Our Axial Age: Putting our World in Perspective

Our Axial Age: Putting our World in Perspective

by Kent Augustson


Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in History/World, Nonfiction, History

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Book Description

Why was the 20th century the most violent in history?

Why is the 21st century shaping up to be as bad, if not worse?

"Our Axial Age" answers these questions with a unique concept of world history that puts our time in perspective. Written in an engaging tone for general audiences, the thesis is succinctly presented with colorful vignettes, memorable characterizations of time, and 21 accessible charts. The argument is that we are in the midst of a second axial age. The first axial age related to morality, spirituality, and love. This one speaks to power.

Sample Chapter


My Dear Rudyard

“East is East and West is West”

But now the twain are meeting!

Earth and Sky are at their seating;

Time has come to stand the best.

Here’s the tale of what’s been cast,

From world of stone to well-work’d clay.

Know it well you’ll seize today,

Forward needs to know the past.

As each day dawns the one before,

Out of the past subtle patterns emerge,

Suggesting clear the new day’s surge,

Endless realms for us to explore.

But not, kind reader, before the Whole

Secures its goal—the liberated soul.

This work is an interpretation of world history, original in its concepts while drawing upon acknowledged excellent resources. It is all about perspective. Our world today is so fast paced, filled with so many often stressful diversions, that we struggle to make sense of it, to appreciate the whole and gain some peace in perspective. How have we become what we are? Who are all these other people around us in the world? Is there not a simple yet meaningful way to sort it out? Those who ask themselves these questions will find this work of interest.

Our approach is straightforward. First, we acknowledge that nature proceeds in rhythms and cycles, from our solar system to our seasons to the years of our lives. The closer these patterns come to us, the less regular they may seem; but rhythms and cycles are always with us. We cannot be immune to our own cycles because we are a part of nature.

Second, philosophical tradition holds that all sentient life has three principal aspects: knowledge unto intelligence, 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 their civilizations. The interactions of four major civilizations over the past millennium have carved out where we are today, and they will be key in determining our future. These civilizations are Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West. They account for 80 to 85 percent of the world’s population, depending on whether the nations in Africa over 80 percent Christian are included. To know their personal story is to know the world. Think of them as the four great families from the four corners of Eurasia.

Our basic thesis is that after eons, humanity’s progress from knowledge unto intelligence happened almost overnight in historical terms, with the formation of civilizations in the four or five centuries on either side of 3000 BC. Twenty-five hundred years later, in the two or three centuries on both sides of 500 BC, the love/wisdom aspect manifested with the morality that great prophets of the age taught, principally Zoroaster, the Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. The renowned German philosopher-historian Karl Jaspers famously identified this time as the Axial Age. Out of this age emerged, in time, our four civilizations with their great defining religions.

Another twenty-five hundred years since 500 BC, we are in the midst of a second Axial Age that has to do with the will/power aspect that relates globally to governance. The first Axial Age—being centered on personal morality, spirituality and love—spoke to “the Way” of personal betterment and enlightenment in living one’s life. Our Axial Age being about power is fundamentally societal and therefore speaks to institutions. These institutions are best aggregated as governmental, economic, and scientific. Our Axial Age’s essential expression is the historically sudden emergence of republics worldwide over the last two to three hundred years. At the turn of the 19th century, the United States was the only genuine republic in the world; a brief two centuries later 85 percent of the members of the United Nations are republics or at least feel compelled to call themselves republics.

These dates are not precise—they have their span of years—but they are regular as is humanity’s evolvement within them.

Throughout the work we point to other rhythms and cycles, if not on such a grand scale as above. Notably at the end of the first chapter we speak to a “centurial rhythm” evident at least for the last millennium with the preponderance of milestones or transformational events in the second decade of the centuries, especially their last six years. Curious harmonies of history are addressed in the seventh chapter.

There comes to mind a line of Alexis de Tocqueville in the introduction to his seminal work, Democracy in America: “God does not need to speak for Himself in order for us to discover signs of His will; it is enough to examine the normal course of nature and the consistent tendency of events.” As with all matters such as these, there can be no conclusive proof, but our observations certainly can’t hurt this assertion by one of the most perceptive analysts in history of social and political change.

Regardless, there is no doubt that the material here, by its nature, can be dense at times with names and dates, especially in the early chapters. To mitigate this we use straightforward summary charts at the beginning of the second and third chapters with the first mention of each entry in the text in bold. In presenting our nine centuries in the three chapters that follow, we have grouped them into defined triads and been daring enough to offer the one word that best describes each century. Within each engaging, colorful vignettes portray the fascinating people and events that make up our milestones.

The harmonies of history in the seventh chapter are given an interesting dimension by suggesting their consistency with Carl Jung’s “meaningful consequences” in his Theory of Synchronicity. The final chapter honors the two visionaries of our Axial Age to date with a telling of their stories, interprets today’s world in terms of our major civilizations, offers a key approach in this regard, and provides a glimpse of where are headed.

Simply stated, the intent of this work is to offer the educated reader a better appreciation of world history by presenting a defensible and accessible understanding of its whole relevant to the present day in three hundred pages. For those less exposed to world history, these pages will hopefully encourage further readings in interests that arise. Those with a broader background might gain something new to ponder and perhaps be encouraged to enrich their knowledge in certain areas. In the further promotion of our intent, there will follow three works of about the same length; each will turn the vignettes into seventeen or eighteen delightful short stories while reinforcing the main theme. The manuscript of the first of these is largely complete and the work should be out in a matter of months.


Excerpted from "Our Axial Age: Putting our World in Perspective" by Kent Augustson. Copyright © 2016 by Kent Augustson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Kent Augustson

Kent Augustson

Kent Augustson graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and holds a Master's degree in history from UCLA. After a thirty-year career as an executive with the federal government that featured preparing for and participating in presentations before the White House OMB and the Congress, he returns here to his studies. Enmeshed in the workings of the world, he offers his interpretation thereof.

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