Final Exit

Final Exit

What Would You Do on Planet Titanic?

Greenland is melting. Before we know it, sea levels will rise dramatically, swamping whole islands, towns, and cities around the world. It is vast. Think of it as a nearly two-million square kilometer iceberg just waiting to strike. We are all on a sinking Planet Titanic.

Some of us are rushing for the lifeboats, some of us a trying to plug the holes, some of us are doing whatever we can to deny the reality, and some of us are facing the likelihood that no matter what we do it’s all too late, anyway. In that case, the best we can do, like a terminal cancer patient, is to be grateful for each remaining moment we have and choose to live it with joy, compassion, and gratitude.

I recently had a long conversation with my good friend Peter Russell (author of Waking Up in Time) who has been closely tracking the details of climate change for many years. I asked him:

“We’re living on a knife edge, in times of great uncertainty. One way lies systemic collapse into ecological disaster. The other (perhaps involving some degree of the first) is a path to collective waking up and the transformation of our species. Which side do you lean to when you wake up in the morning?”

His response stunned me:

“Without a doubt, I see us falling into total systemic collapse.”

I probed a little deeper, and he revealed he didn’t just mean some temporary setback for civilization, but the inevitable extinction of our species—within a few generations! Involving, of course, the great extinction of vast numbers of other species.

I questioned him more, and he talked about how, within 100 to 150 years, climate change will be so rapid and so vast that a band of desolation and desert will circle the planet, with only small regions remaining hospitable for life in places like northern Europe, Alaska,  parts of Canada and Antarctica . . . He thinks that all mammalian species will be wiped out, and perhaps most reptiles and amphibians. Possibly only plants and insects will survive.

I had never encountered such a bleak scenario based on what I understand to be a clear reading of the available data. It overshadows even the most pessimistic scenarios I’ve heard elsewhere. Worse, this may not be a reversible process. It’s not as if the Earth will quickly spring back to life, and the deserts will bloom once again. No, in this scenario, we are already in the early stages of human-induced climate change that will turn our beautiful globe into a planetary desert for many millions of years. And, if all the water boils off, it could even be permanent. It happened on Mars.

(The Mars scenario is only one, extreme, possibility. Over millions of years, the planet may well recover. A similar hot-house period occurred on Earth in the Eocene, 34 to 55 million years ago. However, even if the deserts do bloom again, the chances of humans surviving the furnace are highly unlikely.)

We are living through the end days of our species, and for all practical purposes, the end of life on Earth. Sobering.

What Would You Do?
Given this, what are we to do? What’s the point of spreading such a message of hopelessness?

Pete’s response: There is no point. There is nothing we can do now to change what is inevitably coming—very soon. He then told me how waking up to this reality has changed his life. For a time, he experienced the existential angst of despair and total hopelessness. And then his “ah-ha” moment struck:

“Yes, it is hopeless. But by letting go of all sense of hope, I discovered that I still had a choice: about how to live out my life knowing that it is all over for all of us. I choose to live with compassion and to savor every moment—just like some cancer patients do when the bad news finally sinks in.”

For a few brief moments, I let it in and I felt a deep wrenching sickness in my gut, a profound sorrow for our species and for the millions of other species we will take down with us. But within a few hours, my own denial defense mechanisms kicked in. I find I can no longer actually feel the total demise of our species. Intellectually, though, I know it is a strong possibility.

How would you live your life in the light of this knowledge?

What would you do (what are you doing) when we discover that our planetary Titanic is holed, and that we are rapidly and inevitably going down? Do you dance? Do you panic? Do you rush for the lifeboats (where are they?)? Do you pray (for what?)? Do you offer comfort and solace to your neighbors? Do you head for the bar and get mind-blowingly drunk? Do you stuff yourself with food from the cafeteria? Do you find the most beautiful partners and make passionate love? Do you heroically start giving swimming lessons (knowing they won’t help)? Do you jump overboard before the ship goes down (why?)?

What would you do?

Pete has decided that the most heroic response is for individual members of our species—better, for our species collectively—to immediately stop extracting any resources from the planet, so that, at the very least, we spend our last days minimizing our contribution to the acceleration of systemic collapse. Of course, this would mean not extracting food or water, and so our species would vanish very soon. In doing so, we may give a few more years, perhaps another generation or two, for other species to enjoy.

We might, for instance, leave the planet habitable for species that inhabit the oceans, who just might survive the ecological devastation that will sweep the land. However, as he pointed out, the oceans may be in an even more precarious predicament. “They may collapse first. Coral reefs are already dying fast and increased acidity of CO2  is making life very hard for the microscopic creatures at the base of the food chain. No plankton, no shrimp, no humpback whales.”

It’s hard to grasp, isn’t it?

