A New Esalen CTR Conference Series
Through that which to others seems a
mere dead mass, my eye beholds this eternal life and movement in every
vein of sensible and spiritual Nature, and sees this life rising in
ever-increasing growth, and ever purifying itself to a more spiritual
expression. The universe is to me no longer what it was before—the
ever-recurring circle, the eternally-repeated play, the monster
swallowing itself up only to bring itself forth again. It has become
transfigured before me, and now bears the one stamp of spiritual life—a
constant progress towards higher perfection in a line that runs out
into the Infinite.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
The Vocation of Man, published 1800
(Die Bestimmung des Menschen)
Below is a brief overview of the background and goals for CTR's
conference series called Evolutionary Metaphysics. If you would prefer
to go directly to the summary for the first conference: click here for the 2006 summary.
Alfred North Whitehead once wrote that each new epoch in history is
accompanied by a profound cosmological vision—an underlying meta-view
that refreshes and orients its host culture anew. In this era of
globalization, such a momentous philosophy must address some grand
complexities as well as many daunting empirical tests.
It must, for example, reconcile the recognition of a
world-transcendent and eternal consciousness—reported by men and women
around the world since the dawn of human history—with the emergent
energy and matter of this evolving universe as these are progressively
revealed by contemporary science. It must also account for the immense
range of human potentials revealed by many fields of research,
including the supernormal human attributes witnessed to by the shamanic
and scriptural traditions, modern psychical research, cultural
anthropology, and the comparative study of religion. Do such areas of
inquiry point to a greater life that is emerging in us? Such a
philosophical vision must also embrace fundamental issues raised by the
contemporary study of post-mortem survival, including questions about
when individuating souls began to participate in our world's advance.
Did our souls exist in some form before the Big Bang?
Although it has not been recognized as a lineage of thought, nor has it
been given a widely accepted name, the seed-form of a vision that can
do all these things has been growing haphazardly, we believe, since
about 1800, heralded by such seminal visionaries as Fichte, Schelling,
Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead, Gebser, Aurobindo, and Teilhard de Chardin.
In December 2006, the Esalen Center for Theory and Research
(CTR) will initiate a series of conferences to explore this way of
viewing God, the cosmos, and humankind. In previous historical eras,
this task was given the name “metaphysics,” a type of philosophical
exploration into the deepest nature of things, both spiritual and
material. Until we find a better name, we propose to call our own
metaphysics “evolutionary panentheism.”
It is important to note in this context that we are not
attempting a broad “consilience” of the sciences, social sciences and
humanities in the manner of Esalen's recent conferences on evolutionary
theory, which brought together atheists, agnostics, and mystics.
Instead we are assembling thinkers who fully recognize: 1. the reality
of a world-transcendent Being or Divinity; 2. unseen or occult worlds
of consciousness and energy (however conceived or articulated in symbol
and doctrine); and 3. the scientifically revealed facts of our evolving
universe. And, most importantly, we are doing this to create an
integral synthesis that embraces all of these realities within an
overarching vision, or metaphysics, that is not dogmatic but
nevertheless represents a thought-movement, Weltanschauung, or school of philosophy that illuminates and advances an evolutionary panentheism adequate to our age.