Arnold Toynbee’s Parallel Vision

Parallels in history – this was one of the great themes of Arnold Toynbee.

Several different regions had in parallel: first generation civilizations, which in some cases collapsed into heroic ages, then second generation civilizations, then universal states, then universal churches (Toynbee’s name for Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism).

Toynbee saw a sequence of transformations from 1) primitive cultures to 2) civilizations to 3) higher religions which, emphasizing fellowship, and being open rather than closed societies, offer the potential for 4) unity of mankind. (Study of History II: 103-5)

Looking back he saw political-religious parallels in the agrarian era, but looking forward he foresaw eventual convergence.

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