Cyclical Processes, Cosmogenesis, and Earth Jurisprudence

Warning! They willingly drank poisoned grape Koolade in Jonestown, believing in the Rapture and eternal life. They all died. I believe in a salvation, too, but it doesn’t involve drinking anything.

I offer something far more poisonous, far more insidious–a new idea. Actually, it’s an old idea, so old we’ve forgotten it. It’s about cosmogenesis–that the universe and everything in it is a happening, an on-going revelation, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, not a reductionist, one-time thing. We are to hallow the universe and all therein, not use (and abuse) it. Yeah, like the Koolade drinkers, I got religion.

You see, researching cyclical processes lead me to cosmogenesis, which is (says Surat Kumar) ‘the universe as a continuous, unfolding event‘, as opposed to the unchanging, static locale of your run-of-the-mill cosmology.

‘One can discern,’ he writes, ‘a deep transformation going on in the sciences [that] in time will permeate all other areas of life…. We have moved from a mechanistic view of the universe to one that is self-organizing at all levels.[my emphasis]

Thomas Berry specifies that ‘the Cosmogenetic Principle (the form-producing power of the Universe) states that the evolution of the Universe will be characterized by differentiation, subjectivity, and communion throughout time and space and at every level of reality.

1. Cosmogenesis is ordered by differentiation. A Universe of unending diversity, there has never been a time when the Universe did not seek further differentiation…. Some synonyms for differentiation are diversity, complexity, variation, disparity, multiform nature, heterogeneity, articulation.

2. Cosmogenesis is structured by subjectivity. A Universe filled with structures exhibiting self-organizing dynamics (autopoiesis)…. Not just living beings, but self-organizing power within all of creation. … The movement from primordial rocks to mammalian consciousness is a radical one certainly. But we must avoid regarding such consciousness as an addendum or as an intrusion into reality…. Synonyms–self-manifestation, sentience, self-organization, dynamic centers of experience, presence, identity, inner principle of being, voice, interiority.

3. Cosmogenesis is organized by communion. To be is to be related, for relationship is the essence of existence. Nothing is itself without everything else…. The loss of relationship, ie to be cut off from intimacy with other beings with its consequent alienation is perhaps the supreme evil in the Universe or in religious terms the essence of damnation. Synonyms–interrelatedness, interdependence, kinship, mutuality, internal relatedness, reciprocity, complementarity, interconnectivity, affiliation.’

An example of cyclical re-thinking: the periodic table as a spiral

Basically, though everything’s connected, diversity’s the spice of life.

Cosmogenesis is cyclical. It both begins and ends, and also circles endlessly, like a helix or a spiral, like the difference between the one-time gift of something non-renewable and something eternally renewing. For example, the water in our bloodstream endlessly renews for billions of years, raining and evaporating, raining and evaporating, yet our consciousness, our individuality, our sense of self, doesn’t. Mike Nickerson (of illustrates this by moving a loose overhand knot along a rope–though the rope changes, the knot remains.

Cosmogenesis implies universal rights (also known as wild law or earth jurisprudence) which needs ‘an adequate language to express the realities that our universe and planet present to us. What we need to do is learn how to express our thoughts in a new way in a different context. Take the concept of “rights” for example.’

Rights are not a human concept. They come from existence. If your rights kill you, then your rights are wrong. Anthropocentric rights are killing us.

Mike Bell notes that ‘though we might be able to map out intellectually the steps that might lead to the development of an Earth Jurisprudence, we are reminded, in the words of Alfred Korzybski, that “The map is not the territory.” The reality is far more complex. Development of an Earth Jurisprudence is part of a much greater, a much more radical transformation that is facing us as a species.’

One of the aspects of transformation is creativity. I thought of creativity as discovering the unknown, making something novel, but Bell writes of creativity as an act of discovery of what already exists, of discovering relationships: ‘The [Inuk] carver sees or senses the pre-existing relationships [–”cosmogenesis is organized by communion”–] that exist between the stone, the rest of nature and himself…. The Spirit of the bear in the stone reveals itself to the carver. And it is this perspective–the typical perspective of indigenous peoples all over the world–that is, as Thomas Berry suggests, our best guide to the discovery of an Earth Jurisprudence.’

Berry lists Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process.He also has Ten Principles of Jurisprudence. All nations agree to this, at least in theory. Even if brambles grow today, the seeds are sown for tomorrow.

The World Charter for Nature (1982, UN GA RES 37/7) begins with a preamble which recognizes that humans are ‘a part of nature and life depends on the uninterrupted functioning of natural systems which ensure the supply of energy and nutrients,’ and ends with the charge that ‘each person has a duty to act in accordance with the provisions of the present Charter.’

But just as you don’t need a weathervane to know which way the wind blows, you shouldn’t need a charter to know your duty, to know your heart, your self.

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