Category:Civilizational Analysis

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This section covers 'macro history' and the dynamics of civilizational change, and an introduction to who is who in this domain. Reading these books would take a lifetime, if not more. And yet, engaging with these authors is engaging with their own sometimes lifelong attempt to make sense of world history. Reading even one of these books, may in fact change your life. If reading seems irrealistic for the moment, note that I am listing introductory videos as well; they are excellent introductions for beginners on this journey.

My own personal motivation as a p2p/commons theorist is to ground the ebb and flow of commons practices and institutions (e.g. The Pulsation of the Commons) in a broader understanding of human and ecological history.

Inspired by the work of John David Ebert, this new section (August 2021) will be dedicated to large scale and integrative human history, including the history of civilization(s).

For companion sections also our collections on P2P Cycles and on P2P Patterns.

This project will initially follow three different 'reading' and listening/watching threads:

1) a thread on the analysis of civilizations as a such, starting with Oswald Spengler and the authors who reacted to his magnum opus, The Decline of the West. This includes authors such as William Irwin Thompson, Jean Gebser, Joseph Campbell, et al.

2) a thread based on the work of Sohail Inayatullah on macrohistorians, which examines different authors concerned with world history. This starts with the work of Ibn Khaldun, and includes the work of authors such as Pitirim Sorokin, and others.

3) a thread on world systems approaches, pioneered by Immanuel Wallerstein and focusing more on geopolitics. This also includes authors like Peter Turchin and the work around Secular Cycles.

4) the 'cosmic' line, which includes authors that also have some spiritual framework, such as Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin.

We broadly adhere to a 'spiral' understanding of human history, which combines the cyclical trans-valuations of polarities in human development (a history of pulsation between more extractive and more generative periods), along with the accumulation of knowledge and the arrow of time.

Our specific take as being interested in the institutions of the commons throughout world history, is to see how the periodic revivals of mutualization and the commons fits in that larger picture. Here is a first synthesis, this is what we call the "Pulsation of the Commons': [1]

Philosophically, my reading is in the context of an abiding interest in a revival of the Cosmobiological Tradition. See P2P and the Cosmobiological Tradition and Loren Goldner on the Cosmobiological Tradition vs the Enlightenment. You may also want to look at the 'Cosmist' tradition of the 19th cy (Reclus) and the Mesology approach.

Some introductory articles:

  • Evolutionary Cosmology: introduces 3 competing non-mechanistic evolutionary theories. (Robert M. Kleinman. The Four Faces of the Universe: An Integrated View of the Cosmos. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2006)

Please note that the present collection is congruent with my own background and tradition and is therefore heavy on western sources, and also reflects the relatively dominant roles of male thinkers in public life, a rather generic feature until recent times. We welcome non-western authors and female authors provided they are similarly focused on macro-history. Thanks for sending suggestions.


Video Introductions

This is a great 3-hour interview with John David Ebert introducing many of the themes around comparative civilizational inquiry, in conversation with Brandon Van Dyck of The Mill Series:

* John David Ebert on Cultural Immune Systems

We strongly recommend you watch the whole series:

I particularly recommend this episode for the comparative insights:

The specific P2P/Commons oriented view behind this project

This project aims to have a holistic vision of the evolution of humanity and human societies, but also to identity specifically the role of the commons in world history.

The basic idea is this: throughout the past 'pulsations of the commons', i.e. the past iterations of cycles of growth and decline, there has been the continued existence of a Central Civilization, i.e. the core of accumulated knowledge and institutional experience, that has restored civilizational life whenever it went through a down cycle. But this central core was either based on the dominance of a public managerial class (the state), or a private one, both geared towards growth and extraction, with the commons as counter-institution, only nearly wiped out in the capitalist phase of global development. So our proposal is to reform the enduring Magisteria (the managerial set of institutions), by making them Commons-centric. See: Robert Conan Ryan on the Enduring Role of Central Civilization Beyond Systemic Transitions.

Our own recommendations are the following:

1. The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange. by Kojin Karatani. Duke University Press, 2014 (for details, see: Evolution of the Structure of World History Through Modes of Exchange), for a generic summary of how societies have evolved from the point of view of modes of exchange (not production!)

2. Ecological Revolution: The Political Origins of Environmental Degradation and the Environmental Origins of Axial Religions; China, Japan, Europe. by Mark D. Whitaker. This book, one of my all time favourites, shows a pulsation between extractive civilizations and regenerative moments, and their use of the commons to re-establish the commons to rebalance their civilizational models.

3. A proposed synthesis between the overall evolution of society and the specific role of the commons can be found in this draft essay on The Pulsation of the Commons:

  • Placing the Commons in a Temporal Framework: The Commons as a Planetary Regeneration Mechanism. By Michel Bauwens and Jose Ramos. google doc version

4. To understand 'where we are coming from', we recommend the following booklists:

  1. Sources of P2P Theory
  2. What You Should Read To Understand the Commons
  3. The Bauwens Reading Notes Project: I have been taken written booknotes since I started reading more intensively around my own p2p and commons engagement, and intend to digitize these notes. Thus far you will find 150+ booknotes, from the period 2003-2007. The transcripts are ongoing.

An important personal note on the Cosmobiological Tradition


I have undergone multiple influences and taken a few radical shifts in my intellectual life. My own preference goes towards 'integral' approaches, that integrate both 'physicalist' and 'culturalist' interpretations, the latter also including the human search for meaning and its evolution, i.e. the inclusion of spiritual concerns.

Cadell Last has a good plea for why this is necessary and how this integration could occur. I recommend reading his essay: Big Historical Foundations for Deep Future Speculations About Cosmic Evolution


Before the victory of the modernist mindset of separation and atomization, the Renaissance had attempted the construction of a participatory worldview, which Loren Goldner calls the cosmobiological tradition.

Here is how Loren Goldner explains his strategy to recover this tradition [2]:

"Our starting-point must be the direct opposition between the body of doctrine which came to be known as ‘Marxism’, codified in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals, and the ideas of Karl Marx. After separating these two, I want look at the relation between ‘Marxism’ and the body of ideas known as the Enlightenment, chiefly those of the French eighteenth century thinkers. Then I should turn to the earlier tradition sometimes called ‘Hermetic’, which includes magic, astrology and alchemy. I want to show how, when modern rational science defeated this outlook, it also lost something of value: its attitudes to humanity and nature. Following the work of Magee, I would then point out the deep immersion of Hegel in that old mystical tradition, and his direct opposition to the ideas and methods of Enlightenment thinking. Finally, I should return to Marx to see how his demystification of the mystics preserved the core of their profound insights." [3]

- Goldner on the 'forgetting' of the cosmobiological tradition:

“The Foucaultian and Frankfurt School critics of the Enlightenment live off the impoverishment of the left by its extended romance with a one-sided appropriation of the Enlightenment, by the left's century-long confusion of the completion of the bourgeois revolution by state civil servants with socialism, and by the worldwide crackup of that project. The pre-Enlightenment, Renaissance-Reformation cosmobiology which passed through German idealism into Marx's species-being means even less to them than it does to figures such as Habermas. Yet the usual critique of them is undermined by the tacit agreement across the board that "nature is boring", i.e. the realm of mechanism, as Hegel, articulating the ultimate state civil servant view, cut off from practice in nature, said. Both sides of this debate still inhabit the separation of culture and nature, Geist and Natur, which came into existence through the Enlightenment's deflation of cosmobiology. It is the rehabilitation, in suitably contemporary form, of the outlook of Paracelsus and Kepler, not of Voltaire and Newton, which the left requires today for a (necessarily simultaneous) regeneration of nature, culture and society, out of Blake's fallen world of Urizen and what he called "single vision and Newton's sleep". [4]


1. The Spengler thread of civilizational analysis, as suggested by John David Ebert. This thread looks at civilizations and how they evolve (or not, as some authors claim).

