Jump to the following topics:
- What is oneness?
- Wholeness is
not the same as oneness.
sense of oneness is a characteristic of the state of
oneness, we might retain our individuality.
we try to establish other types of "oneness."
- We might feel
oneness with groups.
What is oneness? It is the
experience of commonality with others.
not the same as oneness.
- Wholeness is a condition in which we are identified with a
central core (such as the Self or the soul) which is in an active,
productive relationship with the various aspects of our life
(internal and external).
- Oneness is not based on a relationship among different parts;
it is based on an awareness of a common essence, such as
spirit or life-energy. For example, we might incorrectly talk
about a "oneness of mind and body"; if that were actually a
oneness (instead of a relationship), the mind would die when the
body dies, when in fact most of us believe that the mind and soul
continue to exist after the body perishes.
sense of oneness is a characteristic of the state of enlightenment.
Whether this is Eastern-style enlightenment, or a Western-style peak
experience, or another type of transcendental occurrence, we discover
the single ground from which all phenomena emerge -- all people, all
other living things, all physical objects, all energies. The
phenomena's distinctions become secondary to the reality of their
undifferentiated spiritual essence; i.e., the figure becomes the
oneness, we might retain our individuality. The Buddha said that the
individual no longer exists in this oneness; he or she is lost like a
drop of rain falling into the sea. Other religions say,
paradoxically, that the state of enlightenment grants us a knowledge
of total oneness with spirit but also a retention of our
individuality within that oneness. In this sense, enlightenment is a
parallel to the "meeting with the Self," in which we transcend the
ego (knowing that we are more than the ego) while still acknowledging
the ego within its own realm and with its own still-valid functions;
in fact, according to Jung, we encounter this Self only after we have
developed the ego to its fullness.
Sometimes we try to establish other types of
"oneness." Spiritual oneness is on a transcendental level, but human
history is filled with the efforts to establish oneness in other
realms -- political, military, religious, cultural, etc. Perhaps it
is a perversion of our individual drive to experience transcendental
oneness that is a reason for humanity's persistent desire to impose a
type of oneness through such means as military world-conquest, and
religious intolerance, and cultural imperialism, and political
dictatorships, and other forms of monomania. (Of course, we can
discern additional reasons for that drive, e.g., a world-conqueror's
desire for wealth and power.) In the study of logic, this fallacy is
called a "category error" -- trying to establish the qualities of one
category (the realm of spirit) into another category (the realm of
humanity). Some people dismiss these drives for material oneness;
instead, they value diversity, freedom, and privacy in their human
We might feel
oneness with groups. Instead of a oneness with all of creation, we
might experience oneness with our own groups, e.g., our family, or
our co-workers. This type of oneness is not based on a commonality of
spiritual essence, but on a commonality of human identity, purpose,
interest, or emotion. This type of oneness is likely to be a
short-term condition while we are involved in a group activity (e.g.,
our job, or a sports event); it does not imply an overall wholeness
in our relationship with the individual members. The oneness of group
identity is useful in strengthening people's resolve and opportunity
for cooperation, but it creates enemies. Group-oneness is intensified
when the in-group feels threatened by the out-group; for example,
citizens unite during wartime to fight a common enemy, thus
increasing both our oneness (within our own group) and our
"otherness" (toward the outsiders). As Sigmund Freud said in a letter
to Albert Einstein, "The love of country has succeeded at bridging
people at the national level. The great new historical challenge is
the development of love among all the earth's inhabitants, and for
the earth itself." In other words, we can love our group without
hating other groups; instead, we can expand our sense of identity
(and a type of oneness) to include ourselves, our family, our
community, our nation, our humanity -- and the spirit-substance which
underlies it all.