialized for tree swinging and could not adapt well to “life on the ground.” Baboons came out of the trees too early and had not swung long enough to develop an upright posture. But some three to five million years ago some apes emerged from the trees into the African Savannah, and so the question is why? Some say for better food—another conjecture. About this time their molars and jawbones got bigger, suggesting they were eating lots of seeds and grains, which required massive jaws and molars to grind them up. Canine teeth were their defense in a dangerous savannah, but got in the way of chewing. Choosing between greater defensive capabilities and eating, the “nature” of apes decided eating was more important, and the canines were lost.

[4] There were several varieties of Australopithecines. The discovery of the earliest, Australopithecus Afarensis, consisted of forty percent of a whole skeleton. This was an exceptional find, as it is unheard of to come across that much skeleton intact. Donald Johansen, the scientist who made the discovery, was so struck by his find that he gave it the name “Lucy,” after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Australopithecus Afarensis was probably the ancestor of two other branches of Australopithecines. One branch, the larger in size, was vegetarian (herbivores). The other branch ate meat and plants (omnivores). Hunting for meat required more inventiveness than collecting vegetation. So the meat eaters developed more tools and weapons than the vegetarians did.

 

[5] Homo Habilis lived from about 2.4 to 1.4 million years ago. It was the first species of the genus Homo. Habilis diverged from the Australopithecines, with smaller molars and larger brains and, because of its association with stone tools, was nicknamed “handy man” by Louis Leakey. Next came Homo Erectus who, for the first several hundred thousand years after emerging, remained in the African tropics. Eventually, however—that is, by about 500,000 years ago—he/she began to migrate into Asia and parts of Europe. Homo Erectus was the first hominid to stand fully upright, and probably the first to use fire. Erectus fossils were first found at Trinil on the island of Java; other finds were near Peking in China, at Ternifine in Algeria, and at the Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora in eastern Africa; also in northwestern Africa—at Salé, Sidi 'Abd ar-Rahman, and Rabat—all in Morocco. Specimens from Europe were discovered at Bilzingsleben and Mauer (both in Germany), and Petralona (Greece). Other fossils might represent subspecies of the hominid next-in-line, Homo Sapiens, dating from the late Middle or early Late Pleistocene. These are found in Africa at Kabwe (Broken Hill), Elandsfontein (at the Cave of Hearths), Lake Ndutu, Omo, and Bodo; and in Europe at Swanscombe, Steinheim, Biache, Ehringsdorf, La Chaise, and Vértesszollos. It is this line between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens that seems to represent the progression. D. S. Strait, F. E. Grine, & M.A. Moniz,  "A reappraisal of early hominid phylogeny,"  Journal of Human Evolution, 32 (1): 17–82. (1997). Richard Leakey & Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered (Little, Brown & Co. 1992).

[6] David Buller, Adapting Minds, (PMIT Press, 2005.) pp. 467–468.

[7] Cro Magnon is named after findings of Louis Lartet and Henry Christy in March of 1868, in the Cro Magnon cave at Dordogne, France. The remains were those of three adult males, one adult female, and one infant. Cro Magnon probably developed in Asia, migrated to Europe, and coexisted with Neanderthal man for a time (eventually driving the Neanderthals into extinction). They flourished in southern Europe during the last glacial age. In Europe, Cro Magnon existed during the Upper Paleolithic and ended with the Pleistocene, 11,000 years ago. The skull had no brow ridges, was thin, rounded, with a high forehead and a projecting chin. Its brain size was about 1,350 milliliters, not unlike that of people today. Neanderthals and Cro Magnon fed on reindeer, roe deer, and horse. Cro Magnon belonged to a hunting culture, following the movements of animals during the seasons, and sometimes making huts constructed of mammoth bones and lined with limestone slabs. Tooth analysis suggests that they were not as carnivorous as Neanderthals; they probably ate a wide range of products, including plants.

[8] Herodotus lived in the fifth century B.C.E. and is considered the first historian. He was the first to travel with the aim to write about and record events accurately, but admittedly based on accounts that were second and thirdhand a. See New Oxford American Dictionary, "Herodotus" and Egbert Bakker, Irene de Jong, and Hans van Wees Brill's Companion to Herodotus (eds. Leiden, 2002).

 

 

[9] A denotative symbol refers to an object such as a red rose, but the word “rose” develops in time with a connotative meaning—with reference to a sentiment like love or passion. Words differentiate into nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.; and hundreds of words put together ultimately result in languages. Languages grow and split, divide and re-unify.

 

[10] If hominids became Sapiens around 200,000 years ago, we must acknowledge that it took scientists a hundred years to accept this idea. Neanderthals differ very little from modern humans. Hence they became classified as Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis.

 

[11] Researchers date mineral crystals in volcanic ash in layers of river sediments that contain the earliest human bones and conclude that they are much older than a 104,000-year-old volcanic layer, closer in age to a 196,000-year-old layer. The office of Public Relations at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, first released this story and then the journal Nature published the findings in February 17, 2005. Geologist Frank Brown conducted the research, with geologist and geochronologist Ian McDougall of the Australian National University in Canberra, and anthropologist John Fleagle of New York State's Stony Brook University. For conventional findings, see R. G. Klein, “Anatomy, behavior, and modern human origins,” Journal of World Prehistory, 9, 1995) 167–198.  P. Mellars, “The ecological basis of social complexity in the Upper Paleolithic of Southwestern France,” in T. D. Price & J. A. Brown (Eds.), Prehistoric hunter-gatherers: The emergence of cultural complexity. pp. 271–297. (New York: Academic Press, 1985.) 

There is no clear evidence of a culture during the late Middle Paleolithic. “Anatomically modern humans” may have existed for some time without a culture. There is no basis for judging how natural selection could have played a role in this cultural development of Homo Sapiens. R. Singer and J. Wymer, The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River mouth in South Africa. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).

[12] See Peter Watson, A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas That Shaped the Modern Mind - A History (NY: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001) Neanderthals invented an afterlife. Their burial sites contain the remains of food, tools, and other objects that appear “necessary” for life after death.

 

[13] Bohuslav Klima, “The First Ground-Plan of an Upper Paleolithic Loess Settlement in Middle Europe and Its Meaning,” in Robert J. Braidwood and Gordon R. Wiley, eds. Courses toward Urban Life (Chicago: Aldine, 1962), pp. 193–210.  Quoted in Carol Ember and Melvin Ember, Anthropology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 98.

[14] Anthropologists propose that Asian migrants crossed into the Americas 12,000 years ago via the Bering Land Bridge, which existed during the last ice age (about 26,000 to 11,000 years ago). They followed an inland route through Alaska and Canada that had just been freed of its ice cover. The dating of sites in South America supports this point. A more radical alternative would be that migrants from Oceania preceded the Siberians. They may have arrived by sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Roger Owen, “The Americas:  The Case Against an Ice-Age Human Population,”in Smith and Spencer, eds. Origins of Modern Humans, pp. 517–563. There remain questions about the age of settlements in the Brazilian-Amazon region of South America that could be 10,000 years old, i.e., so ancient that it could undercut the theory that the Americas were first populated by the Clovis people. See David Grann, “Does the Amazon Jungle conceal a vanished empire?” February 22, 2009, The Boston Globe, C1, C2.

[15] Sir Arthur Evans and Nicolas Platon point to the Early Neolithic in 6000 B.C.E. in the agrarian cultures of Europe and the Near East, such as Çatal Hüyük that flourished in Anatolia, and rice being cultivated in Thailand. The colonization of the Mesopotamian plains begins in 5000 B.C.E.; agrarian settlements develop in Egypt, and corn is cultivated in Mexico. In 4000 B.C.E., a Neolithic economy is imported into Britain, and early Megalithic monuments appear in Brittany; silk moths are domesticated in China. In 3000 B.C.E., in the Late Neolithic, arable-farming techniques spread to central Africa and the first Egyptian dynasty appears. For more, see Sir Arthur Evans, The Palace of Minos at Knossos, Vols. I-IV, (London: Macmillan & Co., 1921); Nicolas Platon, Crete (Geneva: Nagel Publs., 1966).

[16]  Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p. 132.

