Section 3

Human Evolution


Chapter 1

The human being in himself

The purpose of this section is to consider the human being in the abstract as a new stage in evolution, and also, having established that he interacts with other human beings in forming families, tribes, and then nations, to take him up to the beginning of civilization. Then in subsequent sections we will take a flying look at ancient, medieval, and modern civilization, to see if we can thread our way through that labyrinth with our hypothesis.

Once the human being appears on the scene of evolution, intellectual consciousness and freedom of choice appear. He now not only is present to himself, but knows himself (to some extent) for what he is; and knows his world as what it is, and explicitly that it is different from himself; and he consciously directs himself toward goals that he freely chooses. Not only that, but he acts on his environment, and instead of adapting himself to it, he adapts it to himself; and so the direction the world's process takes, insofar as human beings act on it, is now quite different from the direction it would have had if he had not been there. And this influence becomes greater as human beings learn more and more, until today we discover that many things we are doing affect the whole planet rather drastically.

Since intellectual consciousness is that of grasping relationships, each human being's development actually starts in the same way as everyone else's. Each of us begins being conscious with what, in Chapter 2 of Section 1 of the fourth part 4.1.2, I called the mystical experience of empty consciousness--no matter what the sensation or the first form of consciousness is. We cannot, of course, recognize it as such, because we have nothing to compare it with. In this sense, the first moment of each person's consciousness is the same as what Hegel called "being," which as far as content goes, is the same as nothing, since there is no explicit content at all; it is implicitly everything and explicitly nothing. Hence, it is completely "in itself," as he would say, with the self as aware, but not explicitly aware of anything (even though in fact it is a limited form of consciousness), not even explicitly of its own awareness. It is the kind of consciousness described by cartoonists as an exclamation point inside a balloon.

The second moment of consciousness is the first concept, which necessarily is that of difference (and the different as such), because until we recognize a novelty in our consciousness, it remains that first undifferentiated moment. That is, the fetus might have a sensation, first, of a pain in the leg and then of a movement of his arm; but until he becomes aware that the "new" sensation is not the old one, then for him it is the same: that experience of abstract being, with no subject and no object.

Once difference is recognized, of course, then the person begins searching for differences, and simply multiplying cases of "different," without recognizing how they are different. He gets into a Hegelian "bad infinite," in which the same thing just goes on and on. In order to move forward and be aware of what the difference is, it is necessary to be aware of different aspects of each sensation; and at this stage, the person only knows each moment of consciousness as a unit, with each somehow different from each other one.

The third moment is also necessary: a kind of Hegelian synthesis of the first two, in that we keep finding new cases of "different" until we recognize something that is not different, and have Hegel's "negation of the negation, and arrive at the concept of sameness.

This leads to being able to notice that the new moment of consciousness is new (and therefore different) and not new (and therefore the same), which directs attention to what is the same about it and what is different, and so differentiation within the moment of consciousness becomes possible, with partial similarity.

At this point, the paths of the development of human consciousness diverge, because they depend on the concrete contents of the moments of consciousness. Still, there are stages that everyone must go through, though not necessarily in the order I will give them.

Once we split consciousness into various aspects, some of which are the same and some of which are different, this in turn lets us notice constancy, in which one "patch" of sensations remains the same while the background changes, and so we have a series of "objects" in the Kantian sense (that is, constant parts of the sensory field), which we then begin exploring and trying to categorize. There is, of course, as yet no distinction between the real and the imaginary, and no real notion of a self.

But while we are doing exploring, we are also acting; and as we do so, we notice that some objects in the visual field are intimately connected with both activity and passivity: those objects we later will call "hands" and "feet" and so on. As we grasp our hand, one hand feels the grasping, the other feels being grasped, and the eyes see the action. Here we arrive at the concept of causality, as well as that of being acted on. And eventually it dawns on us that these objects are also the subject, and that we are an "object" in the same sense that mama and the doll are. We have learned that we are what we will later call a body.

But then, in our exploration, we discover that we are not like the doll, but more like the dog and mama, because we move independently of being moved; and gradually we find out that we are much more like mama and daddy and brother than the dog and the cat, and we learn that we are human beings.

While we are engaged in this process, we are also interacting in many ways with mama and daddy. They provoke various responses in us, and we discover that we provoke responses in them. At this stage, we still refer to ourselves in the third person, but after a while, it occurs to us that mamma and daddy are centers of their own universes, just as we are a center of our own universe; and we discover ourselves as a self.

Not too long after this, we learn to make the distinction between those apparent objects that occur in sleep and in just sitting and thinking and the objects out there in front of us; and we learn about real being as opposed to mere imagining.

But since we are not yet really human, really adult, we begin to imagine ourselves as one and play at doing what adults do; and as we do so, we are also developing our skills, so that increasingly we are able to do what adults can do. In not very many years, we have all the basic skills, and adolescence comes, in which we recognize that the adult we will be depends not on something automatic, but upon what we decide for ourselves to be; and at that point, the human being is in and for himself; and progress from then on is a question of abilities and choices.

The pure gift of for-itselfness that we found in the consciousness of the animal now has a purpose in this embodied spirit, in several senses. First of all, the grasp of relationships among sensations allows consciousness to be aware of the self as the subject of many conscious acts; and the knowledge of the sensations in acting upon one's own body allows each of us to be aware that he is a body with a mind. Finally, a grasp of imagination and what it can do allows us to formulate ideal selves and to set up instabilities in ourselves that we then act to achieve; and therefore, this act of imagining, which seems so useless, is actually the vehicle for the self's control over its whole self. The freedom from the materiality of the self allows the soul to direct the material self, and through it to have power over much of the material world.

Secondly, the grasp of relationships now brings the otherness of the other as such into the self; we now know that objects are not ourselves but that they are as real as we are. We also can recognize the selfhood of other selves, in that they behave in much the same way as we do under the same conditions; and this grasp of relationships connected with sensations is what allows us to use or create sensations that stand for acts of consciousness, and to use these sensations to communicate with other selves by means of abstract language.

And because we can recognize the selfhood of other selves, we can put ourselves in another's place, and make the other's goal in her life part of our goal for our life; and thus love in the true sense is now within the power of the evolving universe.

Let us then consider this in the light of the hypothesis. First of all, it is clear that the gift of this level of consciousness, that of spirit, is a raising by God of a material creature totally beyond materiality, while leaving him still limited materiality. He is material, but materiality has little power over him, and he has great power over matter.

Secondly, as we will see in what follows, God frees human beings from domination by their matter, and respects their freedom, so that they can abuse it if they choose. God now gives advice, though nature and even directly, and provides opportunities, but no longer manipulates chance or cheats, except on very rare occasions; human beings are left to the consequences of their acts, even the eternal consequences.

Thirdly, this power that human beings have to change the material universe to suit their own ideas of what it shall be also frees the material universe from God's manipulation of it; it now takes its direction, not from above, but from within itself. Hence, in the human being, the universe becomes free, in a sense, because it is, as it were, self-directed by a part of itself (just as each individual is self-directed by his mind; collectively we are the mind of the world). God leaves the ultimate state of the developing universe now up to the universe itself. God does not give human beings "foremanship" over his material universe, telling them what to do with it and seeing that they carry forth his plans; he gives them dominion over it, so that they can do with it what they chose. Considering what human beings have done with what he gave them, it would be hard to see how God could have shown more respect for his creatures.

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