Evolution has a direction, yes, a principle
of order out of chaos, as it is commonly phrased. In other words,
a drive toward greater depth. Chance is defeated, meaning emerges
-- the intrinsic value of the Kosmos increases with each unfolding.
Evolution has a broad and general tendency to move in
the direction of: increasing complexity, increasing differentiation/integration,
increasing organization/structuration, increasing relative autonomy,
When Ken Wilber was just 23 years old,
he wrote a book called The Spectrum
of Consciousness, which was immediately
hailed as a masterpiece for the way it integrated Eastern and
Western thought. Nearly thirty years and many, many books later,
he wrote something called A Brief
History of Everything, which I
call the 'easy access' version of his encyclopedic Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.
and more recently The Marriage
of Sense and Soul, have transformed
the way I look at just about...well, everything. Here are my
favorite few pages from Brief History. Wilber wrote Brief
History and this mind-blowing piece
of it as one long interview, which I've adapted into narrative
form to give it some borders. Enjoy!
This doesn't mean that regression and dissolution
don't occur -- they do. And it doesn't mean that every short-term
development must follow those directions. As Michael Murphy says,
evolution meanders more than it progresses. But over the long
haul, evolution has a broad telos, a broad direction, which is
particularly obvious with increasing differentiation -- an atom
to an amoeba to an ape!
All of [the] scientific descriptions [of evolution]
can generally be summarized as: the basic drive of evolution
is to increase depth. This is the self-transcending drive of
the Kosmos -- to go beyond what went before, and yet include
what went before, and thus increase its own depth.
Consciousness and depth are synonymous. [Everything
has] some degree of depth, however minor, because there is no
bottom. And with evolution, depth becomes greater and greater.
However much depth atoms have, molecules have more. And cells
have more depth than molecules. And plants have more than cells.
And primates more than plants.
There is a spectrum of depth, a spectrum of
consciousness. And evolution unfolds that spectrum. Consciousness
unfolds more and more, realizes itself more and more, comes into
manifestation more and more. Spirit, consciousness, depth --
so many words for the same thing.
Since depth is everywhere, consciousness is
everywhere. Consciousness is simply what depth looks like from
the inside, from within. So, depth is everywhere, consciousness
is everywhere, Spirit is everywhere. And as depth increases,
consciousness increasingly awakens, Spirit increasingly unfolds.
To say that evolution produces greater depth is simply to say
that it unfolds greater consciousness.
Spirit is unfolding itself in each
new transcendence, which it also enfolds into its own
being at the new stage. Transcends and includes, brings forth
and embraces, creates and loves, Eros and Agape, unfolds and
enfolds -- different ways of saying the same thing.
So we can summarize all this very simply:
because evolution goes beyond what went before, but because
it must embrace what went before, then its very nature
is to transcend and include, and thus it has an inherent directionality,
a secret impulse, toward increasing depth, increasing intrinsic
value, increasing consciousness. In order for evolution to move
at all, it must move in those directions -- there's no place
else for it to go!
Because the universe has direction, we ourselves
have direction. There is meaning in the movement, intrinsic value
in the embrace. As Emerson put it, we lie in the lap of immense
intelligence, which by any other name is Spirit. There is a theme
inscribed on the original face of the Kosmos. There is a pattern
written on the wall of Nothingness. There is a meaning in its
every gesture, a grace in its every glance.
We -- and all beings as such -- are drenched
in this meaning, afloat in a current of care and profound value,
ultimate significance, intrinsic awareness. We are part and parcel
of this immense intelligence, this Spirit-in-action, this God-in-the-making.
We don't have to think of God as some mythic figure outside of
the display, running the show. Nor must we picture it as some
merely immanent Goddess, lost in the forms of her own production.
Evolution is both God and Goddess, transcendence and immanence.
It is immanent in the process itself, woven into the very fabric
of the Kosmos; but it everywhere transcends its own productions,
and brings forth anew in every moment. Transcends and includes.
And we are invited, I believe, to awaken as
this process. The very Spirit in us is invited to become self-conscious,
or even, as some would say, superconscious. Depth increases from
subconscious to self-conscious to super conscious, on the way
to its own shocking recognition, utterly one with the radiant
All, and we awaken as that oneness.
What do you think? Are the mystics and sages
insane? Because they all tell variations on this same story,
don't they? The story of awakening one morning and discovering
that you are one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and
Yes, maybe they are crazy, these divine fools.
Maybe they are mumbling idiots in the face of the Abyss. Maybe
they need a nice understanding therapist. Yes, I'm sure that
But then, I wonder. Maybe the evolutionary
sequence really is from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit,
each transcending and including, each with a greater depth and
greater consciousness and wider embrace. And in the highest reaches
of evolution, maybe, just maybe, an individual's consciousness
does indeed touch infinity -- a total embrace of the entire Kosmos
-- a Kosmic consciousness that is Spirit awakened to its own
It's at least plausible. And tell me: is that
story, sung by mystics and sages the world over, any crazier
than the scientific materialism story, which is that the entire
sequence is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying absolutely nothing? Listen very carefully, just which
of those two strories actually sounds totally insane?
I'll tell you what I think. I think the sages
are the growing tip of the secret impulse of evolution. I think
they are the leading edge of the self-transcending drive that
always goes beyond what went before. I think they embody the
very drive of the Kosmos toward greater depth and expanding consciousness.
I think they are riding the edge of a light beam racing toward
a rendezvous with God.
And I think they point to the same depth in
you, and in me, and in all of us. I think they are plugged into
the All, and the Kosmos sings through their voices, and Spirit
shines through their eyes. And I think they discolse the face
of tomorrow, they open us to the heart of our own destiny, which
is also already right now in the timelessness of this very moment,
and in that startling recognition the voice of the sage becomes
your voice, the eyes of the sage become your eyes, you speak
with the tongues of angels and are alight with the fire of a
realization that never dawns nor ceases, you recognize your own
true Face in the mirror of the Kosmos itself: your identity is
indeed the All, and you are no longer part of that stream,
you are that stream, with the All unfolding not around
you but in you. The stars no longer shine out there, but in here.
Supernovas come into being within your heart, and the sun shines
inside your awareness. Because you transcend all, you embrace
all. There is no final Whole here, only an endless process, and
you are the opening or the clearing or the pure Emptiness in
which the entire process unfolds -- ceaselessly, miraculously,
The whole game is undone, this nightmare of
evolution, and you are exactly where you were at the beginning
of the whole show. With a sudden shock of the utterly obvious,
you recognize your own Original Face, the face you had prior
to the Big Bang, the face of utter Emptiness that smiles as all
creation and sings as the entire Kosmos -- and it is all undone
in that primal glance, and all that is left is the smile, and
the reflection of the moon on a quiet pond, late on a crystal
Brief History of Everything by
Ken Wilber, © Copyright 1996. Published by arrangement with
Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.