The question of human origins has always been a hot topic among philosophers and scientists. Today, most of them accept the Darwinian account that humans like us came into existence about 100,000 years ago, having evolved from more apelike ancestors. But the Vedic literature gives us another account of human origins. I call this account human devolution. To put it in its most simple terms, we do not evolve up from matter but devolve, or come down, from spirit. In this article, I want to show how this Vedic concept of human devolution can be presented to those who are not very familiar with the Vedic literature.
The human devolution process, the process by which conscious selves enter human bodies on earth, has been going on for a very long time. According to the Puranas, or histories, humans like us have existed on earth for vast periods of cyclical time. The basic unit of this cyclical time is the day of Brahma, which lasts for 4.32 billion years. The day of Brahma is followed by a night of Brahma, which also lasts for 4.32 billion years. The days follow the nights endlessly in succession. During the days of Brahma, life, including human life, is manifest, and during the nights it is not manifest. According to the Puranic cosmological calendar, the current day of Brahma began about 2 billion years ago. One of the forefathers of humankind, Svayambhuva Manu ruled during that time, and the Bhagavata Purana (Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.4.1) tells us: “The . . . human beings . . . were created during the reign of Svayambhuva Manu.” Therefore, a Vedic archeologist might expect to find evidence for a human presence going that far back in time. In our book Forbidden Archeology, my coauthor Richard L. Thompson (Sadaputa Dasa) and I documented extensive evidence, in the form of human skeletons, human footprints, and human artifacts, showing that humans like ourselves have inhabited the earth for hundreds of millions of years, just as the Puranas tell us. This evidence is not very well known because of a process of knowledge filtration that operates in the scientific world. Evidence that contradicts the Darwinian theory of human evolution is set aside, ignored, and eventually forgotten.
Although this evidence for extreme human antiquity contradicts the current Darwinian theory of human evolution, it does not tell us anything about the actual origin of human beings. These discoveries simply tell us that we need a new explanation for human origins. But that is also important. Why offer a new explanation, unless one is really required? In my new book Human Devolution, I set forth such a new explanation, an explanation based on information found in the Puranas.
Before we ask the question, “Where did human beings come from?” we should first of all ask the question, “What is a human being?” Today most scientists believe that a human being is simply a combination of matter, the ordinary chemical elements. This assumption limits the kinds of explanations that can be offered for human origins. I propose that it is more reasonable, based on available scientific evidence, to start with the assumption that a human being is composed of three separately existing substances: matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit). This assumption widens the circle of possible explanations.
Any scientific chain of reasoning begins with some initial assumptions that are not rigorously proved. Otherwise, one would get caught in an endless regression of proofs of assumptions, and proofs of proofs of assumptions. Initial assumptions must simply be reasonable on the basis of available evidence. And it is reasonable, on the basis of available evidence, to posit the existence of mind and consciousness, in addition to ordinary matter, as separate elements composing the human being.
For the purpose of scientific discussion, I define mind as a subtle material substance associated with the human organism and capable of acting on ordinary matter in ways we cannot explain by our current laws of physics. Evidence for this mind element comes from scientific research into the phenomena called by some “paranormal” or “psychical.” Here we are led into the hidden history of physics (the knowledge filtering process also operates in this field of knowledge).
For example, every physics student learns about the work of Pierre and Marie Curie, the husband and wife team who both received Nobel Prizes for their work in discovering radium. The account is found in practically every introductory physics textbook. What we do not read in the textbooks is that the Curies were heavily involved in psychical research. They were part of a large group of prominent European scientists, including other Nobel Prize winners, who were jointly conducting research into the paranormal in Paris early in the twentieth century. For two years, the group studied the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino. Historian Anna Hurwic notes in her biography of Pierre Curie (1995, p. 247), “He saw the séances as scientific experiments, tried to monitor the different parameters, took detailed notes of every observation. He was really intrigued by Eusapia Palladino.” About some séances with Eusapia, Pierre Curie wrote to physicist Georges Gouy in a letter dated July 24, 1905: “We had at the Psychology Society a few séances with the medium Eusapia Palladino. It was very interesting, and truly those phenomena that we have witnessed seemed to us to not be some magical tricks—a table lifted four feet above the floor . . . All this in a room arranged by us, with a small number of spectators all well known and without the presence of a possible accomplice.” Pierre Curie reported that on such occasions, the medium was carefully physically controlled by the scientists present. On April 14, 1906, Pierre wrote to Gouy about some further investigations he and Marie had carried out: “We had a few new ‘séances’ with Eusapia Paladina (We already had séances with her last summer). The result is that those phenomena exist for real, and I can’t doubt it any more. It is unbelievable, but it is thus, and it is impossible to negate it after the séances that we had in conditions of perfect monitoring.” He concluded, “There is, according to me a completely new domain of facts and physical states of space of which we have no idea.”
Such results, and many more like them from the hidden history of physics, suggest there is associated with the human organism a mind element that can act on ordinary matter in ways we cannot easily explain by our current physical laws. Such research continues today, although most scientists doing it are concentrating on microeffects rather than the macroeffects reported by Pierre Curie. For example, Robert Jahn, head of the engineering department at Princeton University, started to research the effects of mental attention on random number generators. A random number generator will normally generate a sequence of ones and zeros, with equal numbers of each. But Jahn, and his associates who have continued the research, found that subjects can mentally influence the random number generators to produce a statistically significant greater number of ones than zeros (or vice versa).
