The Absolute Moral Demands of Our Utopian Horizon

Glen T. Martin,  March 2022

There is no definite and valid ideal model of a world, there is only a general abstract principle of harmony and diversity, and the principle can be realized in all sorts of widely divergent ways. The same is true of human life. There is an ideal of harmony and intensity of experiencing, harmony both within each individual and among individuals, but there is no definite code of manners that is the uniquely right way of realizing this ideal. On the contrary, no ideal can be applied without creative particularization….

Charles Hartshorne [1]

This quotation from a well-known 20th century thinker correctly identifies the relation between the ideal and the real. My contention in this short paper is that the fundamental structures of our human existential situation place absolute moral demands on us for transcendence and transformation in the direction of harmony, integration, and ever-greater unity in diversity. For many years now I have been naming these demands “practical-utopian.” This same insight into the relation between the ideal and the concrete particulars of our lives identified here by Hartshorne also comes from many other 20th century thinkers, such as Errol E. Harris [2], Ken Wilber [3], or Erich Fromm.[4] In this article I want to review the structural features of our human situation that give rise to this demand and focus on the Earth Constitution [5] as a key modality for satisfying the imperative for unity and transcendence.

I have written previously, in a number of places, about our human temporality bounded by our future-oriented “utopian horizon.”[6] This is a horizon characterizing every normal (non-schizophrenic) person that forms a structural feature of the unity of human consciousness in conjunction with our pervasive temporality. Human beings live not only within time but as temporality. Every normal human being exists as a unity of consciousness living within a dynamic present that appropriates a remembered past and projects a future transcending that past. In short, we live within an ecstatic present moving between past and future, an existential situation that inherently demands action from us.

These absolute moral imperatives are not demands for our personal psychological selves (although of course they encompass our personal lives and actions). They are structural demands arising from the way the cosmos has evolved us. This is expressed in one way by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who describes the evolutionary convergence of the cosmic process in us—we are destined to actualize “Omega,” a “totalization” or unification embracing and preserving all diversity. However, he declares, evolution will not automatically produce this: “it must be a consciously and passionately willed deliberate act…It looks to us for an active and immediate collaboration, for a vigorous drive, based on conviction and hope. For evolution will not mark time.”[7] The temporal structure of human existence demands of us transcendence of our fragmentation, disharmony, egoism, and greed. It demands “consciously and passionately willed” unification, a unification for which the Earth Constitution supplies the necessary template.

Immanuel Kant was perhaps the first to discern clearly that each normal person exists as a unity of consciousness that is independent of that person’s personal psychological self. He discerned the immense significance of this for our understanding of the world. He explains that the unity of consciousness could not exist without, and necessarily implies, a corresponding unity of the world.  Subject and object imply one another. They are not two independent “substances” called “mind” versus “matter” as Descartes had surmised, but rather form two necessarily interrelated aspects of a single unified world order, a world order structurally informed, like human consciousness, by temporality: within the unity of consciousness there is perpetual movement from the past through the dynamic present toward an imagined future.[8]

The unity of consciousness persists throughout our temporalized existence. As Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger emphasized, human beings are thoroughly temporal creatures.[9]  We live within an ever-changing present moment within which we appropriate the past through memory and anticipate a future through imagination. Our imagination anticipating the future is “utopian” in character because it critically evaluates the past as not fully satisfactory and anticipates how the future might be (and should be) better. Morals, values, derive from the utopian structure of human consciousness. As Jürgen Habermas points out, we would not be scandalized by present conditions if we could not imagine that “these shameful conditions” do not have to be this way, that things could be better.[10]

As I have pointed out previously, we can conclude that there are certain general values that well-known psychologist, Abraham Maslow, calls “the deepest tendencies of the human species.”  He names these “B-values” or “Being Values” because they become more transpersonal as we grow to greater levels of maturity. It is Being itself (the Cosmos, God) that produces these values; they are not relativistic, merely individual or “personal” values as they appear to those at lower levels of human maturity and development. These objective transpersonal values include wholeness, perfection, completion (fulfillment), justice, beauty, goodness, truth, and self-sufficiency (autonomy).[11]

As Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo concludes—in us, the universe “creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire.”[12]  We exist as the concrete and particular aspirations of the universe itself. The structure of things has become self-conscious in human temporality. Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead concludes that, “An actual entity is concrete because it is such a particular concrescence of the universe.”[13] Each human being exists as a moving, temporalized, concretized aspiration of the universe. The past is completed, but the future is alive and open with transformative possibilities.

