God, evolution, and synchronicity

Yesterday in person, and early this morning by e-mail, I was telling a friend about an Eastern view of evolution, as explained by the Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, with which I have been long familiar. I may write about it in detail at VFR at some point, but here is the simple version. The driving force of the evolution of the universe, from simple gases to rock and metal, thence to plants, the lower animals, the higher animals, and finally man, is that the soul is seeking ever greater intelligence, ever greater consciousness. Over millions of eons, the soul experiences each of these forms, identifies with each of them in turn, and then, when it has had enough experience of one form and its limitations, it is ready for a new stage of consciousness and so takes on a higher and more complex form in order to experience the state of consciousness associated with that form. The ultimate physical aim of this gradual progress from extremely limited forms to higher and higher forms is for the soul to be incarnate as human, at which point it becomes possible for the soul to realize (though innumerable lifetimes are still necessary to realize it) the ultimate spiritual aim of this process of cosmic evolution: oneness with God.

I added that in my view (which was inspired by The Book of Revelation 4:7, and which I have written about at VFR), the major forms of life, such as bull, lion, eagle, and man, are eternal archetypes which the soul, when it is ready for them and conceives the “idea” of them, manifests externally.

This morning at breakfast with a female friend, I recapitulated what I had been telling my other friend. A little later in the meal, she took out her copy of the February 27 issue of The New Yorker and showed me a cartoon she said she had been wanting to share with me. Here it is:


Before I had noticed the caption, I saw that the fish was holding a briefcase, and I said, “It’s as if this fish wants to be a businessman, so he is climbing on land to become that.”

My friend said, “He wants to be an insurance man.”

We both found the cartoon amusing and captivating.

Then I said, “This is just what I was talking about before. The way he is holding the briefcase in his fin, tossing it on the land before him, shows that he already has the idea of being an insurance man, so he is climbing on land to fulfill his destiny. His idea of being a man, his desire to be a man, precedes his actual manifestation as a man. Evolution is not the result of random chance mutations, but of purposeful intelligence.”

So, by what the world would call sheer “chance,” the cartoon my friend had been wanting to show me was on exactly the same, highly unusual (especially in the left-liberal New Yorker) theme which I had been discussing in detail over the last two days, and which, at breakfast—before she had taken out her magazine—I shared with her.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

In connection with this entry, be sure to see the 2009 discussion between Kristor and me about an amazing photograph of a fish crossing a highway (apparently to get to the other side), and what it all means:


Kristor writes:

Cool. Guess how I started in finance? As an insurance man. I got into that because I wanted eventually to climb out of that world and into investment advice.

February 25

Ken Hechtman writes:

Interesting. I first came across this idea reading Timothy Leary 30 years ago. At the time, I never thought to ask where Timothy Leary got it.

But Leary’s “8 Circuit Model of Consciousness” is just the Sufi “Seven Souls” with the serial numbers filed off.

I still like the way Leary side-steps the God question. It’s less important whether or not there was a guiding intelligence that controlled our evolution up to this point. There’s definitely one capable of controlling it from here on—our own.

After all, Timothy Leary wasn’t writing for an audience of fish. His target audience was people who, as you put it, “had enough experience of one form and its limitations” and were searching for the metaphorical beach that they could crawl up onto.

Let me ask you this: If it’s OK for a fish to want to be an insurance salesman and then change his external form to fulfill that destiny then why isn’t it OK for a man to fulfill his destiny by becoming a woman (or vice versa). You seem to like the concept in theory but you have strong reactions to the examples you see in practice.

LA replies:

What you glom onto is the sickest and most perverted interpretation of this evolution idea, and you accuse me of hypocrisy because I’m not into your sick interpretation.

Evidently it hasn’t occurred to you that if a soul lives through innumerable incarnations, with many incarnations in each species, it is going to be male or female in different incarnations in the same species. In the human form, it will be, naturally, a male in some lifetimes, and a female in others. But that’s not good enough for you. You want people to be free to switch, unnaturally, from male to female or from female to male in the same incarnation.

So, you read about a scheme of cosmic evolution, and what you see in it is a chance to demand sex change operations.

As I wrote this week in connection with the story that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, while head of the IMF, was attending orgies all over Europe, what drives the left is unlimited greed and unlimited lust—not just lust for sex, but lust for the idea of unlimited sexual freedom including every perversion. Thanks for proving my point.

Ken Hechtman replies:

I didn’t say the word “hypocrisy.”

I don’t have any good reason for thinking the two situations are different, not one that really makes sense to me. You have one that makes sense to you but I didn’t think of it on my own.

