When you begin to recognize that your own presence here in this world is part of something infinitely bigger than yourself, you feel a sense of obligation awakening within you—a spiritually inspired, soul-level moral imperative to evolve for the sake of the future of the evolutionary process itself. The way you respond to that obligation and to that sense of cosmic responsibility is by demonstrating that the process is profoundly positive—indeed, the process is sacred—through your own example, through your own victory, through your own tangible and unmistakable higher development.
Do animals have souls?
Tucked inside this question’s simple syntax is a whole herd of very big, very intriguing and quite elusive questions. Such as, Is there a soul? And if so, how do we define it? What is it made of, and what is its purpose? Do all sentient beings have one—humans and animals alike?
Ontological questions such as these pose particularly fascinating challenges, and to tackle this one, EnlightenNext‘s Ross Robertson interviewed Marc Bekoff, biology professor, fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, and regional coordinator for Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. Bekoff, the author of books with titles like, How Animals Talk, Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues, and the three-volume, Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, is a dedicated scientist as well as a passionate advocate, an animal biologist, and an ardent believer in the rich inner life of our fellow creatures.
Bekoff’s ability to blend scientific knowledge with intuitive understanding helps to shed light on the mysterious nature of animals’ inner lives. Having closely observed elephants, coyotes, wolves, and primates, both in captivity and in the wild, Bekoff believes he has witnessed distinct expressions of altruism, telepathy, empathy, sympathy, and the full range of emotional and social experience usually considered to be found only in members of our own species. If animals truly possess many—or all—of the fundamental traits and capacities we do, the implications for our own identity and for the way we relate to all of life’s creation are profound indeed.
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.”
When you look at spiritual life in an evolutionary context, you cannot see yourself and your own development as separate from the entire cosmic continuum of the life process. And this creates a profound moral context for your own spiritual evolution—a moral imperative to transform yourself. Why? Because you and the process are one.
Think about it—if you are the highest expression, as far as we know, of the leading edge of the entire evolutionary unfolding, then what you do is always a reflection of the process itself. Continue reading…
In addition to being the founder and editor in chief of EnlightenNext magazine, Andrew Cohen is also the pioneering spiritual teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment. The following clip is from a talk Cohen gave during an eight-day retreat in which he describes the moral obligation that is inherent in awakening to what he calls the “Kosmocentric perspective.”
Click below to play audio clip (3.5 min):
Click here to purchase the entire CD set of this 8-day retreat, including over 6 hours of audio.
A few years ago, in 2004, I wrote an article called “Is God a Pacifist?” It was a wide-ranging piece that covered many areas—peace, religious violence, nonviolent activism, etc. But it also was a philosophical analysis of the moral issues involved with the use of power and force. And one of the many interesting realizations that came out of my research for that article was the recognition that progressives and liberals are often quite uncomfortable around the use of power, in particular state power. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the gritty business of politics, and all the inevitable compromises it involves, is below the idealistic impulses of the more progressive among us. Continue reading…
The work of the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey is, for most people, known through his contributions to the American education system. What is less known about this late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century thinker is that he was also an early evolutionary. By that, I mean that he was one among a number of peers who were exploring the ways that Darwin’s theory of evolution had recontextualized many aspects of human life, including religion, ethics, and morality. The following quote was shared with me by EnlightenNext’s director of education, Jeff Carreira, who has a particular passion for exploring the connection between American Philosophy and Andrew Cohen’s teaching of Evolutionary Enlightenment (check out his blog on the subject). It is taken from Dewey’s 1893 essay, “Evolution & Ethics,” and he packs a lot into a single paragraph. But it is well worth a careful read: Continue reading…
For our upcoming issue (which ships out on Wednesday!), we’re focusing on a very big topic: the future. More specifically, what does the seeming minefield of contemporary global crises say about our current trajectory? Are we nearing some sort of end times, as many seem to believe, or are we simply experiencing the inevitable growing pains that accompany the evolution of human civilization?
As part of our investigation, I had the privilege of interviewing Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau about how he thinks accelerating technological evolution will impact culture, values, and even what it means to be human. I had heard Garreau’s ideas before in a 2005 EnlightenNext interview about his bestselling book, Radical Evolution, in which he discusses the implications of the fact that humans are the first species with the capacity to guide their own evolution. But getting on the phone with him was an entirely different experience. Garreau has a particular aptitude for conveying just how much our lives and our world are actually changing, even though we may not be aware of it. To make this point, he threw out a handful of compelling stats, like the fact that in 1965, the entire North American Defense Command had less computing power than a single iPhone today—or that in the not-too-distant future, ambitious parents will literally be able to buy extra SAT points for their children through memory enhancing drugs. But while statistics like these are certainly mind-bending, Garreau’s main focus is on the moral questions they raise. In fact, he says that how we choose to utilize our technological muscle will determine whether our future ends up like The Jetsons, The Terminator, or something in between. Continue reading…