Friday, January 14, 2011

A revolution yet to happen

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Any change in the paradigm of civilization is preceded by a revolution in cosmology (the vision of the universe and of life). Today's world arose with the extraordinary revolution that Copernicus and Galileo introduced by proving that the Earth was not a stable center, but revolved around the sun. This created a huge crisis in the minds and in the Church, since it seemed that everything lost centrality and value. But slowly the new cosmology imposed itself, one that has essentially lasted until today in schools, businesses and the interpretation of the general course of things. However, anthropocentrism -- the idea that human beings continue to be the center of everything and that things are intended for their enjoyment -- has remained.

If the Earth is unstable, at least the universe -- it was thought -- is stable. It would be like an immense bubble within which the heavenly stars and all other things moved.

And then this cosmology began to be surpassed in 1924 when an amateur astronomer, Edwin Hubble, proved that the universe is not stable. He found that all the galaxies as well as all the heavenly bodies are moving away from each other. The universe, therefore, is not stationary as Einstein still believed. It is expanding in all directions. Its natural state is evolution, not stability.

This finding suggests that it all started from an extremely dense point of matter and energy that suddenly exploded (big bang), giving rise to the current expanding universe. This idea, proposed in 1927 by the Belgian astronomer and priest George LemaƮtre, was considered enlightening by Einstein and accepted as a common theory. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson showed that a tiny radiation -- three degrees Kelvin -- comes to us from all parts of the universe, which is the last echo of the initial explosion. Analyzing the spectrum of light from distant stars, scientists concluded that this explosion would have happened 13.7 billion years ago. So this is the age of the universe and ourselves, because we were once virtually all together there in that tiny fiery point.

On expanding, the universe organized itself, created itself and generated increasing complexities and ever-higher orders. It's the belief of most notable scientists that, after reaching a certain level of complexity, anywhere, life emerges as a cosmic imperative. So, too, do consciousness and intelligence. All of us, our capacity to love and to invent, are not out of the general dynamics of the universe in cosmogenesis. We are part of this immense whole.

An unfathomable and limitless background energy -- an abyss feeding everything -- sustains and passes through all things, activating the fundamental energies without which nothing would exist.

From this new cosmology, our life, the Earth and all beings, our institutions, science, technology, education, the arts, philosophies and religions must be endowed with new meanings. Any and all things are emergings from this evolving universe, depend on its initial conditions and should be understood within the interior of this living, intelligent, self-organizing universe, ascending to even higher orders.

This revolution has not yet created a crisis similar to the 16th century, as it has not sufficiently penetrated into the minds of most of humanity, or of the intellectuals, let alone those of employers and governments. But it is present in ecological, systemic, holistic thinking and in many educators, establishing the paradigm of the new era, the Ecozoic one.

Why is it urgent that this paradigmatic revolution be incorporated? Because it will provide the necessary theoretical basis to solve the current problems of an Earth-system in accelerated degradation. It allows us to see our interdependence and the mutuality of all beings. We form the great cosmic and vital community together with the living Earth. We are the conscious expression of the cosmic process and responsible for this portion of it, the Earth, without which all we are saying is impossible. Because we don't feel part of the Earth, we are destroying it. The future of the 21st century and all the COPs will depend on whether or not we adopt this new cosmology. It alone can really save us.

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