Final Exit?
Perhaps ecological collapse is the fate of any planet when evolution produces a species with advanced intelligence coupled with the means to manipulate its environment to suit its own needs (e.g., an opposable thumb)—a fatal combination?

As Pete sees it, the one ray of “hope” in the face of dire hopelessness is an opportunity for a profound transformation in consciousness—along the lines envisioned by French philosopher and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin and fictionalized in Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi novel Childhood’s End.

The pressure of breakdown either wipes out the species or pushes it to evolve. Planets, then, serve as seed pods for launching consciousness to higher levels of evolution.

At this point, though, such scenarios begin to sound like spiritual science fiction—the human mind’s ultimate creative response to the realization of radical hopelessness.

What else can we do?

The Big Surrender
Well, we can surrender. Perhaps that is the hidden gift of being shocked, of waking up to our predicament. All the world’s great spiritual traditions teach us about the power of surrender, of letting go and trusting in some greater intelligence or process beyond anything mere mortals can ever imagine.

When we do finally and fully surrender, we open up to the possibility of some unforeseen, unimaginable, event that transforms what seemed like a dire and hopeless situation into an opportunity for a new beginning. The great mystics call this entering the “dark night of the soul” before the dawn of spiritual enlightenment.

Today, we might be facing an unprecedented “dark night” of the collective soul. We may be called on to let go of attachment, not just to our petty personal needs and desires, but to the very survival of our species, and accept the impending “death” of our beautiful planet—the Big Surrender, followed, perhaps, by the Big Breakthrough. Perhaps.

Whatever lies ahead, one fact is inescapable: We are all in this together.

So what can we do? We can continue to live more and more lightly on the Earth, reducing our eco-footprint.

We also have a compelling opportunity to support each other, to relate with compassion, and to communicate authentically from the heart.

We can share our stories.

That is what has held societies together from time immemorial. And it is just as vital today.

* * *
This is one perspective—but I think it is worth paying attention to.
Do you?

* * *

Love. Energy. Promises.

Love Energy

Q: My partner and I recently had a different perspective on the issue of keeping one’s word and honoring how one feels. I had promised to do something with him, but when the time came I felt I really didn’t have the energy. So I changed my mind, and did something else. I decided to honor myself instead of keeping a promise. I don’t think honoring myself is the same as being selfish.

As I see it, love begins by honoring yourself. Energy is transient. Honoring thyself means honoring that energy. It doesn’t override a promise that’s made to a loved one. It means honor your energy. This is one of the truisms of life: Energy is transient! What do you think?

CdeQ: Yes, indeed, energy is transient. That’s its nature. It flows, and comes and goes. And since feelings and emotions are forms of energy, they are also transitory.

Feelings come and go like the breeze, and we have very little control over them. We can choose to attend to them, to ignore them, or to resist them when they arise, but we have very little (if any) control over when or whether they arise. Feelings blow through us like wind over the ocean. And we can let them toss us about like boats on the waves, or we can exercise the power of choice to steer our way through the storms of feelings (and energy).

Giving our word is like a rudder on a boat. It  empowers us to navigate our way through the winds and currents of our always-changing emotions, feelings, and thoughts. That way, we are not at the mercy of our ever-shifting states of mind. We honor our feelings by allowing them to be what they are, just as we honor our journey at sea by paying attention to the waves and currents.

Keeping our word does not mean we don’t honor our feelings. We honor them by acknowledging and fully experiencing them as they occur. This does not mean always giving in to how we happen to feel at any particular moment. In fact, I would say “giving in” to our feelings is the exact opposite of “honoring thyself.”

To me, honoring thyself means honoring who we truly are, and who we truly are is created or declared by our word. We create who we are when we declare who we are. In that sense, honoring ourself means honoring our word, our promises. It is the core of our integrity. Integrity is being constant to our word, even in the face of “transient feelings” or “shifts in energy.”

This does not mean, of course, that we are “forced” to keep to our word/promise no matter what happens. We cannot be “victims” of our promises—that would be a contradiction because the spirit of the promise would be gone.

It is always a choice. We become a “victim” to our word only when we give up the power of choice. And we become a “victim” of circumstance when we give up a promise just because we no longer feel like keeping it.

We choose to keep our word, even when our feelings change. Sometimes, circumstances do change in ways that we may need to renegotiate a promise—that’s where communication is so important. Crises do happen beyond our control, and when they do, we may need to choose to cancel the original promise and recreate a new one. This should never be done lightly, and not as a matter of course. This is a far cry from just ignoring a promise because at some future time we may not “feel like it.” If everybody went around doing just what they “felt like” in the moment, the world would quickly collapse into social chaos.

