The Future of Mankind by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., was professor of geology at the Catholic Institute in Paris, director of the National Geologic Survey of China, and director of the National Research Center of France. He died in New York City in 1955. Published by Harper & Row, New York and Evanston, 1959. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 4: Some Reflections on Progress
Part I. The Future of Man Seen by a Palaeontologist
When, little more than a century ago, Man first discovered the abyss of time that lies behind him, and therefore the abyss that lies ahead, his first feeling was a tremendous hope, a sense of wonderment at the progress our fathers had made.
But now the wind seems to have changed. Following many setbacks a wave of troubled skepticism (adorned with the name of ‘realism’) is sweeping through the world. Whether from immobilist reaction, sick pessimism or simply pose, it has become ‘good form’ to deride or mistrust anything that looks like faith in the future.
‘Have we ever moved? Are we still moving? And if so, are we going forward or back or simply in a circle?’
This is an attitude of doubt that will prove fatal if we do not take care, because in destroying the love of life it also destroys the life-force of Mankind.
I wish to show in this paper that, however bitter our disillusionment with human goodness in recent years, there are stronger scientific reasons than ever before for believing that we do really progress and that we can advance much further still, provided we are clear about the direction in which progress lies and are resolved to take the right road.
I. Preliminary Observation: the Slow Movements
To understand what follows we must first thoroughly assimilate the idea that there are movements in the Universe so slow that we cannot directly detect them. The idea of slow movement is in itself very simple and commonplace -- we have all looked at the hour-hand of a watch. But it took us a long time to realise that the more stable and immobile a given object in Nature may appear to be, the greater is the likelihood that it represents a profound and majestic process of movement. We know now that the vast system of stars in our own sky is composed of a single nebula, the Milky Way, in course of granulation and deployment; and that this nebula, in association with millions of other spiral units, forms a single, immense super-system which is also in process of expansion and organisation. We know that the continents tremble and that the mountains continue to rise beneath our feet . . . and so on.
It can be said that Science today progresses only by peeling away, one after another, all the coverings of apparent stability in the world; disclosing beneath the immobility of the infinitely small, movement of extra rapidity, and beneath the immobility of the Immense, movement of extra slowness.
We are concerned here with the second of these effects, which may be expressed as follows: everything in the Universe moves; but the larger a thing is, the slower is its movement.
2. The Case of Life
This being posited let us leave the nebulae and the mountains and turn to Life itself, of which Mankind is a fragment.
Life, by our time-scale, is a phenomenon of prodigious age -- over 300 million years. Moreover it is composed of myriads of separate elements and it covers the earth. In terms of space-time Life comes m the category of immensely large things. It is part of the Immense, and if it moves at all it moves like the Immense.
Our object is to determine whether Life and Mankind move. We can only find out by observing them (like the hour-hand of our watch) over a great length of time. Here it is that we see the part played by paleontology, as well as the secret vice of our critics.
3. The Role of Paleontology
It might seem that paleontology is a science of pure speculation or inquisitiveness, and the paleontologist the most unreal and useless of researchers; a man dedicated to retrospection, plunged living into the past, where he spends his days collecting the debris of dead things. That is certainly what many laymen think, and it may well be the view humbly taken by many paleontologists of themselves.
But in this the instinct that prompts our work sees more clearly than reason. The reconstruction of ‘that which was’ may rationally appear to be merely a fantasy for idle minds; but in fact the meticulous work accomplished in the past hundred years by the collectors of fossils, the results which they have patiently recorded in innumerable papers and in barbarous language, perfectly incomprehensible to non-initiates, the paraphernalia of systematized knowledge and the clutter on the museum shelves, all this has made a contribution of the utmost importance to the world’s thinking. It has added to the sum of human knowledge an item of extraordinary interest -- a segment of the past extending over three hundred million years.
Do we fully realize its value?
