Modes of Development
Part Seven traces the universe in its development as a dialectic of love, from its inception in the Big Bang through inanimate evolution of stars and galaxies and planets, through living evolution and animal evolution, and then human evolution in the individual and in society through ancient, medieval, and modern times.Section 1: Inanimate Evolution
This part could take a whole three or four volumes by itself, since it is supposed to be an overview of what happened from the first moment of the Big Bang (if that's how everything started) right up to the present; but I'm just not up to that, even supposing I had twenty years ahead of me that I could devote to it full time.
Nevertheless, I think I can give a kind of vastly oversimplified sketch of what I think happened, based on what one could predict from what this theory says about the nature of God, who created everything, the nature of process, of inanimate bodies, living bodies, human bodies, and society, as well as based on the rather meager empirical evidence we have about how things seem to have progressed from the beginning to the emergence of life, from life to the emergence of human beings, and from human beings through history to the present.
This is not going to be something à la Hegel, however, where everything is logically entailed by what went immediately before, in a dialectic of reason. As I have said several times in this rather inordinate number of pages I have inflicted on the world, there is more to reality and even thinking than reason, with its cause-and-effect necessity.
In fact, though I think that evolution is a kind of dialectic, because all process is dialectical, I believe that Hegel, ironically enough, had things only half right with what you might call the thesis of his dialectic: that the real is rational and the rational is real. In fact, the real is at least rational, in that some of the things that occur in it are linked by necessity (i.e. causality) to others; but the real is also non-rational (though not irrational) in that many things that happen did not have to happen. And, in fact, Hegel confronts this non-rational aspect of things in what he calls the "bad infinite," which he thinks must be surpassed and suspended in a new stage by reason's turning back in on itself as it tends to lose itself in "...and so on to infinity."
Further, the rational is both real and non-real, as the logic of our dreams and our imaginative activity shows. Hence, Hegel's attempt to show that all of reality can be put into an a priori rational dialectic is, if what I have been saying is true, doomed to failure, in spite of its brilliance. Reality is much more messy.
But the reason any process is dialectical is, as I tried to show in Chapter 3 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.3, that instability implies the future equilibrium, toward which it drives the process. Hence, anything in process contains a specific self-negation (its purpose) within it, which, when achieved, will destroy the process as such--or better, in Hegelian terms, suspend it in the fulfillment which is the existence in equilibrium of the purpose.
But as I said in discussing evolution at the end of Chapter 7 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.7 and in discussing evolution in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the third part 3.1.5, this dialectic is not one of reason, but of love. God, who is (from our point of view, certainly) absolute love, created the universe out of love, and created an evolving universe. From this we can, as I said, make the following prediction as a kind of hypothesis about evolution:
Hypothesis for the evolution of the universe: The universe as it evolves will be a dialectic gradually revealing more and more God's love for it, and reflecting love within it to a greater and greater degree.
But since love is gratuitous, the dialectic will not involve a necessary progression, as Teilhard de Chardin seemed to think, but will be a sporadic thing.
The gradual revealing of God's love for the universe he creates will reveal itself as a greater and greater respect God shows his creatures, by leaving them more and more on their own as to the specification of what they are doing (though, of course, they can't be on their own as finite existences). The gradual reflection of God's love in the creatures themselves will be shown by activity that more and more makes sense or has its purpose in something other than the agent.
In the beginning, with inanimate evolution, things will be pretty thoroughly directed, since inanimate beings have no control over what they are doing at all, and are at the mercy of their energy level and the energy impinging upon them. This first stage will be characterized by causality, laws, and chance; but we will see that even here, the progress seems to come by manipulating the chance element in the interactions between things.
As to the reflection of love at this stage, all love, which is free giving, is implicit or "in itself" here; and what happens has to be construed as "loving" by an outside observer, since there is not what you might call a bias one way or the other in the inanimate bodies themselves. Nevertheless, as we look at what happens, I think it will be able to be said that there is a kind of "giving" that is going on rather than its opposite.
When the higher stage of life is reached, we find God's respect shown by giving the living body acts that are not strictly necessary for its existence; and insofar as the living body has control over itself, it tends to be left to follow its own impulses, rather than being bound by rigid laws.
But even though life is, in Hegelian terms, "for itself," since each living being must work to achieve and maintain its equilibrium in the face of a largely hostile environment, we will find that the living body seems to be "cheated" by its surroundings into doing things that benefit others as it tries to benefit itself; and that progress comes precisely through these acts that the living body does "in spite of itself."
At the stage of sentient life, we find the gift of consciousness, which is not needed at all for the sentient body to behave as it does--and therefore manifests a greater degree of love on God's part; and we find that the sentient body has much more control over itself and its activities than its non-conscious predecessors. But sentient beings also seem to seek out their own kind more obviously and to nurture their young and so on, simultaneously finding their own pleasure in this and doing something which does not really benefit themselves.
But love is "in and for itself" only in mankind, because a human being can know and choose either his own fulfillment or to make as his goal someone else's fulfillment. And as mankind develops, we find the notion of "we" gradually expanding until it embraces the whole of humanity; and creative love expanding until it transforms the whole of the universe that mankind can touch. And of course, in the midst of this, Love Himself becomes a man, and creates a collective person, whose reality expands as more and more people throughout history come to join themselves freely into cells of his mystical body.
But since love is explicit in human reality, there is also a counter-tendency that becomes explicit, the tendency toward selfishness and using others for one's own sake; and as human development goes on, this becomes more and more sophisticated, and often clothes itself as love.
The fact that I have used "in itself," "for itself," and "in and for itself" might mislead people into thinking that what follows is going to be triadic, with every "negation of the negation" coming back into a kind of reaffirmation at a more sophisticated level of the first stage which was negated. The dialectic is one of self-negation with a definite direction (and purpose) implied; and while it is true that the purpose is contained within the instability, it does not follow that the fulfillment of the purpose allows one to see the previous stage (the one before the process) lurking somehow suspended within it. A self-negation (an instability in the sense a dialectic of love envisions it) opens up unpredictable new possibilities when its purpose is achieved; often there are several avenues that evolution could explore, and sometimes does, going down blind alleys (such as with the dinosaurs) which die out, or arriving at stable stages which simply remain as they are. But for evolution to have occurred down to the present, there obviously is always at least one stage which itself is unstable, and which therefore denies itself in such a way that new possibilities are opened up, at least one of which, when explored, leads to an unstable condition which opens up further possibilities.
One other caveat: It is not a mark of wisdom to consider the path of evolution (i.e. the path from instability to instability) to be the "good" path, and the paths that become extinct as "failures," and the paths that simply remain stable as "arrested development." In the eternal scheme of things, nothing is "better" than anything else; God loves cockroaches as infinitely as he loves us. Granted, we are greater than cockroaches, because we are not only more complex but less limited. But are we thereby better? They have, after all, survived exceedingly well, and even adapted themselves to our mechanized environment. So beware of thinking that "progress" is something that necessarily should be sought after. Progress happens, and where there is instability, process, of course, is inevitable by definition. But not all process is advance toward lesser limitation, and it is equilibrium, after all, which is what is intelligible, not process.
That is the general idea. I want to reiterate, however, that this is going to be the barest of sketches, offered only as a hint that what seems to have happened in evolution and history can without forcing the data be looked at as a development of love in and for the world.
In the beginning, the universe blew up.
That is, at the instant of the beginning, the entire universe was a tiny body, a "black hole,"which was completely unstable at its creation, and could not exist; and so it immediately destroyed itself. The first act of the universe was its total self-destruction.(1)
Immediately after the beginning, there was light.
The law of conservation of energy was in the universe at the beginning, and so the universe did not go out of existence, but transformed itself into electromagnetic radiation. Not visible light, of course, because the radiation was far more energetic than light in the visible spectrum, but energy of the same form but a much shorter wave length than light. So the self-destruction of the universe was the creation of light.
First Law of Dialectical Evolution: Those stable stages of evolution capable of surviving remain in the universe throughout its evolution.
And so it is with this second stage of the whole universe: the radiation from the initial explosion is still with us as what we call "cosmic radiation," which permeated the universe.
The light, of course, fled the center of the universe; and this meant that the tiny universe expanded. But the mass of the initial body, and the mass-equivalent contained in this light, was so great that the light bent back upon itself in a tight curve, and could not simply run away from itself--which would have stopped evolution at the very beginning.(2)
But as the universe expanded, it became less dense, and so the curvature of space in which it was confined became larger and larger, and is still expanding to this day. We do not know if this curve will become so great eventually that it will "straighten itself out," so to speak, and the light and everything resulting from it will free itself from itself altogether, leaving each of the results alone, or whether the total mass of the body is such that an ultimate size will be reached, creating an instability whose purpose is a body of the original size, making the whole process start once again(3)--or whether God will intervene, when the final complexity is reached (or wherever he wants, of course), and stop the whole process, imposing an equilibrium on it which will then be our eternal universe in which change no longer takes place.
But to return to the stage we have arrived at, as the light bent back upon itself it interfered with itself. Some of this interference was simply of the sort in which one wave rides upon another, as it were, making the light more intense or less intense depending on the phases of the component waves. No advance occurs in this type of interference.
But there is an interference called "pair production," in which light meets light and tangles itself up within the other beam, in such a way what results are two "particles."(4) This occurred occasionally; and on the assumption that the initial energy of the explosion resulted in energy of all wave lengths, then all sorts of particles, stable and unstable, from the heaviest to the lightest, would have been formed; and since the universe was very small, the light interfered with itself very often, and the universe therefore filled up with particles. Much light remained, of course; but now it was accompanied by the products of its own self-destruction. That is, the light destroyed itself (or "negated itself," if you will) as light, but the result was something new, in which what had been only implicit ("in itself") in the light was now explicit ("in and for itself." The act of this type of self destruction is the light as "lighting itself," so to speak, or light "for itself." How very Hegelian, right at the beginning).
The point is that a particle has greater complexity than the light which made it up. The reconfiguration of the internal structure of electromagnetic energy separated out the electrical and magnetic aspects of the energy into two distinct fields, and created another aspect that was not there before: mass, with its gravitational field and its resistance to a change of motion. Mass is in light only implicitly, potentially; in the particle it becomes explicit. And with fields, space in the true sense emerged.
Already, then, we have instances of self-destruction's resulting in something at least in some sense greater than what it was before. Certainly, a body (a particle) is more complex than the energy out of which it is formed; and as we go along in evolution, we will find a tendency toward greater and greater complexity: what Teilhard de Chardin called "complexification." The tiny body which emerged also showed Teilhard de Chardin's "intensification" in the sense that the light produced this greater complexity by wrapping itself up within itself, so to speak, instead of just spreading itself outward.
But this greater complexity and internalness is at the expense of intensity. Energy is lost in pair production, and drained off as the kinetic energy of motion of the particles that fly away from their corresponding anti-particle.
But since there were many many particles formed, then as they moved, they collided with one another. When a particle collides with its anti-particle (as it has a natural tendency to do, since the opposite charges attract each other), the two destroy themselves once again into the light from which they emerged, except that the light wave now has less amplitude than the original light that created them, because of the energy lost as kinetic energy.
Here we have progress followed by regress, and the only result is a gradual degeneration of the available energy, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. As energy becomes less intense, it can do less, until eventually all becomes merely heat, and we have the "heat death" of the universe, in which there is a uniform temperature of a few degress Kelvin, and nothing else except this heat.
If the structure of the universe were such that all that particles could do in interacting with each other would be to blow themselves up and return to electromagnetic radiation, then evolution would stop right here. So evolution is not simply due to "chance." The structure of the new emergent particles has to be such that they can interact in new ways in order for anything new to happen.
And it is true that in many, many cases, the young universe fluctuated between light and particles. Many particles were also inherently unstable, and "decayed" into other particles and different wave lengths of light.
Protons and electrons are stable particles, however (as are anti-protons and positrons); and when one of these particles came close to another of different mass and charge, then they did not destroy each other and return into light, but produced a hydrogen (or anti-hydrogen) atom or a neutron, with a new configuration of internal space, each of which was electrically neutral, since the electrical field was totally bound up within the atom. And as the universe expanded, these newer particles, uncharged now and so not attracted electrically to other particles, continued existing as the other particles either vanished back into light or created new hydrogen atoms or free neutrons.
Once again, there was a creative destruction. Electrons and protons destroy themselves as such when they interact; and though the locus of the "remainder" of each, so to speak, is identifiable in the atom (the proton and any neutrons are in the nucleus, and the electrons form a negative shell around it), neither exist as protons or electrons any longer. Each gives up some of its identity, and what emerges is a new body, which has its own new properties. Hydrogen is not a mixture of protons and electrons; its essential reality is different: more complex, and more internalized.
We must assume that at some point there was a preponderance of hydrogen over anti-hydrogen, and the anti-hydrogen (the anti-proton positron atom) destroyed itself back into light in meeting its anti-atoms--or that there is an anti-universe that exists either in isolated pockets of our universe or in a universe cut off from the one we know. If equal hydrogen and anti-hydrogen were confined in a small area, then it would all destroy itself again, and there would be no further progress in the universe. So we will assume that something allowed for there being hydrogen in such a way that it remained stable. Once again, the structure of the universe is such that matter and anti-matter did not simply reduce everything once again to electromagnetic radiation.
Can chance account for this? No, as I pointed out in Chapter 3 of Section 4 of the fourth part 4.4.3, chance can account for (explain) nothing. Chance is inherently irrational; the "laws of chance" are the laws of what is left over when the remainder is simply random.
So here I find the first hint at the finger of God arranging things so that evolution is possible. As can be seen, the manipulation is gentle, almost unnoticeable; but it is necessary, or there is only fluctuation, not direction.
But advance even beyond this stage is possible because hydrogen atoms are only electrically stable; chemically, they are not. But they can join with other hydrogen atoms into a hydrogen molecule; and we can assume that this is what happened to most of the hydrogen in the small but ever-expanding universe.
This is the first relatively stable stage of the universe: a universe filled with light and hydrogen gas. Much of our present universe is just this.
1. Note that this initial instability, which prompted, if you will, the Big Bang, is "a sign of contradiction" to those scientists who insist that the universe is self-sufficient. The only scientific theory which would be consistent with this is the theory of a pulsating universe, in which the Big Bang is the result of the collapse of the preceding stage. The trouble with this theory, however, is that it postulates a mass for the universe much greater than the mass that has been observed. It is not scientific to say, "Well, there doesn't seem to have been a universe that collapsed, and the initial condition of the universe was unstable, and the universe is self-sufficient." This is a contradiction in terms. If the universe was initially unstable, it couldn't have got that way by itself from a stable condition (since equilibrium does not spontaneously move to instability, but rather the other way), and therefore, something other than the universe created it. Science, as I pointed out in Section 4 of the fourth part, is founded on the premise that it will not accept unresolved contradictions.
2. This is significant. We will see throughout this sketch that it is the structure of the universe which accounts for there being an evolution. If mass were not as Einstein discovered, of a nature to attract even light, then the light at the beginning would simply radiate outward, like the light we are familiar with, and would have no opportunity to interact with itself and produce particles.
3. As I say, there isn't any evidence that that much mass exists; so it is merely a logical possibility.
4. Remember, particles are not really little lumps of something; they are only, like everything else involving energy, reconfigurations of energy. See Chapter 3 of Section 2 of the second part 2.2.3.
Stars and galaxies
But since molecular hydrogen is stable, what the Second Law of Thermodynamics would predict at this stage is an even distribution of hydrogen molecules through the universe. There was nothing in the initial explosion which would imply eddies in the light that originally fled from the center of the exploding body, and certainly not vast numbers of eddies. True, the universe was small at the time, and so the "fleeing" light was also "returning" light, which was what produced the interference that gave rise to the particles and eventually hydrogen atoms and molecules. This return on itself of the light might account for eddies; but it must be remembered that the universe was expanding very rapidly, as an explosion expands. There was nothing from outside pressing inward; it was simply that the universe was small, and was growing larger.
Be that as it may, one might conclude that evolution should have stopped at this point, with perhaps a few coagulations of hydrogen clouds, rapidly dissipating as the universe grew larger and larger.
