This week we’re wrapping up production on our program with French geologist Xavier Le Pichon, which will be released on podcast this Thursday. Krista and Le Pichon cover a wide range of topics — from his childhood in French Indochina to underwater plate tectonic research in submersible vehicles, to life in a spiritual community aiding the disabled in southern France.

Karl JaspersWith such a wide scope, there seems to be countless jumping off points to different ideas throughout the conversation. One of those points is Le Pichon’s mention of what the German philosopher Karl Jaspers referred to as the “Axial Age” — the period between 900 and 200 BCE when many of the great spiritual traditions of the world began. As Krista mentions, the Axial Age is also central to Karen Armstrong’s recent book, The Great Transformation (preview above). Armstrong has been a guest on our program before, when she spoke to Krista about the roots of her “freelance monotheism.” Armstrong writes about the “Axial Age”:

This was the period of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, and Jeremiah, the mystics of the Upanishads, Mencius, and Euripides. During this period of intense creativity, spiritual and philosophical geniuses pioneered at an entirely new kind of humane experience.

What I found most engaging about Le Pichon’s conversation with Krista is his ability to link seemingly disparate parts into a unified whole — an ability which he links to his daily prayer routine. It’s in this spirit that I see his worldview and Karen Armstrong’s book connected in unexpected ways. They both deal with the grander, sweeping evolutions of our world — Le Pichon with the shifting of our planet’s tectonic plates and Armstrong with the spiritual evolution of the human race. And while geology might seem unrelated to spiritual evolution, perhaps by sheer scale alone they share a unique vantage point of the human race.

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for another text that thematically i'm guessing (having not heard it yet) would be a worthy companion to this show and Armstrong's book is Annie Dillard's breathtaking (and i don't use that term lightly) non-fiction book, For The Timebeing.

one of several expertly woven themes is the story of Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin digging in the deserts of China.

can't recommend it highly enough. a remarkable piece of writing.

looking forward to the programme.


Thanks ... Dillard has never quite made it through my reading list, maybe I'll start with For The Timebeing.

Thank you Thank you Thank you

You're welcome :)

wonderful program, I note that man's brain doubled in size when he learned language, some 3000 years ago , and the prophets
and the Greek playwrights and Lao Tze, etc, certainly awoke and were witnesses to the new age of suffering and resulting compassion. Now we are both alive and contained via technology, content is losing ground to complexes of ever enabling gizmos.
our inability to react to [Rwanda, etc] true human suffering and our excitement on such childish things as space travel, all
challenge us to re imagine our humanity, learn reverence, live humbly, direct our work coward compassion. again wonderful program. thank you.........