The Sound of Silence?
The Dolphin’s Way
Savoring the Moment
Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.
The Sound of Silence?
Which meditation is best?
Happiness belongs to those who are sufficient unto themselves. For all external sources of happiness are, by their own nature, highly uncertain, precarious, ephemeral, and subject to chance.
Waking Up in Time
The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire
Teilhard de Chardin
The acceleration of evolution towards a time of infinitely rapid change is not so exceptional as one might at first suppose. The evolution of matter in a star follows a similar pattern.
For 99.99 percent of its existence a star burns hydrogen, fusing the atoms into helium and radiating the energy released as light. Eventually the hydrogen runs out. For a star the size of our Sun this happens after about 10 billion years -- it is currently about half way through its life. Larger stars burn up more quickly, smaller ones can last as long as a 100 billion years.
When all the hydrogen has been consumed, a star can, if it is sufficiently massive, switch to burning the helium it has created, transforming it into carbon. This keeps the star going for another million years or so. When the helium is used up the star can survive for another thousand years by fusing the carbon into neon. And when the carbon runs out the star burns the neon to form silicon. But the neon is exhausted within a year. Then, in a process that lasts only a few days, the silicon fuses into iron.
That is as far as a star can go along this particular path. Fusing iron does not release energy; it requires additional energy. The stars fire begins to die, and with it the energy that until now has supported the weight of its outer layers. Very quickly it begins to collapse.
As its matter becomes increasingly compressed, its gravitational field increases. Within minutes it becomes so intense that even atoms cannot withstand the pressure. Electrons are stripped away and atomic nuclei pack in upon each other, reaching densities of more than a million tons per cubic inch. This disintegration releases enormous amounts of energy, blowing off the stars outer layers in what is known as a supernova. This is one of the Universe's more spectacular shows, more energy being released during these few seconds than over the rest of the stars entire life.
Left behind is a neutron star -- a solid mass of neutrons a mere fifteen or so miles across. For a sufficiently massive star (one about three times the mass of the Sun) the gravitational field has now become so strong that matter itself breaks down. The star is said to have reached a singularity: a point at which the laws of physics no longer work. Mathematical equations become filled with zeros and infinities and cease to make any sense. There is a hole in space.
So intense is the gravitational field nothing can escape it. Even light is pulled back down. If no light can escape, then nothing can be seen of the star. It becomes a black hole.
The parallels between the evolution of a star and the pattern we have traced in the evolution of humanity are intriguing. Not only do both show an accelerating pattern of development; the factors behind this acceleration are analogous.
Whereas a stars matter is pulled together by the force of gravity, a species such as ourselves is pulled forward by our search for a more satisfying inner state. Our minds gravitate towards inner peace. We may not at first see this to be our goal. Caught up in our material desires we may believe it is comfort, security, or some other worldly satisfaction that we want. But the closer we draw to our own center, the clearer it becomes that, beneath everything, we are seeking inner peace and love. And the more we recognize our true goal, the faster we are able to move towards it.
In this regard gravity and love are not that different. Gravity is the attraction of mass for itself. It is a force that pulls the physical Universe back towards its original unity. Similarly, love can be considered as the attraction of life for itself -- the desire for conscious union with another. Its ultimate expression is reunion with our own source, with the essence of our consciousness. It is this that is pulling us faster and faster along our evolutionary curve towards a singularity in time. Buckminster Fuller summed it up poetically in his revised Lords Prayer: Love, he wrote, is metaphysical gravity.
Another similarity between stellar evolution and our own conscious evolution concerns the event horizon that surrounds a black hole. The event horizon is the boundary around the star within which the gravitational force is so strong that not even light can escape. Since nothing can travel faster than light there is no way that any information can get out across this boundary. The result is that you can see nothing of events taking place on the other side of the event horizon.
A parallel horizon could well exist for humanity -- except that this time it would be a horizon in time rather than one in space. A thousand years ago change was much slower, and the future a hundred years on would not have been markedly different. By the time of the Industrial Revolution the pace of life had increased dramatically making it much more difficult to foretell the future a hundred years ahead. But it would still have been possible to predict a decade or two into the future with reasonable certainty.
Today it is not possible to see even that far ahead. Unforeseen developments mean that we can no longer predict the future of the world more than a few years ahead. So closely are our affairs now interwoven that unexpected events can have reverberations around the world, changing the future for all concerned. And when economies crash without warning, the best-laid plans of machines and men can vanish overnight.
There is in effect an information horizon ahead of us -- albeit a somewhat fuzzy one. Beyond this horizon the future will probably be nothing like we anticipate. And the faster change comes, the closer this horizon approaches.
As the predictable future shrinks from decades to years to months and less, there may well come a time when it is difficult to make any forecasts at all. History will have become chaotic -- not chaotic in the sense of disorganized, but in the mathematical sense of unpredictable. However much progress we may have made in our inner evolution, we will not be able to be sure what is coming next. Completely unexpected developments could always be just around the corner.
