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A traditional account of the first Adamic man that strips away the mythology of origins set forth by modern science in order to understand the true meaning behind the creation myths of sacred scripture.
In whatever form He will doth He put thee together. (Quran 82: 8)
Since the primordial era at the beginning of sacred history, the world has been cast under the spell of three enduring mysteries that have never—and may never--reveal their innermost secret to humanity. Human origins, meaning, and final end have always stood out in cameo for having fascinated both ancient and modern individuals more than any other dark message of the universe. It has never been enough for a person to know that he or she somehow begins to exist, lives, and ends. The summary and totality of our being begs the question of origins and ends, while the mind searches relentlessly for an answer to the question of the alpha and omega of individual existence and the narrative drama of what lies in between.
The logic of a human thinking presence requires a beginning and an end. Reason and common sense infer from the facts of birth and death that there are parameters within existence beyond which we know nothing but the perennial mystery that intrigues our waking hours. Our flesh from infancy to old age reveals a pattern of development and change that suggests a rise and a fall within the human context that mirrors the forces within seasonal nature of infancy, youth, maturity, decline and death. The mind questions, witnesses and explores the potential for meaning and purpose within this limited time frame, while the heart as the modern symbol of the emotional center harbors emotions and gathers sentiments in order to create a context that justly serves the miracle of birth and the mystery of death. In other words, the totality of man in his body, mind and heart seeks by natural instinct to characterize and substantiate him/herself as an individual, as a presence, as a species, and ultimately as a being, the most human of all beings.
The creation myth of Adam and Eve is not just a mythical tale of possible human origins suggestive of 'once upon a time' in illo tempore, at some remote time-event, 'in the beginning'. The Adamic myth is a knowledge concerning what constitutes the very essence of man, including his body, his nature, his intellect, his instinct, his soul and ultimately his spirit. The body was perfection of form, the mind mirrored objectivity, the intellect reflected the absolute, the soul constituted the 'ground' of his person and the spirit the very breath of his being. The mythological tale of Adam and Eve is a narrative message of descent and return, descent from the primordial perfection and a return to the paradise lost. As such, the tale represents the traditional dogma of the fall and rise of man rather than the evolutionary dogma of the rise and fall of man, commencing with a common ancestor that scientists revealingly call Mitochondrial Eve, and ultimately terminating through the inevitability and finality of physical, earthly death.
The persona of Adam as first man was created not as a primitive and primate man giving rise to growth and development on the purely physical plane whose chemicals and neurons would one day constitute his mind, his consciousness and his emotions, a being that would be subject to a brief interlude of earthly time between the two eternities and then no more. The Adamic first man is a symbol of none other than the primordial man who existed as a creature of centrality, totality, objectivity and perfection as the defining and definitive qualities of his essence. These were aspects and qualities that virtually defined the primordial man by virtue of his being made 'in the image' (imago Dei) of a Divine Being that portrayed and expressed the aspects of the Center, the Whole, the Objective, the Absolute, and the Perfect One Who created him 'in His image'. Adam is the symbol of man in divinis, human by nature but reflective of the Divine Qualities and Attributes that make him man in principle and not less than man in any sense of time.
As the seed and prototype of all future generations, Adam had a body that reflected perfection, a soul that reflected centrality, a nature that reflected totality and completeness and a mind that reflected consciousness and objectivity. Let us consider more close these human elements of body, soul, human nature, and mind, for they are the defining elements of a unique human spirit.
Adam, whose body was the manifested image of the Divine Prototype, possessed a symmetry of form and a luminescence of spirit that expressed a perfection of form that translated into a symbolic meaning, his luminescence shining forth from the inner substance and spirituality of his being as a complement to his already unique physical presence. His centrality transcended space. By having a center, he could conquer the physical limitations of the human mind with reference to both outer and inner space by placing himself in proximity to the Center of the Divinity, and this center served as the foundation of his entire being because he had the entire universe as his basis. Prior to the fall from Paradise, his human nature expressed totality and completeness. Nothing was missing from his range of experience; he could literally communicate with the animals; he could see things directly and understand the symbolic messages within nature, and he symbolically walked with God. Finally, the mind of primordial man expressed consciousness and wisdom, consciousness by virtue of his subjectivity and wisdom by virtue of his intuitive knowledge.
