The Cosmic Problem of the Nation-State

Glen T. Martin  

The nation-state is not just a political problem. It is one of the most fundamental human problems of our era. Sovereign nation-states constitute a system by which human beings have organized themselves that goes back, most scholars agree, at least to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  Why is this a problem, and a deeply human problem?   Because it has derailed and subverted the quest for understanding of our common human project. It has derailed and subverted reflection on who we really are and what is emerging through us on behalf of the evolutionary process. In this short article, I argue that the reflection on who and what we really are can be restored by ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The sovereign nation-state has colonized our identities as human beings. Most people around the world identify first and foremost with their sovereign nation-state. Governments often obsessively cultivate nationalism, patriotism, and “service to the nation.”  They identify disloyal people as “traitors.” These very identities also cause us to see people in other nations as potential rivals, as potential enemies. Foreign interactions become “relations between nations,” that is, falsely constructed ideological relations very different from the give and take of real human relationships. Real communication among human beings is derailed and distorted into propaganda, accusation, manipulation, and distrust. Today, nations even engage in “cyber-wars.”

Serious thinkers concerned with the environmental crisis have understood that addressing this crisis requires addressing who and what we are as human beings. In their book Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists, Nordhaus and Shallenberger correctly state that “the problem is so great that before answering What is to be done? we must first ask What kind of beings are we? and What can we become?” (2007, 8). Environmentalist leader Bill McKibben in his book Falter: Is the Human Game Beginning to Play Itself Out? (2019) affirms a similar idea. We must ask who and what we are, McKibben declares, in order to understand why we have not even begun to address the overwhelming threat of climate crisis.

In previous articles, I have often pointed out the fact that philosophers from the 17th century to the present have understood that the system of “sovereign” nations, recognizing no effective laws above themselves, constitutes an inherent “war system.” This was pointed out by Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza in the 17th century, John Locke and Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, G.W.F. Hegel in the 19th century and Emery Reves, Errol E. Harris, and Albert Einstein in the 20th century. In his book The Anatomy of Peace, Reves writes: “War takes place whenever and wherever non-integrated social units of equal sovereignty come into contact (1946, 121, emphasis in original). This is what they have all understood. When there is no enforceable law on behalf of a common good, it becomes “everybody for himself,” a condition of defacto war even when people are not actually fighting at the moment.

Innumerable thinkers going back to Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoic philosophers have reflected on our common humanity and on the fact that human beings appear to be a microcosm of the macrocosm—because the dimensions of the cosmos all appear integrated within us. Many, like Kant in the 18th century, emphasized our common human dignity, that every person “is an end in themselves” and can never be morally treated as a “mere means.” Rabindranath Tagore, the great 19th to 20th century Indian sage, also emphasized our common humanity and one human civilization spanning the globe.

On the other hand, the sovereign nation-state system has fragmented and derailed this awareness of our common identity. It has given us a false diversity. Our wonderful diversity of cultures, races, backgrounds, and histories is not the same as nation-state sovereignty, and it is not what we are and who we are.  True unity under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth will give us true affirmation of our wonderful diversity.

One of the most fundamental insights that we can have is that the universe has somehow “intentionally” produced us. A chorus of scientists have pointed out that the delicately balanced initial conditions in the Big Bang were such that self-aware creatures would eventually arise from this universe (cf. Harris 1991). Conditions just a hair different and human beings would never have evolved. Ervin Laszlo reaffirms this conclusion in his latest book The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field (2021, 11).

Physicist Henry Stapp points out that the human mind is directly anchored in the quantum dimension, the dimension beyond space and time that gives the entire universe its intrinsic unity and holographic quality in which the fundamental principle of everything (the All) is there in each individual element of the vast cosmos. He declares that this insight from contemporary physics constitutes for human beings “a seismic event of potentially momentous proportions” (2011,140). We are microcosms of the macrocosm. Kafatos and Nadeau point out something very similar in their book The Conscious Universe where they declare that all our values need to be rethought in the light of these discoveries (1990, 179).

