From Modernity to After-Modernity (17)

 Part 2. Theoretical considerations
Chapter 4. About societal governance and societal evolution

4.7. About the institutions of governance

4.1 to 4.6 were devolved to the 25 interactions and feedback loops between the most determinant parameters shaping individual and societal life. These interactions constitute the backbone of an analytical framework that helps to analyze and to understand the working of societies and how to operate them the most efficiently. I completed a succinct analysis of these 25 interactions in 4.6. It reads like a “philosophy of life and societal governance” that is being derived from one initial axiom which says that the life of species is given by the play, or the dance, between their two polarities: societies (assemblings) and individuals (particles). The knowledge, about the operation of their polarity-plays, acts like a handle that reveals the future.

So How did I build this analytical framework?

After analysis of,
1. the process of societal knowledge acquisition throughout history (Book 2. Chapter 1)
2. the formation of individual consciousness (Book 2. Chapter 2)
3. societal evolution through the evolution of worldviews as a result of memetic mutations ,(Book 2. Chapter 3)
I concluded that societies and individuals are the 2 polarities of any species and that their inter-play is what gives its substance to a species’ life.

I then reasoned and induced the 5 most determinant factors giving their substance to these 2 polarities and discovered the following:
  • the life of societies is determined by what I call “the 5 pillars of societies”.
  • the individuals’ lives are determined by what I call “the 5 individual necessities”.

By crossing the 5 determinant pillars of societies with the 5 individual necessities I determined the 25 interactions and feedback-loops that form the substance of the 'individual/society polarity-play' which is the life of species.

At the term of my succinct analysis 5 principles emerged from these 25 interactions:

1. knowledge is at the core of a harmonious societal life. Societies need thus to reserve a special status to the men of knowledge or the sages among them. They are the ones who know the best path forward for the group. But what I call men of knowledge or sages are not to be confused with modern intellectuals or scientists. The knowledge of the sage is holistic while the knowledge of the scientist and the intellectual is specialized and necessarily limited to a fragment of the whole. The knowledge of the sage relates to the big picture view and addresses the well-being of the species. This is what motivates the sage in his quest to acquire knowledge and this means that the sage is concerned first and foremost by the well-being of the individuals and their society. In contrast, as mentioned in “1.3.7. Science is not a societal approximation of reality”, the knowings of scientists and intellectuals address the functioning of parts of the whole. Such knowledge will then help capital to generate more profits. Being formed at the bottom of a deep silo, without any regard for the knowledge developed in the other silos, the best outcome has often only a very limited impact on the deep structure of reality. But side-effects often develop months or years later that will plague the existence of living species and eventually the existence of humanity. The knowledge developed initially is the culprit of these side-effects but it is nevertheless rarely correlated to them.

2.  Modernity separated the knowledge contained in the traditional worldview in its constitutive parts:
  • rationalism helped to devise industrialized mass production and the mass market. The resulting systematization of the observation of nature was called science. Being knowledge that is directly applicable in making productions more profitable capital financed its specialized development which soon broke down science into specialized silos that operate in total isolation of one another. Such a specialization necessarily detaches from the working of reality which is the result of,  - on one side the sharing by the whole universe of its principles to its parts,  - and on the other side  the result of that sharing in the form of a the totality of interactions between the parts of the universe. In such a vast and complex orchestra a specialization in silos has no place. It is a destroyer of harmony, rhythm and melody. In other words its productions are ugly and dangerous for life.
  • the reasoning about the implications resulting from these observations led to inductions relating to what reality is all about and this was called philosophy. But the specialization of these observations, in ever deeper silos eventually befuddled philosophy into nothingness.
  • the production of visual signs about the meaning of these observations and inductions, as well as the production of music and dance related to the social atmosphere resulting from the application of these observations and inductions, got called the arts during the Renaissance. But the later separation of observations and inductions from knowledge drove meaning ever closer to functionalism, ever closer to commodification, which provoked the salutary reaction of the Modernist avant-garde. But the push of functionalism and commodification was such that Modernism soon succumbed under the weight of the utter non-sense it was generating. Notwithstanding the talk of its further evolution in Post-Modernism or other “isms” the succumbing of Modernism was the sign that the historical function of the arts was dead. That’s when Modernity reached its old age waiting for its passing. This era is what I call Late-Modernity. I’ll dig further in this matter in “Chapter 5. About the arts”.

