Conscious Evolution Through
In this essay we'll examine how humankind's conscious evolution can most effectively occur through the realization of Cooperative Communities as explicated in The New Commonwealth. To explore the features of this conscious evolutionary development, we'll counterpose the basic concepts and practices involved in establishing Commonwealth Communities with the ideas of several principal thinkers on evolution, including P. D. Ouspensky, a 20th century student and expositor of sources relating to the Perennial Tradition.
Ouspensky studied with G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949), a conduit teacher of Sufi material. Conduit teachers are to be distinguished from genuine Sufi teachers within the realm of authentic Sufism. 2
Charles Darwin agreed that human evolution advanced through "natural selection" on the physical level only during the early pre-historic eras. During the last ten to fifteen thousand years, human evolution has occurred exclusively in relation to "intellectual and moral faculties"--that is through conscious effort.
"Mr. Wallace, in an admirable paper before referred to, 3 argues that man, after he had partially acquired those intellectual and moral faculties which distinguish him from the lower animals, would have been but little liable to bodily modifications through natural selection or any other means. . . The case, however, is widely different, as Mr. Wallace has with justice insisted, in relation to the intellectual and moral faculties of man. . . We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of offspring."
Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871
Selections from P. D. Ouspensky, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution, 1945
". . . Psychology is the study of the principles, laws and facts of man's possible evolution.
"Our first question will be--what does evolution of man mean, and second, are there any special conditions necessary for it? . . . We must deny any possibility of future mechanical evolution of man; that is, evolution happening by itself according to laws of heredity and selection, and without man's conscious efforts and understanding of his possible evolution.
"Our fundamental idea shall be that man as we know him is not a completed being; that nature develops him only up to a certain point and then leaves him, either to develop further, by his own efforts and devices, or to live and die such as he was born, or to degenerate and lose capacity for development.
"Evolution of man in this case will mean the development of certain inner qualities and features which usually remain undeveloped, and cannot develop by themselves. Experience and observation show that this development is possible only in certain definite conditions, with efforts of a certain kind on the part of man himself, and with sufficient help from those who began similar work before and have already attained a certain degree of development, or at least a certain knowledge of methods. We must start with the idea that without efforts evolution is impossible; without help, it is also impossible.
"After this we must understand that in the way of development, man must become a different being, and we must learn and understand in what sense and in which direction man must become a different being; that is, what a different being means. Then we must understand that all men cannot develop and become different beings. Evolution is the question of personal efforts and in relation to the mass of humanity evolution is the rare exception. It may sound strange but we must realise that it is not only rare, but is becoming more and more rare. . .
"The evolution of man depends on his understanding of what he may get and what he must give for it. If man does not want it, or if he does not want it strongly enough, and does not make necessary efforts, he will never develop."
Functioning As the Primary Human Process
The primary process of our species' evolution is human functioning: the active use of our physical, intellectual, and spiritual faculties. Functioning results in specific elements:
- Physical elements
- Machines: manufactured devices which transform one form of energy into another, decreasing entropy
- Institutions: nations, governments, laws 4
- Art: literature, painting, drama, sculpture, cinema, music, dance
- Human physical capabilities: power, skill, finesse
- Mental elements
- Cognitive: knowledge, understanding, wisdom
- Emotional: self-discipline, compassion, altruism
- Spiritual: discernment, enlightenment, unity
- Spiritual elements
- Perennial philosophy: Pythagoras, Plato, Suhrawardi
- Perennial initiatory procedures: mystery rites, alchemy, mystical contemplation
- Perennial wisdom: Plato, Jesus, Rumi
"The main role of creative intellect lies in practical invention. 'Invention' here is being used broadly to mean acts of intelligent discovery by which an animal comes up with new ways of doing things. Thus it includes not only, say, the fabrication of new tools or the putting of existing objects to new use but also the discovery of new behavioural strategies, new ways of using the resources of one's own body." Nicholas Humphrey, "The Social Function of Intellect," 1976"
| Upward Path of Human Evolution During Historic Eras|
| Persons above the evolutionary|
line are positive influences
| Persons below the evolutionary|
line are negative influences
The human evolutionary path is upward because
each era builds on the achievements of the past eras.
Humankind's Evolution and Current Devolution
| Man's Achieve-|
ment of Language
| The Oral Frame of Mind
|| Man's Achieve-|
ment of Reason
| The Enlightenment
|| Reversion to Oral Frame of Mind
|| Back to the Stone Age
"So essential is language to man's humanness, so deep a source is it of his own creativity, that it is by no means an accident in our time that those who have tried to degrade man and enslave him have first debased and misused language, arbitrarily turning meanings inside out." Lewis Mumford, The Conduct of Life
Homo sapiens unlocked the awesome power of their brain through the invention of language. Language enables humans to develop such internally directed activities as reminiscing, imagining, thinking rationally, and being self-aware. With humankind's development of language it became possible to pass down one generation's accumulated understanding to the next generation, to create what we now call a culture.
