We need to evolve our consciousness. This is possible, for human consciousness is not a permanent fixture: cultural anthropology testifies that it developed gradually in the course of millennia. In the thirty- or fifty-thousand-year history of homo sapiens the human body did not change significantly, but human consciousness did.
How our consciousness will evolve next has been foretold by a number of thinkers. The Indian sage Sri Aurobindo considered the emergence of superconsciousness as the next step; in a similar vein the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser spoke of the coming of four-dimensional integral consciousness, rising from the prior stages of archaic, magical, and mythical consciousness. The American mystic Richard Bucke portrayed cosmic consciousness as the next evolutionary stage, beyond the simple consciousness of animals and the self-consciousness of contemporary humans.
Ken Wilber’s six-level evolutionary process leads from physical consciousness pertaining to nonliving matter energy through biological consciousness associated with animals and mental consciousness characteristic of humans to subtle consciousness, which is archetypal, transindividual, and intuitive. It leads in turn to causal consciousness and, in the final step, to the ultimate consciousness called Consciousness as Such. And Chris Cowan’s and Don Beck’s spiral dynamics sees contemporary consciousness evolving from the strategic “orange” stage that is materialistic, consumerist, and success-, image-, status-, and growth-oriented; to the consensual “green” stage of egalitarianism and orientation toward feelings, authenticity, sharing, caring, and community; heading toward the ecological “yellow” stage focused on natural systems, self-organization, multiple realities, and knowledge; and culminating in the holistic “turquoise” stage of collective individualism, cosmic spirituality, and Earth changes.
Reaching a more evolved stage of human consciousness is possible, and it is needed to reach a more evolved civilization. The connection between consciousness-evolution and civilization-evolution was recognized by many Native American cultures, the Mayan, Cherokee, Tayta, Xingue, Hopi, Inca, Seneca, Inuit, and Mapuche among them. They told us that we are presently living under the Fifth Sun of consciousness and are on the verge of entering under the Sixth Sun. The Sixth Sun will bring a new consciousness and with it a fundamental transformation of civilization.
These traditional cultures and modern philosophers are right. Achieving an evolved consciousness will further progress toward a civilization based on empathy, trust and solidarity. But it will be effective only if it spreads to a critical mass. How could people come up with the will to pull together to confront the threats they face in common; elect leaders who support projects of economic cooperation and intercultural solidarity; adopt strategies in business where the pursuit of profit and growth is informed by the search for corporate social and ecological responsibility; bring on line an E-Parliament that links parliamentarians worldwide in joint efforts to serve the common good; and organize an effective network of nongovernmental organizations to restore peace in war-torn regions and ensure an adequate supply of food and water for endangered populations—how could they do all this and more if they do not have a higher level of empathy and solidarity? In the absence of an evolved consciousness in a critical mass the motivation needed to take effective action may have to await the actual occurrence of crises and catastrophes—and if these involve major tipping points, a timely transformation will be difficult, if not impossible.
The evolution of our consciousness is our best chance to shift toward a positive future. The complementary avenues of attaining relevant insight through information, and meditating, praying, and entering on the path to inner growth are the best ways to live up to our ineluctable responsibility not to be part of the problem, but become a part of the urgently needed solution.