Evolution of Consciousness one-pager

  • I’ve been getting increasingly excited about conceiving of a field of study called “the evolution of consciousness”. I’ve seen a lot of people writing and thinking into this field, some of whom seem to be aware of the larger field and others who are just exploring a piece of it. As I see it, it’s necessarily also the study of evolution in general—not just biological evolution but:
    • cultural/memetic evolution
    • pre-biological physical evolution
    • thinking as an evolutionary process (which can be framed in terms of relevance realization)
    • evolution as a tautology: the fact that wherever you look you’ll tend to see mostly the sorts of things that are better at sticking around and/or making more things like themselves
  • It’s also necessarily the study of what happens when evolution becomes aware of itself. As Tom Atlee’s Co-Intelligence Institute puts it:
    • > we are evolution — or at least one significant facet of it — becoming conscious of itself. Across many domains of society, life and spirituality, we are in the process of birthing ourselves as conscious evolution.
  • The field draws on cogsci and other “scientific” sources, on history & religious texts, philosophy, and also draws from wisdom traditions like Buddhism and Christian mysticism.
  • Necessarily, as a study of consciousness, most research in this field is aware that it’s not just third-person research but first-person: the study not of how things are but of how they seem, and the study of the “seeming” process itself and our relationship to it (and how changes in our relationship to it change it, as part of that evolution). There is no place outside consciousness from which we can study consciousness.
    • My particular research (the “Non-Naive Trust Dance”) focuses on inter/co-seeming; on the process by which things that seem one way to me and seem a different way to you can come to be seen in some shared way by us, together… and what gets in the way of that.
  • Anyway, a rough sketch of the evolution of consciousness (so far!) as I see it:
    • at some point in the past, our ancestors were not consciousness of their own consciousness. they lived as much in flow with the dao as cats and lizards
    • then they developed language and memes, but (I suspect) these memes were at first entirely un-self-conscious and there were no double-binds (and perhaps in some sense no lies)
    • then, perhaps through biological evolution but more likely through transformational ritual that may have involved snake venom and apples, we developed recursive self-awareness
    • thus, from previous unquestioned oneness emerged dualism: the ego, which was previously a mediating layer between the id (animal urges) and superego (social expectations) became aware of itself and started identifying with itself and seeing itself as separate from others, and became aware of its choices and of the option to “be selfish” or “be altruistic”
    • at this point, a new kind of evolution started occurring among the superegos/memeplexes, to incorporate deception, shame, & blame to control large groups into behaving in coordinated ways (outcompeting groups that were unable to do this)
    • in parallel, various mystical traditions emerged for helping people re-access an experience of nonduality, but they were never able to be mainstream as they were too in conflict with the societal structures of the day. also some tried/try to go back to pre-consciousness modes.
    • phenomena like the scientific revolution shifted peoples’ relationships to their memes, creating an attitude of “we can figure it out for ourselves rather than take things from authority” (though modernity threw many babies out with bathwater in rejecting traditional wisdom)
    • at present, many people from many angles are exploring how to live in conscious relationship to memes/superegos, and build a new recursively-self-aware yet ALSO nondual society 
A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm developing scalable solutions to fractal coordination challenges (between parts of people as well as between people) based on non-naive trust and intentionality. More about me.

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