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Reflections On Life | by Alexis Carrel



The great question today is how to improve both the mental and organic state of civilized humanity; that is to say, how to work for the development of beings superior to any who have hitherto inhabited the earth. This enterprise is necessary because our intelligence has not increased at the same rate as the complexity of the problems to be solved. Thus we are on the downward path. Modern society has been preoccupied with material values. It has neglected fundamental human problems which are both material and spiritual. Not only has it not brought us happiness but it has shown itself incapable of preventing our deterioration. The conquest of health is not enough. We must also bring about in every individual the finest development of his hereditary power and of his personality, for the quality of life is more important than life itself.

TitleReflections On Life
AuthorAlexis Carrel
PublisherHawthorn Books
Year1952
Copyright1952, Hawthorn Books
AmazonReflections on life

Translated from the French by Antonia White

By the same Author

Man The Unknown

Prayer Voyage To Lourdes

-Introduction
The spirit bloweth where it listeth. It is folly for anyone not animated by its breath to express his thoughts in public; it is liable to result in total misunderstanding between this presumptuous per...
-Preface
The great question today is how to improve both the mental and organic state of civilized humanity; that is to say, how to work for the development of beings superior to any who have hitherto inhabite...
-Preface. Continued
C. Effects of Physiological Habits. - The way in which each individual uses the factors of his environment depends to a great extent on his physiological habits. These habits vary according to the or...
-Chapter One. Disobedience To The Rules Of Life. 1. The Revolt Against Ancestral Rules Of Behavior. - Its History. - Liberation From The Constraints Imposed By The Cosmic Environment And Christian Morality. Abandonment Of All Discipline: Individual, Social And Racial
Everyone feels the desire to live according to his own fancy. This desire is innate in man, but, in democratic nations, it becomes so peculiarly inflamed that it ends by acquiring a positively morbid ...
-2. Organization Of Society According To Philosophical Speculations. - Misunderstanding Of Scientific Concepts. - Liberalism And Marxism - The Triumph Of Ideologies
It would have been possible for us to use our acquired freedom to establish a solid base for our communal existence. We have not, however, done so. The behavior of men of our time must therefore be a ...
-3. The Disease Of Civilization. - How It Affects The Individual
The symptoms of this malady are complex. They manifest themselves simultaneously in the individual, in society and in the race. The individual has adapted himself ill to the moral climate in which mo...
-4. Consequences Of The Revolt On Individual Life. - As-Pects Of Liberty - The Search For Profit. - Satisfaction Of The Appetites And Amusement. - The Reign Of Fantasy
Having abandoned our traditional rules we have not known how to organize our individual life according to new ideas. We were passionately in love with liberty. The majority of us took a positive pleas...
-Chapter Two. The Necessity Of Obeying Natural Laws. 1. Order Of The World. - Natural Laws And Those Invented By Man. - Character Of Natural Laws. - Prediction Of Phenomena And Mastery Of Nature
An evident order can be observed in the world. The sun never fails to rise. Night invariably succeeds day, and spring winter. Living beings, like inanimate ones, are constructed in a certain way and a...
-2. Man's Place On The Earth. - Conformity Of The Cosmic Environment To Life And Of Life To The Cosmic Environment. - Reciprocal Dependence Of Bodily And Mental Activities. - Man Forms Part Of Nature
In conducting our life, we must never let ourselves ignore the natural order of things. True, we still preserve the illusion of being privileged among living beings and of escaping the common law. The...
-3. How Living Beings Fit Into Nature. - The Role Of Instinct. - Coming Of Liberty. - Role Of Intelligence And Will
How do autonomous animals fit into the order of the world? All things behave according to their structure. Since there are vast numbers of things, their interconnections are infinitely complex. Animal...
-4. Reality At Our Level. - Difficulty Of Grasping Reality. - Taste For Ideologies. - Aspects Of Reality
Reality is the most difficult thing for the human mind to grasp. This vital knowledge comes only from observation and experiment and the effort these require is repugnant to us. It is easier to read t...
-5. Divorce Of Man From Reality. - How Modern CIVILI-Zation Has Disobeyed Natural Laws. - Response Of Life. - Explanation Of Our Troubles
Man has only grasped one aspect of reality. He has plucked the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge before it was ripe. It gave us the knowledge of all things save ourselves. Now we are advanci...
-6. Conflict Between Natural Laws And Human Liberty. - Necessity For A Voluntary Restriction Of Liberty. - The Law Of Sacrifice
