Mankind Between Two Worlds
The history of mankind is filled with confusion, frustration and conflict. Much of this is due to our ignorance regarding the dual origins, natures and destinies of the human race. On one hand, through biological and cultural evolution, all mankind (male and female) are conceived, born, live and die in a predatory, tribal world of instinctual animal drives. On the other hand, through individual choice and rebirth, all mankind are invited to anticipate an elevated world of human equality — a world that is truly and fully human. This is an unending world of freedom, responsibility, trust, hope and love. It is a world of ultimate meaning — a world created by the incarnate and risen Christ.
Man in the Animal World
As part of the biological, evolutionary process, man is an animal. He is Homo sapiens — the highest primate. He lives in a predatory world, at the upper end of the food chain. He survives both by cultural aggression and by cultural retreat and surrender.1 Man’s efforts to survive are sustained by psychosomatic (mind-body) instincts and drives. These include the urge to fight as well as the urge for flight.
Philosophy and religion are often imposed on man the animal. However, such philosophy and religiosity are merely sophisticated forms of predation. As Charles Taliaferro recently suggested, “philosophers are not so much lovers of wisdom as they are intellectual vivisectionists [experimenters on living animals].”2 For example, one implicit purpose of predatory philosophy and religion is to possess and absorb the “other” until surviving man can claim to be God. An alternative purpose is to be possessed and absorbed by the “other” until surrendering man can claim to live only in God.
This philosophic and religious predation of mankind is simply a cultural extension of mankind’s movement toward domestication. The history of domestication began with plants, moved to animals, and finally embraced mankind itself. The domestication of mankind includes a horrific religious predation (domestication) that has involved human sacrifice, torture, imprisonment, slavery, submission and mind control.3 Other approaches to domestication assault mankind through political, military, social, economic, ecclesiastical and other communal struggles.
Man the animal has traditionally traced his presumed lineage back to such myths as the Genesis story of “Adam” and “Eve” in the Garden and the Fall of man. Unfortunately, such accounts have obscured man’s true origin. Today, overwhelming evidence indicates that it is through emergent evolution that man the animal has attained the summit of evolutionary biological and cultural development.4 This has given mankind not only the power to domesticate plants and animals but also the power to domesticate other men or to be domesticated by them. Because this domesticating power has supposedly been conferred by the gods, it has been sacralized in religious forms and institutions for thousands of years, beginning in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
This brings us to the ultimate irony of history. Modern man not only claims to have domesticated others or to have been domesticated by others. He now claims to have domesticated his own self. As we shall see, it is this cruel development that has brought mankind to the present global, human crisis.
The domestication of each man by himself makes each man subject only to himself. This self-contained autonomy breaks man’s essential connections, communications and relationships with others. It leaves man an isolated, lonely, self-abandoned island, wholly dependent on his own instinctual drives and condemned to utter extinction. Autonomous (self-contained) man is thus bereft of “contingency” — an existence that is not determined but open to infinite possibilities. He is bereft of true freedom — of free will, choice and responsibility. He is without personal individuality and identity.
Tragically, in preying upon (domesticating) himself, autonomous man rejects the true search for meaning, because he denies his own existential personhood. That is, he excludes his own presence from an “existential world” — a world that exists only in the presence of oneself, others and God. Far from granting man identity, autonomy subjects man to the animal, to his own instinctual drives and, ultimately, to self-predation. Therefore, because as a predatory animal he is not a person, postmodern philosophy finally recognizes the impersonality of evolutionary man.5
In this time of crisis, it is fitting to acknowledge that man is an animal and that he inhabits a domesticating world. At the same time, it also is fitting to acknowledge that mankind is in the process of becoming human and of occupying a truly human world. While man only vaguely discerns this world, he knows that he is presently separated and alienated from it.6
Man in the Human World
The human world is not a predatory world. That is, it is not a world in which man domesticates his fellow man, is domesticated by his fellow man, or even domesticates himself.
The human world is an “existential world.” This means that it is a world where man lives with and in the presence of himself, of others, of the world, and of God. It is a world where man is free rather than bound, where he personally decides rather than being instinctually driven, where he assumes responsibility for the consequences of his actions rather than excusing those actions because they are dictated.
