As human life on Earth appears to move inexorably toward planetary ecological collapse or nuclear apocalypse, we find a new “sacred-secularity” awakening among human beings that could mean the beginning of that “eco-holistic” awareness necessary for a transformed and flourishing planetary civilization. The present dominant consciousness paradigm, however, was born three and a half centuries ago. With the Renaissance of the 15th to 17th centuries in Europe, human beings began to develop a new individuality that carried fatal consequences. With Descartes in the 17th century, they began to more clearly distinguish subjective autonomy from the objective world that was the correlate of their subjectivity. This new consciousness, born in the 17th century, has since spread worldwide.

This capacity to “objectify” the world by a subjectivity apparently independent of that world led to the rise of science and, with it, the technological ability to control and manipulate the entire realm of natural processes. The older ("medieval") religious consciousness saw humans as the center of a creation that included a holy reality immanent within and also transcending the world. It was a sacred order of things undergirding and informing human life, and human beings were “made in the image of God” as integral to the order of life and salvation. In the 17th century, this world experience was fast disappearing. In the new subject-object consciousness articulated by Descartes and others, human beings were no longer integrated into a sacred order of things but were autonomous agents who epistemically confirmed “objective” truths about the natural world. This world was understood as mathematically based, as an objective correlate of human consciousness, and as structured by atomic units operating deterministically and mechanistically.

When 19th-century philosopher Frederich Nietzsche pronounced “God is dead,” he was expressing the consequences of these post-Renaissance developments. “Since Copernicus,” Nietzsche declared, “we have been moving from the center into empty space, into nothingness.” Copernicus, of course, had moved humans from a stationary, physical center onto a mere planet rotating on an axis and following an orbit around the sun.

The 30-year war ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, at which time the modern system of militarized sovereign nation-states was institutionalized. Meanwhile, during that same century, investment and return on investment were becoming the dominant modes of economic functioning. In 1698, the steam engine was invented, allowing the burning of fossil fuels (coal) to unleash vast quantities of mechanical power to be applied to industrial processes anywhere, anytime.

The older European civilization in which human beings were integrated with God and an embracing sacred order was gone. The 18th century gave rise to “deism,” the doctrine that God had created the world long ago, but, once created, the world was like a gigantic clockwork that just kept running on its own with no need of divine immanence within the working of things. The world was now desacralized, mechanized, and available for endless exploitation.

Capitalism was about exactly that: exploiting the world and human beings to extract and accumulate private profit. Science was about unlocking the secrets of nature to allow for a technology empowering this exploitation, and militarized sovereign nation-states were about conquering and colonizing the world in the service of motherland wealth and power. Explorers and conquistadors penetrated to the ends of the Earth and instigated systems of colonial rule and economic exploitation directed to managing a world and a humanity ever more secularized, ever more simply “material” to be engineered in the service of dominance, exploitation, and the accumulation of wealth and power.

It is sometimes said that there have been four industrial revolutions, the first in the late 18th century, drawing on steam power; the second in the late 19th century, using gas, oil, and electric power; the third in the mid- to late 20th century, with the development of nuclear energy; and the fourth in the 21st century, with the digital revolution that is still going on. All these revolutions, with their unleashing of immense power for manipulating, dominating, and destroying human beings and the world, have inherited today a humanity divided into some 194 militarized sovereign states and gigantic capitalist enterprises with assets often larger than the nation-states themselves.

As Nietzsche declared, we have gone from the center in which God, sacred order, and humanity were integrated into a meaningful whole to a “nothingness” in which an autonomous subjective consciousness confronts a desacralized humanity and world-material while holding in its hands the immense power of nuclear weapons, spy technology, and nation-state imperial fragmentation. Under the weight of this onslaught, now at 8 billion people and climbing, our planetary ecosystem is collapsing and our danger of nuclear annihilation is increasing.

Which world view is more in conformity with the true reality of our cosmos and our human situation: the pre-Renaissance sacralized world view or the contemporary entirely secular world view? The answer (that is in the process of being discovered and recovered by today’s most advanced thinkers) is “neither.” Since the early 20th century, quantum and relativity physics have fundamentally transformed our view of the cosmos. These sciences have uncovered the unrelenting holism of the cosmos and all within it, including the Earth and human beings. All things and persons are deeply intertwined with one another, meaning that both the fragmenting system of militarized sovereign nation-states and the capitalist system of lethal competition for power and profits are out of sync with reality.

