Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

I Pick . . . Um, Evolution

by Dr. Susan Corso

I love Ken Wilber’s mind. He’s a genius, a deep thinker, and a wonderful synthesist. Sometimes when I read his writing, I feel like he’s done my homework for me.
Join his mind online and be prepared to soar with his thoughts.

At the recommendation of a friend, I am reading Wilber’s “An Integral Age at the Leading Edge.” In the section on Societal Revolutions, he stopped me cold with his definition of revolution. “The original meaning of ‘revolution’ was not progressive or transformational at all, but merely circular.” What?! A revolution? Merely circular? Ever looked at the dashboard on your car? RPMs are revolutions per minute.


Wilber explains, “That is, … a … ‘revolution’ was not any major breakthrough to a higher or deeper level of anything, but merely a cyclical, circular, or revolving affair—the very word ‘revolution’ comes from ‘revolving,’ and it meant just that, a revolving ‘same ole, same ole’ [sic] pattern basically going nowhere.”

For 25 years, I have been privileged to work privately with clients from all over the world. To a person, they told me they were all looking for revolution of one form or another. Personal revolution. To revolve is to turn in a circle. Is that what they really wanted? No. What they really wanted was evolution.

Evolution not revolution. Evolution involves slow, steady, integrated change. Revolution revolves around fast and dirty upheaval to create alleged change. Revolution seems like it comes with evidence. Evolution not so much. Evolution is more like Rainer Maria Rilke’s wonderful idea in his Letters to a Young Poet (Translation by M. D. Herter Norton). This was written on July 16, 1903 and is as true today as it was then.


“…I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir [or madam], to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I’m with Ken Wilber. Revolution is waaay over-rated and can be violent as a path to change. Evolution—living the questions—is far less dramatic and light-years more successful. Go ahead, evolve.

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posted May 24, 2007 at 7:03 pm

From a historical context, I found myself diagreeing with Wilbur’s definition of revolution, thinking of how many (eg; French, Chinese) upset and transformed the status quo and did not trail back to the beginning as he suggests. But differences aside, it led me to wondering if violence is necessary for revolution; can peace transform on a political level?You mentioned your clients misstated what they were looking for — evolution, not revolution — and I thought, is possible they were looking for transformation? Transcendence even? You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

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