July 4, 2018

Axial Age?

In my life I realized that there should be a way for us to have proof of a Supreme if there were one. There are too many things that take place in our experience that we not have some kind of evidence to rest our curiosity upon calming the spirits. This thought process was a puzzle piece in my early experience. I have expressed often that throughout my life I have puzzled about that. In my research I realized that there was evidence best seen in the foundational principle that has become known as the Golden Rule. I found Aristotle, Confucius, Zarathustra, Isaiah, Plato, Buddha and many others teaching a similar philosophy without any connection to one another. This is the mystery of the Golden Rule and an era that has become known as the Axial Age.Axial Age

Searching for Evidence

If we have a creator, wouldn’t that creator desire that we know? I think I can answer in the affirmative as many scriptures refer to a Supreme interfacing with its people. These instances are considered proof, true enough. However, many of these stories are often considered flawed because they refer to a “Supreme” seemingly limited in scope or influence. I considered these arguments and actually used some of them when I went through my “destroy the Christian” phase. You can read all about than in my book: The Simple Little Rule.

My studies kept teasing me to keep searching, however. Out of my hunt for that slippery thing called the Truth pops linkages between ancient teachers professing similar perspectives. There was Confucius teaching what I later discovered was called the “silver rule” because it was the negative variant: “Do not do to others what you would not want done in return.” Okay, I knew the Golden Rule (positive variation) from my youth in my Christian experience. There it was, it popped up in China too. Okay.

Random Occurrences

When I left the church, I went out searching through many different texts, very randomly, and at some point I’m reading the Greek philosophers. Plato is teaching the Golden Rule, and Aristotle. This thought concept may very well be from their teacher Socrates. Plato was a student Socrates and Aristotle was a student of Plato. They are in Greece and not Christian. I’ve still not made a connection at this point. These are still just random occurrences popping up in the literature of old.

Image of Statue of Confucius

Statue of Confucius

I continue searching for that fulfillment of soul, that I’ve still not fully recognized at this point and I move on to Buddhism. There it is again: The Golden Rule. Okay, I wake up to that startling moment of comprehension! Wait, three teachers professing the same truth principle. That’s fascinating to say the least. My curiosity takes command. Now I’m really on the hunt. I have three teachers all relaying the same standard. How did they do that? First obvious question when did each live and teach.

Epiphany: I discover Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age!

As I tell in “The Golden Rule Rediscovered” this was an epiphany for me especially when I discover that they are all living about 500BCE! They live at about the same era historically, but totally separate from one another in different cultures and languages. It is the 100th monkey story I tell in my book. At this point in history they cannot know one another. They are not sharing information or ideas but teaching a doctrine identical in purpose and practice with no interface or connection of any sort. The odds of this happening would be about like getting struck my lightening. In Karl Jaspers’ book The Origin and Goal of History, he says:

The fact of the threefold manifestation or the Axial Period is in the nature of a miracle, in so far as no really adequate explanation is possible within the limits of our present knowledge.

Axial Age

Now I’m really fascinated and broaden the hunt. And as it turns out, I find evidence scattered across the entire Eastern Hemisphere of philosophers, teachers, prophets and wise men all teaching forms of the Golden Rule at or before 500BCE. It appears that where ever there was writing, the Golden Rule was being written about. The Hebrews, Zoroastrianism (early monotheistic religion) in Persia, Cyrus the Great was thought to be Zoroastrian, the Greeks, both Hindu and Buddhist in India, and China with Lao Tzu and Confucius and many others.

I found my proof?

Some of these players are within close enough proximity that there could be cultural diffusion, but not all. And all of them are within a couple of hundred years of one another. The odds of this occurrence are infinitesimally small and highly unlikely. Without some sort of connective “force” or “guiding hand” or “conscious enlightenment” how is it possible that all of these cultures are teaching the same guiding principle? It was an exciting time for me, that’s for sure. I felt I had my proof. There was a Supreme pointing the way, so to speak.

But, how?

That was another puzzle to figure out. I began to chase the connections that might have occurred between or among the three main players (Confucius, Plato and Buddha). They were the most disconnected geographically, culturally and by language. In that hunt I found references to an era referred to as the “Axial Age.” The term was coined by the German philosopher, Karl Jaspers in 1949 in the sense of a “pivotal age” characterizing the period of ancient history from about the 8thcentury to about the 2ndcentury B.C.E.

Stay tuned. More to come on the Axial Age…