  1. It starts with the Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler
  2. Traces the reactions and updates to his work by Arnold Toynbee for the UK, and Carroll Quigley for the U.S.
  3. Follows the work on comparative mythology and the evolution of mythology by Joseph Campbell
  4. The work of Jean Gebser on the five mutations of consciousness, as explained in the Ever-Present Origin
  5. The work of William Irwin Thompson which draws on Gebser and Campbell

2. The thread inspired by the book edited by Sohail Inayatullah and John Galtung, on Macrohistory and Macrohistorians, which introduce authors that look at world history from an integrated perspective. This list does not exhaust the list of macrohistorians, so also see the section in the back on 'other important authors'.

3. The thread inspired by the more 'cosmic', with authors that specifically integrate spiritual understandings of human evolution, and may be affiliated with a religious tradition.

4. The thread inspired by World Systems Analysis as pioneered by Immanuel Wallerstein and others, which focuses on structural evolutions, class realities and geopolitical dominations and competition. This list may also include the specific physicalist interpretations of cosmic history, focusing on quantum, physical-chemical, biological aspects, which precede human evolution proper.

5. This section complements section 3, and focuses on 'integrative'approaches', i.e. subjective-objective approaches and which aim to be holistic. These authors look systematically at both materialist and immaterial foundations of human history.

We can broadly distinguish:

  1. A progressive line, with people like Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Raimon Panikkar, Thomas Berry, perhaps Arthur Young, who are placed in our cosmic thread.
  2. A 'conservative', anti-modernist line, with authors like Rene Guenon, Julius Evola, Alexander Dugin. We are placing these in a special section on 'understanding the dark side', since these authors reject modernit altogether.
  3. More mixed approaches such as the integral theory as proposed by Ken Wilber, which has progressive as well as more conservative interpretations.

This section focuses on authors that make a claim to be integrative.

For a good overview, see:

  • The rise of Neo-Integrative Worldviews. Towards a rational spirituality for the coming planetary civilization? By Roland Benedikter and Markus Molz. [5]

6. This thread focuses on the peculiar interests of this wiki, i.e. the role of the commons in human history.

7. The 'Dark Side' thread focuses on authors like Rene Girard, and Georges Bataille, and includes the traditionalist authors, as they have a radically negative interpretation of modernity.

8. This section is a rest category, i.e. 'Other Important Authors'.

Key Quotes

“Human fulfillment entails the willing embrace and development of our relationship to the eternal and imperishable ground of existence.” Anything less than this willingness to participate in the transcendent mystery of the cosmos will be ultimately unsatisfying for human beings" .

- Michael Colebrook [6]


"“To center, to decenter, to supercenter.”

- "To focus" on oneself, in order to exist in the world as an individual, and not to disperse in it like a vapor of water.

- “To decenter”, to become oneself thanks to the love of the other, given and received.

- “To focus” on something greater than oneself, to accomplish Humanity in us. ... “man surpasses man”.

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


"The rise of large-scale complex societies can only be understood as a result of selection operating on cultural groups and whole societies. Throughout most of human history the major form this between-societies competition took was warfare."

- Peter Turchin [7]

What a specific p2p/commons approach can bring to the table

"Civilizations break and fail because they require a fuller release of creative interchange between all participants than any civilization has yet provided. To achieve this fuller release, religion, education, social constitution and government must all be shaped to serve this kind of interchange and equip people to live in its power and keeping.

“Civilizations might be viewed as surges of history that rise toward this level of abundant living, but always fall back because social institutions are not appropriately modified at that time of crisis when accumulated resources – material, social and spiritual, open the way to it. Yet it is just at the same time when the surge of history breaks and fails that most wisdom is attained concerning the conduct of life. Failure is always the supreme teacher, if accompanied by faith and courage. In China, India, Egypt, Israel and the Roman Empire, a more noble and penetrating religious faith arose when the surge of history began to break. Also, the arts and principles of government were then matured, and moral principles were more clearly discerned, more profoundly interpreted. Thus, as civilizations rise and fall like waves, so to speak – each failing to reach the greater good that might be – they leave a deposit of wisdom that increases. In time this growing wisdom and truer religious faith might enable a surge of history to pass over and beyond the obstacle we have noted. Our own time offers just such an opportunity. But the opportunity will pass us by if we do not have a better interpretation of justice and freedom than is now prevalent.”

- Henry Nelson Wieman, The Directive in History*, pp. 107-108, 1949

Paul Kingsnorth on the Task Ahead

Specially addressed to inhabitants of the 'WEIRD' countries:

"What, then, is the real significance of the orgy of cultural self-immolation sweeping through the nations of the West? Is it the clearing of the ground for a new way of seeing, a new ideology, a new culture? Maybe. But there is another possibility: that the culture war marks not the birth of a new value system but a last desperate gasp of the old one. It could be that the incoherent semi-ideology of ‘social justice’ will turn out not to be a successor culture at all, but the instrument of our final dismemberment: the flickering of the last thin flames of the Faustian fire. This new ‘religion’, after all, is almost exclusively confined to Western elites: to the upper middle classes, the intellectuals, the wealthy and the comfortable. To the very people, in other words, who have benefited generationally from the Faustian impulse to conquer, remake and extract wealth from the wider world. Perhaps the drastic loss of cultural self-belief that the ‘woke’ moment represents is an ironic and fitting end for a culture whose pride drove it to conquer the world. ‘Sick with self-disgust’, as Jeffers put it, the West is turning on itself. After all, as Faust learned, if you make a deal with the devil, he’s going to turn up and collect on it in the end. Whether or not that is true, the useful work now seems to me to be that outlined by Campbell: to conquer death by birth. As Simone Weil explained in the book I wrote about last time, the correct response to a rootless, lost or broken society is ‘the growing of roots’ - the name she gave to the final section of her work. Pull up the exhausted old plants if you need to - carefully, now - but if you don’t have some new seed to grow in the bare soil, if you don’t tend it and weed it with love, if you don’t fertilise it and water it and help it grow: well, then your ground will not produce anything good for you. It will choke up with a chaos of thistles and weeds. This, in practical terms is, the slow, necessary, sometimes boring work to which I suspect people in our place and time are being called: to build new things, out on the margins. Not to exhaust our souls engaging in a daily war for or against a civilisation that is already gone, but to prepare the seedbed for what might, one day long after us, become the basis of a new culture. To go looking for truth. To light particular little fires - fires fuelled by the eternal things, the great and unchanging truths - and tend their sparks as best we can. To prepare the ground with love for a resurrection of the small, the real and the true. But first, we are going to have to be crucified."

- Paul Kingsnorth [8]

On the Failure to Understand Cultural Evolution as part of Cosmic Evolution

"The failure to understand culture, and in particular the relationship between biology and culture as part of cosmic evolution, may be one of the primary failings of science in the modern world. This is a factor in holding back progress in our understanding of both the nature of humanity and the future of humanity. Therefore, in my approach to the deep future I focus on the emergence of the big historical cultural era."

