The Axial Age Follow Through?

Hi folks (@patanswer, @Douggins, @achronon, @johnnydavis54, @madrush, @Michael_Stumpf),

I’m wondering if anyone else is interested in picking up the thread on following through with the discussion of the Axial Age? The ball got dropped in the fall (how ironic :slight_smile: ) but the discussion was left open as I remember it. We have all no doubt become busy with other things but I would like to go back and finish the discussion if possible. I have plenty of things to do, but this is still a priority for me…

If there is interest, we would need to schedule a time and pick up our plans for different people presenting chapters to the group. I believe we could ‘finish’ the discussion with maybe two more online sessions… What say you all?


Campfire 1

I would Love to Hang-Out around the Campfire on this Topic Again!!!


I’m game. Finding a time is always a challenge, but for, say, two meet-up, I’d be willing to make a bit of time sacrifice if it meant we could get the original crew back together for a close-out of the discussion.


That’s too funny. If my request is granted, Friday March 13 is free…


I am less interested in picking up where we left off. I want to do something slightly different.

As I recall, the project seemed to stall because of the overwhelming presence of the deficient mental in the essays, bogging down the inquiry. I found Bellah’s book, which we didn’t read, by far the most integral presentation. Even without being an historian I could follow his superb survey with ease. The essays presented by this panel of scholars, which we struggled with, seems stuck in Ivory Tower rhetoric. This may be a harsh assessment, but I am mindful of why we got stuck. Does someone remember something different?

And what do we know now that we didn’t know then and what differences does knowing that make?

My preference would be for renewing a Second Axial Age, in our turbulent digitized times, as the political upheavals in our fragile social worlds, continue to crash and burn. We, who are in the trenches, rather than in the academy, may want to find a forum that can point to the relevance factor.

I posted previously a performance by a contemporary poet who works with American Indian motifs and rhythms. Below is a different clip by the same poet. In my view, what was happening during the New Age of the 70’s and 80’s, rode upon a wave of cultural anthropology. Conducted forward by a poet, investigating the sacred of pre-literate people, reminds me of many of the themes we have tried to develop in our self enrichment programs. Meta-poetry meets meta-history, which seems to epitomize what a Second Axial Age would be like. An unlimited, imaginative, Neo-shamanic revival, as all of the hungry ghosts and enslaved populations, can be felt, tuned into, invited to sit with us.

Has anyone got other examples? Perhaps we could take on a more activist, show and tell, or show and sing kind of stance? Can we balance reading papers by arm chair critics with excellent performances by practitioners from the field?

I am open to the field of all possibility. What is the best use of our limited time together? I am trying to release my drive for closure, which may be an aspect of the old print culture, which is crumbling. I am giving attention to an open closure, a new way of thinking-feeling-becoming. It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing.

How do systems of knowledge evolve? It seems to me that all of us here, whether we know it or not, are acting and mutating, as a new, long anticipated, cognitive structure emerges. We are fractal meta-patterns operating at different scalar levels. With music, poetry, movement, reading, we learn how to think at a distance. Does our task, and the big game that we are collectively after, have a size or a shape?


What is the best time for you, TJ? Also, I am interested if there is a relationship between the Patterning Instinct you are reading and what we started in the Axial Age and what we tried out in our meeting on the Second Order Culture with Davor? I am eager to create a few learning curves, as we imagine the difference between reverse engineering an ancient tool, like a bow and arrow, and trying to figure out how to historicise our cognitive processes, here in this forum? We may need more safe to fail experiments as Snowden suggests and lots of micro-narratives.Cognitive science doesn’t always work well with social processes. It’s a mess.


Fridays are tough for me, but that one is still “open”. :slightly_smiling_face:

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With all due respect, I’m hesitant to take what we were doing and do something different.

The only thing that “stopped” us before, as I recall, is that we couldn’t get an agreed date. I was off to the States, and that, combined with a couple of other scheduling issues brought us to a standstill. We would have done our “regularly scheduled” meet-up and maybe have wrapped it up in a session after that.

