Cognition is the ability to know-communicate. The scientific* perspective presents cognition as the ability of a living being to know its environment and communicate with it. Cognition emerges as a consequence of continuous interaction between the living being and its environment. Living is a process of cognition.
*Initiated by Humberto Maturana in 1978 with the publication of Biology of Cognition, his subsequent work in partnership with Francisco Varela in Santiago, Chile, came to be called the Santiago Theory of Cognition. The theory can be encapsulated in two sentences: Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with or without a nervous system.)
The world isn’t made up of static “objects”, but of open processes that communicate with each other, interfere with each other and co-evolve together. Therefore, what we know are not static “objects”, but living processes – subjects. We live in a living Universe. Cognition itself is a process. We only know to the extent that we communicate with what we know. As we communicate, we interfere with what we know and learn to relate with – to cohere.
The continuous “upgrading” of cognition has led to what we call human consciousness – the ability to know-communicate-love-identify with the greater reality of which we are a part. As we “know”, we begin to love what we know, to commune with, to identify with. The upgrading of cognition is a process that doesn’t stop at the level of self-centered consciousness, but goes further, towards planet-centered – to the extent that our cognitive abilities can know-love-commune-identify with the entire planet. The development of our consciousness simply means the development of our abilities of loving understanding.
It could start as an expansion of our horizon of theoretical knowledge about the Universe/Planet/Life/Humanity etc, and – if our metaphysical choice is the integration of the divergent tendencies of the world into something synergistic – the theoretical knowledge opens up to loving understanding. Loving understanding turns over time in love and communion with what is known. The “object” that we know, turns out to be a subject to communicate, love and commune.
“The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related.” (Thomas Berry)
“The divine communicates to us primarily through the language of the natural world. Not to hear the natural world is not to hear the divine.” (Thomas Berry)
“We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual ‘autism.” (Thomas Berry)
“In reality, there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its own inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings.” … “For in the end the universe can only be explained in terms of celebration. It is all an exuberant expression of existence itself.” (Thomas Berry)
“The universe must be experienced as the Great Self.” (Thomas Berry)
The knowledge that scientific discoveries give us could turn into loving understanding. For this, our individual spiritual journey has an important threshold to cross: from self-centered to larger horizons of meaning and identification. That is why I propose to you a rite of passage (see Invitation for co-creating the first Butterfly Fellowship) – a shared journey of discovery, learning and transformation. The community is the “magical place” where the miracle of transforming knowledge into loving understanding happens. It is the proper environment that can foster the evolution of consciousness. Daily activities could become veritable spiritual practices for the development of a planet-centered consciousness.