Eight Selections from

Philosophical Writings

in Relation to Philosophical Spirituality

 

1.    Groundlessness and Silence

2.    Education for Creativity

3.    A Buddhist Response to Institutional Violence

4.   The Principle of Unity and Diversity

5.   Sunyata and the New Millennium

6.   Wittgenstein's Philosophical Spirituality

7.   The Ego of Domination Versus the Self of Liberation

8.   The Legacy of Marx and Critical Social Theory

9.   Religious Scholarship, Spirituality, and Planetary Maturity

10.  Spiritual Universality, Democracy, and the Earth Constitution

 

1.    Groundlessness and Silence

(Closing paragraphs from Glen T. Martin, From Nietzsche to Wittgenstein, Peter Lang Publishers, 1989, pp. 375-376)

            As long as language continues to generate in us the illusion of an "in-itself" to the world, and the corresponding illusion of an ego in-itself, independent of its experience, we will remain mired in nihilism, skepticism, and mutually destructive conflict.  But if we see that the functioning of language is entirely comprehensible in terms of its uses within the context of human activities, and has meaning prior to any question of referral or non-referral, then the unspeakable presence and unity of things, the absolute mystery, may become present even through language.  Our language games, our present concerns and ways of speaking, may at this point spontaneously change.   The silence between the sounds, the space between the period and the first word of the new sentence, will be included within language and become part of one unitary movement and one transparent world manifest through language.   Then self, world, and language - inseparable from one another and interpenetrating in irreducible mystery - will be transformed.

            At this level no explanations are possible, nor desired anymore.  Nihilism, with its metaphysical doubting, can find no foothold here.  Its sense of "nothingness" and despair, arising through entanglement within the net of language, has been radicalized to the existentially realized "emptiness" of sunyata.  Through a deepened awareness of the nature and functioning of language, we come upon an inexpressible silence at its heart.   We break through to a new immediacy where the phenomena reside in pristine integrity.  We are no longer lonely egos apart from our world, resentful and frustrated by its seemingly obdurate features and longing for an illusory ground behind its spontaneity and immediacy.   Our being-in-the-world is transformed through the emptiness, and the sufficiency, of the non-conceptual present.

 

2.    Education for Creativity

(From Glen T. Martin, Wittgenstein, Language, and Education for Creativity," in Teaching Philosophy, March 1996, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 45.)

                  Perhaps it is the secret hope of students and teachers alike that education and learning will eventually change the world we live in for the better, rather than effect the perpetuation of that human mediocrity which sustains through its own inertia our human condition of mindless privilege, corrupt power, and world wide suffering.... And ultimately, if our lives are indeed changed by our learning, then perhaps the most fundamental of all changes is learning to learn itself: coming to "see" the world we live in and the activities we pursue with fresh eyes – and ever again with renewed freshness of vision. If an education for creativity can point us toward such a creative engagement with life itself, then our mode of living in the world will be what Heidegger calls a "poetic" one, and the possibility of something entirely new may emerge: the as-yet-unheard of and as-yet-unspoken may one day become present to us.

 

3.    A Buddhist Response to Institutional Violence

(From Glen T. Martin, "A Buddhist to Institutional Violence" in Institutional Violence, Deane Curtin and Robert Litke, eds., Rodopi Press, 1999, p. 377.)

                   The "eschatological" possibilities for a society of transformed human beings intimated by critical theorists find their experiential realization in philosophical Buddhism which has for 2,600 years focused on the practical possibilities for transcendence of our limited sense of self.  By contrast, the critical tradition has sought a transformation of our institutions.  For the early Marx, this involved a "universal class" which represented our "species being" and truly human, rather than particularized, interests.  For Buddhism, this universality is not found in any particular socially conditioned class but within each of us through transcendence of the ego in the encounter with the unmediated fullness of the present moment.  But Marx was surely correct in realizing that human beings will only be fundamentally changed through abolition of the institutional violence of repression expressed in all forms of class domination.  The Buddhist realization that the problem of oppression is found within ourselves does not alter the fact that neither the personal nor the structural can be omitted.   Critical analysis and ultimately transformation of the structures of domination are necessary to create institutions that promote human transcendence and mutual identification.  These in turn will produce individuals who directly realize, through both universality and compassion, the seeds of a truly liberated society.

                 To paraphrase the well-known Kantian maxim: compassion without critical theory is blind; critical theory without compassion is empty.  Compassion without critical theory is blind because persons experiencing the suffering of others as their own may still spend their life-energy treating the symptoms of human suffering and violence, not their institutional and structural roots.  Yet critical theory without compassion is empty.  The theoretical unveiling of the ideological self-justifications of society, revealing its structures of exploitation and violence, requires a direct identification with the suffering of the oppressed if it is to be fully human and effective.... Critical theory gives compassion the intellectual tools to identify the real roots of social violence and domination and hence the ability to take effective action.  Compassion gives critical theory the living ability to treat all human beings as free subjectivities with individual dignity rather than simply as abstract categories of a social philosophy.   Yet both compassion and critical theory must be rooted in a transformed self which has broken through the suffocating dualistic structures of the self-encapsulated ego.

 

4.  The Principle of Unity and Diversity and the Thought of Marx

(From Glen T. Martin, "Unity in Diversity as the Foundation of World Peace," in Community, Diversity, and Difference: Implications for Peace, Alison Bailey and Paula J. Smithka, eds., Amersterdam: Rodopi Press, 2002, p. 316.)

       A central value that transcends culture and hence serves as a criterion for judging the claims of all cultures (both multiculturalism and cultural imperialism) can be expressed as the value of the human being as an end-in-itself within a community.  This must be understood not as an anthropocentric affirmation (affirming humankind as a collective ego), but as an expression of the awareness of the unity of humankind, which arises when the coextensive nature of particularity and unity is realized.

