Evolution is a new spiritual orientation. Most of us with a Western education are familiar with the idea of cosmic evolution—we’re aware that the cosmos is in a process of ever-greater complexification and that we are part of that evolving process. We’re aware of the Darwinian notion of biological evolution and accept the scientific evidence about how life has evolved. And some of us are even aware of the notion of cultural evolution, the recognition that culture has been developing over time through a series of stages. But very few of us are really awake to the notion of spiritual evolution. Seeing evolution as a spiritual unfolding that has an exterior and an interior, and understanding that our own experience of subjectivity is the leading edge of the interior of that creative process, is a very recently emerging idea. Traditionally, spiritual teachings pointed to a static attainment. The aspiration for enlightenment was the aspiration to come to rest in a steady state—in nirvana, in heaven. But when spirituality is reinterpreted from an evolutionary perspective, it is the aspiration for infinite becoming. The evolutionary impulse is an infinite reaching towards the future that affects the way we think about everything. Now we are no longer looking for spiritual liberation and release beyond the world, or after we die. We realize that the spiritual release is found in unconditionally, radically, and totally embracing the creative process of infinite becoming, as ourselves. It’s a very different orientation to spiritual liberation.
A big part of my job is getting people interested in creating the future at the level of consciousness. In order to do that, we have to suspend our concerns about how we’re going to get over certain very real problems that exist in the present moment. For at least a moment, we have to put those aside, focus our attention on the future, and see what happens. We have to train ourselves to have a different orientation in which we are always looking beyond the present into the possible. Our attention is ever-focused on what hasn’t happened yet, and no matter what happens our attention will always keep moving forward beyond the present moment into what’s possible. And the most miraculous part of this is that if our focus and conviction is strong enough, we almost magnetically begin to compel that future possibility into the present moment.
If you are looking for “scenius”–a scene that produces genius–check out MIT’s Media Lab. Since it opened its doors in 1986, the Media Lab has pushed the boundaries of the possible by creating an interdisciplinary space in which scientists, technologists, artists, and other bright lights can bounce off each other to envision and create the future.
This week the Media Lab was again in the news–announcing the appointment of a new director, Joi Ito. Ito is an unusual choice to run a prestigious lab at a major university. He’s never finished college (found Tufts’ computer science and the U. of Chicago’s physics a bit pedestrian). But Ito has made his mark as a venture capitalist and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has shaped the internet and how we use it in large and small ways.
Ito’s first encounter with the Media Lab speaks to the conditions for scenius that they have carefully created–beginning with the gorgeous, open building (see inset photo) designed for collaboration:
As I walked into the building, I felt like a pilgrim from the Middle Ages entering a cathedral. I was in awe and a bit of shock wondering if I would fit into an “institution” like the Media Lab and MIT.
After a day of non-stop meetings with a bunch of the faculty and students, I realized that I’d found my tribe. Everyone was super-smart, driven, working on very cool stuff. They weren’t afraid to try anything. There was extreme diversity but also a common DNA. I felt a sense of mission that seemed driven by the physical proximity created by the space and the empowering brand and legacy of the Media Lab. It created a power to think long-term with agility that I’d never seen anywhere else.
People talked matter-of-factly about getting sensors from this lab, maybe we need a tissue scientist, and robots from that lab, and visualization from this lab to take this research in this other direction.
It was a firehouse of interconnections and creativity – I was completely energized and felt totally in my element. …
I had created a life for myself that was scattered across non-profits, venture startups, relationships with large research institutions and networks of people all over the world in my search for long-term yet agile solutions.
John Seely Brown often talks about ‘The Power of Pull’ – how instead of stocking assets and resources, we should pull them, as we need them. Instead of pushing intelligence, orders and ‘stuff’ from the center, one should create a context where we can pull them from our networks. Instead of planning every detail, one could embrace serendipity and chart a general trajectory, pulling the things together in a highly contextual and agile way.
The Media Lab seemed like it had all of the right elements to tackle this problem and attract all of those people like us who thrive in the chaos and complexity that scares most people away.
A mandate to think creatively, super bright individuals working at their edge, surprising juxtapositions, diversity yet commonality of purpose. These all seem to be important elements of scenius.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is one of the most influential Evolutionaries of the twentieth century. His vision for humanity’s role in the grand story of evolution has inspired countless individuals, many of whom have appeared on the pages of EnlightenNext magazine. One of the most interesting examples is human potential pioneer Jean Houston, who befriended Teilhard after a chance encounter in Central Park in 1951 when she was fourteen years old. In the following excerpt from an EnlightenNext interview, Houston describes an exchange with “Mr. Tayer,” as she called him, in which he shares his spiritual interpretation of evolution:
“We need to have more specialists in spirit who will lead people into self-discovery,” he told me.
“What do you mean, Mr. Tayer?”
He said—and this is exactly what he said; I was taking notes because I knew I was in the presence of greatness—”We are being called into metamorphosis, into a far higher order, and yet we often act only from a tiny portion of ourselves. It is necessary that we increase that portion. But do not think for one minute, Jean, that we are alone in making that possible. We are part of a cosmic evolutionary movement that inspires us to unite with God. This is the lightning flash for all our potentialities. This is the great originating cause of all our shifts and changes. Without it there is nothing but struggle and decline.”