So, rather than always simply acting on what we happen to feel like in the moment, I’m saying that what works is:

* be responsible for your feelings (own them);
* acknowledge your feelings (pay attention to them);
* allow yourself to fully experience your feelings; and
* nevertheless, keep your word.

Keeping our word cannot be dependent on whether we happen to feel like it at some future time. That would not be a promise. It would be a form of deception—because even if we meant it at the time, we also would know that we might cancel the “promise” whenever we felt like it. (Of course, if we let the other person know that our “promise” could be canceled at any time because we might not feel like it, then that would not be deception. However, the other person would know he or she had not received a promise. Just unreliable words.)

Relationships are built on trust. And trust is built on knowing people will keep their word. It is also built on mutual respect and honoring of the other. If circumstances change and keeping a promise would in some way damage or be detrimental to the other, then clearly it would be time to talk about it, and renegotiate. Love is not forcing others to do what is unhealthy, nor is it enabling them to break their word just because they no longer feel like it. Love is supporting others to keep their word while honoring what they are feeling in the moment. Love is accepting times when promises need to be renegotiated.

My bumper-sticker for this is: Energy is transient. Promises are trustworthy.”

Intention Beyond Belief

Fragments of consciousnessDo Our Beliefs Create Reality?

Without a doubt, consciousness plays a decisive role in creating and shaping our world. So, I want to be clear about something: What I am about to say does not diminish or invalidate in any way the insight expressed in phrases such as “belief creates reality” or “we create our own reality.”

The core insight is valid, and I honor it. I think it gives expression to a profound truth. However, I also think it can be misleading if simply taken at face value, without finer discernment. As a philosopher, I like to burrow beneath surfaces to reveal deeper meanings and truths.

I want to draw attention here to the difference between “belief” and “intention.” When I hear people talk about “beliefs creating reality” they usually mean intention co-creates reality. These are two very different claims, with very different—and important—consequences for our lives and for the world we live in.

Yes, many people do believe in the creative power of belief.  I don’t. I have a different view, discussed in my books Radical Knowing and more recently Consciousness from Zombies to Angels. Here’s my take on this issue.

Frozen Fragments of Consciousness

Beliefs are made of thoughts. Thoughts are abstractions—“frozen fragments of consciousness” taken from the moment-to-moment flow of ongoing experience. Because thoughts are abstractions, they are only fragments of reality, echos of expired experiences that have now moved into the past (near or distant). Thoughts are “mental snapshots” of a moment in time. Thoughts and beliefs are rooted in the past.

Experience is always happening now. Reality, too, is always happening now. The “happy coincidence” of experience and reality meeting in the now means that by paying attention to what we are actually experiencing in the present moment, we have direct access to reality, to what is actually happening now.

When we focus on thoughts and beliefs, however, our attention is fixated on residues of expired experiences that belong to the past—not to present reality. We get mesmerized by our intricate tapestries of thoughts (literally “entranced” by them). We then mistake our abstractions (snapshots of the past) for what is real, and we miss out on what is really happening now, in our in-the-moment experience.

Because thoughts are abstractions, they have no real power or potency. And because beliefs are constructed of thoughts, they are essentially impotent, too. Beliefs are “mental habits” and, like all habits, they are mechanical, having no creativity. As “habits of mind,” beliefs are tools of the ego (egos are mental machines).

However, experience is very different. It is naturally and intrinsically creative. Why? Because at every new moment a new experience comes into being. Each experience is literally an act of creation—a gift from the universe. And the wonderful thing is we don’t have to do anything for experiences to happen. They come built into the very fabric of existence itself. To be is to experience. To experience is to be creative.

Fragments fragmentThat’s why I encourage people to focus on being present—bringing awareness and attention to what we are actually experiencing right now, moment-by-moment. That’s where our power lies. That’s the source of our creativity.

When I examine sayings such as “beliefs create reality” I find that what is really being expressed is the insight  “intentions create reality.” That seems to me to be the deeper truth.

Language is critically important, and so I pay close attention to the words we use. I do so not merely as an intellectual exercise (that would be pointless), but because, as I see it, the words we choose do make a real difference in how we live our lives and, therefore, how we impact the world.

I pay particular attention to the distinction between “belief,” “experience,” and “intention” because a great deal of confusion and strife in the world is caused by people holding onto their cherished beliefs at all costs. People die by the thousands, perhaps millions, every year when different belief systems collide. And countless millions of individuals from other species die, too, because of clashing human beliefs.

I sometimes say, only half humorously, that I’ve never met a belief that created anything—except trouble.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb for choosing experience beyond belief: No experience is ever wrong—or even could be wrong. Every experience simply is exactly what it is. However, beliefs can be wrong because they are interpretations (they are stories), and like all interpretations they can miss the mark, be mistaken, or be misunderstood.

