by Michael A. Cremo
Michael A. Cremo has been involved in establishing Vedic conceptions of human origins in the world of science since 1984. He has presented papers at meetings of the World Archeological Congress, the European Association of Archeologists, the International Congress for History of Science, and the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences. In addition to lecturing at universities, he has also given invited lectures for the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and other scientific institutions worldwide. He is a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. His books are available through his website www.mcremo.com
Where did we come from? Today, the most common answer to that important question comes from Charles Darwin and his modern supporters. According to them, we have come into existence as a result of a purely materialistic process of evolution that began with life self-organizing from chemicals early in the earth’s history. Darwinists say that humans like us came into existence between one and two hundred thousand years ago. Before this, they say, there were only more primitive apelike human ancestors. But in our book Forbidden Archeology, my coauthor Richard L. Thompson and I documented extensive evidence, in the form of hundreds of human skeletons, human footprints, and human artifacts, showing that humans like ourselves have inhabited the earth for hundreds of millions of years, just as the ancient Sanskrit writings of India tell us.
This evidence is not very well known because of a process of knowledge filtration that operates in the world of science. Evidence that conforms to the Darwinian theory of human evolution passes through this social and intellectual filter very easily, but evidence that radically contradicts the Darwinian theory does not.
For example, in the nineteenth century, gold was discovered in California. To get it, miners dug tunnels into the sides of mountains, such as Table Mountain in Tuolumne County. Deep inside the tunnels, in deposits of early Eocene age (about 50 million years old), miners found human bones and artifacts. The discoveries were carefully documented by Dr. J. D. Whitney, the chief government geologist of California, in his book The Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California, published by Harvard University in 1880. But we do not hear very much about these discoveries today. In the Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1898–1899 (p. 424), anthropologist William Holmes said, “Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” In other words, if the facts did not fit the theory of human evolution, the facts had to be set aside, and that is exactly what happened.
Just recently, Sylvia Gonzalez of the UK reported the discovery of anatomically modern human footprints in layers of rock near Puebla, Mexico. The latest datings of the deposits show that the footprints must be at least 1.3 million years old. This age has caused some scientist to doubt that the prints are really human tracks—another example of knowledge filtration.
Although this kind of evidence for extreme human antiquity contradicts the current Darwinian theory of human evolution, it does not tell us anything about the actual origin of human beings. These discoveries simply tell us that we need a new explanation for human origins. In my new book Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory, I set forth such a new explanation, an explanation based on information found in the ancient Sanskrit writings.
Before we ask the question, “Where did human beings come from?” we should first of all ask the question, “What is a human being?” Today most scientists assume that a human being is simply a combination of the ordinary chemical elements. However, I propose that it is more reasonable, based on available scientific evidence, to start with the assumption that a human being is composed of three separately existing substances: matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit).
We do not have to talk about matter, because everyone already accepts that. But what about mind? For the purpose of scientific discussion, I define mind as a subtle material energy associated with the human organism and capable of acting on ordinary matter in ways we cannot explain by our current laws of physics. And there is evidence for this.
For example, Alfred R. Wallace, cofounder with Darwin of the theory of evolution, became involved in research into the paranormal. Along with Sir William Crookes (a prominent physicist and president of the Royal Society, England’s top scientific society), Wallace conducted years of experiments with the medium Daniel D. Hume, and concluded that the psychokinetic phenomena he produced under carefully controlled laboratory conditions were genuine.
Every introductory physics textbook tells about Pierre and Marie Curie, who both received Nobel Prizes for their work in discovering radium. What we do not read in the textbooks is that the Curies were, along with other prominent European scientists, conducting research into the paranormal. For two years, the group studied the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino. Historian Anna Hurwic notes in her biography of Pierre Curie (1995, p. 247), “He saw the séances as scientific experiments, tried to monitor the different parameters, took detailed notes of every observation.” About some séances with Eusapia, in which he observed large objects floating in the air, Pierre Curie wrote to physicist Georges Gouy in a letter, dated April 14 1906: “The result is that those phenomena exist for real, and I can’t doubt it any more. It is unbelievable, but it is thus, and it is impossible to negate it after the séances that we had in conditions of perfect monitoring.” He concluded, “There is, according to me a completely new domain of facts and physical states of space of which we have no idea.”
