The cosmosophical process involves four limbs. They should not be approached in a linear way; rather, we are always dealing in one way or another with each. There is no end to the process. The Universe is constantly in flux, always evolving, always birthing. The pursuit of wisdom, therefore, is a never-ending, always changing process.
The first limb is science and observation. Paradoxically, it is the last of the limbs to arise among humans. For most of human history, the human participated with the cosmos without the scientific idea of objective observation. Rather than a complete break from the past, however, science can be better viewed as an extension of already-present aspects of this participation. Life always takes in external information toward which it attempts to develop appropriate behaviors. Even the simplest living cells make determinations about the nature of their environment. Behavior, and ultimately, the way an organism evolves, is based on this interaction. Evolution occurs not through individual cognition, but through collective processes. The human extends this capacity by using symbolic systems of communication. Based on the way we believe the Universe to be, we create a worldview. Scientists, however, because they are purportedly objective, do not appear to engage in the meaning-making, worldview-building process.
For this reason, the second limb of cosmosophy is philosophy. The task of philosophers is to find meaning in the knowledge our science unveils. Everyone engages in at least a little bit of philosophy, admitted or not. Even when we reduce our discussion to “scientific cosmology”, philosophy is required to determine what these facts mean. For example, some, most notably Steven Weinberg, have determined that our world is utterly meaningless based on a lack of empirical evidence for God. Others have recently determined that, based on the same empirical process, we must change our way of life to save ourselves from global warming. Each of these involves an implicit philosophical assumption, that chaos is meaningless; that the world is worth saving, based on scientific information. This is not a critique. To think about how our way of life should correspond to the world before us is profoundly important.
Ideas about the world, however, generally do not change the way we relate to it. The third limb, therefore, is mystical participation. This involves practices and ways of life that allow individuals to connect to the cosmos that our science and philosophy attempt to describe and explain. Behind any mysticism are certain assumptions about reality as observed in our science and relayed philosophically. But mysticism can do more than help one connect to the facts and ideas as they are known. The mystic is at the edge, breaking through the cosmic and cultural barriers to know things in an entirely new way. One should tread carefully here, however. Mysticism that is developed from a dualistic framework often runs counter to the observations we make. The mystic should balance unique subjectivity and novelty with an adherence to what the first two limbs suggest about the world, drawing on well developed philosophical foundations and practices that involve the body, compassion for one another, and connections to nature. It is through mystical participation that it becomes apparent that wisdom is not primarily something the human creates, but an attribute of the cosmos to which the human gives particular expression.
This form of expression is the fourth limb, the imagination and creative expression in which the mystic gives birth to a new myth. Just as the Universe is fundamentally a birther, the human gives birth to poetry, song, and story. Collectively, our mystics, our philosophers, our scientists, and our artists produce the mythology that teaches us how to live our lives, teaches us what has the most value and meaning. This meaning is never fixed. The myths of the middle ages were not wrong, but we cannot live lives in the world based solely on them. The mystics of the past connected to the Universe as they knew it; the artists told stories about that world. We can draw on those myths and mystical philosophies, indeed, it would be a mistake not to draw on them, but a worldview must combine a consistency and connection to the past with novel ideas and observations. Just as biological evolution operates according to an adherence to long established norms, any mutation that is too extreme generally cannot be carried on, and novelty that is consistent with a changing ecosystem, worldviews change based on the wisdom of our traditions and new ideas that allow us to live more sustainable, meaningful, compassionate lives. A trait is never adopted in a vacuum; it always depends on the community of life around it.