Spiritual Darwinism : an apology of generosity

Coelondonta antiquitatis Blumenbach MNHN 1
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Rating = ♥♥♥ ( three heart spices, no equation !) 

This is the first creative blog, as such it  is intended to unleash and share creativity from the  contemplations that emerges in our lives. It will be much more opinionated than the enquiry blogs.  If it is a bit borderline crazy I ask for forgiveness ! I am  simply  dropping the  serious hat here, but not the hat of passion ! Hope you’ll find it inspiring and of course, as usual, you all are very welcome to becoming an author on this blog, just send us an e-mail  at physimagine@gmail.com, if you would like it !

When Darwin  published his seminal work  on the Origins of the Species,   he  recalls to have been so struck and heart broken by the violence and lack of empathy in the concept Natural Selection that he lost his faith in God. No God of Love would have ever allowed such a  brutally disheartening evolutionary factor  as Natural Selection…  Since then, much debate has been going on  about Evolution. Most scientists I know would still advance Darwinism  or post darwinism as the sole  motor for physical evolution. In more spiritually inclined circles,  new theories have emerged,  with according to me, two trends. One trend goes back to Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck,  in which we find the“first truly cohesive theory of evolution, in which an alchemical complexifying force drove organisms up a ladder of complexity, and a second environmental force adapted them to local environments through use and disuse of characteristics, differentiating them from other organisms”. We see here that  in Lamarck’s theory, the adaptation with the environment is a crucial factor for evolution as well as this mysterious “alchemic force” which amounts to say that there is another evolutionary drive than the survival of the fittest, but that we don’t know much about  it.  The last category  of evolutionary theories,  have been led  three  immense visionaries : Teilhard de Chardin,  Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner. In this last category, Evolution on the physical plane is  linked with Spiritual evolution. One of the most interesting idea comes from Teilhard de Chardin and his idea that  Spirit and  Matter do incarnate together at the beginning of Times and  from then on, evolve together. In a sense the Exterior (Matter)  and the Interior (Spirit)  of the Kosmos are evolving  together, one influencing the other in a very symbiotic way, instead of well, Spirit coming fom Matter or Matter coming form Spirit. This very beautiful idea, that  the evolution of the Interior of the Kosmos (or consciousness) has an impact  on the External  world and that the two act in a kind of symbiotic way, is currently finding a new expressions in the Integral Movement, in Andrew Cohen’s Evolutionary Enlightenment, and  I recently found, by chance, a shamanic visionary version of  these ideas in the  best-selling book by James Redfield  the Celestine Prophecy , which to my surprise, encapsulates a very deep vision of Spiritual Evolution.

In this  post, I would like to develop a crazy idea : suppose those mystics and scientists are right, suppose that  indeed Spirit an Matter have emerged or incarnated together in this world, from the first minute, from the first instant , maybe  13 billion years ago, maybe at another Time, but suppose it is true that they have emerged together  and evolved in a symbiotic way since then, Spirit being present already in the most primitive forms of matter and technological development having its impact on the Evolution of Spirit. Then my question is the following : is there a spiritual equivalent to  natural selection ? is there such a thing as Spiritual Darwinism ?

It looks like a crazy question  … I mean : only the fittest would survive , even on the spiritual planes ? and yet what do we know about Spiritual Evolution, and what do we know about its development ?

The notion of Spiritual Darwinism   first obliges us to acknowledge the evidence of a hierarchy in the spiritual level. It is actually not a new notion : already at the time of Plotinus, we have the notion of the Great Chain of Being. I mean there is a spiral of Evolution going from the  gross realms to the subtle ones :  gross, mental, psychic, subtle and causal, every realm being more and more subtle than the preceding one, and in each of these realms, certain entities are present.  This notion of Great Chain of Being has been completely lost with the materialistic  revolution of the modern times, by which our vision of reality has been encsounced to stop  at the  level of  purely material and reproducible world. Again here  I only ask you to suppose that it exists, just a pure supposition. Suppose that matter as we know it  from the modern times is not the ultimate reality but that some less palpable levels of existence do exist. What would  be  Hierarchy in this less palpable world ?

Well, let’s start slowly and very naively. To me a higher Being would be a Being who embodies more spiritual beauty, more spiritual strength , and more spiritual confidence. It would also be a Being whose reach and vision is wide, has breadth, and whose wisdom is refined and subtle. Lastly, if I had to define a higher spiritual Being in one word, it would be one who is independent, who has a constant access to an independent source of confidence and energy. That’s the definition of “higher spiritual Being” … for me. I agree that it can look a bit infantile and regressive, a bit naive, but well, as far as spiritual matters are concerned I find it always good to start with naive answers (  this works in science as well ! )By the way, what is your definition of a higher spiritual being ?

