Freedom within evolution (Tamera 3)

This is excerpted from a book originally published 30 years ago, by Dieter Duhm, initiator of the Tamera community in Portugal.


The idea of evolution is that the totality of life on Earth is in a constant process of becoming. From the first cell to the human being of today there is a continuous line of development. The history of the human is the youngest episode in the history of evolutionary life and is itself a part of natural history.

The concept of freedom in evolution is the idea that the combinations that life has chosen in the process of its evolving did not simply follow a mechanistic determination or the laws of chance. Rather there was at the core of the living being something that could use chance, picking and choosing among the results of chance. For this we must assume a rudimentary proto-consciousness that from the beginning has directed life from within. This proto-consciousness, acting as the “impetus of the world” (Teilhard de Chardin), picked its way from possibility to possibility, from life form to life form, from species to species. This means that living matter (and probably all matter, considering the continuity involved) has a hidden centre that in the course of evolution is expanding in the direction of growing spontaneity and autonomy up to the freedom of will that we find in the human. It may be that the essence of evolution is nothing more than the development of this hidden centre now slowly being unveiled in the human. Essentially then, evolution is an attempt to realise ever more freedom within the medium of the material world. (Teilhard de Chardin has brought together impressive facts and thoughts on this evolutionary perspective in his book Man and Cosmos.)

This is not the place to expound on the metaphysics of evolution or to try to answer questions we are only just beginning to formulate. We are living – and this fact suffices for us to recognise directly the two qualities of development and freedom. Since we cannot believe that the miracle “Man” at a random moment in time was suddenly planted on Earth, we assume that these two qualities belong to the history of life and are inherently prepared within it. We assume that today’s human is also a preparation, a phase in a total process whose goal and end we do not know. From this attitude stems our reluctance to make a definitive statement concerning the development of modern humankind with all its blind alleys and delusions. It may be that all this insanity was necessary to prepare for a higher form of consciousness. How can we know what the universe has in store for us!

Our thoughts about evolution do not simply constitute a private philosophical pleasure. They have decisive consequences for the way we imagine a desirable future. The fact that the ideas of a “New Age” often go hand in hand with the image of an egalitarian farming society and a simple nature-oriented life, free of technology, only shows that the eyes of most seekers today are directed not towards the future but towards the past. The evolution of life, which has achieved its most contradictory and enigmatic manifestation in the human, does not allow for a simple move back to nature or flight away from the tasks that our cultural era is currently failing to come to grips with. Instead we need to recognise the increasingly discernible primary direction that evolution takes – in terms of growing complexity, consciousness, and freedom – to rebuild and cultivate the Earth, utilising to the utmost our historical experience, scientific knowledge, and technical abilities.

The human being is at the forefront of consciousness as life evolves. He has no choice but to take increasingly conscious control of the direction that evolution is taking. This requires us to know or get to know the basic processes, tendencies, and operating principles of the living world and its evolution. This implies research, learning to see, that is, acquiring an attitude that enables us to see, in the sense used by Nietzsche and Teilhard de Chardin, and also by Kükelhaus. Wanting to lead a creative life today implies being aware of a goal. To set and realise goals with the help of our power of thinking does not originate from human hubris but is rather a human expression of the nature of will immanent in the Living. The freedom contained here has led to a constant shattering of energies. It is not until realistic goals, in evolutionary terms, are seen and understood that decisions can be made to join forces in rebuilding the Earth.

In the continuity that lies behind us through aeons of time, life developed from the formation of the Earth, and out of that life the human emerged. Geogenesis – biogenesis – anthropogenesis – these three developments constitute the direction of evolution to date.

The world in which all this took place is described by Teilhard de Chardin as follows:

“In order to give birth to us it has, from its primeval beginnings, played in a miraculous way with so many improbabilities that there is not the slightest danger for us if we continue to put our trust in its guidance to the end of time. If it has taken on the task it will also be able to bring it to completion, using the same methods and the same infallibility as it has up till now.”

Taking charge, and still trusting in something greater than ourselves – that is the logic of the behaviour that has emerged for us as a result of contemplating evolution.”