A Transformative Power at the Heart of Human Futurity
(Article Published in the American International Journal for Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 7 No 1; February 2021. Open source, found on the Journal website: aijhss.cgrd.org/index.php/54-contact/115-vol-7-no-1-february-2021)
This paper argues that human temporality as articulated by a number of recent thinkers has not yet been generally understood or assimilated. It reviews several philosophers on temporality, ending with Heidegger’s argument that the future has an ontological priority over the past and present. However, far beyond Heidegger, it also identifies a “utopian horizon” in all normal persons as a feature of that “futurity” that defines for us the values by which we should be living and the efforts we should be making to transform human existence. It reviews several models of human value-development pointing to a value-laden “cosmic consciousness” and describes the “transpersonal” nature of mature values, or “being-values.” It identifies the “transcendental ego” as a fundamental non-personal, non-temporal feature of our consciousness that manifests the values appearing on our utopian horizon. It recognizes, with Hegel, Panikkar, Teilhard de Chardin, and several other thinkers, that this utopian horizon represents the action of the finite-infinity at the heart of both the evolving cosmic totality and the human situation, placing evolution in the hands of human freedom. Values, in consequence, are not merely subjective but objective within our human situation. Utopian values become a constitutive transformational force behind our ontological vocation to become ever more fully human.
Key Words. Utopian horizon, temporality, radical futurity, being-values, utopian values, self-transcendence, cosmic consciousness, cosmic evolution, spiral dynamics, transcendental ego, unity of consciousness.
- Human Temporality and the Priority of the Future
Like many other dimensions of human existence, time remains a deep cosmic and human mystery. No one knows what time is or what it means within human life or the cosmos. In his Confessions, Book X, St. Augustine famously explored the mystery of time, and the more he explored it, the greater the mystery and his astonishment: “What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know. Yet I state confidently that I know this: if nothing were passing away there would be no past time, and if nothing existed, there would be no present time, and if nothing were coming, there would be no future time. How, then, can these two kinds of time, the past and the future, be, when the past no longer is and the future as yet does not be?” (in McDermott, 385).
But time is not merely a mystery when we attempt to objectify it, as St. Augustine does here. It is also a deep mystery because it coincides with the mystery of our human Being-in-the-world. Time is not only a phenomenon of past, present, and future, the first and last of which mysteriously do not exist, since only the present moment exists. We humans are constituted by time. We are time in some fundamental senses. Each of us appropriates a personal past within a dynamic expansive, living present, and projects our lives into a yet to be realized future, a future that can only ever become actual as an aspect of the living present within which we will continue to exist until our death. Time is fundamental to history, to freedom, to civilization, to the meaning of our lives, to what we are has human beings, and to the possibilities of self-transcendence (Cf. Sherover 1975; Macey 1994).
Yet with the mystics of all the great religious traditions of the world we need to understand that eternity, the timeless depth of the present (nunc stans), the infinity permeating all present experience, permeates our lives and urges to live from the depths of the present moment in what philosopher Raimon Panikkar (1993) calls “transhistorical awareness.” We must not ontologize the future in such a way that we lose the “tempiternal” fullness of the present moment from which we live within the profound intersection within the present moment of God, the Earth, and Man.
Nevertheless, it appears that time and its dynamic futurity has not been generally appreciated in relation to what we are as human beings, for time is commonly objectified as something external to our lives. We speak of “time passing” as if we stood by and watched a passing railway train. This leaves out that human beings themselves appear to be time, to be a living embodiment of temporality, of becoming, a major part of which is our futurity. We are constituted as time (and eternity within the depths of the present). We live in an extended, dynamic present that includes both the past (as memory) and the future (as anticipation).
Panikkar declares that “Becoming belongs to the very essence of Being.” This, of course, is also true of our human “Being-in-the-world.” “Were an entity not to become what it is at each moment that it is,” he writes, “it would cease to be. The entity exists and this existence is its becoming” (2013, 98). Our own becoming, Panikkar affirms, is linked to the destiny of the universe. What is the “omega point,” the destiny of being? “This destiny also, to a certain extent depends upon us. This is our human dignity, and our responsibility” (ibid., 104).
We exist, like all of Being, as temporality, as becoming. To be so constituted means that futurity is part of our Being-in-the-World (as Heidegger designates it). To have a reality that includes futurity means that we have no predetermined “essence” but live as openness, as possibility, as freedom. The question posed in this essay is how great is our freedom? What values are implied by or emerge from this freedom? Have we not misconceived and largely ignored the significance of human futurity and freedom? How can we increase our freedom so that we can move forward to ever-greater modes of self-realization?
The fact of becoming, the structure of temporality, I want to emphasize, does not supplant or ignore the dimension of eternity, the timeless now, spoken about by mystics and sages of all centuries and all the great world’s religions. As Ralph Waldo Emerson declared human beings can only be fulfilled when we “live with nature in the present, above time” (in Wilber 1985, 65). We will also emphasize anon that the transcendental ego identified by Kant is atemporal. But the reality of the absolute present moment, itself beyond time, should not blind us to the dimensions in which we also exist as temporality. Some form of absolute monism, like that of Shankara, may claim that time is an “illusion.” But there is no need to absolutize eternity to the point of denying or diminishing the fundamental reality and value of time. To do so, we will see, ignores the deep meaningfulness of the emergent evolutionary telos of the Cosmos (cf. Harris 1988).
In Concluding Scientific Postscript Søren Kierkegaard sees our temporality (as finite creatures moving from past to present to future) as confronting us with the “paradoxical” character of the truth. For if we externalize the truth as something independent of our subjective temporal existence, then this “objective” truth becomes something independent of us, similar to an objective sequence of temporal “nows” that have little or no relation to our own futurity.
