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10.5. Ethosphere and Cosmosphere: Two new concepts for World Bioethics, and their application to the Asian segment

- R.N.Sharma, Ph.D.
A 15/16 moraya residency Sus road,
Pashan, Pune 411 021, India


The tangible Biosphere and the subsequent epi-phenomenal emergence of human consciousness and intelligence, the Noosphere1, is a consequence of natural processes of physical and biological evolution. The Ethosphere is introduced here as the moral, ethical or spiritual Diaspora of human societies. Since, unfortunately, we have not been able to realize a Universal Ethical Singularity2 of and for the Homo sapiens, the world is divided into ethospheric segments based on region, nation, society, even religion and language. Ultimately, of course, there has to be an unitary Earth Ethosphere, but at this moment of History this is a kaleidoscopic fudge without much substance or sanity. We can perhaps empathize better with the segmental pieces.

The Asian Ethosphere

In this communication, I deal principally with the Asian Ethosphere. Asia is a theatre of astounding heterogeneity of race, language, religion, customs, social, economic and political systems. But patterns of homogeneity exist to give at least a pragmatically ephemeral Asian Ethosphere distinct from others on this planet. The contrast with the more composite Western (here synonymous with developed, affluent industrialized societies) Ethosphere is most striking. Analysis of the nature and causes of these differences (which will be the subject of another paper) can be very rewarding for understanding, projecting and shaping the future of the potential Unitary Earth Ethosphere which must be given shape soon if Humanity is to survive.

The beginnings

Let us first recapitulate some of the undeniable truths that constitute the bulwark largely of the hitherto unformed and uneven Earth Ethosphere. Sharma eg 3,4,5 has pointed out that the etiology of religion in early human societies can be traced to fear of inability to comprehend, much less to control external and internal forces and situations governing the emerging human social groups. The oft claimed 'morality' of the human as an intrinsic trait, or his designation as a 'moral animal' are essentially corollaries of his need to stave his primal fears, whistles in the dark, as it were, by the creation of an omnipotent, omnipresent 'God', who could be addressed for succour when everything else failed. The religious and moral edicts, inhibitions and prohibitions, customs and rules, surfaced later as much as addenda as odes to hyperbolic halo of morality conferred on the (various!) 'God(s)', and concomitant needs of societal cohesion in the nascent civilizations. These primitive propensities of the early Homo may now be decried as pagan, but they were the nuclei of later more contemplative and other, now established modern religions. Geographical isolation led to disparate human establishments, and parallel diverse lifestyles and mindsets. In more salubrious climes such as the alluvial plains of fertile riversides more contemplative spirituality took root, giving rise, most prominently, to the Sindhu (Vedic, Hindu) and Nile valley civilizations. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism and Shinto are some of the more philosophical formal orthodoxies that survive and thrive in the Asian lands today. A common, if not entirely visible thread running through these systems of morality, or the ethnic (in the sense of the ancient and the original) Asian Ethosphere is the concept of The One manifesting into many, and acceptance of several paths to The One through the many. This all embracing spirituality embodies natural accommodation of and co-existence with divergent belief systems.

Some Other Ethospheres

In contrast, however, harsher desert climes of Arabia, and Mediterranean backwaters produced several 'One God, One Book, One Path' ideologies which by their very definition could not countenance not only one another, but also no other. The insistence on the evangelist dogma in some of these monotheistic systems of thought led to inevitable conflicts with the rapidly decreasing geographical distances and the meeting (or confrontation/clashes?) of civilizations. Today, some of the One and Only Systems have spread throughout the world. Indeed, in many regions, they have become predominant to the extent of giving rise to theocratic states, or assumed the status of significant minorities in socio-political frameworks. This has led very often to continuing minor or major imbroglios, sometimes aggravating into tragedies such as forced migrations, or decimations of populations, and even wars. This scenario is especially true for the Asian region.