His perfect body, his complete nature, and the centrality of his soul made him a creation as the symbolic image of the Divine Being, while his mind made the primordial Adamic man a human man. God breathed into man of His spirit and in doing so granted him formal participation in the Divine Spirit, lending him aspects of objectivity and the absolute that must accompany that Spirit. The objectivity of his mind permitted him to step out of his own subjectivity. He could step out of himself and therefore see himself with the eyes of a higher consciousness. This is the meaning of human self-consciousness, reflecting a transcendent awareness of the Highest Reality that is unique to the human species. In addition, man's capacity for objectivity endowed his mind with an intelligence that could see and understand things as they are 'in themselves' and not merely as the reflection of his own subjective being, a will that was free to choose, and higher emotions that transcended the limitations of pure self interest into the higher realms of charity, compassion and selfless love. "To say that man, and consequently the human body, is 'made in the image of God,' means a priori that it manifests something absolute and for that very reason something unlimited and perfect. What above all distinguishes the human form from animal forms, is its direct reference to absoluteness, indicated by its vertical posture." This was the primordial, the Adamic, the first man whose symbolic image portrays what constitutes the human being. By being in the shadow of the Absolute, he retains something of the absolute within him, and this permits him certain "unlimited" qualities that manifest throughout the course of his life as beauty (perfection), consciousness (objectivity), wisdom (knowledge), virtue (action) and the like.
The primordial man of traditional parlance has emerged within the modern context as Homo Sapiens, a totally human being, without his being in this context a theophany and "sign" of God. Both represent first man but not in the temporal sense of the world since his actual and literal existence has no intrinsic importance as such. It is not the temporality of man that is of interest here; at issue is his identity, his meaning, and ultimately his origin that is at stake. Admittedly, it is a uniquely modern-day dilemma, for traditional societies didn't question the fundamentality of man's spiritual origins as a thinking creature of the Divinity. Primordial man is first man in kind and quality, if not necessary in literal time. He is principle and prototype, unique and exemplar. Homo becomes sapiens by virtue of his intellectual intuition which is rooted in the very substance of the human spirit, because man's intuition connects him knowingly with the knowledge and Spirit of God. When he was created and manifested as a human and terrestrial creature, man is said to have "descended" to the earth in various stages of development. His return and ultimate resurrection within the fold of the Transcendent Spirit traces the parameters of the "vertical" dimension that commenced with man's descent and will come to fruition with his ascent and return to God.
The disappearance of the Adamic man from the spiritual, intellectual and emotional horizon of modern man marks the abandonment and loss of the spiritual message that his symbolic image implied. The characteristics mentioned earlier of his centrality, his totality, his perfection and his objectivity no longer have the meaning that has traditionally been associated with the Supreme Being. The existence of the supra-natural designations of the soul, the intuitive mind and human nature must be denied by modern man as we have come to understand these elements within the humanly spiritual context. To abandon the spiritual perspective is to give up the essence of what makes man human and not animal. To embrace the naturalist perspective that links man's ancestry definitively with the animal kingdom through some arcane process of compatibility and interrelatedness is to desire the animal in man to define the border of who man has been and still fundamentally is.
In this way, the ground of man's soul is compromised and thus so is his centrality, together with his ability to place himself and be within the Center of existence. Without soul or center, he is relegated to the periphery of existence, occupying a word in the voluminous book of life or a leaf in the cosmic jungle. Without a human nature that is made in divinis and reflective of the qualities of God, he loses his totality and breaks down into fragments, occupying pieces of a broken mirror that is shattered beyond repair. The perfection of the human body and its implicit message becomes fallen and flawed, reduced to a machine occupying space in time and unable to depart from the inner border of the mechanism he images for himself. Finally, without the objectivity that permits man to withdraw from himself and move toward the image of the Absolute, he becomes a purely subjective being in a purely relative world, rather than the objective and in the words of Schuon the "relatively absolute" being he once was by virtue of the sacred trust he made with the Divinity to be himself as he was created and to affirm the Divine Principle in the human form.
Are we a dream, dreamed by ancient wisdoms and the wise who place the human entity beyond the realm of purely physical worlds? Are we merely a process of physical nature and not a reality that transcends the illusions of this world? Are we to believe the dark message of our animality and if so what is this message, for we do not approximate the nobility of the animal who lives well placed within itself, who has the intelligence to fulfill its earthly function and follow its natural instincts, and who prays and praises God by being what it was created to be? Did we rise through successive generations of apes and hominids or did we descend through successive phases of materialization leading to the ultimate denial of our true origins.
