Arthur Osborne found that while academics investigated the causes of historical incidents, their research was limited, for the most part, to obvious physical causes, but they failed to clarify the overarching but hidden principles that, in his eyes, governed actions and made history. In this book he suggests a different approach to history, giving its due importance to spiritual ideas and teachers, and proposing that ideas shape the physical conditions of society more than the other way round. In his own words:
“The purpose of the present book is not so much to suggest any new philosophy or interpretation of history as to draw attention to a rhythm that runs through it, establishing parallels and coincidences large and obvious enough not to be open to dispute. These will be sufficient at least to show that history is not purely haphazard and yet is also not simple progress.”
Arthur Osborne observed that so-called progress was not what it appeared to be and that modern civilization is not necessarily an advance on the discoveries and understanding that ancient civilizations had garnered and demonstrated in their development. He outlined the parallels — not be confused with uniformity — in the different phases through which the great civilizations of mankind passed. In the eighteenth century there was a radical divergence between the West and East, which is being overcome by the surging of a single world civilization.