Glen T. Martin
The leading Ancients of all major cultures thought we were microcosms of the macrocosm. From Buddha to Plato, from Shankara to Confucius, they manifested a cosmic consciousness that we mostly lack. For Confucius, for example, the concept of jen or “compassionate humanness” was essential for harmony and was embraced by the reality of li identifying a sacred order that manifested both social and cosmic harmony (cf. Fingerette 1972). The leading Ancients, each in his own way, embodied a vision of transformative harmony, a harmony that derives from a deep relation to the holism of the cosmos.
Today, holism appears to us not simply as a constant, abiding feature of the cosmos, but as an emergent and evolutionary aspect of the cosmos and all life. Quantum physics has led the way in the fundamental paradigm shift from atomism and determinism to transformative holism. Contemporary physicist Henry Stapp writes that these new insights in quantum science “lead us away from the egocentric bias” of classical physics to a new “image of the self, not as a local isolated automaton but rather as a nonlocalizable integrated aspect of the creative impulse of the universe” (1988, 57, emphasis added).
Our consciousness is rooted in what leading new-paradigm thinker Ervin Laszlo calls “the Akashia dimension,” that is, in the universal conscious oneness that constitutes the deep intelligence of the universe. Even our capacity to reduce human intelligence to mere technical manipulation of our environment derives from this rootedness in the creative foundations of the cosmos. Human awareness is emerging, across the globe, into awareness of our true destiny—and the deepest source of human freedom and dignity.
Indian sage Sri Aurobindo, similarly, understood that the universe has become conscious of itself in us and has created in us “a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, 49). Nevertheless, in the 21st century many (perhaps most) people have assimilated the fragmented, self-stultifying, egoistic consciousness of early modernity deriving from the 17th century rise of science and its profoundly ambiguous stepchild, technology (cf. Ellul 1980). The vast fragmented institutions of capitalist greed and nation-state egoism continue to colonize the minds of people across the world.
It was primarily after Descartes and Hobbes in the 17th century that people began to think of their consciousness as “merely subjective.” Philosopher Martin Heidegger analyzes this split between an illusory private consciousness and an objective world of physical objects. He says that with the development of technocratic imperative in the modern world, our subjectivity has manifested as “the autonomous will and its desires.” At the same time the physical world was reduced (away from a sense of it as God’s creation) to a mere “standing reserve” open to human domination, manipulation, and exploitation (1977).
The early moderns began to divide the world between two poles—an “objective” world of bodies in motion described mathematically by science and the “subjective” world of human thoughts, feelings, and emotions that was merely a private egoistic reaction to the objective physical environment that encompasses us. Values were no longer an objective aspect of the “natural law” of things as ordained by God or Dharmakaya or li. Values lost their objective validity and became merely personal, merely subjective, not real, and hence, ultimately not valid. The lethal, apparently suicidal, mess that we find the world in today—pandemics, endless wars and militarism, nuclear and biological weapons, economic chaos, accelerating climate destruction—derives from this degradation of human consciousness.
What does it mean to be realistic? Does it mean that we “face the fact” that the human world is a moral cesspool, a corrupt matrix of war, violence, arbitrary power, exploitation, domination, greed, hate, and fear? The human world is truly all these things, but such “realism” alone denies our status a microcosms of the cosmic mind. It denies even the critical dimension of our ordinary minds, as philosopher Jürgen Habermas points out—we would not be scandalized by the horrific goings on in the world unless we knew that things could be different (2003, 63).
Such “realism” denies the source and reality of human values. Ervin Laszlo states that “mind is an aspect of reality as primordial as the physical world … It cannot be derived from matter or anything more basic.” Body and brain, he states, “and the organism as a whole, receive and resonate with the intelligence that permeates the universe” (2016, 41 and 45). This means that fundamental human values arise from the Ground of Being, from the fundamental reality of the cosmos itself. They are not merely subjective.
