One possible mistake in regards to Unity is to assume this means uniformity or sameness. The simplest kind of unity is indeed a uniform sameness, but unity does not have to be this simple. A simplistic example of unity would be a social group where everyone dresses the same, thinks the same, and acts the same. This is ideal for dictators and authoritarian politics, the nazis being a specific example, but this is stifling for a greater unfoldment of creativity. Real Unity should not look so simplistic. Even in metaphysical or theological thinking, a belief that God is simply authoritarian or like a divine dictator, Who imposes His Will upon every detail or Who is like the Director of life’s drama, is an old style way of thinking that leads to false conclusions about life. In a purely top-down metaphysical or theological model of Power or Will, there is no room for organic freedom and uncertainty. But alas, Unity does not have to be so stringent and inflexible.
For within Unity, there can be waves and degrees of freedom and an allowing of organic creativity, rather than merely a top-down management of all the world. Within Unity, there can still be some boundaries of freedom, without having to chain up all freedom by a top-down authority or manager called God. Within Unity, there can be many levels and degrees of partial autonomy. Yet nonetheless, the Whole is connected and interrelated by an Overall Unity of Purpose and Principles. Greater Purpose and Principles can guide the organic creative process, without having to eliminate all organic freedom and uncertainties.
Another misconception about Unity is imagining that unity is static, or that everything is always in a perfect integration or perfect harmony. Unity does not require perfect integration and harmony at every level and at every street corner. As long as there is an Overall general guidance at work, within the overall process, there is still Unity – even though parts of the Whole may temporarily be in disharmony or out of integration. If we assume that Unity requires perfect harmony and justice at every step of the way and in every part of the Whole and at every street corner, then we might fail to notice actual disharmony in our assumption that all must be perfectly good at every step and in every place. Yet, Unity can embrace, so speak, various instances of disharmony and injustice, as long as higher guidance is at work in the overall process. In other words, a more perfect harmony, integration and righteousness is in-Process, rather than being statically complete at every moment in time. The world is not perfect (in any normal sense of that term), because the world is in-Process of becoming more harmonious, integrated and just. It’s not already ‘there’; rather, it’s getting ‘there’. To think it is already ‘there’ is to have a static model of Unity. The Unity is embracing and overall guiding a world process of becoming evermore harmonious, integrated and just. That is, the non-static Unity involves a dynamic process of becoming more integrated within the Unity, rather than what is within Unity already being perfectly integrated. The Unity is the greater Purpose and Guidance that connects everything together. But this Unity is an active dynamism; it is an Activity that involves and connects everything, and it is what is behind the overall Process. We are all parts of this greater Process-of-becoming, and everything is part of this Process; so this is the meaning of Unity. It is a Unity-of-Process, rather than a fixed or rigid or static Unity.
One might ask, How can Unity be experienced? -- Especially when we see so many people and so much of life as being different and each having their own body and desires and thoughts. How can one experience Unity in all of this?
One very important principle of Unity is that it encompasses diversity and even disagreements and conflicts. Disagreements and conflicts are often part of a greater ecological and evolutionary process. This is hard to explain, but consider that evolution is a working out of conflict, so there will be conflicts within the overall creative process. Conflicts are like work to be done, or stuff to work through, and this is part of a creative evolutionary process. So embrace conflict as part of the Great Work. Accept and respect differences of view and disagreements; just as one can accept diversity in nature. Yet, this acceptance does not mean that one has to merely be passive and not have one’s own view of truth. One can accept and respect disagreements, as being inevitable elements in the greater Process; yet we can also play our own hand in debates about truth and righteousness, as long as we are dedicated and motivated by discovering truth.
Diversity, differences, and variety make up a complexified beautiful world, and it’s all encompassed by Unity. In our hearts and in our experience, there can only be unity if we accept and love diversity, differences, and variety. If we demand sameness and uniformity, then we will either be forever disappointed in the world or we will attempt to make others become just like we are. However, if we accept and love the world’s diversity and differences, then there can be unity in our heart and in our experience. So unity is not an experience whereby everything is the same or always in agreement. Neither is it an experience of simplistic oneness, like everything is one color or one white light. And neither is it an experience of life without any boundaries or groupings. Unity encompasses and includes differences, conflicts, boundaries, and diverse groups. Personal boundaries are often useful, just as regional or country boundaries might be useful; in order to protect diversity of personality and cultures. A boundary-less world might lead to an over-blended homogenized world uniformity.
