Our current Western industrial way of life is in a period of transformation marked by aspects of cultural and practical change at a rapid pace. Our myths, religions, and economies are exhausted – chaos is seeping out along the social margins.
We live in the age when the Judeo-Christian mythos that sustained Western culture is decaying, most likely beyond the ability to revive and invigorate the culture. As our once central myths erode, the West currently suffers from an increasing anarchy of meaning and value, and is tending toward nihilism.
Shatter the shared mythic narratives and symbols that provide a culture with its basis for collective thought and action, and you’re left with a society in fragments, where biological drives and idiosyncratic personal agendas are the only motives left, and communication between divergent subcultures becomes impossible because there aren’t enough common meanings left to make that an option.
Humans encapsulate our core truths and find our meaning and place in the world through stories. The human person is a story-telling, metaphor-loving, symbol-making being for whom myth encapsulates information regarding fundamental, existential meaning. The human person relates on a psychological-spiritual level to stories, narratives, icons, and parables.
Myth provides a culture with its central narrative(s), thus establishing the framework for wisdom – a collective sense of purpose, place, identity, and set of shared values. Therefore, the language of spirituality is that of myth, metaphor, and symbol.
The only way to avert the slide into nihilism’s abyss is to reassemble around a new religious myth. Only religion can accomplish the fundamental unifying task. Nihilism becomes self-canceling, once reflection goes far enough to show that a belief in nihilism is just as arbitrary and improvable as any other belief; that being the case, the assertions of a religious tradition are no more absurd than anything else, yet when based on humane values often provide a more reliable and proven basis for commitment and action than any other option.
Evolution – the epic of cosmogenesis – offers itself as a possible new core myth by which we reorient ourselves in the universe. The narrative of evolution explains our common origins, emphasizes the dignity and value of life, and reminds us of our universal responsibilities to each other and the environment which supports our life.
From an evolutionary-mythic perspective, nature is considered sacred in that it is considered worthy of our ultimate concern – it is our source of origin and sustains us – its beauty, value, and awe inspiring qualities are worthy of spiritual respect.
From an evolutionary-mythic perspective, the purpose of life is to thrive and flourish and help others do the same. There seems to be an evolutionary responsibility to be the best person one can be, developing our varied potentials, and putting them at the service of others. While this may not rise to the level of cosmic significance, it still provides some context of natural and inherent meaning and purpose.
From an evolutionary-mythic perspective, morality is rooted in empathetic cooperation, the affirmation of the dignity of others, and helping the needy. Morality is an integral part of human identity and directly related to our flourishing or harm. We need not look to holy books or divine beings for reasons to be kind to one another – reason justifies such actions.
Time and effort will hopefully yield persuasive and moving poetic expressions of evolution. The scientific facts must be shaped into a narrative in which humans can root a meaningful identity.
Our immediate touch point with evolution are the cycles and changes of our own ecosystem.Nature unfolds on an ever-turning wheel that spirals through time – and our lives are woven in these patterns that shape all life – birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth.
Therefore, the Wheel of the Year (see section on Seasons) is our concrete mythos and the starting point for further reflection and myth making.
The resulting evolutionary spirituality has the potential to be an integral way of thinking and being in the world rooted in experience of nature, the seasons, and the progression of our own life grounded in the ongoing, unfolding of nature and the cosmos.