Evolution and Egoism

Most of what I read about the theory of evolution is a lot of hooey. Mainstream evolutionary theorists are so anxious to appear “scientific” and have their musings corroborated as being “valid in scientific terms” (and that means, like physics and by physicists) that they have only ended up abbreviating, distorting and mangling the full truth of the matter, merely in order to make it appear “scientifically valid”. Consequently, rather than clarify things, mainstream evolutionary theory only muddies the waters even further, and makes it almost impossible to acquire much in the way of insight into our own nature.

Evolutionary theory,  and the notion of “validity”, is distorted by ideological and methodological conformity in that sense. “Scientifically valid” means, actually, “somewhat less than the full truth”. You don’t have to just look for flaws in the logic. Your own experience, if you pay attention to it and don’t deny it and ignore it, will confirm for you that the mainstream evolutionary theories are distortions of the truth, and largely because of their over-eagerness to dismiss “subjective factors”, such as desire, as drivers of evolution.

It’s actually quite frightening, and fateful, how eager they are to suppress such subjective factors like desire. But even the famous “struggle for survival” makes absolutely no sense without the underlying desire to survive. Life begins in desire. That’s even a fundamental axiom of William Blake’s “fourfold vision”. Moreover, you know yourselves as beings of desire, from birth to death.

The term “desire” itself has an interesting history. It means, quite literally, “down from the stars” — de-sidere. It is connected to the meaning of “influence” — a “flowing inwards”. Those meanings date from a time when desires were felt to be the effects of the gods or Powers. Eros, Venus, Mars, Pan, and so on, were known by their effects, or the impressions and compulsions they left upon or had upon the plastic human ego. To be “enthused” was to be “filled with a god”, for that’s what the word “enthusiasm” means — en-theos, a god within. The passions and desires that aroused human beings to act, these were not human motives but the effects of the presence of a god.

Your own experience will tell you this. When you are born, your organism is faced with new desires and the need to satisfy those desires. Those desires suddenly come up against resistances to their satisfaction — resistances of time and resistances of space. These resistances of space and time must be overcome. Organic beings such as we are have evolved various strategies to overcome these resistances of time and space in order to appease or satisfy desires. In that sense, the universe is, indeed, hostile to life insofar as it throws up resistances to the immediate satisfaction of desire. True learning is always a self-overcoming, inasmuch as the organism must strategise ways of breaking down or overcoming these resistances. This is a world of Time and Death, and that presents a challenge to life’s survival in physical reality. Sexual reproduction was one such successful strategy for overcoming the resistance of time to life.

Life is desire. The human ego is one of life’s strategies for overcoming the resistances of time and space to the fulfillment of desire. That’s what the ego-nature is — a strategy. Life has experimented with many forms, some more successful than others, but all with the same intent — to overcome the resistances thrown up by physical existence to the satisfaction of desire or sense of need. The ego, even as the “rational ego” or intellect, has always been the servant of desire — even as the desire to know.

Evolution, in that sense, is a continuous self-overcoming or self-transcendence in the attempt to surmount resistances and challenges thrown up by physical existence — challenges of space; challenges of time. It is, in that sense, less about “adaptation” to circumstances than it is about overcoming those circumstances. If “necessity is the mother of invention”, it is because desire is constantly evolving and experimenting with strategies to overcome resistances to its fulfillment and satisfaction. Rituals (like courtship, marriage, etc) belong to such strategies.

In the beginning was desire.

 

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6 responses to “Evolution and Egoism”

  1. donsalmon says :

    I love Owen Barfield’s response to the idea of “chance” or “randomness” as an explanation of evolution (or partial explanation).

    To consider chance to be part of an explanation, Barfield suggests, is like considering drowning to be a form of swimming, because it’s something you can do in the water.”