We are confronted here with the observation that the separation of knowledge that resulted in “the triad science – philosophy – arts” concluded, by the end of High-Modernity, with philosophical nothingness and dead arts that posture now as commodities. Remains science churning out functional knowledge at the bottom of its deep silos of specialization where the scientists are slowly but surely losing their minds. See “Science transformed into a tool of capital”. Specialized sciences lost contact with what really matters: the life of the human species, the well being of the individuals and their societies.

The men of knowledge and sages have now to reunite the separated pieces of the knowledge tree in one narrative that all citizens can share as the worldview of their society. A shared worldview is what solidifies societal cohesion which is critical to generate harmony between the individuals and their society.

3.  knowledge has to be pragmatic. As I wrote in “Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.6.3. pragmatism versus ideology”: “It is my contention that those systems of knowledge formation, whose application offer the best outcome in term of generating the most pleasant life for their individual citizens while simultaneously ensuring the highest probability of reproducing their societies over the long haul, are the most pragmatic among any systems of knowledge. In that sense pragmatism appears as the optimum form of knowledge”. For the individuals a pragmatic worldview means knowledge that is directly usable and improves their daily lives. For societies pragmatism means that improvements in the individuals daily lives will help to solidify their cohesion. A comparison of worldviews, on this measure, gives very uneven societal results. See “1.6.3. pragmatism versus ideology”. China’s traditional worldview appears very pragmatic while Modernity can only be characterized as an ideological worldview that inflicts unnecessary sufferings on humanity and all the other living species.

4.  knowledge acquisition is the highest societal ideal. It cultivates the self, in the minds of the men of knowledge, and the self abhors the worship of the ego that is responsible for projecting illusions in the minds. The individual self clears the mind and helps to increase the levels of one’s consciousness about the hidden truths in oneself and in the reality of the world. So by taking the ego out of the equation the self succeeds to free the mind from any sickly transformation through emotional attachment. Furthermore, as indicated in “Discovering ourselves in a mirror”, knowledge acquisition provides answers as to what actions are procuring pleasure and pain. These answers then allow the individuals to maximize pleasure in their lives while minimizing pain. This directly strengthens the perception in the minds of the individuals that knowledge is important and this is the prerequisite for societies to act and organize societal systems of knowledge acquisition.

5.  humans don't have god-like powers to create their destiny outside of the systemic reality given by the universe. While consciousness evolves and helps us to generate new knowings the fact of the matter remains that these knowings concern no more than parcels of the systemic reality that encompasses life. As such these knowings at best are relative knowings. This is why we so often discover later on that the actions, and productions based on such knowings, are eventually producing negative side-effects that our consciousness missed to forecast. Such side-effects result from the non-compatibility of our actions and productions with the properties of our ‘super-sets’. We have seen earlier that the individual urge for change is pushing for the application of new knowings but the risks accompanying their premature application can be fatal for societies as is being suggested by historical examples of societal collapses. That’s why the principle of societal conservation has always to prime the individual urge for change. Societies have indeed to protect their citizens and themselves and they do this by putting prudence at the core of decision making.

In the vision of life, derived from the 25 interactions cited here above, knowledge acquisition plays the leading role and this is confirmed by the historical reality of all societies. Knowledge is what gives meaning to life, and what structures its societal unfolding, as it is being perceived by the mind. This vision of life materializes without any need for an intervention of power; in other words the men of knowledge produce answers that are the best adapted to the context of their society and these answers can then be put in application in a variety of different ways that do not necessarily require the intervention of power. But the fact is that men of power monopolize the political decision making process and do not tolerate any alternative. Various holders of societal power will contest that other forms of decision making exist at all. But the fact of the matter is that they have an interest in preserving the institutions of power that generate their personal incomes. As such their opinions are interested and can be no match for knowledge.

