Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Spiritual evolution: are we in a New Age?

Human progress is evident all around, but are we progressing spiritually? As a species, are we growing in consciousness as well as in intellect? Is there more to civilisation than politeness and tolerance? As mankind pushes back the boundaries of science, are we nearer a universal awareness?

I often look at our cats and wonder what they make of humans, Openers of the Cat Food Tin, Masters of Darkness and Light, who bring sunshine to a room by touching a white square on the wall, who can move rapidly in little rolling houses. Are we gods to them? Or just another intriguing part of their life, of which they are vaguely aware, but intellectually incapable of making sense of it all?

We are uncovering more and more about the Universe, but there are still huge areas about which we know little. Dark matter and the seat of human consciousness, to name two. A definitive account of where the Universe came from and what its ultimate fate will be. And indeed how many Universes there are, and how many dimensions there are. That's just the stuff we know we don't know.

I mentioned the other day the astrological concept of the Age of Aquarius. Yes, it sounds like twaddle (you divide the heavens into 12 arbitrary groups of stars that when viewed from Earth look like fish, archers, lions, crabs etc, then work out when the vernal equinox from one constellation to another). And anyway, the so-called 'dawning of the Age of Aquarius' could begin any time between the 15th Century and the 27th Century. But this line of thought, the idea that Mankind is currently entering a New Age, is of interest. Clearly, the old religions are failing to keep up with the spiritual aspirations of today's civilisation, a civilisation with a far better understanding of the physical Universe than ever before.

The notion of New Age spirituality - blending bits and pieces of existing faiths, bringing in mysticism from the East, such as Zen, coupled with modern science (see Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics, for example) - is a holistic striving for monism, ending the separation between the physical world and that of the soul. The battle between science, which eschews wishingful thinking in favour of rigorous experiment and empirical proof, and spiritual movements which are prone to fantasise and dream up baloney to hawk for profit is ongoing. Yet, to quote Capra, "science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both."

Californians wearing Native American dream-catcher headdress and swinging healing crystals while chanting Buddhist mantras are, I feel, way off the mark, selling a dream rather than really seeking higher levels of understanding and awareness.

The spread of civilisation and learning, the increase in leisure time, access to unprecedented amounts of knowledge via the internet, are helping those who genuinely seek answers to ultimate questions to advance. At the same time, IQ levels are rising (see Flynn effect), the product of better nutrition, smaller families, better education. But greater intelligence does not in itself result in higher levels of consciousness and understanding, though without it, there cannot be spiritual evolution.

I believe that over the centuries and millennia, Mankind will move nearer to God, reach ever-higher levels of consciousness and evolve spiritually. This is the long path from zero to one, not always a straight line, rather, a rising tide, with each wave tending slightly higher up the beach.

Previous essay in this series: A spiritual frame of mind

This time three years ago:
S2 - a year from completion?

This time four years ago:
In praise of blue skies

This time five years ago:
A piano, tuned

This time seven years ago:
Four weeks into Lent

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