It is as though
man stands at the point of transition between two different phases of
the evolutionary process. On the one hand, man is the product of thousands
of millions of years of evolution from tiny single-celled organisms,
through fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Over vast periods of
time organisms have arisen of ever greater complexity. Man stands at
the pinnacle of this process of evolution.
But is man the final
product? What will come after man - a creature with more legs, new sense
faculties, or strange powers? We could say that the next phase of evolution
is, rather, the evolution of individual consciousness.
The 'Lower' or
biological phase of evolution does involve an evolution of consciousness
in that there is an increasing elaboration of sense consciousness, of
perceptual awareness. The more evolved the organism, the more complex
its sensory faculties become, and the more elaborate a picture of its
environment it is able to build up. With man there is, however, a qualitative
leap: man can be aware of himself. It is the development and fulfilment
of this reflexive consciousness which marks the beginning of
the Higher Evolution. …
The first task of
human growth is to bring self-awareness to completion. Only when one
is fully self-aware is one truly an individual and truly a candidate
for the Higher Evolution.
It should be stressed
that being self-aware does not mean being self-conscious in the sense
of having an intense and awkward self-concern. nor yet does it mean
an alienated and abstracted self-censoring. Real self-awareness is healthy
and spontaneous and imparts a natural dignity and wholeness to those
who possess it. One who is self-aware is fully integrated; his personality
functions as a harmonious whole with no repressed or hidden elements
to cause psychological conflict. He experiences his individuality as
a connected flow of consciousness rather than as a series of often conflicting
desires and impulses.
individual is only the beginning of the Higher Evolution. Self-awareness
can be integrated and refined yet further. Higher states of consciousness
may be experienced of far greater lucidity and far more subtle and refined
emotion. These higher states may become the basis on which subjective
mental conditionings are broken through and the real nature of things
- Transcendental Reality - is glimpsed. Finally, these glimpses of Transcendental
Reality may be absorbed more and more into consciousness until Absolute
Consciousness flowers in which consciousness has become identical with
Reality, Reality with consciousness. Here the Dharma as Teaching has
merged with the Dharma as Reality and the goal of the whole evolutionary
process has been achieved. This goal is known as 'Enlightenment', and
one who has attained it is a 'Buddha' - literally 'one who is awake'.
Potentially, every human being is a Buddha.