The Psychological Conditions of the Unification of Man

January 6, 1949

First published in Psyché, later in Activation of Energy.

Introduction, and Statement of the Problem

If there is one event that is insidiously and irresistibly engrossing our thoughts, adding every day a further complication, it is undoubtedly that of the unification of man. All around us the tide of the world’s economic, political and psychic socialization is continually invading, and even submerging, the life of even the humblest.

What exactly does this strange and disturbing phenomenon represent and what is its purpose?

For a long time we could believe (we preferred to believe) that in mankind’s increasing aggregation upon itself nothing was going on except a superficial adjustment of the thinking units in relation to one another, a process that would have no difficulty in finding its correct equilibrium.

Today, however, as a result of a more accurate survey of time and space, another idea is forming in our minds: that beneath the veil of the phenomenon of society, a fundamental drift of the universe towards ever more organized states may well be making itself felt: it is no longer the mere spatial movement of the Earth (Galileo’s) but the continuation, overhead, of an involution of the universe upon itself, an involution that first produced each one of us individually and is now collectively carrying on in the direction of the future its advance towards complexity and interiorization.

In that case, three comments should be made about our historical and biological position as men of the twentieth century.

  1. First of all, by the very fact that it is the expression of a drift which is cosmic in its embrace, the movement of organico-social unification which is drawing us along indicates the most reliable direction to which we can commit ourselves, if we wish not simply to survive but to super-live. It is not, indeed, by following the ‘clew’ of the world that we can hope most surely to attain the beatifying plenitude whose expectation is the mainspring of life?
  2. Next, to the extent that it claims our allegiance and urges itself upon us, this movement contains in itself, again, an element of irresistability: the combine action of the two curvatures, planetary and intellectual; compression producing (through the medium of a technical arrangement or organization) a coming together and articulation of conscious minds and thoughts. There is no way by which we can withdraw ourselves from the mould, by which we can reject the form, in which we are being cast.
  3. Nevertheless (this is our third comment), it is theoretically possible for us, through a faulty use of our freedom, to succeed in escaping (to our loss) from this enforced closer relationship. In order to meet the cosmic pressure of unification man has to develop his own self-organization. He must therefore have a deep-seated, vital, zest for self-unification. The preparation of the world’s finest food calls for an oven—heated to a certain temperature. Similarly, all the pressure of the universe on the substance of man will be powerless to make his scattered dust cohere unless his ardour for super-humanization grows keener. And this we can see clearly at this very moment when—by a curious effect of inertial resistance of unification’—the first reaction of individuals and nations to the sharply increasing forces of planetization is a self-withdrawal and a desperate attempt to ‘keep one’s own distance.’

In short, mankind’s bio-economic position at the present time may be seen as follows:

The problem—the spectre, I might say—of the Earth’s reserves of energy and food is widely, and rightly, canvassed. There is just one thing, however, which is forgotten: it is a point which I have been emphasizing for years. Mark my word: though man stands on great stacks of wheat, on mountains of uranium and coal, on oceans of oil, he will cease to develop his unity, and he will perish, if he does not watch over and foster in the first place the source of psychic energy which maintains in him the passion for action and knowledge—which means for growing greater and evolving—from which comes unity of mind. Man will never lend himself to the forces of unification that summon him—he will never devote himself to them—for the cosmic work now going on calls for nothing short of ‘devotion’—unless he believes in them: and when I use that word it must be understood with all the force and all the (initial) indefinite range of meaning that it has in everyday speech.

We must try, therefore, to determine

  1. what sort of thing the world around must be
  2. what the soul that dwells in the heart of our being must be

if they are both—like an engaged couple, we might say—to come together and harmonize with one another in the mainstream of a mutual and ever more powerful attraction.

In other words, we must try to discover the conditions—objective in the first place, and then subjective—that are necessary for the maintenance and development in mankind of the ardour that is essential to the completion of its biological growth.

I

Objective Conditions

I can distinguish two principal conditions, and to these I shall confine myself.

If man is to have the zest for self-unification—if he is to believe passionately in the value and importance of the social phenomenon in which he is involved—it is absolutely essential, it seems to me, that the universe in movement (in course of cosmogenesis) be seen by him as both open and centred ahead. Let me explain whatI mean.

a. First, what is meant by open?

