Raymond H. Wheeler
Most of the material that we have about Wheeler is found in the book Climate: The Key To Understanding Business Cycles by Raymond Wheeler, (Revised & Edited by Michael Zahorchak). This volume summarizes Raymond H. Wheeler’s extensive research with long climatic cycles and their relationship to the business cycle. In the 1930’s Wheeler began a lifetime study that analyzed world climate and cultural activities back to the dawn of recorded
Wheeler was also the creator of a huge volume known as “The Big Book” which was housed at the Foundation for the Study of Cycles until the late 1990s.
Wheeler corresponded with Dewey, and observed on one occasion that often cycles were found with similar numerical values for their periods even though in different units. This may be seen as equivalent to Dewey’s proportions of 2 and 3 and products of these, because that will link from months to years for example.
rofessor Raymond P. Wheeler (University of Kansas) compiled 20 centuries of historical records, and concluded from his studies that there exists a most important 100-year-cycle of climatic changes that influences human affairs in a profound manner.
The cycle occurs in four distinct phases, which are descriptive of worldwide conditions rather than specific areas. The four phases are disturbed by secondary leads and delays — as much as 10 years — in isolated and widely separated areas.Prof. Wheeler stated:
“The climatic curve is intended to represent — as far as one curve can — the weather trend in the world as a whole at any one time. The curve has no absolute significance. The meaning of the curve at any one time is relative to the pattern of the 100-year old cycle as a whole.”
The 100-year weather cycle and its phases are not of precisely equal duration. The cycle can contract to 70 years or expand to 120. The cycle is divided into a warm and a cold phase, each of which has a wet and dry period. Because people are affected by weather, the cycles of weather produce similar patterns of behavior and events in history during the same phases of the century-long weather cycle. The phases are: (1) Cold-Dry, (2) Warm-Wet, (3) Warm-Dry, and (4) Cold-Wet. We are now in a cold-dry phase, which will prevail until about 2000 A.D.
Dr. Wheeler extended his research to reveal a continuous, universal cultural pattern of “mechanism” alternating with “humanism” that occurs throughout history synchronously with the 100-year weather cycle. During the warm and humanistic phases of the historical weather cycle, emphasis is placed on holistics: the whole person’s relationship to the world and society, basic
laws of nature, modernistic art and architecture, and political “statism” emphasizing nationalism, the welfare of the nation over that of individuals. In the extreme case, dictatorships and other “absolute” forms of tyrannical government emerge, including communism and socialism. Major international wars come to pass during every warm phase of the 100-year weather cycle, when nations are powerful enough to wage such wars. During the emergence of
the holistic trend, this statism degenerates into despotism in its many forms. The warm weather effectively decreases human energies and birthrates, and eventually brings about economic depression and social dependence that cannot support a war effort. Aristocratic forms of social organization prevail, rather than democracy. Warm weather produces luxury, small families,
“golden ages”, and “classical” literature and art. Business booms at the end of a warm cycle, when temperatures are falling and a cold-wet phase is about to begin. Depression sets in thereafter. Such a scenario was last in effect in 1975.
During the cold and mechanistic phases of the historical weather cycle, human thought and activity is largely directed at “units” rather than whole systems: atoms, cells, numbers, individual responses, classification of data, and complexity of detail. Cold climates make us aggressive and independent, and promote revolution, civil war, and anarchy, which leads
eventually and ultimately to popular reforms under democratic societies, large families, simple lifestyles, “romantic” literature and “dark ages”.
More than 90% of the rulers and leaders who have been titled “great” and called “good” by historians held their positions during the cold-dry nation-building phases of the 100-year weather cycle. They helped lead their people out of the chaos marked by class riots, assassinations, and sabotage. Dr. Wheeler wrote:
“In short, there has been a pattern on the cold side that has transposed from one cold period to another throughout history, a pattern whose extreme form has been anarchy pure and simple, ranging from wars, intrigue and treachery among the governors and their loyal followers to commercial war, race and religious riots, and armed civil war among the governed. All this is the fanatic aspect of cold times. The “lethargic” aspect has always assumed the form of neglect, debauchery, and extravagance on the part of the rulers and the upper classes, and listlessness, pauperism, begging, itinerancy, rapine and vagabondage among the lower classes.
“[The cold-dry phase is characterized by] General individualism, with weak governments, migrations, and other mob actions such as race riots. Class struggles, and civil wars ranging from palace intrigues to revolutions occur during the general anarchy of the Cold-Dry period. People are cosmopolitan and epicurean, borrowing culture and living by the superficial and skeptical philosophies.
