(The following is a brief excerpt from the beginning of meta-philosophy, “Dynamic Paradoxicalism — the Anti-ism ism.” ) 48
“Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.” — Lao-tse
“There is nothing absolute and final. If everything were ironclad, all the rules absolute and everything structured so no paradox or irony existed, you couldn’t move. One could say that man sneaks through the crack where paradox exists.” — Itzhak Bentov
“Dynamic paradoxicalism is my attempt to create a meta-philosophy that is a counter to fundamentalist and absolutist thought, which is nearly as common amongst New Agers and the Left as it is amongst religious fundamentalists and the Right. The greatest of life skills is the ability to live with ambiguity, ambivalence, and paradox without trying to regularize these uncertainties into finished, absolute truths. Dynamic paradoxicalism recognizes that most important areas of truth exist as a paradox, where seemingly contradictory elements have a dynamic level of validity based on context-specific circumstances. Although a greater conception that synthesizes the disparate elements of a paradox into a grand unit is an awesome addition to the conceptual toolbox, it is not always the most useful tool in the box. Dynamic paradoxicalism-
-recommends an ability to slide between the poles of a paradox, in some circumstances favoring the point of view of one side of the paradox, in other cases the other pole, and in still other cases favoring the unified view.
“Dynamic paradoxicalism is based on the principle that the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth.”
I believe that the perspective of dynamic paradoxicalism is necessary to comprehend the Singularity Archetype. Non-paradoxical views of the Singularity Archetype flatten and distort it. We’ve already discussed one of the essential paradoxes: From one point of view, the Singularity Archetype is about the collective approaching the event horizon of an evolutionary singularity. From another point of view, the Singularity Archetype is about the individual approaching the event horizon of death.
Another key paradox has to do with linear and circular time. From the perspective of circular time, the Singularity Archetype is an eternal archetype of death and rebirth that cannot be located in linear time. The Singularity Archetype lives in a nowever state, and people from whatever place and period encounter it.49
From the perspective of linear time, historical time, the Singularity Archetype is the end of the human narrative. There are overshadows of the Singularity Archetype from the very beginning of the story, but in the later chapters, the focus on the central organizing idea of the story intensifies, building toward a denouement. From the perspective of dynamic paradoxicalism, both the circular and linear perspectives of the Singularity are true but incomplete in isolation.
The unified view of this paradox would be the elongated spiral. The spiral circles around but also has a linear direction. For example, for the last thousand years, the seasons have continued to circle from winter to spring, to summer, to fall. All the days have circled from sunrise to sunset, and so on. But while all that circling has been happening, there has also been astounding linear change, such as the development of technology. Birth, death, and rebirth may revolve in a circle, but during the span of a single human incarnation, there is a very linear process called aging. The narrative of an individual life keeps unfolding, page-by-page, day-by-day, in a linear process that includes a beginning and an end.
Parallel paradoxes appear when the Singularity Archetype is viewed from the perspective of evolution. For example, from the perspective of the ego, the Singularity Archetype is like the wing of the devil, it-
49 See The Myth of the Great Ending: Why We’ve Been Longing for the End of Days Since the Beginning of Time by Joseph M. Fesler
-manifests as the worst thing possible — the end of all things, death and/or extinction as oblivion. From the perspective of the Self, however, the Singularity Archetype is about death and rebirth. The caterpillar must die to become a butterfly. It’s said that sixty-five million years ago, life on this planet crossed an event horizon when the earth collided with a giant asteroid. From the perspective of the dinosaurs, this was the worst thing possible, the end of days, a steep descent into extinction and oblivion. From the perspective of the mammals, this looked like the worst thing possible when it happened. But the mammalian perspective changed much later when the mammals emerged from the ashes of asteroidal apocalypse to find that they were in a new world that was amazingly fertile for their further evolution.
From the old Western perspective of progress, life, human culture, and technology have a positive linear development. In the postmodernist world, progress is seen as a naive perspective, especially since it’s become apparent that technological progress threatens the planet’s life. In parallel, sci-fi fantasies have gone from being largely utopian to almost exclusively dystopian. But this perspective, which has valid aspects, is in a highly charged paradox with other principles, such as the Hindu devolutionary perspective and the perspective of some, but not all, of the models generated by evolutionary biology.
