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 20: How May We Conceive and Hope that Human Unanimization will be Realized on Earth?
How depressing is the spectacle of the scattered human mass! A turbulent ant-hill of separate elements whose most evident characteristic, excepting certain limited cases of deep affinity (married couples, families, the team, the mother country) seems to be one of mutual repulsion, whether between individuals or groups. Yet we nurse in the depths of our hearts the conviction that it could be otherwise, that the chaos and disorder are ‘against nature inasmuch as they prevent the realization, or delay the coming, of a state of affairs which would multiply as though to infinity our human powers of thought, feeling and action.
Is the situation really desperate, or are there reasons for believing, despite appearances to the contrary, that Mankind as a whole is not only capable of unanimity but is actually in process of becoming unanimized? Do there exist, in other words, certain planetary energies which, overcoming the forces of repulsion that seem to be incurably opposed to human harmony, are tending inexorably to bring together and organize upon itself (unbelievable though this may seem) the terrifying multitude of milliards of thinking consciousnesses which forms the ‘reflective layer’ of the earth?
My object here is to show that such energies do exist.
They are of two kinds: forces of compression, which by external and internal determinisms bring about a first stage of enforced unification; and subsequently forces of attraction, which through the action of internal affinity effect a genuine unanimization by free consent.
Let us look in turn at these two processes which so pervade the human atmosphere that, like light and air, we tend to ignore them, although they envelop us so closely that no act of ours can escape them.
1. Enforced Unification: or the Geographical and Mental Curvature of Compression
a The Geographical Curvature. Biologically speaking the human zoological group is developing on a closed surface. More exactly, since although the world population has already virtually filled the continents to saturation-point it shows no sign of leveling out but continues to increase at an ever-growing rate, the group behaves as though it were developing in a world that is shrinking, so that it becomes ever more tightly compressed upon itself.
The first and obvious effect of this ethnic compression is to bring bodies together. But the growing density of human matter, however material its origin, is also having a profound effect on human souls. In order to adapt itself in a vital sense to the increasing pressure, to survive and live in comfort, the multitude of thinking beings reacts naturally by arranging itself as well as possible, economically and technologically, upon itself. This automatically compels it to be constantly inventing new systems of mechanical equipment and social organization. In other words it is forced to reflect; and this causes it to reflect a little more upon itself -- to turn inward, that is to say, and further develop in itself those qualities which are specifically and in a higher sense human.
It is a profoundly instructive and mysterious phenomenon. The human mass is spiritually warmed and illumined by the iron grip of planetary compression; and the warming, whereby the rays of individual interaction expand, induces a further increase, in a kind of recoil, of the compression which was its cause . . . and so on, in a chain-reaction of increasing rapidity.
Out of this there arises first an irresistible grouping principle which, in its impact on the intelligence, almost automatically overrules the egoistical and mutually repulsive tendencies of the individual.
But that is not all: for to this first geographical compression there is rapidly added a tightening effect, due this time to the emergence and influence of a curvature which is not mechanical but mental, and which I must now explain.
b The Mental Curvature. In the ‘humanizing’ chain of events which we have described, the mind, which at first seemed to be no more than a ‘device’ for confronting and resisting planetary compression, is swiftly transformed into a ‘reason’ of existence. We think first in order to survive, and then we live in order to think: such is the fundamental law of anthropogenesis which emerges. But Thought, once it is let loose, displays an extraordinary power of self-protraction and extension, as though it were an independent organism which, being once born, cannot be restrained from growing and propagating itself and absorbing everything into its network. All history bears witness to the fact that nothing has ever been able to prevent an idea from growing and spreading and finally becoming universal. The reflective, psychic environment which surrounds us is so constituted that we cannot remain in it without moving forward; and we cannot advance except by drawing closer and rubbing shoulders with one another. It is as though all our individual strivings after truth soared upward into a mental ‘cupola’ whose closed walls inexorably compel our minds to mingle!
An enforced coalescence of all Thought in the sum total of itself . . .
The increasingly apparent growth, overriding the monstrous and chaotic human dispersal which so distresses us, of this force of auto-unification emerging from the psychic energies released by our technico-social mastery of the earth: this surely is a guarantee that, within our universe, the impulse of totalization must eventually triumph over the impulses of dispersal.
But on one condition. Under the influence of economic forces and the intellectual reasons invoked to break down the barriers behind which our egotism shelters, there must emerge, since this alone can be completely unanimizing, the sense of a single, fundamental aspiration.
2. Free Unification through Attraction. A point of Universal Convergence on the Horizon
Despite the compulsions, both geographical and psychic, which oblige men to live and think in an ever closer community, they do not necessarily love each other the more on that account. The two greatest scientists in the world, being preoccupied with the same problem, may none the less detest each other. This is a sad fact of which we are all aware, and because of this separation of head and heart we are bound to conclude that, however social necessity and logic may impel it from behind, the human mass will only become thoroughly unified under the influence of some form of affective energy which will place the human particles in the happy position of being unable to love and fulfill themselves individually except by contributing in some degree to the love and fulfillment of all; to the extent, that is to say, that all are equal and integral parts of a single universe that is vitally converging. A ‘pull’, in other words, must be born of the ‘push’. But amid the politico-social crisis which now besets us, have we valid, objective reasons for believing in the possibility of this hopeful state of affairs, even to the point of discerning its first indications?
