Michio Kushi’s Spiral Of History
This blog post is the first of several select reproductions of articles from the “Order Of The Universe” magazine which published many lectures and articles by Michio Kushi and his students from 1967 to 1981. The Order Of The Universe Magazine documented the immense scope of Michio’s teachings which laid out a vision and new understanding of our world that continues to unfold today. His lectures covered an immense variety of topics from food and health, to medicine and healing, agriculture and industry, evolution and spirituality, ancient and future world, to understanding the cosmos and our bodies and ourselves. By reproducing these articles it is my hope to inspire new readers to explore, for themselves, the vast extent to which the philosophical principles of macrobiotics, otherwise known as understanding the laws of change and the order of the universe, can be applied to all things as Michio had inspired a generation to pioneer the natural and organic food movement, the alternative health movement and to bring about greater awareness that we are profoundly connected to and inseparable from our food and environment.
The following article introduces Michio Kushi’s “Spiral of History” and was originally published in 1972 in Volume Four, Issue Three of the magazine “Order Of The Universe: The Way of Life In The Age Of Humanity” and was based on a previous lecture by him. Michio further developed and updated his “Spiral of History” ideas and later published them in his semi-autobiographical book, “One Peaceful World.” Volume Four was edited by Bruce Gardner. The article was edited by Thomas Lloyd and the illustrations were done by William Painter.
The Progress of History, Past and Future
(Recreated from Vol. 4, Number 3, “Order Of the Universe: The Way Of Life In The Age Of Humanity” March 1972 based on a lecture by Michio Kushi)
The present era is a fast-paced, exciting time to be alive. An examination of the creative process of evolution can tell us much about what it means to be human, and our future may hold.
The process of life can expressed as a kind of distillation, a movement from expansion and dispersion to contraction and coagulation. What is more, we find everywhere that the former elements (or yin forces) stand in a seven-to-one ratio from the later elements (or yang forces). Thus we can see most processes in terms of successive stages, increasing logarithmically in speed, compression and energy (all yang attributes). This means that for each unit we move forward, we will see a multiplication of of yang characteristics, always increasing in a constant proportion.
For illustration of this principle we can look at the “Spiral Of Creation” (Diagram 1). From the greatest expansion, the infinite universe, came the greatest contraction, living organisms evolving towards man. The movement which accompanied this development was faster and faster moving, generating more and more energy. Here we find a logarithmic relationship: stage one took seven times longer than stage two; likewise the ratio between stages two and three is seven-to-one.
The gray blocks on the diagram indicate the periods of change from one stage to the next, because the transformations were not instantaneous. For instance, electricity is known to be a “flow of electrons,” but the electron is a very elusive entity. It is a substructure of the atom but must be described in terms of an “energy concentration.” Thus, we can call the electron a borderline phenomena between the world of vibrations and the world of matter.
Likewise, the formation of the first simple life forms must be considered as a part of the elemental level of creation. Solid was distinguished from liquid, thus, we had the primeval ocean and floating bits of crystallate matter. Life entered here, inconspicously, as viruses. These tiny cellular forms bear characteristics of living and non-living matter and can be considered another, “borderline phenomena.”
How did organic life spring from inanimate matter? Scientists have recreated the primeval atmosphere of earth in a laboratory setting, introduced an electric discharge (in the natural world this would be provided by lightening) and found there newly created, simple amino acids. Such events in the early history of the earth carried forth the continuing “yangization.” Life is the form of matter capable of self-movement and, eventually, (as in man) self-determination. Here was the means for activity in the world of matter to be stepped up to a faster and faster pace.
These primitive, unicellular life forms were deathless and floating gently in the seas for millions of years. As life progressed, the time-span of its individual forms decreased. Many of the lower forms of life can live to a great age, and die usually as a result of being eaten by natural enemies. We can see this happening with turtles and fish.
Several years ago a very ancient. primitive type of fish called a coelecanth was caught by scientists in very deep water off Madagascar. This fish had previously been known only through fossilized remains. Though the usual feeling was that somehow a few of these fish had survived and reproduced their kind, it is also possible that the captured fish was a survivor of ancient times, who had lived for millions of years at a depth where he was undisturbed by natural enemies.
The correlate of increasing cellular complexity was increased mortality. As life became more highly organized, taking on a higher energy potential (yang), it also became shorter (also yang). As can be seen in the diagram, the force of compression produced man. We are living in an expanding universe; scientists have found that all the galaxies are rushing away from each other. The more that yin, or centrifugal forces come to prevail in the physical universe, the more yang became the life within it.