Asian Ethosphere revisited

Inroads of continuing modern technological revolutions further embroil the entire gamut of disparate systems of thought and morals, as also aspirations and objectives. These malaise of the collective ethos of Asia (barring perhaps very few highly developed societies) today manifest in turbulence, often violent, anarchist and inhuman, which continues to plague nearly all segments of the entire region. Cynical amorality and the denial of individual responsibility is a shocking, indeed sacrilegious anomaly in societies ostensibly proclaimed, and perceived as more religious than others elsewhere. Archaic moral codes, ancient, irrelevant religious orthodoxy and regressive social traditions seem to replace basic human ethics, or universally perceived morality in most parts of Asia6. This is reflected very simply, and most strikingly in the well documented and admitted abysmal levels of personal and public corruption in most Asian countries today. It must be remembered that mere strident repetitions of high morality of ancient scriptures and traditions cannot substitute for real moral fiber, and actual observation and practice of essential ethics by a society. The Ethosphere is not carved by the proclamations, or even actual past glory, but is the vibrant, existing essence of the individual and collective of moral stance and ethical behaviour of a people. It is emphasized that in the ultimate analysis the collective always reflects in the individual thought and action, and vice versa. There is general universal awareness about the near total collapse of responsibility and morality in public life in many Asian countries. This seeps down, in turn, to apathy, amorality, immorality and total abdication of personal responsibility or duty towards others or society at large by the individual. The severe crippling of societal, indeed human values as a consequence of this is seen in the widespread criminal appropriation, as well as mindless destruction of resources, natural, material, human and moral; the inability to ameliorate poverty and manifold deprivations of communities; the indifference towards communitarian approach or effort etc. Despite world community's support through money, materials and men, the impoverished and deprived in Asian countries continue to live at the edge of existence in nadir aggravation. Despite such raging problems, distrust and hatred due to manifold reasons, including religious bigotry continue to spread mayhem and anarchist terror in many regions. The Asian Ethosphere is today a ragged mosaic in desperate need of a healing weave.

A comparison

It is in context of the above dismaying vista that a brief, if not very palatable contrast with the Western Ethosphere (as defined above) may provide shafts of illumination in this deep and dark Asian well of peripatetic moral ambivalence. Whatever its unfortunate selfish power games in the name of futuristic geo-strategies for survival of their kind first, and humanity at large later, it cannot be denied that nevertheless the more developed societies of the Western Hemisphere exhibit communitarian approaches blended with at least personal responsibility, and both personal and public (collective) altruism towards the less well endowed and still struggling conspecifics. This in turn reflects in more community consciousness by the individual, and ordered, less corrupt sociopolitical orders and governance systems in many Western countries. The latter are also showing appreciation, howsoever dim and tilted, of the grave need to redress, or provide the cleansing touch to the soiled fabric of the Asian Ethosphere, indeed to all human populations in the so called developing societies through both economic and sociological inputs. The more far-sighted and intellectually vatic are able to realize the absolute necessity of having a Universal Human Polity with a basic minimum, and common Ethics for Humanity, if the latter is to survive and march towards Prescriptions enunciated by the author7. The latter naturally and logically give rise to the concept of the Cosmosphere.