- Cadell Last [9]

Mircea Eliade: Archaic/traditional vs Modern/Contemporary World Visions

"The chief difference between the man of the archaic and the traditional societies and the man of the modern societies with their strong imprint of Judaeo-Christianity lies in the fact that the former feels himself indissolubly connected with the Cosmos and the cosmic rhythms, whereas the latter insists that he is connected only to History. Of course, for the man of the archaic societies, the Cosmos too has a "history," if only because it is the creation of the gods and is held to have been organized by supernatural beings or mythical heroes. But this "history" of the Cosmos and of human society is a "sacred history," preserved and transmitted through myths. More than that, it is a "history" that can be repeated indefinitely, in the sense that the myths serve as models for ceremonies that periodically reactualize the tremendous events that occured at the beginning of time. The myths preserve and transmit the paradigms, the exemplary models, for all the responsible activities in which men engage. In the course of the book I have used the terms 'exemplary models,' 'paradigms,' and 'archtypes' in order to emphasize a particular fact- namely, that for the man of the traditional and archaic societies, the models for his institutions and the norms of his various categories of behavior are believed to have been 'revealed' at the beginning of time, that, consequently, they are regarded as having a superhuman and 'transcendental' origin."

- Mircea Eliade [10]

'Transitions are Catastrophes': William Irwin Thompson on the Chaotic Role of Science on Nature

" "Nature" is neither a place nor a state of being; it is a human abstraction that we set up through cultural activities. We then use this abstraction to justify these very cultural activities as "natural." This process of abstraction is an empty tautology. "Nature," in Buddhist terms, is groundless; therefore, we cannot appeal to "Nature" to condemn activities as unnatural. As Nature changes with Culture, both are individually empty and linked together in "codependent origination," or pratityasamutpadha. Genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, or nuclear power cannot be condemned on the grounds that they are "unnatural"; they can only be rejected on cultural grounds that they are not spiritually wise or aesthetically desirable. The conscious purpose of science is control of Nature; its unconscious effect is disruption and chaos. The emergence of a scientific culture stimulates the destruction of nature, of the biosphere of relationships among plants, animals, and humans that we have called "Nature." The creation of a scientific culture requires the creation of a scientific nature, but since much of science's activities are unconscious, unrecognizedly irrational, and superstitious, the nature that science summons into being is one of abstract system and concrete chaos, e.g. the world of nuclear power and weapons. The more chaos there is, the more science holds on to abstract systems of control, and the more chaos is engendered. There is no way out of this closed loop through simple rationality, or through the governing systems that derive from this rationalization of society."

- William Irwin Thompson [11]

William Irwin Thompson: Transitions are Catastrophes

"The transition from one World to another is a catastrophe, in the sense of the catastrophe theory of René Thom. Indeed, a catastrophe is the making conscious of an Unconscious Polity; it is the feeling in Being of a domain that is unknown to thinking. Catastrophes are often stimulated by the failure to feel the emergence of a domain, and so what cannot be felt in the imagination is experienced as embodied sensation in the catastrophe. When rational knowing and political governance no longer serve to feel the actual life of a World, then consciousness becomes embodied in experience outside the world-picture but still within the invisible meta-domain. The conscious process is reflected in the imagination; the unconscious process is expressed as karma, the generation of actions divorced from thinking and alienated from feeling. Catastrophes are discontinuous transitions in Culture- Nature through which knowing has an opening to Being. This moment of passing-together through a catastrophe, this occasion of com-passionate participation, presents an opportunity for a shift from karmic activity to Enlightenment. Thus the transition from one World-Structure to another is characterized by catastrophes in which the Unconscious Polities become visible. At such times there can be a rapid flip-over or reversal in which the unthinkable becomes possible. No governing elite will allow us to think this transition from one World-Structure to another, but imagination and compassion will allow us to feel what we cannot understand. As "Nature" comes to its end in our scientific culture, the relationship between conscious and unconscious will change and the awareness of immanent mind in bacteria and of autopoesis in devices of Artificial Intelligence will give us a new appreciation of the animism of ancient world-picture. The "Man" of the historical set of Culture-Nature will come to his end in a new irrational world of angels and devils, elementals and cyborgs. In this science fiction landscape, this invisible meta-domain in which we already live, the end of Nature as unconscious karma makes of Enlightenment and Compassion a new political possibility."


Jacob Burckhardt's View Of History And Historiography

"The task of the individual was not therefore to try to second-guess a putative divine plan of history and then work to promote it. It was, first, by internalizing the literature, art, and experience of past humanity, to cultivate his own humanity and thus preserve in himself what had already been achieved; and second, to protect the cultural achievement of humanity as vigorously as possible, whatever the historical circumstances and the apparent "movement of history"—against these, in fact, if necessary—so that what had been achieved would not be squandered or destroyed but would continue to be available to succeeding generations. Each individual had to write his own historical role, in other words, in accordance with his or her moral and cultural values, not to fit a supposedly prescribed role. Similarly, both past and present actions and societies were to be judged in accordance with those same values, not measured and justified according to their contribution to some alleged "progress" of history."

- Jacob Burckhardt (as paraphrased by [12]

Raimon Panikkar on the Relation between Mythos and Logos

“Mythos and logos go together, but their relationship is neither dialectic nor mythic; it is rather a mutually constitutive relationship. If it were logical, the spirit would be drowned in the logos. Were it mythical, the logos would be reduced to the spirit. Put another way, there is no logos without mythos – of which the logos is language – and there is no mythos without logos – of which the myth is the foundation … Only the pratîtyasamutpâda, the radical relativity of all that is, can maintain the harmony without domination between the mythos and the logos” (Intellectual autobiography”).

The reunion between mythos and logos is one that must also take place between subjectivity and objectivity, between the heart and mind, between rational thought and the spirit that flies free. This reunion is necessary so as to avoid falling either into the ancient submission to myth or into the submission of myth to logos, namely, falling into the present day logo-monism: “Reality is not given to us as logos, but rather offers itself to us as mythos, as that horizon against which we place our own idea of the world… Our world is given to us in mythos, and that world, equally ours, is discovered by the logos” (Pensamiento científico y pensamiento cristiano, Madrid 1994). Panikkar describes this double faceted reality as follows:

“Myth is not the object of discourse, but the expression of a kind of sui generis awareness. Myth and knowledge go together... A living myth does not leave room for interpretation, inasmuch as there is no need for an intermediary. The hermeneutic of a myth is in no way myth, but rather its logos … The myth is transparent like light, and the mythic story is only the form, the covering with which the myth finds itself expressed, concealed, illuminated. This does not at all mean we have to disregard, much less belittle, the value of thinking and ignore the realm and inviolable rights of the logos. I simply mean that man cannot be reduced to the logos, nor can awareness be reduced to reflexive consciousness” (Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics).

The theme of myth and its place in relation to religion and human thinking in general has greatly occupied Panikkar and has given rise to the publication of numerous works of his. He himself came to say, “It is necessary to rediscover the place and function of myth in human life and to situate rationality in the total human context.” (Blessed Simplicity).

An open dialogue between myth and logos is the foundation of his dialogical dialogue as the force for opening oneself to the other and respectfully entering into his reality."

- Raimon Panikkar [13]

Civilizations No Longer Exist

"What we are experiencing in the world at large today is not Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” because in the proper sense of the word a “civilization” no longer exists. In planetization, civilizations no longer have an integral territorial boundary or membrane. All human times—tribal, national, and global—have been compressed into a single space by electronic media. This compression can be seen as an intense miniaturization in which, in McLuhan’s terms, “the sloughed-off environment becomes a work of art in the new, larger, and invisible environment.“ Just as the railroads and the Dime Novel created the Wild West, so now global travel and electronic social media are creating a compressed and miniaturized Islamist movement that is not an expression of Islamic Civilization, but rather its collapse. ... Global space negates linear time. A single stream with coherence and direction becomes a strange attractor in which the new technologies of the world wide web, Facebook and Twitter, and the old technology of television erase all boundaries and neither the West, the Middle East, or the FarEast have territorial integrity."

