How the Idea of ‘Oneness’ Can Help us in the 21st Century

How the Idea of ‘Oneness’ Can Help us in the 21st Century
Reconnecting with Our Natural State

Individuality, diversity and uniqueness are celebrated and lauded as the highest achievements in our Western society. We admire individualism, initiative, free thinkers and those who chart new courses. But, what if all this rugged individualism and diversity is leading us further apart; is fracturing the very basis of our connection and humanity? And is, in fact, a major cause of the disconnection and severe problems facing humanity today?

We often promote, cherish and celebrate diversity, whether cultural or biological, and we highly appreciate uniqueness and individuality for bringing in added value to groups, projects or societies in general. This is a marvelous thing and should be something that grows and spreads through all corners and pockets of the world. So much conflict and violence still arise out of intolerance for diversity and uniqueness, and so much destruction has been done to our biosphere for lack of appreciation of the real beauty and value of our biodiversity.

Yet, the idea of Oneness or put in simple terms, that we are one–we share the same spiritual and biological origin, we are made of the same stuff, share the same life support ecosystem, and are interconnected together through a shared quantum field that spans the known Universe and beyond–has an enormous potential to unify and connect people at the deepest levels. In a splintered world where men and women have lost the ability to relate, where men and men are disconnected, women are often pitted against each other, and families are breaking down, isn’t it time to return to what unites us all?

IndividualityIndividuality is celebrated in the west, but could it be hindering us?

Whichever angle you look at it, there is this root notion that we are deeply linked at some level, beyond our apparent differences. By understanding what oneness is, we can start to experience it.

What is Oneness?

The idea of Oneness has never reached celebrity status as much as diversity and uniqueness did, even though it has been around since time immemorial, as a lot of our ancient cosmogonies, myths, and spiritual texts attest. The reason is not that hard to fathom. Diversity is embedded in form and can be perceived through both our senses and imagination. Oneness is not. It can only be accessed through an abstract conceptualization and not through direct experience. Hence it does not belong to the world of sense perception and experience. It is not empirical but a sophisticated idea that requires contemplation and some inner exploration–or consciousness exploration. Oneness, in fact, cannot be experienced through what can be referred to as waking consciousness but it can be directly experienced beyond the immediate senses, and this is one of the most common and most profound experiences reported by people who have had mystical or quasi-mystical experiences through consciousness-expanding psychedelics such as Psilocybin, Ayahuasca, LSD, Mescaline, etc. Roland Griffiths, a researcher at John Hopkins, who has carried out several studies on Psilocybin and other psychoactive substances, describes the mystical experience to have three common characteristics: unity, a strong sense of the interconnectedness of all people and things, and a sense of the sacred.

The One and the Many in Ancient Cosmogonies

In many ancient philosophies such as Taoism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, etc, we find a more or less shared reference to a dynamic between the One and the many. The idea always runs somewhere along the lines that there is a point of origin–a cosmic vibration, a sound, a word, a creator, a mythical figure, a source, a God or plain nothingness–that gave rise to the multitude of form; the many. The One and the many are pretty much the same thing, even though this may sound like a paradox to the human mind. The One is in the many, as much as the many make up the One and originate from it at the same time. Also in many spiritual traditions, mostly shared in Eastern thought and Philosophy, there is the concept that the world of forms is an illusion, whereas the One is the ultimate truth and reality, even though–and here lies the paradox–there is no separation between the two.

A cosmic vibration, a sound, a creatorAncient philosophies reference a point of origin giving rise to the multitude of form.

We can also see this from the more modern concepts of a matrix reality (with reference to the blockbuster movie), the simulation model of reality, and the holographic model of Mind and the Universe. The idea is that reality, as known by our senses, irrespective of how solid, rich and real it may feel, is nothing but a simulation, an illusion or a dream (in Tibetan Buddhism–a Bardo state). One of the biggest illusions, according to people who subscribe to this perspective, is the illusion of separation–the perception that we have a sense of Self that is separate from the World and others; the idea that we are special, different and at the center of our Universe. These beliefs are often thought to be at the heart of the narcissistic, dysfunctional and self-destructive traits of our ego. So the world of the many forms is, to put it bluntly, a movie projection that we are looking at from behind a screen, that we believe is real. Spiritual truth and expansion of awareness implies piercing through this screen and coming closer to the source of this projection; closer to the One.

Science, the Quantum Field and the Holographic Universe

Quantum theory has brought a lot of strangeness to the flat Universe of Newtonian mechanics. Many people have found that there is an obvious intersection between science and spirituality, through the new paradigm shift of quantum reality. With relevance to us here is the subtle but concrete parallel between the idea of Oneness and the underlying Quantum field that interconnects everything. The Quantum field, or Quantum Vacuum or zero-point field is, in over-simplistic terms, a ‘space’ (by no means empty) through which electromagnetic waves and particles pop in and out of existence, and is the underlying field that connects all particles and energies together. This concept has caused many to ponder on the profound veracity of the spiritual concept that we are fundamentally all one, as has been told by the ancients.

