1. What can be called a temptation of mankind? How can mankind „desire but not yet commit” a wrong act? (If you want to know the answer to these questions, please read the post here.)
2. The seven deadly temptations of mankind: 1. overconsumption; 2. inequality; 3. expansion of physical and 4. virtual environment; 5. expansion of cognitive capacities; 6. expansion of biological capacities and 7. discovery of new energy sources. What phenomena could be behind these temptations? Three examples: Identification of our wellbeing with the fulfillment of our needs; the monkey-troop effect and simplistic interpretation of probabilities. (If you want to know more about these, read the post here.)
3. How can we avoid the self-destroying traps preying upon us? The joy of inner growth. Mankind’s deadly temptations cannot be avoided by expanding the ego’s possibilities but only by expanding the ego itself by the experience of our inner Totality. This can be helped by the formation of a "global mind". The question is whether (without the active help of Providence) we may realize the urgency of change enough... (If you want to know the answer to these questions, read the post here. I am inviting the Reader to post disagreements with and extensions of my thoughts. You may also send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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1. What can be called a temptation of mankind?
During the thousands years of written human history we collected regrettably rich experiences on temptations prompting wrong acts. However, we are much more helpless if we have to define „community temptation”. How can mankind „desire but not yet commit” a wrong act? It is hard to answer this question because we cannot see the future (so we neither know what mankind will do nor that which actions would seem wrong in the future). In addition, we cannot feel unequivocally what mankind „could desire” now. Despite of these difficulties it is very important to think about the temptations of mankind because at this level yielding to temptations may also have the risk of our extinction. In my post I try to summarize such phenomena that 'can be seen' (may be seen...) already on the event-horizon of mankind, and maybe we are still in time to think about their risks.
The eight deadly sins of civilized man. As introductory thoughts it is quite important to recall the summary of Konrad Lorenz from 1972 about the most significant mistakes of mankind. The Nobel Prize Laureate ethologist considered the eight deadly sins of „civilized” man as the aggression caused by overpopulation; devastation of the environment; man’s race against himself; chasing immediate satisfaction leading to enervation; genetic decay; indoctrinability of mankind; the break with tradition and nuclear weapons.
2. The seven deadly temptations of mankind
I am going to summarize seven phenomena that can also be interpreted as „deadly temptations” of mankind. (Important notes: descriptions of the phenomena are not exact, judgement of the dangers’ extent is not precise, and the list is certainly not complete. Therefore I ask the Reader, that please, enrich, criticize or complete the list.)
1. Overconsumption. During the past few decades the number and amount of consumer goods have increased astonishingly. But these goods are devaluated again and again by becoming known experiences. Therefore more and more of their new versions are needed to trigger intensive pleasure. This is a trap that has the dangers that the Earth will become uninhabitable and 'Homo debilis' will be formed becoming an addict of pleasures.
2. Inequality. Intensifying welfare led to overpopulation (see the slides No. 21, 22 and 24 of Prof. Gábor Vida’s lecture). In case of maintaining overconsumption, the conflict of overpopulation and the limited capacity of our Earth can be "solved" only by an extraordinarily large economic and cultural inequality. This is such a trap, which we have already now, and which threatens the Earth’s safety up to its existence.
3. The environment’s physical expansion. A much-heralded, long-range solution of overpopulation is the colonization of the Mars or any other planets. While with the current energy sources this may only give an exotic solution for the very few, this solution may also cause a danger of exterminating the potentially existing forms of life at these planets (about what the 'civilized' mankind did not bother in the past even in case of its own race e.g. during the 'conquest' of America).
4. The environment’s virtual expansion. Developing virtual worlds has opened new dimensions of human pleasure. This is such a trap that may lead to the evolution of 'Homo matrix' who has been immersed to the virtual world to such an extent, that it became incapable of living in the real world.
5. Expansion of cognitive capacities. Man’s quite limited cognitive capacity does not keep the pace with the accelerating extension of pleasures. A 'solution' can be the expansion of the brain’s capacity with the help of the new generation computers. But this is restrained by quite tough biological limits (brain’s energy consumption, shortening of brain’s life-span, etc.), whose solution may raise the quite important questions of "what-controls-who" and "how-far-a-man-can-be-considered-a-man", too. Successful solution of these may lead to the new dimensions of chasing pleasures and the quite dangerous dead-end of 'Homo Deus'.
6. Expansion of biological capacities. It becomes necessary (and possible) to expand the biological capacity of the brain and the organ system serving the brain, and with this to extend life span beyond the approximately 125 years, which is considered now as the biological limit. But all this brings up the danger of the 'tinkered-man' caused by our impatience and by not understanding our body-controlling system’s complexity. Extending life span further increases overpopulation and it for sure it will raise inequality. Successful mutations may lead to the formation of several, separate human races, which requires such questions to be answered successfully that have not existed since the extinction/extermination of Neanderthal, Denisovan and other cavemen.
7. Expansion of energy sources. The above changes require new energy sources. Discovering radically new, 'inexhaustible' energy sources has the traps of such a huge scale transformation of the Earthly and the extraterrestrial environment that are beyond our fantasy.
