Forty-Two Propositions on CosmoErotic Humanism, the Meta-Crisis, and the World to Come by David J. Temple

CosmoErotic Humanism is a philosophical movement aimed at reconstructing the collapse of value at the core of global culture. This movement emerges in response to the meta-crisis, understanding existential and catastrophic risks as rooted not only in failures of economics, politics, and technology, but in failed worldviews. The core of CosmoErotic Humanism is a system of First Principles and First Values that recasts cosmic evolution as a Story of Value in which humanity plays a unique role. These First Principles and First Values ground a comprehensive set of theories, including self and psychology, epistemology, scientific metaphysics, education, theology, mysticism, sexuality, and value.

CosmoErotic Humanism thereby responds to the three great questions: Where? Who? and What? It offers a new Universe Story (Where am I?), a new narrative of identity (Who am I?), and new vision of ethics (What ought I/we do?). These are some of the first words on the possibilities of a world philosophy adequate to our time of civilization transformation. What is offered by CosmoErotic Humanism is a new Story of—eternal yet evolving—Value that can serve as a context for our diversity, finally allowing us to speak of humanity as part of a shared Story of evolving Cosmic Value.

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To the Reader

The propositions collected here unpack the urgent moral need to articulate a new vision and theory of value. Simply put, humanity must redefine what it understands to be valuable if it is going to survive. Humans must understand the importance of what they value in the Cosmos—the reality of value itself—beyond the notion that what they value is, for example, simply an arbitrary price that can be fixed to a commodity. The idea that a tree is only as valuable as what it can be sold for is absurd. The idea that a person is only as valuable as what they can contribute to society is also absurd. In fact, both incarnate a dimension of value that is immeasurable and fundamentally irreducible to its commodified form. Yet just this kind of absurdity has been driving global culture for centuries.

There has been great confusion in value theory over the last two hundred years. On the one hand, conservatives have attempted to simplify the discussion to a single list of preordained and eternal values, which must be protected, and to which all people must pledge allegiance. At the same time, driven by a reductive materialism, scientific communities largely claim that only what is described by physics is real and that therefore nothing ultimately has intrinsic value. Given this metaphysical assumption, contemporary value theory has stridently argued that value is but a contrived human invention. The rise of postmodernity has only exacerbated this trend, labelling all values “social constructs,” “fictions,” or “figment of our imaginations.” This claim has now entered mainstream culture. To cite but one example, two extremely popular books by Yuval Harari, Sapiens and Homo Deus, present these kinds of dogmatic postmodern claims as taken-for-granted assumptions. Harari’s books have received enthusiastic endorsements from popular cultural luminaries, including prime ministers, presidents, corporate leaders, and myriad literary, spiritual, and religious figures.

Value, however, is not merely instrumental or economic. It is not a social construction or cultural contrivance—not a mere fiction covering over a truly valueless and therefore ultimately meaningless world. The propositions here begin to demonstrate that value is intrinsic to Cosmos, all the way down and all the way up the evolutionary chain. Value is foundational and evolving. It is not that human beings contrive value; rather, value precedes life. Life is an inherent expression of value. Life is contrived in pursuit of Cosmic Value. Cosmic Value in this way generates life, as life emerges in pursuit of value. We live inside of value even as value lives inside of us. Reality is value. But this is all ahead of the story.

The material collected here from the internal writings of the Center for World Philosophy and Religion. The Center is co-founded and led by Marc Gafni and Zak Stein. Together with Ken Wilber—also a cofounder of the Center—and an international team, they execute the Center’s mission: to evolve culture as needed in response to the looming threat of existential and catastrophic risk. This movement in culture has become referred to as CosmoErotic Humanism. Future volumes will include many colleagues who have been in leadership positions or dialogue with the Center for World Philosophy and Religion over the years—including Barbara Marx Hubbard, Lori Galperin, John P. Mackey, Howard Bloom, Ervin László, Sally Kempton, Daniel Schmachtenberger, and others. In each volume, as appropriate, we will recognize any particular partners who played a key co-authorship role in that particular work.

Taking the form of forty-two telegraphic propositions, this extended monograph provides a brief unpacking of CosmoErotic Humanism’s First Principles and First Values. We are not making our full arguments here; these will appear in longer forthcoming volumes. Please read through the propositions themselves, skipping ahead to those most interesting to you, those that elicit the most desire. Also review the list of First Principles and First Values (see pages 168–170) and try to hold the whole picture before beginning to read through them in sequence. Here we are putting it all on the table, as it were, so that, as we begin to publish more and elaborate on these themes, there is no confusion as to where we stand.

David Judah Temple
October 2023
Vermont, USA

Photography by Kristina Tahel Amelong

The following is the Introduction from our new book “First Values & First Principles” by David J. Temple.

Download Chapters 1-5 of the Book HERE
Order the Book

David J. Temple is a pseudonym created for enabling ongoing collaborative authorship at the Center for World Philosophy and Religion. The two primary authors behind David J. Temple are Marc Gafni and Zak Stein. For different projects specific writers will be named as part of the collaboration. In this volume Ken Wilber joins Dr. Gafni and Dr. Stein.

