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Interpreting Evolution Scientific and Spiritual Perspectives Haverford 2001


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Title: Interpreting Evolution Scientific and Spiritual Perspectives Haverford 2001

Interpreting EvolutionScientific and Spiritual
PerspectivesHaverford 2001
Thomas Maxwell University of Maryland Institute
for Ecological Economics
A Global Crisis
  • Resource depletion, biodiversity loss
  • Pollution, global climate change
  • Inequity, poverty, overpopulation
  • Crime, ethnic conflict
  • Social decay
  • Hopelessness despair

A Crisis of Perception
  • Outdated, inadequate worldviews
  • Fragmentation compartmentalization
  • Error of misplaced concreteness
  • Reductionism g nihilism
  • Scientific materialism g scientism
  • Flatland cosmology
  • Positivism
  • Rampant relativism

Interpreting Evolution
  • Science-religion conflict
  • Symptom of crisis of perception
  • Interpretation of evolution
  • Foundation of view of the natural world
  • Instrumental in valuing natural systems

Limits of Science
  • Study of relations between measurements
  • Gains rigor precision within limited domain
  • Reveals a shadow world of symbols (Eddington)
  • Excludes quality, essence, meaning, purpose.
  • Not yet in touch with ultimate reality (Jeans)
  • Phenomena reduced to epiphenomena (Frankl)
  • Leaves out all that is near and dear

The Skeleton of Science
What we are dragging to light as the basis of all
phenomena is a scheme of symbols connected by
mathematical equations A skeleton scheme of
symbols proclaims its own hollowness. It can be-
nay it cries out to be- filled with something
that shall transform it from skeleton to
substance, from plan to execution, from symbols
to an interpretation of the symbols. - Sir
Arthur Eddington
Lifting the Veil of Symbols
Although for the most part our inquiry into the
problem of experience ends in a veil of symbols,
there is an immediate knowledge in the minds of
conscious beings which lifts the veil in places
what we discern through these openings is of
mental and spiritual nature. -Sir Arthur
Transcending Science
Physics most strongly insists that its methods do
not penetrate behind the symbolism. Surely then
that mental and spiritual nature of ourselves,
known in our minds by an intimate contact
transcending the methods of physics, supplies
just that interpretation of the symbols which
science is admittedly unable to give. - Sir
Arthur Eddington
The Mystical Experience
The most beautiful emotion that we can experience
is the mystical. It is the sower of all true art
and science. He to whom this emotion is a
stranger is as good as dead. To know that
what is impenetrable to us really exists,
manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the
most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can
comprehend only in their most primitive forms-
this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center to
true religiousness. - Albert Einstein
Science, Religion and Beauty
  • Both science and religion/spirituality
  • Search for the universal unitary principle
  • Guided by perception of beauty
  • Two definitions of beauty
  • The harmony of proportions (Pythagoras)
  • The eternal splendor of the One shining through
    the material phenomena (Plotinus)
  • - Werner Heisenberg, Science and the Beautiful

Integration of Science Spirit
The integration of opposites, including a
synthesis embracing both rational understanding
and the mystical experience of unity, is the
mythos of our current age. -Wolfgang Pauli
Levels of Significance
  • Every observation can be interpreted at multiple
    levels of significance.
  • Each level of significance
  • Internally consistent, factual, logical,
  • Gives no evidence of higher levels.
  • Lower levels of significance
  • No factual error.
  • Feigns complete understanding.
  • True significance is missed.
  • Impoverished view of reality.

Experiential Spirituality
  • Perceptual faculties
  • Eye of flesh
  • Eye of mind
  • Eye of contemplation
  • Each eye discloses its own truths in its own
  • Spiritual experience
  • Numenous experience of the holy
  • Mystical experience of unity
  • "The data for a religious community consist of
    the distinctive experiences of individuals"
  • -Ian Barbour

Attributes of Spiritual Experience
  • Essentially the same in different cultures
  • Direct, nonconceptual intuition
  • Beyond words, concepts and dualities
  • Transverbal, transrational, and nondual
  • Not shaped by language, concepts, cultural forms
  • "The real transcends, surrounds, and overflows
    our miserable categories"
  • Fleshes out the skeleton of scientific theory
  • Provides an interpretation (at a higher level of
    significance) for the empty symbols of science.