So let us embrace and love our differences, our temporary boundaries, our occasions of separation, and the non-uniform diversity of life. This loving acceptance and embrace of a non-homogenized, non-uniform, non-perfectly harmonious world is the true spirit of Unity. And this unity of unconditional embrace is a reflection of God’s Love. Unity is experienced when there is unconditional love, embrace of all differences and diversity, and a realization of one Source behind all life.
Within the Unity of Being is relationship and levels of being. If this is not recognized, the metaphysic of Unity is often taught as monopolistic and uniform. The uniformists teach a monopolistic theism, whereby the one Being, God, is the one and only will and decision-maker of manifestation. This monopolistic God micro-manages (or micro-directs) all events in the universe, such that everything is directly guided by this one omnipotent Will. God’s Hand, so to speak, is directing every event1.
If this omnipotent God is also all-loving and all-intelligent, the logic proceeds that every single act of this one Will must therefore be a manifestation of love and intelligence, and thus all events are good and perfect, even though they might not appear to be according to our human feelings or reasoning. In fact, the monopolistic religious follower has to suppress or deny their own ethical and aesthetic feelings, in order to accept that all happenings are actually good or leading to good; following the premise that an all-loving, all-intelligent, all-directing God is deciding these events to be. Where this premise goes wrong is in its misconception of divine power as monopolistic and dictatorial.
The most simple way of correcting the metaphysics of Unity is by merely fixing the monopolistic supposition of divine power. Imagine instead a different model of the almighty power and will. Instead of a dictatorial or micro-managing God, or divine Will, we can now see God as allowing and working through intermediating levels of decision-making and autonomy. This presents a different conception of God as manager; and it’s a different kind of management. In this understanding of God-Power, there are various levels of will and decision-making; all within the Unity of Being. There are various levels of autonomy, in a hierarchy of One Being.
We can use a model where all is God, yet there are levels of God; just as all can be understood as divine light, yet there are levels and degrees of this light. At the lowest levels are struggles among egos, struggles of selfishness, including harm and mistake. But at the higher levels there is inclusiveness, understanding, and greater love.
The highest level can be thought of as God; though in a more general meaning of God, all levels are of this One Being. The highest level patterns and manages the lower levels, but in a general manner and applying general principles, rather than micro-managing all the details. Details are managed by lesser levels of autonomous decision-making. Thus, choices are made throughout all creation. Yet these choices are not necessarily directly made by the All-Wisdom God, but rather they are often made according to the limited intelligence and ability of the being making that choice, at that level. Concurrently though, the highest wisdom of God is generally influencing all levels of semi-autonomous choices. What can happen, though, is that some choices, especially at lower levels, might be unproductive or even harmful to the greater life system; that is, in other words, some choices and their subsequent events might NOT be in good alignment with the general Divine Will of God, so those possible events might NOT be of God’s Will and NOT be leading to a greater good. Such possibilities are also part of God’s allowing quality of power. So the divine quality of allowing is permeating the world, Power is spread out, and various degrees of freedom and autonomy reign throughout; all within the One Unity of Being.
No separation from God
The Sufis say there is no real separation from God. If there is an experience or belief in separation, this is an illusion. Let us first consider the meaning of separation. Obviously there are separate people and distinctions in the world. Reality is not one big indistinguishable potato mash of unity. As well, people have separate thoughts and beliefs. So in such sense, there is separation. There is also a meaningful sense of separation in that everyone is to some extent autonomous in their own decisions and actions. We can simply call this the semi-autonomy of persons, or a semi-independence, because generally people have some autonomy but certainly not a complete autonomy from the influences of culture and friends.
How autonomous and independent anyone actually is is debatable, but it could be assumed that most people have some independence. One may appear to make one’s own independent decisions, but how independent is a decision that depends so much on how the world is and how others might react to such decisions. In other words, we often seem to make personal decisions and thus appear to be independent and autonomous, but our decisions so often depend on external factors. So in reality, we are more interdependent and inter-autonomous with others. This can also apply to our relation with God and higher spiritual influences. We might seem to be independent in our decisions, but how much are we influenced by higher guidance? Or, on the other hand, how much are we influenced by worldly forces and guidance? We are not so independent and autonomous as we usually think.