It has furthermore been observed that throughout history knowledge is always called to the rescue to fashion the optimal institution of governance in any given societal context. So not only is the institutional set-up being conceived by the men of knowledge their answers have also to be adapted to the given context which implies that there is no "best in town" institution of governance that fits all contexts. In other words institutions have to emerge out of the context of their society and can't be imposed from the outside. A string of recent Western interventions to impose democracy on third countries is attesting that  any attempt to circumvent this natural law always ends in tears.

Here under I'll examine the emergence of Western and Chinese institutions of governance out of their particular context; democracy versus knowledge. It is my hope that my presentation about governance and societal evolution shall help silence, in the minds of my readers, the hubristic belief in the exceptionalism of Western democracy. As I wrote just before "there is no 'best in town' institution of governance that fits all contexts. In other words institutions can't be imposed from the outside; they have to emerge out of the context of their society ".

4.7.1. About the emergence and development of Western institutions of governance

Book 1 of "From Modernity to After-Modernity " was about the history of societal evolution and more particularly the evolution of the European context that opened the path to Modernity. In other words most of the 400 pages of that book relate to the historical evolution of Western Europe. I will thus not repeat what I already examined there and limit this presentation to a sketch of that evolution that should serve as a base of comparison with my presentation about the emergence and development of China's institutions:
  1. the transition from tribal societies to Early-Kingdoms starts relatively late in Europe in comparison with what happened in the Middle-East and in China. That transition operated as a result of the immigration of Middle-Eastern farmers to Central Europe between the 8th to 6th millena BC. (1) As we will see ihere under in " Context" when the whole territory is being occupied by the tribes there remains only 2 alternatives:  – or accept an increase of the population of the tribes,  – or emigration toward foreign territories. The migration of Middle-Eastern farmers falls in the latter category.
  2. during that transition the men of power crush the matriarchal non-power tribal mode of organization and impose patriarchy. In this societal re-organization the men of knowledge lose their tribal privilege  – of being exempt from the need to work – and of sharing their tribe's production to satisfy their needs. With power societies they have to satisfy their needs by themselves and this plunges them in a brave new world of toil. (1)
  3. in the high velocity environment of rising and falling Early-Kingdoms the traditional men of knowledge had lost their economic privilege and a competition between shaman had set in for the ears of the men of power which initiated the appearance of divergences in the narrative of animism that soon differentiated the narratives of the different men of knowledge. Those narratives that succeeded to catch the ears of large followings succeeded to catch the ears of the men of power and paved the way for the religions that would later compete for the title of worldview of the empire. In other words religions emerged from the differentiation in the animistic narrative during the era of Early-Kingdoms that resulted from a competition between the men of knowledge for the ears of the men of power.  
  4. the Roman empire opportunistically adopted Christianity in the hope to stabilize its power and Christianity crystallized the axiom of dualism as the intellectual foundation of the European civilization.
  5. all signs concur that empires in Europe violently suppressed animist beliefs, all their ritualistic visual signs, as well as its knowledge base that had been accumulated over tens of thousands of years of observation of the rhythms of nature. (2)
  6. after the fall of the Roman empire Christianity adopted its centralized institutional model and this helped it, over the next thousand years, to be the only power that succeeded to have a permanent presence over the whole European continent. And the nobility in consequence, when it was regrouping had to compose with the religious authories. Furthermore the only literate individuals were the monks and priests and so they were requested to assist the kings till very late in Early-Modernity. (3)
  7. a warming climate around the year 1000 increased agricultural yields and the population grew substantially. Some people fled the manors and regrouped with others at the margins between manors that were kind of free zones forgotten by the nobility. Economic exchanges multiplied between the inhabitants of these free zones which rapidly grew into cities. The development of cities and their economic exchanges benefited from an exceptional degree of freedom because all this took place while the nobility and the church were occupied with their crusades...   (4)
  8. inter-city trade expanded local market areas that connected into regional market areas and less than 2 centuries later these regional market areas developed continental fairs where the goods of long distance trade were distributed to the whole continent. The Champagne fairs were the best known  because they attracted the Italian City-State merchants as well as local long distance merchants who found an opportunity there to sell the wares they bought from the Middle-East to merchants from all over Europe. This was also the time when the crusader-aristocrats came back from the crusades with their eyes full of envy for the richnesses they saw in Middle-Eastern markets. So the continental fairs offered ready buyers for the wares of Italian City-State merchants and so the business was booming.
  9. a booming business made long distance merchants rich and so a new class of citizens called the burghers was growing alongside the clergy and the nobility. These 3 social classes appear in the history books as the 3 estates that competed fiercely for political power starting in the 12-13th century till sometime in the 19th century. I call this period Early-Modernity.
  10. the division of Western European elites in the 3 estates forms the context out of which emerged the nation state, its Modern institutions of governance, and democracy. The 3 estates have been engaged in a process of re-negotiating the distribution of power between them since the Early days of Modernity. This was a gradual process that was mostly powered by the ascension of the Burgher class (bourgeoisie). The more its role increased in importance for societies the more power they negotiated for themselves. By the time industrialization had set in the designation of the political decision makers had stabilized in a system of representation that distributed the positions of power between the 3 estates. The representation was assured by a voting system that gave all citizens paying a certain amount of taxes one vote. Each estate presented its program to the voters and that's how political parties finally emerged. 