THE SPIRAL OF HISTORY
When we take a close-up look at the final level of development, man, we can see another expression of this spiral of increasing yang force. The spiral of the historical development of man is shown in Diagram 2. Here we see that, as man progressed in the present age, development became ever more intense. In the ancient civilizations of China for instance, modes of life and Egypt, remained relatively unchanging over many generations. We see this today in some “undeveloped” nations. By contrast, we know that life in the U.S. is far different today than it was even twenty years ago.
The next thirty years will be the time of greatest yang force, the center part of the historical spiral. High pressure brings out:
- high speed
- high production
- high efficiency
- high-calorie, high-protein theories of the belief that we need large diet (i.e.,quantities of each in order to live)
- fast circulation of people and money, and of all movement
Under this pressure, many things are exceeding their levels of tolerance and are beginning to disintegrate: the family structure, the institutions of society, the mental stability of people, the cellular stability of bodies.
Men first learned to wear clothing approximately twenty-five million years ago, at the beginnings of civilization. Now that we are nearing the end of this cycle at the center point of compression, people are becoming overheated, and are starting to discard their clothing. First men learned modesty, now sex exploitation is increasing, reversing that trend.
People now strive towards complete openness, both physically and mentally. For instance, one of the most influential modern trends in psychology encourages complete candor, the baring of the inmost thoughts and feelings. Ideally, it is felt that one should express outwardly the most hidden parts of the individual ego. This reversal, the throwing open of all previously hidden things, marks the end of an era. People feel very frustrated: widespread meat-eating increases their body heat and aggressiveness, so they throw off their clothes and eat ice cream, but still feel hot.
All this activity is reflected in the work of the present-day thinkers. Basing his theory on the nearly intolerable strain of fast-moving change, which he calls “future shock,” Alvin Toffler foresees widespread mental breakdown if people cannot find a way to ‘unwind.” He proposes the inauguration of static environments which can be used as retreats, relieving the modern-day pressure. While this may seem a stop-gap solution at best, he quite penetratingly predicts a snowballing rate of changes and pressures on man.
Thus far, we have seen many of the mental effects of life at this particular time in history. This cannot be separated, however, from the changes in the physical environment which are also progressing at an ever-increasing rate. Now becoming a center of public concern, pollution has far ranging effects, which extend deep into the natural world.
Water pollution has been with us for a longer time than air pollution, but with the latter we face really serious problems. If the air is clean, then it absorbs the evaporating water in a clean form. Even if the water was originally dirty, the pollution stays behind. The clean rain can then fall, washing and purifying. But if the air itself is dirty, then the rain brings more dirt and a vicious circle is set in motion. there being no possibility for renewal or refreshment.
Increasing atmospheric dust brings a number of other dangers. First, it brings about warmer weather: the thicker the atmosphere becomes, the more it acts as an insulating blanket. According to a leading scientific theory, solar heat radiation can penetrate this “blanket” but cannot escape again; the heat is held in. (Conversely, other forms of radiation may be shut out.) The possible effects might include melting of the icecaps and extensive flooding of coastal areas. More important than this, however, is the effects of warmer winters on our food crops.
When the winter is cold, seed which will be planted in the spring becomes yangized, just as the cold weather makes people huddle in their coats, stimulating both bodies and thinking. When spring comes, the seed has a great capacity for yin, in this case water, which it thirstily absorbs. Thus the effect of becoming yang in the winter is the seed’s capacity for growth (yin) in the spring.
If winters become generally much warmer, the seeds will be always a little more yin, their capacity for water and growth somewhat eroded. When harvest time comes, many of the plants will still be immature. The result could be world-wide famine. Even if warm-weather crops were substituted, the problem would be great. To feed a world of increasing population we must look to grain, most of which thrives in the colder climates. Also, if we should eliminate this more yang vegetable-quality food (grains) from our diets, we would lose that force which has produced man, the most yang development of the universe. In the history of man, all advanced civilizations have cultivated cereal grains; likewise, the seat of advancement has been the temperate climates, as opposed to the extremes of tropical and polar life.
Another important effect of a denser atmosphere lies in the disruption of the system depicted in Diag. 3. The rock in the mantle is in a movable form; convection currents move through it. This movement in the earth is delicately balanced with air movements above the earth. Greater atmospheric heaviness could provoke greater earthquake incidence.
