Prophets, theologians, and secular idealists have proclaimed a glorious destiny for human history; but their visions and hopes seem discredited while we struggle through our logjam of biological, social, economic, and political problems.
In order to break up the logjam, we need a world-wide moral and spiritual awakening. The religious reason is that God has a purpose for humankind and will not allow us to destroy ourselves. The only question is how much more misery we will impose upon ourselves before we wake up. When a critical mass of humanity do wake up, the average level of materialism and selfishness will go down as the level of idealism and generosity rise. As a result, leadership and teamwork will be empowered to tackle the tangle of problems effectively.
Hope for a moral and spiritual renaissance has empirical reasons to support it as set forth by Russian revolutionary leader and Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968). He saw contemporary history as a time of transition between two kinds of civilization. The older, “sensate” civilization, dominated by materialism and selfishness, is now destroying itself. The emerging civilization will integrate love and the supreme spiritual values of truth, beauty, and goodness together with with rational and material values. To usher in the better age, we need a general increase of altruism and leadership that draws on the creativity of the inner life.
Sorokin gave seven empirical reasons why a reasonable person can look for a spiritual awakening.
1. Crises of materialism and selfishness similar to the present crisis have been seen before on a smaller scale; and eventually new leaders have arisen and gained the necessary cooperation.
2. We already see groups of people rejecting false values and disastrous leaders.
3. We already see people turning to the higher way, partly through conscious reasoning and partly on account of motivation found in the superconscious realm: that frontier of the human mind where divine spirit injects its creativity, power, and love.
4. Great changes are always assisted by the combined power of impersonal forces and superconscious energies.
5. Many people, educated and uneducated, are lost and looking for something new.
6. Great moral and religious progress typically occurs during or immediately after crises, as can be seen in ancient civilizations and in Western countries.
7. What has occurred in individuals, groups, and nations may occur on a world-wide scale, and changes that would normally take centuries may instead take decades.
We participate in evolution by cherishing high hopes for human destiny and working for historical progress. We can promote a moral and spiritual renaissance by the way we live and the way we do our work. The loggers who break up log jams go out onto the river with their long poles, find the logs that have gotten stuck, and break them loose. Love loosens logs of resistance when it is wisely joined to scientific action.
The seven reasons supporting hope for a moral and spiritual renaissance come from Pitirim Sorokin, The Reconstruction of Humanity (Boston: Beacon Press, 1948), 237-41.