- William Irwin Thompson [14]

Transcending East and West

“The view that East and West are opposites is wrong. It is not permissible to apply opposite-creating rational thought in this context, which can, if we continue to persist in this faulty opposition, even lead to the suicide of our culture or civilization. West and East are complementarities. In comparison with the dual, divisive character of opposition, complementary is polar and unifying.”

- Jean Gebser (in: Asia Smiles Differently) [15]

The Role of Images of the Future and the dynamics of Historical Idealism

"It is above all the spiritual nature of the ideals embodied in the image of the future that infuses the image with power. As between two opposing schools of thought, historical materialism and historical idealism, we favor the latter. The primary forces in history are not propelled by a system of production, nor by industrial or military might, but rather by the underlying ideas, ideals, values, and norms that manage to achieve mass appeal."

- Fred Pollak [16]

Ibn Khaldun on the Asabiyyah Cycle

" ‘Group feeling and courage weaken. Members of the tribe revel in the wellbeing that God has given them... They have disdain also for all the other things that are necessary in connection with group feeling... Their group feeling and courage decrease in the next generations, eventually group feeling is altogether destroyed.’

So wrote the great philosopher Ibn Khaldun, born on this day in 1332 in Tunis, outlining a theory of history that has come to be called the Asabiyyah Cycle. Even if you may not have heard of Abu Zayd ‘Abdu r-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Khaldun Al-Hadrami al-Ishbili — to give him his full name — or read his great work The Muqaddimah, you may well recognise the meme that indirectly comes from his work, via a sci-fi author: ‘Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.’ Indeed the meme is well known enough that you’ve probably seen it used mostly with irony — but then irony is the great symptom of decadence, the final stage of the asabiyyah cycle."

- Ed West [17]

Jon Hollis on the Cycle of Bundling and Unbundling, Centralization vs Decentralization

= "cycles of decentralized cities and centralized states": Graphic (table) at [18]

"There’s only two ways to advance civilization: bundling and unbundling."

- Jim Barksdale [19]

"Once in a while, in the long arc of civilization, a new set of coordination technologies come along and change everything. By allowing small groups of humans to better cooperate in the collective management of resources, these technologies redefine power structures and lay the bedrock of a new civilizational era.

Humans are social creatures—we got to where we are by bootstrapping coordination tools into complex organizational structures. That bootstrapping process follows a repeating pattern of decentralization and centralization over the course of the rise and fall of civilizations:

  • Technologies for coordination and communication rapidly bootstrap themselves into usefulness by civilization
  • These new coordination technologies allow humans to form effective local, decentralized governance structures (eg cities)
  • Ultimately, the federated network of decentralized governance is overpowered by a more efficient centralized structure of sovereignty
  • The centralized sovereign structure eventually collapses under its own weight, restarting the cycle by creating a governance vacuum".

Jon Hollis [20]

Towards a truly open philosophy of history

"He who carries out deconstruction without deconstructing himself and his actions, can be likened to a person who knows the script well and, over the course of the spectacle, obsessively narrates to his neighbor what is happening and how it will end. Sometimes the skeptical and all-knowing expressions of the audience are enough to simply break the spell of theatrical magic. Such annoying companions are capable of nullifying all the drama of the production. Thus, the principle of the “open theater”, in which the content of the drama at its peak breaks away from the rigid frameworks of the script, can be applied to the open history of philosophy based on the anthropological method. If we knowingly rule out that a philosopher whom we are studying might mean something other than what we know of him in identifying his place in the paradigm of the historial, we render ourselves unfit for a real meeting with him. Yet for some reason we dare to describe this weakness of our own spirit as indicating superiority, greater universality of our position, or in accordance with the rules of ethnocentrism and cultural racism. In behaving so, we forbid ourselves from being surprised, and this means we make ourselves completely unfit for philosophy. Conversely, in applying the anthropological principle to philosophy, we immediately find ourselves in a complex, saturated, and unpredictable world where surprise can seize us at every turn. This is the open philosophy of history, which a priori recognizes the anthropological dignity of all thinkers, none of whom are considered below us, our contemporal moment, or our observatory point regardless of whether it is modern and Western or non-modern and non-Western. The most consistent representatives of postmodern philosophy are moving in this direction."

- Alexander Dugin [21]

Ending Civilizations as a Crime: Mark Douglas Whitaker

"The ends of civilizations are crime scenes instead of natural, and like a crime scene you should investigate why it happened to understand and to prepare for the future against similar issues you can learn about. Are there perpetrators that keep killing civilizations, and keep getting away with it? Do they have patterns by which we can recognize their modus operandi? Are there other heroes that keep attempting to save civilizations, and sometimes are successful in rescuing them? Do they have patterns which we can recognize and learn from as well, perhaps even to improve upon their attempt to avoid the suffering outcomes? What can we learn from both?"

- Mark Douglas Whitaker [22]

Directory 1: Approaches to the History of Civilizations and World History

Thread 1: Post-Spenglerian Civilizational Analysis

"We do not have a sufficient range of historical examples for planetization, though meta-historians like Spengler and Toynbee did try to generalize about what happens when tribe is stretched into empire and then empire is stretched into a world." [23]

Oswald Spengler

The Decline of the West

  1. Intro: What I Learned From Reading Spengler
  2. Book: The Decline of the West
  3. Video: John David Ebert on Spengler's The Decline of the West
    1. + One lecture intro on Oswald Spengler and the Cycles of History + 2 hour conversation or Lafayette's Mill Series
  • Challenges to Spengler:
  1. Configurations of Culture Growth. By A.L. Kroeber. ("This book embodies the first systematic empirical examination of the temporal course of cultures throughout history. Its viewpoint differs in essential respects from that of Spengler.")
  2. Martin Heidegger on Oswald Spengler
  3. Piritim Sorokin: Social Philosophies in an Age of Crisis, critiques of world historians including Spengler
  4. Christopher Dawson: Dynamics of World History: includes critiques of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee
  5. H. STUART HUGHES. Oswald Spengler. A CRITICAL ESTIMATE. Scribner's 1952. See: A Critical Estimate of Oswald Spengler.

Man and Technics

  1. Video: John David Ebert on Oswald Spengler's Man and Technics

Why read Spengler

Spengler's book is dense, but also very rewarding; his command of cultural facts is astounding. His originality is to look at civilizations as living organisms, they are born, mature, wither and die. No one civilization is like any other, they have a distinct 'soul', something original they bring to the world; and, according to Spengler, they do not learn from each other, there is no progress or evolution; just different responses to life, rooted in particular landscapes and ecosystems. Once civilizations lose their spiritual roots and become universal and rational, they also die. Spengler invites us to reject the ancient-medieval-modern scheme, and if civilizations can be compared, it is not chronologically, but at the same relative period in their evolution. I.e. the 'winter' time of Europe, needs to be compared to the winter time of China, which occured in different millenia. Spengler's book, The Decline of the West, is considered by many to be the most important book of the 20th century, and sparked a conversation that is continuing to this day. Toynbee, Quigley, Campbell and Gebser, among many others, reacted specifically to Spengler. His thesis is quite deterministic, and sobering for individuals, the best we can do, is to live 'in according to the possibilities of our epoch'.

