Friday, April 2, 2010

Women and Conscious Evolution

We [women] are becoming aware that we can consciously evolve; that our new “organ” is something which enables us to will our own further evolution. The more aware we become of our own evolutionary process, the more we are empowered to will and direct that process: an incredible evolutionary leap, a macro-mutation on a level with (and having a similar dynamics to) the development of language.

These are the words of Barbara Starrett in 1976 in her article “I Dream in Female: The Metaphors of Evolution." Before it was published my friend and colleague, Jere VanSyoc, gave me a Xerox copy of the article. Someone on the East Coast had sent it to her. We didn’t have the internet or email in those days but there was a large global network of mostly lesbian feminists connecting in the Background sending each other messages filled with a sense of urgency and vision, reaching out to others living the same Dream.

Today more and more women are becoming aware that we can consciously evolve, that together we can direct our own evolution and participate in the greater evolutionary process of which we are a part.

But first we’ve got to stop thinking of the evolutionary process as linear. Scientists may have a more comprehensive understanding but most of us imagine evolution progressing in a linear pattern. The universe is said to have a beginning at an identifiable point in the past and to proceed a straight line culminating at point in the future.

The biblical story of creation is an example of the linear perspective: The world begins with an act of creation by God, then proceeds through the age of the patriarchs to that of the prophets to the incarnation of Christ; it will continue through the age of the Church to a final apocalyptic conclusion when time will end. The secular view of the evolution of civilization is similar; human civilization is seen to grow from the ancient, “primitive,” cultures of the Old Stone Age through various transformations to our present, “advanced” society.

We need a new image of our evolutionary process before we can see how to consciously evolve, one that fits our experience. Helena Blavatsky, a foremother of the 70’s Women’s Movement, pointed out that the linear Darwian account of the evolutionary process begins at the “mid-point of total evolutionary progression” and only considers biological phases of our physical development, ignoring the spiritual dimensions. Darwin’s focus on the physical, Blavatsky insisted, omitted the mental, creative, and visionary life of human beings. In other words, Darwinian evolution omitted consciousness.

Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine, imagines evolution moving in a spiral pattern, making loops or circles but moving forward at the same time, so that patterns but not particulars are repeated.

The spiraling movement and direction of evolution is guided by the organizing patterns of consciousness itself. Consciousness is the creative force of evolution. As evolution proceeds, the wisdom from previous ages emerges at the beginning of the new age to serve as a guide during the transition.

As one age draws to a close, wisdom from previous ages emerges. As the current patriarchal age draws to a close, the wisdom of the previous age, with its goddess-centered culture, has been emerging primarily through women.

This does not mean that one age is determined by what came before. Our foremothers don’t direct our destiny; rather wisdom from previous ages is present as possibility and creative potential and is available to each one of us.

Since consciousness evolves in a spiral, each time a similar organization of conscious energy comes again it seems to be on a somewhat “higher” or more complex level, which is built on, and inclusive of, the preceding developments. In order to evolve, to enter a new age or another loop in the spiral, we must consciously and completely absorb and include the wisdom of our ancestors in our very being. As a species our ancestors include the rocks and mountains, plants, trees, the four-leggeds and winged ones.

Our bodies are a vehicle of consciousness. Consciousness feels and senses, touches, reaches out and withdraws. All bodies are vehicles of consciousness. As Christian deQuincey points out, the ancients knew what anyone who interacts honestly with the natural world knows: “Matter itself tingles with the spark of spirit, and therefore nature, in all its forms and glory is sacred to its deepest roots” (Radical Nature).

Whatever way we imagine it, the pattern of evolution seems to be a process of including and transcending. The new age includes and transcends elements of the preceding ages. What seems to be missing today is the includes part. Patriarchal thought and religion are all about transcending. As if the “lesser” beings – the trees and animals, minerals, mountains, rivers, and so forth – could be left behind. We need to renew our relationship with the others evolving along with us.

David Abram in The Spell of The Sensuous says that in indigenous, oral, cultures “language functions not simply to dialogue with other humans but also to converse with the more-than-human cosmos, to renew reciprocity with the surrounding powers of earth and sky, to invoke kinship even with those entities which, to the civilized mind, are utterly insentient and inert.” A rock, for example, may be addressed with respect and reverence as evident in these words of an Omaha medicine person:


from time without


you rest

there in the midst of the paths

in the midst of the winds

you rest

cover with the droppings of birds

grass growing from your feet


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