Key Themes and Guiding Principles
There is a set of key ideas, themes, and principles within our philosophy that inspire, guide, and inform our understanding and educational practices. Below are some introductory remarks for each of these concepts. Included are a variety of links to lengthier discussions, including published articles and book chapters.
These key ideas, themes and principles are:
Holistic Awareness and Understanding
The Value of Philosophy
Possibility and the Adventure of the Future
Virtue Development and Ethical Evolution
Wisdom and Enlightenment
Our central educational purpose is the enhancement of future consciousness.
Future consciousness is the human capacity to have thoughts, feelings, and goals about the future; future consciousness involves the ability to envision future possibilities and act with competence and purpose toward the realization of one’s hopes and aspirations.
Future consciousness is the total integrative set of psychological abilities and processes humans use in understanding and dealing with the future. These abilities and processes include emotions, such as fear and hope, imagination and foresight, motivation and desire, planning, decision making, valuing, and purposeful behavior. All basic psychological processes are involved in future consciousness.
Every normal human being possesses some level of future consciousness. Future consciousness is an essential dimension of the normal human mind. In fact, we could not function in the world without it. It is absolutely necessary for normal human life. Without the mental abilities of anticipation, hope, goal setting, and planning, we would be aimless, lost, mentally deficient, passive, and reactive. We would not seem intelligent or even human. Read more on the Importance of Future Consciousness.
Future consciousness is part of our general awareness of time, our temporal consciousness of past, present, and future. Future consciousness includes the normal human capacities to anticipate, predict, and imagine the future, to have hopes and dreams about the future, and to set future goals and plans for the future. Future consciousness includes thinking about the future, evaluating different possibilities and choices, and having feelings, motives, and attitudes about tomorrow. Future consciousness includes the total set of ideas, visions, theories, and beliefs humans have about the future.
Future consciousness in humans has been evolving throughout history. Our capacities to delve deeper into the past and look farther out into the future have grown both in power and sophistication. Our temporal horizons are expanding. Read more in The Origins of Future Consciousness, Ancient Myth, Religion, and Philosophy, and The Evolution and Psychology of Future Consciousness.
In educating people to further develop their future consciousness – their temporal horizon into the future - we are simply contributing to the ongoing evolution of temporal consciousness by purposefully and thoughtfully applying scientific, philosophical, and psychological ideas to the process. The purposeful development of future consciousness is part of what the futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard means by “conscious evolution” – the conscious and purposeful evolution of ourselves and our world.
The multi-faceted capacity of future consciousness can be tremendously enhanced in all people. There are many benefits associated with the development of future consciousness. Our cognitive capacities, our emotional life, our mental health and sense of personal identity all benefit from the enhancement of future consciousness.
Read more on The Psychology and Value of Future Consciousness.
We also use the expression “future consciousness” to refer to the future of consciousness. How might we envision consciousness transforming, expanding, or evolving in the future? In this sense, exploring the idea of future consciousness takes us into the general theme of psychological evolution, one of the key areas of interest of the Center. (See Psychological Evolution below.)
There are many ways that consciousness potentially could be enhanced in the future – both in the short term and long term. We believe that the study and pursuit of wisdom, enlightenment, and character virtues all can contribute to the individual development of one’s consciousness – to its scope, depth, and various capacities. Further, the study and practice of philosophical thinking expands and enriches individual consciousness. (See Philosophy below.) In the long term, all the same factors apply with many additional ones progressively coming more into play, including technological, biological, genetic, and cosmological (adaptations to living in space or on other worlds.)
Understanding the nature of consciousness is a central theme that permeates
through many of our courses and workshops.
Understanding consciousness and how consciousness connects with the natural world have been long-standing inquiries and highly challenging, perplexing issues in the histories of psychology, philosophy, science, and spirituality. There are many different definitions, descriptions, and theories of consciousness, but it is clear that consciousness is the personal arena of human existence; it is within consciousness that each of us experiences and knows ourselves and the world – it is within consciousness that each of us lives our lives. There may be more to human nature than consciousness (for example, that we are biological and physical beings) but our conscious minds and conscious selves are at the core of who we are and what we are. Further, it is also clear that throughout human history many individuals have sought ways to enhance, empower, extend, deepen, elevate, or enrich human consciousness; it is one of the central philosophical, humanistic, and religious-spiritual goals to evolve human consciousness.