What you are suggesting, John, is intriguing and perhaps worth pursuing. However, I’m not sure I was ready to change course back in October, and I’m not sure that much has changed on my end that warrants a change of direction now. Not everyone has read Bellah’s book (I only in part) and I certainly haven’t read The Patterning Instinct, nor am I sure I have the time nor desire to do so (though I’m open to being convinced I’m missing something exciting).

I’m not sure I’m interested in changing horses in mid-stream. But, I’m only one voice of many.


Social processes are messy by nature. Cognitive science is a mess when it forgets that about the inner human world(s). (Which is funny because the best scientists are fully aware that even the natural, physical world of ‘matter in motion’ is not always what it seems…) Mess - not precision - is what we do and who we are. Messes come in good, bad, and ugly, of course. (Whatever else does or does not come to pass, we will never be computers…)

re: The Axial Age and its Consequences
I am in complete agreement with a more integral attempt in future meetings to tease out the big ideas struggling to emerge from the silos here. We paused at the point where the authors were beginning to deal with implications and consequences. I appreciate that each in his or her own way was reluctant to stray far from areas of expertise - training and habit are designed to instill that and I get it. I don’t think we got stuck pointing this out, but I agree we don’t need to stay there. It probably has always been up to us to suggest possible connections, however haltingly or boldly, in our “safe to fail” explorations.

This is certainly the million dollar question, along with her cousin:
How can we ensure systems of knowledge keep evolving?..

Among other things, the “Axial Age” ended up making it easier for Eurasian state-builders to increase their shares of various forms of social power with… good, bad, and ugly consequences. In a sense, the Western-led globalization of the past 500 years has itself been a just as momentous second era of axial transformation, the bad and ugly results of which became impossible to hide after 1914. It can be said that we’ve been under a sense of crisis since then; unfortunately our ability to create and destroy on a vastly larger scale does not seem to be matched by a vastly greater self-knowledge. But, as I finish up the Lent book and prepare my contributions to that thread, I am struck by how much of what I just said applies specifically to the dominant metaphorical and metaphysical settings of the modern world. This is a significant point not because other communities are not beset by their own problems and contradictions but because there is no alternative to, as you always say, using all our knowledge (traditional, psychological, scientific, political, spiritual, artistic, etc) well.

The “big game that we are collectively after” is an enraged mastodon. :grinning: I’m… thinking maybe music rather than spears here…

I think 1 PM on whatever day ended up working best across time zones. If the 13th doesn’t pan out, I’m looking at the following Monday and then (sigh) April after that. I really hope not. The only good thing would be I should be deep into the Bellah book by then…


For now I would say The Patterning Instinct is a delightfully written(!) statement of ideas this group has largely taken to heart already. It’s probably one of those books people could read as able and contribute to the dedicated thread when the mood strikes. (The podcast interview with Lent I posted there really does capture the gist of it.) It is definitely worth the read, and it doesn’t take long, so engaging is the style. I imagine it could be like Tim Ingold’s Being Alive - a book that gets mentioned often in discussion of related topics.

But mine, too, is only one voice of many.


While having no idea about a topic has never prevented me from saying something about it, when I have my druthers, I’d druther feel more comfortable about participating.

The Kastrup CCafés are planned to run until mid-April. Besides that, I have another side project engaging me till mid-March, but my to-read list has shifted a bit and I’m not sure I’m ready to go modern at all. The more contemporary stuff I read, the more dissatisfied I become. The topics aren’t new, that’s obvious; the takes are, well, sometimes a bit harder to swallow.

Before anyone gets the wrong impression: I’m not curmudgeoning on y’all, I’m just observing. I read a couple of chapters from Ingold … for me, nice to know, but no need to know. If I take your suggestion in that vein, TJ, do I need not give up Lent for Lent? I don’t want to do anyone an injustice, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I’m getting a whole lot out of reading Betti (Twelve Ways of Seeing the World) as a follow-on to Steiner, and as a result, I’ve recaptured a long-latent interest in Steiner again. I know John’s interested, as are maybe others, but interests are only interesting as long as they overlap. It has, I must admit, become patently clear to me that my deferring of Goethe needs to cease soon, but how soon is that?