Another sense of meaningful separation is to do with ignorance. A spiritual teacher might say that no one is actually separate from God. Alright, but what if one has absolutely no experience of God? One may not be separate from God, but one may still be completely ignorant of God. And if one is completely ignorant of God, or completely without any experience of God, then is this not like being in the dark? And if someone is in the dark and sees no light, then are they not separate from the Light? Darkness or ignorance do seem to be separations from light. So in this sense, there is a possible separation from God. Of course everyone is ignorant about God to some degree. Even the masters are knowledgeable to some degree and ignorant to some degree, so everyone is in the dark at least somewhat. Since the Great Mystery of God is infinite and never completely realized in absolute fullness, there will always be some darkness, some ignorance, some mystery as yet to be known. And that’s alright. The more realized one is, the closer one is to God. The less realized one is, the further from God. There is a meaningful sense in this analogy of distance, as it relates to realization vs. ignorance. So here again there is some meaningful sense to the idea of being separate from God; not absolutely separate, but separate by degrees or by distance [from full realization].
What is really meant by no-separation is that each person is connected to others and to God. No one and no thing is ever completely disconnected from other parts of life or from the God Source. Always there is interconnection and interrelation; never absolute separation or disconnection. This is an important realization, which will transform the perspective of ego if not ego itself. Not only is inter-connection the reality, rather than dis-connection, but God is also closer to us than we would normally think. The Presence of God is always near; in fact, God is moving through us, while we are normally unaware.
To not be separate from God; again, what does this mean? It does not mean that we are the exact same as God, let alone that each of us is the One God. What is meant is that we are of the same God-Essence, but not identically the same being. It does not mean that we and God are tied together like inseparable bodies. Rather, what is meant is more like an analogy of being in the same room with another; whereby the two are not separate although they have their own distinct bodies. An even better analogy, whereby we are not separate from God, is that we are in a room of God; in other words God IS the room we are in, and thus by being in this room we are not separate from God.
There are two main senses (meanings) in which we are not separate from God. One is that no one is separate from the Whole. No part of life is separate from the Whole. Rather, every part or every being is OF the Whole and IN the Whole, and thus we are all of God and in God; just as any part is of or in its greater Whole. The second sense of not being separate is that every being is of the same Substance as God. There is really one essential Substance; which is God, the God-Being, and from this One Substance we all are and from which all secondary substances emerge. So we are not separate from God, as in the sense that we are not a separate Substance. And we are not separate from God, as in the sense that we are necessarily within the Whole of Being. Thus, one very important practice is to ‘keep in mind’ (or ‘remember’) your inseparable connection with God as your Whole and Substance. Remember your connection and also your dependence on God, as your Greater Wholeness and Essential Substance.
A third meaning-sense of not being separate from God is that we are actually extensions of God. Think of God as the Source, and we are the extensions. Or, God is the Absolute Centre of Reality, and we are the periphery. God is the utmost internal Reality, and we are the external Reality. God is the Root and we are the branches and leaves. God is the Universal Being-Essence, and we are the individualizations. We are the forms at That Essence. God is the light, and we are the reflections. God is the Hidden Mystery, and we are the showing. We are the show. We bring the Hidden Mystery out into the open. We reveal the Secret. We spread the jewels out on the table. We are the individualizations of God. Yet each of us do this is a unique way. Each of us is a unique individualization of that One Essence, Source, Root, Centre, Mystery, Secret, the Hidden Treasure. You get it? God said, ‘I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known.” It would be awfully lonely always being an unknowable mystery. Don’t you want to be known? Yes you do, and this is your reflection of God. Now to be an individualization of God is not the exact same as being God Itself; but it is an inseparableness. In some sense, being an individual is a separate existence; but not if one is IN the very Being of God. We are swimming in the Ocean of God Being, whether we are aware of this or not. We have an individuality, but if this is IN God-Being then are we really separate from God?
Self is a delusion or illusion, if believed as separate. Why?
