Theosophy and evolution: two views--Brenda Tucker, Henry T. Edge
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Finding Brenda’s Tucker’s account of evolution from a theosophical angle hard to understand (see second item below), I looked online for an introduction by someone else. I found Dr. Edge’s book online, and include some extracts from the introduction to chapter 1. Dr. Edge appears to me to have retained a 19th century meaning of evolution as something developing, rather than of a process through which species of living creatures change over time. Also distinctive is that he states evolution is not creative; he traces a cathedral to the idea in the mind of an architect, but does not appear to allow that that can be a new creation.
Theosophical University Press Online Edition
By Henry T. Edge, M.A., D. Litt.
The word evolution is used in theosophy to denote the universal process by which everything is brought into being….Evolution is the universal process by which things change and grow and develop. Its nature can be understood by a few familiar illustrations.
A seed is planted… goes through various stages of development until it has become a fully grown tree with flowers and fruit. This is evolution; the tree has evolved from the seed.
A fertilized ovum in the womb passes through many stages until a fully formed human infant is produced, and this again develops until a fully grown human being appears. This again is evolution, and the human being has evolved from the germ.
An architect conceives in his mind an idea; this idea takes form on paper, and plans are drawn; ultimately the plans are executed in marble and granite, until through many stages and by the work of many hands there has arisen a superb and mighty cathedral. This again is evolution…. But [evolution] does not mean the creation of anything that did not exist before. The cathedral existed before; not as a stone edifice, but as an idea in the mind of the architect.
No sense can be made out of the matter until we recognize all these activities as guided by intelligence. Mind, purpose, intelligence, instinct, desire, guide all the processes in nature; and if we do not admit this, we shall be obliged to invent something else which in some mysterious way performs all the results of intelligence. Moreover, the mind, purpose, etc., are the attributes of living beings, and cannot be thought of apart from the living beings which possess them. Hence it becomes necessary to view all nature as an assemblage of living beings; and, once this is done, difficulties vanish and we can present a rational explanation of the universe and of life and evolution.
End of extracts from Dr. Edge's book.
Brenda Tucker wrote to Evolution for the Humanities asking to be represented, identifying her ideas as based on theosophy, directing me to her website, http://www.homestead.com/theosophy/ascension.html. I am not familiar with the tradition she’s working in, so I asked her to send me a summary. I include paragraphs from her reply below.
A human being or kingdom that descends into material form by reaching inside of a material animal kingdom and becoming material themselves in the process was not an idea I was familiar with through my education or reading of theosophy. I knew about the early “races” that were half animal and half human, but did not recognize the process as a cyclical whole until 1995. As we descend through animal contact and become material, we cause the animal kingdom to ascend and we replace the animal kingdom with their angels on earth with our human kingdom and angels. The angels are our environment and exist in all lower forms than the evolving kingdom – a neat conclusion based on study. A turning point in this cycle is reached in the 4th human race (as it takes 3 to descend into animals and replace them, developing our own physical bodies in the meantime). Now, with an evolving animal no longer resident on earth, humans reach a point during the 5th race when initial contact with a higher kingdom begins. This higher kingdom I named girasas. They descend into humans and influence our directions in living until during the next 6th race, we will all be half human half girasas as part of a natural plan of evolution. We will be ascended by contacts with the girasas until we can no longer or are no longer willing to function in a physical body and as a kingdom desire to move away from earth, relocating to a subsequent globe in a series of globes or chain as Blavatsky describes. That subsequent globe will already be inhabited by an evolving animal kingdom and the process will repeat itself again, with humans taking the globe from an evolving animal kingdom and forcing them to ascend out of form on a continuous cycle.
The importance of this idea, I think, is in its application. We purify because we want to know this higher kingdom and we enjoy our association with their advanced ways. We invite them to take hold in us, but at some point the effort to live with them as teachers becomes too great and we long to practice our new talents without interference. The idea is that both higher and lower kingdoms are desirable to us in different life stages, but that by having a higher kingdom resident in each of us, we achieve much greater things that we can without them, and that law breakers could possibly benefit by encouraging a relationship with the girasas that prevents them from following baser motives. The idea is not without difficulty, as pairings of one girasas to one human may become unhealthy or strained, and a scientific monitoring of the process is one that I would desire so that no person is asked to do more than they are capable of or left alone without assistance from other humans following the same cautious undertakings. For our benefit, there is already a body of humans that can be called Ascended, and they are leaders and teachers who do not leave us stranded. Ascending ourselves could only add further to the success of our planet as we use our faculties for keeping the earth safe and healthy.
