THE INSTITUTE FOR
PLANETARY POLITICS FOR THRIVING EARTH COMMUNITIES
Mandala by graphic artist Marianne Murphy
Diagram by Cyril Rothenberg
Hover cursor over mandala for diagram
WHAT IS POLITICAL COSMOLOGY?
In the Beginning...
Some fourteen billion years ago, the entire cosmos, what would become the great wheeling galaxies with their trillions of blazing suns, burst into being from a single point, in an unimaginably violent, unfathomably immense explosion of light and energy. Since that "Great Flaring Forth" the universe has been expanding, cooling, and growing in complexity…and consciousness. The delicate beauty of birds, flowers, forests, and oceans, the glories and tragedies of self-conscious humanity—all of this grows out of that single, infinitely mysterious, explosive beginning. The cosmos is not so much a place as it is a continually unfolding event. This has been called the limiting case of credulity. If you can believe it you can believe just about anything. Yet our best science tells us this is so. We are an inextricable part of a creative, evolving universe. This is the foundation of our new cosmology.
Political Cosmology as a Worldview
A political cosmology is a worldview, a 'reality map' developed from a story of origins, destiny and meaning. It answers the big questions of life--Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?--leading to the most critical question of all---how should we then live? Cosmologies are thus social and cultural constructions which guide us toward what is real, true and good. No society can endure without a cosmology no matter how inconsistent and unhinged from reality the worldview, no matter how unconscious the allegiance.
Why is Evolutionary Cosmology Political?
‘Political’ in this context goes beyond its common corrupted meaning to refer to the never-ending effort to align the highest good of each individual with that of society and the entire evolving Earth community. Politics in this sense is the most inclusive of all subjects. It requires a broad, deep and ever expanding understanding of what it means to be human on a living Earth. The fact that humanity grew from the living tissue of a universe over immensities of time is the most astounding discovery in the last four hundred years of modern science. But part of this new understanding is also ancient. The evolutionary revelation converges with what primal and indigenous societies always knew: that to be human is to be inextricably connected to the living Earth.
Evolutionary cosmology develops this insight, recognizing that being human means living as that part of nature which has become conscious of being conscious. This gives us a degree of freedom and with it the challenge of moral responsibility for our choices and our creations. Most critically this big picture illuminates how we are each, to some degree, responsible not only for our own lives but for the future evolution of life on Earth. After five thousand years of classical civilization, we have unwittingly become an evolutionary force. We are sleepwalking through an apocalypse of our own making.
The danger is compounded because our current form of industrial society is still largely trapped in the defunct 17th century cosmology of Classical Liberalism. This worldview which inspired all our dominant global institutions assumed that human beings are fundamentally separate from nature; that we are recent arrivals planted by God to do what we wish with the natural world. In the words of the philosopher John Locke, wilderness is "waste," without value or meaning until transformed by human labor into valuable commodities. According to this worldview government is required to be minimal as we leave it to the "invisible hand" of the free market to convert our private profit seeking into the good of the whole.
The massively enlarged understanding of evolutionary cosmology should change everything. But it has changed almost nothing. The goal of the Institute is educational and transformational---to help create a political culture and a society based on this new wisdom and its requirement that we each take some responsibility for the good of the whole.
Vision and Mission: Cosmology Construction as Social Transformation
Part of the great novelty of the evolutionary worldview is that it clarifies the dynamics of human self-reflective consciousness unfolding from wild nature. It identifies as part of this growth in self-awareness four fundamental reality-grounding, wisdom-seeking practices we call the truth quest. They are: 1) personal growth and self exploration; 2) the dialectic of face-to-face discussion; 3) democratic community building and 4) collectively constructing a meta-narrative, an open-ended story of the universe, an ever-enlarging worldview. Each requires the other three. Together they constitution a single dynamic whole represented by the four quarters of a mandala (see diagram).
When we survey the big history of human culture we find, perhaps not surprisingly, that these practices themselves also constitute the minimal method of cosmology construction. No previous cosmology has made the method of its own construction so transparent and so accessible. No previous cosmology has explicitly required that these practices become beating heart of the way of life of the community.
The Institute works for cultural transformation by promoting these truth-grounding practices in education, politics and private life. As we do so, we find the ongoing practices of the search for wisdom becomes the foundation of a way of life in which deep democracy, authentic community and the morally free individual all require one another. The quest promotes a political economy where the globalization of awareness is balanced by localization of essential functions; it supports communities sustainably rooted in place linked by a global-local culture where art and science, politics and spirituality converge.