The point is: all of us, obviously, have wide, different and varied interests. We can have good meet-ups when these overlap. There is a clear Axial-Age overlap, so I’m all for it. I’m less excited about an expansion of that overlap in any direction simply because it would mean a lot more effort to make it an overlap for me. This is not to say that y’all shouldn’t go with whatever y’all want wherever y’all want to go. That’s fine, but the reality is we’re not all at the same place at the same time, nor should we be, for the dissonance between where we are is what enlivens the interaction among us.

Everybody has to make some accommodation, without us find the least common denominator, for that would mean we do nothing at all.

That is why, for me – and I mean that … just for me – I would be very interested in bring our already-begun, and, I think, relatively successful, collective reading of The Axial Age to an end (whereby everyone and anyone is free to bring in anything and everything that has impressed them in the interim) without necessarily expanding it into something other than what we had set out to do. Anything else is requires a time-investment that I’m reluctant to make. But, if everyone else is up for a new challenge, then I say, go for it.


You can safely give up Lent for Lent. :laughing:
On the old ‘read-skim-toss’ scale, for you I might honestly recommend skim “as able” when able - because (1) I totally hear you on the limited time and (2) Lent’s trip ends up in a pretty familiar ‘integrating’ place. John and I for certain, and others intrigued by the intersection of metaphor and meta-history will get more out of it at this point. For now.


The chapter I took responsibility for presenting I found to be very interesting - it was on the relation between axial religions and violence. I was looking forward to discussing this with others, and in culling insights from the others on the other chapters. I still find the idea of an axial age in historic times to be fruitful even though the scholarship can sometimes be overly pedantic. I am inclined to finish the existing exercise as we set out to do it. I think these ideas will inform our interest in the modern equivalent of an axial age, which I also think we could explore, but at another time?

Friday works for me. My main constraints are other Infinite Conversations time periods, that is, Tuesday pm and Wednesday. Any other time of the week can work for me.


It is that intersection that interests me the most. I was not suggesting we need to do a reading of Lent’s book. Your book report will be enough for us. I am reading a great book Evolution of Knowledge by Jurgen Renn, a German scholar, who reminds me of Davor. The Germans are very thorough. Renn also writes well.

I want to encourage many ways of thinking about our thinking. Going meta is fun. As the election season is underway I have felt that I have been able to draw upon some of our round table discussions and Cafes to highlight features of the emerging social landscapes. I always seek to triangulate at the margins. Boundary conditions are sometimes hard to figure out. If you are looking for evolution you can find it. Each day I find a great deal to be amazed by. Even the weird outbreak of the Corona virus may serve a useful purpose as some folks are getting more serious about universal health care as a safer bet. The Markets are realizing that cutting interest rates won’t stop a virus. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.


I’ll bring the marshmallow Metaphors so as to Think Together about the Good Company in which to toss Ideas into the Fire of our Good Company.

Cause just like a marshmallow I will be Different after hanging out around the campfire with Good Company!

Playing Music


I hope you will continue, Geoffrey, to look forward to discussing this. And I look forward to your insights into this most pressing concern. And what happens to the garment you were working on?

And what happens to the radio,Ed, the one in your grandmother’s house, reducing the static, trying for clarity? Did you ever adjust to the right channel?

And Steiner. What a weird guy he was. I am taking Sacred Geometry classes and Eurythmic movement at the Steiner studio near me. My movement teacher, who studied at Dornach, with a student of the Master, transmits enormous knowledge, through her gestures. One can feel the etheric bodies moving. The geometry class, ( yes, we use a compass and a ruler) is a study in how the soul works. This personal instruction has been necessary for me to make any sense out of Steiner’s bewildering texts. His best writing comes from the live lectures, during those hellish years between 1914 and 1920 . He is released from the constraints of the deficient mental need to make proofs, present evidence from within the silo. He is talking to people who know him. He is, as was reported by previous Integral researchers, primarily an artist and a poet, a perceptual thinker, as was Goethe. And I would add that he was a synesthetic thinker, using trance states, and such thinking is not supported in the academy, with the jagged split between Big Science and the Humanities still rigidly applied.

