Planetary Maturity and Our Global Social Contract
Part One: Planetary Maturity
Glen T. Martin
On the surface of it -- in this early 21st century -- our planet seems to be descending into global war and planetary chaos. The so-called 'war on terror', the fragmentation of some 193 supposedly 'sovereign' nation-states, the egoism and greed of the tiny ruling class that controls 50% of the world's wealth and most of its power, the spread of weapons, wars, and violence around the globe -- all these phenomena give the impression of a divided world that cannot conceive of a viable, coherent, and peaceful future. Books such as Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving Into Liquid War by Pepe Escobar tend to underline this perception.
However, these surface phenomena may lead us to ignore the deep coherence and interconnections that continue to emerge worldwide pointing to a new planetary maturity. Everywhere people are recognizing the right, the necessity, and the beauty of people to be different -- to look different, to have different traditions, cultures, religions, and ways of life. Everywhere people are ever-more aware of those in other parts of the world -- their tragedies, their conflicts, their struggles for survival and a decent way of life. Everywhere the languages of human rights and democracy are being used, even by the rulers of apparently non-democratic nations. This article will argue that we need a global social contract under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth to solidify and actualize our planetary coherence and interconnections in such a way that it will both protect and respect our diversity, our freedom, and our future.
For more than a century, the central on-going discovery of all the major sciences has been the deep coherence and holism of our universe. Everything that exists is coherent and deeply integrated into its species and its environment, except for human beings. However, the immense problems of environmental destruction, poverty, and war that are devastating our planet cry out for a paradigm shift from fragmentation to holistic integration. That paradigm-shift would embody a global social contract through which human beings begin cooperating to build a decent future for our planet and all its creatures.
Ever since Einstein discovered the cosmic integration of the space-time-matter-energy continuum that we call our universe, science has been confirming and expanding this insight into the interrelated and interdependent field-structure of the universe and everything within it. This interconnectedness of all things has been famously discovered at the micro-cosmic quantum level as well. It exists at every level from the subatomic to the astronomical, encompassing the whole of the universe. Scientists in the late 20th and early 21st century have also discovered an astonishing inter-coherence in the biological world all the way from the genome level, through cells, organs, organisms, species, regional ecosystems, to the biosphere of our planet as a whole.
A similar coherence has been shown to be true of human consciousness, human perceptions, and the connections between human bodies. Controlled experiments with what used to be known as 'paranormal' communications have shown that prayer for sick people, even strangers, really does make a difference, that an amazing communication takes place between identical twins, or between people deeply in love, or even between strangers who have meditated together. The coherence and non-verbal communication for which traditional tribes and indigenous peoples are famous continues to exist in contemporary humanity, although suppressed in the modern world by a variety of fragmenting and interfering factors.
In addition, anthropologists, such as Donald E. Brown, have studied the impressive set of 'human universals' that all human beings manifest. And linguists, such as Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker have shown the universality of the capacity for language in all normal human beings. While at the same time, philosophers of language, such as Jürgen Habermas, have revealed the universality of the capacity for 'dialogue directed toward mutual understanding' that characterizes all users of language.
Similarly, in the realm of the world's great religions, we have scholars such as John Hick showing, through an examination of the scriptures themselves, the amazing coherence of the underlying ethical vision. It is a vision that emphasizes various versions of the Golden Rule as well as the encouragement of 'agape/karuna' (love and compassion) by all the great religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Hick, building on the work of Karl Jaspers and others, also described the process of the emergence of the common and universal structures of human consciousness simultaneously all over the world during the famous 'Axial Period' of human history from about the 8 th to the 2 nd century BCE.
Similarly, in the area of scholarship concerning ethics, the early 20th century age of positivism is significantly over in which thinkers assumed that ethical values were 'merely subjective' and/or 'merely conventional'. Influential and prominent thinkers such as Habermas, John Rawls, and John Finnis are positing universal ethical principles that operate within all persons of ethical maturity and good will. Human beings live within a universal 'field' of valuation. We are all evaluative beings, every day of our lives evaluating things as good or bad, as beneficial or harmful, as beautiful or not. Every human being is a 'pole' or 'node' of this process, an 'end' in his or herself with rights and dignity, at the same time that we are each a wave or fluctuation in the valuational field that is humanity.
This realm of ethical scholarship is complemented by the psychological/cognitive studies of human development -- the processes of human growth to higher ethical and cognitive levels. There is an amazing agreement among those who study this, from Abraham Maslow to Lawrence Kohlberg to Carol Gilligan to Habermas to Ken Wilber. There is a similar coherence of pattern found in the 'stages of faith' studied by James Fowler. For Gilligan, for example, the process of ethical growth moves from the Egocentric level to the Ethnocentric level to the 'World-centric' level to a highest 'Integrative level'. The lower Egocentric and Ethnocentric levels, characterized by self-centeredness and cultural partiality, are superseded, as we grow to maturity, by levels of universality, coherence, compassion, and integration with all persons everywhere.
As John Hick and Karl Jaspers had already pointed out, the development toward maturity in individual persons is paralleled by the development toward maturity of human consciousness and the human species in general. A similar understanding of this multi-faceted development has been advanced in several books by 'integral' scholar, Ken Wilber. Wilber divides these advances in our understanding of holistic development into four sectors that he calls the 'I', 'IT', 'WE', and 'ITS' quadrants of Integral Theory. The 'IT' quadrant involves the scientific development of the coherence and holism of everything in the physical universe from the micro to the macro levels.