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Evolution - Lower and Higher Reprised

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by Sangharakshita

The Higher Evolution

Lecture Series Compilation For the benefit of newcomers to the Mitra Study Course, it should be explained that this series is a conflation of two series of Bhante's lectures, `The Higher Evolution of Man' and `Aspects of the Higher Evolution of the Individual', which formerly comprised two separate series in the Mitra Study Course. This explains why in these lectures Bhante sometimes refers puzzlingly to `last week' or `halfway through the series' and so on.

The omitted lectures, which can be identified by their numbers in the Dharmachakra Tape/CD Catalogue, can be obtained from FWBO Centre tape libraries or direct from Dharmachakra.

The Higher Evolution `Triangle' The diagram that follows is referred to many times in the course of the lectures, so it has been placed here, so that you can find it easily. Enjoy your study.

Dharmachari Silabhadra Transcriptions The Higher Evolution of Man (1969 - 70) Tape 75: Evolution: Lower and Higher In the course of the next 8 weeks, we shall be concerned with what is possibly the most important subject that we could ever concern ourselves with; and not only shall we be concerned with this most important of all subjects but we shall be concerned with it under what is practically its most important and most significant aspect. The subject with which we shall be concerned is the subject of Man, that is to say, our subject is ourselves, not anything outside ourselves. Our subject is Man, but we shall not be concerned simply with any merely general or abstract idea of Man; we shall be concerned very much with Man in the concrete, as he actually exists, as he actually and also potentially lives and evolves and aspires. We shall not, in other words, be concerned with Man as something static, fixed, final, finished once and for all. We shall be concerned in the course of the coming weeks with Man as developing, that is to say as progressing from lower to higher and ever higher levels, degrees, grades of being and of consciousness. In the course of these lectures, we shall be concerned with the vitally important, fundamental subject of human evolution, and especially with the higher evolution of Man.

Most of the time, we know we are very much occupied, too much occupied, with external things. I am quite sure that most of you, for most of this day, have been very much concerned with external things, household chores, other people, your jobs, with all sorts of everyday material things; concerned to manipulate them, to use them, to utilise them. I know in some cases it has been not at all easy for you to get here this evening. One gentleman, I know, almost staggered up the stairs and collapsed on the top landing - he had had so much difficulty with the traffic. So we are very much occupied with external things; we cannot avoid them. It seems that they are an inevitable part of modern living, at least in a city like London. So we do not very often get time to stop and consider ourselves and just sit down and be still and take a look at ourselves, to feel our own existence. I wonder how long it is since any of you had the opportunity to sit down in a room all by yourselves, with nothing in particular to do, no job, no duty, nothing to rush out after, and be still for as long as you wanted to be still, and just think and just be yourself. Someone once defined religion as what we do with our solitude. Nowadays, unfortunately, only too often, we do not have any solitude and therefore also, perhaps, we do not have any religion.

But in the course of these coming weeks, we shall be trying to do just this, stopping and considering ourselves. Just stopping and studying ourselves. We shall be trying to see how far Man has come in the evolutionary process and how far Man, we ourselves, have yet to go. And in the course of these talks, while considering this subject of Man, we shall be very careful not to think of Man as something distinct from ourselves. It seems as though quite a lot of the people who go along to lectures have a sort of gift, if not a positive genius, for isolating, not to say insulating, themselves from the subject matter of the lecture. In other words, they remain merely audience. If you talk about negative emotion, for instance, they will just think, well, lots of people have negative emotions, people out there. But they will never think `I have negative emotion'. They will never say `The lecturer is talking about me.' No, they isolate themselves, insulate themselves, from what is being said. It is purely objective, in a sense it doesn't concern them. So even with regard to a subject like this, the subject of Man, it is only too easy to sit back and hear a lecture about Man as though it were about a being living on some other planet or some other star in some other galactic system millions upon millions of miles away, and never think that `this concerns me, this is about me, that this is in fact me'. We manage to put up such an effective screen between ourselves and what is being said, what we are hearing. We just look at it as it were drifting by, flowing or floating by `out there', but we never make the personal application to ourselves. So in the course of this series of talks, we must avoid at all costs doing this. We shall be talking about Man, thinking about Man, reflecting about Man, but never must we think that we are reflecting, thinking, about some being external to ourselves. Our study is self-study, we are thinking/talking about ourselves all the time in the course of these talks. We should also be very careful not to divide ourselves, all of us here present this evening and on the other evenings, into on the one hand speaker and on the other hand audience, as though these are quite different. Some meetings you go to, you find the speaker is up on a platform. This is the way lecture halls are designed. It's a practical thing, so that everybody can see him; but the effect is to create a feeling of separation. There is the lecturer up there and there is the audience down there, and the lecture supposedly creates some sort of bridge. But often it isn't a very effective sort of bridge. It is more something, you may say, that emphasises the separateness, the distinctiveness of the speaker and of the audience. So we must not think that these two, speaker and audience, are really two different things, two different entities, two different sets of people. There is a distinction obviously, of course, but at the same time the two are inseparable. Sometimes I like to say that the relation between the speaker and the audience is much more like that between the conductor and the orchestra. At a concert, you realise that the music you hear is the product jointly of the members of the orchestra and the person conducting them. So I very often feel that a lecture is a similar joint product. Rather as though we had an orchestra without any audience that was listening to the orchestra. Everybody was playing as well as listening. This is what we should try to feel in the course of these talks; there may be just one person speaking but that one person functions in a way as the mouthpiece, a reflection of everyone present, about themselves., i.e.

about Man.

Now today, our reflections about ourselves must be rather wide-ranging. Tonight we have to cover a great deal of ground. Tonight, we shall be dealing not only with Evolution: Lower and Higher (our subject for this occasion), but also we shall be laying the groundwork for the whole series of talks. And I therefore propose to divide this evening's lecture into three distinct parts: 1.

Evolution in General 2.

The difference between the Lower Evolution and the Higher Evolution; and this incidentally will involve the working out with the help of a diagram of a sort of scale of evolutionary progress and development.


We shall just briefly indicate some of the different aspects of the Higher Evolution, aspects which will be covered at some length in subsequent lectures.

---oOo--- 1. Evolution in General It is no exaggeration to say, I think, that this concept of evolution is probably the most important general concept of modern thought. I say `modern thought' advisedly because even though the idea of evolution, of development, even organic development, was known in earlier times, in an ancient time, it was known, if one can speak of it being known at all, only in a very vague, almost dreamy, poetic sort of way. If there was any understanding of this idea of evolution at all in earlier ages, it was more a matter of inspired guesswork rather than of any real, scientific, objective, grounded knowledge.

As a scientifically demonstrable principle, the concept of evolution is for ever associated with the name of Charles Darwin1 because it was he who first traced the operation of this principle/concept of evolution in detail within one particular field of human knowledge: biology. And he showed quite definitely, decisively, in the face of a great deal of dogmatic Christian opposition, how one form of organic life developed into another; the more simple forms developing into the more complex, and the more complex developing into the more complex still. And since those days, only 100 years ago, the principle of evolution has been discovered to be at work in every field of knowledge and every department of life. Wherever you find life, there you find evolution, there you find development. And at present we know that the ramifications of this great principle, this universal concept of evolution, extend throughout the universe at all possible levels. In fact, we find Sir Julian Huxley2 writing these words: come, we may say, to the threshold of the second part of our lecture, to the distinction between the Lower Evolution and Higher Evolution.

But ...

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