Dr. Marc Gafni is a visionary world philosopher and futurist, one of the leading formulators of world spirituality and religion of our time, and a beloved teacher and public intellectual with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. He has more than twenty books to his name, including Your Unique SelfA Return to Eros, and three volumes of Radical Kabbalah.

Dr. Zak Stein is an educator, groundbreaking educational theorist, and futurist who specializes in developmental theory and metrics with a doctorate in the philosophy of education from Harvard University. He is the author of Education in a Time Between Worlds, among many other publications.

Ken Wilber is the creator of Integral Theory, with over twenty-five books to his name. He is one of the most influential philosophers of our time.

Introduction: On Redefining “Value” & Realizing Intimacy with All Things During the Meta-Crisis

The world is not what it was when the great wisdom traditions first began to (re)connect (“religion” is from the Latin religare, meaning to bind or tie) the human to the Cosmos through the identification of a Field of Value in which all life participates. The last century has seen more change in the conditions of human existence than any other period in known history. Technologies and societal evolutions have moved the center of culture outside the Field of Value. Humanity has become untethered from Reality, and more specifically: divorced from the Reality of Value. And so there is an urgent need for new forms of religion, philosophy, and culture that reconstruct value and reconnect humanity with nature and Reality.

Concern for the legacy of the great traditions is what unites the writing collected here to the modern tradition of perennial philosophy. This tradition suggests that a common core of truths can be found within all the best works of humanity’s religious imagination and interior sciences of contemplation. We propose here an Evolving Perennialism in which universal and eternal truths can be identified without becoming fixed. Eternal values evolve. As explained below, this is one of the ways beyond the devastating criticisms of accepted forms of value that modernity and postmodernity have rightfully offered. The failures of prior traditions that enthroned value do not put an end to value; in our hands, these critiques serve to evolve value.

Throughout this text we seek to integrate the insights of those traditions that have read value into the very fabric of Cosmos. We are attempting to distill, at a moment of supreme need, the deepest insights that humans have had about what is intrinsically valuable, sacred, and good—as well as the means to know these truths, communicate them, and integrate them into culture, psyche, governance, and technology.

Before getting to the forty-two propositions, it is necessary to introduce some of the most important ideas upfront. While this introduction is by no means a replacement for the whole text, it does aim to provide a good enough sense of the main ideas—the rest is justification and elaboration on the big picture encapsulated in these first pages.

A Universal Grammar of Value as a Context for Our Diversity

Core to CosmoErotic Humanism is the articulation of a universal grammar of value, shared by all humanity as a context for its diversity—and shared by humanity with all of nature and the broader Cosmos. A grammar is something shared by everyone who speaks a language, and aligning with its parameters allows for each person’s unique expression. A grammar of value is likewise universal for everyone, while allowing for unique individual expressions, manifestations, and evolutions. Articulating such a grammar of value is the essential basis for any coherent course of action at planetary scale that could preserve the species. As such, its creation/discovery is self-evidently one of the overriding moral imperatives of our time.

This universal grammar of value must serve as a context for our diversity. And so, it must not be merely arbitrary, but clearly rooted in First Principles and First Values, which are themselves embedded in a Cosmic Story of Value.

Value must be shown to be Real, and our shared allegiance to it must be self-aware and noble. Otherwise, a new Story of Value would need to be an imposed fiction, as the postmodernists claim, rather than realized and validated truth, as we do, along with so many others in the many traditions of value realism. CosmoErotic Humanism is not a totalizing or homogenizing project. It is rather the (re)valorization of richly diverse and unique personhood—and the (re)uniting of personhood with the intrinsic values of Cosmos.

A New Story of Value

CosmoErotic Humanism demonstrates that no detail of Reality, from matter to life to mind, can be legitimately engaged with or made sense of when alienated from the magnificence and mystery of the larger Cosmic Field of Value and Story. Indeed, Story is not merely a human contrivance. This is a core idea in CosmoErotic Humanism. As we point out in Proposition Eleven—and will soon dedicate an entire volume to unpacking—language, story, and narrative constitute part of the ontology of manifest Reality itself.

But for now, we simply note that Reality has a narrative arc, an inherent telos, and a direction. There are inherent plotlines, strange attractors if you will, or what we refer to in CosmoErotic Humanism as the lure of value.

The movement from quarks to culture is filled with inherent creative freedom. At all levels of Reality there is Story. And the Story of Reality is the evolution of Eros and intimacy, each of which we will define formally in our interior science equations below. Reality’s Story—a CosmoErotic Love Story in which humans have unique capacities for consciousness, freedom, and responsibility—is always already animated by plotlines driving the ever-deeper emergence of Eros and Value. We speak below and elsewhere of ErosValue—a single term pointing to the heart of Reality’s evolutionary dynamics. This term was coined to denote the absolute inseparability of Eros from Value, and the role of Eros as a superordinate value—the expression of which manifests all value, driving all plotlines toward love.

Evolving First Principles and First Values Are the Plotlines of Reality

We understand from complexity theory, evolutionary biology, and theories of universal grammar in linguistics that a simple, limited set of foundational (First) Principles can generate the emergent self-organization of highly complex systems, evolving to display a virtually unimaginable number of parts. Basic patterns establish the possibility space into which chaotic emergence evolves, as seen in everything from cellular automata to game theory.

