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The Evolution of Enlightenment

An Infinite Journey
I found it most gratifying that both Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber remain open-ended in their understanding and pursuit of the spiritual journey and evolution itself. I believe that almost all of us, being products of Western acculturation, at least subconsciously have a linear, Newtonian understanding of both the terms "evolution" and "enlightenment." Scientists and seekers want to go back to the "big bang," a linear regression in linear time. This is now being belied by science itself in a recent spate of articles positing multiple big bangs. Also, a little known but very traditional Catholic theological teaching posits "creatio continua" (continuing or continual creation), or the ever-present pouring forth of creation from the Godhead, not a linear one-time event—the error of both linear scientists and creationists. As if God created the cosmos and left town. This only reflects the limitations of our own constricted consciousness. Similarly, the term "enlightenment," for most of us Westerners, carries the sense of some arrival at a permanent, unchanging state, whereas the journey into the infinite is just that—infinite. A prospect I find awe-inspiring and exciting.

David J. Spillane
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Forever Involved
I was delighted with the breathless and clearly youthful enthusiasm with which Craig Hamilton revisited the teachings and writings of Sri Aurobindo in the Spring/Summer 2002 issue of WIE as the issue strove to uncover ways of considering "evolutionary enlightenment." If the term "evolutionary enlightenment" suggests anything in its languaging, it is that rather than an end-point, a higher realization is just the beginning of a process by which individuals can participate in the evolving Kosmos (as Wilber might say). For myself, rather than using terms rooted in eighteenth century (Western) notions and far older (Eastern) precepts with their associated linguistic and conceptual baggage, I like to use C.S. Pierce's "ongoing semiosis"—the process by which an individual can engage in the continuous perception of the phenomena of the universe to arrive at ever deeper and richer cognitions and conceptions of one's existence in it. There is nothing static and final about this process. Once we engage, we are involved until we die.

Joe Arredondo
Austin, TX

The "We" Dimension
I support Wilber's advocacy for an integral spirituality (all quadrants, all levels). Although there is a tremendous amount of information concerning the individual's experience with the spectrum of consciousness, little attention has been given to the interior collective—We—dimension of the transpersonal journey. The sacred traditions, in defining this dimension, have provided a safe container for the individual to grow through various levels of consciousness. Evolution has brought us to a new developmental edge. Stage capacity (operating from the Yellow or Turquoise meme) is pushing against the transcendent or transpersonal dimension of consciousness. The interior collective can no longer be upheld by a tradition but will become a conscious creative act of individuals involved in any group or organization. As the article The Evolution of Enlightenment pointed out, much of this needs to be discovered. This discovery and unfolding is an exciting aspect of the evolution of enlightenment.

James R. Jones
Falls Church, VA

Group Illumination
Thank you for the thoughtful articles on evolution and enlightenment in the twenty-first century. You've touched on some concepts that I think are pivotal to emergent varieties of enlightenment. I would like to point out that these concepts are not so recent, radical, or original as you presented them. For example, Andrew presents his remarkable story of simultaneous group illumination among some of his students as a radical new thing, and Ken seems to agree. Yet Alice Bailey wrote extensively on this theme in most of her twenty-some books back in the 1920s through the 1940s. She explores in depth why this type of phenomenon will be emerging over the next few centuries, the problems and opportunities it will bring, group techniques and meditations to hasten its development, implications for humanity and civilization, and so forth. Ken and Andrew say this is all so new we will have to develop a new tradition around it, to figure out how it works and what it's about. Bailey provided an extensive amount of literature on just this theme, as well as organizing a group of students who experimented with group progress.

James Davis

Let Go of Everything
As we awaken we come to see that it is not enlightenment that is evolving, it is our idea of ourselves and what is possible that is evolving. From our level of sleep we produced the idea of enlightenment. Like the idea of god. For our maximum potential we need to let go of our idea of everything, even the ancient teachings. Everything. When we stop holding, and allow, our cells revert to their natural frequency, and like the particles that let go of their separateness to become cells, humanity will evolve into something that is beyond what we can even imagine from this perspective. Enjoying the ride.