Here we find an indication of the issue with which we are confronted regarding temporality. To think of time as an external “objective” passing of “nows” as measured by the clock is to leave out something fundamental about being human. And the question of who we are as human beings is perhaps the most fundamental issue we can address, seeing that our very existence on this planet is now threatened by developments during the past 75 or more years. If we exist as a temporality that embraces not only the past but also a futurity that is undetermined and open to what could be truly new, then we must consider in what ways truth can be “subjectivity” rather than merely “objectivity.”
As our awareness of the dynamic of temporality increases, we begin to see the possibilities of real transcendence buried within the mystery of time. In The Creative Mind, Henri Bergson transforms the misleading idea imposed by “clock time” into the meaningful dynamic of “duration” in which the creative upsurge of the universe finds its focus in human temporality. He writes: “in duration, considered as a creative evolution, there is perpetual creation of possibility and not only for reality” (1965, 21). The consequence of this “intuition” of the deep, creative movement of duration is that “reality no longer appears then in the static state, in its manner of being; it affirms itself dynamically…. Everything comes to life around us, everything is revivified in us…. We are more fully alive….” (ibid., 157).
Emmanuel Levinas remarks that, “it is Bergson who taught us the spirituality of the new….” (1985, 28). Being temporal creatures means that we live in a perpetual openness to the new, an ever-living movement in which not only new realities are created, but new possibilities. Levinas affirms that “time is…a dynamism which leads us elsewhere than toward the things we possess. It is as if time were a movement beyond what is equal to us” (ibid., 61). He indicates the self-transcendence at the heart of human temporality. Lived time, duration, is a perpetual movement “beyond what is equal to us” toward a future that transcends the past and the present.
Human beings live within a dynamic and evolving present that embraces both past and future. In our present, we appropriate the past dynamically into a present oriented to the future, toward a future that we want to be better, that transcends the past and transcends it always and indefinitely. No matter where we find ourselves in the progression between birth and death, the future is never realized, it remains transcendent of the past and present.
It is not simply a matter, therefore, of living within an objective series of “nows” measured by a clock time external to our lives. What is created by the temporal dynamic is not simply more “reality” in the sense that future events become present and then past. What is created is “possibility.” We continually open up to possibilities in which something genuinely new can appear. Martin Buber captures this sense of the openness of the future in the following passage:
Man is the crystalized potentiality of existence. But he is this potentiality in its factual limitation. The wealth of possibility in existence from which the animals are kept away by their exiguous reality is exhibited in man in a sign that is incomprehensible from the standpoint of nature…. That means that man’s action is unforeseeable in its nature and extent, and that even if he were peripheral to the cosmos in everything else, he remains the centre of all surprise in the world. (1972: 437-38)
To be the centre of all surprise in the world means that the future contains possibilities that emerge beyond any causal determinism of the past over the future. Indeed, thinkers like Kierkegaard, Bergson, Levinas, and Buber challenge the dogma that emerged from an outdated early-modern science that the past causally determines all events as it moves through the present into the future. We see causality at work everywhere in the world, including within our own bodies and psychologies, and mistakenly apply it to ourselves in a totalizing way. But this overlooks the deep mystery of human freedom and futurity, and the fact that what emerges from the process are not simply causally determined results but radically new potentialities and possibilities.
In Being and Time (1962), Martin Heidegger distinguishes the common attitude to time from a stance that recognizes its existential import and intrinsic relationship with human Being-in-the-world. To treat human beings as just another object within the world, another form of what is “present at hand,” parallels the “fallen” or common view of time as a series of “nows” occurring in the present some “becoming now” moving from future to presentness and others “becoming past” moving from the now into past existence. From this perspective time seems like a line infinite in both directions and human beings simply existing along this line between past and future (ibid. 476-77).
However, the existential phenomenology used by Heidegger in Being and Time reveals something different. Human beings are not simply objects living within a time frame of before and after, we are “an entity for which this Being is an issue” (ibid., 372). That is, we are constituted by time and move perpetually “towards one’s ownmost distinctive potentially for Being” (ibid., 372). Dasein (“being-there”) comes toward itself in its ownmost possibility “as the meaning of authentic care” (ibid., 374). We confront the fact that our being has no definable essence, since we are primordially futurity, in our primordial nature as “care,” we confront “the future as coming towards.”
Human beings encounter themselves as “thrown” into the world, as factually just existing as they find themselves in certain circumstances in the world. However, because of their dynamic futurity, they can “take over” their thrownness, appropriating it in the light of their authentic potentiality for being: “The primary meaning of existentiality is the future” (ibid., 376).
Human beings exist as temporality. Past, present, and future are not extraneous to what we are but comprise what we are. Heidegger does not bring into Being and Time the awareness that these dimensions of temporality do not exhaust what we are, since eternity/infinity also intersect our being in the world making our awareness a possible “tempiternity.” The theme of timeless “emptiness” or “silence” explicitly arises in Heidegger’s later writings (see Carter 1989), but our focus in this essay is on temporality and its utopian horizon.
Temporality makes possible the multiplicity of Dasein’s modes of Being, “and especially the basic possibility of authentic or inauthentic existence.” Inauthentic existence “levels out” the dynamic ecstasies of temporality to give us the sequence of “nows” mentioned above, as if human beings were simply objects coming into existence and going out of existence along a continuum between past and future. But authentic existence for Heidegger embraces the temporality of Dasein as living in and through its primordial potentiality for Being and recognizes that “the primary phenomenon of primordial and authentic temporality is the future” (1962, 378)
Heidegger’s thought in Being and Time fits the famous definition of Existentialism that “existence precedes essence.” Inauthentic temporality, the common view of human being in relation to time, conceives of human beings as living along a continuum of an infinite series of “nows” and fails to encounter the finitude of primordial time, which means to be “project towards that potentiality-for-Being for the sake of which any Dasein exists” (ibid., 385). We are precisely creatures for whom our being is not fixed as an essence, but because we are temporality structured as a whole our being is precisely an issue for us. Our primordial understanding means that we are projecting towards a “potentiality-for-Being” that places the future in ontological priority over the past and present.
