As a biological species, humans are billions of individual organisms; as a biological kingdom, we are a single organism.
The species is evolving slowly, the kingdom rapidly – extremely rapidly.
Pipes, wires, roads, televisions, computers, and cellphones are inanimate objects, serving the everyday needs of individual humans without a living presence of their own. But in their service to humanity, they create an economic, political, and spiritual interdependence that transcends the life of individual humans. Technology becomes biology. The most rapidly evolving feature of the new kingdom is human consciousness: as we stare into the pixel screen, we look into space beyond our separate bodies – we become larger than our separate selves.
Organic molecules combined into the first kingdom – bacterial cells, or prokaryotes. Over billions of years these amalgamated into a second kingdom – complex cells, or eukaryotes. About half a billion years ago, eukaryotes colonized into a third kingdom – animals. Each step was characterized by a new level of biological process, and by a new level of conscious awareness. Some animal cells, for instance, specialized into sensory organs as they became increasingly interdependent, creating seeing and hearing – realms of perceptual consciousness only the animal as a whole could experience. Consciousness leaped from the cellular to the organic level.
The evolutionary process continues in the current era: cities evolve circulatory systems, electrical grids, and municipal plumbing. Television moves human consciousness from direct visual perception to the mediated experience of the pixel screen, while virtual reality programs create consciousness entirely distinct from physical reality. But mindless technological process is not adaptation. Civilization cannot face the hard realities of life on Earth without a new spiritual realization of humanity in relation to the natural world.
The kingdom will not live without its soul.