Saturday, July 17, 2010

Homo Universalis and the Consistory


Homo Universalis and the Consistory

By John Taylor; 2010 July 17, Kalimat 04, 167 BE

In the previous chapter we alluded to John Amos Comenius' proposal that world government be founded upon inherently decentralized power. Comenius held that the dictum of Christ to "call no man master," requires us to put less emphasis on individual, charismatic leaders. Instead, good governance divides power further into three complementary but separate institutions, each of which oversees one of the three main realms or stages of human endeavour, knowledge, volition and action, or seen from another angle, philosophy, faith and service.

As a Renaissance man himself, that is, a well-rounded individual who made significant contributions to all three of these spheres, as educator, spiritual leader and peace negotiator, Comenius understood that such an external division of labour could never work without much stronger unification within each of us. This would involve a conscious broadening of what is expected of each world citizen. Instead of becoming either a "man of faith" or a "man of science" or a "man of action," a Comenian world order would lay all three responsibilities upon the shoulders of the average person. We should expect everyone to have a hand in all three. Otherwise, we are hardly men at all, but rather unbalanced, narrow, parochial and overspecialized, someone overly prone to fanaticism, fundamentalism and distorted worldviews.

I felt uncomfortable with the generic use of the world "man" that was fashionable in Comenius's age. Today, this is misunderstood as excluding women and children. So after I finished writing the previous essay "A Renaissance Man with a Plan" I looked up the term, "Renaissance Man." I found two synonyms, "polymath" and "Homo Universalis". A polymath is someone who achieves prominence in several areas of knowledge; it seems to describe a kind of knowing that is more technical than what Comenius had in mind. That leaves Homo Universalis, which does not have sexist overtones. As a Latin term it seems appropriate, since Comenius mostly wrote in Latin, although he himself would probably have preferred his own Latin neologism, "pansophism," or universal wisdom. He would have pointed out that only by placing great emphasis on wisdom does a Homo Universalis strike the needed balance.

Comenius would have Homo Universalis educated as a world citizen so that he or she is comfortable in and balances each of the big three human needs, the need for contact with nature, with others and with our God. This means that no matter how wrapped up we may be in friends, family or work, we all keep a hand in philosophy (science is too narrow a term, since it excludes teaching), in politics and in religion.

"Philosophy deals with books and knowledge and the reasons for things for the purpose of enlightening mankind. Politics deals with rule and authority for the purpose of keeping mankind in order. Religion deals with God and conscience for the purpose of kindling in mankind the flame of faith, charity and hope (or keeping it alight)." (Comenius, Panorthosia, Ch. 13, para 12, p. 205)

People Without Borders takes this three part vision of Homo Universalis and imagines it as the inspiration of a personal planning program. Written using the volunteerism of open systems programming, this piece of software would alert an aspiring Homo Universalis when he or she is swinging out of balance in some way. This program not only informs the plans, investigation and aspirations of each world citizen, it also has standard plug-ins to coordinate activity with similar planners used by groups and institutions. The combination of these planners will in turn inform the entire structure of the built world, with all its features, which I envision in the infrastructure section of People Without Borders. Without this life-planning program, which I shall be calling "lifestyle engineering," it is unlikely that there will be a perceived need for the local levels of government that are the basis of everything that follows, including world government.

Until Homo Universalis is embedded in pavement, concrete and stone, power structures will continue out of sync. Like a ball with an off-center counterweight giving it a built-in wobble, organizations will always lean towards concentrating power into the hands of a few leaders in a central location. This will cause injustice, war, rumours of war, revolutions, reaction and continual upheaval. World government will continue to be rejected out of hand for fear of continual centralization and corruption.

Before continuing, however, I should address the objections I hear from every side. I hear shouts, as it were, from the "man of faith," the "man of science," and the "man of action." None of the three feel comfortable being included in the same person. This is the result of a divorce among science, religion and politics that took place around the time of Comenius's death.

He had in fact striven all his life to prevent it.

If Comenius had had his way, the 18th Century, which we now call the Enlightenment, would have included religion as one of the three lights of the human spirit. Instead, the Renaissance Man was, as it were, torn into three warring parties. It is the challenge of our time to re-unite them in harmony, first within our selves, then in our institutions.

After Comenius, it was too late to talk about world government with the required balance among human faculties. The divorce had been finalized. Then as now, the preponderating majority of the human race believed in God, yet religious leaders rejected anything that would diminish their own sway, in spite of the fact that most people want a world authority. At the same time, secular people considered religions to be inherently fractious. The resulting conceptions of world government excluded or marginalized faith groups. This can never satisfy the aspirations of most people. Even if it did, the fear of the wobbly ball of unbalanced governance spreads suspicion and quashes all serious attempts to put the ideal into action.

A case in point is American newscaster Walter Cronkite. After he retired he gave a speech to a group of world federalists in which he announced that now that he was out of the public eye he felt he could throw aside his former "objective stance," and openly side with advocates of world government. He had joined the global majority opinion, but such was the climate of suspicion spread by religious reactionaries in his country that he felt it necessary to declare openly, "If being for world government means sitting at the right hand of Satan, then I am happy to sit right up there next to him."

Instead of that, Comenius proposed a parliament of religions. His "Consistory of Holiness" would be an elected, interfaith institution representing the spiritual aspirations of all people. Funded by alms and tithing from all world citizens, it would not depend on any group, religious or otherwise, and including the political wing of the world government, for funding. At the same time, its moral authority would help keep fractious or fanatical spiritual leaders from inciting believers to violence, parochialism or even "holier than thou" attitudes.

I further envision every world citizen being enfranchised with three votes, not one. Each Homo Universalis would vote in each election for a philosopher, a politician and an interfaith representative. This would make the Consistories of Holiness at every level dependent upon all their constituents for votes as well as funds. No particular religious group would have undue influence, even when it is a majority. Everybody has a vote, no matter what religion or lack of religion they profess.

The only doctrine the Consistory of Holiness would openly profess is belief in God since, as global opinion polls repeatedly show, the vast majority of humans believe in God and in certain moral principles that come out of this reverential awareness. Otherwise it does not favour one belief, dogma or faith group over any other. It represents everybody and is tasked with upholding rule of law. Members are sworn to protect minority rights, even those who deny the convictions of the majority. The only criterion of a good religion over a bad one is its ability to promote the Golden Rule, according to the principle that, "By their fruits ye shall know them." If a belief contributes to the Golden Rule and the common good, it is praised and encouraged by the Consistory. Otherwise, the religious parliament can lay down sanctions, controls and licensing to limit the harm of those who would put wrong-headed dogmas into action.

Government at every level needs this balance among the three aspects of Homo Universalis. We need a religious union to aid our political and scientific aspirations. Indeed, Comenius put a great deal of thought into the ways each of the three representative institutions depend upon the other two. We would do well not to forget his words.

"It is not enough that Man should merely be set beside God by bringing him to his everlasting blessedness; we must have him likened unto God even here on earth. Pythagoras was quite correct in defining philosophy as likeness unto God, but he went too far in giving philosophy the whole credit for a result which it cannot wholly achieve by itself alone. Politics and religion must come to its assistance, playing their part in such a way that philosophy likens Man unto God through the light of his mind, religion through the purity of his heart, and politics through control of his actions. This will come to pass if Man has knowledge of good and evil, and wishes only the good and not the evil, and controls himself in his choice of the good and rejection of the evil with all possible zeal." (Comenius, Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 40, pp. 168-169)


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