Saturday, August 2, 2014


Has any sizable portion of humanity ever had a genuinely lively hope in the future of Humankind?  Has any group, nation, political or religious demographic ever from the heart  been convinced that the natural movement of humanity over time is  to a state of unprecedented unforced harmony and  creatively tensioned peace?  Has a  major mass of humanity yet  found  itself in love with its own species  and highly expectant that the brightest days of life on earth are yet to be? Why even such a thought brings scowls and cynical smiles from both the typical religious and nonreligious person of our day. Yet isn't such a living  united hope essential for  providing  the motivation for marshaling the resources and taking the necessary  actions precisely what is needed  for such a good future to even  be possible? We ask, 'Where could such a hope and motivation come from? It has never been found consistently before?"   Most of us say we  are very 'positive' in our view of life but the longer such a conversation goes the more the underlying pessimism is revealed, for tragically it is our pessimism about our own species, about the likelihood of the human collective to help shape a world that is actually much better, more informed by knowledge, good mindedness and genuine mutual care than has yet existed. Pierre de Chardin envisioned such a hope and a source of  motivation behind it and he found support for this in his Christian point of view buttressed by scientific evolution. We may be moving in that good  direction far more than we suppose.  Part of the  contents of this essay seeks to point out that at a deeper, often barely conscious, level even our broadly experienced  pessimism  is being challenged by real  life enhancing forces that grow stronger by the day.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

To start these thoughts, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin         (1881-1955) presented a vision of the future of humanity that may be the most positive, and I think surely with the most scientific substructure, ever described in much detail. Teilhard was a Jesuit Priest and true to the Jesuit motto of 'God in all things' saw an imminent 'mind in matter and life'(my phrase) at work in the processes of the world's evolution. He was a world wide most highly  respected evolutionary paleontologist/geologist  who devoted his life to the direct study and interpretation of meaning of the fossil record of the world. Based on patterns of biological and social evolution he 'saw' in the record what made it certain to him that humankind is not at the end of it's extension of consciousness and mind but hardly just begun. He saw evidence there that, unlike other animal species, which continue to seek to spread out from itself on the earth like a fan shape, that human beings' evolutionary process has entered a time, over the past few thousand years, of strong 'convergence' on and intense understanding of it's mindfulness of  itself. He notes how especially in the most recent 100 years humanity physically  covers the full skin of the earth, unlike any other species, and has been 'pushed' by this crowding and 'infolding  on itself' through such things as wars, world wide communications systems, machines ,  a growing sense that the greatest problems faced in our survival are now ' all our' problems that can only be adequately addressed as a united humanity; whether it be efforts to contain wars, find cures for horrendous diseases, addressing wide swaths of humans who live without adequate food, water and health care or threatening changes in climate and pollution. The world more and more shares a common serious research of  connected community through science(For example we and Russians are in joined space programs.) for a full range of 'truth seeking' that more and  more is  accepted as an important  part of all our realities.

 Like it not we are in each others face and communities; we are learning more about each other no matter how much we may resent it. We can try as individuals or religious/political groups or hermits to run away from the pressures of this gigantic infolding pressure  but that choice we know is becoming less feasible every day. Is it more wise to consider as Teilhard that  our human species itself is a  growing developing organism still in its prime and  which shows signs of having  a 'collective mind or brain' that is far more than any separate disconnected  human minds. This does not mean the forces are coercive over the individual but that we are being naturally and evolutionarily prepared to be ready for the next phase of higher consciousness. Unlike in previous millennia we humans  now can reflect on the patterns  and participate in our own evolutionary process. This we are already doing in numerous ways. And there are other ways in which we have not yet with a united mind taken up the responsibility to exercise this new unprecedented humanized/divine  power.

