What makes an "axial age" religion "axial?" Is there actually any historical validity to the label?

It is common whenever pagan and Abrahamic religions are discussed to say that because the Abrahamic religions are "axial" they have a natural advantage. When I looked at a paper about the subject, though, it mentioned that the guy who invented the term was very vague about what axiality entailed and the two criteria he did list aren't very well supported.

I've heard other traits mentioned, like universality (this is not a feature of all Abrahamic religions), moralizing (lacks good data to support this being a new innovation), and valuing liberty (which runs into the problem that the "axial age" religions supported divine right and slavery). None of them seem very persuasive.

Is there any actual rigorous definitions of what an axial age religion is supposed to be, and if so what they are and which ones fit the list? Does the concept still have much acceptance in academia? The Nature article I found suggests not. And if not, can we please retire the concept from this forum and stop bringing it up?
 
Is this term still used in modern histography? It is something I associate with an older works, for good reason as you mention. It is so vague as to be less then useful.
 
The original concept with a specific "age" I think is wrong and am pretty sure is no longer held to in Academia.

But looking at the Abrahamic religions, the Dharmic religions that aren't Hinduism and the Chinese ones like Daoism and Confucianism(the most tenetively included here) and contrasting them with others or even just earlier forms (like Hebrew Temple religion vs Rabbanical Judaism and maybe Vedic Religion and Hinduism) I think some similarities can be come across-the-board.

That even if the Religion claims eternal validity, to the past and future, it has a historical founding event, in its own story of origin.

As such, it's own story of origin is historic not mythic/legendary. I think this is the most important difference.

There's universalism and evangelicalism. I know Judaism isn't big on that now our days but seems more a reaction to Christianity and Hellenic and Rabbanical Jews did celebrate conversions in the turn of the Era. There's still possible exceptions in like lesser known Abrahamic-Iranian religions like Mazdanism which I don't know enough about to further comment on.

Other stuff that I forget about.
 
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It is common whenever pagan and Abrahamic religions are discussed to say that because the Abrahamic religions are "axial" they have a natural advantage.

I would still maintain so even without the concept of the axial age religions necessarily.

Some religions certainly must have a structural and appeal advantage over others that isn't just limited to power politics to explain their success.

Out of a thousand religions one is going to come out on top sure, but the one that does won't owe this success to just randomness.
 
It is common whenever pagan and Abrahamic religions are discussed to say that because the Abrahamic religions are "axial" they have a natural advantage. When I looked at a paper about the subject, though, it mentioned that the guy who invented the term was very vague about what axiality entailed and the two criteria he did list aren't very well supported.

I've heard other traits mentioned, like universality (this is not a feature of all Abrahamic religions), moralizing (lacks good data to support this being a new innovation), and valuing liberty (which runs into the problem that the "axial age" religions supported divine right and slavery). None of them seem very persuasive.

Is there any actual rigorous definitions of what an axial age religion is supposed to be, and if so what they are and which ones fit the list? Does the concept still have much acceptance in academia? The Nature article I found suggests not. And if not, can we please retire the concept from this forum and stop bringing it up?
I think a good way to interpret Axial religions is to see the spread of complex states and civilizations from the various core regions such as the Eastern Mediterranean, Northern India, Northern China.

It's not a coincidence that religious beliefs spread from more advanced and richer regions to less advanced and poorer ones, you could interpret it as the richer region having more time and people to come up with "better" religions or you could just simply interpret it as people taking up beliefs based on the strong influence that richer foreigners have in your changing society, if you are learning so much from such foreigners maybe you should take up their beliefs as well?

One could come up with "counterexamples" such as Christianity taking over Rome despite there being no such paradigm or Buddhism spreading to China despite a pre-existing religious tradition but ultimately I think these examples still exist within a system were the spread of religion is largely downstream from political and societal power, otherwise why wouldn't more religions rise from peripheral people and take over larger populations?
 
I think a good way to interpret Axial religions is to see the spread of complex states and civilizations from the various core regions such as the Eastern Mediterranean, Northern India, Northern China.

It's not a coincidence that religious beliefs spread from more advanced and richer regions to less advanced and poorer ones, you could interpret it as the richer region having more time and people to come up with "better" religions or you could just simply interpret it as people taking up beliefs based on the strong influence that richer foreigners have in your changing society, if you are learning so much from such foreigners maybe you should take up their beliefs as well?

