Friday, July 23, 2010

Central Ideas of the Major Epochs

"Every great epoch of human evolution seems to have one absolutely central idea, an idea that totally dominates the entire epoch, and summarizes its entire approach to Spirit and Kosmos, and tells us something altogether profound. And each seems to build upon its predecessor. These ideas are so simple and so central, they can be put in a sentence.
Foraging: Spirit is interwoven with earthbody. Foraging cultures the world over sing this profound truth. The very earth is our blood and bones and marrow, and we are all sons and daughters of that earth--in which, and through which, Spirit flows freely.
Horticulture: But Spirit demands sacrifice. Sacrifice is the great theme running through all horticultural societies, and not just in the concrete form of actual ritual sacrifice, although we certainly see it there as well. But the central and pervading notion is that certain specific human steps must be taken to come into accord with Spirit. Ordinary or typical humanity has to get out of the way, so to speak-- has to be sacrificed--in order for spirit to shine forth more clearly. In other wods, there are steps on the way to a more fully realized Spiritual awareness.
Agrarian: These spiritual steps are in fact arrayed in a Great Chain of Being. The Great Chain is the central, dominant, inescapable theme of every mythic-agrarian society the world over, without exception. And since most of "civilized history" as been agrarian history, Lovejoy was quite right in stating that the Great Chain has been the dominant idea in most of civilized culture.
Modernity: The Great Chain unfolds in evolutionary time. In other words, evolution. The fact that Spirit was usually left out of the equation is simply the disaster of modernity, not the dignity nor the definition of modernity. Evolution is the one great background concept that hangs over every single modern movement; it is the God of modernity. And in fact, this is a tremendously spiritual realization, because, whether or not it consciously identifies itself as spiritual, the fact is that it plugs humans into the Kosmos in an unbroken fashion, and further, points to the inescapable but frightening fact that humans are co-creators of their own evolution, their own history, their own worldspaces, because:
Postmodernity: Nothing is pregiven; the world is not just a perception but also an interpretation. That this leads many postmodernists into fits of aperspectival madness is not our concern. That nothing is pregiven is the great postmodern discovery, and it plugs humans into a plastic Kosmos of their own co-creation, Spirit become self-conscious in the most acute forms, on the way to its own superconscious shock."

From Ken Wilber's A Brief history of Everything (322-23)

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