The fourth experiential turn was the discovery of self-reflection. While myth spoke anonymously, the reflective turn presents the new experience of the individual self.

The Turn to Self-Reflection

The prophet Zarathustra was the first to explicitly express the new experience. With self-reflection, the focus of consciousness explicitly turns from the outside to the inside, to the self. At the core of the new paradigm stood the method of introspection and responsible action, the concepts of truth, veracity, and free will. In his writings, the Gathas, Zarathustra not only described methods to follow his paradigm. He also managed to institutionalize his teachings and his methods. The prophets of Israel followed his example.

The Authoritative Personality

With the reflective turn, humanity’s self-image changed, too: the type of the authoritative personality emerges. For the first time, humans thus became active partners in the process of history. Aside from the prophets, the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, Buddha and the teachers of the Upanishads, the philosophers of Greece and China also represent the new personality type.

Political Implications

Simultaneously, the conception of existence in society and history changed, as did the rationale of political order. While in cosmological mythology the climax of time was at the moment of creation, now the advent of the prophet became the pivot of history.

The propagation of truth turned into a main motive of religious action, and the expansion of power emerged as the main task of political practice. The expansionist empire, like Persia in the age of Darius the Great, and its imperial ideology were the political equivalent of the prophetic message.


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