Must The Great Game Be Replayed?


©Terry Boardman   Nov. 1997   This article first appeared in the German magazine Info3  in January 1998

When I was a small boy, two board games were very popular in our family, indeed in families throughout the country: “Monopoly” and “Risk”. In “Monopoly” one sought to buy up famous London streets, build hotels on them and charge the highest rents to the other players; the richest became the winner. In “Risk” one tried from one’s own country plus a few scattered colonies to conquer the rest of the world and annihilate the opposition. Little did I suspect, nor did my parents, who had bought the games,  that  these games were initiating children into the thought forms that underlay rapacious monopoly capitalism and global imperialism! Acquiring lands and making war have long been the  ‘sport of kings’, and the British, who have for a millenium been used to governance by monarchs and aristocrats, are accustomed to regarding these two activities as ‘sports’ or ‘games’(1) . Thus, in the 19th century, Britain’s ruling classes called their struggle against Russia for dominance in Central Asia ‘The Great Game’. Today, it would seem that a new and potentially more deadly ‘great game’ is commencing in the same region. The modern version has more players, but Britain is still in there, riding on the coat-tails of its offspring and successor Power, the USA. One of  the ultimate goals of the 19th century version of the game was control over India, and not least in order to be able to profit from its opium growers. The  prize in the 20th century version is not the red poppy but the black gold of oil, of which more later.

Oil: the ‘Illegitimate’ Energy

Spiritual science describes how the overall course of human history is affected by the impulses of beings of the spiritual worlds. Since the end of the Atlantean Age (approx. 7500BC) there have been five Post-Atlantean epochs, each lasting 2160 years. We are currently in the fifth (1413-3573), and there will be two more. Each of these epochs corresponds to the ‘lifework’ or the ‘office’ of a being of the Archai, the highest of the ranks of the Third Hierarchy. The activity of these beings is then mediated through the Time Regency of seven archangels, each lasting some 350 years. During the Regency of the Moon archangel traditionally known as Gabriel (1525-1879), mankind felt the need to explore the physical world and become thoroughly conscious of it, since Gabriel’s mission is always to enable Man to establish himself securely in this world. One of the results of this was the Industrial Revolution and the discovery of subterranean energy sources (coal,gas, oil,). These fossil fuels, however, are the products of the decay of the natural world that existed in the Age of Atlantis. Every time we go for a drive or put coal on the fire, we are ‘resurrecting’ into our own space and time the decayed vegetation and animal life, the decayed etheric and astral life of the Atlantean epoch.The peak of  a Time Regent’s activity and influence comes at the very end of  his rulership and continues on for a time after it. Like a braking car carried on by its own momentum, it cannot suddenly stop on a sixpence. So it was that the oil industry only really got going after the end of the  Age of Gabriel in 1879. The twentieth century has seen the increasing strength of the impulse of the Sun archangel Michael  whose impulse it is to spiritualise  our thinking and relate us once more to the spiritual world. A symptom of this Michaelic impulse has been  the growing interest in alternative energies – wind, wave, and solar power -  that are elemental, alive, and related to the action of the Sun. These are the type of energies that ought to prevail in this Age of Michael (1879-2233).  Instead, the powers-that-be seem intent on continuing the world’s dependence on a form of energy from a long-dead past out of an impulse from the recent past,  the Age of Gabriel.

The alternative Sun-based energies, while still partly linked to geographical location (wind and wave power are stronger in some countries than others) are less so than  fossil fuel energies, which are bound up with nationalistic property rights and have led countless times to international conflicts. It was over the need for oil for their war machine, for example, that the Japanese felt constrained (by US oil embargoes) to attack Britain and the USA in 1941 in order to seize the oil of the Dutch East Indies. Much of the suffering of the people of the Transcaucasus region in recent years has been due to  struggles around the issue of Azerbaijani oil and its export routes to the West. Access to oil has  been a convenient excuse for major Powers to intervene in the affairs of certain regions of the world, notably the Middle East.,

The True Centre of  Time and Space?

Tony Blair’s government are hoping that  Greenwich, in  London, where the world’s meridian line has defined the world’s space and time since 1884,  will be the focus of global attention in the year 2000. A vast “pleasure dome” is now under construction  at Greenwich  to celebrate London and Britain as the centre of the world. Nobody seems to know what should go in the dome, but pundits think it should be full of  “the best of British”, i.e., of ‘technology’. But  if one regards Jerusalem as the true centre of space and time,  the  interesting observation can be made that 23° west of Jerusalem brings one to a line of longitude that runs through the westernmost tip of Sicily and up through Rome, and 33° runs through the Rennes-le-chateau area of Provence in southern France and through Paris; whereas 23° east of  Jersualem brings one to a line of longitude that runs along the Ural mountains in Russia and down along the western littoral of the Aral Sea, and 33° brings one to a line  close to Tashkent and Kabul that just touches the western foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains. Between these 23° and 33° lines east of Jerusalem is the area between the Caspian and Aral Seas and southeast of the latter, which has long borne the name of the Turanian Plain. It was here where in very ancient times, in the  2nd Post-Atlantean epoch, the Age of  Gemini (5067-2907BC), what Rudolf Steiner often referred to as the greatest conflict in human history prior to the 20th century took place. It was a  mighty struggle between  the Sun-worshipping agricultural society of old Iran and  the atavistic, shamanistic ,and nomadic  Turanian peoples, whom the Iranians believed were inspired by Angra Mainyu (later called by them Ahriman). And what do we see happening in this same area today?