Whether it be from the traditional or the scientific point of view, we need to explore deeper into the frontiers of human knowledge in order to come to terms with our human origins. From the scientific point of view we have the right to demand answers from Nature. From the traditional point of view, it is Nature and Life itself that demands an answer from us, reminding us that an essential part of the human condition is to remember and recreate the meaning of the sacred trust between the human and the Divine in the here and now of "this world".
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The mythic portrayal of the origin of the primordial Adamic man is not the same as the prosaic narrative of the evolution of what scientists refer to as Homo Sapiens. In terms of appellation alone, Homo Sapiens or the man of wisdom, recalls the primordial man who was wise by definition and is used possibly out of deference to the implicit wisdom of man as we know him to be within ourselves as distinct from other animal forms. Otherwise, Homo sapiens merely represents the endpoint of a transient, imperfect and forever evolving species forming progressive lineages leading to the great waves of proto-humans such as Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo praesapiens, creatures that preceded man whom we don't really know much about, but whom we endlessly speculate upon. Adam's story of first man, namely man as such rather than man in time, is a divine allegory of human origins, not in terms of time but in terms of meaning. The story of the genus Homo that gradually evolved into Homo Sapiens or man as we know him today is a scientific allegory and thus the purely human story of man's origins over time. The Adamic story is vertical, representing descent and ascent; the scientific account is horizontal, representing a rise, a levelling and ultimately a termination, leading to the modern dogma of the rise and fall of first man.
We need not elaborate on the differences of perspective between the primordial and the primate man for they are far to obvious to belabor and far too numerous to elaborate upon. A few words by way of summary may clarify a number of relevant points that still need highlighting. What we identify now as Homo Sapiens is the product of our own imagination, despite the extensive findings in the various fields of science that support the theory that man claims a primate ancestry and has progressively evolved through the lineage of apes.
The mind of traditional man claimed to be associated with primordial man and was willing to believe and have faith in that principle, not because he envisioned a literal ancestral lineage, but because he saw his own meaning in the meaning of the Adamic myth. The modern mind, which is none other than the scientific mind, claims to be associated with a primitive, primate ape-man in terms of temporal descent and biological ancestry. In short, for whatever reason, the modern mind is seeking the infra-human origin of man. In attempting to establish his raison d'etre through a line of evolution closely associated with a species that is anatomically closely related to the human, modern man does not look for deeper meaning in the measurements of skull, teeth and bone because he knows there is none. Whatever he gleans from the fossils refers inevitably to hunting and diet. He understands himself to be the product of the preservation of favorable genetic variations that have passed through ape, ape-like, pre-hominid, and hominid brains and body that somehow eventually arrived at the perfection and beauty of the human entity. This conception of the rise of man has him on a march away from his origins, on a journey through linear and historical time, that moves him forward in anticipation of a progress and development toward a higher state of physical being.
Modern man is considered to be the direct descendent of a line of pre-human creatures in a process of evolution that "guaranteed" his development. Haeckel, the arch defender of Darwin at the turn of the century, believed, like Darwin, that apes and humans had a common origin and that man was the direct descendent of "human apes". Richard Leakey, the renown paleontologist, writes in his recent book Origins Reconsidered: "In essence, humans are bipedal apes who happened to develop all these other qualities we usually associate with being human." The great British biologist Conrad Waddington put it this way: "Through evolution humans have become the ethical animal." Dr. Loren Eiseley, the poet naturalist, writes introspectively: "Man is, in reality, an oracular animal. Bereft of instinct, he must search constantly for meanings."
What is interesting about the two perspectives of science and religion is the purpose of their inquiry and the manner of their approach to the "problem" of origins. Religion relies on the power of symbols; science is enamored with the "objective" quality of facts. Religion sees messages in the symbols of Nature; science sees laws and principles in the forces of nature. Religion is searching for meaning, whereas science is searching for answers. If man is an ethical and oracular animal, then what is the source of his ethics and oracles and how should he read and implement them? Seemingly, the two perspectives could not be further apart in the identification of their avowed purposes, perhaps as far apart as man and ape.
