Feature Article: The Evolutionary Outrider

David Loye

david loyeIn The Evolutionary Outrider: The Impact of the Human Agent on Evolution, in 1998 I introduced the concept of the evolutionary outrider. The term was meant to capture the situation of those who boldly scout on ahead of us to explore potentially revolutionary as well as evolutionary prospects for a better future. These evolutionary outriders, I see now, are of two kinds.

One set is of the theorists, who seek to better understand, and teach, and thereby help guide evolution scientifically or spiritually. The other group, however—orienting, although without knowing it, to Darwin’s long ignored top or completing half for his theory of evolution—simply set aside the often alien tangle of the theory part of it to listen to their hearts, and go ahead and work to advance evolution along the paths into the future that came to seem obvious to them. The history of our species further shows that the activists lead the way for theory to follow.

It might seem that from this relationship one might ask the question often raised by those making the case for action versus theory. Why bother with the fusty delay of theory? Why not just go ahead and get done what needs to be done?

This takes us to the open pit of the hole in the modern mind to which my trilogy Darwin and the Battle for 21st Century Mind is addressed. The problem is that because of our lack of a sufficiently updated, expanded, and unquestionably progressive theory of evolution both kinds of evolutionary outriders were and still are being checked in place, sidelined, or driven backward by political and economic as well as scientific fixation on the well known, firmly entrenched initial or “bottom half” theory Darwin outlined in The Origin of Species, rather than being both inspirationally and operationally driven ahead by the long ignored completing or “top half” for his theory Darwin outlined in The Descent of Man.

Underneath all the present confusion about what is and what’s not evolution, on one hand lies the fact of a “bottom half” theory of natural selection and variation valid to prehuman evolution—but which became degraded into the politically and economically overwhelmingly destructive idea of “survival of the fittest” and “selfish genes” as the prime drivers for both prehuman and human evolution. On the other hand lies the fact of Darwin’s long ignored “top half” insistence that love and moral sensitivity, emergent within prehuman evolution, overwhelmingly became prime drivers for human evolution.

Out of this truncation of theory and dysfunctional contradiction came the power of an over-riding mindset functioning to either hold us in place or drive us backward in evolution. Out of the contradictory thrusts of Origin and Descent came the battle for 21st century mind I write of in the first book for the trilogy Revolution and Counter-Revolution: the critical social and environmental battle between revolutionaries pushing for freedom, equality, and expansion of mind and paradigm, and counter-revolutionaries pushing for control, inequality, and diminishing of mind and paradigm, upon which the future for our species and our planet rides.

At the core of this conflict lies the task for the evolutionary outrider and the tremendous potential for both theory and action if theorist and activist can move ahead together. For the theorist the task is to join the known first half with the lost but now regained second half for Darwin’s vision. For the activist the task is to force theory in this direction through the real world example of what becomes possible through a partnership between natural and social science, and between progressive science and progressive religion.

What’s possible, for example, was foreshadowed in 1978. In that year, in an old house in Princeton all covered with vines, three evolutionary outriders gathered for a week-long brainstorming house party. There was no great fanfare or audience, just the three of them, three women who loved and admired each other, with big plans for the future.

The three were Hazel Henderson, with significant impact lying ahead on the fields of futures studies, a major critique of economics, and global television advancing the cause of an ethical marketplace; Jean Houston, who became a charismatic founder of the human potentials movement; and Barbara Marx Hubbard, who in evolving herself became a visionary driver of the new field of conscious evolution.

Their rollicking talks were tape recorded and a transcript made but never published. As so often happens in these stories, however, thirty years later the transcript was dug out of the proverbial attic and because of their prophetic exploration of issues that have come to matter in our time was published as The Power of Yin.

Here’s a sense of how these evolutionary outriders explored their sense in common of a mission and paths opening into the better future.

Hazel: “We are, all three of us, trying to play midwife to evolutionary growth processes, and in so doing we subject ourselves to almost intolerable levels of stress…I’ve accepted the fact that the stress is going to be there until I die because I’m doing what I ought to be doing. I’m throwing myself into the stream of the process—and it’s okay.”

Jean: “What I learned from our experience was the power of creative loving and of the mutual eliciting that takes place at that level of communality…And this is something that—at least at this point in time—seems to be much more possible among women…I am a member of many top-heavy, hierarchical organizations—many of which I sit on top of! To come into a situation in which there is so much love, so much sharing, listening and mutual eliciting—and laughter!—was probably the most democratizing experience of my life!”

