Some Thoughts on the Evolution of ConsciousnessSeptember 6th, 2010 at 17:28
Fundamental to who I am and what I write about is my belief in the inexorable (or perhaps even irresistible) development of human consciousness from what I would call a “less evolved” to a “more evolved” state. I understand that this is not a universally held position, even among the progressive community that I consider myself a part of. But I think it is the basis of my generally positive outlook for the future and my push to acknowledge individual liberty, self-direction in a context of a circle of equals rather than hierarchical structures of control.
In my writing I talk a lot about “evolution” in terms of the development of and individual human consciousness and of the human species as a whole. The word can be used in a neutral context of adaptive change that is not necessarily for the better, but I generally use it intending a positive connotation of a perhaps slow but profound and irreversible advancement and progress. (Maybe someone can share with me a better word for this concept since this one has such a range of meaning and baggage and does not quite have the precision of language that I would look for in my “day job” doing technical writing.)
Key in my thinking of the primacy of evolution is that the experience and wisdom gained from every life lived is not lost on succeeding generations. Each generation, at least in the aggregate, I see beginning their lives from a more highly evolved position than the previous generations. Again, you could make a reasonable argument that this is not necessarily the case, but in the spirit of confessing ones biases, this is the “working theory” that I continue to adopt. I have not found sufficient grounds to discard it nor have I found a better theory to explain my own experience, the experience of others, or the story of history as I have read it.
A focus on this evolving edifice of human knowledge and wisdom explains my keen interest in the technologies to store and distribute that wisdom and knowledge, including the printed page in the 16th Century and the modern era that followed and now the Internet and a new era that I see dawning with or even because of it.
But also at a more metaphysical or theological level is my own perhaps unorthodox “working theory” of the persistence of consciousness from one human lifetime to another. That the soul that inhabits my body and those that inhabit others are truly “old”, having lived many serial lives and starting each retaining key lessons learned and even negative baggage retained from the previous incarnations. I see all this within a context of not believing in God or other deities or some “super consciousness” greater than our own.
I don’t see it in the Hindu karmic way either, where a human consciousness (or more exactly a consciousness that can animate a human body) would have had prior (or have future) lives as some other species depending on how ethically the life was lived. But instead in a steady progression of development, though certainly with lives along the way where mistakes were made and opportunities were lost.
Again, it’s just my personal working theory, and I acknowledge that there are many others that are equally legitimate, even those that do involve “God”, or other manifestations of greater consciousnesses beyond our own. I don’t want to dwell too much on this, but I think it is important to call out since if consciousness is persistent, what else could be of more importance than gaining the learning that each lifetime offers. (Think Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day” as the metaphor.)
There are a range of concepts that I see associated with moving toward a more “evolved” position. This would include moving away from motivation through fear towards motivation through love, from external control to self-direction, and from thinking in terms of “us and them” to only “us”. And hopefully not too inconsistently, I acknowledge that human culture has and may continue to take three steps forward and then two steps back at times.
My working theory attempts to accommodate the apparent reality that life is not fair. Whether it is fair or not, you play the hand you are dealt as best you can, and your own and other souls benefit from the lessons learned. It also frames a life as an adventure, not necessarily happy or successful, but well lived if it is a compelling story worth telling. The unfairness, unhappiness, failure, and opportunities lost in any given life led are mitigated by the learning and having many more chances to lead more lives.
An obvious concern here is that this working theory might give one license to ignore various forms of inequity and “sin” in the world, since those afflicted will have or have had other lives and better opportunities. To address that I would say that challenging inequity is an opportunity to move toward a position of caring and love and an all encompassing “us”. I would also say that it can keep the magnitude of the world’s troubles becoming so overwhelming that the individual soul is paralyzed to act.
So in my framing of this crazy world of ours, it is all about the intertwining of our unique individual stories into the collective narrative of life on Earth, and in particular the contribution of the human species (animated by persistent consciousness) to that global narrative. Building the story of a planet we can eventually be proud of, should we ever encounter sentient aliens from other worlds.