For more, please read: What I Learned from Reading Spengler

Arnold Toynbee

A Study of History

  1. Intro: Arnold Toynbee on the Rhythms of History
  2. Article: Arnold Toynbee and the Process of Civilizations
  3. Bio: Life of Arnold Toynbee: Arnold J. Toynbee : a life / William H. McNeill. Oxford University Press, 1990,
  4. Books:
    1. A Study of History (10 + 2 vols): Ebert recommends reading the 2-volume abridgment first, then the one-volume summary written by Toynbee himself at the end of his life.
    2. Vol. 11 is an atlas; In the last Vol. 12, “Reconsiderations”, the authors responds to his critics:
    3. A Study of History. Vol. xii. Reconsiderations. By Arnold J. Toynbee. London, New York, Toronto, Oxford University Press for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1961. x+740 pp. Bibliog. Index. 45s.
    4. Civilization on Trial
  5. Videos:
    1. John David Ebert on Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History
    2. Darren Staloff on the World Historical Speculations of Arnold Toynbee
  6. Challenges:
    1. An Interpretation of Universal History. José Ortega y Gasset.
    2. Response to Toynbee by Piritim Sorokin and Pieter Geyl: The Pattern of the Past; key thesis: civilizations are not the proper unit of study
    3. Also by Sorokin: Social Philosophies in an Age of Crisis, critiques of world historians including Toynbee
    4. The Intent of Toynbee's History: A Cooperative Appraisal. Ed. by Edward T. Gargan. Preface by Arnold Toynbee. Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1961. viii+224 pp. . Fulltext available via [25]
    5. In the last volume of The Study of History, i.e. Vol. 12, “Reconsiderations”, the author responds to his critics: (A Study of History. Vol. xii. Reconsiderations. By Arnold J. Toynbee. Oxford University, 1961)
    6. Borkenau has an in-depth critique of both Spengler and Toynbee: [26]

Carroll Quigley

  1. Book: Evolution of Civilizations
  2. Video: John David Ebert on Carroll Quigley's Evolution of Civilizations
  3. Video: Samu Burja on Carroll Quigley's Instruments of Civilization Expansion and How They Enter Into Crisis

Joseph Campbell

  1. Book:
    1. The Monomyth of the Hero's Journey in Joseph Campbell's book: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
    2. Joseph Campbell's Masks of God and the Evolution of World Mythology
    3. Visual / Illustrated: Historical Atlas of World Mythology
    4. Complementary book: Erich von Neumann. The Origins and History of Consciousness.
  2. Video: John David Ebert on Joseph Campbell

Why read Campbell

Although Campbell is most famous for his work on the hero's journey which inspired the Star Wars narrative arc, his most important work is the four volume comparative study of mythology. (Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, Creative Mythology). Mythology is not just something that lies in our past, but also a kind of 'collective intelligence' that structures our unconscious. We cannot understand life and society, if we do not understand its underlying mythological basis.

An excellent companion book, which looks at the evolution of mythological themes to understand the evolution of human consciousness, is Erich von Neumann in 'The Origins and History of Consciousness. Gebser's specification of different modalities of consciousness is also an important comparative source.

Jean Gebser

The Ever-Present Origin

  1. Book: The Ever-Present Origin
  2. Intro: The Evolution of Consciousness According to Jean Gebser
  3. Video: John David Ebert on Jean Gebser's Ever-Present Origin

Franz Borkenau

  1. Book: Borkenau Franz. End and Beginning: On the Generations of Cultures and the Origins of the West. Edited by Lowenthal Richard. (European Perspectives.) New York: Columbia University Press. 1981.
  2. Video:
    1. John David Ebert on Franz Borkenau's Cycle of the Dead
    2. On the Generations of Cultures and the Origins of the West
  3. Challenge: Borkenau has an in-depth critique of both Spengler and Toynbee: [27]

William Irwin Thompson

  1. Book(s):
    1. At the Edge of History: Examines the structure of four stages in Plato, Vico, Blake, Marx, Yeats, Jung, and McLuhan
    2. The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture; reviewed and critiqued the scholarship on the emergence of civilization from the Paleolithic to the historical period.
    3. Coming Into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness; Works and authors analyzed include the Enuma Elish, Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, the Book of Judges, the Rig Veda, Ramayana, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the Tao Te Ching
    4. Self and Society: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness; related Gebser's structures to periods in the development of mathematics (arithmetic, geometric, algebraic, dynamical, chaotic) and in the history of music.
    5. Beyond Religion: The Culture Evolution of the Sense of the Sacred from Shamanism to Post-Religious spirituality
  2. Video: John David Ebert on William Irwin Thompson

Thread 2: Macrohistory and Macrohistorians

Book by Sohail Inayatullah and Johan Galtung.

G.W.F. Hegel

  1. Intro: Hegel’s Spirit is a Ghost That Operates in the Way of the Unconscious By Kojin Karatani.
  2. Book: The Phenomenology of Spirit.
  3. Video: Cadell Last on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit ; John David Ebert on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

Ibn Khaldun

  1. Intro: His key concept: Asabiyyah
  2. Book: The Muqaddimah pdf

Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar

  1. Intro: Shrii Sarkar's Theory of Power ; P.R. Sarkar on Escaping the Degenerative Cycles of History‎ ; Sohail Inayatullah on P.R. Sarkar's Civilizational Project‎
  2. About: (Book) Situating Sarkar. By Sohail Inayatullah. intro chapter
  3. Book: Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (1967) Human Society, Ananda Marga Publications, Anandanagar, P.O. Baglata, Dist. Purulia, West Bengal, India.

Pitirim Sorokin

  1. Intro 1: Sensate, Idealistic and Ideational Cultural-Historical Typology of Pitirim Sorokin ; Sorokin's Three Sociocultural Supersystems
  2. Intro 2: Creative Altruism and the Prospects for a Common Humanity in the Age of Globalization: The fourth volume of Social and Cultural Dynamics proposes an integral sociology based on the Amitological Paradigm and the study of Creative Altruism. This article by Jay Weinstein offers a very good overview.
  3. Books from Sorokin:
    1. Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vols);
    2. Social and Cultural Dynamics: Revised and abridged in one volume by the author. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1957.
    3. The Crisis of Our Age; a populization of 'Dynamics'
    4. Sociocultural Causality, Space, Time: a restatement of Dynamics for a scientific audience, focusing on the methods of his integralist sociology
    5. The Reconstruction of Humanity, 1948, a renewed critique of the Sensate system of values as root cause of the crisis ; The Meaning of Our Crisis, 1951, focuses on the law of polarization in times of crisis
    6. The Pattern of the Past: a response to Toynbee
    7. Social Philosophies of an Age of Crisis: Sorokin presents and evaluates critically the theories of world history propounded by Nikolai Danilevsky, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Walter Schubart, Nikolai Berdyaev, F. S. C. Northrop, Alfred Kroeber, Albert Schweitzer, and other writers."
  4. Books about Sorokin
    1. Sorokin and Civilization : a centennial assessment / edited by Joseph B. Ford, Michel P. Richard, and Palmer C. Talbutt. Taylor and Francis, 1996

Giambattista Vico

  1. Intro: Giambattista Vico's Stages in World History
  2. Video: Darren Staloff on Vico's New Science of History
  3. Book: The New Science.


Among the other macro historians discussed in this book are:

  1. Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, (also called Sima Qian)
  2. St. Augustine,
  3. Adam Smith,
  4. G.W.F. Hegel,
  5. Auguste Comte,
  6. Karl Marx,
  7. Herbert Spencer,
  8. Vilfredo Pareto,
  9. Max Weber,
  10. Rudolf Steiner,
  11. Antonio Gramsci,

Thread 3: The Cosmic Thread

Histories of the cosmos and the web of life, which may include a spiritual bent.