Science and technology, in fact, in contemporary times promise to both better understand and further empower this quintessential dimension of human existence. Will science continue to expand our understanding of how the brain is connected with consciousness? In what ways will this knowledge empower us in modifying the human brain and enhancing human consciousness? In what ways will computer technology (and nanotechnology) provide ways to enhance our mental and conscious capacities?
When we speak about the future evolution of the human psyche, we need to highlight the evolution of consciousness (including specific aspects of it such as future consciousness) and how physical and social technologies may amplify and expand our conscious minds.
Since the Center focuses on future consciousness, we are interested in the general phenomenon of consciousness. We can not understand future consciousness without understanding how consciousness works. Because we think about our future psychological evolution, we need to understand the qualities and capacities of consciousness if we are going to intelligently consider how these features of consciousness could be enhanced and what that would mean. If we wish to pursue the further development of wisdom and enlightenment, then understanding consciousness is essential. Finally, there are the related questions of what the connection is between the human mind and consciousness and the human self and consciousness; these are questions that have been repeatedly raised in the past and will continue to occupy the attention of philosophers, psychologists, humanists, scientists, and religious-spiritual thinkers; they are core questions regarding human identity. Whatever knowledge we gain relevant to these questions will contribute to the future evolution of human consciousness.
Holistic Awareness and Understanding
Our theoretical and educational perspective is holistic, expansive, and integrative.
According to the evolutionary biologist John Stewart, evolution moves from adaptation to the “immediate here and now” to the ever expansive “there and then” – from a totally localized and singular space-time perspective to an increasing broader perspective on life. Overall, the evolutionary process is from an egocentric to a cosmic perspective. The capacity to entertain and consider multiple points of view is an expansion of consciousness beyond egocentricity. Becoming increasingly aware of our global reality, as well as our natural, ecological, and cosmic realities, involves an expansion of consciousness beyond the “here”. The ongoing evolution of historical and future consciousness involves the expansion of consciousness beyond the “now”. The study of philosophy moves us from specific bits of information and knowledge to a deeper understanding of the broadest and most fundamental issues and themes of life and existence.
In the spirit of this general evolutionary direction toward the expansion of consciousness, in our educational presentations and workshops we look for the “big picture” of things in both space and time. We examine history and connect it to the present and the future, and we consider ecological, global, and cosmic perspectives in understanding the human condition. We think holistically – we stretch our minds outward, placing ourselves in the context of the whole. We follow Spinoza, viewing all facets of reality “through the eyes of eternity.”
As well as thinking holistically about the future, we also adopt an integrative point of view. We pull together the scientific-technological and the humanistic-spiritual – we integrate the physical dimensions of the future with the psychological and social. We look at how all these aspects of the future are connected and explore how they might interact with each other. The future is a multi-faceted reality covering the environment, technology, economics and politics, education and culture, and religion and the human psyche. All these pieces to the puzzle of the future are included in our educational presentations and workshops.
We believe that the enhancement of future consciousness should be the central goal of education.
“Education spends much more time teaching the past
than teaching the future.”
We begin from the idea that the best way to prepare individuals for the future is to educate them on the future. Futures education vastly improves one’s capacities to create a better future.
Since the future is the only reality we can do anything about, futures education is the most practical of all educational approaches.
Education is clearly the doorway to the future and the future of education is education on the future. A preferable image of education in the future – an ideal vision – is to infuse futures education across all levels of the academic curriculum.
Since wisdom is the highest expression of future consciousness, our preferable image of the future of education is that the pursuit and practice of wisdom should be the main focus of education. Wisdom should be the central character trait we practice and model as educators, and the central virtue we attempt to instill and develop in our students. This conclusion aligns with the idea that the development of virtues and ethical values, rather than simply the accumulation of knowledge and skills, should be at the core of education and academic inquiry.