The Cosmosphere

To understand the idea of the Cosmosphere, the concept of the Unitary World Ethosphere may be reintroduced here as the epiphany of the unique human traits of intelligence and ethics. It embodies universal human needs and aspirations of unseen and unrealized, but perceived and celebrated phenomena of the spiritual dimensions of existence : God; soul; life after death; perpetuation of the individual psyche; purpose or meaning of Life, the Universe etc. As a philosophy of the High in both mundane and abstract biology, Bioethics must not only recognize the Ethosphere and strive for its continuing development, but also be open and empathic to the idea of the Cosmosphere. The latter conception arises from known facts, howsoever insufficient, about the Universe we find ourselves in (without even touching upon possibilities of multi-/parallel universes). It is now generally believed eg 8 that the Universe arose from an all pervading Nothingness as an eruption whose first manifestation was an acoustic burst which was succeeded by a continuing expansion spewing energy translating into matter in dimensions perceived as Time and Space. Physical evolution led to galaxies, stars, planets and like material bodies. It can be argued that Biological Evolution, even if it may be confined to our own planet only, may be a continuation of the Physical. In other words, the emergence of life, and subsequently of sentience and intelligence may be regarded as part of a Process of Continuing Evolution, which was embodied from the very beginning in the entity that is the Universe, which, let us again recall, originated in a turbulence in the all pervading fabric of eternal Nothingness. We, the Human species, are too puny, and may remain so, to comprehend the Universe in the vastness or infinity of its entity. However, we may, as many do, subscribe to the possibility of other Beings and Intelligences in the Universe. We may further extend a spiritual edge to all phenomenal occurrences in the Universe, but most notably and with justification to the development of intelligent beings. In doing so, no doubt we mirror our own spiritual leanings, or the moral yearnings of the human species through time. But then we have also created God(s) in our image. The Cosmosphere can now be elaborated as a conceptualization of the spiritual ambience of the Universe, including especially its varied etho- and noo- spheres on earth, or elsewhere in Space, or Time. In this we do away with the concept of God as an anthropomorphic creation. Religions, in their essences of moral or ethical codes, regional or otherwise, then occupy their own spaces in the Cosmosphere, without conflict. Instead the very idea of the Cosmosphere, with its Universal (not merely earth-bound) sweep enjoins upon all sentient creatures to seek the Final Enlightenment - if there is such, and if at all it can be realized, sought fervently by nearly all Earth religions. In this common quest, which would literally be a 'reaching out to the stars'7, there can be no room for internecine conflicts. The time has come to strive towards realization of the common goal of all religions through the ages : God. However, since the Human has been unable to shed blinkers of race, nationality, language, caste and even gender, this lofty concept has been compromised to the extent of being ridiculed, usurped for anarchy, and even discarded in total negation. Perhaps the Cosmosphere with its entirely universal secular (in the sense of not being confined to even the Human species, let alone sects thereof) character may usher in a rationality in conduct, and a shift in conceptual goals of the whole human community in tandem with whatever may come to be perceived and defined as the directions, potential or objectives of the existential reality of the Universe as we know it. This would entail a collective effort of hitherto unimagined unity of purpose and thrust by Humankind as a whole that would shed with disdain blunders of past conflicts as shriveled skins of immature moults. The consolidation of a composite, unitary Ethosphere of Earth with well defined transcendental goals will require emancipation and incorporation of the chequered Asian component as a first step in the long march of Humanity towards assimilation in the Cosmosphere of the Universe.


Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1961): The Phenomenon of Man. Harper and Row. New York.
Sharma, R.N. (1998): Universal Ethical Singularity. EJAIB, 8, 52
Sharma, R.N. (1997): Identifying and Defining Limits of Biological Life, and Evolution. In Bioethics in India ed J. Azariah, H.Azariah and D.R.J.Macer, 30
Sharma, R.N. (1999): Transcendental Evolution of Trans-cultural Ethical Systems into an holistic ambience Bioethics in and from Asia. TRT 5 Japan
Sharma, R.N. (2001) : The fuzzy dimensions of human life span segments and psychobio - evolution : Trends and Imperatives. In Bioethics and the Impact of Genetics in the 21st century : Proceedings of the Seventh International Seminar in Fukui. Eds.N.Fujiki, M.Sudo and D.R.J.Macer.54
Sharma, R.N. (1998) : Asian/Indian Man: An Agonising Appraisal. In Bioethics in Asia eds. N.Fujiki & D.R.J.Macer, 70
Sharma, R.N. (2002) : Prescription for Life in the Universe. EJAIB, 12 , 9
Hawking, S. (2001) :The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam Press.pp 216

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