There is no limit to our liberty of thought. Our imagination, too, is as free of all constraint as the wind blowing over the desert sand. Our intelligence can follow logical principles or ignore them,...
-Chapter Three. The Fundamental Laws Of Human Life. 1. Laws Of Human Life. - These Laws Should Not Be Deduced From Philosophical Principles, But Inferred From The Observation Of Life Itself
It is useless to attempt, as we have done hitherto, to deduce these natural laws from philosophical principles or political and social ideologies. Such constructions, however ingenious, must always re...
-2. Complexity Of The Laws Of Life. - Necessary And Contingent Aspects Of Human Activity. - How To Recognize Our Primordial Needs. - The Three Fundamental Laws Of Life
Life has so many modes of being that we cannot know them all. We must choose the most primordial and it is easy to go astray in our choice. Thinking matter is far more complex than inert matter. Men's...
-3. Law Of The Preservation Of Life. - Its Automatic Aspect. - Its Conscious And Voluntary Aspect. - Exceptions To This Law. - Aberrations Of The Instinct Of Self-Preservation
If life had not an irresistible tendency to preserve itself, it would no longer exist today. The instinct of self-preservation makes the herd panic when the prairie catches fire. The wild animal react...
-4. The Law Of The Propagation Of The Race. - Sexual Attraction. - Mother Love. - Their Organic Bases. - Dissociation Of The Sexual Act And Impregnation
All animals have a second fundamental tendency which is no less imperious than that of the preservation of life. All living creatures are irresistibly driven to reproduce themselves. Man is the only a...
-5. Law Of The Ascendance Of Mind In The Course Of Evolution Of Animals And Human Beings. - The Development Of The Brain And The Coming Of Intelligence
Life has a third tendency, much less easy to verify but just as fundamental as the other two. This is the upward trend of mind in the course of the evolution of living creatures. Paleontology, like hi...
-6. Development Of Intellect And Feeling In The Race
Intellect chose to take its first great flight from the tiny promontory which Asia sends out into the Atlantic ocean to the north of the Mediterranean. With one beat of its wings it rose, in ancient G...
-7. Law Of The Ascent Of Mind In The Course Of The Evolution Of The Individual - Character At Once Au~ Tomatic And Voluntary Of The Development Of Consciousness
Consciousness appears at a particular moment in the evolution of the individual as in that of the race. This emergence of the spiritual beyond the material, beyond the mass of cells and blood which ma...
-8. Development Of Intellect And Feeling In The Individ-Ud. - The Secret Of Life. - The End Of The Ascent. -The Great Refusal
It is in middle age, when physiological activities have become less intense, that consciousness tends to become deeper, wider, more purified. Intellect, esthetic activity, moral strength and the relig...
-9. Fundamental Unity Of The Laws Of Life. - Their Hier-Archy. - Specifically Human Character Of The Law Of Spiritual Ascent
It is thus a definite datum of observation that life tends to conserve itself, to reproduce itself and to spiritualize itself. The laws of conservation and reproduction are as old as life itself. Thei...
-Chapter Four. Good And Evil. 1. Uncertainty Of The Notion Of Good And Evil. - Necessity For A Single Definition. - Good And Evil Are Determined By The Structure Of Human Life
In no time and in no country have moralists agreed on the definition of good and evil. Some have identified good with the useful, the true, the advantageous or the pleasant Others have seen it as that...
-2. Definition Of Sin. - Reality Of Vice And Virtue. - Moral Responsibility. - Old And New Sins
Sin is the refusal to submit to the order of things. Any act or thought which tends to diminish, disintegrate or destroy life in its specifically human expression is a sin. It is a sin to hate one's n...
-3. Laws Of Life And Christian Morality. - Original Taints. - Inevitable Suffering
There is a striking resemblance between the concept of sin inspired by knowledge of the laws of our nature and the Christian concept, although they spring from quite different origins. One is the prod...
-4. Meaning Of Virtue
Virtue is a very ancient datum of observation. Of course one still encounters virtue in modern society but there is very little place for it in communities which live under the banner of materialism. ...
-Chapter Five. The Rules Of Conduct. 1. Rules Of Conduct Derive From The Triple Law Of Life. - Character Of These Rules. - Self-Discipline And Liberty
The rules of human conduct derive from the basic laws and constitute a guide for the perilous journey on which we are all engaged. To accomplish our destiny, it is not enough merely to guard prudently...
-2. Rules For The Preservation Of Life. - Life Must Not Be Destroyed In The Self Or In Others
What does the principle of the conservation of life demand of us? First of all it demands that we respect life itself. It is forbidden to man to destroy himself or others. Thou shalt not kill is on...
-3. Rules For The Conservation Of Life. - Increase Of Life In Oneself And Others
