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Chapter Twenty-Four

Imagining an activist movement

for the conscious evolution

of social systems

What would a conscious evolutionary activist movement look like? I'll share my thoughts here, more as a stimulant to dialogue than as a prescription or prediction. From my current understanding and inclinations, I believe: A conscious evolutionary activist movement

would choose to play an active part in evolution, helping humanity (and itself) move consciously towards evolutionary fitness and

elegantly functional self-organized complexity. As I sense into this visionary definition, I see many interesting components and corollaries. I want to explore them here by imagining what those of us who are attracted to this vision might do with them. Let's assume for a moment that Reflections on Evolutionary Activism


we have such a movement, and look at what we are doing in it and with it….

First of all, I see us studying and being guided by evo- lutionary dynamics—the process dynamics of nature. This is not a sideline. It is as essential to us as studying the medical literature is to a good doctor or studying the Bible is to an evangelical Christian. We are reading evolutionary literature to find out and share all we can about all the evo- lutionary dynamics that have been going on for almost 14

billion years—noticing how those dynamics themselves evolve as they go.

What evolutionary dynamics can be used to transform social systems? We are not only all students of this ques- tion, but we collectively support and participate in real re- search into this new field of investigation (for example, by participating in the evolutionary spirituality wiki16) . For any and all evolutionary dynamics, we discuss how it ap- plies to our circumstances, and how we might carry it into its own next evolutionary step. As conscious evolutionaries, we are aware that evolution itself is evolving its dynamics through our learning and action, and we engage in that work as an active duty, an exercise in conscious evolution. Near the top of our list, I see us trying to understand how to most creatively use differences and disturbances—

including the major crises of our time—as evolutionary doorways—and also how to align diverse self-interests with 16


Reflections on Evolutionary Activism

the wellbeing of the whole. (My investigations so far have led me to believe those two evolutionary principles contain most of the guidance we need. Heaven knows, we already have tons of opportunities to experiment in these areas alone!) Although grounded in science, our explorations are not a merely rational exercise. For many of us, intuition, imagi- nation, aesthetics, and physical involvement play vital roles in our learning and discovery processes. Furthermore, most of us evolutionary activists find the science valuable only to the extent it excites and inspires us, giving us clarity and a sense that we're not just pushing an agenda or following a formula, but participating as knowledgable apprentices with nature in a profoundly important undertaking it has been working on since the beginning of time. We become parts of what Ursula Goodenough calls "the sacred depths of nature". This is not primarily a rational task, although rea- son and facts are among our most valued sources of under- standing.

Even though we are activists, we are not only working on evolving what's outside of us. In fact, we have our own versions of the self-development and human potential activi- ties that are widespread in the "conscious evolution" sub- culture. Our versions embrace any and all practices from that subculture—particularly where each of us find personal value in such practices. In addition, we are especially atten- tive to the personal developmental challenges and opportu- nities that accompany our activism. This is part of our activism.

Reflections on Evolutionary Activism


We know that when we take action to change a system, the system tends to resist, to push back. That is natural. Systems need to have that habit in order to remain coherent, to hold their form and identity—in short,

in order to survive. But they also need to

In close

be flexible, which is where we come in.


As evolutionary activists, we know that

groups we

we have to work WITH the push-back we

get from the systems we are trying to

act together

change. We see such push-back as a

and support

sign both of something that needs to

our own

change and as a source of life energy and

guidance as we catalyze the needed



We also know that social systems aren't the only sys- tems that push back. Just as we bump up against resistances in the world, so we bump up against them in and among ourselves. So in our movement activities, we constantly test ourselves and discover ways we need to—and can—learn, expand and shift. Most of us are involved in intimate, often local support groups, fellowships and networks that support us AS ACTIVISTS in working on our own evolution—and on our ability to function well together—as well as on the evo- lution of society's systems and cultures. In spiritual terms, we arrange things so that our activism is actually a spiri- tual practice, just as Service or Love are spiritual paths in many existing religions, or like Truth was for Gandhi or Love for Martin Luther King, Jr.


