Mankind and the Planet

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Mankind and the Planet, past, present and future Philosophical Speculations

Page 10


It is at this point, the supra-individual summit of evolution of the highest form of human being, that the concept of the Divine logically appears. For it is at this complex of phenomena, still entirely natural, still at the horizon of experience and still consisting of elements and components that are human, that we are faced with an aspect that exceeds the normal meaning of the term 'human'. Mankind, understood as a real  whole, is more than man. The sphere of man remains human only on condition that the plurality of the type 'man' can alter the possibilities and faculties of the human individual only quantitatively.  If a fixed boundary line divides that which lies within from that which is beyond human powers, then  that which is human and that which is super-human are clearly defined. If such a line cannot be drawn, then the concept of that which is human remains, as it were, open in the direction of ever increasing possibilities and faculties, especially as these relate to the conquest of nature. It seems fairly clear that if, for whatever reason, such a distinction between that which is human and that which is beyond the reach of man is not established, a degree in the increase in knowledge and power will be envisioned that appears super-human, even long before it is reached; if it is reached, it will appear as human.

That stage can only come about through the domain of plurality of the species 'man' ,i.e., through the domain of supra-individuality. If plurality means mere enumerating and not a reality in the objects numbered and affects these as little as my numbering 'three' affects the three apples on the table,  then there is no driving source  for the increase in man's possibilities. But, if a plurality means some kind of unification, a physical sum and not simply an enumerating, then the term plurality covers every kind of unification, be it more or less effective, a succession of ever more intensive and effective unities; they are the only cause of the constantly receding barrier set to the 'human' into what had until then been judged  to be more than human. In that case, there is a source for an indefinite increase of what man is able to achieve, i.e., of that which is human. If further evolution of the human species takes place, such enlargement and constant broadening of what the term 'human' denotes is the only direction in which such evolution can be imagined. It is strongly driven by the 'inner' emotional life and urge in man. And what else would a powerful and unalterable emotion, a desire, an ideal wish represent, but the, as yet impossible though eventually realisable, potential of the species. These most distant future realities appear  in the form of intense inner desires and emotions; they are, however, hardly taken seriously and therefore unhesitatingly judged, alas, as impossible of fulfilment. All of these far off possibilities and aims of the human race are barely formulated,  are not conscious as real possibilities as long as a feeling of impossibilities marks and de-intensifies them. They are intimately connected with the social development of human kind, with the birth of the adjusted 'order'.

Objectively, man has no isolated or isolatable problems. What appears, from one perspective, as the problem of the birth of the highest group-form of man, appears, from a different perspective, as the problem of the highest degree of knowledge and power over nature. Theory, contemplation, philosophy etc., are objectively inseparable from practice, justice, the right society etc.; and the most effective, the most practicable solution to the practical problem entails the most remote research, furthest away from all practice, i.e., the most radical and detached theory. The only way to a workable, ideal practice is the most radical detachment from practice.

One of the formulas that most aptly describes the ultimate goal and endeavour of the human species is 'harmony between the voluntary and the involuntary nature of man'. That the mode in which there must exist evil, negation, detriment, pain etc., in order that there can be good, satisfaction, the desirable, pleasure etc., is the mode that is to be delivered into the hands of man,  constitutes the highest aim of the species. It is the realisation of 'freedom' to an ever greater extent.  The highest form of freedom  is unanimity with the unalterable necessities of nature, not because these are unalterable, but because they are understood and sincerely willed, as they must be.  Then the point of view of man coincides with that of creative nature, not as the 'minor evil', but as intrinsic identity.

Once man's conquest of involuntary nature has been carried forward to the point of 'laws' of nature, constituting the conditions of good and evil in one, at the same time, there will not be the least desire to alter them, just as there is no wish that two and two might not make four. These necessities are then freely chosen, indeed willed. At this point, freedom and the necessities of nature coincide. In other words, if man, at this degree of almost perfect insight into nature, were free to choose the 'laws' of nature, he would chose the same laws as did the creative power. To sum up, the prospect open to man in cosmological terms, is the elimination of that which is not genuinely 'impossible'. The criterion for what is genuinely impossible, on the other hand, is that, given perfect insight, there is no imaginable wish to alter it.

Now, if there is an intrinsic coherence between the ideal group-form of mankind – or the realisation of justice – and the highest degree of knowledge of and power over nature that the human species can attain – or the realisation of 'truth' and 'life' – and if these ends, the ultimate aim of the species, can be interpreted  as the 'elimination of the not-ultimately impossible' or as the 'harmony between the voluntary tendencies and urges of man and his involuntary nature', then the content of the concept 'human' by far exceeds its usual meaning. It not only borders on but actually passes over into regions of possibilities that lend themselves to a use of the term 'divine', providing, that is , that that concept, in turn, is not understood in its usual  meaning, denoting limitlessness. With the highest and ultimate possibilities of mankind, there appears a limited aspect of the Divine, one that coincides with those possibilities.

