of the most confusing aspects of the rise of modernity is the conflict between
religion and secularism. The picture is slightly more complicated than the
modern secularist is willing to grant. After all, the modern transition begins
with the Protestant Reformation, and as this leads into the Enlightenment we
tend to forget that religion is as much a part of modernity as the world created
by the Scientific Revolution. It is helpful to consider the meaning of the word
'secular', which derives from the Latin, 'saeculum', indicating the idea of an
'age period'. Our modern transition has a full agenda of multiple parallel
innovations, and the effect seems to fulfill the idea of a New Age coming into
being. We notice this odd correlation of religious renewal and the eonic
sequence very clearly in the Axial interval where the two religions of Judaic
monotheism and Buddhism come into existence in its wake. It is worth considering
that the distinction of 'sacred' and 'secular' is highly artificial if we
attempt to view world history comprehensively as a single totality. Athens and
Jerusalem bring into existence the realization of this seeming distinction in
parallel and at the same time! That should caution us to the dangers of too
narrow a view of what we mean by secular, and equally remind us that 'sacred'
history is really a premature effort to grasp the eonic effect itself. As we can
see there is really only one kind of history, but this, as the Axial Age makes
so clear, almost seeks out its own diversity as it moves toward global
integration. In any case, it is important to see that the Judaic and Greek
transitions occur synchronously. Once we see that we then realize that their
structure is almost identical in both cases. Their 'transitional periodization'
and form are isomorphic.
timelines for the two cases. We have distinguished the ‘stream’ and the
‘sequence’, and in each case we see the cultural stream crossing the
temporal boundary of the eonic sequence and producing the mysterious
transformation of the Axial interval. A close look at the Old Testament
shows an embedded account of an eonic transition. Let us look again at our
stream analysis of the Greeks:
An independent stream, e.g. Indo-European Greeks
A mideonic entry into a diffusion field, e.g. Mycenaeans
A transitional time-slice, e.g. the Archaic Greek period
A post-transitional oikoumene
how the Greek transition produces a great literature beginning with the gesture
of putting the Iliad into writing, sometime in the eighth century or
early seventh. This literature is about the second Mycenaean period, which is
not a part of the Axial period. So it is the transitional rendition of ‘stream
entry myths’ that is significant.
substitute the relevant data from the Canaanite area of the emergent
An independent stream, e.g. Semitic Canaanites
A mideonic entry into a diffusion field, e.g. tales of Egypt , a kingdom
in the field of late Mesopotamian mideonic empires
A transitional time-slice, e.g. ‘ Israel ’ and Judah up to the Exile
A post-transitional oikoumene or generator, here spectacular, several
two structures are isomorphic. The transition also produces an epic literature,
with a slight twist: it is delayed in its codification, and the Old Testament
records a transition! We have already considered the idea of a ‘divide’, the
point just at the end of the transition. Check this out in the case of Old
Testament. The question is unfortunately complicated by the sudden disappearance
of a geographical entity during the Exile, which occurs just at this point!
As the authors of The Bible Unearthed note,
a few extraordinary decades of spiritual ferment and political agitation toward
the end of the seventh century BCE, an unlikely coalition of Judahite court
officials, scribes, priests, peasants, and prophets came together to create a
new movement. At its core was a sacred scripture of unparalleled literary and
spiritual genius. It was an epic saga woven together from an astonishingly rich
collection of historical writings, memories, legends, folk tales, anecdotes,
royal propaganda prophecy, and ancient poetry.srael Finkelstein and Neil
Silberman, The Bible Unearthed, (New York: The Free Press, 2001).
A secularist would seem to have a problem here: the
redactors of the Old Testament were beginning to realize something strange was
afoot, and detected in one isolated area of the Middle East the phenomenon of
the Axial Age. A subtle confusion is arising: the ‘eonic emergent’ that we
call Judaic ‘monotheism’ is self-referentially applied to its own transition
region. In fact, the secularist
student of the eonic effect holds the key to a new a better interpretation of
this transition as ‘eonic evolution’!
Let us consider now the critical point near the divide, ca.
-600, in Greece. We see the figure of Solon, and the first seeds of the
emergence of democracy. We will explore this point further at a later point. But
let us note that this idea of a ‘divide’ suggests to us the point at which
‘system action’ yields to ‘free action’. We can see the way Jews and
Christians were struggling to grasp this distinction with their myths of an Age
of Revelation. The problem is that any such myth will really work as well with
the entire spectrum of Axial exemplars from Rome to China!
Now we will consider the modern transition. Once again
substitute the relevant data.
An independent stream, e.g. Western Eurasian sector
A mideonic entry into a diffusion field, Greek/Roman…
A transitional time-slice, e.g. ‘rise of the modern’
A post-transitional oikoumene: still underway
The interesting thing about the rise of the modern is the
way in which the Judaic and Greek transitions seem to be overlaid: we see the a
sudden transformation of religion, but then something like the Greek
Enlightenment. Clearly our eonic sequence operates in a fashion that transcends
our categories of sacred/secular. We may justly claim ‘eonic status’ for
‘secularism, but this has no simple definition. In our conclusion we will see
how, buried in the Enlightenment, a resolution of this issue can be found.