Such results, and many more like them from the hidden history of physics, suggest there is associated with the human organism a mind element that can act on ordinary matter in ways we cannot easily explain by our current physical laws. Such research continues today. For example, Robert Jahn, head of the engineering department at Princeton University, started to research the effects of mental attention on random number generators. A random number generator will normally generate a sequence of ones and zeros, with equal numbers of each. But Jahn, and his associates who have continued the research, found that subjects can mentally influence the random number generators to produce a statistically significant greater number of ones than zeros (or vice versa).
Evidence for a conscious self that can existence apart from mind and matter comes from medical reports of out of body experiences (OBEs). For example, in February 2001, a team from the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom, published a favorable study on OBEs in cardiac arrest patients in the journal Resuscitation (v. 48, pp. 149–156). The team was headed by Dr. Sam Parnia, a senior research fellow at the university. On February 16, 2001, a report published on the university’s web site said that the work of Dr. Parnia “suggests consciousness and the mind may continue to exist after the brain has ceased to function and the body is clinically dead.”
Having established that the human organism is composed of the elements matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit), it is natural to suppose that the cosmos is divided into regions, or levels, of matter, mind, and consciousness, each inhabited by beings adapted to life there. First, there is a region of pure consciousness. Consciousness, as we experience it, is individual and personal. This suggests that the original source of conscious selves is also individual and personal. So in addition to the individual units of consciousness existing in the realm of pure consciousness, there is also an original conscious being who is their source. When the conscious selves give up their connection with their source, they are placed in lower regions of the cosmos predominated by either the subtle material energy (mind) or the gross material energy (matter). There is thus a cosmic hierarchy of conscious beings. Accounts of this cosmic hierarchy of beings can be found not only in the ancient Sanskrit writings but in the cosmologies of many other cultures. The cosmologies share many features. They generally include an original God inhabiting a realm of pure consciousness, a subordinate creator god inhabiting a subtle material region of the cosmos along with many kinds of demigods and demigoddesses, an earthly realm, dominated by gross matter, inhabited by humans like us.
This suggests that the universe of our experience should show signs that it was designed by a higher intelligence for accommodating human life and other forms of life. Modern cosmology does provide evidence for this. Scientists have discovered that numbers representing fundamental physical constants and ratios of natural forces appear to be finely tuned for life to exist in our universe. Astronomer Sir Martin Rees considers six of these numbers to be especially significant. In his book Just Six Numbers (2000, pp. 3-4), he says, “These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life.” There are three main explanations for the apparent fine tuning of the physical constants and laws of nature: simple chance, many worlds, and some intelligent providential creator. Many cosmologists admit that the odds against the fine tuning are too extreme for a simple chance to be offered as a credible scientific explanation. To avoid the conclusion of a providential designer, they have posited the existence of a practically unlimited number of universes, each with the values of fundamental constants and laws of nature adjusted in a different way. And we just happen to live in the one universe with everything adjusted correctly for the existence of human life. But these other universes have only a theoretical existence, and even if their existence could be physically demonstrated, one would further have to show that in these other universes the values of the fundamental constants and laws of nature are in fact different than those in our universe. The Vedic cosmology also speaks of many universes, but all of them are designed for life.
So what does this all mean, in terms of the human devolution concept? It means that we do not evolve up from matter; rather we devolve, or come down, from the level of pure consciousness. Originally, we are pure units of consciousness existing in harmonious connection with the supreme conscious being. When we give up our willing connection with that supreme conscious being, we descend to regions of the cosmos dominated by the subtle and gross material elements, i.e., mind and matter. Forgetful of our original position, we attempt to dominate and enjoy the subtle and gross material elements. For this purpose, we are provided with bodies made of the subtle and gross material elements. These bodies are vehicles for conscious selves. They are designed for existence within the realms of the subtle and gross material elements. According to their degree of forgetfulness of their original nature, conscious selves receive appropriate bodily coverings. Those who are more forgetful receive bodies that cover their original consciousness to a greater degree.
In the devolution process, our original pure consciousness is covered by layers of subtle and gross material elements. But the process can be reversed. There is a kind of re-evolution by which we can free consciousness from its coverings, and restore it to its original pure state. Every great spiritual tradition has some means for accomplishing this – some form of prayer, or meditation, or yoga. By these processes, the elements that cover the conscious self can be transformed and removed, so that one gradually finds oneself coming back in touch with the original source of all conscious beings, and living in harmony with all other conscious beings. And that is the primary purpose of human life.