The Presence of the Infinite

Introduction: The Rise of Evolutionary Spirituality

Evolutionary spirituality is being born out of the growing realization that the scientific and historical story of our origins actually presents a profound spiritual teaching about the purpose of the universe and our place within it. Evolutionary spirituality, however, is not a religion or belief system. Rather, it represents a new level of cultural agreement that can include and uplift many of the existing forms of spirituality found in contemporary culture. In other words, evolutionary spirituality aspires to create a widely agreeable public form of spirituality that can provide a greater sense of solidarity and cohesion for those living in the developed world, while simultaneously retaining pluralism and making abundant room for a diversity of convictions about what is ultimately real. In short, evolutionary spirituality endeavors to transcend and include what is currently on offer in the spiritual marketplace of ideas through a new approach to spiritual teaching and practice.

Evolutionary spirituality, as I understand it, transcends previous forms of spirituality through two crucial insights that serve as its foundation. The first insight comes from an enhanced recognition of the spiritual nature and behavior of the intrinsic values of beauty, truth, and goodness. And the second insight involves what is coming to be known as the “spiritual teachings” of evolution itself. As I argue in chapter 2, the scientific truths of cosmological and biological evolution, together with the historical truths of humanity’s cultural evolution, reveal a truth so comprehensive and significant as to have spiritual implications of its own. Properly interpreted, the evolutionary unfolding of nature and history, as well as the evolution of human consciousness itself, represents a kind of revelation that serves as a useful criterion for evaluation—a reliable standard of measurement—for practically all spiritual truth claims.

Moreover, through the practice of evolutionary spirituality we become agents of evolution—emissaries of the future—whose mission is the improvement of the human condition. And the experience and creation of that which is spiritually real—that which is beautiful, true, and good—is ultimately how we make things genuinely better. In other words, we become direct participants in evolution’s unfolding—the process by which something more keeps coming from something less—as we work to increasingly perfect ourselves and our world. Thus, those who are on an evolutionary spiritual path recognize that their purpose in life is to participate in the gradual perfection of the evolving universe of nature, culture, and self. . . .