In other words, we realized many years ago that the same simple First Principles that organize exterior realities into complex and coherent wholes also function as interior First Values that organize the realities of purpose and consciousness into complex and coherent wholes. Let us explain.

In effect, First Principles and First Values are the plotlines of Reality, the trajectories of evolution’s unfolding. They are the intrinsic values and ontic principles that should be the foundation of human worldviews—that is, if we seek to live in keeping with the meaning of life and realities of nature. Because these are the focus of this work, let us take some time at the outset to explain further. Some groundwork must be laid to get into these truly profound issues.

What are the most basic aspects of Reality? What is the basic structure and nature of the Universe? Most modern humans, who tend to respect what goes on in universities and well-funded government research, would look to science for answers to these questions, positing things like time, space, matter, energy, motion, and causality. Our claim, simply put, is that this is far too narrow and limited a metaphysical view. Indeed, suggesting that Reality is only just time, space, matter, energy, motion, and causality does not even do justice to the full breadth of physics as a discipline. Time and space have been shown to be one continuum; matter and energy have been shown to be equivalent; and causality and motion cannot be applied at the subatomic level, where quantum indeterminacy reigns. But our view is that the Universe is wilder than even these revelations of post-Einsteinian physics.

The basic premise here is that value and consciousness need to be added to the list of what counts as fundamental to Cosmos.[i] More specifically, this must become the dominant view, integrated into the source code of culture itself, thus changing the mood of humanity and our sense of what is possible. Without this, as I explain below, our species will not navigate the meta-crisis, and within two generations will likely experience the end of life as we know it. The project of placing actual, grounded, intrinsic value at the heart of culture is urgent, and the stakes could not be higher.

A great deal follows from the (re)enthronement of value and consciousness as primordial to Cosmos. The architecture of the Universe begins to appear complex and adequate to explaining our experience of it (as well as in it and as it). Our work focuses on a set of First Principles and First Values, which represent an attempt to clarify and formalize—that is, to make available as the foundations of a new worldview—the most basic realities that must in principle exist, and which are thus also universal sources of intrinsic Cosmic Value. To be clear, this is not just a description of what the Universe is doing, but an understanding of what it aspires to—what desires animate the Universe’s being and becoming. Therefore, Conscious Evolution, as we define it, occurs when a species becomes aware that evolutionary processes live in it, as it, and through it—and can then choose to align with the inherent First Principles and First Values embedded in the larger evolutionary Story of Value.[ii]

Evolution as the Progressive Deepening of Intimacy

One of these First Principles and First Values is intimacy. What this means is that a particular definition of intimacy can be used to explain, in a very basic way, how the Universe works, and thereby ground intimacy as a fundamental value of Cosmos.[iii] Intimacy, as defined here, is experienced by human beings when individuals share an identity in the context of relative otherness, in which there is mutuality of recognition, feeling, value, and purpose. Consider a family in which each person is unique but identifies as part of the family, and thereby experiences varying degrees of mutual recognition, feeling, value, and purpose. This intimacy holds families together, and is valued, intrinsically, by those who benefit from its integrative force.

Our argument is that something like this same kind of intimacy appears at every level of evolution, is part of how the entire Cosmos functions (cohering itself through increases in intimacy), and is also part of the intrinsic Value of the Cosmos—everything at all levels desires and moves toward greater intimacy. The search for ever wider and deeper intimate coherences animates Cosmos, operating across all the levels of manifest Reality, and serves as the unifying ground of all being and becoming. Reality is thus intimacy itself, as well as the drive for the progressive deepening of intimacies—the evolution of intimacy—in all of its expressions.

Thus, the structure of human intimacy and the yearning for it are, at their root, animated by the same core quality of allurement and a yearning for intimate communion—in a dialectical dance with the desire for autonomy. Intimacy and the desire for intimacy are continuous all the way down and all the way up the evolutionary chain, even as the precise nature of its quality and the consciousness that accompanies the desire for intimacy are self-evidently discontinuous—that is, unique at every distinct level of Reality. For example, the actual human experience of intimacy differs based on each individual’s psychological maturity and level of consciousness. Even as it participates in the larger shared Field of Intimacy, and is governed by the same core tenets, human intimacy is also self-evidently different from the intimacy between atoms, molecules, cells, organs in a body, and the bodies of plants, fish, animals, and other mammals.

Demonstrating this requires innovations in how we know (epistemology), how language itself is used (semiotics), and how empirical research from special fields is read and understood (philosophy of science). These are discussed later in this manuscript under the heading of Antho-Ontology. For now, please allow us to boldly state the conclusions of some of this work in one sweep, to offer a general sense of what this is all about.

Here is a formalization of the Frist Principle and Frist Value of Intimacy.[iv]

Intimacy = Shared Identity x [Relative] Otherness x Mutuality (Recognition + Feeling + Value + Purpose)

This is not math. As explained later, the equations are suggestive attempts to clarify a very deep structural definition of a universal metaphysical reality. A simple sentence doesn’t do justice to the dynamic and evolving nature of what is described, so we worked with language and symbol until we got as close as possible to an expression that captures the complexity and numinosity of the referent. Again, we are forced to stretch the limits of language and representation when discussing realities as fundamental as these.

