Evolution and Spirituality
have written extensively on the meaning of participation and of the
participatory mind. We do not always understand the beauty and complexity of the
participatory process. There is, of course, superficial or pseudo-participation,
like playing Bingo, or choosing one of many brands of shampoo in the super
market. And there is deep participation, like being in love or cooperating with
evolutionary forces to bring about the next stage of evolutionary unfolding.
Each stage of this unfolding represents a tremendous number of agents and forces
cooperating and participating together. Each page of evolutionary history is an
expression of the true magic of participation. There is nothing in the universe
that happens without it, both in the living universe and in pre-biotic universe.
It is through this process of exquisite cooperative participation that the
universe holds together. Participation and cooperation are essential to the
coherence of the universe, or any significant fragment of it.
is so important that hardly anything could happen in evolution without an
enormous array of forces and events participating together in the spirit of
cooperation. Each and every biological structure is so exquisitely complex that
its existence may be deemed a miracle of participation. Therefore, one of the
conclusions is that the selfish gene is a fiction created by Neo-Darwinism. The élan
of life and of evolution is cooperative, participatory, symbiotic and sharing.
Such is the nature of ethics embedded in life itself. All the selfish theories
of human nature, as well as attributing aggression to creatures of nature, are
the creation of modern man, Homo aggressivus, who has lost touch with the
Divine and alienated himself from the sharing and cooperative élan of
linked with participation is transcendence. Participation provides the vehicles
through which the articulation of forms take place, leading to new forms of
life, to new sensitivities, to new stages of self-realization. Transcendence is
the force, the engine that propels participation and moves it forward and
upward. And transcendence cannot be truly understood if we do not have some
sense of what creativity means. Transcendence is a peculiar form of creativity,
and the meaning of creativity and of art at large cannot be understood unless we
comprehend that they happen in the context of the universe guided by
transcendence. Thus transcendence and creativity beautifully complement and
balance each other. Both these forces always occur in the participatory
universe. The cooperation of various elements in cosmic and human configurations
is so exquisite that the process of participation can be seen as a creative one.
This is one of the reasons why we consider Creativity, Participation and
Transcendence to be a triad of forces.
participation and transcendence are the elements which are running through our
blood, are part of our evolutionary memory, and it is thus possible to see
cosmic evolution as incorporating the human domain. The highest achievements of
the human species are congruent with and, in fact, part and parcel of evolution
of the cosmos at large. By distinguishing the field of transcendence combined
with participation and the creative élan of the cosmos, we can bring to
a new coherence the whole picture of the universe in which all moves in a
stupendous dance, on an ever-ascending spiral of self-actualization. The
creative élan of evolution has been bursting through the universe for
billions of years. It has flowered with great effervescence in biological forms.
It has blossomed in manifold ways in human culture, art and spirituality. If
there is continuity and some coherence in evolving forms of the universe, then
it is quite clear that the forms of human culture are a continuation of
evolution at large.
is a late acquisition of evolution. It represents a new level of consciousness
of the human species and of evolution. We are the articulating edge of
evolution, its sensitive extensions, its powerful antennae through which new
sensitivities and new powers are brought into being. Spirituality is
quintessentially a new form of seeing and through its prism the whole universe
and we ourselves acquire a new depth and meaning. It is a new refinement through
which we not only gain a new understanding but the whole universe changes its
nature. The creation of spirituality in the life of the universe was perhaps as
important as the creation of life. Through the existence of spirituality the
universe is much more alive. We might ask a naive but perhaps an important
question: Why has the universe done it? Did it have to do it? And if so, why?
The simple answer is: because it is in the nature of the universe to transcend
and transcend. Why didn’t amoebae stay where they were? Because they were a
part of the evolutionary process which had to move on, further and further. The
force of transcendence is relentless and irresistible.
kind of evolutionary advantages, if any, does spirituality offer to human
beings? This question could be expressed in simpler terms: why is it important
to us? What does it do for us? Spirituality is important to us for many reasons.