So this compressing nature of our species' evolution is hardly a pleasant thing that we would have ever sought or desired but it is as real as anything we can consider. Teilhard's 'God is in all things' may be the best way for us to accept what is stronger than any separate or combined human  effort could stop..... and better yet to see these awful 'growing pains' as evidence that we are actually moving to a 'knowing' of our fellow humans that has never happened before. And where 'knowing' happens,  also what Teilhard calls a 'new kind of love not yet experienced by humans' can also be a new part of the collective human consciousness. There is a growing sense, whether one rejoices in it or fears it , seeks to understand it or just rejects it,  that there is no 'one religious faith that is the right one. ' Many  of us have a sense that we have crossed that line  some time ago (one most of our parents never even had to consider and would have shuddered) at least intellectually, no matter how exclusive the sermons we still hear tell us to reject it. Our nation's drastic change of attitude toward the portion of our fellows who are LGTB in sexual orientation is another example of how 'by better knowing others' we also better care about them and their well being and their  personal pursuit of happiness. This was in a real sense experienced as being forced on many Americans but for those who have had a significant transformation, they are nearly without exception glad that they have 'improved' their personal knowledge base  and understanding of such things  and their moral consciousness. Surely, many will fight these rather 'destined' by evolutionary patterns of change with all their might. But I think Teilhard's understanding of the 'big picture' would be to recognize  a rejection of such patterns in the fossils  themselves, and now in our daily outer reality,  as a lost cause and truly a last, and maybe somewhat stubborn,  gasp for the air of a world that has really already passed away. Arguments about such deeply proven and successfully used in every area of life concepts as biological evolution are hardly worthy of an argument in our present time. Teilhard, a man of strong Christian faith uses little time for such 'leading nowhere' discussions.

Examples of a developing higher collective consciousness, and of homonization( the process of persons becoming convinced that they are personally connected to all others as  part of a whole) are all about us. I just watched the popular movie Life of Pi where the key character takes on a belief of parts of three major world religions and , comfortable or not, most viewers today received 'in their hearts' his thoughtful approach to religion as a positive happening. This is the psychological fact experienced even if their church dogma would tell them otherwise. Such a movie would have received strong disapproval from some religions even a few decades ago for including that 'harmony of the religions' scene at the very beginning of the story. Any day's news gives examples of ' fundamental improvements in human caring' which our enfolding on ourselves as a species is helping create. We are bombarded with most every kind of ambiguous moral scenario of real life and asked what we think is truly moral and right. Only  unprecedented mass audio/visual communications give nearly all humans such learning moments every day. The world has already changed so much, much of it toward something better. Two Americans with the deadly Ebola virus are being flown to the U.S. , increasing in some small extent the possibility  that the disease could find this as an entrance to affect other Americans. Eight decades ago the public would not have been informed in real time,and enabled to react, what higher officials were doing. And if they had may have said the infected should not be brought to our shores? There is surely that voice today but I think it is that same gasping for the past voice, destined to become a whimper. My guess is that a majority of Americans, through reasonable trust in officials, do approve this decision today due to a commonly held view of the Sacredness of all lives and that this facility had been planned and built    ( in harmony with many workers and experts) as the best place to help one with this disease.  When we can, let's do good seems to be growing mantra. The fact that the major drug companies have not yet invested in finding treatments for this deadly disease seems to be directly linked to it being a 'poor peoples' disease. This kind of 'selecting' who gets best care would be frowned on in a collective humanity with a raised consciousness that De Chardin's evolutionary pattern projects is now underway.

 I suspect congress is far behind the general American consensus that it should be a government priority that children languishing at our southern boarders, no matter how they got there, should be given basic life and soul sustaining resources while working with involved others on the best course of long range action. These are immediate examples of the kind of 'inclusive human values' regarding life that would be expected to be a natural consensus-not ones enforced by a committee of any kind-  with the collective raised consciousness being advocated by evolutionary patterns in the vision of Teilhard. I suspect that Europe is ahead of us in 'hearing the voice' of some of  these collective  values naturally  forming. After all they have a much deeper and older common consciousness, one that has survived far more changes in time than we Americans have.