"The Idolatry Of Evolution" by Gary Wolf, in "American Thinker."
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Gary Wolf: Julian Huxley And The Idolatry Of Evolution. American Thinker, September 16, 2007.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has come under increasing attack in recent decades within the scientific community, primarily as the result of a dramatic expansion of knowledge in the field of biology. I do not wish to enter that debate. What I would like to discuss, however, is the idolatry of evolution, or the transformation of a scientific theory into a quasi-religious cult. This phenomenon has contributed to the erosion of intellectual life in the West during the 20th century.
In the thinking of many Darwinists, evolution has a quasi-mystical quality. We have all seen the evolutionary charts showing the development of creepy-crawly things into mammals; knuckle-dragging apes into modern humans. Man stands at the apex of the evolutionary pyramid. Must it not have some transcendental aspect? This groping for spirituality and meaning is manifest in the following passage, written in 1993, from a prominent Darwinist writer, Roger Lewin:
The Copernican and Darwinian revolutions dislodged humans from a position of centrality in the universe of things. Nevertheless, even if humans are accepted as the product of an evolutionary process in common with other species, it is still possible to view Homo sapiens as a special product of that process and indeed as its ultimate goal.
Its ultimate goal? The goal of whom, of what?
In his article Gary Wolf goes on to trace the source of this idolatry, quoting for example Julian Huxley,"The central long-term concern of religion must be to promote further evolutionary improvement." He goes on to paraphrase Huxley, originator of the phrase The Modern Synthesis, "This purpose is inherent in the universe, through the vehicle of evolution: 'As a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself, able to understand something of its past history and its possible future.' Man, in turn, will carry forward the idea: 'Man is the product of nearly three billion years of evolution, in whose person the evolutionary process has at last become conscious of itself and its possibilities.' With evolution as a conscious being ruling the universe, the stage is set for the process of planning that we must undertake to consummate the current phase, which Huxley calls psychosocial (as opposed to the earlier biological) evolution."
Viewing Homo sapiens as the ultimate goal of evolution I take to be the default motivation behind accounts of evolution that represent it as set from its origin to culminate in Homo Sapiens, in fact men and women as we are today. Sometimes that motivation is apparent, as in the instance of Teilhard de Chardin and his Omega Point towards which our species is supposedly drawn. Other times the relation is reversed, for example the claim that evolution has a predetermined course implying, since we are its most recent innovation, that we all along were the object of its progress.
Introduction: distinction between Alfred Wallace's spirituality and others'
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I distinguish between what spirituality meant to Alfred Wallace and what it means in most other instances.
Alfred Wallace's long embrace of spiritualism had a serious scientific intent. While he was convinced natural selection accounted in all respects for the evolution of all other species, he found it to fall short in the case of one--his own. Talents distinctive of civilization, particularly mathematics, art and singing, had arisen too rapidly to have been created by natural selection, yet in societies that had not become civilized these talents were not employed sufficiently for natural selection to have maintained them, even if they had been originally built into the species. Those talents he therefore believed had an independent origin. Spiritualism, a new fad in his day, might provide access to this other source. I see him paying attention to spiritualism as not much different from how we pay attention to study of the human genome today. I excuse him.
In most other instances, though, l think spirituality is a response to the decline of Christendom. Christianity, whatever its shortcomings, gave individual human life enormous meaning. One might for adequate reason abandon its doctrines but one could not so easily abandon the lofty expectations of meaning it left in its wake. The natural response is to attempt to come up with new meaning, harnessing to that attempt whatever source of authority remained, which for most of us science. As a result we have systems of auspices expressed in terms of vibrations and laws of attractions. And comforting new theories of evolution.
Theories of evolution that l categorize as human-tropic I see as designed more to elevate human status in the universe, to make us feel important as a species, rather than to account for the process of evolution itself. Theories involving spirituality are designed to give us new meaning in life, individually. An example is Teilhard de Chardin's Phenomenon of Man.
This category is intended for that and similar expressions primarily of a need for greater meaning in individuals lives, at the expense of observed fact and reason. This is not to say that theories of evolution that do observe fact and reason won't have implications for being alive, only that won't be the primary rationale for the theory.
The Omega Point -- Teilhard de Chardin
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