What strikes me in all the definitions given above, is that the hierarchy, or the arrow of greatness has nothing to do with survival here, nothing to do with domination, with restrictions and with exploitation of other Being’s energy. The spiritual definition of hierarchy is pure,elevated, it relates only to  very idealized qualities which strike our Soul, like Beauty or Force or breadth of Vision, or Depth.

Hence comes my  main insight :  recognition of  spiritual hierarchy in others , which we could call  Spiritual Natural Selection,  proceeds in precisely the opposite way as it does in the Material World. In the material world, if you live in the Forest  you can be eaten by the Tiger. The Tiger eats you to take your energy, your substance. In the spiritual world, it is the opposite,  the recognition of your qualities makes the recognizer prosper and flourish, it multiple the breads, it multiplies qualities between the two interlocutors, and all around us. Hence Spiritual Darwinism goes towards a  passionate multiplication of   each others qualities by mutual recognition, rather than a  shortage of them. It is  an apology of generosity with the greatness of others, of absolute awe and Joy at seeing qualities in other people.

I feel it is a very important notion , especially at the times where we live. Our dominant culture is very jealous and stingy, maybe due to the unconscious notion that  what is great is scarce and what is scarce is  pricey and there is not enough money for everyone. These notions have worked out an unconscious drive to  protect our qualities and to put them directly in competition with the qualities of others. As such, we have ultimate difficulties to truly recognize when real greatness crosses our way. We are jealous. Even many spiritual teachers are jealous. Jealous of each others, jealous of their little territory, their little group, their great ideas.  Many spiritual teachers tell you that we are all One, and  then are completely unable to recognize greatness in people they meet, when comes the test of life. Many spiritual teachers only recognize greatness in so called “official luminaries”…. We protect too much as a result.

My call is to wake up, and to start to  operate the true Natural Spiritual Darwinism with each others, and with everything beautiful and worthy that we meet in life, whether it is small or big, whether the person is famous or not. This doesn’t matter… Our humanity, with its castrating narcissism, is starving for true recognition given to each other with generosity and wisdom, and with no barriers, no borders. Every form of greatness is Sacred, whether it is  a great artist, or a great cook or a pioneer in evolving spiritual background, or a great Shaman. Recognition shall  be given, person to person, with sincerity,  for what has value to our eyes !

Make no mistake, this recognition is a kind of Love, and it is Agape, compassion, but not stupid compassion. It is Evolutionary Compassion, that the human Soul is so desperately in need of at the moment. With this type of generosity miracles can happen, and like Jesus we can start to multiply the breads around us…



  1. Very interesting to read Catherine. It is really original to connect spiritual and Darwinism. The way Wilber talked about it: ‘The ‘something higher’ that goes beyond natural selection is creativity. The universe is saturated with creativity, every moment brings a new creative element into existence. This is spirits voice entering the world, it is spirits substance coming into being.’ So on a very low level of your great chain of being creativity and novelty are almost absent. The higher one comes, the great is the creativity:

    ‘Novelty is the transcendence of each moment and the greater it is, the greater the freedom. So when not much novelty is added it looks like a deterministic machine. We can predict the moment of the stars (deterministic) but not of a dog because he is at a higher developmental stage bringing more creativity, more novelty, more freedom. Development increases the freedom, the transparency, the number of choices, perspectives we have available. Freedom increases, determinism decreases. ‘

    I think the jealousy you are talking about is very much connected to a deterministic level, while the more possibilities we have (less deterministic) the less jealousy their need to be. The biggest difference I see between spiritual and darwinism is spirital/Integral = transcend and include; while Darwinisme is transcend and exclude (kill)..And include like you say doesn’t mean accepting everything, but recognizing determinism and explain it!

  2. You both have a real passion and generosity for the evolution of the human species. Thank you!

    Darwin speaks about the evolution of the species between themselves, and proposes this natural selection as a mechanism between species . But one may also look at the evolution of the terrestrial ecosystem as a whole, which includes all the species together. This terrestrial ecosystem is always more complex, more stratified and more creative, and, guess what, we happened to be at the top of this ecosystem creative pyramid.

    This increasing stratified complexity and creativity of our planet ecosystem has not yet been studied very well yet. But we may find one day, that our human species is one element of a larger evolutive ecosystemic process, and that our so-called consciousness is our interpretation of a deeper creative ecosystemic process going on, which manifests at its highest level in the human species, in what we call spirituality.

    Having said so, I fully agree that our human society is getting limited because of its old fears on struggle and scarcity ( natural selection), and is trying to move on towards a new business model for the internal management of the species, where deep and creative knowledge, spirituality, and new governance of people and resources, will become the new culture, before the human species evolve into a new one…

    The species trying to be ready for the big jump!

    Sweat dreams.

  3. Dear both, it is a pleasure to read you !
    I’d like to answer to a point that Liesbeth has mentioned : this issue of transcend and include versus transcend and exclude. To me actually there is no real problem here. My idea is to include everything which has some value and to valorize this value at all coasts.
    If we include everything which has value, way else is there to include ?