It is important for our happiness. Spiritual bliss is the highest form of
happiness. Other forms of happiness are pale in comparison. All-fulfilling
happiness has spiritual roots and dimensions. Other forms of happiness, such as
sensuous satisfaction or earthly fame, are really superficial, are substitute
forms of happiness. True happiness is to possess what is the deepest and most
precious in the human. A comparison with non-human forms of life may be
illuminating. “Spiritual bliss” for the pig is to eat so much that it
finally cannot walk any more. This is not the form of happiness evolution
designed for us.
is very important for our survival and well-being in these turbulent and
fractured times. It may be contended that evolution is the survival of the
fittest. To survive well in our times, full of stresses and tensions, requires
psychic resilience and inner peace. These qualities are an outgrowth of our
spiritual qualities. Thus, in our times only spiritually strong people have a
chance to survive, for they have the requisite resilience and distance, while
others, sucked into the whirl, break like match sticks in spite of their
apparent toughness which may only be superficial. In the third millennium human
beings will have to be spiritually strong. Dwelling in the spiritual space of
our own being has a distinctive evolutionary advantage. It enables us to bear
the mundane, the silly and the oppressive magnanimously and compassionately.
The possession of a spiritual dimension is important for every human in his/her own quest of self-realization. The process of self-realization is the actualization of our deepest potential, our deepest nature. After it had articulated life, after it had articulated consciousness and self-consciousness, the universe had nowhere to go but upward—toward articulating spirituality. Such is the path of self-actualization of the universe, and within it, such is our own path. The spiritual matrix within which we live is also important for our sense of connection with others, for our sense of belonging, for our sense of empathy with others, for our sense of participation in joint projects which are important to us all. This spiritual matrix is not a luxury which a chosen few can afford but the ground of our social being.
if we contemplate the possibility of the thermal death on our planet, the result
of the sun exhausting its energy in some five billion years, then the question
is: how can we “survive” and continue our evolutionary saga? Certainly not
through developing more resilient and tougher bodies, for all biological bodies
will perish. The way is exactly through articulating new domains of spirituality
whereby life, and certainly consciousness, can survive and continue in
trans-biological conditions. Thus by evolving spirituality on this globe and
within human beings (and perhaps other beings), “life” may have been already
preparing itself for its post-biological stage; which in a curious sense will be
a post-life stage. Certainly biological survival is a necessary condition—to
start the process going. But the real game of evolutionary flowering starts
after this condition is satisfied. Biology is only a vessel within which the
spiritual evolves and flourishes.
spirituality is a natural extension and continuation of our evolutionary
journey, and it is a collective term covering a large range of human
sensitivities. Spirituality includes a well evolved ethical sensitivity, the
sense of the right and of the wrong and a determination to pursue and implement
the right. It includes aesthetic sensitivity, and particularly a highly
developed sense of inner beauty. When this sense of appreciation of inner beauty
and of the beauty of the entire cosmos becomes overwhelming, it manifests itself
as awe, or the sense of the sacred. Thus spirituality includes the sensitivity
for the sacred. On its highest level this sensitivity manifests itself as the
identification with the ultimate transcendent reality, which goes beyond all
human senses and precepts and which is sometimes described as dwelling in God.
This indwelling is a rare capacity. It is the attribute of the saints whom we so
much admire. We inwardly know that they symbolize the highest attainments of
humankind and show us the road to our own destiny.
is the place of spirituality in the field of
transcendence-participation-creativity? Spirituality is the daughter of
creativity, one of the highest forms of its flowering. Yet, at the same time, it
is the result of the inexorable process of transcendence, which, while
transcending all the earlier attainments, was bound to upgrade itself by going
to a higher realm, precisely to spirituality. Yet spirituality is not merely a
resultant which just happened as a consequence of the combined pressure of
creativity and transcendence. Viewed in a more subtle light, with a true empathy
for all evolutionary process, spirituality can be seen as a mini-omega point,
the point which was inexorably pulling the whole development toward itself. The
universe had nowhere to go but to the spiritual realm. In this sense
spirituality is an inevitable consequence of evolution as we know it. The
universe had to develop God for God (or the divine) was in the bowels of the
universe to become its crowning glory.