We are also exploring a certain way of reading scientific texts. Philosophy has long been in a position of having to explain science to itself. Science does not validate itself; it turns to philosophy for justification. This is why the best scientists are often also doing philosophy concerning the foundations of their field and end up writing books (often later in life) that are deeply philosophical and likely to be religious. This is also why most of the work of modern philosophy—especially the philosophy of science—has been acting as a handmaiden to science, helping it to mature and understand itself and its limits. What this means is that scientific practice and scientific findings are often in need of interpretation and translation, usually into languages that are nonscientific, and that give meaning to the science.

CosmoErotic Humanism adopts this view when running a sophisticated hermeneutics of interpretation across various texts from diverse scientific fields. The claims we are making involve seeing through the findings of special sciences to the most general principles and processes they all point toward. In the philosophical tradition from Peirce to Whitehead, this has been called building a scientific metaphysics: seeking higher-order coherence within and among the various fields of science. In doing this we a not invaliding any specific knowledge nor claiming to know more about particular fields of study than specialists. We are instead serving as expert generalists and philosophers with an obligation to weave the insights of all sciences, together with the wisdom traditions and more recent postmodern critiques, into a Story of Value that brings coherence to a fractured lifeworld.

Applications of the Intimacy Equation

Let’s look very briefly at some applications of the formula drawn from different domains. We will elaborate more on some of these instances, while others are more self-evident and will be mentioned only in passing here.

Implicit in the equation is the understanding that the enactment of intimacy generates ever-deeper unions, but not fusions. We do not merge. There is always the paradox of I and We. There is always the dialectical dance between allurement and autonomy. Mutuality is always in the context of otherness. The goal is intimate communion and never fusion. And otherness itself is never more than relative, in the context of a deeper shared identity. For the shared identity between parts is always present—even as it is also the ground for our individuated selves with their irreducible uniqueness across all Fields of Reality. Thus the intimacy equation applies across all dimensions of the Real—be it subatomic, molecular, cellular, organismic, organizational, as well as inter- and intra-personal—between all parts yearning to participate in larger wholes, at the level of matter, life, and self-reflective mind, from atom to amoeba to Adam.

Putting our cards on the table early and without preamble may lose some readers who believe we are playing fast and loose. But that is a risk worth taking to provide the benefits of an introductory summary worthy of a “spoiler alert.” So, bearing in mind the discussion of Anthro-Ontology to come—where we unpack our epistemology, semiotics, and philosophy of science—here are illustrative examples of the First Principle and First Value of Intimacy.

Physics: It is 380,000 years after the Big Bang. There is nothing like the structure of an atom in the Universe and no reason even to ever expect an atom might exist. But contrary to the ostensible second law of thermodynamics, according to which the Universe is only winding down over trillions of years, it is also constantly winding up, resulting in the emergence of radically new wholes, with entirely new properties and potencies, magnificently and exponentially greater than the sum of their parts.

When subatomic particles are drawn together into an atom, they continue to exist as independent realities. There is no fusion; the subatomic particles do not disappear. But there is a higher union. An atom represents a new value, a new character, and a new potency in the Universe Story. The protons, neutrons, and electrons create a shared identity (in the context of relative otherness) called an atom. These emergent configurations have an entirely new set of capacities, functions, and implicit potentialities—none of which existed in the prior parts, i.e., the subatomic particles that constitute an atom cannot do or be what it can. In other words, these coherently bonded particles generate an entirely new mutuality of purpose—they function together as an atom.

Implicit in the leading edges of work in these fields is the realization that in some sense the subatomic particles recognize each other. At the core of the mutuality of recognition is the placing of attention. The subatomic particles feel each other. So even at that level, there is a proto-desire to touch and form larger unions, a desire that is inherent in the structure of the Intimate Universe as a whole, at all levels. This proto-desire is the interior feeling of the subatomic particles.[v] The intensification of intimacy between the parts generates the synergistic emergent, the new whole, whether that be at the level of an atom, a molecule, or the emergence of a cell from macromolecules. From the perspective of interiors, the new whole, or synergistic emergent, is both motivated by and an incarnation of a new quality and new structure of intimacy.

Chemistry: The classical definition of a chemical is “any substance that has a defined composition.” But that hides the movement toward greater intimacy that characterizes the reality of chemical processes. A chemical is in fact multiple configurations of intimacy, allured to each other to create a new whole.

The intimacy equation elegantly describes the world of chemistry, chemical elements, and reactions. A chemical is a configuration of intimacy in which all the parts (atoms or molecules) live as a shared identity in a context of (relative) otherness. That is, the distinct atoms and molecules continue to exist, even as they combine to form a larger shared identity. Moreover, there exists mutuality of recognition (they recognize and “choose” where and how to merge and fit together), feeling (the quality of allurement between the distinct parts), value (a shared field of meaning and concern between distinct atoms and molecules), and purpose (the unique potencies and potentialities of each chemical).

