5. Cultural Cycles & Climate Change – Western Culture - Cycle 1 Summary

We will now review a brief sample of the historical asssessment of the conditons existing during the 4 stages of a cycle. This chart sets out the basic form of cycles. The rotation of the circular form, when projected onto a liner format, produces two phases; an upward stage and then a downward stage before returning to the same relative point. Each of these stages are 854 years.

These two stages have been compared to the left brain - right brain theory that is becoming increasingly accepted.by the scientific community. The common definition of the left-brain is that the left side of the brain is seen to be responsible for performing tasks that have to do with logic, such as in science and mathematics. The right-brain is described as the right side of the brain, which performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts. There are also broader definitions. The left-brain is analytical and logical which in practical terms relates very closely to scientific thinking. The right-brain is such that it includes intuitive thinking, and emotional responses such as empathy and compassion. It also has a more comprehensive vision of reality and is able to bring about a transformation from a more mechanical existence. This power helps give access to the spiritual dimension of our being, a realm, the existence of which is not readily acknowledged by the scientific community.

This sequence in the historical context is shown below. In this diagram three cycles of 854 years each are shown and based on whether the period for the culture was outwardly successful, economically, intellectually and artistically or more inwardly focused, displaying less power and influence and resulting in a more passive and reflective life. This chart is for the Western culture.  

Detailed historical information of each stage is provided in the book covering three cycles for each of the four cultures, along with a commentary on the lessons learned. Here is a brief summary of the first cycles for the Western Culture.  

Cycle I 462 BCE – 392 CE

Air Period, A New Impulse 462 BCE – 164 BCE (Note These dates include the periods of transition when the conjunctions shift between the elements.)

  • Greek Philosophic Tradition emerges

 and spreads. Some of the key players being Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and Zeno. Schools of philosophic study were formed with Plato’s Academy,Aristotle’s

Lyceum and Zeno’s Stoic School being the best known.

  • Greek art, architecture, education flourish
  • Greek Military Might - Greco-Persian Wars finally won by the Greeks; bring about the rich age of Pericles where there was peace and cultural advancement. Thyen came the more internal Peloponnesian War and eventually the appearance of Alexander the Great 356 – 323 BCE and successors who amassed one of the largest empires of the ancient world.
  • Water Period, Expansion 283 BCE – 14 CE
  • Rome defeats the Greeks and begins its period of rule
  • The Roman Republic formed and defeat of the Carthaginians in 3 Punic Wars (264-146 BCE).
  • Major expansion followed led by the aggressive leadership of Julius Caesar,. Dependencies of Rome increase to include Egypt, Cappadocia and Armenia.

Fire Period Summit Reached, Decline Begins 85 BCE-253CE

  • Roman Empire, beginning 27 BCE with Augustus; continues to expand until 180 CE. Rome rules lands in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
  • Roman Philosophy becomes established, based largely on the Greek Tradition: Plotinus (Neo-Platonist), Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus (Stoic).
  • Christ is born. Christian teaching emerges, gradually spreading within the Roman Empire.
  • Earth Period, Consolidation, Decline, Conclusion 154 – 362
  • Christian teaching advances rapidly, becomes the religion of the Empire.
  • 180 CE reign of Commodus, and then the descent begins.
  • Ineffective leadership with the result that Emperors served short terms some were assassinated Chaos prevailed.
  • Invasions by Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks.
  • Empire first split in 284 CE by Emperor Diocletian Western Roman Empire centred in Rome, Eastern Roman Empire established in Constantinople.

In response to these negative conditions, a new initiative was launched beginning 200 years before the final fall of Rome. It focussed on more reflective, contemplative practices designed to quiet the mind and emotions so that real peace and contentment, of the type not available in the material world, could be experienced by everyone; a peace beyond all understanding.

A form of contemplative prayer was practised and taught by the Desert Fathers of Egypt, Palestine and Syria beginning around the 3rd century CE. This group was started by Anthony, a Christian monk living in Egypt, who with a few devotees retired from society to live alone in caves.

In parallel around 280 Plotinus, a philosopher of the Platonic tradition, was advising people in society to practise ‘Theoria: reflective contemplation, a going within, a letting go of the habitual way of seeking happiness in external objects, people and actions.

  • Lessons Learned from Cycle I

One of the most important lessons learned from this cycle is that the state of the society is largely determined by the prevalent values that are dominant at the time. The values that are lived by the leaders and a good number of influential people, need to be examined carefully. What was learned from this cycle is that when success in the material realm becomes the main motive, resulting in the side-lining of morality and spirituality, this will inevitably lead to excess and the decline of peace, happiness, and love. The predominant values become those that drive people to maximise personal gains in the material world. Care needs to be taken about what values are put forth as the best guides for life. Both the Greek philosophic tradition and Christianity offered the same important message that natural values when lived fully are the real source of happiness for all. 

  • We will look at the next Western cycle in the blog that follows.

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