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Awakening to Evolution

By Andrew Cohen

EnlightenNextFor those of us looking toward the future who are spiritually inclined, it is often difficult to find a path or practice that makes deep sense. What I mean is, it's difficult to find a spiritual path that has a truly contemporary orientation - one that doesn't compel us to embrace ancient belief structures that may no longer be relevant to our time. That is why I believe we need to create a new context for our individual and collective spiritual development, one that is appropriate for our twenty-first-century circumstances. The new seeker, the postmodern seeker, is in a unique predicament. But it's a predicament that couldn't be more thrilling, because it is so pregnant with creative potential.

By "seeker" I mean the spiritually inspired individual who is awake to what I call the "evolutionary impulse" but who has abandoned traditional approaches because they just don't seem able to meet our contemporary psychological, philosophical, and spiritual needs. I'm speaking about those individuals at the edge who want to catalyze a revolution in consciousness and culture, a revolution that will be able to create dynamic new structures that enable a new future to emerge. I believe such a revolution would have to be based upon the most important scientific, historical, cultural, and spiritual discovery of the last three hundred years: evolution.

Why is that? Because when considering what it would mean to create new structures for individual and collective spiritual development, it's necessary to keep an important fact in mind: Up until very recently in human history, we didn't know that we are all part of a developmental process that had a beginning in time and that is going somewhere. Many of us tend to forget that it was only in the twentieth century that we came upon what's called deep time - the incomprehensible span of fourteen billion years since the universe burst into being.

I have no doubt that the evolutionary process - from the big bang to the present moment - is not merely a random, meaningless event. If one stands back and takes a good, hard look at the entire sweep of the process, all the way from its earliest beginnings, one can see undeniable direction and even, I dare say, purpose in its majestic unfolding. But who or what initiated that process? What energy or intelligence made the choice to take that first miraculous leap from formlessness to form, from nothing whatsoever to energy and light to matter to life to consciousness to self-reflective awareness? Such an audacious move, that instantaneous leap from nothing to the beginning of everything, could only have been made by a force that was nothing less than Godlike. That impulse, that evolutionary impulse, is what I call God. That same impulse is not separate from the most important part of each and every one of us, from our uniquely human drive to create and innovate and, most significantly, from our will to consciously evolve.

As that impulse we have all been here, in some shape or form, throughout the mind-opening, awe-inspiring journey of Becoming that has been unfolding since the time process began. We've been together since infinite density emerged from absolute nothingness when the universe was created. We've been together since atoms, which make up the very foundation of all matter, were formed three hundred thousand years later. We were there when those atoms formed gas clouds, which turned into stars, which grouped together as galaxies, each of which eventually produced billions of solar systems filled with small rocky planets, such as our beautiful Earth, which was forged from the remains of generations of dead stars.

We have been here since the first single-celled microorganisms emerged from the primordial soup and throughout the slow flowering of life in all its diversity. We were here when the great dinosaurs ruled the food chain unchallenged, and through their demise. When the first hominids walked on the African savannah, this impulse, which is who we all are, guided each evolutionary step. And since our ancestors appeared on the stage of life just two hundred thousand years ago, that impulse has guided the vast unfolding tapestry of cultural development that brings us to this present moment. Throughout this whole process, from the beginning of time to the very edge of the future, as the energy and intelligence that has been driving cosmic, planetary, biospheric, animal, human, and cultural evolution, we have been here at every step. What do I mean by that? I mean that as the evolutionary impulse, as the initiatory force that is driving the entire creative process, from the innermost dimensions of our human interiors all the way to the farthest reaches of our cosmos, we have always been here.

It was my own gradual discovery of and awakening to this picture of the developmental process as a whole that eventually compelled me to reinterpret and redefine the meaning and significance of spiritual awakening, of enlightenment, for our own time. And this awakening is not merely an ever-growing cognitive appreciation for the miraculous unfolding of the entire evolving cosmos that we are all part and parcel of. I'm speaking about an actual experience at the level of consciousness itself of the presence of that same telos or felt pull toward the future. I'm convinced that the momentous enlightening leap that needs to be taken by those of us at the leading edge is the delicate and all-important transition from the mere intellectual and philosophical recognition that our cosmos and culture are evolving to the direct, felt, living experience of the energy and intelligence that is driving the entire process, vibrating in one's very own heart and mind. It just makes sense that a spiritual path that would enable us to create the future in our own time would have to be based upon such a revelation.

It is indeed a perpetually enthralling insight that we are, at all levels of our being, products of time and the creative process. But it is literally enlightening when we begin to directly experience that we are truly one with the mind of God - one with the original evolutionary impulse that chose to take that eternal leap from Being to Becoming fourteen billion years ago.


Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and acclaimed author widely recognized as a defining voice in the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality called "Evolutionary Enlightenment." A life-changing awakening in 1986 brought Cohen to the end of his own search for liberation while simultaneously starting him on an exploration of the meaning and significance of enlightenment for our time. This has led him to a profound investigation of the human predicament and into dialogue with sages, saints, and spiritual luminaries from nearly every tradition and beyond.
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