‘More evolved than you’: Evolutionary spirituality as a cultural frame for psychedelic experiences

This essay (2023) discusses evolutionary spirituality, a cultural frame for psychedelics in western culture, which suggests that human evolution can be guided towards creating higher beings through techniques like psychedelics and eugenics. It identifies five ethical limitations of this tradition, including spiritual narcissism and contempt for less-evolved masses, before suggesting responses to these limitations.


“One of the dominant cultural frames for psychedelics in western culture over last 130 years has been evolutionary spirituality. This tradition suggests human evolution is not finished and can be guided towards the creation of higher beings through such techniques as psychedelics and eugenics or genetic modification. But is everyone evolving into a new species, or just an elite? This essay defines the tradition of evolutionary spirituality and points to five of the ethical limitations of the tradition – its tendency to spiritual narcissism, contempt for the less-evolved masses, Social Darwinism and Malthusianism, spiritual eugenics, and illiberal utopian politics—before suggesting responses to these limitations.”

Author: Jules Evans

Summary of ‘More evolved than you’

Defining evolutionary spirituality

In western culture, evolutionary spirituality has been a dominant cultural frame for psychedelics over the last 130 years. This tradition seeks to synthesize spirituality with evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary spirituality has historical roots in eighteenth-century ideas of the improvement and possible perfectibility of humans. German idealists like Fichte, Schelling and Hegel thought that God evolved dynamically throughout human history, manifesting in higher forms in particular individuals and cultures.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection challenged previous conceptions of progressive moral evolution. However, many substitute religions arose, which tried to find new sources of meaning, myth, ethics and purpose in an evolutionary universe.

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PDF of ‘More evolved than you’: Evolutionary spirituality as a cultural frame for psychedelic experiences