The third effect of a dense atmosphere concerns our relationship with the rest of the cosmos. The growing complexity’ of cellular life through evolution has paralled the increasing clarity of the atmosphere, which has allowed more and more celestial influence to penetrate to the earth’s surface. In the article in this issue of The Order of the Universe entitled ‘ ‘Solar and Cosmic Influence on Life,” there is an examination of the importance of cosmic radiations in human life. The science of astrobiology is concerned with these effects, which must be more and more curtailed as the atmosphere becomes more and more strongly insulated.
A fourth factor of air pollution lies in its changing of the atmosphere’s electromagnetic potentials. This is closely allied with the effect of cosmic radiations, which also change the earth’s electromagnetic fields. Researchers concerned with biological rhythms are now beginning to demonstrate the direct effects of these fields on organic life. A derangement of natural electromagnetic balances and an isolation from celestial forces must bring about changes. Thus, the adaptation of life to the environment must go on inevitably; certain species must become extinct. and many births might show deformations, mutations, or puzzling new diseases.
The heaviness of the atmosphere, with its corresponding increase in heat and pressure, is a very important effect accompanying the contraction of the historical spiral. If we look again at Diagram 2, certain interesting paradoxes may present themselves. One is that, because the spiral is balanced between opposite tendencies (“midnight” and ‘midday’; power and ideological development), the point we now occupy is a time of decomposition, yet it occurs during a period of ideological development. So we might see two possible futures opening before us.
We might expect an explosion: we reach the center point and most of mankind is wiped out by some cataclysm, perhaps self-inflicted. The only survivors would be, most probably, mountain dwellers and people living “primitively.” They would inherit a polluted earth and be forced to struggle for many years until the air and water again became clean.
There is another possibility, however. The smooth process of yangization could be reversed, becoming a gradual process of yinnization. The greatest influence determining the outcome rests with people who understand the order of the universe. The apocalyptic outcome would stem from a resistance to the harmony of the universe, with people continuing to destroy their world through greedy acquisition. The positive outcome would mean that people who do not fight the harmony of the natural order have prevailed. Instead of taking, these people will give and give. They will give to the world a harmonious way of life, and the inspiration that life is joy.
So the historical spiral can move smoothly through its major reversal, depending upon people with deep understanding, and all trends can start to move toward their opposites. What will the world be like at that time? One important thing is that the style of world leadership will change.
Present-day politicians present themselves in a very prideful way, saying, “Elect me! I am more suitable for this office than my opponent.” If they were people of high judgment they would say, “I am not worthy of such a position. I will try to the best of my abilities but I am not really suitable.”
Because of this kind of attitude, emperors of the ancient Golden Ages(1) had to search far and wide for successors and advisers, because such people are yin, they are the thinkers, and they are hidden away.
The great defect of democracy with its party system, and of communism as well, is that it puts the leadership into the hands of people who are very yang. The philosophers stay hidden, they cannot participate in such a system. On the rare occasion that one does surface, he is either largely ignored or destroyed. Because all the world leaders have been yang, aggressive, men of action, the pattern of recent history has been war, self-aggrandizement, and turmoil.
In the future society, this will be reversed. More and more, the people in authority will be the philosophers, more humble people. The whole meaning of the word “authority’ will change: now it means being in front of, being the most powerful, handing out orders; ideally it should mean being behind, supporting. giving advice. In a spiral of history characterized by yin direction, there will be greater encouragement of self-reflection as a means of problem-solving, less government by fiat or struggle between opposing parties.
The society based on such ideas can have a long life: the yin force as we have seen is usually seven times that of yang, productive of peace instead of conflict. Thus, we might expect a golden era as long as, perhaps, ten thousand years. Of course this, too, must eventually come to an end near the point of greatest yin expansion; in fact, we might expect things to fall apart through sheer inertia at that time, through a lack of the yang binding force. By then, man will be once again ready for some more yang excitement.
What does the fast approaching change in historical currents mean to the life of individual men?
Basically, all this means that the internal spirals of people will have passed through the point of maximum yang, material orientation, and will be smoothly moving in a spiritual direction. The people living now who are helping to allow the birth of the new age, are people who personally have passed through this point. Internally, they are reflecting the future change.
1. Most of the ancient writings and myths contain references to a Golden Age of great antiquity when men lived in harmony with nature, and the leaders were the most spiritually developed men. One of the Golden Ages of recorded times, that of Emperor Asoka of India, bears many of the characteristics of such an era. On such memories, Plato based his system of philosopher-kings, found in The Republic.