In authentic understanding, we face a finite futurity, closed by our own death, with “anticipatory resoluteness” with the understanding that our human essence, our potentiality for Being, is what is at issue. “When one understands oneself projectively in an existentiell possibility, the future underlies this understanding, and it does so as a coming-towards-itself out of that current possibility as which one’s Dasein exists. The future makes ontologically possible an entity which is in such a way that it exists understandingly in its potentiality-for-Being” (ibid., 385).
Futurity, that which has not yet come to be in the present or the past, is our most fundamental mode of Being-in-the-world. The astonishing mystery of human existence confronts us in this realization. Heidegger makes an important contribution to our human self-understanding. If we truly exist as temporality, then openness to the new, the transformed, the revolutionary is part of our very being. “Primordial and authentic temporality temporalizes itself in terms of the authentic future and in such a way that in having been futurally, it first of all awakens the Present” (ibid., 378).
The conservative clinging to the past or the positivist clinging to “facts” result from inauthentically retreating from our true human situation in which the future takes ontological priority over the present and past. It awakens and enlivens the present. Nevertheless, Heidegger does not give us Utopian Horizon Value Theory. Far from it. He speaks of our intrinsic openness to the future, to potentiality as a key component in the wholeness of human temporality, but he does not articulate values. And, in general, his philosophy was a rebellion against the liberal-democratic tradition that had developed throughout the modern period. (It may be that this lacuna is what allowed him to embrace National Socialism in 1933 and become rector of Freiburg University under the Nazis (see Wolin 1993).)
- Priority of the Future and Values
One of Heidegger’s students who later became a well-known philosopher in his own right was Hans Jonas. Regarding Heidegger, Jonas writes, “ethics for him remained empty of real content” (1996, 47). Neither in Being and Time nor in his later philosophy, does Heidegger reflect in any significant way, on human values, on ethics. Nevertheless, Heidegger’s phenomenological analysis of human temporality was the culmination of a number of western thinkers who had been focusing on human temporality, such as Søren Kierkegaard, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, Josiah Royce, Henri Bergson, and Edmund Husserl (Heidegger’s immediate teacher) (cf. Sherover, 1975).
Together, these thinkers elucidate the centrality of time and temporality within our human situation, culminating in Heidegger’s emphasis on the ontological priority of the future and the open-endedness of our potentiality for Being. However, this is only the starting point, not the conclusion. Given the priority of the future, what then are the conditions of this futurity and what values can be linked with it? Hans Jonas went on to write a widely recognized book entitled The Imperative of Responsibility in which he argues that human beings need to preserve human life and freedom in the face of the great dangers to these values from modern technology and irrational movements such as fascism.
Ethics, Jonas emphasizes, arises from “Being’s breakthrough into an unlimited realm of possibilities extending into the farthest reaches of subjective life and subsumed in its entirety under the rubric of ‘freedom’” (1996, 61). Ethics demands human self-transcendence (cf. Martin 2018). Today, when the entire future of the human project and all life on Earth is endangered, he declares, “Our sense of responsibility must be commensurate with the magnitude of our power and therefore involves, like it, the entire future of humanity on this Earth” (ibid., 99).
The imperative inherent within human civilization, for Jonas, is protecting ontological freedom, becoming active custodians of freedom, which also involves protecting the biosphere of our planet and all life on Earth. Contemporary philosophy, he declares (as also evidenced in Heidegger’s thought) has so far failed to bring the statement “I am hungry” truly within its purview (ibid., 47). Jonas writes:
Just as we should not know about the sanctity of life if we did not know about killing, and the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” had not brought this sanctity into focus; and just as we should not know the value of truth without being aware of lies, nor of freedom without the lack of it, and so forth—so also, in our search after an ethics of responsibility for distant contingencies, it is an anticipated distortion of man that helps us to detect that is the normative conception of man which is to be preserved from it. And we need the threat to the image of man—and rather specific kinds of threat—to assure ourselves of his true image by the very recoil from these threats…. We know the thing at stake only when we know that it is at stake. (1985, 26-27)
Jonas sees a dynamic of human temporalized rationality in which we can discern in the present and past phenomena that scandalize us for their violation of human freedom and dignity. The right that we recognize is significantly counterfactual, but there is a “normative conception of man” contained within it, what Habermas terms “the ethical self-understanding of the species” (2003, 40). But “temporalized rationality” must be understood here in a broad sense, not just in the sense of philosophical argumentation. We need to comprehend the depth and meaning of the emergence of free, rational beings within the cosmos. He declares:
With the appearance of man transcendence awakened to itself and henceforth accompanies his doing with the bated breath of suspense, hoping and beckoning, rejoicing and grieving, approving and frowning—and, I daresay, making itself felt to him even while not intervening in the dynamics of his worldly scene: for can it not be that by the reflection of its own state as it wavers with the record of man, the transcendent casts light and shadow over the human landscape? (1996, 127)
Human beings have emerged from the cosmos as freedom, that is as temporalized creatures with futurity, with the capacity to create, to transform, to make the future different from the past. As Heidegger put it, our very being is what is at issue within the scope of our futurity. We are “scandalized” by the past precisely because we see that it does not have to be that way. We can envision a future fundamentally different from the past because our very being is marked by “transcendence” and its potentialities.
Our situation is quite different from that commonly envisioned by many Natural Law theorists. John Locke says that our reason knows the moral law given by God, which means that there are external objective value determinants for our existence. Contemporary philosopher John Finnis (2011) takes a more holistic, Aristotelian, approach arguing that your practical reason can values at are intrinsic goods to being human. It may well be that case that the seven goods he identifies are objectively good and knowable by practical reason. These are life, knowledge, practical reason, friendship, play, aesthetic experience, and religion in the sense of a meaningful worldview.