The Center for Future Consciousness applies a unique and powerful synthesis of contemporary psychology, educational theory, philosophy, and science to educational programs designed to help individuals and organizations increase their understanding of the future and constructively approach its challenges and possibilities.
As a key theme, the development of character virtues, such as wisdom, optimism, courage and self-responsibility, is tied to the enhancement of future consciousness; personal growth and self-empowerment; mental health and well-being; the evolution of human society; and realizing purpose and meaning in life.
In essence, the Center for Future Consciousness connects an understanding of the future – through a broad and integrative education in trends, theories, and possibilities – with human psychology – our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and other mental abilities for dealing with the future.
Applying contemporary educational theory in our workshops, we facilitate the deepest and most personal level of learning for all participants.
And combining recent research in the field of positive psychology with a focus on the development of character virtues, we provide participants with strategies for how to create a happier life, now and in the future.
The Unique and Powerful Synthesis of the Center for Future Consciousness
There are two fundamental components to enhancing future consciousness.
On one hand, we must increase our awareness and understanding of the trends, the challenges, and the possibilities of the future. Taking the big picture of things, we must look critically at what is going on in the world and consider where it might all be leading, and indeed, where we might hope it could lead. The Center for Future Consciousness provides a holistic and comprehensive review of all the major dimensions of the future, from science and technology to education and spirituality.
The second piece involves the psychology of future consciousness. How do emotion, motivation, learning, thinking, and personality impact our attitudes and behaviors toward the future? The Center for Future Consciousness provides a thorough and up-to-date overview of the psychology of the future and addresses the ways the various capacities of future consciousness can be heightened and strengthened. Further, we apply educational principles of deep learning to personalize and make effective the learning process.
The powerful synthesis of these two pieces is one thing that makes the Center for Future Consciousness unique. By showing how our psychological abilities that deal with the future can be consciously and effectively enhanced to face the future with its myriad possibilities, we connect human psychology with the study of the future.
Second, we provide a totally original framework for understanding how to enhance our psychological abilities pertaining to the future. We ground our approach in the development of character virtues. Future consciousness can best be enhanced through the cultivation of a core set of virtues, such as courage, optimism, self-responsibility, and wisdom.
The character virtues which contribute to future consciousness also contribute to authentic human happiness and enhanced mental health. These characters virtues empower. We demonstrate how these virtues, if pursued and cultivated, will improve the quality of life, both now and into the future. It is through our own self-development – informed and guided by an understanding of world we live in and its trends, challenges, and possibilities – that we will create a positive future for ourselves and others.
The Importance of Futures Education
Futures education is of central and critical importance to the whole educational process. Education, though acknowledging and building upon the accrued wisdom of the past, should focus on the future – its possibilities and desired values. Education should be grounded in history, but it should point toward the future. Nothing opens the mind like the study of the future – all the important academic, personal and professional skills can best be taught within the context of the future.
Our educational approach to the future is multi-disciplinary and integrative. The future can only be understood by looking at all the fundamental dimensions of human reality from science and technology to the humanities and the social sciences. These dimensions of human life need to be interconnected in the educational experience, rather than presented piecemeal as in much of traditional education. The challenges and issues of our contemporary world cut across disciplines and require an integrative perspective for both understanding them and guiding our actions.
Futures education, in fact, provides an ideal vehicle for integrative education. The future provides a focus for pulling together and energizing all the basic components and goals of the educational experience.
Within the context of futures education, all the following skills, attitudes and values can be developed and reinforced:
- Self –Development, Realistic Optimism, and a Proactive Attitude to Growth and Change
- Development of Ethical Values, Character Virtues, and Ethical Thinking
- Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Social Skills and Awareness
- Information Research skills
- Higher Cognitive Skills, including:
- Foresight, Creativity, Imagination, Visioning and Possibility Thinking
- Planning and Goal Setting
- Synthesis and Analysis
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Problem Solving
- Deep Learning
In general, futures education should be psychologically holistic, addressing all the fundamental dimensions of the person and the human mind from thinking, imagination, and creativity to perception and behavior, emotional, motivational, and personal development, and ethics and values.
