Sunday 28 October 2018

Why does human consciousness 'evolve'?

That human consciousness has changed throughout history, and before history, is an assumption I make; having been persuaded of this by Owen Barfield and his mentor Rudolf Steiner.

Most obviously, the world of a young child is different from the world of an adult; the world of a hunter gatherer different from the world of a modern urbanite - we need to understand these differences in terms of a process of developmental-unfolding towards divinity. 

I am therefore using the word 'evolution' in its older and more general sense of 'developmental unfolding' according to a plan. And in this instance, the developmental plan is a destiny; because it refers to a divine-plan.

So, one big question is: Why should God want human consciousness to unfold through various phases across the course of human existence?

The answer is: To provide a range of experiences to different men at different points in history; each experience tailored to the specific needs of each specific Man - so that by learning from these life-experiences, men may grow in divinity (the process called theosis).

Behind this lies the assumption that each human being has a pre-mortal spirit life, before he or she is incarnated on the earth - and in this life we have reached a point of development that would benefit from different kind of experience in mortal life.

(This is therefore an explanation for extended mortal life; that is extended beyond the simple fact of being incarnated and then very soon dying - which has been the experience of most humans through history: i.e. dying in the womb, during birth or as an infant. I am here trying to explain why some people, including you and I, live a more extended lifespan.)

So, our pre-mortal selves are 'placed' (by God) into a 'tailored' time, place and situation where it is most likely we will encounter and learn-from the experiences we most need. The evolution of consciousness through human history is part of the 'tailoring' of earthly, mortal situations to provide the most useful experiences for our individual theosis.

(Of course, there is no guarantee we will each and all choose to learn from the experiences, we may - as it turns-out - reject the 'lessons' experience teaches us, and draw false conclusions. Nonetheless, the lessons are provided.)

And this is the reason why there is an equivalence between the changes of human consciousness through human history; and the changes in human consciousness during biological development from child, through adolescence, to adult-parent-hood. The changes through human history provide (in individually-tailored fashion) the full range of experiences that are relevant to pre-mortal spirits that need to develop-through particular phases.

Thus, the modern Western experience provides a quality of human experience never before seen in human history; and our era and situation therefore has a special value for those of us who have been placed-into it.


William Wildblood said...

If there is "an equivalence between the changes of human consciousness through human history; and the changes in human consciousness during biological development from child, through adolescence, to adult-parent-hood" where do you think humanity is now? Obviously individuals will differ but if there is a general level what might that be? Late adolescence/early adulthood, perhaps?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - We are stuck in adolescence (cynical, rebellious, self-conscious, alienated, moody, short-termist, easily bored, rejecting of parents and tradition but with nothing to replace it except fashion) - I don't think I would be more precise than that, because adolescence is (naturally) actually a fairly brief and continually changing phase, leading swiftly into young adulthood.

But we have frozen spiritual development in this phase - and that doesn't maintain the situation static, it makes for corruption. When I look back on my life, I have a definite sense that as soon as I stopped growing up (age 21) I began to corrupt, getting worse and worse - until I eventually married and began to 'evolve' again.

There is the aspect that it is actually very rare, much rarer than it used to be, for people to grow up psychologically - even in the mainstream, materialistic sense of growing-up. But that isn't really what I mean.

People seem to lack any concept of how to grow up, what they are aiming to grow up into. And this is (in a word) due to materialism - to the elimination of God and the spiritual.

Our growing-up is supposed to be spiritual, not material. I think this is clearest from ageing, and the function of Old Age. In a material sense Old Age brings nothing but loss; yet all traditional societies value Old Age - and this is simply because Old Age is conceptualised spiritually - it ought to be the time for a primarily spiritual focus.

People often superficially equate Old Age with childhood - but this typically mean this in a negative and cynical way (like the 'seven ages of man' speech from As You Like it). But in a deep sense, like Old Age should ideally be like childhood in terms of a contemplative immersion in the immediate surrounding world - but adding all the spiritual maturity and consciousness of adulthood. This would be a foretaste of Heaven - and an example of Final Participation.


William Wildblood said...

This is my view too. A sign of arrested development is that many people born after, say, the 1940s are constantly trying to remain young, either by imitating the contemporary young or by continuing to do the same things they did when they were young. They are refusing the lessons of maturity.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that the circumstances of a given age may lead to alterations of the proportions of people who are experiencing the consciousness of a hunter-gatherer compared to (for example) a philosopher or an engineer.

But no circumstances whatsoever will remove all opportunities for men to experience the consciousness of hunter-gatherers, philosophers, or engineers.

There are mindsets that can be eliminated wholly by environmental circumstances, and our modern age is rife with such fragile and inherently dependent mentalities. But any mindset that is fundamentally adaptive and independent can be found in any time and place where humans existed in substantial numbers.