In traditional language, human beings are body, mind, and spirit. Body (which like all matter is today understood as “in-formed energy”) is essential. We are not disembodied souls stuck in a body. Mind is also essential. And science has discovered that “mind” permeates the universe and that our minds are this universal mind become conscious of itself.  Many of the most advanced thinkers have said this, such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, and Errol E. Harris. Aurobindo writes: “The universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their assent…. [The Universe] creates in itself a self-conscious concentration of the All through which it can aspire” (1973, 49).

The “All” is embodied in us. The All “aspires” through us. Science has revealed that we are microcosms as the ancients declared. And this includes our third dimension of “spirit.” We are coming more and more to realize what the ancient mystics of all the world’s great religions declared all along: that there is something absolutely incomprehensible and unsayable about existence. This “unspeakable presence” of things can be termed “spirit” and associated (like body and mind) with the cosmos having become aware of itself in us. 

We are self-aware of our bodily existence, and our minds are self-aware, and we are also subtly aware of the depth of things in which body and mind are rooted, which is also the depth of the cosmos itself. In traditional language, a finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite, but we can experience the infinite depth of things on every side. The Infinite is truly everywhere and nowhere as Hegel also pointed out in the 19th century (cf. Lauer 1982). In the 15th century Nicholas of Cusa called this insight de docta ignorantia (learned ignorance).

Why is the nation-state more than just a political problem?  It derails us from our right and duty to actualize our potential as human beings.  It distracts us from the task implicit in our trinitarian existence: to actualize the fullness of existence and cosmic destiny implicit in our reality. We are cosmic creatures with immense capacity for love, compassion, kindness, justice, truth, and beauty. Yet we have made of our world this ugly thing of conflict, suspicion, untruth, and war. The sovereign nation-state is fundamental to this ugliness. It is inherently a war-system, inherently an environmental destruction system, and inherently a destroyer of our universal human unity and dignity.

People confuse the beauty of their culture, their history, and their identity with having a “sovereign nation-state.”  But this diversity will only continue to grow to perfection and beauty if it is decoupled from the war, suspicion, and violence system. The beauty of culture and history can only flourish if we are truly united, truly recognizing our oneness and our common destiny (which includes the marvel, beauty, and dignity of our diversity).

This is why ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is absolutely imperative. The threat of war and on-going environmental collapse are symptoms of a deeper pathology of a distorted and unhealthy set of institutions and identifications, fundamental among which is the dogma of the sovereign nation-state.  By uniting humanity under the common banner of human dignity and by abolishing false nation-state sovereignty in favor of the sovereignty of all humanity, the Earth Constitution frees us from the self-destructive fixation on national sovereignties. It frees us to affirm our authentic diversity within the framework of genuine political, economic, and civilizational unity. It frees us to continue our common human quest for self-realization in harmony with the ground of being (Tao, Brahmin, Buddha Nature, Allah, God).

The Constitution brings us to a new level, beyond the nearly four-century old fixation on national autonomy, independence, imperialism, and the right to make war. It frees us to reaffirm and reconsider the meaning of being human. It frees us to affirm our common human dignity as superseding smaller regional differences and disputes that can be handled by impartial courts and not by violence and war.

That is why ratification of the Earth Constitution carries with it such immense implications. It not only saves a human project threatened with its own self-extinction, but it makes possible the further growth and realization of our deeply cosmic destiny. The great task of becoming who and what we are meant to be can only be continued within the framework of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Works Cited

Aurobindo, Sri (1973). The Essential Aurobindo. Robert A. McDermott, ed. New York: Schocken Books.

Harris, Errol E. (1991). Cosmos and Anthropos: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. London: Humanities Press International.

Kafatos, Menas and Robert Nadeau (1990). The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Laszlo, Ervin (2021). The Immutable Laws of the Akashic Field. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Lauer, Quentin, S.J. (1982). Hegel’s Concept of God. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2010). The Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. The Constitution is on-line at

McKibben, Bill (2019). Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Henry Holt Publisher.

Nordhaus, Ted and Michael Shellenberger (2007). Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Reves, Emery (1946). The Anatomy of Peace.  New York: Harper & Brothers.

Stapp, Henry P. (2011). Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (2nd Ed.). Berlin: Springer Publishers.

First Day in Istanbul

16 December 2012

The shining Marmara sea,

Spread out below the hill side of the old city,

Crowned by Hagia Sophia and the holy city of Byzantium,

No longer sings of civilizations clashing, and mystery ships from many lands.