       I believe this is a value that arises out of both the Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, which serves as an evaluative criterion for all particular circumstances -- social, political, and cultural.   The notion of a human being as an end-in-itself is not new in philosophical history.  What is new is the understanding the immanence of this value within the particular, giving rise in modern times, not to a religious affirmation of an eternal, otherworldly embodiment of the value, but rather to an historicized, concrete embodiment of this value within the particular, temporally located, cultures and individuals inhabiting planet Earth.  

       To be a human being is to be concrete and particularized through a unique culture; but to be a human being is also to be the "same" as all other persons in the sense of being a uniquely valuable end-in-itself.   The value of persons as ends-in-themselves arises from direct, prelinguistic awareness of the inseparability of unity and diversity discussed above.   On the one hand, we have a criterion, which can delineate what is valuable and what is oppressive within particular cultures, and on the other hand, we can affirm the diversity and particularity necessary to preserve the rich variety of cultural forms that have evolved in the world....

         For Marx, the ethical dimension exists on the side of universal human rights of citizenship; but at present, this exists only abstractly as political rights over and against a civil society within which human life is really lived by concrete people.  Under capitalism, this civil society is not the sphere of the moral universal but of atomistic, self-interested individuals, a small class of whom use illegitimate ownership of the social wealth produced by all to exploit and dehumanize the rest of society for their own enrichment.  The solution is the abolition of the class nature of society and of abstract rights in favor of a classless society in which the general interest (the equality of needs and rights of all) is now also the particular interest.  The result is the concrete realization of fulfilled human lives for all individuals in their uniqueness.  For the first time, human beings become, for society, ends-in-themselves.  The productive and social goods of society as a whole are now used for the benefit of each particular member of society equally precisely because of the dialectical synthesis of the universal and the particular.

 

5.  Sunyata and the New Millennium

(From Glen T. Martin, "Deconstruction and Breakthrough in Nietzsche and Nagarjuna,"  in Nietzsche and Asian Thought, Graham Parkes, ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 109.)

        Nietzsche's articulation of the phenomenon of nihilism makes us realize that the world has moved historically to a point where the realization of "emptiness" is no longer simply the privilege of the exceptional human beings whose insight into our condition of perpetual suffering and bondage leads him or her onto the Buddhist path.   And sunyata is no longer a term belonging solely to a particular religious tradition but has become a fundamental part of twentieth century spiritual reflection.  Nihilism not only blocks the way of any return to traditionally conceived religions or to a secularized anthropocentric existence, it also opens up unheard of creative possibilities which may be beyond anything the human intellect can conceive.   Perhaps history itself dictates, at its current juncture and with its current crisis of meaning, that we move beyond the relativity of concepts and ideas to the non-dual standpoint of sunyata.

 

6.   Wittgenstein's Philosophical Spirituality

(From Glen T. Martin, "The Religious Nature of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy,"  Philosophy Today, Fall, 1988, p. 218.)

        Within this context perhaps Wittgenstein's later philosophy loses some of its seeming incomprehensibility: his great passion as a knower results in a philosophy strangely apart from the ontological, theoretical, and scientific concerns of the Western tradition.  For example, his philosophical orientation can be characterized in the following negative ways.  He is not at all concerned with explanation, nor is he concerned with scientific or technical progress, nor with theories of any sort, nor, as we have seen, with metaphysics.

         This lack of concern with these approaches to life is not incidental to Wittgenstein's philosophizing; it is part and parcel with its soteriological direction.  One might express this by saying that one fundamental aspect of Wittgenstein's philosophical drive would seem to be an effort to effect the completion of Kant's "Copernican Revolution" in philosophy by dropping the last vestige of metaphysics, the thing-in-itself, and thus bringing human beings fully into the presence of the world - a world now understood not as secularized or positivistic (a mechanism ostensibly grounded in its own solidity) but as a world suspended in, and shot through with (to speak for a moment metaphysically) what can only be put negatively: groundlessness, a world ultimately neither grounded, nor groundless, but confronted, so to speak, by its own nothingness.

         Like Kant, whose own Copernican Revolution was effected, in part, for soteriological reasons - to make room for faith - Wittgenstein radically repudiates all metaphysical and explanatory orientations not only as "nonsensical," but as missing the fundamental "ethical" point of human life.  The point of life is not knowledge or science:  "Man has to awaken to wonder," he says, "Science is a way of sending him to sleep again."   He calls the symbolism of Christianity, for example, "wonderful beyond words," and then continues: "but when people try to make a philosophical system out of it, I find it disgusting"....

         For Wittgenstein, freeing people from the illusion that the scientific, theoretical, or metaphysical orientations could somehow explain things, or ground things, would perhaps foster a revolution in the way people spoke and thought about the world.  It would allow them to live in the face of the mysterium magnum of existence, in the face so to speak, of the Hebraic awareness of the world as ex nihilo.  And through this they might lose their fascination with explaining, with grounding, with the supposed self-sufficiency of the world and their lives, and begin to live in an entirely new religious spirit.

 

7.  The Ego of Domination Versus the Self of Liberation

(From Glen T. Martin, "Eschatological Ethics and Positive Peace: Western Contributions to the Critique of the Self-centered Ego and Its Social Manifestations,"  in Philosophical Perspectives on Power and Domination, Laura Duhan Kaplan and Laurence F. Bove, eds., Rodopi Press, 1997, pp. 79-92.)

             As human beings, we have reached the point in our history where we can either transform ourselves in the direction of the full potential of our humanity or vanish.  The ecological devastation of the planet currently underway is most basically a technological extension of the devastation we have historically practiced on one another through war and conquest, economic exploitation and class societies, the oppression of women, racism, religious persecution and even genocide.  The ground of this devastation of ourselves, other human beings, and nature, is the drive for power and domination over and against an "other."  This drive is intrinsic to the internal dynamics of the atomistic, culturally self-encapsulated ego which, since it is not relational, assumes a metaphysical priority for its own needs and interests over and against all others.   The social consequences involve a tendency to seek power for ourselves through defining ourselves in contrast to an other, the core of which is our ability to objectify the other, to turn the other into a thing to be used, exploited, or controlled in the service of what we take to be our own interests.   Power, therefore, becomes the enhancement of this false self, its desires and possessions, through the domination of nature, people, animals, or goods....

