About Evolving Consciousness
Although each of us is unique, we all have a common Story. "Everybody's Story" is the title of one version of the Universe Story by the thoughtful Dr. Loyal Rue.
We can all trace our ancient (deep) ancestry back 13.7 billion years - to a moment when an unimaginably brilliant light began expanding - creating space, matter, and marking time. Using time and expansion into space, we can still observe this energy/mass cooling, calming and cooperatively combining as it continues on its path of creative complexity to today's current consciousness. We humans are one step along this path by which the Light has transformed itself into Consciousness. In effect, Light is now able to look back upon itself.
David Christian narrates a timeline depicting a complete history of the evolving Universe, from the Big Bang to Planet Earth today with a focus on the "Thresholds of Increasing Complexity."
In its simplest terms, the Universe Story is said to be a 13.7 billion year story of complexification. Using four fundamental forces: weak & strong nuclear forces, gravity and the electromagnetic force, nature has methodically complexified the Universe. In the beginning, energy transformed to photons, to fundamental particles, to hydrogen atoms, to all the elements of the periodic table, to complex molecules, to amino acids, to RNA/ DNA, to simple cells of self-replicating systems powered by an external source of energy (i.e. Sunlight), to complex "solar powered" life forms (e.g. living systems such as homo sapiens) that in turn provide new "forces" and create even more complex physical and conceptual systems (e.g. political /economic /legal /agricultural /educational /religious /ethical /communication /information systems.)
As a slight variation to the concept of complexification, some say the Universe Story is the story of Emergence: the creation of something more (complex) from nothing but (something that already exists) as a result of new relations formed using a source of energy.
Some say the Universe Story is a story of Connectedness. A story that now includes a new depth of understanding of our common ancestry as humans/homo sapiens. Results of DNA sequencing that emerged from the human genome project inform us that we all are one human family with common ancestry. The many other genome projects involving other species go on to confirm in the language of science something that many indigenous people have always known - that all Life on Earth has emerged from common ancestry - all living systems are related. We indeed are genetically connected to everything that lives on the land and in the soil, that swims in the oceans and streams, and that flies in the air. The Story reminds us we (all living beings) are made of elements of the Earth, itself star stuff that emerged from primordial Hydrogen and Helium that in turn emerged from the Light. So the Story tells us we are all connected and children of the Light.
As a further variation, some say the Universe Story is the story of emerging Consciousness where consciousness is defined as the ability of a system to respond/react to a changing stimulus (such as Light).
- An atom, a familiar simple system, demonstrates a degree of consciousness when it responds to light (stimulus) of a specific frequency by absorbing this energy and storing it as an excited state of one of its electrons.
- A rock made up of minerals formed from a number of different elements/atoms demonstrates a degree of consciousness when exposed to sunlight. Stimulated by the Sun, the rock responds as this incoming energy (stimulus) is absorbed and vibrational states of the molecules of the rock are excited (measured by an increase in temperature). The rock responds by expanding as it heats up.
- A dandelion blossom demonstrates consciousness by opening and closing in response to sunrise and sunset.
- A Sunflower demonstrates awareness/consciousness by tracking the movement of the Sun during the day and wilting in the absence of rain.
- An earth worm is obviously conscious as it wiggles toward safety when the rock it was under is rolled away (stimulus).
- A deer browsing quietly in the forest instantly bounds away in response to the sound(stimulus) of an approaching potential predator - that's a display of consciousness.
- A human chooses to buy something in response to a television advertisement (stimulus)
As the complexity of a system increases so too does its range of receptivity to stimuli and its range of responsiveness. Highly evolved / complex systems of systems such as humans (as well as other complex species including elephants, whales, porpoise, chimpanzees, etc.) demonstrate a large range of consciousness in terms of sensitivity to stimuli and their calculated/reasoned response. Using this paradigm, we would say that today Light has been transformed into a human form of Consciousness capable of looking back upon itself in many different ways - including the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope.
As yet another variation, some say the Universe Story is the history of evolving Cooperation/Collaboration - the creative coming together of star stuff into new and more complex systems - actually systems of systems integrated to form an interdependent (often redundant) network that allows energy to flow from its source (e.g. Sun) and become transformed into something more (e.g. useful work required to maintain Life, creative solutions to existing problems, traveling to the moon and back, inventive ideas for unforeseen sustainable purposes that help us extend our evolving collective consciousness, etc.) As our finite planet with finite resources reaches its carrying capacity, the lives of us 7 billion (and growing) homo sapiens cannot help but overlap with more and more living systems. Life on Earth has evolved into a most complex interdependent system of systems. In the words of Thomas Berry, can we humans learn "to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial (cooperative/collaborative) manner?"
So you can see there are many versions of this same common Story including: The Great Story, the New Story, The Universe Story, The Epic of Evolution, The History of Nature, and the Big History as well as Everybody's Story. It is humanity's common creation story. It is Life's creation story.
"The Great Story is humanity's sacred narrative of an evolving Universe of emergent complexity and breathtaking creativity — a story that offers each of us the opportunity to find meaning and purpose in our lives and our time in history."
[Ref: The Great Story, Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow (www.thegreatstory.org) ]
There are a number of versions of the Universe Story that capture our current awareness of the evolution of the Cosmos. A few are illustrated below:
For us, the Story creates a sense of awe (some might say a feeling of insignificance) as we try to comprehend the enormity of the Universe. BUT the Story also creates a sense of human significance, connectedness and responsibility as we better understand our place and influence on Planet Earth.
Although we continue to unravel more and more details everyday, within just the last 50 years, human knowledge has accumulated the collective consciousness to know that everybody shares this common Story. Now as we peer through the diverse windows of Religion, Philosophy, History, and numerous branches of Science (Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, Cosmology, Geology, Paleontology, Physics, and others) we all look out onto the same vast panoramic perspective of our common history - a history captured in the Universe Story. And its a good read, albeit non-fiction.
Everybody's Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution, Loyal Rue, State University of New York Press, 1999, ISBN-10: 0791443922
The Universe Story : From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era--A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos, Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, Harper San Francisco, 1994
The Sacred Depths of Nature, Ursula Goodenough,Oxford University Press, 2000
The New Story of Science, Augros, Robert & Stanciu, George, New York: Bantam • Books, 1984
Evolutionary Faith: Rediscovering God in Our Great Story, Diarmuid O Murchu, Orbis Books, 2002
Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World, Michael Dowd, Council Oak Books, 2007
Maps of Time, David Christian and William H. McNeill, University of California Press; 2005