Comments on Human Devolution and Intelligent Design


I like your book/ Human Devolution /and the intelligent design argument, but I have the following comments.

Michael Cremo responds:

Thanks for your comments and questions. I will reply according to my particular understanding, as
derived from the teachings of the school to which I belong, i.e. the Gaudiya Vaishnava school, as
received from my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

The argument that the manifested universe came about by intelligent design and is therefore "intended" conflicts
with the idea about a "fall" from a "good" spiritual existence to a "bad" manifested existence. If God intentionally
created the manifested universe, then you would think that He intended it to be used.

Michael: Yes, that is correct.

Was the creation of the manifested universe merely an artistic creation to be hung on His wall or was it intended
to be used by intelligent conscious life?

Michael: It was intended to be used.

If He intended it to be used, then there can be no "fall", as it was part of the plan.

Michael: God, the Supreme Soul, eternally coexists in a spiritual realm beyond material time
and space, along with numberless individual spirit souls who serve Him in various loving relationships.
One of the characteristics of a loving relationship is that it must be free. If a soul is forced to love
God, then that soul has no freedom, and therefore the relationship cannot be one of true free love.
Freedom implies choice, and the choice to love or not love God must therefore be a real one. This
ability to choose to love or not love God is therefore an integral part of the spiritual nature of the
soul. It is not a defect. It must be a part of the spiritual nature of the soul, otherwise the soul would
not be truly free, and would not be able to truly love God. It is not necessary that any soul has to
choose to not love God. It could theoretically be possible that every single soul would love God,
and in that case there would be no need for a material universe. However, some souls have in fact
exercised their natural free will to chose not to love and serve God. Their motive is to assume the
position of God, i.e. to be the supreme enjoyer, with no limitation. This desire cannot be realized in
the spiritual world, or in the original spiritual form of the soul. So as soon as this desire is manifest,
such souls are placed in material bodies in material universes so that they can act out their desires
to be supreme enjoyers. But the creation of the material universes has a dual function. They are
playgrounds for fallen souls so that they can act out their desires to be Gods, and at the same time
they are schools for reeducation, for returning back to the spiritual world. But this depends on the
free will of each soul.

If it was NOT part of the plan, then what went wrong, how was His creation defective?

Michael: Nothing is defective. Free will is part of the eternal spiritual nature of the soul. If it
were not so,  there would be no possibility of real spiritual love. Souls would simply be robots,
forced to love and serve God. Free will is not a defect. But misuse of free will is a mistake for
the soul.

To say that a few "spirits" were tempted by "desires" to cling to the manifested universe leads to many
questions, as follows:
    1. The intelligent design of humans and all of life strongly suggests that God intended this to happen, so
which is it, are we "intelligently designed" and intended to be here or is it an accident of "desire" (unintended)?
If it was an unplanned result of desire, how do you explain intelligent design?

Michael: When souls leave the spiritual world, they require a place to act out their desires,
and they also require vehicles, bodies, in which to act out their desires. The place and the vehicles
are designed. As I said earlier, if no souls misused their spiritual free will, there would be no need
for the material world at all.

    2. When did this "fall" from desire occur, while already in human form or in spiritual form?

Michael: In the spiritual form.

There would have had to have been a manifested material world to produce the desire for it, so it would
seem logical that the intelligently designed world did exist prior to the "fall" from desire, yet ...

Michael: The desire first manifested as a desire to take the position of God in the spiritual
world. There is no influence of the material world in the spiritual world. The misuse of free will
takes place with no knowledge of the material world. But as soon as there is this misuse of
spiritual free will in the spiritual world, that soul finds itself somewhere else, in the material
world. Now once they find themselves there, then they can desire to remain there.

    2. The "fall" appears to affect all of life on Terra, not just humans. If this happens by reincarnation into
lower realms then there are questions about justice, fairness, and "goodness" that need to be addressed.
What happened to the original animal souls that existed prior to the "fall" - they would appear to have no
where to go and were dragged down with us. "Humans" caused the problem, but all of life on the plant
pays the price of our failure. The "fall" is systemic to life on this planet. Did all life "devolve?" How do
you explain devolved humans reincarnating into non-devolved animals and these animal being subject to
the consequences of fallen devolved spirits; pain, suffering, and death?

