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
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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. Cro Magnon lived from 45,000 to 10,000 years ago, in the Upper Paleolithic period of the Pleistocene epoch. 
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.
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.
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. 
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
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.
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. 
Anthropologists report that
human beings lived in the
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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. 
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?
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.
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. 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.” 
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. “Specialists in the
sacred,” shamans are found from the Ice Age forward, and from tribes in
northern Siberia to the aborigines of
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. 
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”  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.
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.
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
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
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?
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.
Ken Wilber distinguishes
between the appearance of the Great Mother and subsequent appearances of the
Great Goddess (c. 3500–2350 B.C.E.) in
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
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. 
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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? 
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.
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.
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. 
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
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.
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
These myths, of course, are
varied, complex, and beyond the scope of this summary, but
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,
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Table II: Ancient History
Early ancient history
753 BCE: Founding of Rome (traditional date)
728 BCE: Rise of the Median Empire
653 BCE: Rise of the Persian Empire
BCE: Attributed date of the destruction of Nineveh
and subsequent fall of
600 BCE: Pandyan kingdom in
546 BCE: Cyrus the Great overthrows Croesus, King of Lydia.
539 BCE: The Fall of the Babylonian Empire and liberation of the Jews by Cyrus the Great.
529 BCE: Death of Cyrus
BCE: Cambyses II of
512 BCE: Darius I (Darius the Great) of
490 BCE: Greek city-states defeat Persian invasion at Battle of Marathon.
BCE: Invasion of
469 BCE: Birth of Socrates
465 BCE: Murder of Xerxes
BCE: First Peloponnesian War between
BCE: Building of the Parthenon at
424 BCE: Nanda dynasty comes to power.
404 BCE: End of Peloponnesian War between the Greek city-states
Late ancient history
BCE: Death of Alexander the Great at
BCE: Chandragupta Maurya overthrows the Nanda
BCE: Chandragupta Maurya seizes the satrapies
of Paropanisadai (
BCE: Thục Dynasty takes over Việt
BCE: Rise of Parthia (Ashkâniân), the second native
dynasty of ancient
200 BCE: Chera dynasty in
185 BCE: Sunga Empire founded.
BCE: Roman conquest of
Eastern Hemisphere in 100 BCE [[Are
you including Roman History (and ancient
c. 100 BCE: Chola dynasty rises in prominence.
Beginning of the Common Era
CE: Year of the four emperors in
226 CE: Fall of the Parthian Empire and Rise of the Sassanian Empire
World in 300 Common Era
CE: Edict of Milan declares that the
378 CE: Battle of Adrianople; Roman army is defeated by the Germanic tribes.
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:
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.
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.”
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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ancient civilizations were unified in what was deemed sacred.
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.”
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.
At the end of the nineteenth
century, Sir Wallis Budge said that the casual visitor to
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The legal system in
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The known history of
The Vedic religion in
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
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.
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.
Israeli society was
agricultural and patriarchal, based on a system of city-states not too
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
No king in the
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.
The city-state in
The religious ground of
Greek life contrasts sharply with that of other ancient states, like
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.
The legends of
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
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
The Roman Empire went
This new level of secular
law developed early in
The religion of
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. 
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
The collapse of
The breakdown of the
In the midst of the on-going
disorder, another king, Theodoric, descended upon
From the 800s and through
the end of the Middle Ages, the kings of
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
People looked back into the cultures of
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
Could there be a new outlook that brings such competing philosophies together? Does the whole universe have its foundation in light? 
Is this history an objective record of events? Or does it show subjectivity right from the start?
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?
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? 
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? 
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? 
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?
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? 
Do civilizations follow this same rule of nature: unite, divide, and re-combine? Does this happen at the most complex levels of civilization?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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. 
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.
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.
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?
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?
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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
 David Buller, Adapting Minds, (PMIT Press, 2005.) pp. 467–468.
 Cro Magnon is named after
findings of Louis Lartet and Henry Christy in March of 1868, in the Cro Magnon
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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
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
 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.
 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.
 Anthropologists propose that
Asian migrants crossed into the
 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
 Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p. 132.
 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.
 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
principle of self-replication can be seen in “nature” in the work of
scientists. Thomas E. Portegys, “Catalyzed
Molecule Replication in an Artificial Chemistry,”
 George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society, ed. Charles W. Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934).
 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).
 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).
 “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.
 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 (
 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
 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.
 For example,
Dr Vincent Janik of the Sea Mammal Unit at
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.
 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.
 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.
 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. (
 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
 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.
 Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (NY: Basic Books, 1973), p. 126.
 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.)
 In an earlier myth, Epepim had become Orion's belt. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Origin of Table Manners (NY: Harper, 1968).
 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).
 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.)
 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).
 Kohler finds this book instructive for her study of archetypes. Gerald Hüther, Inge Krens
Secret of the First Nine Months (
 C. G. Jung, On the Psychology of the Unconscious, CW 7, 109.
 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.
 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.
 Truth in myth,
Carl Jung became aware of what
Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. 4: Creative Mythology (Penguin 1991), p.
 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
 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. 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
 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).
 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
 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).
 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
 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.
 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).
 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
 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.
 At first, people saw him as
a distant god, but gradually he was seen with bodily appetites like other human
 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?
Rig Veda in
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
 In effect, we might say, a
myth is like a “Theory of Everything,” but it carries a lot of feeling. For
 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."
 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.)
 Such tables are available on the Internet. This table is drawn from Wikipedia.
 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.
Cleary, Taoist I Ching Shambhala; 1st edition
(June 12, 1986). Isabelle Robinet Taoism: Growth of a Religion (Stanford:
 Alan Watts: Tao: The
 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
 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.
 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.)
 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).
 The Greek historian Herodotus
wondered at the great achievements of the Egyptians: the temples, the palaces,
water control and irrigation in the
 E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. 1. (NY: Dover Publications, 1969 [O.D. 1904]), p. 3.
 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.
 E. A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish to God in Ancient
 Ronald S. Miller, As Above So Below (Los Angeles: Jeremy Tarcher, 1992), xi.
was a belief stemming from the thought of
 H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was
 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).
 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
 For a comparative reference on empires, see S. N. Eisenstadt, The Political Systems of Empires (NY: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1963).
 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
 Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1963).
 The Hindu myth is a story
about self-mastery and self-direction. When
 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.
 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.
 The Pythic myth tells how
Apollon, the God of Wisdom, killed the powerful dragon-like monster Python, close to the
 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).
 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
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
 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
 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
 Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin (Athens, Ohio: Ohio Univ. Press, 1985), 15.
 Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (Penguin Classics: 1965).
 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).
 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).
 Mirandola combined the biblical Genesis and Plato’s Timaeus to advance a new narrative. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche ((NY: Viking 2006), p. 3.
 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.
 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."
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
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.
 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.
 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
 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.
 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.
 Ervin Laszlo, Evolution (Boston: Shambhala, 1987), p. 25; The Connected Universe (World Scientific, 1995).
 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?
 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).
 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
 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?
 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).
 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.
 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.
are many other resources here.
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.
 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?
 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?
 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
Alexander expanding his Greek empire around 332 and 331
B.C.E. to unite within it the Nile
 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).
 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?
 See Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence (
 This notion of
interdisciplinary studies is making headway among universities today. Tanya Ausburg,
Becoming Interdisciplinary: An
Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. 2nd edition (
 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
 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.
 William James. Pragmatism. (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991 ). 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).
 Some people write about
building a new kind of university that emphasizes interdisciplinary studies.