One could come up with "counterexamples" such as Christianity taking over Rome despite there being no such paradigm or Buddhism spreading to China despite a pre-existing religious tradition but ultimately I think these examples still exist within a system were the spread of religion is largely downstream from political and societal power, otherwise why wouldn't more religions rise from peripheral people and take over larger populations?
Was it really from richer and more advanced places to poorer and less developed areas? I mean, from what I remember of Karen Armstrong's works, the "Axial Age" thinkers came from relatively peripheral areas: Judaea and Greece and the borderlands of Central Asia in the case of the western core, with the addition of the Hejaz in later days; the marginal realms of Shakya and Videha in the case of India; and the hinterlands of Chu and the marginal state of Lu in the case of China. These weren't exactly the top-tier kingdoms of each civilization, mind you.
 
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Was it really from richer and more advanced places to poorer and less developed areas? I mean, from what I remember of Karen Armstrong's works, the "Axial Age" thinkers came from relatively peripheral areas: Judaea and Greece and the borderlands of Central Asia in the case of the western core, with the addition of the Hejaz in later days; the marginal realms of Shakya and Videha in the case of India; and the hinterlands of Chu and the marginal state of Lu in the case of China. These weren't exactly the top-tier kingdoms of each civilization, mind you.
Greece was absolutely not a peripheral region in the context of the Mediterranean and it's not even as if Hellenism spread from from Greece to the Near East by itself, it was Greek armies and Greek political dominance that really spread it. Prior to that Anatolia and Greece just influenced each other without any strong dominance.

Same goes with Hejaz, it was political conquest that spread Islam, when removing this Islam would just have been a very heterodox Abrahamic religion like many already existed or appeared after Islam itself spread, there would be nothing special to it, it is in fact very questionable to even consider Islam game-changing at all compared to all the religions that came before, it's just the most naked and evident example of religious expansion through the sword.

Same goes again with India and China, I don't think it's particularly helpful to look at the exact kingdom where Buddhism or Confucianism arose from, the fact of the matter is that it arose from one of the most populated regions in the world and it spread elsewhere with the political power of the Mauryas and even the migration of Indians in South-East Asia or from China into Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Southern China when talking about Chinese philosophy and religion.

To be frank I think the examples you brought just miss the point entirely, you equate small kingdoms within very populous and rich areas with "poorer and less developed areas" and there is really no connection between the 2.
 
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Greece was absolutely not a peripheral region in the context of the Mediterranean and it's not even as if Hellenism spread from from Greece to the Near East by itself, it was Greek armies and Greek political dominance that really spread it. Prior to that Anatolia and Greece just influenced each other without any strong dominance.
In the context of Greece at the time of its classical period, it was. Persia ruled the known world, and Athens and Miletus were on its edge.

Same goes with Hejaz, it was political conquest that spread Islam, when removing this Islam would just have been a very heterodox Abrahamic religion like many already existed or appeared after Islam itself spread, there would be nothing special to it, it is in fact very questionable to even consider Islam game-changing at all compared to all the religions that came before, it's just the most naked and evident example of religious expansion through the sword.
Yet its ideas began in the context of a tribal borderland fought over by the two empires that made up its core. And I see that you don't dispute what I said about Judaea or Central Asia.

Same goes again with India and China, I don't think it's particularly helpful to look at the exact kingdom where Buddhism or Confucianism arose from, the fact of the matter is that it arose from one of the most populated regions in the world and it spread elsewhere with the political power of the Mauryas and even the migration of Indians in South-East Asia or from China into Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Southern China when talking about Chinese philosophy and religion.
Fair enough, but it makes sense to think of these ideas emerging outside the elite, outside the kingdoms that ultimately won out. The voices of these thinkers were not themselves the voices of the kings who conquered. Confucius was a wandering scholar who ultimately failed to gain a stable position in the states he lived in, the Buddha a monk whose own home was ultimately annihilated by the kingdoms of Magadha and Kosala.

For that matter, it's misleading to look at China as a single unit in this period. Lu had its old glories, but by the days of Confucius it was a fading power.

To be frank I think the examples you brought just miss the point entirely, you equate small kingdoms within very populous and rich areas with "poorer and less developed areas" and there is really no connection between the 2.
The examples I mentioned were at least semi-peripheral. The prophets of Israel and the philosophers of Greece came from many walks of life, but they held no special regard for kings and their cults as in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Same goes for the Buddha and Mahavira with regard to the cakravartin cults of Magadha and Kosala.
 