Michael: A soul's first body in the material world is that of a demigod or human. If the soul makes
proper use of that form, it can return to the spiritual world. If it misuses that form to cultivate
grosser material desires, it will be placed into one of the lower forms of life. Any soul in the material
world belongs there because of misuse of spiritual free will in the spiritual world. And the
particular body it takes is the result of its further use of free will within the material world. A soul
placed in the body of an animal or plant, because of its karma (i.e. reactions to its use of free will),
will automatically make progress through the species until it again comes to the human form,
where again it has the ability to go back to the spiritual world or remain in the material world.
The system is just, fair, and good because every soul gets results that come from its own decisions.

    3. How do you explain the failure of some spirits leading to the entrapment of all spirits,...

Michael: There is nothing like that. All spirits are not entrapped. Only those that misused
their spiritual free will. do you explain six billion devolved spiritual failures.

Michael: There are more than six billion. All the plants and animals also have souls. But
whether there are six billion or six trillion, the answer is the same. The find themselves in
the material world because of some misuse of spiritual free will that took place in the
spiritual world.

Were there six billion spirits involved in the original fall?

Michael: Each one has its own original fall. Keep in mind that there are many universes,
and each universe goes through vast cycles of creation and destruction.

How is it that this failure is passed down to their children - to "new" spirits?

Michael: There is no such thing as failure being passed down to children. The soul that
enters the body of a child could be a soul that comes up from the plant and animals species.
Or it could be a soul of a reincarnated human. Or it could be a new soul that has recently
entered the material universe. Or it could be a soul transferred from another material
universe. But whatever the case may be, that soul has its own unique history. And part of
that history is its own misuse of spiritual free will in the spiritual world.

If it is true that this original failure pulls additional spirits down into a fallen state,...

Michael: This premise is not true. Some religions have some concept of original sin that is
passed on to descendants. Such a thing is not found in this model. Each soul is responsible
for its own fate. 

...then theoretically at some point in the future all spirits will be fallen (more are going down
than up).

Michael: As I said, the premise is not correct.

This argument is messy with questions concerning justice, fairness, and right from wrong. If non-fallen
manifested life (free of attachment to desires) is both possible AND intended, as in the Garden
of Eden, why are the children held accountable for their parents failures?

Michael: They are not.

This inherited accountability is explainable only if it is intended, if suffering is intended by the designer.
Michael: Not under the system I am describing.

4. Human devolution from higher spirits fails to grasp the systemic enormity of the problems of life on
Terra; life based on feeding on other life (life based on death), pain, suffering, death, injustice,
etc. The entire system of life on Terra is horrid.

Michael: Yes, and recognizing that, we should use our free will to return to the spiritual world,
which is free from all these things.

How did humans and animals live prior to the fall?

Michael: As spiritual beings, in the spiritual world, in loving relationships with the Supreme
Spritual Being, in a realm characterized by sat-cid-ananda, eternity, knowledge, and bliss.

From what we know, it was the same as now (life feeding on life - plant and/or animal). This system is
inherently corrupt, to the extent that it is not explainable by a "fall"; this is the way it was intelligently
created from the start. What does this say about God? What does this say about us and our meaning?

Michael: God wants us to remain in the spiritual world, full of eternity, knowledge, and
pleasure, but this means recognizing that we are servants of God. If we try to take the
position of God, then we come to this world. In this world, we are free to act out our desires
to be God. We are free to compete with each other in that attempt. But we are also free to
take advantage of the opportunities that God gives for us to return to our original spiritual
home. If we do not do that, and choose to remain here, that is our choice.

The typical spiritual and mystical answers that we are here for a
"godding" apprenticeship, that we are here to love God and others, that
we are here to know God and to experience the return to our source, and
that we are here to experience life itself DOES NOT satisfy the
questions of the systemic suffering nature of ALL life on our world.

Michael: Yes, that is true. The only proviso is that we do not have to come here for this.
We could have remained in the spiritual world. But given that we did not, it is best to take
the positive lessons and go back to the source.