Experiences happen in the moment before interpretation kicks in. Every experience reveals a slice of reality for what it truly is at that moment. Here’s what typically happens:

experience —> interpretation —> belief —> dogma —> ideology —> action

Notice that our actions (how we interact with others and the world around us) are many steps removed from the original experience that connects us with reality. Is it any surprise, then, that so many of our actions just add further confusion and disruption to our lives and the environment? For the most part, for most of us, our actions are out of touch with reality.

Much better, then, to learn to act directly from experience. Cultivating this ability is at the core of most (perhaps all) spiritual practices and effective psychological discipline.


Think, for example, about master martial artists or think of great athletes—men and women who achieve exceptional performance because they have learned to act directly from their experience in the moment—not from their beliefs! In the midst of action, they do not stop to think or to make sure they act from their beliefs. If they did, their performance and effectiveness would collapse.

Intention: The Creative Expression of the Soul

So much for “experience beyond belief.” What about “intention”?

Whereas beliefs are habits of mind rooted in the ego, intention is the focused creative expression of the soul’s natural intelligence.

By paying close attention to our experience in the moment, we open up to expressions of intelligence flowing from the soul—from the innermost depths of our being. Intention is choosing to align ourselves with our deepest wisdom. (Actually, it is not really “our” wisdom. Ultimately, it is the collective wisdom of all sentient beings, expressed through us as individuals at a particular point in space and time. But that’s a topic for another discussion.)

Wisdom, then, involves getting the ego out of the way—getting beyond our mental, mechanical habits—and, instead, choosing to allow the soul’s intelligence its full natural expression. “Intelligence seeks expression,” declares Darwin in Deep Spirit. One way or another, intelligence will express itself. We might as well choose to go along for the ride. Why fight or resist the flow of natural intelligence by trying to mold reality to our beliefs, by trying to shape reality to fit in with our mechanical mental habits?

When we consciously choose to align with this deep collective intelligence, we open to the creativity of intention. Creativity flows from intention, from focused natural expression of the soul’s deepest intelligence and wisdom.

Beliefs don’t create reality; they distort it—inevitably. Beliefs distort reality because they are rooted in the past, and reality is always now.

Of course, I don’t want you to believe a word of this. I do, however, want you to pay attention to whatever you experience as you let in the meaning of these words. What are you feeling right now? Guided by that feeling, what do you choose right now? What is your intention beyond belief?

For Earth Day (April 18)

This is my vision for “Future Earth”—a world where humans live in balance with all other species, and give up the dangerous myth that “humans are special.” All species are special (it’s what makes them different species). And there is nothing especially special about human specialness. Only when we let go of that self-serving myth will our planet stand a chance of sustaining the bountiful variety of living systems that Earth has so beautifully created and nourished for the billions of years we have circled around the life-giving light of our Sun. May it long continue. And may we continue to walk the journey of evolution.

Earth Song

earth-song1

For the Love of Matter

Fractal Matter

Q: I just had a very interesting discussion with my partner on love and the material world. I took the approach that all things have some level of consciousness, but she denies that any material object has consciousness, especially at the level of atoms and molecules. To her, that just seems ridiculous. But isn’t it true that we, the Earth, and the universe are all made up of the same atoms and molecules? Someone who denies that all matter has consciousness cannot show love for material creations. Right?

CdeQ: Well I’m not sure; it depends on what you mean by “love.” Lots of people “love” material possessions, indeed are addicted to them. Yet most of these would also deny that matter has consciousness. Perhaps your friend is someone who “loves” material possessions but doesn’t really love matter because she neither believes nor experiences the deep and innate sentience and sacredness of all matter—whether animals, plants, rocks, or minerals.

People who deny sentience in matter deny that atoms and molecules have any level of consciousness. That is the dominant paradigm of scientific materialism. But, as I point out in my books and lectures, it makes no sense—because it cannot account for the fact that we have consciousness and we are made of atoms and molecules.

If your friend denies that atoms have consciousness, then ask her how come she has consciousness—after all, she is made of atoms. Can she explain how mindless atoms could ever come together to produce her mind? Of course, she cannot. Nobody can. It would require a miracle.

Yes, you are quite right: We humans are made up of atoms and subatomic particles found elsewhere in the natural world. There are no special “human atoms” or “human molecules.”

Bottom line: If we have consciousness (we do) and if we are made of atoms and molecules (we are), then, unless some inexplicable miracle has happened, it follows that the atoms and molecules we are made of must also have some degree of consciousness, too. And, since there is nothing special about human atoms and molecules, if follows that all atoms and molecules must also have some degree of consciousness. The logic is plain and straightforward.

