Conscious Evolution and the Emergence of Integral Culture
By Thomas Maxwell
There is a growing understanding that addressing the global crisis facing humanity will require new methods for knowing, understanding, and valuing the world. Narrow, disciplinary, mechanistic, and reductionist perceptions of reality are proving inadequate for addressing the complex, interconnected problems of the current age. The currently dominant worldview of scientific materialism, which views the cosmos as a vast machine composed of independent, externally related pieces, promotes fragmentation in our thinking and perception. The materialist view of natural systems as commodities to be exploited coupled with the ethos of consumerism and social Darwinism has encouraged widespread destruction of our natural life support systems. The cancerous spread of nihilism and dehumanization are driving the decay and disintegration of techno-industrial culture.
A set of clearly discernable stages can be identified in the history of human culture whose development or unfolding took place in mutations of consciousness. There is considerable evidence that the current age of “sensate” culture is ending as a new structure of consciousness emerges, giving birth to the next stage of cultural evolution.
This nascent integral consciousness structure embodies a new mode of perception which transcends the illusion of separateness to discern the unity which underlies the diverse forms of existence. Although this “higher level of thinking” can be elaborated through science, its principal grounding is in spiritual experience. It supports an integrated epistemology that embraces both the rational knowledge of scientific empiricism and the inner knowledge of spiritual experience, diminishing the barriers separating scientific and spiritual understanding. It realizes fundamental sacredness and profound meaningfulness in all life, giving rise to a more integrative, holistic, and ecological perception of the cosmos. The ethos of materialism and selfishness gives way to ecological sensitivity, reverent care for all life, dedication to world healing and transformation, spiritual awakening, and celebration of the wonder of the universe . Individuals move beyond the limits of their personal vantage points to embrace their unity with all sentient beings and their participation in the conscious evolution of humanity.
This paper describes the characteristics of the emerging integral “worldspace” and its potential to transform modern culture.
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THOMAS MAXWELL holds a PhD in physics and is an associate research professor at the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics at The University of Vermont. He has written extensively on ecological awareness, physical systems and spirituality.