Original Research - Special Collection: UP Faculty of Theology Centenary Volume One

Human uniqueness on the brink of a new axial age: From separation to reintegration of humans and nature

Cornel W. du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3487 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3487 | © 2016 Cornel W. du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 May 2016 | Published: 11 November 2016

About the author(s)

Cornel W. du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age concept is used to depict the way humans interact with their environment. The first Axial Age (800-200 BC) can be typified among others as the age in which humans started to objectify nature. Nature was dispossessed of spirits, gods and vital forces that humans previously feared and used as explanation for the origin of things. Secularised and objectified nature became a source of wealth for humans to use and abuse as they like. This has peaked in the post-industrial era which also introduced the Second Axial Age in which we presently live. The Second Axial Age can be typified by a new approach to nature mediated among others by insights from the side of the natural sciences, especially developments in cosmology, our understanding of the quantum world and new insights into the nature of consciousness. Another development in the Second Axial Age is the emergence of the nonhuman turn, new materialism, panpsychism, the notion of the post-human and theological concepts like the ‘entangled God’. These developments are discussed with reference to leading thinkers. The nonhuman turn is welcomed as it introduces respect for nature which may contribute to the survival of our planet.


human uniqueness; second axial age; the nonhuman turn; matter; information; consciousness; new materialism; post-human values.


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