            In contrast to the ego of domination, by the "self of liberation" I mean our intuitive sense that human beings are "unfinished" animals, beings on the way into a future with tremendous potential for becoming ever more fully human in a perpetual transformation toward ever deeper realization in our lives of fullness, intensity, sensitivity, and compassion.  This would mean living and feeling in terms of one's relations without duress, violence, coercion, or exploitation.  This transformation will necessarily take us beyond our previous limitations of thought and feeling in which we define ourselves in terms of possessions, nation, race, language, culture or individualized ego to a new opennesss and relatedness that will form the basis for what Jacobson calls our "future planetary civilization."  

 

8.  The Legacy of Marx and Critical Social Theory

(From Glen T. Martin, "Freedom, Ethics, and Compassion," in Freedom, Santi Nath Chattopadhyaya, ed., Calcutta: Naya Prokash, 1998, pp. 192-193.)

           The legacy of Marx and other critical thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be understood as a deepening of the philosophy of equal individual rights and liberties into a philosophy of democratic socialism in which every human being is conceived to have a dignity simply through being part of the human community of mutual interrelatedness, collectively working to assure him or her adequate food, shelter, and sufficient goods for the freedom to participate in the human historical project.   In some twentieth century public documents, civil rights and liberties as itemized in the constitutions of bourgeois democracies are supplemented with socioeconomic rights and liberties, for example, in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights or in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

           Such documents point toward a future in which liberty for all will mean an economic system in which the wealth produced through our collective efforts is not siphoned off for the enrichment of a private few.  The wealth of the precious earth belongs to all citizens of the earth.  In addition, the system of production for private profit today disenfranchises a good portion of the human population from participating in any form of productive labor, since the system is not organized to give all people the opportunity to work but is concerned only to employ sufficient numbers to ensure the maximization of private profit.

           Neither does it matter to this system if profit is generated through the production of hideous weapons, the destruction of the global environment, or human degradation and exploitation in the Third World.  Liberty for all is possible only under a democratic socialism where the principle of production, employment, and distribution is sarvodaya, the well-being of all, or the common good and the protection of individuals within the framework of the common good.

 

9.   Religious Scholarship, Spirituality, and Planetary Maturity

(Sermon presented to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Blacksburg, 4 December 2005)


The truly religious person is not concerned with reform, he is not concerned with merely producing a change in the social order; on the contrary he is seeking what is true, and that very search has a transforming effect on society...To find out what is truth there must be great love and a deep awareness of man's relationship to all things.... The search for truth is true religion, and the man who is seeking truth is the only religious man. Such a man, because of his love, is outside of society, and his action upon society is therefore entirely different from that of the man who is in society and concerned with its reformation. The reformer can never create a new culture. What is necessary is the search of the truly religious man, for this very search brings about its own culture and it is our only hope. You see, the search for truth gives an explosive creativeness to the mind, which is true revolution, because in this search the mind is uncontaminated by the edicts and sanctions of society. Being free of all that, the religious man is able to find out what is true; and it is the discovery of what is true from moment to moment that creates a new culture.
                                                 (Jiddu Krishnamurti, Think on These Things, 1989, pp. 240-241)



     At the dawn of the 21st century, it appears that our human situation is very bleak, and that thoughtful and sensitive human beings can easily be led into an abyss of despair and hopelessness. War and militarism flourish worldwide; two-thirds of the world's population live in the misery of poverty, suffering, and disease; the global population continues to explode; and our planetary ecosystem that sustains the lives of all of us is disintegrating and showing signs of possible collapse. Meanwhile the fragmented and cruel institutions of monopoly capitalism and the sovereign nation-state continue to rage destructively everywhere on the planet.

     On the other hand, the 20th century was a century of breakthroughs and paradigm-shifts that have provided entirely new possibilities for human existence on Earth. Quantum physics and Einsteinian relativity physics have demonstrated the fundamental unity of the entire universe from its microscopic to its macroscopic dimensions. The science of ecology has demonstrated the fundamental unity of our planetary ecosystem and the inseparability of human activities from the proper functioning of that ecosystem. Sociology, anthropology, and psychology have shown the sameness of all human beings.

     Similarly, religious scholarship has shown the universality and fundamental unity of the religious dimension for all human beings. This understanding has been assimilated by Unitarian-Universalists, and by other universalistic religious orientations such as the Bahai faith, Zen-Buddhism, and the Oomoto religion of Japan. During my college years at the University of Buffalo, I attended the Unitarian-Universalist Church on Elmwood Avenue whose pastor was the Reverend Paul Carnes, latter President of the Unitarian-Universalist Association. The sermons of Paul Carnes were one of my great weekly intellectual adventures. He was a powerful, deep thinker who appropriated the wealth of our modern intellectual and scholarly traditions in the service of a new religious maturity.


     All these breakthroughs and paradigm-shifts of the 20th century, from relativity physics to ecology to religious scholarship, lay the foundations for a new human maturity that I call "planetary maturity." The touchstone of planetary maturity is "unity-in-diversity." We are one humanity on this planet; we are part of a single, fragile ecosystem, a single planetary social system, a single globalized economy, and a single instantaneous, planetary communications system. We are also one in our ability to draw on the deepest sources of religious inspiration. We can respect and protect the diversity of persons, cultures, nations, and religions on Earth only if we simultaneously embrace our oneness. Unity-in-diversity necessarily go together from the macro-physical structure of the universe down to its sub-atomic level. It is this paradigm that we have not yet realized as human beings and that signals our present state of immaturity and fragmentation.

     The beginning of the end for traditional, naive embodiments of religion was the famous "Copernican Revolution" of 16th century Europe. When Copernicus and his followers Galileo and Kepler showed that the Earth was not the center of the universe as the Christian Church had assumed, the process of having to evaluate religion in the light of science, intellectual integrity, and the quest for truth had begun in earnest. Copernicus showed that the Earth was at the periphery of the known universe, rotating in an orbit and spinning on its axis in ways that called into question the anthropocentric nature of the religious orthodoxy of the time.