Generalized Empirical Method
  • 3-stage knowledge validation method
  • Injunction
  • Do this
  • Recipe for creating an experience
  • Apprehension
  • Immediate apprehension
  • Experience brought forth by injunction
  • Communal verification
  • Community of reviewers has completed previous

-Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye
Perennial Philosophy
Ten years age, Aldous Huxley published a
precious volume which he called 'The Perennial
Philosophy', and which is an anthology from the
mystics of the most various periods and the most
various peoples. Open it and you will find many
beautiful utterances.. You are struck by the
miraculous agreement between humans of different
race, different religion, knowing nothing about
each other's existence, separated by centuries
and millennia, and by the greatest distances that
there are on our globe. -Erwin
Schroedinger, What is Life?
Perennial Wisdom
  • Universal numenous experience
  • Transcends categories of thought
  • Transcultural core principles
  • Supports an integral spiritual vision
  • Independent of culturally bound theologies
  • Expressed in various religions
  • Culturally conditioned interpretations

Dimensions of religious practice
  • Exoteric
  • Emphasis on faith, doctrine
  • Path of salvation through ritual, belief
  • Legalistic approach to morality
  • Esoteric
  • Emphasis on direct experience
  • Path of transcendence, spiritual awakening
  • Spiritual practice g intimacy with God.

Unity of Core Principles
Perennial Wisdom
Transcultural core principles
The Perennial Vision
  • All forms of the cosmos emerge from a single

The phenomenal world is a manifestation of a
Divine Ground within which all partial realities
have their being, and apart from which they would
be nonexistent -A. Huxley, Perennial
The spiritual world is one single spirit who
stands like unto a light behind the bodily world
and who, when any single creature comes into
being, shines through it like a window.
According to the kind or size of the window less
or more light enters the world. The light
itself however remains unchanged -Erwin
Schrodinger quoting Sufi Aziz Nasafi
Levels of Being and Knowing
  • Spectrum of consciousness
  • Codification of direct experiential reality
  • Consensually validated
  • Essentially universal

Great Nest of Being and Knowing
  • Nested Holarchy
  • Levels holons
  • Structures
  • Waves

Levels of Selfhood and Reality in the Perennial
  • Reality is composed of holons
  • Holon properties
  • Self preservation
  • Self-adaptation
  • Self-transcendence
  • Self-dissolution

Every isolable element of the universe always
appears as a particle that can enter into
composition with a whole that transcends it.
Being is only found as a whole composed of
particles whose relative autonomy is
maintained. - George Bataille
Systems almost always have the peculiarity that
the characteristics of the whole cannot (even in
theory) be deduced form the most complete
knowledge of the components, taken separately or
in other partial combinations. This appearance
of new characteristics in wholes has been
designated as emergence. Emergence has often
been invoked in attempts to explain such
difficult phenomena as life, mind, and
consciousness. Actually, emergence is equally
characteristic of inorganic systems Such
emergence is quite universal and, as Popper said,
We live in a universe of emergent novelty
-Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological
  • Emergent process marked by the progressive
    subordination of older systems to newer, higher
    order systems
  • Holons emerge holarchically
  • Higher level holon embraces level holons
  • Adds its own more encompassing pattern.
  • Evolutionary Progression
  • Increasing integration and internalization
  • Deeper identity and wider perspective
  • Expanded sense of self
  • Increasing relative autonomy
  • Decreasing egocentrism
  • Each development discloses a new worldspace

The many become one and are increased by one. --
Alfred North Whitehead
Inner and Outer Levels
Macro and Micro Levels
Four Quadrant Evolution
A perennial wisdom tradition
  • Common core principles of the Nondual
  • Plato/Plotinus in the West
  • Nagarjuna in the East
  • Expressed as a dynamic balance
  • Descent from One to many manifestation/immanenc
  • Ascent from many to One remembrance/transcendenc
  • This core philosophy has, in one form or
    another, been the dominant official philosophy of
    the large part of civilized mankind through most
    of its history - Lovejoy.