You have a point about successive incarnations. I’ll sometimes use the term “soul” as a metaphor but I don’t believe in the literal existence of immortal souls. So you’re right, it wouldn’t occur to me to tell a pre-op trans-sexual “Don’t worry, you’ll probably be female in a future life.” It isn’t good enough for me because I don’t believe it’s true. You do believe in immortal souls as literal entities. I genuinely did forget that.

There’s another reason why I picked on sex-change operations. They’re real. They’re not pie-in-the-sky science fiction anymore. Of course I would like other kinds of transformations to be available, neuro-chemical, neuro-genetic and so on. Of course I want all the possibilities of cosmic evolution and I want them shrink-wrapped, home-delivered and for sale on the internet. But that’s a while off. A sex change is the most obvious and dramatic transformation that’s available right now.

LA replies:

This is ridiculous. My entry was about physical—and spiritual—evolution and reincarnation. You say you don’t believe in any of that stuff. Fine. No one said you had to believe it. Yet you piggy-backed on the ideas you disbelieve in that I was talking about, in order to push an idea totally unrelated to the ideas you don’t believe in that I was talking about. You turned the idea of the evolution of higher and higher life forms with more and more consciousness, into the idea of sexual freaks having a right to sex change operations. And then you said to me, because I was presenting sympathetically the idea of the soul slowly evolving into higher life forms, that it is contradictory of me (actually you did suggest I was hypocritical) not to have sympathy with people who want sex change operations. As though there was any connection between these two ideas.

But that’s how dark and twisted your view of life is: you hear me speak of the idea of the evolution of the soul to higher states of being, closer and closer to God, and you immediately translate that in your mind into a demand for sex change operations and my supposed obligation to support sex change operations.

I’ve often said at VFR that if a pickpocket met Jesus, all he would see would be his pockets. Well, if a leftist met Jesus, all he would see would be another opportunity to advance leftism. He would twist everything Jesus said about the kingdom of God into a call for the Communist destruction of society.

LA adds:

Readers may be surprised at the tough language I used with Mr. Hechtman, with whom I have always had polite interchanges. The truth is, I was disgusted and repelled by the way he turned that delightful cartoon into a platform for sexual mutilation, and I frankly expressed my reaction.

Alissa writes:

Ken Hechtman wrote:

“There’s another reason why I picked on sex-change operations. They’re real.”

They’re fictional. A man who gets his sexual organs mutilated and gets injected with females hormones will always be a man. Perhaps not a whole man, but a man. A mutilated man. They will never, ever alter his genetics. He will always have XY chromosomes. They will also never alter his mind nor his soul. He will continually think like a man despite his delusions. It’s a question of innate physical, emotional and mental differences between men and women. Transgenderism is not humane, if anything it’s inhuman.

Here’s something I wrote at The Thinking Housewife:

I remember a heartening story in a newspaper by a former “transgender woman” who went from being a man to mutilating his genitals and living as a woman for a couple of years to surgery to undo this change (became a man again). At the end he seemed to arrive at some vague conclusion that he should accept the man that he is (and found a woman that accepted him as he was (maybe they were going to start a family together?). While browsing the comments, some were supportive of this change (and in a way redemption) but I will never forget the abhorrent, disturbing “transgender woman” who expressed anger and rage at this man. Misery sure loves company.

Laura Wood writes:

I don’t think Ken Hechtman was substantially departing from Meher Baba’s idea of cosmic evolution as you described it.

If the soul felt at home in the a-moral consciousness of a stone or a fish, then it could feel at home as an a-moral human being, devoid of the concept of duty and incapable of true love. The primary reason why it is wrong for a man to “become” a woman is that in doing so he shirks his duties as a man, which cannot be fulfilled while he fosters the pretense of being female. Absent those duties, there is much less wrong with it. Absent those duties and created by a force that did not bestow moral awareness upon him from the beginning, he is a complicated stone or a thinking fish, but not a man.

This reminds me of an exchange in C.S. Lewis’ fantasy novel Perelandra between the mad scientist Weston and the book’s protagonist Ransom. As they stand on Venus, or Perelandra, Weston says:

“The majestic spectacle of this blind, inarticulate purposiveness thrusting its way upward and ever upward in an endless unity of differentiated achievements towards an ever-increasing complexity of organisation, towards spontaneity and spirituality, swept away all my old conception of a duty to Man as such. Man in himself is nothing. The forward movement of Life—the growing spirituality is everything. I say to you quite freely, Ransom, that I should have been wrong in liquidating the Malacandrians. It was a mere prejudice that made me prefer our race to theirs. To spread spirituality, not to spread the human race, is henceforth my mission.”