But in fact somehow--and once again I detect the intervention of God, directing everything according to its laws, but using chance to bring about the further stage--there were areas in which the hydrogen collected into rather dense clouds, in spite of the extremely weak gravitational field of each molecule.
As it happens, the gravitational field has the property of being "additive": that is, the more mass there is, the stronger the gravitational field of the whole. So as a cloud was formed, it would tend to attract more and more molecules into itself, becoming denser and more compact, with the molecules falling toward the center of mass of the cloud.
And as these molecules moved toward the common center of greatest mass, they followed curved paths, making the whole cloud turn around an axis as it grew denser and denser; the whole moving away from the center of the initial explosion.
And as the cloud moved through space, its increasing gravitational field collected more and more hydrogen into its mass, making it still larger and its field still stronger, and the tendency of all of it to spiral in toward the center even greater, meanwhile sweeping its environs clean of gas.
This gravitational pressure toward the center of mass of the cloud forced the hydrogen molecules at the center to strike each other so hard that they broke the molecular bond and became hydrogen atoms again; and as the pressure increased, the atoms became stripped of their electrons, which escaped toward the outside, leaving the center simply a mass of protons whizzing past (and around) each other, repelled from collision by their like positive charges. But as still more material collected from outside increased the total mass and the pressure toward the center, finally the protons were forced into collision with each other, and they destroyed each other back into electromagnetic radiation.
Once again, the stage for further advance is set by a setback, this time past the previous stages of atoms and particles, all the way back, it would seem, to the beginning.
But the destruction was not complete; it was not like a proton meeting an anti-proton, in which each is totally annihilated as such and transformed into radiation. In this collision only some of the mass of the proton-proton collision was converted into radiation, because both were particles of the same charge. This was a new, a productive self-destruction, which allowed the "strong force" to create a helium nucleus of two protons, which existed at a considerably lower energy level than that of the protons that made it up. It was the excess energy not needed by this new body that was radiated out as light.
And so the center of the hydrogen cloud became a hydrogen bomb, and a star was born.
A cloud mass becomes a star when the radiation pressure from the center more or less balances the gravitational pressure toward the center. This happened not once but billions of times, and the universe became populated with glowing stars, now radiating light in our visible spectrum. And stars, of course, are with us at present, from our sun to all the stars so far away that they appear to us as mere points of light.
A star, however, is not really in equilibrium, because as its central hydrogen explodes into helium, it collapses into a denser mass, forcing the helium nuclei into closer encounters with each other, until--to summarize a very long story--they too fuse into the nuclei of heavier elements, once again radiating out light which slows the further collapse. Depending on the total mass of the cloud from which the star is formed, its internal evolution takes a longer or shorter time, and follows different pathways. Some stars swell to "red giants" and then collapse and explode into ever-expanding gas clouds; others reach a stage of cataclysmic collapse into a neutron star or a "black hole": a body so dense that it becomes a small universe unto itself, because the light around it is so tightly confined that it cannot pass beyond a small distance without curving back onto itself.
The point, of course, is that a star is in process, using up its fuel until it is all spent, at which point it stops glowing and exists in equilibrium as a kind of cosmic pile of ashes, or until it spews out all of the left-over elements into the surrounding space.
All the while a star evolves, the energy radiated from it is degenerating, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, much of it in that very low energy state called heat, from which very little can come. Once energy reaches its lowest condition, of course, it is then in equilibrium, and no more change occurs. Stars glow because they are not in equilibrium, and they are losing energy to reach this lowest state, whatever it is, based on the initial amount of excess energy in the body; and once that is reached, the process stops.
As I say, just as this went on from the beginning of the first star, it is going on now, in all the stars that now exist.(1) Just as the expansion of the universe is sti1l going on, just as cosmic radiation is still with us, just as hydrogen clouds are still forming and becoming stars, so stars are still evolving. Evolution didn't just happen in the past; the "past" evolution is going on as I write this.
What is to be noted here, however, is that it is the forcible destruction of the nuclei of each element that creates by fusion the nuclei of the heavier elements. All elements in the universe were formed by the destructive force in the center of stars; and each gave itself up, as it were, to become a component in the more complex nucleus.
Note further that it was the tiniest element whose minuscule gravitational force produced the largest bodies in the universe which are the factories for all of the material complexity of the universe. And this could not have happened without turbulence somehow introduced into the initial explosion.
The turbulences that produced stars, however, also produced systems of stars. Many stars in our galaxy are close enough together that they orbit each other in pairs; and some are in small clusters of several stars. This is not surprising, since the gravitational field of a star is extremely strong, and so it could reach out enormous distances to capture another star.
In fact what happened is that the stars seem to have collected into clusters of millions and millions of stars and gas clouds called galaxies, all orbiting a common center and producing the various spiral shapes that astronomers are familiar with. Recently formed galaxies (speaking in millions of years now) are full of gas and have rather extended arms; older galaxies consist (of course) of older stars and very few if any gas clouds, and seem to have already wound themselves up into an egg shape.
Each of these galaxies or small clusters of galaxies (our own Milky Way, the galaxy made of all the stars we can see as stars plus the cloud of stars we see as the milky way itself, has a companion galaxy visible from the southern hemisphere) are moving apart from each other due to the effect of the initial explosion; moving more and more slowly as the millennia of millennia go on. Once again, we do not know if this will stop and then collapse, or if it will continue indefinitely, or until God arrests it.
Eventually, as I said, barring divine intervention, all the fuel in all the stars in all the galaxies will burn out, and the universe will reach its "heat death," with a more or less even distribution of the radiation lost from the stars, then in such a low-energy state that nothing can be formed from it. And so we can even now point to the purpose(2) of cosmic evolution: A vast space, whose total temperature is rather evenly just a couple of degrees above absolute zero, possibly including the stable detritus of the magnificent stellar bodies that originally made it up.
1. Not necessarily all the stars that we can see, because some are so far away that it takes millions of years for their light to reach us so that we can see them; and some, we know from observing novas and supernovas, blow up, which means that some will have already blown up and we will not see the explosion for perhaps hundreds or thousands of years.
2. I remind you of the sense of "purpose" in this book, which I discussed in Chapter 4 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.4. It simply means the end of a process, not something "intended" or even "good."
If that were all there was to evolution, of course, there would be no one to write the story. Somehow in the course of the evolution of stars and galaxies, something happened to make at least some stars do something strange.
There are two possibilities: Either one star passed close to another, but not close enough to be caught into an orbit, and material from both bodies was pulled out into the space between them, and then fell into orbit around each as they passed away from each other again; or one of a pair of stars orbiting each other was at a different evolutionary stage, and exploded, spreading its cloud of gas around its still existing companion.
In either case, the result was a star with a cloud of gas circling its equator in a kind of ring like the rings around Saturn; and this gas from the other star now was made up of all the elements that had been in the star or stars from which it was formed. We don't know whether our sun is unique in having had something like this happen to it, or whether it is a rare or even fairly common occurrence in the universe, because other stars are so far away that there is no realistic hope of seeing either the gas surrounding them, or the planets (which do not glow, of course, but only reflect light--rather badly, I might add), or even perturbations in the motions of the stars which would indicate the presence of planets. There are now some hints from things like perturbations that there are in fact planets around at least some stars; but the evidence is exceedingly tenuous.
Since it takes light three and a half years at what Einstein's theory says is the ultimate speed to reach us from the nearest star, travel to even this star would take centuries if not millennia; and so, all the science fiction about interstellar travel is just fantasy, and we will never really know if our planetary system is alone in the whole universe.
Not that it matters. We know that the destruction of at least one star, or the destructive encounter of two stars, at least once was such that total destructiveness did not occur, but the ring of complex gas formed around the star we call the sun.
But since this ring doubtless had a good deal of turbulence in it, and since the cloud of gas in the ring was enormous, then the same thing would happen to it that happened with the hydrogen that originally formed the stars: centers of attraction would occur and the gas would collect and form into a number of bodies.
But these bodies did not have enough material to create fusion in their interiors (Jupiter is at the limit; its interior is very hot, and it is all but a star), and so the coagulated gas formed cool, dark bodies, the planets, orbiting the equator of the sun.
Once again, then, we have productive destruction. But there is more. Since the planetary bodies were cool, the nuclei of these complex atoms could then for the first time acquire their electron shells and become true atoms; conditions in the stars were far too hot for this to happen. And of course, once the true atoms (of all sorts, now, not simply hydrogen) interacted with each other, they combined with each other into that vast array of molecules we see.
This of course occurred in different ways on the different planets, depending on their mass and how close or far away they were from their major heat source, the sun, which--interestingly enough--disturbed their tendency toward simply drifting toward their ground state by constantly pumping its own radiant energy into them.
If we now turn our attention to the earth, it originally was a planet of a size and proximity to the sun that trapped its original atmosphere of ammonia and methane and didn't let it escape as the atmospheres of moon and Mercury did; but which also was not as hot as Venus, or as cold and small as Mars, allowing storms to turn much of the hydrogen and oxygen into water as well as carbon dioxide and ozone; and--once again compressing a long, long story--we had, at the beginning of earth's evolution, a planet with a crust whose basins were filled with water and whose atmosphere contained simple compounds of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.
The carbon atom, like the silicon atom and some others, has the capability of bonding with other atoms in very complex ways; and in the stormy atmosphere of the proto-earth, there must have been many very intricate carbon molecules, the vast majority of which were unstable and ephemeral. Some, of course, would be more stable than others, and so there was a gradual formation of various carbon compounds, including amino acids formed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.
These molecules can link themselves together into still more complex (though less stable) chains; but they also have the characteristic of attracting other atoms to their surface in a temporary way; and it would sometimes happen by merest chance that attracted atoms would be close enough together so that they would bond with each other before they fell off the molecule that attracted them to itself. In this way, some molecules became factories, as it were, for the manufacture of other molecules.
All of this is perfectly random, and the probability of finding a molecule that will do this is very small. But once it did happen, the molecule would soon become surrounded with the products of its manufacture. This led to a certain systematization of what was happening on the early earth, because many of the parts of unstable molecules that formed and broke up would have been trapped into these stable molecules that kept forming.
It should be observed that this very complex process can only go on under very special conditions: things must not be too hot so as to break up the delicate molecules before they have a chance to interact with others; nor must they be too cold so as to prevent the motion needed to bring atoms and smaller molecules together. As far as we know at the time I write this, this has only happened in our solar system upon earth, which not only is at the right distance from the sun to have the proper heat, but is also covered with churning seas, which mix molecules together.
To take the final step toward the condition for life, it is possible, with an improbability that is astronomical, that a given carbon chain could attract to its surface the atoms that would produce an exact copy of itself, which would then bond together into a twin of the molecule that produced them. Considering all the possible combinations of what can be attracted to a molecule, only one of which will work, this is like asking the proverbial million monkeys to bang away at typewriters and have one of them produce the complete script of Hamlet.
But it happened. Such a molecule is now called DNA; and as DNA now exists, at least, it not only can copy itself, but sections of it can produce less complex molecules (some of which in turn produce still others); the molecule is not really a factory for other molecules, but a whole industrial complex. Certainly at the beginning, this was not the case; all there was was a molecule which produced some others by chance, with one of its products being a copy of itself.
This was not a living molecule, because it was in equilibrium, and anything that happened to it happened because of the forces it contained and its chance encounter with other molecules and atoms. But it was, as it were, all but alive; and what happened on the early earth was that once such a molecule was formed, its twins also by chance occasionally had twins; and once this progression started, the earth was then filled with copies of the original.
But these molecules, while stable, were very delicate, and they could break apart under the strain of external forces, cosmic radiation, or electrical discharges--or they could also attach new pieces to themselves; and some of the resultant mutants also turned out to be self-reproducing. Thus, as time went on, different varieties of self-reproducing molecules spread over the earth.
This, as far as we can tell, is the end of inanimate evolution. In one sense, inanimate evolution goes in the direction of what is larger and larger, to the stars and the galaxies. These are, however, relatively simple systems, when all is said and done. It is only on the cool earth and any planets like it that inanimate bodies can reach the other goal of their process, which has nothing to do with size, but is the ultimate in the complexity possible without the added assistance of the super-high equilibrium energy of life.
All during this process, which is still going on (except on earth, whose direction has changed because of life), what is less likely to happen has happened; the Second Law of Thermodynamics would have predicted the exact reverse of what I have described, even though, as statistical, it would admit of the possibility of evolution as we know it. But the advances to further stages have never involved a violation of the bodies' natures and the laws of their interaction; it has always been a manipulation of chance by which something possible but extremely unlikely by the laws of interaction occurred; and this occurrence led to another even more unlikely possibility's being realized, and so on down the line.
So there is no cosmic watchmaker at work here; if he simply started things and left them to themselves, the Second Law of Thermodynamics would have taken over, and we would have had nothing but hydrogen spread evenly through a cooling void. You might think that the cosmic watchmaker had only to make the exceedingly complex structure of the universe's material, and that would be enough. By "the structure of the universe's material" I mean the potential of electromagnetic radiation to form itself into particles, which in turn have the potential to form themselves into atoms, which now have the potential to form themselves into molecules, which now have a gravitational attraction to form themselves into stars and then into different kinds of atomic nuclei, which, once a star is destroyed into smaller bodies, have the potential to form themselves into atoms again and into molecules. All this potential had to have been present in the initial structure of the electromagnetic radiation, or none of it could have happened.
But the evolution would not have occurred if these initial conditions were simply given. As the Second Law of Thermodynamics indicates, the tendency of the universe would be toward breaking up and simplification, not greater and greater complexity. Something had to be directing thing so that the potential could be realized; because the likelihood of its being realized was so small as to be practically nonexistent. So there had to have been a director as well as a beginner of the process of evolution. And, of course, given that evolution takes place by means of finite activity, then the one who is responsible for finite existence had to have been creating each stage and each advance. The point is that based on what we have seen so far, he does so, not by wrenching it into a new shape, but by letting it, so to speak, do it by itself, as when a father shows his four-year-old how to fish.
As to what the bodies were doing and are still doing to each other, it seems that at every stage, each body gives up its own identity and merges with the other to form a more complex whole, which is in equilibrium at a lower energy level, and therefore which gives up the excess energy it no longer needs, and while it is doing so traps the components within it and transforms them into itself. Now these components did this to themselves in no explicit sense unselfishly; they were simply doing what was necessary because of their structure and the forces acting on them. But still what they did do was give up their being as what they were to become parts of what was greater than themselves. And this is what one would expect of implicit love. So the hypothesis looks to be verified so far.
The impossible leap
At this point in evolution, it was not the unlikely, but the impossible which occurred. An inanimate body has only its ground-state equilibrium, and therefore it tends toward and is stable only at its lowest energy level; it is impossible for it to be the cause of a chemical which is stable at a state higher than its ground-state equilibrium, especially since that chemical also has the ground-state equilibrium which it tends toward, and it must actively fight this tendency within itself to maintain this super-high energy. The way a living body is organized, as we saw, is inexplicable in terms of the materials which organize it, because its soul (its unifying energy) is, even in the lowest form of life, free from domination by its own quantity.
I say the leap is impossible; but of course, since it happened, it is possible, and therefore is by definition an effect; and in this case, since the effect is that existence is limited less than can be expected, the cause has to be the cause of finite existence itself or God. No finite existence can account for the emergence of a living being; certainly no material finite existence, even a living one, can, because it can only produce something outside itself by manipulating energy. But energy is not capable of surpassing quantitative limitation. The surpassing must be given to it from something in control of limited existence.
What I am saying is that miracles happen all the time, in the course of nature; divine intervention lifts the finite beings beyond their own unaided capabilities. Any parent knows this in his heart of hearts. He looks at his offspring and says, "How could I have done such an awesome thing?" It is only by being saturated with materialist mentality that a person can speak of "making babies." What happens is that one provides the material conditions for the intervention of God Almighty; it is only because it is common that it seems self-explanatory.
