The Problem of Evolution

Henryk Skolimowski

In recent posts I have been discussing the issue of lack of meaning in the modern world and that Evolutionary Astrology in its radicalism (claiming insight into the nature of the Soul’s desires and the present and past life selves it manifests to explore those desires) can only be understood by a return to meaning implied by the understanding of symbolic correspondence epitomized by the hermetic maxim, “As above, so below”.

Now I wish focus a little on the meaning of the term ‘evolutionary’ and by exploring that as a theme in and of itself, how that might illuminate the context overall of a truly Evolutionary Astrology.

I was recently introduced to Henryk Skolimowski, a Polish professor of Ecological Philosophy, in whose writing I’ve discovered a free-thinking, mystical utterly reverent radical viewpoint about the spiritual dimension of our current struggles as a civilization.

He offers a supremely optimistic counter to the lack of vision implied in the idea of world-as-machine that is so implicit in our technological fantasies and waste. As part of this vision Skolimowski honours the importance of evolution, the problems it poses to our understanding in the face of its scale and the joy of the life force that, in its dynamism and variety, shine forth:

“Yet we have a problem with evolution. It is so large. It cannot be contained in any definition. It is expressed in everything, but it cannot be expressed in words. In wanting to catch evolution in a net of words we are chasing the continually evasive phantom of becoming. How can we comprehend the totality of evolution, while we cannot express its meaning in crisp definitions? By pointing at this Enormous Phenomenon of Life in its various processes becoming. The glory of evolution is the slimy little amoeba beginning to react to the environment semi-intelligently. The glory of evolution is the first eagle stretching its wings. The glory of evolution is the first monkey using a stick as a tool. The glory of evolution is the Vedic hymns conceived in silence and expressed then in ecstatic rapture. The glory of evolution is the monumental Principia Mathematica Philosophia Naturalis of Newton, attempting to express all visible nature in quantative laws. The glory of evolution is our reflective mind reflecting on the glory of evolution.”

“A terminological note: when I speak of evolution, I do not merely mean the Darwinian kind of evolution; even less so do I mean social Darwinism (which is a form of ideology, supporting injustice and iniquity). In short I do not mean any deterministic process… I use the term ‘evolution’ in the sense in which Bergson and Teilhard applied it, a purely creative process which alone can account for emergent qualities and new forms of life. All significant changes in the history of the universe are the result of evolution so conceived; ‘significant’ invariably means within the compass of our understanding. Thus evolution is inextricably tied to our understanding of the development of the universe, and our understanding of our place in it…Everything evolves. So does our thinking about evolution.”
-Henryk Skolimowski, A Sacred Place to Dwell.

The social Darwinism that Skolimowski is at pains to avoid is based on the somewhat obnoxious inference that if life biologically evolves via the survival of the fittest, then so does (and should) man’s social structures. One does not have to travel too far down that particular road to go from eugenics and bioengineering toward issues of ‘purity’ and the fittest condemning the unfit to lives of misery, or in extremis, to no life at all.

Henri Bergson is a French philosopher who urged us to leap into the stream of life and Teilhard de Chardin is a priest and anthropologist who saw the vision of a collective mind in evolution, which he saw as a manifestation of a spiritual vision. In contrast to Darwinism the view of evolution conveyed by Skolimowski is beyond one simple defining idea or concept – in its manifest diversity evolution defies any rational conceptualization or simplistic ordering. In this view of evolution we come towards the idea of natural law as it is proposed by Jeffery Green’s teaching, through his exploration of the archetype of Sagittarius as contrasted with its polarity Gemini in which the need for classification and the mental labelling of reality predominates.

In the underlying philosophy of Evolutionary Astrology (as conceived of by Jeffrey Green with reference to Dane Rudhyar and the Vedic visionary Sri Yukteswar), Sagittarius refers, in part, to the essence of natural laws that are intuited by all forms of sentient life in some fashion via the intuition and a sense of participation in the natural world. From this sense of participation with natural law comes an existential freedom and moral responsibility that arise spontaneously from within. This can be known directly but is hard to classify.

