This half hour RSA clip about Steve Fuller's book, Humanity 2.0 is worth watching. It establishes the state of the conversation about a transhuman future. Fuller is pushing up against the approach that I'm trying to develop here on this blog, but it's not what I'm talking about. I think his thinking, and the thinking of the other panelists, is still circumscribed by materialistic thinking and positivistic assumptions. I'd like to suggest another alternative for Humanity, the one I've been talking about on and off here over the years, the one imagined in somewhat different ways by Owen Barfield and Teilhard de Chardin. More about them below.
Staying within Fuller's cybernetic metaphor, let's call what I hope for Humanity 3.0. Humanity 1.0 is the premodern consciousness shaped by customary culture. Humanity 2.0 is modern secular consciousness that swept most of the customary culture away in rejecting it as superstition. Nevertheless, there have been many people who have shown us what Humanity 3.0 looks like. Kierkegaard, M.L. King, Gandhi, Mandela, Bonhoeffer, Popes John XXIII and Francis, Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Teilhard, and Barfield are exemplars who are for me top of mind because of their public profiles, but there are many, many more who whether known or unknown quietly go about their business--knights of faith as Kierkegaard called them. These people are not flawless, but they have something working in them that significantly distinguishes them from Humanity 1.0 or 2.0. They are people in whom the Logos has awakened in ways it has not for people who are still at 1.0 or 2.0.
So to help frame what I'm trying to articulate here about Humanity 3.0, let's first quote from our first text in Barfield's Saving the Appearances:
I believe that the blind spot which posterity will find most startling in the last hundred years or so of Western civilization, is, that it had, on the one hand , a religion which differed from all others in its acceptance of time, and of a particular point in time, as a cardinal element in its faith; that it had, on the other hand, a picture in its mind of the history of the earth and man as an evolutionary process; and that it neither saw nor supposed any connection whatever between the two. . . .
When the horizon of time expanded suddenly in the nineteenth century, one would have expected those who accepted evolution and remained Christians, to see the incarnation of their Saviour as the culminating point of the history of the earth--a turning point of time to which all at first led down and from which all thereafter was to lead upward. Moreover, having regard to the antiquity now attributed to the earth and man, one would have expected them to feel that we are still very very near to that turning-point, indeed hardly past it; that we hardly know as yet what the Incarnation means; for what is two thousand years in comparison with the ages which preceded it? --Owen Barfield, chapter 24, "The Incarnation of the Word", p. 167-68
Yes. Isn't that what Christians are supposed to believe--that something of world historical importance happened 2000 years ago and everything changed? But has it? I think it has, but we don't have the right lens to see it.
So let's change the metaphor from a cybernetic one to one that's more organic. Think of the earth as a giant egg that was sterile until fertilized by the Incarnation. Cur Deus Homo? Because evolution required it. Humanity 2.0 and 3.0--and perhaps 4.0 and beyond--would not be otherwise possible because this new possibility for the earth was never possible so long as the influence of the Logos was outside in as it has been in 1.0 cultures. So now at the heart of the earth, from the inside out, a new creation is gestating and growing in the belly of the beast, eventually subverting a regime that is otherwise ruled by greed, glory, and will to power.
These instinctual drivers were restrained somewhat by external norms imposed by 1.0 cultures, Christian Europe was never anything more, but nothing changes substantively until it occurs from the inside out. Christendom produced exemplars of Humanity 3.0, but they were few and far between. Most Christians lived at a 1.0 level. But as Barfield points out, we're only at the relative beginning. And I would add, that we are at a critical growth point now in the 21st century.
Second text, from the transcript of Krista Tippet's January 23 show about Teilhard de Chardin. This from the segment in which she's interviewing Ursula King:
Ms. Tippett: Was it also in the context of "The Divine Milieu" that he spoke of the human as "matter at its most incendiary stage"?
Dr. King: Yes, I think you're right. I think you're right. That's a wonderful …
Ms. Tippett: Which is also such a wonderful image.
Dr. King: It's a wonderful phrase. So, you see, I think he has this dynamic awareness from his evolutionary approach, so one could call his spirituality also an evolutionary spirituality, as some people do. And he feels that we are today at a very, very important threshold of emerging into a new phase of humanization, of becoming human, in a different way from the way our forebears were.
Ms. Tippett: Right, right.
Dr. King: They pull from the future and towards the future. And he's less and less interested in the past and more and more interested in where are we going, what are we doing with the potential we have, with the imagination, the creativity, the consciousness, the complexification of people thinking together and acting together. What is all this aiming for?
Teilhard is 'after the future'.
And then later in the show, this interchange with biologist/anthropologist David Sloan Wilson:
Ms. Tippett: Right, and you feel like this may be something that Teilhard got wrong or that his view was too optimistic?
Dr. Wilson: Well, first let me tell you another thing that he got right and then the one thing that he got wrong. Another thing he talked about was that he called them grains of thought. And what he meant by that is that at first, of course, humans existed in tiny groups and they each had their separate symbolic systems, which were disconnected to each other. Then he imagined these grains of thought coalescing and that corresponds to increasing the scale of society. Indeed, that has happened. Then he thought that his would result in a single global consciousness that he called the Omega Point.
Ms. Tippett: Right, the process of evolution reflecting on itself.
