The Evolutionary Universe
About the author: Author of 21st Century Slave, Huffington Post contributor, lover of Christian Hermeticism.
We’re living at the height of the age of materialism, so it only makes sense that everything is backwards. Labor, the sacred product of the human will, is enslaved to wages. Our company bosses and national bosses demand disposable labor for ever-decreasing pay, and our intellectual class makes a living justifying the moral nihilism that our ruling class of hedge-fund and drone-strike managers are complicit in. The human mind, the source of the entire world of thought, is seen as an accidental offshoot of matter. To modern man, human beings are a purposeless mutation, and piddling existentialism is mistaken for enlightenment. In fact, since the 19th century, we have gone no further than existentialism. It is the end of our thinking about purpose and meaning, bleeding into the postmodern nightmare.
And yet, the very forces that created self-reflective minds in the brains of primates remain unexplored as roots of unbreakable meaning. These subtle evolutionary forces, these growing generators of complexity and coherence against the tide of infinite entropy and chaos, are not well understood. But in the age of Trump, even political centrists are finding it hard to deny that we are immersed in chaos. It is the phenomenon of Neoliberalism, or worship of markets over people, concertized in the 1980s, which has led to this chaos.
Order is needed now more than ever. But where can order be found? Not the church, which rests upon sand. Not our jobs, most of which are temporary and degrading. Order has to be rooted in our humanity itself, and the fact that we live in an evolutionary universe is more than enough to show the purpose of human beings in the cosmic order. Once we grasp the significance of our own evolution, we become capable of diagnosing our own demons. Unfortunately, the worldview of scientific materialism, the view of modern man, remains wholly convinced that the entire cosmos are purposeless and are in fact heading absolutely nowhere. People who believe this don’t even think that they believe it – they think that it’s the objective truth of the world. It also happens to be the most boring and dismissive interpretation of reality that the intellectual elite have ever gotten away with.
Contrary to the bleakness of a materialistic science explaining the universe and rending philosophy and theology null and void, the world of consciousness, from the soaring demons of Paradise Lost to the glimmering ocean of Spirited Away, tells the story of biology’s prodigious children. We are the apes who evolved out of the jungle to inherit the kingdom of the mind, the inner world that was capable of creating cities and sciences, stories and songs. The story of evolution is the story of ascension into the realm of the imagination, the story of slime slithering up from the primordial ooze and creating gods. With the origins of Big Bang cosmology, we now know that the universe itself has evolved, and contrary to the conventional view of scientific materialism, the evolution of the universe has followed a clear pattern into complexity.
Each stage of cosmic evolution is more complex than the last. The atomic basis of the world as established by physics is the bottom layer of a great pyramid. The molecules of chemistry are formed by the associations and fusing of atoms, forming the next layer, one of greater complexity. Out of chemical systems, extremely complex chains of polymerized molecules, arose biological systems. Life is the third layer, built upon chemistry, which in turn is built upon atoms. And finally, the fourth layer - mind. Out of biological systems arose consciousness. Each major ontological stage in our universe has been more complex than the last – this is a fact of cosmic evolution. The simplicity of the atom is the basis of all that follows, but each successive development of the cosmos, into chemistry, biology and psyche, is a more and more complex arrangement of the primary particles. The atom composes forms of greater and greater complexity on a curve that follows the unfolding of time. And when one looks at the universe in terms of evolution, in terms of emerging stages of complexity over the course of 14 billion years, our default view of purposeless materialism begins to look rather shoddy. If we are at the cutting edge of cosmic psychic complexity known as art, science, music and mathematics, then it is our obligation to push that complexity further. It is our obligation to evolve our ideas deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole until the next ontological level of complexity is bridged. Cosmic evolution has not ended with us. The universe is not aimlessly headed into entropy. It has forced its prodigious apes into consciousness, and it is only reasonable to assume that the next level of complexity will emerge from consciousness, because nature builds upon previous stages of evolution in order to achieve new ones. This is mirrored by scientific progress, made on the shoulders of giants and based on what came before.
To view evolution as purposeless, after all, is to view mind as purposeless, which is an indefensible position. The universe has become aware of itself. Biological beings have become aware of evolution, the very process that spawned them. We can now study and alter our own DNA. We can reconstruct the mathematics and the early conditions of the Big Bang. Through psyche, primates are capable of accurately modeling 14 billion years into the past, and using those models to adjust their perception of the present and future. Can we seriously say that this has no greater significance than rolling dust and atoms in an aimless void? If the universe truly was just a fluke, would self-reflective beings ever attain such explanatory power? How would self-reflection even come to exist? Worse for the materialist worldview, the logic of reductionism is fatally flawed. Supposedly, mind is reducible to biology, which reduces to chemistry, which reduces to physics, which reduces down to the abstract rules of mathematics. However, what we have here is the snake swallowing its own tail. What is mathematics? An invention of primate minds. Numbers are not real, yet somehow they are realer than matter itself. So then, apparently mind reduces to biology, which reduces to chemistry, which reduces to physics, which reduces back to mind. Adherents of the scientific worldview so often forget that math is merely an expression of mind, and the most baffling thing about it is that it works – that apes are able to create accurate models of the birth and death of stars. Why should apes, fifty thousand years out of the jungle, have access to incredibly accurate models of the cosmos? Why, in such a tiny amount of evolutionary time, should all of human thought and culture have sprung from nothing and created systems like these? In the ultimate irony, it is mathematics, the bedrock of the purposeless materialist worldview, which makes materialism look absurd. If mind has no purpose, why is it so damn accurate in probing things it should know nothing about, which have nothing to do with brute survival?
