A few weeks ago my good friend, Medbh wrote the following words to me when I was contemplating participating in an event that could, and hopefully would, advance gay marriage in NJ:
"In twenty or thirty, or a hundred years from now, after our society has evolved, and legislation has been passed to ensure Everyone's rights ( much like the Emanicpation Proclamation and the women's right to vote), your name will be on papers that showed your nieces, grandkids, seventh cousins, etc., that you worked to pass that legislation."
What caught my eye, and my mind's eye in particular, were the words, "after our society has evolved". WOW!! It really hit me and made me think. I have never looked at the advancement of society as being an evolutionary process. Sure, like many, when I think of evolution, I think of whether or not humans came from apes, but I have never really thought of evolution as something that has created our society. YES! Society has evolved over the thousands of years of the existence of mankind. And society will continue to evolve long after I'm gone from this earth. So I began doing some research into this concept of societal evolution. I'm sure it's not a new concept, but for me it was.
I came across writings by Roy Posner entitled, The Four Stages of Society's Evolution, among many other articles and dissertations on the evolution of society. Posner states, "We will then begin our discussion of the keys to society's growth and success by discussing the stages that society has passed through on its way to its current social condition. By reviewing these stages it will help us understand where we've been, where we are today, and where we may be headed..."
Posner talks of four stages of evolution: the physical stage; the vital stage; the mental stage; and finally the spiritual stage. In the physical stage, humans were focused on their survival and existence. Peoples' social awareness was limited to the tribe and the existence of the tribe. In the vital stage humans began to engage others not of their own tribe. People began to trade with others, and there was thus a vast expansion of vitality in the vital stage. In the mental stage, humans begin to value the vast amount of knowledge accumulated from the past. People begin to understand the possibilities of freedom, initiative, and self-determinism. And finally, in the spiritual stage humans we begin to emerge through the mental stage, we perceive that even the power of mind cannot be the ultimate salvation for humanity.
As we evolve and become enlightened, we move from the self to others. Humans finally begin to realize that the freedoms of others. We are a long way from reaching our evolutionary final point, and I don't think that will ever come, but we are on the way to that. We should be participating and engaging in events in our society that better our society for others matters, and that society includes not only those in our immediacy but those throughout the world.