What is the one thing that everything in the Universe has in common?
If you said “relationship” you would be right. From particles at the quantum level, to the largest galaxies in the Universe, everything is inter-connected and inter-dependent with everything else in the Universe.
Happiness, success, and even our own survival are dependent on the nature and quality of the relationships we have with the world around us.
Evolutionary science is teaching us that compassion, not survival of the fittest, is key to the creation of healthy long-term biological and social relationships. Viewed in both short and long time frames, evolutionary scientists are telling us compassion and inter-dependent cooperation will ultimately determine the probability of our survival as a species.
Until thirty years ago humanity believed survival of the fittest thinking was not only logical, we believed that historical evidence supported the notion that the strong were better suited for survival. We were convinced that survival was best achieved by meeting force with force.
This kind of thinking continues to function at the foundation of our culture’s religious, social, political, and personal relationships. Our global human cultures continue to be male dominated social structures.
Because our assumptions were based on evidence provided by a very short time-frame perspective, it was commonly believed that compassion was far too weak and touchy feely to deal with the realities of survival, natural disasters, global violence and national conflict.
Today, the science of evolution is rapidly changing the way we see life, the world, species survival, and even creation itself. We are now beginning to understand survival from the perspective of evolutionary time, not just human time.
Evolutionary science is now showing us that cooperation, inter-dependence, and compassion are the forces that has been creating our universe and new life forms for 13.7 billion years… not forces based on a survival of the fittest. We now know that the fittest, and those most likely to survive, are those life forms, species, and relationships that are systemically able to cooperate and compassionately co-exist with others.
If you want to be happy; if you want your relationships with other life forms to be healthy and survive long term, then learning to embrace compassion is essential.
It is one of nature’s most powerful, life-friendly, and relationship-friendly, creative forces.
So What Gives Compassion Its Power?
Compassion is relationship friendly, and has the creative evolutionary power to insure “relationship” survival because:
- It is a behavior, not a feeling. It has the ability to take action in the moment when action is needed.
- It functions through a radical open-hearted acceptance of reality or “what is” .
- It puts us in touch with our own pain so we do not have to ignore or dismiss the pain in others when we encounter it.
- It is able to clearly see the divine essential “self” or sacred “self” in others.
- It embraces mutuality; the knowledge that others have exactly the same right to want what we want; that others are not wrong or bad because they want the same things we want.
- It flows into the world directly from our heart, not our head.
- Unlike pity and sympathy, it does not assume that the object of our compassion is somehow less than or “beneath” us.
- It is based on empathy; a deep knowing that the pain another person is feeling is exactly the same pain that we would feel.
- The goal of compassion is always non-violence. It has the wisdom to know when force is required to confront violence, injustice, and evil… but it never uses more than is needed.
- Compassion is unconditional in that it cannot be earned or deserved.
- Compassion is oneness or unity oriented. It does not recognize right/wrong, good/bad, or black-and-white duality thinking.
Compassion versus The Narcissism Of Our Primitive Ego
To summarize the above definitions of compassion we could say that the source of compassion’s power to transform the world is found in three traits… selflessness, emptiness of dualistic ego judgments, and the ability to embrace the oneness or unity of all creation with an unconditionally open heart.
Our primitive ego on the other hand tends to be self-focused, narcissistically full of itself, and because it uses either/or, dualistic thinking… it is the primary, never-ending source of judgmentalism, suffering, pain, and criticism; the source of virtually all conflict and violence we experience in the world.
Given that compassion, cooperation, inter-dependence, and mutuality are the life friendly qualities required for the evolution of all life forms, it makes logical sense that the unconscious narcissistic primitive ego of our inner-child is not life-friendly, not relationship-friendly, and not particularly supportive of species survival.
If we include the long list of problems threatening the long term survival of our planet and our own species… and the alarming increase in the number of other living plant and animal species that are becoming extinct due to human impacts on our planet… it would appear that “life friendly” is clearly not one of humanities strong points.
Because of our primitive ego’s narcissistic sense of entitlement and self-focus, and the violence and conflict that it creates through either-or judgmental thinking, our individual and collective ability to embrace inter-connected thinking and work cooperatively with others, is often very limited.