I have written in several places about “utopian horizon value theory” (e.g. 2021). Human beings are creatures in the process of becoming. As such we are, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “the axis and the leading shoot of evolution” (1955, 36). As philosopher Raimon Panikkar expresses this: “the destiny of the universe passes in and through us” (2013, 34). Human beings exist as self-aware temporalized creatures living in a dynamic present within which we appropriate the past and creatively project ourselves toward a future yet to be realized.
Panikkar declares that “Becoming belongs to the very essence of Being.” This, of course, is also true of our human “Being-in-the-world.” “Were an entity not to become what it is at each moment that it is,” he writes, “it would cease to be. The entity exists and this existence is its becoming” (2013, 98). Our own becoming, Panikkar affirms, is “linked to the destiny of the universe…. This destiny also, to a certain extent depends upon us. This is our human dignity, and our responsibility” (ibid., 104).
This temporal structure is the structure of human freedom. It is our highest dignity. Our freedom, as Panikkar says, is “ontological.” Our responsibility for the future derives from the evolutionary upsurge of the universe. We are “the center of the consciousness that pervades everything …. We can ‘effect’ or provoke the failure of the entire adventure of being” (2013, 349). All of this comes down to our values. What values do we live by? What are the highest values we hold dear?
Human consciousness, of course, participates in values in a free, flexible, and culturally dynamic way, leading to a multiplicity within its universal unity. But its values are not “merely subjective.” Values arise from the temporal structure of the human being. As self-aware temporal creatures we discover at our “utopian horizon” the highest values, what psychologists Eric Fromm (1996) and Abraham Maslow (2014) call “being values.” The values that derive from and resonate with being itself. Historically such values have been identified as truth, beauty, goodness, freedom, justice, etc.
Our minds critically assess our environment and human life. We see that it could and should be different. Here is where true “realism” lies—to discern the horror of the world and realize that it could and should be different and that we are responsible to make it so. It is deeply realistic to see our human situation from the level of a cosmic awareness. This is the level from which we derive the concepts of human dignity, freedom, and human rights. We are not just tiny creatures on a forlorn planet lost in a vast, meaningless universe as the early Jean-Paul Satre held in his book Being and Nothingness.
In contemporary discourse, values are also likely to be characterized as the imperative for “harmony and diversity” (Hartshorne 1983, 34), or as I often express this, “unity in diversity.” To more fully appreciate these ideas that I am presenting in this article, one must strive for ever greater cosmic awareness—experiencing life, so the speak, from the transpersonal and ecstatic reality of the cosmos, which we can do because this is our true reality. We are microcosms of that macrocosm. We are bearers of the torch of the cosmos. We are the axis and leading shoot of evolution.
To truly realize this is our key to eliminating nuclear weapons and dealing effectively with climate collapse as I point out in my recent book The Earth Constitution Solution. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is an essential means for this transformation since it is premised on the same unity in diversity that permeates the universe from the micro to the macro levels. The other proposed alternatives often take the form of what is often called “global governance” (not effective democratic government, but merely international regulations called “governance”). Nearly all of these in effect deny our universal democratic unity in diversity and try to evolve a better world by compromising with the false paradigms of capitalist egoism and the war-system of absolute nation-state sovereignty.
The most fundamental point I want to make is that we can experience the values at our utopian horizon as a “call” from the ground of Being, a call from the divine foundations of the universe. The call is not to endless compromise with ignorance and evil but to realize our true human destiny to create a human world of peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability. Genuine realism dictates that we live according to a dynamic democratic framework in which these values can be truly realized (in the short time available before humans make themselves extinct). That framework is embodied in the Earth Constitution.
