By Michael A. Cremo
The question of human origins has always been a hot topic among philosophers and scientists. Today, most of them accept the Darwinian account that humans like us came into existence about 100,000 years ago, having evolved from more apelike ancestors. But the Vedic literature gives us another account of human origins. I call this account human devolution. To put it in its most simple terms, we do not evolve up from matter but devolve, or come down, from spirit. In this article, I want to show how this Vedic concept of human devolution can be presented to those who are not very familiar with the Vedic literature.
The human devolution process, the process by which conscious selves enter human bodies on earth, has been going on for a very long time. According to the Puranas, or histories, humans like us have existed on earth for vast periods of cyclical time. The basic unit of this cyclical time is the day of Brahma, which lasts for 4.32 billion years. The day of Brahma is followed by a night of Brahma, which also lasts for 4.32 billion years. The days follow the nights endlessly in succession. During the days of Brahma, life, including human life, is manifest, and during the nights it is not manifest. According to the Puranic cosmological calendar, the current day of Brahma began about 2 billion years ago. One of the forefathers of humankind, Svayambhuva Manu ruled during that time, and the Bhagavata Purana (Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.4.1) tells us: “The . . . human beings . . . were created during the reign of Svayambhuva Manu.” Therefore, a Vedic archeologist might expect to find evidence for a human presence going that far back in time. In our book Forbidden Archeology, my coauthor Richard L. Thompson (Sadaputa Dasa) and I documented extensive evidence, in the form 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 Puranas tell us. This evidence is not very well known because of a process of knowledge filtration that operates in the scientific world. Evidence that contradicts the Darwinian theory of human evolution is set aside, ignored, and eventually forgotten.
Although this 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. But that is also important. Why offer a new explanation, unless one is really required? In my new book Human Devolution, I set forth such a new explanation, an explanation based on information found in the Puranas.
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 believe that a human being is simply a combination of matter, the ordinary chemical elements. This assumption limits the kinds of explanations that can be offered for human origins. 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). This assumption widens the circle of possible explanations.
Any scientific chain of reasoning begins with some initial assumptions that are not rigorously proved. Otherwise, one would get caught in an endless regression of proofs of assumptions, and proofs of proofs of assumptions. Initial assumptions must simply be reasonable on the basis of available evidence. And it is reasonable, on the basis of available evidence, to posit the existence of mind and consciousness, in addition to ordinary matter, as separate elements composing the human being.
For the purpose of scientific discussion, I define mind as a subtle material substance associated with the human organism and capable of acting on ordinary matter in ways we cannot explain by our current laws of physics. Evidence for this mind element comes from scientific research into the phenomena called by some “paranormal” or “psychical.” Here we are led into the hidden history of physics (the knowledge filtering process also operates in this field of knowledge).