Ecosystem Mapping

Conscious Evolution (Robert Cobbold) – A Conversation

We caught up last week with Robert Cobbold, who runs Conscious Evolution. Conscious Evolution is ‘the intentional effort to drive forward our individual and collective evolution. It is consciously leading our lives and designing our societies to unleash our evolutionary potential.’

We spoke with Robert about the great need to map coherently the space that organisations like ours exist within. He agreed with us that he meets so many interesting people doing brilliant work, and yet it can remain tricky trying to determine exactly who is out there, doing exactly what, and how we can all best communicate and collaborate.

What led Robert to create Conscious Evolution?

Robert describes how his journey began with a sudden spiritual awakening which left him in a non-dual state for about a day, and he jokes, half-serious, that he spent the best part of the next five years anxiously working out how to get back there in that state. During those five years, he fortuitously stumbled across The Evolutionary Manifesto by John Stewart, and knew all at once that he was looking directly at his purpose in life. This led him to start writing about evolutionary thinking and evolutionary ways of thinking. He subsequently found Ken Wilber and Integral Theory, and more latterly ideas such as metamodernism and activists like Ronan Harrington (Alter Ego), Perspectiva, Jonathan Rowson, and other thinkers and organisations with an ‘evolutionary lens’, as he puts it. 

He then started Conscious Evolution, which originally began as a blog, a place for him to publish his writing (check out his pieces in Kosmos Journal). It grew from there, and started to include podcasts and guest authors. Finally, he decided to package everything he and others were working on into something more accessible.  

He recently made a podcast series, which has created a lot of momentum. His podcast is the first that has so expertly weaved together a lot of the discussions happening in the space at the moment, in a very accessible format that moves beyond the one-on-one conversation format frequently at the moment. He has two more series planned for this, and is putting a lot of time into the production value of this, as this is important for the wider spreading of the ideas. 

What is Conscious Evolution working on currently?

Robert has been running lots of workshops in schools, including an evolutionary timeline workshop, and a systems thinking workshop, getting people thinking more systemically. His next aim is to start running workshops with adults, to help people find meaning and purpose – this is the next workshop he has developed, as he believes these three workshops together are powerful. The aim of the workshops will be to bring this evolutionary lens to the forefront, and connect it to the individual, personal things that people find meaningful, to help them see their lives as part of something bigger. He has received brilliant feedback so far from the workshops he has run, and hopes to develop them further. There is a real desire from those that attend to find meaning and purpose in their lives, and they often arrive having considered these questions in great detail themselves, which is exciting to see.  

His main focus for now is these workshops, and working on the second and third series of his podcast. 

The conceptual framework

Robert tries to point towards both the individual change needed and the political change needed, and how they feed into each other. A lot of his thinking around this now is based on Hanzi Freinacht and his work on The Listening Society – his model of individual change and how that links to collective social change, this he finds really inspiring, and aims to build upon it in his workshops. 

Discussions on the ‘space’ itself

Robert claims it is hard to describe the space in general, as we might all be talking about different spaces. But he thinks of Conscious Evolution as a philosophy that works at the intersection between inner and outer change. Taking inspiration from Ronan Harrington, Rob referenced that we need to see the intersection between people with high cognitive complexity, who recognise the dynamics of the system we’re stuck in and can see pressure points to shift it and evolve it, with people who are involved in spiritual change and inner change and can recognise the relationship between those two things. It’s the spiritual and the systemic, linked. 

As far as he is concerned, this is all evolution. As Conscious Evolution, he is trying to be the unifying banner for this movement. We want to evolve, he claims – indeed, this is what life does, this is how it survives and prospers, and this is what we need to do, individually and collectively. He sees Conscious Evolution as the best chance we have at a grand narrative that is inspiring – it enables us to look at how far we’ve come, and imagine what could come next. It gives a genuinely inspiring vision of where humanity might go, and how an individual might play a part in that, and why their choices do matter, and he feels this is what is really missing from our culture currently. 

Potential difficulties

Robert of course concedes that we cannot know exactly what this future will look like. But he does believe that we can sketch at least the contours of the future, based on where we’ve come from. We know there will be more harmonious levels of cooperation, that we will see a more creative and adaptable society, and in some important way we will transcend what humanity has been thus far. That’s about all we know. Within that, we can come up with a range of guesses. But all of those contours are exciting, and he feels that whatever the future is, it could be really amazing. 

Robert admits there is the added concern that this evolution could crash into a wall, so to speak; it entirely depends on how conscious we are with our choices, both individually and collectively. That’s the key for him. By definition, he chooses to rescue Conscious Evolution from this concern, though – Conscious Evolution just is the driving of the evolutionary process in this direction that we want to see it go in. And if we were to drive it in another direction, that would indeed be a lack of conscious evolution. We know we have this power, so can we use it consciously? If we don’t, then we could collapse into a mass extinction. 

Parting thoughts

It was really great meeting with Robert. He took so much heart from the thought that the organisations within the space seemed to be finding each other and making more connections as time goes on, and his optimism was inspiring. Be sure to check out all the brilliant work he is doing, and keep looking out for him in the future. He feels he is at the start of his journey, and we certainly cannot wait to see how it unfolds.

Check out our Ecosystem Mapping page for more info on this project, and please get in touch if you would like to speak with us about it, or if you know of any people it might be useful for us to get in touch with!

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