Humankind's physical and spiritual evolution appear to have two connatural objectives:
The complete development of the individual The coordination of individuals so developed into a functioning unity
The primary process of our species' evolution is human functioning: the active use of our physical, mental, and spiritual faculties. Functioning results in specific elements:
- Physical elements
- Machines: manufactured devices which transform one form of energy into another, decreasing entropy
- Institutions: nations, governments, laws 1
- Art: literature, painting, drama, sculpture, cinema, music, dance
- Human physical capabilities: power, skill, finesse
- Mental elements
- Cognitive: knowledge, understanding, wisdom
- Emotional: self-discipline, compassion, altruism
- Spiritual: discernment, enlightenment, unity
- Spiritual elements
- Perennial philosophy: Pythagoras, Plato, Suhrawardi
- Perennial initiatory procedures: mystery rites, alchemy, mystical contemplation
- Perennial wisdom: Plato, Jesus, Rumi
The Persistence of Eternal Elements
Productive people make contributions of tools or knowledge to succeeding generations. Each innovative gain in information or technology adds to race wisdom. The physical elements creative individuals develop are often lost over time, while the mental, metaphysical, and spiritual elements persist.
The colossal library at Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in 300 BCE, and destroyed around 415 CE, illustrates this principle. The Alexandrian Library was the outstanding physical repository of ancient knowledge and wisdom. Scholars were sent to all parts of the known world to gather and copy selected material. It has been estimated that the library contained half a million books at the height of its development. The mindless, dogma-inspired destruction of the library helped to bring on the dark ages.
"Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision."
John Stuart Mills, On Liberty
An even more illustrative example is Socrates. His physical life was taken from him by a corrupt Athenian senate, but his philosophical and spiritual accomplishments have lived on for 2,500 years.
The ideas and example of such spiritual giants as Socrates and Jesus--both murdered by ignorant tyrannies--continue to inspire millions even today.
Even though humans went through the dark ages in the West, when knowledge and understanding were at a terribly low ebb, when the physical accomplishments of previous cultures were lost or forgotten, the mental and spiritual achievements were preserved. Thus, when people in the West again arose from the depths of ignorance during the Enlightenment, they were able to reclaim the ideals of democracy and science which Greece had bestowed on all free males (not women and slaves).
Though Perennialist seers such as Suhrawardi and Roger Bacon suffered martyrdom and imprisonment, and mystical and spiritual teachings always lack popular appeal, the Perennial Wisdom continues to be preserved and transmitted over the centuries. As the few again become aware of this heritage of a vast spiritual treasure, some are being initiated into its mysteries during this spiritually dark age.
Humankind's current state of social, philosophical, and spiritual development is at a low level. We are engrossed in the external results of human functioning: the gadgets, the weapons, the machines, the human posturings of wealth and fame. So, much of the human functioning has to center on lesser, material productions.
Since we evolve through functioning, to participate actively in human evolution we must actively use our faculties wherever we find ourselves. We live at present in a basically deformed culture; the focus of much of human activity is in relation to money, power, and war. If we're able to focus on more progressive elements, we should take every opportunity to do so. But if not, we must remind ourselves that our primary responsibility is to develop enduring capabilities through functioning at the highest level possible with whatever we're given to do.
The Development of the Individual
The goals of human evolution are the complete development of individuals and the coordination of these individuals into a functioning unity. Developing ourselves as individuals is our initial responsibility, the construction of our channel-through from the Source. We cannot contribute to a larger purpose until we have gained necessary capabilities. Furthering the goals of the comprehensive unity is only constructively possible if it is an overflow from an integrated core.
We must remember that we build ourselves for the purpose of joining our capabilities and creations with the greater Whole. But we must first have something worthwhile to give before we can be of any benefit to a larger, cooperative endeavor. We develop a worthwhile self through attaining self-knowledge and self-control.
We develop all these essential capabilities--understanding, creativity, magnanimity--through functioning: actively using whatever knowledge, ability, and power is ours at the moment. We grow in understanding by making decisions, solving problems, and answering questions--functioning.
Creativity isn't achieved merely by contemplating or wishing--we have to do something, including making mistakes and improving through experimentation. Any new element must be acquired by action, by experience--beyond knowing the words or the ideas.
It is only in functioning that we experience reality at all. Unexperienced ideas and concepts are merely symbols of reality.The word "understanding" symbolizes a definite experience, an activity beyond inner intellectual theorizing or imagining. Just as a note on a score stands for a palpable musical tone. Genuine understanding can be acquired only by actual participation in the reality. In activity, in function, ideas and concepts become embodied in reality. As we function in the external world, we remove ideas and concepts from the category of symbols suggesting truth into the category of things conducting truth.
Construction of Our Channel-Through from the Source
Our own reality as human beings is the manifestation of Higher Consciousness through terrestrial embodiment. Our responsibility is to add to this earthly manifestation the complementary supersensuous manifestation of the corresponding spiritual reality.
"Filling all space is a great sea of undifferentiated force. We can call it life, or spirit, or the Universal--anything we please. But it is the thing by virtue of which all living things exist, through their ability to transmute this general force into something individual. In other words, we are vital transformers. It follows that we are alive and developed in proportion to how much of this force we can accept, and how freely it flows through us. The better we do this the higher grade we occupy, and the more alive and contented and effective we become."
Stewart and Betty White, Across the Unknown
We exist as particular earthly incarnations of Unified Consciousness. All created things are the result of a flow-through of a Higher Force into the terrestrial domain. For most humans this embodiment of Higher Reality is largely automatic and unconscious. We may experience intuitions or flashes of inspiration, but we don't recognize them as contact with spiritual forces.