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Was it really from richer and more advanced places to poorer and less developed areas? I mean, from what I remember of Karen Armstrong's works, the "Axial Age" thinkers came from relatively peripheral areas: Judaea and Greece and the borderlands of Central Asia in the case of the western core, with the addition of the Hejaz in later days; the marginal realms of Shakya and Videha in the case of India; and the hinterlands of Chu and the marginal state of Lu in the case of China. These weren't exactly the top-tier kingdoms of each civilization, mind you.
I do think that axial age religions often are religions that accompany the stabilisation of civilisation into a permanent structure tho. We see civilisations become much more resilient after they pop up as opposed to before where dramatic collapses occur and no one retains the original culture. We often see newer areas rising to prominence too so the reason why those religions rise from peripheral areas could be due to that.

Maybe the reason why America often suffered wide ranging collapses is due to not having religions like axial religions?
 
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universality (this is not a feature of all Abrahamic religions)
It was never meant to be exclusive to Abrahamic religions. The idea of the Axial Age was that it was a shift of thought in the Old World from parochial and ritual religion to a more abstract and universalist mode, which manifested itself in various ways in different civilizations.

moralizing (lacks good data to support this being a new innovation)
Fair enough with this. From Ptahhotep to the pre-Axial Dialogues between a Man and his God, wisdom and morality have always had their place in civilization.

valuing liberty (which runs into the problem that the "axial age" religions supported divine right and slavery)
The original ideas of these figures did not support divine right and saw slavery and caste as irrelevant. It was later figures who used the support of these ideologies as a key to legitimacy for their regimes.

I do think that axial age religions often are religions that accompany the stabilisation of civilisation into a permanent structure tho. We see civilisations become much more resilient after they pop up as opposed to before where dramatic collapses occur and no one retains the original culture. We often see newer areas rising to prominence too so the reason why those religions rise from peripheral areas is due to that.

Maybe the reason why America often suffered wide ranging collapses is due to not having religions like axial religions?
Hm, interesting. I don't know the answer to that.
 
Hm, interesting. I don't know the answer to that.
I think we can all argue about the specifics about what makes an axial religion an axial religion, but it is undeniable that the civilisations that have them don't lose their own characteristics after being hit with devastating crisis. It may be a chicken or egg question.

Considering what we know about Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican religion they regularly do human sacrifice, and we know that human sacrifice in axial religions are largely reduced to irrelevance. It may be a shift from the physical worship of kings to the metaphysical worship of some abstract idea (god or the way to build a perfect society a la confucianism) that makes axial religion different from the religions before them.
 
In the context of Greece at the time of its classical period, it was. Persia ruled the known world, and Athens and Miletus were on its edge.
You can redefine everything to make your theory sound right but the fact of the matter is that Greece was a rich region, very urbanized, very literate and very dynamic(in expanding westwards and trading with various people) starting as early as the 7th century BCE and even then Hellenistic philosophies weren't exactly spreading around the Near East until the Macedonians conquered it so I really don't see what your point even is, Greece was modestly rich AND irrelevant philosophically insofar as the Near Easterners were concerned.

Yet its ideas began in the context of a tribal borderland fought over by the two empires that made up its core.
There is nothing special to Islam other than being the religion of a successful empire. The context of its origin are not worth noting because it could be literally whatever, it simply doesn't matter.

And I see that you don't dispute what I said about Judaea or Central Asia.
Judaism and Christianity were by most accounts irrelevant and small religions until Constantine converted.
Zoroastrianism as old as some people claim it to have been was not necessarily the dominant Iranian religion for most of the Achaemenid period until the Sassanid and even then early Zoroastrianism appears to us mostly because of royal inscriptions.

Fair enough, but it makes sense to think of these ideas emerging outside the elite, outside the kingdoms that ultimately won out. The voices of these thinkers were not themselves the voices of the kings who conquered. Confucius was a wandering scholar who ultimately failed to gain a stable position in the states he lived in, the Buddha a monk whose own home was ultimately annihilated by the kingdoms of Magadha and Kosala.
Ok? Pick up a global map and put a dot where these people lived, they still DID live in the most populated places in the world that either were at the forefront or early adopters of extensive urbanization, writing, long distance trade etc.
These dots wouldn't be located in bronze Age Thailand, iron age Denmark or iron age Morocco.

