Monday, 9 April 2012

The new cosmology and liberation

by Leonardo Boff, Theologian, Earthcharter Commission

Some time ago, the U.S. Museum of Natural History conducted a survey among biologists, asking if they believed that we are in the middle of a mass extinction. 70% replied that yes, we are. The renown cosmologist Brian Swimme, who, with Thomas Berry, authored one of the most brilliant narratives on the history of the universe, The Universe Story, 1992, was asked what could we do, and he replied: «for some time now the universe has been doing its part to stop the disaster; but we must do our part. And we will do it through the awakening of a new cosmological consciousness, that is, if we adjust our behavior to the logic of the universe. But we are not yet doing enough.»

What does this reply mean? It points towards a new consciousness that assumes collective responsibility for the protection of our common house and caring for our civilization. To adjust our behavior to the logic of the universe means to answer the calls that arise from what is called the «cosmogenic principle». It is this principle that structures the expansion and generation of the universe, with all its inert and living beings. It manifests itself through three characteristics: difference/complexity, subjectivity/internalizing, and interdependency/communion.

In simpler terms: the more the universe expands, the more complex it becomes; when it becomes more complex, it acquires more internalizing and subjectivity, (each being has its own way of relating and of making its history). And the more internalizing and subjectivity the universe acquires, the more all beings enter into communion with each other, and reinforce their interdependency in the context of their belonging to a great Whole. Berry and Swimme comment: «if there had been no complexity (differentiation), the universe would have perished as a homogenous mass; if there had been no subjectivity, the universe would have become an inert and dead expanse; if there had been no communion, the universe would have been transformed into a number of isolated events.»

We, the liberation theologians, over 40 years of reflection, have tried to explore the economic, social, anthropologic and spiritual dimensions of liberation, as an answer to specific forms of oppression. In the context of the generalized ecologic crisis we are seeking to incorporate this cosmologic vision. This has forced us to break away from the conventional paradigm in which we organized our thinking, which is still linked to a mechanical and static cosmology. The new cosmology sees the universe differently, as an incommensurable process of evolution/expansion/creation that involves all that happens within it, including consciousness and society.

In cosmologic principle terminology, personal liberation means to free oneself from limitations, so as to experience a communion with all beings and with the universe, a phenomenon the Buddhists call «illumination» (satori), and the experience of no-duality that Saint Francis lived, in the sense of an open brotherhood and sisterhood with all beings. In social terms, liberation in light of the cosmogenic principle is the creation of a society without oppression, where diversities are valued and expanded (diversities of gender, cultures and spiritual ways). This means leaving behind the culture of the official thinking of the only approved politics, economy, and theology. This is the principal means of oppression and homogenization.

Liberation also requires a deepening of internalization. Internalization is no longer satisfied by the mere consumption of material goods; it asks for values linked to creativity, to the arts, meditation and the communion with Mother Earth and the universe. Liberation results from the forces of the «relational matrix», especially with those who suffer injustices and are excluded. This matrix makes us feel like members of the community of life, and sons and daughters of Mother Earth, who through us feels, loves, cares and is concerned for the common future.

Finally, liberation in a cosmologic perspective demands a new awareness of universal interdependency and responsibility. We are called upon to reinvent our species, as we have done in the past, during the different crises humanity has experienced. It is urgent now because we do not have much time and we must face up to challenges of the present crisis of the Earth.

Leonardo Boff

6th April 2012

Free translation from the Spanish sent by

Melina Alfaro,,


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