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‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 9 The Transformation of The Human Race
Chapter 9:2 The ‘dawn…of our emancipation’
When TIME magazine invited the author Alan Paton to contribute an essay on apartheid in South Africa they instead received, and published in its place, a deeply reflective article on Paton’s favourite pieces of literature. In what proved to be the renowned writer’s last work, Paton wrote: ‘I would like to have written one of the greatest poems in the English language—William Blake’s “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright”, with that verse that asks in the simplest words the question which has troubled the mind of man—both believing and non believing man—for centuries: “When the stars threw down their spears / And watered heaven with their tears / Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the lamb make thee?”’ (25 Apr. 1988). The opening lines of Blake’s poem, ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright / In the forests of the night’, refer to humans’ great fear and resulting denial of the issue of our less-than-ideal, seemingly imperfect, ‘fallen’ or corrupted state or condition—a subject humans have consciously repressed and yet one that ‘burn[s]’ ‘bright’ in the ‘forests of the night’ of our deepest awareness. The very heart of the issue lies in the line, ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’—a rhetorical question disturbing in its insinuation that we are wholly unrelated to ‘the lamb’, to the world of innocence. The poem raises the fundamental question involved in being human: how could the mean, cruel, indifferent, selfish and aggressive ‘dark side’ of human nature—represented by the ‘Tiger’—be both reconcilable with and derivative of the same force that created ‘the lamb’ in all its innocence? As Paton identified, despite humans’ denial of it, the great, fundamental, underlying question that ‘has troubled the mind of man’ has always been, are humans part of God’s ‘work’, part of ‘his’ purpose and design, or aren’t we? In other words—as was dealt with in chapter 4—why don’t humans live in accordance with the cooperative, loving integrative meaning of existence? Interestingly, the final words of Paton’s acclaimed book about apartheid, Cry, the Beloved Country, allude to humanity’s dream of one day finding this answer, and, through doing so, freeing itself from the terrible ‘bondage of fear’ of our condition: ‘But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret’ (1948). Humanity’s hope and faith has always been that one day we would be able to explain the paradox of the human condition, and, as a result of doing so, liberate ourselves from ‘the bondage’ of our species’ immensely psychologically upsetting sense of unworthiness or guilt.
So while religious assurances such as ‘God loves you’ could comfort us, ultimately we needed to understand why we were lovable; there had to be a rational, first-principle-based biological explanation for humans’ divisive condition and our responsibility as conscious beings was to find that explanation. The poet Alexander Pope was recognising this fundamental task and responsibility when he wrote, ‘Know then thyself, presume not God to scan / The proper study of Mankind is Man’ (Essay on Man, 1733); as were the ancient Greeks with their maxim that was written on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, ‘Man, know thyself.’ To refer again to the words of that pre-eminent philosopher of the twentieth century, Sir Laurens van der Post: ‘Only by understanding how we were all a part of the same contemporary pattern [of wars, cruelty and greed] could we defeat those dark forces with a true understanding of their nature and origin’ (Jung and the Story of Our Time, 1976, p.24 of 275); and, ‘Compassion leaves an indelible blueprint of the recognition that life so sorely needs between one individual and another; one nation and another; one culture and another. It is also valid for the road which our spirit should be building now for crossing the historical abyss that still separates us from a truly contemporary vision of life, and the increase of life and meaning that awaits us in the future’ (ibid. p.29). Jacob Bronowski observed the same truth in his book The Ascent of Man: ‘We are nature’s unique experiment to make the rational intelligence prove itself sounder than the reflex [instinct]. Knowledge is our destiny. Self-knowledge, at last bringing together the experience of the arts and the explanations of science, waits ahead of us’ (1973, p.437 of 448). In fact, many of our most enduring mythologies, such as King Arthur’s Knights’ search for the ‘Holy Grail’, and Jason and the Argonauts’ search for the ‘Golden Fleece’, are actually expressions of this all-important quest for the reconciling, redeeming and rehabilitating understanding of ourselves.
Yes, finding the biological explanation of the human condition has been ‘the holy grail’ of the whole Darwinian revolution, the central quest in our human journey of conscious thought and enquiry—but, as this book has shown, that journey has been lineball. When Richard Neville wrote that ‘We are locked in a race between self destruction and self discovery’ (Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Oct. 1986; see <>) he was recognising that only understanding of ourselves could bring an end to all the devastation, heartache and suffering that has plagued the human race since time immemorial and is now fast engulfing our planet in a terrible, terminal embrace. AND, as our designated vehicle for enquiry, it was science (which, again, literally means ‘knowledge’) that was charged with this crucial task of finding the human-race-saving understanding of the human condition. So despite presenting a patently evasive, dishonest explanation of the human condition, E.O. Wilson was being truthful when he wrote that ‘The human condition is the most important frontier of the natural sciences’ (Consilience, 1998, p.298 of 374). AND, most wonderfully, through the advances made in science, particularly understanding of the difference in the way genes and nerves process information, science has finally made it possible for a scientist to explain the human condition.