When we consider these achievements, we need to reverse the usual perspective that looks from the human platform towards the 'more than human' : Man has to be understood as a particular species whose  unconscious creativity becomes conscious of itself, not only in the Hegelian sense that conceives of an Absolute arriving at and returning to a consciousness aware of itself; there is also the productive sense, , meaning that an unconscious creativity in life narrows the limits of its involuntary drives and urges and extends  the range of voluntary possibilities of conscious enjoyment of life,extends its willing and acting consciousness.

This, however, touches upon – because it presupposes –  the well-known concept  of the Divine, in its sense of limitedlessness. More about this later.  For the time being, let me mention, though not elaborate on, a specific consideration, namely that one should not arrive at the concept of the Divine by first  defining it in terms of certain attributes, such as limitedlessness, personality, consciousness, almighty-ness and more and, afterwards, seek for a proof or argument for the existence of a being thus defined. Conversely, the all-embracing and actual reality, the existence of which is not in doubt, must be accepted and realised before, subsequently, inquiring whether there are aspects that demand the construing  and application of the concept of the Divine to enable an adequate description of such aspects. In this sense, the concept of the Divine may not simply correspond to the traditional, i.e., the theological feature of the concept. Not the question, 'does God exist?', but 'what of the infinite reality?', sometimes misleadingly thought of as 'World' or 'Nature', compels one to resort  to a concept of the Divine that must meet, and be verifiable by, definite phenomena, certain conditions and aspects of this reality.

The use of the concept Divine is suggested by the prospect of the range of man's  possibilities as principally 'open', though that prospect may actually be variously closed and restricted at any given moment in history. There is always something 'beyond man', i.e., Divine and , in a sense, human, at the same time. The Divine becomes more distinct the more definitely  some aspect of reality is 'beyond man', albeit still closely connected with man's aims and  existence. It is in this way that characteristics of the Divine pass into general, man-independent nature and assume the  traditional sense that distinguish it from nature. At all events, there exists a sphere where the concepts  'human' and 'Divine' interpenetrate, where the highest aspect of mankind and the 'earthly' of the Divine blend.

Where does this  take place? Which particular part of infinite reality deserves the designation of a sort of 'empirical Divine'? The answer we have given is 'the plurality' phenomenon of mankind, in so far as this  exceeds a mere numerical , i.e., subjective qualification and constitutes objective manifestations of unification processes that have a biological character, apart from and along with their social, cultural, spiritual meaning; in short, the 'field-phenomena of the developing group-form of man.

In order to realise, i.e., imagine these phenomena in their full presence, in their 'more than human' significance, we would need to approach them from two opposite angles: as they might appear from a cosmic point of view, where the unity of the unceasing cataract of millions of millions of human lives is more evident, and from the point of view of the single human individual within the mighty stream of the immortal source of what is, so far, the highest form of life; from a standpoint, that is, from which the sum total of living forces of all those enormous  waves of life, the energies displayed in the functioning of organs of countless organisms, makes that imagining just as impressive  as does imagining the more familiar astronomical or cosmic quantities.  Mankind is a subject of a cosmic order of magnitude.  In terms of the  natural and biological history of its existence in the universe, past and future, this/exceeds what is usually understood by the concept, 'human being'.

We can here refer to one ancient such conception and to three more modern thinkers who were sensitive to the 'religious' tinge of the phenomenon, mankind as one whole. There is, first, the ancient Hebrew mythical idea of Adam HaKadmon, which imagines 'man' as 'the pattern of the universe' and as a projection of the Divine, in whose 'image' he came into being.  In order to grasp the true kernel of that myth, we might  replace the pattern, the mythical  picture, where the human structure is concretely impressed upon the world, by the more abstract concept, the 'meaning' of the world. There is, secondly, the philosopher Auguste Comte who, in his very attempt to discard religious impressions that had previously been seen as emanating from nature, transferred these to mankind as a whole. Thirdly, more empirically minded, there is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who was the first to grasp the connection between ' the sacred' and 'society' on the one hand, and, on the other, 'the profane', the private, non-social, individual sphere. Lastly, there is the religious philosopher Oskar Goldberg, who discovered the interpretation, the translatability of the mythical concept 'gods'  that denoted the essential national units, in terms of their biological unities.   

To conclude: the plurality phenomena of the human species, in so far as they represent real, working unifications, constitute the empirical, the 'lowest' aspect of the Divine.