The Destiny of Species by Means of Natural Progression
(with apologies to Charles Darwin)
An insightful teacher once told me that we spend the first half of our lives leaving home and the second half trying to find our way back. When seen in that light, there are some interesting parallels between our development as physical individuals, as spiritual beings and as a species.  These are my personal reflections on that process of maturation.
As physical individuals we start out at ease in the world as infants, helplessly embedded in a personal world that is defined by the immersive attachment to our parents. Then starting around the age of six or so we begin the long process of moving outwards into the world. We strengthen our physical and mental skills, expand our knowledge and become more competent at changing the world around us. This mid-life period is often marked by growing materialism.
At some point, usually around the age of 50 and 60, we begin to turn inward again. We seek to regain the sense of intrinsic worth and connectedness we recall dimly from infancy – a feeling of belonging that we put aside in the struggle to shape our lives in the outer world. As we reflect on our lives we may find that in the course of our struggle we have damaged our environment – especially our relationships with friends and family – damage that may need to be repaired as part of our journey.
As spiritual beings, we also start out feeling at one with everything – immersed in the oceanic experience (or non-experience) of the infant. We gradually discover that we are separate from our mothers, and out of that more or less traumatic realization grows the ego. As our interface to and protection from the outer world, the ego becomes determined to control all that chaotic stuff “out there”. The ego becomes so good at control that many (most?) people never transition to the third stage of spiritual adulthood.
The third stage is the return to the immersive oneness, but this time with full consciousness rather than the infant’s undeveloped awareness. As we travel this new path, we may find that in our previous unconscious state we have done spiritual damage to ourselves and the world around us. The damage may have been caused by our unawareness or even rejection of the sense of the sacred. In order to continue on the path we must try to repair that damage.
It’s pretty clear that the drivers of spiritual development are similar to the drivers of our physical development.
As a species we began our development as hunter-gatherers, foraging nomads of various sorts. During this time we were more or less immersed in nature – a part of it rather than apart from it. Our connecting practices as families and communities mirrored this fundamental connection to the natural world, enabling our survival even though we were still a relatively unskilled, un-knowledgeable species.
At some point in our distant past, we began to develop greater self-awareness, whether though simple learning or the gradual evolution of our neo-cortex. As we became self-aware, we gradually realized that we were separate from nature – in much the same way that we recognize our separateness from our mothers as infants. Out of this perception of separateness grew a new understanding of ourselves not just as participants in the world but as agents of influence and change.
As our knowledge and competence grew we shifted from simply moving through the world to actively shaping it to our desires. Through our invention of agriculture, then technology, then money, we developed tools to leverage our impact on the world, each other and ourselves. This period started about 10,000 years ago, and has lasted until today. It has been marked by a steady growth in materialism, a fear-driven need to control our environment, and a pervasive, growing sense of alienation, disconnection and unsatisfied desire.
That period is now being brought to a close by the converging pressures of our own growth. We are running into limits on the world’s resources, the destruction of much of the environment, and psychosocial stresses due to the complexity of the civilization we had to develop to support our continuing growth.
As this chapter in our species' history closes, there are many signs that another is now beginning. In many ways humanity resembles a voracious all-consuming caterpillar that has finally reached its maximum size and is preparing to pupate. Just like a caterpillar, pools of "imaginal cells" are appearing spontaneously in the body of humanity, carrying messages of imminent change. As the time of change draws closer, more and more imaginal cells appear, and the process seems to accelerate. In this metaphor, those imaginal cells are the awakening ones all over the world. They are us.
If the metaphor holds, human civilization may shortly enter its chrysalis phase. For us, like the caterpillar, this may be a time of autolysis – of self-digestion – in which the body of our civilization is reduced to its most basic elements, in preparation for its reconstitution as a butterfly. To many people, especially those who remain stuck in the materialist “early adulthood” phase of spiritual development, this time will feel like dissolution, collapse, anarchy, the living death. The imaginal cells, on the other hand, will know differently.  As well as mourning the loss of what has been, they will also celebrate the transformation.
In preparation for the transition, in order to make it possible, we must address the damage our species has done to its home. We must try, each in our own way, to mend the physical and spiritual wounds we have inflicted on our sacred world. To the extent that we can do this, the passage of our species into the next phase of its existence will be eased.
What colour of butterfly will emerge from this miracle of metamorphosis? The caterpillar cannot know. It has no need to know. The caterpillar just needs to move in alignment with the call of the universe and its own nature.
Destiny will take care of itself.


When I first stepped into this unfamiliar spiritual world I remember feeling intimidated, confused and resistant. I was leaving the "modern" materialist paradigm, and my doorway between worlds turned out to be a Stygian tunnel of despair. The entrance to that tunnel back in my old world was my recognition of a pervasive  species-wide violence that lives in us on both overt and subliminal levels. It was very hard for me to think of our violence against each other, our children, the life that shares this world, and against the world itself in any way except as a fundamental flaw in our nature. It appeared as though we were broken as a species and as a result would be forever barred from Eden even as we dig our tunnel to Hell by gouging into the body of our Mother the Earth.

Because I was a thoroughgoing materialist, my mind could not accept that there was a "subtle body" to Life itself, but luckily the call from my heart proved stronger than my beliefs. Like so many people these days (and  more every day) I'm now spending a lot of time figuring out What's Really Going On, and sharing what is finally starting to make sense to me. In the process I'm beginning to understand what my inner eyes are telling me about the miraculous landscape of this numinous New World.

The error that led me into despair was that I underestimated the power of our stories. It turns out that we are not a broken species, we're just telling deeply mistaken stories about who we are as beings. Luckily both for us and the unfolding consciousness of the universe, stories can change in an instant
as they have so many times already in our short history. When our story changes our worldview shifts, and our old ways are set aside in favor of new ways that are in more harmonious alignment with The Way Things Are. I'm now convinced that humanity is at a point in our development where our story is changing.

I have now set aside the idea that humanity is locked in a straitjacket of technology and genetics. I understand that view completely, but I think it is evidence of the same error I made in my previous lifeworld. These feelings mark the opening to that tunnel I spoke of. If we move into the tunnel despite the fear and despair, if we surrender to the quest for awareness and understanding, and we hold fast to the idea that consciousness is the true and universal miracle, we will catch a glimpse of unfolding wings.

Never, ever underestimate the power of a story.

Paul Chefurka
October 15, 2011

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