This article is the first in a 4-part series called Spiraling Through the Parables. In this series, we will look at the Evolution of Consciousness as we study the Parables of our great teacher and way-shower Jesus of Nazareth.
What is a Parable?
A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus was not a Lawgiver. His teaching did not focus on telling people how to behave. He did not give people set answers. Nor did he tell people what to think. Rather, through his stories, Jesus presented people questions, and then he coached them as they wrestled with these questions.
Many of Jesus’ parables use the phrase The Kingdom of God is like… We know what it is like to live as a human being, focused on human concerns. What would it be like to live as a Spiritual Being, focused on spiritual concerns, in the midst of our humanness?
The Seed Growing Secretly
Today, we are exploring the Parable of The Seed Growing Secretly.
Jesus would say, “The Kingdom of God is like this:
Suppose someone sows seed on the ground, and goes to bed and gets up day after day, and the seed sprouts and matures, although the sower is unaware of it. The earth produces fruit on its own, first a shoot, then a head, then mature grain on the head. But when the grain ripens, all of a sudden that farmer sends for the sickle, because it’s harvest time.” Mark 4:26-29, Thomas 21:8-10
What does it mean? It depends. It depends on you! Where are you on your human journey? What struggles and challenges are you facing? Where are you on your spiritual journey?
This brings us to our study of the Evolution of Consciousness. As we evolve and grow, our understanding of Jesus’ parables changes. It’s not that we move closer to the ‘right’ answer! Rather, whatever stage of growth we are in, we find the answer that speaks to us right where we are. We find the meaning that helps us deal with our present-moment challenges.
To guide us in our study of the evolution of consciousness, we will be using a model called Spiral Dynamics. The premise of Spiral Dynamics is that human nature is not fixed. Rather, our minds have the capacity to construct new conceptual worlds. Essentially, Spiral Dynamics (SD) describes how humans are able, when things get bad enough, to adapt to a situation by creating greater complexities of thinking to handle new problems. As events occur that significantly alter our life conditions, we respond by evolving more complex problem solving skills and growing in consciousness.
SD grew out of work with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and is related to the idea of Multiple Intelligences. SD defines 8 broad ‘intelligences’ (memes) which have emerged through the course of human history. For humans today, all 8 of those intelligences lie within our minds as latent possibilities. If we experience the life conditions for which an intelligence is best suited, it will begin to emerge.
By intentionally taking on the point of view in each of these 8 memes, we can find new and rich meanings in the parables.
Instinctive/Survivalist human (Beige)
This level emerged some 100,000 years ago. People were primarily hunters and gatherers living in nomadic clans. Our primary concern was simply staying alive. Today we see this meme in babies — it is our level of consciousness at birth. In adults, we see this in people with dementia and people in the midst of deep trauma — people in survival mode. There is little or no sense of self or God.
For people at this level, the parable invites us to trust that the earth supports our survival needs. It calls us to pay attention to our environment and make use of what it provides.
Magical, Animistic human emerged (Purple)
About 50,000 years ago, there was a great shift in consciousness. It was triggered in many ways by two important factors. The emergence of the Ice Age led to increased competition for resources. At the same time, a mutation in the human brain gave us the first real ability to assign cause and effect. People were primarily artisans and shamans living in tribes. Today, we see this meme in toddlers as they question everything (Why? Why? Why?), but don’t yet have symbolic thinking. We also see traces of this meme in the sacred practices of indigenous tribes around the world. The world is a magical place. At this level, emerging right-brain tendencies with a heightened sense of intuition allows us to “hear” the voices of Spirit. We have a mystical sense of cause and effect, and develop emotional attachments to places and things — a sense of the Sacred.
For people centered in this meme, the parable calls us to focus on the mysterious nature of how the earth brings forth fruit. The grain is sacred. The earth that yields the grain is sacred. We create rituals to encourage and celebrate this process and our part in it.
Impulsive, Egocentric human (Red)
About 10,000 years ago, the development of agriculture led to the need to ‘own’ land. People were farmers and warriors living in ethnic settlements. Today, this meme shows up in toddlers with the emergence of the ego self. “Look at me!” “I can do it myself!” In adults, we see this meme in anyone in the public eye; in strong, self-assertive leaders; and in anyone needing to fight their way out of a challenging situation. At this level, God is perceived as a warrior god, leading us to triumph over our enemies. God gives us skill, strength and courage.
For people centered in this meme, when we interpret the parable, we focus on the farmer and the sickle. We understand that God requires us to take an active role in creating our good. If we have enough courage and skill, our harvests will be great and our wealth will outshine our enemies!
Purposeful, Authoritarian human (Blue)
The next meme emerged as a reaction to the abuses of power and violence that run rampant in Red. Our brain developed a heightened capacity for abstraction –- symbolic thinking — and we began to seek meaning and purpose. People in this meme see are religious citizens governed by law and order. Today, as children (7-12 years old) develop their capacity for empathy, they learn about rules and social norms. They show an intense interest in games and in playing by the rules. About 25% of the world’s adult population have this meme as their center of gravity. This meme saw the emergence of the world’s great religions — Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each of these religious philosophies makes the underlying assumption that life has a transcendent purpose and meaning.
For people in this meme, the parable invites us to focus on the deep sense of order -– first a shoot, then a head, then mature grain on the head. We live in an orderly world and we embrace our place in that order. The order itself is sacred and divinely ordained.
Achievist, Strategic human (Orange)
This meme emerged about 400 years ago with the Age of Enlightenment — Age of Scientific discovery. At this level, we heightened our left-brain abilities –- our capacity for linear thinking, our mathematical sense. People were industrial workers living in urban centers. Today, we see this in teens as they learn problem-solving skills, scientific and technical skills. They are learning about what it means to ‘succeed’. About 50% of the world’s adults are at this level. At this level, people either take a scientific view of spirituality, or they abandon spirituality entirely. This meme is the meme of Unity, Science of Mind and Christian Science. God wants us to succeed – “It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
And, as you would expect, the parable takes on a meaning to this worldview. Elizabeth Sand Turner wrote, “Our consciousness develops spiritually in the same mysterious way that seeds do when planted in the ground…Our spiritual development, like physical development, is progressive, and if we will be patient and faithful, we shall surely come to the time of rich fulfillment.”
Communitarian, Egalitarian human (Green)
About 50 years ago, a new meme began to emerge in reaction to the excesses of Orange, which valued material success to the detriment of human welfare. As technological advancements let us interact on a global scale, we began to develop a sense that all people are equal and deserving of respect and humane treatment. People were peacemakers living in loving communities. We see this in teens and young adults and their value of connection, diversity, and social justice. About 15% of the world’s adults are at this level. At this level, God offers multiple spiritual paths and each is valid. God calls us to love, peace and connection.
What do you think the parable means at this level?