Such a context was specific to Western Europe and is found nowhere else. This is why I posit that imposing that model in radically different contexts is an heresy that must necessarily backfire.

When the mass-market emerged as a result of industrial mass production it gradually became apparent in the eyes of capital holders that to maximize their returns they had to find a way to maximize the potential buying power of their customers. This was established in two steps:
  • the expansion of the number of buyers: the capital holders with the help of their captive state machinery expanded the market to all citizens. Farmers were encouraged to leave the countryside to become workers in the new factories. In this process they lost their self-sufficiency and were made captives of the market. This was how the market maximized the quantity of buyers. Looking at China one observes that this same mechanism is being put in place presently through a massive urbanization plan. China is living proof that you can’t simply imagine to convert rapidly a majority of farmers into workers without the input of the state. The state has an essential role to play that capital holders can’t assume: building up the transportation infrastructure, the cities that will accommodate the homes for the new workers, etc… The role of the Chinese state is to plan and build this infrastructure. The only difference between today’s China and 19th century Europe and the US is the size of the transfer being operated from countryside to cities and also the speed at which all this is being implemented. I should add that the size and speed of China’s urbanization program justify, not only the role of the state but also, a designation mechanism that selects for the most competent political decision makers. In other words democracy in China’s present context could simply not fulfill the task at hand. It would wreck the whole process and plunge the whole population in a new cycle of chaos, poverty and violence,…
  • the expansion of the quantity of goods bought by each buyer: in the beginning of the 20th century Henry Ford increased the salaries of his workers arguing that if they had enough cash they would not hesitate to buy his cars… It took some time before all Western industrialists understood Ford’s pragmatism but they all eventually came on board. Now let’s observe how fast China has been increasing the wages of its people these last few years!

The massification of the market meant that everybody got the right to chose to buy the products of one's liking. By the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th centuries, socialist parties organized the labor force to demand higher salaries which fitted with Henry Ford’s idea to expand the volume bought by each buyer. The trade-unions’ organizing role of the working class rapidly took a more political tone. They called for a representation of the working class in the political decision making process just as the burghers had done earlier to increase their own representation.

As I mentioned here above the particular context of China’s entry into Modernity (size, speed) is not appropriate for such a Western model of representation. Furthermore China has also its own cultural and historical context to deal with. In all of history and among all countries on earth China is the country that has had, by far, the longest exposure to a shared worldview (animism+) and to a societal system based on the centrality of knowledge that, under stability or under chaos, successfully ensured the life continuity of its nation through the management of a huge bureaucracy (5). One might start to think about how Western arrogance and exceptionalism are measuring on the Chinese scale of time...