Another very interesting and important theory that comes out of theoretical physics is David Bohm’s model of the Holographic Universe. Bohm cleverly used the analogy of the Holograph (which was an already available technology at the time) to explain, among other things, anomalies such as quantum entanglement–the observed phenomena that two particles mirror each other’s behavior in real time, no matter how far apart they are separated in the Universe. For instance, through the analogy of the hologram, he was able to give the perspective that the anomaly of quantum entanglement arises only if we see them as two separate particles and not as two holographic projections of the same field.

Holograms demonstrate quantum entanglementThe hologram is a good example of the phenomena quantum entanglement.

A hologram (the actual hologram, that is) is created when a certain coherent light (laser) is shone through a special photographic plate or film and, depending on the intensity and angle of the laser, an image stored on the film is projected in its 3D form. Now the peculiarity of the hologram is this: If you take the photographic plate or film, cut it in half and pass the laser through it again, the whole image is still projected, albeit in lower resolution. And this keeps on going on and on, no matter how small you cut the film. In non-scientific terms, this means that the information of the whole image is found repeatedly in every part of the film, no matter how small.

Now, Bohm’s idea in layman’s terms was this: There is a field he called the implicate order, which is like that film containing all the information of the images that come out of it. In a spiritual perspective, this can be conceived as the One, God or the Dao. The reality we perceive, such as this physical Universe–the many forms–is nothing but a projection, or a set of projections, out of this implicate order. I have, of course, over-simplified and over-compressed the concept, but it will serve its purpose here to show that the idea of Oneness has very deep ramifications and occurrence in the realm of human knowledge, spanning from ancient Spiritual axioms to modern theoretical Physics.

The Sacred Web of Life

Other ancient traditions–for instance, pre-Columbian and pre-Christian Shamanic cultures–have had the wisdom to see the idea of Oneness in a more natural way. The idea was that we are all part of an intricate and sacred web of life and that we are one with each other and with our earth, Gaia, ‘pacha mama’, the living spaceship we call home. Everything is sacred and has deep value when seen from the ecological web of life. Everything is connected and life supporting. We are not separate from the natural world–the rainforest, the oceans, the millions of plant and animal species, the mineral world, etc–but deeply embedded in it, in a dynamical equilibrium and exchange (which we are quickly shattering). As we are unconsciously depleting our resources, destroying entire eco-systems and making whole species extinct, we are quite literally doing that to ourselves. And this is not rhetoric or wishy-washy talk. It’s a sensible, observable, logical and intuitive statement, all at the same time.

We're all part of the Sacred web of lifeAncient traditions believe we are all part of a sacred web of life.

Many ecologists and evolutionary biologists have stood up to resonate this ancient wisdom and sensitivity towards the Oneness of life, in different echoes and tones. A lot of literature and conservation projects have been put up, in an effort to raise awareness about how precarious and alarming the situation is, but most of all to give people the insight that we are all One on this earth ship, and we need to hold the responsibility together.

The Path to the Future Leads back to Oneness

But what does the idea of Oneness mean in the 21st century? What value does it carry? What message can it pass on to future generations? I think that the message that we are all One has more relevance in these times than it ever did before because of our very sensitive position in our evolution. We are at a point in time where because of bad decision-making, failed systems, technological advancement that has outpaced our wisdom, and a collective consciousness that has still to make radical shifts, we are facing a deep existential crisis. This means that our survival, let alone our thriving, is highly questionable.

The radical shift in collective consciousness just mentioned above has to include, at its most basic level, the recognition and awareness that we are fundamentally interconnected and one system. We are a collective whole in a very fragile dynamic equilibrium. To start maturing as a species and take responsibility for our shared destiny, we need to start translating the mystical dictum that ’the One is in the All and the All is in the One’ into our basic thinking and understanding. It needs to become our modus operandi; a template out of which most, if not all of our decisions–political, economic, technological and social–are made. We need to open our minds and hearts to the wisdom of the ancients with a shared vision of the future. The tragedy of the commons, so apparent in our failed world systems today, is, to a large extent, resulting from failing to recognize and appreciate not only our sameness as humans but our Oneness with everything that is.

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Ravinder S Taneja
Ravinder S Taneja
2 years ago

Enjoyed this thread. As a Sikh, One-ness comes as no surprise. The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, starts with an alpha numeric: ੴ pronounced Ik Oankar – signifying One without a second, One that has no opposite that is manifest in the diversity of creation. The One appearing as many. Our sense of seperation being an illusion, necessary for the cosmic drama to play out. Those who awaken to this Truth are freed of egoistic narcissism and enjoy ‘bliss’ while living in this world. Being in the world but not of it.

