The Great Transformation: Chap 04 - Knowledge
(c 700 to 600 BCE)
The Indians now have turned their religious rites almost entirely inward. And their religious texts seem to be moving towards a zen like propensity for stating what the truth isn't rather than what it is. Interestingly women were an active part of religious life. During this period the concept of karma appears for the first time. Abandoning the aggressively self-assertive ego is the goal of this inner practice.
Unlike the the Indians the Greeks were giving more detail and focus to their gods. This is the era of Hesiod who refashioned the stories of the gods to emphasize the importance of justice between humans as a way of becoming closer to the gods. In other axial age cultures the idea of selfless-ness was a religious ideal, with the Greeks it was a a soldierly virtue.
The Chinese are not due to have their pivotal axial age moment for another 200 years or so, but in the mean time they are perfecting intricate rituals and creating a society of gentlemen. They appear have have had crazy notions about wars where it was more important to appear gentlemanly than to win. In fact you could win by being the more modest and restrained of the two armies. Obviously this sort of warfare didn't do too well against neighboring "barbarians" who just wanted to win.
And now the Jews. I just have to say one thing: these guys really got raked over the coals in their history. In fact it's more than a minor miracle that we even know of the Jews at all. They seem to get completely trounced by who ever is in the neighborhood. What's most fascinating about this century is that it is likely the time when the Jewish Bible is actually created. There is an episode where King Josiah's priests "find" the "lost" books of Moses (Deuteronomy) and they use the rules therein as a blueprint for how to reconstruct their society and get right with Yahweh again. Clearly they are not right with Yahweh since Israel proper (the northern kingdom) was completely destroyed and only very small Judea (really just Jerusalem) is left. An interesting new development of this new canon is that there is now a more formal difference between the the religious and the secular. The king is no longer the conduit to and special son of Yahweh. He is just another human with no special privileges and had to follow the law like everyone else. The Deuteronomists were especially interested in Moses and Egypt and augmented those stories quite a bit. Egypt was one of their major threats at this time so they wanted to have a narrative that showed God keeping them in check. Also the God of the Deutornomists was much more a sky god than a guy who would come down into Eden and walk around in the cool mornings. He was becoming much more abstract. Another interesting point is that having the Bible as a written document and having increased literacy meant that more people could go off and just study the text on their own with out having to receive the teaching from another. This would have pluses and minuses.