Paul Lowe

The Great German Fear
Thank you for this brilliant issue! I am living in the city of Berlin, Germany and the themes are very challenging. As Carter Phipps put it [in From the Editors]: ". . . Ken Wilber and Michael Murphy trace the beginnings of evolutionary spirituality back to the late eighteenth century, when the German idealists such as Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling began speaking about human history as the greater and greater unfolding of spirit in this world. Inspired by the burgeoning Industrial Revolution, the notion of progress was then all the rage in the West, a notion that would, over the next few decades, provide the underpinnings for the development of evolutionary theory. . . ." In Germany there is actually a great—unconscious—fear of exploring the transpersonal realms. It seems that the terrible shipwreck of the Nazi past has created a psychic contraction. This contraction is expressing itself as a great confusion. Ken Wilber describes it as pre/trans fallacy. The land of the "poets and thinkers" is afraid of great visions and the possibility of an evolutionary quantum jump because of this chapter of its history. Ken Wilber describes it in One Taste: "What happened in Germany is, among a million other causes, a classic case of the pre/trans fallacy. In fact, the entire German tradition is a study in the pre/trans fallacy, producing now a Hegel, now a Hitler." Therefore, your issue is extremely helpful to stimulate new impulses in the German-speaking countries and I hope that it will be translated as soon as possible. [What Is Enlightenment? is now available in German translation through Visionen.]

Albert Klamt

God Won't Do It for Us
I would just like to say that I think The Future of God is a landmark issue in the spiritual revolution that is taking place worldwide. I had to let a couple of weeks pass after digesting it to be sure I wasn't swept up in the moment before writing, but a couple weeks have passed and I am STILL swept up in the moment but that moment is constantly changing. I am on fire day and night. The spiritual revolution [that] is just beginning is so urgently necessary if the species is to survive. Humanity's various problems all result from one problem: We think we're separate. Separate from everything! From each other, from the earth, from god, from our thoughts, from our actions, etc. It's endless, but all stems from this basic misconception of separation. We have advanced so much technologically in the past few thousand years, but spiritually we haven't advanced at all. We're cavemen with suits on! We've had the industrial revolution, we've had various other kinds of revolutions, but nobody feels any more fulfilled. So now in the twenty-first century it's time for the Spiritual Revolution. The next urgent step in evolution is beginning, and God won't do it for us. Traditional religion won't do it for us. We need and must have a transformation of consciousness and we have to do it ourselves. Become god, so to speak, and then we can stop talking about him all the time. You all are doing great work. Please keep it coming. We are tearing it up like a pack of wild dogs!

Brian Piergrossi

Warning Label
You're killing me. Ever since stumbling on your magazine a few years ago, my worldview has been grabbed by the throat, shaken like a limp rag doll and throttled to death. I thank you with all my heart. The latest issue on evolution was simply the most creative, inspiring, and mind-smashing magazine I have ever had the privilege to read. You leave my mind swimming with nothing to grab on to, and no perspectives to uphold. All sacred cows have been slaughtered and fried, leaving only limitless unbound potential and freedom. There should definitely be a warning label on the cover.

Aaron Wray
Gig Harbor, WA

Why Sri Aurobindo Is Cool

Titan of the Spirit
Thank you for the excellent article on Sri Aurobindo, Why Sri Aurobindo is Cool. Aurobindo has always been difficult for aspirants to understand, and this is even more so in today's climate of "pop" spirituality and the "advaita shuffle," quick-fix mentality. This article in WIE, while necessarily only scratching the surface of this titan of the spirit, may give serious spiritual practitioners some inkling that there truly is work to be done after "personal awakening." In my own work with students, I try to get the point across that the realization of individual truth and peace is only the first step on an infinite journey of enlightenment, like a pebble in a lake that produces ever-widening circles of influence. Those with the heart and mental determination to grapple with the works of Aurobindo will invariably become convinced of this.

Los Angeles, CA

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This article is from
Our Transformation Issue