Transcendence and creativity connect all processes of life, including human life. They enable the processes of healing, as well as the creation of all art forms which have been so powerful and important in the ascent of life combating entropy. Art has not only been a realm of human delight but a healer, an articulator of spirituality, a luminous force in the self-realization of the cosmos and ourselves. In the rituals of many traditional cultures, we seem to be presented with the stage on which unique cosmic dramas are taking place. In the physical space, which at the same time is trans-physical, a unique enactment of energy is taking place—through dance, song and other rituals—which ultimately heal, re-energize, renew, reaffirm—both the community and the individuals—and reconnect them with heaven and other important forces of the Cosmos. In the aura of total participation, creativity and transcendence, healing and self-healing occur. These rituals, particularly at their best, may be seen as groping expressions of the existence and of the glory of the field of Transcendence/Creativity/Participation—which we laboriously attempt to put in words, while traditional cultures attempted to express through jubilant, ecstatic and orgiastic cosmo-dramas in which the whole cosmos participated while human beings were its denizens.
emerges quite naturally and almost inevitably from our discussion. As evolution
develops, unfolds and articulates itself, it wants to safeguard its achievements
on the biological level, but also on the human and spiritual levels. It does so
through participation, sharing, symbiosis and cooperation. These are the
“original” ethical values, actually embedded in the structure of evolution
and in the structure of life. I will thus argue that ethics can be derived from
an intelligent reading of the universe, from a deeper understanding of the
evolutionary grandeur, its cycles, its élan. We are now ready to propose
an ethical imperative which is both cosmic and human, both rational and
transcendent. This imperative is the summation of the sensitivity of evolution,
but it also gives concrete guidelines for human behavior in this world.
are the main formulations of our new imperative:
behave in such a way as to preserve and enhance life, which is a necessary
condition for carrying on evolution;
five characteristics of this new imperative are only variations on the same
theme. They all follow from the first formulation. This is not only inevitable,
but highly desirable. An ethical imperative must be general enough to provide a
philosophical foundation for values, but it must be fruitful and open-ended
enough to generate specific consequences and guidelines for action. For,
ultimately, we have to relate it to specific actions and undertakings in our
day-to-day living. The imperative stated above can be seen as the foundation of
the ethics of biological survival as well as of spiritual survival. Presented
here is natural ethics in the sense in which evolution is natural, spirituality
is natural, man’s striving for higher reaches of his/her existence is natural.
Yes, our ethics is natural and rational but one which is situated in the
framework of the universe endowed with the vector of Transcendence. Without
accepting Transcendence, no ethics makes sense.
ethics is the result of the workings of Transcendence, is the consequence of
articulation of ethical sensitivities. But ethics itself becomes in due time a
vehicle for further transcendence of the humans on the path of self-realization.
Spirituality and ethics are very closely connected. They aid and support each
other. Together they aid us in our journey. Spirituality is an expression of the
glorious ascent of evolution to the trans-biological level. But it is also a set
of strategies for safeguarding the subtle and sublime aspects of evolution. It
is a vehicle of further perfectibility of the species. But it is also a part of
ethics to help the humans who are on the path of self-realization. It all fits
together, if and when we take an appropriate Olympian perspective. Ethics,
spirituality and evolution are aspects of the same structure. But to arrive at
this all-encompassing perspective, we need to assume a non-pedestrian conception
of the cosmos, which is at least as creative as we are, but actually rather more
so. For we are only one aspect of its stupendous creativity. All human systems
of knowledge have limits. Creativity has none. Let us be mindful of this as we
proceed, along with evolution, on the path of further transcendence.
distinguishing the Field of Transcendence/Creativity/Participation, I have
attempted to weave a new pattern of evolutionary understanding. Without
acknowledging that the universe is on the journey of transcendence; without
realizing that the Cosmos is Artist and we are (including blades of grass)
partaking in its creativity; without clearly seeing that Participation is a most
significant mode of the existence of life—we are lost in the miasma of details
and atomistic patterns. Every generation behaves improperly by assuming that it
has arrived at the acme of human understanding and that it can formulate
ultimate syntheses of all knowledge or provide the ultimate theories. Such an
endeavor is arrogant and not in the nature of the open universe. The universe is
partly knowable. But what unfathomable mysteries it may still hold can hardly be
imagined. Dwelling in mystery is part of the beauty of the human condition which
may be a delight to the analytical mind but a far cry from understanding the
whole picture of the universe.
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