The Philosophy of Evolution

Philosophy of Evolution by Rod Hemsell

The Philosophy of Evolution

As presented here, The Philosophy of Evolution, is a compendium of lectures presented by Rod Hemsell at the University of Human Unity in Auroville in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The main thrust of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga has always been toward an active participation in the human evolution and this is the defining concept which set Sri Aurobindo and the Mother apart from all others in the very beginning.  With his extensive knowledge of philosophy and numerous philosophers and his familiarity with current science, Rod is able to guide the reader through the development of thought in these disciplines and shows us the place that Sri Aurobindo has staked out for us as the enlightened forerunner he was. These lectures are not a difficult or tedious ascent to airless heights, rather, they are instructive explorations of the broader base camps surrounding the mount; it is left to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to guide us in our ascent. However, with this exploration of the terra firma, we become ever more confident that our guides to the snow capped peaks actually do know whereof they speak.

Book Details

Author: Rod Hemsell

Print Length: 353 pages

Publisher: Auro e-Books

Original source: University of Human Unity

Contributors: Blindshiva, Krishna

Book format: PDF, ePub, Kindle

Language: English

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  • Lecture 1. Whitehead, the Philosophic Method and Evolution
  • Lecture 2. Darwin’s theory of natural selection
  • Lecture 3. Haeckel’s theory of causation
  • Lecture 4. Genetics, variation, and extinction
  • Lecture 5. From Biology to Philosophy
  • Lecture 6. Bergson and the Limits of Rational Mind
  • Lecture 7. From empiricism to intuition and the evolution of mind
  • Lecture 8. Konrad Lorenz and the Roots of Cognition
  • Lecture 9. The planes of consciousness
  • Lecture 10. Sri Aurobindo and the evolution of consciousness
  • Appendix 1. Physics and the Philosophy of Evolution
  • Appendix 2. Biology and the Philosophy of Evolution: Darwin and Sri Aurobindo
  • Appendix 3. Illustrations


  • Lecture 1. Introduction
  • Lecture 2. The Sankhya and Yoga View
  • Lecture 3.
    • Part 1 – Aristotle’s theory of soul
    • Part 2 – Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance
  • Lecture 4
    • Part 1 – Aristotle and  Sheldrake  Again
    • Part 2 – Sheldrake and Sri Aurobindo
  • Lecture 5. Sri Aurobindo’s View
  • Lecture 6. Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy of Supermind
  • Lecture 7. Entropy and Time
  • Lecture 8. Bergson’s philosophy of intuition
  • Lecture 9. The Platonism of Whitehead and Sri Aurobindo
  • Lecture 10. Platonic/Aristotelian thinking in the philosophy of evolution


The Philosophy of Evolution

So it seems that the human being’s instinct to survive has pushed it into the stream of organizing “for the sake of”. Every civilization, even though they’re very different in their arts, crafts, languages, organizational structures and so on, they all seem characterized by the principle of the control of behavior for the sake of organizing sustenance.

Now, as a result of the success of humans, all the niches are being appropriated for the specie’s survival. The human species now is not even willing to sacrifice members who are not productive. We save everybody. We are also willing to control our procreation, to a point, with birth control; even though this is pretty ubiquitous, we don’t seem to mind appropriating the environment of all the other species for our sake. In order to do that we regulate our own productivity, and we sacrifice for those who are not productive. There is this ethical stance, the human mind seems to be characterized by this ethical behavior, that we want to heal everyone who is sick and prevent them from dying if possible. We want to feed everyone. We want to do that, although there are aberrations that occur and we can tolerate certain levels of poverty. But that level of poverty disturbs us and we know that if we alleviate it and make it more vital and dynamic, everyone benefits from that.

I just want to reinforce the idea that this idea of good and bad in the ethical mind is somehow the essential differentiating factor. There are many indications of that. I would propose that, a proposition we might pursue further, is that in fact what distinguishes the human species from other species is the ethical mind. The idea that we can sacrifice deliberately some of our drives for the sake of achieving our success, and that we can impose upon a whole society the necessity of sacrificing some drives in order to achieve success in some other areas. The problem is we are not always right about it, but we are right enough that our civilization has continued to evolve in comparison with other species. We have not been around that long. Within ten thousand years we have managed to over-populate the earth and suppress all other species, and maximize our gains from all the resources that are available. We have outgrown nature.

We also have come to a critical point of asking ourselves, What do we need to change about our behavior now that we see it’s not viable? We speak about global society, global welfare, we somehow have gone beyond nationalism, we’ve gone beyond tribalism, we are moving toward globalism because we see that our survival depends upon an adjustment of the whole to all of its parts. The mind is functioning ethically now with respect to the whole, not just with respect to the tribe and the community, city, and nation. The big question is whether it can manage the whole because it never got rid of all those other drives. Those vital drives the animal has are still there. The physical needs of the genetic material to propagate itself are still there. There is a limit to what we are willing to sacrifice. But the idea of sacrifice has been there it seems, essentially since the human species began its course.

If we ask the question, What is consciousness?, obviously we ask that question because we perceive the necessity of an adjustment between ourselves, nature, and society that leads us to will some controls on our behavior and to direct our behavior towards certain ends from an abstract point of view. We don’t just charge out there, we think about it and we think about why we are going to do it. Our organism is giving us feedback in terms of understanding images, possibilities, right and wrong, and judgment. Judgment is ethical mind. Rationality seems to be a by-product of that ethical mind. Inspiration and intuition seem to be that ethical mind reaching for a larger picture and a more direct effective power. Somewhere in us, is this pranic ascending movement to know more, to do better, to make the sacrifices, whether of ourselves or of someone else or something else, in a way that ensures not only the success of the individual but the success of the group. And each member of the group is making the same judgments, so they are able to agree at a certain point that it is this, this is the way ‘we’ have to go. There is a group mind that is ethical. It is not just the individual mind that is ethical, it is the group mind. In every species there is a group mind; in birds there is a group mind obviously working in their migrations and in penguins cooperating. The group mind is not just working in us. But, the group mind, behaving ethically, seems to be our unique, essential, qualifying difference. If you think about the appreciation of beauty, the love of beauty and harmony in human societies, and how that has manifested, how part of the human being’s survival grasps the importance of a qualitative element, – excellence, beauty, and harmony – the Good.

It seems that religion has been one of the primary evidences, expressions of this qualitative aspect of the ethical mind and it comes through people who are inspired, who have a cosmic consciousness, and who truly impart to others a sense of benevolence, a spiritual sense. That might be the root of the ethical mind. But in the whole picture, it seems like there are other aspects of it that dominate like organization and accumulation, and the mastery of technique, so that what was a tool before now becomes a satellite radar equipment that allows us to drop a bomb on Iraq sitting in Washington. This is a big tool.