The application of
the evolutionary worldview to personal and social affairs, including
social action and philanthropy, is relatively new.
This current initiative is grounded in an emerging evolutionary
spiritual movement that is part of that trend.
I wrote the following three documents as an introduction
to this perspective and how it can be applied to life, and to
place it within the larger field of spiritual traditions.
-- Tom Atlee
1. What is the evolutionary
We now know from science that everything in and around us is made of the
initial Great Radiance with which the universe began. There is nothing outside of that. All the hydrogen atoms in the water and carbohydrates in and
around us are almost as old as the universe, itself -- 13,700,000,000
years. The carbon,
nitrogen and oxygen atoms that form the rest of us -- and all
life on earth -- came into being in the bellies of red giant
stars that lived and died before our sun was born.
The more complex elements -- calcium and magnesium, gold
and silver, and all the rest -- were created in supernova explosions
brighter than a billion stars, flung to the far ends of the
galaxy as raw materials for Life.
It is not mysticism but hard science that now tells us we are made of stardust
and light, waves and coalescences of stardust and light reconfiguring
into cars and trees, oceans and civilizations. We are cosmic evolution, happening right here and now. We are the living face of evolution, the
eyes and hands and minds of the universe weaving itself into
its next manifestations, day after day after day.
We are the universe becoming conscious, watching itself
through microscopes and telescopes, mountaintops and meditations,
awed, nudging its pieces into greater awareness and love.
We are also the universe broken apart in the illusion of separateness,
the arrogance of our small but growing power, the pursuit of
our small but growing desires.
And we are the universe waking up from this dream of
separateness and smallness into the discovery of ourselves as
conscious, loving Evolution, finding ever more remarkable and
inclusive forms of cooperation. We are both the universe's sleep
and the universe's awakening.
Here on earth, we are stardust-as-human-civilization dawning into an evolutionary
creation of a collectively wise culture that is capable of its
own conscious evolution.
This unprecedented challenge is more than an enticing
possibility. It is a collective necessity, a matter of survival.
It is our next evolutionary leap and we are that leap.
(For more information on the evolutionary worldview see http://www.thegreatstory.org.)
from our long evolutionary journey offer rich sources of guidance
about how to consciously participate in the process -- and thereby
transform ourselves, our consciousness, our social systems and
cultures, and our technologies -- in ways that serve our long-term
collective flourishing as part of a flourishing Earth.
Here are a few of the evolutionary dynamics and opportunities
we can explore and use:
a. Love at the core. The fact of
evolution means we are all related. Not just we humans, but
all entities in the universe, all are expressions of one universe. We have been kin since the infinitely intense birth of this
universe. We all
arose from the Source of that, and we are all made of stardust. Two hundred million generations ago, our ancestors swam in
the sea; today the chemistry of the sea still flows through
our veins. Our bodies contain great civilizations
of highly specialized and synchronized single-celled beings,
cousins of the trillions of microbes that populate the world
around us. All humanity is one family, rich with
diversity yet sharing one root.
Deep inside we know this, we resonate with one another,
we are drawn into relationship, support, and celebration. Love is not something that needs to be added or built, only
freed and nurtured, for it is our natural state.
b. A new dance of cooperation and competition.
Those who today detect directionality in the history of life
note that evolution through time has produced ever more inclusive
and intricate systems of cooperation. Cooperative achievements have been retained
by the body of life not at the expense of competition but in
service to it: Quite simply, cooperating entities are more robust
in handling the challenges offered up by the world around them. Similarly, as human activities expand to embrace the global
commons we all share, the win/lose games that drove human interactions
in the past are being
supplanted by "zero-sum games" -- that is,
we are all in it together; we either win together or lose together.
Wider levels of cooperation are no longer simply admirable;
they are essential. And the next evolution of cooperation
will transcend and include competition in new ways that look
more like the Olympics than war.
c. Synergy between self and the whole. Because individual
organisms play their role in biological evolution by passing
on genes, self-interest is foundational in biological evolution. And yet it is evident that the evolutionary
benefits of cooperation throughout the journey of life have
been achieved by creatively tying self-interest to the welfare
of the whole. Sustainable cooperative systems thus contain
feedback loops that help individuals experience the positive
and negative effects of their own acts.