     The development of methods of scientific scholarship in the late 19th century continued the Copernican Revolution in religion. These methodologies investigated the Christian scriptures and soon were applied to all the world's scriptures. Scholarly mastery of the world's languages soon gave investigators high quality translations of all the world's scriptures and the comparative study of religion was developed. A new scholarly awareness of the historical character of all cultural expressions was applied to the great religious scriptures of the world. They were now understood properly as products of their period, with cultural and cosmological assumptions common to their period, and as written by authors who were, indeed, very human. It was realized that there are no timeless, ahistorical revelations of truth that come to humanity from beyond the world.

     This is not a counsel of despair but a great truth that makes possible a new religious maturity in which we can now be open to the very depths of the universe. We can make responsiveness to these depths a transforming force in our own lives and in human civilization. The Copernican Revolution in religion shows us the possibility of "unheard of" social and personal transformation and points up the ground for a truly revolutionary unity of the human race. It creates the possibility of moving to a global spirituality that may well transform our conception of what it means to be human, our relationship with one another, and our relationship with the precious Earth and the astonishing universe of which we are an integral part.

     But personal transformation very much implies transformation of the institutions that destroy and inhibit a world of justice, peace, and prosperity. I have been personally blessed with the opportunity to travel to several different areas of our world and to encounter the common humanity of people very different from myself. In my work as Secretary-General of the World Constitution and Parliament Association, for example, I have been repeatedly in southeast Asia, West Africa, and Central America. In every one of these places, I have taken it upon myself to visit the poor where they live in the slums, ghettos, and hell-holes of the world. For me this has been a transformative religious experience.

     My first encounter with the poverty in which two-thirds of our fellow human beings live was through a social project that we had in Nicaragua from 1987 to 2002 called the "New River Bocay Project." The project worked with the poorest of the poor in north-central Nicaragua. On one of my trips on behalf of the project, in 1996, I wrote the following entry into my personal journal.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Nicaragua, Journal Entry 16 May1996

    
The level of poverty that we have seen here defies the imagination and leaves one sick inside. We visited a woman in San Jose de Bocay two days ago with nine children, no husband, and no shoes on her feet. She works a small plot back in the rugged hills and lives in a dirt floor open air shack on the back side of town. A tiny, illiterate, hard working human being who lives from day to day, from hand to mouth, who owns nothing, not even an aspirin to lessen the pain of her daily struggle to survive.

     Today we traveled into the countryside to meet Mercedes' mother. Mercedes is one of the many young people in this area befriended and helped by Gary, who lives in Nicaragua and is serving as our guide. Today happens to be Mercedes' birthday. She was so excited that Gary and his friends (we) were going with her to visit her mother that two days ago she walked the two hours walk out into the country to tell her mother we were coming.

     The poor do not have birthdays here. There are no records and no one remembers or notices them. The only reason Mercedes has one is that several years ago, when she was a young girl about 12, Gary asked her to pick a day and remember it every year. She is now 18 and is proud to be a person who has a real birthday. Her pride at having a real birthday, I imagine, may be because it is a clue to her that, despite all evidence to the contrary, she has dignity as a human being.

     Mercedes' mother lives in a dirt floor shack about one half mile from the nearest dirt road and about two hours walk from Bocay. There is nothing in the house: one stool and two make shift benches. An adobe oven, mere openings for doors, ramshackle boards and ragged plastic sheeting for walls. Electricity, or any kind of appliances, are undreamed of here. Her only kitchen tool is an old machete. There are a few odd cups and dishes. No food, no cupboards, no sink, not even an outhouse - nothing. Excretion is done out in the bushes beyond the perimeters of the clearing. Toilet paper is leaves from these same bushes.

     They carry water in plastic buckets 300 yards from a stream in a nearby gully. The food they prepared for us and the Kool Aid they served us were all from what we had brought as gifts. No other food was visible anywhere. There were a couple of pigs and a few chickens running freely around the house. All the other shacks dotting this area are basically the same. This is the way most people in the countryside live in Nicaragua.

     Such poverty, found everywhere we have stayed in Nicaragua - in Jinotepe in the south, Managua, the Capitol, the town of Bocay, and now in the countryside - is a crime against humanity. It cries out for democratic socialism and is a blight on the existence of all the rich. By "rich" I do not mean only the big corporations raping the natural resources of Nicaragua and exploiting their poverty for cheap labor. They are only the obvious ones. Rather, I mean 60% of the people in the first world, by "rich" I mean you and I, ordinary middle class people whose self-satisfied ignorance of their misery is an integral part of our crimes against humanity.

     The very existence of such human misery as is found in the so called "third" and "fourth" worlds is a moral blight on our existence. Anyone who supports monopoly capitalism with its ideology of so-called "free enterprise" is wittingly or unwittingly complicit in the slow torture and death of these hundreds of millions of people who have nothing and are valued at nothing by the capitalist system.

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     I want to suggest to you that the new religious maturity is also part of an emerging transformation that is going on as we speak today that I am calling "planetary maturity." We are becoming one as human beings, and because our religious lives are inseparable from the quest for truth, being religious simultaneously means examining the ideologies and institutions that block and destroy our common humanity, the common truth that every one of us on this planet is an immaculate and precious child of God.

     There are many spokespersons for this new religious maturity from Indian sage Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom I quoted earlier, to Protestant Theologian Paul Tillich, to Catholic theologian Raimundo Panikkar, to secular humanist Eric Fromm, to scholar of religion, James Fowler. But the new religious maturity also is, and should be, a planetary maturity. This means that we as individuals and as citizens of the world are in a position to appropriate the transformative openness of the new relationship to God made possible by religious scholarship. Raimundo Panikkar writes that "We could describe faith as existential openness toward transcendence" (MD, p. 118). This is an openness available any time and any place, whether or not a person identifies with a traditional religion. By removing the false cosmologies, parochial, and ‘idolatrous' elements of traditional religions, religious scholarship has made possible this new openness to the very foundations of the universe.