We are trying, let me repeat, for vital reasons to determine whether the world, Mankind, is the seat of any kind of progress. Let us put aside all metaphysical speculation, all sentimental impressions and arguments. We are dealing with a question of fact and we must look at the facts. If we confine ourselves to short periods of time on which progress makes no mark our argument will drag on and get nowhere. But if we contemplate a depth of time such as this one that we have been able to reconstruct in the laboratory, any movement of Life, if such exists, must of necessity show itself.
Instead of arguing fruitlessly within the over-brief space of a few generations, let us look at the broad vista which science offers us. What do we see?
4. The Growth of Consciousness
For various psychological and technical reasons which I need not examine here, the reading or decipherment of the tract of time disclosed by paleontology is still not free of difficulty. Indeed it continues to be a matter of vehement dispute. The interpretation which I am about to put forward must therefore not be regarded as ‘accepted’. Nevertheless it seems to me so self-evident that I have no hesitation in offering it as the correct interpretation and the one destined sooner or later to win general scientific agreement.
It may be stated thus: when observed through a sufficient depth of time (millions of years) Life can be seen to move. Not only does it move but it advances in a definite direction. And not only does it advance, but in observing its progress we can discern the process or practical mechanism whereby it does so.
These are three propositions which may be briefly developed as follows.
a Life moves. This calls for no demonstration. Everyone in these days knows how greatly living forms have changed if we compare two moments m the earth’s history sufficiently separated in time. In any period of ten million years Life practically grows a new skin.
b In a definite direction. This is the crucial point which has to be clearly understood. While accepting the undeniable fact of the general evolution of Life in the course of time, many biologists still maintain that these changes take place without following any defined course, in any direction and at random. This contention, disastrous to any idea of progress, is refuted, in my view, by the tremendous fact of the continuing ‘cerebralization’ of living creatures. Research shows that from the lowest to the highest level of the organic world there is a persistent and clearly defined thrust of animal forms towards species with more sensitive and elaborate nervous systems. A growing ‘innervation’ and ‘cephalization’ of organisms: the working of this law is visible in every living group known to us, the smallest no less than the largest. We can follow it in insects as in vertebrates; and among the vertebrates we can follow it from class to class, from order to order, and from family to family. There is an amphibian phase of the brain, a reptile phase, a mammal phase. In mammals we see the brain grow as time passes and become more complex among the ungulates, the carnivores and above all the primates. So much so that one could draw a steadily rising Curve of Life taking Time as one co-ordinate and, as the other, the quantity (and quality) of nervous tissue existing on earth at each geological stage.
What else can this mean except that, as shown by the development of nervous systems, there is a continual heightening, a rising tide of consciousness which visibly manifests itself on our planet in the course of the ages?
c We come to the third point. What is the underlying process whose existence we can perceive in this continual heightening of consciousness, as revealed by the organic evolution of the nervous system and the brain? Let us look more closely in the light of the latest data supplied by the combined ingenuity of an army of research workers. As we are beginning to realize, there are probably tens of thousands of atoms grouped in a single virus molecule. There are certainly tens of thousands of molecules grouped in a single cell. There are millions of brains in a single ant-hill. . . .
What does this atomism signify except that Cosmic Matter, governed at its lower end (as we already know) by forces of dispersal which slowly cause it to dissolve into atoms, now shows itself to be subjected, at the other end, to an extraordinary power of enforced coalescence, of which the outcome is the emergence, pan passu, of an ever-increasing amount of spiritual energy in matter that is ever more powerfully synthesized? Let me note that there is nothing metaphysical in this. I am not seeking to define either Spirit or Matter. I am simply saying, without leaving the physical field, that the greatest discovery made in this century is probably the realisation that the passage of Time may best be measured by the gradual gathering of Matter in superposed groups, of which the arrangement, ever richer and more centralized, radiates outwards from an ever more luminous fringe of liberty and interiority. The phenomenon of growing consciousness on earth, in short, is directly due to the increasingly advanced organisation of more and more complicated elements, successively created by the working of chemistry and of Life. At the present time I can see no more satisfactory solution of the enigma presented to us by the physical progress of the Universe.