I believe we have, on the following grounds.
If we look for the principal outcome, ‘Result No. I’, of the ineluctable unification of our scientific intelligence during the past century, we must quickly perceive that the gain consists far less in our securing control of any particular source of natural energy than in the general awakening of our consciousness to the vast and extreme organicity of the universe as a whole, considered in terms of its internal forces of development. We see more clearly with every increase in our knowledge that we are, all of us, participants in a process (Cosmogenesis culminating in Anthropogenesis) upon which our ultimate fulfillment -- one might even say, our beatification -- obscurely depends. And whence can it arise, this accumulation of evidence that the extreme point of each of us (our ultra-ego, it might be termed) coincides with some common fulfillment of the evolutionary process, a common super-ego, except out of the principle of attraction which we have postulated as being necessary to bring together the rebellious seeds of our individualities, uniting them from within and unanimising them at the heart?
Thus, superimposed on the twofold tightening action of what I have called the geometrical and mental curvature of the human earth -- superimposed yet emanating from them -- we have a third and final unifying influence brought to bear in regulating the movements of the Noosphere, that of a destiny that is supremely attractive, the same for all at the same time. A total community of desire, which makes of it a third force as planetary in its dimensions as the other two, but operating. no matter how irresistibly, in the manner of a seduction -- that is to say, by free consent.
It would be premature to assert that this new force as yet plays any very explicit part in the course of political or social events. Yet may we not claim, observing the precipitate growth of democracies and totalitarian regimes during the past hundred and fifty years, that it is the Sense of Species, which for a time seemed to have vanished from human hearts, dispelled in some sort by the growth of Reflection, that is now gradually resuming its place and reasserting its rights over narrow individualism? Sense of Species interpreted in the new, grand human manner: not, as formerly, a shoot which merely seeks to prolong itself until it bears its fruit, but the fruit itself; gathering and growing upon itself in the expectation of eventual ripeness.
But if the hope of this maturing of the Species, and the belief in its coming, are to illumine and truly unanimise our hearts, we must endow it with certain positive attributes. It is here that opinions are divided.
Those who think on Marxist lines believe that all that is necessary to inspire and polarize the human molecules is that they should look forward to an eventual state of collective reflection and sympathy, at the culmination of anthropogenesis, from which all will benefit through participation: as it were, a vault of intermingled thoughts, a closed circuit of attachments in which the individual will achieve intellectual and affective wholeness to the extent that he is one with the whole system.
But in the Christian view only the eventual appearance, at the summit and in the heart of the unified world, of an autonomous center of congregation is structurally and functionally capable of inspiring, preserving and fully releasing, within a human mass still spiritually dispersed, the looked-for forces of unanimisation. By this hypothesis only a veritable super-love, the attractive power of a veritable ‘super -being’, can of psychological necessity dominate, possess and synthesize the host of earthly loves. Failing such a center of universal coherence, not metaphorical or theoretical but real, there can be no true union among totalized Mankind, and therefore no true substance. A world culminating in the Impersonal can bring us neither the warmth of attraction nor the hope of irreversibility (immortality) without which individual egotism will always have the last word. A veritable Ego at the summit of the world is needed for the consummation, without confounding them, of all the elemental egos of Earth . . . I have talked of the ‘Christian view’, but this idea is gaining ground in other circles. Was it not Camus who wrote in Sisyphe, ‘If Man found that the Universe could love he would be reconciled?’ And did not Wells, through his exponent the humanitarian biologist Steele in The Anatomy of Frustration, express his need to find, above and beyond humanity, a ‘universal lover’?
Let me recapitulate and conclude.
Essentially, in the twofold irresistible embrace of a planet that is visibly shrinking, and Thought that is more and more rapidly coiling in upon itself; the dust of human units finds itself subjected to a formidable pressure of coalescence, far stronger than the individual or national repulsions that so alarm us. But despite the closing of this vice nothing seems finally capable of guiding us into the natural sphere of our inter-human affinities except the emergence of a powerful field of internal attraction, in which we shall find ourselves caught from within. The rebirth of the Sense of Species, rendered virtually inevitable by the phase of compressive and totalizing socialization which we have now entered, affords a first indication of the existence of such a field of unanimisation and a clue to its nature.
Nevertheless, however efficacious this newly born faith of Man in the ultra-human may prove to be, it seems that Man’s urge towards Some Thing ahead of him cannot achieve its full fruition except by combining with another and still more fundamental aspiration -- one from above, urging him towards Some One.
Unpublished. Paris, 18 January, 1950.