On that loom individual gifts can then be woven into
patterns that serve the whole even as the whole enhances the
lives of its individual members. This is evolutionary science. This is evolutionary economics. This is evolutionary sociology. This is evolutionary politics and governance.
d. Higher learning. Evolution is
a vast learning enterprise.
In biological evolution, learning often happens by organisms
passing information through genes from one generation to the
next, testing new approaches through real-world trial and error
out-in-the-world intelligence accelerated and disengaged from
harsh consequences when evolution internalized it into minds
that could test ideas and options immediately and safely before
trying them out in the real world.
Later, with the evolution of symbolic language in the
human realm, supplemented by increasingly sophisticated methods
of transmitting learnings over time and space, evolution spread
rapidly into the realm of collective intelligence. Increasingly inclusive collective intelligence
and wisdom are the growing edges of evolution today.
e. Self-organization and emergence. Evolution has
steadily enriched the capacity of life to organize itself into
ever-more creative, remarkable, complex, and workable forms. The wonder of the universe is not that it was designed from
outside, but that it is designing itself from the inside, and
getting better and better at doing so.
(Some say God manifests in this imminent, infinite, yet
ever expanding creativity.) As complexity increases, linear forms
of understanding and management become less and less useful
-- both in the realm of human societies and ecologically in
the world at large. The complexity sciences have vividly demonstrated
that life operates primarily with distributed, evocative, self-generated,
whole-system organic forms of organization and leadership. By way of whole-system forms of intelligence,
life generates its own newness at the evolutionary edge, experienced
as emergence, as a creative upwelling within us, among us and
around us. The
growing body of knowledge about healthy self-organization and
emergence can help us transform problems and crises into evolutionary
f. Evolving consciousness. Most native
peoples experience the world as alive and aware: stones, mountains, forests, plants, animals are all conscious,
each in their own ways.
Drawing upon mainstream science, as well as indigenous
roots, many are beginning to recover similar forms of depth
communion with the more-than-human world, thereby nurturing
right relationships to life. Pioneers committed to exploring the interior dimension of reality
discovered and mapped diverse and extensive realms of awareness,
which are now becoming available to more people, deepening them
into Spirit and ameliorating the destructive tendencies of materialism. The power of civilization -- with its
languages, tools, stories, constructed environments -- to shape
consciousness (and vice versa) has resulted in a co-evolution
of social systems and consciousness -- presenting tremendous
evolutionary opportunities in the dynamics where these two shape
each other. We can now envision the conscious evolution of increasingly
conscious and self-evolving social systems.
3. Evolutionary enrichment of religious/spiritual
story and perspective offers a science-based, sacred foundation
for all dimensions of human life, and for inquiries into life's
meaning and morals. It is neither tied to nor anathema to any religious tradition.
On the contrary, people from virtually all major religions
-- including mainstream and evangelical traditions -- have found
it adds richness and depth to their own beliefs.
Much of the diversity
of religions arises from their own origins and evolution in
different ecological and cultural settings.
Lush environments engender lush theologies.
Kingdoms on earth call forth heavenly kingdoms.
Individualistic cultures tend to value individual spiritual
As an enterprise
that thrives on diversity, the evolutionary perspective opens
itself to a thousand interpretations and adaptations in widely
diverse traditions, offering thereby a sense of kinship to all
those who find meaning in it, regardless of their religion or
lack of it.
Much work has already
been done by ministers and theologians integrating the evolutionary
perspective with Christian theology - see evolutionarychristianity.org.
New initiatives will
soon make it possible for anyone of any tradition to participate
in a global collaborative effort to weave the evolutionary perspective
meaningfully into every religious tradition on earth, as well
as into the worldviews of non-religious people and agnostics.
Conscious Evolutionary Agentry