Although the entire world of form, including Homo sapiens, emerges from Formlessness in the vertical dimension of time, to fully understand where we have come from, we need to look at evolution as a whole in the horizontal dimension. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin most simply described this holistic evolutionary model in The Human Phenomenon. He saw evolution in four stages, physical, biological, noological or mental, and spiritual, which he called Prelife, Life, Thought, and Superlife in the four parts of his magnum opus. These four stages of evolution take place in four realms, each nested into the succeeding one. These we can call hylosphere, from Greek ulē ‘matter’, biosphere, from Greek bios ‘life’, noosphere, from Greek noos ‘mind’, and numinosphere, from Latin nūmen ‘divinity’.
Now, while Teilhard did not explicitly describe the duration of each of these stages and the transitions between them, we can see that each is much shorter than the previous ones because evolution is an accumulative process of divergence and convergence, proceeding in an accelerating, exponential fashion by synergistically creating wholes that are greater than the sum of the immediately preceding wholes through the new relationships that are formed, apparently out of nothing, illustrated in this table:
|Evolutionary stages, years ago||Transition stages, years ago|
However, useful as it is, this evolutionary model does not fully capture the exponential rate of evolutionary change. To do this, we need to map the major turning points in evolutionary history with a geometric series of diminishing terms. Now the key point about such an infinite series is that its sum is finite. For instance, if the divisor in a series starting at one is two, then the sum of the series is also two.
We can use this simple mathematical model to view evolution as a series of bifurcating systems, taking the Feigenbaum constant (about 4.472) in systems theory as the divisor in the geometric series, each bifurcation corresponding to a major evolutionary turning point. This series has a finite limit called its Accumulation Point or Singularity in time, illustrated here.
Using some approximations for the last few turning points in this graph, a simple calculation shows that evolution passed through its Accumulation Point around 2004, a slightly different date from the Birth2012 movement, which used the end of the sixteen billion-year Mayan calendar to mark evolution’s Accumulation Point. This date is also different from 2023, when Victor Vinge believes a technological singularity will occur, bringing to an end the human era, when computers will become the leading edge of evolution, taking over the world, viewed as a machine.
Despite these differences, it is crystal clear that evolution is currently passing through the most momentous turning point in its fourteen billion-year history and that we are now living in unprecedented times, which require unprecedented solutions. Most particularly, we need to recognize that the mental-egoic age (the self-centred me-epoch, focused on conflict and competition) of the past 5,000 years is coming to an end and that we are entering an age of universal spirituality (the socially centred us-epoch, focused on peace and cooperation).