Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gerald Heard: Conscious Evolution as Life's Focus

"(I)t seems clear now that a higher level of consciousness will not emerge unless we plan our living so as to permit that emergence. It is not difficult to understand why this should be so. The higher consciousness transcends the ego; the ego is a transitional stage, a husk. The present level of consciousness, of interest and attention, is almost wholly directed to preserve the ego. "We only live once" is a common motto and to make a life which may be worth while and have satisfied the self when it is over (almost a contradiction in terms) is the aim of "every sensible man." Dealing as we are, and cannot escape dealing, with a creature of body, mind and spirit, we must modify in every favourable way spirit, mind, and body if the new type of consciousness, tentative and vague as it must be in the first stirrings, is to become fully formed."

"It would seem, then, that the forwarding of the evolution of consciousness, the aiding of that further emergence of the psyche, requires, immediately, the constant practice of a certain method of mental focusing and this constant practice, in its turn requires, if it is to be successful and without thwarting strain, to be set in a complete way of life, a way which is centered on the exercise of this focusing, a way in which every activity is subordinate and ancillary to the focusing."

-- Gerald Heard --
("Pain, Sex and Time," pp. 177-178)
First published in 1939 (and republished in 2004), Heard's "Pain, Sex and Time" is an encyclopedic review of the history of the evolution of transcendental consciousness beyond the ego. Tracing the history of esoteric teachings, mystery schools and mysticism from ancient to modern times, it lays a firm foundation for the premise - attested to in all the world's great religious and wisdom traditions - that a higher state of evolution that is psychical rather than physiological is our destiny. However, as Heard points out, above, for this next evolutionary step in our development, a conscious and strenuous effort is needed, a conclusion that is at once more pertinent, imperative and challenging in our hyper-connected, hyperactive world today then it was when first written.

"When such extensive requirements and radical modifications of customary living are said to be necessary," Heard accedes, "many may withdraw, using as an excuse that such a change of life for the sake of attaining a state of mind is merely escapist. The man who really cares for his fellows lives in the world, we shall be told."

To such inevitable criticism, Heard notes that "(i)t is necessary . . . to remind ourselves that this contemplation which is to be made the ordering purpose of our lives, is not an individual, withdrawn, ingrowing, hypnotic pleasure. It is the deliberate attempt to constitute evolution which is otherwise balked and arrested. It is a purposed plan to lead us out of our present impasse, to which unconscious growth and uncoordinated discovery have brought us, into the next stage of evolution, which is a higher degree of consciousness apprehending a larger and more relevant reality."

In prescient words that are evermore powerfully relevant today, as we face the challenges of global warming, energy depletion, desertification and massive species extinction, Heard notes that, "(w)hat is clear, even to those who have not reached this next step and sighted the way out, is that we certainly cannot stay where we are and as we are. Our individual selves, our culture, our society and our race - all are profoundly unstable and rapidly becoming more unstable."

"However we try to escape it," he observes, "we come back to the same point: we must go on or collapse."

"It is, then," Heard points out, "those who will not so recast their lives who are escapist, fleeing into social activity to escape thought, to escape the question, "Does my activity really solve the problem(s) Life has set me or is my business precisely in order to escape from answering the problem(s) which confront me?"

It is, Heard concludes, "(t)his extension of consciousness (that) can alone solve our present problem(s)."

[Heard, "Pain, Sex and Time," pp. 178-179.]

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