Philosopher-theologian Paul Tillich expresses our human situation with regard to values in a profound and compelling way:
For the demand calls for something that does not yet exist but should exist, should come to fulfillment. A being that experiences a demand is no longer bound to the origin. Human life involves more than mere development of what already is. Through the demand, humanity is directed to what ought to be. And what ought to be does not emerge with the unfolding of what is; if it did, it would be something that is, rather than something that ought to be. This means, however, that the demand that confronts humanity is an unconditional demand. The question “Wither?” is not contained in the question “Whence?” It is something unconditionally new that transcends what is new and what is old in the sphere of mere development…. For the human person is not only individual, a self, but also has knowledge about himself or herself, and thereby the possibility of transcending what is within the self and around the self. This is human freedom.…. The breaking of the myth of the origin by the unconditional demand is the root of liberal, democratic, and socialist thought in politics. (1987, 143-44) It is important to note that Tillich is not referencing passages from the Bible or other religious texts where a divine being makes specific demands. Rather, he is affirming that our human structure or human situation itself contains this call or demand. Each of us has a utopian horizon embedded within our futurity, within our imagination. Our habit is to dismiss this as mere fantasy.
But our cosmically gifted human situation includes this utopian horizon with its values of the true, the good, the beautiful, freedom, justice, etc. Because we can perpetually transcend what is in the self and around the self (see my book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence), we are bound neither by our internal psychology nor by historical circumstances. The human situation is not entirely constrained by any Newtonian causal determinism, but is open to radical transformation. We can now begin to take our utopian horizon, our human freedom, and capacity for self-transcendence seriously. We can live from that deeper, cosmic freedom.
In One World Renaissance, I called this demand “eschatological.” It is not about slow evolutionary change but about dramatic immediate transformation—awakening suddenly to our cosmic situation—our deeper human reality. The objective values calling to us from our utopian horizon help make this possible. The values that live on the utopian horizon of human consciousness are gifted to us by the cosmic intelligence at the heart of Being.
In the 18th century the great philosopher Immanuel Kant already pointed out that freedom was a transcendental force breaking, like bolts of noumenal lightning, into human affairs and interrupting the determined world of causal relations. But Kant still saw the phenomenal world as determined by Newtonian causality. We have come a long way since then. Tillich understands the call inherent in our situation as demanding something truly new be created by us. We are not bound by the “myth of the origin.”
We do not have to compromise with an oppressive, deterministic past. These insights also hint at the liberating meanings of the words, “democracy” or “socialism.” Both words connote radical equality, dignity, and human fulfillment. We are directly rooted in the Akashia dimension. A new world is waiting to emerge from within us and between us. We must allow our cosmic consciousness to blossom for this to appear. But once it appears, it will rightly be seen as commonsense realism, one that was right there in front of our faces all the time, but that we somehow failed to notice.
Human values, and the practical utopian demand for transformation, are inherent within our situation from the very beginning. Such values represent the unconditional demand of the cosmos that we ascend to higher levels of being and awareness. The demand is absolute, and it is always with us. We can make it concrete through the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
Works Cited Aurobindo, Sri (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Robert A. McDermott, ed. New York: Schocken Books.
Constitution for the Federation of Earth, online at www.earthconstitution.world. In print from Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010 and 2014.
Ellul, Jacques (1980). The Technological System. Joachim Neugroschel, trans. New York: Continuum Publishers.
Fingerette, Herbert (1972). Confucius—The Secular as Sacred. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
Fromm, Erich (1996). To Have or To Be? New York: Continuum Books.
Hartshorne, Charles (1983). Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Heidegger, Martin (1977). “The Question Concerning Technology,” in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings. David Ferrell Krell, ed. New York: Harper & Row.
Habermas, Jürgen (2003). The Future of Human Nature. William Rehg, et al., eds. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Laszlo, Ervin (2016). What is Reality? The New Map of Psychology and Consciousness. New York: Select Books.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). “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: aijhss.cgrd.org/index.php/54-contact/115-vol-7-no-1-february-2021
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Appomattox, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Maslow, Abraham (2014). Toward a Psychology of Being. Floyd, VA: Sublime Books.
Panikkar, Raimon (2013). The Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Stapp, Henry (1988). “Quantum Theory and the Physicist’s Conception of Nature,” in The World View of Contemporary Physics. Richard F. Kitchener, ed. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1955). The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Brothers.Tillich, Paul (1987). The Essential Tillich. F. Forrester Church, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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