Some of the material in this book has, in earlier drafts, been delivered as lectures to a variety of public audiences. Chapter 6 has drawn extensively from some lectures published as Relativity: the Key to Human Understanding. Some lectures recently published as Does Society Need Religion? are reflected in chapter 12 and elsewhere.
Throughout most of the book the traditional notation for dates, BC and AD, has been replaced by the modern convention, BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era). This change of convention is itself illustrative of the theme of the book; the traditional notation has been retained only where it is necessary to support the reasoning.
Reference is frequently made to the Axial Period (approx. 700-300 BCE). This term, coined by Karl Jaspers, is commonly used to refer to the period of creative and radical cultural change out of which came the great religious traditions sometimes known as the world religions. The current phenomenon of cultural change, now on a global scale, may be regarded as a Second Axial Period in the known history of humankind. I have discussed the Axial Period much more fully in my earlier books Faith’s New Age and Tomorrow’s God. To some extent this book may be regarded as a sequel to them both.