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#3710 - Tuesday, November 10, 2009
- Editor: Jerry Katz
The Nonduality Highlights - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights
History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute. - Friedrich Schelling, 1799
I've never been into evolution or global transformation, yet I've now been swept up in that movement. I really can't separate my work on promoting nonduality from "evolutionary enlightenment," as Andrew Cohen calls it in an article in this issue.
I'm not a follower of Andrew or his associate Ken Wilber, but I recognize their contributions and influence.
This issue feature two articles on evolutionary enlightenment.
Jerry Katz and James Traverse are the guests on Mandee Moon Labelle's YogaHeart radio show in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Listen live, from 12:30-2:30 pm EST on Wednesday, at
We're three good friends whose lives are dedicated to promoting nonduality, so it'll be like sitting at the kitchen table and talking about nonduality. The show is unplanned, although we will be promoting our upcoming gathering. Any topic could come up in that context.
For a visual, here are our photos:
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 2:12pm
One Between Two
by Andrew Cohen
The goal of Evolutionary Enlightenment is the emergence of a miraculous potential that I call intersubjective nonduality. What does that mean? Nonduality is most commonly used to mean oneness, or not-two-ness. It points to the perennial spiritual revelation that there is no other. And intersubjective means between subjects. So intersubjective nonduality, to put it simply, means one between two. It means the experience of oneness in a context of relatedness. Usually, we experience other people as being separate, outside of our own experience of subjectivity. Except in rare moments, such as sexual intimacy, it seems as if there is an impenetrable wall between us. But I have discovered that when two or more individuals awaken to the truth of Oneness, in the same place and the same space, the liberating knowledge that there is no otherwhich is the ground of enlightened awarenesscan become a shared experience.
When this occurs, we mutually experience a paradox: You appear to be there as a separate individual; I appear to be here as a separate individual; and yet my experience of myself and my experience of you is that we are not two. And this changes everything. Why? Because this is when enlightenment, which is the direct experience of Oneness, breaks out of the purely subjective experience of the individual, and becomes the shared intersubjective context in which relatedness occurs. Miraculously, nonduality is no longer just an abstract idea or even a personal revelation, but becomes the very foundation of the culture between us. To me, this is what enables the power of enlightened awareness to affect real change in the world. The discovery of intersubjective nonduality is nothing less than the ground for creating an enlightened culture.
Evolution has always been a fundamentally spiritual concept. In fact, some of the first thinkers to seriously explore the topicthe German Idealists of the early 19th centurywere mystic-philosophers who predated Darwin's Origin of Species by at least half a century. Writing in the year 1799, the 24-year-old philosophical wunderkind Friedrich Schelling summarized in a single sentence the profoundly original insight that was exciting him as well as his philosophical contemporaries (men like Immanuel Kant, J.G. Fichte, and Georg Hegel): History as a whole, he wrote, is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute.
In other words, long before the Western worldview was shaken by theories of biological development by means of natural selection, a tour de force of metaphysical geniuses had already intuited that reality as a whole was, in some essential way, going somewhere. Natureand humanityhad a purpose and a direction. And that direction was, as Hegel put it, towards ever-greater expressions of universal Spirit within the realm of time and space.
Combining their mystical intuitions with the clear light of reason, the Idealists bridged the gap between God and humanity, between the transcendent and the immanent, forging a uniquely Western conception of human purpose and meaning. No longer were human beings seen to be simply adrift in a state of sin and suffering, having fallen away from the presence of God in the primordial past; instead, God was now understood to be in humanity's future, to be revealed in the world, with increasing depth and clarity, as human history marched forward and consciousness evolved. God does not remain petrified and dead, said Hegel. The very stones cry out and raise themselves up to Spirit.
Echoing that sentiment almost two centuries later, the American philosopher Ken Wilber wrote: Both humans and rocks are equally Spirit, but only humans can consciously realize that fact, and between the rock and the human lies evolution. And in the span between Wilber and Hegel reigned numerous champions of this revolutionary concept of spiritual evolution in both the East and the West. Foremost among these were the Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo, the French philosopher Henri Bergson, and the French paleontologist and Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Other key figures included the American essayist and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Austrian theosophical visionary Rudolph Steiner, and the German integral theorist Jean Gebser.
Writing in the first half of the 20th century, Bergson and Teilhard, in particular, are notable for taking the scientific understanding of evolution and running with it, tracing the development of the Divine through the cosmological, biological, psychosocial, and transcendent domains. Bergson's Creative Evolution, published in 1907, became a popular bestseller for its lucid, stream-of-thought consideration of the motive force behind the evolutionary process, which Bergson identified as consciousness itself. And Teilhard's masterwork, The Human Phenomenon, equally based its speculations on science, while emphasizing the back-and-forth interplay of individuality and collectivity over the course of cosmic history. Specifically, Teilhard saw the potential for human beings, like molecules and bacteria before them, to come together in a higher integration or megasynthesis of a new evolutionary potential. He wrote: The way out for the world, the gates of the future, the entry into the superhuman, will not open ahead to the privileged few, or to a single people, elect among all peoples. They will yield only to the thrust of all together (even if it were from the influence and guidance of an elite) in the direction where all can rejoin and complete one another in a spiritual renewal of the Earth.
Yet it was the work of the great Sri Aurobindo that, while following a similar thread to Bergson and Teilhard, brought an entirely new dimension to this burgeoning field namely, translating the concept of spiritual evolution into a spiritual practice. After completing his studies in literature and philosophy at Cambridge in 1892, he became a leading figure in the Indian independence movement and was declared the most dangerous man alive by the British Empire, but eventually left the freedom fight to devote his life to exploring liberation of an altogether different kind. After experiencing a deep spiritual awakening, Aurobindo's consciousness opened onto a vision of human possibilities that saw the attainment of nirvanatypically held to be the goal of all mystical pursuitsas merely the beginning of a personal engagement with the evolutionary force that has been driving the cosmos forward since the dawn of creation. Leading his spiritual community in the practice of integral yoga, Aurobindo was the first to synthesize the modern understanding of evolution with the timeless revelation of enlightenment, and pioneered the idea that human beings are capable of aligning their lives with the trajectory and purpose of the universe itself.
Today, the notion that the evolutionary process is ultimately driven by a spiritual impulse is more popular and widely accepted than ever, with a growing number of progressive thinkers, scientists, and mystics exploring its implications. Yet to many it still remains little more than an alluring philosophy, its ultimate significance divorced from our daily lives. What would a human life based on the principles of an evolutionary spirituality look like? Freed from the mythic dogmatisms of premodern religion, transcending the materialistic biases of modern scientific thought, and liberated also from the narcissistic self-obsessions of postmodern spirituality, what kind of world might a universal, evolutionary spiritualityor a truly twenty-first century religioncreate? As one of the few pioneers in this nascent field who is attempting to put the philosophy into real-world practice through his teachings of Evolutionary Enlightenment, Andrew Cohen is endeavoring to find out...
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