Futures education is at once practical and theoretical, personal and cosmic.
Read more on The Pursuit of Wisdom and the Future of Education, Ethical Character Development and Personal and Academic Excellence, Understanding and Teaching Future Consciousness, and Multidisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Futures Education.
Also see the introductory discussions below on virtue and on wisdom.
Evolution is the best way to understand the dynamics of reality, the nature of time, and the future.
“No matter how far we go into the future,
there will always be new things happening,
new information coming in, new worlds to explore,
a constantly expanding domain
of life, consciousness, and memory.”
“Evolution is the story of us all.”
We live in a dynamic universe and a world of change and the future will be different from the past. Nature is not static. Change is inevitable.
Nature has shown a history of change, and there is a pattern to this change – evolution. Evolution appears to be a fundamental and necessary dimension of reality and nature. The evolutionary history of nature is well documented and corroborated across all levels of organization within the universe from cosmic, atomic, and molecular evolution to biological and ecological evolution and human history. This general process of evolution across all dimensions and levels of reality is cosmic evolution.
Evolutionary thinking is perhaps the most significant dimension of contemporary science. Most, if not all, scientific disciplines conceptualize their specific areas of study in evolutionary terms.
Natural reality is evolutionary and humans are participants in the ongoing process of evolution. We are evolutionary beings with an evolutionary history in an evolutionary and creative universe. Our future – a future of change, progression, novelty, and transcendence – will reflect (and even contribute to) this general evolutionary pattern of nature.
Humans have faced challenges of abrupt and dramatic change and increasing complexity throughout history. As the world has transformed and evolved, humans have evolved as well. Humans and the world have evolved together in complexity and rate of change. This co-evolutionary process is reciprocal evolution.
The history of evolution reveals an overall progressive direction to nature, one that includes the history of humankind. The history of nature beginning with the “Big Bang” and continuing through the formation of atoms, stars, galaxies, complex molecules, planetary ecosystems, life, and human societies exhibits a progressive direction. Rejecting Plato’s elevation of eternity and the primordial as the highest level of reality, standing above time (where time, in essence, is a “fall from perfection”), the evolutionary model of reality sees order, complexity, intelligence, freedom, uniqueness, consciousness, and other “higher” qualities increasing or amplifying through time. Understanding this evolutionary direction within nature is essential to understanding human progress. Human progress is embedded within evolutionary progress and is an expression of it.
Applying the evolutionary framework to humans means that there is no stable human nature or human psychology – it is in evolution and it is inherent in the very nature of the human mind to strive toward greater evolution. We are, to quote Huxley, “evolution become conscious of itself.”
There appears to be a set of deep principles which describe the evolutionary process, such as random mutation and natural selection, self-organization, “punctuated equilibrium,” and non-linear jumps in complexity occurring on the heels of extreme fluctuation, chaos, and bifurcation points. As another general evolutionary principle, evolution as a process may be becoming more complex and efficient, and accelerating across time; that is, evolution is evolving.
Evolution shows both cumulative growth and creative novelty. Although nature builds upon itself, nature is also creative. The same process of cumulative growth and creativity also applies to human history. Hence the future both builds upon the past and transcends it.
Humans engage in purposeful evolution. Humans are self-conscious and self-evaluative beings with ideals; we think about and evaluate ourselves relative to values. Though interactive with the environment, humans are centers of control within the ecological system and attempt to direct both their own evolution and, in accordance with their values, the evolution of the environment. But this purposeful evolution is participatory rather than detached; humans are ecologically embedded within the reality that they are trying to influence and exist in an interactive feedback loop with the world; the effects of our actions reflect back upon us. Barbara Marx Hubbard speaks of “conscious evolution” – to consciously direct our evolutionary future. Humans have been attempting to do this all through our history, in accordance with our evolving values. We are going to purposefully direct our evolution in the future as we have done in the past.
