Evolutionary Enlightenment
Enlightenment means consciousness beyond ego and evolution means development in time. So Evolutionary Enlightenment means the development in time of consciousness beyond ego. The path, in the context of evolutionary enlightenment, is at least in theory quite simple. It is a journey from identification with ego to identification with the evolutionary impulse. It is a radical transformation of our relationship to the human experience, from one that is fundamentally negative, narcissistic, compulsive, and rigid to one that is inherently positive, liberated, consciously creative, and perpetually evolving.

In an evolutionary context, the expression of the enlightened or liberated self is perpetual development in time. So if the individual is not developing in a measurable and discernable way, that means that he or she is stagnating in the emotional and psychological prison of unenlightenment that is the individual and collective ego.

Ego, in this context, is defined as inertia—an anti-evolutionary posture of narcissism and self-concern that is based upon the conviction, conscious or unconscious, that something fundamental is terribly, terribly wrong. It is because of our unquestioned identification with the negative orientation of the ego that most of us find ourselves unable to consistently express the freedom, lightness of being, and ecstatic positivity that is the quality of the evolutionary impulse, which I call the Authentic Self. And it is because of identification with ego that so few of us are able to spiritually evolve in a truly significant way.

A simple equation I often use to describe the path of evolutionary enlightenment is that it is a journey from minus one to zero to plus one. I refer to the ego’s relationship to life as “minus one” because it is fundamentally negative. And the path of transformation, reduced to its simplest terms, is the shift from the ego’s negative relationship to life to the authentic self’s positive relationship to life, which I call “plus one.” But it’s not possible to make this profound transition in one simple step, to go directly from a relationship to life that is negative, narcissistic, compulsive, and rigid to a relationship to life that is positive, liberated, consciously creative, and perpetually evolving. In an enlightenment context, as a first step, we always have to go to zero, which means to assume no relationship to life, mind, and time. Only then do we discover the freedom of enlightenment, and ultimately learn how to freely choose what a right relationship to life would be.

Zero means no relationship whatsoever. You leap from something to nothing, from the manifest to the unmanifest, from the individual and collective ego to the ground of all being. In that groundless ground that has never entered into the stream of time, the burden of existence falls from your shoulders and you are released from the entire process of becoming. So when you go back to zero, you don’t have any problems to overcome. Ego is the conviction that you have a problem, and that there is something fundamentally wrong. But when you experience zero, or no relationship, you realize in a flash that that was never true. Profoundly liberated from the ego and its unending self-concern, you reemerge from that primordial emptiness ready to be a vessel for the original creative impulse, the authentic self, bursting with ecstatic urgency and a fearless passion to become.

So the goal in evolutionary enlightenment is for the individual, through the power of conscious choice, to shift his or her fundamental locus of identification from the ego to the evolutionary impulse or authentic self. And the only way for that to happen is to take the heroic journey from minus one to zero to plus one; from a negative relationship to life, to no relationship to life, to a positive relationship to life; from inertia to emptiness to the evolutionary impulse; from ego to no self to the authentic self. The journey begins when we recognize the prison of ego, then leads to its dissolution in the ground of all being, and finally to our reemergence as a liberated, perpetually evolving expression of the authentic self, standing strong and fearless. That’s the path of development in the teaching of evolutionary enlightenment.

— Andrew Cohen