by William E. Halal
Abstract Evolution and enlightenment are two of the most powerful concepts that have ever entered human consciousness. But they entered it through different doorways, so to speak: They arose in different cultures, at different stages of human history, and still occupy separate compartments in most minds. We don’t yet have a body of inquiry that convincingly integrates the two. What we do have, in its absence, is an empty gulf between the true believers who proclaim that the dawning of a transcendent New Age is just around the corner, and the skeptics for whom enlightenment is scarcely acceptable even as a description of an occurrence in some people’s lives and certainly not as a plausible scenario of future human evolution.
Yet although evolution and enlightenment are set apart in many ways, they do share a certain foundation, which is that they are both developmental concepts: they are about ongoing processes of growth and change – in the case of evolution, the growth and development of organic life, human culture, and the cosmos; in the case of enlightenment, the growth and development of individual consciousness.
What I propose to do here is briefly review a few salient points about each concept separately, and then consider how they might come together as a significant force in 21st century thought. I am not prophesying an imminent transformation of the species, but rather seeking to help create a framework within which we can seriously consider the experiences and understandings now described as enlightenment as natural developments in the growth of individuals and thinkable developments in the future evolution of the species.