Review of Andrew Cohen book on ‘spiritual enlightenment’
I just reviewed Andrew Cohen’s new book, at Amazon. I cut and paste the text to park it here, till the review appears (if it does). Will discuss tommorrow
This is how your review will appear:
3.0 out of 5 stars The muddle over evolution, September 28, 2011
John C. Landon “nemonemini” (New York City) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening (Hardcover)
The idea of evolution suffers from a certain incoherence due to the multiple almost predatory efforts to close in and control the idea for a certain agenda. The social Darwinist and economic ideologies claiming Darwinism are apparent from the study of cultural history. Beginning in the nineteenth century with Blavatsky, and a critique of Darwin, a new version of the attempt to control the evolutionary concept took off at the beginnings of the modern New Age movement. The figure Gurdjieff in a rival but parallel equivalent also adopted an unstated and crypto-social-darwinist version of the idea, not entirely distant (though not the same as) Nietzsche’s take on the idea. The occulted aspect of this genocidal and fascist legacy is hard to untangle. Cohen’s interpretation seems to resemble this second tradition in a deliberated innocence of the interpretation, but stating nothing about the complex and dangerous background to the muddle of evolutionary thought.
The usage of Cohen (which resembles various strains of ‘conscious evolution’ in several New Age figures, e.g. Barbara Hubbard) is as false as what it replaces, and leaves the reader somewhat nervous about what is omitted. We need more than New Age platitudes given the dark legacy of ‘evolutionary enlightenment’, e.g. the mass murder envisioned by the Nietschean on the way to the ‘overman’. Nietzsche, as we can see, was hopelessly confused by Darwin, even in his critique of that figure. The idea of evolution has thus become almost schizophrenically muddled from different sides. The idea of ‘spiritual evolution’ is not necessarily a false one, but the attempt to make it into some kind of adjunct to spiritual practice, indeed, as here, the path of enlightenment,confuses the whole idea. The fact of evolution is visible in deep time in the progression of fossil forms. The dynamic behind this remains elusive and still unknown to us. The issue is not ‘spiritual evolution’, but the evolution, as Alfred Wallace sensed it, of the human potential to self-realization, in the complex instrument of consciousness that emerged with homo sapiens. The potential to ‘enlightenment’ so-called clearly became a difficult but marginally realizable possibility for this new ‘chimpanzee’ (the third, pace, Jared Diamond) who arises in the wake of homo erectus. Understanding this moment of organismic transformation (which looks awfully like the ‘spiritual evolution’ Cohen is striving to understand) is simply beyond our science, and beyond our New Age gurus. The dynamics of that potential and the ‘how’ of its evolution remain unknown to us. But to posit some ‘evolutionary impulse’ behind this is simply metaphysical speculation on Cohen’s part. Another line of analysis lies with J. G. Bennett’s depiction in Vol 4 of The Dramatic Universe, where he distinguishes ‘animal consciousness’ and the ‘cosmic’ factor of universal conscious energy. That speculative matrix is entirely up in the air, but it suggests a cogent solution to the riddle: consciousness doesn’t evolve at all, rather, man evolved to the point where he could tune to a cosmic energy. This is admittedly as speculative as the rest of it (I am not as such in agreement with Bennett), but Bennett suggests a number of clues to what is really a HARD problem, in the phrasing of the scientific psychologists studying consciousness. More generally the ‘evolution’ of man is a ‘becoming into material realms’, while the potential to endlightenment is a countermovement against evolution into enlightenment, liberation. The spiritual psychology of Bennett, despite its sufi sources, shows a strong influence from that first of New Agers, Schopenhauer, who was also the last not confused by the idea of evolution, or the coming of Darwin. Despite his metaphysical bent, he correctly laid the (semantic) foundations of neo-buddhism (unwittingly in this strange naif)by suggesting that the path of release from the labyrinth of the ‘Will’ was in transcending by the individual of the ‘will’ in nature. That variant of the First Noble Truth seems more realistic than the bromide slogans of the current New Agers.
This ‘hard’ problem includes the mystery, not just of consciousness, but of the human will (or lack of it) and much else,e.g. language, and its unknown evolution. It seems that the ‘evolution’ of human spirituality was thus accomplished at the earliest stage of man’s emergence, and that human potential has remained constant ever since. The real evolution to a new species of man with a different consciousness is a project so vast and difficult as to transcend human abilities. But man does ALREADY have a remarkable potential to ‘enlightenment’ built into his already evolved psyche. What the future holds is unknown, but we should stand back and declare our agnostic wonder at the real enigma of man’s evolution.
We should note in passing (since this review is getting long, I will continue in the comments, perhaps)that the ‘spiritual evolution’ of man is visible in world history, as in the dramatic evidence of the Axial Age. Clearly a macroevolution process stands behind the emergence of two world religions, and this tells us that it transcends enlightenment. There is something higher and deeper than enlightenment, which is a cosmic groundstate for man. The real evolution here is therefore something that remains science fiction to us, and is totally beyond our current powers as it involves global action over tens of millennia. Let us therefore be wary of ‘gurus’ who want to tell us what ‘evolution’ is. The cosmic nature of evolution is still beyond the ken of the ‘chimpanzees’, first to third, and last. A recent guru (Da Free John) got a lot of this wrong also, but he spoke well when he referred to our spiritual ignorance: we don’t know what anything is, and that includes ‘evolution’. There is a certain justice to that, since the idea of ‘evolution’ has been turned into a dangerous instrument of eugenic genocide in the hands of Darwinian lunatics, with New Age madmen no doubt no far behind in the totally misguided hope they will transform humanity unaided into the ‘overman’. Time for some ‘evolutionary disarmament’ and some fox hole self-defense against freaky monsters trying to evolve us, in Darwinian or other fashion.
You guys are nuts, apes! Sorry, what I meant was, you guys are apes, nuts!