Richard G. Petty, MD

Human Evolution

For more than a century, the received wisdom has been that humans finished their physical evolution between one hundred thousand and fifty thousand years ago, and that there have been only minor changes in cognitive abilities over most of that time.

I have always found those assertions to be fundamentally flawed. Our bodies have changed beyond all recognition in the last few hundred years, as I’ve pointed out in my last book and CD series Healing Meaning and Purpose. Even more than that we have changed and are changing mentally. If we were to go back in time ten thousand or even one thousand years, we would find that people were cognitively, emotionally and morally quite different from modern humans. Not simply because of technology and the explosion of knowledge about the external universe, but because there is a dynamic relationship between our development as a species and our creations, with each feeding off the other.

It is only recently that a number of theoreticians, philosophers and psychologists have begun to look at the ways in which we are continuing to develop and what it means for all of us.

The German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers first pointed out the great moral leap forward in what he called the Axial Period, between about 700-200B.C.E., during which the foundations of many of the world’s great religions first appeared, probably in response to the prevailing violence and unpleasantness of the time. More recently the Polish-born Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser started developing intriguing models of the transformations of human consciousness. In the United States, the psychologist Clare Graves developed a revolutionary concept of developing levels of development of the personality, that has evolved into Spiral Dynamics. (You may be interested to look at a review that I have just written about an excellent CD program detailing the latest developments in this field.)

And then there is Ken Wilber whose work in this field is remarkable, and whose creation of the Integral Institute promises great things. To these luminaries I now add Dudley Lynch a writer whose work I have only recently discovered.

Dudley recently wrote a very sensitive blog item about the efforts of a person with a mental illness trying to keep himself integrated in a sea of psychic chaos. He was kind enough to publish my brief response, which needs a little more detail.

The reasons for raising these points about continuing human development are these:

1.The manifest physical changes in people over the last few hundred years have enormous – and largely neglected – implications for clinical medicine.

2. It is likely not just peoples’ physical bodies that have changed, but also their subtle systems. I pointed out in my last book and CD series that the chakra system has developed to its current point only within the last few thousand years. This continuing development is also one of the reasons why some therapies that once only worked occasionally are now becoming more stable and predictable, and why some new forms of therapy – like the tapping therapies – are now being discovered.

3. It is because of these profound changes that new forms of therapy are now being developed. Not just using a supplement here, or a breathing exercise there, but precise combinations that help guide the healing of every aspect of an individual and his or her relationships and spiritual connections.

4. Some people who appear to have psychotic illnesses are moving into new developmental stages without having passed through the necessary intermediate stages. I have just read a first person account of an English journalist who could easily have been diagnosed with a manic illness, but was almost certainly undergoing a spiritual emergence.

5. Major emotional, cognitive, moral, conscious and spiritual shifts can be profoundly frightening to many people, and are doubtless one of the reasons for the profound feelings of social dislocation and violent reactions that we are observing throughout the world.

6. It is no surprise that new spiritual pathways are now emerging. Many will doubtless be very helpful to many of the thirty million Americans who count themselves as spiritual seekers, but have not yet found what they are looking for.

7. Taken together, these new understanding about the longitudinal development of people, relationships and whole societies are already having extraordinary effects on our ability to guide them all in more healthy and integrated pathways.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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