The Cosmic Problem of the Nation-State

Glen T. Martin

April 2021  

The nation-state is not just a political problem. It is one of the most fundamental human problems of our era. Sovereign nation-states constitute a system by which human beings have organized themselves that goes back, most scholars agree, at least to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  Why is this a problem, and a deeply human problem?   Because it has derailed and subverted the quest for understanding of our common human project. It has derailed and subverted reflection on who we really are and what is emerging through us on behalf of the evolutionary process. In this short article, I argue that the reflection on who and what we really are can be restored by ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The sovereign nation-state has colonized our identities as human beings. Most people around the world identify first and foremost with their sovereign nation-state. Governments often obsessively cultivate nationalism, patriotism, and “service to the nation.”  They identify disloyal people as “traitors.” These very identities also cause us to see people in other nations as potential rivals, as potential enemies. Foreign interactions become “relations between nations,” that is, falsely constructed ideological relations very different from the give and take of real human relationships. Real communication among human beings is derailed and distorted into propaganda, accusation, manipulation, and distrust. Today, nations even engage in “cyber-wars.”

Serious thinkers concerned with the environmental crisis have understood that addressing this crisis requires addressing who and what we are as human beings. In their book Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists, Nordhaus and Shallenberger correctly state that “the problem is so great that before answering What is to be done? we must first ask What kind of beings are we? and What can we become?” (2007, 8). Environmentalist leader Bill McKibben in his book Falter: Is the Human Game Beginning to Play Itself Out? (2019) affirms a similar idea. We must ask who and what we are, McKibben declares, in order to understand why we have not even begun to address the overwhelming threat of climate crisis.

In previous articles, I have often pointed out the fact that philosophers from the 17th century to the present have understood that the system of “sovereign” nations, recognizing no effective laws above themselves, constitutes an inherent “war system.” This was pointed out by Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza in the 17th century, John Locke and Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, G.W.F. Hegel in the 19th century and Emery Reves, Errol E. Harris, and Albert Einstein in the 20th century. In his book The Anatomy of Peace, Reves writes: “War takes place whenever and wherever non-integrated social units of equal sovereignty come into contact (1946, 121, emphasis in original). This is what they have all understood. When there is no enforceable law on behalf of a common good, it becomes “everybody for himself,” a condition of defacto war even when people are not actually fighting at the moment.

Innumerable thinkers going back to Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoic philosophers have reflected on our common humanity and on the fact that human beings appear to be a microcosm of the macrocosm—because the dimensions of the cosmos all appear integrated within us. Many, like Kant in the 18th century, emphasized our common human dignity, that every person “is an end in themselves” and can never be morally treated as a “mere means.” Rabindranath Tagore, the great 19th to 20th century Indian sage, also emphasized our common humanity and one human civilization spanning the globe.

On the other hand, the sovereign nation-state system has fragmented and derailed this awareness of our common identity. It has given us a false diversity. Our wonderful diversity of cultures, races, backgrounds, and histories is not the same as nation-state sovereignty, and it is not what we are and who we are.  True unity under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth will give us true affirmation of our wonderful diversity.

One of the most fundamental insights that we can have is that the universe has somehow “intentionally” produced us. A chorus of scientists have pointed out that the delicately balanced initial conditions in the Big Bang were such that self-aware creatures would eventually arise from this universe (cf. Harris 1991). Conditions just a hair different and human beings would never have evolved. Ervin Laszlo reaffirms this conclusion in his latest book The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field (2021, 11).

Physicist Henry Stapp points out that the human mind is directly anchored in the quantum dimension, the dimension beyond space and time that gives the entire universe its intrinsic unity and holographic quality in which the fundamental principle of everything (the All) is there in each individual element of the vast cosmos. He declares that this insight from contemporary physics constitutes for human beings “a seismic event of potentially momentous proportions” (2011,140). We are microcosms of the macrocosm. Kafatos and Nadeau point out something very similar in their book The Conscious Universe where they declare that all our values need to be rethought in the light of these discoveries (1990, 179).