Evolution or Devolution?
Michael Cremo, especially in his books Forbidden Archeology and Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory, points out substantial, well-documented evidence that there are dramatic flaws in accepted timelines of human evolution and with many aspects of Darwinian evolutionary models. For example, in an introduction to Human Devolution, Cremo writes:
“The Darwinian theory of evolution is in trouble right from the start. Although the origin of life from chemicals is technically not part of the evolution theory, it has in practice become inseparably connected with it. Darwinists routinely assert that life arose from chemicals. But after decades of theorizing and experimenting, they are unable to say exactly which chemicals combined in exactly which way to form exactly which first living thing. As far as evolution itself is concerned, it has not been demonstrated in any truly scientific way. It remains an article of faith. The modern evolutionary synthesis is based on genetics. Evolutionists posit a relationship between the genotype (genetic structure) of an organism and its phenotype (physical structure). They say that changes in the genotype result in changes in the phenotype, and by natural selection the changes in phenotype conferring better fitness in a particular environment accumulate in organisms. Evolutionists claim that this process can account for the appearance of new structural features in organisms. But on the level of microbiology, these structures appear to be irreducibly complex. Scientists have not been able to specify exactly how they have come about in step by step fashion. They have not been able to tell us exactly what genetic changes resulted in what phenotypic changes to produce particular complex features of organisms. This would require the specification of intermediate stages leading up to the complex structures we observe today. In his book Darwin’s Black Box (1996, p. 183), biochemist Michael Behe says, ‘In the past ten years, Journal of Molecular Evolution has published more than a thousand papers… There were zero papers discussing detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures. This is not a peculiarity of JME. No papers are to be found that discuss detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures, whether in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature, Science, the Journal of Molecular Biology or, to my knowledge, any science journal.’”
Of course, becoming familiar with all the models, controversies, and new findings of evolutionary biology is a lifetime endeavor, so I am in no way presenting myself as competent to arbitrate the relative validity of different models. I will, however, make some general points relevant to my view of the Singularity Archetype and evolution as dynamic paradoxes. Many of the findings of NDE research, explored in Chapter III of this text, could be used, and Cremo does use them to support a Vedic devolutionary model. This model stipulates that we are originally spiritual beings that descended into flesh and the relative darkness of the material world. When people experience states of incredibly enhanced awareness and planes of existence that seem more evolved than the mortal coil, their experience is usually that they are “coming home,” that they are experiencing a state that they came from but lost touch with, while human incarnation and corporeal existence eclipsed their awareness. The other side of the devolutionary paradox would be a progressive orthogenetic evolutionary model, as Pierre Teillhard de Chardin presents in The Phenomenon of Man. In this model, life is progressively developing toward more self-awareness. When I say that a progressive orthogenetic model is on the “other side” of the paradox, I am not implying that there are only two sides. Many other evolutionary models have considerable evidence supporting their points of view. For example, natural selection has been very elegantly demonstrated in the recent evolution of the peppered moth in England.50
My own informal model assumes that many different evolutionary mechanisms are at work, and some of them relate as dynamic paradoxes. For example, if the Vedic model is true, and we “devolved” from a more spiritual dimension into the dark and dense material world, considerable evolution could still be involved in making such a descent. According to The Taoist I Ching, evolution occurs by “returning to the Tao.” From the perspective of this model, we are born, like most organisms, completely in tune with the Tao, but then acquired conditioning causes us to lose touch with our essence. If, however, we are strong and aware enough to follow the path of “reverse alchemy,” and return to our essence, we will have evolved considerably. Simpler organisms — daisies, spiders, etc. are born in tune with the Tao, never deviate from it, but also don’t evolve as much as a person on the path of reverse alchemy. The process of becoming displaced from essence and then working your way back to it is quite developmental and promotes self-awareness.