In any case, at the emergence of life, God miraculously brought the first living being into existence once the inanimate world on earth had evolved to the complexity by which one complex molecular system could support such a form of organization. And, as I said, God continues this feat with the conception of every single living body. It would be well to pause in wonder here. Life is literally a miracle; it is natural, but its nature is lifted beyond the mere material.
Hence, the very first act that made life emerge was a lifting of a material body beyond itself to an essentially higher kind of existence which it could not attain as material; and so life shows the love of God for his material beings. But notice that God did not simply impose life upon the material world; the world waited until what could support life emerged by manipulated chance into it, and then this was lifted up to heights that it could maintain, but which it could not reach by its own efforts. This shows God's infinite respect for his creatures.
The living body
But the living being which now existed was in itself the exact opposite of love. Since it lost energy with every act it performed, because of its internal tendency as material to return to its ground state (which would kill it), it now needed to replace this energy from the environment, to replace worn-out parts, and to fend off energy which would tend to destroy it. Hence, far from being something which gives itself up to any energy impinging on it from its surroundings, it closes itself off from energy not useful to its development and maintenance, and at the same time seeks out and absorbs energy that it needs, destroying other molecules and even other living bodies in the process.(1)
The living body, then is essentially selfish, or for itself at the expense of its environment. It will use anything in the environment which can serve in some way to maintain it, and it will defend itself against anything which can in any way destroy it. It seems that life, this higher stage created miraculously by the love of God for his universe, does not reflect its creator at all, and acts in direct contradiction to the way its creator acts.
But as it happens, the very tendency of a living body to maintain itself at the expense of its environment is used, insofar as the environment itself consists of living bodies, to effect the cooperation of all the living bodies. The tree produces a nut, which is harvested and buried by the squirrel, which is not planting trees but merely seeking to have nuts available during the winter; but it does not use all the nuts it planted, and so the tree proliferates through the predation on it by the squirrel. The excrement of the squirrel also serves to replenish the chemicals in the ground which the tree needs to absorb. And so on. Any book on ecology can show how marvelously the living bodies in a given area use their users in just such a way that by chance all benefit and can maintain not only individual but population equilibrium.
And this is what I was referring to when I said that God "cheats" the natural tendency of the living being. It is still for itself at the expense of the environment; but living beings have filled the environment (by chance) in such a way that all prosper. This cooperative selfishness is itself all but a contradiction; and it is so incredibly unlikely in itself that it forces itself on the attention of those who observe it, and even those whose minds are unwilling to admit a creator rhapsodize about how wonderfully chance (disorder) and the laws of probability order things when there are enough chances available--not noticing that the tendency of the laws of probability is away from systematic interaction rather than toward it.
There is also another aspect of the living body which is not perfect selfishness. Since it maintains a super-high, but definite, energy level (its biological equilibrium), it frequently absorbs more energy than will put it in exactly this condition, and so it must get rid of this excess by doing something that is not necessary for its existence. Living bodies, then, exhibit activities which are not strictly necessary for their existence, and which further are not the result of being acted on (at the moment) by outside energy. They play, or do gratuitous things. Since at any moment they can take in energy to replace the energy they are losing, they can afford to be prodigal with their activity, and so many of their acts make more sense in terms of joie de vivre than in terms of self-maintenance in the face of a hostile environment.
So in spite of the fact that any ecology is a jungle, with everything preying on everything else, it is also a monastery, with everything giving to everything else, and a playground, with everything disporting itself in the abundance of its existence. The birds' songs by which they threaten others soothe our ears and are sung even when there are no others to threaten--or even ears to soothe.
Reproduction is an interesting aspect of living bodies. The simplest reproduce merely by dividing, doing not much more than imitating the self-reproducing inanimate molecules from which they emerged. But very soon, in order to reproduce, the organism must meet with a different member of its own kind, so that the union of the two can produce another of the same form but with different individual genes, thus at once preserving and modifying the form of life.
The modifications allow the individual living bodies to fit into different ecologies, and at the same time reproduction serves to preserve the form of life even though the material nature of the body prevents, in our changing world, eternal existence; its tendency toward ground-state equilibrium eventually wins over the soul's attempts to fight it, and the organism dies. But it has before this reproduced other individuals of its own kind, and so the soul exists still, though limited to different degrees. In this sense, reproduction is for itself, though not for the individual; it is for the form of organization, which is to some extent free of its embodiment.
But as far as the individual is concerned, this for-itselfness has nothing to do with it. The individual living body does not benefit in the least by the creation of another body which has the same type of unification; it even loses energy and parts of itself as it does this, though of course by nutrition it quickly replenishes from the environment what it has lost. Hence, the very act that preserves life beyond the individual body turns out to be an act most like the creative act of God: not a giving up of oneself for the sake of another, not a sacrifice, but a purely gratuitous act which is neither of benefit nor loss for the agent. In preserving the species, the living individual performs an act of love, a clear reflection of the love of its creator for his universe.
And in performing this act, it goes outside itself to another of its own kind, simultaneously establishing solidarity with its own kind and affirming that the act is for itself in preserving the form of life and going beyond itself into another or allowing and even enticing another to invade itself so that something can emerge other than itself. I said in analyzing this characteristic of life in Chapter 6 of Section 1 of the third part 3.1.6 that it was very mysterious. It becomes, I think, less mysterious when one puts it in the context of the dialectic of love. Since the living being is in itself the opposite of love, it would not be surprising, if my thesis is true, to find that God has turned the tables on it and made one of its most significant self-preserving acts an act of love.
As to the evolution of living bodies, the differentiation of individuals that occurs in reproduction does not result in the emergence of new kinds of living bodies, but the preservation of the species; the variation is only within the limits of the species, and never passes beyond it. It is only when the genetic molecules are destroyed by chance events such as heat or cosmic radiation that monster births occur; and the overwhelming majority of these are such that they either cannot live at all, or cannot live to maturity, or cannot reproduce if they do.
But once again, the event which is possible but incredibly improbable occurs, and the destructive interference with the genes by the environment produces an organism which is better adapted to the ecology and which can reproduce with some living being in its vicinity, resulting in offspring different from the grandparents. Eventually either through further mutations or the variations in genes from the parents, the offspring several generations later can no longer reproduce with those from which their ancestors sprang, and a new species is formed.
Wallace and Darwin thought that this occurred through tiny changes (indeed, how could reproduction take place if the change was drastic and produced only one organism, as it would?); but there is not only no evidence of this, it is also impossible, since many adaptations, such as the eye, are so complex that the intermediate organisms would be maladapted for thousands if not millions of generations.
There is really no satisfactory mechanism to account for how it is possible for one species to evolve from another, a fact which has led to the "creationist/evolutionist" controversy, with each side totally and dogmatically repudiating the other. But since the conception of every living body even from its natural parents is a miracle that needs God's direct intervention, because it is the lifting of the material beyond its own materiality, is it too much to expect God to use mutations to produce a body capable of supporting a different soul? He seems to be at the same time manipulating chance so that this occurs and living beings in one sense evolve out of each other, but in another sense are merely the conditions under which God populates the planet with the vast variety of species which we see, and the still vaster variety of species which no human being will ever see, as every explorer to a rain forest will testify.
Thus, the species which emerge do so under the conditions of the environment; they emerge by modifications of their parents, and in reference to the ecology to which they are adapted or not; and God does not prevent the numerous mutations which result in monsters that cannot survive. Once again God is respecting the reality of his creatures and not simply foisting diversity and greater freedom from limitation upon them, but lifting them beyond their own capacity and opening up possibilities that they can take, but which they have no particular innate drive to take.
I said in the early discussion of evolution in this book, in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the third part 3.a.5 that the natural tendency of living bodies was conservative and against evolution; evolution occurs, not because of a Bergsonian élan vital, but because of destructive interference with the species as it exists, and goes directly counter to its tendency to maintain itself and adapt to differences in the environment with as little change as possible. So even here in living bodies, we find constructive destruction. Advance, not surprisingly, occurs in spite of the living body, not through it, because it is for itself, not for future beings; and so God once again cheats, using now the destructive tendencies of nature to bring about greater complexity and lesser limitation.
1. There is a question that arises here. As we saw in discussing fallenness in Chapter 5 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.5, the condition of mankind finds its most rational explanation in something akin to what Genesis relates about the first man. But, as I have pointed out elsewhere, God is eternal, and so time is meaningless to him. My hypothesis here is that God made the actual evolution of the universe (at least the part in which man is involved) contingent upon the decision of the first man; and the destruction of living bodies by other living bodies is a result of this fall, not something that would have occurred had the first man not rejected God. Carnivorous animals can thrive without eating meat; and so it is conceivable that, had the first man not sinned, they would not in fact have eaten meat.
My hypothesis states further that one of the functions of the New Adam, Jesus, was to restore the natural world to its original state if he were accepted by the Jewish people. I think Isaiah's prophesy of the lion lying down with the lamb and so on would literally have come to pass. But the Jewish people and their Gentile overlords--the whole world, in other words--rejected Jesus, and so the world continues with suffering and evil in it until the Second Coming, when every tear will be wiped away, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
But this is really Theology, and so I leave it for this brief footnote as a mere speculative philosophical hypothesis.
If we turn our attention now to the next higher stage of being, that of animal life, we find that it is characterized by sense consciousness, which in itself is a spiritual act with no quantity, but which reduplicates itself (while remaining one act) as a form of energy, as we saw in Chapter 4 of Section 2 of the third part 3.2.4.
By consciousness, the living body becomes present to itself, though in sense consciousness, this presence is merely a presence. Animals are aware of themselves, but not aware of what they are; they are simply "with" themselves insofar as the consciousness of the moment contains itself as part of itself. Thus, consciousness allows the body to be for itself in a new way.
I mentioned in Chapter 4 of Section 2 of the third part 3.2.4 that consciousness in animals at least is a complete superfluity, since as subliminal perceptions show, the behavior is the same whether or not there is the spiritual act which makes it self-present. Here again, then, we have an indication of the "giftedness" of God's creation and the prodigal love of the creator.
Animals are also, by their ability to move, freed from the action-reaction prison of the inanimate world and also from the strictures of being fixed to one spot of the plant world. Unlike plants, which are either tossed here and there by the forces of the sea or air or rooted in one place, and must therefore take the nourishment than chance puts in their way (only growing toward the light, for instance, but unable to move into it), and must build shells and thorns against predators, animals can seek out their food and run away from danger.
But the senses that enable them to do this and their greater access to nourishment and ability to escape from danger allow them greater scope for play also; and we find them exercising for no other purpose than exercising, and looking, as Aristotle says in the first book of the Metaphysics, for the sake of looking. The act itself that the animal performs becomes much more an end in itself than what the plant does; and so it is not obvious whether the act is for the sake of survival and self-maintenance, or the self-maintenance is for the sake of performing the acts. In this too, for-itselfness has reached a new level. Not all is for the whole, though all is by the whole; some of the acts simply are.
Further, the consciousness of the animal makes its environment present to it; in consciousness, even at the sense level, what is not the animal is within its consciousness as not within it; and so what is apart from the animal is taken into it, but left apart from it as it is taken in. In nutrition, the world outside is taken into the living body and destroyed and made over into the living body (as Hegel said); but in consciousness, the world outside is taken in and remains still outside, totally unaffected by this assimilation.
Hence, the animal possesses what is not itself with a completely non-destructive possession. In fact, the possession of what is not itself was even called by Aristotle and St. Thomas a "becoming" of the object, insofar as consciousness in effecting the possession actually makes itself over into a form which has no other function than to stand for the object and render it present. It is by transforming itself, then, without actually changing itself as a body, that the animal gains nondestructive possession of what is not itself.
Now this being present to itself and having the world present to it is not really Heidegger's Dasein, which occurs at the human stage and involves recognizing the self and the world and the presence for what it is; but still it is Dasein in potency, so to speak. But the interesting thing about this possession or for-itselfness in the animal is that it has no purpose, as it does in human beings, who can act on this explicit recognition. In the animal, the consciousness is, as I said, superfluous as far as behavior is concerned; if it were a reactive machine like a computer, the animal would function just as well. And so consciousness in the animal is for-itselfness purely for itself; it simply is.
The moment of consciousness is all there is in the animal's presence to itself; its past is present to it in this presence, but only as a presence, not as an explicit recognition of it as past; the world is present to it not as a world but simply as a presence, not as something explicitly distinct from the act of consciousness. It is a pure gift, fraught with implications that the animal cannot develop or make use of; and so for the animal it is simply glorious superfluity.
Thus, the animal is in loving contact with the world in a way that lower forms of life cannot be; its act of consciousness, superfluous to itself, puts it into non-destructive communication with its environment; and so this stage also seems to be an advance in unselfishness.
It would also not be surprising to find that animal reproduction would be a transformation in this direction over the reproductive activity of lower forms of life. In plants, reproduction occurs and the new organism is formed; but the plant does nothing for the offspring. Once it has formed the seed and given it the conditions by which it can separate from the parent plant, it has nothing whatever to do with it.
But animal reproduction is different from the beginning. First of all, the animal is driven by its sexual instinct to seek another of the opposite sex; and to seek the other when the other is receptive, otherwise to leave it alone. The roles of the sexes are very instructive here too. The male is generally the aggressive party, actively going after the female, which waits for it or even flees. But the female is the one which keeps the control over the act, warding off the male until she is ready, and accepting him only on her own terms--and this sometimes means the death of the male, as in bees and certain other insects. So the aggressive one, in good dialectical fashion, is the one which is controlled, and the passive one is the one which controls. (This, incidentally, is one of the reasons why I think feminism is a perversion; it has taken the superficial view and given up its control in the name of imitating the aggressiveness; but in so doing it has, as I said, freed the men from female control.)
And it is the female, the ostensibly weak and submissive partner, which receives the sperm and fertilizes the ovum within itself. As soon as the young can survive outside the mother, they are then expelled, and either fend for themselves against now predatory parents, or are nurtured until they can survive on their own.
The ambiguity in what is for itself performing an act that benefits the offspring and not itself is shown in this predation upon one's own offspring. It reveals the fallacy in Hegel's "cunning of the concept" by which the form of life escapes from the doomed body and preserves itself. This does occur; but if that were the logical purpose of reproduction, then the animal would never have an instinct that made it feed on its own offspring.
An interesting new aspect of sexual behavior is that sex involves the submission of the animal to the partner. This occurs on both sides; the male submits first to having the female dally with it; and then the female submits to the male; and then both, very often, submit to the offspring until they are able to live on their own. This submission to the young is very instructive, especially given the attitude of the parents to their adult offspring (which at the least they then generally regard as rivals), because it is an activity which is clearly not to the parents' advantage, and benefits something other than themselves.
There are two senses, however, in which this nurturing of the young is for itself: First, in the sense that it is for that abstraction, the form of life, so that it maintains itself in spite of the demise of its concretion in this generation. But, as I said, this form of life is not a reality, even though as embodied it controls the living body; so there is no "it" to continue existing "in" different bodies. Still, that element is there in sexuality.
The other sense in which nurturing is for itself is that in each of the animals, the conscious aspect of the sex drive (the emotion) is gratified. Again, if we take things too superficially, or in this case too anthropomorphically, we would be inclined to think that the sex act is for the emotion, which is for itself. But that, as I said in discussing instinct in Chapter 5 of Section 2 of the third part 3.2.5, is not really the case; the emotion is simply a gratuitous epiphenomenon of the drive itself, not a motivating force behind it. It is the drive which drives, not its conscious aspect. Hence, sexual gratification in the animal is simply the presence of the operation of the sex drive; and in that sense it is for itself just as any sensitive consciousness is; the animal has sex and feels pleasure, it does not have sex because of the pleasure.
So the sex act, and even its pleasure, is a superfluity for the animal, involving an act which is not really for itself (because it is "for" the offspring), but which in a kind of sense is also for itself (because in fact it gratifies the emotion). It is exactly the kind of thing you would expect if the meaning of things is love, and this particular stage of development is necessarily for itself against others. It is fitting for God to cheat it into being for others, but in such a way that while it is acting for others, this also has a for-itselfness about it. The hypothesis seems to be more strongly verified the farther we go in evolution.