Contextual Citation

"In his book Transcendence and History: The Search for Ultimacy from Ancient Societies to Postmodernity, Glenn Hughes has explored this problem in depth. Following Voegelin’s insights into the human desire for transcendence, he succeeds in demonstrating, through a thorough analysis of myths, poetry, and art from many historical periods and cultures, that there is a basic human relationship to a trans-finite, trans-spatial, and trans-temporal realm of meaning, which cultures express and symbolize in phenotypically different ways. He argues, “Human fulfillment entails the willing embrace and development of our relationship to the eternal and imperishable ground of existence.”[xix] Anything less than this willingness to participate in the transcendent mystery of the cosmos will be ultimately unsatisfying for human beings" .

- Michael Colebrook [28]

Sri Aurobindo

Thomas Berry

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Christopher Dawson

Raimon Panikkar

Eric Voegelin

    • About: Consciousness and Transcendence (on The Theology of Eric Voegelin)
    • Bio: Autobiographical Reflections [29]
    • Intro: The Eric Voegelin Reader: "Drawing from the University of Missouri Press’s thirty-four-volume edition of his collected works, Charles Embry and Glenn Hughes have assembled a selection of Voegelin’s representative writings, satisfying the need for a single volume that can serve as a general introduction to his philosophy."
    • Intro: Eric Voegelin's Philosophy of History
    • Key Book: Modernity without Restraint: 3 books on 'political gnosticism', crucial insights for modern political movements
    • Book: Order and History, Volume I-V. By Eric Voegelin. Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol.14-18, 2001
    • Book: History of Political Ideas, Vol. I-VIII. Eric Voegelin. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. University of Missouri Press, 1997

Arthur Young:

The Sophianic / Sophiological and Cosmobiological Traditions

A tradition that 'sacralizes' the material world.

  • Sergei Bulgakov

From the materialist tradition, a quite similar argument and approach:

Specific Books on the Theme of the Evolution of Consciousness Through Time

List of readings inspired by John David Ebert. Ebert has organized these recommended readings in 2 pairs: Steiner and Aurobindo focus directly on the spiritual aspects; Neumann and Gebser on the psychological; and de Chardin and Arthur Young, on the physical/scientific plane.


[33]: ; strongly recommended book-length attempt at comparison of the evolutionary narratives of Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber.

The authors:

Thread 4: World Systems and Objective Cycles Approaches

Contextual Quote

"The best way to deal with the discussions between civilizationists and world-systems analysts is to aver that the entities we are studying largely are, and ought to be, the same. Our theories ought to be merged. Having attempted to develop such a merger since encountering the civilizationist literature in the 1950s and the international-systems literature in the early 1960s, I can only view the current interaction with great pleasure."

- David Wilkinson [34]


  • The long history of globalization: Long-Term Trends in World Politics. By George Modelski. Journal of World-Systems Research 11(2): 195, August 2015. [35]: This paper applies "the learning algorithm of Lewontin-Campbell: g-c-t-r: generate-cooperate-test-regenerate a sequence of four iterations of that algorithm at the global institutional level"
  • Korotayev A., Malkov A., & Khaltourina D. (2006) Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends.
  • How Old Is the World System ? The World System: Five hundred years or five thousand? Edited by Andre Gander Frank and Barry K. Gills. Routledge, 1993.



Recommended books (selection):

  • Turchin, Peter; Nefedov, Sergei (2009). Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press
  • To Govern the Globe. World Orders and Catastrophic Change. by Alfred W. McCoy. Haymarket Books, 2021 [39] : "In a tempestuous narrative that sweeps across five continents and seven centuries, this book explains how a succession of catastrophes—from the devastating Black Death of 1350 through the coming climate crisis of 2050—has produced a relentless succession of rising empires and fading world orders.

Important Authors and Books (Full List):

  • Joshua Goldstein
    • Book: Goldstein, Joshua (1988), Long Cycles: Prosperity and War in the Modern Age, Yale University Press
  • Emmanuel Todd
    • Lineages of Modernity: A History of Humanity from the Stone Age to Homo Americanus, 2019, Polity Press: this overview of world history is rooted in the psychological and sociological effects of family systems.
  • Peter Turchin
    • Book: Turchin, Peter; Nefedov, Sergei (2009). Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press
    • Book: Turchin, P. (2003) Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press;
  • Immanuel Wallerstein
    • Book: The Modern World-System. By Immanuel Wallerstein. vol. 1: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century; (1974); vol. 2: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, (1980). Academic Press, 1974, 1980.

Ecological World History

The Great Simplification= "that the long trajectory of human societies that solve problems by adding more energy will reverse this century. More energy allows for more complexity, less energy implies a simplification of processes, lifestyles and expectations". (Nate Hagens [40])

""Our findings showed that from about 12,000 BCE, the planet went through a warming trend causing extreme climate changes all across the globe. It disrupted primal societies and their ways of life and successively displaced ancient pastoral and agrarian communities. The warming trend intensified rapidly quickening the rise and fall of ancient civilizations at the core centers. The tumultuous social and ecological ethos of the pre-axial times became conducive for the formation of world-denying motifs that became the bedrock of all post-axial religions and philosophies. This, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Green History of Religion."

This crucial book details the 'Pulsation of the Commons in ancient China, medieval Japan, and Post-Roman Europe.

Ian Morris' Thermodynamic Histories

  • Book: The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations. By Ian Morris. Princeton University Press, 2013. [41]

"Morris’s index breaks social development into four traits—energy capture per capita, organization, information technology, and war-making capacity—and he uses archaeological, historical, and current government data to quantify patterns. Morris reveals that for 90 percent of the time since the last ice age, the world’s most advanced region has been at the western end of Eurasia, but contrary to what many historians once believed, there were roughly 1,200 years—from about 550 to 1750 CE—when an East Asian region was more advanced. Only in the late eighteenth century CE, when northwest Europeans tapped into the energy trapped in fossil fuels, did the West leap ahead."

  • Book: Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve. By Ian Morris. Princeton University Press, 2015


Economic World History

  • Book: The Destiny of Civilization. Michael Hudson. [43]: “There are essentially two types of society: mixed economies with public checks and balances, and oligarchies that dismantle and privatize the state, taking over its monetary and credit system, the land and basic infrastructure to enrich themselves but choking the economy, not helping it grow.”

History of the Commons

  • Commons, Markets and Associations in the European Middle Ages. JEAN-FRANÇOIS DRAPERI. Associations in the Medieval West. From the emergence of the commons to the supremacy of markets. Le fait associatif dans l’Occident médiéval. De l’émergence des communs à la suprématie des marchés. Le Bord de l'Eau, [44]: "Associations dominate the economy of the central Middle Ages: monasteries, parishes, guilds, brotherhoods, communes, found the renaissance of the 12th century. Acting on the medieval associative fact invites us to pose the hypothesis that associations and the social economy are not an invention of contemporary society, but rather a discovery. The social economy was not born in reaction to capitalism, but the capitalist economy was born from the transformation of trade associations and the seizure of power by merchants and bankers over the commons and communes in the 13th and 14th centuries."