We can contribute to human evolution only if we take conscious charge of our own development, deliberately cooperating with spiritual forces around us. We contact these Higher Forces by understanding their essence, what Plato called their Form. We must learn to see beyond the countless earthly deposits of Higher Force--shoes and ships and sealing wax, even cabbages and Kings--to the essence or Form of this inflowing Reality. It becomes evident that our personal essence consists not in physical elements--body, brain, occupation, wealth--but in enduring qualities such as courage, trustworthiness, veracity, and mindfulness. We then work to develop these eternal qualities as our essence.
Our full development involves becoming aware that we are a minute part of a Great Doing, 2 and actively enhancing its flow-through and shaping of us to its Higher Purpose. We work to attain the sensation of the entrance into our being of the universal creative life force. Thus we attain an inward companionship 3 with all other particularized manifestations of Universal Life, cooperation with all other forms through which the vitality passes.
The way in which the Higher Force manifests in us is determined by our own functioning: our choosing between alternatives, our discovery of meanings, our creating of innovative ideas and objects. Inspiration comes only through attraction to some definite output, some particular production. It cannot come to us unless it has a container, a purpose, a planned embodiment. The spiritual forces can only act as the complement of our act, something forceful and worthy of response. Human consciousness, humankind as a whole, attains the right and the power to advance in evolution only in complement to its own constructive contributions.
We can get a sense of the relationship of the individual to the Higher Force by considering certain physical phenomena. The room in which you presently find yourself is full of radio and television waves, of which you are unaware. But these frequencies do not manifest in any way unless you interpose a transforming mechanism: a radio or a television set. Similarly, the room also contains a flow-through of electricity. You only manifest this electrical force by interposing a filament to produce light, a motor to produce power, or a resistance mechanism to produce heat. Your choice of a form of embodiment for the force--your functioning--determines how it will be manifested.
The Manifestation of Being
On the terrestrial plane, an entity comes into being when the higher stream of vitality is arrested by a specific Idea or Purpose. 4 If an Idea is interposed, the Higher Force becomes whatever form of creature or object is embodied in the Idea. The origin of the Idea that results in the created entity is a Higher Intelligence, not an earth consciousness. When a Purpose is interposed, the resultant entity is a vehicle of differentiated force, dependent for its nature and its effect upon the nature of the Purpose.
We can determine what differentiation of invisible force will occur by selecting some idea or purpose, some use of the force to achieve a specific aim. This directly relates to a powerful method for spiritual development: meditation. In essence, meditation involves:
Meditation helps you to make of yourself an effective conductor for the Source to flow through and manifest--without interference from your ego. Through meditation, your busy, near-sighted self is quieted and set aside for the purpose of expanding a great and dormant power within you.
- A conscious tuning-in to the Source
- A conscious use of the channel of ourselves as a flow-through of the vitality and life from the Source
- A conscious selection of a specific direction for that flow that goes beyond personal achievement to a larger purpose
We must couch our purposes in general terms as much as possible, recognizing that we do not possess the wisdom as to which specific outcomes are best in relation to the Greater Whole. So our intentions and prayers should involve directing the flow toward the realization of Higher Purposes of which we have only incomplete apprehension. We can express our own personal intentions and desires, but always with the proviso that they be folded into the Greater Purpose.
Higher Laws determine how Being is differentiated and how Being operates. We do not cause a Higher Law to operate, we merely learn the nature of the Law and cooperate by creating conditions in which the Law can manifest. We pile wood shavings over crumpled paper and light a match, but the Law operates to produce fire; we do not produce it.
The Law of human evolution requires that we drop our consciousness into place as a link between the Higher Purpose, which we cannot fully understand, and the small act of which we are master. It is the definite awareness of this connection and the practice of broadening our channel that allows the Law to operate. We can amplify our power by learning how to broaden the flow-through of Primordial Force.
Along with meditation, we can use the creative power of imagination in envisioning and affirming. Once we have carefully selected the purpose toward which we will direct the flow-through, we envision a positive outcome and affirm its realization. Whatever we fashion through creative imagination automatically clothes itself--somewhere and somehow, now or later--in outward manifestation. Creatively imagining an effect gives it form; the purposed effect now has a form of existence, a mold to be filled when conditions supply the materials for the filling.
The clearly formed intention--fashioned by creative imagination--is a kind of intermediate step between original potentiality and objective manifestation. A reality has been created which Higher Intelligence can use as it fits into a Larger Purpose. As with the example of fire, our responsibility is to assemble the necessary conditions for the working of the Law, for the realization of the form resulting from creative imagination.
One of the most important conditions for the operation of Higher Laws is our internal mental and spiritual state. Our effectiveness is increased as we broaden our transmutation into assimilable form of our intake of power from the Source. Hence, our job is to cultivate habits of constructive encouragement of positive mental and spiritual elements, excluding negative elements which clog and block the flow-through from the Source.
The more you ally yourself with Higher Consciousness, the more you become aware of greater forces to be cooperated with in order to gain still greater power.
As you develop a creative, aware self, you are increasingly able to contribute your portion to the race wisdom, moving human evolution ahead.
1 Social evolution involves learning to create institutions which provide for the development of each individual to the limit of our potential.
2 See the essay "Activity in the Spiritual World"
3 See the essay "Communing With Kindred Souls"
4 I use capital letters to distinguish spiritual Ideas and Purposes from terrestrial ideas and purposes. For a discussion of Plato's concept of Forms, refer to this essay.