Self-Evaluations of the Species and Information Indirectly Imparted by the Species About Itself

In contrast to individual human beings we cannot present a  >Questionnaire to the entire human species with the request to fill it out with the relevant information. But nothing of the sort is required. The species has, in fact, constantly and continuously provided such information about itself, even if this has only been in indirect form:

 

Religions

Religions are manifestations of a claim to happiness that has remained unsatisfied here on earth. They are an expression of a profound dissatisfaction with earthly existence. Eternal life, Paradise – or the soul’s next reincarnation, which is assumed to be better – are supposed to compensate for the suffering experienced in our lives here on earth. No one, perhaps, has ever expressed this better than Marx:

“The misery of religion is at one and the same time the expression of real misery and the protest against this latter. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the mind of mindless circumstances. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is at the same time the demand for the people’s true happiness. The demand that the people give up their illusions about their condition is at the same time the demand that that condition be given up which requires illusions in the first place. The critique of religion, then, is, in incipient form, the critique of that vale of tears the ‘halo’ around which religion itself is.” (Marx, Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie. Introduction, MEW Vol. 1, p. 378f)

Philosophy is the brain of religion and steps, after the dissolution of the notion of religion as something “self-evident”, into this latter’s place, so as to go on immunizing our earthly “vale of tears” against that radical critique which pleads the cause of an abolition of the human race itself.

 

Utopias

Much like religions, utopias are long-term self-evaluations on the part of the species which have come to be expressed in verbal form. Ernst Bloch (1885–1977) recognized in utopias those unfulfilled promises to humanity which need to be preserved with a view to their realization in the future. At the same time, however, mankind’s utopias speak of that falling-short in terms of due happiness which has accumulated throughout mankind’s whole past. That is to say: utopias do not just point, with positive significance, forward but always also, with negative significance, backward. That leap into the future inherent in the utopian idea passes judgment on both past and present, submerging them in a light that reveals their insufficiency. That utopian panopticum that is assembled by Bloch in his Principle of Hope resembles a gigantic mirror, the reflected light of which illuminates the shortcomings and the privations of the species both in past and present.

 

Science Fiction – The Species’ Reflection on Itself Through the Medium of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Another rich source of testimony offered by the species about itself is the self-reflection of humanity in the form of those (literary or cinematic) fables of the science-fiction genre which envisage this latter’s encounter with some extra-terrestrial intelligence. Attempts, in such fables and fictions, to answer the question of how extra-terrestrials would perceive us in fact provide information about our own selves, since science fiction is, of course, always the product of human authors who are merely imaginatively adopting the perspective of extra-terrestrials.

And to make mention, in this connection, of a still more ramified task: what testimony regarding itself does our species offer through the “Perry Rhodan” series of outer-space adventure stories which has been running constantly, in publication after publication, since the 8th of September 1961? The novelettes forming the series have now sold more than a billion copies in total, thus influencing the “psychical economy” of a very significant readership worldwide. It represents the largest-scale science-fiction series ever produced, its story sub-divided into complex cycles of mutually interconnected plots and dramas. Indeed, it constitutes the longest continuous narrative in the entire history of literature, of dimensions that put Balzac’s massive “Human Comedy” in the shade, not only providing a sketch of the outlines of mankind’s future history but also reaching back many millennia into an almost inconceivably distant past played out in regions far beyond the earth.

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