Spiritual [Mis]match, part 2: Spiritual Evolution

Last time, we began considering the concept of “evolutionary mismatch,” the idea that the Red Bull-fueled rush of technological innovation enables us to live in a way that is out of balance with the more gentle, meandering pace of evolution. Our bodies are feeling the effect of this imbalance. We’re prone to diseases primarily caused by our evolutionary drive for a diet that is now out of whack with our sedentary lifestyle.

I suggested that perhaps evolutionary mismatch also applies to us spiritually. Is evolution’s glacially slow pace of natural selection and adaptation thwarting possibly faster spiritual progress toward the enlightened being of Christ? Is there anything genetic about spirituality? Was Christhood basically in Jesus’ genes? Is Christhood in all our genes? If so, is part of our spiritual journey about understanding the evolution of self into a perfectly God-matched divinely bound humanity?

It’s a lot of questions, I know. Such is the fate of seekers, I suppose. One answer leads to ten more questions, and so on until the entire journey becomes a boundless labyrinth of thought-puzzles. The only way to solve a puzzle, though, is one piece at a time.

Today’s piece of the spiritual mismatch puzzle is “Spiritual Evolution.” Let's begin with a couple of passages from The Selfish Gene, by 
Richard Dawkins, a brilliant ethicist, and evolutionary biologist.

From The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism - something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. 

We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.

So let’s start with a foundational question: Are we born selfish?

[meditate on this for a few seconds]

Whether we are or not, Dawkins implies that we can surmount our genetic survival instinct. We can learnto be better, to be more communal, less fearful of one another.

I agree. My question is whether or not it’s possible to act more compassionately, more humanly divine, without first discovering a more profound aspect of human nature: our spiritualnature, which is perhaps our ultimatenature.

This enlightened state of being is similar to what the Christian mystic, Catholic Jesuit Priest, paleontologist and geologist, 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardincalled “The Omega Point,” the point of divine unification he believed is the fate of the entire universe.

The stories about Jesus convince me that humans have long innately understood we are more than these physical bodies. There’s something forming us and binding us together. Every human is a connected strand in the tapestry of God’s being. That’s what Jesus is trying to teach us. It’s the life he lived. Think of Jesus as perfectly evolved, the best possible human because he is connected through God to every life. Can you imagine sensing the pulsing rhythm of life in every single human? Billions of them?

For the rest of us, evolving into that sort of constantly God-connected state of being could take tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of years. I’m not sure humans have that long, quite frankly. So, we need to quicken the pace of our spiritual evolution, which we can do, even according to Dawkins, because we are aware of the genetic processes occurring within.

Evolution occurs, in part, through the methods of natural selection and adaptation. These physical changes also affect the way we think. Evolution isn’t just about species morphing from dinosaurs to birds or from proto-humans to humans. Evolution is a multi-threaded, intricately woven, development that changes us physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. It happens over hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions and millions of years.

I think the Christian story—the story of Jesus, is an evolutionarytale. It’s about the perfectly evolved being, divine and human in harmony, the compassionate love of a conscious universe formed into us. Jesus is meant to give us hope in the divinity that unites us, a universal love—a Christ-like conscious awareness of God that motivate us to be better. Because self-awareness is perhaps the most critical evolutionary thread, and it insists we face—and correct—our worst selves.

I have found that correction difficult without believing in something more than myself. I certainly need to believe in something more than humans. The world once again struggles in the throes of spiritual growing pains—because that’s what we see now, with resurgent nationalism and fear of immigration, and all the hatred—spiritual growing pains. We’re becoming more aware of each other as equal and equally loved spiritual beings, but our old, fearful, selfishly genetic nature resists loving change. We are only beginning to understand that survival of our species depends on working together, not wiping each other out.

Evolution. We might not be able to stop the natural process, but if we focus on developing our spiritual center, maybe we can stop acting like animals and finally begin to treat each other as divine human beings.

QuestionHow might the nature of Christ be in our genes? 

Other questions to ponder:Was Christhood basically in Jesus’ genes? Is Christhood in all our genes? If so, is part of our spiritual journey about understanding the evolution of self into a perfectly God-matched divinely bound humanity? How do we live into unified humanity in a painstakingly divided world?

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