Glen T. Martin
Throughout history human civilizations have based their fundamental concepts on various forms of pluralism or monism. Human beings have a tendency to embrace pluralism because they love freedom and individuality and do not want any civilizational way of life that diminishes such valuable goods. On the other hand, human beings also have a tendency toward synthesis, integration, and seeing things whole. They seek oneness, synthesis, the whole prior to its parts.
Do we embrace a vision of the whole or do we embrace the reality and autonomy of the parts? This issue goes all the way back to the ancient Greek metaphysical problem of “the one and the many.” Do we live in a cosmos in which the one is real and the many basically illusion? Or do we live in a cosmos in which the many are real and the one is merely an abstraction as a collection of its parts? Today, there is reason to believe that our response to this issue may bear directly on the survival of the human species.
From ancient times to the present human beings have engaged in a process of progressive discrimination, self-reflection, and evolving self-awareness. The religions and spiritualities of the world have all pointed in one way or another to a transcendence of the dualism between the one and the many. Within the depths of the present, many wisdom leaders experienced a oneness that transcended the numerical dualism of one and many. They experienced the living reality of the principle of life and existence embracing and transcending both poles. Has our contemporary world forgotten this ancient wisdom? On the other hand, perhaps we have reached a point in which we are now ready to make it part of our everyday experience.
In some respects, this dilemma of the one or the many is mirrored in the political and economic struggles of today’s world. First, there is the pluralist camp, represented by the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) along with Iran and some other nations that want a pluralist world based on the UN Charter (in its original, “classical” interpretation). The Charter envisions a world of independent “sovereign” nation-states, guided by international law, living together in peace while interacting economically and culturally with one another around the planet.
The UN, of course, has failed to achieve this and has presided over 75 years of war, chaos, and human rights violations. Its Charter establishes an incoherent and unworkable solution to the problem of war. It gives us an unmitigated diversity without genuine unity. Under the illusion of the “equal sovereignty of states,” the reality is that all that is left is power and power struggles. Nations have not been brought under the rule of enforceable law.
On the other hand, there is the monist camp, represented by the USA, Canada, Australia and many European nations that want a “rule-based international order” that is globalized under a single banking system, and a single set of centralized, planetary rules developed by the World Economic Forum, the G-7, the World Bank and International Mondary Fund (IMF). The US dollar, which has been the world’s fundamental reserve currency for international trade since the end of the Second World War, tends to protect and foster the monolithic, centralized world system run from these global power-centers, and the US and its followers are currently acting to try to preserve this hegemony on a planetary scale. Hence, today’s new Cold War against the pluralist camp.
The BRICS nations, and their followers are developing alternative banking systems that will allow direct trade among nations that by-pass the US dollar as the main global medium of trade, thereby promoting a pluralist world system in opposition to the global hegemony of the monist world system under US leadership. The conceptual struggle I am describing is a common topic of debate in such publications as the Journal of Globalization Studies. The pluralistic vision of the world system consists of the collection of sovereign nation-states known as the Westphalian system, first formulated in 1648 as a vision of a world divided into absolute parts according to national boundaries. The monistic vision arose in relation to the process of globalization that has been emerging on the planet for several centuries but has come to represent an overwhelming geo-political-economic reality only with the technology of the late 20th century.
The issue of the one versus the many also animates discussion within nations, such as the USA, in the tension between liberalism that fosters individual freedoms, rights, and local control and a vision of a unified national system in which “big government” fosters the unity of all and appears as a threat to individual identities and local rights. All these controversies and debates are today animated by a heightened sense of urgency arising from the growing understanding that the future of humanity is in great danger from the twin threats of nuclear holocaust (or other weapons of mass destruction) and accelerating climate change. It looks as if human beings are in the process of making ourselves extinct as a species.
