Human Freedom is a Cosmic Context

Focusing Our Collective Responsibility

Glen T. Martin

March 2023

The issue of human freedom bears on the fate of humanity. The paradox of our human existential situation is that “freedom” has only been half recognized by modernity.  Contemporary man has recognized the apparently limitless freedom bequeathed to us by nature and the evolutionary process. This freedom, having broken its bonds with all traditional metaphysical schematas, both East and West, was perhaps first recognized in the 19th century by Nietzsche as “the advent of nihilism.”

There are no apparent limits (other than the blind laws of a mechanistic universe) on what human beings can do, or do to one another. We can trash the environment and destroy the very foundations of the biosphere that supports our lives. We can trash one another in concentration camps and gas chambers, and the cosmos remains silent—there is no external reproach.  We can develop nuclear weapons and put the entire world under the constant threat of total and suicidal holocaust, and there is nothing apparently in the nature of things that contradicts our criminal madness.

Nietzsche’s “advent of nihilism” is manifested today in the squalor of the “no-truth orientation.” Nietzsche had opined that we must become great as human beings even to be worthy of having “killed God” (Joyful Wisdom, aphorism 125). But perhaps instead we have become ants, cockroaches, tiny creatures with grubby work-free fingers itching to push the buttons of no-return because there is simply “no-truth” preventing us from doing so. We establish vast military machines with millions of mindless minions with glassy eyes ready to obey orders and wipe out some designated enemy or perhaps all of humanity—it makes little difference whom or how many we destroy because “there is no truth.” We have become the desecrators and destroyers of genuine freedom everywhere on Earth.

“Small people lie all the time,” we read in Mein Kampf, important people have the temerity to tell really big lies. From the big lies of the Nazis the world moved to the big lies of the Cold War—both sides “Cold,” both honing the process of lying to perfection in that propaganda world. Then came the collapse of Soviet mythology and the mythology of the West hailed its big lie as “the truth” having triumphed over evil. The big lie that triumphed: that the global “free market” was now free to digest the environment and winnow the rich from the poor (who are counted as naught in the sophisticated economic equations at the World Bank and IMF).

Then came the swarming little lies of the Democrat and Republican Parties (mirrored worldwide in the parties of the Empire’s minions), like killer bees gone mad. The Democrats opined to represent the people, and to support globalized “free trade,” while in reality they represented the rich and global exploitation. The Republicans opined to represent the people, and to support globalized “free trade,” while in reality they represented the rich and global exploitation. The mass media opined to represent truth, and to support globalized “free trade,” while in reality they represent the rich and global exploitation. What’s not to like?—in our dynamic post-truth world, lying is the foundation, the bedrock of politics, media, and everyday life.

Then came Donald Trump—the “post-truth” agenda made official. Institutionalized post-truth. The Nazis lied in the service of an ersatz hierarchy of race and culture, thereby destroying truth.  But their hierarchy collapsed into the “democratization” of the world. Lying must now be small, middling, pervasive, and endless. In the post-truth world, there need be no concern for planetary environmental collapse and the coming extinction of the human species. Relax! Be yourself! At last you are free to lie. See for yourself the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

In the post-truth world, impending nuclear holocaust slinks about the background of consciousness at the same level as McDonald’s and Walmart. Information now connects to media ratings. “We tell them what they want to hear.”  Democracy means little lies and petty lives, endless no-truths and leaderless non-entities. Joe Biden replaces Trump, and the fate of the world becomes a non-topic in the plethora of half-conscious, half-truths trailing behind the fate of the Second Amendment, the Global Empire, the war-system, and ‘Conspiracy’ Race Theory (CRT). Biden ships billions of dollars in weapons overseas in preparation for World War III.

The concept of “conspiracy-theory” cements the no-truth world within a theoretical “post-modern framework.” Note Bene: The CIA invented this concept during the Cold War to show the meaninglessness of the concept of “conspiracy;” a clever way of debunking critics of its endless conspiracies embedded within their endless deceptions and lies. Not a problem: MAGA (make American great again). Today, all lies are small and endlessly petty on purpose, for any noble aspiration to a bigger lie is now debunked as a “conspiracy-theory.”  (Skeptics take note: Progress is even possible within a post-truth world!)

‘Much more democratic!  No more elite big lies, let us remain on the level of disadvantaged— the commonest of the common: our brothers and sisters in remote rural regions, never known to read or write. Send the deplorables to Congress! The “Lying for Jesus” moment now in full swing. Our new schooling will protect them from conspiracy lies like slavery, dehumanization, or nuclear madness.’ The US Congress takes its seat in January 2023.

