The Axial Age(s):
times of rapid religious change
The Axial Age:
The world has experienced many rapid changes in religious belief.
||Circa 1200 BCE, the religion of Zoroastrianism was born. Many religious
historians trace the concept of Satan, the
Final Judgment, Hell
and other Jewish, Christian and Islamic belief to this source.
||Circa 30 CE, the Jewish Christian movement was established in Jerusalem.
This was soon to be overshadowed by Pauline Christianity which evolved into
the thousands of Christian denominations and sects we see today.
||In 620 CE, Muslims believe that Muhammad was visited by the angel
Gabriel who dictated the Qur'an on which Islam is based.
However, between 800 and 200 BCE, a concentration of new and different religious
beliefs emerged in China, Greece India, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. This lead to the
founding or major development of Buddhism,
Taoism. In 1949 the
German philosopher Karl Theodor Jaspers coined the phrase
"Achsenzeit" ("Axial Age" or "Axis age" in English)
to describe this relatively short interval of rapid religious and spiritual evolution.
Note about this section:
It is sometimes difficult or impossible to talk about religion in a manner
that does not alienate at least some visitors to this web site. Discussing
religious change -- something that few religious embrace with enthusiasm -- is a
particularly touchy topic. This section is all about change.
In the attached essays, the author has assumed that all religious
development occurred as a result of human thought and in response to cultural
changes. He also assumes that this process of change is continuing today and
will persist into the future. Most visitors to this web site will probably agree with this concept,
at least for religions other than their own faith tradition. Many will believe that their
particular religion, whether Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or some other
belief, was uniquely revealed to humanity by God and
became "The faith which was once for all delivered to the saints". (Jude
3). For these visitors, we recommend that they interpret the essay as referring only
to religions other than their own.
The author has assumed that God exists. This might alienate
visitors who are Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, etc. Finally, he agrees with
over 99% of the earth and biological scientists that evolution happened. This
will probably alienate creation scientists.
Topics covered in this section:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Karl Jaspers, "The Origin and Goal of History," Greenwood Press, (1977).
Copyright © 2006
by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-SEP-28
Latest update on: 2006-SEP-28
Author. Vladimir Tomek, supplemented by contributions by B.A. Robinson