Cities as the Context for the Emergence of Civilization

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Jennifer Gidley:

"As the transition from magic to mythical consciousness reached its climax, the cultural shift took place from increasingly settled and complex agricultural villages to what are regarded as the world’s first cities. The beginning of the third millennium BCE saw a major flourishing of cultural change and development across many regions of the planet. Archaeologically, the period to be considered here straddles the Bronze Age (3,500-1,200 BCE) and the Iron Age (1,200-700BCE). Gebser generally locates the emergence and development of the mythic structure of consciousness across this span (c. 3,000-800 BCE). Synchronously, this is almost identical to the timing of Steiner’s third cultural period—the Egypto-Chaldean (c. 3,000-750 BCE). Wilber divides his myth-membership period into two: his low myth-membership period (c. 9,500-4,500BCE) and his high myth-membership period (c. 4,500-1,500 BCE) (Wilber, 1996, p. 110). The three narratives all point to the Bronze and Iron Age periods—though not naming them as such—as being highly significant in the development of a new movement of consciousness and cultural flourishing, with particularly strong convergence between Steiner’s and Gebser’s time-lines. Notably Wilber’s low-egoic period (2,500-500 BCE) also overlaps with this time-frame. Teilhard de Chardin (1959/2004) also spoke of the significance of this period where settlements were being turned into cities. He claimed that this socialization, forced the pace of hominization, — leading to a leap of development. He saw it as an important stage in the development of the noosphere—“the envelope of thinking substance” (p. 151). He described how these processes facilitated the subtle consolidation of the noosphere.

Between them exchanges increased in the commerce of objects and the transmission of ideas. Traditions became organized and a collective memory was developed. Slender and granular as this first membrane might be, the noosphere there and then began to close in upon itself — and to encircle the earth. (p. 206)Wilber (2000d) makes the significant point that the creation of cultural myths—through a type of primal creativity—enhanced this development. The original breakthrough creativity—that allowed humans to rise above a given nature and begin building a noosphere, the very process of which would bring Heaven down to Earth and exalt the Earth to Heaven . . . and mythology, not magic, provided the key for this new transcendence. (p. 175-176) A major cultural flourishing occurred in North Africa and the Middle East among the Chaldean, Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian people—the thirty dynasties of the high culture of dynastic Egypt spanned 2,400 years of this period (c. 3,000-600 BCE) (Shaw, 2000, pp. 479-483). However, synchronous cultural flowering also occurred in other regions as Teilhard de Chardin (1959/2002) noted: From Neolithic times onwards the influence of psychical factors begins to outweigh—and by far—the variations of ever-dwindling somatic factors . . . with Post-Neolithic man . . .the basin of the Yellow River, with Chinese civilization; the valleys of the Ganges and the Indus, with Indian civilization, and lastly the Nile Valley and Mesopotamia with Egyptian and Sumerian civilization. (pp. 208-210)Teilhard de Chardin also noted later developments in Central America, and the South Pacific. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest other earlier civilization by the Inkas, in South America."


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