ON MAN’S PATH OF EVOLUTION IS IT POSSIBLE THAT AT SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE HUMANITY AS A WHOLE CAN ATTAIN ENLIGHTENMENT? AT WHAT POINT OF EVOLUTION IS MAN TODAY?
With man, the natural, automatic process of evolution ends. Man is the last product of unconscious evolution. With man, conscious evolution begins. Many things are to be taken into account.
First, unconscious evolution is mechanical and natural. It happens by itself. Through this type of evolution, consciousness evolves. But the moment consciousness comes into being, unconscious evolution stops because its purpose has been fulfilled. Unconscious evolution is needed only up to the point where the conscious comes into being. Man has become conscious. In a way, he has transcended nature. Now nature cannot do anything; the last product that was possible through natural evolution has come into being. Now man becomes free to decide whether to evolve or not to evolve.
Secondly, unconscious evolution is collective, but the moment evolution becomes conscious it becomes individual. No collective, automatic evolution proceeds further than mankind. From now on, evolution becomes an individual process. Consciousness creates individuality. Before consciousness evolves, there is no individuality. Only species exist, not individuality.
When evolution is still unconscious, it is an automatic process; there is no uncertainty about it. Things happen through the law of cause and effect. Existence is mechanical and certain. But with man, with consciousness, uncertainty comes into existence. Now, nothing is certain. Evolution may take place or it may not. The potential is there, but the choice will rest entirely with each individual. That is why anxiety is a human phenomenon. Below man there is no anxiety because there is no choice. Everything happens as it must. There is no choice so there is no chooser, and in the absence of the chooser, anxiety is impossible. Who is to be anxious? Who is to be tense?
With the possibility of choice, anxiety follows like a shadow. Everything has to be chosen now; everything is a conscious effort. You alone are responsible. If you fail, you fail. It is your responsibility. If you succeed, you succeed. It is again your responsibility. And every choice is ultimate in a sense. You cannot undo it, you cannot forget it, you cannot go back on it. Your choice becomes your destiny. It will remain with you and be a part of you; you cannot deny it. But your choice is always a gamble. Every choice is made in darkness because nothing is certain.
That is why man suffers from anxiety. He is anxious to his very roots. What torments him, to begin with, is: to be or not to be? to do or not to do? to do this or to do that? “No choice” is not possible. If you do not choose, then you are choosing not to choose; it is a choice. So you are forced to choose; you are not free not to choose. Not choosing will have as much effect as any other choice.
The dignity, the beauty and the glory of man is this consciousness. But it is a burden also. The glory and the burden come simultaneously the minute you become conscious. Every step is a movement between the two. With man, choice and conscious individuality come into existence. You can evolve, but your evolution will be an individual endeavor. You may evolve to become a buddha or you may not. The choice is yours.
So there are two types of evolution: collective evolution and individual, conscious evolution. `Evolution’ implies unconscious, collective progress, so it would be better to use the word `revolution’ in talking about man. With man, revolution becomes possible.
Revolution, as I am using the word here, means a conscious, individual effort toward evolution. It is bringing individual responsibility to a peak. Only you are responsible for your own evolution. Ordinarily, man tries to escape from his responsibility for his own evolution, from the responsibility of freedom of choice. There is a great fear of freedom. When you are a slave the responsibility for your life is never yours; someone else is responsible. So in a way, slavery is a very comfortable thing. There is no burden. In this respect, slavery is a freedom: freedom from conscious choice.
The moment you become completely free, you have to make your own choices. No one forces you to do anything; all alternatives are open to you. Then the struggle with the mind begins. So one becomes afraid of freedom.
Part of the appeal of ideologies such as communism and fascism is that they provide an escape from individual freedom and a shirking of individual responsibility. The burden of responsibility is taken away from the individual; the society becomes responsible. When something goes wrong, you can always point to the state, the organization. Man becomes just a part of the collective structure. But in denying individual freedom, fascism and communism also deny the possibility of human evolution. It is a falling back from the great possibility that revolution offers: the total transformation of human beings. When this happens, you destroy the possibility of achieving the ultimate. You fall back; you again become like animals.
To me, further evolution is possible only with individual responsibility. You alone are responsible! This responsibility is a great blessing in disguise. With this individual responsibility comes the struggle that ultimately leads to choiceless awareness.
The old pattern of unconscious evolution has ended for us. You can fall back into it, but you cannot remain in it. Your being will revolt. Man has become conscious; he has to remain conscious. There is no other way.
Unconscious evolution ends with man and conscious evolution — revolution — begins. But conscious evolution does not necessarily begin in any particular man. It begins only if you choose it to begin. If you do not choose it — as most people do not — you will be in a very tense condition. And present-day humanity is like this: nowhere to go, nothing to be achieved. Nothing can be achieved now without conscious effort. You cannot go back to a state of unconsciousness. The door has closed; the bridge has been broken.
The conscious choice to evolve is a great adventure, the only adventure there is for a human being. The path is arduous; it is bound to be so. Errors are bound to be there, failures, because nothing is certain. This situation creates tension in the mind. You do not know where you are, you do not know where you are going. Your identity is lost. The situation may even reach such a point that you become suicidal.
Suicide is a human phenomenon; it comes with human choice. Animals cannot commit suicide, because to choose death consciously is impossible for them. Birth is unconscious, death is unconscious. But with man — ignorant man, unevolved man — one thing becomes possible: the ability to choose death. Your birth is not your choice. As far as your birth is concerned, you are in the hands of unconscious evolution. In fact, your birth is not a human happening at all. It is animal in nature, because it is not your choice. Only with choice does humanity begin. But you can choose your death — a decisive act. So suicide becomes a definite human act. And if you do not choose conscious evolution, there is every possibility that you may choose to commit suicide. You may not have the courage actively to commit suicide but you will go through a slow, prolonged process of suicide — lingering, waiting to die.
You cannot make anyone else responsible for your evolution. To accept this situation gives you strength. You are on your way to growing, to evolving.
[The Psychology of the Esoteric – 1]