I sat down in an NYC cafe to talk with Carter Phipps about his new book, Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea. Phipps was also the editor of EnlightenNext (formerly What is Enlightenment?) magazine. Since 1999, he’s been interviewing and engaging with thinkers, teachers, and scholars about the intersections between science and spirituality, cultural transformation, and the evolution of consciousness. His book, in a smooth, journalistic narrative, details his personal journey as a spiritual seeker and his eventual discovery of an “evolutionary spirituality.” As his book title says – it’s the intersection between the science of evolution and the spiritual possibilities an evolutionary worldview unlocks. Since evolution became well-known in the West, various luminaries have stepped forth with a vision that could spiritually encompass it. From Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution, to Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man, the idea has captured the religious imagination like wildfire. And what is it exactly? The possibility that everything is in flux and process. That the world is a vast metamorphosis, as Teilhard noted in The Divine Milieu,
“The world undergoes a sort of vast ‘ontogenesis’ (a vast becoming what it is) in which the development of each soul, assisted by the perceptible realities on which it depends, is but a diminished harmonic. Beneath our efforts to put spiritual form into our own lives, the world slowly accumulates, starting with the whole of matter, that which will make of it the Heavenly Jerusalem or the New Earth.”
The idea has caught on since the early half of the 20th century, inspiring other thinkers such as Julian Huxley, Thomas Berry, and Brian Swimme. There are still other “luminaries” – foundational thinkers – of this spiritual subculture, such as Sri Aurobindo and his counterpart, Mirra Alfasa, and the german philosopher Jean Gebser. Today, Ken Wilber continues this line of “integral” and “evolutionary” thinking with books like Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and A Brief History of Everything. Finally, Phipp’s spiritual teacher and founder of EnlightenNext, Andrew Cohen, continues this lineage of evolutionary spirituality with his own teaching: evolutionary enlightenment.
In this recording, Phipps tells the story of how he got started on the path as a seeker, meeting Andrew Cohen, getting involved in in the magazine and opening up to an evolutionary worldview. He discusses why “generalists” – folks who like to dip their hands in many streams of knowledge – are making a comeback in our age. We also go over some of the challenges we face in evolution’s continual unfoldment.
The hour flew by with Phipps. His level of engagement and passion on this subject was potent throughout our conversation, and he really painted a good picture of what the evolutionaries as a spiritual and social movement look like: diverse, passionate and willing to engage the scientific worldview with an equally potent spiritual imagination. For Phipps, the two aren’t incompatible.
Also, hope you don’t mind the ambience of background chatter and clanking coffee cups. The cafe got busy!