The New Mindscape

Week 11

The Axial Transcendence and Tensions

The Axial Age, or Axial Revolutions, is a milestone of human advancement and thought. Most of the modern religions came into being through propagating self-reflection and self-transcendence rather than blindly following social norms. However, these religions gradually became conventions too, also sparking controversies across history. This series shall offer an insight into the making of modern religions and the debates surrounding its institutions and roles in society.


Modalities of Knowing

Sociologist Robert Bellah proposed four ‘modalities of knowing’ that represent the evolution of human knowledge over history. As humanity went through the unitive, enactive, symbolic, and conceptual modalities over time, our mindsets became more and more sophisticated and humans started to self-reflect and self-criticize. The start of the final modality of knowing thus gave rise to the Axial Age, when most of the religious and philosophical systems we see today came into being. Watch this video to learn the processes leading to the birth of modern religions and philosophy.


During the Axial Age (cc. 800-200 BC), many figures emerged as prophets, messengers, or manifestations that laid the foundations of modern religions. The story of Moses, one of the first prophets of the Abrahamic religions, was written into the Bible at that time. Moses and many other important religious founders have all induced fundamental changes to the religious norms of their times, leading to the so-called Axial Revolutions. This video shall introduce you to some important Axial figures and how they revolutionized religious practices and beliefs.

Axial transcendence

The major idea of self-reflexivity gained traction with the Axial Revolutions inspired by several Axial figures. As a result, religion is no longer merely following the given rituals and norms but a self-reflection and self-transcendence. The idea of monotheism—the belief that there is only one supreme God—also challenged the view of an enchanted world as it gained popularity with the rise of Axial religions. Watch this video to learn how these new ideas of spirituality transformed pre-existing religious views.

Axial Tension

Despite the revolutionary, transcendental ideas the Axial religions put forward, these religions became conventions over time. More people in history further criticized these customs and established new sects and innovations from traditional religions. Watch this video for a brief introduction to the new challenges of religion after the Axial Age.

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word

Jeff&Alyssa: “A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God the Father.”

Axial Tension in Christianity

A viral video on YouTube criticized the Christian church for being merely a dogmatic institution and has strayed from the original teachings of Jesus Christ. Although this had sparked much debate, this video reflected the current tension within religions using Christianity as an example. Watch this video to understand the criticisms against religions in a Christian context.

Fr. Pontifex – Why I Love Religion, And Love Jesus

Fr. Pontifex: “A response to the video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. The purpose of this video is to do a response from a Catholic perspective, in a spirit of love, but also with a spirit of passion to defend our Mother the Church. The things that are said are not meant to offend, but we do have to be direct about what we believe and what we stand for.”

Religious Institutions and Politics

Responding to the video mentioned previously, another video argued for the importance of Christian institutions in history, providing more opinions in the debate on religious politics. The same arguments are ensuing in many other religions. But for us to understand better on this subject, we should also look at the role of religious institutions and communities in history and society. This video shall highlight the historical roles of religious institutions and how they led to numerous controversies.


Q&A on Spiritual Capitals