Are we facing an evolutionary crisis? by MANOJ DAS
Are we going to let technology shape our future? Photo: K.K. Mustafah
It seems that the human race is beginning to lose its intellectual and emotional abilities.
Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years, warned us not to trust our intellect because it had no conscience though it had muscles. Those familiar with this warning will not be surprised by the thesis put forth by Dr. Gerald Crabtree of Stanford University in a recent issue of Trends in Genetics, suggesting that the human race had begun to lose its intellectual and emotional abilities. As expected, the scientist makes a brilliantly detached analysis of the situation in terms of genetics and mutations but leaves it to us to evaluate the socio-psychological consequences of his deduction that runs against the modern man’s self-assured complacency about his mind. But the suspicion that the attributes of mind — intellect, intelligence, wit, et al — are proving to be increasingly less dependable for the fundamental needs of life (peace, happiness and a certain stability of faith in the very purpose of life) has been felt for sometime now.
We have to focus on some developments within a wider range of life to appreciate this assumption: If two persons from the same milieu and more or less similar in everything and suffering from the same malady are treated with the same medical and psychiatric care, the signs of healing should be more or less the same. But it was observed that while one’s response to the treatment was along expected lines, the other staged an inexplicably sudden recovery. The regularly monitored physical and emotional reactions of both did not provide any clue for this phenomenon. The question several such cases raised was this: could our consciousness contain an unidentified faculty that responded in a positive way in the second case?
Several experiences of this nature, after thorough discussions on them by the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation at Geneva in 1978 as well as in its subsequent meetings, led it to pass a resolution at the 36th World Health Assembly 1983 to add to the prevailing scope and definition of health, which was “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being”; the factor of spirituality. Under the auspices of the WHO, the then chief of Health Services of the Government of India, Dr. D.B. Bisht and Director, NIMHANS, Dr. G.N. Reddy, convened a workshop at Bangalore, in February 1985, to assess this proposition in the Indian context. It was a an unpublicised brainstorming event in which 40 of the country’s leading medical practitioners, life-scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, jurists and a few students of the mystic lore (which included this author) participated. Although spirituality was an age-old concept, to determine its relevance to as down-to-earth a field as health, was a challenging exercise.
Concrete cases were cited that could lead to the hypothesis that deep within man a hitherto ignored constituent of consciousness was demanding recognition and its suppression could lead to several problems, mental, emotional and physical. What had been for ages an experience only with Yogis and mystics, an aspect of consciousness that was its very basis and which sustained the whole structure of our being despite its other constituents like mind and emotions constantly fighting among themselves, was probably at last trying to assert itself, slowly but surely, in the life of a greater number of people.
Hence the hypothesis: if polygraph, popularly known as the lie-detection test, leaves us in little doubt that there is a part of our consciousness that shrinks from falsehood – and the fact that despite all the deviations and aberrations, civilisations survive on the ideal of truth and values aligned with it — it should not appear unrealistic if the élan of evolution strove to bring to the forefront what is already involved in us — call it “Factor X” if not Soul. In the wake of Dr. Crabtree’s thesis the significant finding of a research conducted by the Notre Dame Professors of psychology, Anita Kelly and Lijuan Yang, has come to light. It claims that those who avoid speaking lies enjoy a better quality of health. Simply through a casually developed habit we utter lies — exaggerations included — most of which were unwarranted. The well-oriented and documented research shows that those who willed and stopped the habit got rid of a lot of irritating disorders.
The research only confirms what is an inborn knowledge with us: we unconsciously respect truth and honesty. We spontaneously exclaim with appreciation, “What an honest man is he!” We do not exclaim in the same spirit, “What a dishonest man is he!” Needless to say, truth and honesty are not the natural virtues of mind and its instrument, the intelligence. If we have to realise these goals, we have to surpass mind. According to Sri Aurobindo, “At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way.” Sri Aurobindo envisions a future when the mind could be transformed into a Supramental gnosis.
Dr. Crabtree’s thesis leaves us with a choice between two attitudes: we resign to a future when technology would mould our fate, our mind growing cipher, or we cultivate a collective aspiration to release what remains involved in our consciousness. To a professor who was logically convinced of Sri Aurobindo’s vision but wondered if the ugly man of today could really grow into something beautiful, a rustic school teacher told, “If a wonder like the lotus could bloom out of mud with the Sun’s Grace, why cant out of our muddy mind bloom the Supramental with the Divine’s Grace? We may replace Divine’s Grace with Evolutionary thrust, if we please.