Why have I jumped on the concept of Oneness instead of just trying to re-explain God? Because God is so often understood as a being. That being tends to be separate from us, in another dimension, and isn’t unconditional. But if we look at Oneness as everything, then we can see that we’re interconnected and interdependent with everything else in the universe.
What’s most critical about Oneness is how we’re related to every part of it. Even though we are all One, we, in our finite way, often see other people and things as different from us. And we tend to rank people. We say some people are not of our family—tribe, class, race, country, heritage, whatever.
But what if we are all equal elements of Oneness? Then we have to see the worth of others. They’re just as deserving as we are. They have the same inherent needs, hurts, emotions, etc. as we do.
What is seeing?
Relationships are all about how we see. When we realize we’re all one, then we can imagine that everyone is made of the same divine DNA. So, if they are also divine, we need to treat them just as we want to be treated. Wait, isn’t there already a saying about that? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every religion and culture has a variation on the same idea.
What does treating others as yourself require? It means first having empathy. Empathy is a way of seeing. Empathy makes everyone a neighbor. A neighbor is someone close enough to care about and care for. The major point of the Good Samaritan parable is that the Samaritan saw his oneness in relation to another person from a different tribe he wasn’t “supposed to” respect.
When we see with empathy, we realize the need for compassion and justice. We also see how sustaining the Earth is in the best interests of everyone. We see how improving other people’s lives, i.e., the common good, is good for us.
Jesus was constantly trying to get people to “see.” His chiding the disciples about their not seeing and healing of the blind were metaphors for lack of understanding. He called his followers to see themselves and others as equally deserving of the fulness of life. He said doing that is enjoying life abundantly. Insight into the oneness of creation is truly seeing.
What’s the benefit of recognizing Oneness, having empathy, and seeing the divine in everything? Aliveness! Brian McLaren coined that term as a better translation of the Greek, “eternal life” which has come to mean “life after death.” Aliveness is well-being, shalom, blessedness, wholeness, harmony, and living life to the fullest.1
I like aliveness because it’s such a positive, active state of being. We are not just “alive.” We are not just waiting for a later life. In the present, we are imbued with an active awareness of our own self, or connections to the rest of the world, and our ability to interact with all that makes all of us feel more fully alive.
Resonance is when two entities are in sync. When we can truly empathize with another person we’re in sync. We mentally walk in their shoes and we tend to want to do something about their situation. Even if we can’t immediately help, it usually affects us in ways that resonate within our core being.
Franciscan Brother, Richard Rohr, says, “The energy of the universe is not in the planets or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them. Not in the particles but in the space between them. Not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another.”2
The space between them. It’s not just people who have energy, but it’s the relationship, the space between people, that creates energy. In feeling that energy, we are defining all humanity and our connection to it.
The deepest experience or relationship we can have is to be in synchrony with the universe. In this humanly-desired state we are fulfilling life to the greatest depths and broadest expanse. In this state we are, at the same time, serving ourselves and helping others achieve the same state of wholeness. We feel whole.
I recently saw the hilarious, but thoughtful, play, Hail Mary. Felicia, a novitiate nun, questions a new teacher’s progressive thoughts on the reality of God not having a separate nature. Near the end of the play, she finally understands and breathlessly lunges into the classroom and blurts out: “There is no separation. It looks like there is, but that’s a trick of the mind. We are not separate. We are, all of us, part of the whole, all one. Like a drop of water in the ocean is a part of that ocean. So that hurting him hurts me. Helping her helps me. The tiniest act of kindness effects all of the ocean. And that ocean…is God. Not separate, not up there, looking down. But right here. All of us and everything equals…God. …I think.”3
As is typical of all new realizations, Felicia, still has doubts about all the new concepts fitting together. So, she adds, “I think.” That’s very good. She’s thinking! She’s comparing how everything in the cosmos is related; how it fits her early Sunday School learning (God 1.0), or whether she needs to reimagine a lot of old religious images.
That reimagining is the journey…and there’s no worry about a destination. Keep enjoying the journey. This blog’s path will now lead to the purpose and calling of Oneness…I think!
__________________________________ May 7, 2018
1 Brian McLaren. We Make the Road by Walking, p, xv. He says that Aliveness is the meaning of the Greek, Zoein aionian, that is often translated to “eternal life.” For people living in the here and now, it’s a better translation.
2 Richard Rohr Meditation. April 29, 2018, The Template of Reality – Relationships.
3 Tom Dudzick, Hail Mary. Produced in Dayton, Ohio, by Human Race Theatre Company.
Q & R — Question and Response. I don’t claim to truly have answers, so I’ll just write responses and let you decide if they’re an answer. I’m very thankful for the questions I’m already receiving because it means you’re reading and interacting with this blog. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like, I won’t be able to reply to all of them.
Carol writes: “When I think of hundreds of young Jewish men spending hours debating the Torah, I wonder why Christians do not have these debates. We certainly have enough material for it!”
This is an insightful comment, Carol, as it will let me explain where I get some of my ideas that may seem beyond traditional Christianity and from where progressive Christianity is emerging.
Yes, Judaism has a robust culture of multi-interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. Since “Israel” means struggles with God, they feel free to struggle with the words about God.
Christian theological and scholarly debates are also quite common and are led by both women and men. However, they seem to be suppressed from public view for two reasons. One, much of Western Christianity has developed an “our-way-is-the-ONLY-way” mentality, so true dialogue is often stifled. It’s been this way since Constantine told the bishops to write a creed that tells everyone what correct belief should be. This was reinforced for centuries by the Catholic Church and more recently by Protestant Fundamentalism.
Second, young pastors today are generally exposed to a wide range of Christian thinking in seminaries. But their first congregations tend to be conservative, and they preach to keep their jobs—that is, without rocking the boat.
What is now loosely known as “progressive Christianity” got started during the Age of Enlightenment. Then in the mid-19th century, German theologians started questioning the miracles of Jesus and began asking the essential question: Who was the historical Jesus? There was a backlash after the Enlightenment, along with scientific discoveries about the universe (especially evolution), and open debates within denominations (exacerbated by the Civil War). Out of this came Fundamentalism and Evangelical denominations, which mainly took a very literal view of the Bible.
However, at the same time, mainline Protestant denominations and scholars were starting to debate (mostly through writings) much different interpretations of the Bible influenced by archeology, anthropology, critical-study methods, and the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi codices.
New Christian concepts from theological writers like Paul Tillich and John A. T. Robinson (among many others) started hitting mainstream media in the mid-20th century. The amount of scholarly discussions grew exponentially. In the mid-1980s, a group of religious scholars got together to debate topics such as: Which words of Jesus are authentic, and which were probably created by the Gospel writers? Or, which books attributed to Paul were actually written by him?
That group was called The Jesus Seminar and published many books of their findings. It’s now called The Westar Institute. I’ve attended several of their debates and seminars and they’re always fascinating and enlightening, if a little pedantic sometimes.
Our congregation reads and discusses one or two progressive books each year to better understand God, the Bible, Jesus, and our call to lead the Christian life. This blog is my tiny attempt at having conversations about modern Christianity. Many debates have been going on. Unfortunately, they’ve often been under the radar for lay people.
The debates will continue as the New Reformation (see April 15th post) finally comes out of the academic closet in the coming decades. Unfortunately, it will coincide with the passing of the Christian church. But that’s a whole future post.
If these messages intrigue you, please share them with others who might like to ponder different meanings in life. You can receive these directly by sending an email to email@example.com and say “subscribe.”
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.