The dancing waters of the Golden Horn,

Now greasy from the oil of leaking cargo tankers and chugging fishing vessels,

Imaging the Blue Mosque and the old city of ancient history,

No longer tell of drowsy emperors reigning over vast domains.

Here in Istanbul where everyone speaks English,

Often learned by working for the US military,

And every corner has a rug salesman who is your good friend,

And where someone in front of every restaurant invites you personally inside:

Here in Istanbul, has the sacred past been lost,

Amidst the hawkers and the shopkeepers of the Petite Bourgeoisie?

Do memories of an enchanted age point forward through the roar of auto tires on brick alleys,

To a new enchantment of reason, vision, and sacred Sufi dances?

Or does the dismal present, of needing to make a Petite Bourgeois buck,

Leave Istanbul in an awful emptiness devoid of dreams?

Are we living in the hopelessness of endless commodification,

Where everything reduces to dollars and cents converted instantly at market value?

Here I walk the narrow streets of the old city,

At the sacred heart of civilization stretching into the dim centuries,

And my heart is full of mourning and of dread,

The depths of the sacred receding from my view.

Here in Istanbul the people are not waiting for Godot,

Feeling neither the absence, nor the presence, of Godot,

While thousands worship in the Blue Mosque opposite Hagia Sophia.

Their friendship, like their English, is there to sell you a rug,

For there is no rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem,

Only a helpful smile inviting you to dine within.

*    *    *    *    *

Morning Sun  

(14 November 2012)

The dazzling morning sun bursts over the distant mountains in a breathtaking instant,

 flooding the lake with boundless golden energy.  The lake stands ecstatic, like the divine.

My heart stirs within, my emotions flooded with beauty and glory.

Who dares to say this world lacks value?

Who dares not to love this world?

Who dares to substitute power for beauty?

I gaze at the glory of the earth flooded in golden sunlight,

And certainty fills my being

Bringing faith, hope, and fortitude.

Faith in the Infinite ground beyond personification,

Hope in the immense possibilities embedded within our lives,

Fortitude in the struggle, within and without, for recognition of this ecstatic ground:

I act not just for humanity, but for this unsayable ground of being, value and life.

*     *     *     *     *

The Third Eye

9 April 2021

The opening of the third eye—

Means seeing the unseeable—

Not the unseen,

For there is nothing to see with the third eye,

“Seeing into eternity” sings Meister Eckhart,

But eternity, like its twin sister infinity,

Cannot be seen.

We become aware of infinity,

When we discern the limits of finitude,

And open the mind and heart,

To the apophatic depths of Being.

To see, when there is nothing to be seen,

That is true seeing.


9 January 2021

“’Respect’—to consider worthy of high regard: to esteem or revere.”


The Being of the world flashes forth from nothing,

Astonishment that anything exists,

Astonishment that I exist,

This mode of being wherein lies respect,

But then—what, who, and why?  ‘Why does He spend the Earth

                and stars upon our being?’


What is this world that flashes forth in the overwhelming

                immediacy of sights, sounds, and smells?

What is this ‘I’ that sits at the heart of all my doings,

                and never says a word.

Without judgment, without error, without accusation?

                Can one respect or esteem this Silence?


Greater than all language, beyond all sound,

Where the free ‘wafting in the God’ obtains,

Where nothing fills the void as a fullness

                beyond all language, all meaning.

Does Absolute Mystery emerge within respect?


Flood of words overwhelms the silence of Being,

Entanglement in the jungle of language,

Among vines clutching at my thoughts, appearing real,

A net obliterates astonishment, desecrates Silence,

Submerges my respect in the ‘dingy world of everyday.’


Respect, a dictionary word embedded in the net,

Elicits beyond the word—RESPECT

Not an emotion, not a thought,

An attention emerging from the Silence,

An awake discernment of the Mystery.


Self and world arise together, beyond all words,

In ecstatic immediacy, exploding into Being,

At each instant—from nothing to nothing,

A nothingness revered,

‘A flight of the alone to the alone.’


The I in absolute uniqueness,

In unsayable immediacy of selfness,

Evokes the Thou, lives from the Thou

Utter aloneness and utter communion,

Does respect evoke this Thou?


