"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Conscious Evolution of Consciousness Itself

"When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn't work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual lifeform - or a species - will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap."

At its most basic level, evolution is "the survival of the fittest," a process that has typically taken multitudes of generations to effect the physical changes that distinguish a species. Mankind has always, of course, been a part of this gradual and continual evolutionary process and has arisen from it. Now, however, with the rise and predominance of human culture and technologies, the glacial speed of evolutionary change seems to have turned into a real-time process. Humanity's evolutionary trajectory, as many writers have pointed out, is no longer physiological, but rather technological and psychological.

It is this speeding up of mankind's evolutionary process, and its change from the physical to the psychical (and thereby the technical), which presents us with the stark choices, individually and collectively, which Tolle outlines above: die and become extinct, or rise above the limitations of our narrow self-consciousness through "an evolutionary leap." As Einstein famously observed: "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them."

Thus, humanity, if it is to survive long-term, needs to change at the level of the psyche. It needs to move beyond the narrow, egoic self-consciousness that typifies the ways in which we now interact with each other and the world to a dilated, expansive consciousness that heretofore has been the sole preserve of the mystic, contemplative and self-realized sage. In short, we need a second Enlightenment, but this time an Enlightenment of consciousness rather than the merely intellectual Enlightenment that heralded in our current scientific age. Such an evolutionary leap will affect all of us, so we should (or, perhaps, must) all consciously participate in the pursuit of this next phase in our evolutionary imperative as a species.

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Andrew Cohen
Editor-in-chief, EnlightenNext
"The full realization of Enlightenment," spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen, observes, "is the evolutionary leap to which all spiritual experiences ultimately lead. In deep spiritual experiences a human being realizes that which is impersonal. In that realization a profound trust is found. In the discovery of that trust it is possible for a human being to liberate him or herself from tendencies toward aggression and permanently destroy the illusion of separation that those tendencies arise from."

"The result of this discovery," he notes, "is a level of integrity that is deep and profound and which manifests consistently at all levels of human expression. If the evolutionary leap is to take place then the final outcome of true spiritual experience must result in this kind of purity."

"Spiritual experiences and their results," he points out, "are not meant for the individual. They are for the evolution of the whole race."

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"Being aware of evolution means many, many things," Cohen observes in the video, below. "But ultimately from an evolutionarily enlightened perspective it really boils down to not only awakening to the fact that we are part of a process that is going somewhere, but ultimately to what degree we are contributing to the movement itself. And, so for the evolutionarily enlightened individual that perspective really points us back to ourselves, and it says: "To what degree are we enabling and encouraging this process of evolution to occur within this evolving cosmos as the result of our own heroic efforts?"

"Ultimately," Cohen points out, "at the next stage of human cultural development, the ultimate source of meaning and purpose for the individual is going to be found through how much we are actually contributing to the process of evolution that  made it possible for us to be here."

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