Self-Aware Participation in the Evolutionary Process Becomes Possible with the Advent of Man

The evolutionary process of Nature is for the most part due to an encoded pattern that, over time, gets “mixed” through various reproductive techniques such as sexual reproduction involving the mixing of genes from two diverse individuals, which then plays out in the “survival of the fittest” patterns identified by Darwin.  Another method of evolutionary change comes about through the mutation process which becomes part of the overall pattern over time.  Those mutations found beneficial will tend to survive and reproduce, while those that are weak or failed mutations tend over time to fail in carrying themselves forward.

With the advent of humanity, we have a new level of participation in the evolutionary process, as the self-awareness of the human being allows both a conscious striving and focus on various forms of development, as well as the opportunity for humans to actively intervene in the physical process, whether through environmental changes that effect genetic changes (including the impacts of climate change and the corresponding changes in things like disease vectors or immune system responses to changes in oxygen, carbon dioxide, pollution, chemicals, etc.) or through specific interference of genetic engineering or testing that results in skewed results such as favoring one type of “natural selection” over another.

Our focus here is on the development of consciousness, so the question of physical patterns and interference, while interesting and important, is not our primary concern at this moment.  What we see in this regard is that humanity has the ability to reflect on the significance and purpose of our existence, and to consciously take steps to participate in the growth and development of consciousness and the powers of being.  Witness the practices of yoga and meditation, vision quests, as well as explorations in the fields of science, philosophy, religion, psychology, art, or use of entheogenic plants,  which indicate a depth of seeking and aspiration for something better, greater and more perfected to come about through human efforts.  While all these things differ in their specific focus and their methodology, they all speak to the human aspiration of which Sri Aurobindo writes, and represent the encoded urge in our genetic makeup, as an expression of Nature’s will-to-be, to consciously participate in the ongoing evolutionary focus of Nature through Matter, Life and Mind.  This aspiration itself is a sign that evolution is not finished and that man represents a transitional phase in that development.

Sri Aurobindo observes, in The Life Divine:  “It must be observed that the appearance of human mind and body on the earth marks a crucial step, a decisive change in the course and process of the evolution; it is not merely a continuation of the old lines.  Up till this advent of a developed thinking mind in Matter evolution had been effected, not by the self-aware aspiration, intention, will or seeking of the living being, but subconsciously or subliminally by the automatic operation of Nature.  This was so because the evolution began from the Inconscience and the secret Consciousness had not emerged sufficiently from it to operate through the self-aware participating individual will of its living creature.  But in man the necessary change has been made, — the being has become awake and aware of himself; there has been made manifest in Mind its will to develop, to grow in knowledge, to deepen the inner and widen the outer existence, to increase the capacities of the nature.  Man has seen that there can be a higher status of consciousness than his own; the evolutionary oestrus is there in his parts of mind and life, the aspiration to exceed himself is delivered and articulate within him: he has become conscious of a soul, discovered the self and spirit.  In him, then, the substitution of a conscious for a subconscious evolution has become conceivable and practicable, and it may well be concluded that the aspiration, the urge, the persistent endeavour in him is a sure sign of Nature’s will for a higher way to fulfillment, the emergence of a greater status.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Two, The Place of Man in Evolution, pp. 5-13

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