Evidence for a conscious self that can existence apart from mind (subtle matter) and ordinary matter comes from medical reports of out of body experiences (OBEs). During traumatic events such as heart attacks, blood stops flowing to the brain, and the subjects become unconscious. But some subjects report separating from their bodies at such times. They report consciously observing their own bodies. The reality of such experiences has been confirmed by medical researchers. For example, in February 2001, a team from the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom, published a favorable study on OBEs in cardiac arrest patients in the journal Resuscitation (v. 48, pp. 149–156). The team was headed by Dr. Sam Parnia, a senior research fellow at the university. On February 16, 2001, a report published on the university’s web site said that the work of Dr. Parnia “suggests consciousness and the mind may continue to exist after the brain has ceased to function and the body is clinically dead.” This is exactly the Vedic conception. At death the conscious self leaves the body, accompanied by the subtle material covering of the mind, and then enters another body of gross matter. Memories from past lives are recorded in the mind, and may be accessed by the conscious self in its new body made of gross matter, as shown by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson’s extensive studies verifying past life memories of children.
If the human organism is composed of gross matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit), it is natural to suppose that these elements come from reservoirs of such elements. This suggests that the cosmos is divided into regions, or levels, of gross matter, mind, and consciousness, each inhabited by beings adapted to life there. First, there is a region of pure consciousness. Consciousness, as we experience it, is individual and personal. This suggests that the original source of conscious selves is also individual and personal. So in addition to the individual units of consciousness existing in the realm of pure consciousness, there is also an original conscious being who is their source. When the fractional conscious selves give up their connection with their source, they are placed in lower regions of the cosmos predominated by either subtle material substance (mind) or gross material substance. There is thus a cosmic hierarchy of conscious beings. Accounts of this cosmic hierarchy of beings can be found not only in the Puranas but in the cosmologies of many other cultures. The cosmologies share many features. They generally include an original God inhabiting a realm of pure consciousness, a subordinate creator god inhabiting a subtle material region of the cosmos along with many kinds of demigods and demigoddesses, an earthly realm, dominated by gross matter, inhabited by humans like us.
This suggests that the universe of our experience should show signs that it was designed by a higher intelligence for accommodating human life and other forms of life. Modern cosmology does provide evidence for this. Scientists have discovered that numbers representing fundamental physical constants and ratios of natural forces appear to be finely tuned for life to exist in our universe. Astronomer Sir Martin Rees considers six of these numbers to be especially significant. In his book Just Six Numbers (2000, pp. 3–4), he says, “These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life.” There are three main explanations for the apparent fine tuning of the physical constants and laws of nature: simple chance, many worlds, and some intelligent providential creator. Many cosmologists admit that the odds against the fine tuning are too extreme for a simple chance to be offered as a credible scientific explanation. To avoid the conclusion of a providential designer, they have posited the existence of a practically unlimited number of universes, each with the values of fundamental constants and laws of nature adjusted in a different way. And we just happen to live in the one universe with everything adjusted correctly for the existence of human life. But for modern science these other universes have only a theoretical existence, and even if their existence could be physically demonstrated, one would further have to show that in these other universes the values of the fundamental constants and laws of nature are in fact different than those in our universe.
The Vedic cosmology also speaks of many universes, but all of them are designed for life, and beyond all of these material universes, with their levels of gross and subtle matter, is the level of pure consciousness, or spirit. Originally, we exist there as units of pure consciousness in harmonious connection with the supreme conscious being, known by the Sanskrit name Krishna (and by other names in other religious traditions). When we give up our willing connection with that supreme conscious being, we descend to regions of the cosmos dominated by the subtle and gross material elements, mind and matter. Forgetful of our original position, we attempt to dominate and enjoy the subtle and gross material elements. For this purpose, we are provided with bodies made of the subtle and gross material elements. The subtle material body is made up not only of mind, but of the even finer material elements, intelligence and false ego (for the sake of simplicity, I have in this discussion collapsed them into mind). The gross material body is made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Bodies made of these gross and subtle material elements are vehicles for conscious selves. They are designed for existence within the realms of the subtle and gross material elements. According to their degree of forgetfulness of their original nature, conscious selves receive appropriate bodily coverings. Those who are more forgetful receive bodies that cover their original consciousness to a greater degree. The original conscious being in the Vedic universe (aside from God) is Brahma, the first demigod. His body, manifested directly from Vishnu (the expansion of Krishna who controls the material universe), is made primarily of the subtle material elements. He is tasked with manifesting bodies for the other conscious selves existing at various levels of the cosmic hierarchy. From the body of Brahma come great sages, sometimes known as his mental sons, and also the first sexually reproducing pair, Svayambhuva Manu and his consort Shatarupa. The daughters of Manu become the wives of some of the sages, and they produce generations of demigods and demigoddesses, with bodies composed primarily of the subtle material energy. These demigods and demigoddesses, by their reproductive processes, produce the forms of living things, including humans, who reside on our earth planet.
In the devolution process, our original pure spiritual consciousness is covered by layers of subtle and gross material elements. But the process can be reversed. There is a kind of re-evolution by which we can free consciousness from its coverings, and restore it to its original pure state. Every great spiritual tradition has some means for accomplishing this—some form of prayer, or meditation, or yoga. In the course of chanting mantras, praying, or meditating, the covering elements are spiritualized and removed, so that one gradually comes back in touch with the original source of all conscious beings.
Please visit the Human Devolution website for more details: www.humandevolution.com