An evolutionary perspective on reality is both scientifically informed and psychologically constructive and provides a rational and inspiring basis for approaching the future of humanity. The history and future of humanity should be seen in an evolutionary context. Evolution supports an attitude and set of values that give us realistic hope and optimism about tomorrow.
Read more on evolution in The Future of Science and Technology and Science, Enlightenment, Progress, and Evolution.
We teach that all of reality should be seen in terms of reciprocities.
he who wants to have right without wrong,
Order without disorder,
Does not understand the principles
Of heaven and earth.
He does not know how
Things hang together.”
Contemporary science reveals that nature is a network of interdependencies, of balances, of complementary oppositions, and reciprocities. Because of the inter-connectivity of everything, all change involves reciprocal evolution. Nature, technology, and humanity change together, in interaction with each other. Humans are participatory in change, and as we influence the world around us, the world will affect and change us. Hence, it is important to take an inter-disciplinary view of the future, looking at all the main variables of human reality and how they interactively evolve.
Especially within the last century, our basic scientific mode of thinking about nature, human society, and the human mind has changed dramatically – science has evolved. Aside from the emergence of a more dynamic perspective on nature, where increasingly everything is seen as fluid and changing (which includes the idea of evolution), nature appears to be a much more interdependent and interconnected network than previously believed. We cannot understand the world and our future as a set of distinct and separate entities. The principle of reciprocity captures this new philosophy and science of interconnectedness, providing a new way to understand both reality and our involvement in the creation of the future. Reciprocity is a central idea within modern scientific theories of open systems, order and chaos, quantum physics, biology, ecology, and the evolution of history and time. It is also a central idea in many areas of contemporary social and psychological thinking.
The idea of reciprocity means distinct yet mutually interdependent realities. From the perspective of reciprocity, nature consists of a set of systems and realities that are distinct yet mutually supportive. The elements of nature support each other and feed off of each other. Reciprocity means a logic and ontology of complementarity, in contrast to the dualistic logic and ontology that have dominated Western thought for thousands of years. Instead of describing reality in terms of distinct dualities, such as mind and matter, the whole versus the parts, or humankind versus machines, each of these fundamental contrasts can be understood as interdependent and interactive.
The ancient Eastern symbol of the Taoist Yin-Yang captures the modern meaning of reciprocity very well. In essence, the symbol integrates the cosmic dimensions of unity and difference. Within Taoist philosophy, Yin is the feminine principle of reality whereas Yang is the masculine principle. In general, Yin and Yang refer to the basic polarities of existence, such as light and darkness, active and passive, etc., but these two principles are mirror images of each other and are united in their complementarity and balance with each other.
Reciprocity rejects all forms of dualism; that is, all the classic philosophical dichotomies should be seen as interdependencies. Reality is both a one/whole and a many/plurality; reality is both stability (being) and change (becoming and passing away); reality necessarily contains both order and chaos, which in effect depend upon each other.
Ecological reciprocity, applied to human psychology, entails that humans and the environment are open and interpenetrating systems and form an interdependent whole. Within a framework of ecological reciprocity there is no absolute boundary between humans and the environment and neither can be defined independently of the other. Mind, intelligence, personal self-identity, and even consciousness are ecological emergent realities realized in a supporting environment.
Read more on reciprocity in The Future of Science and Technology and The Evolution of the Ecology of Mind.