To preserve life, it is not enough to refrain from destroying it We must also make it wider, deeper, bolder and more joyful. Strength is the only thing which allows man to rise higher. In the eyes of ...
-4. Rules For The Propagation Of The Race. - Conception And Development Of The Child. - Eugenism
The rules for the propagation of the race are as complex as the processes of generation and development. They are based on the peculiar characteristics of reproduction in the human species and on the ...
-5. Rules For The Propagation Of The Species. - Birth And Formation Of The Child. - The Family
The special physiological and psychological features of pregnancy and of the birth and growth of the child are what give the family its particular character. It is these too which impose clear-cut and...
-6. Rules For The Propagation Of Life. - The Social Milieu
The maintenance of children and their physical and mental formation depend both on the family and on the milieu which surrounds it. The constituting of this milieu is society's most important task. Th...
-7. Rules For Development Of Spirit In The Individual. -Physical, Physiological And Mental Obstacles. - How Find One's Soul? - Self-Discipline. - Development Of Feeling. - Development Of Intellect. - Hero-Worship. - Intuition. - Search For Beauty And For God
Though the development of the spirit is as strict an obligation as the other two, it is one of which we take very little account. Schools and universities are content to cultivate the intellect but th...
-Rules For Development Of Spirit In The Individual. -Physical, Physiological And Mental Obstacles. - How Find One's Soul? - Self-Discipline. - Development Of Feeling. - Development Of Intellect. - Hero-Worship. - Intuition. - Search For Beauty And For God. Continued
Avoiding evil demands a good organic and mental constitution. The finest development of body and mind is only possible with the help of asceticism. Athletes, men of science, monks, all submit themselv...
-8. Rules For The Development Of Spirit In The Race. - We Must Not Arrest The Mental Progress Of Our De-Scendants. - Improvement Of Environment. - How To Increase Spiritual Power
How can we contribute to the spiritual progress of our children and our children's children? Our first duty is to put no obstacle in the way of this progress. It is far from certain whether the develo...
-9. How To Adapt These Rules To Each Individual. -Interior Conflicts. - The Supreme Rule. - Spiritual Direction
Since each individual is different from all the rest, no code of conduct can be indiscriminately applied to all. Some have such highly individual temperaments that the customary roles cannot be applie...
-Chapter Six. Putting The Rules Of Conduct Into Practice. 1. Difficulty Of Rational Conduct. - Obstacles In Our-Selves. - Obstacles We Meet In The World About Us
At the moment it is highly necessary that everyone should put the rules of conduct into practice in his daily life; that he should submit to a freely accepted, but strict discipline. Are we modern men...
-2. How To Overcome These Obstacles. - Impotence Of Reason. - The True Mainsprings Of Our Actions. - The Power Of Feeling. - The Pursuit Of Self-Interest
Obedience to natural laws demands a discipline more exacting than that of the Stoics and quite as hard as that of the Christians during the first centuries of the Church. How shall we overcome our ave...
-3. Technique Of Transforming Oneself. - Progress Of The Adult. - Progress Of The Child. - Oases Of Rational Conduct
When the house is on fire, everyone leaves what he is doing to fight the flames. In the same way, when great social cataclysms are unleashed, we ought to suspend all other business and go into action....
-4. Goal Of The Journey And Rule Of The Road. - Mirages. - How To Define The Aim Of Life Clearly. - Need Of A Common Direction For Humanity
We have started on our course. But in what direction are we moving? It is not enough to know the rule of the road; we must also know where to go. We are not idly cruising along like those motorists wh...
-5. Meaning Of Life. - Why Live? - Science Remains Mute. - The Answer Of Religion. - Necessity For Working Hypotheses. - What Are We?
Like the monkey, man is characterized by an insatiable curiosity. Thus he is incessantly trying to solve insoluble problems. It is not enough for him to know that the goal of life is life itself, that...
-Meaning Of Life. - Why Live? - Science Remains Mute. - The Answer Of Religion. - Necessity For Working Hypotheses. - What Are We?. Continued
3Ibid. Men mutually repel or attract each other. There are invisible bonds between them which unite members of the same community like a network. It is thought which has transformed the terrestrial w...
-6. Position Of Man In The Universe. - Is He The Only Thinking Being? - Psychic Aspect Of The Cosmos. - Belief In Exclusively Spiritual Entities. - The Hypothesis Of God
Each individual thinks himself the center of the world. Nothing seems more important to us than our own existence. We have the feeling that our life has a profound significance. Is this feeling a mere...
-7. The Need Of God. - Prayer. - The Mystical Experience. - Its Significance. - Liberalism And Religion. - Nature Of Reality
