by Gregory Ellison
All larger organisms, including ourselves, are living
testimonies to the fact that destructive practices do not work in the long
run. In the end, the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for
others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive
struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and
- Fritjof Capra, The Web Of Life
is about a new spiritual, loving, holistic state of consciousness emerging
from our present fragmented awareness. Many different indicators, from ancient
prophecy and astrological cycles to new breakthroughs in physical and biological
science, all point to this particular moment in history as the time for such
a dramatic shift in human consciousness: the Age of Aquarius. The awakening
of the global mind.
sites Mission Statement, I wrote: The mission of the Conscious
Evolution website is to support this transition, both intellectually and
through concrete activities and spiritual practices that aid the emergence
of the new consciousness.
But what might
these concrete activities and spiritual practices be? Certainly
many of the spiritual and metaphysical disciplines of the new age
movement are thought to be tools for spiritual growth ... disciplines like
astrology, tarot, I Ching, yoga, meditation, and so on. But these disciplines
have been around for thousands of years without producing a radical shift
in human consciousness, except perhaps in isolated individuals here and there
through the ages.
The same might
be said for humanitys major religions ... while the prophets and avatars
of the great religions brought forth teachings of true enlightenment, the
practice of these religions has not transformed human consciousness on a
mass scale, even after thousands of years.
exactly practice conscious evolution in the same sense that we
can practice roller-skating or playing the guitar, because evolution is not
a skill, its a process.
So, is it possible
to practice conscious evolution at all? Or can we do no more than talk about
it and hope for its emergence? Certainly evolution has its own timetable.
New evolutionary levels - conscious or biological - emerge from earlier levels
only when conditions are right. It steam-engines when it comes steam-engine
But when the
evolution of consciousness reaches a stage where our own free will is a part
of the whole set of conditions for emergence - as I believe it is now - our
participation is essential.
not simply growth or progress. Conscious evolution, like biological evolution,
unfolds in spirals or waves, with each turn of the spiral representing a
whole new level or stage of consciousness. It is not more
and better of what went before, but rather the emergence of something
In fact, this
very concept of an emerging, developing consciousness is an example of itself!
Although long understood in spiritual traditions, the holistic understanding
of modern science and philosophy is quite recent, and it has
transformed scientific thinking to an astonishing degree.
In brief, the
holistic model sees all things as whole systems which are made
up of other whole systems and are in turn components of yet other whole systems.
There no longer appear to be any separate things, only wholes
within wholes within wholes. And this understanding allows us to comprehend
both the direction of evolution and its mechanism.
Its direction is one of wholes combining and integrating into ever more
comprehensive wholes, and its method is to transcend and include. Elements
combine into molecules, molecules combine into cells, cells combine into
organisms, and so on. At each stage of evolution the elements that are evolving
into newly emerging wholes are themselves wholes composed of lesser wholes!
At each stage the newly emerging whole transcends the elements that make
it up, and includes them in the new whole.
the particular aspect of evolution we are looking at, the same pattern applies
to many different kinds of wholes. For example, in social organization we
can see individuals combining as families, families combining as tribes,
tribes combining as city-states, city-states combining as nations, and so
on. Consciousness, too, develops in the same way, with raw senses integrating
into perceptions, perceptions into concepts, and concepts into ever more
expansive and inclusive states of awareness.
this in scientific terms doesnt alter in any way the divine mystery
of life, for it is life itself which is evolving.
psychologist Ken Wilbur has done a grand job of collecting many of the ways
different cultures, religions, sciences and other areas of human expression
can be seen as manifesting progressive levels of emerging
consciousness. The specific names of levels dont matter, but the general
pattern of development is widely agreed-upon by modern theorists and ancient
spiritual traditions alike. To provide a common ground for discussion, Wilber
borrows from the school of Spiral Dynamics to label the different stages
of consciousness with colors. The following table is a greatly simplified
presentation of his model:
does not purport to be a description of all evolutionary levels; it represents
the personal levels of embodied human awareness. Before this
are many levels of pre-personal (pre-human) levels, and beyond
this are the transpersonal levels of spiritual awareness where
consciousness is no longer experienced as an individual in a body; but about
these higher levels nothing meaningful can be known or said from our present
state of awareness. Note that the last two levels are identified as second
tier, meaning that they have begun the transition to the transpersonal
It is also
significant that the Green level, the highest level of first tier
conscious evolution, is currently the highest level attained by humanity
in meaningful numbers (there have always been rare individuals to attain
higher levels). So, for human beings at this point in evolutionary history,
the great transition to a new consciousness promised by the Aquarian Age
is the crossover to second-tier integrative consciousness!