However, our radical futurity does not come significantly into play in Finnis’ thought. His thought is liberal and democratic without being transformative or revolutionary. Here is where Utopian Horizon theory supersedes Natural Law theory and lends greater hope to our human condition. The fact that we are made for transcendence since we transform and create our human essence through our choices, visions, hopes, and dreams means that we do not have to endure forever living with the negatives of our values, as if our values were “mere” ideals as opposed to what is “real.”
Indeed, we must contend with limitations of the body, of emotions, passions, and desires that frustrate and inhibit the actualization of our utopian hopes and dreams. But, qua futurity, these are not decisive limitations. We know as well that such things can be transcended, and we see in history many who have accomplished this. Hannah Arendt recognizes our human “capacity for performing miracles…. It is men who perform them—men who because they have received the twofold gift of freedom and action can establish a reality of their own” (1968, 169-72).
Utopian Horizon theory means that we have an open-ended capacity to actualize the counterfactual values that are always present within our futurity. Our capacity for self-transcendence means not simply that we can overcome greed, lust, hate, and fear in the pursuit of self-actualization. It means that we can significantly eliminate greed, lust, hate, and fear. We can become, not angels, but fulfilled, loving, and civilized human beings living sustainably and justly on our beautiful planet Earth.
- Growth Towards Transpersonal Values
During the mid-twentieth century, psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his now famous “hierarchy of needs” (2013). Maslow argues that there are five levels of needs that human beings must satisfy. The first level involves “physiological needs” such as food, sleep, sex, etc. These function as our first priority. After these needs, the second fundamental concern of human beings involves “safety needs” such as income, sufficient resources, and security of persons.
If these basics are obtained, then we have a third level of needs to satisfy that can be termed “belongingness,” such as needs for family, love, friendship, and intimacy. The fourth level of needs in human beings involves “esteem needs.” These include gaining respect from others, development of self-confidence, friendships, etc. At the fifth and highest level is “self-actualization” in which a person may blossom in creativity, morality, and possible self-transcendence. Transpersonal values, or what he calls “being values,” arise only at these highest levels.
This schema recognizes the need for self-transcendence in human beings. It places this need, generally speaking, after more basic survival, social, and psychological needs have been satisfied. We can easily recognize truth in this, of course, in that people desperate to satisfy basic needs are not likely to listen to Mozart, read Dostoevsky, or even participate in democratic political processes. We require a global society that maximizes the conditions for the self-actualization and self-transcendence of human beings.
Maslow himself has spent his career studying experiences of self-actualization and self-transcendence, which he calls “peak experiences.” He argues that this study has provided us with an objective picture of our human situation, social scientifically confirmed. If this is the case, then we need a world system directed toward self-transcendence, something fundamentally different from our contemporary world disorder and chaos. Our present world disorder in no significant way reflects our human potentialities. As psychologist and philosopher Eric Fromm expresses this, we need transformed institutions that enable and make possible human self-transcendence (1996, 9-10).
The word “experiences,” as Maslow uses it, is not to be understood as indicating idiosyncratic subjective moments of isolated individuals, but rather as contributing to a view of our common human potentialities and an objective set of values that can be linked to healthy human growth and development. He affirms that, “A new vision is emerging of the possibilities of man and his destiny, and its implications are many, not only for our conceptions of education, but also for science, politics, literature, economics, religion, and even our conceptions of the non-human world” (2014a, 157).
“All this implies a naturalistic system of values,” Maslow affirms, “a by-product of the empirical description of the deepest tendencies of the human species and of specific individuals” (ibid., 169). He calls these values “B-values” or “Being values,” and elucidates them a number of places in his works. They include such values as wholeness, perfection, completion (fulfillment), justice, beauty, goodness, truth, and self-sufficiency (autonomy) (ibid., 75-76). They are derived from the overwhelming consistency of responses from people who have experienced self-actualization and self-transcendence.
Maslow concludes that the “characteristics of Being are also the values of Being” (2014b, 64). These possible “perfections” of our human nature are available to all people, he affirms, and as such should supply the goals for culture, education, and government. They constitute “the far goals of all ideal, uncovering (Taoistic, non-interfering) psychotherapies; the far goals of the ideal humanistic education; the far goals and the expression of some kinds of religion; the characteristics of an ideally good environment and of the ideally good society” (ibid., 95).
What Maslow calls the “far goals” of human civilization I have named the “utopian horizon” of human temporality that we will discuss below. This horizon is embedded within the immediate present of each of us. Therefore, as Maslow’s own work asserts, none of these values are really far away. They are all implicit in the very structure of the living present with its implicit possibility of actualization, of breakthrough to its utopian dimension. I will argue that our human temporal structure itself opens us up to the quest to address all our need levels simultaneously, and that, by moving to higher levels through self-transcendence, we can alter the entire dynamic of our needs.
The holism of our lifeworld, therefore, demands a process of transcendence in relation to all these needs as defined by Maslow. If we become more fully aware of our intrinsic temporalized human structure and its implications, the immense potential of human self-transcendence will open up for us. Before explicating this dynamic further, let us consider several other thinkers who have modeled stages of cognitive, moral, emotional, and spiritual growth in human beings that may play a role in the perpetual revaluation of our needs as we move to higher levels of maturity.
Fromm and others of his generation pioneered the idea that human beings need to grow as individuals and a species toward a worldcentric maturity based on the fullness of “being” rather than the selfishness of “having” (1996). Psychologists such as Lawrence Kohlberg (1984), whose perspective on growth was affirmed by Jürgen Habermas (1979) and other philosophical thinkers, developed a model of growth leading from childhood toward an adulthood of “autonomy,” independence, and, ultimately, harmony with the cosmos.