In conformity with these latest revelations of science, theologians and philosophers have been reconceptualizing all the old religious concepts, from God, to divinity, to transcendence, to revelation, to grace, and to salvation. A new world view has emerged in which there are no longer the three distinct principles of humans, God, and nature as existed in pre-Renaissance Europe. And it is certainly not a world in which autonomous subjectivity wielding immense technological power confronts a desacralized world ripe for both destruction and exploitation.

The latest thinking is perhaps best expressed by philosopher and theologian Raimon Panikkar, whose immense corpus of scholarly writings spans the last half of the 20th century into the first decades of the 21st. Today’s profoundest thinkers, building not only on the latest scientific cosmology but also the work of philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead and integral thinkers like Ken Wilber and Ervin Laszlo, have resulted in a new holism, a new revelation, and a new adventure in awakening that can be called, with Panikkar, “sacred-secularity.”

The divine depths of the whole are there in every creature, in every piece of the world, and are intrinsically inseparable from both humans and the natural world. These depths are sometimes referred to in the East as “Śūnyatā,” the divine emptiness that makes possible and embraces humans and nature. Ours is a world that emerges in and through human beings, in which the human principle was there from the very beginnings of our cosmos some 13.7 billion years ago. (This idea is known in contemporary cosmology as “the Anthropic Principle.”) We experience solidarity with the natural world of which we are an integral part, inseparably embraced by a divinity that is “beyond being” (as Plato puts it in his Republic: hyper-ousia).

The divine, humanity, and nature are now inseparably intertwined as one integral reality and there is no “other world” hidden behind this one. All three dimensions are present in the fulness of each moment, and those awake to this no longer feel forlorn and alienated in a world of meaningless struggles for power and wealth. They are enlivened and again feel connected to flourishing life and transformative hope for a redeemed and fulfilled present and future.

Many of those who have awakened to the new sacred-secularity are dedicated to ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. This Constitution represents the new holism of nature and humanity discovered by 20th century science, and it represents the new emphasis on our inviolable, universal human dignity that was articulated by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The concept of dignity expressed in the UN Declaration introduced something entirely missing from the post-Renaissance “scientific” world view that has devastated the world through four industrial revolutions. “Dignity” is nowhere found in that world view, just as “God” is not found there, nor is there anything inviolable or sacred about the natural world that we inhabit.

The Earth Constitution, of course, is not a philosophical document and does not include abstract discussions but rather contains concrete democratic institutions by which we can govern ourselves on planet Earth with freedom, justice, nonviolence, and sustainability. Nevertheless, the Earth Federation government outlined by the Constitution places human dignity first and foremost and also on the interdependence and holistic integration of our world to ensure sustainability, the end of war, human freedom, and global justice. All these conditions conform precisely to the new sacred-secularity that is emerging in thoughtful and sensitive people worldwide.

Reality is in relationship. There are not separate “substances” called God, cosmos, and humans. And the ultimate confirmation of our human relationship with one another is emerging world law recognizing our dignity and integrity as the cosmic phenomenon that we are—the ultimate solidarity. One democratic world law for humanity actualizes and protects our inviolable dignity and projects this transformative and redemptive process onto all future generations. We become whole, holistic, and synergistic through the emergence of democratic world law. The egoistic individualism of post-Cartesian modern consciousness is gone, and we are free to experience the fullness of life, which means our common life as expressed in emerging world law.

The Earth Constitution allows this sacred-secularity to flourish and encourages its emergence among human beings. The Constitution recognizes human dignity as well as the intrinsic value of nature and our planetary ecosystem. It also allows for the emergence of a sense of the “sacred” that informs all things and is there in all our experiences for those who are truly sensitive to our human condition. The Constitution, in other words, is the concrete expression of the holism of humanity and the consequences of this holism for a world without war or militarism, a world of justice, freedom, peace, and sustainability. The very discussion of this Constitution, even prior to its ratification, encourages the ascent to holism.

The new sacred-secularity and emerging world law go together. Emerging world law recognizes human dignity, long associated with a sacred dimension to life, and emerging world law under the Earth Constitution actualizes the holism of our humanity so that we begin to act as a cooperative and integrated civilization of unity in diversity rather than as enemies building weapons to destroy one another. The new democratic world order will foster awareness of the true reality of our humanity and our situation within this wonderful cosmos. Our reality is that divinity, humanity, and nature are inseparably intermingled in ways that we can directly experience. This trinity is at the very heart of our experience, and we need to premise world law on this exact same integral actuality. Our sacred-secular task, therefore, must be first and foremost to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.