Thursday


Can long vanished civilizations be made to live again through recovery, reconstitution, or reconstruction?

Can long vanished civilizations be made to live again through recovery, reconstitution, or reconstruction?

Introduction

As an addendum to my On the Longevity of Submerged Civilizations I am going to here lay out some terminological conventions that I will observe in future discussions of civilization, and especially in relation to submerged, suboptimal, lapsed, or otherwise failed civilizations. I am calling these “terminological conventions” because the science of civilization is yet in its nascent state, and not only will others use these terms differently, but the concepts for which the terms are here used are unfamiliar and will not be generally recognized.

In particular, I will try to describe the difference between the recovery of a civilization, the reconstitution of a civilization, and the reconstruction of a civilization. In the concluding remarks below we will see how these concepts are related to the existential status of a given civilization, and how each is related to the other by incremental gradations.

The recovery of a submerged civilization may take the form of an insurgency, or even a non-violent campaign, to end a colonial regime which has overlain its civilizational template over the endemic civilization.

The recovery of a submerged civilization may take the form of an insurgency, or even a non-violent campaign, to end a colonial regime which has overlain its civilizational template over the endemic civilization.

Recovery

The term “recovery,” as in “recovered civilization,” I will use to describe the full restoration of a civilization that has been submerged or otherwise in abeyance for a period of time, but has never fully failed or been entirely extirpated, which upon its recovery returns the civilization to active participation in history in actual fact, and primarily for the peoples who were the original source of the civilization. (It might also be interesting to consider the possibility of the recovery of endemic civilizations for non-endemic populations.)

There are several problematic instances of recovery; it is difficult to point to an unambiguous example that captures the concept in its strongest form. I previously cited the partial recovery of Mayan civilization as the Mayan peoples of Mesoamerican, who have kept alive the spoken language and many of the cultural traditions of ancient Maya civilization, having now been given the written language and the history of Mayan civilization through the resources of scientific archaeology, as an instance of long-term submergence and recovery. The reader could formulate the objections to this as easily as I could. There is also the example of colonialized civilizations in Africa and Asia. One could argue that colonization isn’t a submergence as much as it is a temporary bureaucratic overlay of the colonizing civilization.

The re-assertion of the rights of indigenous peoples, once dismissed as savages possessing no civilization, could be understood as the first stages in the recovery of a range of traditional civilizations that nearly vanished under the unstoppable tide of modernism and industrialism. Industrialization occurred so rapidly in many parts of the world that traditional civilizations had no time to gradually fade, but appeared to be catastrophically swept away. In at least some cases, rather than being swept away these traditional civilizations were submerged, and some of these submerged civilizations may experience a limited recovery.

Purposeful reconstitution in the future is likely to make use of cryopreservation technologies.

Purposeful reconstitution in the future is likely to make use of cryopreservation technologies.

Reconstitution

The term “reconstitution,” as in “reconstituted civilization,” I will use to describe the attempt to completely recreate in actual fact a vanished civilization of the past that has completely lapsed and no longer exists even in submerged form. In the case of reconstitution, a civilization has passed the point of possible recovery (in the sense used above) and must be counted as having failed decisively. A reconstituted civilization is a civilization brought back from the dead. Little reflection is needed to see that there are many interesting problems involved in this concept, first of all whether it is even possible.

I do not know of a single example of a reconstituted civilization, or even of a single thorough-going attempt to reconstitute any civilization. The idea is included here for the sake of completeness, and because I intend to develop this idea in much greater detail in the future. I have a lot of notes on the reconstitution of civilization that I hope to turn into a paper or into a long blog post. The idea is particularly relevant for the future of terrestrial life and civilization in the cosmos. Of the short list of possible strategies for interstellar expansion without spacecraft capable of relativistic speeds, along with robotic probes (“Bracewell probes”) and generation ships, there is the possibility of reconstitution. That is to say, a spacecraft could be sent to a distant world without any living beings other than frozen or otherwise preserved cells, and upon arrival at the destination terrestrial life would be reconstituted. The accounts of such missions usually fail to note that not only must human beings and their food sources be reconstituted, but their civilization must also be reconstituted.

If such a spacecraft took tens of thousands of years to reach its destination, the source civilization would almost certainly have lapsed, so that the reconstitution of the civilization would be a “classic” reconstitution scenario of a failed civilization. However, there are some very interesting insights that can be derived from treating this mission structure as a thought experiment. It would be entirely possible to reconstitute a civilization at a distance while the original civilization was still in existence. However, the reconstitution would be of an earlier stage of the civilization of source, so that the civilization of source will have presumably continued in its development, and perhaps it will even have evolved into some other kind of civilization, so that the reconstitution of an earlier state of that civilization still represents the reconstitution of a now-vanished civilization.