So what does
that mean? Remember that the direction of evolution is always away from
ego/separation and toward integration. At first blush that may sound frightening:
the individual doesnt matter, it seems to say, only the group, only
the collective. But this turns out to be a misunderstanding based on the
ego-centered perception that there is somehow a conflict of
interests between the individual and the collective, and that we therefore
have to choose between them. But the next stage of conscious
evolution we are considering here is a different frame of reference entirely,
one that is integrative rather than separative, and for the first time sees
NO conflict of interest between part and whole - just as there is no conflict
of interest between me and my liver!
I know this
has all been highly abstract until now, so lets see if we can make
it a little more concrete by observing the manifestation of some of these
levels in current human society. There is a danger here of too closely
identifying a level of consciousness with its expression in social values,
when every level is actually associated with many separate lines
of human development (i.e., cognitive, scientific, aesthetic and so on) of
which social structure is only one. However, it is one line that is easy
to see objectively and is also an extremely important one in terms of our
success as a species on planet Earth.
disclaimer, the dominant level of consciousness on the planet today is the
Orange, rational/materialistic level. This is the level that emerged with
the scientific and industrial revolutions, the level of capitalism, of democratic
ideals, economic development, organized enterprise, technology, the quest
for possessions and wealth. This is the primary meme (thought-form)
of the dominant industrialized Western culture. However, there are also major
pockets of Blue-level consciousness, which manifest as fundamentalist religion,
racial pride (and prejudice), my country right or wrong patriotism,
and so on ... often admixed with and supported by Red-level rule by brute
physical force, violent crime, dictatorships and terrorist mentality. At
the same time there is a substantial Green-level influence that makes itself
felt in environmental activism, social reforms on behalf of the disadvantaged
or underprivileged, equal-rights movements, anti-war ideals, globalism, pressure
to control or regulate corporate business interests, and so on. All of these
levels exist side-by-side in todays world, sometimes interacting
harmoniously, but often at violent odds with one another.
This is an
important point to remember: multiple levels of consciousness will always
be with us, regardless of the dominant level of humanity as a whole, and
that is as it should be. For one thing, levels of evolution are developmental,
and therefore each individual must go through all previous levels to arrive
at the current norm, just as a human fetus goes through all the
successive stages of biological evolution in the womb before being born into
the current human biological form. Likewise, every child goes through all
the various stages of conscious evolution in the normal process of development,
and not all will ultimately reach the highest level of the current norm for
What we realize
fully for the first time at the Yellow level of integrative consciousness
is that all levels are good and necessary! All serve important functions,
and all are needed to make up the whole that is humanity.
This is easier
to see (if only theoretically) in a different model of conscious evolutionary
stages, the astrological zodiac. Like the color levels laid out here, the
signs of the zodiac also represent an ordered sequence of evolutionary stages,
from the infantile innocence of Aries through the mystical and world-embracing
Pisces ... but because the zodiac is depicted as a circle rather than a straight
line, we dont think of Pisces as better than Aries, nor
should we. The circular form of the zodiac suggests that the stages of
evolutionary development will be repeated on a higher level in a continuous
spiral of unfolding consciousness.
Like the zodiac
signs, each evolutionary level has its positive and negative sides. In the
course of evolution, if we had not had the raw Red power to defeat our enemies
and survive the challenges of predators and hostile environments, we
wouldnt be here now! Today there is still a need for the expression
of physical force and energy, although it has a diminished role alongside
more highly evolved levels. It becomes a bad thing only when
it overpowers and dominates the other levels around it, and the same is true
for all consciousness levels. Remember, the mechanism of evolution is
transcend and include. Higher levels of consciousness transcend
lower levels but do not replace them. Rather, they build on and include them.
