Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Evolution of Human Consciousness

     “There are four main views of the evolution of consciousness (both human consciousness in general & religious consciousness in particular). Historically, these have usually been considered together, so we can start there.
     The first view sees history as a cyclical affair of recurrent ups and downs. The second is a downhill view that sees things as getting worse and consciousness as devolving. The third sees no change in consciousness, or at least religious consciousness, since prehistoric times. The fourth is an upward view of progressivism that sees culture and consciousness as evolving. 

     The fourth view sees human consciousness as a work in progress. For luminaries such as Hegel, Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber, human consciousness and religious consciousness have evolved. Fortunately we can focus on the narrower yet still extremely complex area of religious consciousness, and since Ken Wilber has synthesized the ideas of so many thinkers, we can draw especially on his ideas.
     Wilber draws a crucial distinction between the ‘average mode’ of religious consciousness and the ‘leading edge.’ Leading-edge pioneers break through into new states of consciousness and then leave descriptions and instructions whereby others can follow them.
     Wilber’s division of spiritual states into four broad classes of gross, subtle, causal, and nondual is helpful. He suggests that just as these tend to emerge sequentially in today’s contemplatives, so too did they emerge in history, and a survey of historical religious texts supports him. 
     Humankind’s first gross and subtle spiritual experiences are long lost in the dawn of prehistory.
     Reliable signs of the causal appeared in the first few centuries before the Common Era and are associated with, for example, the Upanishads, the Buddha, early Taoists, and later with Jesus. Such was the extraordinary impact of this breakthrough and the sages who made it that this era is known as the Axial age. 
     Signs of the nondual appear a few centuries into the Common Era and are associated with, for example, the appearance of tantra and with names such as Plotinus in Rome, Bodhidharma in China, and Padmasambhava in Tibet.”

       Roger Walsh. “The World of Shamanism. New Views of an Ancient Tradition.” Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, Minnesota, 2007.

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