5. The place of Man in the forefront of Life
In what I have said thus far I have been looking at Life in general, in its entirety. We come now to the particular case which interests us most -- the problem of Man.
The existence of an ascendant movement in the Universe has been revealed to us by the study of paleontology. Where is Man to be situated in this line of progress?
The answer is clear. If, as I maintain, the movement of the cosmos towards the highest degree of consciousness is not an optical illusion, but represents the essence of biological evolution, then, in the curve traced by Life, Man is unquestionably situated at the topmost point; and it is he, by his emergence and existence, who finally proves the reality and defines the trajectory -- ‘the dot on the i’. . . .
Indeed, within the field accessible to our experience, does not the birth of Thought stand out as a critical point through which all the striving of previous ages passes and is consummated -- the critical point traversed by consciousness, when, by force of concentration, it ends by reflecting upon itself?
Prior to Galileo science thought of Man as the mathematical and moral centre of a World composed of spheres turning statically upon themselves. But in terms of our modern neoanthropocentricity, Man, both diminished and enlarged, becomes the head (terrestrial) of a Universe that is in the process of psychic transformation -- Man, the last-formed, most complex and most conscious of ‘molecules’. From which it follows that, borne on the tide of millions of years of psychogenesis, we have the right to consider ourselves the fruit of a progression -- the children of progress.
The world did at least progress to the point where the first-born of our race appeared. Here we have a fixed and solid point on which to base our philosophy of life.
Let us now take a further step.
We may agree that zoological evolution culminated in Man. But having reached this peak did it come to a stop? Life continued to move until Thought entered the world, this we may admit. But has it advanced since then? Can it make any further progress?
6. The Movement of Mankind upon Itself
Ancient though prehistory may make it seem to our eyes, Mankind is still very young. We can trace its existence for not much more than a hundred thousand years, a period so short that it has left no mark on the majority of the animal forms that preceded us on the earth and which still surround us. It may seem impossible, and it is certainly a very delicate matter, to measure any movement of Life in so slender a fragment of the past. Nevertheless, owing to the exceptionally rapid development which is a characteristic of the human wave, a direct assessment of the advance of our own group in terms of consciousness is possible to the practiced eye, even within this limited tract of time.
a It seems in the first place that, anatomically, a gradual evolution of the brain can be discerned during the earliest phases of our phylogenesis. Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus possessed intelligence, but there are solid grounds for supposing that they were not cerebrally as well developed as ourselves.
b We may accept that the human brain reached the limit of its development at the stage which anthropologists call Homo sapiens; or at least, if it has continued to develop since then, that the change cannot be detected by our present methods of observation. But although, since the Age of the Reindeer (that is to say, within a period of twenty or thirty thousand years) no progress is perceptible in either the physical or the mental faculties of Individual Man, the fact of organo-psychic development seems to be clearly manifest in Collective Man: and this, whatever we may think of it, represents as true an advance as the acquisition of an added convolution by the brain.
Let me here repeat the two fundamental equations or equivalents which we have established:
Progress = growth of consciousness.
Growth of Consciousness = effect of organization.
Taken together these mean that, in order to discover or verify the existence of biological progress within a given system, we have only to observe, for the period of time and the field we are considering, how far the state of organization varies within that system.
This being posited we may compare the world of the cave-dweller with the world of today. Setting all theory aside there can be no question but that, within this period of 30,000 years, Mankind has advanced almost unbelievably in its state of concentration.
Economic concentration, manifest in the unification of the earth’s energies.
Intellectual concentration, manifest in the unification of our knowledge in a coherent system (science).
Social concentration, manifest in the unification of the human mass as a thinking whole.
