Reflections on the 2012 SDi Confab – Dallas, Texas
I don’t want to offend anybody – really I don’t – but from the depths of my being I have to say this. There’s a lot of unconsciousness about conscious evolution. Conscious Evolution is not the same as personal development, enlightenment or raising personal consciousness. It’s a step beyond.
Evolution happens at the level of a species. So Conscious Evolution is only partly about me and only partly about you. It isn’t about our internal process, our shadow, our self-awareness, our ability to know states of oneness or transcendence. It isn’t even your ability to find your unique self and be true to it. Every one of those things is valuable but if that is all we do then we are growing and developing but not evolving. My changes will only last one generation if it is just my internal process. If it isn’t adaptive it might not even last that long.
I accept that we are talking about a different kind of evolution – it may not take physical generations – but it does call for reproduction. When biological species evolve the change adapts them to their environment. Humans have a bigger choice – we might adapt to the environment or we might change it. In either case, change that is not adaptive does not thrive. For humans changing ourselves and changing our environment is more complex. It is a four-quadrant, interactive feedback loop.
Almost four decades in and not expecting to stop, I am all for self-development and personal growth, but they’re only the preparation, the tilling of the soil. It got me to where I am now, and now I have to reproduce the change – go forth and multiply.
I totally believe that we are all a part of one consciousness and I am completely happy with the idea that what we think creates our reality. And what I think (i.e. my reality) is that we are both physical and metaphysical, flesh and awareness, material beings in a world of energy – living lives that take a form which is determined by Consciousness. That consciousness is internal – what my local information field knows Jon Freeman to be. It is also external – the complete fabric of space-time, the morphogenetic field that holds the human form and everyone / everything that is around me, human, the natural world, skyscrapers, corporations, economic systems and soup-kitchens.
What that means is that conscious evolution is not just happening inside me. That would just be a one-quadrant process. I can fool myself that it is 4-quadrant because I am aware of the other three, but if I am not engaging with them then that’s just a self-delusion. It’s like thinking that you can learn about relationships without meeting anyone.
Evolution happens in an ecological context. The life conditions feed back into what is possible and healthy for me. We are the way we are for a reason – because it was adaptive. It has enabled us individually and collectively to survive, thrive and progress – psychologically and materially. Some of my adaptations may no longer serve me; they have got stuck in place or may even have been ancestral inheritance. Shadow work and self-awareness work take me forward. Some of my adaptations enable me to function in this world. They continue to serve me until the world around me changes or until I find a new environment. And while I can improve myself or seek better conditions, I am a part of the big world with its global systems, its economic instability, its dysfunctional corporations and its seriously inadequate electoral choices. If those do not change then evolution is constrained or worse still, our species may demonstrate just what adaptive failure looks like.
So please don’t think that you are consciously evolving because you are working on yourself; it’s what you might call a necessary but not sufficient condition. Talking with others about our journeys is not sufficient either. Being the change is a great start. We have practiced that a lot and many of us have become good at it, but are we causing the change that we want to see in the world? Are we doing the change that the world needs done?
Understanding and developing the theory is good too, but pointless unless it is applied. It’s like upgrading the operating system when you have no applications. It was apps that propelled the personal digital age – tools like Visicalc and Lotus and Wordstar. The i-pod isn’t a device, it is an app with hardware. Am I an operating system or an app? Which are you?
If conscious evolution is to happen we will need to apply what we have learned and we will need to maximise the effectiveness of our experience and knowledge in assisting the change that the world needs. Humans have created the world we currently live in. We built the financial systems. We built the unsustainable resource patterns. Those systemic aspects rose out of our fear of lack, out of our fear that we would not be in control, out of our greed, out of our desire for power and out of ignorance. Hopefully our self-development makes us less fearful, less greedy, less impulsive, more centred and more knowledgeable. Conscious Evolution is really taking place when the changes that we make personally start to manifest as systemic changes in the world. It’s when we alter life conditions so that others can emerge into greater health, move into better balance at their current level or even find the space for an up-spiral shift. Conscious evolution is happening when we change the predator-prey economic relationship and when we leave behind fear and competition in favour of collaboration. It happens when my personal relationships and my relationship with the planet are not just about getting my needs met. It happens when societies learn that personal achievement and social care are polarities to manage, not opposites to choose. We will know that conscious evolution is happening when we see a more adaptive species and when the changes we have made become a part of a new culture and a new ecology.
Widely (and inaccurately) attributed to Hippocrates is the admonition to the medical profession “First, do no harm”. In a similar way it matters that we have sorted out our internal condition before we mess with other people. But we can’t wait forever. If we aren’t good enough and competent enough to be ready then who is? The external problems are urgent and we have the tools. If we, with our advantages, our education and the best understandings available don’t have what it takes to help the world, then who does?
I think that we have been slow to recognise that second tier thinking won’t bring us answers. We won’t know what to do in advance because the non-linear nature of what is out there makes it a chaos field. You can’t pre-cook the solutions, you can only get into the chaos field and emerge them. It’s a live gig not a recording. Maybe we haven’t been ready to do that, because we were brought up to think we must know before we do. Conscious Evolution means that we do before we know, and we know by doing. It means that you take in to your hands your expertise, your sensing and intuitive skills, your pattern recognition, your understanding, your beingness, your chosen toolkit and above all your courage. Don’t wait for academic approval of your theory – that’s not worth a damn and will arrive decades too late. Don’t wait to qualify – you will never be qualified for the turmoil that is building. You are as ready as you ever will be, and you will only get better by practise. Conscious Evolution is interactive and generative. It’s playing in the field of 4-quadrant possibility. It’s adapting moment by moment.
Go on, be an app. Be and do; adapt and collaborate; thrive and help thrive.
About the Author
Jon Freeman is a writer, trainer, and mentor with a background in organisational systems and change management working with Spiral Dynamics Integral, SQ21 Spiritual Intelligence, Meshworking, and Conscious Capitalism. He is a Director of the UK Centre for Human Emergence. His books include Future Money: Evolving our Relationship with Finance and an imminent new work on Science and Consciousness titled, Conscious!: The Science of Possibility.