Our present is a synthesis of the past dynamically projected toward an idealized future. This is true of the entire cosmos in the view of Whitehead, but it is also a truth crystalized in us because in us the idealized cosmic future has become aware of itself. Philosopher John Dewey writes: “It is this active relation between the ideal and actual to which I would give the name “God.”[14] Dewey was particularly concerned with bringing the concept of “God” down from an abstract metaphysical alternative to this world and showing that the nexus of human-cosmic ideals at our utopian horizon is all that is necessary for the fullness of a meaningful religious life.

To live in terms of this divinely-inspired human mission requires that we take our utopian horizon with utter seriousness. As Hartshorne observes in the quotation at the head of this article, “there is no definite and valid ideal model of the world” but rather there is a “general abstract principle of harmony and diversity” that can be actualized in any number of concrete ways. This general, temporalized idealization can apply to all the “Being values” recognized by Maslow: wholeness, perfection, completion (fulfillment), justice, beauty, goodness, truth, and self-sufficiency (autonomy). These ideals “call to us” from our utopian horizon.[15] The call demands that we particularize them (actualize them) within the diversity of the concrete world within which we all live.

The practical-utopian ideals of wholeness, harmony and perfection, inseparable from the wonderful diversity of the world, therefore, apply to all such values. Beauty, for example, as Plato insightfully describes in his Symposium, constitutes a transcendent ideal that is only manifest in this world within the concrete particulars: this sunset, this flower, this human face, this person of virtue, this peaceful and loving human community, etc.[16]

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth presents one of these concrete particulars as a gift to the world-community. It is a particular document outlining a specific political-economic arrangement for our planet that ushers in an era of peace, universal human rights protections, diminishing social differences, and ecological, regenerative sustainability.[17] As Hartshorne declares above “no ideal can be applied without creative particularization.” Our ideals of peace, universal human rights, etc., necessarily must be concretized within real institutions, otherwise they remain mere empty abstractions. 

This is perhaps the failure of many who profess an ideal of the federated unity of humankind but lack the courage and insight to act on Hartshorne’s truth that “no ideal can be applied without creative particularization.” This concrete document, the Earth Constitution, like any and all such documents, cannot give us ideal perfection in some future world democratic order. No specific set of arrangements could do this. However, it can make things qualitatively better and serve as a bridge to human survival and flourishing, both now in question.

No concrete, beautiful particular, whether a sunset or a human face, can give us the fullness of Plato’s transcendent ideal of perfect beauty, toward which, he says, we are brought ever closer through “love” (eros). Once we contemplate true beauty, Plato writes, such a person “gives birth not to likenesses of virtue…but to realities, since he touches reality.”[18] Our concrete particulars are never perfect, but when we take the ideals on our utopian horizon seriously (through love) as the expressions of the objective human-cosmic reality that they are, then our concrete embodiments bring the world ever-closer to true fulfilment. There is no need to ontologize “perfect beauty,” as Plato did, in order to recognize our utopian horizon as a living, existential reality within our common human consciousness and civilization.

This is one reason why the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is a key to the next step in conscious human evolution. It is grounded in the practical-utopian ideals of universal dignity of all human beings, in true unity and diversity of all, and in a deep understanding of the interdependence of humans with our planetary ecosystem.[19] As Hartshorne declares: “There is an ideal of harmony and intensity of experiencing, harmony both within each individual and among individuals.” This ideal of harmony between and among all the individuals who live upon our precious planet, this demand, is concretized in the Earth Constitution. To see that these values are integral to our emergent, cosmic-human reality is entirely sufficient.

