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To understand what Conscious Evolution, or Evolutionary Spirituality, is we first of all have to discover the truth of unity. What does that mean? It means that through some experience, intuition, path or practice we have arrived at the conviction that, at the deepest, most fundamental level of who we are, we human beings are all ONE. Indeed the entire explosion of Life is ONE miraculous and mysterious and interconnected Whole, regardless of how fragmented and chaotic it (and we!) may seem.
This realization, to whatever degree we have experienced or intuited it, fills us with profound peace, radiant inspiration and the joyous release of existential tension. Even if it is only a temporary glimpse, if we are sincere, something changes forever at the core of our being. Even if we fall away from it, somewhere we will never forget it. We recognize that our individual self-sense is synonymous with something unthinkably vast and immeasurably GOOD (or if you like GOD!) just as the wave is one with the ocean. We could call this the realization of Being—the knowing of being at One with the eternal transcendent mystery behind all manifestation. The Buddha called it the “Unborn” and the popular contemporary sage Eckhart Tolle calls it the “Power of Now”.
So another way of wording this is that we become aware that who we ultimately are is not a separate individual with a distinct personal history and cultural background, but Consciousness or Spirit itself. Then our unique personal history and cultural background is seen as being a relative part of who we are.
In the realm of the purely transcendent reality beyond time and creation, Consciousness or Spirit is utterly full and complete and never changes. It is the realization of this Absolute truth that has been traditionally called Enlightenment. It is the end of suffering and the realization of Freedom from the world and the illusory fears and desires of the separate ego. From this dimension the manifestation of Life, and the whole Universe, is often seen as a divine play without any inherent purpose.
Some great sages have even gone as far as to say that not only are the fears and desires of the separate ego an illusion, but that the entire created Universe is all illusion! Hence the sages, and the monks, nuns, sadhus and sannasyins after them, headed to the mountains, forests, the desert or the monastery or ashram to seek union in the great Beyond…an after worldly Heaven in the West or a transcendent Nirvana in the East. And there are plenty of spiritual seekers still seeking with that orientation in the world today...
Of course many spiritual traditions, like Tibetan Buddhism and the more genuine expressions of Christianity, emphasise the importance of compassion and healing the sufferings of the world, but the overarching context is still usually one of viewing the world as "a wheel of birth and death" or "fallen" and hence the spiritual dimension is still essentially transcendent and timeless.
But there is another face to Consciousness, which brings me to the second aspect of what "Conscious Evolution" means. It has to do with the world of form, of creation, of you and I as walking, talking, individuated embodied human beings. Because in the world of form, time and becoming, whether the data is coming from direct spiritual experience or the emerging discoveries of science and cosmology, Consciousness clearly evolves. And hence the meaning and expression of self-realization or spiritual enlightenment in this world evolves as we evolve.
Some will say that’s heresy or ridiculous…How can Enlightenment or Consciousness evolve? How can a no-thing that is timeless and transcendent develop?
Well it can and does evolve because the Source of who we all are is not only the perfect peace of unmanifest Consciousness, it is also the creative fire of manifest Consciousness in all its glorious and chaotic polarity and multiplicity, which, as we far as we know, has taken quantum leaps from the Big Bang of pure Energy to Matter to Life to Mind in a stupendous process of cosmic evolution that appears to be, well, going somewhere...
So did transcendent Consciousness, or the “Mind of God” (which if we are convinced that we are "all One" is our very own Self), decide to create an evolving Universe just so that we could grind our way, over 14 billion years. more or less, of groping trial and error from amoeba, to dinosaur to chimpanzee, towards the eventual realization in human form that the whole process that produced us is one big illusion with no purpose whatsoever and the only way to find spiritual freedom is to get out of here by transcending time, form and world???
I don’t think so.
In the time of Buddha and the ancient sages, when the nature of life was thought to be a cyclical process that was going nowhere and hence was fundamentally “suffering”, that may have been the highest, and therefore most liberating, truth. But in the 21st century, with all we now know about the intelligence and directionality that is driving the whole process of creation, that posture ultimately amounts to a form of nihilism. Why? Because it values transcendence over immanence, Being over Becoming. Because it is the abandonment of the very creative force that moulded us, through aeons of very arduous work, to the point where we can now, finally, take responsibility for the continuation of the Process.
What Process? The Process of Divine Evolution!
What does this mean? It means that Homo sapiens, as we currently know it, is not the “endpoint” but that maybe we are just getting started on the next stage of our evolutionary unfolding! Perhaps we are in fact a "transitional species" as India´s great evolutionary mystic Sri Aurobindo said? Maybe some of us are finally waking up to who we really are as we rise from the slumber and mistaken identity of ego consciousness, not only into the Great Timeless Beyond, but right here and now as individuated flesh and blood infused with the aspiring urge of Spirit-in-Action!
So Conscious Evolution or Evolutionary Spirituality, means that we have first become conscious, to a significant degree, that we are ONE and not the separate ego. But the journey has in no way ended there. We have chosen not to rest in our spirituality or “transcendence of the world”. Why? Because we have also become conscious that our individuated self, when fundamentally freed from the grip of the fears and desires of the ego, is here as an agent of a vast, creative process of Divine Evolution that cares deeply about actualizing our as-yet-unmanifest potential right here on Planet Earth.
Because the fact is we do care really, don´t we? We know it just does not make sense to only transcend the world anymore. The world is calling for our engagement, our commitment, our Love, as we face the chaotic and challenging rite of passage into a higher stage of our unfolding. We are being called to a spiritual activism in which the totality of who we all are in the 21st century is embraced and integrated.
Another very direct way to arrive at the same place is to simply let in the fact that we are living in a time of unprecedented evolutionary crisis. And if we look deep enough we will see that the crisis is one of consciousness. Why? Because it is an undeniable fact that the vast majority of human beings are embedded in ego consciousness and primarily motivated by self-interest and it is this that is the cause of all our “problems”, from the personal to the global.
Once we let this in we start to get a signal: Evolve or Die! Conscious Evolution simply means that one is an open receiver for that signal (i.e. not in avoidance of the truth) and one is committed to change. What change? A change of consciousness. We discover this fullness of liberation when we begin seeing and experiencing ourselves, not as a merely a separate personality living out “my” small life, but as a Universal citizen or expression of the ONE Life (or Uni-Verse) that wants to evolve so that ONE Life will AWAKEN and become manifest on Earth. And that in turn will automatically radiate outward in positive change in one actions, relationships and hence in the wider world. What more can any of us do than that? What greater purpose could there be for human life?
So Conscious Evolution is the discovery that spiritual freedom is no longer found only in the bliss of timeless Being; it is found also in the ecstatic urgency of evolutionary Becoming. And it is the wholehearted embrace of the latter dimension especially that is so essential if anything (including us!) is going to truly change for the better.