The painfully casual, flippant, and lazy manner in which Christians reject the development of human consciousness is truly a thing to behold. Most Christians equate ideas about the development of human consciousness with new age quackery and steadfastly insist that how people relate to the world, themselves, others, and God has not changed much throughout history.
The only thing that has changed, they claim, are external conditions. What may be interpreted as consciousness development is nothing more than people thinking and acting differently according to the stimulus, conditioning, and culture the external world doles out.
This perspective assumes an extremely static idea of human consciousness. It stipulates that the only differences between you and a ninth-century pagan Viking are the passage of twelve centuries, geography, technology, language, religion, culture, etc. Strip all of that away, and you and the Viking are pretty much the same when it comes to how you both understand and relate to the world, yourself, others, and God (or gods, in the case of the Viking).
In other words, consciousness is and was mostly passive regardless of where and when people live or lived in history. Consciousness did not influence the external world or history all that much but was, rather, influenced by the external world and history. Any development we perceive in consciousness can simply be chalked up to shifting external factors. Take those factors away, and consciousness is the same as it always has been – mostly inert, static, and passive.
When Christians encounter concepts like “the evolution of consciousness”, they immediately and inevitably equate it with “un-Christian” nineteenth-century ideas about natural evolution and progress rather than consider “the evolution of consciousness” from the Christian perspective of spirit – that is the unfolding and development of spiritual, religious and, particularly, Christian thinking and understanding over time.
Thus, the development or evolution of consciousness is closely connected to spiritual/religious development and progress. The notion that spiritual/religious thinking and understanding can and does progress (or develop or unfold) provides deep layers of meaning to both the external world and history. The external world and history are no longer merely random meaningless accidents but instead aim toward goals or, perhaps, an ultimate aim or goal.
The unfolding of spiritual consciousness implies that history is more than the changing and shifting of the external world. It implies that the various periods and eras of world history were imbued with spiritual progress – an inner spiritual dynamic unfolded into being and drove the events rather than being driven by them.
Christians who glibly reject the reality of consciousness development tend to view the world from the perspective of static orthodoxy; that is, from the perspective of a static and immutable truth entombed within a definite form rather than from the reality of truth as something dynamic and unfolding.
Put another way, Christians who reject the development of consciousness regard Christianity as an essentially “finished product”, to which little or nothing need be added nor taken away.
Most, if not all, of the essential questions have already been answered and settled. All that needed to be revealed has been revealed. All that needed to be created has been created. Man’s only spiritual responsibility is to adhere to and obey all that has been revealed and created.
The problem with static orthodoxy is its blindness to its own dynamic movement through history. Christianity, as a religion, did not appear in the world as a complete, static, and inflexible truth enshrined in a definite form. On the contrary, it came into the world as a dynamic truth, often in the most hostile of environments.
Christian dogmas, liturgy, and organization emerged from its earliest “expecting the Kingdom of God in my lifetime” origins and “progressed” through the centuries. The early movements of the Church were fueled by spiritual creativity leading to development, not by strict, static adherence or obedience to accepted dogmas and forms. When the Church -- or Christianity in general after Christianity began splintering away into its various factions and denominations – was moved by this dynamic force, it remained in touch with the spiritual unfolding of God’s Divine Plan.
Those we consider traditionalists today – like St. Thomas Aquinas -- were the modernists of their own times. More specifically, they were grounded in what came before them but understood the deeper spiritual implications and callings of their own times.
Yet from these origins, from this early dynamic unfolding, the Church and all forms of organized Christianity eventually lost sight of its dynamism and creative mission. The static ontology or metaphysics that possesses most traditionally-minded Christians today is bound up in fixating on the past – more specifically, on a particular era in the past, which is then held up as the very epitome of Christianity. All previous or contemporary spiritually-dynamic movements in Christianity are spurned in favor of affixing Christianity permanently to this one external paradigm and the belief that this one paradigm, this single aspect or movement of the religion represents the beginning and end of Christianity, a beginning and end to which all believers must inevitably return or else cease to be Christian.
The problem with this sort of thinking is obvious. The inflexible, universal order traditionally-minded Christians believe in does not exist. Not here and not in eternity.
Contrary to what traditionally-minded believers think, Christianity is not a finished product. This means that the creation of the world is also not finished, and neither is the creation of man. Heck, Creation is not finished. It is always moving toward goals. Consciousness determines our awareness of these goals.
Viewing Creation as a finished product, as something static, stems primarily from the Old Testament, but if the world was indeed a finished product after the seventh day, then the appearance of Jesus and the very nature of Christ’s mission – which are historical and cosmic facts -- make no sense. The dynamism and spiritual creativity Jesus introduced into the world also make no sense.
If human consciousness or spirit is static and passive, Jesus’s coming and mission is not only impossible but incomprehensible!
At the very least, it denigrates Jesus’s mission to the level of “mere external factor”.
To claim that human consciousness is shaped merely by external considerations and historical pressures is to claim that the immense effect Jesus had on the development of human consciousness and spirit can be attributed solely to external factors rather than to the deep inner workings of spirit, creativity, and freedom Jesus ignited within man.
Traditionally-minded Christians do not believe in the development of consciousness because we currently inhabit a period of spiritual regress. Since they regard evolution in the Darwinian sense of improvement, they point to the spiritual inferiority of modern man as proof of the unreality of spiritual development.
This reveals a rather deterministic attitude. Instead of a free, dynamic, and creative process, the traditionally-minded expect to see something akin to clockworks or train schedules. Instead of a fluctuating process that moves toward good, then toward evil, closer to God, then farther from God, and sometimes all the way to Satan, traditionally-minded Christians expect to find uninterrupted forward movement in the form of good, better, best.
Whether or not the traditionally minded ever accept the reality of consciousness development (or spiritual development) is largely beside the point. Either way, development will happen – is happening.
Against the backdrop of ever-increasing despiritualization in the world and against the backdrop of static theological framework and metaphysics, a new, more refined, creative, dynamic, mystical type of Christianity is on the rise.
Note added: The current developments in organized forms of Christianity (churches) are not to be taken as good or as an example of "free, creative, and dynamic spiritual development". On the contrary, nearly all of the movements within organized Christianity are aligned with global totalitarianism. How Christians think about and understand these movements within their respective churches will help determine the future of these institutions. For the time being, things do not look good for churches, nearly all of which appear intent on sabotaging themselves into oblivion. How Christianity "progresses" from this spiritually is of the utmost importance.
Further note added: Some of what I have noted above stems from Berdyaev, but I can't remember which work.