Evolution and German Idealism

Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion

In all these tales, the overall direction of the universe’s unfolding is unmistakable: as if following some second law of religious thermodynamics, the spiritual universe is running down. In the actual unfolding of the universe’s history, we humans (and all creatures) were once close to Spirit, one with Spirit, immersed in Spirit, right here on earth. But through a series of separations, dualisms, sins, or contractions, Spirit became less and less available, less and less obvious, less and less present. Deus abscondus: history itself is the story of spiritual abandonment, with each era becoming darker and more sinister and less spiritual. For premodern cultures, in short, history is devolution.”

But sometime in the modern era, it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly, the idea of history as devolution (or a fall from God) was slowly replaced by the idea of history as evolution (or a growth toward God). We see it explicitly in Friedrich Schelling (1775- 1854); Georg Hegel (1770-1831) propounded the doctrine with a genius rarely equaled; Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) made evolution a universal law; and his friend Charles Darwin (1809-1882) applied it to biology. We then find it appearing in Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), who gave perhaps its most accurate and profound spiritual context, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), who made it famous in the West.”

Suddenly, within the span of a mere century or so, serious minds were entertaining a notion that premodern cultures, for the most part, had never even once considered, namely that like all other living systems we humans are in the process of growing toward our own highest potential, and if that highest potential is God, then we are growing toward our own Godhood.”

Absolute Spirit is the fundamental reality. But in order to create the world, the Absolute manifests itself, or goes out of itself in a sense, the Absolute forgets itself and empties itself into creation (although never really ceasing to be itself). Thus the world is created as a “falling away” from Spirit, as a “self-alienation” of Spirit, although the Fall is never anything but a play of Spirit itself.”

Having “fallen” into the manifest and material world, Spirit begins the process of returning to itself, and this process of the return of Spirit to Spirit is simply development or evolution itself. The original “descent” (or involution) is a forgetting, a fall, a self-alienation of Spirit; and the reverse movement of “ascent” (or evolution) is thus the self-remembering and self-actualization of Spirit. And yet, the Idealists emphasized, all of Spirit is fully present at each and every stage of evolution as the process of evolution itself. ”

Comments from Bruno for the last two paragraphs


ER. Below there is a couple of quotes about German idealism. Please replace Absolute Spirit by Natural Numbers there.

Bruno. Here there is a little difficulty. With comp, the “absolut Spirit” (or the one, or God, or the big thing without a name, etc…) can be the Natural Numbers (I would add structured by + and *, as it is not just “0, 1, 2, …”).

But then comp can prove that there is no way the creatures itself could ever know that, nor even completely able to explain what that could mean.

There is no paradox. There is only a remind that we cannot prove that comp is true.

If ever we could prove comp, then we could give a name to God, and then we fall … again.

Bruno. It is also very close to Plotinus’ emanation/conversion, which has influenced the Christians a lot, even if this has often taken the shape of fairy tales (which obviously should never been taken literally).

In Plotinus, and in comp we can say more: it is the process of conversion of the Soul toward the Spirit, which literally create the material reality. It is the indeterminateness of the border of the universal mind, where God loss control, so to speak, which makes it possible for the soul to start the conversion, and come back to the source. That conception of matter is already in Aristotle, but Plotinus gives the Platonist correction which makes it consistent, and even necessary I would say, with the theology, including physics, of the universal machines.

Each individual universal machines is a window for the arithmetical truth to discover (partially) itself, but also losing itself, in itself. This entails  a double amnesia: God has to forget his identity to explore itself, and the creatures have to forget the window and the exploration  (the body and the environment) to remember who they are.

Likewise with salvia: you forget who you are here to remind who you are there, and vice versa, apparently from many reports, although you can also just disconnect, instead of forgetting (which is handy when the phone rings).

See also

Martin Drees, Evolution and Emanation of Spirit in Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature


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