4.7.2. About the emergence and development of China's institutions of governance

I have already approached subjects that are related to China's form of governance in the following posts:

Book 1.  History:  Why and how China and the West took different paths in the formation of their worldviews:
"06. From Modernity to After-Modernity . The axioms of civilizations (Part 1)". (About the transition from tribal non-power societies to power societies in the Middle-East and Europe).
"07. From Modernity to After-Modernity. The axioms of civilizations (Part 2)". (About how different physical contexts, in the Middle-East and China, generate the emergence of different kinds of power societies).
"08. From Modernity to After-Modernity. The axioms of civilizations (Part 3)". (About how the axioms founding the worldviews of China and the West emerged and how they are so pole apart that an understanding between the citizens of these 2 civilizations is perceived as a near impossibility).

Book 2. Theory: in each chapter of this book I give a theoretical understanding of the different fields that participate in shaping societal evolution and I compare how the Chinese ways diverge from the Western ways.

Chapter 1. societal knowledge formation
Chapter 2. increasing individual  consciousness
Chapter 3. the evolution of societal worldviews
Chapter 4. societal governance.
The following chapters relate more particularly to our subject:

"Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+". About the evolution of the role of the men of knowledge from animist men of knowledge to sages to the mandarins of power societies.

"Chapter 4. Governance and societal evolution. 4.6.3. Societal reproduction – Individual communion. 2. China unified its early kingdoms along the Yellow River some 3000 years BC "

The transition in China, from ‘tribes-animism’ to ‘empire-animism+’, was an organic process of evolution that starkly differentiates with the rupture observed at each stage of societal evolution in Europe.

To grasp this complex matter it is necessary, it seems to me, to start with a presentation of the factors that were differentiating the experience of animism in China from that of the Middle-East. There, in my mind, lays the source of the bifurcation in their paths that materialized in their unique worldviews and how they approach differently the working of their power societies. context

A.  Physical context

I described the difference, during pre-empire times, between the Chinese and Middle-Eastern context in “Book 1. 2.3. Why such a stark differentiation between East and West?” and “Book 2. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+. Continuity over the long haul” where I wrote:
We have seen that the specific geographic conditions of China favored continuity of thought:
  • size of territory: The Great plain of northern China extends more than 300,000 sq. km. This is where the Chinese civilization evolved. It furthermore protected itself from the outside world by building a great wall.
  • a land based society with no neighboring maritime trading partners and thus very little cultural exchanges that could have inspired early Chinese to swing their worldview by integrating foreign ideas.
  • Chinese society emerged and developed largely in isolation from any other centers of civilization and developed thus by continuing following its own internal existing path. In other words there never was any pressure to reject animism in favor of any other kind of knowledge.
The stark contrast between the context of China and the context of the Middle-East is an eye-opener. The Middle-East was a narrow strip of land where Europe, Asia and Africa came into contact. This immediately evokes the idea of passage and traffic from one area to the other. Such traffic inevitably forces dialog, discussion, and exchanges between different views.”

Map by NASA borrowed from the excellent collection of
historical maps  by tsiosophy.com/world-maps/   
and rearranged by laodan