Ken Hechtman replies to LA:

I was going to go one more round but I’ll let you take the last word, except for this.

I could have made my original question less accusatory. Something like, “The two situations seem the same to me. What’s the difference I’m missing?”

LA replies:

Yes, if you had put it that way, my reaction might have been less strong.

Steve R. writes:

Oh, my God.

I just read your hilarious line:

“He [a leftist] would twist everything Jesus said about the kingdom of God into a call for the Communist destruction of society.”

It then occurred to me that I had just come upstairs to take refuge in VFR. It was refuge from hearing a relative argue that to follow Jesus, at the time, was a political act. That most everything Jesus said was to counter Israel’s theocracy. This person had just proved that essentially your statement about leftist thought and Jesus is true — a moment before I read it!

To think that your post was initially about synchronicity and that I have just had the most “synchronistic” experience of my life in conjunction with reading that post — just incredible.

LA writes:

Laura wrote:

If the soul felt at home in the a-moral consciousness of a stone or a fish, then it could feel at home as an a-moral human being, devoid of the concept of duty and incapable of true love.

I just added a sentence to the first paragraph of the entry which may make it clearer that the process being described is not morally relativistic. It has a telos, which is spiritual perfection or God-realization, and which can only be realized in the human form. But the idea is that for the soul to reach the human form, with its full capacities for consciousness and for knowing and loving God, it first has to go through eons of evolution in lower forms.

Also, I think that Meher Baba would say that the soul only truly feels “at home” when, as a spiritually advanced human being, it becomes God-realized. All the other biological forms and states of consciousness the soul takes on prior to that realization are partial and unsatisfactory. From the beginning of the universe, the soul longs to realize its oneness with God, and the infinite bliss and knowledge that come with that realization. This longing for God is what drives evolution, drives the soul to expand its consciousness in its step by step journey through innumerable partial and limited forms until it reaches the human state; and then, in the human state, after many human lifetimes in which it gradually purifies itself of the residue of all the “lower” experiences it has passed through in the course of its evolution, realizes the unlimited in God. Meher Baba says that it is the ultimate destiny of every soul to realize God.

So, again, the process of evolution according to this scheme is not morally relativistic; it is driven by the soul’s inchoate desire, from the beginning of the universe, for spiritual and moral perfection, though the soul only very gradually becomes conscious of this goal as a more advanced human being.

Leaving aside the spiritual part and just thinking about evolution, what I find useful about Meher Baba’s approach is that it offers a “third way” of understanding evolution. The Darwinian view is that evolution is a purposeless, mindless process driven by random genetic mutations plus natural selection. The biblical view, taken straight, is that God simply created all the species as part of his divine plan, and there was no evolution at all. The Meher Baba view combines the idea of God with the idea of gradual and purposeful evolution.

February 28

Laura Wood writes:

Genesis is not a scientific work. It does not address the creation of all species. It speaks generally of categories of beings. It also speaks of unfolding nature. “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” (1:20) And then later: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” (1:24) It’s not as if Meher Baba offers some resolution of difficulties posed by Genesis. His cosmic evolution is utterly opposed to Christianity. Baba’s pantheism is as faulty and erroneous as Darwinism, and far more pernicious as few people truly believe that earth was created in a mindless, random process whereas many people believe in pantheistic creation and the idea that we have many lives in which we might gradually improve ourselves and correct our mistakes. The God Baba admits into the evolutionary scheme is superseded by his creation: the god-like evolving soul assured of ultimate union with its Creator, who is immanent in nature. In essence Baba says the soul creates itself, progressing from mindless matter into intelligence through its own seeking, its own internal purposiveness. You wrote: “[T]he soul is seeking ever greater intelligence, ever greater consciousness.” In other words, it possesses intelligence and consciousness even in inanimate forms. This entails some form of divinity in matter, a notion that in one sense is not all that different from the Darwinian idea that consciousness evolves from matter. The difference in the Baba view is that matter has been endowed by God with awareness from the beginning. But if a stone had a soul in the beginning, it would have a soul now. And if there is this spiritual kinship between human beings and all of nature then we must naturally identify with some of the passivity and indifference of non-human creation. Genesis is then entirely wrong in its distinction between human beings and the rest of nature. As for reincarnation of human beings, “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). Would Christ have come to a people who believed in reincarnation? The Resurrection would have had an entirely different meaning.

LA replies:

My main problem with Baba’s scheme of creation, and the main reason why I don’t accept it, is that it’s not compatible with Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This is not reconcilable with the idea that God slowly comes to consciousness through the evolving consciousness of his creation, and that, in fact, God was not conscious of himself until the first man achieved God-realization.

