During the twentieth century, scientific knowledge of the objective world increased exponentially, to such an extent that it has been said that we learned more about reality in the twentieth century than we did in all preceding centuries combined. Advances in technology were just as dramatic, improving the health and longevity of billions of people and enhancing the quality of life for many, especially those living in so-called “developed” countries. But the twentieth century also witnessed the bloodiest wars in history, unprecedented degradation of the environment, and the extinction of much of the wildlife on earth and in the oceans. It was the most destructive century for the planet in the history of the human species, surpassing even the massive devastation caused by the giant meteor that hit the earth 65 million years ago. Just since 1970, we have wiped out 60% of the mammals, birds, fish and reptiles on the planet. Scientists show us that the rate of this destruction is only increasing during this twenty-first century, undermining the balance of the ecosphere as a whole and human civilization in particular. We have become our own worst enemy.
While science and technology have greatly contributed to our material well-being, they have not helped us become more ethical—that is, more nonviolent and more benevolent. They have not led to a decrease in our greed, hatred, stupidity, or arrogance, nor have they enhanced the mental health and genuine well-being of humanity. Scientists have shed a bright light on innumerable aspects of the objective, physical world, but have, for the most part, left us in the dark regarding the subjective world of the mind. The origins and nature of the mind and its relation to the body remain as much a mystery now as they were when the scientific study of the mind began in the late nineteenth century. Likewise, the inner causes of mental distress remain largely unknown as mental diseases continue to be treated primarily with psychopharmaceutical drugs, which suppress the symptoms of mental illness, without actually curing a single one.
Moreover, the nature of consciousness and its role in the universe remain a mystery to science, largely due to the ideological and methodological constraints of materialistic reductionism. Finally, while the nature and inner causes of genuine well-being were deeply explored by the ancient Greek philosophers and the sages of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, their discoveries remain largely ignored in the modern mental healthcare system that developed within Eurocentric cultures.
With the growing human population and accelerated exhaustion of the world’s natural resources, humanity is currently on a course of self-destruction. If we continue to equate “the good life” with the hedonic pleasures acquired by way of wealth, power, and status, we are doomed. To meet this current crisis, humanity must learn to place a higher priority on the cultivation of eudaimonia than on the pursuit of hedonia. It’s that simple.