To those who have not studied its implications, this slow and irresistible flow of our history in the direction of more and more unified groupments has no particular meaning; they relegate it to the trivial category of surface and incidental phenomena, no more. But to the enlightened eye this human development, succeeding all the twists and turns of pre-human consciousness, assumes a dazzling significance. For the two curves are a prolongation one of the other. Tremendous events such as those through which we are now passing are seen to take shape, and with a brilliant clarity. This tremendous war which so afflicts us, this remolding, this universal longing for a new order, what are they but the shock, the tremor and the crisis, beyond which we may glimpse a more synthetic organisation of the human world? And this new order, the thought of which is in all our minds, what form can it take other than a higher degree of self-awareness on the part of a Mankind become at once more complex and more centered upon itself?
No, truly: Life in emerging into Thought did not come to a stop. Not only has it moved and progressed from the protozoa to Man, but since the coming of Man it has continued to advance along its most essential path. We can feel it at this moment quivering beneath our feet! The ship that bears us is still making headway.
And it is here that the ultimate and decisive question arises, finally the only question that interests us. Thus far Life, and Man himself, has progressed. So be it. But what of the future? We are still moving, but can we continue much longer to advance?
Have we not reached a dead-end? Can we talk seriously of a future for Mankind?
7. The Future of Mankind
I make no claim to be a prophet. Moreover I know, as a scientist, how dangerous it is to extend a curve beyond the facts, that is to say, to extrapolate. Nevertheless I believe that, basing the argument upon our general knowledge of the world’s history over a period of 300 million years, we can advance the following two propositions without losing ourselves in a fog of speculation:
a Firstly, Mankind still shows itself to possess a reserve, a formidable potential of concentration, i.e. of progress. We have only to think of the immensity of the forces, ideas and human beings that have still to be born or discovered or applied or synthesized. . . . ‘Energetically’ as well as biologically the human group is still young, still fresh. If we are to judge by what history teaches us about other living groups, it still has, organically speaking, some millions of years in which to live and develop.
b Everything leads us to believe that it really does dispose of this vast reservoir of time, which is necessary for the normal achievement of its evolution. The earth is far from having completed its sidereal evolution. We may envisage all kinds of mischance (disaster or disease) which might in theory put an end to our evolutionary progress: but the fact remains that for 300 million years Life has paradoxically flourished in the Improbable. Does not this suggest that its advance may be sustained by some Sort of complicity on the part of the ‘blind’ forces of the Universe -- that is to say, that it is inexorable?
The more we ponder these matters the more must we realize that, scientifically speaking, the real difficulty presented by Man is not the problem of whether he is a center of constant progress: it is far more the question of how long this progress can continue, at the speed at which it is going, without Life blowing up upon itself or causing the earth on which it was horn to explode. Our modern world was created in less than 10,000 years, and in the past 200 years it has changed more than in all the preceding millennia. Have we ever thought of what our planet may be like, psychologically, in a million years’ time? It is finally the Utopians, not the ‘realists’, who make scientific sense. They at least, though their flights of fancy may cause us to smile, have a feeling for the true dimensions of the phenomenon of Man.
8. The Advance
Having clarified our ideas, let us see what action they require of us. If progress is to continue, it will not do so of its own accord. Evolution, by the very mechanism of its syntheses, charges itself with an ever-growing measure of freedom.
If indeed an almost limitless field of action lies open to us in the future, what shall our moral dispositions be, as we con- template this march ahead?
I can think of two, which may be summarized in six words: a great hope held in common.
a First, the hope. This must spring to life spontaneously in every generous spirit faced by the task that awaits us; and it is also the essential impulse, without which nothing can be done. A passionate longing to grow, to be, is what we need. There can be no place for the poor in spirit, the skeptics, the pessimists, the sad of heart, the weary and the immobilists. Life is ceaseless discovery. Life is movement.
b A hope held in common. Here again the history of Life is decisive. Not all directions are good for our advance: one alone leads upward, that which through increasing organization leads to greater synthesis and unity. Here we part company with the whole-hearted individualists, the egoists who seek to grow by excluding or diminishing their fellows, individually, nationally or racially. Life moves towards unification. Our hope can only be realized if it finds its expression in greater cohesion and greater human solidarity.