Immanence The Descending Path
  • Involution of Divine existence in inconscience of
  • Many names for the One
  • Godhead, Brahman, Allah, Tao, Buddha Nature,
    Sunyata, etc.
  • The manifest world is a visible sensible God
  • Wheresoever you look, there is the face of God

A timeless and incorporeal One became the ground
as well as the dynamic source of the existence of
a temporal and material and extremely multiple
and variegated universe -Sri Aurobindo, Life
Not only did the eternal One produce all the
forms of the cosmos, but in so doing it
manifested properties of its own nature which add
to its glory. The existence of the world of
phenomena was the very consummation of the
perfection of the One - Lovejoy, The Great
Chain of Being
Transcendence Ascending Path
  • Developmental path of transcendence
  • Transcends suffering through contemplative
    absorption in the One
  • The One is universal object of desire
  • Culminates in union with the One
  • Enlightenment, liberation, salvation, spiritual
  • Involves a structural change in consciousness
  • Expansion or transcendence of boundaries of self
  • Transcendence or dissolution of false self

"Human beings are capable not merely of knowing
about the Divine Ground by inference they can
also realize its existence by a direct intuition,
superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate
knowledge unites the knower with that which is
known. - Huxley, Perennial Philosophy
Conscious Evolution
  • Evolution is the progressive self-manifestation
    of spirit in the forms and entities of the
    material universe
  • The divine existence strives toward
    self-realization through progressively refined
    forms of material substance
  • Progressive awakening of the involved spiritual
  • Universal levels
  • Balance between the creative self-expression of
    the spiritual reality and the constraints imposed
    by its manifestation in and envelopment by a
    nescient material substance
  • Each new level represents a greater potential -a
    more complete accommodation- for the awakening
    and expression of the implicate spiritual
  • Transcendent One is the universal object of
    desire, that which draws all souls toward
    itself the pull of the future, the
    evolutionary attractor.

Evolution and Human Potential
  • Spiritual awakening is conscious participation in
    the Divine unfolding
  • Humanity partakes in the Divine nature.

the Universe is discovering and recreating
itself as it evolves through the course of our
human lives. Thus our conscious participation in
creating the future could be seen as an extension
of the self-organizing activity of the
universe. -Pir Vilayat Inayat Kahn the
creation waits with eager longing for the
revealing of the sons of God -St. Paul
An awakened vision of the cosmos
Matter reveals itself to the realizing thought
and to the subtilised senses as the figure and
body of Spirit, Spirit in its self-formative
extension. Spirit reveals itself through the same
consenting agents as the soul, the truth, the
essence of Matter. Both admit and confess each as
divine, real, and essentially one. Mind and life
are disclosed in that illumination as at once
figures and instruments of the Supreme Conscious
Being by which It extends and houses Itself in
material form and in that form unveils Itself to
Its multiple centers of consciousness. Mind
attains its self-fulfillment when it becomes a
pure mirror of the Truth of Being which expresses
itself in the symbols of the universe Life, when
it consciously lends its energies to the perfect
self-figuration of the Divine in ever-new forms
and activities of the universal existence.
-Sri Aurobindo, Life Divine
Evolutionary Ethics
  • Expansion of sense of self in cognitive
  • Matter/life gBody
  • Mind g Thoughts, humanity
  • Soul g All sentient beings
  • Spirit g Cosmos
  • Metaphysical ground of ethics
  • Recognize in another oneself in own true being
  • Unity with Atman
  • All-pervading radiance of Spirit

Deep Ecology
Care flows naturally if the self is widened and
deepened so that protection of free Nature is
felt and conceived as protection of ourselves
Just as we need no morals to make us breathe
so if your self in the wide sense embraces
another being, you need no moral exhortation to
show care You care for yourself without feeling
any moral pressure to do it If reality is like
it is experienced by the ecological self, our
behavior naturally and beautifully follows norms
of strict environmental ethics.
-Arne Naess
Universal Compassion
  • Realization
  • All sentient beings are expression of one true
    Self, one universal Soul
  • expression of a universal compassion which
    transcends and outshines all previous egocentric,
    sociocentric, or anthropocentric forms

This is the profound fruition of the decentering
thrust of evolution- a compassion which breathes
the common air and beats the common blood of a
Heart and Body that is one in all beings
universal compassion through universal identity
with the commonwealth of all beings that I
would see in an Other my own Self -Ken Wilber
Integral Studies Vision Statement
  • Integrated epistemology
  • Rational knowledge of scientific empiricism
  • Intuitive knowledge of spiritual experience
  • Complementary schools
  • Integral spirituality
  • Integral science