I write this blog on the eve of the September 11, 2001 commemoration. I just came across a new book whose authors, I perceive, have caught the vision of an emerging enlightened humanity. It seems that they have also succeeded in understanding the plight of the human condition vis-a-vis the human ego, which they point out is the root of human suffering. The title of the book is “Ego: The Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity.” Its authors are Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft. Their book caught my attention for the manner in which the book resonates with our own vision of humanity’s future in terms of spiritual unfoldment (or evolving human consciousness) and the ascension into a mystically transformed humanity. Rather than simply writing this blog as a review of and commentary on their book, I have opted to use their own words to feature the book. The following statements, therefore, are reproduced from their book and from their Web site.
About the Book
“Ego”… is the first book to explore the positive evolutionary potential hidden in one of the most destructive events in history. In their examination of the evolutionary implications of 9/11 and its aftermath, the authors contend we are not falling into the grip of a new dark age at all, rather we are on the verge of a much brighter one as the Darwinian process of natural selection continues to advance humankind.
The authors’ inquiry led them to the roots of human suffering: the ego. That the ego underlies our problems as a species may come as no surprise. But a deeper look into the ego’s origin and history is full of unexpected revelations:
- The modern human is dominated by a Stone Age brain
- Energy consumption and the environmental crisis is nothing more than the evolutionary drive to survive gone haywire
- Evolution has wired us to be riveted to bad news, bad outcomes, and worst-case scenarios
- When beliefs are challenged it triggers a life or death stance in the human nervous system
- Emotions are mostly physical, not mental
The self we identify with — along with its biases and beliefs — turns out to be an evolutionary tool that made its first appearance some 50,000 years ago during what’s called the conceptual revolution, arguably the biggest developmental leap in human history. The emerging ego accompanied our ability to construct complex tools, create art, and redefine social structure. For the first time as a species, we were able to imagine the future, consider the thoughts of others, and picture ourselves in our own minds. The ego is a cognitive trick of natural selection intended to insure the survival of the individual. Baumann and Taft say the problem comes when we take the ego’s conceptualization of reality as the truth about who we actually are.
Using the latest research from neuroscience, evolutionary biology, psychology, and paleontology, Baumann and Taft show that modern humanity may be on the verge of an expansion of cognitive abilities akin to the development of the ego. This next step will free the human mind to see beyond the confines of the prison, and open the vast potential of conscious awareness. (Emphasis is mine.)
The Book’s Take on the Human Condition
Albert Einstein wrote of the human condition:
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Trapped in a complex web of emotion and thought, we understand ourselves as a cluster of identifications with race, nationality, religion, political beliefs, age, gender, and profession. Alone, these concepts would be ephemeral, but they are underpinned by knee-jerk emotional reactions, intense pleasure-and-pain conditioning in our bodies that resists any change or insight. Cobbled together, these concepts lock us in a sense of permanence and isolation, disconnected from the visceral common sense that would tell us at every moment just how wrong we are in our daily apprehension of reality.
Evolution acting through the mechanism of natural selection created the emotions that motivate and direct our behavior, as well as the imagination we use to model possible outcomes for that behavior. Over millions of years, these developed in our animal and proto-human ancestors into an extremely potent combination. As a system our thoughts and feelings have ratcheted our species up the escalator from harsh, brutal survival in the dirt to the comfort, cleanliness, and convenience of sipping tea on a transcontinental flight.
And yet, like any technology — our body/brain system represents a highly advanced biological technology — there is almost as much of a downside as there is an upside. The same imagination that allows us to build jet airliners can dream up a plan to crash them into skyscrapers full of people. Our religious feelings motivate us to feed and clothe the needy, or to kill nonbelievers. The same empathic emotions that allow us to care for our families and children can motivate us to annihilate anyone we think threatens our loved ones. This downside doesn’t just drive international terrorists or even the murderer down the block. It drives the anxiety, depression, and alienation that plague us today.
Given that our bodies and brains, and therefore our thoughts and feelings, are the result of evolution, it is likely that evolution will also adapt in us a trait or capacity that provides a way out. Our genetic makeup is not written in stone, and is constantly changing. And although Einstein talks about taking individual responsibility to free ourselves from this prison — he was, after all, writing this quote in a letter to a rabbi — it may turn out not to be a personal matter at all. Perhaps it is more an issue of humanity, as a species, slowly marching toward an escape hatch.
The evolution of our species has not come to an end. Human beings are not a finished product, but instead a perpetually unfinished process, a moving target, and our current state, the human condition, is not the final word on the subject. Humanity is in motion as the wave of evolution continues to push us forward. The expansion of awareness that originally allowed us to become conscious of our thoughts and feelings is still under way. The rise in brainpower has not only created an explosion of skills — inventing tools, language, medicine, technology, civilization — it has at many times during the last two thousand years allowed some random outliers to glimpse something shocking: that who we think we are — our mental self-concept, or ego — is not actually what we are. Our self-concept is a symbol, an idea like any other. As evolution stumbles forward in its blind march of accidental brilliance, this radical insight that was once the province of a special few will slowly become the normal viewpoint: nothing special. The unfolding of the physical universe, the laws of nature, and evolution of life are generating the expanded perspective that will allow humanity to make the biggest prison break of all time — escaping the prison of ourselves. (Emphasis is mine.)
My Thoughts on the Book
What more need I say, the book is on track. Just one thing, though: Evolution is not “stumbling forward in its blind march of accidental brilliance,” as the authors put it. An enlightened humanity is emerging in accordance with the divine scheme and plan underlying creation. Humanity’s transformative evolution is being guided and moved by the very infinite intelligence which set it in motion in the first place and which constitutes the very essence and drive with which humanity evolves. Enlightenment is not an accident in the face of the human condition’s fundamental helplessness and hopelessness.