David Korten, as we have seen, is proposing a new economic system. Part of his vision is recognizing how the “Enlightenment” unleashed extraordinary advances in technology and governance that roughly doubled the global human lifespan, unleashed an explosion in human numbers and aggregate consumption, and connected us into a seamless global economic and communications web.
The consequences now play out in extravagant material abundance for the few, material deprivation for the many, and an accelerating depletion of Earth’s capacity to support life. Caught up in the thrall of a partial, dated, and often demonstrably false narrative, we support a global economic system that drives growing environmental and social imbalances to ever more intolerable extremes.
Korten recognizes a new or “Second Enlightenment” emerging in which humans recognize themselves as living beings born of and nurtured by a sacred living Earth, itself born of and nurtured by a sacred living universe evolving toward ever treater complexity, beauty, awareness, and possibility. We now face a defining choice: prosper in the pursuit of life and its possibilities, or perish in the pursuit of money and its illusions.
He believes the insights of this narrative draw from indigenous wisdom, the teachings of mystics and religious prophets, the findings of science, the lessons of history, and the insights of daily experience.
The first Enlightenment, says Korten,
…stripped our lives of meaning and purpose—and of responsibility to and for Earth and our fellow humans. It subordinated the teachings of religion to the teachings of science—thus undermining the credibility of science in the eyes of those who see the beauty, wonder, possibility, and meaning in life that science denies.
The resulting tension plays into the hands of climate deniers and political demagogues ready to exploit it for their own ends.
There is urgent need for the second Enlightenment now emerging where living organisms and communities of living organisms organize to create and maintain the conditions essential to their own existence.
Clues for our survival lie in the human body itself since each human body is composed of more than 30 trillion individual living cells engaged in a constant exchange of energy, water, nutrients, and information under ever changing conditions.
Each cell and microorganism is an individual, self-directing living being joined together in a self-organizing, continuously self-renewing alliance that functions as a single being. In the human body, approximately three billion cells die each minute—each reliably replaced by a living cell of like kind. This is no machine.
The well-being of the whole, without which the single individual cannot exist, must always be primary.
Just as quantum science points to a reality that matter is defined by relationships rather than particles, the life sciences suggest that life also is defined by relationships and exists only in communities of organisms that self-organize in response to the needs and abilities of both individual and community. Within this paradigm, competition is a subtext of a larger meta-narrative of symbiosis that defies purely mechanistic explanation.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, Jennifer Listug, Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision for Love and Action, pp. 124-128.
Banner Image: One of the gardens of Findhorn Ecovillage, Forres, Scotland: “a tangible demonstration of the links between the spiritual, social, ecological and economic aspects of life and…a synthesis of some of the very best of current thinking on human habitats.” Photo by Phila Hoopes
Queries for Contemplation
Do you feel and recognize this movement from a “first enlightenment” to a “second” one that sets humanity in a larger context? What follows from that movement for you personally and for our species as a whole and for Earth itself?
Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action
By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug
In the midst of global fire, earthquake and flood – as species are going extinct every day and national and global economies totter – the planet doesn’t need another church or religion. What it needs is a new Order, grounded in the Wisdom traditions of both East and West, including science and indigenous. An Order of the Sacred Earth united in one sacred vow: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of the Earth that I can be.”
Co-authored by Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Berit Listug, with a forward by David Korten, this collection of essays by 21 spiritual visionaries including Brian Swimme, Mirabai Starr, Theodore Richards, and Kristal Parks marks the founding of the diverse and inclusive Order of the Sacred Earth, a community now evolving around the world.
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.” ~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope.