Why don't we begin with a premise: that life is an evolutionary journey, and humankind is on an evolutionary path. Yet let us not get into a Darwinian frame of mind; instead, we can try to be open to some alternative thinking on this issue. Further, let us say that this journey toward more evolved forms of intellect, understanding and creativity requires capacities that lie latent within our very selves. Like many others before me, I will label this form of evolution as "conscious evolution." And to accept conscious evolution suggests we also accept that individually and collectively we have a responsibility toward our future. I put forward here that this involves purposeful thinking and action -- to use our creative capacities to guide our lives and the communities in which we live.
To envision a creative, dynamic and positive future is a preliminary step upon the path of conscious evolution. First, we make the choice for ourselves. Then, we give intention and commitment in order to give life to those choices. At its core, conscious evolution is a spiritual endeavour in that it affirms the potential capacity of each human to participate within a living universe. It also gives rise to a new worldview -- a new perceptual paradigm that views our evolutionary process as a lesser step within grander steps. The opposite of this (which has been prevalent for far too long) is for humanity to remain unconscious of its place within a universal narrative.
Conscious evolution is also a very real social movement providing for a higher level of cooperative communication and action. It is a collaborative understanding that offers personal development and learning, community building and assistance and ways towards practical, positive social change. Conscious evolution also implies that each human, each part, is an integral and interrelated part of the whole. The new sciences around quantum physics have revealed that the concept of integral relationships is now a reality; that all living organisms are energetically integrated within a shared informational and creative field. As an evolving species, we are encouraged to work together toward this synergy, or gestalt: where the whole is greater than its sum, and thus leads to emerging properties of the collective.
However, we can only function in accordance with our level of knowledge and capacity. We cannot be told what is, or what needs to be done; we can only be guided until that understanding becomes an inherent part of ourselves. Then we have an organic sense of how we should act to fit in with the dynamic whole. Yet we can modify our thoughts, action and behaviors through self-observation. We can learn to clear our minds of antiquated belief-systems and accumulated junk in order to allow these new thoughts to penetrate. We may think we learn, yet often we learn rote without the thinking. We should aim toward a conscious digestion of information -- to learn how to learn, to know how to know.
In a similar way, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin talks about the collective, unified soul of humankind as a "conspiracy" of individuals who conspire together to evolve to a new stage of life. De Chardin wrote tirelessly of how continued evolution toward cosmic spirit was a conscious duty hidden, sometimes forgotten, within humankind:
In us the world's evolution towards spirit has become conscious. Our perfection, our interest, our salvation as elements can depend therefore on nothing less than pushing this evolution forward with all our strength. We may not yet understand exactly where it is taking us, but it is absurd for us to doubt that it is leading as towards some end of supreme value.1
The over-arching question for de Chardin was how modern humanity could best organize, maintain and distribute the vital energies required for this process. In this there are precise conditions necessary for the storage and utilization of energies. In regard to living systems, in order to defy entropy living organisms are required to absorb, store, utilize and distribute energy. The human and the cosmos are both two examples of creative, dynamic, living systems; hence, the rules still apply. How we store and utilize our personal energies is of paramount importance and should become central to our lives.
This issue will become more central as we increasingly witness many of the material structures around us dissipating into a transparent fiction: our financial systems, our job securities, pensions, educational systems, etc. It is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that these structures will continue to provide for our needs. As our rafts search for land, our paddles are being taken away from us. So when we eventually find fertile land it will be from our own efforts -- and the cultivation that much more rewarding. As personal circumstances become more affected by the changes occurring in the world it will become necessary that people "wake-up" to new responsibilities and decisions. After all, the upcoming years will be different from what has gone before. And as these physical changes begin to impact and encroach upon each person's well-being, new voices will be rising and asking for assistance.
It is not my premise to debate the dominant western thought-paradigms of Darwinian "survivalist" evolution and religious Creationism. What I do suggest, however, is that there may well be an evolutionary "design" which allows for the creative development of living systems as well as planetary, solar and galactic systems: the micro and the macro. Yet as the changes in social and cultural systems increasingly manifest, it is hoped that more people will awaken to the understanding that their own evolving self requires conscious participation. Diligent work with oneself, with others and within the community is the action that guarantees a response.
Our behavior and actions within our communities will be better served if we can realize that we all exist integral to the earth's natural cycles and ecology. Further, that the living universe of which earth is a part is also the context and environment for our enduring reality. As cultural historian Thomas Berry says, "The archetypal journey of the universe can now be experienced as the journey of each individual, since the entire universe has been involved in shaping our individual psychic as well as our physical being from that first awesome moment when the universe emerged."2
A new narrative is emerging, one where each person is integral to the larger picture; the journey of each one of us being a part of the journey as a whole. And a new story is emerging that tells us that the possibilities are open for humanity to engage in creating its way forward, consciously, and with harmony, balance and respect to all systems. This new human story gives us a renewed sense of meaning to our lives and makes us want to "wake up" each morning and each moment to this great enterprise.
- Chardin, T. d. (1974) Let Me Explain. London: Fontana.
- Berry, T. (1999) The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. New York: Three Rivers Press.