For nearly two centuries, religion has been gradually replaced by the worship of profit and the worship of science. In France it has been banished from the state schools. In modern society, it is prac...
-8. Where Are We Going? - Significance Of Death. - Dissolution, Temporary Survival Or Immortality? - Answer Of Science. - Answer Of Religion. - Opposition Of Science And Feeling. - What Life Ordains. - The Choice Of A Hypothesis
Where are we going? Toward death. Even if we came to the point, thanks to new discoveries, of reversing the direction of physiological time, of periodically rejuvenating ourselves and even of prolongi...
-9. Influence Of Rational Conduct On Life. - From I To We. - The Four Types Of Union With Another. - Increasing The Aptitude For Union. - The Social Value Of The Individual
Every individual who behaves in a rational way gradually undergoes a profound transformation. When body and spirit act as their constitution ordains, they become more efficient. This progress is marke...
-10. Man's Rights And His Needs. - Real And Artificial Needs. - Organismic Associations. - Organic Associations. - Transformation Of Collective Life
The human community is composed of the living, the dead and those still unborn. Each should have a place, for the individual is part of the community, not in virtue of any contract, but by the mere fa...
-Chapter Seven. Teaching The Laws Of Conduct. Aptitude For Behaving Rationally. 1. Hereditary Inaptitude For Rational Conduct. - Types Of Deficients. - Partial And Total Inaptitude. - Number Of Degenerates
Many individuals behave badly because of defects which they bring into the world with them. Hereditary taints are often difficult to distinguish from acquired ones. The influence of the environment ve...
-2. Acquired Inaptitude For Rational Conduct. - Its Causes. - Absence Of Physiological And Moral Training. - Errors Of Education. - Alcoholism
Many individuals who have a good heredity are rendered unfitted for rational behavior by other equally grave defects. These defects are due to bad conditions during the pregnancy or during the birth a...
-3. Aptitude For Rational Conduct. - Rarity Of Homo Sapiens
In the midst of the vast flock of the degenerate, the corrupt and the foolish, there are still many people capable of behaving reasonably. These include all children with a good heredity, adults who h...
-4. How To Prepare Man To Receive Instruction In Rational Conduct
The rules of reasonable behavior will remain empty formulae if man is not rendered capable of putting these rules into practice. It would be useless to teach things which no one can learn except child...
-Chapter Eight. Teaching The Laws Of Life. 1. Particular Character Of This Teaching. - Necessity For Example
It would be easy to propound the laws of conduct and their scientific base in a series of didactic lessons as one teaches geography or grammar. Any good teacher could accomplish this task. But quite a...
-2. Building Up An Educational Milieu. - Schools For Parents And Teachers
In our present state of moral disorder it would be an arduous enterprise to build up the right kind of educational milieu for the moral training we have seen to be so highly necessary. We have discuss...
-3. Integral Formation Of The Individual
Integral formation consists in developing to the highest degree all the hereditary potentialities. Education is, therefore, very much more than the methodical socialization of the young generation as ...
-4. Renovation Of Schools. - Masters Of Integral Education And The Conduct Of Life
We are now faced with the problem of the complete renovation of our educational system. The failure of modern education is due partly to parents shirking their responsibili-ties and partly to the pree...
-Chapter Nine. The Success Of Life. 1. General Considerations
Through its own fault, civilized humanity has brought an immense catastrophe upon itself. War resolves none of the fundamental human problems; all that it does is to establish the supremacy of one nat...
-2. How To Ensure Success
We must not imagine that we can behave according to the whims either of our spirit or our senses. Neither must we be guided by the partial truths of religions or philosophical systems. By his instinct...
-3. Success Of Collective Life
For many people, all that is needed is to extend their range. Thus the mystics ought to fulfill themselves also on the physiological and intellectual side. The same applies to the Liberal intellectual...
-4. Setting The Religious Sense To Work. - Christianity
The success of life implies the full accomplishment of our spiritual destiny, whatever it may be. The religious sense, like the esthetic, is a fundamental physiological activity; it is in no sense th...
-5. The Future
To prepare the society of tomorrow, we must first grasp the reality of today. This apprehension of reality demands a sincere and persistent effort to understand the events going on about us, not only ...
-The Author And His Book
Alexis Carrel, surgeon, biologist and author, was born in Ste. Foy-les-Lyon, France, on June 28, 1873; he died in Paris on November 5, 1944. In those eventful seventy-one years, his wide variety of in...









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