Paradise on Earth

Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have been captivated by the myth of paradise. It touches something deep in us: our origins, our aspirations, our fears, our need to determine our destiny. In ways we never fully comprehend, we are driven by a need to know where we are going, to progress upwards, always evolving into a state better than before.

It is this search for paradise that Lloyd Geering explores in this series of lectures given at St Andrew’s during September 2000. He argues that the “buoyant expectancy” of the past has been replaced by a growing dis-ease with a paradise that has remained elusive. Nevertheless, along the way the human family has learned a great deal about paradise. It is of this world, not another. It will require a collective human effort. It will always be ahead of us. While we cannot go back to the past, clearly the past can help us to envisage a future for all.

Lloyd Geering begins by exploring the ways in which the quest for a better world became part of our historical past. He suggests that every time the vision seemed to be within reach, it has eluded us. He then turns his attention to what kind of paradise we think we want, and examines factors such as globalisation and technological innovation, which are rapidly shaping the future for us. He then sketches how we might “reach the world we hope for”. Finally, he identifies the obstacles that stand before us in our attempt to build a better and more equitable world society.

It is a considerable undertaking that Lloyd Geering sets before us but, as always, he undertakes it with wisdom, insight and an amazing breath of knowledge. We all know that the future has its own inner logic and will break in upon us in one way or another. What he helps us see is that we can help to make the future better for the generations to come if we can free ourselves from the wasteful ways of the past, and from the rigidity of thinking and being that has so often been in the way. The future, he argues, will demand flexibility, empathy, goodwill – “mutual cooperation for the common good”. The challenge to all of us is to learn how to think and live anew so that a “new planetary civilisation” can emerge.

Dr James Stuart (2000)

Chairperson, St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society

The whole book can be read as a PDF or in chapters on line below:

1 - The elusive land of promise

2 - Viewing Paradise from afar

3 - The road to Paradise

4 - The obstacles on the way