chapter  3
Turning to the transcendent
Pages 24

It was the Enlightenment that caused the confusion. To many then, it came to seem that human beings no longer need to strive for the heavenly city because heaven was becoming a place on earth. ey could be forgiven for imagining that as fantastic progress was being made in science. e benefi cent world of modernity no longer seemed to belong to God or his priests, or require anything that was out of human reach. e notion of higher fl ourishing, nurtured in religion, seeking transcendence, was dismissed: human wellbeing is of humankind’s own making! ere emerged what Charles Taylor calls “exclusive humanism”: the conviction that the location of meaning is not found in anything beyond human comprehension. Taylor writes:

Exclusive humanism closes the transcendence window, as though there were nothing beyond. More, as though it weren’t an irrepressible need of the human heart to open that window, and fi rst look, and go beyond. As though feeling this need were the result of a mistake, an erroneous worldview, bad conditioning, or worse, some pathology. (2007: 638)

Coupled to that came a sense of entitlement that this-worldly happiness was a right, or at least, to recall the American Declaration

of Independence, something that everyone has a right to pursue. at led to something else: an expectation, that each, in his or her own way, should enjoy the pleasures the world can off er. e ground was set for the happiness industry to be born with its self-help programmes and instrumental techniques for achieving it. Indeed, happiness became not only a right but almost a duty. Hence, in contrary mood, George Bernard Shaw could quip: “But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth”. It came to sound quite exhausting.