Encompassing the Spiritual, Metaphysical, and Terrestrial domains, human spiritual evolution is eternally operating to raise every human being to the supreme state of Unity with the Divine. As we attain unity, we are reassimilated into the Divine Quintessence from which we descended when born into a terrestrial body.
Though ordinary humans are rapidly losing the ability to understand reality, a small contemporary Perennialist group is accessing supernormal knowledge through portals into Higher Consciousness. They are making knowledge available concerning what is actually going on in the world--beyond what media propaganda says is going on. And, of critical importance, they are preserving higher knowledge in books and Web sites which will be available when conditions have degenerated to the point where a rudely awakened mass of people will suddenly say: "How can we get out of this intolerable situation? What knowledge do we need to re-build a sane and progressive world?"
Creating A New Civilized Culture
"Faced with the challenge of an obsolete capitalism of generalized monopolies, in which the pursuit of accumulation is henceforth simply destructive of the human being and nature with ever-increasing power, the societies of the triad of collective imperialism (United States, Europe, and Japan) are currently embarked on the path of self-destruction. The resistance and struggles of the victims, although real, remain defensive, without a conscious and positive alternative project."Samir Amin's depiction of capitalism as obsolete and "destructive of the human being and nature with every-increasing power" is correct in all details. And, until 1996 it was true that capitalism's many victims lacked a "conscious and positive alternative project." However, in 1996, the New Enlightenment website and its accompanying New Enlightenment Movement were launched, and in 2011, a new Archetype of a Commonwealth Culture was published. These two events represent the introduction (or re-introduction) of a Higher Culture into the barbaric world of globalist capitalism.
Samir Amin, "The Center Will Not Hold: The Rise and Decline of Liberalism,"
January, 2012, Monthly Review
In all historic eras, humankind has ordered its life according to specific societal archetypes, patterns of behavior, and objectives. When these elements become injurious and deadly--as at present--then we can overcome these destructive societal archetypes, patterns of behavior, and objectives only by understanding the true Form of these elements and thus realizing their Truth.
The intentional community envisioned in The New Commonwealth novella differs entirely from utopias or such entities as the "created nations" after World War I and II. The community is an Archetype. It is envisioned as not being created by merely taking over the territory and populace of a previously established locale (town, city, state, or nation). The cooperative commonwealth communities are viewed as newly formed groupings of persons who have become members of the community through screening and training that assures they possess previously determined skills, capabilities, and values.
The New Commonwealth Archetype may not be realized within the author's lifetime, but the archetype has been created and will remain available to future generations who may attain sufficient intelligence to begin creating cooperative commonwealth communities to achieve human evolutionary advance in all areas of terrestrial life.
A cooperative commonwealth community can succeed only if ALL its members share the requisite values and possess the necessary capabilities. Communities, cultures, and civilizations of the past have all failed because even when there were quite a number of capable persons--as in fifth century BCE Athens or eighteenth century CE America--the number of persons incapable of developing the ability of thinking for themselves--among other defects--meant that the entire culture eventually degenerated to the present state of capitalist fascism, imperialism, and militarism.
When you begin with a community, nation, or group containing a predominant number of negative elements, and positive elements of a non-Perennialist nature, the community, nation, or group rapidly or slowly becomes an entirely negative entity.
In each era of human history, small groups of advanced thinkers (Perennialists) have pushed humankind forward, revealing what persons are capable of, while battling the forces of degradation, ignorance, and murderous tyranny. But the ongoing struggle against oppression is ultimately insufficient--as one form of tyranny replaces another in historic succession. Humans must at last attain the understanding and capability that will enable them to create a higher social order.
The only viable way for this to occur is for a Perennialist, totally positive group to constitute itself as a "saving remnant," 5 separate from but related to the larger culture. This Perennialist saving remnant leavens and fecundates 6 the larger culture with its higher knowledge and power, ultimately transforming the negative culture into a commonwealth. This actually constitutes realizing a new world in the sense of making real or concrete, giving reality to, being fully aware or cognizant of a world that already exists as an Ideal or Form. This new world is composed of essences (Forms) that Plato and other teachers within the Perennial Tradition reveal. Perennialist savants have inhabited this world since the beginning of humankind, initiating select aspirants into this domain.
A Perennialist group does not attempt the impossible task of transforming the larger, negative culture while "having its entire being" within the negative culture. If a group attempted to bring about transformation while existing totally within the larger, negative culture, it would be subject to the debilitating forces of that culture and ultimately experience defeat. The task of transforming a larger, negative culture, while existing completely within that culture and being subject to its annihilative influences would be so impossible that the task would appear overwhelming and end in dejection and defeat.
