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Human Progress

By Greg Samples


History can be seen as an evolution of the progress of human consciousness. This evolution of consciousness is revealed on a societal level by the amount of individual freedom, justice, and peace that exists. Four hundred years ago it was generally accepted that monarchies were appropriate and that kings had divine rights to rule over the people. While much of the world has now rejected that idea, it still persists in certain parts of the world. A little over two hundred years ago, the idea that rule by the majority in a democracy or a republic began to replace rule by monarchy. Certainly this is progress, but it still retains the idea of people ruling over people, so we still have a long way to go toward reaching freedom, justice, and peace.

A little over 150 years ago, human slavery was widely accepted and practiced throughout the world. While in some cases industrialization made slavery less economically viable, and in other cases armed conflict materialized to force it out, not only has institutional slavery vanished from the earth, but the concept itself is seen by most people as despicable and repulsive, even though it still exists in illicit form.

Sixty years ago in many areas of the United States, segregation of the races was still encoded into law. People of different races were unable to marry in some states. There were statutes against certain forms of sexuality, and some substances that modified behavior or perception were banned, while others were accepted, depending upon the will of the legislatures elected by majorities. Many of these taboos have been discarded today, but some still persist.

Today, we look back on our ancestors who perpetuated these injustices and find it hard to understand how they could have behaved in such a way, yet today we ourselves are often oblivious to our own acceptance of and engagement in injustice. But from the larger perspective, we can see that human consciousness is evolving and expanding. The collective consciousness does not change suddenly. It progresses slowly as one generation passes away and new ones emerge. Nor does it progress in a linear fashion, but rather, like all other phenomena from atoms to galaxies, spirally, sometimes expanding, sometimes contracting, but inevitably resulting in a more expanded consciousness. It may be frustrating to those who wish to see freedom, justice, and peace achieved more quickly, especially when we are in a contracting phase, which happens when government gets more restrictive and tyrannical. Without seeing the larger view, as depicted above, we may tend to want to concede defeat, become disenchanted, and retreat from involvement. But without the involvement of those who oppose tyranny in all forms, the expanding phase of the spiral shrinks, and human progress is impeded and regresses. Therefore, we must continually promote individual human rights, freedom and justice for every individual on earth, lest we regress.

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