  2. donsalmon says :

    Here is an essay from the 1930s by Sri Aurobindo on evolution. interestingly, an increasing amount of scientific evidence is available for the unfolding of consciousness that reflects exactly what Sri Aurobindo wrote below (we gave some details of this evidence in our yoga psychology book)

    The Evolution of Consciousness

    (around 1930)

    All life here is a stage or a circumstance in an unfolding progressive evolution of a Spirit that has involved itself in Matter and is labouring to manifest itself in that reluctant substance. This is the whole secret of earthly existence.

    But the key of that secret is not to be found in life itself or in the body; its hieroglyph is not in embryo or organism,—for these are only a physical means or base: the one significant mystery of this universe is the appearance and growth of consciousness in the vast mute unintelligence of Matter. The escape of Consciousness out of an apparent initial Inconscience,—but it was there all the time masked and latent, for the inconscience of Matter is itself only a hooded consciousness—its struggle to find itself, its reaching out to its own inherent completeness, perfection, joy, light, strength, mastery, harmony, freedom, this is the prolonged miracle and yet the natural and all-explaining phenomenon of which we are at once the observers and a part, instrument and vehicle.

    A Consciousness, a Being, a Power, a Joy was here from the beginning darkly imprisoned in this apparent denial of itself, this original night, this obscurity and nescience of material Nature. That which is and was for ever, free, perfect, eternal and infinite, That which all is, That which we call God, Brahman, Spirit, has here shut itself up in its own self-created opposite. The Omniscient has plunged itself into Nescience, the All-Conscious into Inconscience, the All-Wise into perpetual Ignorance. The Omnipotent has formulated itself in a vast cosmic self-driven Inertia that by disintegration creates; the Infinite is self-expressed here in a boundless fragmentation; the All-Blissful has put on a huge insensibility out of which it struggles by pain and hunger and desire and sorrow. Elsewhere the Divine is; here in physical life, in this obscure material world, it would seem almost as if the Divine is not but is only becoming, theos ouk estin alla gignetai.

    This gradual becoming of the Divine out of its own phenomenal opposites is the meaning and purpose of the terrestrial evolution.

    Evolution in its essence is not the development of a more and more organised body or a more and more efficient life—these are only its machinery and outward circumstance. Evolution is the strife of a Consciousness somnambulised in Matter to wake and be free and find and possess itself and all its possibilities to the very utmost and widest, to the very last and highest. Evolution is the emancipation of a self-revealing Soul secret in Form and Force, the slow becoming of a Godhead, the growth of a Spirit.
    In this evolution mental man is not the goal and end, the completing value, the highest last significance; he is too small and imperfect to be the crown of all this travail of Nature. Man is not final, but a middle term only, a transitional being, an instrumental intermediate creature.

    This character of evolution and this mediary position of man are not at first apparent; for to the outward eye it would seem as if evolution, the physical evolution at least were finished long ago leaving man behind as its poor best result and no new beings or superior creations were to be expected any longer. But this appears to us only so long as we look at forms and outsides only and not at the inner significances of the whole process. Matter, body, life even are the first terms necessary for the work that had to be done. New living forms may no longer be appearing freely, but this is because it is not, or at least it is not primarily, new living forms that the Force of evolution is now busied with evolving, but new powers of consciousness. When Nature, the Divine Power, had formed a body erect and empowered to think, to devise, to inquire into itself and things and work consciously both on things and self, she had what she wanted for her secret aim; relegating all else to the sphere of secondary movements, she turned toward that long-hidden aim her main highest forces. For all till then was a long strenuously slow preparation; but throughout it the development of consciousness in which the appearance of man was the crucial turning point had been kept wrapped within her as her ultimate business and true purpose.

    This slow preparation of Nature covered immense aeons of time and infinities of space in which they appeared to be her only business; the real business strikes on our view at least when we look with the outward eye of reason as if it came only as a fortuitous accident, in or near the end, for a span of time and in a speck and hardly noticeable corner of one of the smallest provinces of a possibly minor universe among these many boundless finites, these countless universes. If it were so, we could still reply that time and space matter not to the Infinite and Eternal; it is not a waste of labour for That—as it would be for our brief death-driven existences—to work for trillions of years in order to flower only for a moment. But that paradox too is only an appearance—for the history of this single earth is not all the story of evolution—other earths there are even now elsewhere, and even here many earth-cycles came before us, and many are those that will come hereafter.