As far as the adaptation of the animal to its environment is concerned, the genetic adaptation continues just as it does with lower forms of life. This is, as I said, due to destructive interference with the genes, leading to monster births. Some of these better adapted offspring lead to new species; but it should be pointed out that many of these new species survive only a limited number of generations, and then become extinct, as conditions change again. Hence, there is evidence that God, who seems to be directing this aspect of evolution, is working hand in glove with the laws of the environment and not simply putting the "best" organisms on the earth. The advance to higher levels of being occurs, but not in any kind of regular or logical progression; evolution is full of blind alleys and false pathways. Hence, once again we find the respect that God has for his creation increasing as the creatures themselves advance and gain more control over themselves.
But of course the individual animal is much more capable of adapting itself to its environment than the plant, because if the environment is hostile, it can move to a different place. And this greater control by the animal also leaves its actions freer from genetic necessities than the plant; it is much more obvious that animals play than that plants do. Much of animal behavior is not really purposive at all.
But things become really complex when we move on to the next stage of evolution: the human stage, which is both in itself and for itself, because humans explicitly understand and choose their own destiny.
The human being in himself
The purpose of this section is to consider the human being in the abstract as a new stage in evolution, and also, having established that he interacts with other human beings in forming families, tribes, and then nations, to take him up to the beginning of civilization. Then in subsequent sections we will take a flying look at ancient, medieval, and modern civilization, to see if we can thread our way through that labyrinth with our hypothesis.
Once the human being appears on the scene of evolution, intellectual consciousness and freedom of choice appear. He now not only is present to himself, but knows himself (to some extent) for what he is; and knows his world as what it is, and explicitly that it is different from himself; and he consciously directs himself toward goals that he freely chooses. Not only that, but he acts on his environment, and instead of adapting himself to it, he adapts it to himself; and so the direction the world's process takes, insofar as human beings act on it, is now quite different from the direction it would have had if he had not been there. And this influence becomes greater as human beings learn more and more, until today we discover that many things we are doing affect the whole planet rather drastically.
Since intellectual consciousness is that of grasping relationships, each human being's development actually starts in the same way as everyone else's. Each of us begins being conscious with what, in Chapter 2 of Section 1 of the fourth part 4.1.2, I called the mystical experience of empty consciousness--no matter what the sensation or the first form of consciousness is. We cannot, of course, recognize it as such, because we have nothing to compare it with. In this sense, the first moment of each person's consciousness is the same as what Hegel called "being," which as far as content goes, is the same as nothing, since there is no explicit content at all; it is implicitly everything and explicitly nothing. Hence, it is completely "in itself," as he would say, with the self as aware, but not explicitly aware of anything (even though in fact it is a limited form of consciousness), not even explicitly of its own awareness. It is the kind of consciousness described by cartoonists as an exclamation point inside a balloon.
The second moment of consciousness is the first concept, which necessarily is that of difference (and the different as such), because until we recognize a novelty in our consciousness, it remains that first undifferentiated moment. That is, the fetus might have a sensation, first, of a pain in the leg and then of a movement of his arm; but until he becomes aware that the "new" sensation is not the old one, then for him it is the same: that experience of abstract being, with no subject and no object.
Once difference is recognized, of course, then the person begins searching for differences, and simply multiplying cases of "different," without recognizing how they are different. He gets into a Hegelian "bad infinite," in which the same thing just goes on and on. In order to move forward and be aware of what the difference is, it is necessary to be aware of different aspects of each sensation; and at this stage, the person only knows each moment of consciousness as a unit, with each somehow different from each other one.
The third moment is also necessary: a kind of Hegelian synthesis of the first two, in that we keep finding new cases of "different" until we recognize something that is not different, and have Hegel's "negation of the negation, and arrive at the concept of sameness.
This leads to being able to notice that the new moment of consciousness is new (and therefore different) and not new (and therefore the same), which directs attention to what is the same about it and what is different, and so differentiation within the moment of consciousness becomes possible, with partial similarity.
At this point, the paths of the development of human consciousness diverge, because they depend on the concrete contents of the moments of consciousness. Still, there are stages that everyone must go through, though not necessarily in the order I will give them.
Once we split consciousness into various aspects, some of which are the same and some of which are different, this in turn lets us notice constancy, in which one "patch" of sensations remains the same while the background changes, and so we have a series of "objects" in the Kantian sense (that is, constant parts of the sensory field), which we then begin exploring and trying to categorize. There is, of course, as yet no distinction between the real and the imaginary, and no real notion of a self.
But while we are doing exploring, we are also acting; and as we do so, we notice that some objects in the visual field are intimately connected with both activity and passivity: those objects we later will call "hands" and "feet" and so on. As we grasp our hand, one hand feels the grasping, the other feels being grasped, and the eyes see the action. Here we arrive at the concept of causality, as well as that of being acted on. And eventually it dawns on us that these objects are also the subject, and that we are an "object" in the same sense that mama and the doll are. We have learned that we are what we will later call a body.
But then, in our exploration, we discover that we are not like the doll, but more like the dog and mama, because we move independently of being moved; and gradually we find out that we are much more like mama and daddy and brother than the dog and the cat, and we learn that we are human beings.
While we are engaged in this process, we are also interacting in many ways with mama and daddy. They provoke various responses in us, and we discover that we provoke responses in them. At this stage, we still refer to ourselves in the third person, but after a while, it occurs to us that mamma and daddy are centers of their own universes, just as we are a center of our own universe; and we discover ourselves as a self.
Not too long after this, we learn to make the distinction between those apparent objects that occur in sleep and in just sitting and thinking and the objects out there in front of us; and we learn about real being as opposed to mere imagining.
But since we are not yet really human, really adult, we begin to imagine ourselves as one and play at doing what adults do; and as we do so, we are also developing our skills, so that increasingly we are able to do what adults can do. In not very many years, we have all the basic skills, and adolescence comes, in which we recognize that the adult we will be depends not on something automatic, but upon what we decide for ourselves to be; and at that point, the human being is in and for himself; and progress from then on is a question of abilities and choices.
The pure gift of for-itselfness that we found in the consciousness of the animal now has a purpose in this embodied spirit, in several senses. First of all, the grasp of relationships among sensations allows consciousness to be aware of the self as the subject of many conscious acts; and the knowledge of the sensations in acting upon one's own body allows each of us to be aware that he is a body with a mind. Finally, a grasp of imagination and what it can do allows us to formulate ideal selves and to set up instabilities in ourselves that we then act to achieve; and therefore, this act of imagining, which seems so useless, is actually the vehicle for the self's control over its whole self. The freedom from the materiality of the self allows the soul to direct the material self, and through it to have power over much of the material world.
Secondly, the grasp of relationships now brings the otherness of the other as such into the self; we now know that objects are not ourselves but that they are as real as we are. We also can recognize the selfhood of other selves, in that they behave in much the same way as we do under the same conditions; and this grasp of relationships connected with sensations is what allows us to use or create sensations that stand for acts of consciousness, and to use these sensations to communicate with other selves by means of abstract language.
And because we can recognize the selfhood of other selves, we can put ourselves in another's place, and make the other's goal in her life part of our goal for our life; and thus love in the true sense is now within the power of the evolving universe.
Let us then consider this in the light of the hypothesis. First of all, it is clear that the gift of this level of consciousness, that of spirit, is a raising by God of a material creature totally beyond materiality, while leaving him still limited materiality. He is material, but materiality has little power over him, and he has great power over matter.
Secondly, as we will see in what follows, God frees human beings from domination by their matter, and respects their freedom, so that they can abuse it if they choose. God now gives advice, though nature and even directly, and provides opportunities, but no longer manipulates chance or cheats, except on very rare occasions; human beings are left to the consequences of their acts, even the eternal consequences.
Thirdly, this power that human beings have to change the material universe to suit their own ideas of what it shall be also frees the material universe from God's manipulation of it; it now takes its direction, not from above, but from within itself. Hence, in the human being, the universe becomes free, in a sense, because it is, as it were, self-directed by a part of itself (just as each individual is self-directed by his mind; collectively we are the mind of the world). God leaves the ultimate state of the developing universe now up to the universe itself. God does not give human beings "foremanship" over his material universe, telling them what to do with it and seeing that they carry forth his plans; he gives them dominion over it, so that they can do with it what they chose. Considering what human beings have done with what he gave them, it would be hard to see how God could have shown more respect for his creatures.
The human being for himself
With the emergence of intellectual consciousness, there comes the possibility of truth--and error--of goodness--and evil--of beauty--and ugliness. None of these existed before human beings existed, because they all involve conceptual thinking and God, who thinks, does not think in concepts.
If we look at the original human being, as I described him in Chapter 5 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.5, we find, as I said, the embodied spirit who was to decide the basic genetics of the human body. God, who had been playing with the genes of his creatures, as it were, gave the game over in this one case to his new creature who could think for himself. He was to use his imagination and choose the kind of mammal he was to be.
But, as I said there, he somehow used his imagination to create for himself an image of what in some way was outside the range of his material possibilities; and he chose not to submit to the limitations God had imposed on him--because God imposed on him the restrictions implicit in what his ancestors and the possible modifications of their genes would allow. God, following his respect for all his creatures, would not simply fashion for the human being a totally new body to his liking (because after all, this large-brained descendant of the apes couldn't make the choice without already being a body).
At this point I have a query. Is it possible that Adam was the first human being in our sense of the term, and the ancestor of all of us, but that Adam had a number of ancestors that were also embodied spirits, developing their self-consciousness to the point where they could make a rational choice about their bodies? That is, it is possible that Neanderthal Man was the common ancestor of human beings, and our homo sapiens, apparently so different from Neanderthal Man, was the result of Adam's being a Neanderthal who was given the power to alter his genes? After this choice, the Neanderthal race would then gradually become extinct, and the human race as we know it take over. I am not offering this as something that could be established, but as a possibility that might be worth thinking about.
If something like this is the case, of course, it would follow that Eve would have had to be brought out of Adam, because the new genetic structure would have to have the ability to be transmitted sexually. I do not necessarily want to say that the Bible was reporting things literally (among other things, that Adam was directly fashioned out of the slime of the earth, or Eve from a rib); but it might very well be that the knowledge of the real event of original sin was necessary for human beings, and so the legend was more accurate than we might think, just as the psalm of David about having his hands and feet pierced and so on was more literally accurate as prophesy than even he himself could have imagined.(1)
But it must have happened that Adam sinned, and that this infected all human beings with the anomalies of death and lack of control over the emotions by the spirit. He wished "to be like gods, knowing good and evil," not realizing that God knows no evil; and by so doing, he brought evil into the universe (though it presumably was there in the spiritual realm eternally, because of analogous sins of angels).
In any case, human development started from this initial disaster. On the one hand, there is a development in a positive direction; but because of the crippling of our nature, this is a struggle, involving pain and suffering and a tendency toward evil which presents itself as good; and there is no guarantee of success. And on the other hand, there is the will to power and the illusion that the human being can be whatever he wants to be, and that he is the only one in control of his life: the refusal to submit; and this impotent kicking against the bars of the cage of reality dresses itself up as nobility and virtue, scorning the poor fool who yields to what cannot be avoided.
But, since this self-corruption of human nature not only affected Adam who sinned, but all of his progeny, who carried with them the weakness of body and mind attendant upon the genes we inherited, God "cheated" once again, and offered the promise of redemption, and a restoration to a position similar to what the human being could have been in had he not chosen to fulfill himself by destroying himself. But in order to take advantage of the restoration, a long, long development was necessary.
The first step the human being takes leading himself outside himself is that of seeking a mate for himself, and having offspring. Here, as in other animals, human relates himself to human; and so humanity also is for itself while being for the other.
But human sexuality is different. A human being can have sex either for the sake of the partner, or for the sake of offspring, or simply to gratify his own feelings; and so sex, which in itself is neutral and only abstractly for another, becomes explicitly (in the first two cases) for the other and an act of love, or explicitly for the self and an act of selfishness, depending on the choice of each partner. If each is willing to recognize the selfhood of the other, the act is an act of love and an act of self-fulfillment. Here, the self becomes a person: a self related to the other self, with the goal of his life involving the other's goal for her life, producing an eternal togetherness of the persons.
But if one partner uses the other purely and simply for his own gratification against the other's wishes, the act is evil, and an act of hate. The act not only isolates the self from the other person, but violates the self that it is trying to fulfill. If one's submission to the other is so complete as to be willing to be violated for the other's satisfaction, the act is an act of self-hatred and is also evil. One not only violates one's own self, but cooperates with the other's violation of his own reality; and so the act cannot even be called an act of love.
There is a sophisticated variation on this: the second case above. If a person has sex with another simply for the sake of having a child, this is also, of course, rape and a violation of the personhood of the partner; but it looks like an altruistic act, because it is ostensibly for the child. But in these case, the person does not want the child for the child's own sake, but for the adult's gratification at having an extension of himself. The reason for this is that love is the acceptance of another, not really the desire for another; desire in this sense involves using the other for one's own gratification.
And as evolution goes on, there is the difficult path of true sexuality, which involves pleasure and joy, but through submission and even sacrifice. But this is increasingly denounced from two directions: from those who claim that "natural" sex is its biological dimension, not realizing that succumbing to emotion puts human beings below animals, because instinct does not function in humans as it does in animals, but seeks its own gratification at the expense of both the individual and the species. Secondly, it is denounced from the side of the sentimentalists, who would have sexuality involve total giving, total submission, total openness and the disappearance of the two in some third unit which is supposedly greater than both.
This sane path denounced from both extremes also operates with all the other emotions, since every emotion can go to opposite extremes. Hence, concern for others will have to contend against hard-heartedness and compassionate altruism, both of which masquerade as "true concern for others," and each of which is gratification of one's own feelings, not a rational assessment of the true situation. Bravery will be scorned as cowardice by the rash and as rashness by the cowardly. Gluttons will look down on the temperate as "worshipers of the body," while the worshipers of the body will consider the temperate gluttons; and so on. Each aberration prides itself on its virtue, and poor virtue creeps about in guilt. But nowhere is the sophistry more evident than with sex.
In human sexuality, the union of the two partners reaches its fruition in the child, who of course combines the genes of both and has traits of both, and so is the interaction embodied. The child is also completely selfish: is selfishness in and for itself, and must be taught that he is not the center of the universe. But the parents, of course, must submit themselves to the needs and the reality of the child as they educate him; and this further need to go beyond themselves unites them spiritually to each other in many more profound ways than the sexual love could.
Nor are children alone; and it is not really best for a child to be an only child, because it is more difficult for him to see that he is not simply the master and the receiver of everything. When children are thrown together, they compete for what they need, and at the same time, in a healthy family, each receives all he needs, though not the undivided attention that he craves. They learn, thus, to accept the fact that they are not the be-all and end-all of existence, and share with their siblings less and less grudgingly as time goes on, and develop that very profound brotherly affection and acceptance which is so edifying to see, basically because it comes at such a price. But it is the normal training in human development; and human development is safest and surest in the presence of brothers and sisters, because the individual becomes most fully himself when he is open to others in true love.
Parental love and submission to the true reality of the children while not denying their own reality has, of course, several aberrations: First, there is the tendency to regard the offspring as an unwelcome by-product of the act of sex, not its culmination and pinnacle; and the "unwanted" child is then tossed aside and made to feel guilty at existing at all. Second, there is the "wanted" child who is wanted as another helping hand around the house or the farm, and who is brought up as a slave to the parents instead of as a person in his own right. Third, on the other side, there is the total submission of the parents to the child, and his spoiling, encouraging, out of a notion of "love," his development into a monster who can never be satisfied and who can satisfy no one else. Fourth, there is the "loving" direction of the child "for his own good" which never allows him to take a step for himself and which turns him into a pusillanimous mass of phobias when he finally must venture out on his own.
No one, of course, ever commits these atrocities to his own children; everyone always raises them the "right" way. Even the incestuous parent is (in his own mind) trying to introduce his child to sex rather than violating his reality. Every one of these horrors, even when they go to extremes, believes itself to be proper and virtuous, and denounces everything else as the opposite extreme. This is the difficulty that fallen human nature has to contend with. From outside we can see the evil clearly; we can even see it when it isn't there. From inside, the evil is promoted as the good. But we very rarely try to study the facts.