The aloneness and the communion,

The Bread and the Wine consumed,

We live within the embrace of  Emptiness,

Evoked by respect to Absolute Fullness,

And utter redemption.


To respect the Silence,

To revere the Emptiness,

To esteem the gods of Unutterable Mystery,

‘Let this be my prayer, O Timothy,’

That this attention fill my life,

And guide my path to Nowhere.

* * * * * * *

Bird Song

(End of summer 2020)

The bird song returned to these forests,

New year, new summer, and the haunting sound

Of elusive vibration emerging from the depths,

Pointing to the depths

Of silence,

Of being,

Of love and hope.


Despair dispelled by the welling up of

That vibration, calling to me,

Speaking to me,

Of the welling up in me,

Of the depths

Of silence

Of being,

Of love and hope.


The energy of finitude,

My consciousness

Bespeaks Infinity,

This song that strikes an inner cord,

Simultaneously evokes,

The silence beyond finitude,

The depths behind vibration,

The One behind the many.


How that birdsong calls forth,

The depths that animate my being,

I know not,

Nor care not,

For the fullness of life,

And the power of that transformed

Future, arise not from knowing

How, but from being alive in the

Here and Now.


O birdsong!

O vibration in my being,

O the depths embracing both!

O this love and hope!

I feel one with the

Ocean of life,

But cannot say what this might mean.


O birdsong,

You have returned,

Ever to return again.

* * * * * *


Bird Song Gone

End of Summer 2019


Every year of my adult life, in the summer mountains by the lake, a song-bird echoes through the forest, thrilling in its simplicity and thusness.

*  *  *

Years of renewal and refreshed love – ardent in the forest dusk.

*  *  *

As Bugbee muses in The Inward Morning – there is no need to name the bird. Naming – a distraction from the penetrating, ecstatic ‘Thus’ of the call.

*  *  *

It is enough to hear that call, to be at home in the Unknown.

*  *  *

Every year, my song-bird connection to the depths of being –
             Reanimated, reaffirmed, renewed.

*  *  *

Every year thrilled – an unknown song from out of the stillness.

*  *  *

The call echoing through the tree tops, fleeting,
Sometime near, sometimes far, but always the thrill of thusness.

* * *


This year, after decades of expectation and renewal,
There was no call, no bird, no song – only the chatter of the chickadees —  here and there.

*  *  *

This year, my renewal took the form of loss,
The on-going death of nature. Listening not to song, but to silence.

*  *  *

Oh, what do we have to go on as nature dies? Does our soul, connected to nature in a thousand ways, die with it?

*  *  *

Oh, how can we renew our faith in the awakening? Where is hope? Where is “the adventure of our dim delight”?

*  *  *

Picard muses that the sound of the birds is simply “the tweeting of the silence.”
The silence – the emptiness must now give hope.

*  *  *

“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown”
Till the death of nature strikes us, and we drown.

*  *  *

Behind this death, the silence grows, encompassing all,
Its fullness sparks out – the birds tweet from the trees.

* * * * * *

Poem: Sailing from Byzantium

June 2019

    In honor of William Butler Yeats, who wrote:

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


                      Dearest Yates,


This indeed is no country for old men,

And you have also taught us that

‘Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,

Sheer anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The best lack all conviction,

while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

Today, these words ring true but cannot conquer,

The gigantic Puff, the Magic Dragon;

Who lives in depths of the seas of civilizations;

Perhaps the sacred rituals

On the quest for the Holy Grail


We see through the fog wrapped shoals and cliffs,

And those who are not Prince Hamlet,

Where others have sung:

 ‘this is the way the world ends; this is the way the world ends,’

Not with a bang but a whimper—’

But the old men see beyond the sensual music and the empty lives,

As you so rightly sing,

Binding humankind to a fate worse than death.

They see beyond the whimper of death,

They can see the future, the divine-human upsurge,

Of freedom in the cosmos. Beyond the endangerment of empty forms,

the collapse of civilization, and climate,

and blinding light of nuclear war.


This soul knows not what it is, indeed,

But it knows that 13.8 billion years

 have brought this tattered frame to consciousness.