The Value of Philosphy
The study of philosophy expands and empowers the human mind and contributes to the development of wisdom,
enlightenment, and ethical character
Philosophy is the thoughtful and passionate examination of the basic issues and questions of life and existence. Philosophy concerns itself with what is most abstract and fundamental, such as, the nature of reality; the limits and scope of knowledge; what the good is and how to pursue the good life; what beauty is; what the mind is; and what the ideal society is. Philosophy is the quest for deep and fundamental knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment. Philosophy is thinking as opposed to just believing. Although philosophy often emphasizes the importance of reason and logic in the pursuit of knowledge, it also emphasizes an openness and freedom of inquiry. Nothing is assumed or taken for granted - all ideas and principles are open to reflection, debate and discussion. Philosophy is mental democracy in practice. Philosophy is more, though, than just an intellectual enterprise - philosophy is a passion and a love for thinking, inquiry, and insight. Philosophy is a sense of wonder in the face of existence. Philosophy is both imaginative and practical; the ideas of philosophy are frequently applied to life. Philosophy asks the question of how humans should live, individually and collectively. There are answers in philosophy, but many as opposed to one, and there are questions, disagreements, and perplexities. The ideal of philosophy – in fact, of all wisdom and thinking - is to journey rather than arrive.
The fundamental values of philosophy are that it opens and frees the mind; vastly extends one’s understanding and appreciation of life and existence; develops and sharpens one’s thinking skills; and creates a passion for learning, knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment. Philosophy enhances human consciousness; philosophy enhances self-awareness.
There are many important connections between philosophy and both the study of the future and the evolution of the human mind. Philosophy empowers the capacities and expands the scope and depth of the human mind; philosophy provides a comprehensive introduction to the history of intellectual thought, which serves as a foundation for understanding theories and visions of the future; and philosophy teaches one how to search for and identify the underlying and most fundamental principles and values in approaches to the future (to see the forest and not just the trees).
Possibility and the Adventure of the Future
We teach that the future is possibilities and consequently an adventure.
"It is possible to believe
that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning,
and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
It is possible to believe that all that the human mind has ever accomplished
is but the dream before the awakening."
The future is open-ended – it is not set in stone. Humans may not be totally in control of the future, but we are not simply victims in the face of overpowering forces. What will be realized in the future will be a result of human choices and purposeful actions among a myriad of possibilities.
The future is fundamentally an adventure. Although scientific laws and principles allow for some degree of prediction regarding the future, there is also an irreducible element of uncertainty to the unfolding of time. The uncertainty of tomorrow is partially a reflection of the nature of reality itself (it appears that we do not live in a totally deterministic universe), but our uncertainty about the future is also due to the present limitations of our knowledge, predictive powers, and imagination.
What will we discover in the future? What will we create? What great wonders lie beyond the horizon of tomorrow? Where is human society headed? How might humanity, biologically or psychologically, be transformed? What new revelations and achievements, technologically, scientifically, and even spiritually, will emerge? Is humanity a stepping-stone on the journey of life and mind within the cosmos? What unbelievable realities will evolve in the universe and will we participate in their creation? The vast reaches and mysteries of the future seem to extend to infinity, challenging our intellect and expanding our consciousness and imagination.
The future is the journey of ultimate possibilities - the ultimate adventure. The future is the ultimate adventure because it is possible that anything is possible in the future. What is thought to be impossible in a given era is often achieved at some later point in time. Throughout history many of humankind’s most cherished and deepest beliefs have been contradicted and transformed. In imagining possible futures, it is critical to open our minds to the miracles, wonders, and counter-intuitive realities that may lie ahead of us. What we think is impossible may become possible. We may be only at “the beginning of the beginning”. We may be only just awakening. What, indeed, can we say is impossible forever and always? What are the boundaries and the potentialities of reality? What are the limits to life, intelligence, technology, and civilization – to truth, beauty, and the good? And what may lie beyond these human categories of existence? The surest bet of all is that the future will surprise us beyond our wildest dreams.
Aside from its sheer scope and cosmic dimensions, the future is also the ultimate adventure because we will personally participate in its creation and be changed in the process. The future is not simply the ultimate adventure of mind and imagination, but the ultimate personal adventure as well.