Another possible consequence is that a civilization that produces such a mission may have failed at its source, but is reconstituted at a new location, and in this sense lives again and is no longer a failed civilization. If this process is iterated, one can imagine a series of reconstituted civilizations, each reproducing the original civilization of source, and doing so ad infinitum, so that new iterations of this civilization are always appearing somewhere in the universe — perhaps even multiple representatives at any one time — so that this civilization continues to produce copies of itself. Of such a civilization, even if every individual instance ultimately and eventually fails, it could be said that the civilization on the whole could continue in this way indefinitely, and must then be accounted the most successful of civilizations, in so far as it never entirely goes extinct. It would be a reasonable question in this context to ask whether the mission was a method for the reconstitution of the civilization, or whether the civilization was a method for the reconstitution of the mission (and I hope that the reader will understand the relevance of this to Richard Dawkins’ conception of the “selfish gene”).

Historical reconstruction may take the form of experimental archaeology, as in this reconstruction of a medieval castle by authentic methods at Guédelon.

Historical reconstruction may take the form of experimental archaeology, as in this reconstruction of a medieval castle by authentic methods at Guédelon.

Reconstruction

The term “reconstruction,” as in “reconstructed civilization,” I will use to describe the scientific delineation of a vanished civilization of the past, pursued for scientific purposes, i.e., pursued for the sake of scientific knowledge and understanding. As with reconstitution, reconstruction concerns failed civilizations that are beyond the possibility of recovery. However, instead of seeking to revivify a failed civilization, a reconstructed civilization is an intellectual exercise in understanding and does not, generally speaking, seek to bring back a failed civilization.

This is a fairly conventional sense of “reconstruction” as employed by historians and archaeologists in the study of past civilizations. Archaeologists do not concern themselves with the recovery of submerged civilizations or the reconstitution of failed civilizations; their concern is the assemble all available evidence concerning a civilization of the past and to bring that civilization alive again in the mind the scholar, and not in actual fact. However, there are extensions of historiography and archaeology that do involve a limited reconstruction in actual fact, as in experimental archaeology and historical reenactment, which will be considered further below in the concluding remarks.

Minoan civilization may have been brought to a sudden end by the Thera eruption, but most civilizations linger on in a twilight, during which it is difficult to judge whether that civilization is living or dead.

Minoan civilization may have been brought to a sudden end by the Thera eruption, but most civilizations linger on in a twilight, during which it is difficult to judge whether that civilization is living or dead.

Concluding Remarks

A civilization might be definitively and decisively brought to a sudden end by a catastrophe of sufficient magnitude, but civilization-ending catastrophes are uncommon (there is the possibility that Minoan civilization was brought to an end by the Thera eruption), while much more common are civilizations that yield slowly to the ravages of time — so slowly that it may be extremely difficult to choose even a symbolic date for the termination of a civilization. The lingering of decaying civilizations results in several ambiguities in the recovery, reconstitution, and reconstruction of civilizations.

In the definitions above of recovery, reconstitution, and reconstruction the distinction is made between civilizations living and dead, but this distinction, crucial to the definitions, is by no means absolute. As implied in my post on the longevity of submerged civilizations, a civilization might lie dormant in submergence only to be later brought out of dormancy. But how long can this dormant period in submergence go on? One can readily see that the longer a civilization is held in abeyance by adverse circumstances, the more is lost. At some point (and this involves a sorites paradox) a submerged civilization becomes unrecoverable. But it would be unlikely that this transition is a matter of a black-or-white distinction. There is probably an extended period of time during which a civilization is partially recoverable, so that the resultant civilization is part recovery and part reconstitution.

The incremental gradation between civilizations living and dead introduces an incremental gradation between recovery and reconstitution, which are distinguished by the attempt to return to life a submerged civilization and a lapsed civilization, respectively. There is also a gray area between reconstitution and reconstruction. Archaeological reconstructions of vanished civilizations of the past may involve experimental archaeology, which is, in effect, a strictly limited form of the reconstitution of a civilization. Open air museums, such as I described in The Technology of Living, sometimes have working farms with individuals living the historical roles (at least part-time) required for this kind of experimental archaeology. This is generally called historical reenactment, which is also used to describe the reenactment of particular historical battles, or even the reenactment of particular forms of combat, outside the context of a particular battle. The latter is the case with the reenactment of medieval combat, which I discussed in Falling in Love with Medieval Armed Combat.