Although the material world, according to the Vedic model, has a devolutionary relationship to the spiritual world, progressive evolution may still occur within certain linear time frames of the material world. The Spiral Dynamics model of evolution presents evidence of an elongated spiral in the evolution of human consciousness. As we travel through linear time, more advanced human types gradually tend to preponderate according to this model. Still another model, what Aldous Huxley called “the Perennial Philosophy,” includes and coincides with the Vedic view, and finds that human evolution in the material world cycles in a circular pattern — evolving, devolving, then evolving again, etc. From the position of dynamic paradoxicalism, all of these models have validity when seen from certain perspectives and time frames.
Teleology and the Singularity Archetype
From the perspective of circular time, the Singularity Archetype is always present and doesn’t “finalize” at some particular date. Like the everyday horizon, the event horizon is ever receding so that you keep approaching it indefinitely. Certainly, the Singularity Archetype is already present and is not to be located exclusively in the future. People have been encountering the Singularity Archetype for thousands of years during visionary states, near-death, etc. The circular time perspective of the Singularity Archetype, however, is incomplete.
A full perspective of the Singularity Archetype also requires the perspective of linear time. The evolutionary aspects of the Singularity Archetype are not merely illusions generated by linearity but are core aspects of the collective face of the archetype. The linear evolutionary model does imply teleological evolution, evolution with a goal, which presently has a disreputable status amongst most evolutionary biologists.
A detailed case for teleological evolution is beyond the scope of this book, but some general points about teleology will be necessary to understand the paradoxical relationship the Singularity Archetype has with evolution.
“Orthogenesis” (also sometimes referred to as “orthogenetic evolution,” “progressive evolution,” or “autogenesis”) is the hypothesis that there is an innate tendency, due to internal or external forces, for life to develop in a linear direction. Orthogenesis, however, does not posit a goal for this linear movement. While some well-known early models conflated the linear drive of orthogenesis with goal orientation, the later form of evolution is more properly called “teleology.”
Teleology is the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than the cause by which they arise. Teleology’s disreputable status in evolutionary biology has a very long history. More than 100 years ago, biologist Ernest William von Brück put it this way: “Teleology is a lady without whom no biologist can live. Yet he is ashamed to show himself with her in public.”51 This shamefulness originally derived from assumptions that teleology implied a divine force or that it supported discredited notions of progress. But teleology does not require a divine force, and recently it has been making a comeback in evolutionary biology, though not without continued controversy. Darwin was a supporter of teleology, which he saw as a natural process and not a result of anything supernatural or divine. For example, in 1863 when biologist Asa Grey wrote a letter congratulating Darwin for some findings that supported teleology, Darwin wrote back: “What you say about teleology pleases me especially and I do not think anyone else has noticed the point.”
Although many in the scientific community still abhor teleology, it certainly has supporters. For example, British physicist Paul Davies wrote in The Fifth Miracle: “The laws of nature are rigged not only in favor of life, but also in favor of mind. Mind is written into the laws of nature in a fundamental way.” If Davies is correct, then Homo sapiens is the spearhead of a teleological evolution unfolding on this planet.
The speculative teleological models of evolution presented by Terence McKenna and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin work extremely well with many of the implications of the Singularity Archetype. I regard de-
51 From Dr. Kenneth Ring’s Lessons from the Light: What We can Learn from Near-death Experience, page xvi
-Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man as an essential text related to the Singularity Archetype. His work is well known, so I won’t attempt to summarize it here, but I encourage everyone interested in the Singularity Archetype to read The Phenomenon of Man. Here’s a brief quote from this seminal work:
“Thus we see not only thought as participating in evolution as an anomaly or as an epiphenomenon; but evolution as so reducible to and identifiable with a progress toward thought that the movement of our souls expresses and measures the very stages of progress of evolution itself. Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself, to borrow Julian Huxley’s striking expression”
So far in this section I have lightly surveyed aspects of evolution that a shelf load of heavy volumes would more properly introduce. The purpose here is not to break new ground in evolutionary biology but to outline my view of the Singularity Archetype as having a dynamic, paradoxical relationship to evolution.