[17] A question in biology is:  How do neurobiological processes cause consciousness?  The enormous variety of stimuli that affect people -- as in tasting wine, smelling a rose, or listening to a concert -- trigger sequences of neurobiological processes that cause a “systematically ordered” subjective awareness. For biologists, the processes take place at microlevels of synapses, neurons, neuron columns, and cell assemblies.  According to neurobiologists, these lower-level processes cause conscious life, but they do not know exactly how it happens. David Chalmers, "The Puzzle of Conscious Experience," Scientific American, December, 1995. 80ff.

[18] J.C. Nordby, S.E. Campbell, & M.D. Beecher, “Late song learning in song sparrows,” Animal Behaviour, 2001. 61, 835–846. K. Otter, P.K. McGregor, A.M.R. Terry, F.R.L. Burford, T.M Peake, & T. Dabelsteen, “Do female great tits (Parus major) assess males by eavesdropping? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Series B. Biological Sciences, 1999, 266, 1305–1309.

 

[19] The principle of self-replication can be seen in “nature” in the work of scientists. Thomas E. Portegys, “Catalyzed Molecule Replication in an Artificial Chemistry,” Illinois State University, Campus Box 5150, Normal, Illinois. Portegys describes his research project as “a system of reactions that permit bonded complementary molecular strands to replicate in the presence of a catalyst. The catalyst causes the strands to disengage; each strand subsequently replicates its missing complement by bonding to free atoms, a process reminiscent of DNA replication during cell mitosis.” See T.J. Hutton, 2002. “Evolvable Self-Replicating Molecules in an Artificial Chemistry.” Artificial Life 8(4):341–356. T. E. Portegys (2004). “An Evolvable Artificial Chemistry Featuring Continuous Physics and Discrete Reactions,” Artificial Life 9, Proceedings. S. Rasmussen, S. C. Knudsen, R. Feldberg, and M. Hindsholm. 1990. “The coreworld: Emergence and evolution of cooperative structures in a computational chemistry.” Physica D, 42:111–134.

 

[20] George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society, ed. Charles W. Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934).

[21] Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. 1, Primitive Mythology, and Vol. 2, Oriental Mythology, (NY: Viking, 1962). Emile Durkheim speaks of a “pan-religion” appearing in primitive societies, in which a sacred order is distinguished from the profane. The totem components of the sacred order and the organization of ritual performances were connected to clans as units of kinship. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (London:  Allen and Unwin, 1915).

[22] V. Gordon Childe, Foundations of Social Archaeology: Selected Writings of V. Gordon Childe, edited by Thomas C. Patterson and Charles E. Orser, Jr. (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2005).

[23]Civilization,” Vol. II, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1974, p. 956. V. Gordon Childe, What Happened in History (Penguin, 1942) and Man Makes Himself (Harmondsworth, 1951). Definitions of the term “civilization” vary a great deal, but for most purposes, “civilization” is a form of human culture in which people live in urban centers, have mastered the art of smelting metals, and have developed a method of writing. Most anthropologists agree that civilizations began in cities, which were more populated and more complex than Neolithic villages.

 

[24] Writing systems—of which there are many types appeared independently at different times and places. The systems that developed are called: pictographic, ideographic, logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic. Pictographic writing represents words, ideas, or groups of words by visually portraying associated meanings: for example, a box represents a house, or a stick figure stands for a human being. Ideographic writing represents an idea or concept by graphic symbols that may be pictorial or more abstract (see Wikipedia). Logographic represents whole morphemes or words. Syllabic writing represents syllables with signs. Alphabetic systems represent the individual distinctive sounds, or phonemes, of language. English is an alphabetic writing based upon phonetic signs. Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2000) pp. 13–14. Mark Aronoff & Janie Rees-Miller, The Handbook of Linguistics, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001) pp. 1–18. Lynn V. Foster, & Peter Mathews, Life in the ancient Maya world (Oxford University Press, 2005.)

 

[25] Mayan culture still exists with approximately 6 million speakers of nearly 30 extant Mayan languages. The Classic Period (A.D. 300–900) was a time of Mayan control over many territories, from Honduras and El Salvador through to Guatemala and Belize and north to Yucatán and southern Mexico. R.J.  Sharer, The Ancient Maya. (Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1994.) On city-states, see Mogens Herman Hansen (editor), A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures (The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen, 2000.)

 

[26] The actions happen through attraction and repulsion of bonds between very large molecules, at rates that change under stress. It is important to add that “non-bonding” also exists in nature. When an atom's outer electron shell is completely full, it is stable and will not react with other atoms. All of the so-called Noble Gases—Argon, Helium, Xenon, Krypton, Radon, and Neon—are inert, and will not react with other elements. So single atoms are found in nature.

[27]  For example, Dr Vincent Janik of the Sea Mammal Unit at St Andrews University has said that his staff conducted research on wild dolphins: "We captured wild dolphins using nets when they came near the shore. Then in the shallow water we recorded their whistles before synthesizing them on a computer so that we had a computer voice of a dolphin. Then we played it back to the dolphins, and we found they responded. This showed us that the dolphins know each other's signature whistle instead of just the voice. I think it is a very exciting discovery because it means that these animals have evolved the same abilities as humans. Dolphins 'have their own names.' Dolphins communicate like humans by calling each other by ‘name.’ These mammals are able to recognize other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities, using whistles.”

The findings are in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). V. M. Janik, L. S. Sayigh, and R. S. Wells, “Signature whistle shape conveys identity information to bottlenose dolphins,” Center for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution and Sea Mammal Research Unit, School of Biology, University of St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, United Kingdom, March 27, 2006.

 

[28] Courtney Humphries, “The Deep Symbiosis Between Bacteria and their Human Hosts is Forcing Scientists to ask: Are we Organisms or Living Ecosystems?”  April 14, 2009 SEEDMAGAZINE.COM.

[29] We see what we could call sudden leaps in such innovations, but a question always remains as to the details of how this happens. Has enough research been done to show all the causal relations? Or, is there a force from within things and people that self-generates changes? Biologists speak of cosmic rays affecting the DNA within the body, but there is more to be studied about how changes come from within and are not just  being brought about by the collision, combination, and competition of outside forces.  These independent leaps in the development of calendars, writing, and mathematics appear to be part of the process of “punctuated equilibria” that Stephen Jay Gould describes happening in paleontology, jumps in species found in the fossil record. S. J. Gould, & N. Eldredge, “Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered.” Paleobiology, 3, 1977, 115–151. Also, see S. J. Gould, “Return of the Hopeful Monster,” in The Panda's Thumb (NY: W.W. Norton Co., 1980), pp. 186–193.

[30] Thorkild Jacobsent, Salinity and Irrigation Agriculture in Antiquity (Undena Publications, 1982); Jonathan Leonard, The First Farmers (Time Life Books, 1973.) Glyn Davies, A History of Money from ancient times to the present day, 3rd ed. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002); Ahmad Birashk, A Comparative Calendar of the Iranian, Muslim Lunar, and Christian Eras for Three Thousand Years, (Mazda Publishers, 1993).

[31] Historians have a tendency to emphasize the observable fact more than the imaginable life of people. Mircea Eliade, on the other hand, emphasizes the imaginable life. For example, in a painting within the Teyjat cave in France, he sees three Ice Age skeletons as “skeletons dancing, their fleshless ribs a shimmer of movement.” For him, this image points to the importance of “bone" for primitive people. By means of a shaman’s owning a greater “interior vision,” he finds his bones again and is reborn on the other side. An Eskimo shaman is also described as having a mystical experience in which “he sees his own skeleton before death.” The skeleton is the personification of death, but the bones are the means by which he will be reborn to a higher plane of existence. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1964). For a poetic view, see Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1968). While most anthropologists emphasize the exterior life (i.e., what can be seen from the outside), might there be an “in-between” reporter? Some think so. They describe the development of "rationality" within the primitive mind. Alexander Goldenweiser, for example, takes a “rationalistic position” in his “critique” of totemism and says he makes no attempt to enter into the life-process of the people he studies. He thinks of totemism as a “category” of “similar cultural responses” by “similarly constituted minds to similar conditions.”  This is “rational anthropology,” which continues in the work of Levi-Strauss. Levi-Strauss interpreted kinship life abstractly in a theory of “structuralism.”  See Alexander Goldenweiser, Anthropology (NY:  Crofts, 1937), p. 323; Claude Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (Boston:  Beacon Press, 1969).