The 2 black circles on this 2nd map visualize the differences mentioned here above: 
  • first let me say that the word “Middle-East” is typically a European concept. That area is located in the East of Europe somewhere in between Europe and China. But when you observe the first map attentively what jumps to mind is that it is like a “TriContinent-Area” in the same vein as Americans talk about TriState-Areas as for example the NY,NJ,PA TriState-Area. I must say that I prefer a lot this TriContinent-Area appellation. “Middle-East” is so blatantly Eurocentric.  For this reason, going forward, I shall abandon using the term Middle-East and exclusively use the word TriContinent-Area.
  • size: the countries of the TriContinent-Area only dispose of a narrow strip of arable land, the rest of their territory is desert, and these countries appear small indeed when compared to the immense Chinese land mass.
  • rivers and arable land: “The first civilizations came about in river valleys which provided a constant source of water for crops. Irrigation works were often needed which required leadership perhaps leading to the creation of the first states. In addition rivers facilitated travel helping a common culture spread along its banks” (6). The Chinese civilization emerged along the Huanghe river (5460 km) in its “North China plain” that is tillable on about 409,500 km2 and the Yangste river (6300 km). “The Yangtze River Basin covers an area of 1.8 million km2, encompassing about one fifth of China’s total territory, one third of the nation’s total population, and one quarter of its total arable land”. Now the alluvial tillable plain is far smaller than the Yangtze River Basin but I did not find any reliable figure for it. In total the alluvial tillable plains of these two areas cover roughly 10 % of the Chinese territory in its present form.         In comparison the civilizations of the TriContinent-Area emerged in Mesopotamia along the Tigris (1850 km) and Euphrates (2800 km) rivers where its alluvial tillable plain reaches 15,000 km2 and Egypt along the Nile (6853 km). The drainage basin of the Nile covers 3,254,555 square kilometers (about 10% of the area of Africa) that are shared by Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Soudan, and Egypt (7) that controls some 40,000 km2 of arable lands. (8)”         In summary China disposed of roughly 1,000,000 km2 of alluvial tillable plain while Egypt disposed of 40,000 km2 and Mesopotamia some 15,000 km2. The disparity in the figures amply demonstrates China’s potential agricultural advantage...
  • exchanges: the 2nd map irrefutably conveys the idea that economic and cultural exchanges must always have been prevalent in the Middle-East while being inexistent in China before empires emerged some 3000-2500 BC.
The observed differences in size, location, and agriculture potential of these civilizational centers necessarily resulted in shaping strong differences on the path of their societal evolution:  
  • permanent exchanges between TriContinent-Area tribes and tribes from further away in the 3 continents which suggests the idea that cultures and economies were mixing. Now historically the mixing of cultures has been observed to be accompanied by conflicts and the rise of winners and losers which suggests the idea of rupture and cycles. Rupture evokes the idea of stop and go; of one civilization being interrupted  and replaced by a new one with a relatively short timespan. This has been analyzed and verified at length by Arnold Toynbee in his monumental “A study of History”.
  • because of their territory’s size Chinese tribes have been living in isolation from the exterior till after their empire emerged. Exchanges between tribes were thus limited to the internal realm. This implies the build-up of a strong identity and a stable vision of the world that develops incrementally without interruptions  over the long haul and is being shared by all within the territory. All this suggests continuity in the process of development and so a civilization that lasts and grows old and wise...
One might think that isolation limits the scope of innovation while interactions stimulate it due to the increased competition between the societal actors. Is this not one of the foundational tenets of economic science and biological evolution theory? When comparing civilizations China  appears nonetheless to contradict this rule. It is a civilization that fostered one of the most refined worldview, culture, and theory of State management in conditions of chaos. And it is still alive and well after 5000 years. No other civilization comes close to such a description. China escaped the pitfalls of rupture and continuity brought it strait to old age. But, if competition was no the driver of China, what was it?

Along the whole path, from tribes to Early-Kingdoms to empire, China had the opportunity to grow incrementally and without ruptures. So the richness of its worldview and culture has to be understood as the maturation of its observations of the natural cycles over a very very long timespan. In such a developmental process it is cooperation that has ensured the richness of the observations and their maturation. Competition appears more like it was putting the brakes episodically on that process by refusing certain change for example. Once a system opens itself to the outside it attracts the competition of its societies and its individuals. By and large China had the chance to operate in a closed system since tribal times and this, in finale, is what allowed for cooperation to outpace competition.

B.  Worldview and cultural context

Animist knowledge acquisition is a process that was completed in 2 stages:
  1. secret initiation of the apprentice + his observation of nature as a practicing man of knowledge. See "1.2. non-power societies = tribes & animism. The transmission of knowledge under animism."
  2. retreats of the men of knowledge and the celebration of spirit-twins.  See "1.2. non-power societies = tribes & animism. Spirit-Twins."
My rendering in "Spirit-Twins" of this second stage, about the retreats of the men of knowledge from their tribes, was sketchy at best. It has nevertheless played an essential role in the special path China took during its transition from tribes to Early-Kingdoms and then to empire. So I will now expand my presentation of that notion.

