Man's Future

By Olaf Stapledon



Taken from Prediction, magazine (April, 1949) 

Latest recruit to PREDICTION's corps of distinguished contributors is Dr. Olaf Stapledon, MA, PhD. In private life, a lecturer at Liverpool University, Dr. Stapledon is well known in two other spheres— philosophy and the imaginative realm of science fiction.

As an author, his Last and First Men caused a stir when it first appeared, by reason of it's great originality.

This imaginative vision is certainly evident in the article overleaf. As Dr. Stapledon's views will doubtless lead to wide speculation, space will be found in an early issue to publish readers' comments. "



 TO-DAY our knowledge of the "paranormal "aspect of human nature is still very slight and doubtful. It seems fairly well established that some sort of "extra-sensory perception" does sometimes occur but there is disagreement between the champions of telepathy and of clairvoyance, each party inclining to accept the one power as proven and the other as still doubtful.

Precognition, the direct foreknowing of events still in the future, seems to be well-established by experiment, though there is apparently still some doubt whether it works by telepathy or clairvoyance.

Further, some of the experts believe that some minds can influence physical objects at a distance by some sort of psychic power. Others disagree. According to Dr. J.B. Rhine, this power of "psychokinesis" (PK) and the complementary powers of "extra-sensory perception" (ESP), are the two aspects of a single psychical activity for which R. H. Thouless has suggested the name "psi."

Let us boldly suppose that all these powers are genuine, and that they will all be developed far beyond their present feeble and precarious attainment. In the very early days of the physical sciences Francis Bacon foresaw that man was going to acquire new knowledge and power which would revolutionize society. Let us suppose that the new psychic science is destined to develop as momentously as the physical sciences have done. Can we form any significant guesses about the kind of effect that the new science may have on human affairs?

In a short article it is impossible to cover the whole field. Therefore I shall concentrate on the future of telepathy, ignoring the other paranormal faculties, though their effect may turn out to be equally momentous or even more so. I shall suppose, then, that man’s telepathic power will be thoroughly understood, brought under conscious control, and greatly strengthened. Let us imagine that at some future date the telepathic intercourse of ordinary human beings will be much increased and consciously used; and also that some specially gifted and specially trained individuals, whom I shall call the professional "telepathists," will develop telepathy into a far-reaching, precise and potent art. What then?

Consider first the effects of a general increase of telepathic intercourse. Some people are horrified at such a prospect. They rebel against the possibility that their thoughts should be open to the inspection of others. That, they say, would indeed be the end of all privacy. We should live in constant dread of ridicule or condemnation. We should passionately seek sonic means of closing our minds against intruders.

Further, if every mind radiated a kind of psychical infection into others, the result (we are told) would put an end also to individuality. We should all tend to become as like as peas. We should be mere cells in a super-brain, functions in a single group-mind.


THIS possibility need not alarm us. Even if telepathy were to develop to the fullest conceivable extent, so that all human minds were completely aware of each other, each would still be itself. For each would be functioning in two distinct ways, namely both as a participator in others and as a contributor to others. Each would still make its own original contribution to the common awareness. Anyhow telepathy is not likely to develop to this extravagant extent. More probably, it might become simply an added means of communication, and therefore of mutual insight, understanding, sympathy and enrichment.

Consider the case of speech. Surely its introduction, far from decreasing the possibility of individuality, has immensely increased it; for it has enabled each individual to be enriched by participation in others. Further, we need not suppose that it would necessarily be impossible voluntarily to close the mind against telepathic influence.

As to the loss of privacy, no doubt if there were no means of resisting telepathic "invasion," and we were suddenly to become aware of each other’s secret thoughts, there would be very distressing consequences. But if we all grew up in a telepathic environment, as we now grow up in a linguistic environment, we should take it quite naturally, and avoid a great many false shames.


NOW consider some of the advantages that a general increase of telepathy might bring. Very many of our conflicts are due to mutual misunderstanding. Telepathic intercourse might abolish all such troubles. Lovers might quarrel less; and avoid falling in love with the wrong person. They might also love with far greater mutual awareness and true appreciation. It might become impossible to deceive by false protestations of love, and false denials of it. A great and general increase in telepathy might make deceit in any sphere much more difficult, if not impossible. As Rhine has pointed out, secret preparation for war might become quite impossible. All secret scientific research, whether for warfare or industrial rivalry or oppression by police, would vanish.

Further, the tragic misunderstandings between peoples obsessed by different religious faiths or social theories would never come into being. Mankind would at last be united in a fundamental way, impossible in earlier ages. The current heartlessness of man toward man would vanish. It would no longer be possible either for a conquering race or for an economically exploiting social class to close its ears and its heart to the misery of its victims. All torture would agonize the torturer. Then again, education might well be revolutionized, for it might become possible to impart to the young far more rapidly and surely than is now possible not only information and understanding but also appreciation of the higher values.