And conscious burning desire for freedom,

For the emergence of astonishing responsibility,

Astounding moral principles, universal right and wrong,

And astonishment itself—that the world exists—

 severe, uncompromising, unsayable.


Like you, dear Yates, we build our ship of death,

Our little bark with all provisions,

Necessary for the journey,

But there is another role for old men and women,

Not a form to keep a drowsy Emperor awake,

Not a form to bind us to eternity,

Those Grecian goldsmiths had it wrong,


They did not dream the civilizational journey,

Gigantic Freedom,

A form to embrace all forms,

 bringing Freedom forth from the Earth,

from the mechanistic sod, from

iron-clad destiny, determinism, and destruction;

Shouting new ecstasies to the sky—

A form emerging from the unknown,

 and flying high into the unknown—

Yet we feel it link to eternity,

We know it binds us to humanity beyond the death of each.


We sing the immortal song of civilization,

With Tagore, with Goethe, with Rilke, with Whitman, with Shelley,

And the holy William Blake;

With Blake, who had to create his own mythology,

Lest he be enslaved by that of another.

We live in the light of the utopian horizon,

Without myth, no ideology, no dogma, no religion—

A creative now dynamically embracing past and future,

Pointing to glories greater than the stuff that dreams are made on;

We sing the glories of life— the mystery of freedom;

Story with no dénouement, perhaps just ‘broken myth,”

Without explanation, perhaps no “common sense” at all.

We sing of integrative mysticism, one and many, unity in diversity;

The gentle rain on the roof in the black of night.


The way up and the way down are one and the same,

But are they really, dear Heracitus? 

What is up is ahead, a fulfillment, an eschaton of ripe fruit,

Perhaps one summer of ‘fully ripened song’.

We dance the dance of Shiva,

riding skyward on the emanations of Plato,

We sing Kant’s ‘starry skies above and moral law within;’

We sing the song of life and death,

The song of painful suffering existence, and the ecstasy and joy,

As living conscious flesh in the magnificent here and now of life,


We sing of a present moment that ‘is rectified—

but never refuted,

 by the mere power of that which is.’

‘The once, and once only,’

Of human existence, of Daring Freedom,

Is our ‘high requiem’ beyond that ‘undiscovered country,’

To a new country,

emerging within the horizon of our ship,

Not sailing to Byzantium,

But sailing forth onto unknown seas,

Not a drowsy Emperor,

But living in the fullness of the exploding present moment,

With the light of a dancing utopian imagination,

 And the Time-enraptured Quest.

*     *     *     *     *     *

A Nameless Call

30 July 2013


In the place of peace and beauty,

Surrounded by deep woods,

Untouched and unowned,

There is a bird whose call,

Echoes through the forest boughs,

A bird whose call,

Brings me back to the sacred silence,

The deepest sense of wondrous existence,

In the startling moment,

In the ever-renewed moment of wonder and ecstasy.


I do not know the name of the bird,

Have never looked for it, these many years,

to identify its name, or the thrill of its song in my soul,

For I know that the name is irrelevant to that sacred sound,

Echoing in the deep forest and within my ever-awakening soul.

Giving a name to the source of this wondrous call to listen with attention,

might mundialized my utter astonishment,

At the sound arising from the sacred silence,

Bringing me back to reverence and to peace.         


What we have named and seen can lose its freshness,

And become another item in the endless litany,

Of things routine, familiar, and worn out.

Better to walk with openness and expectation,

In these deep, mysterious woods,

Ready to receive what cannot be named,

Ready to awaken once again,

In astonishment at the unsayable depths of things,

And again to move cleanly on my way,

In simplicity, reverence, and hope.

*     *     *     *     *     *


June 2012

 In the holy mountains of Macedonia,

I fell in love — once again,

                     with humanity,

        and the bright star of hope,

                     like Venus, rising in the evening sky.

For the life of humanity and the life of God,

                     are One,

       and God only exists,

                     as William Blake insists,

                               in existing beings and men.

And no being,

                     over eons of vibrant existence,

        has ever deviated,

                     as Zen Master Dogen says,

              under the green trees and eating home-made

              Macedonian bean soup,

                       from the true, pure path,

                              of holy enlightenment.

*      *      *      *      *      *