Read an Excerpt
Pattern That Connects
So we'll start the story with the Big Bang itself, and then trace out the course of evolution from matter to life to mind. And then, with the emergence of mind, or human consciousness, we'll look at the five or six major epochs of human evolution itself. And all of this is set in the context of spirituality—of what spirituality means, of the various forms that it has historically taken, and the forms that it might take tomorrow. Sound right?
Yes, it's sort of a brief history of everything. This sounds altogether grandiose, but it's based on what I call "orienting generalizations," which simplifies the whole thing enormously.
An orienting generalization is what, exactly?
If we look at the various fields of human knowledge—from physics to biology to psychology, sociology, theology, and religion—certain broad, general themes emerge, about which there is actually very little disagreement.
For example, in the sphere of moral development, not everybody agrees with the details of Lawrence Kohlberg's moral stages, nor with the details of Carol
Gilligan's reworking of Kohlberg's scheme. But there is general and ample agreement that human moral development goes through at least
three broad stages.
The human at birth is not yet socialized into any sort of moral system—it is
"preconventional." The human then learns a general moral scheme that represents the basic values of the society it is raised in—it becomes
"conventional." And with even further growth, the individual may come to reflect on his or her society and thus gain some modest distance from it, gain a capacity to criticize it or reform it—the individual is to some degree
although the actual details and the precise meanings of that developmental sequence are still hotly debated, everybody pretty much agrees that something like those three broad stages do indeed occur, and occur universally. These are
they show us, with a great deal of agreement, where the important forests are located, even if we can't agree on how many trees they contain.
My point is that if we take these types of largely-agreed-upon orienting generalizations from the various branches of knowledge—from physics to biology to psychology to theology—and if we string these orienting generalizations together, we will arrive at some astonishing and often profound conclusions,
conclusions that, as extraordinary as they might be, nonetheless embody nothing more than our already-agreed-upon knowledge. The beads of knowledge are already accepted: it is only necessary to string them together into a necklace.
And so in these discussions we will build toward some sort of necklace.
Yes, in a sense. In working with broad orienting generalizations, we can suggest a broad orienting map of the place of men and women in relation to
Universe, Life, and Spirit. The details of this map we can all fill in as we like, but its broad outlines really have an awful lot of supporting evidence,
culled from the orienting generalizations, simple but sturdy, from the various branches of human knowledge.