The findings of paleontology and of micro and molecular biology are specialized and often cryptic messages that are difficult to read and even harder to bear. On the one hand, sheer intellectual instinct tells us that we are not brother to the ape or the anthropoid. They are on the edge of the woods looking beyond their natural habitat with active but unconscious eyes. They inhabit a borderland as an analogous possibility without actually being or becoming the higher entity. They may have even arrived at the door of humankind only to find it closed and they cannot pass beyond into the realm of higher consciousness. It could be suggested that the ape incarnates somehow the desire to be human, in the same way perhaps that a dog exhibits fidelity and strives to participate in human endeavors. They may even display an endearing range of emotions in their proximity with human nature. But they are not human and their anatomical proximity and emotive desires do not constitute or draw an ancestral line of descent.
All animals convey a unique message to man. The owl, the bird, the snake, the fox, the cow, the bee, and the ant, to name only a few, all bespeak a message that is unique to themselves. All project a knowledge and a range of attributes that reflect one individual aspect of man without actually becoming man. What the ape tells us is that we are what they are not, not that we should have been what they once were and still are. The ape shows the differences rather than the similarities between the animal and the human form. "However paradoxical this may seem, the anatomical resemblance between man and the anthropoid apes is explainable precisely by the difference – not gradual, but essential – that separates man from all other animals." The ape has a shape and form that remembers and recalls a kind of human anatomy, yet it does not have the "centering" element and it is without the higher faculties of man. The ape in this sense is a kind of silhouette of man, delineating an outline without the substance or central element, prefiguring what man is by virtue of what he is not, namely the ape.
The image of the simian beast, bipedal and ape-like, a club in hand signalling an uncouth consciousness and a dark message of profound brutishness on his face, shines down through the ages with its profound message of animality and limitation. There is everything in this image to depict the struggle of a natural life and nothing in it to indicate the struggle of a supernatural life, indeed nothing to suggest that what once had been would become and be modern man. They are locked within their particular endowed natures and cannot escape. Behind the face of the ape is the ape himself, as he is represented within his nature and nothing more. As ancestors, the apes, the anthropoids and hominids such as australopithecus and paleanthropans, and the various degrees of Homo, including Homo habilis and Homo erectus, seem remote and alien. Their faces seem forever unknown to us and we have a hard time discerning anything remotely human in the reassembled visages portrayed as artists' conception in textbooks and genealogical charts of the evolution of man.
Paleontologists rhapsodize about their fossil discoveries and have every right to do so. A specimen of anthropoid skull possibly a million years old is a breath-taking discovery indeed. And yet beyond the sheer time factor and its appeal for specialists, its universal application in drawing connections with human realities falls somewhat short of the mark. We can stare indefinitely at the encyclopedic charts of our so-called primate and anthropoid ancestors, the gradual progression in size, the subtle transformation toward a human perfection and beauty that makes us acceptable to ourselves. Yet, the images of these ancestors remains forever unknown to us, alien even in the sense that as a distinct "other" species, they might just as well come from another planet for all of their real connection to modern man. They are not us and we are not them, at least not in the way that evolutionists and paleontologists would have us believe. These artistic fantasies have no reality for us; instead they are mute representations without personality or presence, although presumably they were once living creatures having as much animation and living features as an expressive monkey or a curious ape. They are lost in anonymity, unidentified, featureless, soulless.
The whole area of pre-human fossil extraction raises numerous questions that are enlightening in their own right without attempting to answer them even. While the skull fossils may be thrilling and unique, they are in reality skull and bones and not the living beings we would like them to be in order to prove our theories. The representations of evolving man, as they are presented in textbooks and film documentaries, that flesh out these skeletons are not particularly appealing. After all, the bare bones of a modern human skeleton is a grim symbol indeed and doesn't tell us much about the volatile and expressive creature that once lived, at least not in any real substantive manner. The bones of Mozart or De Vinci would be much the same as the bones of Hitler or Stalin in terms of identifying the essence of the man.
What then are we seeking in the pursuit of fossils and bones? If we are seeking the essence of humankind, we are forced to draw it from the empty sockets of skulls or the representations of artists and computer projections that are quick to parody human conceptions of themselves onto the past of an indifferent dead. What does this tell us about the paleontological search and pursuit of our human origins? Is it a sign of our inner aspirations that we are forever scrutinizing the physical remains of entities whose secrets are not easily divulged and whose experience has long since vanished? When we resurrect them, what do we really expect to find? Is the search for and examination of skeletal anatomy the search for man, or is it also necessary to search for the inner qualities of reason, intelligence, consciousness, introspective feeling and the higher emotions? Is the identification of man's meaning and the autobiography of man's early life to be uncovered in the strata of rock formations and in the ancient sediments of the African Savannah?
