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How to Move Beyond Our Differences to a Consciousness of Oneness

This author believes it’s the global movement of our time

Journal
words: Robert Atkinson, PhD, for Bodhi Tree

We live in a time of massive change, a time when opposing forces seem more at odds than ever. Never has there been a greater opportunity—and need—to consciously move beyond the dualities so evident, and toward the oneness that embraces all.

Over many millennia, human consciousness has leapt forward from a localized parochial perspective to an awareness of regional, national and now international matters. Approaching a consciousness of global integration and interconnectedness, our greatest challenge may be accepting this new, emerging reality, and developing a story that frames it all.

Joining hands across differences is the sacred activism of our time.

The Unfolding Planetary Story

In 1970, on one of my visits to his home, writer Joseph Campbell [1904–1987] gave me a signed copy of The Masks of God: Creative Mythology, in which he wrote that the series confirmed “a thought I have long and faithfully entertained: of the unity of the human race, not only in its biology but also in its spiritual history which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony, with its themes…irresistibly advancing to some kind of mighty climax.” He also said, “The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet… not the city, not these people, but the planet and everybody on it.”

The current frame of reference is the whole, rather than any of its parts. “One planet, one people” seems to be our rallying cry, the myth in which we live, and the story of our time. There is a movement encircling the earth, engaging the hearts of people everywhere, and renewing the entire world, trying to bring this consciousness into its full awareness and implementation.

Like all movements, it is one for the centuries; it won’t be completed overnight, and probably not even in our lifetimes. There are spiritual principles guiding our evolution of consciousness and leading us toward the recognition of our intended oneness. These principles are at the mystic heart of all the world’s religions.

The Birth of the Global Interfaith Movement

Spiritual epochs have punctuated humanity’s leaps in consciousness over the millennia. It is difficult to deny that the world’s major prophets, including Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh (the founder of The Bahá’í Faith in the mid-19th century), have each in their own time impacted and changed the course of human life with the release of their spiritual energies.

Could humanity’s current transformation of consciousness be linked to Bahá’u’lláh’s radical statement (for the mid-1800s): “The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens”? Our spiritual evolution since then has been more like a spiritual revolution. The rise of American transcendentalism created the first bridge between Eastern and Western religions, and inspired the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893, which marked the birth of the global interfaith movement.

Many other bridge-building efforts and organizations have come into being since then, too. The Vedanta Society (1894), World Congress of Faiths (1936), Temple of Understanding (1960), Institute for Noetic Sciences (1973), United Religions Initiative (1993), Interfaith Youth Core (2002), Charter for Compassion (2009), Shift Network (2010) and Interspiritual Network (2013) are a few of the main threads of this global movement, the effects of which are now seen and felt everywhere. A global interfaith, interspiritual, indigenous and interdisciplinary effort is currently bringing people together from all directions, into the cause of oneness.

Building a Culture of Oneness

To move further—from a consciousness of duality, where many cultures exist in conflict, to a consciousness of oneness, where many cultures exist in harmony—requires a deeper understanding of non-duality, a recognition of reality as one and ultimately indivisible. Adopting a consciousness of oneness is what will lead to a culture of oneness.

A culture of oneness means living in unity within our multiplicity, honoring our diversity within our common heritage as human beings, and safeguarding our differences while recognizing we are more alike than unalike. This living expression of unity in diversity is another way of understanding and bringing into being the principle of the oneness of humanity.

As seen in the recent global Women’s March, which took place simultaneously in nearly 40 countries on the same day, we are now rediscovering a deep-seated desire to live in this world as one. The voice of oneness arose that day across seven continents, in solidarity, as all the human-rights causes of the past centuries converged into one cause, one movement for our time.

Our greatest danger is remaining complacent in a part-focused worldview. Our challenge is to disregard the fleeting notions of the day, and instead recognize their sharp contrast to the overriding spiritual forces of our time. These are what are compelling us toward putting into action the principles needed for lasting collective security. This is what will lead to the realization of oneness, which would incorporate global justice, equity, unity and, finally, world peace.

How to Make a Difference—Starting Now

The most important work today, the action most needed to be taken by each of us, is to work across boundaries, across differences. Any step that can be taken in our regular, everyday interactions toward anyone different in any way than us is to remove barriers that have been put up between us by others. Joining hands across differences is the sacred activism of our time.

All the superficial, illusory boundaries, borders and differences between us need to be consciously broken down, dismantled and crossed so we can experience no separation between any of us, as human beings. Only compassionate, altruistic, loving relationships and interactions are what we have been made for.

This is the one form of social and sacred activism that will go the farthest in healing the great divide between the human family, in helping to move us toward and live according to a consciousness of oneness, and that will help bridge the gap between separation and wholeness.

As greater numbers embrace an orientation of global citizenship, and as this is reflected in various spheres of action—from interpersonal to social, cultural and economic affairs—a consciousness of oneness will become as commonly accepted in the near future as nationalism was in the past.

Robert Atkinson, PhD, author of The Story Of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness (Sacred Stories Publishing, February 2017), from which this piece is adapted, and of which Michael Bernard Beckwith wrote, “…a must read by the widest of global audiences…,” is professor emeritus at the University of Southern Maine, director of Story Commons, and the author of eight other books.