Jaspers’ Achsenzeit Hypothesis: A Critical Reappraisal
Jaspers idea of a grand shift in the spiritual paradigm of unrelated civilizations, located rather generously somewhere around the middle of the first millennium BC, inspired only few historians, but a closer reading reveals that Jaspers was always more concerned with what we can learn for the situation of our own time from what is generally true about our perception of antiquity. Jaspers made this argument twice, namely, in 1931 and again in 1949. The post-modern situation, globalization, and the question of how we understand human existence under these conditions are still of obvious relevance. This essay also brings Jaspers’ idea of an axial age to bear on an ongoing study of the millennial history of Jerusalem.