David Korten has written an article (“Religion, Science, and Spirit: A Sacred Story of Our Time“) that could serve as a clarion call for all people who are unsatisfied with the current dichotomy of science and mainstream religions, both of which fail to appreciate and care for Earth and the amazingly interdependent world of life created by God. He left me wondering about how those of us who are part of a shift to a more holistic worldview can be more visible and invite others to the exciting opportunities opening up.
In the article he describes three cosmologies that have influenced the Western worldview: monotheistic religions, science, and what he calls the Integral Spirit worldview. While the first two cosmologies have strong institutions and traditions representing their worldviews, the last has no real structure in Western society. This is especially problematic for Korten because the religious and scientific worldviews accept extreme inequalities as natural while also diminishing the value of the natural world; thus, creating the mindset that has brought about the rapid destruction of Earth we witness today. It is through bringing more people to adopt the cosmology of the Integral Spirit that humanity may be able to revert the situation in order to avoid further destruction and live in better harmony with Earth.
For Korten, the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), focus attention on our individual relationship with a personal but distant God, making relations with each other and the natural world to be of secondary importance, at best. These religions can help justify the destruction of Earth and unequal societies since, as Korten writes, “Nature exists for our temporary human use and comfort.” And “[t]hose who demonstrate their closeness to God by their pious religious observance and special knowledge of His intention properly exercise authority over the rest of us.”
Meanwhile, the scientific worldview sees the cosmos as a grand machine where “…only the material is real. The formation and function of the cosmos and the evolution of life are consequences of a combination of physical mechanism and random chance. Life is an accidental outcome of material complexity and has no larger meaning or purpose. Consciousness and free will are illusions.” The basic law of nature “is a brutal competition for survival, territory, and reproductive advantage.” Social Darwinism, an extension of this worldview, easily accepts extreme inequalities as normal, a result of this competition.
The Integral Spirit story, by contrast,” writes Korten, “infuses all we behold in this life and beyond with profound meaning. All of creation is a sacred and ultimately unified expression of an eternal and intimately present divine will. All beings are interconnected and our fates are inextricably intertwined. As participants in and contributors to the ongoing process of creation, we each bear a sacred responsibility. Our lives take on profound meaning and purpose in relationship and service to the sacred whole.”
“The Integral Spirit cosmology is consistent with the findings of quantum physics, which reveals that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion and at the deepest level of understanding only relationships are real. I find that Integral Spirit is the underlying cosmology of a reassuring number of religious leaders and devout members of many faiths, including a great many Catholic nuns, as well as most people who define themselves as spiritual, but not necessarily religious.”
“This cosmology has the elements of the needed story for our time. It remains, however, largely a private story without the institutional sponsors that give the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies authority and public presence. The absence of institutional sponsorship helps to secure its authenticity, but the absence of public visibility limits its influence as a guide to rethinking and restructuring our human relationships with one another and nature.”
This last paragraph really caught my attention. I think it touches on something very important that is lacking today. While more and more people are changing their worldview toward something like the Integral Spirit cosmology, it is a silent, invisible change. How can we, who want to encourage this societal shift to a more integrated view of Earth and life, make the change more visible? How can we bring together those who are already shifting their worldview so that others can see that change is happening and that they could be part of this paradigm shift?
It is not an easy task. To create new institutions based on the Integral Spirit runs the risk of creating bureaucracies that restrict that Spirit; of repeating many of the problems with our current institutions. Yet without recognizable organizations and institutions, it will be difficult for people to see the growth of this worldview and to know how they can participate in it.
Some of the reflections and small group processes that we have created on the Scriptural and Theological resources page of this website are a good start, I think, at helping people to discover the Integral Spirit and the need for a paradigm shift in Western societies. But much more will be needed in order to incorporate these new adherents and create a visible movement.
What more can we, as participants in the Faith, Economy, Ecology, Transformation coalition, do to help spread the word?