An Evolutionist’s Meditation on the Miracle of Being

Some time ago I was asked to give an opening invocation at the Board of Trustees Meeting of CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) in San Francisco. How does an Evolutionist invoke the transcendent? I re-read what I had said and thought it worthy of repeating in this blog.

Meditating on the Miracle of Being

I invite you, please, to join me in a contemplation of the miracle of our being here.

My presence here is miraculous. For me to be here a million, trillion, trillion drifting atoms had to assemble in an intricate manner in an arrangement so specialized and particular that only a transcendent intelligence could unravel it. It has taken 14 billion years in which nature has moved relentlessly and improbably so that this special assembly, me, can be here today. And this remarkable assemblage of atoms has, incredibly, developed a mind, a sense of self and the ability to inquire. “Who am I?” “Why do I feel” “Who made me?”

I know that the atoms that comprise me will one day disperse and go on to form other entities. I ask, “As these atoms disperse will also my consciousness, my essence?” Only because I have a sense of “I” does the question even arise. Alone, among all the billions of species of life, 99.999% of which are extinct, am I that am aware of my impending death, because I alone developed a sense of “I”. But my consciousness, like everything else living, was forged in the furnace of survival, by the inexorable forces of replication and experimentation, mediated by survival. The urge to survive, for immortality, is thus primal, etched into me since that first pinch of chemicals on earth twitched alive in the primordial slime some 4 billion years ago.

So it is not a surprise that I crave with all my being to transcend death. Do I then delude myself when I invent a soul and scream out for immortality? In reality, am I just an, oh so fleeting, note in a grand cosmic raga?  Isn’t it narcissistic of me to assign an existential permanence, and a divine purpose separately to this fleeting note, to myself?

Maybe so.

Or maybe what I need to do is evolve a bit further so that my consciousness and my sense of self broadens to include this eternal raga of the universe, ever evolving, forming, re-forming, dying, being born, going extinct, coming into existence in an infinite dance. Perhaps I am not an entity but a process,  eternal after all, if I just break through the boundary that my current sense of self has boxed me into.


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9 Responses to An Evolutionist’s Meditation on the Miracle of Being

  1. Sid says:

    The ‘I’ that thinks itself the center of the universe is the ego and that which screams to transcend is the Self. The ego – a wave that would surface and disappear over the bottomless and imperturbable ocean which is the Self.
    The consciousness that shall hear the eternal Raga of the whole Universe and even of that which is not the Universe – is the cosmic consciousness. And when this Raga will be heard – death, not only of the consciousness, but of the body – will fall off like an illusion as the being shall be restored to it’s normal state of immortality.

  2. Ashok, What a Prayer! Amen!

  3. Larry Zeni says:

    Other religions/philosophies have as a central concept the idea of rebirth and renewal, embracing the infinite dance of evolution in some sense. It seems to me they were on the right track. If, as you suggest, we can broaden our consciousness even further, we might actually embrace the frightening randomness that seems to fundamentally define our existence.

    • You’re right. Randomness is frightening if we don’t see it’s magical properties of creating adaptation, and emergent order. We can embrace it if we see the bigger picture – it is a force that evolved life and the mind and consciousness and beauty and love and …

  4. Ashok Chandra says:

    Quite right about further evolution, though it might be in new and fascinating ways. Such speculation might be very timely, with the imminent Facebook IPO. After all, isn’t the collective consciousness of the social network a new kind of being, arguably on a path of “consciousness” from micochondria, to cells, to us. And, this new organism of interconnected people and machines does make decisions – witness the Tipping Point, or Egypt.

    • Great musings, Ashok. You always add dimensions to ideas. Yes, it’s titillating to watch social evolution in action. Even though this evolution has no designed destination, survival will eventually force some equilibrium. And it may be a not so benign a paradigm shift in Egypt or Syria.

      The new being of networked social “cells” facilitated by Facebook could cause radical shifts.

      Love your comment.

  5. Arun says:

    TED presentation: “Is there a real you?” Philosopher Julian Baggini

    “I had a dream about reality”
    “It was such a relief to wake up…”
    Stanislaus Lec

    There are many clever arguments available to justify any personal choice. It doesn’t follow that any “good” or seemingly justifiable self-serving choice has much meaning. What then is a reasonable basis for choosing anything at all? There is no universally correct answer. That is why all things are the way they are – everywhere and nowhere; starkly beautiful and inconsistently unfair.

    On the perceptible surface all life is imperfect and limited (pain, suffering, finiteness, entropy, thermodynamics etc.). This imperfection is compounded by the lack of indisputable evidence of absolute meaning or otherwise limited by our poor collective comprehension of it. Clever conjecture is but another product of the creative mind, imagination just an out of control, but beautiful dancer.

    There is of course, the possibility that we are each just an open-ended process that eventually wears out. And while it would be good to have the time and space after life to contemplate its full individual meaning objectively, I remain unconvinced such will be possible. I hope I am wrong.

  6. Akhil says:

    A lovely piece, a raga in itself! Particularly like the bit about … I am not an entity, but a process…
    Perhaps this is what spiritual traditions mean by, Thou art That. An entity seems static, rigid, etc. While a process is fluid, dynamic, interacting, evolving, etc.

    • Great comment, Akhil I think an evolutionist sees the miracle of the universe not in a static way but as a beautiful process akin to the unfolding of a cosmic symphony or raga. If we identify ourself with the whole raga we achieve a certain sense of immortality and perhaps even lose our fear of “dying”

      Love your thoughtful comment on the blog. Thanks. You must come to California and visit.


      Sent from my iPad

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