The Story of Kosmos

By Nancy Roof, Founder and Editor Emeritus | Kosmos Journal

My Story: Changing Myself to Change the World

You could say that it’s been a lifetime quest. As far back as I can remember I was asking, Who am I? What am I here for? Where did I come from? What should I be doing with my life? I am grateful to my family for not indoctrinating me with any particular religion or belief system. My father was against it having suffered a sense of sin from his Baptist upbringing. This gave me the greatest gift of all—the freedom to start my spiritual search for the meaning and purpose of life with a clean slate. I attended different Christian religious services with friends (that was all that was available at the time), but couldn’t find anything that satisfied my deep inner quest. I knew, even then, that I had to depend on my own experience for the answers I sought.

When I was 24 years old, I was totally paralyzed with polio (except for my arms) and was diagnosed as a hopeless case. As I lay for months unable to move without help, I found myself reflecting again on the important questions that my condition induced. Is life worth living even if you can’t move? My resounding answer was, Of course. I have the most precious part of life as I can still think about creative ideas and communicate with others.

Yet years later, my capacity for survival was again stretched as I became a single mom with three children living on $150 a week and working two jobs. The incessant struggle launched me into a “dark night of the soul” leaving me to question again, Why should I live at all?

Finally, a day came when a delicate, but radiant pink rose dropped into my mind’s eye. I was breathless contemplating its beauty, and with every inner glance, my heart began to open wide again. Love. Love. I don’t need to wait to receive love. I need to give love right now. Most of us are beginners at true love and I was one of them. Agape love transcends erotic love and is a choice, a decision. And I made the decision that turned my life around. My personal life was no longer important. Giving it up was not a sacrifice because my passion for interior development and service was so much more compelling. Love. I began to find answers.

Discovering Eastern Religion and Esoteric Thought

Shortly after this stunning revelation in the 60s, I found Eastern religion and esoteric approaches to spirituality. I was so enthralled that I kept reading, reflecting, and couldn’t stop. I continued to find answers in my quest for meaning. I found meditation, consciousness practices, and exercises to help me manage my mind and emotions. I was aflame with curiosity and love. Here was the new spirituality for me, devoid of dogma and providing me with practices to help me master and develop my own capacities and relationship to the Kosmos.

The Buddhist and esoteric paths teach us to believe only what we know in our own experience. I had found my path—life itself brought the lessons I needed to learn. Direct inner guidance was to be my teacher with no intermediaries, along with the learning from my own life experiences. I began to define what spirituality was to me.

Becoming a Monk in the World

Cultivating my inner life and spiritual sensitivities became my priority. Love and beauty that had energized my passion to live in the past now were complemented by will and purpose. What was the larger Will of the Kosmos that led me so many times to know, ‘not my will but thine be done’?

My personal practice began to influence my professional work. In the late 60s, my husband and I founded the Mountain School for Esoteric Studies. There, we held regular meditations and invited teachers from the East to share different meditation practices and philosophies.

Pioneering Transpersonal Psychology

In the 70s I was invited to design and develop the first courses in Transpersonal Psychology on the East Coast at Interface. I had to overcome my fears and develop these courses from the inside out. I would be required to do this many more times in my life, trusting that my inner knowing would guide me and generous resources would support me. Ken Wilber, a pioneer in transpersonal psychology, lived nearby, and he and I shared several meals together in the late 70s. We used his developmental model in all our workshops and courses. His integral theory of human knowledge and experience—intentional, behavioral, social, and cultural—would have great influence later on during the conception of Kosmos Journal. We taught meditation, visualization, bodily-felt sense, experiential knowing, hypnosis, journaling and many more contemplative practices. I loved working with individuals and thought this was my life’s work.

Expanding to Global Spirituality: The United Nations

In 1987, I suddenly had an inner calling to expand the work I was doing to the global level. Now my questions became even larger. How does one apply spiritual principles, developed for individuals, to global affairs and all of Humanity? My doubts expanded too –  I don’t know anything about global affairs. However, by this time I knew the wisdom of overcoming my fears and trusting inner guidance instead of my rational mind. When one is committed to service, somehow the right colleagues and companions appear to help. And indeed they did.  I soon had an apartment in New York City opposite the United Nations.

I thrived at the UN. From 1987-1991 I continued to learn about global affairs. I was consumed with learning about global affairs and making friends with the international community. I wanted to understand why we fought destructive wars with one another and elected to support corporate profits rather than the environment. Why did nations act in their own self-interest rather than for the common good? What could we do about it? I co-founded the Values Caucus in 1996 and the Spiritual Caucus in 2000 at the UN. Both Caucuses dove deeper into the causes of conflict through discovering the diversity of worldviews and cultural values. We successfully lobbied for language and new concepts in international documents and treaties—for the inclusion of life-long education and spiritual values. While learning about worldwide humanitarian efforts, I developed healing techniques for secondary traumatic stress in the former Yugoslavia with a USAID grant. My concern was no longer limited to my own country, but to humanity. At the UN they say ‘humanity’ is the most common word spoken. This was why I was there. I identified myself not only as a Monk in the world, but also as a global or kosmic citizen.

