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Keywords:

  • Axial Period;
  • consciousness;
  • earth;
  • Jaspers;
  • modern;
  • postmodern;
  • Teilhard;
  • primal peoples;
  • world cultures;
  • world religions

This article describes a challenge to the cultures and religions of the world that the author believes is the greatest challenge that has confronted the human race in its entire history. Modernity's search for unity and postmodernity's affirmation of pluralism reflect aspects of our current situation, but more needs to be recognized. We must acknowledge that East and West must face the current challenges together. Multiculturalism and unity encompass all world cultures, and we cannot be content to read our present history only through the lens of western developments. Karl Jaspers's theory of the First Axial period of history, 800-200 B.C.E., in which all the present world religions have their roots, is useful. It reveals that our present flowering of culture and spirit in the Western world, including our science, is not so much a product of the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment, as it is rooted in cultural events that belong to East and West equally. We are now in the Second Axial Period, which challenges the world religions to allow their energies to move toward convergence, just as in the previous millennia they moved toward differentiation. Teilhard de Chardin's thought is a guide for us, in his vision of a complex convergence of consciousness, in which differences will not be abolished but will be transformed in their coming together. This convergent perspective will also join with the perspective of rediscovering our roots in the earth, and it will repossess the spirituality of the primal peoples, in its understanding of the entire human race to be one tribe. The world religions are faced with the task, therefore, of encountering each other in “dialogic dialogue,” and channeling their spiritual resources toward the solution of real-world global problems.