The Purpose of Humans?


It is surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home, not just for us, but for all life on earth”.

Sir David Attenborough, Blue Planet

Humankind is a miracle.

‘Adapt or die’ was an early rule of human evolution and humans did well. More opportunistic than foxes, cleverer than monkeys, our adaptable fingers soon found tools to wield, smashing apart the bones of dead creatures to drink the life-giving marrow that other animals couldn’t reach.

In the Anthropocene Era humans were a triumph. In the blink of the Universe’s eye, we had changed the rules, finding security in tribes, we adapted our harsh environment to suit ourselves by building dwellings, then over time towering edifices spreading across the land. We ordered and controlled the beasts to maximise our own food production, laying waste to the woods and forests in vast swathes of lifeless monoculture made for our own convenience.

Humans are a triumph of evolution. But now we have changed our own circumstances and are failing to adapt to the effects of these self-inflicted changes.

What makes humans tick? Is there a point to us?  A purpose even? Do you really believe that humankind is ‘an accident’? One thing that isn’t really asked very much at school, in work, at play, at home is the question ‘What are human beings actually for?’ Once you start asking this question you may be drawn towards (and sometimes hijacked by) existing religion, philosophy, mysticism, strange cults or whatever takes your fancy. But this is an important question and one that doesn’t get enough airplay.

humans are a miracle
humans are a miracle

If you look at some of the amazing things humans have done you can’t fail to be blown away by just how brilliant we can be. Stupendous inventions, utterly beautiful art, completely transcendental music, unbelievable technology that does fantastic things. Acts of love and bravery beyond comprehension. At our best we are utterly beautiful beings capable of deep compassion, humility, sheer genius, absolutely brilliant, shining spirits.

But we also have our dark side, a side that leads some of us to lay waste to our own planet in order to create financial riches for a few insecure people. A side that destroys without thought, sometimes without even noticing, in order to further selfish objectives. For example, walking over other peoples, species and nature with impunity because they don’t have a fiscal value. The cruelty and ignorance of humans is despicable. What is our story with that?

The Dream of the Western World

Martin Winiecki, coordinator of the Terra Nova School in Tamera Center, Portugal describes the normal ‘story of consumerism’ we are conditioned to act out;

What is the dream of the Western world? When asked, most young people say: A perfect partner, a beautiful house, successful career, lots of money and travel to exotic places. Amplified a million times a day by Hollywood and the advertisement industry, promoted by parents, self-help gurus, schools, fairytales and TV, this lifestyle became the central motif of our collective longing, the blueprint of globalized society.

Fulfillment became a matter of possession, of how much wealth, fame, power and sex we earned for ourselves. Rewarding people with profit and status for the most competitive and destructive behavior, worshipping the golden calf of maximal economic growth, capitalism has effectively manufactured and then exploited people’s dream image. Humanity’s general ethical decline is the result of this collective corruption.”

The motivating ‘Dream of the Western World’ as described above is a trap based on a fundamental flaw – a house built on sand. An illusion created to move us into human slavery. It ties us to a base and minimal expression of our capabilities as human beings when we are all a miracle.

One problem is that when our stories of capitalism were made, population was relatively small and nature seemed abundant. The world was huge and unexplored. This led us to believe that nature was an infinite resource we could plunder forever. All of its ‘inputs’ such as cross pollination by bees, fields of grass grown with soil and sunshine, the action of yeast on sugar, the coal and oil and diamonds waiting underground, were, and are still often deemed as ‘free’ to exploit.

We can, if need be, ransack the whole globe, penetrate into the bowels of the earth, descend to the bottom of the deep, travel to the farthest regions of this world, to acquire wealth.’

William Derham, ‘Physio-Theology’, 1713

All this free stuff was so ready for the taking that they did not even have an associated value on the balance sheets (apart from the cost of extraction). Hence capitalism was born as a lie because it has been using what are fundamentally capital assets, the natural resources of the planet, as income, ever since it came into being, destroying its capability to regenerate. Nature has so much more to offer us than a column on a spreadsheet.

The cost of exploiting dirty energy like oil, coal or fracking for example now has such a large associated cost of damage to the ecosystem, that it is more beneficial overall to leave it in the ground. However much proof about solar or wind energy being ‘cheaper’ is provided, the huge corporations do not want to hear that fossil fuel sources might become ‘stranded assets’. People don’t want to see that their bank investments and pension profits are tied up in this too.

Many people who are going through the early stages of the awakening process are no longer certain what their outer purpose is. What drives the world no longer drives them. Seeing the madness of our civilisation so clearly, they feel somewhat alienated from the culture around them. Some feel that they inhabit a no-man’s-land between two worlds. They are no longer run by the ego, yet the arising awareness has not yet become fully integrated into their lives. Inner and outer purposes have not merged.

Eckhart Tolle

In ‘Free to be Human’ a book by David Edwards, he claims we are held in ‘powerful psychological chains’ by this ‘Dream of the Western World’ which severely limits our capability to see properly:

This is a book about freedom, and above all about the idea that there is often no greater obstacle to freedom than the assumption that it has already been fully attained. While in the West few individuals today suffer physical restraint by the state, we are still constrained by powerful psychological chains – which in many ways are far more effective, if only because they are so difficult to perceive.

Free to be Human shows how the same filter system (corporately controlled mass media hegemony) distorts our understanding of many personal, ethical and spiritual issues, ensuring that we remain passive, conformist, confused and uninformed – and willing to accept the irrational values of corporate consumerism.

David Edwards argues that, in order to counter this continual process of disinformation and disempowerment, we need to master the arts of ‘intellectual self defence’ and so become able to challenge the deceptions of a system that subordinates people and planet to the drive for profit”.

Edwards D. Free to be Human. Intellectual Self-defense in an Age of Illusions. Resurgence Books. 1995 (blurb)

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