[32] For further discussion on this point, see T.J.  Altizer, Mircea Eliade and the Dialectic of the Sacred (Philadelphia: Philadelphia UP, 1963.)  Noted in, Anne Bancroft, Origins of the Sacred (London: Arkana, 1987), p. 20. 

[33] Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (NY: Basic Books, 1973), p. 126.

[34] Circles are found everywhere in physics, chemistry, and biology. Consider the aromatic rings of atoms of benzene. Aromatic rings are composed of atoms arranged in a circle and held together by covalent bonds, which may alternate between single and double bonds. The electrons tend to be evenly spaced within the ring. Electron sharing is often represented with a ring inside the circle of atoms. J. March, Advanced Organic Chemistry, 4th ed. (NY: J. Wiley and Sons, 1991.)

 

[35] In an earlier myth, Epepim had become Orion's belt. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Origin of Table Manners (NY: Harper, 1968).

[36] On these points see: Claude Levi-Strauss, Look, Listen, Read (Basic Books, 1st American edition, 1998). Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (Basic Books, 1974). Also read: Boris Wiseman, Anthropology, and Aesthetics, 2007. Also, Myth and Meaning (NY: Schocken, 1995).

[37] The difference between the Jungian archetypes of the unconscious and Freud's complexes is that the archetypes of the unconscious are symbolic manifestations of the body’s organs and their powers. Archetypes are biologically linked and presumably become transformed into symbolic life. In 1917 Jung described the archetypes, inter alia, as “deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity” which are “grounded in the peculiarities of the living organism itself and … therefore direct expressions of life whose nature cannot be further explained.” Gerald Hüther and Inge Krens, Das Geheimnis der ersten neun Monate. Unsere frühesten Prägungen. (The Mystery of the First Nine Months. Our Earliest Formative Influences.) (See the Kohler reference on this book in footnote 39.)

 

[38] In the adult brain there are about 100 billion neurons, of which about 30 billion are in the cerebral cortex, the most recently evolved outer mantle of the brain. The cortex contains about one million billion synaptic connections. The number of possible neuronal circuits considerably exceeds the number of particles in the known universe. Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi, A Universe of Consciousness, (Basic Books, the Perseus Books Group, 2000).

[39] Kohler finds this book instructive for her study of archetypes. Gerald Hüther, Inge Krens

The Secret of the First Nine Months (Patmos, 2008.)

[40] C. G. Jung, On the Psychology of the Unconscious, CW 7, 109.

[41] Kohler describes this process as “Spirit-in-action,” after Ken Wilber who writes about “where Spirit unfolds itself at every stage of development …an infinite process that is completely present at every finite stage,” but which becomes more available to itself through consciousness. Rainer Maria Kohler writes about scientific findings that underscore the importance of prenatal development on psychological growth in “Archetypes and Complexes in the Womb. http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=870&Itemid=1.

 

[42] Some archetypes that become personalized include the Divine Child, the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Trickster, etc. The content of other archetypes is not as personalized, such as the archetype of Wholeness. The archetypes are outside of conscious awareness. They function autonomously, like forces in nature. They organize human experience without regard to the constructive or destructive consequences to the individual. In Jung’s own words in 1917:

So this idea [of the conservation of energy] has been stamped on the human brain for aeons. That is why it lies ready to hand in the unconscious of every man. Only, certain conditions are needed to cause it to appear. … The greatest and best thoughts of man shape themselves upon these primordial images as upon a blueprint. I have often been asked where the archetypes or primordial images come from. It seems to me that their origin can only be explained by assuming them to be deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity. … The archetype is a kind of readiness to produce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas. Hence it seems as though what is impressed upon the unconscious were exclusively the subjective fantasy-ideas aroused by the physical process. We may therefore assume that the archetypes are recurrent impressions made by subjective reactions. Naturally, this assumption only pushes the problem further back without solving it. There is nothing to prevent us from assuming that certain archetypes exist even in animals, that they are grounded in the peculiarities of the living organism itself and are therefore direct expressions of life whose nature cannot be further explained. Not only are the archetypes, apparently, impressions of ever-repeated typical experiences, but, at the same time, they behave empirically like agents that tend towards the repetition of these same experiences. For when an archetype appears in a dream, in a fantasy, or in life, it always brings with it a certain influence or power by virtue of which it either exercises a numinous or a fascinating effect, or impels to action. C. G. Jung, On the Psychology of the Unconscious, CW 7, 109. Quoted by Rainer Maria Kohler, op. cit.

 

[43] Truth in myth, Campbell says, “goes past thinking.” It is not something that can be tested in the laboratory or rationally conceived. Archetypes carry being “whole” into the world. They open the mystery of what it means to be human and normally carry with them images of something transcendent. Campbell says this is the “harmonization of our lives.” http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC12/Campbell.htm “An Interview with Joseph Campbell” by Tom Collins.

Carl Jung became aware of what Campbell called the "different costumes" and the elementary ideas within them. In Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, he says, "Archetypes, so far as we can observe and explain them at all, manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this is always an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterwards."  In this sense that the archetype organizes images and ideas, it is a universal pattern. Archetypes can occur in dreams in which the instinctual, biological part of the archetype becomes manifest. As Campbell puts it, a "living mythology" will "waken and maintain in the individual an experience of awe, humility, and respect, in recognition of that ultimate mystery, transcending names and forms.” Carl Jung, Archetypes and the Unconscious (Princeton University Press, 1981).

 

[44] Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. 4: Creative Mythology (Penguin 1991), p. 611. Campbell defines this myth telling as "the validation and maintenance of an established order" (p. 621).

 

[45] With earth life starting in the oceans, according to biologists, we see matched in these myths the seas, fountains, ponds, and wells. Many stories connect to subterranean water-passages in connection with an “underground womb.” In African Nigeria, there was Mama Watta, the Mother of Waters, who gave birth to all the world’s waters. Another African deity is Yemaya of the Yoruba tribe. She is the goddess of the living Ocean and considered the Mother of All, the source of all the waters, including the rivers of Western Africa. What is interesting here? While these myths were in the primitive and ancient imagination, scientists study the shells of life and death settled on the ocean floor. They study the accumulations of sediment samples with millions upon millions of years of sea life. Physicists see the beginning of the universe as an explosion of energy and light, while biblical scholars draw the parallel: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” [Genesis. 1:3]). Charles H. Long, Alpha: The Myths of Creation. George Braziller, 1963.

[46] Anthropologists describe how the Great Mother emerged and was revered by the Sumerian Kings. She was believed to be present in the waters under the earth and in the womb. The Great Mother and the sacred bull were among the earliest expressions of farming life.[46] This female (Mother) symbolized the birth of life on the earth, and became “Great Protectress” to vulnerable people. She appears at different times in geographic regions around 7500 to 3500 B.C.E. in countries bordering the Eastern Mediterranean. Social psychologists speak of the Great Mother “replayed” through infant socialization. The infant finds a union between itself and its mother. The mother then replays a “union-separation-and-reunion” with her child. It is a game of hide-and-seek that is played around the world. J. Peskin and V. Ardino “Representing the mental world in children's social behavior: Playing hide-and-seek and keeping a secret.” Social Development 12, 2003, pp. 496–512.

 

[47] She was created subjectively in the mind and then objectively produced as an idol.  As far back as the Paleolithic caves, the most common subject of sculpture was the female. Male figurines were nearly nonexistent.  When males were portrayed, they were masked or modified, but female figurines are found in shrines in every region of the world. See Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, op. cit.  Kenneth Clark, Civilization (NY:  Harper, 1956).

[48] The importance of the female myth can be seen in the links among the following words: Mother, maya, measure, meses, menstrual, and metered. These words stem from the Sanskit root ma (or matr), meaning “production.”  The world is a creation, a production, a mahayama, and thus fundamentally “One.” Ken Wilber, Up From Eden (NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1981), p. 133.