The Key To A Healthy Relationship With The Universe
So what is stopping us from awakening and evolving our primitive ego consciousness and increasing our ability to cooperate more compassionately with other people, and other life forms?
The answer is actually very simple… we need to become more self-aware of the negative energy we are unconsciously sending into the world. We need to awaken our consciousness.
A species that has successfully created atomic and biological weapons of mass destruction, but chooses to live life unconsciously, is a species whose probability of achieving long term survival… is doubtful at best.
The ability to set our primitive ego aside, so-as-to manifest and sustain true compassion for others requires a mature level of awakened, personal self-knowledge.
We would need to:
a) drop our judgmental dualistic thinking,
b) be willing to drop our need to be right,
c) be willing to openly embrace an attitude of “not-knowing” when others disagree with us, and
d) be willing to take full responsibility for the negative energy we are sending into the world whenever we choose to believe that only “our” beliefs represent absolute truth.
Unity and Oneness: The Insights of Evolution
The insights we are learning from science and evolutionary biology are clear. The survival of a species is determined not by its strength, but rather by how well it manifests compassion and cooperation toward the other life forms in the shared environment.
The species that survive in moments of crisis are those who are most able to embrace change and inter-dependently cooperate with other life forms.
Survival of the fittest is an illusion. At some point in its evolutionary life cycle every species, or life form, will eventually face a major crisis that threatens its survival.
The greater the crisis, the more its survival will be determined by its ability to create healthy relationships and cooperate inter-dependently with the other life forms in the shared planetary life-support system.
We are all in this thing called life together.
If we are to work with the evolutionary process that created our universe, and improve the probability that we could survive a true crisis, we are going to have to transform our primitive ego into that of a more mature level of consciousness. An evolved consciousness that
a) understands there is no dualism in nature; only unity and oneness,
b) understands that dualistic either/or thinking is an illusion created by the thinking human mind,
c) understands that all of creation is happening in a unity we call our living, evolving conscious universe, and
d) understands that we are evolution in action… that “we” are an evolving species.
We are an integral part of the web of life. We are a species with 13.7 billion years of ancestors who lived and died and struggled for countless eons to survive and evolve. We carry their genetic story in our DNA.
Evolutionary science and evolutionary biology are telling us that were it not for compassionate cooperation among all of our ancestors, human and otherwise, we would not be here today. Nor would life itself have evolved.
The Divine Evolutionary Impulse To Become
Through our scientific study of evolution we are beginning to understand how the Divine Evolutionary Impulse to Become; the spirit of the Creator embedded, or immanent, in all of creation, has been creating our universe through compassion, cooperation, and systemic inter-dependence since the moment of the Big Bang.
This is scientific evolutionary knowledge was not fully understood even by the generation of our parents.
We now know that only compassion has the ability to effectively fold harmony, order, cooperation, systemic thinking, and the diversity of other living systems into the ever-increasing complexity and diversity called the “community of life”.
In times of true evolutionary crisis, only compassion is life friendly.
Only compassion has the ability to bring all of humanity together to work cooperatively toward a common future.
Summary – Compassion Is Authentic Spiritual Growth
All of the great spiritual teachers of the last 3500 years taught their disciples the importance of deep self-knowledge… the importance of recognizing the beam in their eye that was obstructing their ability to see reality.
For each of them, self-knowledge, enlightenment, happiness, authentic spiritual growth, and compassion were one-and-the-same subject.
The wisdom that these great teachers passed down can be summed up in the following principles,
a) intentional growth in self-knowledge is the only path that leads to enlightenment,
b) growth in self-awareness is authentic spiritual growth,
c) unconditional love and compassion is the goal of enlightenment,
d) the spiritual practice of intentionally offering compassion and unconditional love to others will ultimately lead to growth in self-awareness,
e) only an awakened and enlightened non-dual consciousness is capable of offering a sustainable unconditional love and compassion.
The wisdom we are learning from both evolution “and” the great spiritual teachers is that we are all in this thing called life together… that separation is an illusion created by the human ego.
Compassion comes from a growth in consciousness that allows us to see the world through new eyes.