The Evolution of Evolution

Casey CareyPhilosophical Inquiry0 Comments

In 1859 Charles Darwin rocked the scientific and intellectual world with the publication of The Origin of Species (or more completely, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life).

The earth shattering blow that Darwin dealt wasn’t the idea of evolution. Lots of people had talked about evolution before Darwin. The truly revolutionary idea was the idea of natural selection.

Darwin was describing a natural process in which mutations at birth led to the emergence of new traits in some of the individuals of a species. Some of these new traits offered a survival advantage in a particular environment and would propagate until all members living in that environment shared the same trait. A new species would be born.

The radical implication of Darwin’s idea was that all of the diversity of life on this planet had come through a process of genetic mutation and natural selection. God had not created all of the variety of plants and animals on Earth – evolution had.

One group of young thinkers picked up this idea and ran with it. A handful of Harvard University students who met regularly in Cambridge, Massachusetts and called themselves The Metaphysical Club felt that Darwin had not gone far enough.

If we did indeed live in an evolving universe then it wasn’t just animal and plant species that evolved. Everything must evolve. And they meant everything, including all the natural laws of time, space and causality.

The idea of evolution that we are taught today is essentially Darwinian. It is a theory about how animal and plant species adapt and differentiate into new species over time.

The way we have been taught about the theory of evolution assumes an unchanging background of time and space. It is as if the universe of planets and stars were a stage upon which the drama of evolution takes place.

The members of the Metaphysical Club, which included Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, did not believe in the existence of anything static in an evolving universe. In their meetings during the 1860’s and 70’s they hypothesized about the evolution of everything.

My spiritual background has been largely focused in the domain known as Evolutionary Spirituality. The essential message of this form of spiritual work rests on the notion that once we recognize that we are part of a universal process of evolution we have the opportunity and the obligation to take an active role in shaping the future of that process.

The sacred work of most forms of Evolutionary Spirituality is thought of in terms of playing an active role in evolving human consciousness and culture through time.

One thing that I’ve wondered about is that most forms of Evolutionary Spirituality have an implied commitment to a static universe of linear time and three dimensional space.

If we talk about an evolutionary progression that begins with an event like the Big Bang and then progresses over billions of years, we are assuming that time and space existed the whole time.

Now if you ask a physicist they will say that there was no time and space before the Big Bang. The Big Bang was the beginning of time and space.

But is that really the way most of us think about it? More often we tend to think of the Big Bang as if it happened in time and space. Maybe there was no time and space before it, but right after it we imagine that linear time and three dimensional space appeared more or less the way we understand them today.

The mystical philosophies that I have been studying and teaching over the past few years are aimed at expanding our understanding of evolution.

  • What if evolution is not a progression that takes place through time?
  • What if our current understanding of evolution is only the product of our particular level of consciousness?
  • What if at the next level of consciousness we will understand evolution completely differently than we do now?

I believe this is exactly the case. Evolution is not a progression through time. The experience of progressing through time is a phenomenon of our current stage in the evolution of consciousness.

We are going to evolve beyond our current experience of time and space into a completely new dimension of reality.

Evolution is not a progression through time – it only looks like a progression through time when viewed through beings whose consciousness is wedded to notions of linear time and three dimensional space.

Evolution is an expansion of dimension. Consciousness is not just progressing along the line of time that moves from the past into the future.

Evolution is the gradual growth of consciousness into greater dimensionality and the experience of each next dimension is incomprehensible to the dimensions before.

To participate in the evolution of consciousness we must make ourselves available for an expansion into a new dimension of existence. We will need to let go of everything we know – including our ideas of time and space – and allow our awareness to be carried off into places that we cannot possibly imagine from where we are looking now.

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