[49] The Great Mother emerged at the “mythic-membership level” of early human settlements. People then lived close to their instincts, but the Great Goddess represented a new stage in the mythic history of religious life. The idea that “all is One” had a more subtle energy than that of the Earth Mother. It required people to differentiate between the biological Mother and a more comprehensive Being with a broader structure of consciousness. Ken Wilber, Up from Eden (Quest Books, republished in 1996).

[50] It is not precisely determined when the first kings emerged, but they probably developed in a context of tribal chieftains. Chieftains made an appearance around the tenth millennium B.C.E. The earliest kings flourished during the time of the hieratic city-states of Egypt and Mesopotamia, thus signaling another change in consciousness. The “kings” were not just a way to rule society; they were human gods with a divine bearing.

 

[51] We need to look back at the “life and death” of stars. In light of our natural history, let us recall that a star is born as a dense cloud of gas in the arms of spiral galaxies. Individual hydrogen atoms then fall with increasing speed and energy toward the center of the cloud under the force of the star's gravity. The increase in energy heats the gas. When this process has continued for millions of years, the temperature reaches about 20 million degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the hydrogen within the star ignites and burns in a continuing series of nuclear reactions. The onset of these reactions marks the birth of a star. When a star begins to exhaust its hydrogen supply, its “life” nears an end. The first sign of a star's death is a swelling and reddening of its outer regions. Such an aging, swollen star is called a red giant. These facts are drawn from Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc.

[52] Psychoneurologist Julian Jaynes thinks that the commands given by the king continued to live beyond his death in the hallucinations of people. Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Princeton University Press,1976, 1990, 2000).

 

[53] How could a king aspire to build an immense empire, accumulating power and wealth along the way, knowing he will be sacrificed in his time? He must look for a way to save himself. And this is apparently what happened.

A king would begin to look for a substitute to be sacrificed in his place. He would find a way for another royal figure to be accepted as a sacred sacrifice and propose that the death of the other would serve the same purpose as his own. James Frazier reports on this fact with the temporary kings of Siam and Cambodia; they were invested with supernatural functions, which in an earlier stage of society were the special attributes of the king. But no one could so well represent the king in his divine character as his son, “who might be supposed to share the divine afflatus of his father.” See Chapter 26 of The Golden Bough, “Sacrifice of the King’s Son.” See the text online:  http://www.bartleby.com/196/63.html.

 

[54] If we look back in natural history and imagine the fires started by the Big Bang, human immolation seems like nothing; indeed, humans might be called an incredible refinement in the fires of consciousness. If we look back at the splitting of continents on earth, the “splitting headache” of a human being is an incredible fine-tuning in this process of destructive creation. Are humans mirroring this creation by their pain and suffering at a higher level? Are humans attempting to reconcile this past through dreams and archetypes?

The relics of natural history are still around, being born and dying. Our Sun will swell to a red giant in 5 billion years and vaporize the Earth, indeed, annihilate all living creatures. When its fuel has been exhausted, it cannot generate sufficient pressure at its center to balance the crushing force of gravity. So our Sun will end its life – and immolate all life on earth.

 

[55] At first, people saw him as a distant god, but gradually he was seen with bodily appetites like other human beings. In Sumer (about 2500 B.C.E.), priests were used as substitutes in life-renewing rites. Before them, the king and his Venus-spouse were strangled, and their remains placed in a burial cave in a mountain, from which they were to be resurrected into heavenly spheres. L. Frobenius, Monumenta Africana, quoted in Ken Wilber, op. cit. p. 171.

[56] We are simplifying these myths for our purposes. There is a great literature that expands on the variety of these stories with details that do not serve our purpose here. One question, though: Are these myths symbols of nature’s physical past?

[57] The Rig Veda in India has many different creation stories. For example, a great god named Tvastr, the "first fashioner," created Earth and Sky, as a dwelling place. He was viewed as a universal impregnator who made other things reproduce.[57]

A Hopi genesis myth tells about successive worlds being created, each destroyed by different catastrophes, and survived by a select few who later migrate to the next world. Hopis speak of "vibratory centers" aligned down the spine, and how people used them to heal by location and function of the chakras. Barbara Sproul, Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World (HarperOne, 1979). Sproul shows how modern ideas--from the Big Bang to the steady state universe--repeat myths formed thousands of years ago, from the inhabitants of Mesopotamia to the South Sea islanders. These myths point to images of a kind of “cosmic copulation.”

 

[58] Campbell argues that the Hero is a new egoic structure of consciousness coming from the “collective unconscious.” Before this time, there were no individual egos depicted in myths.  Joseph Campbell, op. cit.,  Vol. 3.  Occidental Mythology, 1968.  Also quoted in Wilber, ibid., pp. 185–186. Wilber insists that the “Mother” and the “Goddess” are not the same archetypes.

[59]  Campbell, op. cit., p. 609

[60] In effect, we might say, a myth is like a “Theory of Everything,” but it carries a lot of feeling. For Campbell, myth telling is "the validation and maintenance of an established order." ibid. p. 621.

[61] The myth tells its story by layer after layer. The layers, or "slates," aren't identical, even though they repeat key elements in the structure. The myth grows like a spiral, that is, the story unfolds like strata in the earth. The myth changes as it is told, so that this particular growth is continuous; but the structure of the myth doesn't grow, rather it is discontinuous. He sees a “synchronic-diachronic split” in this structure. His example for this “split” is a musical score, consisting of both treble and bass clefs. You can read the music diachronically, left to right, page by page, and you can read it synchronically, looking at the notes in the treble clef and their relation to the bass clef. The connection between the treble and bass clef notes -- the "harmony" produced -- is what Levi-Strauss calls a "bundle of relations."

 

[62] Levi-Strauss compares this aspect of myth (both growing and remaining static) to molecules. Basically, he reduces a myth to its smallest component parts--its "mythemes." (Each mytheme is usually one event or position in the story, the narrative, of the myth). Then he lays these mythemes out so that they can be read both diachronically and synchronically. The story (or narrative) of the myth exists on the diachronic (left-to-right) axis, in non-reversible time; the structure of the myth exists on the synchronic (up-and-down) axis, in reversible time. The significance of the myth is in how it presents structural relations, in the form of binary oppositions. They are universal concerns in all cultures. Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson (New York: Basic Books, 1963.) The Raw and the Cooked. Trans. John and Doreen Weightman (New York: Harper & Row, 1970). Boris Wiseman, Introducing Lévi-Strauss. (Totem Books, 1998.)

 

[63] Such tables are available on the Internet. This table is drawn from Wikipedia.

[64]  There are important points to be made about the differences in writing natural and human history. First, in addition to recording what has happened objectively, one normal goal in human history is to understand empathically what was in the minds of the participants. What did people feel? How can we understand what motivated them? Can we imagine ourselves in their position? 

Second, a new goal that we are proposing is to connect this human condition with natural history. The impulses of the human body come from the molecular, cellular, and organic development of nature. This inheritance is visible at infancy, for example in the “Rooting Reflex” (when an infant's cheek is stroked, it responds by turning its head in the direction of the touch and opening its mouth for feeding); the “Gripping Reflex” (babies will grasp anything that is placed in their palm): the “Toe Curling Reflex” (when the inner sole of a baby’s foot is stroked, the infant responds by curling its toes; when the outer sole of a baby’s foot is stroked, the infant responds by spreading out its toes) and so on. These human instincts have developed from mammalian and hominid history. Other instincts include “the Stepping Reflex” (when an infant is held upright with his or her feet placed on a surface, it will lift its legs as if marching or stepping); the “Sucking Reflex (when something touches the roof of an infant’s mouth, it has a strong sucking reflex which helps to ensure that it can latch onto a bottle or breast. Then there are the Startle/Moro Reflex” and other reflexes, all inherited from the hominids and the mammals.

Third, primitive actions that are located in bodily instincts were re-invented and combined into social life and language. So, how can this be studied in terms of the Big History? The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed talking about the gods. They told tales to educate and entertain, including tales with morals, so that the gods did not seem so far away and unreachable. To hear tales of the gods’ laughter and grief brought relief to humans. The gods faced many of the same problems that human beings did, albeit on a grander scale. Fergus Fleming, & Alan Lothian, The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth. Amsterdam: Duncan Baird Publishers, 1997.  Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt (Thames & Hudson, 2000).

