July 16, 2011
1. The inner depth dimension of the manifest evolving cosmos.
2. Subjective consciousness as distinguished from objective matter.
From the third-century Greek sage Plotinus to the twentieth-century English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, many of history’s most influential thinkers have recognized that the universe is far more than a merely physical process. Hidden beneath the outer appearances of the material world there is, in the words of Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “a within to things.” This other half of reality, a mysterious space unperceivable by our five senses, has been variously called consciousness, spirit, sentience, prehension, or subjectivity. But when speaking about the great story of cosmic evolution, it is often useful to describe it as simply interiority.
Viewed from the outside, the evolution of the universe appears to be a gradual unfolding of increasingly complex forms of matter and energy—proceeding from atoms to stars to amoebas to human beings. But if we look below the surface of things, we realize that in addition to producing increasing orders of exterior complexity, the force of evolution has also been giving rise to greater and greater depths of interior sensation and awareness. Like two sides of a single coin, explained Teilhard, “the Physical and the Psychic, the Without and the Within, Matter and Consciousness, are all found to be functionally linked in one tangible process.” And the interior dimension of this process, Teilhard believed, pervades the entire universe, extending all the way up and all the way down the evolutionary scale to include “every kind of psychism, from the most rudimentary forms of interior perception imaginable to the human phenomenon of reflective thought.”
“In this awakening to the inherently integral nature of the entire process,” writes Andrew, “something changes at a soul level. We recognize our significance. We see that our human capacity for deep interiority — the fact that we have a consciousness that has developed the capacity to reflect upon itself — is the very leading edge of the inner dimension of the evolving cosmos.”