The project of attempting to recover a submerged civilization may seek the resources of scientific historiography and archaeology in order to better understand those elements of a submerged civilization that have suffered the greatest degradation over time, so that even between recovery and reconstruction there are graded degrees of separation that may be more or less close or distant. A scientific reconstruction of a civilization may be undertaken in the purest expression of disinterested knowledge, or it may be undertaken with the ulterior motive of the reconstruction being useful to the recovery of a civilization understood as a political project. Politically motivated historiography and archaeology are relatively commonplace in a scientific civilization still captive to nationalism and ethnocentrism, which is the reality of the world we live in today.

What I have written here in regard to civilization may be equally well applied to any of that cohort of emergent complexity we know from Earth: geology, biology, intelligence, technology. The more we focus on the natural history end of this continuum the more difficult it may be to see the applicability of recovery, reconstitution, and reconstruction to geology, for example, though in the distant future we may possess the technological agency to reconstitute worlds in various stages of development. Indeed, one can imagine virtual reconstitutions in computer simulations as being nearly within our present technological ability. With human artifacts like technology it is a bit easier to imagine the parallels of technological recovery, technological reconstitution, and technological reconstruction.

Also, what I have written here in regard to vanished civilizations of the past may be extrapolated to nascent civilizations of the future. In Experimental Archaeology of the Future and Portraying the Future: ‘Historical Pre-Enactment’ I discussed displacing experimental archaeology and historical reenactment into the future. In so far as these are tools of reconstruction, and in so far as reconstruction in related to recovery (as a project of politicized science) and reconstitution (as also being concerned with definitively failed civilizations), there may be a way to formulate the above concepts in a way that is as relevant to the future of civilization as to the past of civilization. I have not yet attempted this formulation, but will save this as an inquiry for a future time.

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Sunday


Toynbee imagined a counter-factual in which Christian worship was forced underground in a civilization dominated by Vikings. This illustration of the worship of the Idol of Storjunkar is from Johannes Gerhard Scheffer's Lapponia: The History of Lapland, 1673.

Toynbee imagined a counter-factual in which Christian worship was forced underground in a civilization dominated by Vikings. This illustration of the worship of the Idol of Storjunkar is from Johannes Gerhard Scheffer’s Lapponia: The History of Lapland, 1673.

How long can a civilization be submerged and still be recovered or reconstituted as a viable project? At what point do we pass beyond the possibility of the recovery or reconstitution of a submerged civilization and the attempt at recovery is rather a reconstruction that must inevitably involve the interpolation of novel elements that were no part of the original civilization?

What do I mean by a submerged civilization? When a smaller or less powerful civilization is overwhelmed by a larger or more powerful civilization and the former is entirely assimilated to the latter, one of two things can happen: 1) the assimilated civilization is lost for good, or 2) the assimilated civilization is “submerged,” that is to say, essential elements of the civilization are preserved but are forced underground, perhaps to be cultivated in secrecy and silence, or perhaps to be mostly forgotten until the appropriate opportunity arises, when conditions are right for the submerged civilization to reassert itself.

One might also assimilate civilizational dark ages to the submergence of a civilization, although in the case of dark ages a civilization has been submerged without some other civilization being the cause of this submergence but is, rather, submerged by non-civilization, or by a lower state of development of the submerged civilization itself. An account of submerged civilizations could be given in terms of submergent properties, which are an expression of negative organicism. Under conditions of submergence, those vital properties of a civilization are submerged while its essential properties may remain unchanged.

Toynbee, in the first volume of his A Study of History, gives us a fantastic depiction of counter-factual submerged civilization:

“If Christendom had succumbed to the Vikings — falling under their dominion and failing to convert them to its faith — we can imagine the Mass being celebrated mysteriously for centuries in the underworld of a new society in which the prevailing religion was the worship of Aesir. We can imagine this new society, as it grew to full stature, failing to find satisfaction in the religion of Scandinavian barbarians and seeking the bread of spiritual life in the soil on which the new society had come to rest. In such a spiritual famine the remnant of an older religion, instead of being stamped out as our Western society stamped out witchcraft when it caught the attention of the church, might have been rediscovered as a hidden treasure; and some religious genius might have met the needs of his age by an exotic combination of the submerged Christian rite with latter-day barbarian orgies derived from the Finns or the Magyars.”

Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Volume I, I “Introduction,” C “The Comparative Study of Civilizations,” I “A Survey of Societies of the Species,” (b), p. 99

Toynbee’s choice for a submerged civilization is an interesting one, as in Toynbee’s scenario the agent of submergence is the civilization that was in fact submerged by western Christendom, viz. Viking civilization. (Of course, the early Christians did practise their religion in semi-secrecy during the persecutions, but this was a secret practice of a nascent movement building in strength, not a formerly powerful faith forced underground.)

Civilization in the western hemisphere is particularly rich in submerged civilizations because of the nature and the character of the Spanish (and Portuguese) conquest of Spanish America. Large numbers of native peoples were subjugated by a relatively small number of Spaniards, which meant that the practical details of administering the new Spanish empire in the Americas had to be delegated to native representatives. Moreover, the Spanish routinely took wives and concubines from the native populations and thus rapidly created a Mestizo population that inherited the culture both of their mothers and their fathers. In this cultural mix a civilization submerged by conquest might be readily kept alive just below the surface of daily life.

Implicit in the idea of a submerged civilization is the possibility of its re-emergence, when the submerged tradition is recovered and returned to the world as a living tradition. A paradigm case of a submerged civilization would involve its re-emergence from a continuous but hidden tradition, so that it is understood that the submerged civilization had gone into hiding during times of adverse conditions, but was sufficiently robust to return to the light of day when those conditions changed.

Implicit in the idea of a civilization re-emergent is the original question above, with which I began: how long can a civilization be submerged and still retain the essential identity of its traditions so that its recovery is not an ex post facto artificial reconstitution? This question in turn implies the question of how a distinction is to be made between the recovery of a civilization and the reconstitution of a civilization. There are several ways this distinction might be made, presumably contingent upon some continuous living tradition essential to that civilization, whether the language, come cultural practice, or the maintenance of some essential idea. Ideally, we ought to adduce examples of both recovered and reconstituted civilization for purposes of comparison.

Does terrestrial history provide a single example of the unambiguous recovery of civilization? Probably not. There are possible instances that might be cited, but all are ambiguous or problematic. It is arguable that Indian civilization was submerged during the colonial period, and reemerged following decolonization. Similar claims could be made for most of the colonized regions of the world. The Soviet Union during its expansionary phase imposed Soviet Civilization throughout geographically contiguous lands, submerging the endemic civilizations of these regions. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, these peoples rapidly threw off the remnants of Soviet Civilization and returned to their traditions as though the Soviet period had been a bad dream.

This suggests a general rule: wherever there is a failed civilization, there is the possibility of a predecessor civilization or civilizations being reasserted. This general rule suggests further possibilities. For example, a Suboptimal Civilizations would be an obvious candidate where a strong but submerged civilization might break through again to the surface (cf. also Addendum on Suboptimal Civilizations). Another example would be nascent civilizations not yet fully asserting their authority over subject populations, or a decrepit civilization near the end of its powers. The failure of the pagan civilization of classical antiquity, in the face of an emergent Christian tradition coming into the fullness of its powers, may be taken as an example of the latter.

Rather than “pure” forms of submergence and re-emergence, mostly what we have seen is descent with modification, and that modification has always been sufficient to constitute a new species of civilization, rather than a recovery or reconstitution of the old civilization. But if a new civilization has some continuity with a predecessor civilization, and carries this tradition forward under changed conditions, this may be the only circumstance in which a civilizational tradition experiences continuity.

Perhaps the closest we have to a concrete example of the long-term submergence of a civilization which was eventually re-asserted is that of Mayan civilization. When the Spanish arrived in the New World the Mayan civilization was already effectively over, with only a few remaining pockets still active, while the greatest Mayan centers had already been abandoned and reclaimed by the tropical rainforest of Mesoamerica — the common fate of Civilizations of the Tropical Rainforest Biome when they fail. Nevertheless, due in part to conditions cited above, Mayan culture and language remained strong among the Mayan people. In Mesoamerica, the majority population to this day remains predominantly native, which increases the likelihood of the survival of a submerged civilization. The (partial) reconstitution of Mayan civilization is happening in our own time, as the record of the Mayan civilization has been painstakingly reassembled by the methods of scientific archaeology, and subsequently re-introduced to the peoples who have retained in living memory the language and the culture. In the documentary Breaking the Maya Code, a fascinating account of deciphering the Mayan written language, there is a remarkable coda in which Mayan peoples are reintroduced to their history, read off from deciphered monuments. The Mayan peoples of Mesoamerica, with their language intact and their history rediscovered, are in a position to take their reconstituted tradition into the future and to give the Mayan civilization a second chance.

