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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

7. Systems History: Personal and Planetary Individuation

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. The Mythic Potential of Evolution. Zygon. 35/1, 2000. Rather than seen only as technological progress, history should be equated with human personal growth as taught by the Buddhist progression from material to spiritual development. In such a view, “phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny” as human culture ascends through the same evolutionary stages.

de Landa, Miguel. A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books, 1997. A fledgling attempt to use complex systems theory to interpret the three historical aspects of geology or materiality, biology and genetics, and the profusion of languages. De Landa then finds that: “…the same basic processes of self-organization take place in the mineral, organic and cultural spheres.”

Devezas, Tessaleno and George Modelski. Power Law Behavior and World System Evolution. Technological Forecasting & Social Change. 70/9, 2003. The authors employ complexity theory to discern “deep and general laws” and “common patterns” as the human species evolves “toward self-organization and higher complexity, i.e. a world system.” This entire historical course unfolds as a “millennial learning process” by way of self-similar, iterative dynamics.

The phenomenon at hand (the cascade of world evolutionary processes) is then a cascade of scale-invariant, interdependent, and structure-transforming processes at several levels of organization of the self-organizing complex world system. (852)

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: Norton, 1998. A renowned work of scholarship that expands the study of the course of human history to include contextual factors such as ecologies and climates, agriculture, technologies and the impact of disease epidemics.

Edinger, Edward. The New God-Image. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publishers, 1996. A Jungian psychologist traces a Western sense of the Divine from animism to tribal, matriarchal, polytheistic and universal monotheism on the way to its current recast in terms of psychic individuation. In so doing a profound shift is made in history from a parental emphasis to a “continuing incarnation,” a Divine being in gestation through the collective Self of humankind.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Landscape of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. The Yale University scholar resituates human history within the expanse of cosmic and earthly evolution, which can be seen in light of the complexity sciences to reveal a universal “self-similarity across scale.”

Galtung, Johan and Sohail Inayatullah, eds. Macrohistory and Macrohistorians. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997. A survey of twenty thinkers from world cultures spanning over two millennia – Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, Ibn Khaldun, Hegel, Marx, Toynbee, Spengler, Sorokin, Teilhard, et al - who have attempted a historical metatheory. The overarching issue seems to be whether history is linear, cyclical, or evolutionary.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. The classic study by the Lithuanian – American, Harvard University, archeologist of an original cultural milieu that was essentially feminine in kind. Along with careful descriptions of prehistoric human settlements based on thorough field research, a chapter cites the initial advent of scriptural symbols and alphabets.

It is a gross misunderstanding to imagine warfare as endemic to the human condition. Widespread fighting and fortification building have indeed been the way of life for most of our direct ancestors from the Bronze Age up until now. However, this was not the case in the Paleolithic and Neolithic. There are no depictions of arms (weapons used against other humans) in Paleolithic cave paintings, nor are there remains of weapons used by man against man during the Neolithic of Old Europe. (ix-x)

The primordial deity for our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors was female, reflecting the sovereignty of motherhood. If fact, there are no images that have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record. (x) The religion of the Goddess reflected a matristic, matrilineal, and endogamic social order for most of early human history. This was not necessarily “matriarchy,” which wrongly implies “rule” by women as a mirror image of androcracy. A matrifocal tradition continued throughout the early agricultural societies of Europe, Anatolia, and the Near East, as well as Minoan Crete. The emphasis in these cultures was on technologies that nourished people’s lives, in contrast to the androcratic on domination. (x-xi)

Goerner, S. J. A “Knowledge Ecology” View of Creativity. Richards, Ruth, ed. Everyday Creativity and New Views of Human Nature. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. Systems philosopher Sally Goerner, Ph.D., is president of the Integral Science Institute in North Carolina. In this chapter, she summarizes her vision of a sequentially emergent cosmic creativity, now in evidence on a personal planetary scale.

I suggest that we need three ingredients to unify and mobilize the movement to a Global Integral Civilization: (a) a unified, scientifically sound worldview that has (b) emotional relevance, directs links to deeply felt aspirations and also common sense; and (c) practical utility, enough practical detail turn heartfelt dreams into well-functioning realities by providing effective solutions to pressing problems. (229)

In the Integral Synthesis, for example, the following ideas make perfect, empirical sense: * Science centers itself on energy and interdependence, not matter and reductionism. * Evolution is a self-organizing energy process, not random mutations acting on selfish genes. * Life is a naturally integrated, mind-body, learning system, not an unfathomable accident. * Humanity is a collaborative learning species, not a set of selfish, combative economic beasts. (229)

Halal, William. The Lifecycle of Evolution. World Futures. 58/4, 2002. The seven stages of a global civilization as it emerges out of biological evolution are said to repeat the life course of an individual human being.

Harari, Yuval. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. New York: Harper, 2015. From our global retrospective vantage, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian can recount how we came to this occasion by way of three salient revolutions. Cognitive is the advent of hominid to human abilities to gain and avail a social, collaborative corpus of knowledge. An Agricultural phase of agrarian, village and urban life brought another. A natural Scientific phase commenced from realizations that it is possible to learn, civilize, and improve. The course of recorded time is thus about religions, money, injustice, empire, capitalism, industry, carnage, technology, a checkered past and present. This “international bestseller” could also reflect our current condition. As the quotes allude, the work closes with a contrast of physical science’s late cosmic despair and the sudden potential for human beings take up a technological transformation of all arbitrary evolution that went on before.

The Meaning of Life So our medieval ancestors were happy because they found meaning to life in collective (religious) delusions about the afterlife. As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan. Hence any meaning that ascribe to their lives is just a delusion. The other-worldly meanings medieval people found in their lives were no more deluded that the modern humanist, nationalist and capitalist meanings modern people find. (391)

The Singularity Physicists define the Big Bang as a singularity. It is a point at which all the known laws of nature did not exist. Time too did not exist. It is thus meaningless to say that anything existed “before” the Big Bang. We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that gave meaning to our world – me, you, men, women, love and hate – will become irrelevant. Anything happening beyond that is meaningless to us. (411)

Henriques, Gregg, et al.. The Tree of Knowledge System: A New Map for Big History. Journal of Big History. 3/4, 2019. A James Madison University psychologist and colleagues present an updated version of a nested cosmic evolutionary procession from universe to humans which our collective inquiry is just coming to verify and realize. It is then compared with this companion BH project, along with other models such as the major transitions scale (see the next section). See also The Star-Galaxy Era in Terms of Universal Evolution by Leonid and Anton Grinin in this same issue.

This article summarizes the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System (Henriques, 2003; 2011), and compares and contrasts its depiction of cosmic evolution as four “dimensions of existence” (Matter, Life, Mind and Culture) with Big History’s eight thresholds of complexity. Both systems are concerned with the current fragmentation in academic knowledge and advocate a more consilient and integrative vision that places the disciplines in coherent relationship to each other. The major differences between the two perspectives are how the ToK conceptualizes the various stages, with more emphasis on psychological aspects. In regard, Matter, Life, Mind and Culture are seen to occur due to semiotic or information processing systems that give rise to strongly emergent properties. (Abstract)

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