We see the seeds of a 21st century cataclysm being sown, as the great powers of today begin their opening moves in a repetition of  the Anglo-Russian Great Game. It is estimated that  some  200 billion barrels of oil lie in  the east Caspian coastal  oil fields of Kazakhstan(2), enough to satisfy America’s oil needs for 30 years. Consequently, western oil majors have been muscling in on Kazakhstan in a big way.  On 18th November Kazakh President Nazarbayev signed two multi-billion dollar deals with  nine foreign oil companies to exploit both the onshore and offshore reserves  of the northern and eastern Caspian Sea. The deal was described by Franco Bernabe, managing director of  Italy’s Eni, whose subsidiary is heavily involved in both projects, as “the most important operation in the oil industry…of recent years.”(3)  Significantly, the deal was signed in Washington. That might have had  something to do with the fact that in early September 500 US paratroopers  flew to the  Kazakh desert for a “peacekeeping exercise” after a 19-hour flight from North Carolina – “the longest flight to an airborne landing ever carried out by the US military.” Their General John Sheehan commented: “The message I would leave is that there is no nation on the face of the earth that we cannot get to.” So it was with the British navy in the 19th century; so it is with the US airforce in the 20th. A few days after this exercise, Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev warned Moscow that  Kazakhstan was interested “in maintaining the US presence in the area” -  a presence that  began only 6 years ago after 150 years of a Russian ‘presence’. (4)

A New Player in the Great Game

However, not even the combined financial muscle of  two big US companies, Unocal and Amoco and lobbying from Washington, could prevent  an even bigger deal  going to a new rival in the Great Game – China,  whose state-run China National Petroleum Company in September invested $10 billion in Kazakhstan’s oilfields seeking to build  a pipeline  from the Caspian to western China. Self-sufficient in oil until a few-years ago, China is  mindful that  its current  increasing dependence on Middle Eastern oil (it now imports almost 4m barrels a day, half Saudi Arabia’s output) will require a costly naval presence in Asian waters and thus worry its neighbours. China’s leaders thus reckon that  Caspian oil imports will be able with the least hassle to meet the voracious energy demands of what is already the second largest energy consuming nation in the world. Unfortunately,  they may not have reckoned with the Muslim Uighur guerillas of  their westernmost province, Xinjiang, through which the vital pipeline would pass. Reduced to only 54% of the population of the land they call east Turkestan because of the nearly 6m Han Chinese whom Beijing have in recent years  settled in Xinjiang, and bitter about their declining employment prospects and the Chinese pressure on their culture and religion, the Uighurs have taken to armed uprisings; the Chinese have responded with their customary severity. (5) This problem will get worse, and world attention on Tibet will only exacerbate it. A vicious spiral is likely to set in, because the Chinese know that if they allow more autonomy for Tibet, the Uighurs will press for the same. No vital oil pipeline is going to pass through Tibet, however. Beijing, which has ruled East Turkestan/Xinjiang intermittently since 1759, will not allow  a Uighur autonomy to control what may well  become the jugular vein of China’s economy.

The US seems phlegmatic about China’s  joining the Game, and more concerned to prevent  any Caspian oil from taking what would be the natural and most economical route to the outside world, namely, south via Iran. When Jiang Zemin  visited Washington in November,  he was persuaded to stop selling Chinese nuclear know-how to  Iran in exchange for an American promise to sell theirs to him.(6) For its part, Iran is reduced to calling vainly for more international cooperation by the Caspian Sea littoral states in order to clarify the legal regime governing the Caspian Sea , protect the environment to prevent the Sea from the going the way of the now mostly dying Aral Sea, and keep extraregional states from interfering in the area.(7)

It may be that  behind US phlegma, however, a  deeper motive lurks. Those close to  Anglo-American  elite circles have for years now speculated on the  likelihood in the early 21st century of  a great war between China -  possibly aided by something vaguely referred to as “a  new Muslim power” -  and Russia. Russia would lose this war, they say, and with it, most  if not all of its territory east of the Urals.(8)   A 1993 US Defense Department  internal report on possible scenarios for Russia stated that after about five years of chaos Russia would collapse and thereafter be reduced to an aggressively nationalistic rump state.(9)  Russia would thus cease to be a Eurasian Power and become a Russian nation state more on the western model. For good or ill, it would  draw closer to  the EU, which in the 21st century will probably form part of some Atlantic alliance or confederation with an American hemispheric Union: a Euro-America. Russia would then be less able to play the role it ought to play in world history: to be a bridge between East and  West, between Europe and  East Asia. Russia , and even Europe would feel constantly threatened by the pressure of a Chinese and/or Muslim alliance pressing against the Urals. The 21st century could thus be overshadowed by yet another dualistic East-West conflict.