Further Speculations on Human Evolution
Our need to evolve may express itself in ways that seem paradoxical and disturbing. For example, there is much reason to believe that this evolutionary rebirth may become possible only as we push the species toward the brink of extinction. If you’ll continue to indulge me, I’d like to offer some further speculations about human evolution.52
The Last Great Evolutionary Jump
The last great quantum jump in evolution on this planet was the development of the human capacity to think and express itself in words. Stanford anthropologist Richard Klein called the human development of language “the brain’s big bang.” Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out that all human languages are essentially the same on the level of deep syntax.
The exact origins of human language are, of course, unknown. There is debate about whether it developed gradually or suddenly. Linguistic monogenesis is the hypothesis that there was a single proto-language-
52 I want to emphasize that word again: speculation. Indeed, some of what follows might even be reasonably called under-informed speculation. A vast amount of unfinished theoretical work exists on the origins of human language. Most of this work is being done by evolutionary biologists, linguists, and neuroscientists like Terence Deacon, author of The Symbolic Species: The Coevolution of Language and the Brain. By contrast, I took one linguistics course in NYU grad school and don’t even have an introductory grasp of the many competing models for the origins of language. What follows is not a theory but a very general speculation.
-sometimes called Proto-Human, from which all other vocal languages spoken by humans descend. There is no single, unprecedented brain structure associated with language. Language processing occurs in many different brain structures, all of which existed before language is believed to have originated.
One way of imagining an evolutionary jump is to consider the possibility of an individual mutation that is capable of superior functioning. Most mutations, of course, are disadvantageous and bred out, but occasionally even random mutagenic forces can generate something superior. However, this model wouldn’t work very well for the evolution of language, which is a collective phenomenon. A single mutation capable of language wouldn’t have anyone to develop language with. Therefore, one can speculate that the structures in the brain that allowed the capacity for language developed gradually, and that for a long period of time, some latent capacity for language existed in a great many individuals without it being manifest.
One possibility would be some sort of punctuated equilibrium. Some subset of early humans were experiencing acute stress that would not allow the old equilibrium of survival to continue. With this ultimate pressure acting as a catalyst, the long-latent capacity for language becomes manifest as a new survival adaptation. The superior consciousness and communication made possible by this adaptation allows the early human subset to survive. Perhaps the advantages incurred by this adaptation allowed early humans to overtake competing hominid species. Some aspects of this speculative scenario may have an analogous relationship to the present situation of modern humans.
Organisms and Change
Putting aside our species in particular for a moment, let’s consider the nature of organisms and change. Organisms are extremely complex structures, living processes rather than fixed objects. The coherence of these extremely complex processes is constantly being threatened by various insults — attacks by other species, weather and climate change, cosmic rays, environmental toxins, etc. — that can degrade the coherence of the entire pattern/organism. Enough degradation of this coherence and the process may completely destabilize as in disease and especially in death, where there is the most radical apparent loss of coherence and complexity. Organisms, therefore, are conservative in nature, striving to maintain their inner coherence. Biologists refer to this drive toward maintaining inner coherence as “homeostasis.” Similarly, a species seeks to ensure the survival and reproduction of its genome — a coherent genetic pattern changing relatively little between generations.
Human individuals are obviously also organisms. If we change our frame and look at the human species or the human psyche, we still view an organismic phenomenon, an extremely complex living process. Both Freud and Jung agreed that the human psyche is essentially conservative. The psyche has its own homeostasis, a powerful drive to maintain its coherence and particular identity. Generally, it strives mightily to maintain that coherence and resist change. An organism will defend homeostasis even if that homeostasis is unsuccessful in some ways. A neurotic psyche, for example, will maintain its coherence, including pathological aspects that produce much suffering and that could be changed; proverbially, better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know. Addicts remain in their addictions. People stay in their comfort zones even if they are suffocating in them. The human psyche is a complex and vulnerable structure living in an acutely stressful environment. Most people maintain their feelings of sanity and manufacture a socially acceptable identity by strained, tenuous repression of the irrational. All sorts of powerful, unconscious forces that don’t fit into the model of themselves that society has trained them to create must be repressed. They may feel about change what a sentient house of cards might feel about gusts of wind.
