This fresh perspective on crucial questions of history identifies the root metaphors that cultures have used to construct meaning in their world. It offers a glimpse into the minds of a vast range of different peoples: early hunter-gatherers and farmers, ancient Egyptians, traditional Chinese sages, the founders of Christianity, trail-blazers of the Scientific Revolution, and those who constructed our modern consumer society.
Taking the reader on an archaeological exploration of the mind, the author, an entrepreneur and sustainability leader, uses recent findings in cognitive science and systems theory to reveal the hidden layers of values that form today's cultural norms.
Uprooting the tired cliches of the science-religion debate, he shows how medieval Christian rationalism acted as an incubator for scientific thought, which in turn shaped our modern vision of the conquest of nature. The author probes our current crisis of unsustainability and argues that it is not an inevitable result of human nature, but is culturally driven: a product of particular mental patterns that could conceivably be reshaped.
By shining a light on our possible futures, the book foresees a coming struggle between two contrasting views of humanity: one driving to a technological endgame of artificially enhanced humans, the other enabling a sustainable future arising from our intrinsic connectedness with each other and the natural world. This struggle, it concludes, is one in which each of us will play a role through the meaning we choose to forge from the lives we lead.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations 9
Formatting Conventions 11
Preface: A Cognitive History of Humanity 15
Introduction: Shaping Our History 27
Part 1 Everything Is Connected
Chapter 1 How We Became Human 39
Chapter 2 The Magical Weave of Language 53
Chapter 3 The Rise of Mythic Consciousness 67
Chapter 4 The Giving Environment: The World of the Hunter-Gatherers 83
Part 2 Hierarchy of the Gods
Chapter 5 Agriculture and Anxiety 103
Chapter 6 Going Their Own Ways: Early Civilizations 117
Part 3 The Patterns Diverge
Western Pattern: Split Cosmos, Split Human
Eastern Pattern: Harmonic Web of Life
Chapter 7 The Birth of Dualism in Ancient Greece 143
Chapter 8 Dualism and Divinity in Ancient India 161
Chapter 9 The Search for Harmony in Ancient China 179
Chapter 10 The Cultural Shaping of Our Minds 197
Chapter 11 Pathways to Monotheism in Israel and Alexandria 215
Chapter 12 Sinful Nature: The Dualistic Cosmos of Christianity 227
Chapter 13 The Scourge of Monotheistic Intolerance 239
Chapter 14 Discovering the Principles of Nature in Song China 251
Part 4 Conquest of Nature
Chapter 15 "To Command the World": Metaphors of Nature 277
Chapter 16 Great Rats: The Story of Power and Exploitation 293
Chapter 17 The Enigma of the Scientific Revolution 317
Chapter 18 The Language of God: The Emergence of Scientific Cognition 335
Chapter 19 "Something Far Move Deeply Interfused": The Systems Worldview 357
Chapter 20 Consuming the Earth in the Modern Era 375
Part 5 The Web of Meaning?
Chapter 21 Trajectories to Our Future 405
Further Reading 443