One simple example of a chemical that commonly occurs in nature is water. We are all taught in our early schooling that a water molecule is composed of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom. The term atom is at once scientifically accurate and at the same time obfuscating of the real quality of both hydrogen and oxygen. Each of these two atoms is more accurately—not poetically, but literally, structurally, and qualitatively—a unique configuration of intimacy, of intimate coherence. And this unique configuration is drawn together by their unique allurement to each other.

A chemical reaction formally refers to a change in a chemical. More generally, it can be understood as the process by which one or more substances transform to produce one or more different substances. This does not necessarily refer to a physical change, such as liquid water freezing into ice, but rather to a change in the configuration of intimacy that is the pattern of coherence between the atoms constituting the water molecule. In other words, a chemical reaction changes the structure and quality of intimacy. Afterward, the atoms never return to their former stage without a new chemical reaction.

Biology: Applications of the intimacy formula self-evidently abound in the biological world. Cells themselves emerge from the intensification of intimacy between the macro-molecules that preceded the first cells. And cells, of course, are themselves configurations of intimacy between distinct, various organelles and cytoplasm, and in communication with the nucleolus, all held within the membrane—itself selectively permeable, thus allowing for metabolic intimacy within the cell’s environment.[vi]

Following the descriptions in chemistry and physics above, it becomes easier to see how the equation applies at the level of life. The parts of the cell share a core identity in the context of (relative) otherness, as well as a mutuality of recognition that allows for their co-functioning, all enabled by a mutuality of feeling, expressed as behavior indicative of shared values and purpose. All this gives rise to the unique capacities of the cell vis-à-vis the molecular elements that constitute it.

The same could be said to be even more true of multicellular organisms, where cells are drawn into increasingly complex forms and structures of intimacy. The intimacy equation applies throughout the biological world in ways that are easy to see once the basic patterns are seen clearly enough to prime perception.

Consider your own body—the precious human form—which emerged through a process of embryogenesis over the course of many months within the womb of your mother. Like all complex organisms, we begin as a small number of cells, and emerge as the result of a complex processes of differentiation and integration involving the hierarchical integration of cells, organs, and organ systems—each separate, but sharing an identity in the context of relative otherness. As one core refrain of CosmoErotic Humanism puts it, you live in an Intimate Universe, and the Intimate Universe lives in you.

After birth, complex organisms are allured into configurations of intimacy with less-complex organisms, embodied in related flows of physiochemical elements, all of which together are called ecosystems. Here, at a higher level, unique and distinct elements form into symbiotic webs of life. Complex processes of mutual recognition and shared identity in the context of relative otherness are found throughout the natural world. Indeed, the interdependencies that constitute the biosphere are vast configurations of intimacy.

Psychology: As already mentioned in passing, the First Principle and First Value of Intimacy is directly accessible in our own first-person experience. It is easy to simply point to the virtually self-evident centrality of the drive toward intimacy in human experience. For most people, when placed in a situation where they are unable to contact the interior of another person, such as solitary confinement in prison, life quickly becomes unbearable, and not worth living. The need for intimacy with others, a wider identity with mutuality of recognition, feeling, value, and purpose, is fundamental to the quality of life itself. We find this in the findings of attachment theory and psychotherapeutic modalities that focus on early childhood interpersonal schemas. It can also be found in cognitive developmental psychology and neuroscience, which now stress the primacy of intimate interpersonal relationships in the development of intelligence and consciousness.

The desire and drive for intimacy expresses itself as ever-deeper contact and ever-greater wholeness. This is part of the essential nature of existence. We know in our own interiority that intimate devotion is ultimately meaningful, while the devaluation of intimacy violates something essential in Cosmos. We do not experience intimacy with loved ones to be a meaningless evolutionary adaptation reducible only to the particular social construction in which intimacy appears at certain moments and places in time. Rather, intimacy is quite literally a survival need. This is expressed in the findings of attachment theory, in which it was demonstrated that even with adequate biological needs met (food, water, warmth), an infant will die without the love and attention of a caring, mothering presence. This is true in primates and other animals as well. The drive to intimacy is fundamental to the evolutionary impulse that beats in us and as us—so fundamental that it overrides everything else.

This means, according to our definition, that humans long for authentic shared identity. We want to be in some form of relationship without losing the integrity of our autonomy. We want to experience shared identity in the context of relative otherness. In this kind of group membership, friendship, or partnership, there is mutuality of recognition—we place attention on each other—which fosters greater uniqueness in each of us, our Unique Selves, as well as the blossoming of our collective Unique We. There is a mutuality of pathos—we feel each other. Intimacy in this sense means that I can feel myself feel you. And I also feel you feeling me. Intimacy deepens as we add a loop of mutuality in our capacity to feel. But recognition and feeling are still insufficient for full intimacy. We yearn for a third dimension, mutuality of value, which then yields in its wake a fourth—mutuality of purpose: we seek to live together within a shared Story of Value, moving toward a shared goal.

