I like the idea of oneness. But I'd hate the reality of it, oneness plain and simple. Well, more accurately I couldn't hate absolute oneness if it existed, because there wouldn't be any me to feel hate.
Or anything else, since there's no room for two in One. Thus it's impossible for anyone to experience oneness. "Anyone" and "oneness" are two separate entities.
So whenever someone talks about how the cosmos is One, they're referring to an abstraction, not reality.
Nothing wrong with this. Abstractions can be fun to intellectually play around with. That's a big part of what philosophizing is all about: thinking about the nature of "good," "truth," and other high-flying abstract notions. (I consider "God" to be another abstraction.)
The world we all live in, though, clearly is composed of separate things. Manyness rules.
Yet also interconnectedness, which is the practical form of Oneness. You and I aren't completely distinct, nor are we completely unified. You're reading thoughts that I've typed out in the course of composing this blog post, which now are rattling around inside your own mind.
We've established a connection. A two-way street, because you could leave a comment on this post which I'd read, and then have your thoughts rattling around in my mind.
Neither of us dominates this connection. I can say what I want, and you can say what you want (if your comment isn't in accord with this blog's guidelines it may not be published, but you can still write whatever you choose).
Oneness, though, is much more authoritarian.
Meaning, religions or spiritual practices which claim to know the way to Oneness almost always are hierarchical. This is one of the core themes in a section I read recently in "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power," a book I've owned for several years but hadn't picked up until I discovered it sitting on a shelf on a few days ago.
Here's some of what the authors, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, have to say about the manipulation of Oneness by gurus, masters, and the like.
Once a person has had a Oneness experience, it is not difficult to make being in that state more of the time, or all the time, the meaning and goal of life. This can also be true for those who have not had the experience, but have heard of it and give it credence.
Doing this is reinforced by presumed spiritual masters who not only claim to live in this exalted state, but also insinuate that this place of unity is more real and superior to ordinary reality where separation is experienced.
...So the way the mystical experience is experienced is not "pure" (nothing is) but is historically and culturally embedded. The concept of Oneness is an abstraction created by thought as a way of framing and attempting to describe the mystical experience.
Insofar as Oneness is placed in a higher realm or plane than the world of separation and multiplicity (the Many), this is done by abstracting out and reifying a presumed quality or essence from life, and making that more important than the individual expressions of life itself.
...the concept of Oneness is used by spiritual authorities to make their pronouncements unchallengeable, and therefore authoritarian.
...What should not be forgotten is that it takes an individual to experience unity. Oneness is an abstraction that presents itself as beyond dualism, but has within it a hidden dualism. Dividing the cosmos into two categories or levels of reality is dualistic by nature.
...One of the cheapest guru ploys is to make people feel inadequate by showing how their behaviors are tainted with self-centeredness -- always an easy task... The guru's "getting" and self-enhancement are masked by images of enlightenment and selflessness and thus are made unconscious.
Once his purity and hence superiority are taken for granted, it is assumed that he deserves to be "getting" precisely because he is thought enlightened. He can thus reprimand the disciple for the very activity he was involved in on a far grander scale without it seeming hypocritical.
...Once it is assumed that some people embody or express the true nature of reality more than others, an authoritarian hierarchy flows naturally from that basic assumption. This also lays the foundation for perpetuating the hierarchy, because the one who knows best can decide who is enlightened and thereby transfer the mantle of authority.
One person deciding when another is enlightened does seem a bit strange. [Note: this is my problem with traditional Zen Buddhism.] One would presume that if enlightened, one would know it without being told.
...Once unity or interconnectedness is made sacred, a category is created that is not sacred -- individuals and their individual concerns. Once the sacred was separated off into a special realm, religions became renunciate, with the religions defining both what to renounce and the perceived higher good that doing so brings.
...The spirituality embedded in the Oneness worldview creates lofty ideals of selfless moral purity that have worked well with authoritarian hierarchies. Hindu ashrams, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and Zen centers are all authoritarian hierarchies.
Duty, obedience, and sacrifice are the key authoritarian virtues making such hierarchies work. When unity is valued over diversity, whether it be the One over the Many or the state over the individual, there are always those higher on the hierarchy to define for the lower just what that unity is and what must be sacrificed for it.
Here's what should be sacrificed for it: nothing. For several reasons.
First, as noted above it is impossible to become one with the One. If such a state exists, that's called death. Non-existence. You can't know you're one with the One if it ever happens, and neither could anyone else. So forget about it.
Second, achieving the lesser unified state of interconnectedness doesn't require a guru, master, or teacher. It's how the world already is. If you and I weren't connected to a larger reality, we wouldn't exist. Every atom in our bodies and every bit of energy that fuels our life existed before us, and will exist after us.
So love life. Live life happily. Seek unity wherever you can. Hold hands. Embrace. Reach out and touch something or someone. You don't need to follow any authority, adhere to any commandments, engage in any ritualistic practices.
Discard the abstraction of absolute Oneness. Experience the reality of interconnected Manyness.
I liked this post very much, thank you. :)
Posted by: Immanuel Selassie I. | August 31, 2012 at 09:16 AM
Blogger Brian- there is no such thing as "oneness". There is no such thing as "many-ness".
What there is is "is-ness". Reality. Like it or not Reality. All egos hate Reality, because it means we are all FUCKED no matter how we conceive of ourselves.
You can only enjoy life if you have the capacity to enjoy life. That capacity, if you have it, will inevitably and inexorably diminish.
Then you are left with "is-ness", or, in a more colloquial term: Reality. It is unbearable and intolerable, but you are going to bear it and tolerate it despite yourself.
Posted by: Willie R | August 31, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Good REAListic remarks by Willie R.
However: "but you are going to bear it and tolerate it despite yourself."
--Even that is a capacity you may or may not have, and it too is likely to diminish like the erosion of a cliff, but there is a certainty... one way or another we will get to the end of our lives.
Posted by: tucson | August 31, 2012 at 07:30 PM