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History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Involution, evolution, history, and self-evolution

September 27th, 2007 · 2 Comments

An interesting discussion (crossposted Teilhard/chaosmos@yahoogroups.com): in the list vicinity of this link,Re: [teilhard] Re: Value of neo-Darwinism?

I am asked about ‘involution vs evolution’, a ticklish question that I have long avoided, but which was inevitable.


Thanks for the good questions. First, I am a little stuck, since I have been drawn into the use of the term ‘involution’, although, in terms of the eonic effect, it never enters. I would be reluctant to pin the term to anything I say about the eonic effect, but merely note that some, not I necessarily, would look at the Axial Age and think that some kind of ‘involution’ was at work.There are problems with such a statement. In any case, I merely indulge in long-range periodization and call the result ‘evolution’, qualified as ‘eonic evolution’, meaning, the kind we see in the cyclical drumbeat series of alternating eras that make up the eonic effect.This approach succeeds because it declares failure first, and makes no statements about what caused, say, the Axial Age, only noting that a relative transformation of great moment altered the self-consciousness of various individuals who were then of the presence of mind to do ‘Axial Stuff’. Was that involution rather than evolution? We have a problem. Actually, if you look closely, all the actions of the Axial Age were carried out by humans, fallible and yet resonant with something deeper. That process must have a macro component
by indirect inference via periodization of world history. I call that
evolution, because it resembles the scientific approach to evolution in the sense of bootstrapping upwards from something priorly less complex. It is not Darwinian but it is evolution. You could argue that some involution meets the evolution at a point of contact. That would be clever (if one could work it out), but I feel very reluctant to go that route since the confusions of terminology purloined from theosophists for other purposes would be great. The question of macro and Evolution toward Convergence (the latter term is unfamiliar to me) is, if I understand it, a good one, but please note that the eonic effect is an empirical pattern of world history, it doesn’t extend very well to a universal definition of evolution. All it does is explicate a macro factor in history and then erect a Do Not Enter sign to Darwinian idiocy
trying to confuse history with natural selection and the resulting scramble of theory induced conflict.

The macro aspect is defined in relation to the major components of world
history correlated with the eonic effect that show development in history:
religion, science, philosophy, political systems/thought, natural law, art, the
tragic genre, music, etc… The overall context of these, if you care to study
the eonic model at some length, is defined as a macroevolution or eonic
evolution, and this transmits into the executive microaction of those who respond
to this influence and carry out the calculations. Overall this can be defined
as an ‘evolution of freedom’ in the sense that man increases his degree of
freedom as he passes through such evolution. In the ‘evolution of freedom’ a point comes when the ‘evolver’ has to stop and the ‘evolvee’ has to proceed on his own. This I call the Great Transition from Evolution to History. It has a resemblance to Hegelian philosophy of history, if only in its broad blocks of significance. Hegel concocts his ‘end of history’ for a similar reason, please note. I can’t vouch for Hegel (whose ‘end of history’ is my ‘beginning of history and end of evolution’) but the point is that we can ground these abstractions in some specific historical contexts, and in the process become practical. Not hard. The details of the eonic effect fit all this in very intuitive fashion.

I thus conclude with your significant statement that we should figure out
how to move FORWARD from here. Great idea. The eonic model is tailormade for that. Obviously it is very difficult to understand the past and base the future on some theory of the past. It becomes a labyrinth of confusion. We have to take what we can know and what it tangible to action. The eonic model leaves you completely free of theory applied to the future. That’s the neat trick in a discrete-continuous model, as I call it. The system goes into shutdown just in your recent past and a new situation arises in which you ar ethe source of action, not some mysterious macro. In my eonic model this is taken into account in the way that we are always looking backward at past phenomena of evolution, but our future stance is the (self-generated) history of our ‘will’ or degree of freedom, and we must suspect that we have reached the ‘end of evolution’ and the beginning of self-created history, however inchoate still. Lots more to say here, but the eonic model is unique in its separation of theory and action, evolution and history, evolving freedom and individual freedom, past and future.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stephen P. Smith // Sep 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Ken Wilber in his master work “Sex, Ecology and Spirituality” was defined involution in great detail, a footnote 26 (or some other number as I recall) related to one of his chapters.

  • 2 nemo // Sep 28, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I will check it out, but the idea of involution is not especially promising at this point, although its history should be the object of study.

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