TOPIC

Conscious Evolution



Conscious evolution refers to the theory that humans as a whole can affect the evolution of our species. Adherents of this theory believe that by acting as conscious participants in both our individual and collective growth, we can design our own evolutionary path forward, becoming ever more intentional and aware of our role in the creation of our existence. This approach requires the use of self-reflection in order to free ourselves from the self-limiting patterns we engage in as individuals, as well as redesigning our societies toward more sustainable and responsible practices. While we can’t entirely slip the bonds of our biology or behavior, we can harness our understanding of the evolutionary process and use it as a force for good, acting as stewards for more positive outcomes across our entire planet.

View Our Introductory Article

CLOSE

An Introduction to Conscious Evolution

How did we get here? Where are we going? How will we get there? As individuals and on the societal level, these questions are at the heart of the human condition. The answers can provide a road map for how we live our lives. 

What is the origin of consciousness? 

Consciousness is the awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. Where it resides is a mystery, long the subject of religion, philosophy, and psychology. Today, neuroscientific research on consciousness is focused on the correlation between the experiences reported by human subjects and neural activity in their brains. 

One scientific theory holds that consciousness evolved over the past half billion years in vertebrates—reptiles, birds, and mammals—in order to help process the overwhelming volume of information that passes through our five senses. Eventually self-awareness developed, which later extended into an ability to consider the awareness of others. The development of language, which allows us to share our experience of consciousness with others, is considered the last big evolutionary leap of the human species. There is debate as to when that happened; it may have been as recently as 200,000 years ago or as long ago as 27 million years.

Are humans still evolving?

Genetic studies show that human evolution has not stopped and in fact may be speeding up. The process of natural selection over the past 11,000 years has enabled people to digest milk, and over the last 3,000 years, to live at higher altitudes. Today, in response to modern diets, there is evidence for selection favoring lower blood pressure. In addition, fast genetic evolution has been documented that cannot be explained by natural selection. Comparative DNA samples show that one particular gene that is important for brain development is evolving much faster in humans than it is in chimpanzees. 

What does conscious evolution mean? 

In the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin’s theories of biological evolution represented a major challenge to traditional religious beliefs. The teachings of the Bible seemed at odds with the concepts of genetics and natural selection. In Darwinism, evolution was considered a materialist rather than a spiritual process. Natural selection favored chance rather than will or purpose. Neither divine nor human agency had a place in this view of evolution.

In the twentieth century, in tandem with the ongoing development of science and technology, some began to view humanity not just as a product, but as a conscious guide, of evolution. In the 1950s, evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley coined the term ”transhumanism” to describe his belief that it was the destiny of our species to determine the future of evolution; and that it is our duty to know this and act upon it.

Huxley’s friend Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist and Catholic priest, integrated this idea into a Christian context in which enlightened individual consciousness feeds into a global transcendental consciousness that culminates in a state of divinity. Barbara Marx Hubbard emerged as a popularizer of conscious evolution in the late twentieth century, suggesting that humanity was on the cusp of making an evolutionary leap from Homo sapiens to what she termed Homo universalis. As with Huxley’s and de Chardin’s conceptions, Homo universalis would not be bound by a body or time or space.

Theoretical nuclear physicist Amit Goswami has spent decades pursuing the implications of quantum physics for consciousness. He notes that brain imaging shows “that indeed our self operates in both a local mode (the ego) and a non-local mode (the quantum self, expanded consciousness).” Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander agrees that the next great evolutionary leap will involve such an expansion of consciousness. Quantum biology also stresses the universal nature of consciousness: “Our view is entirely naturalistic: the mind that underlies the world is a transpersonal mind behaving according to natural laws. It comprises but far transcends any individual psyche.” 

Today, adherents of conscious evolution focus on intentional efforts to bend the trajectory of human society away from self- and civilizational destruction and toward a cooperative, more meaningful existence. “The question is not whether you will participate in the process of evolution,” says Neale Donald Walsch, “the question is how?” The group Conscious Evolution outlines approaches that we can undertake as individuals; these include: 

  • Take up a spiritual practice.
  • Free yourself from maladaptive behavior such as eating unhealthy foods. 
  • Cooperate any way you can to break down societal divisions.
  • Create.
  • Share truthful, helpful information.
  • Be adaptable and openminded.
  • Live sustainably.

Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson combines evolutionary theory with religious elements to meet the challenges faced by human groups. He has created a movement called Prosocial World to help small groups achieve common goals that also are for the benefit of the whole earth system. 

As we become increasingly entwined with our technologies and their power to shape human minds, being intentional is more critical than ever. As David Sloan Wilson notes: “Make no mistake—evolution, whether genetic or cultural, fast or slow, doesn’t make everything nice. It frequently results in outcomes that benefit me but not you, us but not them, or our short-term welfare at the expense of future generations. As we experiment with cultural catalysis, we need to make it fast and benign rather than fast and pathological for the common good.”

You Might Also Like Our Content on These Topics: Consciousness, Digital Life

Close Introductory Article
FindCenter Video Image
01:30:03

The Evolution of Consciousness with Peter Russell

For years Western Science has relegated consciousness to an epiphenomenon created by the brain. There are, however, serious problems with this approach and an alternative worldview is emerging in which consciousness is an essential quality of the cosmos.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

The Future of Man

The Future of Man is a magnificent introduction to the thoughts and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, one of the few figures in the history of the Catholic Church to achieve renown as both a scientist and a theologian.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

Can Evolution Be Conscious?

If you had a conventional biological education, then you were taught that evolution is not a conscious process. How very 20th Century.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

FindCenterWe need to move beyond Darwinian Theory, which stresses the importance of individuals, to one that stresses the importance of the community.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image
01:06:02

Sacred Activism by Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey, Oxford scholar and visionary, believes that our survival depends on Sacred Activism, a fusion of profound mystical awareness, passion, clarity and sacred practice with wise, dedicated, radical action.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Based on National Geographic's internationally-renowned television series, this groundbreaking and visually stunning book explores how science and civilization grew up together.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

Recently, Andrew Harvey was in Vancouver on his way to a workshop at Hollyhock, and his passion-powered wisdom was contagious. His new book is called The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism, and it’s just out from Hay House.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

FindCenterUltimately, nothing in this life is ‘commonplace,’ nothing is ‘in between.’ The threads that join your every act, your every thought, are infinite. All paths of mastery eventually merge. [Each person has a] vantage point that offers a truth of its own.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image
08:20

Our Role In Evolution - Neale Donald Walsch

Have you ever wondered what your role is in life? There's someone out there who's longing for what YOU have to give. Neale Donald Walsch explains why.

FindCenter AddIcon
FindCenter Video Image

The Consciousness Revolution

Three pioneers at the cutting edge of Western thought reflect on the chances of peace in the world, on how society is changing, and on the changes we can make ourselves.

FindCenter AddIcon

UP NEXT

Consciousness