However, Baba’s scheme is not pantheism. He does not say there is anything divine in matter. To the contrary, he says that the material universe, and all the living forms through which the soul passes, are God’s dream—a dream God experiences (in the form of evolving souls) in order to come to full consciousness. Also, the soul as he describes it not immanent in nature. To the contrary, the soul is beyond nature, beyond not only the physical body, but the astral and mental bodies. The soul, which he describes as an individualized drop in the infinite ocean which is God, takes on bodies and has experiences through them, but is beyond all bodies. The main point of Meher Baba’s teaching is that only God (and the soul which is a part of God) are real. The universe and all its phenomena and experiences are a dream or illusion through which the soul must past in order to come to the truth.

Here is a chapter from Meher Baba’s Discourses, “The Beginning and the End of Creation,” in which he summarizes the creation and the soul’s journey through creation. I’m linking this not to promote Meher Baba’s ideas, which are incompatible with Christianity on numerous points, but to show that they are the opposite of pantheism and relativism. At the same time, light is cast upon various points that are relevant to Christianity, for example, in Baba’s comparison of the consciousness of the ordinary man with the consciousness of the Master, on the last page of the chapter, p. 53.

(Note: the web pages are copied from the pages of the printed book, so you have to keep clicking to the next page. The chapter is about 20 pages long.)

March 1

Clark Coleman writes:

You say that Baba’s ideas “are the opposite of pantheism.” Actually, they are just a variation on pantheism, and a pretty common variation within Hindu thought. The Hindus use the word maya, meaning illusion, to indicate that the material world is an illusion; saying it is a dream of God’s is just one variant on this concept. Not all Hindu sects believe this, but it is quite common. The idea that the human soul is not created by God and separate from God, but rather is a piece of God, is pure Hinduism and pantheism. The idea that the goal of human evolution is to achieve oneness with the soul (in Hinduism, often called the Oversoul) from which it came is pure Hinduism. The reincarnation ideas of Baba are straight from Hinduism.

A dictionary definition of pantheism will generally state that it means that all is God, and God is all. There are variants of pantheism, and they each fit this definition if we are not too rigid in interpreting the definition. If everything is a dream of God’s, then we have one variant of pantheism. If everything material is an illusion produced by our own minds, but our minds/souls are a piece of the Oversoul seeking reunion with the Oversoul, then everything material is indirectly an illusion produced by the Oversoul through us. If everything material is real but is inhabited by souls that are part of the Oversoul, and the material shells of a soul will disappear when that soul reunites with the Oversoul, then we have an animist variant of pantheism. And so on.

The concept of maya is tied to the Hindu view of human suffering, which is that we bring it upon ourselves through our minds not being in harmony with the Oversoul, or by incorrect thinking of various sorts, or by living out of harmony in a previous life and needing suffering in this incarnation to purge the effects (karma). Hence, the Hindus could never understand why Mother Teresa would spend her whole life helping lepers, who were obviously working out their bad karma from a previous incarnation. If you alleviate their suffering in this incarnation, it is merely postponed to their next incarnation, so nothing is gained. This ties in with the fatalism common to Eastern religions in general. As an aside, Mary Baker Eddy was influenced by a teacher who was directly influenced by Hinduism, causing her to develop the idea that our suffering was created by our incorrect thoughts. Christian Scientists still insist that the material world is an illusion produced by our own erroneous thinking, the Hindu concept of maya.

None of this has the slightest compatibility with Christianity. The supposed middle ground you seek between purposeless Darwinian evolution and fundamentalist denial of all evolution is better found by recognizing that limited degrees of evolution (the only ones we can actually confirm scientifically) are a necessary part of the Creation, as species need to adapt to changing environments in order to survive. Thus, there is a certain amount of evolution built into Creation, but it is far from purposeless.

LA replies:

You are right that Meher Baba’s teaching, as far as influences go, is largely Hindu, though it also has Sufi and Christian elements. You are also right that Baba’s teaching is incompatible with Christianity. But in my understanding your idea that Baba’s teaching is pantheistic is incorrect. Now I agree with your definition of pantheism: The cosmos, and everything in it, is God. All that exists—rocks, trees, candy wrappers—is divine. But Baba’s teaching is the very opposite of that. He says that the cosmos, and everything in it, is an illusion, a dream, lacking any reality whatsoever, and that only God is real, and that the purpose of creation is for the soul or atman to wake up from the dream of existence and realize its oneness with the Oversoul or Paramatman, which is the only reality.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 24, 2012 01:10 PM | Send

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