Still, it is true that the human being's most powerful and selfish drive takes him out of himself into others, and unites the others round him in a community that does not have self-interest as its goal. Each parent is interested more in the other parent and in the children than himself; and the children are forced out of self-interest by having to do what the parents tell them--the more so because they do not recognize or really believe when told that what they are ordered to do is for their sake rather than anyone else's. This is the way sexuality and its effects are constructed; but of course, since with the human being came evil, it is the most fertile ground for perversions into selfishness.
1. One can read Genesis, by the way, as implying that the original intent was to have Adam the sole embodied spirit, the ruler of all the rest of material creation; but that Adam himself, seeing the other animals in pairs, felt lonely and in need of a companion, and so God created Eve for this purpose, and humans then could reproduce sexually. On another note, consistently with what I said previously, it is interesting that originally in Genesis God did not give animals to man or to other animals for food; the original food was seed-bearing plants. Presumably, it was due to the fall that animals ate each other; and Hebrew tradition, if I am not mistaken, reflects this in justifying animal sacrifice on the grounds that it is a recognition that the animals belong to God, really, and God is letting us use them as we do; and we should not kill them lightly. This would fit with the notion that if the universe had been restored by the acceptance of Jesus as king, no one would be carnivorous.
The human in and for himself: society.
I do not want to give the impression in this title that the individual becomes a vanishing "moment" suspended in that greater whole which is society. In Chapter 2 of Section 3 of the sixth part 6.3.2, I tried to show that a society which pretended to be a super-organism was an aberration. The society, as I said, is for the individuals in it, not the individuals for the society; but still it is the case that without society individuals cannot live human lives. Hence, it is with others that the individual human being becomes himself; we are not alone, and if we cut ourselves off from others, we cut ourselves off from ourselves.
The simplest and first and most natural society is the family, in which the brothers and sisters are all under the authority of the parents, and must subordinate their desires to the will of someone who is initially stronger than they, and who can physically and mentally punish and even physically and mentally abuse them.
The fact that the parents have authority over the children, and the fact that they must punish but are stronger than they, in addition to the fact that the children are naturally selfish and rebellious (and therefore provoke terrible anger) forces the parents to be much more sophisticated in their loving actions than they had to be toward each other, or they will simply kill or maim the children. Hence, they learn to do what is painful because what is painful is helpful; but at the same time, in inflicting pain, they learn to do so in a way that does no damage. Unfortunately, this is learned by trial and error, and every child to some extent is damaged by the most well-intentioned and even intelligent parents; because each child is a new encyclopedia of humanity, for which the rules that apply in general, or even that worked with other children, are inappropriate. Love learns humility in that it so often fails those it loves most.
The other side to this is that God has made children incredibly resilient; and so even with abusive parents, their fragile selves are seldom broken; and though the young tree is bent, it tends to straighten toward the light, and often in adulthood, the original twisting not only makes no real difference, it cannot even be detected. This is no excuse for abuse, of course, but abuse does build character; it is those who are spoiled who are in most danger--which is what the word "spoiling" implies. Parents need not try to raise their children in fear and trembling, but in love and affection, trusting in God who makes everything work out for good for those who love him.
The child, in being forced to obey, learns that self-will is not necessarily always to be desired, and that authority has wisdom behind it, and is not mere coercion; because it too often happens that a child is forced to do something he hates, and then later recognizes that if he had not done it, he would have been much worse off than he is now.
In any case, the first "we" was the family, those under the power of the parents and united among themselves by submission to the common authority. The "I" discovered itself only in this "we," and regarded its reality at first, not as an "independent" Lockean individual, but as a kind of part of the greater whole.
Meanwhile, the family was cooperatively seeking to survive by using up the surrounding world, first as gatherers and especially as hunters. The first economic activity of mankind, then, used the forces of destruction (clubs, spears, and arrows) as forces of production; and in destroying those animals larger than themselves but less than themselves, they themselves developed.
Not surprisingly, these same forces of production could easily be used against other human beings, who not only could be used as food, but also were rivals for the food supply consisting of other animals. Members of other families were not recognized as "us," and so became victims of "our" predation and predators to be guarded against. No one kills and eats one of "us"; that is the great crime; but this does not apply to "them." Many names of tribes are simply the tribal word for "the people."
But the brothers found mates outside the family and returned with these new people, who had somehow to be absorbed into "us." But when the sisters were taken by men from other families, what happened to them? It then became less easy to regard "them" as mere animals to kill and be killed by; because "they" then included some of "us," and "we" included some of "them." In many ways, the problem was solved by not regarding the women as really human. But, given sexual love, and the power a woman has over a man in love with her, this is not easy to sustain; and thus the "we" began to expand, and tribes began to be formed.
The parents, of course, grew old and feeble and the children mature and strong. But still the parents commanded, and the children, having learned that the force exerted on them was more moral than physical, based on wisdom, still obeyed and deferred to the greater experience and wisdom of their elders, whom they now took care of physically as if they were the parents and the elders the children. Thus, authority freed itself from the physical embodiment it had in the strength of the parents, and was recognized as something spiritual.
The great crisis in authority comes when the parents die. The children by this time would have been fathers and mothers of their own children, and so they exerted authority over them; but they would recognize their own lack of wisdom, and be at a loss, feeling now the need for authority and guidance, but not having anyone visible to give it to them.
And it is this experience, I take it, which is the beginning of religion. The fact that the child who is to take over authority still finds himself somehow under authority, but under no visible authority, would naturally lead him to assume that his parent is still watching over him. At this early stage, an afterlife of reward and punishment had probably not occurred to anyone, because in a close-knit tribe, where everyone is a relative of everyone else, no one can really get away with anything without being punished.
In practice, however, as tribes intermingled in the early days of human evolution, it would have begun to be less and less clear who the gods were, since the wives would have brought their gods into the tribe. Superior and inferior god-ancestors would then begin to appear, with the ancestors of the full-blooded members of the tribe the most important of the gods. Thus, it was love that created the realization that those outside the tribe were also human beings (if of an inferior sort), and also which led people away from a simplistic interpretation of the divinity into something responsible for more than mere tribal discipline.
Perhaps it was the need to remind himself of the dead ancestor, or perhaps it was simply the awareness (from seeing stones like chalk make marks and berries make stains) that he could create images that re-evoke the same emotions as the object, that led even the primitive human being to make works of art of astonishing beauty and sophistication. The full capacity of the intellect has been with us from the very beginning, as the cave paintings in France show.
Rather early in human development someone also discovered (possibly from noticing what grew from the dump) that seeds could be planted and grow into crops; and at this point, the human being found out that he could use the world, not by destroying it, but by cooperating with it, and with a little patience and not much effort, he could live in abundance. Once this idea of cooperating with the world occurred to him, he soon found that he could also raise animals by penning them up, and no longer needed to search them out. Here again we find that one of the most significant advances in human development was that of submission to reality and cooperation with it, rather than destructive domination of it.
But there was a dark side to this, as to everything human. Farming and cattle raising led to the need to exclude others from one's own property; and since the earliest means of production were weapons, the weapons were now used for protection; but it was not long before someone discovered that he did not need to kill the raiders, but could capture them and pen them up like animals, and make them work for him, simultaneously intimidating them with his weapons and promising them an easier life from his farm. Thus began the practice of slavery. Since those outside the tribe were not really human, but were very close to being human, they could, if treated skillfully, do all the work, and the masters would only have to watch over them. And here were the seeds of the leisure class that Marx made so much of.
But of course the master class was really the warrior class, and to keep in practice it had to find people to fight with; and so there were battles between tribes that continued until some peacemaker allowed the people to see that killing each other was counterproductive, and that merging the tribes into a single nation would make them stronger.
Thus, inter-tribal cooperation, not domination, was what allowed the expansion of the "we" to include all the members of the other tribe. When there is domination, the dominated are regarded as subhuman, not belonging to "us"; they are our slaves. Here, there was a recognition of the humanity of the other tribes, which also made sense out of intermarriage.
Further, with greater numbers in the nation, specialization arose. I mentioned the warrior class and the slave class; but there would also have been the farmers and the cattlemen; and there would have to be police also, not only to watch over the slaves, but to keep order among the members of the nation.
Amalgamation of the tribes also, of course, put the various tribal gods on an equal footing; but now, with worship of what was not really one's ancestor, it was not at all clear why one worshiped at all--except that there was as much as ever the need for an internalization of the commands coming from the one in authority, or no police force would be able to hold the people in check.
So Marx's notion that religion acted as a means for having people obey orders has truth in it; but it was not, I think, really a means of one class's dominating the others, for two reasons: first, everyone except the king was subject to authority (and even the king was, to some extent), and second, who would control the priests if it was simply cynical manipulation? They would have been the ones who held the real power. No, the early people really believed that there were invisible forces that controlled them. As we have seen in the earlier pages in this book, this belief has a firm evidential foundation in the world; and it would not be surprising, if God created people with limitations that they had to accept, for him to have created them in such a way that they could naturally discover the fact.
Finally, when nations became more complex and found that they had needs or at least wants that extended beyond their borders, they began cooperating on a new level, by bartering what they had with their neighbors (and those more distant) who would take it for what they wanted. This trade led to the invention of money, and also to the invention of written language, as the need to keep records of trade became pressing; and this brought mankind to the threshold of civilization.
Observing human beings at this stage, we find that the notion of "we" and of belongingness is much stronger than the notion of "I" and autonomy. It is the tribe or nation which acts; the individual is of very little account within it. In fact, if he is captured, he loses his status of human being altogether, and becomes like the house pet or the ox in the field. If he should escape back to his own nation, however, he becomes a human being again.
We also find that the means of cooperation, money and wealth, are also used as means of domination, with the rich able to afford men with weapons to protect them, and the rich nations able to buy armies with which they can lord it over and dominate their poorer neighbors. But on the other side of this coin, wealth also created a true leisure class, which could think about the meaning of life and the world; and this was what really led to further advance.
Civilization and history
With civilization comes history, of course, because now there are records consciously kept, as Hegel says, and we know what happened because we are told what happened, and need not argue from nothing but the detritus of living.
Tracing what happens in history is very difficult, because it depends on what one wants to consider "progress toward a purpose," and that depends on the purpose. For Hegel, for instance, it was the self-discovery of Spirit in the world; for Marx, the march away from exploitation of the many by the few.
Still, I think it fair to say that we can look at certain civilizations as in equilibrium, lasting for century upon century with changes going on within them, but without any significant change in the civilization itself. It maintains its basic manner of interacting among the people, and its basic idea of what it is to be a person, as well as the basic way the person relates to the material world around him.
Those who are caught up in the mystique of "progress" are apt to regard such civilizations as having stagnated; but this is a value judgment that is not called for. From their point of view, those in "more progressive" societies are simply floundering in a morass of ignorance, not having yet discovered the true meaning of human existence, and not having found a manner of living which works. What from a more "progressive" point of view is looked at as a naive or primitive notion of human living is looked on from their point of view as more profound and less encrusted with sophisms.
For all the learning we have in the West so painfully come by, we have not increased our happiness significantly, it seems to me. We have more complex ways of being happy; but by the same token, we have more complex ways of being miserable. And this is significant, because happiness consists, as I said, in the recognition that one is what one has chosen to be. The price we in the West paid for the vast unfolding of opportunity is twofold: we are in anguish either because we can't decide which of the many possible roads to follow, or because we set our goals beyond our real possibilities and strive after the absurd. It is time to smash the idol of "progress," and put the pieces into the bin of those fetishes that promise but cannot satisfy.
I do not want by this to reverse the value judgment and say that stopping a process is better than continuing; it is just that, first of all, process as such is always headed somewhere, and process for its own sake is an absurd form of equilibrium, like walking on a treadmill.
Hence, if there is a civilization in process, and I think we can say that this is Western and non-Muslim civilization, it is useful to look at it and see if we can see what is developing, and how it is developing, and perhaps discover what the purpose is and whether and to what extent we want the goal that we have unthinkingly headed ourselves towards, and to what extent we should modify what we are doing to get somewhere we would like to be.
Civilizations in equilibrium
First, then, let us look fleetingly at the civilizations (except for the Muslim, which will come in its course) which are in equilibrium: the Chinese and Indian civilizations. Of course, I now speak of what I guess we would call "ancient" or "traditional" Chinese and Indian civilizations, rather than the modern Marxist civilization in China and the Westernized civilization in India. There are variants of these two, of course; the Japanese had their own version of the Chinese civilization, for instance.
Chinese civilization and its offshoots seem to be characterized by respect for elders, and respect for authority; Confucius perhaps articulated the spirit of the Oriental civilization most clearly. The gods here are ancestral spirits, not surprisingly; and the individual's individual life is regarded as the animal part of his existence, subordinate to his human life, which is thought to be his position in the family and the various organizations he belongs to, including the larger society. He must not at all costs bring disgrace on the groups he belongs to; and he can remedy the wrong he has done by a ritual act of destroying his animal life. The rules of conduct are rules of politeness and fitting in properly to one's position in society. The structure of government is, not surprisingly, autocratic, with the ruler having the status of a god. Thus, Oriental civilization, it might be said, is the condition I described at the end of the preceding section institutionalized; and it has worked very well for thousands of years, leading to various advances in technology and so forth. Only recently (within my lifetime, in fact) has it run into difficulty with the inroads of the individualist-collectivist philosophy of Marx, which (as Mao modified it) fit in many ways very well into the Chinese spirit of cooperativeness, and seemed to satisfy the individual's desire to have the importance the West gave him. But it seems at present to be failing, due to the inherent contradiction in Communism's "totalitarianism for the sake of the individual." Because China never really had a notion of the individual as an end in himself, Communism seems to be lasting longer there than in the West.
Note that, in terms of the hypothesis I offered about evolution, this particular equilibrium defines love as respect and politeness; but it seems to be primarily external, and to become internal by means of the external practices. The society is not for the individual, the individual is for the society; and it is not that the society makes the individual good, but that good individuals are necessary for society to be good.
The reason this civilization is in equilibrium and can last so long is that for this mentality, since the individual does not matter, then technology makes really little difference, and it is possible for great technological sophistication to exist in some places, and the most primitive methods of doing things in others. Insofar as technology makes the whole society powerful, of course, then it could be adopted, as in Japan, and developed much more thoroughly than in the West, which does not have such a cooperative spirit. But this type of civilization is undermined by the notion of the dignity and importance of the individual as such; and there are signs that it is changing as this idea becomes accepted as the truth about human beings.
The other civilization which was in equilibrium for millennia was that of India. Here, it seems, the underlying source of authority is thought to be what Hegel called abstract Being: that is, what everything has in common. It is this that is the only real reality (the Brahm), including the reality of ourselves; and everything else, all of the various forms of realities we see, is a dream. There is some truth in this, in the sense that every finite reality is inherently contradictory, and only unqualified reality makes sense by itself, as I said in the first part of this book.
But obviously, I think that the Indian interpretation does not fit the facts; but it is not my purpose here to critique the view, but show how it colors the whole civilization. The god, or rather, what is behind and beyond even the gods, is self-identical, serene, and unchanging, while everything else is unreal, apart from itself, and in turmoil. Hence, the real purpose of life is to get in touch with this reality (which is within each of us as well as everywhere else, since nothing individual is real), and to avoid getting caught up in the world of dreams and striving. It simply does not matter what position one is in in this world, because that is unreal; and anyone can achieve serenity and union with reality (and so everything) by turning away from the world of activity and resting within himself in that core of his being which is his only truth.
India, then, had a caste system, where a person was born into a condition of life and lived it out without hope of moving into another caste, except by death and reincarnation upward or downward; except that escape from this wheel was possible by repudiating this world and contemplation. There were various methods of doing this; but the goal was always the same: find the truth as not in the world, and reject the world and its illusions. This civilization, of course, did not go beyond itself precisely because its view of the truth lay in rejecting process as meaningful.
