We can say that life is an evolutionary journey and humankind is on an evolutionary path. This journey towards more evolved forms of intellect, understanding, compassion, and creativity requires capacities that lie latent within each person. To accept conscious evolution then is to accept that individually and collectively we have a responsibility towards our future. This involves purposeful thinking and action; to use our creative capacities to guide our lives and the communities in which we live. To envision a creative, dynamic, and positive future is a preliminary step upon the path of conscious evolution. First, we make the choice for ourselves; then we give intention and commitment in order to give life to those choices. At its core, conscious evolution is a spiritual endeavour in that it affirms the potential capacity of each human to participate within a creative cosmos. It affirms our use and commitment of powerful physical and spiritual energies. It also gives rise to a new worldview – a new perceptual paradigm that views our evolutional process as a lesser step within grander processes. The opposite of this (which has been prevalent for far too long) is for unconscious human energies to be used without our knowledge or knowing participation.

Conscious evolution is also a very real social movement providing for a higher level of cooperative communication and action. It is a collaborative understanding that offers personal development and learning, community building and assistance, and ways towards practical, positive social change. Conscious evolution also implies that each human is an integral and interrelated part of the whole. The beginning of humankind’s exploration into consciousness, however, goes back through millennia and is not only a relatively recent phenomenon.

The experimentation with transcendent states of consciousness goes back even as far as the rock paintings of therianthropes  that date back 35,000 years, and which has been speculated to be the early origins of human religious traditions. Early experiments in consciousness have also been a core element in the ageless perennial wisdom traditions; the shamanic rituals; the earliest recorded otherworldly creatures on ancient cave walls; as well as the ongoing presence in human societies of the inherent search for meaning and the yearning for self-revelation. As some validation of this it has recently been discovered that the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France is full of painted monsters 400 metres below the surface, where a mixture of carbon dioxide and radon gas leads to hallucinations. In these cave chambers the wall paintings become so strange and ‘otherworldly’ that scientists now think that heading down to the chamber may have formed part of a ritual for prehistoric man. These rituals may in fact be one of the earliest known examples of using substances (in this case the natural mixture of carbon dioxide and radon gas) to induce altered states of consciousness: in other words, a shamanistic experience.

The symbolic paintings/drawings on cave walls and traces of ancient rituals which appear throughout the Palaeolithic era display a ‘primitive’ people in touch with the unseen realm, with a creative world beyond that of the human, and a transcendental space which modern humans, in effect, have never stopped attempting to access. In recognition of this, noted anthropologist David Lewis-Williams has built a theory, after extensive investigations, which explains how the people of the Upper Palaeolithic era harnessed altered states of consciousness to fashion their society and also used such imagery as a means of establishing and defining social relationships. In spite of the tens of thousands of years that separate modern humanity from its ancestral cave dwellers, the notion of entering into a more dynamic and creative union with the larger cosmos has been, it appears, a hard-wired aspect of our deeper selves. Throughout the millennia those persons more able to access this capacity, such as shamans, mystics, and prophets, have often done so to the benefit of their communities, and to bring knowledge and aid to the human family (whether local or on a wider global scale). To many who negotiate these realms, and maintain/sustain these capacities, the notion that the wider cosmos is a living, intelligent realm is second nature. It is perhaps also fair to say that virtually all human beings have the capacity to access these latent abilities; further, that many people are already doing so without actually realizing it, or casting it off as coincidences, flukes, good luck, or weird anomalies. However, in our current times there has been a great increase in the number of people reaching the understanding that the universe can be connected with, and aligned with human intentions. Consciousness researcher Graham Hancock notes that “Once we have entered a state of consciousness that has been altered deeply enough – itself a universal neurological capacity of the human race – it seems that everyone, everywhere, experiences visions containing very much the same combinations of patterns and shapes.” What this seems to suggest is that the human brain (our neurological capacity) may function as an antenna into the finer realms that form a part of the larger creative cosmos.

This could be one of the primary reasons for the great emphasis in wisdom traditions on fostering an altered state of consciousness through such practices as fasting, deprivation, and meditation (as practised by the early ascetics); to sweat lodges; exhaustive ritual dancing/spinning in circles; and prolonged chanting  and prostration, etc. Humanity has been experimenting with countless methods to induce an alternate state of consciousness for millennia, as if inherent within the deeper self there is a remnant, a trace, of an ability to transcend to a finer state of being that has now become lost to us. Yet modern rational science has remained blind to this, or considers it a fringe, esoteric irrational belief system.

The experimentation of the 1960s with altered states of consciousness has helped to prepare the way for a generation more in tune with transpersonal concepts and values. It may well be that the actual experience that extra-sensory states exist may be the foundation for a future which contains extra-sensory experience as a widespread attribute. It is important that we embrace ideas now so that they may become acceptable mental currency in advance of their actualization.

Conscious evolution is about acquiring evolutionary consciousness – to engage with both the internal and external worlds. It is our evolutionary imperative to engage actively in conscious and intentional evolutionary transformation if we are to remain as a viable living species upon Planet Earth. A new consciousness needs to emerge in order to embrace a new world.

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