Natural Selection versus Divine Election, II

If evolutionary change is the response of an organism or species to its changing circumstances, then it’s not too difficult to see the stimulus for the “mutation” in the structure of consciousness that Jean Gebser and others call the “irruption” of a new “integral consciousness”. That changed circumstance is the emergence, since around the First World War, of the Global Era thanks to technologies of communication and transportation (particularly, earlier, radio and air transport). This “ensemble” of such technologies (to employ a term used by Jacques Ellul) have more or less displaced both Nature and Nation by throwing a net over the planet and constructing a new milieu or environment, which now demands of us a new response.

Globalisation is thus more than just a technological or economic process. It is also a spiritual and biological one, affecting us at all “levels” or aspects. Researchers even claim that the human thumb and hand is changing (along with the brain) to adjust to the usage of computer keyboards and cell phones. So, if the brain and body is changing in response to the new challenges of the technical milieu, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the consciousness structure is also. And this change is also a source of global stress and anxiety, and these factors are also drivers of biological changes as we seek adequate responses to this new New World.

So, it’s not just a mechanical process, and “natural selection” is a bit of a misnomer. Major changes in the milieu induce feelings of stress and anxiety, and these feelings are triggers that provoke a response. A sense of need. Stress into distress. The slogan of a Canadian telecommunications company sort of sums that sense up: “The future is friendly”. It’s intended as reassurance, but it wouldn’t be necessary to insist upon that reassurance unless the actual opposite feeling is so widespread. The slogan is actually not necessarily true. It’s boosterism designed to inspire faith despite the stress and anxiety induced by “everything-all-the-time”, or the “all-at-onceness” of things — the 24/7 world.

Globalisation is thus a novel experience in human history, and it came in with a bang — the World Wars. It’s a dynamic and energetic process and, as such, has polarity “for good and ill” as we say. It has both positive and negative polarity and there’s no lack of champions or critics who bear witness to that polarity. That polarity of action is a cause of perplexity and confusion about the process which is constructing a very different order of things. Our “common sense” really doesn’t know how to handle these changes, which have both their enthusiasts and their detractors.

The process of planetary “integration” (which  is also a dis-integration) has been pretty rapid in historical terms: from telegraph to radio to telephone and television to internet. Equally, we see the same process in transportation technologies: from railway to automobile to airplane to spaceship. This has all occurred in roughly four generations, so each generation has its iconic technology that has also affected its perception and interpretation of space and time. These don’t have the same meaning for different people and, in consequence, neither does “world”, “reality”, and so on.  In that sense, though we all might speak one language, yet also we do not speak one language because our generational experience is constantly reconstructing our lived milieu. Each generation’s experience and perception of space and time, and their responses to “reality”,  is quite different, leading to confusion about what “reality” actually is (“Would the real space and time please stand up!”, in the words of the old gameshow). And ultimately, this  is a question of values; of time and space as values.

Confusion about what is real and what is not is reflected in the cultural sphere as well. You probably remember “Mork’s” judgement from the TV show Mork and Mindy: “Reality! What a concept!” But it’s also reflected in a number of sociological works: Peter Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality or Paul Watzlawick’s How Real is Real? attest to the fact that “reality” (that is to say, an objective world) has become problematic. One of the consequences of this is that we confuse things that are existential threats and those things that are not, and the word for that is “paranoia” which, along with anxiety or Angst, is a symptom of mind in distress. The counterpart to that is denialism and pollyannaish attitudes.

So, it’s our responses that really define us.

The “Global Village”. No generation before has actually seen the prospect of 9 billion people occupying the same space and time as itself. It’s a dreadful prospect, really. It induces a sense of claustrophobia. Yet, in a sense, these also don’t occupy the same reality. Some are “modern”. Some are “pre-modern”. Some are “post-modern”. Some maybe even “trans-modern”. (Gebser would perhaps say correspondingly, “unperspectival”, “pre-perspectival”, “perspectival”, and “aperspectival”). There are, in that sense, “species of consciousness”, and this differentiation is what makes for the “clash of civilisations” thesis and prospect, as one of the negative poles of globalism. Nine billion people sharing no common history nor sense of shared destiny is a formula for trouble, and for stress, anxiety, and paranoia. That, too, is new in the human experience. Everybody is in everybody else’s face and space 24/7. This is why Rosenstock-Huessy devoted so much time to his “Universal History” — the perceived need in the planetary era to come up with a integralist or holistic history of the entire human experience based on his “cross of reality”. That, alone, requires a “metanoia” or “new mind” with a new logic. Metanoia is the antidote to paranoia.

That “metanoia” is the work of an integral or integrating consciousness, also as antidote to the “clash of civilisations”. This effort to extend the principle of “universality” to the entire human historical experience finds just as many minds who are eager to undermine it by denying “universality” as a value in principle. Those are the folks we call “reactionaries”. And they are a big problem and pernicious influence in trying to navigate a peaceful transition from the Modern Era to the Transmodern Era (or Global Era). I include amongst them, of course, the whole “clash of civilisations” and nationalist crowd.

Our existing institutions, laws, logic and ordering of society were constructed for a different reality and milieu than the one being reconstructed by technology. You see everyday the problems that the new milieu is generating for our established institutions, laws, and logic — of the dissolving distinction between “private” and “public” spaces, for example; or, the lack of precedents in law for the effects of new technologies; or, the inadequacy of our conventional wisdom and received logic to manage our new reality. Instead, it’s called “crisis management”, which is really a symptom of the breakdown of that logic as we lurch from one crisis to another.

But it’s our capacity for creativity, for insight, for learning, for imagination, and also our sheer need, that will ultimately determine whether we (and our planet) have a future or not. At present, it doesn’t look so good unless we do (and quickly) evolve a new consciousness that is capable of mastering the reality created by the previous consciousness structure — the mental-rational. This new consciousness we have been calling the “integralist” or “holistic”. It is also what Nietzsche (or Aurobindo) calls “transhuman” or what we might call “metahuman”.

That, at least, is the rationale for The Chrysalis. It’s the idea that the present human form is inadequate to meet the challenges of the future but that, like a cocoon, what is the “possible human” still lies dormant or latent within the human form itself. “The cure for the disease is in the disease”, says Rumi equivalently; or, “the body is the temple of the living God”, as the New Testament puts it. These inner creative resources of the human I call “divine”, but which have been more or less suppressed by a deficient logic and a faulty philosophy of the human. It’s not only time to wake up the “possible human”, but to feel the need to do so if we are to escape the ultimate consequences of our present nihilism — suicide and extinction.

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One response to “Natural Selection versus Divine Election, II”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    “Those are the folks we call “reactionaries”. And they are a big problem and pernicious influence in trying to navigate a peaceful transition from the Modern Era to the Transmodern Era (or Global Era). I include amongst them, of course, the whole “clash of civilisations” and nationalist crowd.”

    A particularly useful outcome of the emergence of nationalism in the West was to cast out the feudal system. In that respect, I think nationalism has some value when it’s used as a unifying tool to rid the society from evil. But it seems to me that nationalism does become reactionary and anti-progressive when it sticks around.

    I think this could be a very important feature of the “new consciousness” or the “integral consciousness”. That is, the integral consciousness is able to make use of tools from each of the archaic, magical, and mental-rational portions of itself without developing an obsession (one way or the other) with any of these tools.

    The integral consciousness is free as a bird and whatever it chooses to do is by divine election.

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