Having to face increasing uncertainty could play an important role in our inner liberation. As long as we are looking to the future for our fulfillment, uncertainty spells insecurity -- and insecurity is something most of us find hard to manage. If we insist on holding on to our fixed views, the changes we will encounter will probably drive us crazy. They will incline us more towards setback than breakthrough.
Only through letting go of our need for certainty, and our concern for how things might or might not be, will we find the inner stability to see us through such changeful times. In this regard ever-accelerating change may be just the trigger we need to shake us to our senses.
Again one might draw a parallel with the later stages of stellar evolution. In a collapsing star the ultra-intense gravitational field breaks down the very structure of matter, returning it to its fundamental constituents. With our own inner evolution it may take ultra-intense rates of change to bring about the breakdown of our materialist mindsets, and our attachment to the physical world. Increasing time compression could be another factor forcing us to return to the present moment.
So, where might evolution take us as we head towards this singularity in time?
The great mystical traditions are unanimous in maintaining that liberation of the mind from its attachments, enlightening as it may be, is only the first of many steps of inner awakening. Beyond it are more universal experiences of mind, deeper understandings and richer perspectives of reality leading on to higher states of consciousness.
Is there a highest state of consciousness? Mahayana Buddhism talks of sahaj samadhi -- the recognition that all phenomena are merely consciousness in its various manifestations. Zen Buddhists speak of total non-duality. Hindu texts refer to the highest state of consciousness as unity with Brahman -- a state in which one knows the source of all creation and all its levels of manifestation. And Christian mystics talk of oneness with God.
Whether or not these descriptions are referring to exactly the same state of consciousness is a question I shall leave to those more qualified than me. Nevertheless they would all seem to be pointing in the same direction -- towards a personal evolutionary zenith.
What would happen if this were to become a collective experience rather than a blessing bestowed upon one in a hundred million? Would our collective evolution then come to an end? Could it be that, in much the same way as the destiny of matter in a sufficiently massive star is to become a black hole in space, the destiny of a self-conscious species -- should it be sufficiently intelligent -- is a spiritual supernova. Is this what we are accelerating towards? A moment when the light of inner awakening radiates throughout the world? A white hole in time?
One person who believed this was indeed our destiny was the French priest and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Exploring the evolutionary trends towards greater complexity, connectivity, and consciousness, he argued that humanity was moving towards an Omega Point -- the full descent of spirit into matter, the fulfillment of our evolution. In the concluding words of his essay My Universe he writes:
Like a vast tide, Being will have engulfed the shifting sands of being. Within a now tranquil ocean, each drop of which, nevertheless, will be conscious of remaining itself, the astonishing adventure of the world will have ended. The dream of every mystic, the eternal pantheist ideal, will have found its full and legitimate satisfaction.
He described the Omega Point as a time when light would blaze across the planet -- not physical light but the light of consciousness. Like a mirror polished to give a perfect reflection of the Sun, all those apparently separate rays of consciousness would know themselves to be the same eternal light.
Where Teilhard de Chardins picture differs from that presented here is in the time-scales involved. He saw this peak of human evolution to be a long way off -- millions of years in the future. But, like many others before and after, he did not take the implications of an ever-accelerating pace of development into full account. However, shortly before he died, he commented on the impact that radio and television was having on the integration humanity Technologies like these, he said, were bringing the Omega Point much closer. Had he lived to see the impact of computers and the Internet, he would probably have seen the Omega Point coming even sooner. .
At the Omega Point, our evolutions ever-accelerating trend would at last come to an end. But this would not, it must be emphasized, signify an end to the world -- at least not in the sense that we normally mean it. It would certainly mean an end to our attachment to the world. An end to our dysfunctional attitudes and behavior. An end to the world as we know it now.
Time itself would not end. Our bodies would live on. And so would the species. We would be free, at last, to truly enjoy our world. And we might continue that way for a very long while.
Or, who knows, we might find ourselves in a totally different reality. We might, for example, find ourselves stepping beyond the realm of space and time. Many mystics have claimed to experience that consciousness itself is not bound by space and time. And modern physics, too, has shown that time and space are not as absolute as everyday experience would have us believe. One of the conclusions of Einsteins Special Theory of Relativity is that light is in some ways more fundamental than either space or time. Could it be that when the light of pure consciousness radiates through humanity these deeper truths will manifest in some way? Such a radically different mode of consciousness may be totally beyond our everyday experience, and seem pure science fiction, but that does not make it impossible.
Whatever may happen, there is another sense in which this full awakening might be an end -- an end in the sense of a purpose or goal. Could there be an evolutionary summit towards which evolution has been building since time began? Could there be a hidden purpose to Creation?
Surprisingly -- or perhaps not -- this is a question that physics has now begun to ponder.
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