Yes I know that a few humans do achieve a spiritual state that transcends the questions of good
and evil, but is this achievement by a few souls justification for the pain, suffering, and death of
countless multitudes of other beings?

Michael: All of the souls are here by their own choice.

We pay a terrible price for these few successes. Yes, these few successes are wonderful and
beautiful, but their achievement is built on a literal world full of suffering beings.

Michael: Every soul has a right to the same success.

These "answers" as to our meaning  are too simple to be correct and complete. The world
simply does not make any sense from a spiritual point of view, as based on the spiritual values
of love, unity, compassion, justice, etc.

Michael: Love cannot be forced. The choice not to love God has to be there. And it
has to be a real choice.  So there has to be a place for those who do not love God.
This world is that place. As for unity, unity cannot be enforced. That is slavery. There
has to be free will, and if free will is there, one should be able to exercise it. We must,
however, accept the results of our use of free will. Even if we have misused our free will,
and continue to misuse it, and therefore find ourselves in this material world, a compassionate
God gives us at every moment chances to return to the spiritual world. Even providing us
the material world so that we can act out our desires to be Gods is an act of compassion. As
for justice, this system is perfectly just, because each soul has free will, and gets what it
deserves as a result of its own proper and improper use of free will.

The painful and suffering nature of life was intelligently designed into our world system at the
beginning of the manifested world, as if it was intended to be so. Life is typically hard, harsh,
ruthless, unjust and characterized by ignorance and greed with some occasional magic moments
where we transcend this "life sentence" in a complex "living hell." What does this say about the

Michael: It says that the designer is giving us every possible chance to understand
that our choices have led us to the wrong place. It also tells us that deep within,
we understand that we are meant for something else. Otherwise, why would we feel

If the designer of the suffering world meant it to be that way why were we given paths to
salvation that "shortcut" the system?

Michael: We need two things to motivate us to return to our original state. We must
always keep in mind that our original position was good, and that is where God
wanted us to stay, but He would not force us, because then we would be His slaves,
not His loving servants. So God made this place uncomfortable, so that we would
desire to return to our original position, and he also comes or sends His
representatives to give us the real chance to make that return.

Why does Jesus save us? Why can Ramakrishna forgive sins? Why can we be
buddhas? Why make this intelligently designed and horrendously complex suffering
world system and then oppose its own apparent purpose by providing outs (with some
easy, as in Jesus, and others difficult as in Vedanta and Buddhism)? 

Michael: Because of compassion and mercy.

Few of these "outs" actually result in a reduction in suffering here on this world - they only
"pay out" when we die. If you can make sense of this self-contradictory mess of a world
you are a better man than I Gunga Din!

Michael: Actually, it is possible for people practicing spiritual values to make this
world a somewhat better place. But the fundamental miseries of birth, death, old
age, and disease will always be there.


As for "free will" this, unfortunately, is a romantic illusion. At least 99% of what we experience
and do is karmicly determined, and the remaining 1% is debatable, if not doubtful, as to how
"free" it is.

Michael: Karma means free will. You get reactions to what you choose to do. Without
free will, there is no meaning to karma. Also, if there is no  free will, then why are you
writing to me? What possible good could it do, if everything is predetermined? The
most appropriate thing for you to do, under your theory, is to suffer in silence.

As you say in your book the "supersoul" is ultimately in charge, ....

Michael: Yes, but in the Bhagavad gita the role of the supersoul is defined as upadrasta
anumantas ca. Upradrasta means witness, and anumanta means permitter. The supersoul
witnesses our decisions, and permits us to act on them. And then the supersoul gives us
the results of those actions. But our free will remains intact.

...our "will" is not local.

Michael: It remains local. I always have the freedom to desire different courses of action.
The supersoul witnesses those desires, and permits me to carry them out, according to
what my past actions allow, and gives the appropriate results.

If we are "seeded" to eventually seek our return to source, then this is determinism, not free will.

Michael: We do not have to seek to return. We can seek to remain here. It is free will.

As for our "fall" - my point is that the ENTIRE known universe (not just our local world) is
samsaric (cycles of life/creation and death/destruction).

Michael: Yes, this universe, and many other universes are places of birth and death.
That is the nature of the whole of material reality. But there is a reality that is beyond
that. And that is where we belong.

