Evolution, Enlightenment and Reincarnation: Part 1

Jeff Carreira Evolution Enlightenment & Reincarnation, Philosophy 11 Comments

In 1860 Ralph Waldo Emerson published an essay called Fate in a collection called The Conduct of Life. This essay is written by a mature Emerson, a man who has worked and taught for nearly 3 decades and who has found some of his youthful – perhaps naïve – optimism dulled by time. In his earlier evolutionary philosophy Emerson described the process of nature’s inevitable climb up through the ladder of animal species to the ultimate perfect state of humankind. In those earlier works he described how human beings had lost their way, how they had become distracted in the pursuit of material comforts, but the implication was that all we needed to do was to remember and reclaim our original cosmic motive and restart our ascent up the evolutionary ladder.

In this essay he introduces a more somber force that counters the upward force of nature’s march to perfection. It is the force of fate which he calls the laws of the world. The forces of fate act to limit us. They are the counter force to the power of nature and the power of human will. Emerson describes his discovery of this counter balance to evolution by stating, “Once we thought, positive power was all. Now we learn, that negative power, or circumstance, is half.”

Fate is part and parcel of the circumstance that we find ourselves in. It includes personal circumstance and cultural circumstance, and it acts as a drag on our developmental forward movement. It is the existence of fate in nature that makes the process of the evolution of the world take so much time. He says:

“The book of Nature is the book of Fate. She turns the gigantic pages, — leaf after leaf, — never returning one. One leaf she lays down, a floor of granite; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate; a thousand ages, and a measure of coal; a thousand ages, and a layer of marl and mud: vegetable forms appear; her first misshapen animals, zoophyte, trilobium, fish; then, saurians, — rude forms, in which she has only blocked her future statue, concealing under these unwieldly monsters the fine type of her coming king. The face of the planet cools and dries, the races meliorate, and man is born.”

Emerson in his earlier works imagined the possibility of a perfected spiritual state of human beings. A state in which the individual will was finally and completely given over to the omnipotent will of the universal soul of humanity. Over the course of time he was discouraged because his own achievement of this perfect state eluded his best efforts. He began to realize that just a strong intention toward Self-Reliance was not enough to ensure the attainment of the goal. There was an active counter force at work that must also be accounted for and this force was the force of fate.

And yet Fate as Emerson writes about it is not wholly separate from our own will. “Every spirit makes its house; but afterwards the house confines the spirit.” he says. After all we are the universal source of evolution as well as its product. It was us as universal spirit who initiated the process of evolution, and it is us as individual spirit that must struggle though the very process that we created to find our way back to our perfected state. We made the rules and we must evolve by them.

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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Frank Luke
Frank Luke
11 years ago

Hi Jeff, re: “Emerson described the process of nature’s inevitable climb up through the ladder of animal species to the ultimate perfect state of humankind. In those earlier works he described how human beings had lost their way, how they had become distracted in the pursuit of material comforts, but the implication was that all we needed to do was to remember and reclaim our original cosmic motive and restart our ascent up the evolutionary ladder.” I don’t believe Emerson was so naive in his belief in the perfectability of humankind. I cite Ken Wilber’s assertion that the omega point… Read more »

Liesbeth
Liesbeth
11 years ago

Beautiful Jeff, Only reading the essay myself, makes clear how well you describe it. Fate is limitation, limitation is fate.I am sitting here on a raised walled area in the library, a constantly watched place when one has to sit to read books that are not lend out. The little book has drawings and says ‘my book should smell of pines and resound like the hum of insects’. Reading the essay itself even gives a stronger sense of Fate: ‘the sea changes its beds. Towns and counties fall into it. At Lisbon, an earthquake killed men like flies. At Naples,… Read more »

Liesbeth
Liesbeth
11 years ago

It is much more, it is in my mind all the time, it is the teaching itself: I remember a chant ‘standing strong like a tree’. it is by first diving into the horror of Fate, that the power of Freedom get its real meaning…and that is exactly this: he says: part of Fate is the freedom of man. For ever wells up the impulse of choosing and acting in the soul. Intellect annuls Fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free.’t is weak and vicious people who cast the blame on fate. The right use of Fate… Read more »

Liesbeth
Liesbeth
11 years ago

My favorite: “Let him empty his breast of his windy conceits and show his lordship by manners and deeds on the scale of nature”. It is like standing on the front of a ship heading towards a new world..

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
11 years ago

Hi Jeff, re: Emerson’s seeming naivete I’m saying I rather concur with his belief that humankind is perfectible and though seemingly a bit pie-in-the-sky incredible, as I mentioned and concur also with K. Wilber contending that the omega point of humanity, our destiny is to become Enlightened. It’s a fond hope, maybe naive and certainly long-sighted, but having that objective enables us to have the feeling that human errant behavior will eventually with attainment of higher consciousness. Do you think it’s all a matter of choice, deciding what kind of view we hold of existence and spirituality is one alternative… Read more »

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
11 years ago

Picking up on “Enlightenment and Evolution” from the leading essay’s title” It seems common in today’s mood, if I listen to the media, GOP, and even the administration’s explanatory assessment of how we as a nation is doing that many are very disgruntled Americans. So I wonder how many of us Americans can (even with eyes and minds wide open) and would say: “I’m truly proud and glad, thankful to be an American?” I’ll say it now, I do, I am! May our nation, this beautiful agent for bettering the world, not only for us fortunate Americans (for the most… Read more »

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
11 years ago

Hi Jeff, re: “but afterwards the house confines the spirit.”

Can I submit (confines > shelters )?

I prefer not to consider that a spiritual house would (confine) a spirit, limiting it. Just a word quibble.

Frank Luke
Frank Luke
11 years ago

Jeff: Afterthought about your response to my complaint about not getting responses and my comments languishing as if I’ve stopped all discussion.

I certainly don’t intend to load you down with monitoring every comment and appreciate your enterprise and comments whenever they appear.

I realize I may be overly commenting, loading up the threads, but my intention is to stimulate thoughts and would hope to have more feedback. Are my comments acting as non-sequitors? I would hope not. I know there are a lot of smart people commenting and would appreciate more dialogue with any and all.