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The perennial problem of man's origins lies in the fact that we do not know what man evolved from. "How the primeval human creature evolved into Homo sapiens, what forces precipitated the enormous expansion of the human brain – these problems ironically still baffle the creature who has learned to weigh stars and to tamper with the very fabric of the universe." The fossil record itself displays monumental gaps that distort the record into an unfinished puzzle of missing pieces. The period between 1.6 million years ago and the present is much less complete than anthropologists would like us to believe. These gaps make it difficult, if not impossible, to establish secure evolutionary links between populations that lived a million years ago and those living today. This, needless to say, contributes to a broad range of disagreements among the scientists concerned over the origin of modern humans.
The well known paleontologist Richard Leakey freely admits in his recent findings that the available information does not really encourage the development of a sound, and satisfying thesis of the ancestral origins of man from the primate kingdom. In part, he writes: "Of the three or more species of hominid that existed between 2 million and 2.5 million years ago, only two made it through to a million years ago: Homo erectus and the robust australopithecine. And of these two, only one persisted beyond a million years ago: Homo. What can we say about this, beyond recording that it happened? Not much, and nothing for certain. But our intense curiosity about our ancestors forces us to wonder." He makes an honest assessment for all to read; yet one wonders why the notion persists that we have definitively evolved from apes? Is there some implicit desire to have done so that many people today wish it into fact? The biochemist Vincent Sarich boldly affirms: "As I see it, the basic problem has nothing to do with the evidence, be it molecular or paleontological, but with the difficulty most of us have with accepting the reality of our own evolution. We have developed sufficient intellectual maturity to make overt denial of the fact of human evolution impossible." Not everyone may agree with this assessment. Firstly, the evidence doesn't conclusively prove anything. Secondly, we have the right to ask: Does intellectual rigor take precedence necessarily over higher emotions and practical instincts? Is the functions of the mind superior to the heart? In addition, many instances of scientific breakthroughs have occurred either in the dream state or as a result of some kind of flash of intuition, amounting to a kind of direct perception or insight akin to a blessing from "above".
With these scientists expressing widely divergent views, the result is a confusing and uncertain picture of modern human origins, precisely because the anthropologists and archeologists themselves are not yet sure what actually happened. The only certainty for this particular field of science seems to be the questions. Paleontologists frankly confess that there is no consensus on the origin of man and from whence and what animal he descended. In general, they speculate upon the four main waves in the succession of hominids that appeared on earth. The main question that concerns us today is whether these hominids were dependent or independent of each other, and whether they are links, missing or otherwise, between the waves. "The independence of the four waves of hominids from a very early stage seems doubly certain due to the fact that no fossils have ever been found that indicate the existence of a common archaic breed. . . .It is not possible therefore to accept as the one and only feasible hypothesis the theory that there is a common lineage between the present-day great apes and man." Humanity may have its own lineage at some distant period of history, indeed at a time as old as some of the human vestiges so far in evidence, but without the evidence of a missing link, they are not necessarily from their lineage.
The Neanderthals are an interesting case in point. Fossil specimens of what were initially through to be early human ancestors were discovered in the late 19th century in a limestone quarry in the Neander Valley, near Dusseldorf, Germany. It was thought that they were a relatively modern form of human that became extinct some thirty-four thousand years ago. Not surprisingly, controversy has surrounded them for more than 100 years. Were they an extinct dead end, a branch of the human tree that died out? Or where they in some way ancestral to modern people in Europe?
The suggestion of a definitive answer has only newly come with a recent report that modern humans are not related to Neanderthal Man. This claim is the result of analysis of Neanderthal Man's DNA by a team of German and US scientists who were the first to extract genetic material from a fragment of human bone between 30,000 and 100,000 years old. The scientists were able to show that there was no genetic similarity between Neanderthal Man and modern humans living anywhere in the world.
Chimps and apes have become the modern day battleground between the scientific and traditional perspective in establishing the search for human origins. In fact, psychology is increasingly playing a role in the debate. Some scientists, psychologists in particular, see in man not much more than a chimpanzee, who is marginally more artful and human-like if you will, than the other primates. There is a pronounced tendency to humanize the animals; but in doing so they only end up animalizing man. It amounts to an anthropomorphism in the first instance and a zoomorphism in the second instance.
