From one of the world’s leading writers on religion and the
highly acclaimed author of the bestselling A History of God, The Battle for God
and The Spiral Staircase, comes a major new work: a chronicle of one of the
most important intellectual revolutions in world history and its relevance to
our own time.
In one astonishing, short period—the ninth century BCE—the
peoples of four distinct regions of the civilized world created the religious
and philosophical traditions that have continued to nourish humanity into the
present day: Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India;
monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Historians call
this the Axial Age because of its central importance to humanity’s spiritual
development. Now, Karen Armstrong traces the rise and development of this transformative
moment in history, examining the brilliant contributions to these traditions
made by such figures as the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Ezekiel.
Armstrong makes clear that despite some differences of
emphasis, there was remarkable consensus among these religions and
philosophies: each insisted on the primacy of compassion over hatred and
violence. She illuminates what this “family” resemblance reveals about the
religious impulse and quest of humankind. And she goes beyond spiritual
archaeology, delving into the ways in which these Axial Age beliefs can present
an instructive and thought-provoking challenge to the ways we think about and
practice religion today.
A revelation of humankind’s early shared imperatives,
yearnings and inspired solutions—as salutary as it is fascinating. Download and start listening now!