Barbara: “We have reached ‘critical mess.’ A perfect crisis!…Evolutionary women are on the rise. And we seem to create a new context in which evolutionary men are freer to release themselves from the bonds of patriarchy and join together in new forms of real partnership. We are giving birth to a new human and a new humanity within ourselves.”

Same year, 3,000 miles away on the West coast in Los Angeles, a new deep thinking activist rising out of the women’s movement had just met a man to “release from the bonds of patriarchy” so together they might explore “new forms of real partnership.” The man was myself. Ahead for Riane Eisler was the global impact of major books on cultural evolution, sex, politics, economics, and spirituality published in 24 languages.

For above all, this gylanic world will be a world where the minds of children—both girls and boys—will no longer be fettered,” she wrote of her vision of the better world in The Chalice and the Blade.

It will be a world where limitation and fear will no longer be systematically taught us through myths about how inevitably evil and perverse we humans are. In this world, children will not be taught epics about men who are honored for being violent or fairy tales about children who are lost in frightful woods where women are malevolent witches. They will be taught new myths, epics, and stories in which human beings are good; men are peaceful; and the power of creativity and love—symbolized by the sacred Chalice, the holy vessel of life—is the governing principle. For in this gylanic world, our drive for justice, equality, and freedom, our thirst for knowledge and spiritual illumination, and our yearning for love and beauty will at last be freed. And after the bloody detour of androcratic history, both women and men will at last find out what being human can mean.

Earlier, in 1948, one of the most powerful thrusts inspiring evolutionary outriders was released to probe paths into the better future. In that year, with publication of Toward a Psychology of Being, as is well known, Abraham Maslow launched the field of humanistic psychology. But what now also may be seen is how in doing this Maslow and his companions and successors were developing a true rather than false evolutionary psychology to match and advance Darwin’s lost “top half” vision.

Behind Maslow lay a psychology focused on pathologies of the detour from and evasion of evolution. Ahead lay the excitement of a shift from sickness to health, with the goal of the Good Person and the Good Society. Of the earlier fixation, he observed, “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Also: “What shall we think of a well-adjusted slave?” Of what lay ahead: “The good society is one in which virtue pays.”

Move ahead to 1993. The Vatican had forbidden the teaching of progressive theology by one of the greatest living theologians. Now the German heretic, Hans Kung, waited to see what was going to happen to his draft for a Global Ethic during the once-every-decade historic meeting in Chicago of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Reception for his proposal for a moral code in common worldwide was a big question mark, for now it can be seen this was a daring statement of P-attractor principle (Partnership) sure to run smack up against the global entrenchment of the D-attractor (Dominator).

“We are women and men who have embraced the precepts and practices of the world’s religions,” emerged out of the pages scanned by the throng—within whom in many quarters this was the likely inner dialogue. Women and men? Well, now! Really, wasn’t this—well, you know what I mean! The rest of the proposed Global Ethic, however, seemed calculated to rock few boats.

We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions…We must treat others as we wish others to treat us…We consider humankind a family…There should be equal partnership between men and women.” (Whoa now, there it was again!). “We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace…We must move beyond the dominance of greed for power, prestige, money, and consumption to make a just and peaceful world.

Kun’s new Global Ethic was of course longer than this sample. Back and forth for months, he had wrestled with 200 other religious scholars on the draft. Could it possibly pass? It did pass!

And it was signed not by only a grudging handful. 143 respected leaders from all of the world’s major faiths signed it to put their stamp on an historic move ahead in evolution—Baha’i, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian!

The year was 1984. While somehow also managing the miracle of raising ten children, Stanford professor Nel Noddings had just publishedCaring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Behind her was the tradition of a morally-oriented progressive education going back to Pestalozzi in 1801, with Maria Montessori and John Dewey earlier, and currently Ron Miller, Tim Seldin and many others along with her probing the prospects for evolutionary advance.

Particularly for Noddings—in keeping with Darwin’s and later Piaget’s grounding in the parent-child relation for their understanding of the impact of education on evolution—she forged ahead to found an influential perspective on all levels of education in the intimacy of family life.

