Heart-Awakening   21st Century Spirituality

The Inevitability of Conscious Evolution


The word evolution is not often heard with spirituality but more and more it is and is provoking some interesting discussion.  Terry Patten’s Beyond Awakening Series (www.beyondawakeningseries.com) is a current example involving many of today’s leading authorities on spirituality and culture including Ken Wilber, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jean Houston, Adyashanti, Andrew Cohen, Steve McIntosh, Saniel Bonder, Michael Murphy and many others.  Before this, Craig Hamilton envisioned and hosted: The Great Integral Awakening Series (www.greatintegralawakening.com) and had a similarly impressive group of presenters and dialogues.


The focus of these dialogues have been on how spirituality is evolving from what our global cultures have offered traditionally to the dawn of the 21st century where we now have what some of these cultural commentators are calling Evolutionary Spirituality which includes the great gifts of science. The most pressing question to come out of these dialogues was posed by Mr. Patten who has been asking: “Does our spirituality meet the pressing demands of our global crisis?”


There are important points emerging from these dialogues which are influencing and changing culture and no doubt will continue to do so into the future.  I will discuss some of these points here: like the changing nature of Enlightenment (the importance of life stage development as structures in consciousness as defined by western psychology alongside the already established importance of states of consciousness, as defined and demonstrated by our global spiritual traditions), the importance of culture and the inter-subjective experience inherent therein and how much this impacts our individual and collective development as well as the global crisis, the changing teacher/student relationship, as well as the emerging influence and leadership of women. 


In a series of presentations which have included group dialogues, which I have been hosting within the Waking Down Community, we have been addressing these same themes.  It has been an exciting ride which no doubt will continue as we proceed not only within our own community but the larger cultural context as well.


I have spent twenty years practicing in the tradition of Zen Buddhism utilizing meditation practices handed down from thousands of years of traditional culture.   The tradition of Chan or Zen as it is more commonly known, was founded in China during the 7th century CE, and to this day has offered capable methods for people all over the world to realize their true essence beyond the minds description and live that truth as their life.  A most respected tradition indeed, along with many others, which have come out of the distinguished pre-modern cultures of the East.


What we have learned in the late 20th century is how these models of Enlightenment have served humanity’s’ unfolding so profoundly, particularly with our understanding of consciousness or the eternal which is beyond time but there is now more to consider.


Psychology as part of western science has clarified structures in consciousness which are developmental in nature expressed in time and when taken with the east’s states of consciousness, has allowed us a more comprehensive understanding of human nature. We are indebted to many pathfinders for this integration of knowledge and traditions. For a comprehensive rendering, Ken Wilber is pretty good. (Sex, Ecology and Spirituality. The Spirit of Evolution. Shambala, 2000) 


We now know that the integration of east and west has only enriched our understanding for a more complete picture of awakening (waking up) and development (growing up) of our human potential. Enlightenment itself appears to be evolving.


Structures in consciousness: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, and integral, which has also been called vertical development, has now been acknowledged as an important aspect of our awakened consciousness. (Feuerstein, G. 1987. Structures of Consciousness. Lower Lake, Calif.: Integral.   Gebser, J. 1985. The Ever-present Origin. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press and other works.   Wilber, K. 1977. The Spectrum of Consciousness. Shambala).  The mastery of states of consciousness: waking/gross, dreaming/subtle, deep sleep/causal and non-dual (see perennial philosophy, Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhism), which has also been called horizontal development, continues to be a foundationally important aspect of awakened consciousness.


At the dawn of the 21st century, mastering states of consciousness is not enough in our quest to understand Enlightenment. We must also address our Cosmic altitude which reveals our stable stage of development, which is how much we see of our own experience as well as of the world, which then influences how we behave in the world (ego-centric, ethno-centric, world-centric, cosmo-centric).


Both structures of consciousness (vertical development) and states of consciousness (horizontal development) need to be fully accounted for, as today’s enlightenment standard. This more comprehensive and integral view of our humanity demonstrates an evolutionary leap in our perennial knowledge. (Ken Wilber collected works)


Because of our world-centric perspective, we now are acutely aware of the interdependence with which we find each other and the environment, indeed all life, as never before.