The collective psyche of a society or culture can be even more resistant to change. And when such conservative psyches, individually or collectively, sense the approach of a singularity that will thoroughly punctuate their equilibrium, they perceive it as apocalyptic. And their perception may not be far off, as powerful change may require apocalyptic shocks. An analogy to such a threatening level of change can be drawn to tribal rites of initiation. Many tribal cultures take an adolescent and put them through life-threatening experiences. For example, the Amazonian Xircrin people put adolescents through an ordeal that involves venomous wasp stings. The wasp attack they must endure frequently results in blindness or death.53 Perhaps the human species, sensing its adolescent crisis and need for initiation, is creating its own perilous rite by toxification of the environment.
Terence McKenna and the Attractor Point
Terence McKenna has written a number of fascinating books that make similar speculations about evolution. The parallels to the ideas I’ve reached through different means are so numerous that I can only conclude that we are either experiencing exactly the same form of mental illness or are perceiving the same truths. For example, McKenna refers to the Singularity as either “the end of history” or as “the strange attractor.” McKenna adopted the term “strange attractor” from chaos-
-mathematics. As McKenna uses the term, a strange attractor is an event in the future that can bend and warp causality toward it. Although from the point of view of linear time, it is an event that has not yet occurred, its influence is pervasive.
I can’t pretend to have much understanding of chaos mathematics, but an analogy occurs to me that what the strange attractor is for the life of the species, death is for the individual. Death is a strange attractor in the life of every individual. While we live, death is obviously a future event that has not occurred but which is inevitable. Our mortality, the fact that we move inexorably toward that attractor, shapes and influences every aspect of our lives. Also, although it is definite that we must pass into that attractor, the moment it will occur and the manner of our passing are not necessarily determined. The inevitability of the attractor is beyond our free will and individuality, but our choices and personality often influence the time and manner of it. I can’t choose whether or not I will die, but the way I care for my body, the life choices I make, the risks I choose, and the option of suicide all demonstrate that the attractor may not be fully determined outside of my will. Like entering a singularity in space, we also don’t know for sure what will happen when we pass the event horizon of death. Spiritual teachings from many cultures and periods, NDEs, etc., suggest that death is a doorway. Conversely, neurological materialists view death as a dead end. As one put it to me, “It’s just lights out, and that’s it.” From the untranscendent vantage of the ego, the strange attractor of death is viewed as an apocalyptic extinction. Similarly, our species is heading toward a strange attractor. Many view it as extinction — an unredeemed apocalypse. But others view it as a doorway. Where we go when we pass through that doorway may be greatly influenced by the choices that we make in life.
Approaching the Singularity
To engage another speculative area, let’s consider what may happen as our species approaches the evolutionary event horizon. Our present world may be viewed as being in a rather tense position between realms of matter and spirit. Newtonian physics and a very mundane, mechanical model of reality can explain much in our world. But those of us not actively trying to repress the atypical recognize that there are many white crows in our world. Anomalous events occur that can’t quite be explained by coincidence or cause and effect. Numerous well-designed and controlled scientific experiments have demonstrated the reality of a number of parapsychological abilities and effects. I’m not going to try to recapitulate that evidence here but instead will refer interested readers to (for example) the work of Dr. Dean Radin, especially his book Entangled Minds. Yes, as in any field, we can also find examples of purported effects that were the result of fraud and/or poor methodology, but if we have even a single authentic instance of one individual exhibiting telekinesis, communicating telepathically, reaching another person through their dreams, etc. — just one example in all of human history — then the door to extraordinary functioning and consciousness is thrown wide open for the whole species. And many of us can point toward a number of such events in our lives. A miraculous evolutionary capacity in human beings that is mostly latent now has been manifesting episodically for a long, long time. Certainly, as we’ve discussed at length in the section on NDEs, we have abundant evidence of paranormal function as people approach the individual event horizon of death. Given the white crow events that merely define the outer reaches of the present human performance envelope, who knows what emergent effects may occur as our species hurtles toward the singularity?