Navigating the Anthropocene: insights from the wisdom of the Corpus Hermeticum.
Jeanrenaud, SJ; Jeanrenaud, J-P
What is nature? And what is humanity‘s role in the world? Such questions have been asked for millennia and constitute major themes of philosophical enquiry. However, they take on a special urgency for leaders in the context of the Anthropocene, a new geological era in which ―human activities have become so pervasive and profound that ...
What is nature? And what is humanity‘s role in the world? Such questions have been asked for millennia and constitute major themes of philosophical enquiry. However, they take on a special urgency for leaders in the context of the Anthropocene, a new geological era in which ―human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of nature‖ and have potentially catastrophic consequences for all life on earth. In this chapter we review the characteristics of three meta-narratives that address human-nature relationships: Anthropocentric, Cosmocentric, and Theocentric. We appraise their contested ontologies and epistemologies, or different assumptions about ―being‖ and ―knowing, which are embedded in contrasting worldviews, and which profoundly shape how global sustainability problems and solutions are framed and legitimized today. The paper goes on to explore insights from ancient wisdom, and in particular ideas from the Hermetic tradition. It outlines the Hermetic idea of The Three Heads of Knowledge: Atum (or God), Cosmos, and Humankind, and argues that such a framework can help establish a more integral worldview today. The Hermetic system presents a broader view of human nature, of Mind (Nous), Soul and Body, with a capacity to have relationships with many planes of being – both spiritual and material; and a higher human purpose, related to fulfilling our spiritual potential. Hermetic wisdom outlines a spiritual path of regeneration‖, cultivated through quiet contemplative practices and a pious life. This interior journey involves transcending the limitations of time, space and generation, and expanding the consciousness to merge with Nous – or the Mind of God. Self-realization implies oneness with the truth of divine intelligible causes, principles and powers. This knowledge is beyond human opinion, and the knowledge of the laws of nature. We propose that the ancient wisdom of Hermes has several implications for addressing contemporary challenges. Its integral worldview provides a key to reconciling apparently contradictory philosophies and enriches our understanding of the paradox of what it means to be human: ―a part of‖, as well as ―apart from‖ nature. It also suggests methods of social and ecological regeneration. Unlike most sustainability solutions today, these methods focus on realising humanity's inner spiritual potential and role. These include but go beyond both Anthropocentric and Cosmocentric worldviews.
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