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Human Beings Are Made for Transcendence


Human Beings Are Made For Transcendence

(From the Epilogue to Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence. Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2018)

Human beings are made for transcendence. We are structured for journeying into an ever-widening future characterized by ever-greater dignity, love, intensity of awareness, freedom, creativity community, and actualization of universal human rights. We are held back by our lack of awareness of our essential temporal nature, a nature perpetually projecting a future transcending the present and past in which “we discover ourselves to be ways of the Whole, in its Being, in its Becoming what it is” (Panikkar 2013, 17)

We are also held back by our lack of awareness of the deeper meanings of dignity, freedom, love, community, and human rights. We are held back by our lack of awareness of the creative and constitutive nature of our ethical choices, which can actualize an ever-higher meaning and truth as we move into the future. And we are held back by a latent positivism that makes us believe that our ideals and visions of a better future are “merely subjective.” As Marsh declares, “Denial of utopia mutilates freedom and reason” (1995, 333).

We need to take seriously our innate human capacity for self-transcendence, our capacity for moving into a future characterized by a truly higher level of the fullness of life: our capacity for living within a practical-utopian horizon. We need to embrace our love, our freedom, and our reason. To choose life means to embrace this process of moving toward ever fuller, ever more profound life. Human freedom, dignity, and evolutionary destiny have been implicit in the cosmic process from the very beginning. We are both structured for, and called to, perpetual self-transcendence.

From the higher levels, many of our seemingly intractable problems will vanish like the morning dew, for we will understand that these were corollaries of a narrow set of paradigm assumptions, not features of reality itself. Ideas like peace, justice, freedom, dignity, and sustainability will no longer appear to be subjective utopian dreams, but rather concrete existential possibilities in the process of continuous actualization. The possibility of a real fulfillment of our common human project appears on the horizon.

We should “arise each morning like a lion.” We are the shepherds, custodians, and prophets of a perpetual journeying into an ever-transcending future. “Each of us is a king, a prophet, and a priest” (Panikkar 2013, 6). Since the demise of ideological Marxism, the left (perhaps often those most conscious of the processes of self-transcendence) has largely lost its vision. To be “on the left” should mean to have a vision of possible human liberation. We human beings are not in the situation of Dr. Rieux in Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague, fighting a hopeless battle simply because we must. We are not a forlorn “being-for-itself” within a silent and unfeeling universe as depicted by Jean-Paul Sartre in Being and Nothingness (1956).

The very structure of human temporality and the emergent evolutionary structure of the universe empower great hope and make the world alive with transformative potential. We can awaken each morning filled with excitement about the future. Paulo Freire affirms that, “Hope is not just a question of grit or courage. It is an ontological dimension of our human condition” (1998, 58). Each day of our lives we are able to think better, to envision the future better, to love better, to become ever more aware of the fullness and depth of the present moment, to choose within an ever-greater fullness of freedom, and to create a better human community for the Earth and future generations.

H.G. Bugbee writes, “Disillusionment with the world knows nothing of the sacrament of coexistence. It can find no place for the sacramental act. It can conjure out of itself no philosophy of action, for its ultimate implication is inaction” (1963, 158). Yet much of today’s worldwide disillusionment is produced by a fragmented world system that structurally denies human temporality and self-transcendence worldwide through its embrace of the early-modern set of assumptions. Global capitalism sees no meaning to life beyond egoistic self-indulgence.

And sovereign nation-states promote an immature belonging, urging citizens to “be part of something larger than yourself” by joining their respective military systems, thereby fragmenting humanity into warring subsections. This world system also physically denies the life-prospects (temporality) of at least 50% of humanity by refusing them their “well-being rights” that make possible the pursuit of meaningful life-goals. Bugbee’s “sacrament of coexistence” can be understood as a holistic solidarity with the world process and the transformative action that such solidarity can bring. We have seen throughout this book that idealistic slogans alone are not sufficient. We must transform our social-economic-political world system from fragmentation to holism. Solidarity with our endangered planetary ecosystem, life on Earth, and all other human beings requires action for a global social contract….

Planetary Earth Federation is not simply another social-political option on the same historical level as the present systems of death and destruction. Nor is it merely a subjective fantasy. It is the next stage in human maturity, the next step in human self-transcendence toward a transformed and redeemed future. Many nation states promote the lie that they stand for universal, intrinsic values, such as human dignity, or peace, or commitment to a world of unity in diversity….

We also face the absolute imperative to unify civilization in order to cope with climate collapse, global poverty, and the threat of nuclear holocaust. Not only are we faced with an absolute ethical imperative, but our very survival depends on making these choices. We choose death when we fool ourselves into thinking that survival can happen while we continue to limp along with the anachronistic ghosts of militarized nation-states and the pseudo-realities of capitalist economics. We choose death when we fool ourselves into a spurious “realism” claiming that the best we can do is a slow evolution of existing institutions. We choose life when we fully embrace our planetary destiny of one civilization founded on human dignity, reason, freedom, justice, community, and sustainability.

Attempting to juggle the recently formulated UN “Sustainable Development Goals” with militarism, neo-liberal capitalism, and all the other concerns of nations will not even begin to address the crisis. We must summon all our institutional energies, human ingenuity, and moral focus to ensure the survival and flourishing of our endangered human project. We can only effectively mitigate the climate crisis that is happening all around us if we focus all our worldwide institutions, research, and coordinated energies on coping with this planetary disaster. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth offers a blueprint for making this possible.

The demand, therefore, is inherent in our common humanity as well as in practical reality. It arises from the need for survival as well as for creating a flourishing future for coming generations. It arises from the ethical imperative to actualize our human potential to become worldcentric, loving, and compassionate persons living at peace on our common planetary home, guiding our self-transcendence toward ever-greater self-realization and fulfillment. It arises from the bliss, excitement, and joy that break forth as we adventure into our transformed future. Ratification of the Earth Constitution is a key to making this happen.

Works Cited

Bugbee, Henry G. 1961. The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form. New York: Collier Books.

Camus, Albert (1991). The Plague. New York: Vintage International Paperbacks.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth, found on-line at www.earthconstitution.world

Freire, Paulo. 1998. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics Democracy and Civic Courage. Trans. Patrick Clarke. New York: Roman & Littlefield Publishers.

Marsh, James L. 1995. Critique, Action, and Liberation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publisher.

Panikkar, Raimon (2013). They Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1956. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library.