“[The cold-dry phase is marked by major geophysical phenomena, including] an increase in the severity of earthquakes and volcanoes… a lowering of continental altitudes, with marine invasions on the upswings and mountain building on the downswings.”
Weather is coldest during the cold-dry phase. Near the end of the cold-dry phase, ocieties become stabilized by strong leadership, reformed governments, and a revival of nationalism. The wars in this phase are expansionary and imperialistic. The transition from the cold-dry to the following warm-wet period is characterized by a revival of learning, burgeoning genius, industrial revolution, and bountiful crops. Human behavior is improved by the high energy level:
“With increased vigor as a base (whatever the physiological causes may be), optimum conditions for an abundance of available energy for work occur during the period of climatic normality and on the upward crossing, or transition, from cold to warm. This is the “springtime” of the climatic cycle, while the preceding cold period was the “wintertime”. On the upswing, more than in any other place on the cycle, the human race possesses energy, above that necessary for a maintenance of the physiological engine… Here, mental and physical energy are at a maximum: hence the appearance of both good leadership and good followership; economic and political aggressiveness and enthusiasm; ability to exercise more self-control and make better judgments; predominance of constructive measures and the absence of decadent modes of behavior. With all of these are associated a greater incidence of genius, a generally higher birthrate, a more stable behavior, and a higher moral tone of society. Moreover, physical conditions are then the most favorable for economic prosperity and for the growth of stationary societies, dominated by city life, for rainfall is ample and crops are good.
“The Golden Ages of history, the best in human health and leadership, cultural output, the great periods of economic and political growth and expansion, have occurred after a toughening process has been going on that has revitalized the race and the biological level. Moreover, during cold times cultures came in contact with one another during migrations, travel exploration and colonization — all of which extended to some extent into the earlier part of the warm period. “In the hands of a new generation, a fresh natural spirit wells up, and revolts occur against frustration. Enthusiasm, optimism, and aggressiveness, organized through a social revolution, result in a new state… As democratic government continues, it tends to become bureaucratic — either in the hands of leftovers from the previously dominant aristocracy or in the hands of a new generation of rulers who have come into power through intrigue, wealth or some other form of leverage. A new set of rebellions breaks out following the dry years of the cold side; and during these rebellions, effort is made to overcome the evils of decadence in the democratic pattern, or the tyranny left over from the previous warm times…
“A strong leader comes to the front. A new Golden Age is on, and a new cycle of imperialism begins. The revolutions result at first in the democratic reforms, because they begin on the cold side. Were it to remain cold, these reforms would remain; but as it becomes warmer, the more power the “radical” party assumes. “After a reign of terror, the new spirit coalesces into a strong, centralized government which, from the standpoint of individual rights, is reactionary. “During cold times the government usually attempts to control the persecution of racial or other minorities, but during the warm droughts, persecutions almost always have been government-sanctioned or government-promoted events. “The warm-wet phase sees the climax of organized accomplishments characterized by cooperative, integrated efforts rather than individual achievements. Governments become centralized and inflexible.
“During periods of warm-dry weather, “good” (i.e., democratic) governments decline and decay under bureaucratic tyranny and plutocracy or dictatorial oligarchy. Totalitarian governments reach their climax when temperatures are highest during the warm-dry phase of the 100-year weather cycle. Concerning this, Dr. Wheeler wrote:
“It is only on the upswing and during the early part of the warm period that strong governments manifested “good” qualities such as liberality, constructiveness, benevolence, humanitarianism, foresight and stability.
“As the warm period continues, as imperialism increases, and as the state becomes militarized, the reactionary movement becomes absolutistic and totalitarian, whether under a king, a Duce, a Fuhrer or a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The latter, by the way, is a complete misnomer as far as realities are concerned. There is no such thing as a dictatorship of the proletariat. The only way in which the proletariat has ever “ruled” at any time in history — and the only way in which it can rule — is through truly democratic movements.
“Sometimes there is a cold break in a warm period (but not a true cold phase), usually at the peak of the sunspot cycle. Then the general energy level of the populace begins to rise, and civil wars erupt. A reformed government with new leadership then comes to power…
“Thus, when it turns cold, the individual thinks of himself first. A combination of increased energy, hardship, discontent; an over-centralized and tyrannical government; disgust with growing decadence, spurs him to fight for his individual rights. Here comes the realization that society can be improved only through the work and free expression of the capable individual.