    Nature laboured for innumerable millions of years to create a material universe of flaming suns and systems; for a lesser but still interminable series of millions she stooped to make this earth a habitable planet. For all that incalculable time she was or seemed busy only with the evolution of Matter; life and mind were kept secret in an apparent non-existence. But the time came when life could manifest, a vibration in the metal, a growing and seeking, a drawing in and a feeling outward in the plant, an instinctive force and sense, a nexus of joy and pain and hunger and emotion and fear and struggle in the animal,—a first organised consciousness, the beginning of the long-planned miracle.

    Thence forward she was busy no more exclusively with matter for its own sake, but most with palpitant plasmic matter useful for the expression of life; the evolution of life was now her one intent purpose. And slowly too mind manifested in life, an intensely feeling, a crude thinking and planning vital mind in the animal, but in man the full organisation and apparatus, the developing if yet imperfect mental being, the Manu, the thinking, devising, aspiring, already self-conscient creature. And from that time onward the growth of mind rather than any radical change of life became her shining preoccupation, her wonderful wager. Body appeared to evolve no more; life itself evolved little or only so much in its cycles as would serve to express Mind heightening and widening itself in the living body; an unseen internal evolution was now Nature’s great passion and purpose.

    And if Mind were all that consciousness could achieve, if Mind were the secret Godhead, if there were nothing higher, larger, [no] more miraculous ranges, man could be left to fulfil mind and complete his own being and there would or need be nothing here beyond him, carrying consciousness to its summits, extending it to its unwalled vastnesses, plunging with it into depths unfathomable; he would by perfecting himself consummate Nature. Evolution would end in a Man-God, crown of the earthly cycles.

    But Mind is not all; for beyond mind is a greater consciousness; there is a supermind and spirit. As Nature laboured in the animal, the vital being, till she could manifest out of him man, the Manu, the thinker, so she is labouring in man, the mental being till she can manifest out of him a spiritual and supramental godhead, the truth conscious Seer, the knower by identity, the embodied Transcendental and Universal in the individual nature.
    From the clod and metal to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from the animal to man, so much has she completed of her journey; a huge stretch or a stupendous leap still remains before her. As from matter to life, from life to mind, so now she must pass from mind to supermind, from man to superman; this is the gulf that she has to bridge, the supreme miracle that she has to perform before she can rest from her struggle and discontent and stand in the radiance of that supreme consciousness, glorified, transmuted, satisfied with her labour.

    The subhuman was once here supreme in her, the human replacing it walks now in the front of Time, but still, aim and goal of the future there waits the supramental, the superman, an unborn glory yet unachieved before her.

    Sri Aurobindo

  3. abdulmonem says :

    It is the creator of nature and not nature that was a hidden treasure who has created creation in order to strife to know. as the Sufis say and endowed

    humanity with the faculty of knowing in order to have faith in themselves to know their creator. Consciousness and form, the physical support the divine requires in the accomplishment of the process of knowing, knowing that leads to truth that makes us real humans, irrespective of the metaphors we use to describe this real human. Truth that does not negates the other face of the coin. We will always have liars and honest people.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    Outstanding. A brilliant essay on the subject of ego-nature, and one that, in my opinion, was long awaited for by your readers.

    Ever since Seth explained that we design even the minutest details of our three dimensional experience, I have been thinking about many of the details that are part of my own physical experience, and I have questioned their purpose. Your essay here does much to explain and clarify things. Especially, framing ego-nature as “strategy” is most meaningful and clarifying.

    These are enlightening and insightful remarks that “Life begins in desire,” and “The ego, even as the “rational ego” or intellect, has always been the servant of desire — even as the desire to know.”

    It then struck me, after reading the essay, that although far from being perfect, my own ego-nature, given its many weaknesses and few strengths, has been a very useful strategy (if not a flawless one at that), designed to overcome the very specific challenges that this path in life was required to deal with.