As to how people relate in love in this civilization, as the Buddha said, this is by way of compassion. The highest form of love is a kind of pity for those people caught up in the wheel of activity and suffering by it, since they do not realize that the life they are living and consequently the suffering they experience is not real. The task of the enlightened is not to change the conditions for the suffering people so much as it is to inform them of how they can escape the suffering by contemplation, no matter what their external situation. The Indian respects everyone equally, in that everyone externally is an illusion, and everyone internally is absolutely identical with everyone and everything else. This looks, from the point of view of the hypothesis of this book, very much like a negative moment in equilibrium; "love" in this sense could as easily be called indifference as love, and "respect" contempt.
The Indian civilization can also absorb technology and even new social structures without really changing, because for the Indian, nothing in this world really matters. Preserving the old ways is of no more real importance than taking on new ways; everything is a chase after wind. Hence, if those who are unenlightened want to live in a democracy without castes, let there be one; if they want to import technology or even study it for themselves, so be it; this is no more foolish than anything else, and those who are truly wise will still seek serenity in contemplation, no matter what is going on around them. There is very little that can shake this way of thinking, and so I suspect that the Indian Weltanschauung will last a very long time still.
The ancient West
It should be obvious to any reader that I owe a lot to Hegel for what I am saying. Since I agree with him that the defining aspect of a civilization is its attitude toward human life, then it should come as no surprise if we think alike in large measure.
At any rate, the reason Western civilization is important to study is that it underwent crucial changes, and is in process; and we can't see what we are doing to ourselves unless we understand what is going on in the process. Studying who ruled what kingdom and who conquered what territory has about the same significance as studying those things in China or India; it is something interesting to know, but it does not really tell you who you are and where you are going. "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it" applies only when history is a process of the civilization itself; because otherwise, why would repeating history be a "doom"? That is, repeating history is only a "mistake" if history is headed somewhere, and the repetition takes one back a step instead of a step closer to the goal. But Western civilization seems definitely to be headed somewhere, and the question is where; and the answer seems to be discoverable by extrapolation from how we got from the threshold of civilization to where we are now.
Ancient civilization in the West, as I see it, turned itself outward beyond the self and beyond the family to find the source of authority; and it basically found this in the forces of nature, which had to be obeyed just as much as the ruler of the nation had to be obeyed; and the punishment was just as sure and swift and ruthless if its laws were violated. Authority thus was looked on as an external force imposed on human beings, making them cooperate not only with themselves but with the world around them.
The "we," then, in a certain sense included nature, which was subject to the same laws that human beings were; and so it was natural that as this civilization developed, the gods would take on a human character, like that of human authorities. They formed a little nation of immortals of their own; and the conflict of the forces of nature was portrayed as the bickering of people in a society.
There was in the ancient world no notion of the individual as of any importance; and so if one person sinned, the whole nation was apt to be punished by the gods. Hence, if harm to the nation could be achieved by destroying one person, he was to be destroyed. The citizens of the nation, of course, were the only real human beings, in spite of this solidarity the ancients felt with all of nature; those of other nations were barbarians (this is the Greek word for "foreigner" and it retains today the Greek attitude toward foreigners), and could be enslaved.
Regarding the forces of nature as authorities having human characteristics was not, I think, as Comte would have it, a naive way of looking at things, but an advance, because it lifted what was going on in the world from a mere blind cause-and-effect sequence to something that could be considered to have reason behind it. The gods could know what was going on among the people and could actually wreak vengeance on them for violating their decrees.
There was at this time no notion of history as progress; if anything, things were cyclic, more or less like the seasons, with events only superficially changing but coming round again in due course. No one thought that there was a beginning to everything or a direction to the world; it was accepted, like the gods, as "just there."
But this notion of the gods as personifications of natural forces led human beings to investigate the natural forces themselves, to see if some unifying principle could be discovered for how they worked; and thus philosophy--or better, science--began. The first unifying principle was that of what everything was made of and got transformed out of (one of the four "elements" or something underneath all of them), (Thales, Anaximines, Anaximander, etc.) and then process itself and its underlying dynamism or energy (called "fire") was seen as what unified everything (Heraclitus). This was immediately contradicted by a Western version of the Indian view of the underlying stability of Being (Parmenides).
This led to a new kind of world view in the ancient world; the gods in their personified form were thought to be imaginative ways of presenting the invisible realities argued to by Plato and Aristotle; and the world split into the naive and the sophisticated, with the naive actually believing in gods like the traditional ones, and the sophisticated aware that these were myths for natural forces directed by a hierarchy of intelligent beings who were themselves indifferent to what was happening, but who had an effect on the world nonetheless. (Incidentally, this view with the earth at the center of the universe was thought to put earth in the least important position; it was the universe's garbage-dump, so to speak. The gods and the bodies that followed them were greater and greater toward the circumference.)
Examining the world led to considerable scientific and technological advance, though the technology was not really directed toward making human living easier, because the citizens had their living made easy by slaves--who had to be kept busy if for no other reason than that an idle slave is one who thinks about freedom.
But because of the presence of slavery, the master-slave relation permeated the thinking of the people, all the more because anyone could be made a slave. And this developed into the Stoic idea that everyone is a slave to the gods, from the Emperor to the lowest worker; and therefore that everyone is also free, if he chooses to do what he must do. This, of course, is an anti-love sophistry, since if everyone is free in the only significant sense, no one need bother about slavery; and in fact in those days slavery was thought to be perfectly natural, and Aristotle even said that certain people were by nature slaves.
As to the role of civil society, it was to make people good human beings. There was no clear distinction at this time between morality and legality, or for that matter between morals and customs; both were "what must be done" or what was expected by the society and by nature; and the function of society was to put people in government who knew what human goodness was and would impose it by law upon the masses who knew no better. In China, as we saw, good citizens made a good society; here in the ancient West, the good society made good citizens.
While this implied an orientation toward the citizens, it was not yet a real recognition of the individual citizens as each of importance, but rather of the citizens collectively. Plato had no trouble in proposing that the ideal society would force people into the roles they were most capable of, whether they liked what they would be doing or not. His idea was that they would be happiest if they were doing what they were most suited for, and therefore should be compelled to do it. The Greeks, like everyone else, thought that goodness was something objective, and the wise could discover it and force it upon the foolish--to their benefit, of course, which they would presumably discover once they had had a bit of practice pursuing the good.
Quite early in the ancient period, God intervened to reveal himself to the Hebrew people as the creator and absolute master of everything, and also as the sole and ultimate lawgiver for the world and for everyone; but most of all for his people, with whom he entered into a special treaty-relationship. Note that he did this in the Western world (even though in the eastern part of it), but very early as civilizations emerged. Western civilization with its belief in one God was not, in that sense, a late development; it happened before the Buddha, for instance
But the point here is that God was revealing himself consistently with the general mentality of the people themselves, who were imbued with the notion of citizenship and obedience to authority. This again shows his respect for his creatures.
The treaty God made with Abraham and his descendants involved this: If the people obeyed his laws, they would prosper; if they disobeyed, they would suffer. He informed them of the fall and of his promise, and told them that somehow the fulfillment of that promise would come through them to all mankind.
But in spite of the fact that the revelation was consistent with the people's receptivity, there were several senses in which the Hebrew view of the world and God was far beyond where its contemporaries could reach. First, there was the notion that everything began and had a purpose it was developing towards. Second, that God was invisible and not like anything on earth at all; but personal, not the same as abstract Being; that he was not the ultimate unifying force of nature, like a world-soul, still less the greatest in a hierarchy of invisible beings. Third, that he was wholly benevolent, not something now magnanimous and now malicious. And fourth, there was the insight into the limits of human nature that came from the Commandments. The pagans gradually discovered through their own thinking some of these things; but the Hebrews had it handed to them from the beginning, and spent their history struggling with the implications of it.
They were constantly plagued with the temptation to regard YHWH as the greatest of the gods, not the only one; and when they did this, they suffered plagues and conquests. They also made the mistake of wanting a king like other nations, because they could not bring themselves to be ruled by something invisible; and their kings, having married, led them astray in various ways--until finally the whole people disappeared, led off into captivity in Babylon. It was there that the Law was seen as applying to the individual, and the problem of individual punishment and reward came to the fore.
The exile of the people purified them of many of their paganizing tendencies and restored their faith in YHWH; and it allowed them to glimpse also that the solution to the problem of obedience was not in what happened to the people as such, nor to individuals in this life, but must have to do with the life after death. But the negative side of this was that obedience to the Law became the whole raison d'être of human living, stultifying human development and human relations.
Thus, the attitude of all the peoples at this time a couple of centuries before the Christian era was that humanity meant citizenship in a nation among other nations basically at war with each other, and it implied empires created by way of conquest and subjugation of other peoples. Even the Hebrews themselves conceived of their mission as that of conquest of the other nations under the Prince who was the successor of David, and who, like Alexander, would conquer everyone and make them bow down before YHWH and the King he was to anoint. Needless to say, they more than any of the other ancient lands could not tolerate being under the thumb of a conqueror.
At this point, the organizing Romans stepped into the arena of the developing world. By instituting the concept of the persona, they were able not simply to conquer, but to establish a spiritual bond among the nations, handing out honorary citizenship to foreigners, and thus bringing the concept of "we" beyond mere national or ethnic boundaries. They also let the people keep their own form of worship and government (as long as they acknowledged also the Roman gods, especially the Emperor), and only exacted a tribute in money for their subjection--something which was not excessively onerous. It was basically a recipe for harmony among nations, preserving both nationalism and a common bond among all peoples; and once Augustus had, like Alexander, conquered the whole world, the world was at peace.
There is one other important factor to the attitude prevalent at the time. A slave, apparently, regarded himself as a kind of tool or instrument of his master, since it was the master's will which directed his acts. But since a tool in Greek is an organon, and this was what Aristotle called the functioning parts of the body, there was the implication that a slave was a kind of part of the master's body, or an extension of it. This attitude universalized itself, as it were, in the Stoic notion of the whole universe as one living body, unified by the world-soul, with each of us as an organ in it, with a function in relation to the whole.
The second fall
The mentality of the world had developed to the point where the promise given to mankind after its fall could be fulfilled. Philosophically, the world was ready to accept an eternal, unchanging, invisible, and benevolent Master of the whole universe and all mankind, who would unite it into one family, or even one living body. The chosen people already had this notion (with the exception of the world-organism), and had seen how it was the fulfillment of the gropings of the philosophers. Everyone had been searching for a moral code that made sense, and had made a good deal of progress toward one, and it involved legislating morality with the purpose of making people truly human; and of course, the Hebrews had that par excellence.
But much learning still had to be done. I am convinced that Jesus' mission was to restore what was lost by Adam; and so he had to lead people on to know that death was to be abolished in the new order under his kingship, and that the whole world would be transformed by him and his people into a place of human fellowship and individual dignity: into a place where harm and sickness would no longer attack mankind, and every tear would be wiped away. He did this by curing people and even raising the dead. YHWH was to govern his people forever, not any longer from without as an invisible king, but embodied in Jesus.
But to do this, he had to be accepted by his people, first of all. Accepted not as a new David, who would drive out the Romans and take over the world by conquest, but as something totally and entirely different: someone who could even make the winds and the sea obey him, but who did nothing domineering, who acted as much as a servant as a Master; who was a friend among friends. He had to be accepted as the incarnation of YHWH himself and on terms under which the people were to recognize that if they did accept him, they would never die.
If he was accepted, history would have stopped, as it had in China and India. People would have learned more, and there would have been changes, doubtless, as there were superficially in China and India; but the search for life's meaning would have been over, because it would be there on earth for everyone to see: each person's being able to develop himself to the full and then continue forever, in a world in harmony, where the lion would lie down with the lamb and eat hay like an ox, and swords would be beaten into plowshares.
But he was not accepted; the people found him too much for them, and the promise he held out to them too fantastic and too good to be true. And when the leaders of the people made up their minds that he was a blasphemer and his miracles nothing but fraudulent magic tricks, the others who had been convinced by what they had seen now doubted their own eyes, and turned against him. Once again mankind fell, and lost the gift that was handed to them.
Do not be harsh on the Jews. If you were there, would you really have believed that if Jesus took over the throne, you would never die? If your religious leaders couldn't believe it? Would you, having been brought up from your infancy to regard YHWH as the totally other, have been able to believe that this man was not only his son (as if YHWH were Jupiter) but YHWH himself visibly present and speaking like any other man--except that no man ever spoke the way that man spoke. I doubt it. Not really believe it.
The conditions for the possibility of the belief were there; mankind had developed a sophistication that might have made it possible. But basically, it was just too good to be true, and a "realistic" notion of the world forbade it; and so, in the person of our representatives the Jews, and with the approval and under the ultimate authority of the Roman Emperor, we once again rejected YHWH.
But here is where the second instance of cheating on God's part took place. Knowing that our lack of faith was due to weakness rather than malice, that it was a question of skepticism due to our being in a foundering boat with him apparently asleep in the stern, God brought redemption out of the rejection itself.
Unfortunately, the restoration of human nature to its logical condition of being an immortal incarnate spirit in control of itself did not occur. Having rejected Jesus, it is now only through faith in him as having conquered the death we imposed on him and in undergoing death ourselves that we will ultimately emerge in that blessed state on the last day, when the history we struggle through will have been over.
But at this point, a fundamental change came in human nature. It no longer was merely human nature, not even the pristine human nature that existed before the fall. Human beings who believed in Jesus now shared his life, and the myth behind the Stoic philosophy came true; these humans actually lived also with the divine life of YHWH, and became literally one body, while still living their individual natural lives. The "we," the plural "I," was now given a much more literal sense than was possible naturally, though people seemed (and still seem) always to have a yearning for it, as can be seen from the tendency to form totalitarian societies.
There were still many things that mankind could learn about itself, and many changes that it could bring upon itself; but because of the second fall, it would have to do this as it had been doing it, by searching and painfully developing, by bringing them out of itself by its own efforts (now aided by the assistance of Jesus, guiding through the community he founded), until the point where we ourselves, as it were, can have evolved to where our relationships can be much more like God's love within himself and for us. This is the "omega point" that Teilhard de Chardin spoke of for evolution.
But it must be stressed that the "omega point" will not inevitably be reached, precisely because it depends on our acceptance of the gift offered to us. We can reject God utterly, though it is unlikely that all of us will; but because of this second rejection of God, it will doubtless be the case that the final condition of the world (and its eternal state, since evolution will stop when history stops) will be considerably less than what it otherwise might have been, in significant respects. And we can see this. We have advanced in many ways; but in the important things, we are not much farther along than were the people of ancient Rome.
But the probability is that in some senses the final state of mankind--its final equilibrium--will be greater than it would have been if we had not rejected Jesus and history had stopped with his being declared king forever--and it certainly can be much greater, if we choose to make it so. God is that way. It is not that he brings a greater good out of every evil, but that some evils do result in greater good when the sin is more ignorance than deliberate malice. "Father, forgive them," he said. "They do not know what they are doing."
But from this point on, the world has been in two camps, or in Augustine's two cities: those who accept the facts about Jesus, and those who reject them; and they are basically at war with each other, since they have antithetical views of human development. And now the issue is squarely one of love. Those who belong to Jesus are to "love one another in the same way I have loved you," or to love with that absolutely unselfish superhuman love that Jesus had for us when he "emptied himself and took the form of a slave." As Augustine put it, this city is made up of those who "love God even to the contempt of themselves." And the other city is those who "love themselves even to the contempt of God."
The camp allied with Jesus, as John portrayed in Revelation, will always appear to be failing, but will always be winning; and the other, secular camp, will be dominant always, but will have already lost the battle.
The Christians and the pagans
The original "we" of the Christians was just the small number of members of the community, though it was clear that they had the mission of extending the message, and so the roll of believers, throughout the whole world.
The early Christians were in an absurd position, of course, and brought upon themselves a good deal of ridicule with all their talk about being emissaries of this "Prince" of theirs who had been killed (and as a criminal to boot), and was supposed to be waiting in the land of the dead to come back and claim the throne of the world. "Christian," of course, means "Prince-ist."
