Mankind bears the burden of history… and it is man’s creative genius that makes history.
People and their achievements play a key role. But it is the fruits of creative genius –teachings, character, behaviour, schools, dynasties, institutions or places – that determine history.
Genius is found in four broad areas of history, or ‘spheres’ of civilization and culture:
- Power (Macht) – organizes society (poles of civilisation)
- Art (Kunst) – all masterpieces of human civilization
- Science (Wissen) – systems and discoveries of the world relating to culture and civilisation
- Faith (Glaube) – sacred religious texts that go beyond civilizations and culture
The human mind therefore rates world achievements according to the power of history and its five manifestations: faith, the spoken and written word, art and knowledge. Towards the end of his life, Martin Bodmer opted for a symbolic structure based on the number five, chosen arbitrarily but engrained in mankind.
The five ages of history:
- From the origins of mankind to the end of the Palaeolithic Age (about 500,000 years in all): weapons, tools, fire, tribes, burial grounds
- The Neolithic Age (about 200,000 years in all): art, magic, religion
- The Bronze and Iron Ages (5,000 years ago): towns, states, the invention of writing. Includes five civilizations: the Yellow River (Hwang He), the Indus Valley, the Euphrates, the Nile and the islands of the Aegean Sea – the so-called cradle of Western civilization
- C. 750 BC: the five civilizations famous for their writing (Sino-Japanese, Indo-Dravidian, Indo-Iranian, Western and those of the ‘Fertile Crescent’) and their equivalent among the five civilizations without writing (Mexico, Peru, Africa, Malaysia and Australasia)
- Bodmer’s chorus mysticus starts with Homer, Moses, Zarathustra, Buddha, Lao Zi and Jesus. It distinguishes five chronological periods: Ancient Greece (8th century BC – 4th century AD), Ancient Rome (3rd century BC – 5th century AD), the Middle Ages (5th-13th centuries), Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) and the Modern Era (18th-19th centuries). The ‘pentagon of poetry’ acquires here a strong symbolic meaning
A sixth age would be the emergence of the electronic age where writing is no longer the only means of communicating and preserving spiritual values.