Characteristics of an Evolving Universe

Jeff Carreira Philosophy 12 Comments

Before continuing with my thoughts about free will, I thought it would be good to take a step back and take a wide angle look at what evolution and more specifically conscious evolution is all about.

From one point of view American Philosophy – at least Pragmatism – has always been about conscious evolution in the sense that it was aimed at understanding the mechanisms through which evolution happens and then applying those mechanisms consciously to generate evolution in human life. And one of the foundations of that philosophy is the identification of the two most fundamental characteristics that the universe must have if it is going to evolve – continuity and spontaneity.

Continuity is required in a universe if there is any chance of evolution. The fact that a universe is continuous means that it is fundamentally one thing. There are no breaks in it. In terms of time it means that each moment has some connection to the one before – they don’t happen in random order. In terms of space it means that if I stand in one spot it remains the same spot. Without continuity the universe would degenerate into a chaotic succession of unrelated phenomena. 

Another criterion of continuity in American Philosophy is that there cannot be a break between mind and matter. Mind and matter must be directly connected; they must be fundamentally made up of the same thing without a discontinuous break separating them. The brilliant American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce used the term synechism to represent the continuity of the universe.

A universe certainly needs continuity if anything recognizable is ever going to evolve out of its chaos, but it needs more than that. It also needs spontaneity.  Spontaneity gives the universe the possibility that something new can emerge. It means that there is also the possibility that something can happen that is not pre-determined by what has come before. It gives the universe the potential for novelty. If there is no spontaneity in the universe there is no chance for anything new to appear and therefore no possibility of change or evolution. A universe without spontaneity is reduced to a never changing, static continuous block. Peirce used the word Tychism to represent spontaneity in the universe.

With these two characteristics in place the universe can evolve, because new things can appear and once they appear they will continue. In Peirce’s conception of evolutionary philosophy he saw the universe as beginning at some infinite time in the past as pure Tychism, pure possibility – or as he referred to it, “absolute being.” The universe then has a tendency toward continuity; toward order so that once something new happens it is easier for that same thing to happen again. If the same happens yet again it is easier still for it to happen a fourth time. So in this way things “solidify” in the universe through a process of universal habit forming. In our infinite future through the process of universal habit, the universe is heading toward a pinnacle of pure continuity, total order and absolute law.

This brings us back to the question of conscious evolution. So far in this description there is only the requirements of continuity, spontaneity, and tendency toward habit that make it possible for evolution to occur. But, when we are speaking about conscious evolution we are implying that human beings could guide the process of evolution. That means that we would need to become the conscious source of spontaneity. We would be the creative element of the universe providing the novelty which would then solidify through the process of habit.

As someone who is dedicated to conscious evolution then, it is critical to understand the nature of human free will, which means discovering if human beings can actually make choices that are not conditioned by the past? Can we do something that is truly unique and new? Can we be the source of universal creation?

About the Author

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira is a mystical philosopher and spiritual guide. He is the author of eleven books on meditation and philosophy. He teaches online programs and leads retreats throughout the world that teach people how to let go of their current perceptual habits so they are free to participate in the creation of a new paradigm. To put it simply, he supports people to live a spiritually inspired life, free from the constraints of fear, worry and self-doubt, and aligned with their own deepest sense of meaning and purpose.
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Brian
Brian
11 years ago

yes

Eb
Eb
11 years ago

Very interesting thoughts, Jeff. What I like is the equation that pure possibility and absolute being are the same, as Peirce put it. That’s quite something to let it because it means that in absolute being there is the potential for everything! What I also get is that there needs to be continuity. And if you add spontaneity to the picture new things actually will occur; that makes sense. What I am not clear about is where the direction is coming from. It could go anywhere, but you seem to point to total order and law as a result of… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Slightly off the immediate topic, but still American evolutionary philosophy, I wanted to share this for your comments: Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies morality and emotion in the context of culture. He asks: Why did humans evolve to have morals — and why did we all evolve to have such different morals, to the point that our moral differences may make us deadly enemies? It’s a question with deep repercussions in war and peace — and in modern politics, where reasoned discourse has been replaced by partisan anger and cries of “You just don’t get it!” Haidt studies the five moral… Read more »

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
10 years ago

Hi Jeff and all, re: conscious evolution At this point in human evolution, I believe those who are the pioneers of evolutionary development are attempting to shape the planet for the kind of future they would want to inhabit and that posterity will live in a bettered world hopefully having benefited from the efforts to clean the environment and atmosphere, to resolve how to settle interpersonal and international disputes peaceably, and to allow all inhabitants equality and the enjoyment of human rights. Continuing into the coming millennium, I see this as the agenda, spiritual/political or whatever, of humanity. Can we… Read more »

socratus
socratus
10 years ago

Physics and God as a Scientist: Ten Commandments Can a Rational Individual believe in God ? In other words: Can God be atheist, governed by scientific laws? Of course Because if God exists, He/She/It would necessarily to work in an Absolute Reference Frame and had set of physical and mathematical laws to create everything in the Universe If we find and understand this Absolute God’s House then is possible step by step to find and understand God’s Physics Laws, which Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Maxwell, Planck, Einstein and many others scientists discovered ===. How can God be Scientist? Scheme, Fundamental Theory… Read more »

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
10 years ago

Re: Can God be a scientist?

Being flip/not flip, if (He, She, It) is omnificent, all things, well yes–he’s a scientist and All else.

What I really support is that the Collective Consiousness of humanity, in all aspects, is what I consider my concept of God, not anthropomorphic. Holistic and all-inclusive. It’s all there mostly, online by now. You can access any of It anytime.

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
10 years ago

As witness the tsunami of tech and scientific advances now inundating us, is there any doubt or question that the universe and our perception of it is evolving? At least our perception of it, which amounts to the same deal, no? No perception, no observing the evolution.

Julian Hart
Julian Hart
10 years ago
Wendy
9 years ago

Highly energetic blog, I loved that bit. Will there be a part 2?

Korey
2 years ago

Remarkable things here. I am very happy to see your post.
Thanks so much and I am having a look forward to touch
you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Thank you Korey for your reply here.