Tribal acquisition of knowledge was facilitated by ingesting hallucinogenic substances that varied according to the geographic locales. Siberian shaman, Vedic men of knowledge in India, the Zoroastrians in Persia and the Indian Tantric Buddhists were using the mushroom “Amanita Muscaria” to expand their horizons. The Indian Tantric Buddhists were a branch of Vajrayana Buddhism which was adopted by Tibetans who then inherited the knowledge about the use of that same mushroom. From there its use was transmitted to Mongolia, China and from China the use expanded to Korea and Japan.

Observing the state of trance of their man of knowledge, during feasts or during sessions of health assistance to the sick, the tribesmen understood that his knowledge was acquired through sessions akin to mind torture. So being perceived as accepting such a torture in the service of the group must have generated a lot of gratitude, for the man of knowledge, which explains why he was exempted from all labor chores while nevertheless being supplied with all he needed. When the men of knowledge’s practice is being presented in these terms we better understand that the whole tribal knowledge acquisition process was creating a separation between the men of knowledge from his fellow tribesmen. They needed him so they had much respect for him but they felt different and he felt also different from them. So the common man avoided to socialize with the man of knowledge outside of moments of need of his knowledge rendering service. The following citation by Ives Boileau In “Wu and Shaman” indicates that this social estrangement of the men of knowledge from the citizens reproduced till the imperial era: “Overall, the text of the Yili seems to imply that the Wu was not welcome in human dwellings”. The Yili is a more recent title given to the Confucian Classic “The book of Etiquette and Rites” which was compiled between the 5th and 2nd century BC.

The communication, in tribal societies between the men of knowledge and the citizens, was thus limited  – to the acquisition of remedies or divinations when they felt in need –  and to the feasts where the man of knowledge officiated as producer of the show in charge of the stage, decoration, the programming of the music and dances, and the initiation of trances.

All in all it has been observed in various locations around the world that the men of knowledge spent their lives on the margin of their tribes, on mountains or in forests, where they felt more at ease practicing with their apprentices or with their counterparts and friends of neighboring tribes. The fact of the matter is that the men of knowledge kept a close contact with their peers and they organized regular retreats from their tribes.

These retreats focused on: 

What was at stake, in the belief system of animism, with those spirit-twins was no less than reaching a stage of "universal consciousness" or "seeing with the eyes of the universe". Reaching universal consciousness was seen as the highest accomplishment of a man of knowledge. But the choice was not the man of knowledge's choice. It was considered that, in very rare occurrences, spirit-twins took possession of the minds of a couple of men of knowledge one male and one female and helped them develop the knowledge, the sensitivity, and the practice of "seeing with the eyes of the universe".

Animist apprenticeship was secret and the acquisition of a universal consciousness was even more secret. We know that such a practice existed but, to my knowledge, no information has ever transpired and nothing serious has ever been published on the subject. One of the things we know is that this animist practice was later transferred into early religious systems. The Vedas called this stage of consciousness "Pure Consciousness" or a human awareness that is one with universal consciousness, the Mayans called it "Conscious Co-Creation", the Incas called its holders "Teachers of all others", etc... So it seems as if, in empires all over the earth, this animist notion of "universal consciousness" perdured in one form or another.

The retreats of the men of knowledge from their tribes, often took place inside caves or deep inside forests. They were seen as ritual ceremonies during which the men of knowledge and their apprentices sharpened their knowledge base as well as their practices. These ceremonies were also high moments of "artistic creation". But we have to be couscious about the fact that the term artistic creation is a modern term. What was going on had during these ceremonies had nothing to do with our contemporary understanding about the arts. What we call arts, visual – music – dance, for the shaman represented no more than methods used to:
  • communicate with the spirits
  • transmit meaning and feelings in the minds of their fellow tribesmen.
Another occupation during these retreats was to share from their collegues "soul-twin men of knowledge"  the content of their communication with their spirit-twins and encouraging them in their experiments at "seeing with the eyes of the universe".

Those "soul-twin men of knowledge" who succeeded with the help of their spirit-twins to reach a universal consciousness were considered by their fellow men of knowledge as the true sages among them and were called soul-flames or flames. Unfortunately these terms have been recuperated by new age charlatans to characterize exceptional amourous relationships that attract them followers and income. To avoid any confusion with these new age heresies I have been thinking about changing the terminology in my presentation. But I finally decided to leave things as they are because a change of terminology is unmistakably going to cause even more confusion.