“But because the cool break is only an interruption (only one to ten years) of the longer overall warm phase, the democratic reforms implemented then cannot survive. The state subsequently depletes its economy and its people, body and soul, in continual warfare until such capabilities become utterly exhausted by the inevitable subsequent extreme warm temperatures and drought. Dr. Wheeler explained such behavior thus:
“There are, in general, two categories into which forms of insanity fall. While these are not inclusive, they cover the majority of cases. The one category includes depression, lethargy, seclusion, flight from reality, indifference, lack of emotional tone, schizophrenia, inaction. The other includes elation, over activity, mania, excessive emotionality, belligerence and dangerous forms of paranoia. Mental deterioration or decline, then, expresses itself either way, dividing most individuals into these two psychotic groups. On the other hand, the normal individual will fluctuate, under pressure, from one mood — the depressed and indifferent — to the other — the manic and overactive. In an extreme form, either mood is a sign of weakness. “Societies revealed many of the same characteristics when they became unstable, or went into decline, on the warm side; for it was here that there broke out fanaticism, cruelty, and intolerance as measured by inquisitions, persecutions, pogroms, massacres, and tortures, all state-promoted. Either indifference of fanaticism in a people, then, is a sign of weakness.
“It turned out that the more democratic countries or states generally declined through indifference, while the totalitarian and more dynamic states declined through fanaticism. The first political “psychosis” was more often Western, and the latter, Eastern; or, the first characterized by older states that had gone through several cycles; the second, the younger states of more recent unification. In any case, the appearance of these traits was certain indication of an imminent collapse into civil war.
“Again, a combination of causes — economic, political, psychological, biological, and climatic — leads to the next phase in the cycle of events. Before political unity has declined, and while fanaticism is still controlling governmental policy, temperatures start dropping, and the national spirit revives and plays into the hands of a decadent and despotic leadership. This imperialism bursts forth once more and international wars break out on the warm side of the downswing.
“We have noted that there is a strong tendency for state-promoted persecutions, pogroms, and massacres to occur during the warm-dry phases of the 100-year cycle. A graphic example is the horrible treatment by the [Nazis] of Jews in World War II.
“All of this results from the fact that, whenever it is warm for an extended period, the individual becomes less important. It is then that he is killed with the least compunction; it is then that the fanatic sacrifice for the state reaches its highest combination of circumstances…
“Wars fought during downswings of the weather cycle have always evidenced more betrayals and sabotage, and less resistance to the invasion, even inviting it at times.
“The transition to the subsequent cold-wet period is marked by decadence, which degenerates further to widespread cruelty, slavery, and slaughter, further to widespread cruelty, slavery, and slaughter, as in WW2. When the average temperature falls and rainfall increases, a general revival commences with good crops and increased activity.
“During the cold-wet phase of the Wheeler Weather Cycle, government and business become decentralized. Individualism revives in a natural, emancipated behavior. Art becomes simpler, education is increasingly “mechanistic”. These trends eventually climax in the anarchy characteristic of the cold-dry phase which follows.
“Absolutist governments will not thrive in a cold phase, when the invigorating or uncomfortable weather brings out increased expression of social discontent.
“The cold-wet phase is characterized by large sunspots appearing temporarily in a shortened sunspot cycle, and displays of the aurora borealis extending to temperate zones, lower temperatures, and increased storminess. The cold phases of the 100-year weather cycle are interrupted by a temperature rise during the sunspot maximum. Society experiences an increased birthrate, improved general health and mental vigor, mass migrations of the populace to rural areas, economic prosperity, international trade, and other forms of intercultural exchange.”
Dr. Wheeler also was able to elucidate the presence of 500-year cycles of climate throughout 2,500 years of history. Alternate 500-year cycles produce a secondary climax of extreme cold and drought coupled with massive migrations and great revolutions of society. The end of each second 500-year cycle also marks the end of a 1,000-year cycle which Dr. Wheeler also detected. The 1,000-year cycle has a very warm period in its center. Alternate 500-year cycles always end during the warm phase in the middle of the 1,000-year cycle.
The 500-year cycle of weather is distinguished by the unusual severity of every fifth cold phase in the 100-year cycle. These have occurred in the 5th century BC, and the 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th centuries A.D. Dr. Wheeler stated:
“The turning points (between old and new civilizations) occur when cold-dry times reach their maximum severity.”