    I believe this is true for the vast majority of people, as well. That is to say that all ego-nature, with their minutest blueprint details, are perfect strategy for the type of life they are meant for.

    With respect to your illuminating remark that:……… “The term “desire” itself has an interesting history. It means, quite literally, “down from the stars” — de-sidere. It is connected to the meaning of “influence” — a “flowing inwards”. Those meanings date from a time when desires were felt to be the effects of the gods or Powers.”……… I found an excerpt from Seth that wonderfully dovetails your remark. Here it is from (Seth Speaks, Chapter 21, pages 327-329):

    “The attributes of the gods are those inherent within man himself, magnified, brought into powerful activity. Men believe that the gods live forever. Men live forever, but having forgotten this, they remember only to endow their gods with this characteristic. Obviously, then, and these earthly historic religious dramas, the seemingly recurring tales of gods and men, there are spiritual realities.

    “Behind the actors in the dramas, there are more powerful entities who are quite beyond role-playing. The plays themselves, then, the religions that sweep across the ages – these are merely shadows, though helpful ones. Behind the frame of good and evil is a far deeper spiritual value. All religions, therefore, while trying to catch “truth” must to some large degree fear its ever eluding them.

    “The inner self alone, at rest, in meditation, can at times glimpse portions of these inner realities that cannot be physically expressed. These values, intuitions, or insights are given each to each according to his understanding, and so the stories told about them will often vary.

    “For example, the main character in a religious historical drama may or may not consciously be aware of the ways in which such information is given to him. And yet it may seem to him that he does know, for the nature of a dogma’s origin will be explained in terms that this main character can understand. The historical Jesus knew who he was, but he also knew that he was one of three personalities composing one entity. To a large extent he shared in the memory of the other two.

    “The third personality, mentioned many times by me, has not in your terms yet appeared, although his existence has been prophesied as the “Second Coming”. Now these prophecies were given in terms of the current culture at that time, and therefore, while the stage has been set, the distortions are deplorable, for this Christ will not come at the end of your world as the prophecies have been maintaining.

    “He will not come to reward the righteous and send evildoers to eternal doom. He will, however, begin a new religious drama. A certain historical continuity will be maintained. As happened once before, however, he will not be generally known for who he is. There will be no glorious proclamation to which the whole world will bow. He will return to straighten out Christianity, which will be in a shambles at the time of his arrival, and to set up a new system of thought when the world is sorely in need of one.

    “By that time, all religions will be in severe crisis. He will undermine religious organizations – not unite them. His message will be that of the individual in relation to All That Is. He will clearly state methods by which each individual can attain a state of intimate contact with his own entity; the entity to some extent being man’s mediator with All That Is.

    “By 2075, all of this will be already accomplished. The birth will occur by the time given. The other changes will occur generally over the period of a century, but the results will show far before that time.

    “Because of the plastic nature of the future, in your terms, the date cannot be considered final. All probabilities point in its direction, however, for the inner impetus is already forming the events.

    “You may make a note here that Nostradamus saw the dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church as the end of the world. He could not imagine civilization without it, hence many of his later predictions should be read with this in mind.

    “The third personality of Christ will indeed be known as a great psychic, for it is he who will teach humanity to use those inner senses that alone make true spirituality possible. Slayers and victims will change roles as reincarnational memories rise to the surface of consciousness. Through the development of these abilities, the sacredness of all life will be intimately recognized and appreciated.

    “Now there will be several born before that time who in various ways will rearouse man’s expectations. One such man has already been born in India, in a small province near Calcutta, but his ministry will seem to remain comparatively local for his lifetime.

    “Another will be born in Africa, a black man whose main work will be done in Indonesia. The expectations were set long ago in your terms, and will be fed by new prophets until the third personality of Christ does indeed emerge.
    He will lead man behind the symbolism upon which religion has relied for so many centuries. He will emphasize individual spiritual experience, the expansiveness of soul, and teach man to recognize the multitudinous aspects of his own reality.”

    Seth is always remarkably soothing and calming.

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