Kosmos Journal: The Emerging New Civilization

In the process of our UN work, we began to identify the NGOs, staff, and ambassadors whose perspectives were global rather than national, and whose policies reflected universal deep values. In 2000 we formed a small group of globally conscious, spiritually oriented people from different continents. This was the beginning of what eventually became Kosmos.

artwork | © Alex Grey,

As we slowly develop—becoming first an integrated personality and later in touch with the soul/heart, the source of wisdom, love, and purpose—we need a vehicle through which to express our life’s work. This was mine. Without any training in the field of journalism, I overcame my fears again for something larger than my little ego and accepted the service I was given with humility. I increased my meditations to help guide me. What should a journal about the emerging new consciousness, culture and planetary civilization be? Is there a need for such a publication, and who is it for?

Kosmos Journal is for those who want to understand and participate in the era of transition from an industrial society to an information/people’s society. The first issue of Kosmos was published for $2500, a gift of Lifebridge Foundation. It was 2001 and we were beginning to see signs of the breakdown and breakthrough of consciousness, cultures, institutions and civilizations. Science had now proven what contemplatives have known for centuries. Since then, our support has grown immensely, and our purpose has evolved with increasing clarity. Kosmos is for all of us who have been disillusioned with the present culture of greed and materialism, disrespect and deep suffering caused by the inequities in harnessing the world’s resources and wealth. It is for those who want to be directed to the finest, most noble voices that are in touch with some aspects of the new civilization and do not have the time to filter through all the false prophets to find a kernel of truth. It is for those that long to return to a state where the heart is as central to our humanness as our mind. It is for those burning with passion to make a difference and to create a new world based on the generating power of life and spirit.

A Wider Vision: Scaling up our Concerns and Responsibilities

Scaling up our concerns is an inherent part of our roles as global citizens. In 2012 the UN conferred Consultative Status to Kosmos in recognition of its global work. We have had visitors from 195 countries to our website since we began recording this statistic in June 2011. Citizens from around the world, working together to demand that world leaders take stronger steps to address such urgent global issues as human rights, climate change, sustainable development, poverty alleviation, the prevention and elimination of conflicts between countries, and more. Beyond global, our inquiry extends into our place in the universe, as the direction of evolution becomes more and more inclusive. The name of our journal, Kosmos, continues to remind us of our purpose to align with this historical evolutionary moment and the spirit (will) of the Kosmos itself.

The Heart: Source of Beauty, Truth and Goodness

Kosmos invites contributors who have both experiential knowledge about the leading edge of evolution, but who also listen to and speak from the heart—the source of wisdom and compassion. The heart understands social, political, economic, and human issues in the widest possible context. Heart wisdom is inclusive understanding at all levels of being and becoming—and of creation itself.

The new civilization and culture we all yearn for is based on global human awakening to a giant worldwide reflection and contemplation on who we are and why we are given the gift of life on planet Earth for these few short years. What is our role in the vast universe? What is our responsibility to care for the natural world—our mineral resources, plant-life and animals—that have given us a home and nurtured and cared for us for 3.8 billion years? How can we get along as one humanity celebrating our diversity? Will we be able to organize our institutions and creatively innovate our future in time? Will we use our self-reflexive consciousness to develop our inner capacities to make the transition from an industrial age to a new civilization that benefits all? How do we transition from dominant, hierarchal power to distributive power of the people? How can we educate the whole person—body, mind, and spirit? How can we communicate with different cultural value systems—tribal, traditional, modern, postmodern, and integral—to find the value of each perspective? How can we innovate while preserving the sacredness of nature?

These are the burning questions that Kosmos addresses. We are grateful to our brilliant contributors and artists who address these questions with both head and heart, inspiring, challenging, and stirring our loyal readers to purposeful, sacred activism. The commitment of our community comes from a deep place of intuiting the future and caring deeply for our children and future generations who will inherit the earth we leave behind.

[Editors Note: As we ponder the remarkable story and legacy of Nancy Roof and Kosmos, it is with great humility and respect that we take up her story, hold it close to our hearts, and carry it forward. Through Kosmos Journal, Nancy Roof labored tirelessly to inform and inspire a generation of world servers. Now, as we stand at the edge of profound change, a new era of collaborative effort and engaged practice calls to us, and renewed spirit fills us as we prepare to midwife the emerging story of Kosmos. R. Fabian]

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Read Past Editorials of Nancy Roof