For that matter, it's misleading to look at China as a single unit in this period. Lu had its old glories, but by the days of Confucius it was a fading power.
China was a coherent entity, the vast majority of people spoke Sinitic languages that diverged recently, shared common political and cultural ties stemming from the Shang dynasty.

The examples I mentioned were at least semi-peripheral. The prophets of Israel and the philosophers of Greece came from many walks of life, but they held no special regard for kings and their cults as in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Same goes for the Buddha and Mahavira with regard to the cakravartin cults of Magadha and Kosala.
I don't understand the usefulness of re-framing things, again compare Greece to literally the entirety of Europe or even North Africa, half of Anatolia or the Caucasus region, it was richer, more literate and more interconnected already by the archaic era, I never claimed ONLY the richest states within the most advanced regions created successful religions, what I said was pretty clear:
The spread of most religions can be explained by technological, social and economic disparity between regions or by political conquest. Some exception might exist but they still operate within this strong trend.

This doesn't mean that successful religions have to be born in the richest and biggest states, in fact within this model the irrelevancy of Abrahamic religions until Constantine and Buddhism until Ashoka is well explainable.
 
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That early 20th century historians coined the term and later 20th century historians didn't bother to look too closely at it, and it entered the realm of popular history before anyone could get the quality control department to take a second look at the concept.

I do think that axial age religions often are religions that accompany the stabilisation of civilisation into a permanent structure tho. We see civilisations become much more resilient after they pop up as opposed to before where dramatic collapses occur and no one retains the original culture.
Could you give some examples?
Maybe the reason why America often suffered wide ranging collapses is due to not having religions like axial religions?
1. I fail to see how those two ideas are connected.
2. Define "often" and define "wide ranging".
3. If you're referring to the Maya Collapse here, you might as well add in the fall of Rome and the post-Roman Dark Age as a "wide ranging collapse", because they're on about the same level and the Maya civilization definitely bounced back after it happened. If anything, the Roman collapse was more thorough because what eventually came out of it was a Roman-barbarian fusion civilization ruled by said barbarians.
I think we can all argue about the specifics about what makes an axial religion an axial religion, but it is undeniable that the civilisations that have them don't lose their own characteristics after being hit with devastating crisis.
1. What characteristics?
2. Examples of devastating crises between societies with axial age religions and those without them?
 
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Could you give some examples?
Well there's a reason why the original Mesopotamian cultures aren't really retained. An American example would be the Olmecs on the American side.
2. Define "often" and define "wide ranging".
I was thinking about the Late Bronze age collapse, and cultures like the Hittites disappeared off the map, and Anatolia was eventually repopulated by the Greeks. For the examples on the American side the Olmecs and the various civilisations in the Andes before the Incas like the Chavin all have the cultures collapse and not be replaced by another civ until another civ rebuilds from the approximate geographical area.
2. Examples of devastating crises between societies with axial age religions and those without them?
I'd say for example China suffering immense losses during the Mongolian conquests and not facing societal collapse. Or the multiple times Indian civilisation had to deal with nomadic invaders and still being Indian.

That's why I said it may be a chicken and egg argument because we don't know if its due to the governmental structure that arrived along with them or is it due to the religion, but we do see new religions rise up in Eurasia during this rough period of time. I'm just saying that it's definitely a phenomenon that occured.
 
Well there's a reason why the original Mesopotamian cultures aren't really retained. An American example would be the Olmecs on the American side.
I was thinking about the Late Bronze age collapse, and cultures like the Hittites disappeared off the map, and Anatolia was eventually repopulated by the Greeks. For the examples on the American side the Olmecs and the various civilisations in the Andes before the Incas like the Chavin all have the cultures collapse and not be replaced by another civ until another civ rebuilds from the approximate geographical area.
Greeks didn't repopulate Anatolia, Phrygians occupied the North-west part of Anatolia but Anatolian speakers related to the Hittite still survived south of the Phrygians and even in the Levant.
Also Christian Roman civilization collapsed in Britain, Pannonia, Illyria, Moesia and Thrace similarly to what happened to the examples you brought up.