Without continually quoting Teilhard I am attempting here to express in my own words what his kind of vision might mean if, welcomed at first or not, a large mass of humanity became infected with such a hopeful view of the future of humankind in a very natural and non compulsory way. Teilhard is obviously speaking of a major transformation in world view, in how we imagine Sacred presence, and in the capacity to 'care for the other' that the world has not as yet experienced on any wide scale. That to me is why his vision is very much spiritual, because it believes in such possibilities and thus naturally  comes to expect them. And perhaps in some real sense creates them.

Such a vision of the eventual evolutionary complexities and consciousness that Teilhard lays out are not new. This kind of vision of humanity has been stated, but surely only in brief moments and situations realized in the real world, by the most prominent spiritual leaders throughout history. I think of the statement in Hebrew story where  they are told by God,  ' You are blessed that you may be a blessing to the rest of humankind'. The gospels state this culmination of the human story in various imagery. Jesus speaks of reality becoming 'on earth as it is in heaven.' One gospel opens with angels declaring the end game of humankind as there being 'peace on earth and good will to all people.' Jesus prayed that ' They all( humans I'd interpret) be one.” Christian people can broaden their understanding to know these visions were just that and have not in any grand way become humanity's reality, quite the contrary it seems. With  just that much  of  a change in perception these can become statements of a still  living hope that are in exact harmony with so much of Teilhard's vision, and I suspect to their initial meaning.  But most have not read them that way, with that challenge. In contrast to Teilhard's vision of the human collective future, many have taken literally NT images that depict an end where God loses relationship to most of his human family due to their supposed incapacity to live morally or faithfully enough. It is believed then they suffer forever in Hell or are simply written off as if they never lived, struggled and loved. This is an old idea that has gained renewed popular Evangelical support. I just ask for practical purposes: If a parent lost, for whatever reason, all loving relationship with three out of four children. Would she be OK with herself by saying, “Oh well. I did my part. I'll just pretend they never lived. I'll evaporate their human memory, tears , fears , joys , hopes laughter and smiles” Then I will just enjoy eternity with my one child who did measure up and I was able to keep a connection with. I think the ethical foundations of the transformed/evolved collective human psyche that Teilhard envisions could never support such an attitude by either a human or by a god. And in accordance with the belief that such a raised consciousness is already in progress, I do not believe that most humans today would find such a view compatible to their own heart's voice.
Atom Bomb Explosion

Teilhard remained a devoted priest to the end of life. His works reflect his formal faith. This may be a problem for some and seem as contradictory to his 'God in all places' point of view. You can decide for yourself. I find him fully embracing all people and all aspects of the created world. His approach to scripture is primarily symbolic and allegorically understood. He speaks of 'The Christ symbol being the alpha and the omega.' He was numerous times taken away for his excavation sites by fearful church leaders and sent to different parts of the world. He would only start digging again wherever he was and he reported he was always sent inadvertently to exactly the place he needed to go to discover the very facts he needed to support his vision. His main works were censored by the church until after he died. Like so many of our species' courageous geniuses he suffered much for the gifts he managed to bring back to us all. What a legacy if some day it may be said of Teilhard that he greatly helped clear the way for a broad based collective living hope for humanity when such hope had truly never been consistently and collectively found. He taught his peers how to trust in themselves and their yet undeveloped  powers for good and love which had   nearly  completely escaped their imaginations.

This is only a brief essay introducing some basic thoughts of one of the most positive visions ever imagined, and by a man of high caliber, strong knowledge in his area of expertise and an authenticity that is born out in the biography of his life. In his book The Future Of Man he not only lays out clearly in layman's terms his science based vision but he also anticipates some very real questions that serious readers would ask. He addresses questions regarding the balance of individual personal development vs a naturally developing collective ethical standard. He speaks of the need of a balanced value with both the secular and the Sacred in harmony. He reflects on how many very negative realities also are contributing most positively to the movement of  humanity's learning toward to a higher human complexity and consciousness including: war, infighting of all kinds, unemployment phenomena, discovery of the atom bomb, downsides of personal technology, efforts at totalitarian governments, and the human record of there always being bullies, trouble makers and what most think of as generally 'bad people.'  I recommend  for reading The Future Of Man to anyone interested in a strong possibility for hope in  a bright future for humankind.

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