     A person so open is receptive to the deepest sources of planetary maturity. He or she becomes a transformative force with regard to the social institutions and practices that block, inhibit, or destroy our potential fulfillment as human beings on the Earth. The two central institutions that destroy our potential for planetary maturity, in my view, are monopoly capitalism and the system of so-called "sovereign" nation-states. We need to create a planetary economic order that creates prosperity for all God's children and we need to create a planetary political order that guarantees the rule of democratic world law to every person on Earth.

      Professor James Fowler, in his well-known book, Stages of Faith, studies several stages in the growth of religious maturity in persons. In the quotation below, Fowler describes the development of religious maturity to its highest stage, which he calls "Stage 6 faith." He writes that:

    
Stage 6...persons....have become incarnators and actualizers of the spirit of an inclusive and fulfilled human community. They are "contagious" in the sense that they create zones of liberation from the social, political, economic and ideological shackles we place and endure on human futurity.... [Their vision includes] the criteria of inclusiveness of community, of radical commitment to justice and love and of selfless passion for a transformed world, a world made over not in their images, but in accordance with an intentionality both divine and transcendent." (1981, pp. 200-201).
       Here I refer to what has been called the "subversive" impact of their visions and leadership. Even as they oppose the more blatantly unjust or unredeemed structures of the social, political, or religious world, these figures call into question the compromise arrangements in our common life that have acquired the sanction of conventionalized understandings of justice.... In these persons of Universalizing faith these qualities of redemptive subversiveness and relevant irrelevance derive from visions they see and to which they have committed their total beings. These are not abstract visions, generated like utopias out of some capacity for transcendent imagination. Rather, they are visions born out of radical acts of identification with persons and circumstances where the futurity of being is being crushed, blocked, or exploited....
(1981, pp.202-204)

     The wonderful religious scholarship of the 20th century has made possible religious maturity. The Copernican revolution in religion means that we have become more and more capable of filling our lives with what is universal and eternal, flowing from the sacred depths of existence. But insofar as the depths of existence, traditionally called the voice of the living God, enters into our own lives, we are called to transform the institutional structures of our world that block, inhibit, and destroy the lives and dignity of our fellow human beings on this planet.

      We become subversive of the fragmented and destructive institutions that create war, poverty, and environmental destruction on Earth. We become prophets and spokespersons for a new era of peace, prosperity, and justice for the Earth, of a new world order, based on the principle of unity-in-diversity. We become living embodiments of planetary maturity. Our home becomes the Earth itself, and our need becomes the need to make the Earth a decent place for all the people who live upon it.

        May God bless all who live with us upon this Earth, our common planetary home. Amen.

 

 


 

10.  Spiritual Universality, Democracy, and the Earth Constitution

(From World Revolution Through World Law: Basic Documents of the Emerging Earth Federation, Glen T. Martin, Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, pp. 44-55)

       In every religion on Earth human beings are (in one way or another) children of God, our destiny is linked to God, and our call to action is a command from God. In every religion, human beings have an absolute dignity, beauty, and divine calling that arises from the very foundations of the universe. In the great secular philosophies created by philosophical humanists like Karl Marx, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, William James, or Erich Fromm, there is a corresponding insight into the dignity and responsibility of being human. And in the emergent evolutionary visions of such thinkers as Sri Aurobindo, Nicholas Berdyaev, Errol E. Harris, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Alfred North Whitehead our human destiny emerges toward a “superhuman” level of energy, purity, unity, and awakening to the very depths of the universe.


      In every case, the great thinkers and spiritual leaders of humankind emphasized the greatness of our human destiny. This is different from my personal fate in terms of my tiny individuality, my personal likes and dislikes, my little hopes and fears. The visionaries of humankind understood that each of us participates in another dimension in which we are all ONE.
We are all human beings first! This dimension is our humanity (Immanuel Kant called it our “dignity” beyond all calculation, beyond all “price”) that comprises what is most fundamental about each of us. Each is infinitely valuable, each has inalienable “human rights,” precisely because each is human. Is it possible for each of us as individuals to speak and act from this trans-personal greatness of our human destiny?


      Is it possible for groups like the Eighth Session of the Provisional World Parliament, in union, solidarity, and like-mindedness, to speak from this greatness of our human destiny? Take an example from the Bible, accepted as revelation by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. The English word “prophet” comes from the Greek, meaning “to forecast.” But the Hebrew language in which the first part of the Bible was written uses the word navi, which means “a speaker, one who can speak.”


      A prophet is one who can speak authentically because the prophet (navi) is in touch with the depth dimension of human existence. It is said that God speaks through the prophet on behalf of the dignity and greatness of our human destiny. We are called to respond, to “stand upright.”


      “Standing upright” (omed) is another fundamental theme of the Bible. God commands Ezekiel, “Son of man, stand upon thy feet..!” (Exekiel 2:1) We are commanded to “stand upright” and accept our immense human destiny to create a world of peace, justice, freedom, and dignity upon the sacred Earth. Our human destiny arising from the depths of the world (understood by great humanists and evolutionists as well as followers of the sacred scriptures of the world) is to build the “kingdom of God” on Earth.


      In secular terms, we are tasked to create a world of peace, justice, freedom, and dignity. Yet many who want peace ask, “who are we to speak for all humanity?” And many religious people take refuge in their prayers, rituals, temples, and solemn chants. But the God of the Bible booms forth: “What are your endless sacrifices to me? says Yahweh.... You may multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood, wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice (mispat), stop the oppressor; do justice to the widow, plead for the orphan.” (Isaiah 1:10-20) In the world system of today, where first world fossil fuels and first world clothing and consumer goods come from the sweat-shops and from the bombed and oppressed societies of the global South, each of us is implicated. Each of us is “covered with blood.”