Man's erect posture was long considered by the traditions as the predominant symbol of man's humanity, because his vertical stance so accurately reflects the verticality of his mind and intelligence reaching for the Supreme Intelligence. Bipedal apes have long since supplanted the traditional symbolism with the vertical primates taking over the African bush with their intelligence and insight. "Our primary evolutionary adaptation, to bipedal locomotion, was a response to the need to forage for food in open environments, where patches of food were widely spread apart." Then man's unique ability to communicate through language and speech came under attack, encouraging the well known biologist Stephen Jay Gould to write: "We are so tied to our philosophical and religious heritage that we still seek a criterion for strict division between our abilities and those of chimpanzees. Gould would like to see "a strict continuity in kind" between ourselves and chimpanzees, most notably on the mental level with regard to the chimps' ability to speak. He suggests that there is no deficiency of what he calls "cerebral organization", rather the explanation for why chimps can't really talk is far simpler and far less profound: "the vocal cords of chimpanzees are constructed in such a way that large repertories of articulated sounds cannot be produced. If we could only discover a different way of communicating with them, we might find that chimps are much smarter than we think."
Finally, there is the question of genetic differences, which are said to be relatively small. Gould is so intrigued by the meaning and implications of the small genetic differences between the two species of human and chimp that he confesses interest to conducting "the most potentially interesting and ethically unacceptable scientific experiment" that he could ever imagine – "to hybridize our two species and simply to ask the off-spring what it is like to be, at least in part, a chimpanzee. This interbreeding may well be possible – so small are the genetic distances that separate us." And incredibly he is not alone in making this irresponsible and provocative suggestion. The famous author and astronomer Carl Sagan in one of his earlier works also cryptically raises the question of cross-breeding when he writes: "For all we know, occasional viable crosses between humans and chimpanzees are possible. The natural experiment must have been tried infrequently, at least recently. If such off-spring are ever produced, what will their legal status be?" We shall leave these comments to stand as they are, and refrain from delving into the ethical questions that arise from these considerations, for they are far too onerous to consider within this context.
Questions concerning the missing link, however, may continue to rage for quite some time, presumably because its discovery would put to rest the century-old debate. From the traditional point of view, there is of course no missing link and never will be. Instead of missing links, nature offers us a large variety of animal forms that imitate the appearance and habits of a species or order foreign to them without actually departing from the integrity of their own species. The highly respected traditional writer Titus Burckhardt cites the whale and the hummingbird as two species that seem to cross boundaries or enter borderlands; the whale as an example of a mammal whose appearance and behavior resembles a fish, and the hummingbird whose appearance, iridescent colors, flight and mode of feeding resemble butterflies. "Most of these animals with imitative forms are higher species that have taken on the forms of relatively lower species, a fact which a priori excludes an interpretation of them as intermediary links in an evolution."
As for the missing link between the human and primate kingdom, let those search who want to find it. From the point of view of anatomical structure, not just the ape but a great variety of anthropoid animals from the primate kingdom closely resemble human beings; but as we have already suggested, in face, body language and overall projection of their essence through form, they are as different from the human species as day and night and give evidence to a far greater degree what man is not, rather than what he is.
At the heart of the traditional point of view lies the truth that every created thing possess its own integrity as well as its own essence, and while organisms may undergo changes by virtue of a process of natural mutation, they do not lose their integrity or their essence. A seed, for example, has its own nature and essence. This is what is called in the traditional perspective the "miracle" of creation, namely that things are what they are by being themselves. As such, the higher cannot evolve from the lower, not can it alter its fundamental nature or state of being. The hermetist Richard the Englishman understood this principle very well when he wrote perceptively over three centuries ago: "Nothing can be produced from a thing that is not contained in it; for this reason, every species, every genus, and every natural order develops within the limits proper to it and bears fruits according to its own kind and not according to an essentially different order; everything that receives a seed must be of the same seed." That is why the traditions maintain that an ape is an ape, an angel is an angel, and a man is a man.
