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2. Cultural Cycles and Climate Change – Lessons Learned from History & Cycles of Time

· Cultural Cycles and Climate Change

2. Cultural Cycles and Climate Change – Lessons Learned from History & Cycles of Time

We will now look more closely at the some of the key issues which emerged from our study. The first being the reason that the historical approach was taken and then more detail on the unique 854 year cycle which when acknowledged required a shift in one’s view of time from the linear to the cyclical.

Lessons Learned From History

There have been periods in history, sometimes called a ‘Renaissance,’ where consciousness seemed to be more available. From the initial powerful impulse there were then periods of expansion leading to a flourishing of the economic, artistic and spiritual realms of the culture. In time however, a gradual shift into greater ignorance, decadence and decay manifests. This pattern has repeated itself down through the ages involving all cultures, with each one having its own particular type of cycle. There are times when one culture is flourishing while another is suffering from ignorance and conflict.

From a historical perspective, it is useful to explore what can be learned about the development of key ideas that have shaped out current western culture; both the positive values as well as the mistakes and errors in judgement. Some of the material presented will by some standards be considered as a pessimistic appraisal of the current situation. The book’s aim is to strike a balance and in some way emulate Schopenhauer and more recently an English philosopher Roger Scruton, in showing the place of pessimism in restoring the balance and wisdom to the conduct of human affairs.


Many people tend to look upon time only in linear terms. These people have difficulty in accepting the inevitability of cycles as was shown in the business world during the dot - com boom of 2000-01. ‘No more Book & Bust’ was the false claim. Shortly thereafter the financial crisis of 2007-08, brought about by greed and excess resulted in sharp decline, a real ‘bust.’

A cyclical view of a culture relates to all aspects of our activities including the attitudes of mind and heart. One of the best documented works on cycles is contained in a book entitled, the Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb, who analysed in detail more than 11 great empires spanning a number of cultures. He discovered that they each lasted about 250 years but, more importantly for our considerations, each went through the same stages, namely:

  • Pioneers (An outburst of energy)
  • Conquest
  • Commerce
  • Affluence
  • Intellect (One has ideas about principles, but does not live them.)
  • Decadence
  • Decline and Death

According to Glubb, decadence was attributed to; too long a period of wealth & power, selfishness, love of money and a loss of a sense of duty. It was characterised by factors including materialism, frivolity and the weakening of religion.

It does seem clear from this analysis that the common factor in the move from Affluence to Decadence is a strong sense of pride. If one is not careful, continued success can confuse our powers of discrimination which then inevitably leads to unabated egotistic demands for more – More for Me- which results in a life of excess; which in turn inevitably leads to decadence and decline.

Here is another view of a cycle that can be applied to a culture; one which highlights the prominent qualities that are generated at each stage of growth and decline.

It begins with people being in bondage (limited, less than their true self). Then:

  • Bondage brings Faith
  • Faith brings Courage
  • Courage brings Freedom
  • Freedom brings Abundance
  • Abundance brings Selfishness
  • Selfishness brings Complacency
  • Complacency brings Apathy
  • Apathy brings Dependence
  • Dependence brings Bondage

Here again the state of abundance or affluence is eventually undermined by selfishness.

The next Blog will look in more detail at the way that the 854 year cycle of a culture was discovered.