A very similar schemata of human individual and species growth, derived from the works of psychologist Carol Gilligan and integral thinker Ken Wilber, traces human development from childhood to an awakened actualization of our potential using the following stages. Here I have synthesized a variety of schemata presented by Wilber in Integral Spirituality (2007). Generic stages of growth toward morality begin with the “egocentric” orientation of childhood and immature adults. We normally move into an “ethnocentric” level with orientation around the nation, religion, and culture of one’s upbringing. With greater intellectual and moral maturity, we become “worldcentric,” developing compassion, care, and universal rational principles applying to all humanity (and often to all life on Earth). Finally, we can become “Cosmocentric,” a series of higher levels harmonizing masculine and feminine elements within the whole of one’s being, integrating a dynamic cosmic consciousness of unity in diversity within our historical and personal lives, and living with ever-greater direct awareness of the holistic, depths of existence, the ground of Being, God.
There is no need here to discuss more detailed versions of this schema. It is simply used as one example of the growing consensus of psychologists and spiritual thinkers. Scholars like Ken Wilber in Integral Spirituality have gone into the multiple thinkers and complex stages of development in detail. The simplest form of this model used here is commonly reproduced as development from egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric and cosmocentric. The first three stages, where an overwhelming consensus lies, describe the process of human growth from immature egoism through an ethnocentric focusing on one’s own culture, kind, or background to a mature, worldcentric perspective: seeing the human project and our life on this planet as a whole.
But “growth,” here, can be misleading, since moving from one stage to another may characterize the beginning stages (as the child’s brain grows and the socialization process proceeds), but the higher “awakened” stages may require a leap, a breakthrough to what in spiral dynamics is called the “second tier” (Beck and Cowan 2006). It may require an “OUT” as they shout in Zen. Transformative thinker Eric Gutkind declares rightly that “the present crisis of humanity is no longer susceptible to gradual cures” (1969, 63). We need to become global citizens now, not in some distant future. We need to actualize the genuine unity and freedom that lies beneath the multiplicity of nations, races, and cultures on planet Earth.
The process of human awakening moves through periods of discontinuity, leaps, or temporary regressions because the process, both in individual development and in human history, is in its depths profoundly dialectical, and dialectical processes cannot be modeled on any neat progressive schema such as the one outlined above. Nor can our human futurity forget the past with its immense suffering and injustice, for this is fundamental to our practical-utopian vision of a transformed future. The bourgeois or positivist amnesia of the past and its dynamic struggles amounts to an attempt to preserve a profoundly unjust and fragmented status quo. It amounts to a maturity-fear as well as an egoistic grasping for power and possessions over against our common human dignity and equality.
- The Utopian Horizon
Above we saw Heidegger distinguish between “inauthentic” conceptions of temporality that center around ideas of ordinary “clock time” and “authentic” temporality that understands our human Being-in-the-world as constituted by its own openness to the future, its own potentiality for Being. The latter understanding does not see human beings as just another creature among living things in the world that lives from past through present to future within an external temporal framework. Other living things do not have a future as a component of their being. For us, as temporality open to a future that has priority over present and past, our human Being-in-the-world can take on ever-ascending, ever-higher levels of ontological existence.
In the language of Beck and Cowan, it may be that the first six levels of human development (itemized here) in one way or another assume “inauthentic” clock temporality. Beck and Cowan color-code this development. People move from group mentality (Purple) to leader domination (Red) to duty-based societies (Blue) to achievement-materialist societies (Orange) to participation and peer-based societies (Green) as part of a “First Tier” in which meeting basic physiological and social needs is the focus. These six levels may correspond to the first four levels in Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Beyond these basic survival needs, Maslow says, arise “being values” being takes precedence over having values and quality of life takes precedence over quantitative measures.
“Second tier” orientations include Yellow and Turquoise. Here the evolutionary process becomes aware of itself and we become capable of what Barbara Marx Hubbard and others have called “conscious evolution.” Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich, for example, write: “The time has come to take our own evolution into our hands and create a new evolutionary process, a process of conscious evolution” (2018, 12). We need to become ever more fully aware of the power of human futurity and the immense possibilities that it presents. Temporality is both the mode of personal being and of our collectively shared life. At these systemic and holistic levels, the power of the utopian horizon to transform persons increases geometrically, giving rise to even greater utopian expectations and possibilities.
The utopian horizon is there at every level of human existence, for human beings always act toward a future that they see as improving on the past and the present, a future that is intrinsically counterfactual and functions as a horizon for human values and actions. The degree of futurity may vary somewhat from culture to culture, but following Heidegger, we can affirm that temporality functions as the ontological structure of human beings in general.
At some point development can become aware of the entire process and of all the levels through which it has already traversed. Awareness becomes “second tier.” As human beings transcend the levels of development dominated by personal subjectivity and enter transpersonal levels of consciousness, their utopian horizon encounters value in evermore ontologically objective forms.
Human awareness can become worldcentric and cosmocentric, seeing the world-process itself as suborning these developmental processes and fostering “being values” in which the ecstasy and joy of living, thinking, doing, creating, and being becomes fundamental over both subsistence and need-fulfillment levels and over levels dominated by merely personal subjectivity.