The word “odyssey” suggests itself as an appropriate term for describing the future. It derives from the ancient Homeric tale of the Greek king Odysseus who, after emerging victorious from the battle and siege of Troy, wandered through unknown lands in search of his home in the Greek city of Ithaca. Just as Odysseus wandered through the ancient Mediterranean world, buffeted about and challenged by forces and mythological beings often beyond his control, so will we be inexorably and personally drawn into the future and tossed about within our odyssey through time. We cannot avoid this journey into tomorrow, for we are all temporal beings, travelers in the currents of time. The future is perpetually unfolding in front of us and through us, capturing our hearts and permeating our souls. We do not watch the future as detached observers; we are in the flow, navigating as Odysseus did through strange lands. Faced with potential risks and opportunities, our emotions, fortitude and convictions, and, most importantly, our sense of who and what we are, will be tested, engaged, and transformed in the odyssey of the future.
We believe that we should aspire toward continued psychological evolution.
Speculative visions of humans in the future, although often set in strange high-tech environments, usually portray humans, quite naively, as possessing the same type of psychology and mental make-up as they have today. This assumption about the future of human psychology is highly doubtful. Human nature is transformative and evolving, and not some single unchanging reality. Future developments in biotechnology and computer technology, the sciences of psychology and the brain, education, spirituality, human society and culture, and even space travel will transform and hopefully enhance the human mind. All aspects of human psychology, from perception, emotion, and motivation to cognition and personal identity will be affected.
The evolutionary nature of humans is clearly supported through evidence from natural history. The last few million years demonstrates a series of significant biological changes; of special importance, the size of the brain has tripled. Since our psychology is intimately tied to the workings of our brain, our psychological capacities and traits have undoubtedly transformed. These psychological changes almost certainly include all basic features of the human mind, from cognition and language to emotional, motivational, personal, and social dimensions. Archeological evidence shows ongoing developments in tools, habitats, behaviors, and artifacts accompanying psychological changes. Further, biological and psychological evolution has not come to a standstill but has continued up to the present; genetic evolution is ongoing and modes of thinking have dramatically changed in the last few thousand years. The static view of humanity, argued by creationists, is totally contradicted by scientific evidence.
Following from the idea of reciprocal evolution, the mental and physical dimensions of human reality will co-evolve together in the future. Our beliefs, values, attitudes, and mental capacities will stimulate and guide changes in our physical and technological world and through our evolving technologies and changes in our material world, the human mind and self will be affected and transformed.
The evolution of mind and consciousness will be driven by both practical ecological and social challenges, as well as deep cosmological principles. Because of various global problems facing human society today, for many contemporary writers and visionaries, a new enhanced mode of thinking and level of consciousness is needed to flourish in the world of tomorrow. A “new enlightenment” is called for. I propose that key features of this new enlightenment include heightened future consciousness and holistic consciousness, along with the development of character virtues and, in particular, wisdom. Yet, I also propose that contemporary science and philosophy suggest that the central evolutionary trajectory of mind is towards the progressive realization of cosmic consciousness – of consciousness spreading outward into the cosmos, infusing the universe with intelligence, and aspiring toward a holistic and highly personalized awareness of existence. This never-ending evolutionary process, forever embodying a dimension of awe, mystery, and wonder, will be, in essence, the universe becoming self-conscious and self-empowered.
Read more on psychological evolution in The Future Evolution of the Ecology of Mind.
Virtue Development and Ethical Evolution
We teach that the development of virtues and ethics is the key to human happiness,
mental well-being, and a positive future.
The pursuit of virtue is necessary to meet the challenges facing us in the world today and to create a better world tomorrow.
The quality of the future will depend on the future quality of human beings. We face a set of significant global challenges, including ecological deterioration, economic inequality, stress and information overload, and continued population growth. Various solutions, economic, ecological, political, and technological, have been proposed to address these problems and we may, in fact, be making progress on multiple fronts. Yet, we argue that the most effective and penetrating solution to most of these problems is a psychological and ethical evolution in humanity. Through the development of a core set of ethical character virtues as a central agenda for humanity world wide we can ameliorate these problems. This solution makes perfect sense since most of today’s global problems are due to deficiencies in character virtues. The quality of the future will pivot on improving the ethical quality of humans.