[65] Thomas Cleary, Taoist I Ching Shambhala; 1st edition (June 12, 1986). Isabelle Robinet Taoism: Growth of a Religion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997. In this book you can see eight trigrams that are images of states of change. The view in the teachings of Lao-tse is that every event in the visible world is the effect of an "image," that is, of an idea in the unseen world. Everything that happens on earth is only a reproduction, so to speak, of an event in a world beyond sense perception. It is said that sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition. Two collections belonging to this antiquity are found in the Hsia dynasty and the Shang dynasty. According to tradition, the Hsia dynasty lasted from 2205 to 1766 B.C.E. and the Shang dynasty from1766 to 1150 B.C.E. No one knows the exact origin of this teaching, but Confucius mentions the book in passing.

 

[66] Alan Watts: Tao: The Watercourse Way (Pantheon Books, 1975), xiv. 

 

[67]  For example, the Buddha said, “Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant gods.” Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Marcus Borg and Jack Cornfield, Jesus and Buddha, Parallel Sayings (Ulysses Press, 1999).

 

[68] A researcher might compare Emile Durkheim's concept of the sacred to that of the holy in the work of the German theologian Rudolf Otto, in Otto’s book The Idea of the Holy (1917). The holy, for Otto, derived from a sense of the "numinous": the experience of awe, the transcendent majesty, energy, and mystery of the wholly other. For Otto, the holy was grounded in individual feeling, the apprehension of something outside the individual and infinitely greater. Durkheim, on the other hand, emphasized the collective sense of the sacred in groups. For Durkheim, the concept of the sacred was social in its secular sense. He classified phenomena into the antithetical categories of sacred and profane. Durkheim's sacred therefore could not make any sense without the profane. What mattered was the social act of separation of the two, the sacred from the profane. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (NY: The Free Press, 1965). For Otto, the holy, refers to the ineffable core of religion: the experience of it cannot to be described in terms of other experiences. And notable in this comparison: The German term heilig could be rendered as either holy or sacred. And so in the context of Otto’s work, it is possible to read sacred for holy. The religious experience he discusses is basically the experience of the sacred, but this is different from the objective orientation of Durkheim.  Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (Oxford University Press, 1923). The philosopher Mircea Eliade used the concepts from The Idea of the Holy as the starting point for his own 1957 book, The Sacred and the Profane.

 

[69] Many theologians and philosophers wrestle with this question. The theologian Harvey Cox has sardonically called the capitalist market, , the “God of today.” Harvey Cox, “The Market as God,” The Atlantic online, March, 1999. But also see his more complex arguments: Harvey Cox, The Secular City  (Macmillan, 1965). And read: Charles Taylor, Sacred and Secular (Cambridge University Press, 2004.)

 

 

[70] In this summary of ancient history, I draw information from Max Weber’s study of world religions. This includes the Confucian, Hinduist, Buddhist, Christian, and Islamist religions. I also draw from Talcott Parsons, The Evolution of Societies (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977).

 

[71] The Greek historian Herodotus wondered at the great achievements of the Egyptians: the temples, the palaces, water control and irrigation in the Nile Valley. He noted that these “feats” depended on a vast array of “human services” with a common goal.  People were mobilized massively for public works, going beyond family relationships. Products, such as grain, could be collected in amounts great enough for storage and territorial redistribution, establishing a general means of support and payment for the more complex division of labor, as well as insurance against famine. “[A]nd they worked by a hundred thousand men at a time, for each three months continually.” Herodotus, An Account of Egypt. http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/herodotus_egypt02.htm

 

[72] E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. 1.  (NY:  Dover Publications, 1969 [O.D. 1904]), p. 3.

[73] Daily life took place under the pressure of impulse and the force of dreams, but was lived within what was considered most sacred. The conscious differentiation between what was religious versus what was secular came later in history. In the Middle Ages, for example, the distinction was made between sacred versus secular music.

All words expressing antithesis (such as secular-sacred) have their origins in the interplay between changes in the outer and inner worlds. This is often true in the building of such words. The word “emotion” was first conceived from seeing things outwardly in “motion.” The word “spirit” first appeared associated with “breath” and “wind,” as it soon referred increasingly to the inner life. “Spirit” had a different course in linguistic history from the word “psyche.” These different “histories” are discussed in Joseph Campbell, ed., Spirit and Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954), 4.

[74] E. A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt (Dover Publications, 1988 [O.D. 1900]).

 

[75] Ronald S. Miller, As Above So Below  (Los Angeles: Jeremy Tarcher, 1992), xi.

[76] Hermeticism was a belief stemming from the thought of Egypt’s Hermes. Later philosophies, such as Platonism and Stoicism, Gnostic ideas, and some Aristotelian doctrines developed in relationship to it. Florian Ebeling gives an overview of the writings attributed to Hermes. Florian Ebeling, The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus (Cornell University Press, 2007).

 

[77]  H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon (NY:  Hawthorn, 1962).

[78] In the studies of sociologist Howard Becker, the Code was not fully secular because it did not state “legal principles” so much as specific forms of misconduct that carried explicit penalties.  Becker distinguished between the “sacred,” referring to specific rules, and the “secular,” referring to generic principles. In his view, the sacred represents the more fixed, stable orders of Mesopotamian society, and the secular refers to the more dynamic, changing orders of the society. Howard Becker, Through Values to Social Interpretation (Durham:  Duke University Press, 1950).

[79] If we look back into natural history, we see the same phenomenon of (strong-to-light) bonding. The outer shell of atoms is bound to the nucleus, which is lighter (weaker) than the forces of the nucleus itself.  The bonds that held together city-states in Mesopotamia were less strong than those that held together the Egyptian empire. Equally interesting is that Emile Durkheim wrote about the social solidarity of early human societies in terms of “mechanical” bonds, which gradually developed into freer “organic” bonds.  He observed in primitive society that the bonds uniting people were strong, and local life was typified by repressive sanctions; powerful penalties were given to offenders breaking codes and customs.  The purpose of primitive law was to satisfy the outraged sentiments of local people. But when society became more complex, when its bonds of solidarity rested on a greater differentiation of institutions in society, the legal order changed, and a new motive entered to transform the law.  Organic law is based on restoring the broken community to a state of repair.  Law becomes more “restitutive” than “repressive.”  For Durkheim, the law becomes a major index to signify the change from a tightly woven (strong-bonded) community to a more differentiated (weak-bonded) form of community. These different bonding energies at different stages of society are interesting in light of natural history, beginning with the binding powers of atoms. Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1947).

[80] For a comparative reference on empires, see  S. N. Eisenstadt, The Political Systems of Empires (NY:  The Free Press of Glencoe, 1963).

[81] The relative congruence between these orders would contrast with the separation of modern secular institutions (like business) from religious institutions. Max Weber distinguishes between the early Chinese view of harmony and later Western views. He says, “Confucian rationalism meant rational adjustment to the world,” while Puritan rationalism meant “rational mastery over the world.” Chinese society was more closed, in contrast to Europe, which “experienced” extensive secular development.  But the Protestant Ethic (derived from a sense of the sacred) developed as a hallmark of change.  In Weber’s version of history, it looks as though the sacred is associated, paradoxically, with both fixity and change.  Max Weber, The Religion of China (Glencoe, IL:  The Free Press, 1951), p. 248.

[82] Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston:  The Beacon Press, 1963).

[83] The Hindu myth is a story about self-mastery and self-direction. When Krishna was a boy, he came across the underwater den of the great Serpent king, Kålyia, whose poisonous, fiery breath was spreading about, burning all the trees overhanging the stream. Krishna's confronts the Serpent by recalling his spiritual origins. He was then able to fight the Serpent and overpower it. Krishna does not kill Kålyia but instead sends him out to sea and commands him to reside in the ocean, rather than being cramped in a stream. Mythologists point to how this story speaks of mastering natural (e.g., sexual) energies and converting them into advanced realms of consciousness.  

 

[84] Athens only comprised about 30,000 citizens in the Periclean Age, including women and children, out of a total population of about 150,000.  Non-citizens were slaves and resident aliens, and “barbarians,” all of whom occupied a lower position in this hierarchy.  The government of the polis was relatively free of bureaucracy.