A Perennialist group locates its Higher Being within a Higher Realm in a separate domain outside the larger, negative culture--even though its members may have their terrestrial being within the larger, negative culture. The Perennialist group then leavens and fecundates the larger culture, ultimately transforming the larger culture into a commonwealth culture.
Plato's New Commonwealth Form
We overcome demonic terrestrial forces by understanding and realizing Forms.
We overcome demonic elements by understanding and realizing true and benevolent archetypes: harmonious patterns of behavior and synergistic objectives.
One of Plato's most important projects was the search for and investigation of the Form Commonwealth--which included societal archetypes, patterns of behavior, and human objectives. In Plato's quest for the Commonwealth Form he was seeking more than a mere accumulation of haphazard historical facts about man's political and social life. He was questing after the supersensible Form Commonwealth, a comprehensive Model which would make possible a more perfect terrestrial embodiment of the Commonwealth Form.
Through understanding Plato's writings, especially The Commonwealth, we gain the necessary comprehension of the nature of Forms in general and the Form Commonwealth in particular, making it possible to not only comprehend fully the Form Commonwealth, but also create a contemporary commonwealth movement leading to harmonious, cooperative communities.
Plato was convinced that without gaining a full understanding of the Form Commonwealth, all practical attempts at realizing a terrestrial commonwealth are doomed to failure. The Form Plato is looking for is far beyond the empirical and historical world, an Ideal Pattern by which humankind can aspire to realize a more fulfilling life.
An Already Realized Form of Commonwealth
At the end of The Commonwealth, Socrates tells Glaukon that the moral principles of virtue and order, applying to both the soul and the society, will not likely be actualized in the world of untruth, but they're already realized in a higher realm of supersensual communion."He will gladly take part in and enjoy those which he thinks will make him a better man, but in public and private life he will shun those that may overthrow the established habit of his soul."Plato is the founder of a supersensual community of philosophers--truth-seekers--that lives through the ages. Socrates and Plato maintain the sovereignty of this higher realm through their creation of an entire way of life--philosophia: the love of and the search for wisdom.
"'Then, if that is his chief concern,' he said, 'he will not willingly take part in politics.'"
"'Yes, by the dog,' said I, 'in his own city he certainly will, yet perhaps not in the city of his birth, except in some providential conjuncture."
" 'I understand,' he said; 'you mean the city whose establishment we have described, the city whose home is in the ideal; for I think that it can be found nowhere on earth.'"
"'Well,' said I, 'perhaps there is a form of it laid up in the spiritual domain for him who wishes to contemplate it and so beholding to constitute himself its citizen. But it makes no difference whether it exists now or ever will come into physical reality. The politics of this supersensual city only will be his and of none other.'"
"Follow me then, and I will lead you where you will be happy in life and after death, as dialectic reveals. And never mind if some one despises you as a fool, and insults you, if he has a mind; let him strike you, by Zeus, and do you be of good cheer, and do not mind the insulting blow, for you will never come to any harm in the practise of virtue, if you are a really good and true man. When we have practised virtue together, we will apply ourselves to politics, if that seems desirable, or we will advise about whatever else may seem good to us, for we shall be better able to judge then. In our present condition we ought not to give ourselves airs, for even on the most important subjects we are always changing our minds; so utterly stupid are we! Let us, then, adopt dialectic as our methodology, which has revealed to us that the best way of life is to practice justice and every virtue in life and death. This way let us go; and in this exhort all men to follow. . ."
Plato, The Commonwealth
The only way to counter humankind's rapid loss of the ability to understand reality is through developing small cooperative communities in which human evolutionary development can be achieved in all areas of life. Persons in these communities can then make available the framework for a New Culture--the one viable answer to the present political-economic-social chaos that faces us. Humankind's spiritual--and physical--evolution has been guided by seers such as Hermes, Plato, Jesus, Rumi, Francis of Assissi, and Shakespeare, and continues to be inspired and directed by contemporary Perennialist teachers.
1 A quotation from Rumi, a Perennialist teacher, from the book by Idries Shah, The Sufis, 1964Reference and Updates:
2 Authentic Sufism, a small part of the entire world of Sufism, is one of the embodiments of the Perennial Tradition.
3 Alfred Russell Wallace, "Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection," 1871
4 Social evolution involves learning to create institutions which provide for the development of each individual to the limit of our potential
5 A saving remnant is a small group which discovers, applies, and disseminates transmutational principles within its own domain, proving the truth and efficacy of its precepts by its own practices, then leavening and fecundating the larger culture, creating commonwealth communities.
6 Fecundate: make fertile or productive