Our IQ tests never captures the intelligence of the athlete, the dancer, the singer, the community organizer, as they ‘go meta’ in their different fields of knowledge. Voice and gesture are ignored, frills for a summer day. This is a tragic mistake. I don’t see much in our digitized set ups to alleviate this sad state of affairs. Steiner was trying to address this imbalance, an imbalance that has become in 2020 much worse.

I have not, yet, received an answer to my prayer, which initiated my study of the Axial Age, and I am okay with that. I am aware that there is no signal without noise and sometimes the noise is the signal. But maybe others will, once again, pull up the tree by the roots, turn it into a cross, and drag it around all day. That is what prayer is really all about. It is not about getting satisfaction. There is no reward for virtue.

Thanks, Michael, we will need something to put on the fire.

And maybe that voice, and a well lit path, is all that is required. I hope you find that well lit path, TJ.

And so our revels soon will be ended, and I have enjoyed speculating about that unknown country with all of you good gentlemen.


When you turn it on, it plays. The more one plays with the knobs, the clearer some channels get. It takes time and patience to get the feel for it. I don’t know if there’s a “right” channel, but some are definitely clearer than others, and some change their programming more often, and some speak in languages I don’t understand … but I always listen for a while anyhow.

My wife just called me to see a segment from a talk show where a physics professor from a renowned German university (who fairly regularly hosts and presents natural and cultural history shows on TV) is making his case for educational reform. He said the schools here need to be Waldorfized to a certain extent. (The Waldorf schools are the ones that run on Steiner’s notions of education, though he did let everyone know he’s not an anthroposophist himself, but he thinks they have the structure right.) I sometimes get the feeling that Mr. Steiner is having something of a comeback after years of being relegated to the weirdo corner. If you take him halfway seriously you start realizing he’s really not so weird at all. Of course, he’s bucking the moneyed monolith of the neo-capital establishment, so he’s got a bit of an uphill run in front of him.

It would seem we all have a bit of an uphill run in front of us.


The Human Body is the Organ of Perception & the Object of Perceptions,it’s Weird all the way down & all the way beyond whatever Vibe U attune too, question is ,is one willing to receive the unknown coming through & landing in/on one’s own personal Radio Free Human.


I recall our rehearsal of Friar Lawrence in his cell after visiting his herb garden. Do you remember that Michael? I asked a few questions and your embodied response brought to life a large section of Shakespeare’s great text. As you well know we go to the theatre not for the text but for the subtext. And with that robust experience of Friar Lawrence in his cell, is there a relationship between him and Michael’s metaphor of story telling around the fire in a Chaucer fantasia?

It is out of these far fetched configurations that the Imaginal realms make contact. The next Axial Age would engage in capacities we already have in abundance. Story and eye contact and voices that can touch rhythmically. If you bring the marshmallows I can bring some doodles from my sketch book. Out of touch, tone, gesture, a new civilization might arise.

And when it is weird all the way down, is there anything else about weird?

And when down…how far down?


Friar Lawrence & Storytelling around the Fire in a Chaucer fantasia is related through the “Body as Presence” ,experiential language burning to express & not just describe;this is also not in terms of internal or external expression (to oneself or other-around a campfire,which is magical for this Body). There is this movement of finding enough distance from whatever experience ( either internally or externally) from the Fire of Experience-other qualities of experience too. All this is to say what is the Play between Presence & Absence of experience Now-Here.

Earth from Moon

Weird for me is standing facing a internal or external boundary or edge & embracing a felt sense of “Not Knowing” how to use my Spatial sense or even Trusting it & yet not being overcome with fear while having fear.An example of a altered state I experienced 10 or so years ago; of laying on the Earth to relax from work I had been doing at Chino Hills State Park & within whatever time it took(Time is Weird in these States) I was- through my felt contact with the Earth, Seeing the Earth Floating in Vastness and this is the Weird experience- the Fear turned into AWE. So Weird to this Body is “Not Knowing” & Opening to AWE.

Thank U for your Questions John it gave my Fire some Expression.