The second phase in our cultural evolution began as societies became more complex, with different cultures interacting and experiencing conflict with each other. Humanity’s original consciousness of oneness was severely tested and challenged, eventually transforming our thinking into a pervasive consciousness of duality to reflect the introduction of greater chaos and struggle in our lives.
This shift in consciousness led to a very long and painful process playing out over many centuries, even millennia, as communities expanded, splintered, and recreated themselves into new and more diverse communities. Differences and struggles not only continued but also escalated, and oppressive leaders and institutions, as well as wars and genocide on all levels, emerged.
Diversity became a fact of life that fostered separation and inequity. Duality became the lens through which we have viewed everything since mass migrations began. It was as if there was a forced replacement of unity within, and loyalty to, one’s known group as people were expected to express the same attitude toward a new and larger group that carried different and often foreign views and values.
This is also explained as a natural evolutionary progression moving from simple levels of interaction to more complex levels. As the Baha’i writings say, “Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal toward which a harassed humanity is striving.”
But this is not a smooth process; it also includes an important time of transition, stress, and disorder, a period of limbo between the old and the new. Between tribe and city-state, and between city-state and nation, for example, have been transitional, temporary periods characterized by chaos and conflict.
This phase of duality, or unwanted nonreciprocal pluralism, where distinct cultures interact, find what they think are important differences, but are nevertheless expected to get along, is characterized by separateness and collective disagreements. This has brought about a long history of oppression, prejudice, racism, armed conflicts, and war between various cultural and ethnic groups.
The process is always characterized by the ongoing interaction and struggle between the forces of conservatism and dynamism. The intention of keeping things the way they are inevitably leads to change, which may mean increased conflict and struggle until the change is integrated into a new cultural system, whether or not mutually welcomed by all. As we’ve seen, this can be a very long process. Today, this is playing out on the grandest scale, illustrated vividly by the Black Lives Matter movement and the various opposing movements created in its wake.
The sequence of this unfoldment is unmistakable on the global level. While some factions within nations resist, the world moves onward toward its unification. This next step in humanity’s evolution will bring us to our destined climax. As the Baha’i writings affirm, “A world, growing to maturity, must…recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once and for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.”