If you say that the universe is the result of intelligent design, and therefore designed and intended
to be as it is, then this suffering nature is the will of the designer.

Michael: It is because of our misuse of free will that we find ourselves here, and once
we find ourselves here, we become responsible for the continuing misuse of free will.
If we use our free will to cause pain and suffering to others, then that pain and suffering
will come back to us. Although our embodiments in this world are designed to be temporary,
beyond that the exact degree of suffering found in this world is determined by our misuse
of free will. We see that although everyone is subject to death and rebirth, some suffer
more than others, and that the totality of suffering in the world sometimes increases or
decreases. That is due to the karma generated by the misuse of free will.

It is as if our entire universe is the first stage of "hell," with beauty and hope mixed with the death
and despair. If there is no free will, then we are but players on stage acting out a tragic drama.
If there is no free will then we are but the puppets of the designer - God wills all. If God
wills all then He wills our failures and our suffering.

Michael: It is difficult for many people to accept that we ourselves are responsible for
our presence in this material world, and for the degree of suffering that we experience in
this material world. But that is the liberating truth. God's only will is that we use our free
will in harmony with His. It is only when we deliberately choose not to do so that we find
ourselves placed in a difficult situation.

Yet, we have the saints, yogis, and siddhas that show us hope, love, and beauty - a way out of
the designed, willed, and intended "hell."

Michael: That is because God's will is different from our will.

Why does the system appear to contradict it's own apparent systemic purpose (of the ENTIRE

Michael: Because the material world is just part of the system. The whole system includes
the spiritual world, our original home, where there is no suffering. By misusing our spiritual
free will, we have found ourselves in this material world. But the saints are there to advise
us to use our free will properly, so as to get out of this unnatural position. Why do we
object to finding ourselves in a temporary world full of sufering? Because by nature we are
eternal and by nature we are meant to experience ananda, spiritual pleasure, in connection
with God.

It wants us to suffer, it wants old age, death, and illness.

Michael: Only as long as we choose to remain here.

Yet it also "allows" (not sure if the designer wants it) love and enlightenment.

Michael: Yes, the designer does want it. Even though we have freely chosen to leave
Him, He does not desert us. He gives us a world for us to make a mess of, but if we
want to go back to our original position, that chance is always there, if we want to take
it. The problem is we do not want to take it.

The designer has produced a world system that is so corrupt, so inauthentic, and so ignorant
that it makes the escape all but impossible without help.

Michael: Help is needed. That is our problem, we do not want to accept help, out of false pride.
But if we are sick, we accept the help of a doctor. If we are trapped in a burning building, we
accept the help of firemen. If we are captured by terrorists, we accept the help of rescuers.

It almost appears as if there are two forces at work; one the designer of the intelligent, and I would
say diabolically clever, universe, and one that is trying to help us get out of this "punishment" system.
This is the self-contradiction that I spoke of below.

Michael: You are correct. In the Vedic cosmology, there is Maya, the controller of this material
universe, whose business is to put the souls who have misused their spiritual world into an illusory
material reality, where no one can find real happiness. But Maya is a servant of the original
Personality of Godhead.

The Gnostic Christians may have been right, that the Creator God of our universe is a false god,
that the true God is even more remote and beyond this.

Michael: That is to some extent correct. In each universe, according to the Vedic cosmology, there
is a creator god, Brahma, who engineers the structure of the planets and the forms of the material
bodies that serve as vehicles for conditioned souls. This creator god Brahma is not the original God.
The original God is the source of the millions of material unvierses and creator gods.

It may be that we are so far down the spiritual ladder, that it is hard for us to distinguish between the
spiritual levels above us - they blur into one. We may be many levels below the Absolute Truth of
the Unconditioned.

Michael: True.

This remoteness leads to the apparent combative dualism (between the designer/materialism and the
spiritual) that we have on this world. The complexity and "strangeness" of
the spiritual realms above
us may well be astonishing - thus our confusion and bewilderment.

Michael: True.

Your answer of "love" (and most/all others as well) simply does not satisfy the remarkable
complexity of this problem, even if it is "true" (does save us).

Michael: Depends on the purity of our expression of that love.