But more than that, the conflict between the two cities took place in earnest when the Romans discovered that the Christians would not worship Caesar in addition to their own god; and they were worse than the Jews, who at least kept themselves to themselves. These people were trying to win over everyone to this "true belief," which even seemed to have elements of cannibalism about it.
And so there was an attempt by the broad-minded Romans to destroy the narrow-minded Christians before they got destroyed themselves. It is not that the Christians were attacking them, or being disloyal citizens; as Paul's writings make clear, they were bending over backward to be obedient to the commands of Caesar and to give Caesar everything that belonged to Caesar. No, the fact was that the sophisticated Romans, who did not really stand for anything as true, were the ones who slaughtered the Christians, who actually thought that there was something true. This was the first major instance of bigoted anti-bigotry. If religious wars dominated the world from the emergence of Islam onward, the first religious war was a war of secularists against religion; it wasn't "narrow-minded" religion that took the aggressive stance; it was secularism.
That is, the paganism of ancient Rome was not a deeply held conviction that there actually were the gods they worshiped; if anything, these gods represented the forces of nature. But the fact that they could shift around their worship to accommodate worship of the emperors showed that the religion was really window-dressing for something political. Rome used religion, and specifically worship of the emperor, as a symbolic way of declaring fealty to Rome's rule, not really as something religions. Thus, in spite of the fact that the Christians were persecuted and killed for not worshiping the Roman gods, they were really harassed for disloyalty to what was essentially a secular state.
And the Roman empire was not only secular, but incredibly corrupt. Even in Paul's day, the sophisticated engaged in practices that people of our present age of sexual revolution could take lessons from; and the aberrations in conduct got more ingenious as time went on. It is interesting that the decay of a people tends to show up in sexual excess, when the act of love is perverted into bizarre titillation for its own sake.
Because of this, many early Christians fled from society altogether and went by themselves or in small groups into the desert, where they could worship God in peace away from the temptations of "the world."
The victory of Christianity
But from the earliest, the initial emissaries of this Prince had died rather than deny what they had seen with their own eyes; and this gave credibility to their testimony. So the belief spread that this crook who was killed was in fact the incarnation of the one God, and that by believing in him the sins each and all had committed could be erased and we could all be brought to sonship with God and brotherhood with one another--and that eternal life and happiness was waiting for those who remained faithful.
This created, of course, the bond that Rome had been trying to achieve with emperor-worship. But the kingdom that the Christians believed in was not in this world; even the visible leader of Christianity held no territory. There was therefore a complete divorce between religious and secular authority at the time, with the secular power relegated to the external order only, and the Prince of Christianity taking over hearts and minds.
But once Rome lost its grip on religion, it no longer could hold the empire together; and the result was a resurgence of nationalism and tribalism, even in the midst of the Empire; and the barbarian hordes began their attacks.
Christianity was accused of being responsible for this decline of the Roman Empire, and with a good deal of truth. But St. Augustine defended Christianity against guilt for what was happening, showing (in the City of God) that the corruption of the Empire itself was what was making it crumble, not some kind of raid upon it by Christians because they were Christian.
St. Augustine also performed a magnificent amalgamation of Christianity with the scientific knowledge of the time (i.e. the secular philosophies), interpreting Plotinus and the Stoics particularly in the light of what he knew from Christian revelation. His brilliant synthesis destroyed what intellectual underpinnings were left of pagan life, and its decline from then on was precipitous.
But before this happened, the victory of Christianity over secularism was made complete--or at least apparently complete--when Constantine went over to the new religion and commanded that it be adopted by everyone in the Empire. He also moved to Constantinople in the eastern part of the empire, which in turn led Christianity itself into being more or less divided into two centers, with increasingly differing practices, though the same faith was preserved.
The attacks by the barbarians also brought about another factor in the shift from ancient society to medieval society. It became necessary for the people to defend themselves against these attackers, since the central army of Rome could no longer do so. Hence, those with wealth, fortified houses and horses (the knights) would take their Christian brothers of the lower classes into their houses for the duration of the attack, and would defend them from the northern invaders.
This led to an agreement between the wealthy and the poor in their environs: the wealthy promised to undertake the defense of all the people in exchange for the farmers' sharing their produce with their defenders. In theory, this was no longer a master-slave arrangement, but an agreement among equals (or at least, people of equal dignity before the Lord of lords). Everyone was recognized as human; it was just that the division of labor had shifted.
At this point, then, the whole world was Christian, and so everyone was a brother or sister of everyone else. In the spiritual realm, the "we" had expanded in theory to include all of humanity. But this was merely implicit, and potential. People did not think of themselves as members of the whole world as a community; their real world was fragmented into small dukedoms with the lords defending their people against the attacking enemies; and the "we" in their consciousness ("for itself") became those living under the protection of a lord.
The lord technically had no real authority over his vassals, because he was their servant in the sense of their protector, while they were independent, as it were, except for the portion of their produce that they handed over in payment for his service. But in practice, since he held the forces of destruction while the people only held the forces of production, they became his slaves and he their master. Note that it is not simply the forces of production that give one power; the forces of destruction are much more efficient in achieving this, and they quickly acquire control over the forces of production.
Nevertheless, this new master/slave relationship was not what it was in appearance; and in this age, appearance was taken for what reality really was. Note the negative moment, the "for itself" here. Love for itself, the "we" for itself amounted to external fealty. The lord received homage for his service to the people, and the practice of noblesse oblige was supposed to (and did, really) provide duties for him to perform. The real truth about humanity was now something outside itself: "honor"; and one put his physical life at risk to keep the appearances intact. Here, the respect shown was not like that in China (to one's progenitors), but had a much more economic cast to it: the deference was not due to age or authority, but to the service the protector was performing for the community; it was a deference which at least in principle recognized that all were fundamentally equal.
Of course, the protectors then had to justify their existence from time to time; and so they changed from simply defending the people from the barbarian invaders to defending the people from encroachments by neighboring dukes. But these dukes were also justifying their existence, and so the wars became as much a game as a serious enterprise (once again a matter of appearances), and alliances and enmities were formed and broken constantly--but everything looked right and proper. And, of course, the war activities eventually degenerated into games of tournaments and so on, and so the sham became aware of itself as not something really serious.
Since the protectors were in fact the ones in secular authority, then they acted as judges; and so trial by combat became the way of settling disputes, with the disputants choosing a champion, who fought a joust, on the assumption that God would only let the person whose cause was just win. This amounted, of course, to a manipulation of God, demanding that he make the person who was in the (spiritual) right the one who was physically victorious; but by the laws of nature, victory goes to the stronger, not the one who happens to support the correct side. And God does not act contrary to nature.
So not surprisingly, it didn't work, and great injustices were perpetrated.
All during this period there were religious disputes, some even involving bizarre practices such as getting oneself into a state of holiness and then starving oneself to death. There was, however, a centralized body, the ecumenical council, which met to decide such questions, and which excommunicated the dissenters, which generally speaking then dwindled into sects of no importance.
But in nomadic Arabia, Muhammad was thought to have had revelations from God, which altered what was known from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and introduced a new religion which in many ways was antithetical to Christianity. There was but one God, and in no sense a Trinity; Jesus was a prophet, the second of three great prophets: Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. He was not really killed on a cross, and certainly his revelation was not final.
The new religion was much more belligerent than Christianity, which had emphasized letting others trample upon one's rights. This religion was more of a "natural" religion, a seeing into the truth that was there in nature; but it included an afterlife of reward for those who followed its dictates and a punishment for those who did not. It not only permitted fighting, but endorsed wars for the sake of religion; and it allowed vengeance up to four times back and forth for wrongs committed. Further, it permitted polygamy, and put women into a position where they were not to be seen in public.
While it stressed brotherhood and tolerance, it was still the case that it regarded those who did not have the faith not merely as unenlightened and pitiable, but as also the enemy of God, and people who were, by force if necessary, to be brought into conformity with the truth. The Christians particularly were enemies, because with their Trinitarian view of God, they committed the blasphemy of actually saying that Jesus was Allah; and this insult to God could not be permitted to happen. Unlike the Indian religion and philosophy, with its notion of a divine core in everything, Islam in principle was intolerant of any belief that denied what it held Allah to be, however tolerant the Muslims themselves might be.
Given that war was the order of the day, this religion struck a responsive chord in many people, especially the despised nomads at the eastern fringes of the early Roman empire. It spread by conquest over that area of the world, but the conquered were conquered spiritually as well as materially; and even the Eastern Roman Empire succumbed. Then Africa and Spain and even Sicily fell under the domination of the Muslims, though in Europe Islam did not really replace Christianity, but made at least a temporary accommodation with it.
The dominant position of Islam in its part of the world led to a good deal of leisure among the ruling Muslims; and scholars began studying the works that had survived from ancient times. It was the Arabs who gave the world the number system we now use, and who modified astronomy from Aristotle's rather crude system of spheres to the Ptolmaic view of the world; and the Muslim philosophers did significant work on Plato and especially Aristotle, whose writings (except for the logical works) had fallen into oblivion because they seemed so irreconcilable with Christianity.
They were also irreconcilable with Islam, however; and in fact, much of what was in the Koran was not something very compatible with what was being learned from the natural science researches of people like Aristotle. Thinkers like Averroes got away with continuing to study these pagan philosophers on the grounds that the Koran was Theological truth, which was believed, and Aristotle was philosophical truth, which was known; and both could be true at the same time, even if they contradicted each other, since they were truths of different orders.
Meanwhile in the West, the encroachments of Islam became a great worry; and its taking over the Holy Land an outrage that galvanized the fragmented people into unifying at least to the extent of sending an expedition to the Holy Land to free it; and so the Crusades occurred, with the military clash between a more or less united Christendom and Islam.
The Crusades brought people of many places together in common cause, and accelerated the process (which had already been going on) of unifying the little dukedoms into kingdoms. There was even, with Charlemagne, the attempt to revive the Roman Empire under a Christian umbrella, with the Emperor subject in some sense to the Pope.
So the Christian "we," faced with a threat from outside, began to expand.
The late medieval spirit
The medieval period, by the way, was by no means the dark ages intellectually. From the beginning, Christian thinkers had been doing serious work not only on the pagan philosophers, showing that Christianity was compatible with what was known from the science of the day, but they had been examining Scripture and showing how it was in fact consistent with itself, in spite of apparently contradictory statements.
At this time, the Pope had also acquired territory, and so now was a secular as well as a religious ruler; and this mixture of secular and religious power, especially with the notion that the religious head was superior to the secular, led to a good deal of confusion. The Popes thought of the heads of state as their vassals, while the heads of state looked at the Pope as having only religious authority; and so as rulers they were only nominally subject to him. But of course in this age appearance was everything, and so they were his subjects if they wanted their own subjects to be theirs.
The meddling of the Popes and of the clergy in general in secular affairs also led to corruption. The monasteries, for instance, were in effect dukedoms in their own right, involved in transactions with the lords and such around them. This was not helped by the fact that sons who were not to inherit land from their fathers were simply packed off to the monastery, whether they wanted to put God first in their lives or not.
Partly because of the Muslim conquest of the Eastern Empire of Rome, the Eastern Christians were really cut off from their Roman counterparts even more than they had been because of Constantine's shift of the center of imperial power there; and a religious dispute between the two halves of the Church festered for centuries and finally led to a definite breakup of Christianity into two independent branches, each of which claimed to be orthodox, accusing the other of heresy.
Learning, of course, was left to the clergy in the Christian middle ages, because the civil authorities had grown up not out of the learned class in Rome, but out of the people who had horses and property and liked to fight; and of course the peasants had no time to learn anything. The monks, however, had not much to do except spend their time contemplating, studying, and even copying and preserving the ancient manuscripts that had been handed down.
It had also been discovered that trial by combat did not work; besides, cases of heresy should not be tried by having people fight each other. Hence, a board of enquiry among the learned (the clergy) was set up to decide cases by trying to dig up the evidence rather than just taking someone's word for it or seeing who won in a fight; and so the Inquisition was born. Once the facts of the matter had been discovered, the case was handed over to the secular authorities for punishment to be meted out. It is interesting that the Inquisition, which has such a bad name, was actually set up to correct an abuse, and was the forerunner of our modern law courts.
The Muslims in Spain gradually began to spread, if not their religion, at least their secular learning and philosophical investigations into the Christian world; and when they did, Aristotle and his empirical paganism with its multiple gods and extolling of pride dropped like a bomb onto Christian thought. Many thinkers, like St. Bonaventure, wanted his books destroyed and consigned once again to oblivion, because they were too convincing, and were subversive of the Christian faith. Christianity, since it dealt with the facts about Jesus and not really the values that Jesus stood for, could not adopt a "two truth" attitude toward things. If something contradicted Christianity, only one of the two was true; and if Christianity was true, then Aristotle had to be false. That was all there was to it.
Fortunately for the advance of thought, there was St. Thomas Aquinas, who saw that that was not all there was to it. He was convinced that Christianity was true, of course; and therefore, if Aristotle was true, then it had to be compatible with Christianity. He therefore interpreted the various texts of Aristotle, and allowed Aristotle to critique himself, so to speak; and showed that if you did that, what he said was only superficially against Christianity, but on a deeper level was not only compatible with it, but illuminated it greatly. His writings were still taught as late as my own philosophical training, they were that magnificent a philosophical system.
What characterized the medieval world, it seems to me, was the basic unity and brotherhood of Christianity (and also of Islam); but there was the secular fragmentation underneath it, which came together into greater unities under the unifying force of Christianity and the Islamic threat. The basic concept was brotherhood, not citizenship, and of the equal dignity of all as having the divine persons dwelling within them, which made for the spiritual unity of all mankind; and at least lip service was paid to the love that was owed everyone by the commands of Jesus. But an individual was loved as "another Christ," because God was within him; and he himself as an individual in his own right was not of much account. Lords still lorded it over their serfs, and parents over their children. It was still thought that a person received his dignity by his being a member of the community: the Christian community first and foremost, and the civil community second, because secular authority also came from God--which was why the Church was thought to be superior to and over, in some sense, the state. It was thought that what was good for mankind was known in its fullness; and the only thing left was for the Church to put it into practice and enjoin it upon the people, while the State kept civil order.
The stopping of the Muslim threat--at least the checking of its further encroachments into Europe--led to a certain equilibrium in this world, in the midst of the territorial wars and so on, the philosophical disputes, and the Theological controversies. Islam was not destroyed, but held at bay, more or less permanently.
But within not many centuries, several things began to disturb the equilibrium.
First was trade. The traders began going to foreign lands and bringing back things that made them quite wealthy--and they began to want the privileges that the nobles had had, and were powerful enough to claim them, low-class though they were. Their success also made them interested in trading in places farther and farther off, and in finding new and more efficient routes of getting there.
The second was the corruption of the clergy. Their encroachments upon secular power led to a secularization of the clergy themselves. It became less and less evident why anyone should declare allegiance to one who was no holier than himself and in fact a ruler of alien territory, whose motives for making apparently ecclesiastical pronouncements were often patently economic or political, having nothing significant to do with the truth of the faith.
Theological disputations among the learned were becoming, not more secular, but increasingly esoteric; and while experts did not actually hold discussions on how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, their disputes became much less concerned with living a Christian life, least of all addressing themselves to the issue of the increasingly secularized clergy, especially in the upper levels of the hierarchy.
The result was that those really concerned with Christian living tended to move into a new sort of desert, away from the Theologians and the clergy. "I would rather feel contrition," said Thomas à Kempis, "than know how to define it;" and a kind of personal, mystical approach to Christianity sprang up among those who did not want to politicize their lives. These people also stood up to the religious authorities and began to denounce them for secularizing their religious posts.
Within a very short time of each other, this ferment broke in several directions: The Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance and rediscovery of the ancient pagan writings, coupled with a spreading of learning into the laity, and the discovery of the New World with its huge influx of gold. And that shifted the whole way of thinking and interacting into the beginning of what is the modern world, which I suspect I am now seeing the end of.
The Reformation and its consequences
If citizenship was what characterized the ancient period in Western civilization, and brotherhood the medieval period, individuality seems to be what characterizes the modern period. From the Protestant Reformation onward, we see greater and greater fragmentation and independence, not only of people from each other, but of areas of life from other areas of life.