Intimacy as formulated in the interior science equation is implicitly recognized across the exterior sciences, as the animating architecture of Cosmos. We have seen this in the paragraphs above, which are well buttressed in modern systems theory and its later expressions in complexity and chaos theory, all of which are properly understood as a kind of mathematics of intimacy. In all of these disciplines, Reality is well described as an Intimate Universe in the terms formulated in the intimacy equation. This same recognition of the intimate architecture of Cosmos, expressed at the human level of existence, is what is being referred to in the contemporary social sciences as a loneliness epidemic. The phenomenon is even cited by the medical establishment as a primary etiological factor in the various forms of personal and collective breakdown. It is this same recognition of the Intimate Universe that the ancient interior science texts were evoking—for example, when they wrote in the Book of Genesis, “It is not good for the human to be alone.” And indeed, the word good is the key refrain in all of Genesis, Chapter One. After every stage of the world’s evolutionary emergence,[vii] the text reads, “And God saw that is was good.” Then in Chapter Two, the text suddenly exclaims, lo tov heyot ha’adam levado: “It is not good for the human to be alone”—or “to be lonely.” All of the good of Reality is “not good” if we are lonely.

To be lonely is not merely a human neurotic condition—it is in violation of the essential nature of life, which is intimate interconnectivity and wholeness. To be lonely is to be non-intimate, cut off from the interior of another, isolated in surface existence. To be lonely is to be unable to share the depths of your interior with another being. To be lonely is to be misrecognized. Living on the outside, by yourself, is non-erotic and non-intimate, no matter how conventionally successful you are. To be lonely is to be apart and not a part of. The truth is that everything is part of the great Whole. Contrary to the famous view of seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who helped shape the interior culture of the modern west, human beings are not in a natural state of war but rather a natural state of intimate, dynamic Eros.

Organizations: At the level of a large company or nation-state, operations only work when there are multiple “divisions.” Those divisions require an underlying shared identity if the company is to succeed. Every organizational consultant knows that agencies, companies, and departments break down because various sub-factions develop separate identities that not only distinguish themselves but also alienate themselves from each other and from the shared identity of the larger group. Each division then develops a kind of agency that dissociates further the larger shared identity of the whole, as a win/lose metric suffuses the subtext of their discourse. The sense of a larger shared identity breaks down.

For things to work in an organization—whether it’s a division, committee, political party, or state—each part needs to have an intimate culture of shared identity in the context of relative otherness. There needs to be shared identity between the distinct parts, coupled with mutuality of recognition, the capacity to feel each other, a shared ground of value, and shared purpose. Each division is ostensibly independent, yet within a context of deep shared identity.

At the collective level, we don’t want to obliterate individual religions, nations, and other long-standing sources of group identity and organization. Healthy, individuated nation-states and religions realize their larger shared identity with every other nation-state or religion in the context of otherness. All nations and religions are unique and can join in to play their particular instruments in what we call a Unique Self Symphony. Each collective, or individual person, adds their own specific tone, melody, and timbre—the context of otherness—but the underlying music is shared—the context of common identity.

Understanding and properly valuing intimacy as a First Principle and First Value means that when moving to reconfigure politics to meet global challenges, we do not seek a homogenized globalism. That would open the door to totalitarianism, which is the terror of fusion and transparency, not intimacy. Rather, we need global federations constituted by strong, individuated nation-states and religions. Worldcentric intimacy must not efface healthy bio-regional and cultural intimacy. Between nations, we need shared identity in the context of relative otherness, where we not only mutually recognize and deeply feel each other, but participate in a shared Field of Value. This then generates a new coherence out of which arises mutuality of purpose.

Because of the fundamental nature of the value of intimacy, perhaps you can see how these examples could be expanded almost indefinitely across many fields.[viii] The goal here is to provide a rough overview of what is meant by a First Principle and First Value, so that as the text unfolds below there is enough clarity at the outset. Much remains unsaid at this point. For example, the issue of continuity and discontinuity across the evolutionary chain remains a central question. Of course, the experience of intimacy differs profoundly between a person and a cell. And yet, there are of course profound continuities, wherein some of the most essential aspects of human experience can be found prefigured in all prior stages of evolution. Also relevant are questions about the inter-inclusion of all principles and values, their simultaneous eternal and evolving nature, and their being subject to different levels of interpretation and instantiation. All this remains to be discussed. But before diving in we must reconnect with the motivating impulse behind this work.

Intimacy with All Things During the Meta-Crisis: Turning Humanity’s Endgame into Triumph

The Center for World Philosophy and Religion is based on the idea that evolving new answers to the great philosophical and spiritual questions—Who am I? Who are we? What can we know? What ought we do?—is pivotal for changing the vector of the present and creating a new future. A basis for a new cultural enlightenment must be created, as it’s necessary for cohering an open and vital global society. The alternative is the rise and dominance of closed societies or the foreclosure of the future itself. Thus the articulation of a shared grammar of value—rooted in First Principles and First Values, and embedded in a Story of Value from which new kinds of identities and communities may arise—is essential for humanity’s collective future. This grammar provides a way to speak and live that responds to the looming threats of catastrophic and existential risk born of this unique historical moment as we face unregulated exponential technologies and a global intimacy disorder.