This double point is finally established by the verdict of the Past.
9. The Crossroads
But here there is a grave uncertainty to be resolved. The future, I have said, depends on the courage and resourcefulness which men display in overcoming the forces of isolationism, even of repulsion, which seem to drive them apart rather than draw them together. How is the drawing together to be accomplished? How shall we so contrive matters that the human mass merges in a single whole, instead of ceaselessly scattering in dust?
A priori, there seem to be two methods, two possible roads.
a The first is a process of tightening-up in response to external pressures. We are in any case inescapably subject to this through the negative action of terrestrial causes. The human mass, because on the confined surface of this planet it is in a state of continuous additive growth, in numbers and interconnections, must automatically become more and more tightly concentrated upon itself. To this formidable process of natural compression there may well be added the artificial constraint imposed by a stronger human group upon a weaker; we have only to look about us at the present time to see how this idea is seeking, indeed rushing towards, its realization.
b But there is another way. This is that, prompted by some favoring influence, the elements of Mankind should succeed in making effective a profound force of mutual attraction, deeper and more powerful than the surface-repulsion which causes them to diverge. Forced upon one another by the dimensions and mechanics of the earth, men will purposefully bring to life a common soul in this vast body.
Unification by external or by internal force? Compulsion or Unanimity?
I spoke earlier of the present war. Does it not precisely express the tension and interior dislocation of Mankind shaken to its roots as it stands at the crossroads, faced by the need to decide upon its future?
10. The Choice
Gloriously situated by life at this critical point in the evolution of Mankind, what ought we to do? We hold Earth’s future in our hands. What shall we decide?
In my view the road to be followed is clearly revealed by the teaching of all the past.
We can progress only by uniting: this, as we have seen, is the law of Life. But unification through coercion leads only to a superficial pseudo-unity. It may establish a mechanism, but it does not achieve any fundamental synthesis; and in consequence it engenders no growth of consciousness. It materializes, in short, instead of spiritualizing. Only unification through unanimity is biologically valid. This alone can work the miracle of causing heightened personality to emerge from the forces of collectivity. It alone represents a genuine extension of the psychogenesis that gave us birth.
Therefore it is inwardly that we must come together, and in entire freedom.
But this brings us to the last question of all. To create this unanimity we need the bond, as I said, the cement of a favoring influence. Where shall we look for it; how shall we conceive of this principle of togetherness, this soul of the Earth?
Is it to be in the development of a common vision, that is to say, the establishment of a universally accepted body of knowledge, in which all intelligence will join in knowing the same facts interpreted in the same way?
Or will it rather be in common action, in the determination of an Objective universally recognized as being so desirable that all activity will naturally converge towards it under the impulse of a common fear and a common ambition?
These two kinds of unanimity are undoubtedly real, and will, I believe, have their place in our future progress. But they need to be complemented by something else if they are not to remain precarious, insufficient and incomplete. A common body of knowledge brings together nothing but the geometrical point of intelligence. A common aspiration, no matter how ardent, can only touch individuals indirectly and in an impersonal way that is depersonalizing in itself.
It is not a tête-à-tête or a corps-à-corps that we need; it is a heart-to-heart.
This being so, the more I consider the fundamental question of the future of the earth, the more it appears to me that the generative principle of its unification is finally to be sought, not in the sole contemplation of a single Truth or in the sole desire for a single Thing, but in the common attraction exercised by a single Being. For on the one hand, if the synthesis of the Spirit is to be brought about in its entirety (and this is the only possible definition of progress) it can only be done, in the last resort, through the meeting, center to center, of human units, such as can only be realized in a universal, mutual love. And on the other hand there is but one possible way in which human elements, innumerably diverse by nature, can love one another: it is by knowing themselves all to be centered upon a single ‘super-center’ common to all, to which they can only attain, each at the extreme of himself, through their unity.
‘Love one another, recognizing in the heart of each of you the same God who is being born.’ Those words, first spoken two thousand years ago, now begin to reveal themselves as the essential structural law of what we call progress and evolution. They enter the scientific field of cosmic energy and its necessary laws.
