Introduction to Civilizational Analysis

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John David Ebert has been reading the works by macro-historians and analysts of the evolution of civilization, starting with the Spengler's classic, The Decline of Civilization, for many decades, and here engages in fascinating conversations with Brandon Van Dyck of The Mill Series. Watching the different videos will be you a great overall framing to go in-depth by reading the works themselves. Throughout this section, we also have seeded Ebert's intro's to various specific authors.

A good start is this overall overview conversation at


Episode 1: Culture Immune Systems

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"What is human civilization? What do all human civilizations have in common, viewed from the interior and exterior? What causes cultural immune systems to become compromised, and how do we know when a civilization is approaching death? Also, how have civilizations changed over time, and how do they differ from region to region (or, as Joseph Campbell would put it, across mythogenetic zones)?

In this first episode of JDE/BVD, Brandon Van Dyck (BVD) puts the above questions to cultural theorist, John David Ebert (JDE). A long conversation follows, focusing on Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Jean Gebser, Joseph Campbell, Sri Aurobindo (see 2:48:09), and others."

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 5:10 Oswald Spengler
  • 17:05 Arnold Toynbee
  • 25:23 Jean Gebser
  • 40:45 Franz Borkenau
  • 51:46 Carroll Quigley
  • 1:03:57 Joseph Campbell
  • 1:34:56 William Irwin Thompson
  • 1:44:26 Distilling the contributions of Campbell and Thompson
  • 1:49:29 What is a civilization -- or, alternatively, a society (Toynbee) or social formation (Deleuze and Guattari)?
  • 1:53:14 What do all human civilizations have in common? What are the universal patterns? Discussing the above thinkers' answers.
  • 2:36:47 How do civilizations differ from region to region? Briefly discussing the views of Spengler and Campbell.
  • 2:44:24 How have civilizations changed over time? Briefly discussing the thinkers' descriptions and evaluations, which vary greatly!
  • 3:00:41 The many subcultures of North America (William Irwin Thompson, Joel Garreau, Colin Woodard)

Episode 2a: Out of the Muck

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What is civilization? What is *a* civilization? John and Brandon explore in this and the next two episodes.

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:40 Hominids
  • 18:12 From art to Art
  • 23:55 Seeding the earth
  • 39:28 The written word: civilization's sine qua non
  • 1:26:15 Monumentality
  • 1:35:01 Crossing the mimesis threshold
  • 1:57:17 Spengler's cultural amoebae
  • 2:02:39 From primitive communism to hierarchy
  • 2:08:19 Monopolizing legitimate force
  • 2:20:40 Celestial lights, abstract mental phase space
  • 2:35:27 A Kenneth Clark aside
  • 2:38:30 Hurling rocks, hurling insults

Episode 2b: Shadow of Sumer; Threshold of Global Civilization?

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  • 0:00 Shadow of Sumer
  • 9:12 Threshold of a global civilization?

Episode 2c: The Four Domains

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  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:31 Is a civilization in one epoch the same civilization in the next?
  • 22:59 What does it mean for a civilization to end?
  • 33:55 Is the world God?
  • 1:10:53 The wandering sage, Siddhartha, Job, and Prometheus
  • 1:27:23 Why not Christ, Joseph Campbell?
  • 1:34:36 A Samuel Huntington aside
  • 1:41:31 Parts and wholes

See also: Four Domains of Spirituality Amongst Eurasian Civilizations

More information

The Mill Series at