Bridging the Personal and the Planetary
Thoughts on the World Crisis
By Carol DeAntoni

We address life’s fundamental questions uniquely in each age, and this juncture that we
are facing is so critical our questions need to be asked with the urgency and passion, with the renewed vigor only a crisis can engender. What is the substance and meaning of the
world and what is the purpose of our life on Earth? What do we yet need to learn about
our relationship with Nature, the universal intelligence governing this immense web of
life? I am convinced that our dilemma centers upon an understanding of our spiritual
identity and how we interpret our relation to this greater world. Can we reunite in our
minds and hearts the separation between so-called Matter and Spirit? How can we
bridge the personal and the planetary? Is it possible to globalize/universalize our inner
life and retain our individual integrity? Is it possible to experience the ‘center as
everywhere’, to have an empathic, caring relationship with the whole of life, while
simultaneously having the boundaries and personal integrity necessary to fulfill our life’s
purpose? Is it possible to creatively approach this paradox of duality? What kind of
vision do we need that will ground us in the wonder of the evolutionary flow of wisdom
that is our life, that is every life; that will convince us our life is integral to that of all the
Earth and give us a powerful and true foundation upon which to stand; that will grant us
the recognition, the utmost honor for the uniqueness of each individual and each cultural
participant in the universal order, while simultaneously, linking all in the vast
interconnected, interdependent unity? Can we find the reasons to support this

As many of us have realized, in order to answer these questions sufficient for our times, it
is necessary to go beyond traditional forms of thought in order to evolve creative
solutions. We must let go of conventions that limit our creative thinking, that have
outlived their value in offering viable solutions. We need not sacrifice any of the
essential gifts these systems offer, but we must realize what this and future generations
will be up against if we do not take serious steps to stem the tide of our mistakes. The
future of life on Earth and of human culture calls upon some of us to forge and to
describe the possibility of an integral and universal vision. Religion, as it has been
expressed in our all too human institutions, has not allowed for a vision vast enough
wherein all can find their place. It seems so obvious that this Cosmos, as the
manifestation of the World Idea, is that place, the Place wherein all places are held. Is
this too radical a thought?

The environmental crisis we face has given us scientific evidence of the interdependence
of all life. It is time to transform this evidence into our emotional and spiritual reality so
that our actions are in accord with the whole of life. Our future will be served if we can
understand that we can no longer afford to separate our actions and beliefs, our spiritual life and aspirations from a world-view that, if not deeply investigated may, and often
does, bring severe harm to our fellow inhabitants of this planet. A world-view that
embraces human rights and freedom of creative expression must aspire to a universality
of thought and vision, must include and embrace this Place wherein we find ourselves, as
well as the growth of understanding and the ethical development of the individual, for it
is only we who are capable of compassionate action. The crushing impact of global
events presents us with this very serious task of taking responsibility for transforming
our life in alignment with higher values. Paul Brunton asks:

“What kind of a civilization do we have? It has become top-heavy, lopsided,
unbalanced, and therefore dangerous to the healthy development of the
human race. Its intellectual and technical advance is indeed tremendous, but
faith, intuition, and the moral virtues do not find in this iron-hard framework
enough freedom for their operation. Indeed, they are being stifled. Such a
course if continued can only end in their complete suffocation. Man is in
danger of becoming a merely mechanistic, merely physical, and merely selfish
entity. This is not in accord with the higher meaning of his life, and since
civilization does not give sufficient signs of its willingness or evidence of its
ability to correct this unbalance, since the valuable services which it has
rendered in the past are coming to an end, Nature is no longer giving it the
protection which it might otherwise have had against the destructive forces
within itself. Between the incessant turmoil, the incessant multiplication of
wants, the incessant physical and intellectual activities, the incessant
stimulation of emotional desire, and the constant appeal to egoism–between
these things and the inner voice that calls men back to the deeper things of
spiritual life there is a hidden conflict which really exists under the obvious

While many of us feel the critical need to find a living link between our spiritual life and
outer world, we are challenged to discover how to make this connection a living and
creative one. The following words of Vaclav Havel offers a perspective grounded both in
political experience and personal vision:

“The single planetary civilization to which we all belong confronts us with
global challenges. We stand helpless before them because our civilization has
essentially globalized only the surface of our lives. But our inner self
continues to have a life of its own. And the fewer answers the era of rational
knowledge provides to the basic question of human Being, the more deeply it
would seem that people, behind its back as it were, cling to the ancient
certainties of their tribe. Because of this, individual culture, increasingly
lumped together by contemporary civilization, is realizing, with new urgency
their own inner autonomy and the inner differences of others…”

“The only real hope of people today is probably a renewal of our certainty that
we are rooted in the Earth, and at the same time, the Cosmos. This awareness
endows us with the capacity for self-transcendence. Politicians at international
forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order
must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as
this imperative does not derive from the respect for the miracle of Being, the
miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own
existence…Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order
and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can
genuinely value himself and his neighbors, and thus honor their rights as well.”

What does ‘a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the Earth and the Cosmos’
mean? Were we ever actually rooted in the Earth and the Cosmos, and if so, what
happened? No matter what our world-view, the world that is given to our senses, which
includes the heavens, is the overwhelming and universally evident fact of our experience. The Hubble telescope has offered us dramatic images, and science has offered
speculations that spark and expand our thoughts and imaginations concerning the
mysteries of the heavens; but are we, as a global human culture, more rooted as a result?
To be rooted is a subtle and intimate feeling; it is a deep sense of relationship that gives
inspiration and meaning to our lives. To discover our roots genetically or in terms of
family or community can give us a kind of knowing that enhances our sense of identity
and belonging in these realms. But how do we discover our roots in the Earth and in the
Cosmos? Thomas Berry once wrote, “What we understand most profoundly, we love.”
There is a great insight in these words, one which deserves our deepest pondering.

Havel then says that awareness of our rootedness “endows us with the capacity for selftranscendence.” He was involved in high-level politics and was face to face with the
inability of world leaders to move us beyond very significant global dangers. This failure
is no different today. Decades after Havel spoke these words, the world crisis has grown
beyond our ability to really comprehend. For him to speak of self-transcendence in this
context should give us pause, for until we see really close up the magnitude of our human
failures, both personal and collectively, can we really commit ourselves to pursue a
different course? And how does such a commitment arise?

Without the conviction that there is a vastly greater spiritual potential, a purpose and a
sense of meaning available to us, one that supports in us the capacity to cross the lines of
dogmatism and to see through this materialistic fixation that blinds our spiritual eye,
hope seems dim for a future without sectarian wars and greed based power structures.
Our global crisis cannot be separated from the deep and fundamental ideas we hold as to
the nature of reality, whether or not these ideas are conscious, held as religious dogma,
tribal or nationalistic mythos–ideas govern our actions and are the primary
differentiation we humans can claim from our animal companions on this Earth. It is
important to consider very seriously how a world-view, the world-view we hold both
collectively and individually, can support the growth of ethics and human values. To
recognize the potential we have to universalize our ideas and our vision, is an essential
step towards self-transcendence. We can then begin the practice of seeing beyond our
personal interests and beyond mere opinion.

If we can accept, with Bertrand Russell, that “The kernel of the scientific outlook is the
refusal to regard our own desires, tastes and interests as affording a key to the
understanding of the world,” and if we can accept the philosophic interpretation of the
quantum physicists’ discovery that there is an underlying intelligence in the very fabric of
the world in which we live, and if we can agree to inquire into the nature of this universal
intelligence and our relationship to it in a manner free of the dogmas that have paralyzed
our independent search, possibly we could arrive together at a worldview that could truly
inspire compassion and reverence for all life.


Carol DeAntoni studies, writes and gardens in Crestone, Colorado with her life-partner Lee Temple and their two dogs.


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[1]  Paul Brunton’s term for the order of the universe, the logos or divine wisdom immanent in manifestation.

[2]  The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol 9, Chapter 4, The World Crisis, #72

[3]  Excerpted from a speech by Vaclav Havel, 1994 on the occasion of his receiving the Philadelphia Liberty medal.


© 2014  Carol DeAntoni.  All Rights Reserved.  Please print on recycled paper.