Imagine a party of miners, cut off when their roof collapses, and trying to regain the surface through a rescue tunnel. It is obvious that they will not continue to make their way towards the top unless they have reason to believe from some indication (a glimmer of light, a draught of air from above) that the passage is not blocked ahead of them. Similarly (though not sufficient attention is given to this) man would have no heart, no reason, to exert himself in causing mankind to advance beyond itself through unification, if the only effect of this fine effort were one day to bring it up sharp, with added force and impetus, against an impassable wall. Both astronomically and biologically, one might well believe at first, we are irrevocably dependent on, and the prisoners of, the necessarily limited physico-chemical evolution of the Earth. Such a dependence and limitation would be incompatible with a reflective evolutionary impulse, which must necessarily be irreversible. Unless life is, in becoming capable of foreseeing the future, to halt in its own tracks, it must not feel that there is any barrier or ceiling above itself. In one way or another it must be able to divine the existence ahead of some way out by which it may, when mature, escape a total death—and this not by hook or by crook, like a shipwrecked mariner, but retaining the essential plenitude of all that has enriched it and all that it has won: and that presupposes as an incidental condition (which is my second ‘natural’ condition) a universe that is not only ‘open’ but can also be seen to be:

b. centred (or, which comes to the same thing, personalizing) in the direction of the future.

This, too, though often forgotten, seems to me evident. If in fact a crystalline molecule could feel and speak, it would, surely, refuse to enter into a network that did not correspond to its own system. To be so incorporated would ‘kill’ it. Similarly, the human particle, with its high degree of psychic self-centration, can tolerate aggregation to, or unification with, all the other particles, only if this operation respects, and increases, its incommunicable power of thinking and feeling (in its own infinitesimal way) everything—of infinitesimally centring, that is, the universe around it. However compressed upon itself by the tightening grip of the planet the human particle may be, man would rebel (he will inevitably rebel) against the progress of socialization so long as this latter does not take for him the form of a force not, assuredly, of more or less anarchical individualization but of personalization—of a force, that is, that leads not to a blind, unfeeling, collectivity, but to an association that reflects upon itself and shares a common mind: in other words a convergent and definitively centred system.

Subject to these two structural conditions of the universe of being both open and centred, let me repeat, the unification of man assumes a form that seems acceptable and possible when presented to our consciousness. The individual man has no longer any reason to reject such a transformation. What, even so, has he still to do, and what is still lacking to him, if he is to be positively and forcibly aware of its attractive power? How is this marriage of the head to be converted into a marriage of the heart?

It is here that we meet the second side, the specifically psychological (or even psycho-analytical) side of the problem.

II

Subjective Conditions

If we are to appreciate a colour or a scent, we must have good sight and a good sense of smell. Similarly, if we are fully to experience the ‘zest’ for super-humanization to which the nature of things calls us with such urgency, there are, I am convinced, a certain number of ‘senses,’ to which we have so far not given sufficient attention, which must make themselves felt, must be more fully developed in us and sharpened.

At this point a comparison may help to clarify the position. As every human being emerges from childhood, there is an awakening of what we call ‘the sense of sex.’ Vague at first, and ill-understood by the person who experiences it, the attraction gradually takes on form and consistence, until it becomes one of the key aspects of the psychology of the grown man.

If mankind, then, is taken as a whole, would it not appear from a number of indications that—in the same way as individual human beings—it can and must go through certain ‘crises of puberty,’ and is now, in fact, doing so?

I spoke earlier of an ‘open world.’ Confronted by his own increased powers and duties (which helps to bring back the centre of gravity of our most essential cares from individuals to the species), does not man at this moment feel an increase in his anxiety for the permanence of his works—in other words, is he not aware of the emergence in himself of an increased demand for irreversibility?

I spoke also of a ‘centred’ world. Man has always, intermittently, been attracted by—intoxicated by—the feeling of union with the whole in which he shares. Recently, however, the immensities of the universe around us and its organicity have become better understood, with the result that this elementary sense of the whole is tending to become generalized in the consciousness of men—but with this essential modification that the totality which is divined and desired no longer appears so much as a shapeless ocean in which we are to be dissolved, but rather as a powerful focus in which we are to meet as one, to fulfil and concentrate ourselves.

A clarified sense of the irreverisble, a corrected sense of the universal and the cosmic: is it not true, maybe, that these new faculties or ‘feelers,’ hitherto more or less dormant, are now in the course of a stealthy development in us—precisely at the moment, when, following the rhythm of cosmogenesis, we are reaching the time, or the phase, when if life is to advance further, it must give birth to a new burst (a new supply) of impassioned and reflective enthusiasm for further progress?

And it is here that, addressing myself to those who have a professional knowledge of psycho-analysis, I would say:

‘Hitherto, and for excellent reasons, your science has been primarily concerned to make the individual recognize, deep within himself, certain forgotten impressions, certain hidden complexities, with the idea (confirmed by experiment) that once these suppressions and complexes have been brought into the open and accepted, then they will vanish in the light of day.’