“We should want more from our educational efforts than adequate academic achievement,” she urged. “We will not achieve even that meager success unless our children believe that they themselves are cared for and learn to care for others.”

Caring parents and teachers provide the conditions in which it is possible and attractive for children to respond as carers to others…Children educated in this way gradually build an ethical ideal, a dependable caring self. A society composed of people capable of caring—people who habitually draw on a well-established ideal—will move toward social policies consonant with an ethical care.

The year was 1984. One night Stanley Krippner had a dream. His friend the native American healer Rolling Thunder suddenly appeared looking sad. There was a coffin beside him. Then Krippner heard the voice of Rolling Thunder’s wife, Spotted Fawn. “You know, I won’t be seeing you any more.” On returning home he found that his beloved friend Spotted Fawn had died that very night.

Picking up from where we’ve seen Alfred Wallace and William James were early in the century, this was typical for Krippner’s other life. While half of him became the highly respected president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology engaged in teaching and the activities of dozens of other formal professional bodies, the other half roamed America, Russia, and South America exploring the world traditionally forbidden to science of the paranormal.

First out of physics, and then more slowly out of psychology, steadily it became apparent that here was a vital frontier for an expanding exploration of evolution. Krippner warned of charlatans and frauds, but year after year stood firm for what he found to be true. As another explorer of this ancient new frontier, Dean Radin, put it, the implications “are sufficiently remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction to this work will be confidence that it’s wrong. The second reaction will be horror that it may be right. The third will be reassurance that it’s obvious.”

The year was 1973. An unknown 24-year-old from Oklahoma City who seemed to others to be into some pretty weird stuff had just completed writing his first book. After rejection by twenty publishers, The Spectrum of Consciousness was finally accepted and published in 1977 and Ken Wilber was on his way. Self-taught in Western philosophy, psychology, Buddhism, the Tao Te Ching, and the evolutionary thought of Sri Aurobindo, Wilber soon became a chief attractor for the enormously popular global melding of Eastern and Western wisdom that swept out of the 20th into the 21st century.

“Are the mystics and sages insane?” he wrote to pose the conflict over what was evolution and where it was or wasn’t taking us.

The story of awakening one morning and discovering you are one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and infinite fashion. Yes, maybe they are crazy, these divine fools…But then, I wonder. Maybe the evolutionary sequence really is from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit, each transcending and including, each with a greater depth and greater consciousness and wider embrace. And in the highest reaches of evolution, maybe, just maybe, an individual’s consciousness does indeed touch infinity—a total embrace of the entire Kosmos—a Kosmic consciousness that is Spirit awakened to its own true nature. It’s at least plausible. And tell me: is that story, sung by mystics and sages the world over, any crazier than the scientific materialism story, which is that the entire sequence is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing?

The year was 1969. The 21-year-old heir to the fortune of the founder of the globally expanding Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream company was caught on the horns of an immense dilemma. Should he follow in his father’s footsteps with the ice cream business and ultimately inherit the fortune, or follow his heart and lose it all? Already he had a wife to support. The fortune could guarantee them and eventually their children and grandchildren with security long into the future. But something, he didn’t know what it was, only that it was larger, called with a voice that couldn’t be denied.

He left the ice cream business to move with his wife Deo to a shack on an island. There they lived a bare subsistence but happy life raising their own food and child Ocean while sorting out what life was all about and what they could best do to help make it better for everybody. Out of this experience, in book after book— Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, Healthy at 100—came John Robbins’ impact with what historians are likely to conclude was the most successful of 20th century revolutions.

Having sorted out what he might do best with his life, John’s conclusion was that he left for the island to “pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”

The year was 1980. A doctor on the staff of the Harvard Medical School faced a difficult decision. On one hand she’d come from Australia to bring her expertise in treating children with cystic fibrosis to America. On the other hand, she was convinced the children of the whole world faced the worst scale of disaster imaginable if nothing could be done to stop the insane race between the U.S. and Russia to build and aim at each other more and more thousands of hydrogen bombs on hair trigger alert.

Deciding the situation in the U.S. was hopeless during the astronomical military build-up of the Reagan years, Helen Caldicott gave up her career and returned to Australia. In 1971 she’d led the Australian opposition to French atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific. In 1975 she’d worked to fire up Australian trade unions about the medical dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle and uranium mining. Now she set out to raise hell worldwide.