Dr. Wilson: [Laugh] Now it is true that we have the increasing scale of society all the way to the mega societies of today, but the idea that this was going to result in a single global brain, and especially that there is some inevitability about this, is what's not quite right. It could happen. It's within the realm of possibilities, but it is by no means certain. There is such a thing as collapse. And I think one of the reasons that his work does have the spiritual quality is because of the idea that there is an Omega Point and we're going towards the Omega Point. I think the real situation is that, yes, there's an Omega Point, but we have to work real hard to get there. And if we don't get there, then woe is us.
Teilhard saw that evolution now is no longer a passive process as it was when most of the action was in the biosphere--and that's really what Darwin's theory is good for explaining--processes in the biosphere, and those explanations are fine so far as they go. But Teilhard was among the first to see that evolution now has shifted from the Biosphere to the Noosphere. (Read the rest of the Tippet/King transcript if you are unfamiliar with this term.) In the Noosphehre, evolution is no longer something that happens to us; it's something that humans enact. So everything depends on the kind of mind that is directing the evolutionary process. If that mind is circumscribed by materialistic and positivistic assumptions, i.e., Humanity 2.0, I don't see a positive outcome. But neither does a reversion to 1.0 lead us to one.
So what reason have I to be optimistic? Well, even if I don't know how this is going to play out, I just choose to be optimistic. My optimism derives from my deep sense (intuition?, hope?) that the human being has the resources, in potentia, to write a comedic rather than a tragic script. I described where I think those resources lie. Central to the idea of Humanity 3.0 is what I describe in the recent post "On the Sensus Communis" as the awakening of the Logos. The Logos works in everyone, but for the most part it sleeps or operates unconsciously in Humanity 1.0 and 2.0. Nevertheless, I believe that there is enough incipient 3.0 wakefulness to give us a chance.
It's interesting that Fuller talks about the Logos, but only in the context of pointing out that nobody believes in it anymore. But here's the point. There is no broad cultural acceptance of the idea of the Logos anymore precisely because the Logos has gone underground. The idea of an all-powerful God or Christus Rex no longer makes because that's not where the Logos is found--out there. He's found instead slumbering in seed form in the human heart waiting to either to germinate, or where it has done so to flower and fruit. The Logos, if it has a shaping influence in our global social life and thinking, will have it only to the degree that it awakens and grows in the souls of fertile men and women.
Something's got to give. There is the materialist 'singularity' that is imagined and longed for by many who are still stuck in 2.0, and there is the kind of spiritual singularity that is imagined and longed for by Teilhard and Barfield, which is 3.0. I think either is a possibility. Indeed, one or the other is inevitable, unless, of course, the whole thing, the entire emerging global Noosphere collapses into a new Dark Age.
Tragedy and disappointment is the movie we've seen time and again, but I think we are mistaken to think that the tragic script is inevitable or even the most likely. There is something in the human being that regroups, that adapts, and keeps the ball moving forward no matter how many or how severe the setbacks he experiences. As bad as things seem, we seem to find a way. As Barfield points out:
. . . we may permit ourselves to ask what would have happened if the incarnation of the Word had been understood at the time when it occurred; if Christ had been acknowledged instead of being crucified. In fact, by the time the Event happened, the pharisaical element in Jewish religion had apparently triumphed, balking the nation of the opportunity of fulfilling its destiny. Instead of realizing the inwardness of the Divine Name--a consummation to which their whole history had been leading--the Children of Israel had turned aside. The Name had ceased to be uttered even by the priests in the temple, and the Creator had been removed to an infinite external distance, as a Being, omnipotent indeed, and infinitely superior, but, in the way He was thought of, existentially parallel with man himself.
Yet--so we may speculate--this need not have happened. On the contrary, precisely the pharisees should hardly have needed even reminding of their nation's destiny by the Saviours' pregnant words; they should have leaped instantly into recognition of man's Creator speaking with the voice and through the throat of a man. Logically there was the possibility of a gentle, untragic transition from original to final participation, the one maturing in proportion as the other faded. Within the limits of this sort of speculation we can even say that it was this which was 'intended'. For the whole tenor of the Old Testament suggests that the imaginal consciousness characteristic of original participation was being destroyed, precisely in order that it might be reborn. 'The rejection of idolatry', writes Dr. Austin Farrer,
"meant not the destruction but the liberation of the images. Nowhere are the images in more vigour than in the Old Testament, where they speak of God, but are not he . . .there is no historical study more significant than the study of their transformation. Such a transformation finds expression in the birth of Christianity; it is visible rebirth of images."
That rebirth, however, did not take place. The crucifixion did.
Original participation fires the heart from a source outside itself; the images enliven the heart. But in final participation--since the death and resurrection--the heart is fired from within by the Christ; and it is for the heart to enliven the images. Saving the Appearances, pp. 171-72
It is that fire, the fire that Moses encountered in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai, the one that announced Himself as 'I am who am', is a fire now that burns in the heart of Humanity 3.0. This is indeed 'matter at its most incendiary stage'. My hope lies in that it even now burns in a greater number of people than is acknowledged in a world that is still dominated by Humanity 2.0 thinking and figuration.
My hope lies in that at some point the fires burning in those hearts, and they are everywhere burning even if still diffidently without awareness about their potential to shape something new, will find a way to join one with the other to set the world ablaze and thus to enliven and reanimate a world disenchanted by 2.0 thinking. That is the only thing that I can imagine will save us from a new dark age or a mechanomorphic singularity that locks in death-saturated 2.0 thinking and its materialistic aspirations.