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 who drive aimlessly along the highroads every Sunday. ,
We have undertaken a difficult journey; we can never return to our starting point. In order not to lose our way, we must not only know the rules of conduct but we must also clearly distinguish the end to be achieved. If he does not know where he is going, the finest of pilots will fly in a circle and arrive nowhere. We must know from the outset toward which airfield to direct our will when we are lost in storm, fog or darkness.
The real aim of our existence is dictated by the nature of things. It is independent of our appetites, our caprices and even of our highest aspirations. Most men dispose of their bodies and souls without asking themselves if tie goal which they have arbitrarily assigned themselves is really the one which nature secretly intends. The direction of their existence is determined by the economic status of their family, by their hereditary qualities, by their mental and material milieu, by the religious doctrine or philosophical temper of their age and by their own will.
At certain moments in the history of Western civilization, men have agreed among themselves to direct their thought and their actions toward the same end.
For our ancestors in the Middle Ages, earthly existence was only the preparation for an existence outside space and time where each one would be treated according to his merits. The goal of life was thus situated beyond death. It has been brought back to this world by the moderns. Today the majority places it in obtaining the material and intellectual advantages society can procure for them with the aid of science and technology. It is a strange weakness of democratic Liberalism to teach that life has no goal fixed by the nature of things; that it has no end other than the satisfaction of our bodily and intellectual needs.
Nevertheless, there are still many men and women who pursue neither profit, security nor the exclusive satisfaction of their material needs, but a great ideal. For the poet, the craftsman and the artist this ideal is beauty; for the scientist or the religious it is truth. Those who sacrifice themselves also live for an ideal; so does the woman who gives herself entirely to the noble task of having children and bringing them up.
There is profound diversity among the objectives to which individuals devote their lives in modern society. One and all desire happiness. But, for most of us, happiness can only be obtained at other people's expense. Thus the pursuit of it has set us against each other; individuals against individuals and nations against nations. What civilized beings have, in fact, chosen as their objective in life is war.
Science has opened up to man a realm which is marvelous but full of dangers. We have been deceived by strange mirages, by those phantoms which are created by a still fragmentary and wrongly used knowledge of things. Up to now, science has not yet brought us any effective aid in conducting our lives. Instead of asking it for light, we have used it to exploit nature to our own profit. Thus it has taught us nothing about the subject of our true destiny. As a guide, it has shown itself inferior to intuition, tradition and religious revelation. We have not known how to avail ourselves of its power.
Nevertheless, it alone is capable of embracing the whole of reality accessible to man, for its jurisdiction extends to the whole domain of the observable. This domain comprises the spiritual as well as the material, for the only means of attaining the spiritual is by observation of ourselves and others. Neither our doctrines, our desires nor our dreams will reveal to us the reason and the goal of our existence. The objective of life can only be revealed by the systematic study of the living. It is in man himself that we must read his destiny just as one reads the function of a machine in the machine itself.
If Prometheus or Archimedes were to be resurrected at this moment, they would undoubtedly guess for what end such an unknown organism as an airplane had been created. The human organism, like the inanimate body of the airplane, is evidently constructed in order to function. The destiny of the airplane is to fly; the destiny of man is to live.
The end of life is not profit, amusement, philosophy, science or religion. It is not even happiness: it is life itself.
Life consists in the plenitude of all the organic and mental activities of our body. Thus it can only attain its end on condition of never reducing, atrophying, misdirecting or perverting these activities. If we really live according to the mute commands of life, we are sure of accomplishing our destiny. We take the wrong road when, as we are at liberty to do, we oppose our blind desire to the immanent order of things; when we seek in the external world what we can only find in ourselves.
The aim of life is the realization of the human archetype in every single individual. Every human being has emotional, intellectual and organic needs whose satisfaction is indispensable to the fulfillment of his destiny. The true object of society is to cater for the satisfaction of these needs. Unfortunately, under the influence of materialistic Liberalism, the democratic nations have not admitted that these needs are universal. We refuse to the vast majority conditions which are absolutely necessary for the complete development of body and soul.
Our civilization is crumbling because we have allowed two things to increase at the same time: wealth which corrupts the individual and poverty which withers and atrophies him. The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed.
If the end of life is the same for all, the means of attaining it vary according to each individual. No human being is identical with another. We must, therefore, find out to which type we belong; what are our physiological and psychic aptitudes and deficiencies; how we can use our good qualities and combat our vices. Then only shall we be able to choose the mode of travel which suits us. Even if one has neither airplane, motorcar nor railway at one's disposition, it is still possible to reach one's destination on horseback or on foot. Life offers itself equally to the small and the great, the weak and the strong.
Our destiny is as immutable as the structure of the universe. It is far more important for us to know this destiny than to know the topography of Alaska or the constitution of the nucleus of the atom. The goal toward which life tends is spirit, that is to say the emergence of reason and love in ourselves and in the terrestrial world. Today the whole of humanity needs to raise its eyes toward the same heaven and to set out on the same road. Otherwise, it will founder in chaos. As long as men devote their lives to a false objective they will remain incapable of mutual understanding and will destroy each other.