Molecules dont replace atoms; they include them. Cells dont replace
molecules; they include them. The higher Yellow level of conscious evolution
will not replace the lower Red, Blue, Orange and Green levels; it will include
This is why
the upcoming Yellow shift in conscious evolution is such a big one. For a
long time now we have seen the different levels as being at war with each
other (often literally). The current Mideast conflicts can be seen largely
as a clash between Orange capitalist-military-industrial levels and Blue
fundamentalist religious/ethnocentric levels drawing on the Red and Purple
aggression and tribal levels for support. Even the Green humanitarian level,
which many equate with new age awareness, is a source of conflict.
While proclaiming fairness and equality for all, Greens actively despise
and oppose Orange values, and the equality they promote is their own version.
In a dominant role, they would likely impose their own politically correct
Thought Police to prohibit inappropriate speech, regulate commerce oppressively,
and micro-manage behavior of all kinds to enforce fairness to
consciousness is a different thing entirely. It is the next turn of the spiral
to a new whole that does not seek to replace wrong values with
its own right ones, but rather transcends all previous levels
and includes them in itself. It seeks to allow all levels to express, disallowing
only the coercion of any level by another. It identifies with the Whole of
Okay, so enough
theory for now. (Too much?) Lets get down to what we started out to
do: practicing conscious evolution! Now that we know what were aiming
for (the shift to Integrative Awareness), we can practice
it - using any of the techniques we mentioned earlier or many others.
And we should!
Why? Because thats the way conscious evolution works. Unlike strictly
biological evolution, conscious evolution requires our conscious participation,
our conscious free-will choice to evolve. Although the timing may be right,
humanity will not make the leap to integrative consciousness until there
is a critical mass of individual humans who have chosen to make
this evolutionary leap and taken conscious steps to incorporate the new awareness
into their lives. And, at this critical stage in the human saga, with very
real pressures of environmental degradation, overpopulation, and
species-threatening destructive capacity in the hands of competing ego-centered
groups, the failure to make that leap in a timely manner could well mean
the extinction of the human race before we have a chance to come to our senses
and learn to cooperate on a global level.
The Importance of a Path
It is said
that all paths lead to the same mountaintop. This may be true, but no path
will lead anywhere unless it is followed. Which spiritual path you choose
to follow is less important than that you have a path and that you follow
path to path in search of the the latest, greatest spiritual revelation or
the fanciest meditation technique is the biggest trap to keep
us firmly locked into a limited state of awareness.
choose to follow a traditional spiritual path such as religious contemplation,
meditation on astrology or Kabbalah, a body/mind discipline like Tai
Chi or yoga, or your own eclectic blend of spiritual practices that resonate
with your own unique perspective, every viable path has certain elements
in common. These include
An integrative model - a way to conceive of
humanity as an expression of One. Although it is important to remember that
a model is a set of concepts about reality rather than the Truth
in itself, we must have a consistent way of thinking about transcendence
in order to aim for it.
A meditative component - a part of the practice
specifically devoted to withdrawing attention from the external
world and focusing it inwardly. It is only through such internal exploration
that we can directly experience ourselves as expressions of a greater whole.
An ethical ideal - here I am going to run the
risk of sounding dogmatic by asserting that there is only one valid ethical
ideal on which to build a spiritual foundation. Although known by different
names in different traditions, it is most commonly known as the Golden Rule:
do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
A critical distance from worldly life
- it is not necessary to retire from the world in a cave or a monastery;
the world is our teacher. But it is necessary to develop the ability to stand
back from our immersion in the push-and-pull of physical life enough to
objectively observe ourselves as we go about our daily business. Without
this critical distance we remain enmeshed in a stimulus-response relation
to the material world, believing ourselves to be acting and choosing freely
but actually programmed by conditioned reflexes we have learned
from our environment and upbringing. This is a subtle form of waking sleep
or illusion (maya) to which we are ALL subject in the physical
world. Objectively observing ourselves in relation to the world is an essential
step in transcending it.
few common elements, your own intuition and interests are the best guides
to a spiritual path that is right for you, and that is the most important
thing. As Carlos Castaneda said, you must find a path with heart. If the
path does not have heart, it is useless.
conscious evolutionary step, as far as we know, has begun with small numbers
of individuals stepping outside the current norm to a new mode of being that
was not supportable at the time. As Paul Tillich once commented, What
we call the Renaissance was participated in by about one thousand
Think of it!
The revolution in human thought that set in motion the entire framework of
modern culture was launched by less than half the number of people who have
signed up to participate in the discussion forums on our website.
Never doubt that a small number of dedicated people
can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever
- Margaret Mead