Thread 5: Directory of Neo-Integrative Worldviews

Contextual Quotes

Whereas the distinguishing characteristic of the magic structure was the emergent awareness of nature, the essential characteristic of the mythical structure is the emergent awareness of soul. (Gebser, 1949/1985, p. 61)

- Jean Gebser [45]

The original, primal tribes had to find a way to transcend their isolated tribal kinship lineages . . . and mythology, not magic, provided the key for this new transcendence.(Wilber, 2000d, p. 175-176)

- Ken Wilber [46]


On the evolution of consciousness modes:

  • Roland Benedikter and Marcus Molz recognize different 'generations' in integrative thinking [48]:

"We have to consider integrative emancipatory frameworks originating from different cultures, contexts and disciplines. We divide these into three categories:

- first, those stemming from the first half of the twentieth century;

- second, those of the phase of transition between the 1960s and the twenty-first century; and

- third, twenty-first century approaches.

(1) The first half of the twentieth century gave birth to the pioneers of modern integrative worldviews, who laid the foundations for the basic idea of integrative worldviews within (and not against) evolving modernity.

(2) The second half of the twentieth century– and especially the period from the 1960s to the 1990s– can be considered a phase of transition, which brought about symptoms of the renewal of a renovated integrative intuition, manifested inter alia in the trend towards post-materialism in the 1980s and 1990s and in the ambiguous rise of a postmodern spirituality in the 1990s.

(3) Finally, the twenty-first century (presumably starting with the great political and cultural change of 1989/91) seems to be generating a new generation of integrative thought, which is still struggling to rise fully to the challenges of our time at the level of given problems and their comparatively increased complexity. Most representatives of this new generation of integrative thought and action seem to conceive themselves as part of a paradigm shift beyond classical modernity (including its latest stage of ‘postmodernity’), and as closely related with the emerging paradigm stage of a mature modernity."


According to Irene Ateljevic pdf, "different authors use a variety of terms to capture what can essentially be described as the synchronised phenomenon of emerging higher collective consciousness —

  • the transmodernity paradigm (Ghisi);
  • transmodern philosophy of political liberation (Dussel);
  • Hegelian dialectical triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (Magda);
  • the reflective/livingsystems paradigm (Elgin);
  • the partnership model of caring economics (Eisler);
  • the relational global consciousness of biosphere politics (Rifkin);
  • love ethics (hooks);
  • the circularity paradigm of interdependence (Steinem)."

First Generation

  1. Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900),
  2. Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925),
  3. Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950),
  4. Max Scheler (1874–1928),
  5. Jacques Maritain (1882–1973),
  6. Pitirim Sorokin (1889–1968),
  7. Thomé F. Fang(1899–1977),
  8. Jean Gebser (1905–73) and
  9. Herbert Witzenmann (1905–88)

Third Generation

"Current leading thinkers" :

  1. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921–90),
  2. Enrique Dussel (1934–),
  3. Basarab Nicolescu (1942–),
  4. Johannes Heinrichs (1942–),
  5. Roy Bhaskar (1944–) and
  6. Ken Wilber (1949–).

Other representatives of neo-integrative thought from a de facto (much) larger sample include

  1. Fred Dallmayr (1928–),
  2. Paul Ehrlich (1932–),
  3. Kensei Hiwaki (1945–),
  4. Michael Opielka (1956–),
  5. Harald Walach (1957–),
  6. Jaap Sijmons (1959–),
  7. Niko Kohls (1972–) and
  8. Nikolaus von Stillfried (1976–).

Thread 6: The P2P/Commons View

See also our two structured bibliographies:

Books, read and recommended:

  • Beyond Civilization: The World's Four Great Streams of Civilization: Their Achievements, Their Differences and Their Future. Keith Chandler. Rivendell Publishing Company, 1992
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization. The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. by Thomas Cahill. Bantam-Doubleday-Dell, 1995

Thread 7: Understanding the Dark Side

Here we will discuss authors such as Rene Girard and Georges Bataille, and others such as 'Traditionalist' authors, who reject modernity as such.

Thread 8: Other Important Authors

Critical Theory Approaches

Directory 2: Chronological / Temporal Approaches

Note that this periodization is seen as western-centric. See William Irwin Thompson for an alternative periodization:

  1. Ancient (10000 - 1000 BCE): emergence of agriculture, Sumerians, Egyptians, etc
  2. Classical (1000 BCE - 500 CE): Greek city-states, Roman empire, etc
  3. Medieval (500 - 1500 CE): knights, kings, castles, churches, etc
  4. Modern (1500 - 2000 CE): Renaissance, Age of Enlightenment, industrialization, etc

See the graph by Jon Hollis at [55]

Some General Considerations about History

Historical Thread: From Matter to Life to Consciousness


"Major stages in the evolution of the universe are discussed as a background for the study of the nature and distribution of life.

The history of the universe since the time of the Big Bang is divided into six epochs,

  • corresponding to chaos, the hadron epoch, and the lepton epoch, which collectively make up the radiation era,
  • and the atom epoch, the galaxy epoch and the stellar epoch, which make up the matter era.
  • the transformation from the matter era to the life era, signaled by the emergence of technologically intelligent life"
  • Major Transitions in Evolution. by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry. Oxford University Press, 1995: "may be the most important book on evolution since R.A. Fisher's".
    • Recommended alternative read for the broader public, as the above is meant for a scientific public: Maynard Smith, John; Szathmáry, Eörs (2000). The origins of life : from the birth of life to the origin of language (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era – A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos. By Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992 [59]

Before the Hominids

  • Lynn Margulis.

Human Pre-History


"Teilhard links hominization with the emergence of the noosphere—during which time “the earth ‘gets a new skin’” (Teilhard de Chardin, 1959/2002, p. 183). The noosphere then develops through socialization .. and the later, planetization, which he saw as beginning to emerge in his times." [60]

  1. William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being
    1. Hominization ; William Irwin Thompson on Hominization
    2. Symbolization
  2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
    1. Teilhard de Chardin on the Process of Hominization
  3. Collapse of Bronze Age Civilization
  4. Richard Wrangham on How Beta Males Domesticated Homo Sapiens for Civilization


The following two books detail the linkages between the complex system that is nature, in the form of geo-climactic events and changes, to the complex system that is the human mind, as expressed in culture:

Daniel Bitton, in his review of Graeber and Wengrow's The Dawn of Everything, which I do not consider to be a good book, goes into the record of humanity's 'egalitarian past', which anthropology confirms to have been really the case for 'immediate return hunter-gathering societies'. See Daniel Bitton on Immediate Return Hunter-Gathering Societies. In his website [63] he goes in great detail examining the evidence, and recommends two books:

  • Mothers and Others. The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Harvard University Press, 2011

History and Timeline Material

  • In Coming Into Being, William Irwin Thompson distinguishes 'cultural ecologies', i.e. configurations of the natural environment to which human culture responded, and in turn shaped.