People who deny this either (a) do not think things through clearly enough or (b) believe in some inexplicable miraculous process that can produce minds from mindless matter. (Ironically, this option is not available to materialists because, by definition, they deny the possibility of anything supernatural like miracles.)

Generally, people who deny that matter has its own consciousness have just unthinkingly bought into the dogma of scientific materialism—which is based on the metaphysical assumption that the ultimate nature of reality is “dead” matter. However, that assumption is not in any way scientific or supported by scientific evidence. To put it bluntly: Science has absolutely nothing to say about consciousness one way or the other. Why? Because science restricts itself to studying the physical world, and consciousness is nonphysical.

If your friend is truly interested in clearly thinking things through then you might want to pursue this kind of conversation with her. If, however, she just unthinkingly adopts the “standard dogma,” then I’d say don’t even waste your time.

But be patient and compassionate: People in our culture have been educated (”brainwashed” is appropriate) to believe that only humans (or, at best, animals with complex brains) could possibly have minds or consciousness. There are long and complex reasons for this (I spell them out in Radical Nature). Essentially, it all comes down to the need to believe that humans are special. We’re not. We, like everything else in nature, are composed of matter and mind (or energy and consciousness).

Interestingly enough, people who truly love matter—let’s call them “radical materialists”—tend not to be in love with material consumption. They recognize that all of nature is sacred. Indigenous cultures recognized this a long, long time ago.

Conscious Evolution

A Call to Conscious Evolution

The Call of Consciousness

The human family is in the midst of the most significant transformation of consciousness since its emergence in Africa more than one hundred thousand years ago. Consciousness has been evolving for billions of years, from before the first cell to us.

We are becoming aware that through our own consciousness the universe can know itself. This awareness reveals incredible new potential for our individual and collective humanity.

With consciousness comes choice. And with expanding awareness, we can choose to more actively participate in the direction  our evolution takes.

Simultaneously, we are the first species on Earth aware that we can destroy ourselves by our own actions (endangering and extinguishing countless other species along the way). This may be the greatest wake-up call to the evolution of consciousness since the origin of Homo sapiens sapiens.

We now realize we are affecting our own evolution by everything we do. This knowledge awakens in us the aspiration to become more conscious through receptive experiential practices—including meditation, reflection, prayer, and intuition—as well as through active expressions of conscious choice and creativity.

Doing so, we can accelerate our evolution in the direction of unity consciousness, and inspire us to deeply align our collective vision for a more compassionate and replenishing world.

(Adapted from “A Call to Consciousness.” For the full call to action, see below . . .)

‘A Call to Consciousness’ is a collective initiative from leading lights such as: Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx-Hubbard, Greg Braden, Debbie Ford, Michael Beckwith, Lynne McTaggart, Joan Borysekno, and Bruce Lipton.

Respond to the Call: Find our more.
Add your name and your voice
.

Conscious Evolution

We Are Not Alone

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Q: What drives collective evolution or evolution of consciousness and culture, and how do we consciously, creatively participate in it? Some of us believe that humans are the living face of evolution today—that we are, in fact, evolution becoming conscious of itself. Through us, evolution is coming to understand its own dynamics and is now poised to use them with intentionality, purpose, and intelligent design.

CdeQ: The phrase “intelligent design” is deliciously appropriate in this context. A deeper understanding of consciousness in evolution can help us in two ways:

First, by showing how consciousness shapes the development of societies and cultures. Second, and much more important, by accepting that consciousness is a decisive influence on the trajectory of species evolution itself.

In my work—especially in Radical Nature and my new book Deep Spirit—I make a strong case that consciousness has always been a factor directing the “adventure of matter” we call “evolution.” Human self-reflexive consciousness is, as you say, “evolution becoming conscious of  itself.”

Since humans are natural products of evolution, then whatever attributes we have (including our self-reflexive consciousness) are  automatically natural expressions of evolution, too. Yes we are a “living face” of evolution today—but we are not alone. We have very good reasons to believe that other species (such as cetaceans and some of the other great apes) also possess forms of self-reflexive consciousness.

The new-found human ability to tinker with genetics, of course, gives us a way to interfere with the process of natural selection that other species don’t possess. However, I think that conscious intention, much more than any DNA “fix,” is what, ultimately,  will guide the future unfolding of evolution. In that case, the human capacity for genetic manipulation pales in comparison to the collective intention at work in all species—not just humans.

As always, I’m interested in shifting our attention (or expanding our attention) from a self-serving, self-absorbed focus on human consciousness or evolution. We share this ecosystem (and consciousness) with a host of other sentient beings, without whom we would not be who we are or be able to survive. The evolution of human culture/society will always take place within a larger context and network of other sentient beings who are also evolving.

Like most indigenous cultures do, we need to see  our species as just one “nation” sharing this beautiful planet and awesome cosmos with  a more-than-human world. 