Here we may be encountering Heidegger’s “authentic temporality” in which consciousness transcends its subjective and egoistic bias and begins to express itself as an embodied manifestation of the cosmic evolutionary process and a self-aware incarnation of the cosmic nisus for harmonic transformation into an as yet to be determined future. As Raimon Panikkar observes:
We are all co-responsible for the state of the world. Today’s powers, though more anonymous and more diffused, are quite as cruel and terrible as the worst monsters of history…. In this just elapsed century of “civilized Man” and “planetary civilization” there have been over a hundred million people slaughtered in wars. We have not progressed—not even economically…. The problem is urgent…. We must assume that the role of the philosopher is to search for a truth (something that has saving power) and not to chase after irrelevant verities…. We are dealing with something that is more than an academic challenge. It is a spiritual endeavor to live the life that has been given to us. (2013, 4-5)
On the subsistence levels, we have not yet encountered “the life that has been given to us,” for that life involves an emergent incarnation of the cosmic principle that often remains almost entirely outside the vision of the first six stages of development. The problem of actualizing our co-responsibility for the state of the world through the transformation to “being values” is a problem that reveals itself on the utopian horizon of “second tier” persons and groups. “The problem is urgent” since we are facing a possible terminus of the entire human project through nuclear holocaust or environmental collapse. Our utopian horizon now discerns our human potentiality for a world of peace, justice, and environmental sustainability.
“Philosophy,” Frederik L. Polak writes, “at its highest level is intimately integrated with thought about the future” (1967, 284). Throughout its history, the philosophical quest has very often involved self-conscious reflection on human temporality, which necessarily involved the question of human self-transcendence toward a better future. Philosophy can thereby help articulate and interpret the utopian horizon implicit within our temporality and fundamental to the process of self-transcendence. Polak declares that, “Utopian thought always relates to the future, whether near or far away, and a future quite different from present reality. . . . The conceptualization and visualization of change (a colossal change in itself) is the precondition of actualized social change” (ibid. 282).
We do not move into the future within an independent temporal framework of before and after. We move toward our utopian horizon as temporality and freedom, in which our very being becomes transformed in the process of actualizing that futurity. Philosopher Errol E. Harris affirms, “what one wills is always ideal. I will what I conceive to be a better state of affairs and of myself than what actually exists” (2008, 33). Philosopher James L. Marsh declares: “Rationality, in its capacity to raise further questions, conceive the ideal, conceptual universal, posit an ideal ethical community of ends, criticize an existing community for not living up to those ideals, and project a more human alternative, is essentially utopian” (1995, 9). He concludes: “reflection and freedom and praxis are essentially utopian in their full, unfolding life. Denial of utopia mutilates freedom and reason” (1995, 333).
G.W.F. Hegel sees authentic human thought as it takes place in the purity of speculative reasoning as expression of the finite-infinity that constitutes our humanity and the totality of the world. The finite and the infinite are not opposites that delimit one another, since a delimited “infinite” (which is Absolute Spirit or God) would by that token simply become another finite. For Hegel, the concept of man (humanity) is inseparable from the infinity that embraces and actualizes the totality of existence. In Hegel’s Concept of God, Quentin Lauer, S.J. describes Hegel’s concept, in this respect, which is:
…antecedent to its finite exemplifications in isolated individuals, such that the concept of the human serves as the criterion for the reality of the humanity of each individual, then as the foundation of the reality of the humanity in each isolated individual, the inexhaustible, infinite concept has to bespeak more reality than the particular exemplifications it unites in a totality which only mind can grasp. The universal “man” is the concrete, determinate totality of the human. (1982, 173)
Liberation thinker Paulo Freire writes of our need to transcend the “to have” model of being human and liberate our lives into the “ontological vocation to be more fully human” (1990, 43-61). There is a reality in us (or a utopian call placed upon us) proceeding from the foundations of the world to actualize the concept of being fully human implicit in our utopian horizon. As Hegel recognizes, there is an “infinity” implicit in the concept of humanity that is inseparable from the infinity embracing the concrete totality of the universe. We are capable of ascending to “cosmic consciousness,” experiencing the links between the groundless-ground of Being and our temporalized human being.
The ideals that populate our utopian horizon do not exist extraneously to our fundamental human situation and open-ended nature. They are as much a part of us as our memory of the past or the intensity of the present. “Denial of utopia mutilates freedom and reason” because freedom and reason are inseparable from the utopian horizon that embraces and animates them. The utopian horizon does not present images of the endpoint of our journey. Freedom, reason, truth, beauty, goodness, and utopia are transformational aspects of the journey itself, making it potentially a different journey undertaken by a different traveler in the very process of moving into the future. Our “ontological vocation” is built into the very structure of our human situation. Denial of utopia brings our temporality down to clock-time, to the positivist or realist denial of authentic futurity. Panikkar writes:
There is a domain where Man has a very special autonomy: himself. Man is more than an artisan who constructs himself as he fashions nature: He is his own artist, and this precisely when he acts freely, when he forges his own destiny. Human creativity is to produce the future, not from mere previous conditions, but with a spontaneity that neither follows a path mapped out in advance nor simply discovers a hidden but already existing road. The production of the future is a true creation inasmuch as it is not conditioned by the past or influenced by anything prior. Non-free beings have no future, they have only a fate. Man, as a free being, is a being with a future: His being shall be; he has a ‘future tense’, he can attain being. (1979, 448)
Here we find a clear vision of the synthetic functioning of freedom, reason, and utopian horizon in the process of living authentically as embodiments of the cosmic evolutionary process. We are artists, creators, of the future, not preordained along any existing road but rather making the road by walking, creating ourselves by traveling, actualizing a future for being through the futurity of our own Being-in-the-world. We attain the fullness of being through actualization of the conscious futurity that we are. Part of what we actualize through this process is an ever-greater awareness of the depths of the present moment, the eternity/infinity that permeates all existence.
