Individually and collectively, humans, groups, societies, humanity, animals and plants, ecosystems, and the Earth itself are all evolving. This evolution is unfolding all the time, at every level, whatever we do or don't do.

Additionally, humans are having such a profound effect on the Earth, its species and ecosystems, that some scientists say we are the primary drivers of evolution on the planet right now.

We ARE evolution -- or at least our significant part of it.

A major aspect of that evolution is cultural evolution -- the evolution of culture, society, language, stories, knowledge, technologies, social environments and human-made landscapes, civilization itself.... Homo sapiens is evolving far more rapidly culturally than biologically. Cultural evolution is now happening so fast that many individuals and societies are overwhelmed.

When viewed through the lens of evolutionary spirituality, perhaps the most significant aspect of cultural evolution is the evolution of consciousness. What we see (or perceive), how we see it, how we think and feel about it, how we relate to the acts of seeing, thinking, feeling, and to reality, itself, and to our own role in the world -- all these are changing as our culture changes.

At the edge of evolution, some gurus say, even the highest states of consciousness can no longer be viewed as a stable reality. Enlightenment, itself, they say, seems to be evolving, or at least thoroughly engaged in evolution.

To the extent that our consciousness evolved in the context of our physical cosmic and planetary reality, our bodily senses and nervous systems, and our languages, cultures, educational systems, and technologies, it is, in its current state, a product of evolution. To that extent, as well, it is not separate from evolution, from the cosmos and planet from which it has sprung.

Our consciousness is more tightly bound to evolving reality than the fruit is tied to tree. For, while a fruit emerges from a particular tree and can give rise to a different particular tree, quantum physics has demonstrated that consciousness and reality in a very real sense give rise to each other in every moment. They are, as David Spangler says, co-incarnational.

So what does this tell us about conscious evolution? On the one hand, conscious evolution can be viewed simply as being more conscious -- aware, knowledgable, intentional, reflective, wise -- in how we play our evolutionary role. If we were more conscious, we would be more caring for each other and our planetary home. We would be more reflective and wise in our consideration of the consequences of our actions on the whole. We would design our societies for sustainability, meaning, joy, and a capacity for collective self-awareness, self-creation, self-organization, self-evolution. We would have sophisticated ways to watch ourselves, individually and collectively, as we changed ourselves over time, taking initiatives and noticing and correcting our path. This would be conscious evolution.

But there is another layer of meaning here: To the extent we are evolution, humans becoming aware of the reality and dynamics of evolution is evolution becoming aware of itself. And as we learn to apply our knowledge of evolution to our evolutionary role, and reach out into the world with conscious evolutionary intent and impact, we are not just humans doing our own evolution consciously. We are evolution, itself, becoming conscious.

Evolution brought into being a form of consciousness that now inhabits it and is folding back upon itself, reflecting on itself, learning how to change itself in ways never before possible.

This is the promise of conscious evolution. We are challenged to become the evolutionary process in a very conscious way, and to consciously evolve our own individual, collective and social-systemic capacities for consciousness, intelligence, and wisdom so that we can fulfill that destiny.

Tom Atlee's exploratory pages on conscious evolution