Integral Human Holism and the Great Transition

Glen T. Martin

If human beings are going to truly unite within a planetary civilization that ends war, protects universal human rights, and establishes sustainability within the limits of our planetary biosphere, then we must consciously actualize the holism of body, mind, and spirit. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth* can help serve as a bridge to this evolutionary synthesis. By creating an Earth Federation embracing all peoples and nations this Earth Constitution enhances and encourages a planetary consciousness in which all persons are understood within the trinity of body, mind, and spirit.

Let us briefly describe each of these in turn in order to attempt to clarify the holism behind the emerging planetary civilization. First, there is body. We are embodied, incarnated beings from the very start.  It is not that there is a mind or a spirit that is inserted into a body to be liberated upon the death of the body. Rather, to be human requires being bodily, for the entire cosmos and everything in it reflects the triune synthesis of body, mind, and spirit.

This last statement is corroborated more and more by contemporary science and cosmology. To speak of “body” today, does not refer to some substantial, self-sufficient reality thought of as “matter” of which things are composed and related under the laws of physics. “Matter” today is information and energy as a cohesive whole, revealed as indistinguishable by Einstein, having for decades been evermore progressively understood as an inseparable union.  Ultimately, this means that matter and “mind” or “consciousness” are not two distinct substances but rather are holarchically and mutually constitutive of one another. For decades now, advanced thinkers have been concluding that our universe is a “conscious” universe, dynamically informed by information and intelligence (cf. Kafatos and Nadeau 1990).

Human beings are a synthesis of body and mind because science is revealing that everything is a synthesis of body and mind. Intelligence and intelligibility are everywhere and present in everything. Mind is not just a function of a complex material object called a brain. The brain can be better conceived as a receiver in which its complexity allows it to draw upon the conscious intelligence found everywhere in the cosmos. As Jude Currivan expresses this: “Based on numerous experimental data of the nonlocality of our consciousness, an alternative has been to view the brain instead as a computer: a receiver and transmitter of nonlocal information” (Currivan 2017, 189).

Body and mind holistically and synergistically interact throughout the universe, but in human beings they synthesize in a creature that is truly a microcosm of the whole, a self-aware manifestation of the body-mind synthesis. Nevertheless, there is a third dimension that is necessary for true human maturity and awakening to our universal human condition that must also serve as a foundation for the coming planetary civilization. This has often been called “spirit.”

It is important not to reify spirit as some sort of substantial, non-physical thing, just as it is important not to do this with “body” or “mind.”  “Spirit” as I am using it is not a mysterious thing, like a ghost that shows up here and there in human experience. It is not as if the world is haunted by “spirits.” The word “spirit” here represents infinity, the infinity that is found everywhere and nowhere, the infinity that comprises the third dimension of the trinity of body, mind, and spirit. Raimon Panikkar makes the point that these three are mutually constitutive of being, of reality itself (2013). Hence, they can be called three “dimensions” only for heuristic purposes. As mutually constitutive of our Cosmos, they comprise one holistic reality. Each is, and is not, the other two.

The name “infinity” is the word given to this aspect by such thinkers as Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th century and G.W.F. Hegel in the 19th century. But it may be that this same aspect is called by the name of “emptiness” (sunyata) in the Buddhist tradition or “Tao” in the Taoist tradition. Body and mind are manifest everywhere in the intelligibility and perceivability of our world. But what is infinite, or what is empty of all qualities or determinations, is neither perceivable nor sayable nor thinkable. However, it can be an awareness, as Panikkar puts it, in which “the divine is primarily and primordially present” (1993, 17).

In the West this quality spirit has been called “apophatic,” that is, beyond name and form—it cannot be said or thought. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein made this very clear in the closing remarks of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1961). Yet this aspect remains a key to seeing reality clearly with an awakened awareness. In Zen they speak of “no mind,” and of “pure seeing,” that is, seeing what cannot be seen or thought or said. We must free ourselves from our everyday, conventional consciousness that deals with body-things and mind-things. We must begin to live with direct awareness of the utterly unsayable fullness-emptiness of all things. We can then return to everyday consciousness with this new dimension in the background that has opened us up to the groundless ground, to eternity, to Budda nature, or to Atman.

It has been declared in many sacred traditions: “To see God not everywhere is to see God truly nowhere.” Perhaps it is awareness of this third dimension of “spirit” that is pointed to in this saying. The holism of reality, which is also the holism of the human being, involves the mutually constitutive dynamic of body, mind, and spirit. As Panikkar expresses this: “The vertical or divine dimension is no longer projected onto ‘another’ being, but experienced as the infinite dimension of reality itself” (1993, 16)). All things partake of infinity.

They could not exist, they could not be what they are, without being grounded within that groundless-ground. Meister Eckhart speaks of a silence so profound that no name can penetrate, not even the name “God.” In some Zen traditions, they emphasize the “triple awakening”—annica (no things), anatta (no selves), and tathata (suchness). If we do not substantialize things and selves, then the overwhelming immediacy of the infinite emptiness, the unspeakable suchness, can ecstatically embrace our lives (cf. Martin 2005, Chap.5).

It has been said that the world is the body of God (Gutkind 1969). It has been said that humans are a microcosm of the whole.  Just as matter, mind, and infinity are constitutive of all things, these dimensions culminate in a special way in our human self-aware existence. Can this holism of our human condition transcend the cultural barriers between East and West?   Can awareness of these three dimensions as constitutive of every human being serve as a new paradigmatic awareness for the emerging planetary civilization?

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth assumes that we can live and act as one planetary civilization. It provides the tools for such living and acting. But the real union of humanity, the real synergy of our common human project, can perhaps only begin when we have realized this holism and begin to live from a consciousness free of the desire to dominate others, exploit nature, or to gasp at endless consumer goods.

The Earth Constitution, of course, does not philosophize about our common humanity in this way. Although it does speak of the “unity in diversity” of humanity as the basis for a new civilization in which peace prevails, war is outlawed, and the Earth’s total resources are equitably used for human welfare. Ultimately these things will only be achieved when we actualize a consciousness free of the desire to dominate others, exploit nature, or grasp at endless consumer goods. The Constitution is a pragmatic document for organizing humanity and effectively dealing with our lethal global problems, but it also points forward to a new human being—reborn and redeemed in the fullness of life (Martin 2021).

It is therefore both a means and an end. It is an end in its ability to organize humanity for the first time in history to effectively deal with our global problems. It is also a means to the further conscious evolution of humanity toward the fulness of awareness and a true planetary consciousness. It is a step on the way to the ecstatic synthesis of body, mind, and spirit.

Works Cited

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Found on-line at www.earthconstitution.world and www.wcpa.global.

Currivan, Jude (2017). The Cosmic Hologram: In-formation at the Center of Creation. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Eckhart, Meister (1981). Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense. Bernard McGinn, Ed. Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press.

Gutkind, Eric (1969). The Body of God: First Steps Toward an Anti-Theology. Lucie B. Gutkind and Henry LeRoy Finch, Eds. New York: Horizon Press.

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

Martin, Glen T. (2005). Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.

Panikkar, Raimon (1993). The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Panikkar, Raimon (2013). The Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.