While virtually all scientists have had no choice but to operate from a basis of denial of any truths that led to confrontation with the issue of the human condition, it was still the practice of science that provided the all-important insights into the mechanisms of the workings of our world that were needed for that explanation to be assembled—which means, as pointed out in par. 296, it is the practice of science as a whole that is humanity’s liberator, its so-called ‘saviour’ or ‘messiah’. Although extremely rare since Resignation became all but universal some 11,000 years ago, there have always been a few individuals who could confront and think truthfully about the human condition, but until the practice of science as a whole found understanding of the difference in the way genes and nerves process information such human-condition-confronting, truthful-thinking individuals were in no position to put together the explanation of the human condition. So it is the discipline of science that has finally made explanation of the human condition possible—and, by doing so, given the human race the means, the understanding, that enables all the psychological anger, egocentricity and alienation in humans to subside. Our previously inescapable need to live alienated from our beautiful soul, with all the horror that such a destructive, dishonest and shallow existence entailed, can now end, and the human race at last return to the non-upset ideal state we have longed for, be it Heaven, Paradise, Eden, Nirvana, Utopia, Shangri-La, or whatever term we ascribed to it—the fundamental difference being that where we were once, as Moses said in the Bible, ‘in the image of God’ (Gen. 1:27), instinctively orientated to the Godly integrative meaning of life, this time we’ll return in a fully conscious, aware and understanding state. We will be ‘like God, knowing [understanding] good and evil’ (ibid. 3:5). Again, as the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, ‘We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’ (Little Gidding, 1942).
YES, with understanding of the human condition found, we can finally be upset-free, secure, sound, effective managers of our world and, as a result, the peace and happiness that humans throughout history have hardly dared to dream of can come into being. Christ’s anticipated time that he appealed to us to pray for in his Lord’s Prayer, when ‘Your [the Godly, ideal, integrated, peaceful] kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10 & Luke 11:2), can now become our reality. We can finally leave the dark cave of denial that Plato so accurately described—the ‘living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned’, having to hide from the condemning glare of all the confronting truths about our life (especially that most confronting truth of all of Integrative Meaning)—and stand free at last in the warm, healing sunlight of reconciling knowledge, and be part of, and see and feel, the world of staggering beauty that exists outside that debilitating ‘cave’ of denial. Again, as William Blake famously prophesised in his appropriately titled 1790 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ‘When the doors of perception are cleansed, man will see things as they truly are. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.’ Buddhist scripture contains similarly truthful anticipations of the clarity and form humans would achieve once the ameliorating understanding of the human condition arrived and was absorbed—that ‘In the future they will every one be Buddhas [be free of psychosis and neurosis] / And will reach Perfect Enlightenment [reach understanding of the human condition]’ (Buddha [Siddartha Gautama], The Lotus Sutra, c.560-480 BC, ch.9; tr. W.E. Soothill, 1987, p.148 of 275), and ‘will with a perfect voice preach the true Dharma, which is auspicious and removes all ill’ (Maitreyavyakarana; tr. Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures, 1959, pp.238-242). Of that time, the scripture says, ‘Human beings are then without any blemishes, moral offences are unknown among them, and they are full of zest and joy. Their bodies are very large and their skin has a fine hue. Their strength is quite extraordinary’ (ibid). The Bible similarly describes the time when ‘Another book [will be]…opened which is the book of life [the human-condition-explaining and thus humanity-liberating book]…[and] a new heaven and a new earth [will appear] for the first heaven and the first earth [will have]…passed away…[and the dignifying full truth about our condition] will wipe every tear from…[our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Rev. 20:12, 21:1, 4). YES, with understanding of the human condition now found, the human journey can have the happy ending we always believed it would: ‘The happy ending is our national belief’ (Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary, 1961, p.18 of 312).
Achieving that ‘happy ending’, however, obviously requires that we allow the truth to live in our lives, which is an enormous adjustment that resigned humans will initially resist. So while we at last have the means to ameliorate the human condition, we still need to overcome the difficult responsibility of facing and accepting the truth about ourselves. As will now be explained, while the finding of understanding of the human condition is wonderfully liberating, it is also fearfully confronting—but, thankfully, as will also be explained in this final chapter, there is an all-exciting and all-relieving way to overcome this last great hurdle of our fear of exposure of our now immensely corrupted state or condition.