There Are No Bystanders When Evolution Is Demanding A Revolution In Consciousness

Published: Fri 29 Mar 2024 05:47 PM
“The Omega point” is a term used by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to describe the goal towards which the universe purportedly evolves. He believed cosmic and terrestrial evolution was in a process converging in man toward a final unity. Teleology notwithstanding, where man is concerned, Teilhard got it backasswards.
The question to which neither Western nor Eastern philosophy has been able to provide sufficient insight is this: Given that nature unfolds in a dynamic and holistic order, and humans evolved along with all other creatures on earth, how and why did man become such a factor of fragmentation and disorder on this planet?
Nearly all explanations for ‘the riddle of man’ suffer from addiction to the idea of progress, including Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point.” Besides supporting an anthropocentric view that retains man at the center of the universe, de Chardin made the mistake of assuming evolution is constantly advancing.
In point of fact, man represents a tremendous anomaly. There is a growing crisis not only for our species, but also for countless other species on this planet, since in the absurdly named ‘Anthropocene Age’ Homo sapiens has started “the Sixth Extinction.” (All five previous mass extinctions of fauna and flora were caused by natural events, like asteroids and massive volcanism.)
Given the capability of a single, supposedly self-aware species to bring about such a planetary event, the evolution of man poses huge, unaddressed questions for philosophers.
Of course, if one assumes that the universe is simply a mechanism plus chance, and that consciousness is merely the neural mechanism of thought, then there is no problem, except how to deaden your heart against what we humans are doing to the earth and each other.
But when the mind is attentively quiet, the brain has direct contact with actuality, the indivisible and unknowable order, intelligence and sacredness that permeates nature and the universe.
Denied by atheists and most philosophers and scientists on one hand, this actuality is also derided by religionists and monotheists on the other.
Nevertheless, the nameless is accessible to every human being that ends the observer and time through intense, unguided attention.
Passive watchfulness, especially in the mirror of nature, initiates a movement of negation and ushers in a profound stillness of mind. One lets go of the known and enters a state of being rather than becoming.
The contradiction of man is that we are a sentient creature generating more and more fragmentation and disorder on a supremely beautiful planet in a cosmos of infinite, dynamic order. De Chardin did not come close to resolving that conundrum.
Evolution appears to have an intrinsic drive toward evolving beings of higher consciousness, but it hits a big bump in the road with the evolution of ‘higher thought.’ That’s because symbolic thought is both a necessary precondition for complete awareness, and the greatest impediment to it.
That is, on one hand the brain on a given planet (the reptilian-mammalian-hominin brain on earth) obviously has to reach a certain level of complexity before a state of insight is possible.
But on the other hand, the neural threshold that enables the full awakening of insight doesn’t just produce increasing degrees of scientific knowledge and technological innovation, but also increasing degrees of fragmentation, conflict and darkness.
Symbolic thought is inherently a separative mechanism, spilling over as division and fragmentation into the psychological, social and ecological dimensions. Therefore without sufficient self-questioning, attention and insight, thought ineluctably fragments the planet all to hell on which the adaptive leap evolved. That resolves one aspect of the riddle, but raises other questions.
If there’s an intrinsic drive in evolution toward higher consciousness, why is the state of insight so difficult to awaken, even for those with a strong contemplative propensity?
Clearly, a conscious transmutation is required in a sentient species to end the impediment of thought and allow a true order of consciousness to emerge. But is that possible, except in the very few?
I don’t know. But when one emotionally perceives the immense mystery that the evolution of symbolic thought is both a prerequisite and an obstacle to true consciousness, one feels the compassion of the cosmos for humankind, which is groping our way in self-made darkness toward it.
Far from putting man at the center, this ‘theory of human nature’ provides both a religiously compatible and scientifically testable hypothesis.
Within decades, perhaps years, we’ll know whether the universe is ‘fine tuned’ to evolve potentially intelligent life. We may also discover that whether everywhere life evolves to the point of sentience, beings possessing the potential for cosmic consciousness pass through a crisis of consciousness similar to what is presently coming to a head on earth.
There’s a mathematical elegance to the insight that higher thought is both a prerequisite and an obstacle to full consciousness. The existential contradiction begins to resolve (and dissolve) within one by the very perception and insight into it.
So will there be a turning point, when the transmutation of humankind ends the rampant division, conflict and darkness man is exponentially generating from the unwise use of symbolic thought?
I don’t know. But man ascending to de Chardin’s “Omega point” is not only illusory; it’s the opposite. Creatures like man do not ‘evolve,’ but deepen and widen their evolutionary contradiction until the crisis of consciousness is resolved, one way or another.
Man is generating more and more fragmentation on earth, and the planet and humanity can’t absorb much more. We either radically change, or perish. If the latter, the cosmic Mind will shed a tear, and move on. The experiment is being carried out on many planets.
Since extinction, from our point of view, isn’t an option, and since understanding the riddle of man is part of resolving the crisis of thought, the question becomes, can humankind make the turn before destroying the earth and our spiritual potential?
There is a tragic irony in Teilhard de Chardin saying: “The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would, is to build the Earth,” when nationalism is as virulent now as it was when de Chardin died at the middle of the 20th century.
Besides, humans cannot “build the Earth.” Seeing when to build, and when to be still is much more important than knowing what to build and where to build it.
Without implying teleology (much less “intelligent design”), there is a tremendous mystery at the core of evolution, something that goes far beyond man-made meanings and history.
Can humankind align itself with the universe, and reverse man’s exponentially growing trajectory of division and fragmentation? Can the course of man’s ecological destruction, war and gross economic disparity radically change?
The universe is pressing these questions. Even so, philosophical insights into the cosmic contradiction of man, however accurate, cannot substitute for the arduous work of bringing about the requisite transmutation within oneself. That’s the responsibility of each person, without recourse to any authority, be it religious or scientific.
That said, this is the first adequate explanation for the contradiction of man, and it helps to allay the rampant misanthropy so many people around the world now feel. In part, that stems from the implicit or explicit belief that Homo sapiens is a random and meaningless species overrunning the Earth.
When thought is completely quiet, the brain is like a very sensitive antenna, receiving and reflecting awareness far beyond imagining.
If we don’t destroy our capacity for awareness, but develop it as much as we can in our short span on this mortal coil, we can awaken intimations or more of the cosmic mind within our own silent brain. More than anything else that will help humankind take our rightful place on earth and in the universe.
Whether we squat at the end of man’s spiritual development, or stand at the true beginning of the human being, is up to each one of us. Question and find out for yourself. There are no bystanders when evolution is demanding a revolution in consciousness.
Martin LeFevre
lefevremartin77 at gmail

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