Another way of expressing the concept of utopian horizon is to see it as embracing an objective dynamic of demands inherent in our existential futurity. The future is not separable from what we are, since all that exists for humans is the dynamic present embracing both past (memory) and future (anticipation). Yet through what we are (as temporality), the future demands radical transformation. In the words of philosopher-theologian Paul Tillich:
The demand calls for something that does not yet exist but should exist, should come to fulfillment. . . . Human life involves more than a mere development of what already is. Through the demand, humanity is directed to what ought to be. And what ought to be does not emerge with the unfolding of what is; if it did, it would be something that is, rather than something that ought to be…. It is something unconditionally new that transcends what is new and what is old within the sphere of mere development. . . . This is human freedom, . . . that one is subject to a demand that something unconditionally new should be realized through oneself. (1987, 143)
Implicit in this quotation is the distinction between inauthentic clock time that believes the future must be a development of the past along a sequence of “nows” independent of our human temporality and the authentic realization that what ought to be “does not emerge from the unfolding of what is.” The utopian horizon demands something “unconditionally new,” a demand already implicit in the nature of human freedom as futurity directed toward our utopian horizon. In the recognition of and movement toward “what ought to be” we are simultaneously transformed in the process. Our pursuit of what ought to be simultaneously transforms the Being-in-the-world of those that pursue.
- Utopian Horizon and Transcendental Ego
The Rationalist tradition in modern Western thought, supplemented by contemporary emergent evolutionary theory (including such thinkers as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Errol E. Harris, Jean Gebser, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ken Wilber and Ervin Laszlo) has illuminated aspects of human consciousness that bear directly on Utopian Horizon Theory. Kant (1965) clearly articulated a central insight when he recognized that the unity of consciousness is a necessary condition for there to be any experience at all, including any experience of time. He famously called this unity of consciousness “the transcendental unity of apperception.”
Kant understood that the unity of consciousness was a transcendental requirement for there to be either self-awareness or awareness of a world outside ourselves. The transcendental ego, he maintained, was correlative to there being an experience of one world, one universe outside the self and in relation to the self. Time appears as the ‘form of inner sense” in which all experiences whatsoever emerge as temporal. Emergent evolutionary theory added to this insight the idea that this transcendental ego represented the fundamental organizational principle of the universe come to consciousness of itself in us. Harris writes: “The self-conscious unity of the ego, coordinate with the synthetic unity of its experience, is the principle of identity in and through difference that governs the systematic structure of any and every whole. It is, in short, the universal principle of organization and order which has all along been differentiating itself throughout the scala naturae, and which has, at this stage, come to fruition in human mentality, where it becomes aware of itself” (1992, 12).
Harris goes on to argue that this principle of holism, which is the nisus guiding the evolutionary process of the universe, is the foundation of human moral, social, and political order (ibid., 12 ff). Its fundamental imperative is the principle of harmony through the unity in diversity of all phenomena. In human life it demands, as Kant has shown, that we treat every person as an end in themselves and never merely as a means and that we strive to make human society “a kingdom” of such ends in themselves. Human reason, Harris affirms, which embodies and operates from the universal organizational principle of the universe, is integral to the transcendental ego.
The unity of consciousness cannot be part of the phenomenal world that we experience because it is the condition of there being any experience at all. Hence it is transcendental, beyond time and all phenomenal characteristics. In speaking, we appear to refer to the transcendental unity of consciousness when we use the word “I” as in “I see” or “I think,” but it is important to realize that this reference to the unity of a consciousness that sees or thinks is not to the empirical self. Of course, in ordinary life the two are typically amalgamated in an unconscious way and confused in conversation. The empirical self has characteristics, unique qualities, likes and dislikes, propensities, etc., but the unity of consciousness has no such content. It is a simple unity presupposed by all possible experience. We experience the whole of the world and all possible experience, including time and space, through this unity of consciousness.
The transcendental ego is not temporal and changing. In his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus Ludwig Wittgenstein later calls it “the philosophical self”: “The philosophical self is not the human being, not the human body, or the human soul, with which psychology deals, but rather the metaphysical subject, the limit of the world—not part of it.” He compares this “metaphysical self” to the human eye, which cannot see itself, and “nothing in the visual field allows you to infer that it is seen by an eye.” It “shrinks to a point without extension” (1974, 57-58). Consciousness cannot see itself. It is the presupposition of there being any world at all. Nothing in the world allows us to infer that it is seen by consciousness. To realize the fact that this unity of consciousness is not the psychological self that each of us refers to as “I” can evoke a major awakening, or a progressive series of awakenings, as we grow away from the psychological ego and identify more and more with the transpersonal transcendental ego. As Ken Wilber expresses this:
But there is one thing you cannot see: you cannot see the Seer. You see thoughts, things, clouds, mountains, but never the Seer, never the Self, never the Witness. Precisely because it sees thoughts, it is not itself a thought; precisely because it sees things, it is not itself a thing—it is radically free of all such objects, all such sights, all such ripples in the stream….But the Seer itself is not an object, and thus it can never be seen. (1996, 303-04)
We live from, and experience the world from a unity that transcends space and time, a unity that is not the empirical self, a unity that Hegel ontologized as “finite-infinity.” Nevertheless, this transpersonal unity finds all experience temporalized. This unity is precisely consciousness itself, not “mere subjectivity,” but pure, primordial consciousness, and consciousness resides in the eternal present while appropriating the past and anticipating its future. Our existential-ontological experience is a dynamic temporality, as Heidegger proclaimed, oriented toward the future in a way that belies the sameness of past, present, and future within clock-time.
As Harris and others point out, one realizes that the world and its correlate the transcendental self are one and the same holistic process. Self and other together constitute the real self as Hegel had already argued. As Wilber declares: “That which witnesses, and that which is witnessed, are only one and the same. The entire World Process then arises, moment to moment, as one’s own Being, outside of which, and prior to which, nothing exists” (1996, 98).
