THE FIVE AGES OF MAN: The Psychology of Human History by Gerald Heard

THE FIVE AGES OF MAN: The Psychology of Human History

Email this review


Any encyclopedic theory of universal history requires a new slant on old material--past, after all, is past, but novel interpretations never cease. Claiming that historicist, theological and economic explanations are passe, this prolific popular author finds his cue in a psychological (or rather, ""psychophysical"") view: history is the record of the evolutionary progress in man's intensity of consciousness. Moreover, the psychological development of the individual (ontogeny) is said to repeat the anthropological evolution of culture (phylogeny), so that everything in the world explains everything else. As a phrase and phase-maker, Heard excels in the creation of new divisions (protoindividual, Leptoid man, hypocracy) and neat numerical schemes. Four aspects of man's history are each conveniently divided into five developmental stages: five phases in the history of the race, five stages in the growth of the individual, five symptoms of ""mental morbidity"" causing breakdowns in the order (with suitable psychotic appellations), and the five therapies for them, by which man can consciously change his nature. The results are unconvincing. Despite the plethora of erudite terms and references to archaeology, anthropology, and psychology and a belief in human progress, the author seems to be engaged in a scholarly, but questionable, quackery (a sort of social chiropractic) and man appears a victim of psychological determinism. The ""cyclic spiral"" of development remains ungrounded and, worse, without affirmative application. History on a grand scale, failing perhaps because, in this all-too-human and incoherent, world, everything just doesn't explain everything else.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1963
Publisher: Julian Press