Eurasia or Bust?

“Westerners”, declared “The Economist” in a 1992 article on Central Asia, “are indebted to Bukhara for one of the building -blocks of the Renaissance”, for Bukhara, in modern-day Uzbekistan,  “was the city of  one of the greatest of Islamic philosophers, Avicenna, whose commentaries on Aristotle, translated into Latin, helped  give the Greek philosopher back to Europe after centuries of oblivion.”(10)  What they omitted to mention, of course, was that  some of the greatest mediaeval European minds, notably St. Thomas Aquinas, fought tooth and nail against what they perceived to be Avicenna’s perversion of Aristotle, and his undermining of the concept of the individual thinking soul which the most enlightened Europeans of that time held so dear. This region eastwards of  the Caspian  Sea was also the region across which Alexander the Great marched on his way to India, crossing the great river Oxus (Amu Darya) which flows into the Aral Sea from the Hindu Kush. Here in that earlier Age of Michael (c.600-250) Alexander founded cities, planted the seeds of  the later   Hellenistic culture of Gandhara, out of which would arise in the first Christian century the splendours of Buddhist sculpture. Here he  met Roxana, daughter of the Scythian chief Oxartes, married her, and encouraged his men also to take Asian wives. In doing this, he was following his teacher Aristotle’s instructions to take Hellenism to Asia and create a new Eurasian civilisation. In that earlier Age of Michael the dream of Alexander and Aristotle quickly faded. Russians today are in a position to realise  something of that dream again if they can only connect with the best in European spiritual culture and not with the worst of western materialism and chauvinism. It is interesting to note that  “The Economist” points out that  of the five new Central Asian republics, the one the USA most favours is Uzbekistan,(11)  which also happens to be the one where Muslim aspirations for a new Central Asian superstateof Turkestan have been the strongest  since the end of Soviet control in the area.(12) Might “the new Muslim entity” prophesied by the seers of the West arise from there?

The Endgame?

1998 should see many wrangles over the legal status of the Caspian as littoral states try to position themselves to secure pipelines through their territory for Caspian oil. From Iran has come a voice of sanity, advocating at least equality and fraternity: “Oil and /or gas exploration is extremely dangerous to the sea’s ecosystem…the littoral states must forgo their individual benefits and look at the issue from a collective perspective…Unilateral moves towards the exploitation of the Caspian Sea’s resources prior to the clarification of the Sea’s legal status will not only be environmentally damaging, but will also have serious repercussions for the involved parties….the intervention of  the extraregional powers can only delay this process and endanger peace and tranquillity in the region.” (13) Unfortunately, too many people in the region seem mesmerised by the riches to be gained from black gold to heed sane advice, and the extraregional  big powers, China, America, and the Europeans show little real interest in taking the liberty of developing alternative forms of energy suitable for the age in which we are living. The struggle for control of oil pipelines in the new version of the Great Game has already brought terrible suffering to the peoples of the Transcaucasus in the 1990s in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan,  Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechenya, as well as Russia and the Kurdish region of  Southwest Turkey. Will its poison now spread to Xinjiang and the Central Asian republics themselves? Oil is an energy that is out of time, and as such works as an evil. This evil from the past can then be made to serve even more potent evils at work in the present.

“The Guardian”, like most British liberal media organs, subscribes to  the cockup theory of history rather  than to the conspiracy theory. It portrays the new Great Game merely as an opportunistic struggle for oil profits: “there is a sense that the governments involved are being hustled along into big strategic commitments by the pace of entrepreneurial activity on the ground.”(14)  History is invariably an affair of both conspiracy and cockup  with rather more of the former than the latter, since  unconscious men  can all too easily be manipulated by conscious ones, not to mention superconscious spiritual beings. We shall have to watch events around the Turanian Plain and the Caspian very closely to see  which  theory of history is driving practical events during the next few years.


  (1) The British have invented many of the world’s sports. While they may not be the best at playing them, they take a comfortable pleasure in knowing that the rest of the world plays by ‘our rules’, which are, of course, of ‘fair play’.
  (2) “The Guardian “, 29.9.1997
  (3) Reuters (London) 19.11.1997
  (4) see note 2
  (5) “The Economist”  15.11.1997, p.86 and  “The World In 1998″ (Economist Publications), p.117
  (6) “The Economist”  15.11.1997, p.85
  (7) Ahmad Hoji Hosseini, “The Prospects of the Caspian Sea Region in the 21st Century” in  ‘Amu Darya’ ‘Amu Darya’ means  ‘Oxus’.
  (8) “The Economist” Dec.1992 p.15
  (9)   Felix Schultz (ed.) , “Zeichen der Zeit” (Verlag am Goetheanum, 1996, p.269)
 (10) “The Economist”  26.12.1992 p.30
  (11) “The Economist” 15.11.1997 p.86
  (12) “The Economist”  26.12.1992 p.31
  (13) Hosseini, op.cit
  (14) “The Guardian” 29.9.1997

©Terry Boardman

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