Reflections on the causes of the systemic crisis

Image: Markus Spiske


Among the many causes of the current crisis, two are fundamental: the erosion of ethics and the suffocation of spirituality


There is certainly a complex of causes underlying the current systemic crisis. It took over the entire planet and placed us at a crossroads: either we follow the path opened by modernity from the 17th/18th centuries with the advent of the scientific spirit that changed the face of the Earth and brought us countless benefits for life. But at the same time she gave herself the means of her self-destruction. Let's go further: the way we decide to inhabit the planet and organize our societies at extremely high costs for ecosystems and social relations, which are brutally unequal, has made us touch the Earth's limits.

Following this path, a terrifying abyss appears in front of us. The living Earth may no longer want us on its surface because we are too violent and destructive. We can succumb to the Anthropocene, the Necrecene, the Viruscene and finally the Pyrocene, caused by ourselves and also by the reaction of the living Earth itself, wounded and vitally weakened, which reacts in this way.

Or, in a moment of acute awareness regarding the possible disappearance of the species, the human being takes a quantum leap in his level of consciousness, comes to his senses, realizes that he can actually reach the end of his planetary adventure and change, forcefully and define a new direction.

It certainly won't happen without a phenomenal crisis that could take significant portions of humanity, starting with the most vulnerable, but not sparing even the most equipped. This happened in prehistoric times on the planet, in which up to 70% of the biotic load definitively disappeared.


What will be the direction? I believe that neither wise men, scientists nor spiritual masters know how to point out the direction. Humanity, now united by fear and dread, more than by love for the future, will realize that it may have reached the end of the journey. You will look around and discover a path to be followed and built by everyone's journey. “Walker, there is no path, there is no path to walk” taught us a desperate Spanish poet, fleeing Francoist persecution. From within our human essence we will have to draw inspirations and dreams that consolidate our new path.

Albert Einstein's quote is true: “the idea that created the current crisis cannot be the same one that will lead us out of it”. We have to dream, create, design viable utopias and open new paths. Life sciences have confirmed to us that we are beings of love, solidarity and care, despite the fact that a shadow always accompanies us and that we must keep it under surveillance.

But first, let us ask ourselves: why have we reached this global critical point? Here, more than just scientific knowledge, philosophical thinking helps us. Among other causes, I consider two to be fundamental: the erosion of ethics and the suffocation of spirituality.

Let us recover the classic sense of Ethos of the Greeks, as they still enlighten us today. Ethos written in capital letters means “the human house”. That is to say, we separated a part of nature, we worked on it to be a space for living well. The other way is the ethos in lower case, they are the ways in which we organize the house so that we feel good in it and can give hospitality to those who visit us: decorating the living room, placing the tables correctly, taking care of the kitchen, keeping the fire always lit, keeping the pantry stocked and the decently tidy rooms. It is the ethical virtues that give concreteness to the Ethos. But not only that, it belongs to the Ethos take care of the surroundings of the house, the garden, statues of divinities and good relations with neighbors. Only then will Ethos (living well) takes concrete form (ethos).

Today the Ethos it is the Common Home, planet Earth. For centuries it fed humanity. But with the advent of science and technology, we have exploited their goods and services in an unlimited and irresponsible way to the point that today we have exceeded their support capacity (the earth overshoot), the so-called Earth Overshoot. It is finite and does not support modernity's project of infinite growth.

O Ethos (living well in the house) and the ethos, the ways of organizing it have disrupted everything that is important for living well: we have polluted the waters, overloaded food with pesticides, poisoned the soil, contaminated the air to the point of affecting the system of natural life and human life. We witnessed the general erosion of Ethos. ethos and ethics. The Common House ceases to be common, and is appropriated by elites who hold land, power, money and conduct world politics. They became the Satan of Earth.


As serious as the erosion of the Ethos. ethos and ethics in general is the suffocation of human spirituality. Let us be clear: spirituality is not synonymous with religiosity, although religiosity can enhance spirituality. Spirituality comes from another source: from the depths of the human being. Spirituality is an essential part of the human being, like corporeality, psyche, intelligence, will and affectivity.

Neurolinguists, the new biologists and eminent cosmologists such as Brian Swimm, Bohm and others recognize that spirituality is of the human essence. We are naturally spiritual beings, even if we are not explicitly religious. This spiritual portion in us is revealed by the capacity for solidarity, cooperation, compassion, communion and total openness to others, to nature, to the universe, in a word, to the Infinite.

Spirituality makes human beings intuit that behind all things there is a powerful and loving Energy that sustains everything and keeps it open to new forms in the process of evolution. Some neurologists have identified an exceptional phenomenon. Whenever the Sacred is approached existentially, the experience of belonging to a greater Whole occurs in a part of the brain with a strong acceleration of neurons.

They, not theologians, called it the “God spot in the brain.” As we have external organs through which we perceive the surrounding reality, we have an internal organ that is our evolutionary advantage, of perceiving that being that makes all beings, that mysterious energy that penetrates all beings and vivifies them.

This spiritual dimension of our nature has been suffocated by our culture that worships money more than nature, individual consumption rather than distribution, which is more competitive than cooperative, prefers the use of violence rather than dialogue to resolve conflicts and created war. nuclear and biological as deterrence, threat and eventual use, which would mean the end of the life-system and the human-system. Violence and wars imply the suffocation of spirituality, intrinsic to our essence.

Currently, the eclipse of ethics and the deactivation of human spirituality could lead us to dramatic situations, not tragically excluding the extinction of the species homo after a few million years, loved, nourished by the Magna Mater that we did not know how to repay its care, reverence and love.

That's not why we despair. The universe holds surprises and human beings are an infinite project, capable of creating solutions for mistakes they themselves have made.

Leonardo Boff, wrote with Mark Hathaway, The Tao of Liberation: an ecology of transformation, in several languages, Vozes 2010 that won the gold medal in the USA in science and new cosmology.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabiting the Earth: what is the path to universal fraternity (Voices). []

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