Spiritual evolution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: August 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm


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Spiritual evolution is the philosophical, theological, esoteric or spiritual idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve: either extending from the established cosmological pattern (ascent), or in accordance with certain pre-established potentials. The phrase "spiritual evolution" can occur in the context of "higher evolution", a term used to differentiate psychological, mental, or spiritual evolution from the "lower" or biological evolution of physical form.[1]

The concept of spiritual evolution is also complemented by the idea of a creative impulse in human beings, known as epigenesis.[2]

Within this broad definition, theories of spiritual evolution are very diverse. They may be cosmological (describing existence at large), personal (describing the development of the individual), or both. They can be holistic (holding that higher realities emerge from and are not reducible to the lower), idealist (holding that reality is primarily mental or spiritual) or nondual (holding that there is no ultimate distinction between mental and physical reality). One can regard all of them as teleological to a greater or lesser degree.

Philosophers, scientists, and educators who have proposed theories of spiritual evolution include Schelling, Hegel, Carl Jung, Max Thon, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Henri Bergson, Rudolf Steiner, Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Owen Barfield, Arthur M. Young, Edward Haskell, E. F. Schumacher, Erich Jantsch, Clare W. Graves, Alfred North Whitehead, Terence McKenna, P.R. Sarkar. As of 2015[update]William Irwin Thompson (born 1938), Brian Swimme (born 1950), and Ken Wilber (born 1949) work in this field.

Mircea Eliade has suggested that in many pre-modern cultures one finds the concept of the Fall and a "nostalgia for paradise". However for those cultures that have a cyclic cosmology, the concept of a progressive deterioration of the universe (as in the Hesiodic, Hindu, and Lurianic cosmologies of a degradation from a Golden Age to an Iron Age or Kali Yuga) might be balanced by a corresponding ascent to more spiritual stages and a return to paradisical conditions. This is what one finds in Buddhist and especially Jain cosmologies.

Many premodern cosmologies and esoteric systems of thought are based on an emanationist view of reality. If the Cyclic view is temporal, then emanation is a non-temporal precursor to the theory of spiritual evolution.

According to this paradigm, Creation proceeds as an outpouring or even a transformation in the original Absolute or Godhead. The Supreme Light or Consciousness descends through a series of stages, gradations, worlds or hypostases, becoming progressively more material and embodied, before finally turning around to return to the One, retracing its steps through spiritual knowledge, contemplation and ascent.

A supreme example of this form of thinking is the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and his successors. Other examples and interpretations might be found in the Hindu sect of Kashmir Shaivism and Tantra in general, Gnosticism, Sufism, and Kabbalah. The Hindu idea of the Chakras might also considered here as the "microcosmic" counterpart of macrocosmic involution and evolution. The Yogi raises the Kundalini or life force through and thus transcends each chakra in turn, until he reaches the crown chakra and liberation.[3]

An early example of the doctrine of spiritual evolution is found in Samkhya, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, that goes back more than two and a half thousand years (although its present form dates to around the 4th or 5th century c.e.). Unlike most types of classic Hinduism, the traditional Samkhyan philosophy is atheistic and dualistic. Pure spirit (called purusha) comes into proximity with prakriti (psychophysical nature), disturbing its equilibrium. As a result the original root-prakriti (mulaprakriti) undergoes a series of progressive transformations or unfoldings, in the form of successive essences called tattvas. The most subtle tattwas emerge first, then progressively grosser ones, each in a particular order, and finally the elements and the organs of sense. The goal of evolution however is, paradoxically, the release of purusha and the return to the unmanifest condition. Hence everything is tending towards a goal of spiritual quiescence.[4]

The concept of the great chain of being developed by Plato and Aristotle whose ideas were taken up and synthesised by Plotinus. Plotinus in turn heavily influenced Augustine's theology, and from there Aquinas and the Scholastics. The Great Chain of Being was an important theme in Renaissance and Elizabethan thought, had an under-acknowledged influence on the shaping of the ideas of the Enlightenment and played a large part in the worldview of 18th century Europe. And while essentially a static worldview, by the 18th and early 19th century it had been "temporalized" by the concept of the soul ascending or progressing spiritually through the successive rungs or stages, and thus growing or evolving closer to God.[5] It also had at this time an impact on theories of biological evolution.

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Spiritual evolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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August 6th, 2015 at 8:47 pm