800.10 MAN’S ASCENT / KNOWLEDGE (pps.111-112)

hard cover page 111

Man is ascendant450—at least in knowledge.451

Mankind has come a long way in the acquisition of knowledge since Eden. Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have all sprung up and flowered in the meanwhile. Yehudah Hanassi, Rashi, Hillel, Ibn Ezra, Aquinas, Euclid, Galileo, Plato, Tennyson, the Vilna Gaon, Jefferson, Einstein-all of them have raised mankind up further rungs on the ladder of knowledge. Man has extended Masorah. Man has probed the atom, the mind, the body, time, and the cosmos-inexorably, continuously, successfully.

One can presumably argue that overall-morally, spiritually, on some levels intellectually-man has not ascended. However, it is inarguable that in the realm of the acquisition of knowledge there has been an ascent of man .452 And it is on this crucial ascent of knowledge453 —in direct continuum to the partaking of the Tree of Knowledge-that we pivot a crucial part of our formulation.454

Has man’s “level of consciousness “455 ascended, as well, over the millennia? Is there an element in the accumulated wisdom which is part of a species knowledge passed down from generation to generation? The philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin registers in the affirmative on both of these points.456

——————- NOTES ——————-

450 See Abbe Turgot’s 1750 Sorbonne lecture in Oeuvres, de Turgot, ed. Gustave Schelle, 5 vols. (Paris, 19 13-23), vol. 1, p. 2 15, as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 195. “. ..the total mass of the human race, between calm and agitation, good and bad, marches always, however slowly, towards greater perfection.”

451 See Herder, Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of Mankind (1784-91), bk. 111, pt. IV, as printed in Barnard, J. G. Herder on Social and. Political Structure, p. 265. “Man has to learn everything. This is his destination, his instinct.’ ”

452 See Herder, Ideas, bk. XV, chap. i, p. 442, as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 223. “The whole history of nations is to us a school, for instructing us in the course, by which we are to reach the lovely goal of humanity and worth.”

453 See Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, pp. 19-20, 24. “Among the multitude of animals which scamper, fly. burrow and swim around us, man is the only one who is not locked into his environment. His imagination, his reason. his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment but to change it. . . [That] man from age to age has remade his environment, is a different kind of evolution-not biological, but cultural evolution. . . Man ascends by discovering the fullness of his own gifts (his talents or faculties) and what he creates on the way are monuments to the stages in his understanding of nature and of self-what the poet W. B. Yeats called ‘monuments of unageing intellect.’ ”
Cf. Ibid., p. 437. “We are a scientific civilisation: that means, a civilisation NOTES PART TWO in which knowledge and its integrity are crucial. Science is only a Latin word for knowledge.”

454 See Kaplan, If You Were God, p. 76.

455 Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, pp. 32-33. . .the sum of I’. knowledge retained and transmitted by education from one generation to the next constitutes a natural sequence of which the direction may be observed.
“. . . In the passage of time a state of collective human consciousness has been progressively evolved which is inherited by each successive generation of conscious individuals, and to which each generation adds something. .. . a sort of generalised human personality is visibly in process of formation upon the earth. It seems that where man is concerned the specific function of education is to ensure the continued development of this personality.”

456 See ibid., p. 70. “. . . the movement of the cosmos towards the highest degree of consciousness is not an optical illusion, but represents the essence of biological evolution.”


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