Indeed, the more I strive, in love and wonder, to measure the huge movements of past Life in the light of paleontology, the more I am convinced that this majestic process, which nothing can arrest, can achieve its consummation only in becoming Christianized. (Unpublished. Peking, 22 February, 1941. Lecture delivered at the French Embassy, on the 3rd March of the same year.)
Part II. On the Possible Bases of a Universal Human Creed
The purpose of the New York meetings, if I understand it aright, is not merely to seek a superficial reconciliation between the diverse forms of Faith which divide the human spirit and make it at odds with itself, but to find what they have fundamentally in common. We seek a new spirit for a new order.
I beg to be allowed to offer a brief contribution and personal testimony, the fruit of thirty years spent in close and sincere contact with scientific and religious circles in Europe, America and the Far East.
1. The Precise Point of Divergence. . . God or the World?
It seems to me clear above all else, setting aside the countless minor divergences, and ignoring the dull, inert mass of those who believe in nothing at all, that the spiritual conflict afflicting Mankind today arises out of the division of minds and hearts into the two profoundly separated categories of:
a Those whose hopes are directed towards a spiritual state or an absolute finality situated beyond and outside this world;
b Those who hope for the perfection of the tangible Universe within itself.
The first of these groups, by far the older, is pre-eminently represented in these days by the Christians, protagonists of a transcendent and personal God.
The second group, comprising those who for a variety of reasons have dedicated their lives to the service of a Universe which they conceive as eventually culminating in some form of impersonal and immanent Reality, is of very recent origin. Throughout human history this conflict between the ‘servants of Heaven’ and the ‘servants of earth’ has gone on; but only since the birth of the idea of Evolution (in some sort divinising the Universe) have the devotees of earth bestirred themselves and made of their worship a true form of religion, charged with limitless hope, striving and renunciation.
Are we to disdain the world and put it behind us, or live in it in order to master and perfect it? Mankind is rent asunder at this moment by these two concepts or rival mysticisms; and in consequence its vital power of adoration is disastrously weakened.
Such in my view is the nature of the crisis, more profound than any economic, political or social struggle, through which we are passing.
2. A Principle of Convergence. The Concept of Noogenesis
Any two forces, provided both are positive, must a priori be capable of growth by merging together. Faith in God and faith in the World: these two springs of energy, each the source of a magnificent spiritual impulse, must certainly be capable of effectively uniting in such a way as to produce a resulting upward movement. But in practical terms where are we to look for the principle and the generative medium which will bring about this most desirable evolutionary step?
I believe that the principle and the medium are to be found in the idea, duly ‘realized’, that there is in progress, within us and around us, a continual heightening of consciousness in the Universe.
For a century and a half the science of physics, preoccupied with analytical researches, was dominated by the idea of the dissipation of energy and the disintegration of matter. Being now called upon by biology to consider the effects of synthesis, it is beginning to perceive that, parallel with the phenomenon of corpuscular disintegration, the Universe historically displays a second process as generalized and fundamental as the first: I mean that of the gradual concentration of its physico-chemical elements in nuclei of increasing complexity, each succeeding stage of material concentration and differentiation being accompanied by a more advanced form of spontaneity and spiritual energy.
The out-flowing flood of Entropy equaled and offset by the rising tide of a Noogenesis! . . .
The greater and more revolutionary an idea, the more does it encounter resistance at its inception. Despite the number and importance of the facts that it explains, the theory of Noogenesis is still far from having established itself as a stronghold in the scientific field. However, let us assume that, as all the observable evidence suggests, it will succeed before long in gaining in one form, or another the place it deserves at the head of the structural laws of our Universe. Plainly the first result will be precisely to bring about the rapprochement and automatic convergence of the two opposed forms of worship into which, as I said, the religious impulse of Mankind is at present divided.
