The eonic effect as a long lost and so far only clue to the evolution of language
September 26th, 2016 ·
The study of the eonic effect (history and evolution.com) can be an arduous trek through an immense amount of complex data but its basic method is sure footed and can create a set of complex gestalts of the ‘evolution/development’ of various historical entities.
This study can give us one set of clues to the evolution of language because we see over and over the sudden emergence of ‘very late’ linguistic constructs: art/literature in timed emergence intervals, in a complex sequence constituting the rapid appearance of a cultural literature. The most spectacular case is the clearly documented Greek Archaic in the Axial interval, which produces an ‘instant literary corpus starting with the Greek epics, moving to an immense field of lyric, concluding (outside the Axial interval) with the stunning Greek tragic phase, after which the effect damps out rapidly. This requires a cautionary study of the ‘stream and sequence’ effect to make clear that in many cases we see not an absolute innovation but a relative transformation of an entity. That’s clear in the case of the Greek epic which has a prior history of bardic culture, but then with a sudden remorphing collation and upgrade into a whole Homeric corpus, notably the Iliad and the Odyssey, with a very large additional corpus (the tale of the Trojan horse never appears in the Iliad).
This example shows that a high level process we call ‘macroevolution’ in a special sense can operate over three plus centuries over a cultural region and induce in the common field of members of that culture the creation by such individuals of new and highly advanced aesthetic/linguistic artifacts at the highest level of art/genius. This is a truly stunning discovery right under our noses. We must keep in mind this is by indirect inference of methods of relative periodization and correlation, meaning that we don’t see ‘what caused what’. Further, in the model given a careful distinction is made between the systematics of the macro process and the free agency of those who execute history (and a macro transformation). The latter can be considered the ‘micro’ aspect. What does this mean? How does the macro induce the micro? Does the macro create great literature? Clearly not, as far as we can tell: ‘man makes himself’, in the famous phrase, and yet he clearly gets a lot of help from a mysterious and transient field like effect in a series of discrete transitions. How can we understand this? There is a simple analogy, which can’t be the whole story, but which can help up to a point, which is to consider the distinction of a genre from its exemplars. We even see an example: the sudden emergence (at least in Greek literature, there may have been Sumerian tragedies for all we know, just to be non-committal about absolute origins) of the new genre of ‘tragedy’ (clearly foreseen in the mood of the Iliad, however): the macro generates a high level abstraction and potential and the poet realizes its exemplars. This distinction of system action and free agency all at once clarifies the parallel moment of the stunning synchrony of the Old Testament history of Israel in the Axial interval 900 to 600 BCE (!), a history hopelessly confused by this double action of macro and micro, of a mysterious history of the Axial effect and the Israelites who composed the ‘genre’ of the Old Testament, etc…We should note the remarkable fact that the Israelites noticed the Axial interval in which they were immersed as it happened and resorted to a cargo cult of a divinity acting in history. That has created great confusion, but it is, taken with the anthropologist fan club cheering on ‘primitives’, a remarkable insight and discovery.
Let us note in passing that Homer was very clear that he was a mouthpiece for the ‘muse’ and that he didn’t ascribe his poetry to free agency.
This study doesn’t clarify the question of genetic correlates of high level cultural evolution. I feel increasingly suspicious there is a genetic component to the emergence of civilization, but we can’t close the case here.
This ‘macro effect’ is something very late that assumes a basic genetic potential of man in an historical context. We can’t be sure however just what changes the eonic effect might have induced in man genetically in the last ten thousand years, so we can’t directly apply this model to the earlier stage of human evolution of man in general or language in particular.
But we have enough for a judicious guess, if we can assume that what we see in later history applies to the earlier period plus a genetic factor we don’t yet understand. First, anything that can operate over ten thousand years to induce coherent effects on a stupendous scale could induce we suspect ‘mere changes of various genes’. But we can’t speculate without caution.
We have the gist thus of a theory of language evolution, this time applied not on the scale of the Axial Age, but of a more focalized aggregate of hominids, homo erectus most likely, isolated in an African scene, the object of a macrosequence of tens of millennia in a series of transitions that return on their speciating field, inducing holistic transforms of linguistic action, perhaps via primordial art forms, song, saga, and dance.
However, we must stand back to see a far more general transformation.
If we examine the examples above, e.g. the Greek Axial inside the eonic sequence, we see that the transformation is far more than a question of linguistic arts: it is a transformation of a whole culture, the overall rapid ‘evolution’ visible in Archaic Greece of cultural, political, artistic, philosophical, and other factors.
Thus in our consideration of early emerging homo sapiens we would see a larger complex of cultural/genetic evolution and it may be this way all the way through: a macro transformation that is more than the genetic: an overall transformation of the net ‘whole’ of hominid, culture, and genetics in a unitary field of an evolving complex.
This model shows just how fast the macro process operates: in three centuries an entire field of culture is transformed, and in ten thousand years plus we see the whole of human civilization emerge, and we strongly suspect this macro effect goes back to the start of Neolithic if not before. (We can’t be sure if there were any macro effects in the higher/lower Paleolithic 50kBCE to the Neolithic, unfortunately)
All at once we have a model of how something as sudden as the appearance of homo sapiens might have occurred, with no details, with a general framework for how this can happen, an early variant of the historical case we do see.
No wonder we can’t figure it out. We must have rich data sets over very specific short intervals, and that we don’t have. We must consider, to repeat, a larger set of transformations, which might revolve around the entry of ‘mind into emerging homo sapiens’ as an integrated mental/physical transformation that put man in part into spooky physics realms with a sense of spirit, of soul, of art, of ethical action with a will, a new range of consciousness in potential, and a ‘creative energy’ that in part fueled the creation of language, poetry, song, etc…
That’s the best I can do, hope it helps… the study of the eonic effect takes time and requires the study of multiple resources in each period in question over the whole range of world history, a lot of work.
But it is a reminder that we underestimate the sheer stupendous scale of any theory of evolution. We can’t speculate about a mechanism in a void. We confront immense data sets, here the entire historical corpus in all possible aspects over a ten thousand year interval. We barely observe this in recent world history. In the case of earlier man, we have almost nothing as yet.