A man of knowledge who was reaching universal consciousness gained the respect of all men of knowledge inside the whole known territory. This, I think, is what has originated the expression "all under heaven" or "Tian Xia" that somehow means "all the population under heaven within the known territory ".

Everywhere on earth such retreats by the men of knowledge from their tribes consolidated such notion of the whole known territory (all under heaven). They were also seen as an opportunity to focus on knowledge which means that they were unifying the belief systems within the territory and simultaneously they were an opportunity to participate in the rituals to venerate the knowledge of the sage men of knowledge.

So during Late tribal societies and their transition to Early-Kingdoms the men of knowledge started developing a knowledge about:
  • people in the known territory (all under heaven)
  • belief (in the sense of worldview)
  • the sage among the men of knowledge gained the respect of all in the territory and so gradually came to symbolize the unity of "all under heaven".

With the eradication of tribes and their knowledge base in Western Europe that knowledge was completely lost. I have not had the opportunity yet to inquire what happened in the TriContinent-Area; this will eventually be be the subject of a future research. In China that knowledge got further refined to form the core understanding upon which rested the expansion of the Chinese nation and the centralized structuring of their societal governance.


1.   See "The axioms of Civilization 1".

2. Violent eradication of animist beliefs, all their ritualistic visual signs, and its knowledge base. See "Origin Mythology": " 'Animism' was common among the European and Asian cultures of pre-historic Eurasia and persisted into relatively recent times in some parts, until it ultimately came into conflict with Christianity. Many of the ancient European cultures, such as the Celts, the Huns, those of the Scandinavians, and many others, believed in a common tie between the "animal" and "human" world. Indeed for many there was no separation at all. This is one reason why the wearing of animal hides was a common ritual practice among the so-called "barbarian" tribes of Europe.
It was precisely this belief in the unity of the human and animal world that that was seen as "pagan" and primitive by later Christians of the Roman Empire and post-imperial Romanized societies. The belief that humans and the animal world are united has been one of the major beliefs that Christians have worked to stamp out over the past two Milena of Christian expansionism. First throughout Europe, and then throughout North and South America, Christians have come into conflict with cultures that viewed humans as having descended, in some form, either spiritually or bodily, from animals. In every case Christians have fought intensely for the past 2,000 years to eradicate the belief that humans and animals have a close relationship.

3. During the dark ages the only literate individuals were the monks and priests and the administration of power could not do without them so the nobility was somehow the captive of the religious authority. See "Wikipedia": "The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of Rome. During the Middle-Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western Civilization. Many of Europe's Universities were also founded by the church at that time. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries."

4. the rise of cities, the crusades, and the resulting long distance trade. See " From Modernity to After-Modernity. Book 1. Early-Modernity. 1.2. From plunder to long distance trade ".

5. Continuity in China. See "Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+.  Knowledge formation and power".
"Scholars were the men of knowledge and they were offered to act as the men of power. Knowledge and power have always been closely intertwined in China. Power societies kept that principle alive and this resulted in a growing knowledge base that was specialized:
  • in the arts
  • in the working of the state bureaucracy
Scholars, also called mandarins, were thus in essence the drivers of the vast machinery of state bureaucracy. This explains how, when invaded by outsiders, the Han mandarins ensured the continuity of state bureaucracy which in turn made it possible for China to be governed by a foreign dynasty without losing its existence. “...during the 2131 years of Chinese dynastic rule (221 B.C.E - 1911 C.E.), there have been 951 years (45%) when all or part of China was ruled by non-Chinese from Central or North-East Asia:
386-581: Northern dynasties (chiefly Xianbei and Xiongnu or Hun peoples)
907-1125 Liao (Khitan people)
1115-1234 Jin1 (Jurchen people)
1206-1368 Yuan (Mongol people)
1616-1911 Qing (Manchu people
in non-Chinese dynasties
Check also the discussion of this question on Quora

6. "World History/Ancient Civilizations" a wikibook

7. Nile River basin.

8. Egypt

No comments:

Post a Comment