Such is the story of freedom at the level of ego, illustrated with just a hint of satire. Ego-level freedom means nihilism. It is also the both the source and consequence of capitalism, but that is another story for another time. The ego cannot handle freedom. Observe our adolescents awakening to freedom—hostile, impulsive, arbitrary, rebels without a cause.

Can nations handle freedom?  National egoists, cultural egoists, religious egoists, racial egoists, class-conscious egoists. In Thailand—to insult the King or the Buddha means jailtime. And in India? USA? Russia? China? To insult the imperium is traitorous!  MIGA (Make India great again), MRGA (Make Russia great again), MCGA (Make China great again). Nations run by egoists in the name of national egoism in a post-truth world. What’s not to like?

No wonder the world is cascading toward perdition. Freedom fails at the level of ego. Freedom fails also at the ethnocentric level.  Freedom must be worldcentric. Freedom is a species-concept. The US Declaration of Independence did not invent freedom. Freedom can only be species-wide. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth invented freedom, for all practical purposes, for freedom is only possible at the worldcentric level—and must be designed, like the Earth Constitution, on the principle of unity in diversity. Freedom comes to and for the whole. Global Democracy is the only possible locus for legitimate freedom.

Egoists and ethnocentrists beware! Freedom will destroy you. You cannot handle it. It is beyond your petty selves. Its consequences under your egoism are exactly this post-truth world. In a word: nihilism. Joe Biden and Valdimir Putin together initiate World War III, and threaten nuclear holocaust.

Freedom is planetary (at the very least); it is biospheric, and ultimately it is cosmic. If you have the unlikely fate of being a grown-up person within the USA or India, for example, your life may be very difficult. You will be surrounded by a post-truth environment within which whatever you say will be instantly converted into a conspiracy-theory. A plethora of citizen-egos within the national constitutional framework will provide a “no-truth interpretative matrix” to your every thought or pronouncement. Is India run by, of, and for its rich? Never! India is the “world’s largest democracy.”  Is the USA run by, of, and for its rich? Never, we Democrats are fighting to “restore democracy.”

Freedom is planetary, biospheric, and cosmic. But before we examine the meaning of this statement, let us look at what 20th century philosopher Hans Jonas concludes about the problem of freedom:

Since nothing is sanctioned by nature and therefore everything is permitted to us, we have full freedom for creative play that is guided by nothing but the whim of the playing impulse and makes no claim other than to master the rules of the game, that is, the claim of technical competence. This [is the] standpoint of nihilistic freedom, self-exempted from the need for justification…. [By contrast] some kind of authority must be asserted for the determination of models, and unless we subscribe to dualism and say that the cognitive subject is from above the world, this authority can only base itself on an essential sufficiency of our nature as it has evolved within this world. Now this innate sufficiency…is nothing other than the sufficiency (albeit fallible) for truth, valuation and freedom, [and] is a thing unique and stupendous to behold in the stream of becoming (The Imperative of Responsibility, 1984, p. 33).

Our universe exploded into existence in a titanic flaring forth some 13.7 billion years ago. It has evolved through distinct organizational stages the directional nature of which, cosmologists tell us, were necessary for the evolution of life on Earth. Supernova explosions in previous generations of stars distributed the heavy elements that were captured in the formation of the Earth and are necessary to the evolution of organic life such as our own. Only in the last few microseconds of this immense time span, has the universe blossomed into self-consciousness, that is, into freedom. Our self-awareness makes us able to circumvent the physical impulses within us and choose a different action than the one demanded by the impulse. We can make decisions, as Kant declared, “to do what is right regardless of our inclinations.” We can aspire to utopian and transformative goals.

On the egoistic level, self-awareness appears as “merely subjective” (because, like the adolescent, we have not yet grown beyond our tiny, self-encapsulated lives). Hence, we live in “nihilistic freedom” based on “the whim of the playing impulse” that makes no claim upon us other than technical competence. We are free to build nuclear weapons, and the only judgement on our behavior is our technical competence. We are free to accumulate wealth without limits, beyond all possible purposes and rationality, without any claim upon us other than technical competence.

But all things develop “in the stream of becoming,” and human beings grow not only biologically but psychologically. The adolescent, thank goodness, does not remain that way throughout life.  But adult egoism is another matter. In the vast majority it remains entrenched in nation-state egoism, religious egoism, racial egoism, or class egoism, within a context in which “everything is permitted.”  The lie triumphs once again.

