(For an additional look at integrating biology and experience, go to: Chapter 67: OBEs, IBEs, And Human Experience. To see thoughts about the role and function of the mind, go to: Chapter 26: It Is Not So Easy Feeling Good. For a look at thoughts about assessing the energy in our lives and the Big Rip instead of the Big Bang, go to: Chapter 55: The Best Answers Arise In The Space Between Thought And Deed. For futher thoughts about the nature of energy as both mutable and immutable, go to: Chapter 59: The Mutable Immutables.)
Well, what are the tenets of creation? Do we assemble the component parts of our reality, is that reality assembled without our input, is the assemblage of reality based on a combination of our own as well as previous constructs, or is it something else entirely?
More than thirty years ago, while I was mulling over these kinds of questions, it came to me (it sure didn’t feel like I thought of it) that somewhere at the heart of the matter was volitional evolution. At the time, I interpreted that as meaning that humans have at their disposal the ability to intentionally evolve. About the same time, another thought came to me that the next evolutionary step, if that tenet was invoked, was the movement from the consciousness of “I am,” a powerful and polarizing act of awareness that had long been framing human development, to the consciousness of “we are,” a distinctly more powerful and polarizing act of awareness sure to impact the landscape of human thinking and behavior.
(I now tend to speak about evolution in terms of movement, whereby additional ways of utilizing awareness and attention are acquired. Evolution carries with it a connotation that something gets better over time. That precept I have trouble with. Are humans better than animals because we have what appears to be a more complex range of thoughts and behaviors? So far, I don’t see that complexity contributing to more beauty on the planet. However, it also seems true to me that perhaps our behaviors, while seemingly destructive in many ways, may be a necessary precursor for improvement, at least in terms of our development. In other words, a retrograde action is not the same as regression, it just may be darkest before the dawn.)
The potential of volitional evolution and the movement to include the collective “we” without losing the singular “I” in human development seemed transformational to me, a very real bifurcation point in the journey towards heightened awareness and intentional volition–a worthy goal and the true compass heading as far as I was concerned.
Okay, what is volitional evolution and what does it have to do with getting what we want?
The answer requires a bit of background explanation. Most of us have been steeped in the concept of Darwinian evolution–natural selection and survival of the fittest. Mutation, genetics, and biology (the three acting in concert) presented an organism and the environment decided if it worked. This decision was a highly contextual one, shifting environments resulted in a new set of decision criteria.
A key point in this formula was that other than the influence of genetic mutation and the selection agent (the environs), genes were conserved–that is, individual behavior did not change that same individual’s genetic structure, it only activated it or not. Individual behaviors might be learned and passed along by means of observation and/or communication, but genetic structure was unaffected. In fact, this had been supposedly demonstrated by a phenomenon called the Weissmann barrier–genes affected and directed the body, but, generally speaking, individual behaviors could not affect the same individual’s genetic structure (nowadays we could go stand in front of an x-ray machine and alter our genes, and I suppose there has always been the possibility of ingesting something that would cause mutations).
And so most of us embraced Darwin, and our outlook became framed by that polarization.
The principle of volitional evolution is that the Weissmann barrier is not a barrier at all, or at least it can be breached (apparently, a few years ago it was discovered that retroviruses did get past the Weissmann barrier and could change genetic structure which could change genetic predisposition–a small, but important crack in the “barrier”). This is Lamarckian in nature without the silliness (e.g., the goofy notion that a giraffe that stretches its neck to get food alters its genetic structure to include genes for longer necks). The essential idea in volitional evolution was that individual behaviors can and does alter the same individual’s genetic structure, even if it takes some doing and some time.
While I didn’t know all of this at the time the thought arose, I did suppose that the principle of genetic atrophy was possible. Like an arm put into a cast, disuse over time could render genetic influence mute, gradually diminishing the viability of a genetic pattern until it just plain didn’t matter.
For instance, we may have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism, but if we didn’t drink, the predisposition couldn’t activate. Eventually, I thought, it would disappear, if it didn’t serve any other purpose (genetic influence often has more than one manifestation). How long it took to disappear I didn’t know, but I thought that it would take generations (the repetition of the children’s, children’s, children not drinking).
If this was all correct, and it seemed like it to me, individual human behavior influenced that same individual’s genetic pattern, which, in concert with other human individual patterns, influenced the genetic pattern of future generations. In other words, intention (whether we knew it or not) had been directing biological manifestations not only in ourselves (the “I”), but in the collective (the “we”), all of which influenced our present and contributed to human futures. If we could see this, we could volitionally evolve (move)–we could intentionally direct the course of human unfolding.
(Apparently it is now understood that activity at the cellular membrane can direct genetic information. What is interesting about this idea is that something other than genes does the directing and that the cellular membrane itself can and is activated by behavior. That means that genes are very much influenced and directed by environmental stimuli, which is not only the geographical location, but the influence of the culture as well as the individual themselves–as in what and how they think and behave! In fact, the recent discovery that the human genome consisted of a mere 35 to 50 thousand genes instead of the projected 100 to 150 thousand, meant that the complexity of human behavior could not be explained by genetics alone. I suspect that this will reintroduce research into proteins, which can account for human complexity. And it is not genes alone that direct proteins, but activation by the cellular membrane.)
The upshot of all of this is that we were, and had been, responsible. What we had in our lives spoke clearly and loudly about our intentions whether we knew it or not. In the absence of awareness of the process, genetics simply remembered for us and passed along what had worked, at least at one time and one place. We had a rudder all right, the question was what or who was manning the helm?
For me, this is outright overwhelming. The idea that I could look around and wonder how all of this could be happening to me or to others, as though we were merely observers (at best) was just not viable. But the alternative, that we had created a karmic wheel and were living out that intention and direction and mess, left no one to blame (an important pastime ripped right out of our grasp). And while we had plenty of religious and philosophical literature that spoke of such a state, we now had a scientific basis climbing on board. Religious, philosophical, and scientific explanations were now becoming unified with a singular vision. A new compass heading indeed.
So, we, I, have a conflict. And once again I ask: How does one write and think and live happiness without that familiar companion of pain? Is joy such an obscure reference point as to be unintelligible? Is it that hurt is so much more meaty and so much more common that we can all easily relate?
In the midst of my journey, of the hurts and disappointments that I see manifested, I have to ask myself what do I really want? Is it the hurt that I have or the resolution of that hurt? Is the canary in the mineshaft of ourselves only alive and well if we have plenty of angst? Is joy so toxic to the ecology of struggle and loss that our patterns are set to sabotage beauty and happiness? And do we keep our hurts by saying we really want to be happy, intending the opposite, and using the comparison to propagate pain and loss?
The Punxsutawney Phil in me is trying to emerge from the burrow of my illusion to see if I have a shadow or not. Funny, in such cases, how shadows mean a longer winter. I guess that’s what happens when one is in the way of light.
The journey to heightened awareness is likely to remove the shadow of our self-defeating thoughts and behaviors and expose them as the frauds they are. That is not likely to feel good, which might only serve to perpetuate the struggle. However, it might also mark a guidepost and another path we could take–one fairly unfamiliar, mostly embraced only to provide the contrast that marks our dismay. That unfamiliar path is the one of plenty, of beauty, and of the love of that has always offered everything and asked only to be shared.