 

[85]  Socrates, who argues against Sophist relativism, holds a similar notion.  He argues that the ultimate form of justice transcended Sophistic relativism, which was based on military power.  It was grounded, rather, in a concept of order based on reason.  Reason (we might say “lighter” bonding, as it were) can be differentiated from the notion of military power, and from the primitive divine rituals.  Socratic thought thus places the tension for “rightness” between the polis and reason. This advances the concept of a society based on a secular (not religious) foundation.

[86] The Greeks explained the origin of the universe, you might say, similar to the way in which scientists describe it today. According to the Olympian myth, in the beginning was Chaos. There was no time, nothing there, except perhaps what physicists call pure energy. But now, staying with the myth, suddenly a god, who had no name, split Chaos into sky and earth. The male sky god Uranus looked down upon the lovely earth goddess, Gaea. Gaea was moved by passion, and impregnated her clefts and valleys with soft rain, producing vegetation and, later, simple animal life. In time, they successively brought forth more sophisticated races of living things until the penultimate race was born, the forerunners of the mortals’ gods, called Titans. Chief among them were the sons of Uranus: Kronos, Epimetheus, Prometheus, and their sister Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and mother of the nine Muses. “Greek mythology," Encyclopedia Americana, 13, 1993.

 

[87] The Pythic myth tells how Apollon, the God of Wisdom, killed the powerful dragon-like monster Python, close to the village of Delphi in Greece. To commemorate this victory, Apollon founded the Pythic Oracle in Delphi, on the slopes of Mount Parnassos. Here men could come to learn the will of the gods and the course of the future. The oracle plays an important role in other Greek myths as well, such as those of Heracles and of King Oedipus. Herodotus describes the role of the Pythic Oracle’s prophecies in The Histories.

 

[88]  The principles of Islam were never fully integrated with the rest of the country. These differed from the beliefs of the greater masses of people living in agrarian and nomadic societies, which were organized around kinship and local deities and identities.  See:  H.A.R. Gibb, Mohammedanism (NY: Galaxy Books, 1962).

[89] The Empire developed a system of elective offices, a senate composed of former magistrates, and a citizen assembly. Both citizens and non-citizens populated Roman society.  About one in ten persons was a citizen. This included people in the ruling class of patricians (aristocrats and later, senatorial nobility), equites  (knights and wealthy businessmen), and plebeians (the lower classes). At first, only those persons living in the city of Rome could be citizens, but the rights and duties of Roman citizenship were gradually extended to people throughout the Empire.  Non-citizens were the peregrines (aliens, including privileged groups of allies called socii, and coloni, or serfs, and slaves.

 

[90]Sociologist Ernst Troelstch argued that the lack of religious integration (unity) marked the difference between the histories of the West and the East.  He contended that the full integration of Christianity into the life of the Roman Empire was impossible. Furthermore, he claimed that religion harbors an “inner difference” that works in opposition to the outer world of government and law. Indeed, it was the lack of complete integration of these worlds that led to the revolutionary changes brought by the Reformation, as well as subsequent developments in Western culture.  Ernst Troelstch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, Vol. 1 (NY: Harper Books 1960), pp. 213–214.

[91] Compared to the sophisticated and elaborate political, military, and legal orders, Roman religion was archaic.  Historians argue that the lack of overall religious unity within the Empire was a cause for its gradual disintegration.  Although there were exotic cults, sects, and small religious movements offering salvation to the individual, religious groups could not provide an overall belief powerful enough to hold Roman citizens together as a religious community.  The cause of the eventual disintegration of the Roman Empire still stirs debate, including discussions about the emerging tensions in Western society between the secular and religious order.  Sir Ernest Barker argued that a major reason for the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in A.D. 313 was just that need for spiritual unity, which the political system could not provide.  Christianity showed the power and the potential to satisfy this need. Ernest Barker, “The Conception of Empire,” in Cyril Bailey (ed.), The Legacy of Rome (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1923).  

[92] How did the Church and religious doctrine exercise its power among these kingdoms?  A great strength of the Church lay in its threat of excommunication.  Excommunicating members meant cutting them off from salvation. Now and then, a noble would be brave enough to risk excommunication, but the Church had another weapon in reserve in the form of the interdict.  An interdict took away the sacraments of the Church, not only from the lord of the land but also from all people on his land. Throughout the condemned land, no one could be married or buried with the Church’s blessing. No children were baptized, and church bells never rang.  The lord himself might not fear the wrath of God, but his people did.  Usually they became so discontented and rebellious that the lord would yield to the authority of the Church. In this way, the clergy of the Middle Ages forced lords to respond to what they believed to be most sacred. Henri Pirenne, A History of Europe (NY:  Doubleday, 1958), 8.

[93] Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin (Athens, Ohio: Ohio Univ. Press, 1985), 15.

[94] Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (Penguin Classics: 1965).

 

[95] It is not that early prophets and religious leaders were unaware of human choice. The Chinese philosopher Laozi (also Lao-Tzu and Lao-Tse) lived in the 6th century B.C.E. and spoke of choice; other great religious leaders—such as the Buddha and Jesus—spoke of choice, but the notion of “free will” was mainly a feature of the individual, not of the community. Early philosophers and prophets did not speak of free choice so much in terms of whole countries. This began with the development of democracy. In the 1500s, some early Protestants made theological arguments against free will, issues that plague Christian denominations today. Herrlee G. Creel, What Is Taoism? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

[96] In the 1800s the notion of a "life force" was thought to be associated with chemical properties of protoplasm, and perhaps with electricity. The discovery—from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s—of all sorts of elaborate chemical processes in living systems, led biologists to view life as defined by its ability to replicate and sustain a fixed structure. Stephen Wolfram, A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, 2002).

 

[97] Mirandola combined the biblical Genesis and Plato’s Timaeus to advance a new narrative. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche ((NY: Viking 2006), p. 3.

[98] James Coleman, “Modernization:  Political Aspects,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, David L. Sills, Ed., Volume 10 (NY:  The Macmillan Co. & The Free Press, 1968). Conflicts are settled by nation states; wars are grounded in political values. The polity and government policy integrates the values of the mosque, church, temple, synagogue, business, and school. The nation-state “charters” the rights of all institutions -- education, law, business, art, science, and religion.  The government then embodies the supreme values of its citizenry.

 

[99] While the nation-state became the ultimate authority, at the same time, a great differentiation of institutions takes place. There is a greater autonomy for institutions -- religious, educational, economic, and cultural. The bonds of local community life become weaker with the rise of cities and a mobile global market. Formal education is secularized; and formal religion becomes a "private matter."

 

[100] The idea of a civil religion began with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who referred to the unity required within a state. The state supplies an authority that is virtually equivalent to what is sacred. In the United States during 1960s and 1970s, sociologist Robert Bellah and theologian Martin Marty studied civil religion as a social phenomenon. Bellah wrote that civil religion is an institutionalized collection of sacred beliefs about the American nation. Marty wrote that Americans approved of "religion in general," without being particularly concerned about the content of their faith. Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in American, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Winter, 1967) 96 (1): 1–21. Martin Marty, Religion and Republic: The American Circumstance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987). It should be noted that earlier states – like the Ancient Egyptian Empire and the Roman Empire – also sought to sanctify their authority under one religion, but this is different from the teaching and practice of religious leaders—such as Lao Tze, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, and others—who called for universal compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, love, and nonviolence for the sake of humanity, not the state.

Durkheim refused to exempt the secular realm of the state from the domain of the sacred. One of his most powerful images, in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life – which appeared only two years before the outbreak of World War I—was that of the flag: "The soldier who falls defending his flag certainly does not believe he has sacrificed himself to a piece of cloth." "A mere scrap of the flag represents the country as much as the flag itself; moreover, it is sacred in the same right and to the same degree" Durkheim, op. cit., p. 229.

 

[101] The question of how people can shape a peaceful and just future rests on whether they can develop communities that link effectively from local to national to global levels. A peaceful path into the future requires, at the very least, a greater understanding of democracy, freedom, and community, insofar as these principles can be expanded and put into practice from local to global levels. (This is one way, currently, in which the “universe” keeps expanding.) The future will require a global democratic system of governance, with innovative links through the Internet and international nongovernmental organizations with civil (self-regulatory) markets. Though this may seem clear in theory, it depends on the power and quality of leadership -- around the world.

