The Wisdom Tradition
Universe Means to “Turn around One Thing”
Monday, January 5, 2015
As I mentioned last week, unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, and those differences must be maintained—and yet overcome! You must actually distinguish things and separate them before you can spiritually unite them, usually at cost to yourself (Ephesians 2:14-16), which is perhaps why so few go there. If only we had made that simple distinction between uniformity and true unity, so many problems—and overemphasized, separate identities—could have moved to a much higher level of love and service.
Paul already made this universal principle very clear in several of his letters. For example, “There is a variety of gifts, but it is always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people. It is the same God working in all of them” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). We see this beautiful diversity and yet unity in the universe—from Latin, unus + versus, “to turn around one thing.”
We are not seeking some naïve “everything is one”; rather, we seek much more: the hard fought and much deeper “unity of the Spirit which was given us all to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Here we must study, pray, wait, reconcile, and work to achieve true unity—not an absurd and boring uniformity, which is rather undesirable except by marching armies. The deeper unity we seek and work for is described by Julian of Norwich when she writes, “The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person” (Showings, 65), or any other creature, I would add. This is something that we can enjoy originally at primal and then deeper levels of consciousness. Children already enjoy this unity at a pre-rational level, and mystics later enjoy it consciously at a trans-rational and universal level.
So what we might now call deep ecumenism is not some 21st century glib assertion. It is not classic pantheism or unfounded New Age optimism. It is in fact the whole method, energy, and final goal by which God is indeed ushering in an ever recurring “new age” (Matthew 19:28) that some allow themselves to enjoy pre-emptively ahead of time! That is a very good name for enlightenment or salvation.
You see, we are already one, but most people just don’t know it yet. Jesus’ final prayer is that we can consciously know and live this radical union now (John 17:21-26). Such a daring assertion of primal unity between God and all creation is at the heart of the perennial tradition, and the only grounding for any true and lasting humanism. (Secular humanists try to ground our common dignity in our rationality, but then it does not apply to children, the senile, the mentally ill—any we decide who are not “rational.” Christian humanism grounds our dignity in our common divine DNA and thus makes it untouchable and inclusive of all!) Our job is not to discover this, but only to retrieve what has already been discovered—and rediscovered—again and again, in the mystics, prophets, and saints of all religions. Until then we are all lost in separation—while grace and necessary suffering gradually “fill in every valley and level every mountain” to make a “straight highway to God” (Isaiah 40:4.3).
Gateway to Silence:
Wisdom pervades and penetrates all things.
Adapted from “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 13-14