Archive for April, 2013

If human cultures do alternate on a regular basis between states of mature stability and adolescent plasticity, as I suggested in the previous entry, it would certainly help explain the rise and fall of dominant partnerships. However, it doesn’t answer a more fundamental question: Why are aging visions always replaced by successors of the same general type rather than simply being updated and rejuvenated?

The answer to this question is crucial to understanding what happened nearly 200,000 years ago, when the original vision of the physical world took on the moral and practical authority to lead the human community through the great ice age. In the course of that transition, it surrendered its own claims to transcendence, but it gave birth to a successor — the cosmic order vision. This launched the cycle of replacement which has continued ever since.

But why? Why was the replacement necessary?

On one level, the sequence of thought seems obvious. As people developed a greater mastery of the world around them, they became less able to perceive it as a place of inexhaustible wonder. And so they began looking to the heavens for the mystery that was no longer to be found on earth.

But why did that shift require an entirely new vision of existence — starting from different premises and arriving at different conclusions — and not merely a minor tweaking of the old one?

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