God does not need to speak for himself in order for us to discover definitive signs of his will; it is enough for to examine the normal course of nature and the consistent tendency of events Alexis de Tocqueville
This innovative interpretation of world history is directly relevant to today. It’s about an appreciation of the whole; the peace of a proper perspective.
Our approach is straightforward. First, we acknowledge that nature proceeds in rhythms and cycles, from our solar system to our seasons to the phases of our lives. We are a part of nature and cannot be immune to cycles. The outline of patterns and cycles run throughout this work.
Second, philosophical tradition holds that all sentient life has three principal aspects: knowledge unto intelligence, morality/love unto wisdom, and will unto power. The rise to prominence of humanity is the story of our superior progression with these qualities.
Third, historians have long recognized that the only way to think about the people of the world as a whole is in terms of civilizations. It has been the interactions of our four major civilizations—Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West—over the past millennium that have carved out where we are today. Accounting for up to 85 percent of the world’s population, to know their story is to know well the world.
After eons of development, humanity’s progress from knowledge unto intelligence happened almost overnight in historical terms with the formation of civilizations beginning in the three or four centuries on either side of 3000 BC. Twenty-five hundred years later, in the two or three centuries on each side of 500 BC, the love/wisdom aspect manifested with the morality and spirituality taught by the great prophets of the age, principally Zoroaster, the Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. Each separately in their far flung corners of Eurasia preached a version of the Golden Rule and a concept of the “Way.” This was Karl Jaspers’ first Axial Age. Out of this age emerged, in time, our four civilizations with their great defining religions.
Another twenty-five hundred years, we are in the midst of a second Axial Age that has to do with the will/power aspect that relates, in terms of our civilizations, to governance. Accordingly, our Axial Age’s resounding expression has been the historically sudden emergence of republics worldwide over the last two hundred years or so. Although there had been a smattering of republics of various sorts previously, in 1800 the United States was the only genuine republic in the world. Just two centuries later, 85 percent of the members of the United Nations are republics or at least feel compelled to call themselves republics.
Our story traces how all this came to be. Using vignettes it substantively outlines the four civilizations, how one has been the vehicle for the age’s birthing, and the others with their own grandeur are awakening to it consistent with their history. The center of the new Axial Age in our assessment was 1915; since then, world turbulence has reached unprecedented extremes in its accommodation. This turmoil is likely to become more intense in the coming decades before the age delivers its promise. The degree of its intensity is up to us.
It is the penultimate chapter that notes numerous curious harmonies in history. As with Jung’s “meaningful consequences,” they may be also seen as resonant with the de Tocqueville quote above. The last chapter assesses where we are today and offers suggestions including a key one in accord with Immanuel Kant’s essay To Perpetual Peace.