The “intelligent design” at work in evolution is not something new that came on the scene with human consciousness. It has always been there—in all species, in all matter—as a natural ingredient of the sentient energy that pervades the cosmos, and underlies all of reality.

Creation is at work in evolution—the natural creative capacity that matter/energy itself possesses.

Creation is ongoing, not a one-time event. That’s why I speak of “intelligent evolution” as an alternative to the rather strange debate between proponents of “intelligent design” and neo-Darwinian evolution. Evolution, literally, is the “great story” that intelligent, sentient matter/energy is weaving for itself.

And I delight that you and I—and all our sentient colleagues—are part of this wondrous cosmic evolutionary tale.

Intelligent Evolution

god-darwin2

What if both science and religion are wrong about evolution?
What if both are right?

We’ve all seen them: bumper stickers and decals of a fish with legs symbolizing Darwin’s theory of evolution. And then, from religious creationists, the “counter-decals” of a fish-with-a-cross swallowing “Darwin’s” amphibious fish. The battle of the decals is just one way the debate between creationists and evolutionists overflows onto our streets.

But there’s an alternative: a philosophy that shows why both religion and science have got it wrong—and right.

To move beyond the sectarian clashes and wars in these troubled times—between fundamentalists in both religion and science—we need a wiser, more coherent, account of who we are and how we came to be. We need a revised and renewed vision of creation and evolution. We need a deeper and broader understanding of both religion and science.

Both Wrong and Right

Religion is wrong to place the “Creator” beyond nature (as supernatural).*

Science is wrong to deny intelligence (consciousness or spirit) at work in evolution.

Religion is right to hold the view that there is creation and that creation possesses intelligence. And religion is right to deny that the birth and evolution of our world happened by chance.

Science is right to hold the view that evolution produces different species, including humans. And science is right to deny that some “supernatural” intelligent designer is responsible for the wondrous diversity and interconnectedness of living and non-living forms.

darwin-or-jesus?Best of Both

In the new view, creation is not the result of some “supernatural Creator.” Nor is creation a one-time event. Instead, creation is continuous and natural. Evolution is not random and unfolding without the guidance of a deep intelligence. Nature itself is naturally intelligent and creative. That’s how evolution occurs.

Instead of a “higher” intelligence, let’s be open to a deeper intelligence. Instead of “dead” and “dumb” matter, let’s be open to sentient and intelligent matter.

Then we can have the best of both worlds—integrating the great insights of both religion and science. The “missing link” is consciousness. The ability to have experience, to feel, to be aware is a complete mystery to science. Evolution cannot explain it. Religions take it for granted that this ability is unique to humans (a special gift from the Creator). The fact of consciousness highlights the shortcomings of both science and religion, and it offers a way out of the seemingly endless debate between evolutionists and creationists.

New Worldview

We need a new worldview where religion recognizes that consciousness (intelligence or spirit) is not “supernatural,” but is part of the natural fabric of cosmos, Earth, and life, and where science recognizes that matter itself “tingles with the spark of spirit,” that evolution is guided from within.

This “new” philosophy or worldview is called “panpsychism” or “radical naturalism.” We could also call it “intelligent evolution.” (Actually, it’s a very ancient philosophy, shared by indigenous cultures throughout the world.)

If we shift to such a view, then we can begin to transcend the squabbles between those who believe in supernatural “intelligent design” and those who believe in random evolution.

The biggest challenge facing modern science is to explain the mystery of consciousness. A science based on the assumption of “dead” insentient matter exploding from a random Big Bang cannot account for mind. Yet consciousness is the one thing we can be absolutely certain exists.

The biggest challenge facing mainstream religion is to remain relevant in a world increasingly dominated by scientific knowledge.

The philosophy of intelligent evolution can help science and religion meet these challenges. In a nutshell, it takes us beyond the dogmas of both:

Beyond Religion: The world was not created by a supernatural transcendent God (in seven days or 13.7 billion years).

Beyond Science: The world did not come into being from a random Big Bang followed by billions of years of random chemical and biological evolution.

Instead, the most coherent story about how the world came to be (a world where both matter and mind are real) recognizes that

Spirit is not supernatural (above and beyond nature).
Evolution is not without purpose or intelligence.

The new philosophy offers a way to honor the deep insights of both religion and science.

sacred-evolution

Intelligent Design

Yes, there is an “intelligent designer” at work in evolution. But the intelligence (call it “God” or “Spirit”) is intrinsic to nature. Nature itself is intelligent (has sentience and consciousness, purpose and meaning) “all the way down” to single cells, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.

