Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Evolving Face of Spirit

In a recent post, John (at /musing/struggling/dreaming/) talked about whether or not God can change. In a nod toward the genderless nature of divinity, he used the feminine pronoun throughout the post, which I liked. He concluded, for those too lazy to go read the original post, that we must allow for the possibility that God can and does change.

I'd like to address the same issue from an integral perspective. Rather than speaking of God, however, since I don't want the baggage that comes with God most often being thought of in the Western world as the Christian God, I will speak about Spirit -- a more universal and gender-neutral designation for that which is beyond names anyway.

First and foremost, Integral theory believes that the entire Kosmos (the patterned Whole of all existence, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms) is the manifestation of Spirit. From this perspective, Spirit is both the source and destination of the entire Kosmos. As source, Spirit is whole and complete and perfect. As Kosmos, Spirit is evolving toward Its eternal perfection. Wrap your head around that.

Spirit, which is formless, manifested Itself as the Kosmos (involution) as a way to know Itself through form. According to the Heart Sutra, one of the core texts of Buddhism, "Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form and form is not other than emptiness." Here emptiness is equated with formlessness -- the terms are often, though not always, used interchangeably.

Once manifest, the Kosmos began to evolve. This is the reality that we can touch, smell, hear, see, feel, and measure. Despite what the fundamentalists of various faiths might believe, science has proposed that the universe has been around for at least 15 billion years (possibly forever, depending on which model you hold as true) and has been in a constant state of evolution since its inception. The two primary processes are always at work -- Spirit enters Its creation through involution, and Its creation (the physical aspect of Itself) slowly returns to the perfection of Its source through evolution.

Therefore, Spirit is both unchanging (perfect, non-dual) and changing (evolving physical reality) simultaneously. At the deepest levels, there is no contradiction in that statement.

If one holds this view, and I do, the horrible, excruciating truth is that all things -- RIGHT NOW -- are perfect. All things are a manifestation of perfect Spirit. And here is the hardest part: right now, you and I are exactly where we are supposed to be. Moreover, we are loved and valued by Spirit exactly as we are. Even if we are rejecting Spirit, or rejecting ourselves, or are filled with pain and anger and loss, we are loved and valued by Spirit as manifestations of Spirit.

Update: Some corrections have been made to the original post -- thanks to John for his comments. I also thought this quote might add to the original intent.

"[I]n the world of Form, the ultimate Omega point appears as an ever-receding horizon of fulfillment (the ever-receding horizon of the totality of manifestation), forever pulling us forward, forever retreating itself, thus always conferring wholeness and partialness in the same breath: the wholeness of this moment is part of the whole of the next moment: the world is always comlete and incomplete in any given moment, and thus condemned to a fulfillment that is never fulfilled: the forms rush and run forward to a reward that retreats with the run itself." (Emphasis added.)


"Evolution seeks only this Formless summum bonum -- it wants only this ultimate Omega -- it rushes forward always and solely in search of this -- and it will never find it, because evolution unfolds in the world of form. The Kosmos is driven forward endlessly, searching in the world of time for that which is altogether timeless. And since it will never find it, it will never cease the search. Samsara circles endlessly, and that is always the brutal nightmare hidden in its heart."
-- Ken Wilber: CW6: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, 323-325

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"it must recognized that the entire Kosmos ... is the manifestation of Spirit"

Needless to say, I don't agree that we "must" recognize this in the sense you mean it. :-)

However, that's not my main issue. First, you shouldn't really be using "evolve" in this context. The Kosmos cannot evolve because it does not reproduce and die. What you meant to say was "develop" - that word contains the required ideas of change and adaptation, but also of progress and refinement, which are missing from "evolution" in any case.

Second, and more importantly, your statement that "the horrible, excruciating truth is that all things -- RIGHT NOW -- are perfect" isn't correct, I think, even in the context you are using. The truth, as you have posited it, is that all things derive from perfection and are headed towards perfection, but that they are not now perfect. Even if we are manifestations of a perfect Spirit, that manifestation process itself need not produce perfection (or the Kosmos would always be as perfect as the eternal Spirit).

Interestingly, your aside that "science has proven beyond a doubt that the universe has been around nearly 15 billion years" isn't quite right, either. Setting aside the techincal point that science never "proves" anything (merely providing models that represent reality to a greater or lesser extent), there is a growing feeling among cosmologists that there might be something wrong with the Big Bang model. There was an interesting article on this in New Scientist this week. Basically, there are quite a few observations that don't sit well with a Big Bang cosmology. Whether the result will be a better Big Bang model or something quite different will be interesting to keep an eye on.

pax et bonum