Sunday, January 19, 2014

Search for Meaning: Part 5 (of 7) : Evolution of Consciousness

Part 5 - Evolution of Consciousness

What if, for just a moment, we entertain the possibility that underlying all matter and form is consciousness. What if the evolutionary purpose of creation is to become more conscious, more self aware, and more connected in sympathy and feeling with others? And what if we discover that this does not pose a threat to the impulse to survive and propagate?

Indeed: consider how survival and propagation would fit neatly into the whole idea of reincarnation! If evolution is propelled by the intention of consciousness to take on form and through that form to become gradually more self-aware, then consciousness, so clothed, needs those forms to survive long enough to make progress. Then, in order to continue its evolution when the outer form it has inhabited has run its physical course of life, and after a “nightly” rest, it reincarnates and to do so it needs to find new forms, generally at least slightly more evolved. Indeed, such a possibility has not only been averred for thousands of years by the wise of east and west but this provides the intelligent and purposeful intention behind what otherwise seems a crude, hopeless, and mechanical explanation of life on earth. The cup of life may indeed be half full! (Something to think about, eh, Darwin?) Creation, defined as the cosmos, is “old as the hills,” and the evolution of consciousness is as much a part of it as the evolution of the forms of creation. Why not, then, mightn’t we be as old as time itself?

Just the other day a friend on Facebook shared a YouTube video from “Cosmology and Consciousness Conference” in India last month (Dec 2013) with Bruce Greyson, the speaker, an expert on consciousness beyond the brain. Here’s the link: He has studied numerous cases on reincarnation and other evidence supporting the idea that consciousness exists independent of form.

Any amateur psychologist will admit that the law of cause and effect governs thoughts and emotions just as much as it does chemicals, atoms and electrons! Over the long eons of creation, in this metaphysical view, perhaps as we gradually evolve through stages of mineral, plant, animal and human, we acquire more mobility, increased awareness of our surroundings, more control over our life, and, at last in human form, become self-aware. In super-human (superconscious) awareness, we achieve the Oneness spoken of even thousands of years ago! Achieving thus “Self-realization,” we are free to go (offstage, as it were, into the “bosom of the Lord”).

Instinct presumably guides the more or less automatic evolution of lower life forms towards higher life forms. But at the human level, armed with reason but heavily influenced by past subconscious tendencies, we can evolve upward or downward over time periods too great to even imagine. But intuition gradually awakens us to learn to expand our consciousness such that, as an example, we learn to love for love’s sake alone; to care for others because it is right; because it satisfies a deep need for connection; indeed, for many “reasons.” We simply know certain things about our feelings, consciousness and life. We may not articulate them in philosophical terms; or, we may do so, instead, using religious language. But the knowing is the same, regardless of the explanation employed. The left brain, reasoning mind is unable to critically examine the realm of intuitive knowing because intuition arrives on the doorstep of our awareness complete in itself, satisfied with the finality of its perception. It requires no acceptance and needs no approval. We can of course reject it. If we do so too frequently it will retreat back into silence. We can also, admittedly, misinterpret it or mistake subconscious influences, desires, and biases for true intuition. It takes practice to learn to recognize and trust true intuition.

Intuition knows that I am happier when I am calm, self-controlled, considerate, kind, energetic, and creative and so on. Our ego, by habit or self-assertion, however, wants excitement and stimulation (and to strike out at perceived threats) and then wonders puzzled when it receives the bill in the form of an emotional (or other) hangover or in returned hurts.

All great wisdom traditions acknowledge that the human psyche is engaged in a struggle between its past (and its subconscious) and its true potential in higher consciousness. Do we cling to the goal to “get ours” or do we haltingly and gradually begin to trust our intuition that happiness requires a long-term investment in an expansion of our consciousness?

The infant science we call modern psychology began with the proposal that it was more authentic to devolve in favor of our subconscious habits and to accept that these were our true self. This “solution” has been shown to be false, and worse, for it leads into greater suffering and unhappiness.

It must also be pointed out that the evolution of consciousness is not one of a species or even a group of people, but of each person, each soul, or put another way, individually. The nature of consciousness is such that evolution cannot be imposed upon itself. It awakens to itself and must choose to do so voluntarily AND individually. We call this free will.

Gradually, if we grow in wisdom and self-understanding through life’s ups and downs, we find that our definition of happiness takes us further than the pleasure of the moment and beyond self-gratification. It  expands to include the realities of others (family, friends, community, nation, and world), Even nature conspires to guide us in the direction of expanding awareness and sympathies. The young man falls in love; marries, starts a family, a career, becomes a responsible citizen and, in time, the doting patriarch of the clan. This naturally guided expansion of awareness brings us a satisfaction that the latest Smartphone or promotion cannot offer. Many a soul learns the hard way, later in life, that money can’t buy happiness.

When we take up recycling and donating to “Save the Whales,” clearly our frame of reference and scope of self-identification has expanded beyond our five senses, our immediate egoic interests, and beyond even our lifetime for it includes the welfare and well-being of other people.

Stay tuned for Part 6: God as Consciousness; God as Joy....