Evolution

In this new view of nature and evolution, matter itself is intelligent. Matter is “adventurous.” Evolution is the adventure of matter exploring its own creative potentials. As matter evolves, its native intelligence or consciousness evolves, too. So by the time human brains come on the scene, matter or nature has achieved the remarkable ability to be self-reflective—to know that it knows—and to ponder the eternal questions in religion, philosophy, and science: Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? Why is there anything at all?

Intelligent Evolution: A Sacred Fish with Legs?

Instead of the amusing (and silly) bumper-stickers pitching Darwin against Jesus (evolution vs. religion), we can come up with a new set of symbols and sound-bytes:

Picture a decal that shows a fish with legs and a halo, indicating that evolution is a sacred process because spirit is active in the development of species. Evolution is natural and creative. We could say “Spirit Matters” or, just as meaningful, “Matter Spirits.”

* (“Religion,” here, refers to monotheistic doctrines. It does not include other teachings such as Buddhism or Taoism.)

darwin-x-jesus-2

Enter the World of Intelligent Evolution and the Great Adventure of Consciousness in Deep Spirit.

Deep Spirit

Deep Spirit: Fact or Fiction?

Deep Spirit cover

A Personal Revelation

In my new novel Deep Spirit, a wise and highly informed dolphin, called Darwin, communicates with scientists, helping them to “crack the noetic code” — a new way of knowing that could pull humanity back from the brink of chaos. It’s a story about the evolution of consciousness — and how to realize our visions for a viable future.

One of the first people to finish reading Deep Spirit, a woman named Melissa, asked whether I have any evidence for dolphins communicating with humans. “What,” she wondered, “makes you feel it is either plausible or real?”

What an interesting — and challenging — question! I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. But her question was heartfelt, so I wanted to try.

First, I don’t expect readers to accept that communication between species, in human language, is either plausible or real. I simply leave that possibility open. However, I do hope the dialogue makes sense within the story.

That said, the question of “evidence” is complicated, subtle, and complex. One of the key themes in Deep Spirit is the value of cultivating alternative states of consciousness — beyond our everyday rational minds. I don’t expect much, if any, successful interspecies communication, or evolution of human consciousness, can occur without it.

By far the most compelling source of evidence I have for feeling confident that the narrative device of a telepathic dolphin is more than a mere “narrative” or a “device” arises from personal experience. (Here comes the revelation . . .)

An Unexpected Encounter

A few years ago, after I had completed the first draft of Deep Spirit (in a two-week creative burst, more than 400 pages poured out), I participated in a shamanic journey with a bona fide South American shaman. Without going into details, I can report that during a session lasting between 8 to 12 hours, with profound shifts in consciousness, I experienced communicating with a dolphin. (For obvious reasons, as someone who values my role as a philosopher and academic, this is not an experience I have readily shared. But the question posed by Melissa has prompted me to tackle this issue head on. It’s time to take a stand for authenticity and non-ordinary ways of knowing.)

What I discovered during that session has changed my life. “Darwin,” the dolphin character I thought I had created, seems in some inexplicable way very real indeed and exists independently of my invention. In our dialogue, he revealed he was using me — because of  my openness, caring, and compassion for the plight of cetaceans (and other animals) — as a “mouthpiece” for the cause of dolphins and whales. I came away from that session with a strong conviction that rather than being a character I invented, Darwin was working through me to communicate something he and his species wanted humans to know.

"Intelligence seeks expression."

"Intelligence seeks expression."

Because it was an alternative state, much of the detail of that session is accessible now only as fragments in my “normal” state of consciousness. However, one point remains crystal clear: Darwin expressed deep grief for the plight of dolphins and whales, a sorrow shared by all of them. It’s not just that humans are hunting and killing these highly intelligent species, or even that we are poisoning their oceans. No, what concerns them most of all is that humans, with very few exceptions, are no longer open or interested in communicating with them.

They need us to connect with them to evolve to the fullest of our collective intelligence. (I’m sure this applies to other species as well — the great apes, elephants, parrots, octopus, and, dare I say it, coral — but that’s another story). In a phrase: Humans are preventing dolphins and whales from being fully who they are, or could be. We are keeping them stuck. We are a drag on evolution. Of course, this deeply impacts our own development, too. We carry the collective grief of alienation deep in our psyches and in the tissues of our bodies.

Now, in my “normal” state of consciousness, I am very aware how “off the chart” this can sound — especially to my colleagues in philosophy and science. I should add that during that session I didn’t actually see Darwin, or even hear him. I felt his presence, and all the meaning of our communication flowed from that. It was palpable, exceptionally clear, vivid, and real far beyond anything I have ever experienced before or since. In that state, this mode of consciousness had the quality of a shallow dream. By comparison, that experience was veridical, deep, and authentic.