 

[102] In some cases, physicists work on closing the gap between “faith and the universe.” John Polkinghorne argues that natural history goes far beyond anything of relevance to biology and survival fitness. The mystery deepens when he recognizes how mathematical beauty has been a guide to successful theory. Polkinghorne was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, has written thirty-one books, including Quarks, Chaos and Christianity (1994), (2nd edition SPCK/Crossroad 2005); Beyond Science: The wider human context (CUP, 1996); Belief in God in an Age of Science (Yale University Press, 1998).

[103] Enormously high forces bind particles like quarks; nuclear exchange forces (as in nuclear fission) bind protons and neutrons within the nucleus of atoms. The outer shell of atoms is fastened to the nucleus by electronic bonding, a dimension less strong (weaker) than the forces of the nucleus. There is here a continuum of decreasing forces of binding. The forces that join molecules within organic macromolecules are less strong in their binding; the forces that hold cells within organisms, he says, continue to lessen down the scale into milder bonding energy. The bonds that connect organic species and populations within ecologies and societies are more ephemeral than physical and biochemical bonds. Ervin Laszlo, Evolution: The Grand Synthesis (New Science Library, 1987), pp. 21–22. Laszlo suggests that third-state systems, farthest from thermodynamic equilibrium, are always on the border of chaos. They can only continue to maintain themselves through replication or reproduction. They are autopoietic, i.e., self-creating. And it is through this special creativity -- whether physical or mental -- that such a system can leap into new (and higher) plateaus of non-equilibrium. Evolution is about creating a higher order out of chaos.

[104] Ervin Laszlo, The Creative Cosmos: A Unified Science of Matter, Life, and Mind (Edinburgh: Floris, 1993). He is looking at patterns of change in what we are calling the big history. Atoms are constructed out of protons and electrons in equal numbers or pairs. They are in hierarchies in which bonding energies are changing. Are those conditions of bonding and hierarchy a condition of nature throughout the big history? In the beginning of natural history, the heavier protons constitute the atom's nucleus, and the lighter electrons move around it. Because there is repulsion between positive protons in the nucleus, those nuclei that contain more than one proton require an additional binding factor in the addition of neutrons, which consist of an electron and proton united together. There must be nearly as many neutrons as protons for the nucleus to be stable, which is a factor in determining the hierarchical sequence of atom construction. Atom construction can be seen in the added electrons that fill up shells or rings. It is like families becoming clans and clans becoming tribes and tribes becoming states.

      The first shell contains two electrons.  When filled, this is followed by another shell of two; then by a shell of six, then by another of six, then by a shell of ten, another ten, and finally, a shell of fourteen. Several particles jointly constitute atomic nuclei; nuclei surrounded by electron shells, form the atoms of the elements. Several atoms then form simple chemical molecules, and more complex polymers are built from simpler molecules. Cells, in turn, are built from various kinds of macromolecules, organisms from cells, and, ultimately, ecologies from populations and groups of individual organisms.

[105] Ervin Laszlo, Evolution (Boston: Shambhala, 1987), p. 25; The Connected Universe (World Scientific, 1995).

[106] Could Laszlo mean that some new unity is required? When primitive families join to become a clan, the new organization is more complex than one family alone would be, but it is also simplified by having one ruler and common norms. When clans join to become a tribe, there is more complexity, but one tribal chief. Likewise, when empires, kingdoms, and states appear, there is greater complexity in them, but these stages are also simplified by having a single ruler, a pharaoh, king, or president. Could this concomitant factor of simplicity be associated with an interminable quest in nature to find unity?

 

[107] There is much to learn from studies in parapsychology, clairvoyance, telepathy, near-death experiences, astral bodies, and the subject of re-incarnation. Raymond Moody, Reunions (NY: Ivy Books, 1993); Rudolf Steiner, Know of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment (NY: The Anthroposophic Press, 1977); Herbert Greenhouse, The Astral Journey (NY: Avon Books, 1974); Rupert Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past (NY: Times Books, 1988); Robert Becker and Gary Selden, The Body Electric (NY: Quill, 1985; Jon Klimo, Channeling (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1998); Stanislav Grof, Beyond the Brain (Albany: State University of New York, 1985).

 

[108]  At some point students should learn that “idealism” asserts that the ultimate nature of reality is based on mind and ideas. And it is claimed that the external or "real world" is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or perception. “Materialism” on the other hand holds that the ultimate reality is found in matter, the physical world. Is this Big History based on Mind or Matter?  Students should read summaries of the differences between G.W.H. Hegel and Karl Marx. Here is an example.

For Hegel, the “end of history” is “expanded consciousness and freedom.” Hegel sees consciousness as evolving from an “unreflected” state in which people have not become conscious of themselves. He calls "subjective freedom" the fullness of consciousness in which the individual is completely conscious of individuality and thus of freedom. This is for Hegel the end of the development, indeed, the ground of all being. He knew nothing about evolution. On the other hand, the end of history for Marx is a society founded on a socialized (material) economy with the highest level of freedom and justice.

Students can also be introduced to styles of history. For example, Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973). On the established premises of science, such as biology and paleontology, students may scan the Natural History Magazine published by the American Museum of Natural History. Then they might look at the journal History and Theory. These are totally different fields of thought and literature.

[109] Faculties should look at the writings of Ken Wilber and read about “spiral dynamics.” Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, Spiral Dynamics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005). These writers assert that there are hidden codes shaping human nature, and magnetic forces that attract and repel people, as well as forge the variations in nature and culture. Was some consciousness latent in what physicists call Singularity? Was what followed the Big Bang – all life, and consciousness, art, and music – nesting in that first Light, waiting to be disclosed? On the notion of light as the foundation of all things, read Frank Wilczek, On the Lightness of Being (NY: Basic Books, 2008). Wilczek is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. A central theme of his book is that the ancient contrast between celestial light and earthy matter has been transcended. Could the objective measurements of light in scientific studies be associated with the experience of light—as awakened insight, say—through human consciousness?

[110] Physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler say that the universe must have properties that allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history. They propose that the emergence of intelligent life from the Big Bang was inevitable, and its eventual fate could be to permeate the entire universe in all respects but one: intelligence. The evolution of intelligent species would enable scientific progress to grow exponentially, eventually to enable control over the universe on the largest possible scale. Other scientists dispute this view. J.D. Barrow and F.J. Tipler The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford Univ. Press, 1986). Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality (NY: Doubleday, 1994).

 

[111]  At some point, faculties should study the arguments on reductionism versus wholism. For example, scientific reductionism holds one view that higher-level processes can be better understood by looking at their constituent lower-level processes. But proponents of wholism say: If we reduce the circulatory system to the dynamics of its parts in chemistry, rather than viewing the system as a biological whole, we cannot see how it flows because the heart pumps its blood.

[112] Human historians have based their interpretation of history on the basis of metaphors—such as pendulums, seasons, and organisms. The pendulum theory is in the work of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, who saw history swinging between different types of truth. The season theory is in the work of Oswald Spengler—The Decline of the West—in which he identifies civilization changing in the manner four seasons. The organism theory is in the work of Herbert Spencer. And there are more.

 

[113] A school of Indian philosophy claims that consciousness is based on pulsation. That is why the sound of AUM is important to Hindus as a sacred vibration. This suggests that there are sciences of sound to be studied in this connection. For example, researchers at the University of Alberta have used a sound-based technology called “Low Intensity Pulsed Ultrasound” (LIPUS) to massage teeth roots and jawbones and cause growth and have grown new teeth, as a result. In June of 2006, the FDA and Health Canada licensed the device for use by dentists.