A response is needed to the likely self-induced extinction of our species, the second shock of existence. And it must be found in the context of cascading and interrelated crises across all major sectors of civilization—i.e., the meta-crisis. A profound return to Reality is at hand, as humanity is once again brought back in touch with how the Universe works, for better and for worse. Of course, the question naturally arises: “What does writing books about metaphysics and value have to do with the meta-crisis?”

Imagine that civilization is a complex stack of the following layered but interrelated elements:[ix]

Superstructure includes the set of worldviews, grammars, ideas, philosophies, realizations, stories, wisdom, principles, and values that animate a society.

Social structure includes the agreements, legal systems, contracts, business models, and governance structures of society.

Infrastructure includes the physical built environments and technologies that provide for the material needs required by the social structure and superstructure.

This model animates the strategic drive of our writings on CosmoErotic Humanism, which are an attempt to help lay a new superstructure for society. CosmoErotic Humanism is a philosophy that offers a new Story of Value capable of reorienting our faltering civilization. We are seeking to spark and inspire a broader movement of culture, much like Existentialism or Romanticism in their day. We add our voice to those co-operating to steward humanity’s cultures through what will be our most perilous times.

We naturally recognize that superstructure, social structure, and infrastructure are mutually interdependent and continually co-arising. At the same time, it is our view that superstructure—the story we tell about the Universe, how we make our identities and communities meaningful—must be understood as the root cause of society’s formation. This means that if one desires to change the trajectory of society to avoid suffering and to realize the greater good, the most effective way to achieve that goal must be to evolve the story that animates society.

To evolve the story is to evolve the source code that works through all three layers. Therefore, we have focused our work on the evolution of a superstructure necessary to generate a new cultural “enlightenment”—specifically based on a new, emergent order of shared value. This is necessary to effectively respond to what is perhaps the most consequential and rapid period of change in history.

We have already used the term meta-crisis, echoing many others who use this term, to refer to our complex and climactic moment on the stage of history. And we view the meta-crisis as a crisis of maturation—humanity either becomes radically responsible and devoted to Life or it is the end of the human experience. The planetary situation is not some big mistake or the result of human evil or unredeemable vice. Civilization has been en route to planetary-scale transformation since the first plow, and for millennia the resources of the Earth have been consumed at exponential rates. These next few generations will live during the time when a phase transition to a new level of maturity must occur—that is, wisdom about value commensurate with our technological power must emerge into the heart of culture—or self-induced extinction should be understood as immanent.

Industrialized means of extraction and pollution have reached planetary scale and are now pushing the very limits of global ecological boundaries, dysregulating the biosphere as a whole. As much scientific research has demonstrated, this will quite possibly lead, within a generation or so, to the crossing of multiple tipping points, resulting in an unstoppable degradation and simplification of all Earth systems, as the biosphere cascades into a self-re-enforcing death spiral: dead oceans, desertification, the ending of seasonal rhythms, and a catastrophic depletion of biodiversity. This is the death of Gaia—the end of the biological life support system of Earth—and if humans continue to survive, it will be in conditions of unimaginable extremity.

Indeed, as if in preparation for this, a small number of humans have begun perfecting the instruments and methods of large-scale social control, approaching the limits of human nature and undermining the basis of modern notions of choice, agency, and self. Digital technologies have accelerated and added efforts long underway to transcend politics by way of predictive sciences of human behavioral manipulation. As discussed in the concluding section of this manuscript, we see this as the emergence of planetary-scale TechnoFeudalism. Technologies clustering around the rollout of AI social control are an existential risk—not only because they will kill us all, but because they also have the potential to trap us in subhuman forms of life. This possibility is discussed below as the death of our humanity.

Of course, we do have the means to simply kill everyone and everything. And because most of culture has made us numb to the reality of our ever-impending, self-induced extinction, we must be reminded again of what has been obvious since 1945. Humans have created weapons and technologies capable of destroying all complex life on Earth—nuclear weapons, exponential computation, synthetic biotechnology. These technological powers are increasing and are becoming less well regulated. Where nuclear weapons are relatively easy to track and count, today’s threats come from hard-to-detect AI, drones, and psychological warfare, which, combined with the danger of non-state actors and increasing scarcity, suggest a much more existentially precarious environment than that signified by the mushroom cloud. Doomsday through accident or war is as close as it has ever been. Below we discuss these possibilities concerning the death of humanity.

From Crisis to Crossing

Nothing moves on any of the above threats to our humanity and life itself without something moving in our theory of value. Later in this document, we discuss the multiple links between the collapse of value at the center of culture and the emergence of existential and global catastrophic risks as a feature of modern civilization. For as long as humanity has no shared Story about what should be valued—let alone agreement as to whether Value itself transcends our social constructions—how can collective steps be taken to prevent the death of Gaia, the death of our humanity, and the death of the species itself?

Without a shared universal grammar of value—rooted in First Principles and First Values and grounded in a Story of Value to serve as a context for our diversity—the human family will fragment in the absence of intimacy and eventually self-destruct. It is only such an evolution of the source code of culture and consciousness itself—a kind of crossing over to the next level of human emergence, that can respond to the meta-crisis of our time.