    It is clear than when there is an evolution, or simply a movement, “something” is moving with respect to “something” which is not. Hence the two notions have to coexist simultaneously in any move towards transcendence. Part is taken with us ( Wilber’s include) and part is left behind ( A. Cohen ‘s exclude) but indeed any movement will actualize the two notions.

    Maybe we should say “transcend and include and exclude ” ?
    this looks pretty integral to me.. !

  4. agreed. You can not include without excluding a minimum, at least to remove the strong contradictions that would arise between what is new and what is old. There is a cleaning, adjustment process that do require some exclusion .

    Nature works that way , when it evolves . .. we would not be here to discuss this, if the dinosaures would not have been excluded from the evolution..

  5. Liesbeth

    It is always very tricky to say that we only include what is valuable.. Last week a Van Gogh painting was sold for 12 million Euro’s.. Think of the poverty and total disregard he had in his time. He would definitely have been excluded! Think of Spinoza or Darwin (as you wrote yourself), who is going to deside what to include? That is what I like about integral, almost everything is included. There is both place for Emerson and Foucault, they can be both geniuses in their own way.

    Foucault: I only write a book because I don’t know exactly what to think about this thing that I so much want to think about, so that the book transforms me and transforms what I think. Each book transforms what I was thinking when I finished the previous book.

    Emerson ‘What we commonly call man, the drinking, eating, counting man (..) him we do not respect. But the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breaches through his intellect, it is genius, when it breaches through his will, it is virtue, when it flows through his affection, it is love. The blindness of the intellect begins when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims to in some one particular to let the soul have its way through us.

  6. Dear Liesbeth,

    actually I feel you got precisely to the point that is dear to my heart. Like you I both like Foucault and Emerson and especially the two citations that you have shared with us above. So my point is to include both of course. My point is to include everything that makes you move and make your Soul vibrate, with no restriction and with no consideration of celebrity or fame. I hope in the time of Van Gogh,
    I would have been part of the very few who felt that he was on something.
    If we all start to do this and if we all share why we are doing this, then… it has a chance to form a new platform where people will be so encouraged to be amazing that it will be like a forest fire !
    My deep belief is that Greatness is not limited in this world. People are not born Great or not Great but somehow it is an attitude, a perspective that one takes.

    Paul Valery had this fantastic sentence ; “ Genius is a habit that some people take…”

    If one includes everything that makes our heart beat and if one don’t loose our time with things which don’t make our heart beat ( as much as it is possible in this world) then we are already complete and moving, in all our imperfections.

  7. Liesbeth, actually to me there is another point. It is the point of transcendence, of really loving what is Great in all those forms. We know for sure that we Love that way when we accept to be surpassed, when one recognizes when one meets someone who is better than us. This is the ultimate and only true test, which to me most of the spiritual teachers fail badly. Every scientist knows this test: one beautiful day in your carrier a young scientist will show up as your student, and you will know with no doubt that he/se is potentially better than you. Simply more gifted. Bad news for your Ego, but what do you do then ? if one worships Greatness in a pure enough way then there is absolutely no problem, our job is simply that this young guy or girl accomplishes his/her true potential. Same story if it is not a student.
    In the spiritual world it sounds that the teachers didn’t get this point at all. They always present their “ we are all One” as if they were all equals. I personally would consider that a teacher is fantastic if he/she was able to stand in public in front of another teacher and boldly declare that the other one is greater than myself, at least on some points. But I have never seen this miracle so far, in the world of Spiritual Enlightenment…
    he integral world is also on th brink of such a sin, simply because it is impossible to include everything, by definition you cannot include what surpasses you, because by definition what surpasses you is Other, it destroys your previous perspective. So seen this way either we admit that Integral doesn’t include everything and certainly doesn’t include all perspectives, or we are doomed to be stuck with Integral forever, because if noting can surpass it, evening terms of perspectives, then it will never move on. It is stuck and lost for Evolution.

  8. Liesbeth

    Dear Catherine, I always love talking to you! I love both your responses, also the second one because you always directly go the essence.. the point of jealousy and I agree how important it is that a teacher can see the greatness of other teachers. I always have to smile when I see Ken Wilber dealing with Andrew, as a man he struggles but he is aware of it but as a Integral leader he develops a great event around Andrew which is great. Actually I think at this point that Integral is the best answer to what you bring up. The essence is NOT the feeling or experience of jealousy, take you example of the scientist with the brilliant student. I was discussing it with my colleague and she said ‘oh, no, the scientist should be happy that someone will easily understand her!’ Yes of course. What it is all about is the consequences. You have earned your position so you will not be easily kicked of your place. It is about how threatening the situation is! With my colleague I was discussing how in the US a whole economy is based on jealousy: you need to have the same as your neighbour! That is where the economy thrives on (Darwinism, if you do not manage to get the same shoes as your peers you are excluded!). If you see male animals fight about a female, you see the natural power of the emotion. Like a teacher said to me ‘culture is based on capturing those emotions!’ What counts is what happens when you are loosing the fight! So there is not a problem with accepting the higher (people pay fortunes to see ‘higher artists’) as long as it has no consequences. In EN there is such a focus on the higher that the lower is like not having the right shoes! While in Integral you just experience that you are on some lines lower, on other higher and you train yourself in the ones you are low at. There is no contempt around this, I might stay happily on this lower point and focus on something else.

