Sources of the Good: Toward a Complex-Integral Ethics for the Planetary Era – Sean Kelly #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

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Sean Kelly’s presentation brings Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Edgar Morin’s Complexity together to consider ethics in the planetary age.

Intrinsic to planetary awareness is an ethical engagement with the world, social oppression and environmental destruction. What I like about Kelly’s presentation is that his point of view naturally makes you aware of social responsibility. “We need to revive the idea of the global commons,” he says. Planetary awareness, complexity thinking, invites a truly engaged, complex and compassionate communion with human societies and the larger biosphere.

“Nobody should own rights, to water, to soil, to air. Nobody should be allowed to carry on an activity which toxifies the global commons, which in some way prevents you from having healthy air, water, soil, to grow food and nourish our children. Anything that impinges on the global commons is intrinsically evil. We need to identify it as such, and use that moral conscience to guide our policies and our decisions at the political, national, level and so on. This plays into our renewed sense of nature as a good.”

For Kelly, planetary ethics directly addresses the current world crisis in the global commons. It calls us to action:

“We live in a state of global apartheid… where the 1% own the majority of the world’s resources. There’s a massive power difference, in the nature of oppression. If we’re serious about raising our level of consciousness and our ethical development to the level of the planet, once we have started with the “I” and our individual, and we’re moving out into the “we” – this is what suddenly hits us. Look at all this suffering, this oppression. What do we do about it?”

Furthermore, a planetary ethics develops in us a sensitivity to distortions and abuses of power, and invites us to cultivate a sensitivity to how structures of authority are developed:

“We need to look at how structures of authority are created at an institutional level, a social level, a political level… These are the kinds of things we need to do if we want to reclaim the “We” and make it ethically integral. We need to start identifying the oppression, the exchanged distortion, happening at all levels of complexity.”

Commenting on planetary politics and spirituality, the “universal we need to appeal to needs to be a concrete universal. And what is that, but the Earth?” He leaves room for the “transcendent” orientations of the past, but encourages us to de-emphasize them. We have a spiritual reality, and concretely, its form is our shared planet. A third kind of religion, as Edgar Morin suggests, as “citizens of Homeland Earth.”

“If you’re serious about your non-duality… then where do you see that Spirit? You cannot see it other than here and now in this common planet that we share in.”

More later!