We should note that all these temptations are "solutions" seeking the continuation of extensive growth. In order to get closer to the reasons of the above listed temptations it is worth thinking over what phenomena could be behind mankind’s temptations? (My list highlights only three elements of the many. And even these are described in a simplified way. So again I ask for the Reader’s opinion and help.)
A. Identification of our wellbeing with the fulfillment of our needs. Unfortunately man-monkey’s habits and beliefs have been shockingly conservative for hundreds of thousands years. He perceives the world in the dimensions of 'needs' even if he has already satisfied his real needs by far. This leads to the vicious circle of chasing pleasures and overconsumption by quickly getting bored of the devaluated good. (All this is well-exemplified by the evolution’s runaway selection phenomena.)
B. The monkey-troop effect. Unfortunately the man-monkey (because of its cognitive limits) has been supposing for hundreds of thousands years that he lives in approximately 150 members’ troops. Therefore he becomes unbelievably insensitive to all that sufferings that are beyond these limits. Media cannot help this with bringing that sufferings into our living rooms because others’ miseries only season our opulent dinner with 'it is so much better for me' and 'they surely deserved this' digestive spices, which are again devaluated very quickly and are something that people 'get bored of' just like pleasures, and can be switched off immediately in case of overdose. Besides raising inequity the monkey-troop effect also multiplies the mechanisms of aversion and rancor justifying our behavior.
C. Simplistic interpretation of probabilities. The monkey-man 'emerged from' the animals partly because he could predict the changes and reactions of the environment much more cleverly than his rivals. But this hundreds of thousands years’ old advantage becomes very inefficient when Earth-sized complex systems’ reactions should be predicted. (Even predicting non-linear effects causes big difficulties. Moreover, the man-monkey is under the illusion that resilience of complex systems against man’s destroying interventions means that the complex system is not damaged by the intervention. This is by far not the case. Each and every harmful intervention knocks down a pillar of the complex system’s colonnade again and again until a tiny little nothing crashes over the whole portico 'totally unexpectedly'.) Lack of the ability of understanding complex systems’ operations is especially painful when in a certain (rare) case a correctly identified intervention’s proper timing should be estimated. Recognizing the critical moment (Kairos) for the right action is a gift far away from the everyday activities of the man-monkey.
3. How can we avoid the self-destructive traps caused by mankind’s temptations?
"Even living on little, they can live a lot,
above all when they cultivate other pleasures
and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service,
in developing their gifts, in music and art,
in contact with nature, in prayer."
(Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 223)
How can we get out of the above traps? Real growth may only happen inside. Depths of the human soul are limitless because they lead to Totality. The inner connection with Totality gives inexhaustible energy, amusement and love. All this creates „inexpressible and glorious joy” (1Pt 1:8) and – furthermore – provides a.) expansion of human cognition; b.) empathy and love embracing everyone in Agape, and c.) the capability of the proper interpretation of not only the Earth-sized but the 'universe-sized' complex systems, too, placing the individual into the permanent moment of Kairos giving the right decision in the right time. So mankind’s deadly temptations cannot be avoided by expanding the ego’s possibilities. They require the expansion of the ego itself by the experience of our inner Totality.
This may also help the development of a "global mind", whose early signs were very nicely described by Vilmos Csányi in his recent essay at the Hungarian journal "Új Forrás" (New Fountain). A similar idea was presented by Dirk Helbing on the "Planetary Nervous System" which was extended by Jaap van Till recently. Time factor is a key question here. Could the over-consuming part of mankind persuaded to curb its consumption without a major catastrophe? Will the "global mind" develop and become efficient fast enough? From where we may hope for a help to make these processes faster? These are all very important questions.
Christ’s three temptations (Matthew 4:3-10; Lucas 4:3-12) provide great examples for the relationship of the ego and Totality. There are may interpretations of Christ's temptations, including those, which explain temptations as a drive to put one's ego above God. Answering the devil, Christ claims that his relations with his body, all creatures and God, separately and as a whole, are determined only by God and his Word. All this teaches us that the ego can approach Totality only by knowing its subservience to Totality. It is also important that the ego may not consider the created world as an object to be used (Laudato Si, 11) because the world and the ego together are parts of Totality.
"God is faithful, who will not suffer you
to be tempted above that which you are able:
but will make also with temptation issue,
that you may be able to bear it."
The central question of my essay was that how can we avoid mankind’s temptations. In conclusion it is time now to ask: Is temptation harmful? The answer is a definite no. A „well-measured temptation” is actually Mercy because it gives a chance to learn, to gain the virtue of patience, and helps against bumptiousness. Moreover: alternation between life periods full of temptations and free of temptations develops the soul, exactly as the development of complexity by the alternation between changing and non-changing environments, and as the ancient church has been developed by the alternation between strengthening and discomfiture of persecution. Accepting that temptation is not harmful does not mean that we underestimate its strength. Fall is very close to temptation. A 'small fall' always precedes a larger one and then a much larger one. At the same time we should not want to live in a world free of temptations because „it is the most dangerous temptation if we are not tempted.” (Martin Luther: On Good Works, 1520)
I wish all my Readers that
avoiding the temptations of overconsumption
you all may have the "joy unspeakable and glorified" (1Petrus 1:8)
in your inner growth making peace with nature.