The other issue is that most of these examples are very early civilizations and we have no written records, so it's easy to interpret things in a potentially wrong manner, demographic decline happened in many places, just because there is a state on top of decline regions doesn't mean much, it's not like we can ever be able to tell what exactly happened on the ground year over year to civilizations like the Olmecs or the Chavin culture, heck we barely know about places where writing existed.
 
I was thinking about the Late Bronze age collapse, and cultures like the Hittites disappeared off the map,
Incorrect. The empire collapsed into warlord states which were later absorbed into the Assyrian Empire.
The Hittite culture actually spanned a relatively small portion of the Hittite Empire, so when the empire fell the Hittites basically became just another Anatolian hill tribe that spoke a similar dialect to many others in the area. The Anatolian languages died out between 700 - 200 BC, as their speakers were absorbed into the culture of the Median and Armenian populations that had migrated into the area.

Beyond that, not a single civilization actually fell in the LBAC and didn't get back up. Hell, the only one that fell at all was Mycenaean Greece, and from archaeological evidence it's pretty clear that the Mycenaeans were not replaced by another people; all the kingdoms just collapsed and turned to warlordism. Much of the Mycenaean cultural canon was lost during the Greek Dark Ages, but enough survived that stuff like the story of the Trojan War was available to their descendants, albeit in garbled and anachronistic form.

Meanwhile, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Elam, Nuraghic Sardinia... all of them survived the crisis.
and Anatolia was eventually repopulated by the Greeks.
lolwut?

Ref: Phrygia, Lydia. There were about 800 years between the collapse and the Greeks showing up, and they do so not as a large wave of settlers, but as imperial overseers who ruled from the cities. The Greeks didn't repopulate the area. They became yet another set of overlords.
I'd say for example China suffering immense losses during the Mongolian conquests and not facing societal collapse.
The fact that China has a big population means that China has a big population. It has nothing to do with ideology or religion.
Or the multiple times Indian civilisation had to deal with nomadic invaders and still being Indian.
Hinduism has not been described as an axial age religion. Buddhism and Jainism have, but Hinduism isn't.
 
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You can redefine everything to make your theory sound right but the fact of the matter is that Greece was a rich region, very urbanized, very literate and very dynamic(in expanding westwards and trading with various people) starting as early as the 7th century BCE and even then Hellenistic philosophies weren't exactly spreading around the Near East until the Macedonians conquered it so I really don't see what your point even is, Greece was modestly rich AND irrelevant philosophically insofar as the Near Easterners were concerned.
If I implied these regions were backwaters, I didn't mean to, and I apologize. Of course they were developed regions. But they weren't exactly the "centers of civilization" that Egypt and Mesopotamia were.

There is nothing special to Islam other than being the religion of a successful empire. The context of its origin are not worth noting because it could be literally whatever, it simply doesn't matter.
That ignores history and its context. You could just as well state that it doesn't matter if the Arabs never united behind the Caliphs, or if Mu'awiya converted to Orthodox Christianity, or if Cyrus had kept the Jews in Babylon.

Judaism and Christianity were by most accounts irrelevant and small religions until Constantine converted.
Zoroastrianism as old as some people claim it to have been was not necessarily the dominant Iranian religion for most of the Achaemenid period until the Sassanid and even then early Zoroastrianism appears to us mostly because of royal inscriptions.
Yet Christianity somehow triumphed, and Zoroastrianism's ideas spread across its empire.

Ok? Pick up a global map and put a dot where these people lived, they still DID live in the most populated places in the world that either were at the forefront or early adopters of extensive urbanization, writing, long distance trade etc.
These dots wouldn't be located in bronze Age Thailand, iron age Denmark or iron age Morocco.
Okay, I get it, I messed up when I said 'periphery'. I apologize for that. But then, those regions were barely connected to the core, if at all. What I meant was that these regions and these thinkers that I've mentioned were not based in the backwaters, but in the places which were close enough to the core that their ideas spread rapidly, but far enough that their views were unorthodox to the peoples of the time.

Just so we're clear now, what I have been arguing is that there was a shift to more universalist and abstract thought, facilitated by unorthodox thinkers from the less developed regions of the core who were persecuted for their heterodoxy, and after being modified were spread by universalizing empires seeking legitimacy for their reigns. I am not arguing that religion wasn't spread by affluent and prestigious regions, but I am questioning the idea that this is the whole story.