There are many other resources here. Deforia Lane conducted research on the science of sound healing in her book Music as Medicine. She reports on a study done at California State University in which thirty migraine sufferers were studied for a five-week period. Scientists found that exposure to the vibrations of melody has an effect on the neural structure of the brain. The harmonies of music rewire the brain, creating patterns of neural activity at the confluence of emotion and memory. Also, at Dartmouth College scientists monitored the brains of people listening to classical scales and key progressions in Western music. They examined brain circuits that process the harmonic relationship of musical notes. They propose a human craving for melody that drives people to spend more money every year on music than they do on prescription drugs.  Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times, “Music Changes Links in Brain,” from the Austin American Statesman World & Nation Section, December 13, 2002. Finally, look at the literature in theosophy. Edgar Cayce, for example, is a clairvoyant who describes vibrations active in the organs of the human body. He used his perception to heal patients. Kevin J. Todeschi, Edgar Cayce on Vibrations (Virginia Beach: A.R.E. Press, 2007.)

[114] S.A. Kauffman, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, (Oxford University Press: New York, 1993). The physicist Paul Davies says that the physical world is poised between the two extremes of orderliness and random complexity, neither a crystal nor a random gas. The universe is a complex organization. This organization emerged from primeval chaos in a sequence of self-organizing processes that have become progressively enriched. Paul Davies, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in Evidence of Purpose. Scientists Discover the Creator, ed. John Marks Templeton (New York: Continuum, 1994), p. 45.

Paul Davies writes of “a propensity in nature for matter and energy to undergo spontaneous transitions into new states of higher organizational complexity. The existence of these states is not fully explained or predicted by lower level laws and entities. These new states do not “just happen” to arise for no particular reason. He asks whether we are on the verge of discovering wholly new laws of nature and ways of thinking about nature. Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint. Order and Complexity at the Edge of Chaos (Penguin Books: London, 1989), p. 142.

[115] The concepts of self-organization and self-determination challenge our assumptions about history —as a field of knowledge. Some historians assume that everything is determined by cause and effect, similar to the beliefs of scientists. Is it possible that change originates from the inside, not just from outside forces? Indeed, does this Big History show an increase in the degrees and powers of self-determination over time? The appearance of “social history” in the last hundred years is an example of the changing nature of history as a subject. Social history is often described as a “history from below” because it deals with everyday people. It is also called the “people’s history,” as social historians show how human beings make choices. This brings history into a free-will orientation, rather than a determinism-orientation. History is instead a process of people making choices, not just determined by cause and effect and what is visible. In the last one hundred years, with the development of democracy within nations, could we say now according to the American Constitution: “We the people…”? Is the use of the “we” in the Constitution legitimate in that it includes everyone? Or is it an ideal that is evolving?

 

[116] Consider this synthesis operating in physical history: We saw how hydrogen and oxygen synthesize (unite) to produce water, as a more complex molecule. Then we saw a splitting (dividing) of water later on in leaves, algae, phytoplankton, and other green organisms. The plants then use the sun's energy to break water down again into its components: oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen produced (synthesized) in turn is released into the atmosphere. The hydrogen is used to convert carbon dioxide taken from the air into the carbon-based organic molecules that form the tissues of plants. Is there a constant splitting (dividing) and uniting (combining) of things, moving toward higher levels of complexity with simplicity -- from the micro-level of particles to the macro-level of civilizations? Is this big change based on concepts like synthesis and synergy? Can we say that a process of synthesis began with the formation of particles and continued on into the formation of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms? For example, is metabolism part of the advancing story about how a series of chemical interactions recombine in living organisms? Is this tendency to split, re-unite, and synthesize true for all stages of this history?

 

[117] Let’s take two examples from ancient history to illustrate the “breakdown” and “recombination” in the history of society. This is my summary to illustrate the point from ancient times.

We see the attempt to unify China occurring around 221 B.C.E. By 256 B.C.E, the Ch'in had become the most powerful state in China, and in 246 B.C.E., the kingdom divided, broke apart and fell to a thirteen-year-old boy, Ch'eng. Ch’eng surrounded himself with brilliant Legalist ministers and under their advice, in 232 B.C.E. at the age of twenty-seven, Ch’eng began a vigorous campaign to unify and centralize all the northern kingdoms. And then, we see a division and breakdown in the system, with later attempts to unite.

We see Alexander expanding his Greek empire around 332 and 331 B.C.E. to unite within it the Nile city of Alexandria. He continued his advance to unify a wider empire through Syria, and to access the Euphrates and Tigris in Assyria, where he fought again. In 330 B.C.E. Alexander forced his way into Persia, occupying its capital, Persepolis. In the spring of that same year, he marched north to Ecbatane. Alexander was now as king of Persia. Between 330 and 325 B.C.E., Alexander campaigned across modern Afghanistan and Turkestan and eventually penetrated India. Alexander's empire was now so big that it became a problem. His subjects spoke many different languages and followed so many different customs that it was difficult to unite them together. His empire began to divide and fall apart. Alexander was stricken with a fever in 323 B.C.E., died, and the political unity of Greece was divided.

 

[118]  Physicists discuss “freedom” in their study of matter and energy. Frank Wilczek discovered what he calls Asymptotic Freedom, in which he says that the behavior of forces at short distances is the opposite of their behavior at large distances. At large distances, the strong force is strong and the weak force is weak, but at short distances the opposite occurs: the weak force grows stronger and the strong force grows weaker. He called it Asymptotic Freedom because this implies that, at high energies, the strongly interacting particles become almost free. Frank Wilczek, On the Lightness of Being (NY: Basic Books, 2008).

 

[119] Is this problem of binaries persistent in each subject of the university? Take: order-freedom; individuality-community; harmony-disharmony. Do political scientists look into history to see how a certain government order optimizes freedom? Do sociologists look into history to discover the degree to which communities optimize individuality? Do musicologists look into history to see how disharmony came to develop with harmony?

Is there a propensity to find some unity within plurality in each subject? Is this propensity true for physicists in their study of stars as well as in the synthesis of atoms? Is the same propensity present in what geologists call the doctrine of uniformity in the ages of the earth; what physiologists call homeostasis in the body; what philosophers call coherence in their logic; what composers call rhythm in their music; what artists call symmetry in their painting; and what poets call rhyme in their verse?

 

[120]  See Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence (Vermont: Rochester Press, 2002.). Ervin Laszlo and Jude Currivan,  CosMos (NY: Hay House, Inc. 2008). Ken Wilber, No Boundary (Boston: Shambala, 1981). Willis Harman with Jane Clark, Eds. New Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1994). Stanislof Grof, The Cosmic Game (NY: State University of New York,1998). Gopi Krishna, Higher Consciousness (D.B. Taraporevala sons, 1974).

[121] This notion of interdisciplinary studies is making headway among universities today. Tanya Ausburg, Becoming Interdisciplinary: An Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. 2nd edition (New York: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 2006). Julie Klein, Thompson. Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1990). Giles Gunn, "Interdisciplinary Studies," in J. Gibaldi, ed. Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures (New York: Modern Language Association, 1992.)

 

[122] The best social thinkers of the nineteenth century—Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—all thought that religion would fade away with the advance of secular explanations, but that did not happen. Major figures in philosophy, anthropology, and psychology postulated that “theological superstitions and sacred practices” would be outgrown. Secularization, they said, would continue, as it linked with rationalization and urbanization, transforming medieval societies into modern industrial nations. See the secular-sacred discussion in Kathleen Davis, Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.). Steve Bruce, God is Dead: Secularization in the West. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) For a different picture, see Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2007).

 

[123] Oliver Morton, Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (NY: Harper (2008.) This same process of transformation keeps going through the evolution of metabolism among animals. Metabolism evolves over time to become involuntary among animals and humans. It is the least amount of energy necessary to maintain the vital activities that include breathing, maintenance of heat, heartbeat and blood circulation, and the activities of the nervous system and internal organs.

[124] William James. Pragmatism. (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991 [1907]). In his own way, Levi-Strauss thought that the purpose of myth was to "mediate" oppositions, thereby resolving basic tensions or contradictions found in human life or culture. Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson. (New York: Basic Books, 1963).

 

 

[125] Some people write about building a new kind of university that emphasizes interdisciplinary studies. James J. Duderstadt A University for the 21st Century (University of Michigan Press, 2000). Severyn Bruyn, A Future for Higher Education in America, www2.bc.edu/~bruyn. In these “seminar-dialogues,” we see the way in which the administration in liberal arts colleges engages professors across the sciences, humanities, and the arts. Presidents and deans should ask faculties: “Are you are curious about the larger story? Are you adventurous? Then, come join us.”