I am arguing here that we must transcend this dilemma of the one versus the many by integrating the two horns of the dilemma within a higher synthesis that includes the positive features of both. Today, our very survival as a species is dependent on our capacity to actualize this transcendence. I am not arguing, therefore, about a merely abstract set of issues but advocating a real transcendence, necessary for both human survival and flourishing—a real Hegelian movement to a higher level of concrete existence that brings forward the best of both poles while integrating them in a higher synthesis enhancing both unity and solidarity as well as freedom and particularity (see Martin 2021, Chaps. 1 and 8).
This higher synthesis is embodied in a concrete way in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Human beings require more than a mere conceptual synthesis of unity in diversity. They require (if they are to survive and flourish) a concrete embodiment of transcendence. A simple way of putting this is that we need to grow up. It is time we got serious about living on a higher level than that of holding mere personal ideals for a transformed world system: “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if all the nations would live together in peace and work harmoniously to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Such empty idealism has no place if we truly want to survive the terrible threats to our existence that we are now facing.
We must truly affirm the wonderful diversity of nations, races, cultures, ethnicities, and unique persons that make up our beautiful species while simultaneously experiencing fully and directly the unity of humankind and the oneness of our common humanity. As a species we are ready for this transcendence and many people around the world already live from this transcendence. The Earth Constitution declares that “unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail and when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.”
This is not the expression of an empty ideal. It is a declaration of transcendence, of addressing our human situation from a higher and more realistic level. We overcome the conflict of the one and the many by actualizing both true unity and true diversity through a living experience that arises of the depths of existence. This is our infinite and unique human dignity. In every individual the One is there, shining in its ecstatic and sacred purity. In every experience of oneness, diversity is there, unique existences inseparable from the source, the One. Unity in diversity is the structure of reality. In Chapter Five of my book Millennium Dawn, I called this wisdom “integrative mysticism.”
The UN Charter gives us a diversity without genuine unity. The hegemonic empire gives us a oneness without genuine respect for diversity. The Earth Constitution can promise us the ending of war and the Earth’s resources used equitably for all precisely because it is written from the level of this transcendence. Under the Earth Constitution human beings have grown up. Indeed, they will ever more fully access the wisdom of the world’s traditions through transcending the dilemma of the one and the many.
I have often written that “democratic world law is the 21st century form of love” (Martin 2016, p. 370). Out of the synergistic union of the one and the many, the Earth Constitution elaborates a framework for the Earth’s total resources to be shared by human beings in peace, freedom, harmony, and justice. It is this sharing of our planetary home in peace and justice that is precisely the work of love. This is not merely an empty ideal, but a realistic consequence of the transcendence that human beings must make if we want to survive and flourish on our beautiful planet.
We do not want a world dominated by a few, whether these be nations, corporations, or the rich and powerful. We do not want a world fragmented by many militarized sovereign nation-states always ready for war and conflict. The only way out of this dilemma is moving to a higher level of existence, transcending the conflict between the one and the many by actualizing the ancient wisdom in which both one and many are integrated in an ecstatic unity, the sacred ground of existence itself. The consequence of this transcendence is the actualization of love (Martin 2018, Chap. 5).
This is why many of the world’s wisdom traditions declared that “God is love.” In its depth dimension this declaration is not framed anthropomorphically in terms of some being called “God” who has a relationship with creation called “love.” Rather, creation itself is love incarnate. God is not separate from the world and yet at the same time is not identical with the world. The One and the many mutually imply one another in ecstatic unity in diversity. This is the cosmic love from which we must begin living if we want to survive and flourish on our beautiful earthly home.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth provides a framework for a genuine peace system, freedom system, and sustainability system for our beleaguered planet. At the same time, it provides a pathway for growth, for people transcending to a level within which they really do think and feel differently. It provides the best and most practical option for creating a decent human and planetary future for all. The third way is the way of transcendence, the way of illumination. It embodies the transformative embrace of the principle of unity in diversity.
Constitution for the Federation of Earth. In print with Institute for Economic Democracy, 2010 and 2014. Online at http://www.earthconstitution.world
Martin, Glen T. (2005). Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.