Friday, July 8, 2011

The Further Evolution of Man

In 1939, polymath philosopher Gerald Heard's "Pain, Sex and Time: A New Outlook on Evolution and the Future of Man"
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"Three postulates are now generally accepted about man," Heard observes. "The first is that he is part of an evolutionary process which has gone on since the dawn of life. The second, that he is a culmination of that process."

"Never before," he points out, "has a single species spread over the entire land surface of the earth, dominated completely all other species, radically altered its environment by tools, instruments and machines and, passing beyond simple awareness, attained self-consciousness."

"The third postulate," he notes, "is that evolution progressively accelerates until, in man, it has reached its highest speed. This acceleration is so rapid that man, the final species, in his latest stages passes in a millennium through changes comparable to those which in dawn of life took a score million years."

"There are (also) two further postulates about which there is growing agreement among informed inquirers," Heard observes. "The first is that evolution has ceased in all other species; in man alone is further radical change possible. All the others have specialized: man is still unspecialized. The second of these postulates is that though man is, through his retention of an unspecialized condition, capable of further physical evolution, he does not seem to availed himself of this, his latent capacity. On the contrary, he appears to have kept himself "in solution" for an unprecedented time: indeed it might be said that he has, as far as bodily development is concerned, specialized in unspecialization."

"(M)an's development," Heard posits, "when it ceased to be physiological became psychological. His history is his specific evolution. He evolves mentally. Even if we had no record of what (mankind) has done since its physical evolution ceased, we might assume that it would be its intelligence which would expand. We should expect to find that this creature has produced a culture "projecting" on to its environment the energy which would otherwise have been expressed through further alterations in the creature's physique."

"This," he points out, "is to bring history under the general principles of natural history, to make civilization a development of biology, and to see culture as a continuation of a vital energy which, no longer manifesting itself in changes in physique, begins to express itself in discoveries of technique."

Thus, Heard notes, "(t)he first great stage of advance was the physical, the second was the technical, the third must be the psychical.

"The first," he points out, "is unconscious - blind; the second is conscious, unreflective, aware of its need but not of itself, of how, not why; the third is interconscious, reflective, knowing not merely how to satisfy its needs but what they mean and what the Whole means."

"When, then, we again change," Heard concludes, "this time from the technique phase of advance to the psychic, from indirect to direct expansion of understanding, at this point man's own self-consciousness decides and can alone decide whether he will mutate, and the mutation is instantaneous."

"(I)t is only in so far as man can intuitively or intentionally balance the growth of his mind, and understand himself as well as he understands his environment," says Heard, "that he can continue evolving and not relapse into the strangulated self-consciousness which gives him means without ends and powers without sanctions."

[Gerald Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," Introduction, pp. xxviii-xxx]

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