Many years ago, I read A Study in History by Arnold Toynbee. His book introduced me to the concept that history was not just a random set of facts but that it contained patterns that could be analyzed and understood. Two principles stood out from that book:
1) Societies and civilizations are not just static. Instead, they are living entities that are growing, stagnating, or dying.
2) Religion plays a major role in the development of a society, especially during the transition period from one civilization to another, because it acts as the seed which contains the essence of the old civilization and sprouts to form the core of the new civilization.
Many factors strongly suggest that we are currently experiencing the end of Western civilization. If so, then it is vital for us to ‘build an ark’ of knowledge and understanding that can help guide us through the coming time of confusion. And, this ‘ark’ must include religion as a key element. Augustine was motivated to write The City of God by the fall of Rome. My research and writing has also been strongly driven by what I see happening around me.
Those who are science fiction buffs have probably read The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. The premise of these series of three books is that the galactic civilization is decaying and that mankind is about to experience 30,000 years of barbarianism before re-emerging from chaos. However, the researcher Hari Seldon has studied the science of history and by applying his plan, he can shorten this time to a dark ages lasting only one millennium.
Isaac Asimov talks about understanding history, but if you look at the theory that he describes, he manages to come up with only two ideas:
1) Society is fractal. In other words, you can look at a small society and treat it as a model for all of civilization.
2) Societal science is statistical and only works with a large group of people. In his novel, Asimov suggested that the science of history only applied when dealing with at least 50 billion people.
I have studied mental symmetry for long enough and know enough about history to have come to the conclusion that there really is a science to history. Asimov’s two principles are both true and significant, but they need modifying:
1) The mind is fractal. Each mental module works in many ways and at many scales. But, in all cases, the same type of processing is going on. For instance, as a Perceiver person, I work with facts, connections and beliefs. But, I may believe that Western civilization is coming to an end, or else I may believe that I am seeing a piece of lint on the carpet and not a spider. I may see connections between my time and the final stages of Roman civilization, or I may see connections between the shape and color of the lint and the form of a spider. The size and form of the subject may change, but what stays the same in all cases is the type of processing.
Therefore, I conclude that not only can you learn about civilization by studying society, but you can also learn about society by examining the individual—if you include the key factor of cognitive style.
2) Societal science works only with a large group of people. This appears to be partially true. When people get together, then certain modes of thought dominate, and a society goes through a natural progression of mental ‘resonance points’ which are extremely difficult to alter.
However, exactly the same principle applies to the individual. Free will may be real, but it also appears to be quite limited. I may like to think that I can always choose the entire alphabet, but if I am currently at ‘D’, then my range of choices lies between ‘C’ and ‘E’, or possibly ‘C’ and ‘F’. If I choose ‘F’, then my mind may eventually develop to the point where I can now choose between ‘D’ and ‘G’. If I continue to make similar choices, then after a few years, I may be able to reach ‘L’ or ‘M’. However, the vast majority of individuals will spend most of their lifetime hovering within a few letters of their starting point. Thus, if you understand mental symmetry, you find that the typical individual ends up being rather predictable.
There is another factor that prevents a person from undergoing major personal change. The human ‘alphabet’ is not continuous. Instead, it contains major gaps which can only be crossed by mentally ‘dying’ to one way of thinking and being ‘reborn’ to a new way of functioning. As far as I can tell, the four divisions of MBTI® describe these gaps: Thinking vs. Feeling; Perceiving vs. Judging; Sensing vs. iNtuition; Introverted vs. Extraverted.
The saying goes, ‘no pain; no gain’. However, it appears that there are actually two types of pain associated with mental or societal growth. Normal growth involves normal pain. Integrating an MBTI® division, in contrast, produces hyper-pain. Normal pain is a unpleasant emotion attached to a set of experiences. Hyper-pain is the angst that is felt when a living mental network falls apart. I discuss these two emotions further in my analysis of Christianity.
One final point about Asimov and his Foundation trilogy. Later in his life, he actually wrote three further volumes in the series, introducing the entirely new concept of Gaia, in which all individuals submerge their personal identity within the ‘life’ of the planet. In the high point of the new series, the hero is supposed to choose between a technology based civilization and one based in a Gaia form of interconnected life.
This choice, I suggest, assumes the existence and permanence of the MBTI® split between Thinking and Feeling. Technology uses Thinking; it involves the head but not the heart. Gaia is pure Feeling; heart ruling head. This describes the major mental split of Western civilization—the division between objective and subjective. Because western society has not integrated Thinking and Feeling, we are now being forced to choose between the two. But, it is possible for an individual, and a society, to bring these two together, and I describe this process in great detail. However, going through this transition means enduring hyper-pain, and that is not easy.
I have written a book on history which describes several principles that I have discovered. You can either download it as a pdf or else read it here. I have split it into several parts to make it easier to read on the web.