Once he has been brought to accept the reality of a Noogenesis, the believer in this World will find himself compelled to allow increasing room, in his vision of the future, for the values of personalization and transcendency. Of Personalization, because a Universe in process of psychic concentration is identical with a Universe that is acquiring a personality. And of transcendency because the ultimate stage of ‘cosmic’ personalization, if it is to be supremely coherent and unifying, cannot be conceived otherwise than as emerging at the summit of the elements it super-personalizes in uniting them to itself.
On the other hand, the believer in Heaven, accepting this same reality of a cosmic genesis of the Spirit, must perceive that the mystical evolution of which he dreams presupposes and consecrates all the tangible realities and all the arduous conditions of human progress. If it is to be super-spiritualized in God, must not Mankind first be born and grow in conformity with the entire system of what we call ‘evolution’? Whence, for the Christian in particular, there follows a radical incorporation of terrestrial values in the most fundamental concepts of his Faith, those of Divine Omnipotence, withdrawal and charity. First, Divine Omnipotence: God creates and shapes us through the process of evolution: how can we suppose, or fear, that He will arbitrarily interfere with the very means whereby He fulfills His purpose? Then, withdrawal: God awaits us when the evolutionary process is complete: to rise above the World, therefore, does not mean to despise or reject it, but to pass through it and sublime it. Finally, charity: the love of God expresses and crowns the basic affinity which, from the beginnings of Time and Space, has drawn together and concentrated the spiritualizable elements of the Universe. To love God and our neighbor is therefore not merely an act of worship and compassion superimposed on our other individual preoccupations. For the Christian, if he be truly Christian, it is Life itself, Life in the integrity of its aspirations, its struggles and its conquests, that he must embrace in a spirit of togetherness and personalizing unification with all things.
The sense of the earth opening and exploding upwards into God; and the sense of God taking root and finding nourishment downwards into Earth. A personal, transcendent God and an evolving Universe no longer forming two hostile centers of attraction, but entering into hierarchic conjunction to raise the human mass on a single tide. Such is the sublime transformation which we may with justice foresee, and which in fact is beginning to have its effect upon a growing number of minds, freethinkers as well as believers: the idea of a spiritual evolution of the Universe. The very transformation we have been seeking!
3. A New Soul for a New World: Faith Renewed in the Progress of Mankind
From this standpoint it is at once apparent that, to unify the living forces of humanity, at present so painfully at odds, the direct and effective method is simply to sound the call-to-arms and form a solid block of all those, whether of the right or the left, who believe that the principal business of present-day Mankind is to achieve a breakthrough straight ahead by forcing its way over the threshold of some higher level of consciousness. Whether Christian or non-Christian, the people inspired by this particular conviction constitute a homogeneous category. Though they may be situated at the two extreme wings of Mankind on the march, they can advance unequivocally side by side because their attitudes, far from being mutually exclusive, are virtually an extension one of the other and ask only to be completed. What more do they need that they may know and love one another? The union sacrée, the Common Front of all those who believe that the World is still advancing: what is this but the active minority, the solid core around which the unanimity of tomorrow must harden?
Despite the wave of skepticism which seems to have swept away the hopes (too ingenuous, no doubt, and too materialistic) on which the nineteenth century lived, faith in the future is not dead in our hearts. Indeed, it is this faith, deepened and purified, which must save us. Not only does the idea of a possible raising of our consciousness to a state of super-consciousness show itself daily, in the light of scientific experience, to be better founded and psychologically more necessary for preserving in Man his will to act; but furthermore this idea, carried to its logical extreme, appears to be the only one capable of paving the way for the great event we look for -- the manifestation of a unified impulse of worship in which will be joined and mutually exalted both a passionate desire to conquer the World and a passionate longing to be united with God: the vital act, specifically new, corresponding to a new age in the history of Earth.
I am convinced that finally it is upon the idea of progress, and faith in progress, that Mankind, today so divided, must rely and can reshape itself.
Remarks on a New York Congress of Science and Religion. Unpublished. Peking, 30 March 1941.