Reflections on Evolutionary Activism

Of course as a force for evolution we have no desire for a movement that is static and ideological. Not only would that not be "walking our talk," but it would be an active impediment to our mission. So we are eager collective learners and becoming masters of appropriate shape-shifting to meet changing demands and opportunities. We try to weave our movement out of inclusive ecosystems of diverse, interrelated ideas, strategies, tactics, media, people, and organizing forms. In our efforts to be intelligently inclusive—to be inte- gral—we ask questions like "What are the gifts and limita- tions of this?" and "Where does this fit in relation to every- thing else?" and "What is possible now?" Whenever we stumble into blame and arguing about whether something is right or wrong, we do what we can to shift to this other level of inclusive possibility thinking.

Our movement has emerged and is evolving itself through such conscious interactions and co-creativity in active response to changing conditions in and around it. We engage in a tre- mendous amount of juicy conversation. It is productive con- versation, neither inspiring nor deserving the "all talk and no action" critique so common years ago. Our talking is guided by a pioneering intention that we need, perhaps above all, to learn how to do powerful conversations well, for they are the medium through which our cooperation, our collective learning, and our co-creativity can change the world. So we usually reflect on our conversations before, during, and after them in an effort to learn how to do them better. Our attention is focused on the social systems, cultures, consciousness and technology that generate the life- Reflections on Evolutionary Activism


enhancing and life-degrading things that happen in our world. We recognize that we are not outside of them, nor are we the only actors, nor can we accomplish what's needed by ourselves, no matter how numerous we are. Our approach is always to look for where the energy for creative shift is—

no matter how faint or strange it may seem—and to support it to develop in ways that will assist the larger society's mo- tion to become more sustainable and life-enhancing. We look for ways to access the wisdom of the whole in service of the whole—using advances in democracy, conversation, technol- ogy, collaboration, spirituality, cognition, story... We look for the acupuncture points where a small intervention will tap the tremendous evolutionary energies latent in all out- of-equilibrium situations and systems, and together we at- tend to what happens when we act at that point, and learn from our experience. We know we are not creating a new culture. We are helping a civilization become capable of cre- ating itself wisely, over and over, and we enjoy the sacred mystery of how to do that and how it all unfolds. We are part of the Great Learning.

Of course, none of this will play out the way it does on paper here. It will play out in a dance with whatever we do, with things happening because we are conscious of them and things happening because we aren't conscious of them. We will learn how to become more conscious about what we need to be conscious of and more insightful, courageous, and elegant in how we act on that. At the same time, we will always let the larger body of life carry us in grace and mystery, teaching us as it goes. That is, after all, what this is all about. 282

Reflections on Evolutionary Activism

To Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a dream

that We the People—

that elusive mythic power

that is our one linked life—

will awaken from the nightmare

where we willingly, unwaryingly,

subserve our will and our sun-varied lives

and our pricelessly unspun future

to Powers so hungrily brilliant

that we think we serve ourselves

when we serve our colonized

lives, desires, minds

to their hunger.

I have a dream, deep beyond forgetting,

that We the People—

the spirit power at the core

of one and All—

will awaken into heart and thought woven

with the invisible Power of the Universe,

with the all-pervasive powers of life,

and with our own blessedly multiplicitous

Reflections on Evolutionary Activism


powers of sight and bold gesture,

to make a world so alive

with such wisdom, energy and joy

that dreaming living dreams

on behalf of the best life has to offer

becomes the grand golden loom

upon which a new wisely beloved civilization gets woven with ourselves and our children.

And in my dream, deep in the dawn

of yestermorrow's rains

blessed in the dust of our lives,

one and All reclaim

our seeing, our life, and our time—

and one another, first of all—

and on that stardust stage

between the deepening nightmare

where waking

never comes

and the dream of a gateway world

where waking

goes on forever,

we turn, and together wake

and a bluebright day floods in.

❘ ❇ ❘


Reflections on Evolutionary Activism