The first thing that happened was that Christianity split apart in the Protestant Reformation. Luther's attempt at reform of the church failed, which produced something worse than a schism as happened with the withdrawal of the Eastern churches from union with Rome (since those churches could claim to trace their lineage back to Jesus' original emissaries as much as Rome could). But Luther was not a bishop; and so the only evidential basis for his dissent was Scripture, with the result that Scripture and not the community became the authority.
But of course that brought up the question of what Scripture is trying to say, since obviously Luther and the Catholics both admitted the words of Scripture, but gave different interpretations of them. The only thing Luther could offer to this was that personal interpretation of Scripture was somehow definitive--on the idea that the Holy Spirit was guiding you to interpret it in such a way that your interpretation would bring salvation for you.
Needless to say, this soon spawned numbers of different Protestant churches, each with its own interpretation of what Scripture was saying. But what is significant was that it was seminal for the view that a fact was no longer a fact, but a "fact for" a given person. If you thought that "This is my body" meant a real presence of Jesus in the bread, then this was a fact for you; if someone else thought it didn't, then this was not a fact for him. And that, of course, made the individual the Supreme Court for the truth itself. The fragmentation had begun.
Trade was also creating great wealth for certain individuals, not because of the place in the community they were born into, but because of their efforts. They saw, as I said, no reason for not being treated like the nobles, and had the economic power to realize their ambitions. They became patrons of the arts even more than the nobles had been. Once banking and the multiplication of money was introduced, this wealth increased enormously; as it did when the New World was discovered, bringing huge quantities of gold into Europe. Leisure and learning spread.
But now one did not have to belong to the clergy to be educated, since those with money could afford it; and if personal interpretation of Scripture was to be the road to salvation, obviously everyone needed to be able to read Scripture for himself. Hence, education spread into the laity; and the advent of the printing press meant that books also could be had by more than just the very wealthy. And the new "personal interpretation" spirit led people to look at the ancient writings other than the Bible and interpret them for themselves; and so the Renaissance happened. And this was not only true in writings, but in the arts; Michelangelo went secretly into morgues to dissect corpses for himself to see anatomy at first hand, and Leonardo developed the laws of perspective. Art began to divorce itself from the pure service of religion.
Further, people began to examine for themselves the accepted science of the day, and not simply parrot Aristotle's observations. Copernicus proposed his ingenious sun-centered explanation for the apparent motions of the planets, and Galileo, realizing that it meant, if true, that Aristotle's theory of why bodies fall was false, devised his experiments with rolling balls of different weights down an inclined plane, and observing that heavy things did not fall faster than light things--which destroyed the premise on which Aristotle developed the earth-centered view. He also built a telescope, in which he observed the moons of Jupiter apparently circling that planet. He then proposed that Copernicus' sun-centered universe was the scientifically true view of the universe, and tried to placate Catholic scholars who brought up Joshua against this that Theologically, the earth was at the center of the universe, but philosophically (i.e. scientifically), the sun was at the center.
But the Catholic Church was adamant against any "two truth" theory, the more so now because Protestantism was essentially proposing a "multiple truth" theory; and Cardinal Bellarmine cautioned Galileo against taking that tack when proposing his view. Galileo was called up before the Inquisition, and finally recanted. He was not himself, by the way, totally wedded to observation. When Kepler showed that, based on his observations, the orbits of the planets were elliptical and not circular, Galileo dismissed his findings as ridiculous, because of course God would not permit planets to move in such an imperfect figure.
Galileo also was the father of the Cartesian turn in philosophy, by proposing that the five senses were simply subjective reactions to things, and only measurement got at things as they really were. In that sense, we are more or less at the end of the Galilean age in thought.
But the controversy between Galileo and the Catholic Church showed that if science was to advance, it had to do so independently of the meddlings of the Theologians; and so not only art but science was now to develop independently of religion.
But it was not only the traders who were making money. Workers had banded together into guilds, where they could take advantage of specialization in making their products; and this division of labor made them more efficient, allowing them to do more than make a bare living off their products. The fact that there was much more money helped in their increasing prosperity. The guilds also freed the workers from dependence on their former lords, because they had a wider market for their products because of their association; and since they controlled the production, they could also demand higher prices. The guilds also were, of course, independent of each other. Eventually, they and the traders began to be so powerful that they were recognized as a "third estate" in society; and so they had an increasing say in government.
Civil societies were, because of the Reformation, not any longer held into a unit by the allegiance of all of them to the Catholic Church; and so various notions of society began to be formulated, from Thomas More's diatribe against absentee ownership of property by way of proposing an ideal society of "Nowhere" (Utopia) in the New World where people lived in communistic harmony, to Macchiavelli's ruthless pragmatism detailing how to get political power and hold on to it.
But what was needed was some non-religious way to account for the authority of each king over his own subjects; and this was supplied by Thomas Hobbes, who was the forerunner of the modern view of human nature: that everyone in a "state of nature" was independent of everyone else, and at war for survival against everyone else; and so, in order to stay alive, people gave up all their rights to their sovereign, so that he could keep order. This gave the king power even over the religion of his subjects; and it apparently rested on scientific grounds, not religious ones, and so was not open to dispute. One of Hobbes's goals, in fact, seems to have been to undermine religion and replace it with science.
In spite of the fact that his theory made people in effect the complete slaves of the king, its premise was that each person "in the beginning" was a kind of king in his own right; and that society was the result of an agreement among these originally autonomous individuals. This was different from the source of the medieval notion of the agreement between the farmers and the protecting knights; there, there was not a notion of a sovereign individual, at war with every other sovereign individual for the economic necessities of life; it was an arrangement of protection of the community from the barbarians. Hobbes's point was that since nothing in "nature" was assigned to any individual in the "natural state," then each person had as much right to everything as everyone else, and hence was at war with everyone else simply to survive. So they agreed to a truce, and gave up their rights to the king.
This notion of the "naturally" autonomous individual, as if the "real" individual was the independent adult, completely ignoring the dependence of that same person as a child on others' service, was what Locke developed into what is basically our view of what it is to be human and how society follows from the notion of humanity: that each person was, in the "state of nature," independent of every other person, and possessed of the rights of life, liberty, and property (the fruits of his labor); and that, not to ensure survival (since Locke didn't see that this initial state was a war), but to secure these rights, people freely agreed to be ruled by a sovereign, but kept the basic power in their own hands, and therefore the right to depose anyone who did not rule according to the initial agreement (i.e. who violated their rights).
Needless to say, once one takes into account that no one can get into this autonomous state without being anything but autonomous, then one realizes that the whole foundation of the modern view of man is a fantasy, and any notion that there ever was or could be an "initial agreement" vanishes into never-never land.
But there was, of course, the core of truth that it is the individual person who makes the choice of what his life is, within the limits of his real possibilities (and even outside those limits, where he becomes immoral), and who therefore defines the goals of his life and therefore what goodness means in his case. So the individual in fact is sovereign in one sense, but not autonomous; there are laws the individual is subject to: the laws of his nature, which include his social nature, and they are not of his own making, and he can do nothing about them. The modern world ignores this.
In any case, instead of having the economic relationship of rights and compensation flow from the social relationship of cooperation (which was the "true" one), as was found in medieval civilization, this view made the economic relationship the basic one, and reduced the social relationship of cooperation to a practical move whose purpose was basically the guarantee of independence.
Politically, this was the basis of a revival of the democratic form of government, beginning in that society which put into practice Locke's principle of repudiating the ruler who violated his subjects' rights to property. The spirit of the people seemed to be amenable to this; but in France a few years later, it was shown how dreadful its consequences could be with a different attitude among the populace. Nevertheless, Europe and now the whole world has been developing toward some form of popular sovereignty based on the rights of the individual.
Economically, Locke's view of human nature, with its solution to the problem of property, led to the labor theory of value and modern economic theory in general (though work had begun on this earlier, with the Spanish Jesuits); and the Industrial Revolution, with its sudden increase in products at low prices, seemed to promise a future of unlimited wealth for nations.
The development of this took an interesting turn, however. The kind of thing proposed by Adam Smith justified the entrepreneur in seeking to maximize his own gain at the expense of his workers (though Smith did not intend this), with the idea that the "invisible hand" would bring everything right, just as it evidently did in the world of nature. Unfortunately, once we leave the world of nature and get into the world of free choice, God is not going to make our selfishness over into cooperation in spite of itself; and the factories became torture chambers.
Marx saw this, and showed the inherent contradictions in the working out of the labor theory of value. He interpreted the new view of humanity as meaning that human beings were the result solely of economics, and their development was essentially economic, toward final, true independence and self-possession. Interestingly, the road to the independent, totally self-possessed individual led through a "temporary" stage of absolute totalitarianism, where the government took control of all of the forces of production, and directed everyone like slaves until all societies all over the world became communistic, at which point "the state would wither away."
What he didn't notice was that the state held power because it controlled the forces of destruction; and once it controlled both the forces of production and the forces of destruction, the rulers used these for their own advantage, and only paid lip service to the advance of the people toward material prosperity, and the prospect of "freedom" was a mockery and a perversion. Everything, in the name of independence, was reduced to slavish cooperation, with threats the only motivation; and the result was misery even surpassing the sweatshops that had inspired Marx.
But unbridled capitalism that ignores the humanity of others has internal contradictions, some of which Marx saw accurately; and so this, as it developed, led to corrections being made by government to protect the people who were being exploited. But that led to further and further government interference in business; but since government had no clear idea of what it was doing (not having any notion of the difference between values and necessities), government in the developed capitalist countries has been resembling communism more and more, and people cannot turn around without running into government regulations and government management of things--in spite of the evidence of the disaster this has brought on people in communist societies. Thus, an essentially individualistic outlook, coupled with "compassion" has been turning itself inside out into collectivism.
Independence run rampant
Since this sketch is not intended to be anything but a hint, let that be enough to show the general tendency of human development since the Reformation, and let us take stock of where we are.
The result of all of this process--or at any rate, the stage we are at in the process--is that every human being, and every phase of every human being's life, is regarded as totally independent of everything else, with cooperation having only an economic motive of self-fulfillment--leaving in human beings a vast hunger for an aspect of their lives that they don't even realize exists.
Marriage and the family now are based on rights and the economic sort of cooperation. Self-interest is assumed to motivate marriage, and agreements are made by which the partners cooperate for their mutual benefit; and when this no longer occurs, they separate. Mothers claim absolute rights over their own bodies, even when there are children within them; I have had nursing students of mine defend a woman's right to make her fetus an alcoholic or a cocaine addict by her drinking or taking cocaine while pregnant. Children even after birth are to be cared for only in such a way that this does not interfere with the self-development of the parents. But they too have rights against their parents, and can have abortions without the parents' even knowing about it. The family is assumed to be a small democracy, and children are often treated like little adults, having much more say over their own development than they can safely use.
Needless to say, once marriage is regarded in economic terms, as a question of rights, bizarre marital arrangement like same-sex marriage have sprung up, since homosexuals have a right to "define their world," as the Supreme Court has said, and therefore claim a right to the benefits and even the name of marriage. Any discrimination in favor of real marriage (now called "traditional" marriage) on the grounds of its benefit to children and the society is immediately countered with the "argument" that this is discrimination against homosexuals.
In economic relations, everything is, of course, rights and compensation; but there is the refusal on the part of those who provide necessities to see that they are exploiting those who are the beneficiaries of their service, and are making them as much economic victims as beneficiaries. Not having any notion that cooperation is also a part of human nature, they see no reason for lessening their self-fulfillment so that others can live human lives.
In politics everything is rights also; but "rights" turns out to be "interests" of the people who have Approved Victim status. Those groups like churches which have a view of humanity which involves cooperativeness as its motivating force, turn out to have no rights, and can be vilified and insulted and persecuted in the name of the freedom and dignity of the individual. But the "individual" is not the individual, but a person belonging to a given class; these people are to be given special help toward equality--often at the expense of their being able to act as equals. Whenever government intervenes positively on behalf of the downtrodden, it does what guarantees permanence in the status of being downtrodden.
In thought, truth has become totally individualized, with one person's truth being the "truth for" him. This is true even in science; even physics nowadays is increasingly politicized, with "truths" based on the shakiest of evidence being used to advance a given political agenda. Physics has seemed to have discovered that the mere act of observation colors ineluctably what one is observing; and so this most objective of all sciences is saying that it is radical subjectivity. And if that is true of physics, it is all the more true of other sciences.
The sciences themselves are increasingly specialized and fragmented. Even multidisciplinary studies like physical chemistry are really specializations dealing only with the very narrow area of overlap between the disciplines, not a combination of the whole of both of them. The language, too, of any science is deliberately esoteric, to exclude even other scientists from the area. Even though other scientists might easily grasp the approach, they cannot simply read things outside of their own discipline, because to do so they would have to learn a whole new language.
In religion, respect for others' opinions and autonomy has taken over any question of factuality; and this not only between religious groups, but even within them. Catholic Theologians are demanding the "right" to "dissent respectfully" from Church teaching; Catholic nuns are interpreting their commitment to poverty, chastity, and obedience as the road to self-fulfillment and "freedom from oppression"--which turns out to be militant sexism in reverse. The Church is supposed to modernize and become democratic, with the dogmas accepted on the basis of "consensus," not facts.
In morality, the one evil is intolerance; and this view is promoted with absolute intolerance of any dissent whatever. In the name of "free speech" censorship abounds; in the name of "tolerance" those who hold that certain things are actually true and that others are morally wrong are viciously put down.
This is no longer something that is characteristic of one society. With modern communications, the cultural attitude has spread through the whole world. Now every society to a greater or lesser extent is doing the same thing and looking on things in the same way--except for Islam, which has remained back in the medieval mode of thought. But how long it can hold out against modern influence is a question. I suspect that its war against the Western world was its own version of "suicide by cop" that certain criminals engage in when it attacked the United States and had the misfortune of having George W. Bush as President. It looks as if the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is going to lead to the Westernization of Islam, and that the religion will wither away into a formality. This, I think, is to the good, because there is much in Islam, such as the treatment of women and the incredibly harsh punishments that is anti-human.
But the condition of the present Western world is, I think, the result of the fact that the modern world was infected by Galileo and Descartes with the disease I spoke of at the very beginning of this book, volumes ago: that truth is basically subjective, and that we can make something be what we want it to be by simply declaring it to be that way, and stating that this is a "fact for" us and must be respected. But with all this power, we are impotent; for all our claims to reality, we are empty, and our emptiness is being driven home to us harder and harder as the days go on. Radical subjectivity means that everything is a dream; Kant's subjective objectivity is essential nothingness; and it has finally worked itself out in most of its implications in every area of our lives.
From the point of view of the thesis of this part, it is the absolute antithesis of love. Love is talked about a lot, but it means self-fulfillment and the economic relationship, not self-forgetfulness or expansive generosity.
But everything has become so fragmented and compartmentalized, with people's lives at cross-purposes with themselves (not to mention each other) in so many and such complex ways that it cannot be anything but a negative moment in development; it must necessarily collapse, with the cooperative side of life somehow to be reinstated.
And I think that at the moment, since as I see it the core of this was the shift in thought brought about by the Reformation, the way to advance beyond this stage toward sanity once again (because there is no going back) is to show how Galileo and Descartes were wrong, but how the legitimate problems they saw were real problems, and how these problems can be solved.
That is what I have attempted to do by this book. I think it shows how life in all of its aspects can make sense; and my hope is that it can make some contribution in tying together all of these loose ends of our lives into a coherent whole, in accordance with what Paul told the people of Colossae: "And over and above this, put on love, which is the cord that ties perfection together; and then the Prince's peace should govern your hearts. This is what you were called to when you all became a single body."
I have no idea how valid these ideas of mine are, still less how they are ever to be disseminated in such a way that (if they are true) the world which so desperately needs to know them will ever find them out. I simply have put them down here so that after I die and fulfill my ambitions, they will be available to be found. As I write this, the prospect seems hopeless (as does the prospect for the survival of the world); but then, Socrates died and Jesus was crucified as a small-time crook.
Have faith, George.