The human world is not a world in which man is consumed by anxiety, fear and hatred. It is a world in which man believes, trusts, hopes and loves. It is a world in which man unitedly searches for and finds ultimate meaning. As Viktor Frankl so longingly expressed shortly after his liberation from Auschwitz:
The only thing I know for sure is that if common values and meanings are to be found, another step must be taken, a step now, thousands of years after mankind developed monotheism, the belief in one God. Monotheism is not enough; it will not do. What we need is not only the belief in the one God, but also the awareness of the one mankind, the awareness of the unity of humanity. I would call it mon-anthropism.7
This “mon-anthropic” world — this united world — is still being born. Yet it was “proleptically” (anticipatory of the future) revealed in the historical Jesus, who trod the dusty roads of Palestine as an itinerant peasant philosopher.8 For this Jesus is none other than the incarnate Creator-God, who humbled himself to become the creature and thus to remove the alienating distance between himself and his Creation.9 This Jesus rejected the kingdoms and religions of animal-man, which were wholly driven and justified by raw, predatory instinct. He lived and proclaimed a radical egalitarianism (human equality) that was fundamentally foreign to the predatory realm. He paid the consequences of his rebellion against the predatory world by rejection, torture, crucifixion and death. But by his death Jesus completed the adoption of the creature by the Creator. In himself he resolved the alienating distance between God and man. Then he rose to proleptically reveal a new world — a human world — and a new race — the human race.
Membership in this new race and the habitation of this new world are not possible by command or obedience to command. They are not obtainable by instinctual drives or passions. They are not available to possession or consumption. They are not accessible to force or deceit. They are not even amenable to description or reflection. The future human race is an existential race that will live in an existential world. This means that that race and that world are relational in origin, nature and destiny. There is no predatory “immediacy” (absorbing the “other” or being absorbed by the “other”) to deprive humans of their identity, individuality and freedom. There is no autonomy, which assumes self-contained, self-evident, self-domesticated entities. There is no instinctual drive to possess or be possessed.
The existential (relational) world defines personhood, both divine and human, because true personhood exists only in relationship — with the self, others, the world, and with God. To live in the “existential world” therefore means that you and I are ultimately defined by the historical events of our presence in the world, by the events that define our relationships in the world, and by the concepts and presuppositions that define our understanding of the world. Such existence is free existence. It is willed and chosen existence. It is responsible and meaningful existence.
However, because the existential world is ultimately transcendent, we cannot reach that world alone. “Transcendent” here means that the existential world lies beyond our reach, beyond our vision, beyond our knowledge and reason. That relational world of human existence is therefore accessible only through the “intermediatorial” presence of the Risen Christ in history.10 Very simply, this means that we reach others only through him, and he reaches us through our “others.”
In its radical egalitarianism (human equality), this new world is wholly incompatible with the world of man as an animal. That is why the human world will only be fully revealed at the appearing of the human God — the Parousia11 (Second Coming) — and its cosmic transformation. That imminent eschatological (end-time) event awaits our free decision. It awaits our rejection of the kingdoms and religions of animal-man. It awaits the exercise of the faith, trust, love and compassion that find their transcendent source in the risen One.
As the product of biological and cultural evolution, man is a predatory animal in a predatory world. He is instinctually driven to domesticate his fellow men, to be domesticated by them, or to suicidally domesticate himself until he is supposedly autonomous (self-contained). The philosophy and religion of predatory man exist to justify such predation. However, the end thereof is death — death and annihilation of the animal.
Recognizing man’s plight, God the Creator acted as Jesus Christ to become incarnate, accepting the creature and its destiny as his own reality. In himself he thus resolved the alienating distance between Creator and creature, inaugurating the truly “human.”
Through the “intermediatorial” presence of the Risen Christ, man also can close the alienating distance between himself and his existential world of human relationships. Through Christ, man therefore has the freedom and choice to become truly and fully human.
Soon man will no longer have to dwell between two worlds — the instinctual animal world and the transcendent human world. Then man as human will exist responsibly with ultimate meaning — in trust, hope and love. Then man will live in full human personhood with himself, with all “others,” with the world, and with the risen and glorified Christ.
- See Karl W. Luckert, Egyptian Light and Hebrew Fire: Theological and Philosophical Roots of Christendom in Evolutionary Perspective (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991). (go back)
- Charles Taliaferro, “Taking Philosophy Personally,” Cresset 57, no. 7 (May 1994): 16-22. (go back)
- See Luckert, Egyptian Light and Hebrew Fire. (go back)
- See “The Openness of God,” Outlook (Prequel 1994.4). (go back)
- See Taliaferro, “Taking Philosophy Personally.” (go back)
- See “The End of Human Alienation," Outlook (Prequel 1994.7). (go back)
- Viktor E. Frankl, The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 140. (go back)
- See John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994). (go back)
- See note 6. (go back)
- Ibid. (go back)
- The Greek word parousia, translated, means both “presence” and “coming.” See Wikipedia — The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Parousia,” at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parousia: “Parousia . . . is an ancient Greek word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit.” (go back)
This article was originally published September 1994 under the Quest imprint.