779. Do humans contain a force within them that propels them forward on the path of progress, or is their progress only the product of education?
“Human beings develop themselves naturally. Human beings do not progress at the same rate, or in the same manner. This is why the most advanced help others move forward through social contact.”
780. Does moral progress always follow intellectual progress?
“It is the result, but it does not always follow it immediately.” (See nos. 192-365)
a) How can intellectual progress lead to moral progress?
“By making human beings gain an understanding of good and wrongdoing they can then choose between them. The development of free will follows the development of intelligence and increases the accountability of human actions.”
b) How is it then that the most enlightened nations are often the most deviant?
“Complete and integral progress is the purpose of life, but nations, like individuals, reach it gradually. Until the moral sense is developed, they may even employ their intelligence in doing evil. Moral sense and intellect are two forces that are balanced over the course of time.” (See nos. 365-751)
781. Do human beings have the power to halt progress?
“No, but they can hamper it sometimes.”
a) What should we think of those who attempt to halt progress, and make the human race regress?
“God will punish them. They will be overthrown by the flow they want to stop.” Progress is a condition of human nature and no one can prevent it. It is a living force that bad laws may hamper, but not smother. When these laws become incompatible, progress breaks them down and continues to do so until the laws of humankind match Divine justice, which wills the best for everyone, and until all laws made by the strong to the detriment of the weak are eradicated.
782. Are there individuals who honestly obstruct progress while believing that they are helping it move forward, because they often regard something as “progress” that is not such?
“Yes, they are like small pebbles under the great wheel that cannot keep it from moving.”
783. Does the improvement of humanity always follow a progressive and slow march?
“There is a regular slow progress that inevitably results from circumstances, but when a population does not advance quickly enough, God creates a physical or moral shock that hastens its transformation.”
Human beings cannot remain unaware forever, because they must reach the goal God set for them. Circumstance enlightens them gradually. Moral revolutions, like social revolutions, are introduced into the minds of a nation slowly. They continue to evolve for centuries, and suddenly sprout, toppling the crumbling structure of the past that is no longer in harmony with the goals and objectives of a new day. Human beings often perceive only the fleeting chaos and confusion that affect them in their material interests, but those who raise their thoughts above themselves admire the Divine planning that brings good out of evil. Such commotions are like a storm that purifies the atmosphere after disturbing it.
784. The perversity of humankind is immense. It seems that human beings are regressing rather than advancing, at least in terms of morality.
“You are wrong. Look at the human race as a whole, and you will see that it is advancing. It has arrived at a clearer perception of what is evil, and witnesses the reform of some kind of abuse every day. An excess of wickedness is required to show the need for good and the need for reforms.”
785. What is the greatest obstacle to progress?
“Pride and selfishness. This is in terms of moral progress, as intellectual progress is constant, and at first glance, it seems to magnify those vices by developing ambition and the love of possessions and wealth. These feelings drive human beings to carry out the research that enlightens their minds, and this is how all things are linked together in the moral and physical worlds, and how good is eventually created out of iniquity. This condition is only temporary and will change as human beings become aware that there is an infinitely greater and everlasting happiness beyond the realm of earthly pleasures.” (See Selfishness, Chapter XII)
Two types of progress mutually support one another, but do not necessarily occur at the same rate: intellectual progress and moral progress. In civilized nations, the former is currently receiving a great deal of encouragement, and it has reached a degree of advancement that is incomparable to past ages. The second is very far from reaching the same point, although if we compare the social values across centuries, we are forced to admit that progress has also been made in this direction. Why has progress stalled in morality more than in intelligence? Why should there be less of a difference between the morality of the 19th and 24th centuries than between that of the 14th and the 19th? Not questioning the consistency of moral progress would be to assume either that the human race has reached the peak of perfection, which would be ridiculous, or that it is not morally perfectible, which experience contradicts.