The problem of recovered and reconstituted civilizations after a submergence event may be assimilated to the more general problem of the effacement of history that I began to address in History Effaced. Most historical effacement leaves an unrecognized absence that is passed over in silence; the Stalinist re-writing of history, in which individuals who had fallen out of favor were literally painted out of official pictures, aimed at this kind of historical effacement as an ideal. In order for us to understand that an effacement of history has taken place, we must be aware of the ellipsis, and this awareness is the first step toward recovery or reconstitution.

The problem of historical effacement is more general than the above problem of civilizational submergence, because effacement occurs throughout historically sedimented knowledge and is not confined to civilization. Nevertheless, these reflections on the submergence of civilization may have some relevance for the recovery and reconstitution of effaced history of all kinds. And vice versa. As the historical sciences explicitly seek a reconstruction of the lost past, so too a science of civilization might explicitly seek a reconstruction of lost civilizations, which suggests the possibility of giving a systematic account of the relations between recovery, reconstitution, and reconstruction. But that will be an inquiry for another time.

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Worship of an idol of Thor.

Worship of an idol of Thor.

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In the Shadow of Civilization

28 September 2012

Friday


Submerged Civilizations: another species

An early modern depiction of a Viking temple from the Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (Rome, 1555) by Olaus Magnus.

to add to the zoo of civilizations


I have learned many valuable lessons from hostile criticism. It was Bertrand Russell’s criticism of Bergson (across several different books) that led me to read Bergson himself, and when I did so (mindful of Russell’s own advice that, “to read an author simply in order to refute him is not the way to understand him”) I realized that even if all of Russell’s criticisms were technically true in the narrow sense, that none of them touched the spirit of Bergson’s philosophy. Like Russell, Walter Kaufmann was a master of the deftly-executed hatchet job, done with a clear conscience. By calling some of Kaufmann’s criticisms of other philosophers “hatchet jobs” I am not saying that they are wrong or illegitimate, I am only making a point about the spirit in which they are executed.

You will not be surprised to hear, then, that it was Walter Kaufmann’s essays on Toynbee that led me to read Toynbee, so I began my reading of Toynbee with Kaufmann’s criticisms ringing in my ears. Kaufmann took up Toynbee in the last two chapters of his From Shakespeare to Existentialism, Chapter 19 “Toynbee and Super-History” and Chapter 20 “Toynbee and Religion.” After you read these two chapters you are likely to feel dumbfounded that Toynbee had the temerity to publish such half-baked thoughts. There is, then, an element of incredulity involved when hostile criticism leads you to look up the original author to see what he really said.

Just as Russell was right about Bergson, Kaufmann was right about Toynbee, but i have still returned to Toynbee and found something of value — not all the baroque details of the exposition, and not even the grand schema of his thought, but the occasional idea, plucked out of context here and there. I have, in this manner, plucked many ideas out of Toynbee, who has proved to be a fertile source for ideas about the typology and classification of civilizations.

I have been explicit in my own criticism of Toynbee, as when I pointed out in Why We Are All Eskimos that Toynbee had it exactly backward when he classified Eskimos (and, more generally, nomadic hunter-gatherers of the far northern latitudes) as an “arrested civilization.” Nevertheless, I find the ideas of arrested civilizations (Eskimos and Polynesians for Toynbee) and abortive civilizations (Vikings and the “Celtic Fringe” of Irish Christianity in late antiquity and the early middle ages) to be quite useful and, indeed, enlightening. In coming to a comprehensive understanding of civilization, we also need to study the blind alleys of civilizations and sub-civilizational development.

Toynbee also discussed “fossil” civilizations (this seems to have particularly irritated Kaufmann) and another kind of civilization that he does not name or explicitly identify, but illustrates with an imaginative story:

“If Christendom had succumbed to the Vikings — falling under their domination and failing to convert them to its Faith — we can imagine the Mass being celebrated mysteriously for centuries in the underworld of a new society in which the prevailing religion was the worship of Aesir. We can also imagine this new society, as it grew in wisdom and stature, failing to find satisfaction in the religious heritage of the Scandinavian Völkerwanderung and seeking for the bread of spiritual life in the soil on which, when the Völkerwanderung had subsided, the new society had found rest for the sole of its foot. In such a spiritual famine the remnant of an older religion, instead of being stamped out as in our Western history witchcraft was stamped out when it caught the attention of the Church, might have been rediscovered as a hidden treasure; and some religious genius might have met the needs of his age by an exotic combination of the submerged Christian rite with latter-day barbarian orgies derived from the Finns or the Magyars.”

Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Volume 1, Part One, 1, C, I, b (p. 99 in my edition)

There are many features of this passage that perfectly illustrate the qualities of Toynbee’s thought that rightly irritated Kaufmann. Toynbee was definitely of the “tender-minded” temperament, and he tried to place his own religious faith in the best possible light. For my part, I should much rather participate in the orgies of the Finns and Magyars and leave Christianity submerged, but Toynbee had a touching attachment to his Christianity, and I have no doubt that Kaufmann was right when he identified this as the source of Toynbee’s thought and his popularity, especially in America. Amid all the tedious details about internal and external proletariats, people want to be reassured that all is for the best and good will triumph in the end. Well, we need not fall to this level of vulgarity to find something of value in Toynbee’s conception of a submerged civilization.

Toynbee’s fantasy of a submerged Christianity in the underworld of a triumphant Viking civilization is, in fact, the exact opposite of what did happen: a submerged Viking civilization in the underworld of a triumphant Christendom. And I think it is right to say that Viking civilization was submerged and that it didn’t just vanish in a puff of smoke when the leadership of Scandinavian society was converted to Christianity. In fact, Viking civilization moved to Iceland. Iceland remained Viking and pagan for quite some time after the Scandinavian continent was firmly under Christian control.

Even after Iceland, too, was converted to Christianity (a transition that is captured in Njal’s Saga) it continued to be culturally part of the Viking legacy for hundreds of years. It was not until the high middle ages that the Icelandic sagas were set to paper, constituting one of the world’s great literary tradition, and in a sense even expressing the essence of Viking civilization after than civilization had effectively disappeared from history.

In several posts (among them, Axialization of the Nomadic Paradigm, Addendum on Axialization: Organicism and Ecology, and Axialization and Institutionalization) I have suggested a generalization of Jaspers’ conception of an Axial Age, so that the one-off process that Jaspers identified can be conceived as a more general process of axialization that occurs in different societies in different times. I will not try to give a full exposition of this at present, but I realize now that the idea of an Axial Age can be made both more general and more particular. Among the Axial Age that Jaspers identified, a global transition of world history manifested in many different civilizations, we can identify subdivisions within this Axial Age, as, for example, the axialization of Hindu civilization and the axialization of Buddhist civilization, etc.

This sketch of the concept of axialization can then be applied to submerged civilizations, and what I am here suggesting is that in the case of Viking civilization that it achieved its axialization after it became a submerged civilization, with its axialization taking the form of the literature of the Icelandic sagas. In so far as the essence of a civilization may continue in its submerged form, even after that civilization has disappeared from history in its explicit form, its essential elements may yet be expressed in a posthumous axialization.

One way to express this would be to say that abortive or arrested civilizations attain their fully civilization status only in the event of ex post facto axialization. Or this observation can be employed as the ground of a distinction, and we can distinguish between abortive or arrested civilizations with and without ex post facto axialization.

The Christian occlusion of Viking civilization was permanent, although Viking civilization continued in the shadows for centuries allowing it to come to a furtive axialization. There is also the possibility of the temporary occlusion of a civilization. Civilizations conquered or colonized almost always result in the native civilization going underground and becoming a submerged civilization. An obvious case of this is the civilization of the native peoples of the Americas, which continues to this day, more than five hundred years later, as a submerged civilization. Who is to say whether or not this submerged civilization might not rise again in the fullness of time, although the thorough-going syncretism of Latin Christianity and native elements argues against this.

A perhaps less obvious example might be that of the temporary occlusion of Hindu civilization during Britain’s three hundred year rule of the Indian subcontinent, or any of the other major colonizations of world history, when that colonization eventually came to an end and a post-colonial regime attempted to restore the civilization that preceded conquest and colonization. In the case of Hindu civilization in India, the submergence was relatively brief; it could be argued that there was also a submergence of Hindu civilization under the Muslim Mogul emperors.

Civilizations across Africa, Asia, and the Americas were all submerged to a greater or lesser degree. Some have reemerged into the light of day; some, like the Vikings, have been permanently extirpated, but may yet experience a posthumous axialization. But the widespread fact of submerged civilization points to the importance and usefulness of the concept.

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