Around the Axial Period: original appearance and differentiation of “deity”

WU Chun1

(1.Institute of Philosophy and Intercultural Studies, College of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, Shanghai Normal University)

【Abstract】Karl Jaspers said that in the Axial Period, “Rationality and rationally clarified experience launched a struggle against the myth (logos against mythos); a further struggle developed for the transcendence of the One God against non-existent demons, and finally an ethical rebellion took place against the unreal figures of the gods.” However, the above judgment was actually too general. In fact, after the Axial Period, different views of deity appeared in ancient China, India, Greece, and Judaea, either parted or converged in the same direction. They include the following: (1) the Chinese religious beliefs were most characteristic of continuity, so were ancient Egypt and Babylon; (2) in stark contrast to China, the “deity” of the Jewish nation embodied typical break or breakthrough characteristic which is extremely thorough; (3) the situation in Greece was very close to China, that is, its ancient tradition did not change, but broken or revolutionary new religious forms were gradually introduced thanks to the infiltration and spread of Christianity including Judaism; and (4) by contrast, the evolution of Indian religion may be the most complex: it experienced a process from tradition to break and then to tradition again. In short, the Axial Period experienced different views of deity and different religious paths. Jaspers’ argument or viewpoint was actually vague and confused in concept. To him, myth and deity view were almost inseparable; the elite was almost the same as the public; atheistic rationality was equal to religious ethics; and the deity view or religion appeared identical or no different at all between the East and the West, which conceptualized or exaggerated the role or significance of the Axial Period.

【Keywords】 Axial Period; deity; original appearance; differentiation;

【DOI】

【Funds】 Shanghai Summit & Plateau Disciplines

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    Footnote

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This Article

ISSN:1000-4289

CN: 11-1299/B

Vol , No. 05, Pages 42-51

October 2017

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Abstract

  • 1 Original appearance and general status of “deity” before the Axial Period
  • 2 China: typical continuity
  • 3 Greece: from continuity to break
  • 4 Judaea: typical break
  • 5 India: returning from break to continuity
  • 6 Conclusion
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