Deep calls to Deep
At my father’s funeral, the presiding pastor, Russell Morgan, told of the final time he gave Dad communion. Dad, also a Lutheran minister, was bed-ridden and very hard of hearing. Russ had to shout in Dad’s ear and, even then, Dad couldn’t easily figure out what Russ was saying. But when Pastor Morgan offered the bread and wine and said the familiar communion words, Dad mouthed the words right along with him. Pastor Morgan said it was as “Deep calls to deep.”1
In that moment, Dad and Pastor Morgan touched another dimension beyond either of them. Deep calls to deep. They were immersed in a depth of Oneness with Ultimate Reality.
Can you think of moments when you felt really connected to someone or something outside of yourself, almost in a mystical way?
Maybe when admiring a sunset, you felt at one with nature;
Or tearing up when you first held your newborn baby;
Or the satisfaction of giving a hungry person a sandwich;
Or being overwhelmed with joy or sadness when singing the words of a poignant song;
Or the realization of being supremely connected with another human while making love.
In instances like those, you become one with a dimension that is beyond just the physical. Possibly you recognized that feeling was related in some deep way to all life, even to all that is. Instead of saying this is God acting, I see these moments as tapping into Oneness.
Oneness is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love, compassion, and justice.2
Remember, I said last week that we can’t define God. We can only describe our experiences of the divine. To me, Oneness describes both an experience and a reality. When it’s a feeling, a sensation, or to use a mystic’s term, a knowing, then we can say it’s an experience. When we use Oneness as a name, we’re describing the ultimate reality of the entire universe. So, to me, Oneness is my way of referring to the active experience and reality of what others call God.3
A Biblical example is the oft prayed Jewish Shema: “Hear, O Israel. Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one.” We usually think of this as referring to a single being. But you can also read it as God (Yahweh) is Oneness.4
It’s not just semantics.
What I’m trying to do is to move beyond God as a being, whether “up there” or “down here.” Understanding God as a being is making God too small. Paul Tillich described God as the “ground of being.” Notice he doesn’t say God is “a being.” Rather God is the ultimate reality of all there is: good, bad, whatever. When we grow in what that means, we don’t need to get hung up on specific portrayals.
Am I simply playing games by substituting one word or concept, Oneness, for the more familiar God? You may say that. However, what I’m trying to explain is that the usual descriptions of God carry a ton of baggage.5 Using a different term can help us expand toward better understandings of the human purpose within creation. This helps us navigate toward wholeness. And wholeness makes both us and others feel better and nudges the world toward a healthier future.
The Freedom of Oneness
What’s great about Oneness is that it is not someplace else—out of this world. It is everywhere and each of us participates in it and, in our own way, shares responsibility for it. There can be no distance between us and the universe. No separation between us and God—the reality of Oneness—and all the rest of creation.
Oneness is choosing to live in the present, rather than being on Earth just waiting for another life in some mysterious realm. It frees us to be fully human right now.
Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is describing Oneness when he says, “We’re not separate and distinct from the Universe. We’re not just alive in the Universe. The Universe is alive in us.” I think he’s paraphrasing the apostle Paul who described it as “the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being.”6
We don’t need to try to relate to a judgmental God, nor have a savior die for us. We are already part of the divine essence. And so is everybody in the world. My pastor, Monte Stevens, sees each of us as made of divine DNA. Obviously, that has great implications and responsibility for our relationships with others—neighbors throughout the world.
So, next week I’ll touch on how Oneness affects relationships. After that, I plan to show a few ways Oneness gives purpose to creation and encourages wholeness in our lives. For now, embrace the thought that you’re a divine part of all creation. You’re interconnected to every molecule of Ultimate Reality, and that calls you to be all that you can be.
____________________________ May 1, 2018
1 Psalm 42:7a
2 Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p.64. I used her great definition of spirituality with just two changes to shift it from Spirituality to Oneness. Her use of “greater power” is spot on. The more popular term, “higher power,” implies too much “up in heaven theology” and separation between us and whatever is above us.
3 I don’t mind using the term “God,” but I want to be clear I’m not referring to a being who resides outside the world. I haven’t fully decided on the capitalization of Oneness, so I’ll probably be inconsistent in some of my writing. I consider it both our experience of, and a name for, ultimate reality. Oneness also doesn’t cause confusion with gender references. It isn’t a “He.”
4 Deuteronomy 6:4. Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz of Temple Israel, Dayton, confirmed that this interpretation is within the scope of the Hebrew word for One as used in the Shema. This is often described as “there is one as opposed to no other.” This is clearly a non-dual concept and since Oneness includes everything, there can obviously be no “other.”
5 The negative baggage includes any vestiges of anthropomorphism, any ability to intervene in earthly situations, and any judgmental or punitive nature.
6 Acts 17:28. Paul was quoting the poet, Aratus, who originally wrote that line. I would modify the line to read: The One(ness) in which we live, and move, and have our being. Taking out “whom” removes any personification.
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Art Fabian is on a spiritual journey to enjoy more aliveness, and to share the goal of wholeness with others. He has no special training or degrees in this field. He’s not a religious scholar or theologian. However, he hopes you might also enjoy a walk towards a richer life that benefits us, our neighbors, and all creation.