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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Is Man Separate from Nature?

By Martin LeFevre
In Scoop, International News

As I see it, human consciousness is an unexplained contradiction in the infinitely dynamic order of the universe. Consciousness is not ‘evolving,’ and things are going from bad to worse. Is there an understanding of the relationship between humankind and the universe that offers genuine hope?

The attempt by many to blur the distinction between human consciousness and the natural order is just making the human mind more confused. Given that consciousness is not evolving, but rather growing more and more disordered, does that mean one must just give up, as so many have done?

Religious beliefs previously served to give meaning to the many, while enabling the few to have control. But belief systems in recent decades have become increasingly reactionary, whether in the Judeo-Christian or Islamic worlds.

On the other hand, most scientists believe the universe is a completely random interaction of energy and matter. But can one find out whether there an inseparable cosmic intelligence and sacredness beyond thought (without implying any kind of personal God)?

With the negation and quieting of thought, there is an experiencing of the living order, mystery, and sacredness that permeates the cosmos. In other words, there is something ineffable, having nothing to do with beliefs, which are merely constructions of thought.

But as it is, human consciousness is a great contradiction and conundrum. It used to be called ‘the riddle of man.’ This mystery cannot be resolved by science, or by mushy appeals to the ‘oneness of our deeper selves.’

The central question to my then mind is: How did our extraordinarily powerful human brain, defined and dominated by ’higher thought,’ evolve from the infinitely dynamic order and wholeness of the universe?

Given the right conditions and enough time, evolution, in its random way, apparently produces brains capable of symbolic thought. That doesn’t imply a hierarchy of dominion, much less ‘man being created in the image of God,’ but rather an enigma, and growing crisis for the species in which conscious thought evolves.

Though it’s an incredibly powerful adaptation, symbolic thought rests on a principle that is the antithesis of the wholeness and order of the universe. Simply put, whereas the universe operates in seamless unity, ‘higher thought’ separates ‘things.’ That is its essential nature and function. Not understanding the mechanism of thought, man has fragmented the earth to the breaking point.

So on one hand, the ability to mentally and physically remove ‘things’ from the environment has given the human species immense powers of manipulation and control over our environment, even down to the molecular level. On the other hand, using thought without insight into its nature and limitations is fragmenting the earth, cultures, and people all to hell.

That means consciousness, as we usually know it, is a growing momentum of useful knowledge and useless accretion. The net result is increasing division, conflict, and fragmentation. Therefore, the accumulation in consciousness of useless content (for example, hurts and hate, grudges and garbage) is the source of darkness and evil in the world.

Thought-based consciousness has reached a point where the fragmentation it is generating threatens the viability of the Earth’s ecosystems. But self-made fragmentation is also putting tremendous pressure on human beings to radically change.

The great paradox is that symbolic thought is both a necessary precondition for conscious, silent awareness of the intelligence that permeates and transcends the universe, and the greatest impediment to that awareness. Therefore self-knowing is not just a path for Buddhists and Socratic aficionados; it has become the indispensable foundation for the survival of our species.

So is there a cosmic intelligence that cares about the fate of humankind? Yes, but not about ’man’ as a special creation, much less about us in any separate or personal sense.

There is an intrinsic intent in the universe to evolve, through a largely random process, brains capable of awareness of the intelligence that permeates and transcends the universe. That same intent ’wants’ (to use an unavoidably anthropomorphic term) humankind, the only species on this planet with the capacity for conscious awareness of cosmic intelligence, to radically change.

When human beings passionately share that intent, we participate in ongoing creation and the unfolding mystery of life. Enlightenment means stepping out of the stream of the past, of conditioning, of consciousness as we’ve known it for tens of thousands of years.

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