‘So far, so good. But once this work of clearing up and liquidation has been one, surely a further task of clarification—one that is more constructive and therefore more important—still needs to be done. By this I mean helping the subject to decipher, in the as yet ill-explored and imperfectly cleared-up areas of himself, the great aspirations of which I was just speaking (the sense of the irreversible, the sense of the cosmos, the sense of the Earth, the sense of man). It is the converse operation to the earlier one. I mean psycho-analysing not in order to bring something out but to put something in: to make man read what is to be found in himself, not in order to get rid of phantasms but in order to give consistence and direction to, and to satisfy, certain great needs or essential demands which, for lack of being understood and voiced, are smothered inside us (and which are smothering us). It is a complex and delicate work of discovery, indeed since both teacher and pupil, guide and follower, have equally to grope their way in this field; but it is an eminently fruitful work, for it is directed to disclosing not restrictions and defects, but the most hidden and most comprehensive motive forces in the psychic dynamism which animates us.’

In short, psycho-analysis has hitherto been primarily interested in treating forces and individual cases from the medical point of view. At the most, it has been concerned to open up the subject and to centre him on himself, in relation to limited groups, in particular the family, in such a way as to make him capable of the first degree of socialization. If what has been said in this contribution is correct, surely the time has come when psycho-analysis must study each man's trans-individual aspirations and so occupy itself (as a problem not of healing, but of engineering) with the working out of an energetics of man (a psych-energetics), on the scale of, and for application by, a zoological group which is in the process of planetary totalization.


To turn back now to the two instances mentioned earlier, of the sense of the irreversible and the sense of the cosmos: even if we take into account only those who are most directly committed to research and the things of the mind, how small a proportion of us have become explicitly aware either of the fact that their activity imposes a radical requirement of refusing to undertake any work that will not be immortal—or of the vital need rooted in their minds of finding, and instilling, ever more unity, not only in the intellectual representation of a particular domain of things but also in the ontological structure of the whole universe? What task, then, can be more urgent than that of decisively bringing out into the open these two essential ardours, and systematically fostering them in the heart of every man?

It is not without amazement and anxiety that we are witnessing the mysterious cleavage which at this very moment is tending to divide the world from east to west into two hostile blocs. Well, then: if we want to know the true reason, a reason much more profound than any power-conflict, for this, the greatest schism history has ever known, surely we must look for it in the as yet inarticulate, mutually contradictory, statements of a nascent human faith, still unable to decide, in order to express itself either in words or deeds, between totalization and freedom. If this diagnosis is correct, what is the agonized, divided, Earth waiting for if not the prophet who will make plain to it the mystery of what it is nebulously seeking and expecting?

Let me insist again on what I was saying earlier: the future of the world, as we now see it, is tied up with some sort of social unification of man—which itself ultimately depends on the free play in our hearts of certain forces that draw us towards fuller being—forces without which all science and all technology would lose their impetus. The world, our terrestrial world, is more and more irresistibly assuming before our eyes the form of a gigantic and gigantically complicated engine, ready for every sort of operation and every sort of conquest; but it will be able to function as such on only one condition: this is that if we are to get its mechanism under way, we must find and burn exactly the type and quality of fuel that suits it. In other words, if man's Earth is still undecided today in its movement—if there is a danger that tomorrow it may come to a halt—this is simply for lack of a vision of sufficient width, a vision commensurate with the vastness and variety of the effort that has to be produced.

In these circumstances, mankind must in future devote an increasing part, the major part, of its attention—without, of course, neglecting material technology, but in an effort that goes hand in hand with its progress—to the maintenance and development of its psychic energies (the indispensable animating forces behind physical energy in a universe that has become a thinking universe); it must concentrate on the exploration and exploitation of its true, and truly noble, cosmic ‘libido.’

That is why, in conclusion, I urge you to the quest for a faith that will truly serve as a driving force for the world, to pave the way for that faith and to distil its essence: nor must I forget to remind you that nowhere can the elements, the seed, or even the initial realization of that faith be found more distinctly (quite apart from any consideration of dogma, and simply from the point of view of psychology) that in a properly understood Christianity: Christianity, let me emphasize, which, more vigorously and realistically than any other spiritual current in sight, never ceases to persist—practically alone in the world—in preserving and sharpening its ardent vision of a universe that is not impersonal and closed, but opens out, beyond the future, upon a divine centre.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

https://www.organism.earth/library/docs/pierre-teilhard-de-chardin/headshot-square.webp

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