The book also discusses three types of artifacts that can help identify these epochs and their transitions:

- formative texts, which announce such a transition, for example the story of Inana and Dumezi 'announcing' a potential patriarchalisation - dominant texts, showing a flowering of a new epoch or cultural ecology, for example the Gilgamesh story - climactic texts, showing the flowering of such a cultural ecology, while also announcing it is ready to be succeeded (Dante's trilogy)

Please note the parallels between material conditions and consciousness structures, and vice versa, i.e. Gebserian Magic Consciousness corresponding to hunting peoples; Mythic Consciousness emerged with farming, but fully consolidating with 'mining peoples'. Jennifer Gidley explains:

"This section deals with the transition from the hunting to the farming peoples. In the following section, when mythical consciousness fully awakens, we are dealing with the mining peoples — the beginning of the bronze and iron ages. Interestingly, Teilhard de Chardin also refers to a similar three phases: a “thin scattering of hunting groups” of the Ancient World; a more dense scattering of “agricultural groups installed in fertile valleys;” and, the “first civilizations” (Teilhard de Chardin, 1959/2004, p. 169-170)." [64]

  1. Sylvan: hominids living in the forest
  2. Savannah
  3. Glacial: retreat and compression into the caves
    1. Dream State of Ancient Humans
    2. Art and Culture in a Glacial-Landscape‎
    3. Post-Glacial Ancient Indian Culture‎]
    4. Second Post-Glacial Cultural Period—The Persian Magi and the Fertile Crescent
  4. Riverine: the birth of civilization in the river delta's where grain and rice could be grown (Agriculturization)
    1. Echoes of Gilgamesh
    2. Axial Age
      1. Axial Age and Its Place in the Evolution of Human Consciousness and Culture
      2. From the Axial Age to the Moral Revolution
  5. Trans-oceanic; emergence of western industrial model (Industrialization)
  6. Planetization: emergence of informational paradigm

"We may identify the separate origins of Sumer, Egypt, and the Indus as at some time in the fourth to the third millennia bc. The world system begins with their later confluence. David Wilkinson (1989) dates the birth of "Central civilization," through the political-conflictual confluence of Mesopotamia and Egypt into one overarching states system, at around 1500 bc. Wilkinson's work is of very great value to the analysis of world system history. Essentially, the confluence of "Mesopotamia" and "Egypt" gave birth to the world system. However, by the criteria of denning systemic relations, spelled out below, the confluence occurs considerably earlier than 1500 bc. By economic criteria of "interpenetrating accumulation," the confluence included the Indus valley and the area of Egypt and the Levant. Thus, the confluence occurred some time in the early or mid-third millennium bc, that is by about 2700-2400 bc."

- Barry K. Gills and Andre Gander Frank [65]

Sedentarisation / Urbanisation

"The construction of [irrigation networks] demanded a degree of social intercourse, cooperation, and long-range planning that the old self-contained village culture, complacently accepting its limitations, did not need or encourage. The very conditions that made large urban settlements a physical possibility also made them a social necessity."

- Lewis Mumford, The City in History [66]

Specialized History

Environmental History

  • Clive Ponting. Green History of the World. Penguin / Random House. 1991 (revised and expanded in 2007). Republished as A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations: "this 464-page book is so essential for understanding our past, present, and likely futures"

Religious History

Transition to Informationalism / Network Society

General Introductions

John Hamer's Introductions

John Hamer is a medievalist and mapmaker which gives excellent introductory lectures in Toronto's Centre Place, which are available in well done recordings:

Here is a comprehensive directory,; selections below:

Directory 3: Topical Approaches

Care and Welfare


  1. Evolution of Consciousness According to Jean Gebser
  2. Evolution of Mathematics in Civilizational History ; How the Evolution of Mathematics Parallels Civilizational History
  3. Evolutionary Cosmology
  4. Fourfold World Hypotheses Model of Stephen Pepper
  5. From the Axial Age to the Moral Revolution
  6. Gebser’s Five Structural Mutations of Consciousness and the Role of Dark Ages
  7. Giambattista Vico's Stages in World History
  8. How Formative, Dominant and Climactic Cultural Artefacts and Texts Reflect the Evolution of Cultural Ecologies and Civilizational Forms
  9. Sensate, Idealistic and Ideational Cultural-Historical Typology of Pitirim Sorokin
  10. Sri Aurobindo's Four Stage Cycle of Society
  11. Viconian Civilizational Cycles
  12. William Irwin Thompson on the Four Cultural Ecologies of the West ; William Irwin Thompson’s Five Stages of Human Evolution

Generic Patterns

  1. Apocalypse ; Apocalypticism
  2. Autopoiesis
  3. Catastrophe Bifurcation
  4. Collapse; Collapse Bias ; Collapsology ; Societal Collapse
  5. Constraints ; Constraint as an Essential Element of Evolutionary Development ; see also: Sorokin's Principles of Limits
  6. Cultural Recurrences:Pitirim Sorokin on Cultural Recurrences
  7. Dark Ages: Recurring Dark Ages ; Recurring Dark Ages, Ecological Stress and System Transformation; Gebser’s Five Structural Mutations of Consciousness and the Role of Dark Ages
  8. Emergence ; Emergent Evolutionism
  9. Enantiomorphism
  10. Imperio-Genesis
  11. Multilevel Selection Theory ; Cultural Multilevel Selection
  12. Principle of Limits
  13. Steppe Effect

This is a important book on the theme of Resilience and Revitalization After Collapse: Beyond Collapse: Archaeological Perspectives on Resilience, Revitalization, and Transformation in Complex Societies. Edited by Ronald K. Faulseit. Southern Illinois University Press, 2015


  1. Arnold Toynbee on the Role of the Internal vs the External Proletariat in Civilizational Change
  2. Historical Origins of the Dominator Societies
  3. Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century
  4. William Irwin Thompson on Citizens vs Subjects Then and Now

The Cosmos, the Web of Life, and the Place of the Human

""Our findings showed that from about 12,000 BCE, the planet went through a warming trend causing extreme climate changes all across the globe. It disrupted primal societies and their ways of life and successively displaced ancient pastoral and agrarian communities. The warming trend intensified rapidly quickening the rise and fall of ancient civilizations at the core centers. The tumultuous social and ecological ethos of the pre-axial times became conducive for the formation of world-denying motifs that became the bedrock of all post-axial religions and philosophies. This, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Green History of Religion."


  1. Clare Graves and His Three Scenarios for the Future of Humanity
  2. Four Post-Capitalist Scenarios Inspired by Shrii Sarkar’s Cyclical Theory of Change


To check, as recommended by William Irwin Thompson as similar reconstructive efforts of the Great Goddess tradition: Merlin Stone, Charlene Spretnak, Starhawk, Elinor Gadan.


Media and Technology


  1. Shift from Aural to Alphabetic Consciousness
  2. There Can Be No Return To Orality Because You Cannot Undo the Effects of Literacy
  3. Vital Machine and Technology as Organic Life
  4. Lewis Mumford on the Evolution of Technology from Eotechnic to Paleotechnic and Neotechnic‎‎


  • The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History. by J. R. McNeill (Author, Georgetown University), William H McNeill. Norton: a history of the formation of the cosmopolitan web, the communication's technologies that allow increasing interaction and integration of human communities up to the planetary scale.


William Irwin Thompson, in Coming Into Being, distinguishes three types of cultural artefacts, corresponding to different 'cultural ecologies'

- annunciatory artefacts show that a new cultural ecology is emerging , but not quite there yet

- dominant artefacts are produced when the new cultural ecology is well established

- climactic artefacts are like a summary of the best a particular culture can produce, but also announce thereby that it is going to be superseded

For example, in Sumeria (Mesopotamia) the legend/myth of Inana and Dumezi announces an emerging patriarchal order, while Gilgamesh shows it is already fully dominant; Dante is the climax of medieval literature, but also announces its replacement.

  1. Joseph Campbell on the Contrast Between Eastern and Western Mythology
  1. Mark Vernon on the Meaning of Descent in Dante's Inferno



  1. Axial Age and Its Place in the Evolution of Human Consciousness and Culture
    1. From the Axial Age to the Moral Revolution
  2. Rene Guenon on the Opposition Between East and West‎‎
  3. Timeline of Evolutionary Spirituality
  4. Teilhard de Chardin's Evolutionary Theism
  5. Owen Barfield: Two Historical Movements That Have Undone the Psychology of Participation



Pages in category "Civilizational Analysis"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 557 total.

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