Meditations: Breakthrough Beyond “Modern Humans”
Breakthrough Beyond “Modern Humans”
In the science fiction classic “2001, A Space Odyssey,” HAL, the all too human-like computer, malfunctions and becomes evil. It begs for the life of its higher functions as the sole surviving astronaut is erasing them. It’s a metaphor for the growing destructiveness of man and the dreaded death of the ego.
With a stunning degree of denial and hubris, a recent “Naked Science” documentary about three branches of human evolution (afarensis, erectus, and sapiens), reported, “In less than 75,000 years, we went from being little more than primitive cave men to the most powerful species to ever stride the planet.” A line like that is enough to produce a line of misanthropes.
At the other end of the stupid spectrum, we have the bogus theory of “intelligent design.” According to this belief, since humans are starting to imbue computers with egos in their own image, it must mean that there’s a God that imbued humans with egos in His own image. Of course that’s a reductio ad absurdum, but both of these views represent what passes for philosophy these days.
It comes down to this: Can the problem-solving brain solve the problem of itself? Certainly not by taking a problem-solving approach, since ‘higher thought' is the problem.
In order to begin to resolve the riddle, it’s necessary to ask another question. Nature operates in a dynamic, multi-layered, infinitely complex and ever-changing order, in which all systems are seamlessly interconnected. How then could humans evolve in growing disorder and become the overwhelmingly dominant species on this planet--the very antithesis of the cosmic imperative of wholeness?
There seems to be an innate urge within healthy human beings to understand our place in the universe. My inquiry into the relationship between humankind and the cosmos began after seeing “2001” as a freshman in high school. I pursued the question for 20 years-- sometimes while doing other things, sometimes single-mindedly. No philosophical or scientific explanation satisfied me, either ancient or modern.
In the beginning there was simply an insight into the nature of thought--that it is inherently separative. There is no thought without separation. But in itself that isn’t the trouble. (The word ‘separation’ literally means ‘to remove and make ready for use.’)
Finally, after many years, the central insight struck me with almost physical force. The evolution of conscious thought carries with it the inexorable tendency to make the mistake of taking its separations as the way things really are, and that inevitably produces more and more division and fragmentation. This almost preprogrammed error eventually caused humans to fragment the earth to the point of ecological collapse.
Nevertheless, if the mistake of division and fragmentation is inevitable with the evolution of intentional separation (‘higher thought’), that still begs the question: How could nature make such an error?
I realized that my quest for an explanation for the conundrum of man would not, however accurate and well constructed, transform the human animal. The quickening spiral of fragmentation can only end through the application of observation, questioning, and self-knowing within the individual.
So I took the advice of the late physicist/philosopher David Bohm, who said, after I had written and spoken to him about my insights: “You may have done it, but don’t make another philosophical system out of it.” He meant that adding another theory to the pile wouldn’t help clarify human consciousness, but add to the confusion that is ailing it.
Contrary to Teilhard de Chardin and his philosophical descendents such as Ken Wilber, consciousness does not evolve. There is no upward ascension of humankind, though that idea and hope are dying very hard. Rather, the quickening of a downward spiral of consciousness is producing tremendous pressure for a breakthrough.
The breakthrough that produced ‘modern humans’ occurred less than 100,000 years ago in a very small number of people in southern Africa, after global climate change, triggered by a super-volcano in Indonesia, nearly wiped out archaic Homo sapiens.
The stresses that modern humans are placing on the planet (and ourselves) are necessitating another breakthrough. This necessarily conscious breakthrough will probably also be precipitated by a global catastrophe, though this time of our own making. Hopefully it won't reduce our numbers to a few thousand, as before.
Spiritually speaking, symbolic thought was a necessary development for the emergence of full awareness, capable of sharing in the cosmic mind. But thought is also the greatest impediment to the complete awareness of a silent mind.
Resolving this dilemma is integral to human survival and the development of a new order of consciousness. Truly, self-knowing is the door to freedom. Evolution is not evolutionary, but revolutionary.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.