Before publishing Deep Spirit, I considered describing my encounter with Darwin in a Foreword, but decided against it. I wanted the story to stand by itself. However, I now see that I need to stand behind the story and its unusual origin because, as Melissa implied, it raises important questions about the nature of knowledge, and the difference between reality and illusion.

Snakes Spirals Illusion

Click to see full-size illusion

How Do We Know What is Real?

My shamanic experience does make me think twice about the nature of evidence. Of course, neither what I experienced, nor my report of it, can count as objective evidence that Darwin really exists. However, we cannot simply dismiss it as subjective fantasy, either.

Without exception, every piece of so-called objective evidence must be experienced, first of all, in someone’s subjective mind. All evidence must be experienced by someone. What, then, makes some experiences “real” and others not? Shouldn’t all experiences count as evidence?

What about hallucinations? How are these different from visions? I do think it is useful to be able to tell the difference between a visionary experience of reality and a mere hallucination. Conventionally, hallucinations occur in the privacy of someone’s mind — and only there. We may believe something exists beyond our own experience, when in actual fact it does not — at least, not according to what other people report. Hallucinations are private experiences misinterpreted. By definition, their content has no other existence. But how can we test that? How do we decide which interpretations are likely to match reality?

Well, quite simply, we communicate. We share our stories. We discover what, collectively, we hold in common. We test our stories against shared experience. This is precisely how science works.

However, beyond sharing our stories through the medium of language, we can also share experiences directly — through shared feelings, through engaging each others’ presence in intersubjective communion. In short, telepathically. This, typically, involves alternative states of consciousness. And this is precisely how shamanism works.

Was my conversation with Darwin “real” or a kind of hallucination? Well, at that time, it came with remarkable clarity and conviction. But, right now, I cannot be so sure. One of the most disconcerting, yet liberating, realizations we can have is that the feeling of certainty does not mean something is true. Private conviction is not the same as truth, and does not count as evidence.

On the other hand, just because no-one else witnessed or shared my encounter with Darwin doesn’t mean he isn’t real. Remember this important scientific slogan: “Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

Ultimately, all we ever have to go on are our own experiences — and it is wise to share and compare them with others’. The best we can do is pay attention as openly, as honestly, and as authentically as we can. And then examine our experiences using the “Four Gifts of Knowing” (senses, reason, feeling, and intuition) to see how they coalesce. Guided by experiences with the greatest clarity and coherence, we arrive at what seems to be the most “likely story” — our best shot at expressing what is real.

If I have learned anything in life it is this: Uncertainty pulses in the heart of every certainty. Beyond the light of knowledge shines the dark luminance of inexhaustible, always beckoning, mystery.

I invite you to read Deep Spirit and discover for yourself the mysterious interplay between reality and dreams — one man’s (or one dolphin’s) “best shot” at the power of story to transform the world and create a brighter future.

Intelligence seeks expression.
Expressing it is wisdom.

The Ultimate Message

The Ultimate Message

Praise for Deep Spirit

“Fact or fiction? Deep Spirit is an ingenious and imaginative story about the evolution of consciousness, alien intelligence, and the transformative power of dreams. It explores ultimate questions about life and death, and takes you on a roller-coaster ride through the mysteries of science and spirituality—guided by a truly believable shamanic dolphin. Whether you’re a scientist or mystic, a lover of quiet wisdom or action and suspense, Christian de Quincey’s visionary tale will take you into realms beyond imagination. Fast-paced and easy to read, this is a book to take to the beach, to read on the train or plane, to curl up with in bed. Pick it up, and you won’t put it down. Rich with images and characters that leap off the page, I can easily see Deep Spirit transformed into Spiritual Cinema. 
But don’t wait for the movie—read the book first.”

Stephen Simon, 
Producer Somewhere in Time,
What Dreams May Come,
and Indigo
Co-founder www.spiritualcinemacircle.com

Deep Spirit breaks new ground in the genre of “visionary faction.” It’s the first book to cross sophisticated mainstream adventure story with new age wisdom. Few other books, fiction or nonfiction, have so successfully popularized a thoughtful blending of modern science, shamanic wisdom, mind-body philosophy, and mystical experience. One thing is certain: The conventional scientific view of consciousness is pitifully limited. Deep Spirit is a fabulous way of using the power of story to reveal new ideas about the origins, destiny, and reach of the mind.”

Larry Dossey, MD, 
author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things

Deep Spirit is far more than fiction. It is a call for a higher consciousness, and ends with one of the most lucid descriptions of unity consciousness I have read for a long time. Deep Spirit is the thinking person’s Celestine Prophecy. Christian de Quincey writes with an easy style; and his insights are both grounded in science and reflect the perennial philosophy of mystics from time immemorial.”

Peter Russell, author of From Science to God, and The Global Brain

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