Because it has no independence on its own. We think of the self, and my-self, as like a ‘something’, a something existing, kind of like a sports ball or a house or an atom. And being a something on its own, each self is an independently existing entity and separate from other selves. This is our belief about self, but not the reality. This separatist concept about selfness is a delusion. In reality, each self has intrinsic connections to other selves and also to a local and world environment; so no self is a completely separate thing. Each self is a semi-autonomous, semi-independent, and even semi-separate.
Relationship is also a dynamic in the Unity of Being. If Unity was merely God manipulating the whole scene, then relationship would be meaningless, because relationship requires dynamic encounter between tow or more beings each with their own distinct freedom. If only one in a so-called relationship had any real freedom or power, then this would not really be a relationship - instead, it would be absolute manipulation.
Horizontal relationship exist among people and friends in society, or in a community. Here we need to practice an ethic of equality and fairness, and do onto others as you would want them to do onto you. But for now let us consider vertical relationship – between our human self and God (or any degree of a higher spiritual power) :
One side of this relationship is Guidance and the other is receptivity. One side is Help and the other is need. Prayer, of the invocational kind, asks for Guidance and Help, from a feeling of need and with an attitude of receptivity. When the lower pole of the vertical relationship is asking from real need and being in receptivity to Guidance and Help, the higher pole of Divine Intelligence-Power is then brought forth. Or shall we say, this relationship can then begin, because it cannot begin unless both sides are doing their respective roles; and the higher divine pole is always ready to work, but the relationship flow cannot transpire unless the lower pole enters into a complementing relation of being in a self recognized need and ready receptivity to the upcoming potential of Guidance and Help. The higher is always ready and willing to Guide and Help the lower centres; but the effectiveness of this relationship depends on the lower coming into the necessary attitude of prayer and receptivity. This is part of the divine principle of relationship within Unity.
Help and guidance can come from many sources of vertical relationship; such as teachers, healers, inner guides, angels, ascended masters, saints, or prophets. It can also come straight from God, the Universal Source of all wisdom and help, or from one of God’s Qualities. Tradition holds that one is first helped and guided by a living spiritual teacher, then later other sources of Help may come, and finally there is only one Guide and Healer which is God. Yet each stage is significant. But what is common to any vertical Help is the sincere asking for Help and the necessary attitude of receptivity and the feeling of need.
Modern scientific theory does not recognize any degree of higher guidance or higher intelligence influencing life and evolution, but rather holds to a theory of bottom-up development, dependent on both random changes and organic learning. On the opposite spectrum, extreme monotheism believes that all events are directed by divine intelligence in an absolutely top-down power relationship. The truth is in between. Evolution and the procession of life is not merely a randomly inspired process; yet neither is it merely a top-down management. There is a divine guidance at work; it’s just not all-enforcing nor micro-managing. If life were directed only from top-down, from the Absolute Divine Wisdom, then this world would be expectedly more perfect than it is. And if life were completely without any higher guidance, then this world would expectedly be not at all as nice as it is. The truth is that life depends on an organic process of undetermined changes mixed with unpredictable learning, mixed with divine general guidance.
We say in this model that divine guidance comes from above or from top-down; but this is merely language of the model. The divine guidance and influence actually comes from within things, within matter and within the seeds of intelligent life. For divine intelligence is metaphysically and cosmologically prior to all manifestation, and thus it is already inherent in the material universe and in life. It is permeating space, just as material laws pervade the universe. So the divine guidance is top-down in the hierarchical model, but in organic actuality this divine guidance is within each center of activity.
Partnership with God (this would imply duality, yet it is also part of Unity)
Somewhere in the Quran it states that God has no partners. Of course this is a translation, but it probably means that God has no other equal. It also has a more practical meaning, that God should not have competition. Of course God does have competition, because humans have often chosen pursuits other than God. But there should not be such competition; in other words, this meaning is an imperative. Don’t place things on your altar as equal to God, and don’t worship any other than God. Yet man worships all sorts of things, placing a high value on many commodities and pursuits, and also placing the highest value on oneself, while ignoring God completely.
The above was needed to be said, because we are now at a point when God needs a partner. Well, we might better say that God needs a helper. And back to the Quran, it said that God needs a servant, which is man and woman. This another way of saying that God needs help. It also says that God needs a representative in creation.