A CIVILIZATION IN CRISIS
Today humanity faces an unprecedented, multifaceted global crisis because we are between worlds. Our old cosmology is failing and our evolutionary understanding of reality does not yet guide our politics. The old vision, rooted in 17th century thinking supports dominant institutions and a predatory way of life. The Earth is treated as little more than a space for human activity, a source of raw materials and a dump for our waste. Human beings are seen as primarily selfish, greedy, and aggressive. In the absence of a new vision, we are carried along by old fallacies and dysfunctional institutions which corrupt civic life and destroy the living biosphere on which everything depends.
The Human Family in Extremis
The entire human family finds itself in a super-heated pressure cooker as the absurdity of relentless economic growth on a finite planet drives ecocide on all the Earths continents and oceans. The climate crisis is fueling mega-fires, floods and droughts, accelerating the collapse of ecosystems, triggering social chaos, famine, and mass migration. Because the world is connected through instantaneous global telecommunications local suffering is amplified and experienced as inescapable. The world appears to be going mad.
The Nightmare of Delusional Politics
As the turmoil becomes unbearable ruling institutions lose authority. Dictators and demagogues fill the vacuum with simple, invented stories of good and evil. Cults, conspiracy theories and mass delusions infect politics. Scapegoats are targeted and the most vital issues are neglected. The crisis is compounded by the fact that we can no longer agree on what our crisis is. We are caught up in a meta-crisis of consciousness, culture and values. Solutions based on the old cosmology simply make things worse. Effective action is blocked by partisan politics, leaving us paralyzed as we confront the abomination of human choices driving the sixth great mass extinction of life on Earth.
The Institute includes the work of University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu professor
Dr. Louis Herman.
Click on the book cover to learn more.
The Institute consulted on the Oscar-winning Netflix film
My Octopus Teacher.
Click here to watch
Dr. Louis Herman discuss aspects of the film during the making of the documentary.
A NEW POLITICAL COSMOLOGY
Crisis = Danger + Opportunity: A New Story
Alongside the specter of collapse we find an extraordinarily inspiring development. A new, ever-more inclusive evolutionary cosmology is emerging which dwarfs in scale and self-awareness all previous worldviews. It integrates Indigenous and traditional insights with recent revolutionary advances in history, science, and our understanding of consciousness. It shows us the entire drama of humanity growing from an incomprehensibly old, evolving universe. We now know human consciousness emerged gradually within African wilderness ecosystems of extraordinary complexity and beauty. Here we discovered the mystery of self-reflection: that we could become conscious of being conscious, and in so doing create a realm of freedom, choice and creativity.
The Paradox of Consciousness-Reality-Culture
The phenomenon of consciousness has fascinated and confused us from the beginning of culture, giving birth to the great question of questions: How should we live? Answers generated the tangled wisdom teachings of religion, philosophy, ethics and politics. Today the epic story of evolution helps untie the tangles by revealing the practices of the truth quest as primordial ways of grounding ourselves in a paradoxical reality. These practices seem to be defining aspects of what it means to be human: self exploration, face-to-face discussion; democratic community building and collectively constructing an open-ended big picture, a worldview. As the new cosmic story comes into focus it suggests that the way forward is to fully recognize our nature as wisdom seekers; to cultivate the primal practices of the truth quest and in so doing create a flourishing civilization in synergy with the living Earth.
At the Heart of the New Cosmology We Find the Truth Quest
This new cosmology is being shaped by activists, scientists, artists, and thinkers in all areas of human activity. It is still on the margins of our public and political life. But the bigger vision reveals deep connections between many of the most creative environmental, social, cultural and spiritual movements for change and so accelerates their collaboration. In addition, and for the first time, the new story of humanity gives us a clarified understanding of its own truth grounding in the truth or wisdom quest. Conversely the practice of the quest truth-grounds the new story. We find The search itself embodies a locally rooted planetary politics. Its democratic and cooperative nature invites all to participate in the ongoing creation of a new cosmology.By following the practices of the quest we can rapidly advance self-awareness and help mobilize a critical mass of humanity in an ultimate heroic adventure—saving the biosphere and with it human society.
Our mission is to contribute to a dramatically more encompassing worldview by promoting the practices of wisdom-seeking—the search for the best way to live. This new big picture helps uncover the roots of the current social turmoil in deep pathologies of civilization. It also reveals that many of the most creative and life-affirming projects of community groups, businesses, NGO's and governments, emerge from the practices of the truth quest. Uncovering this depth dimension helps transform collaboration into planet wide movement for a thriving Earth communities. We see this striving for understanding as a singularly defining aspect of what it means to be human. Accordingly, we present the truth quest as both a method of cosmology building and the core practice of a fully human politics in synergy with a flourishing Earth community.
We see humanity poised on the edge of a planetary transformation of evolutionary dimensions: either a spiraling down into global devastation or an opportunity for an unprecedented awakening. The institute promotes rapid, peaceful transformation of consciousness and culture toward a life-loving political cosmology based on a continual practice of wisdom seeking—the quest for truth.