Facing Limits: Human Spirituality and the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

Secretary-General, World Constitution and Parliament Association

Professor of Philosophy, Radford University

3 June 2009

1. Our world situation today: we are facing limits on every side:

            a.   Disappearing natural resources

            b.   Climate collapse

            c.   War and militarism

            d.   Population explosion

            e.   Disintegration of traditional values

f.    Human rights violations worldwide

g.   Massive worldwide poverty and misery

2.  When I say “we are facing limits,” I speak as a human being.  This is what is essential: that we being to think, act, and live as human beings – not as citizens of a certain country or race or religion or culture or other limited identity.

3.   We have to begin thinking in terms of “all,” of every human being, or we will be lost.

Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler expresses this idea:

“All” – when what is meant is all without exception – is the most radical and, perhaps, also the most revolutionary term in the lexicon of political thought.  It may have been used in the past, but it was never seriously mean to include every individual member of the human race, not just the members of one’s own class, or even one’s fellow countrymen, but every human being everywhere on Earth. That we are now for the first time in history beginning to mean all without exception when we say “all” is another indication of the newness of the emerging ideal of the best society, the institutions of which will benefit all mean everywhere, by providing them with the conditions they need to lead good human lives.

4.  The Constitution for the Federation of Earth creates the institutions necessary to deal with the global crises we are facing and develop the conditions for all men to lead good human lives.  It is founded on the principle of unity in diversity in which the diversity of nations, races, cultures, religions, and persons is respected precisely because we have institutionalized a democratic system for the Earth founded on a powerful unity: all without exception.

5.  But much of our problem in not being able to ratify the Constitution lies in the kind of self-hood in which we are trapped.   And here is where we encounter the question of human spirituality.  Egoism, collective and individual, is tearing our world apart.   We must realize a fundamental and truer sense of self than the ones in which we are now trapped.   For our dominant form of selfhood defines itself in opposition to the Other – to other people, to nature, and even to God.

            Spiritual teacher, Ruben Habito, from the Zen Buddhist tradition, writes:

The key to healing our woundedness on the manifold levels of existence, including the ecological, social, and personal, lies in overcoming this ego-centered consciousness that controls our attitudes and actions in everyday life.  As we  begin to see through this idealized and falsely conceived self with which we identify in opposition to the Other, we hear an invitation from within, to launch into a search for our true self that underlies this delusive ego.

6.  I submit that the activation of the true self involves two dimensions: 

a.  The meditative dimension of mystical realization of the One within us all.

b.  The actualization of the universal communicative reason at the heart of all human languages.

The first begins with awe, wonder, and astonishment and deepens into a progressive awakening the the unsayable depths of existence.  The second begins with the commitment to communication, dialogue, and authentic encounter with other persons, and deepens into a universal human rationality.

7.   The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, described the awakening to the first when he wrote in his journal:

The majority of men in every generation, even those who, as it is described, devote themselves to thinking….live and die under the impression that life is simply a matter of understanding more and more, and that if it were granted to them to live longer, that life would continue to be one long continuous growth in understanding.  How many of them ever experience the maturity of discovering that there comes a critical moment when everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot be understood.

8.   The second begins with the understanding that language and reason are inherently universal and give us universal criteria for mutual understanding, a common human identity, and universal democracy on the Earth.  The best expression of this social scientific understanding is found in the philosophy of contemporary philosopher Jürgen Habermas.

            He shows that language is only possible at all because of its communicative core in which the equality of persons, their mutual right to speak, and the common ethical principles emerging from this dialogue.  Habermas shows that strategic, manipulative, or deceptive language (that we associate, for example, with capitalism or the propaganda of nation-states) are strictly parasitic and secondary. These could not exist without the priority of the common communicative core of language itself, and hence of human reason itself.

9.  Both of these aspects of true selfhood bring us out of our limited and parochial partial identifications toward a larger and deeper awareness of self: the Atman of Hinduism, the anatta of Buddhism, or the sense of self behind the agape or love of Jesus Christ.   The mystical realization of the unsayable dimension complements the actualization of communicative reason at the heart of language.

10.   However, we cannot wait for a slow evolution of our sense of self if we are to survive and flourish on planet Earth.  For there are global institutions that perpetuate and cultivate the false sense of self: especially capitalism and the nation-state system.   If we change the outdated and false institutions under which people live, we will be giving them the possibility of a rapid growth and transformation of their sense of self.

            If we create democratic institutions on the Earth by ratifying the Earth Constitution, the result will be a tremendous liberation for the actualization of mystical awakening and communicative rationality.  That is why I have devoted my life to the ratification of the Earth Constitution.  The actualization of true democracy on the Earth is intimately connected with the actualization of human spirituality.

            Imagine, for example, every school child on Earth repeating daily the Pledge of Allegiance to the Earth Constitution.   Imagine all weapons of war being illegal and prohibited.  Imagine every person having food, clothing, and shelter.   The more we transform our sense of self, the more our imaginations are liberated to envision peace with justice on the Earth.  As Mortimer J. Adler says, the word “all” is indeed the most fundamental word in the lexicon of political thought.  The Earth Constitution embodies this “all.”