Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Martin LeFevre: The ‘Riddle of Man’

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The ‘Riddle of Man’

As I see it, human consciousness is an unexplained contradiction in the infinitely dynamic order of the universe. Consciousness is not ‘evolving,’ and things are going from bad to worse. Is there an understanding of the relationship between humankind and the universe that offers genuine hope?

The attempt by many nowadays to blur the distinction between human consciousness and the natural order is just making the human mind even more confused. Given that consciousness is not evolving however, but rather growing more and more disordered, does that mean one must just give up, as so many have done?

The choice between cynical self-absorption and New Age self-absorption is no choice at all. But can we really find out what humankind’s place in and relationship to the universe is?

If one believes the universe is a completely random interaction of energy and matter, then cosmic intelligence and sanctity are just the inventions and illusions of despondent or despotic minds. Religious beliefs previously served to give meaning to the many, while enabling the few to have control. Belief systems these days have become increasingly reactionary, whether in the Judeo-Christian or Islamic worlds.

To the person who has actually experienced the living order, mystery, and holiness that permeates the cosmos, human consciousness is a great contradiction and conundrum. It used to be called ‘the riddle of man.’ This puzzle cannot be resolved either by religious belief, or by mushy appeals to the ‘oneness of our deeper selves.’

Is evolution working out something significant in human consciousness? (Not that Earth is the center of the universe; just that consciousness is obviously coming to a head here, apocalyptic theology notwithstanding.) The central question to my mind is: How did the human brain, which is generating unsustainable levels of fragmentation and disorder on this planet, evolve from the infinitely dynamic order of the universe?

It may be that given the right conditions and enough time, evolution produces brains capable of symbolic thought. That doesn’t imply a hierarchy, much less ‘man being created in the image of God,’ but rather an enigma and growing crisis for the species in which conscious thought has evolved.

Though it's an incredibly powerful adaptation, symbolic thought rests on a principle that is the antithesis of the wholeness and order of the cosmos. That is, thought separates things.

On one hand, the ability to mentally and physically remove ‘things’ from the environment has given the human species immense powers of manipulation and control over the environment, even down to the molecular level. On the other hand, using thought without insight into its nature and limitations is fragmenting the earth and society all to hell.

Consciousness, as we usually know it, is a growing momentum of useful knowledge and useless accretion (that is, ‘baggage’). The net result, denial notwithstanding, is increasing division, conflict, and fragmentation. Further, the accumulation in consciousness of useless content (e.g. hurts and hate, grudges and garbage) is the source of darkness and evil in the world.

Despite the growth in scientific knowledge, human consciousness is not an ascending spiral of wisdom, but a descending spiral of chaos. There have been points of possible radical change at every step of the way, but we appear to be running out of chances to change course.

Thought-based consciousness has reached a point where the fragmentation it is generating threatens the viability of the Earth’s ecosystems. Self-made fragmentation is in turn putting tremendous pressure on human beings to radically change human consciousness.

The great paradox is that symbolic thought is both a necessary precondition for conscious, silent awareness of Mind, as well as the greatest impediment to it, given thought’s predisposition for division and noise. Self-knowing therefore is not just the path for Buddhists and Socratic aficionados; it is the foundation for the survival of the species.

Enlightenment means stepping out of the stream of the past altogether. That requires great self-awareness and inner spadework. No person can compel another to take the path of self-knowing; it has to come entirely from within. But the price of willful ignorance is getting higher and higher.

So is there a cosmic intelligence that cares about the fate of humankind? I feel there is an intrinsic intent in the universe to evolve, through a haphazard and largely random process, brains capable of awareness of Mind. Human beings can feel and share in that intent.

Can the revolution in consciousness that finally changes the disastrous course of humankind ignite at this juncture of history?


- 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: The author welcomes comments.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news