Paleontology shows the various animal and anthropoid forms in the fossil record within the strata of earthly sediments. What paleontology and the various biologies including molecular genetics doesn't show is the non-tangible development of what actually distinguishes man as "human". It is a very complicated issue and paleontologists take great pains in attempting to trace a thin line of evidence suggestive of the development of human consciousness, since they reckon rightfully enough that it is consciousness above all that distinguishes the human entity over the rest of the animal kingdom. Contemporary scholars seem reluctant to elaborate on the subject and most of them have enough sense to tread these waters gently. Some people suggest that the quality we call humanness sprang fully formed from the brain of Homo sapiens. Humanness, according to this view, is a recent development in history, the product of a "sudden cognitive efflorescence" which generated a modern level of spoken language and conscious awareness, something that was denied somehow to our hominid forebears. By suggesting that human consciousness has appeared out of nowhere, unconnected to our evolutionary heritage, they are actually making humanness a unique and scientifically inexplicable mark of humanity without actually affirming the role of the Supreme Consciousness put forward by the traditions.
Others are less prescient and propose to link both mind and consciousness to the neurological organization of the brain, effectively reducing mind to matter. The Tufts university philosopher Daniel Dennett suggests that there is no mind-body problem first initiated three centuries ago by the philosopher Rene Descartes. "More recently, with the rejection of dualism and the rise of materialism – the idea that the mind just is the brain – we have gravitated to the view that the self must be a node or module in the brain, the Central Headquarters responsible for organizing and directing all the subsidiaries that keep life and limb together." Most neuroscientists now believe that all aspects of mind, including its most puzzling attribute - consciousness or awareness - are likely to be explainable in a more materialistic way as the behavior of large sets of interacting neurons.
Leakey himself confesses to the materialist view, not surprisingly, in spite of his continual assertion of nobler aspirations that most certainly would not be controlled by neuro-electrons of the brain! He includes further documentation and goes to great lengths to show the material-based origins of the human self, affirming that the mind is not, in his words, "some gossamer attachment to the organ" of the brain. He quotes the noted neurologist Sir John Eccles from his latest book Evolution of the Brain: "I am constrained to attribute the uniqueness of the Self or Soul to a supernatural spiritual creation." However what amounts to wheat for one philosopher may taste like chaff to another. Leakey expresses "sympathy" with the sentiments expressed in a recent essay by Colin McGinn, a philosopher at Rutgers University. "How is it possible for conscious states to depend on brain states?" questions McGinn who inquires further: "How can Technicolor phenomenology arise from soggy gray matter? What makes the bodily organ we call the brain so radically different from other bodily organs, say the kidneys – the body parts without a trace of consciousness? How could the aggregation of millions of individually insentient neurons generate subjective awareness?. . . It strikes us as miraculous, errie, or even faintly comic. Somehow, we feel, the water of the physical brain is turned into the wine of consciousness, but we draw a total blank on the nature of this conversion." Still, this doesn't stop the endless speculation concerning the origin of human consciousness.
In the search for the origin of human consciousness, paleontologists look to the cognitive foundations of our ape-like ancestors. In the quest for the roots of human consciousness, they explore the social worlds of non-human primates, posing explanations for why they seem to be more intelligent than they need to be, and whether they exhibit a sense of "self". In searching for the meager clues of consciousness through the prehistoric record, scientists hope to uncover the cause leading to the evolutionary jump animal instinct to human consciousness.
From the traditional point of view, speculation of this sort in which the soul and the spirit of man are dismissed out of hand, while the inner, higher forces of the mind, the self and human consciousness, are referred to as "gossamer attachments" represent the dark reflections of a misguided thinking process, in which the matter of one's mind merely feeds on itself and sees no outlet to the higher realities. The revelatory advice is plain: Therefore shun those who turn away from Our Message and desire nothing but the life of this world. That is as far as knowledge will reach them. (53: 28) And how far is that knowledge that will reach them? The answer is not very, according to this statement: "We experience the ultimate expression of this dimension of intelligence, the skills of foresight and manipulation, the facility of imagination, the sense of self. We also extend it to raw feelings, of course, to sympathy and empathy, to attribution and affect. This dimension of feeling is what makes consciousness so keenly subjective an experience." Yet, this statement is yet another example of the paradoxically romantic notion of a scientist on the fringes of a budding philosophy. It expresses the desire to acknowledge higher sentiments and emotions while at the same time denying their right to exist. As for human consciousness, powerful though our subjective experience of consciousness is, Leakey concludes that "paradoxically it is extremely difficult to prove that it exists at all."