I’m writing a post on the spiritual awakening that seems to be stirring women today, and came across this cartoon–from 1915, when only the Western states of the US granted women the right to vote. I thought it would be great to post. The US elections are coming up very soon, and women are going to play a very significant role in the outcome. For decades women didn’t use their right to vote independently, and simply followed their husbands’ opinions. Today, the loudest voices of women in politics are not progressive, but those who call for a return to…well, what exactly isn’t clear. A throwback traditionalism cross dressing as a new, edgy feminism.
AND–women are awakening and have the potential to change culture at the roots…more on that in my next post. If you want to be part of the leading edge of that awakening, you’ll want to attend Women Forging the Future: Two Days of Myth Busting, Soul Strengthening, and Ecstatic Liberation, November 13-14. Check it out!
Apocalyptic thinking has been in the noosphere lately. I don’t mean headlines about the potentially devastating effects of climate change or another economic collapse. In the past week, I’ve seen a couple of blogs and articles online that take a very critical look at the extreme ways that we often tend to view the future: either naively utopian or cynically apocalyptic, and suggest that we need to find a more mature way to approach both the challenges and potentials facing humanity today. Right on!
First, I was very happy to see that the article “2013: Or, What to Do When the Apocalypse Doesn’t Arrive” by Gary Lachman—one of my all-time favorite EnlightenNext pieces—was featured on the hugely popular blog Boing Boing last week. Continue reading…
It is so important to come to that point in our own spiritual evolution where we are finally ready and willing to be wholeheartedly accountable for ourselves—for who we are and how we are. Heroically, we must be ready to accept unconditional responsibility for the seen and unseen consequences of everything that has ever happened to us.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Deepak’s Four Questions contest. Last week we asked you to submit your answers to the four questions that Chopra posed to our listeners during last month’s virtual seminar and we’ve received over 100 responses to the challenge. After careful consideration, we’ve selected our favorite set of answers, which we feel best captures the spirit of the evolutionary worldview. For his efforts, Pablo Morano, from Chile, will win a free premier level registration for our upcoming virtual course, The Evolutionary’s Guide to Changing the World.
Here are his winning answers:
1. What kind of world do you want to live in and what kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to live in?
A world where people understand that they shape it with every thought and create it with every action. Where people can be able to see that everyone who lived, lives, and will live on the planet actually is part of the whole system.
2. What is your role in bringing this about?
I search, think, act, and inspire. I see my role as an enabler of things, opening views, provoking a new worldview, and helping shape the system of the future from inside out.
3. Regarding the organizations that you’re part of, what kind of team do you want to have and what kind of relationship do you want to have with this team?
I would like to have a team that can see the world as a whole, yet knowing how to make use of their skills and knowledge to fulfill their purpose and the purpose of the whole system. I want to be able to inspire them all, to help them see how they can contribute, aligning their passion with the world and keep evolving together. I want to be a reflection of their hopes and be in a place where I can help them become more complete as human beings at the same time they do so with others.
4. What do you see as the primary need in our current cultural moment?
I see there is a strong need for a spiritual connection, for re-understanding the “cliché” that we are spirits living in a human experience in the sense that we can balance our experience as a physical being with it. It is a need to create a culture of consciousness beyond just oneself and the need to understand and act like there are more around us, and each has a space in this world.
We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to participate. There were so many thoughtful and passionate responses, it made our decision very difficult! Congratulations, Pablo! Continue reading…
Earlier this month, Deepak Chopra appeared as a featured guest on our virtual seminar, The Evolutionary Worldview. Speaking with EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen about what it takes to be a true evolutionary leader, Chopra challenged our thousands of listeners from around the world to answer four questions about their visions for the future: Continue reading…
The Evolution of God
Award-winning author and journalist Robert Wright promises that his new book, The Evolution of God, “will antagonize just about everyone—Jews, Christians, Muslims, new agers, and atheists alike.” In it, this recognized authority on human moral development and evolutionary psychology presents the controversial notion that God has evolved alongside culture since prehistoric times.
In a series on his new book, EnlightenNext senior editor Elizabeth Debold interviewed Wright (also the author of Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny and The Moral Animal). The first part of the interview is an exploration of how our understanding of God has changed in response to technological, political, and social development, from early hunter-gatherer clans and chiefdoms to modern monotheistic religions. Defining religion as a stabilizing force throughout history, Wright argues that the spiritual traditions have always pulled humanity to a higher moral truth and kept society from falling into chaos.
In the second part, Wright continues his exploration into humanity’s changing views of God, from ancient Egyptian myths to present day religions. Driven by his interest in redefining and “re-enchanting” our ideas about the divine for modern times, he takes into account all that we know about evolution, biology, and human history. Arguing that, even though we can no longer rely on old belief systems to understand divinity, within the desire to know God is an indispensible spark of truth that is in line with “the moral code of the universe.”