We idealize about Unity, but we should not forget the importance of duality, or let us say relationship. Relationship presupposes duality, because there needs to be at least two to relate. Absolute Oneness has no relationships, because there is only One. So it is ridiculous to idealize Oneness, while forgetting the importance of relationship, and thus duality and plurality. Relationship is an important dimension of life; and thus, so is duality.
There is importance in living in a relationship world. And this is not denying Unity, because Unity includes relationships. Unity includes plurality as well. The necessity for relationship with others is rather obvious; so we will focus consideration on our relationship with God. A traditional view is that God is Great and we are little. Let us accept this in all humility, but let us also recognize that we are significantly important in the whole divine scheme of things. Each person is important; you too. Let us also consider that we can have a partnership with God. We can be partners with God. This means that you and I have a role to play, or a kind of job to do, in this partnership. We are partners with God in creation. Make God your partner, and He will make you His partner.
Make God your partner, and She will make you Her partner. We are partners in creation, partners in life. This is the great divine relationship. Be in partnership with God.
God is the Guide and we are the guided. But we still need a partnership. It all needs to become consciously real. And like any good partnership, we need to have complementing jobs. God handles the bigger issues, while I handle the smaller ones. God handles the larger Principles and Visions, while I handle the details and practical actions. God guides me on the larger Principles and Visions, and I work out the details and make the actions. God sets the Purpose and Vision, and I make it happen. We make it happen. This is my partnership with God. This can be everyone’s partnership with God.
As with Jesus, he was a true servant of God, a true instrument of God. And this was a great partnership, of Father and Son, metaphorically speaking. God provided the Juice (the Power), and Jesus provided the direction. Jesus recognized and pointed to the need, and God provided the healing. This was a great partnership!
Also we should note that there are reconciling opposites and unreconciling opposites. Gender opposites are reconciling, which means that the Ideal is a reconciled balance between them, and neither is meant to dominate the other. This is an example of balancing opposites. But there are unreconciling opposites, such as good and bad, truth and false, beauty and ugliness, help and harm, learning and forgetting. With these, there is meant to be a process towards one in favor of the other. These are the kind of opposites that we shall presently consider.
We have to accept that our reality here involves duality and opposites.
Many spiritual teachings have emerged which point towards a reality beyond opposites. In these teachings are truths, but often also confusions. For example, if we consider what might be good or perfect, there is also an opposite idea and possibility. There will always be opposites. There will always be a good and bad, a right and wrong; though the lines between these may be fuzzy at times. To completely deny the reality of such fundamental opposites is nonsense. To say they are illusions and only that which is beyond them is Real is also nonsense. Life is meant to move towards the good. This is the path. The path is not to come into some state of mind where all opposites become unreal.
Yet there is a Transcendental Reality beyond opposites that we can enter into.
This is the God-Being from which everything comes into being. The God-Being-Essence is beyond opposites, but there is nothing else beyond opposites. Even the realm of angels has opposites. Wisdom has its opposite, love has its opposite, and of course Goodness has its opposite. But God-Being-Essence has no opposite. God-Being-Essence is what holds everything, contains everything, and sustains everything. In other words, God-Being is the Source of opposites, their container and sustainer. It is in this sense that some have said everything is God, even the opposites of both good and bad. But we have to be careful not to confuse the truth, for the meaning is subtle.
Everything is contained in God, even both good and bad.
So in this sense God is beyond a distinction between perfection and imperfection. God IS, is the container, the Being that everything is in and from which everything emerges. This is the Fundamental Reality. But this Being-God is not just passive, like a materialistic idea of space. Rather, the God-Reality is an Active Loving Intelligence and in a Process of manifestation. The opposites of good and bad are part of this Process. The opposites are in the God-Process. And the very process is a movement toward the Good and away from bad. So the opposites are contained in God, but also the very process of God is a discernment between the opposites.
1So that whatever happens, this kind of believer says ‘this happening must really be good and loving, or it must be guided by God’s wisdom, or it must be what He willed for this moment’. And if this believer cannot understand the wisdom of God producing what feels to be an awful injustice or bad human choice, the believer thinks he/she is practicing faith by accepting whatever happens as perfectly good while denying their own natural feelings and common sense.