My answer, and the answer proposed by thinkers such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, is that the universe is a process that generates complexity over great periods of time. And mind, as the most complex thing we know of, occupies the very tip of that pyramid of complexity, the most vital and unpredictable element in a deterministic material cosmos.
So then, how can we be existentialists? In a universe where everything has evolved, and each stage of emergence is more complex than the last, how can we pretend that human beings are purposeless? How can we pretend that consciousness, the ultimate form of biological complexity, the result of fourteen billion years of complexification, is purely an accident? It’s an accident in the same way that atoms are an accident, chemistry is an accident, and biology is an accident – it isn’t one. It is the next stage in a beautiful unfolding of forms, an unfolding that begins with nothingness and ascends into the imagination. Zero becomes fifty, fifty becomes one-hundred, one-hundred becomes one-thousand and so on into heights unimaginable. We are the inheritors of this process. We are on the cutting edge of the principle of evolutionary ascension, which is so fantastic that it has turned slimes into the creators of the world of the imagination. With or without religion, that fact alone, of a cosmic primordial ancestor who has become a scientific philosophizing conscious being, is the most absurd of all outcomes. The evolutionary story is the most amazing story, the one filled with literally endless novelty and imagination.
And yet, human beings are even more amazing. Though we emerged from nature, we are not slaves to its plans. We look upon our own genetic code and opt to alter it. We discover nature’s diseases and we immunize ourselves from them. We see the cruelty of the natural world, the injustice of the powerful dominating the weak, and we seek to change it. The will is our sorcery, resulting from the absolute contradiction of our own existence. We emerge from nature, and yet our evolutionary destiny is mind, not matter. We are animals, and yet it is animality that we seek to cure ourselves of. We are trapped between two worlds, in what may be the most massive evolutionary step in the history of the cosmos – the transition from body into spirit. The ascent from nature into the imagination, away from the world of dead-ended Neanderthals and into the vistas painted by our own minds. After all, complexity builds upon complexity, so the next stage will emerge from consciousness – and we are the bearers of that consciousness.
So then, it seems that all we must do is continue to move in this direction. We must think tirelessly and evolve our ideas without end. We must move toward what Teilhard de Chardin called 'the Omega point', the highest complexity possible, the ultimate manifestation of the cosmos, the entity that we have named ‘God’. The point of infinite complexity. This is the teleology of the universe – this is our purpose. Therefore, the last thing we want to do is to regress. The last thing we want to do is descend from mind into materialism, to forsake the imagination and instead focus on the pettiest and most temporal of things: and that is exactly what we are doing. In our infinite folly, we have inherited the kingdom of consciousness and used it to create the kingdom of dust.
We live in an empire with over twenty million corpses to our name, and yet our so-called ‘intellectuals’ sit proudly upon their thrones of bone and sinew. We all tacitly accept the shackling of the will to the world of wages, where obedient meaningless labor is forced upon the vast majority of the human population. Only an elite few, exempt from labor, can live in the world of the mind. The rest must exhaust themselves in the name of survival, no different than the prerogatives of termites. This is the low of capitalism, the low of the materialist ethic, the low of the world that our twisted wills have created. We are thugs and murderers, and all we’re concerned about are the crimes of other thugs and murderers. The hypocrisy of ego, emboldened by the fantasy of empire, is leading us to ruin. Where are we headed as a species? The absolute devastation of the worker in a new globalized economy where the bottom line is slave labor? The obliteration of other human beings in the name of ‘national interests’, a hypocritical term that only applies as long as you’re the one with interests? Ecological disaster at the hands of climate change, caused by our suicidal descent into the fantasy of permanent material prosperity at the cost of actual human freedom and dignity?
If this is what we’ve become, then we have wasted our consciousness. Being human is an opportunity – it is the grandest opportunity that biology has thus far created. To live as a being with a creative, conscious individual mind, and then to do nothing but consume pre-packaged experience and pre-packaged ideas that are all bullshit anyway, is the complete betrayal of conscious awareness. Did we evolve into such complexity just to squander it all? To live as worker machines who praise the flag and limit our realities with worthless ideologies? If we do not create, if we do not push the edge of the paradigm and dive further and further into the wondrous edges of conscious thought, then we are no better than apes. The mind has gone to waste. And when we refuse to evolve, when we dwell in habit and refuse to continuously ascend into the novel and the new, we invite extinction.
After all, what is climate change? Nature itself rebelling against the egotism of humankind. Will we survive as a species? Will we ever see the next stage in our conscious evolution? Not if we don’t change course immediately. And this is the chilling truth of our times, the chilling failure of our current ideas and institutions to save us.
The light of consciousness is too precious to allow extinction to claim it. We must become conscious enough to act, and act soon, or the kingdom of consciousness will have de-evolved into the kingdom of dust, and we will all be responsible for it.