The exploding universe of 13.7 billion years ago then required supernova stellar explosions to spread the complex elements necessary for life throughout the cosmos. It required some unique sets of conditions to form out of the deterministic matrix that included a planet properly distant from a star with the necessary and complicated mix of ingredients necessary to the evolution of life. Out of a nearly 4-billion-year process on this planet life has evolved.  The first primitive life embodied the same structural key as do our bodies: independence from the environing matrix while taking nourishment from and excreting wastes back into the matrix.

This independence progressed through ever more complex levels, with ever more sophisticated forms of consciousness within, until it finally produced a creature with a consciousness capable of being aware of itself and the entire evolutionary process. The Universe has become conscious of itself in us. The evolutionary process has taken an immense step in producing freedom, a freedom that is at the apex of the evolutionary process as Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Errol E. Harris, and many others have declared.

If we have grown out of egoism, as well as its ethnocentric forms, and begun to enter a world-centric consciousness, we now know that freedom is the most precious gift of the universe bestowed upon us as a species. We have the wisdom to learn from what is highest in the cosmic evolutionary process, not from what is lowest. As Jonas expresses this “we must let ourselves be instructed by what is highest and richest concerning everything beneath it” (p. 69). The immense gifts that the cosmos has realized through us: freedom, truth, beauty, justice. It is here that we must begin in evaluating our situation, not by trying to “explain” these astonishing cosmic gifts away by reducing them to deterministic physical and chemical properties.

My personal freedom is coextensive and contiguous with our common species freedom. The gift is to all of us as a species, a truth easily seen by those who have grown beyond egoistic smallness. Hence, freedom for each can only be realized within the context of freedom for all. We need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  It places freedom at the world-centric level which is precisely where it belongs. Attempts to build freedom within the egocentric nation-state level, will inevitably fail as part of a global war and exploitation system.

From the world-centric level of awareness to the cosmo-centric level is a short step, simply to realize that our freedom is connected (in deep mysterious ways) to the very essence and purpose of cosmic existence.  At this level freedom appears on what I have called our “utopian horizon.”  Our free capacity for judgment knows that war, crime, hate, fear, cruelty, poverty, classism, and destruction of nature should not exist. Our judgment similarly envisions a world of peace, lawfulness, love, security, flourishing, equality, and sustainability. These are the objective values arising from a mature human freedom.

These appear on our utopian horizon not as subjective fantasies (as they appear from the egoistic level) but as cosmic calls for realization and action. We would not know the value of truth if we were not aware of the reality of lies. We would not know the value of peace if it were not for our experience of war. We could not envision justice if we did not see injustice everywhere, and we would have no awareness of freedom if we had no experience of manipulation, dehumanization, and slavery. These objective values emerge from the very structure of our temporalized self-awareness.

The Earth Constitution is beautifully designed to embrace unity in diversity at all levels, to establish peace, universal human rights, and planetary sustainability. Here is where freedom becomes directional and meaningful. As Jonas declares: “this innate sufficiency…is nothing other than the sufficiency (albeit fallible) for truth, valuation and freedom…. It is a thing unique and stupendous to behold.” Truth, our capacity for valuation, and our freedom are sufficient guideposts to a transformed future if we institutionalize them in their proper setting at the planetary and civilizational levels.  Democratic world law actualizes our cosmic destiny.

Truth is restored at the civilizational level because truth arises from the heart of the Cosmos, just as do beauty, goodness, and freedom. These cosmic capacities characterize human civilization as a whole as well as each of us as individuals. This is much of what we mean by “human dignity” and “inviolable human rights.” Gifts “stupendous to behold.” Our extraordinary gifts are themselves the guideposts for mature human beings with worldcentric and cosmocentric consciousness. Freedom must be institutionalized under democratic world law. This is the cosmic gift to us.

Peace must be placed within a structured world peace system, and the same is true for human rights and sustainability. None of these can be realized at the fragmented levels of egoism: nation-state, religious, racial, or class-based fragmented ideologies.  It all can be realized from a truly world-centric perspective that knows the institutionalization of freedom to be the most immediate and compelling action for rational, awakened people. There is no such thing as a “free nation,” a ”superior race,” nor a “one true religion.” These conceptual products of egoism destroy planetary community and the deep truth of our cosmically gifted human situation.

Without democratic constitutionally structured world government, freedom becomes a curse—nihilistic freedom. With ratification of the Earth Constitution, our aspiration for planetary peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability become the objective foundation for truly transformative action. The idea of the world as a collection of “free sovereign nations” is an oxymoron—a complete contradiction.

Freedom can only belong to the whole. Let us act now to raise ourselves to the level of existence gifted to us from the very heart of the Cosmos. This gift of freedom, embodied concretely in the Earth Constitution, must necessarily be planetary and civilizational.