In traditional language, human beings are body, mind, and spirit. Body (which like all matter is today understood as “in-formed energy”) is essential. We are not disembodied souls stuck in a body. Mind is also essential. And science has discovered that “mind” permeates the universe and that our minds are this universal mind become conscious of itself.  Many of the most advanced thinkers have said this, such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, and Errol E. Harris. Aurobindo writes: “The universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their assent…. [The Universe] creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, 49).

The “All” is embodied in us. The All “aspires” through us. Science has revealed that we are microcosms as the ancients declared. And this includes our third dimension of “spirit.” We are coming more and more to realize what the ancient mystics of all the world’s great religions declared all along: that there is something absolutely incomprehensible and unsayable about existence. This “unspeakable presence” of things can be termed “spirit” and associated (like body and mind) with the cosmos having become aware of itself in us. 

We are self-aware of our bodily existence, and our minds are self-aware, and we are also subtly aware of the depth of things in which body and mind are rooted, which is also the depth of the cosmos itself. In traditional language, a finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite, but we can experience the infinite depth of things on every side. The Infinite is truly everywhere and nowhere as Hegel also pointed out in the 19th century (cf. Lauer 1982). In the 15th century Nicholas of Cusa called this insight de docta ignorantia (learned ignorance).

Why is the nation-state more than just a political problem?  It derails us from our right and duty to actualize our potential as human beings.  It distracts us from the task implicit in our trinitarian existence: to actualize the fullness of existence and cosmic destiny implicit in our reality. We are cosmic creatures with immense capacity for love, compassion, kindness, justice, truth, and beauty. Yet we have made of our world this ugly thing of conflict, suspicion, untruth, and war. The sovereign nation-state is fundamental to this ugliness. It is inherently a war-system, inherently an environmental destruction system, and inherently a destroyer of our universal human unity and dignity.

People confuse the beauty of their culture, their history, and their identity with having a “sovereign nation-state.”  But this diversity will only continue to grow to perfection and beauty if it is decoupled from the war, suspicion, and violence system. The beauty of culture and history can only flourish if we are truly united, truly recognizing our oneness and our common destiny (which includes the marvel, beauty, and dignity of our diversity).

This is why ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is absolutely imperative. The threat of war and on-going environmental collapse are symptoms of a deeper pathology of a distorted and unhealthy set of institutions and identifications, fundamental among which is the dogma of the sovereign nation-state.  By uniting humanity under the common banner of human dignity and by abolishing false nation-state sovereignty in favor of the sovereignty of all humanity, the Earth Constitution frees us from the self-destructive fixation on national sovereignties. It frees us to affirm our authentic diversity within the framework of genuine political, economic, and civilizational unity. It frees us to continue our common human quest for self-realization in harmony with the ground of being (Tao, Brahmin, Buddha Nature, Allah, God).

The Constitution brings us to a new level, beyond the nearly four-century old fixation on national autonomy, independence, imperialism, and the right to make war. It frees us to reaffirm and reconsider the meaning of being human. It frees us to affirm our common human dignity as superseding smaller regional differences and disputes that can be handled by impartial courts and not by violence and war.

That is why ratification of the Earth Constitution carries with it such immense implications. It not only saves a human project threatened with its own self-extinction, but it makes possible the further growth and realization of our deeply cosmic destiny. The great task of becoming who and what we are meant to be can only be continued within the framework of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Works Cited

Aurobindo, Sri (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Robert A. McDermott, ed. New York: Schocken Books.

Harris, Errol E. (1991). Cosmos and Anthropos: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. London: Humanities Press International.

Kafatos, Menas and Robert Nadeau (1990). The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Laszlo, Ervin (2021). The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Lauer, Quentin, S.J. (1982). Hegel’s Concept of God. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2010). The Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. The Constitution is on-line at

McKibben, Bill (2019). Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Henry Holt Publisher.

Nordhaus, Ted and Michael Shellenberger (2007). Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Reves, Emery (1946). The Anatomy of Peace.  New York: Harper & Brothers.

Stapp, Henry P. (2011). Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (2nd Ed.). Berlin: Springer Publishers.