For example one could pass a dog on the street and not pay it any attention, yet the same dog might approach, and in looking into the dogs’ eyes one may encounter the being of the dog directly. And in this knowing one might feel the mutual nature of the contact, that both beings are somehow known to each other through that look. Such ‘knowing’ has been bravely explored academically by biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who, at a lecture he gave at the Temenos academy in London, gave myriad examples of this ‘knowing’ link between animals and man. One simple example is a story of a dog who would bark and run to the door and wait excitedly for the return of his owner, as the owner left his office 30 miles away and therefore a full half an hour from home. This was not a simple pavlovian response as Sheldrake was keen to illustrate. On request the man left his office a number of days early, at random times but as soon as he formed the intention to get in his car and drive home the dog moved simultaneously into position.

Now the whole principles of natural law are not based on this one principle but they do evoke the capacity for direct knowing. In the moral dimension for example, we know it is wrong to murder, and for whatever reason those who do cross a line. We know it is wrong to harm children. This form of knowing is different from cultural or religious instructions that try to instruct us in the rules of any given society. This knowing operates on a different level.

It is not that this is a static process either. Evolution itself is evolving and a truly Evolutionary Astrology must evolve also. But in crossing the cultural barrier of rationality, in acknowledging the capacity to know another being by becoming one with it, this form of Astrology opens itself to great risks just as much as great possibilities.

One such risk is that of negative response from others. For in crossing the rational divide and breaking the fantasy of our culture – that the mind can figure it all out – we incur the wrath of those who have not crossed the same barrier. It evokes uncomfortable emotional response (often disguised as rational critique) and therefore attack.

Yet this approach also runs the internal risk of buying one’s own fantasy: the direct knowing occurs or it does not, just as when we love someone or we do not, there is a line people blur where they pretend they do when they don’t… False pride and ego defences, the unacknowledged needs of the child – they can all distort the process and the intuitive person who is afraid of rationality is at times defending their own distortions and calling them truth (directly known therefore unassailable). It is a fear of this, alongside the repression of the wall of rationality, that sees some of the people who are uncomfortable anyway become justifiably anxious. We can see how complex this can become. Yet as Skolimowski names it so directly, evolution impels us:

“Why do we strive spiritually at all? Why do we attempt to realize our inner divinity – when by not doing it, life would be much easier and more comfortable? The answer to both questions is evolution. It is in the nature of evolving life that it wants to make more of itself. It is therefore in the nature of human life that it wants to make more of itself. If life did not have this capacity to transcend it might have got stuck on the level of the amoeba. If the universe did not have this striving to make more of itself, life might never have emerged… Transcendence is therefore the formative power of the universe. Transcendence is the longing of the universe to make something of itself, and the will of the universe to do so.”

We are impelled to look beyond the mind when we come across the limits of its perception. The mind is a beautiful thing, an example of tremendous evolutionary forces; it is a great asset, a tool of the highest calibre. It is not however the answer. A tool needs to be used responsibly by some-one, some-thing. The deeper self is the part of us that can experience itself emerging from the field of reality and just know; as Jung answered when asked if he believed in God (he had as a boy) and he replies, “difficult to answer… I know – I do not need to believe.”

This is gnosis, this is the path of the hermetic philosophers – “to dare, to know, to be silent” (Valentine Tomberg in Meditations on the Tarot). This is the path of genius (daimon) and seemingly at times the path of self-delusion and madness. Yet we cannot deny the innate capacity to evolve. As Colin Wilson has argued so eloquently over the years, even a ‘great artist’ who lacks a sense of vision of meaning soon becomes reduced and their work ceases to engage.

In my own early studies and throughout conferences and exposure to a multiplicity of astrological forms I have seen at times this reductionism (stemming from rational conservatism or the anxiety of the profession itself in this hostile culture) drain the life from one of the more animated of symbolic systems. I will talk more of my personal journey with the limit of the rational or even purely psychological and the intuitive leap I had to take to free myself in subsequent posts and writing.