We choose the term “crossing” with some degree of trembling intention. The phrase derives from the philology and collective memory of the interior sciences of Hebrew wisdom. Indeed, the very word “Hebrew” derives from the words “eber” or “ever” meaning crossing. The word is in reference therefore to Abraham, known also as Ibrahim. These interior sciences texts, imagining the Euphrates river that wound through the fertile crescent, declaim, “the entire world is one side and Abraham crosses over to the other side.” The Hebrew is the one who crosses to the other side. Abraham is recognized in the axial traditions of the west and east as being a seminal hero of human history, an early adapter of Homo amor.

But the language play is even more potent and precise. The words Hebrew and crossing—in the Hebrew language—contain the same three letter root as the word for past. The implication of the text is that Abraham himself archetypally incarnates a time between worlds and a time between stories. Abraham, in the language of one interior science text, “goes forth to himself”—he crosses over from the memory of the past to the memory of the future. He incarnates the collective hero, the imaginal cells that move the caterpillar to become a butterfly as it dissolves. Abraham is the boundary crosser who breaks the tyranny of yesterday to create a possible tomorrow. Abraham is the hero whose heart, body, and mind are coded with memories of the future.

What is offered here is the beginning of a conversation. The list of First Principles and First Values—as well as their accompanying equations, which appear in the final section of this work—is not exhaustible. It is meant to represent the class of philosophical work we believe is urgent. Those privileged enough to be considering the future of superstructure must work to reconstruct value, to place (again) at the center of culture a sense of what is Real and what should be valued.


[i].  We are by no means the only thinkers to suggest this. See, for example, Ian McGilchrist’s The Matter With Things, where he picks up a similar thread to the one outlined here, based ultimately in the Kabbalistic tradition’s transmutations through Western thought and German Idealism into Whitehead. This alignment with McGilchrist was discovered after the first draft of this manuscript had already been completed.

[ii].  This understanding of Conscious Evolution is central to CosmoErotic Humanism. We return to this later in the manuscript, in Proposition Eleven.

[iii].  For those concerned about the naturalistic fallacy and the difficulties of moving from the descriptive languages of the sciences to the prescriptive languages of ethics and value theory, see Proposition Thirty-seven.

[iv].  There is a table with eleven of these dynamic equations on pages 169–170, and many are left to be elaborated in later works, so be prepared for some generative perplexity.

[v].  Whitehead (Process and Reality. Gifford Lectures, 1927–1928) called this “prehension,” or the lure to creative emergence. The Hebrew wisdom tradition (discussed in Gafni’s Radical Kabbalah, 2015) as expressed by Luria, called this teshuka—a paradoxical play at the heart of the cosmos between attraction and repulsion.

[vi].  Mathematician and complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman (At Home in the Universe, 1995) alludes to this generative character of intimacy in more formal scientific terms in the following passage: “As the diversity of molecules in our system increases, the ratio of reaction to chemicals, or edges to nodes becomes even higher. In other words, the reaction graph has ever more lines connecting the chemical dots. The molecules in the system are themselves candidates to be able to catalyze the reactions by which the molecules themselves are formed. As the ratio of reaction to the chemicals increases, the number of reactions that are catalyzed by the molecules in the system increases. When the number of catalyzed reactions is about equal to the number of the chemical dots, a giant catalyzed reaction web forms, and a collectively autocatalytic system snaps into existence. A living metabolism crystalizes. Life emerges as a phase transition.”

[vii]. The days of Genesis, according to any serious reading of the text, do not refer to twenty-four-hour periods of time. Days refer—quite obviously—to blocs of evolutionary time, an idea that appears extensively in Midrashic and mystical literature. For a deeper view of evolution and Genesis it is useful to begin with D.C. Matt’s God & the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science & Spirituality (Jewish Lights, 1996).

[viii].  Future volumes of CosmoErotic Humanism will elaborate many more examples.

[ix].  Here we are following Jürgen Habermas’s widely influential reconstruction of historical materialism as rendered in the light of Marvin Harris’s language, giving us a non-reductive model for the evolution of social systems split into three levels.

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Forty-Two Propositions on CosmoErotic Humanism, the Meta-Crisis, and the World to Come

by David J. Temple


First Principles and First Values is the tip of the spear in the fight for a humane future. Establishing frameworks for a new school of thought called CosmoErotic Humanism, the book is built around forty-two propositions that provide new source code for the future of planetary culture.

Like Europe in the early Renaissance, humanity is in a time between worlds, at a time between stories. First Principles and First Values contains blueprints for the bridge needed to cross from this world to the next.

“The position argued for in this book is of vital importance . . . it needs urgently to be read.”
– IAIN McGILCHRIST, author of The Master and His Emissary

David J. Temple is a pseudonym created for enabling ongoing collaborative authorship at the Center for World Philosophy and Religion, a leading international think tank whose mission is to address existential risk by articulating a shared universal Story of Value for global intimacy and global coordination. The Center focuses its work on a world philosophy, CosmoErotic Humanism, as the ground for a global vision of value, economics, politics, and spiritual coherence. The two primary authors behind David J. Temple are Marc Gafni and Zak Stein. For different projects specific writers will be named as part of the collaboration. In this volume Ken Wilber joins Dr. Gafni and Dr. Stein.

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