Dr. Wheeler designed a “clock” of the cycles of Cold, Drought, and Civil War, illustrated in Figure 6.3. The 170-year Cycle of Civil War and the 510-year Cycle of Drought intersect at 1999, at which time we can expect another engulfing crisis. (15, 16)
Another 510-year pattern occurs in the rhythm of world dominance, alternating between the East and West. In the 510 years after about 670 BC, when the Greek and Ptolemaic empires declined, Rome entered into its peak of development. After 60 BC, Rome weakened while Asian empires developed. After 450 A.D., the Byzantine and Oriental powers declined, and Charlemagne’s empire grew, as did Britain. The next 510 years were dominated by Eastern power (Genghis and Kublai Khan, etc.). After 1470, Europe unified and extended its imperial dominion over the earth, and the United States came into power.
The next great shift of power is to the East and is exemplified by the ascendancy of China, Japan, and Russia. We are now in the 27th cold-dry phase of the 100-year weather cycle since 540 BC, and the first such since the 1800s. This is also the fifth — and coldest — phase of the 6th 500-year cycle of weather determined by Dr. Wheeler. Also, we are approaching the climax of a 1,000-year weather cycle that will produce record high temperatures during the first half of the 21st century.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Wheeler, there are possible indications that we are in a period of “reversal” of the alternate 1,000-year weather cycle, in which the evolution of humanity will take a leap forward: “A new and probably different series of species of similar general form will begin soon, and thus the Earth is about to begin a new phase of history. “
“Old civilizations collapse and new civilizations are born on the tide of climatic change. The turning points occur when cold-dry times reach their maximum severity. “
“The problem is to expand democracy by voluntary means, preserving democratic institutions and laws while the expansion process is being achieved. Now, during the next few decades, this new and powerful class of voters, the laborers, must, in a sense, be absorbed into the middle class and be given middle-class concepts of free enterprise and democracy. While assuming greater responsibility, they must experience success in helping democracy work, or else, when it turns warm again and centralizing trends are under way once more, there will be nothing but stagnation and ruin ahead. If this happens, the next warm period will produce a despotism as catastrophic for modern civilizations of Greece and Rome.”
“By the proper emphasis upon education in our schools and by the proper cooperation between capital and management on one hand and labor on the other, such a catastrophe can be prevented. During the next few decades when both the middle class and labor are democratically minded is the time to stabilize our institutions — enriched by the contributions and cooperation of labor — to the end that they will not collapse in the warm periods to come. “
“The conflict between labor and management contains no necessary threat to society and will not culminate in socialism or communism. When viewed in the light of historical ecology, it is only the next step and expected in the evolution of true democracy. The net result of the revolution will, in the end, be greater opportunity and freedom for all classes. “
“Three main facts pertain to the rise and fall of governments, that, all through the investigation, were so invariable and their relationship to climate so precise as to challenge any attempt at explanation in general terms:
“First, there were the occurrences of Golden Ages, the rise of strong governments under superior leaders, the outburst of international wars on climatic upswings from long cold periods into the warm-wet phase of the climatic cycle. “
“Second, the decline, onset of decadence, the growing excesses of centralized government, the emergence of dictators, tyranny, fanaticism, communism, and socialism, as the warm epoch continued, and as temperatures and dryness increased.”
“Third, the occurrence of civil wars, rebellions, and revolutions, the origin and growth of democratic institutions and individualism, during cold periods… No law of chance can explain the fact that undemocratic trends are invariably associated with the warmer climatic phases, and democratic trends with the colder phases. No law of chance can explain why international wars so consistently predominate on the warm side and civil wars on the cold. Relationship so consistent, universal and precise point directly to a causal factor or set of causal factors.”
Dr. Wheeler also found that a slight average annual temperature change will produce profound changes in human behavior:
“A difference in mean annual temperature of no greater than 1.5 F, when prevailing consistently for no longer than half a decade, is sufficient, anywhere on earth, to start changes in the human behavior pattern in one direction or the other.”
Dr. Ellsworth Huntington determined the optimum temperatures for human performance to be 38 F for mental activity, and 68-70 F for physical action. The best climate for the full range of human life ranges between the mean annual temperatures of 2-47 F At this time the zones with such an optimal temperature range extend from Great Britain across Europe to the Black Sea and the Ural Mountains, across North America between southern Canada and the northeast and northwest USA, and Japan. The area of optimal temperature can be extended to include central China, the northern parts of Africa and South America, southeast Australia, and New Zealand.
The mean global temperature has decreased over 2.7 F since 1945. Meanwhile, the Arctic and Antarctic ice covers have increased over 15% since 1966, and glaciers in North America and Europe have begun to advance again, whereas until 1940 they had been retreating. These and many other weather signs indicate that e are now in a Cold-Dry phase of the 100-year weather cycle, and may even be entering into a mini-Ice Age.