One of the reasons why the ideals populated at the horizon of our temporality should be called “practical-utopian” (or “creative” in Hartshorne’s terminology) is because they often include not just some incremental step by step progress into a better future, but rather paradigm-shift. To recognize the validity of the practical-utopian dimension is already a paradigm-shift from our false and perverse “historical realism” that incrementally crawls from one tired U.N. resolution to the next without ever accomplishing significant change. In addition, however, to recognize the need for the Earth Constitution that establishes worldwide political and economic reality not on wealth, territory, and power but on universal human dignity and flourishing, is to truly make the necessary paradigm-shift into the deeper reality of our human situation. It is to accomplish a fully “creative” particularization.

The Constitution particularizes these ideals and militates for paradigm-shift, and in doing so constitutes a great leap forward toward a fulfilled and emergent divine-human future. Its Preamble declares that “the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination.” The authentic demand calling from our utopian horizon is expressed in this Preamble.

No territorial, “sovereign nation-state” constitution can truly affirm these values because they are all, by nature, fragmenting of humanity and structurally denying each of these values. No matter what they may profess (such as universal human rights), they structurally and institutionally deny these rights that must apply to everyone, not just their own citizens. Every human being has these rights and duties, and only enforceable democratic world law can actualize this ideal. The moral demand is unity in diversity—the whole embracing the many.

Ratification and implementation of the Earth Constitution is the next great step in the emergent-evolutionary process of our cosmos, of human moral and spiritual growth. The time and place to make it happen can only be now, since we forever live only in this wondrous, dynamic present moment. These ideals exist only at the horizon of this supremely present now; they need not exist anywhere else. They demand to be actualized within this very same present now.


[1]  Charles Hartshorne. Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983, p. 34.

[2] Errol E. Harris. The Reality of Time. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988. See especially Chapter VIII, “Evolution and Omega.”

[3] Ken Wilber. Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integral Books, 2007. This book provides a comprehensive overview of the growth model of human consciousness as integrated into the “evolutionary” growth-structures of the cosmos.

[4] Erich Fromm. On Disobedience and Other Essays. New York: Seabury Press, 1988. In Chapter 1, “Values, Psychology, and Human Existence,” Fromm articulates the role of love in human transcendence toward harmony and integration with the human evolutionary process and the cosmos.

[5] See Glen T. Martin. Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010. See especially the Conclusion that discusses the loss of legitimacy of the sovereign nation-states precisely because they fail to transcend toward harmony, integration, and unity in diversity.

[6]  For a short summary see: “The Utopian Horizon of Objective Human Values,“, DOI: 10.20935/AL107 Publication Date: 2021, Publication Name: Academia Letters. For a fuller scholarly account see: “Utopian Horizon Value Theory: A Transformative Power at the Heart of Human Futurity,” article in the American International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 7, No. 1, February, 2021:

[7] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Activation of Energy. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971, p. 292.

[8] Immanuel Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1965, (orig. pub. 1781), pp. 534-538 (sections A645-A652/B673-B680).

[9]  Henri Bergson. An Introduction to Metaphysics: The Creative Mind. Trans. Marbelle L. Andison. Totawa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, & Co., 1975.   Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. Trans. Macquarie and Robinson. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1962.

[10] Jürgen Habermas. The Future of Human Nature. Trans. Wiliam Rehg. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003, p. 63.

[11] Abraham Maslow. Toward a Psychology of Being. Floyd, VA: Sublime Books, 2014, pp. 75-76.

[12] Sri Aurobindo. The Essential Aurobindo. Ed. Robert McDermott. New York, Schocken Books, 1973, p. 49.

[13] Alfred North Whitehead. Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. Eds. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: The Free Press, 1978, p. 51.

[14] John Dewey. A Common Faith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934, p. 51.

[15] For an excellent depiction of the “call” see Paul Tillich. The Essential Tillich. Ed. F. Forrester Church. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, p. 143.

[16] Plato. Great Dialogues of Plato. Trans. W.H.D. Rouse. New York: Mentor Classics, 1956, pp. 69-117.

[17] Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Written by hundreds of world citizens and completed at Troia, Portugal in 1991, this is available both on-line at and as well as through Institute for Economic Democracy Press and

[18] Ibid., Great Dialogues of Plato, p. 106.

[19] See Glen T. Martin. The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press, 2021.