The idea that the “good life” can be achieved through the internalization of character virtues goes back at least as far as Aristotle. For Aristotle, a life of virtue not only creates happiness in the individual but equally contributes to the well being of the community. Virtues are not simply self-centered or self-serving. Further, for Aristotle happiness is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure is a good feeling; happiness is an accomplishment, a form of excellence, and a way of life. Happiness is not achieved through practicing a “hedonism of the present.” Virtues are connected with values, in that a virtue is a value lived and internalized into the character of a person. If truth is a value, honesty and forthrightness are the corresponding virtues.
Images of the future often highlight technological advances, and although technological development is both a natural and critically important dimension of our evolution, it is equally important that we focus on our ethical evolution. Although there is much to learn from our moral traditions and history, ethical evolution involves considering our ethical decisions and practices in light of our best contemporary modes of thinking and knowledge, with an eye on the future. By definition, ethical evolution means going beyond our present ideas and practices regarding morals and values. Increased human happiness, mental health, and the improvement of human society are intimately connected with our ethical evolution.
Ethics and values impact numerous areas of the future. Our future success in education is tied to issues of ethics and value. Ethics and values are connected with technological development and the future of the environment. Psychological and social evolution embodies an ethical dimension.
Read more on virtue in Evolving Future Consciousness through the Pursuit of Virtue.
Wisdom and Enlightenment
We identify wisdom as a critical virtue for the future. We see enlightenment as an ongoing developmental process involving the expansion and deepening of consciousness and human understanding – an ideal direction we should aspire toward in the future evolution of the human mind.
Wisdom can be defined as the highest expression of self-development and future consciousness. It is the continually evolving understanding of and fascination with the big picture of life, of what is important, ethical, and meaningful, and the desire and ability to apply this understanding to enhance the well being of life, both for oneself and others.
Wisdom is connected with an expansiveness of consciousness, into the past and the future. Wisdom connects the heritage and lessons of the past with the thoughtfulness, openness, and creativity needed for the future. Wisdom involves an expansive synthesis of temporal consciousness – it combats the excessive narrow “presentism” of today. The virtue of wisdom is essential in dealing with the complexity of our times – wisdom involves the capacity for integration and abstraction and the application of such knowledge to life. Wisdom unites the heart and the head – there is both an affective and cognitive dimension to wisdom. Wisdom empowers and liberates, being closely connected with enhanced self-awareness and the capacity to make thoughtful and informed choices in life. Further, wisdom is a virtue which pulls together many other human virtues, for example, courage, freedom, balance, and transcendence.
It is a common argument that a new way of thinking is needed to successfully address the challenges and problems of contemporary society; this new way of thinking requires an enhanced capacity for future consciousness. Indeed, a new enlightenment is called for – one which will be implemented and taught within our educational systems. Our modern educational practices and pedagogies need to be transformed so that instead of reflecting various problems and deficiencies in modern culture, they will help to identify solutions to major social and cultural problems. The pursuit of wisdom should serve as the guiding principle for both the new enlightenment and the re-structuring of our educational philosophy and practices.
Enlightenment is a goal pursued in both philosophy and spiritual practices. Enlightenment can be defined as the illumination of consciousness, that is, a state of increased clarity, understanding, and scope within the human mind – of more deeply and clearly perceiving reality. But it is important to see that enlightenment is not some ideal end point of conscious evolution or development; enlightenment is a directional process with no ultimate and final realization; enlightenment can occur progressively throughout a person’s life. Within an evolutionary framework, enlightenment is dynamic and progressive rather than static and complete.
If one argues that wisdom is the capacity for leading the good life; then enlightenment could be seen as the ongoing realization and increasing understanding of what the good life is. Being able to apprehend what is fundamental and important in life is a frequently identified quality of wisdom; enlightenment would be the experience of gaining this knowledge – in which case, wisdom requires enlightenment.
Read more on wisdom in The Pursuit of Wisdom and the Future of Education and Philosophy, Wisdom, and the Future.