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The History of the Axial Age

Free Essay Sample «The History of the Axial Age»

According to evidence, developments in philosophical, political, and religious systems have undergone numerous changes throughout history. For instance, in the 6th century BCE, there were radical changes in fundamental concepts of religions as well as impulsive surfacing of new ideas. There were major radical changes in the spiritual development of humanity to an extent that the changes became the main source of the modern day faith beliefs. As George (p.36) points out, the axial age was a revolutionary period when developments were realized in regions like India, Ancient Greece, Middle East, and China. There were independent yet simultaneous developments in spiritual teachings and other philosophical thoughts. 

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There were significant regional developments by the 4th century BCE in regions such as India, Mediterranean, China, and Southwest Asia. During the influential eras of between 700 and 300 BCE, there were apparent civilizations characterized by the development of both philosophical and religious theorists. The theorists then developed the axes or the ideas that later became the foundation for philosophical and religious beliefs in the respective societies for a long period of time. From that time forward, historians have utilized the term ‘the axial age’ in reference to the era when religious and philosophical ideas were developed (Duiker & Spielvogel 113).  

The history of the axial age is associated with the developments that took place between 700 and 300 BCE. During this time, numerous ideas were developed and the era became known as the axial age. For instance, in the 5th and 4th centuries, philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates developed political and philosophical ideas in Greece. These ideas became vital to the Greek world and later influenced the western civilization. Moreover, the ideas formed a foundation for contemporary science (Duiker & Spielvogel 113). Basically, the history of axial age is defined by numerous philosophical and religious developments that occurred in China, India, Persia, Ancient Greece, and the Middle East. It is the period of Taoism and Confucianism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; Zoroastrianism in Persia; monotheism developed by prophets in Israel and monotheism movement in Greece founded by Plato,Aristotle, and Socrates. The movement later gave rise to the Christian religion.

The axial age is characterized by developments in religion, science, art, philosophy, and democracy. In the main, historical data indicates that there were independent and almost simultaneous developments in various regions in the world in 500 BCE in regions such as India, Greece, Middle East, and China. In these regions, foundations of spirituality were laid and the same are still being used in the modern society (Tomek, 2007). Historical data shows that there are a number of developments that were realized during the axial age. Individual theorists such as Lao-Tse, Confucius, and Mo Tzu from China started reflecting on the moral and metaphysical effects of the existence of humanity. It is from their reflections that the teachings in Daoism, Confucianism and Jainism developed. Primarily, the theorists sought to develop principles that would facilitate for the creation of stability in the society and in turn, they influenced Chinese civilization.

Creators of the Upanishads in India extended the extent of their study and in turn included metaphysical thoughts as they sought for the definitive truth and the significance of life and death. Consequently, there were immense socio-political and intellectual changes realized in India. The transformations led to the production of the teachings of Mahavira and Buddha (Tomek, 2007).   Before the axial age, the commandments and the ethical code of the Israelites had been developed. During the age, religious developments were realized in Palestine as a result of the appearance of prophets such as Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah, Elijah, and Jeremiah (Fisher 25).

In Greece, philosophical developments rather than religious developments were experienced during the axial age. In particular, Heraclites, Thales and Xenophanes asserted that everything existed in a flux state hence an individual cannot set foot in the same river more than once. At the same time, Parmenides talked about the character of eternal being while Democritus was the first to suggest the atomic theory (Tomek, 2007). Zoroaster’s teachings and the teachings of Hebrew prophets in 7th century BCE in Persia and in Canaan founded the ideas of monotheism. As a result, Hebrews developed a religion in the world that later influenced Christian and Islam religions.

In addition, the establishment of two greatest religions in the world; Buddhism and Hinduism defines the axial age. In India, the sacred texts (Vedas and Upanishads) contained the ideas of Hinduism while the teachings of Buddha founded the ideas for Buddhism. In the main, the developments experienced in various regions in the world formed the history of the axial age. That is, the history of the axial age is associated with the development of ideas in various parts of the world in between 700 and 300 BCE hence the changes that occurred during this period, defined the axial age (Fisher 27).

Despite the fact that the philosophies and religions that emerged during the axial age occurred in different parts of the world, they shared certain features. For example in China, Confucius and Lao-Tzu were philosophers who had certain points of view about the nature of reality but whose perspectives were quite different from those coined by Plato and Aristotle of Greece. Further, theorists in China and India developed coherent methods of inquiry that were found to have similarities with those developed by Plato and Aristotle. Irrespective of their origins, when we talk about Judaism, Daoism, Buddhism, philosophies of Greek, Hinduism or Confucianism, “we realize that the ideas of axial age not only spread around the world at different times but are also an integral part of our world today”.

Apparently, the axial age is the time when humanity received a change in civilization. The developments were depicted in different forms in different regions of the world but the ideas of transcendence and moral behavior towards other people had noteworthy similarities. Therefore, the axial age was a period that was defined based on philosophical and religious civilizations that were being realized in different regions of the world.

By and large, the axial age is the period in history when there were immense developments in various parts of the world. Cultures inquired about former cosmologies and re-interpreted them; believers looked for more supreme and perpetually reality beyond human understanding and the world of intelligence. Basically, the axial age was a period when there were rapid changes in various aspects of life ranging from religion and philosophy to politics, which still influence modern day lifestyles.

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