Hinduism has not been described as an axial age religion. Buddhism and Jainism have, but Hinduism isn't.
Hm. Are you sure? I mean, I remember that the Upanishads are usually included in the idea of Axial thought, and that the religion of India changed in response to Buddhism and Jainism. The Aryans of the early Vedas weren't exactly enthusiastic vegetarians or pacifists, IIRC.
 
Hm. Are you sure? I mean, I remember that the Upanishads are usually included in the idea of Axial thought, and that the religion of India changed in response to Buddhism and Jainism. The Aryans of the early Vedas weren't exactly enthusiastic vegetarians or pacifists, IIRC.
Judaism also changed in response to wider Canaanite religion by becoming monolatric, then monotheistic, then going an extra step by discouraging outside conversions. Aztec religion changed from a shamanistic religion with one tribal god to a henotheistic religion with one chief god, and then systematically changed its doctrines under the guidance of Tlacaelel.

Does that make them axial age religions? Modifying your doctrines to differentiate yourself from something else, especially against a heresy, is not uncommon in any religion.
 
Judaism also changed in response to wider Canaanite religion by becoming monolatric, then monotheistic, then going an extra step by discouraging outside conversions. Aztec religion changed from a shamanistic religion with one tribal god to a henotheistic religion with one chief god, and then systematically changed its doctrines under the guidance of Tlacaelel.

Does that make them axial age religions? Modifying your doctrines to differentiate yourself from something else, especially against a heresy, is not uncommon in any religion.
Considering that the Rabbis of 1st century Judaea have been included as Axial Age thinkers, it might. As for the Aztecs... I'm not as well-versed in native American religious history, unfortunately.
 
That ignores history and its context. You could just as well state that it doesn't matter if the Arabs never united behind the Caliphs, or if Mu'awiya converted to Orthodox Christianity, or if Cyrus had kept the Jews in Babylon.
It doesn't matter because Islam clearly spread through political success(at least after Muhammed built his new following in Medina after the exile) which is something you can at least pretend is not the case for other religions.

If something so clearly spread because of power dynamics, why does it matter how it arose other than artificially boost this theory that is on tenuous ground and has a low "sample" size?
I understand you like your theory but if you need me to buy the entire premise first I just can't agree, the historical data should individually built to your conclusion rather than the historical data having to be re-framed to fit a pre-existing model.
Yet Christianity somehow triumphed, and Zoroastrianism's ideas spread across its empire.
They succeeded because the rulers converted and pushed these religions, there is no further explanation needed. You are trying to find explanations when none are needed.

Okay, I get it, I messed up when I said 'periphery'. I apologize for that. But then, those regions were barely connected to the core, if at all. What I meant was that these regions and these thinkers that I've mentioned were not based in the backwaters, but in the places which were close enough to the core that their ideas spread rapidly, but far enough that their views were unorthodox to the peoples of the time.

Just so we're clear now, what I have been arguing is that there was a shift to more universalist and abstract thought, facilitated by unorthodox thinkers from the less developed regions of the core who were persecuted for their heterodoxy, and after being modified were spread by universalizing empires seeking legitimacy for their reigns. I am not arguing that religion wasn't spread by affluent and prestigious regions, but I am questioning the idea that this is the whole story.
As above, i think you are trying to find order when there is none, have you just considered that by sheer chance the pattern you see could emerge without it being caused by any inherent factor?
The sheer arrogance of this line of thinking astounds me, how can you even claim that Buddha or Confucius coming from a small kingdom is what lead them to have these heterodox beliefs? Also how do you know they were really that heterodox in contrast to a supposed monolithic orthodox dogma(as opposed to just a very heterogenous ideological/religious environment)? Why would heterodox beliefs not arise within the "core"?
Also the sheer cynism of saying people like Ashoka or Constantine were not genuine in their beliefs is frankly also indefensible, it's seems like rulers in the past had no personal beliefs and were always playing power politics in all aspects of their "job" or using religion as a weapon of mass control, which doesn't make any sense to me in these examples, in some others you can make the argument for ulterior motives(princely reformation in the HRE for example) but it needs evidence.

This feels like the hero's journey of historical religions, a mold that is flexible enough that you can fit anything into it. I have hard time following it because basically you could argue everything that is not from Egypt, lower Mesopotamia, the 2-3 largest kingdoms in India or China are "peripheral", which is basically 90% of the world.
Yes most successful religions appeared in 90% of the world, I can accept that... but it doesn't really say much if you laid it out in this manner.
 
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