Here we encounter a key to the utopian horizon. A human being is constituted as temporality, but we see now that we are also constituted as a transcendental unity of consciousness that accompanies and makes possible all temporal movement from past to future. In contemporary emergent-evolutionary theory, the source is the cosmic evolutionary principle of complexification and unification that operates behind the entire process. Just as Kant had assumed that the moral imperative emerged from the noumenal dimension hidden behind, so to speak, a practical reason coextensive with that transcendental unity, so we can see now that the moral imperative for transformation and perfection also arises from this transcendental ego as its utopian horizon.
This unifying, originating principle has become self-aware in us as the transcendental ego, as pure, primordial consciousness. The universe has become conscious of itself in us. No wonder the insight into the cosmic nature of the transcendental ego can be thought of as one aspect of “cosmic consciousness” or as “awareness of the universal evolutionary forces that permeate all existence” as discussed above. Each of us is a particular mind-body-spirit, an individual person, and at the same time, as Sri Aurobindo puts it, in us the universe “creates a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, 49). As Teilhard de Chardin affirms: “Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself” (1961, 220, emphasis his). We have seen above Panikkar declaring a similar idea.
However, evolution is conscious of itself in us as freedom, as both Jonas and Panikkar affirm. It is no longer the immensely slow natural process moving through stages of emerging complexity-consciousness. It is now the utopian call, the demand that the future be better than the past in fundamental, transformative ways. Our primordial consciousness is inherently self-transcending. We are now in a position to comprehend Utopian Horizon Value Theory.
We exist as temporality within the unifying framework of the transcendental unity of consciousness. We see that the “objectified” idea of time as something existing outside of us in which the past causally determines the future is a deeply mistaken and inauthentic view of our situation. We exist as radical futurity, as a transcendental unity wedded to a temporal creature open in futurity and freedom toward immense transformative possibilities. We comprehend our “ontological vocation” to become more fully human. The aspirations of the ground of Being itself can be seen to be manifest in ourselves, in our temporal dynamism embraced by its utopian horizon.
We see at the horizon of our futurity the emergence of utopian values, what Maslow called “being values” such as “wholeness, perfection, completion (fulfillment), justice, beauty, goodness, truth, and self-sufficiency (autonomy).” Harris writes: “In human self-awareness, the nisus to the whole has become conscious of itself…. It is this self-realization that determines the ultimate standard of value” (2000, 251).
Philosopher S.L. Frank declares that “this type of value must be understood in contrast to all subjective value.” Ethical value, like aesthetic value, are both “possible manifestations of value as such.” Transcendent values both intrude into and supersede our subjective lives as manifestations of objective values emanating from the ground of being as such (2020, 165-66).
The trans-personal unity of consciousness is the seat of what Kant called “pure reason.” Pure reason sees the world in its wholeness and discerns the ultimate ground of values. As philosopher J.N. Findlay explains:
Inevitably, we form an ideal of pure reason, as Kant styled it, in which all the basic aspirations of consciousness are carried to the limit…of a sympathetic entry that surmounts all personal difference and understands everyone in every situation, of a judgment that can assess the value and disvalue of anything and every thing in the light of all facts and fundamental goals…. The values and disvalues, in fact, which recommend themselves to all…are, not surprisingly, values and disvalues that have a relation to anyone and everyone…. (1985, 68-71)
These values emerge from the transpersonal unity of consciousness which is the evolutionary nisus of the universe come to consciousness in us. They are independent of our personal ego and present us with a universal set of goals and ideals that have “a relation to anyone and everyone.” “The nisus of the cosmos drives toward perfection, completion, justice, beauty, goodness, and truth.” Our highest values emerge from the evolutionary upsurge of the cosmos. We become aware of them on our utopian horizon. Our task is to direct our futurity toward these values, to think in terms of “practical utopia” and the possibilities on Earth for actualizing planetary peace, justice, and sustainability. Harris investigates these issues in depth in his book The Reality of Time. He writes:
As finite, we are engulfed in the passage of time, we are limited by evanescence and death, toward which inexorable end we are borne by the incessant process of becoming—of coming to be and passing away. But because the universal principle is immanent in us, and because we represent that stage of its self-development at which its activity becomes self-conscious, we become aware of all this, and of ourselves as participants in the process…. Our consciousness is self-transcendent, because it is the manifestation of the immanent principle of the whole becoming aware of itself. (1988, 103)
Harris rightly links these ideas with the views of Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man. The evolutionary process of holistic emergence from geosphere to biosphere to noosphere (the emergence of self-conscious mind) is described by both thinkers as animated by love. Teilhard writes: “Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves” (1961, 265).
The idea of love is also there in the utopian horizon, perhaps penetrating and animating all the other utopian values such as perfection, justice, truth, and beauty. Harris writes:
Genuine rational love, therefore, must extend to the entire human race…. As human rational activity is socially organized and embodied in political institutions, love comprehends and transcends all political and social virtues. It is the emotional and sentimental counterpart and expression of the unity of the perfected human community…. Such love is experienced in many different ways besides between individual persons in communities. It is felt as joy in the contemplation of a landscape, or of the majesty and power of the sea, the yearning for unity with nature, and as aesthetic ecstasy of all kinds. (1988, 163)
Here we encounter an insight into the depth and breadth of utopian values. Our awe at the beauty of the world, our experience of the sublime dimensions of existence, or of the possibility of the perfected human community all exist as realities that animate human futurity and draw us forward beyond the quotidian tedium of everyday clock time toward the immense transformative possibilities that embrace our human reality through the utopian horizon.
The future has ontological priority over the past and present as Heidegger argued. Yet beyond this fundamental insight, we find that our primordial transcendental consciousness is wedded to a utopian temporality, a horizon permeating primordial consciousness that is entirely different from mere personal subjectivity. Our task is to distinguish what is merely subjective from the objective lineaments of the utopian horizon. Our task is to live toward this utopian future as faithfully as possible, to transform our broken and degraded human condition on the Earth in the direction of the perfected human community, a community of love, peace, justice, and sustainability.
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