      Those who speak for what is universal and what is right have the duty and the moral right to speak for humanity. “A tree is known by its fruit,” says Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 12:33). It is not difficult to distinguish those who speak for what is truly universal from those who speak from personal, class, racial, gender, or other special interests. Who was Mahatma Gandhi to speak for the people of India and the world? He was not elected. But this is why they called him “Mahatma,” because he spoke form the depths of his existence. And he urged all of us to do the same.


      Who are we to create a Constitution for the Federation of Earth? Who are we to speak for the people of Earth? Is such action democratic? Has it been the result of the democratic participation of the people of Earth? Everyone is called to act from what is truly real and profound in his or her existence. What is profound is the very depths of our own humanity and our own existence. When we speak from these depths we are like the navi, speaking from what is true and universal. “By their fruits you shall know them.”


      It is important to distinguish between humility and cowardice. Cowardice is the unwillingness to “stand upright” and speak from the depths of what is universal within each of us. Cowardice wants to be politically correct, to be “democratic” in the sense of never standing for universal truth but always letting “the group” decide. Cowardice is lost in the merely personal and relative. It refuses to see its way clear to the deeper truth within each of us.


      Humility, on the other hand, is not incompatible with taking a stand upon the gigantic truth of universal human rights, our common humanity, and the sovereignty of the people of Earth. But it does not confuse universal truth with the personal ego. The personal ego must get out of the way for truth to emerge. The universal is truly that. We must not confuse it with what is merely personal and private about each of us.


      For the past ten years I have worked very hard for nonmilitary democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. As is well known, the World Constitution and Parliament Association (in association with the Institute On World Problems) promotes ratification of the Constitution and holds Provisional World Parliaments in locations around the world to promote the development of world law and world democracy. Since I am a professional philosopher by training, many of the articles I have written about this attempt to articulate the philosophical basis behind the Constitution and the reasons why it should be supported. In December 2003, at the Seventh Session of the Provisional World Parliament, the Executive Cabinet appointed me to the post of Secretary-General of WCPA.


      In the course of this work, I have traveled to many countries in these ten years giving lectures and seminars about the need for democratic world government under the Constitution. In developing countries, many people that I speak with immediately see the arguments why we need to work for ratifying the Constitution. In the developed countries, on the other hand, some world federalists and other people sympathetic to the idea of democratic world government raise the issue of whether the Constitution has been “democratically created.”


      They often believe that the world must wait until people and nations get together and decide to create a democratic constitution for the Earth, starting, perhaps, with a Global Peoples’ Assembly as part of the U.N. A few people, they say, do not have to the right to do this and speak on behalf of all humanity. Any world constitution must be “democratically created.”
I believe this point about the Constitution for the Federation of Earth not being a “democratically created document,” misses not only the history of constitutions of nation-states that have been written so-far and the context of our present world-situation. It also misses what I attempted to address in the above remarks and what the Declaration of the Rights of People addresses: our right and duty to speak out of the depths of our unimaginable human dignity and destiny on this planet. We admire Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, and others who have spoken from the universality of their humanity. But we refuse ourselves to “stand upright” and “to speak” through accepting our immense dignity as human beings and acting from that source.


      What is “democracy” except the institutionalized recognition of this immense dignity as residing in every single human being? “Democratic” is whatever nonviolently brings such institutional recognition into being. “Undemocratic” is whatever defeats the goal of history in the name of profit, power, special privilege, or cowardice. Democracy does not simply mean “majority rule,” for a possible “tyranny of the majority” is just as dangerous as the dictatorship of the few. Democracy must institutionalize protections against both forms of tyranny, and this can only be done through institutionalization of human dignity along with carefully designed checks and balances. Such dignity is institutionalized not only though guaranteed political and economic rights, but through built-in safeguards to protect nations, individuals, and minorities from both majorities and minorities.


      To think that democracy can only be created or maintained through a process of always letting the majority decide in any situation is a tragic mistake. No majority can decide to remove our inalienable human rights. Only rarely do majorities decide to do what is morally right and to institutionalize what is truly universal in human life.


      Democracy occurs when individuals are institutionally empowered to act from universal principles. As Mahatma Gandhi expressed this: “The rule of the majority has a narrow application, i. e., one should yield to the majority in matters of detail. But it is slavery to be amenable to the majority, no matter what its decisions are. Democracy is not a state in which people act like sheep. Under democracy individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded” (1972, pp. 132-133).
It is probable that no national constitution ever written, including the U.S. Constitution, was truly “democratically created.” The U.S. Constitution was written by a few elite visionaries, mostly by James Madison and a few others. Democracy is what can follow from a founding document. It cannot exist without an institutional framework and a founding set of rules for how democracy is to operate. The U.S. Constitution, like the “Declaration of Independence,” was written by leaders determined to institutionalize “inalienable rights” and the truth that “all men are created equal.”


      In the situation of today’s world when time is very rapidly running out, what would a “democratically created constitution” look like? A few elite world federalists perhaps getting together? A few world-parliament NGOs? And out of these, how few would actually do the writing? Hundreds of millions in the world cannot even read or write! To be “democratically created” a world constitution would have to consult the majority of the Earth’s population, per impossible. There would have to be some mechanism already in place to allow their participation. But this is precisely what is not in place. In this context, the phrase “democratically created” lacks meaningful content, since there are no world democratic institutions to provide the format for democratically creating something. Hence, the arguement of these critics is spurious.


      The Constitution for the Federation of Earth provides the format. Like all innovations in human history, there most be a first, put forward by a few visionaries and nonviolent revolutionaries, to provide the institutional framework for later democratic processes. As I described in the Introduction to this book, the four global Constituent Assemblies in 1968, 1977, 1979, and 1991 each had world citizens from all over the world participating. They discussed every paragraph of the Constitution, voted on each change or addition, and then on the entire result.


      After the initial draft was written by a committee elected at the 1968 Assembly in Interlacken, Switzerland and Wolfach, Germany (according to guidelines laid down by the Assembly), the draft was circulated worldwide for comments (for 9 years) until the Second Assembly in Innsbruck, Austria. All these comments were received in Lakewood Colorado, collated, and taken into consideration in the revisions of the draft.