  9. Fine, but the dynamic between inclusion and exclusion is part of the life and evolution process . Metabolism is a mechanims that is constantly including and excluding, through the using of energy . Life is built on the including and excluding dynamic , through the cycle of birth and death .Also many social revolutions were/are based on exclusion ( of an abusing class). Fortunatly slavery, was (in part only ) excluded from human societies, when it was the rule for thousands of years.

    Evolution always needs to exclude at some point, what can not be included anymore. BUT…the question remains to see in our human life, what to include and exclude , who does it, and how ! This is becoming a real human cultural issue ….and I agree with both of you, new rules of the game are needed , but they concern the dynamic of exclusion/inclusion, rather than avoiding exclusion. Learning to be “”excluded”” in some part , when it is time to do so, is wisdom , combatting unfair and brutal exclusion is also wisdom, as well as a social and moral necessity..

  10. one thought about jealousy.

    If one follows his or her evolutive path with authenticity and dedication ( and fun.!.), he or she can not be jealous of somebody else , whatever quality and assets this other person has. Who cares what this other has that you do not have ,as long as this other is not impeeding you to evolve on your own path. The moment you get jealous, it is because you get distracted of who you are and where you need to do.

    Having said that , if somebody is purposely on your way, and blocking you to be who you should be , then it is another matter, and you might need to “fight” that person ( not necessarily being violent), to allow your own evolution to happen. But this is not being jealous, but being respected.

    Finally this issue is not only a personal matter, it is also a collective and social one. Thus, if a social class or a group of people, is obvioulsy abusing its position, to keep privileges and prevent others to access to their own welfare and evolution, then there might be some fight too… but we are talking about justice, fairness and respect, not jealousy.. anyway, these issues in real life are not so easy to be dealt with ..let us be honnest about it …

  11. The`higher` the spiritual level the broader and deeper the understanding … I don`t think that exclusion is necessary (especially in the sense alluded to above were it was seen as selecting that of value. In order to select value it is necessary to make a dualistic judgement and I would call that materialistic and not spiritual).
    The reason I don`t think exclusion is necessary is because whenever we get a greater understanding, the previous understanding naturally falls away. How often have you felt stuck, then confused … only to experience a felt shift and then have an ahaaa moment were you don`t exclude anything before as such, it merely evaporates.
    When we speak of a hierrachy of spirit I would say we need to have a reference to the restrictions of the physical. So the less attached we are to the physical the more free we are to perceive the freedom of spirit which we intuit.
    A wonderful encapsulation of this is when Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake with him and then fell asleep. He said: the spirit is willing,but the flesh is weak.
    When we associate more with the free spirit, and as we face challenges on the physical realm, the more `strength` we have to assist in bearing the burden … sharing the burden with spirit and so holding it up to a greater context. It is my thought/feeling that it is this that is the very state of evolution we are on – with the material financial paradigm model of survival and reality no longer hold the masses in its thrall as the answer to lives problems …

  12. donsalmon

    Just a thought. Sri Aurobindo uses the phrase “Ascent and integration” rather than “transcend and include”.

    Another thought: Jean Gebser said, long after his first “satori”, that he recognized Sri Aurobindo’s presence as inspiring him when he came up with his vision of “integral” consciousness.

    “integral” then, is about integration, at least, both for Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser. I have not, in the 30 or so years I’ve been familiar with Wilber’s work, been able to find any integration in his work, so I find it puzzling that he continues to use the word “integral.” His life practice appears to be a chinese menu of practices (pick one from the body column, one from the shadow, column, etc) and his AQAL system seems to consist of an ever-increasing set of chinese puzzle boxes (sorry, I don’t mean to say the Chinese are non integral!) in to which one fits endlessly disparate, disconnected items (8 zones, 8 stages, 8 this or that).

    Integration, rather than being inclusion or amalgamation, is a comprehensive harmonization. Hence the ancient Vedic term “rta” for the Cosmic harmony, in which each is all and all is each and each reflects the infinite Glory of the Infinite Beauty and Love (with apologies to Plotinus)

    donsalmon7@gmail.com http://www.remember-to-breathe.org; “beyond the matrix the only way out”; “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”

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