The context of our relationship with another individual, culture, and the earth is merely inter-personal or separate “things” relating to one another, if we are not awake to the transpersonal dimension of our life experience. If we are awake to the transpersonal dimension, we understand the oneness, or no-separation of all apparent “things” and when this becomes clear as an embodied heart awakening, we become heart-fully sensitive and ethically called to the profound importance of care in relationship with other individuals, other cultures, the environment, as well as all life even as we paradoxically know ourselves and all apparent things, as not-two.* (see the teachings of: Waking Down Mutuality. Saniel Bonder and teachers and community)


Humanities urge toward culture has always been true of us but now as we see and feel more deeply, the importance of collective awakenings wherein societies come together for the greater good, fully aware of the interdependent nature of our planet, understanding that our very survival as a human species is at stake, find Terry Patten’s question: “Does our spirituality address the planetary crisis?”, most poignant indeed.  The awareness of the importance of inter-subjectivity as culture in order to address our planetary crisis is an evolutionary emergence and imperative in our time.* (See the Evolutionary Enlightenment teachings of Andrew Cohen)


With the awareness of planetary culture and our knowledge of all earthly traditions and their perspectives, we are seeing enlightenment as transmitted from one individual to another giving way to models which are reconfiguring the teacher/student relationship.


This sacred, one to one relationship is still important and probably always will be, given the fact that all of us are born and therefore must develop as individuals through life stages and mastery of states, but the heavy authority-based models of old, seem to be giving way to more democratic community models, with the emphasis on a community of many teachers who teach each other and their students and see their own development as never ending. Therefore, there is a tendency to stay embedded in and as the community versus being detached and outside as an expression of authority.  This is an evolutionary development in transformational culture.* (see the teachings of: Waking Down Mutuality. Saniel Bonder and teachers and Community)


All over the world we are seeing the ascendance of women and their taking of leadership roles throughout the societies they live.  Like many cultural situations, spirituality has been male dominated and oppressive, world-wide for thousands of years. There have always been examples of feminine spiritual practice which have served humanity but always in the minority and always off the grid of the spiritual market place because of being marginalized.


We are experiencing a growing and worldwide tide of women, taking leadership in many places, breaking through thousands of years of male domination. Many different kinds’ spiritual communities typically contain, over 50 % of women practitioners. Women teachers have increased in number exponentially over the last 40 years and models of feminine spiritual practice are coming out of the shadows and into full view, taking a central position and offering an important option for women and men. (See: Barbara Marx Hubbard, Linda Groves-Bonder, Deborah Boyar, Sandra Glickman, Claire Zammit, Jean Houston, Byron Katie, Marianne Williamson, Katherine Woodward Thomas, femininepower.com, ect)


The overall psycho-spiritual integration of masculine and feminine qualities and the discovery of deeper understanding within and between individuals in this area has become a priority in the spiritual times we live. This development is emerging more assertively now. (see: Ted strauss and Hillary Davis, Saniel Bonder and Linda Groves-Bonder)


The 21st century has commenced whether we feel ready for it or not and the chaos at the level of culture is staggering, only surpassed by the environmental crisis that we find ourselves. Because of technologies which have emerged out of the age of information, we have access to all the world’s traditions and their knowledge like never before which is most exciting.


We live in a fertile time where the cultural traditions of our childhoods, no longer serve us and we find ourselves confronted with an imperative to respond, in order to address this lack of cultural grounding by either creating totally new cultural forms or adapting the established forms, or both.  We have no models to copy and many are finding ourselves creating as we go with no precedents.


This situation is full as crisis and opportunity and for those willing to take up the challenge of our times; it means the inevitability of Conscious Evolution which includes the eternal formless beyond knowing and the ever evolving form with always emerging awareness and perspectives. Life itself is becoming more and more conscious.

January 22, 2011                                                                                 William Miller

Copyright.  all rights reserved. william miller