      At Innsbruck the 125 delegates from dozens of countries and six continents went over the document paragraph by paragraph. And then it was again circulated worldwide and the same process was followed twice more in 1979 and finally in 1991 at Troia, Portugal. Under the circumstances of today’s world, it is very unlikely that any process could be more “democratic” than this, since there is no institutional framework to define “democracy” for any such project.


      Even if the U.N. General Assembly sat down and wrote and ratified such a document (per impossible), it would be no more democratically created than this one since the representatives in the General Assembly do not represent the peoples of the world, but elites, dictatorships, oligarchies, corporations, lackeys of the Superpower, etc. Under these circumstances, the idea of a “democratically created” document becomes meaningless obfuscation, delaying, perhaps until it is too late, the need for immediate action for a new world order.


      Like all good constitutions, the Constitution for the Federation of Earth contains one Article that is used only once, the article for ratification. This is the source of the democratic validity of the Constitution, not the red herring of who wrote it or how many they were. It was the same with the U.S. Constitution, drafted by about thirteen people. Who wrote it is irrelevant if it is ratified by the people. Article 17 gives the criteria for ratification and legitimacy. It must be ratified by the people of the Earth according to strict democratic procedures.


      No other constitution of the 150 or so written so far has gone through a process even similar to this. This Constitution is known worldwide, has been translated into 22 languages, and in the face of the shortage of time before global collapse or totalitarianism descends, it is indeed the only viable option we have. What I mean by the words “only option,” of course, is not strict logical possibility, but the only practical option if we are to survive much longer on this planet and if the world’s children are to have a decent future at all.


      If we live and act from what is universal in ourselves, rather than remaining lost in the petty and personal, we will speak and act on behalf of a transformed future for humanity and the possibility of a founding document, a real decision on the part of humanity to create a new and decent world order for the first time in history. To live and act from what is universal in ourselves requires the courage to stand forth from that universality. Too often the assertion that we must be “democratic” becomes simply a subterfuge for lack of courage, for unwillingness to step out of ones petty individuality and take action on behalf of humanity.


      This is why every Provisional World Parliament has been a momentous historic occasion, and not merely another of endless peace conferences. At these Parliaments we do not forever talk about the need for a better world. We do not discuss ideals and values of peace, disarmament, or human rights, but rather participate in the founding of a new world order! That is why those days are different from all other days and why our movement and these sessions of Parliament are different from all other events. We are not just talking. We understand that the time for endless talk is past. We are doing it. We are the vanguard, the advanced front, the visionary servants of humanity’s effort to become civilized.


       For we realize that the world cannot wait any longer for the slow evolution of its forces of power, chaos, greed, and fragmentation to create a decent world order before it is too late. It is already too late! The global environment is already in the process of collapsing! Global poverty and misery are already of gigantic proportions and getting worse daily. Global militarism is already destroying civilized living around the world. The global water supply is shrinking. Global farm lands are disappearing. Global fisheries are collapsing. Tomorrow is too late!


       We assemble at these Parliaments because the world already has a Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Those of us who are delegates have personally ratified this Constitution and recognize it as the supreme law of the Earth, superceding all merely national constitutions. We are not only building on the brilliant work of those predecessors who realized in 1958 that the world needed a constitution and a founded world order more than anything else. We are here to continue the building of that world order under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution.


      The Earth Federation has begun! It was begun at the initial ratification of the Constitution at the Second Constituent Assembly in Innsbruck, Austria in June, 1977. We are the visionaries and laborers who are building the new world order outlined by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. But insofar as we have ratified the Constitution, we are also citizens of the Earth Federation who have begun the new world order within the husk of the old decaying and rotten world disorder. As citizens of the Earth Federation, we speak and act from what is truly universal in ourselves, that which we have in common with all humanity.


      As such, at each historic session of Parliament we will continue to elaborate the mission and vision for the actualized world parliament once the Constitution has been ratified by the people and nations of Earth. And we continue to develop the body of provisional world law, building on the previous sessions of the provisional parliament, which will serve as a model and set of guiding principles for the actual world parliament once the Constitution has been officially ratified under Article 17 of the Earth Constitution. We are not just talking about a new world order, we are actualizing it. We are helping to create it with courage and integrity. How dare the timid ones of the world accuse us of not being democratic!


      The new world order is not an evolved world order but a founded world order – founded on the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. This distinction is utterly important. First, in a founded world order, everything begins anew within the framework of universal law premised on a world of equality, justice, and freedom for all. The framework of universal, enforceable law provides the matrix and the principles necessary for a rapid transformation of the present unjust, unequal, and unfree world order.


      An evolved world order can do none of this. In an evolved world, beginning in a situation of injustice, inequality, and unfreedom, those who are powerful and wealthy will work to ensure greater advantages for themselves and legal universal equality for all will never be achieved. The forces that influence the evolution of world society are never simply those of justice. The central evolutionary determinants are undemocratic economic, political, and military forces.
The evolutionary process incorporates the plethora of competing interests and forces and will never result in a world order based on truly universal principles before it is too late and we witness global environmental collapse, global totalitarianism under one nation, or global military holocaust. A merely evolved world order will never achieve enforceable, truly universal laws. Fragmentation will continue and chaos will result.


      Second, a founded society is established upon ethical principles. Democracy is the only ethically legitimate form of government and world democracy is the only from of democracy that gives all human beings their birthright to live in peace, freedom, and equality. A founded society is a moral decision by humanity to live under universal principles and the rule of law. This is the only truly legitimate form of human social and political life – all human beings subject to the same democratically legislated laws and participating in the creation of those laws.


      The Constitution for the Federation of Earth embodies the ethical principle of the sovereignty of the people of Earth (for this is, and morally can be, the only true sovereignty). It embodies the ethical system of practical, democratic decision-making for human affairs, for there is no other morally legitimate form of human decision-making at the world level. Finally, it embodies the two extensive bills of human rights (Articles 12 and 13) that articulate in detail the ethical principles, rights and duties, that apply to every person on Earth.


