I’m building up to a larger idea, but I want to start with some small steps, taking my discussions about consciousness and evolution just one increment further. This started with my comparison of consciousness and evolution in order to preserve the concept of consciousness as a process and retain the practical reality of individual consciousnesses (which I will try to call ‘intelligences’ to help differentiate the two levels).
This will be a little abstract to start, but I hope to start digging down into the dirt of it as time goes on.
This also goes back to my discussion of an evolution aesthetic. Consciousness and evolution could refer to a common process while emphasizing different aspects of it. What happens when we take the events that define evolution as moments in consciousness and, vice versa, consider the responses that define consciousness as elements of evolution?
This is old hat, right? As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, there were numerous manifestations of this idea. Whether we are talking about sophisticated, mathematically-inflected philosophical thinking like Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, more romantic, theosophy-inflected forms of spiritualist uplift, or the numerous vitalist philosophies (e.g., Henri Bergson, brother-in-law to Samuel Mathers) that fall somewhere between these two, this intuition forms an essential part of our modern heritage, magical and otherwise.
An appreciation of this has been hindered by an unrealistically mechanical model of material existence. We are somehow still wrestling with a notion of matter modeled on Enlightenment-era clockwork determinism when our science suggests that such strict causal determinism holds only in narrowly defined circumstances.
To say that consciousness is embodied and dependent on embodiment does not make us robots or turn our self-awareness into an empty epiphenomenon. It is to assert that the complexity, entanglement, and responsiveness of consciousness and physical things are rooted in a common ‘structural’ dimension of existence. It is to assert that
- there are conscious dimensions to physical processes and physical dimensions to conscious processes
- that physical phenomena are intelligent and intelligences are physical
This doesn’t require the conflation of consciousness and matter. Evolution and consciousness are not synonyms. They are conceptual fields that open onto the same underlying phenomenon, in this case the peculiarly creative dynamism of temporal existence.
While this expands the scope of what ough to tbe considered temporal, it leaves open the possibility for other forms of existence, ones that may reside in something like the ‘eternal.’ This provides an alternative to the holographic or monadological model of spiritual entanglement that posit that each spiritual being contains, at least latently, a model of the entirety of creation within itself.
If the nature of consciousness is responsive and communicative, entanglement could be understood as the present expression of millions of years of being in constant communication with each other. Just as we differentiate ourselves from our family members, so too would these intelligences differentiate and develop in slow dialogue with each other.
Or, perhaps more concisely: the way in which spiritual intelligences refer to each other may be fundamentally mimetic and their ‘temperament’ may depend in large part upon their shared history of interacting with each other, negotiating an ‘identity’ for themselves that change (sometimes very slowly) over time.
You can telescope that network of associations outward into the celestial sphere, but you can microscope in on the ‘forms of understanding’ that, say, the Earth develops of Saturn. You can examine how those forms develop within the Earth, how they ripple outward to produce currents and countercurrents that give birth to new intelligences, or provide anchorage and elaboration for existing ones.
An ecology of intelligences, if you don’t mind the hat tip to Gregory Bateson.