She co-founded the 23,000 member Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in the U.S. She traveled the world to help start similar medical organizations in many other countries, like the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

She was widely condemned for comparing Michael Gorbachev to Jesus Christ in ending the Cold War and for her “distortions” and use of “extreme language”—for example, “As it is, life in America amounts to a corporate dictatorship.” Others, however, found hers to be the welcome fire of a heroic voice. “An aroused citizenry can still move its government to the side of morality and common sense,” she wrote in Nuclear Madness. “In fact, the momentum for movement in this direction can only originate in the heart and mind of the individual citizen. Moreover, it takes only one person to initiate the process, and that person may be politically naive and inexperienced, just as I was when I first spoke out.”

The year was 1987. A tall, slim black man stood in a cemetery between the graves of the father he knew only briefly before being abandoned and the grandfather he never knew. Back sixteen years went his mind to memories of that father; and then, and thereafter, ahead to probe the mystery and the question of how the world evolves from father to son to father again. The only significant time he’d ever had with his father was a single month in Chicago when he was ten. He’d soared with the embrace of this brilliant handsome man with a deep rumbling voice. They’d danced together at a Dave Brubeck concert. Then swiftly the bubble burst and he withdrew into the protective shell that is the consolation of the abandoned.

Now as he stood there between the two graves in Kenya the memory of the excitement of that visit came back. And then transcending the hollow place within him came a sense of the rare capacity and the power of the ambition within his father to do great things for his country. Seemingly come to nothing. Then within the stillness came the sense of the empowerment of the son, himself, to fulfill what had earlier been lost or denied.

“When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me,” Barack Obama wrote in Dreams from My Father.

I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain.

The year was 1992. Still young, pretty, yet already a long time member of the German Parliament, Petra Kelly was at the height of her global fame as the courageous founder of the new Greens Party fighting for peace and the environment. She was at home in their apartment with her much older, long-time lover. Beneath her facade of charismatic courage lurked the anxieties of a fearful child. Behind his switch to the Greens Party was the ambivalence of an ex-captive of the Darwinan bottom half—World War II fighting for the Nazis, extreme right wing views, an ex-general and now a classic case of the authoritarian personality subjected to domination by a woman. All of a sudden he shot her in the head, then killed himself.

This we now can see was no mystery. Like a majority of the cases in a psychiatrist’s office, like a majority of those in prisons worldwide, like a majority of the children starving, the women raped, the civilians and the soldiers slaughtered in all our wars, both Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian were victims of the trampling of the Darwinian bottom half on the flowering of the health of the Darwinian top half, which ever faster than it can be crushed now again rises.

“We, the generation that faces the next century,” Petra Kelly wrote before she died, “can add the solemn injunction ‘If we don’t do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.””

Given the evidence of thousands of evolutionary outriders such as these, how on earth could anyone have ever thought the prime drivers for human evolution are “survival of the fittest” and “selfish genes?”

Consider what could happen to all life on this planet if the positive vision of the lost Darwinian revolution rather than the counter-revolution was at last fully supported by both science and religion. Consider what could happen if not just the noted evolutionary outriders among us, but the evolutionary outrider within every one of us, could be released. Consider what could happen if the potential outriders among millions of us were given a theory of evolution that felt tailored to them like a good suit of clothes, rather than a bad fit to be avoided, or an embarrassment they were ashamed to wear.

This is the full theory that Darwin offered, which the corroborating stream out of the past I write of in the trilogy now offers us. This is the theory that out of our huge investment in a science, so often collapsed into toys for the sand box, could be caught up in a major construction project for the liberation of the 21st century.

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David Loye is a psychologist, evolutionary systems theorist and activist, and author of many books bearing on the nature and function of the evolutionary outrider. Revolution and Counter-Revolution, The Battle of the Books, and Up Against the Paradigm are titles for Loye’s new trilogy Darwin and the Battle for 21st Century Mind. In advance of publication, chapters and excerpts from all three books are currently available for free reading and downloads on the website: Publication by Benjamin Franklin Press is scheduled for fall 2009 and winter 2010, with distribution through online book sellers worldwide. The Evolutionary Outrider, with chapters by Ervin Laszlo, Fritjof Capra, Karl Pribram, Riane Eisler, Ralph Abraham, and Hazel Henderson, was published by Praeger in 1998.