Bi-Ma Andén
Bi-Ma Andén
3 years ago

This is the first time I join a conversation on Uplift. I just have to after having read this wonderful article that connected so deeply with what is very intensely going on within me. I woke up one night during summer and a scripture just came through me about Unconditional Oneness (not yet published). It might not be perfect English as I am Swedish, but here some excerpts from it:

Unconditional Oneness is the most basic truth and true state for everything and everyone within Cosmos, and might so be as well beyond. Whatever religious doctrines or cultures say or explain about life, there is the Oneness that has to (needs to) be experienced, rather than just explained.

As human beings we are potential experiencers of Unconditional Oneness. We are all parts of Unconditional Oneness, that is to say we are all individual aspects of Unconditional Oneness.

Unconditional Oneness is fundamental for Unconditional Love to manifest. Only when we experience true Unconditional Oneness we are able to experience genuine Unconditional Love.

We are mostly taking our bodies and life for granted. Even though we are being granted with a life as human beings, to take our life for granted is very naive. We are all within the context where bodies are born and die. But the Unconditional Oneness never dies…

Patricia Boinest Potter
Patricia Boinest Potter
3 years ago

This is the first time I have wanted to be a part of a discussion.
I am an ancient artist. My last exhibition was at the Halsey Institute in Charleston, SC.
From my notes:

My virtual treehouse is built in collaboration with time.
It is on a mountain side in northeast Alabama
where I have lived and worked for forty years.

The treehouse is the turning point of a double Möbius.
It is the hinge
Where all is literally turned inside/out.
The Möbius strip is only visible in the scale models.
When full scale, the mobius becomes porous and at most places disappears.
Occasionally bits and pieces, lines and holes–entrances and exits–might be seen while walking through the forest or
When looking at the stars.

In my mind, time, rather than a linear movement, is a convergence
of all past and future into each moment
and then a stretch outward to the farthest star,
Giving rise to the expansion of the universe–one breath at a time.

One of my favorite writers is French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze.
I work within his “plane of immanence”.
He rejects the idea that life and creation are opposites to death and non-creation.

Slow reading is a proper way to read Deleuze.
This is my second reading or second beginning to read
His book, The Logic of Sense.
I was a slow reader of Deleuze, The Fold, in the 1990’s.
I was also involved in a group of four,
slow reading of Doug Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach in the 80’s.

After a slow reading, the ideas in a book become part of your own.

I am continuing to think of our three-dimensional world as a map of something more complex–something misunderstood.
Thoughts in this world might be multi-dimensional constructions in another.
Questions and Thoughts might live in a house you can visit.
I imagine this house as a treehouse in a dense forest.
A beautiful wisteria lined enchantrance might take us there.
I think of this as John Rajchman’s virtual house.
Not one for everyone
But for one that might like to do a slow reading of Deluze
Or like Alice fall down a rabbit hole.

There is already a “virtual house”apps;
That is not where we are going.
Virtual reality has little or nothing to do with our virtual house.
Ours is more connected with “John Rajchman’s virtual house”

“…the house that holds together the most, and most complicated
‘Different possible worlds’ in the same container, allowing them to exist together
Along a constructed plane with no need of a preestablished harmony.”

Rather than elude to the present, my desire is to to make the present so full
That all of the past and future come together into each moment.
A point of convergence is what is happening here.

Becoming, Being and Disappearing
book as architectural space—architectural space as book.

You are invited to come for
A slow reading–a slow walk through
—virtual treehouse studio–

constructed in collaboration with matter, energy and time,
With assistance from younger energies
And from those energies filling the spaces between.

Pat Potter

John Gabriel Otvos
John Gabriel Otvos
3 years ago

This is a very well written article. Thank you Gilbert. Like many, I too have been looking for a way out of the miasma of tradition, the unconscious unquestioning of what we’ve always done. I found the concept of nonduality initially interesting, then realized that even waves are formed of *both* crests and troughs. With recent archeological material discoveries like Gobekli Tepe and now the more recent LIDAR images from the Mayan civilizations, it’s evident that humans of one form or another have been ’round this existential event horizon before. The one thing that takes no money, that we the 99% can do immediately, is to look at how industrial animal agriculture is the #1 driver of all of this degradation and despoilment including human health. Eating too much spinach doesn’t yield colon cancer, neither does ingesting too many carrots cause heart attacks. We are evolving as a species. The only real question is will we ‘get it’ in time to avert what’s coming ever more rapidly down the pike?

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