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It has not been my intention, throughout this chapter in particular, to offer answers to enigmatic problems. Instead I have been primarily interested in raising questions and shining the spotlight on certain elements of the scientific perspective concerning the origin of first life and the transformist development of different species culminating with the human species. The theory of evolution, with its related areas of interest, is extremely controversial and no one single person, fact or event is going to solve the perennial debate that surrounds the alternative perspectives of science and religion concerning the origin of life and the miracle of Homo Sapiens. In truth, the question may never be resolved. Perhaps there is something in the human condition itself that begs the question.
A grand controversy such as this one invites arguments and counter-arguments in a field where alien worlds collide like hostile subatomic particles. The scientific community, through the avowals of a multitude of evolutionary scientists, unequivocally claims that the transformist theories of evolution are as good as proven fact, commencing with the replication of a unicellular organism several billions of years ago and crowned by the achievement of the primate ape to make their way across the unchartered borderland into humankind, a territory without a map if there ever was one. Claims need substantiation of course, failing which all the arguments in the world won't suffice to make the case believable.
Hopefully, however, one idea in particular can emerge more clearly from this endeavor. Whether it be the incredible, recent findings of modern science in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics that have revolutionized the entire intellectual framework and enriched the storehouse of modern knowledge as never before, or the wide diversity and profound scope of the traditional knowledge whose amplitude reaches down from Heaven to earth and back again and whose extent spans across all races and cultures, one thing needs to become clear. The deeper a modern and contemporary person explores either the rational or intuitive perspective, the more that person must realize the existence of a unique similarity of aim and purpose between the two paradigms of knowledge. A bridge of opportunity may be emerging from the scaffolding of the search for origins that may be too important to ignore. Science needs a perennial philosophy to substantiate the facts and the findings that it uncovers on the physical plane of manifestation, and scientists offer them to the public in a framework of intelligibility and accessibility. Traditionally, the religions have done that with considerable success. Religion, on the other hand, needs an experimental and empirical science to complement the archetypes and the knowledge that it reveals on the spiritual plane of manifestation, and perhaps to satisfy a modern mentality enamored with the physicality of this world and its scientific proofs. Science can articulate the physical realities for the improvement of the human condition and actually prove certain truths even on the level of physical matter, thus bringing some of the more esoteric philosophies down to earth and creating the conditions that could bring together alien worlds of science and religion.
Neither science nor religion can continue into the new millennium and beyond as islands unto themselves. The world cannot afford to lose either the incredible quality and depth of traditional knowledge or the incredible range and accuracy of the knowledge of the exact sciences of today. They both need to integrate themselves into the theory of unity the adherents of both perspectives propose to believe in. They both need to exhibit a new consciousness that complements the incredible breadth of knowledge and possibility that these valid and alternative fields of vision encompass. They both need to be inclusive rather than exclusive, inviting dialogue and exchange between related fields of interest, no matter how different their methods or frame of reference. It is not for nothing that the Messenger of Islam is quoted as having said: "Seek knowledge (of science), even unto China," which was a form of Arab hyperbole to suggest that the knowledge of science was so important one should seek it even unto "the ends of the earth".
Our subject is vast and we cannot hope to contain within this limited perspective a complete account of all the angles and points of view for such a controversial theory as evolution, encompassing as it does a wide variety of the fields of science. The writer has to acknowledge as well the fact that he is not a scientist, a scholar, a lama, a yogi, or a sheikh. Still, as a lay-man and a Homo Sapiens, he reserves the right from the scientific point of view and the duty from the traditional point of view to question, to probe, to analyze and to form suitable judgements concerning a matter which is vital to any person as an individual and as a member of the emerging global society. That is why we are called Sapiens. The perennial search for knowledge can continue to thrive so long as little minds do not dominate the horizon of our world and the life of our time.
In Part Two, we have been writing about the search for origins, including the origin of life and the origin of man. In the process, we have traversed vast eons of time and dug deep into the geological strata of the earth. We have traced all living organisms back to their starting point in the mythical primordial waters of early earth and have sifted through the sediments of the earth for vestiges and remnants of early and anthropoid man, back even to the great primate apes. Except for what is made known through revelation, we may never know for sure what our origins are through empirical research, ageless time and the vastness of the geological field being what they are. Still, the search goes on as a sacred endeavor, a sacred human instinct if you will. Ultimately, the desire to know may transcend the limitations of both science and religion, in order to provide the kind of transubstantiating answer that no empirical evidence could ever provide.