Another possibility is that telepathy may help to overcome the difficulty of appreciating the subtler kinds of art, particularly contemporary painting, music and poetry, We might be able to enter into the artist’s mind so as to feel the significance of his work as he feels it himself.

Finally, telepathy might at last give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us; and this, though painful if too suddenly acquired, would be very salutary and enriching to the personality,


IN a more distant future, perhaps a stranger field may be opened up telepathically. Man may be able to make direct and significant contact with conscious beings in spheres remote from his life on earth. Probably this work would have to be carried out by highly specialised experts, by individuals outstandingly gifted in "psi" aptitude innately, and also specially trained and disciplined for consecration to their calling, We may distinguish two very different spheres in which these professional telepathists might operate, namely intercourse with the populations of worlds remote from our planet but still within our familiar spatio-temporal universe, and intercourse with denizens of some sphere of an entirely different order, in fact "an unseen world."

With regard to the first of these possible spheres for telepathic adventures, let us note in passing that the budding physical science of astronautics may make it possible some day actually to visit our nearer neighbours in space. But telepathy, since apparently it is not limited by space or time at all, might conceivably yield intimate mental intercourse even with the remotest inhabited worlds throughout the cosmos, and even throughout the ages.

Cautious readers may regard this suggestion as wildly extravagant. Practically nothing is known about the causes of telepathy, but on the whole it does look as though it must involve some kind of identity of interest or experience in the transmitting and receiving minds. On the face of it there seems little possibility of any such identity linking the minds of men with the inhabitants of other worlds. Nevertheless, two considerations suggest that highly skilled telepathists might be able to make contact. In the first place, it is quite likely that the depths of space contain a fair number of planetary systems much like the solar system, and that amongst them there are worlds of essentially the same type as our own, probably evolution has followed broadly the same course on those "other Earths" as on our own Earth, and therefore the general mental pattern of their intelligent inhabitants may not he so very different from ours. Of course there may also be profoundly alien worlds with which our telepathists would have greater difficulty.

Secondly, we must note that beings developed up to or beyond the level of human personality at its best would almost certainly have important intellectual and spiritual identities with us, no matter how divergent their starting points. An analogy may help. The mental background of a sensitive and intelligent Englishman is very different from that of an equally sensitive and intelligent Chinese; yet they can enter deeply into each other’s intellectual and spiritual experience. The same kind of identity of awakened interests and values might unite mankind’s more "awake " individuals, with the "awake" inhabitants even of the remotest and the most alien worlds. And this identity might form the medium through which our highly skilled telepathists might make contact with awake minds throughout the cosmos.


WTTH regard to the second of the two great unknown spheres which telepathy may perhaps successfully explore, namely that which is sometimes called the "unseen world" let us first assume that such a sphere exists, in some sense or other. Let us for the sake of argument accept some such view as that of G.N.M. Tyrrell, namely that the whole familiar spatio-temporal universe of rock and grass, houses and living bodies, electrons and galaxies, is but one superficial aspect of an underlying reality which has other, less superficial aspects.

Let us, if you like, assume (a huge assumption) that after death we into another and rather less superficial "aspect-universe" and that telepathy can in principle bridge the gulf between denizens of the two universes. Let us again suppose that telepathic contact has to be made through some sort of identity in the experience of minds "here" and "there." Then, on the face of the matter, intercourse with that unseen universe would seem to be far more difficult even than contact with other worlds in our own a aspect-universe of space and time; since life in that hidden sphere must be even more radically different from ours than is life in other worlds of own universe.


BUT again the principle that telepathy works through some profound identity of interest and attitude in relatively awake minds may bridge the gulf. It is claimed by some that the gulf is in fact already bridged. Perhaps ! But even if it is, all that has been brought over from "the other side" is pathetically confused and trite and uninviting. ‘This may, of course, be due to the fact that the mediumistic art is still in its infancy.

Or it may mean that the next "aspect-universe" is, wholly inconceivable to minds that have been bred and conditioned on this 1owlier plane; so that, even if genuine contact is sometimes made, we are doomed for ever to misconceive utterly such hints as we obtain. Or finally all these obscure hints may turn out to be sheer illusion foisted on us by still-to-be-discovered influences within the normal spatio-temporal universe itself.

What is the upshot of this whole discussion? Telepathy does, apparently, sometimes occur. Its implications for the future of mankind may well turn out to be more far-reaching and fantastic than, our wildest guesses.

But, however revolutionary the effects of telepathy may be, one supremely important fact will remain unchanged not only for man but for all beings developed up to the level of personality, in all worlds within our spatio-temporal universe and in any other "aspect-universes" that there may be, no matter how different from our own,

The most developed values known to us, such as true personal love, responsible social loyalty, intellectual integrity, creative imagination and the values of spiritual awareness, inevitably claim the allegiance of all personal beings. To reject them is to violate one’s own nature as a personal being by betraying something which presents itself to the awakened consciousness as sacred. This is a summary and rash statement. But it had to be made.

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