      An evolved society will always compromise these ethical principles in the face of the “realities” of political and economic power, hegemony, and inequality. Only a society founded on universal ethical principles can create a truly civilized world order. An evolved society will always and forever compromise, always cater to power and influence, will never quite reach its vague ethical ideals. The world can ill afford such a haphazard and ill-conceived method of developing a better world order. Human rights are universal; human dignity is universal; the demand for freedom and justice is universal. No evolved society can even begin to fulfill these ethical demands that are inherent in our human situation from the very beginning.


      Third, the optimal situation is already embodied in the basic principles of a founded world society. The principles of justice, prosperity, equality, and freedom are there from the beginning for all to see. This means that citizens of the Earth Federation can work to transform the world rapidly in the direction of freedom, prosperity, justice, and equality using the Constitution and its clearly defined rights as a universal standard and goal. The optimal situation is embodied in the founding principles rather than serving as some vague ideal that people must struggle for into an uncertain future.


      An evolved society has no such set of goals or universal standards that serve as a key for transformation to a just and peaceful world order. In an evolved society, the goals themselves are in dispute and there is a chaos of forces moving history in this direction and that. The evolutionary process also includes major forces that are trying to prevent the moving of history toward a decent world society. The powerful and rich (whether nation-states, individuals, world banks, or corporations) want to build into the evolutionary goal special advantages for themselves.


      In a founded society as embodied in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, the initial premise is equality and justice for all and the social task of transforming the world to conform to this premise is much more coherent, certain, and achievable. The founding principles serve as a standard and a goal that makes a coherent, civilized world order possible for the first time in history. Social conflct is guided by the founding principles.


      There are already some examples of founded societies in history, although none are truly universal in scope. The United States was a founded society, a decision of many people to live under a founding constitution according to ethical principles. As Karl Marx points out, this was a great step forward in world history. Even though its Constitution was never intended to create economic democracy, it created a limited political democracy in which the abolition of slavery and the political equality of women were implicit and inevitable.


      The greatest flaw in the assumptions behind the U.S. Constitution, as with most national constitutions, was that it established political democracy only in one nation, leaving the world in a system of power struggles, economic, and political rivalry among sovereign nation-states. As the U.S. Supreme Court determined in 1936, the U.S. Constitution does not apply to foreign policy (Zinn, 1990, pp. 124-125). In foreign policy, human rights or human life need not be respected. The result is the monster that we all see today. The Constitution of India, with its Article 51, may be unique in this regard, allowing for India to be one day part of a founded democratic world government.


      The attempt to evolve the United Nations into a governing body for the world will inevitably also give us some sort of monster. Beginning with a number of absurd (literally absurd) premises upon which the U.N. system is based, many well-meaning people believe they can evolve that body in the direction of a decent world order. What are these absurd premises? First, the system of sovereign nation-states itself, which the U.N. charter says it is there to protect and preserve, which is a war system, a power-struggle system, a security and espionage system, and a profoundly undemocratic system.


      This stupid and brutal way of organizing human affairs cannot be reformed or evolved but can only be transcended by genuine world government (with the valuable agencies of the U.N. being integrated into that government). The second absurd premise involves the global economic system of private monopoly wealth exploiting the land, resources, and poor of the world to make the super-rich ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, the environment, and future generations. The U.N. is up to its ears in neo-liberal global (so-called “free trade”) economics run by vast undemocratic economic and political forces. It has been colonized by forces that will forever resist evolution in the direction of a just world order.


      Third, the U.N. is founded on the international war system. The U.N. is premised on using military force “to keep the peace” whatever this explicit contradiction can possibly mean. This war system is perhaps the ultimate madness of human beings. In the war system, social organizations, usually nation-states, attempt to systematically exterminate and destroy one another, devoting a large portion of their economies to developing the capacity to perform this slaughter, while systematically researching and manufacturing ever more diabolical technologies to further enhance their ability to destroy. This fine system, itself integral to the system of nation-states and the present global economic system, is a founding principle of the U.N. Charter in Articles 2, 25, and elsewhere.


      Finally, the U.N. is profoundly undemocratic. It was never intended to be a democracy or to approximate world democracy since it was founded by the victors in World War Two with the intention of creating their domination in world affairs. It is merely a treaty system of so-called sovereign nation-states controlled, like all such systems, by those that are bigger and more powerful. To try to evolve his nightmare system, starting with these absurd principles, and contending with the immense forces that resist evolution in the direction of a decent world order, is not “practical realism” as those trying to reform the U.N. system claim. It is to be completely out of touch with the deep structures and meanings of our present world order.


      At each session of the Provisional World Parliament we are not trying vainly to evolve anything! Neither are we talking endlessly about peace or human rights as they do in one peace conference after another worldwide. We are engaged in founding a new world order, not in evolving one. We are taking our stand on the principles of universal enforceable law, universal ethical principles, and universal founding ideals that serve as a standard for the transformation to a decent world order. We are elaborating the principles and laws of that new world order under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. We continue working to get the peoples and nations of Earth to ratify the Constitution. The Constitution is the founding document of this new world order.


      We are the seed, the embryo, the vanguard, of the Earth Federation. We are the pioneers of a founded and just world order. This is a time not only of pioneer struggle and work but of great celebration and joy. For we have made the profoundly ethical decision to speak and act from what is truly universal in ourselves and all humanity. We are no longer cowardly private individuals asking “what can a tiny individual like me do in the face of the immense forces of injustice in the world?” We are not lost in the delusion of a self-proclaimed “realism” that thinks the futile attempt to evolve this profoundly unjust world system is somehow practical and commonsensical. The profoundest realism is to live and act from our deepest humanity and our infinite dignity as human beings, from that depth which is within all of us. From the bottom of my heart, I ask you to join me in celebrating the birth of the Federation of Earth!



 

 

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