Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
My world seems to be awash with sport at this time. I’m sure you all know that here in South Africa we currently have a whole month of the soccer World Cup, and it’s quite a production. There’s something very wonderful that is happening in this country—many people coming together from all over the world, and many millions of other people aware and tuned in.
Sport is very powerful unifying force, and it can also be a powerful dividing force when teams and their supporters are in competition. Often when things don’t work well for one team and their supporters, that can lead to conflict with the winning team and their supporters. In the political arena people are drawn together in shared agreement about policies relative to governance of an area or country, but politics can also be divisive and can lead to major conflict in a country when there are strong political differences. A spirit of nationalism can be a unifying influence but can lead to conflict between countries. And so too with religion—shared beliefs can bring people closer together but create rifts between people of differing beliefs. War itself has been a unifying factor in the world over millennia but, at the same time, divisive and very destructive.
It’s clear that oneness and agreement based in those sorts of circumstances is temporary, because things evolve and change. Sports teams come and go, political parties rise and fall, nations prosper and decline. People can become disheartened or disillusioned with their religious beliefs. And of course the unifying factors that sometimes come with war, when the war is over and it’s back to business as usual, they don’t hold.
Maybe these various experiences of unity do give us a small taste of what might be possible as an ongoing experience if we were to base our oneness in something that was constant, something that was trustworthy. But the divisive forces in the world have been very strong, and right at the centre of those divisive forces are the solid structures in consciousness—the concepts and beliefs and prejudices that set people or groups of people aside from each other. These structures are usually accompanied by and sustained by powerful emotional energies.
I’d like to read a paragraph from this last week’s Pulse of Spirit that was called “The Grail Cup.” These are David Karchere’s words, which I believe have some bearing on this consideration. He said:
“Something has to happen in the underlying substance of our awareness, and there is no access to that without the engagement of a person’s emotional nature, because the usual state of human existence carries solid structures in consciousness where there ought to be liquid—rock-hard beliefs, rock-hard ways of being that will never change if something doesn’t happen in a person’s emotional body.”
So what is it that needs to happen in the underlying substance of our awareness? This week I read in the Bible Jesus’ words from the Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 12. At that time in history there was a lot of political and social turbulence in the country where Jesus was living, and there was also a lot of negative reaction from the political and religious leaders to Jesus’ increasing impact and influence on the common people of the area. The authorities were feeling threatened and were looking for ways to be rid of him.
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
These words describe what needs to be in place in the underlying substance of our consciousness. I know well the words that speak about “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc. But this time I gave a little more attention to the first part, which says, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.” These were the first words that Jesus spoke in answer to the question that had been asked him about the First Commandment.
There’s something crucially important portrayed by the words “Hear, O Israel.” The first step to knowing the truth is to be able to hear it. And then, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” Not so much that there is just one God rather than many, but that oneness is the fundamental quality of God and His creation. I’d like to read a poem from Rumi, in which he describes this state of oneness.
All Are He
Consider the creatures as pure and limpid
water, within which shine the Attributes of the Almighty.
Their knowledge, their justice, their kindness—
all are stars of heaven reflected in flowing water.
Kings are a locus of manifestation of God’s
Kingliness, the learned a locus for His Knowledge.
Generations have passed, and this is a new
generation. The moon is the same, the water different.
Justice is the same justice, learning the same
learning, but peoples and nations have changed.
Generation upon generation has passed, oh
friend, but these Meanings are constant and everlasting.
The water in the stream has changed many
times, but the reflection of the moon and the stars remains the
All pictured forms are reflections in the water
of the stream; when you rub your eyes, indeed, all are He.
Mathnawi VI: 3172-78, 83 / William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi
These are beautiful words that speak to the truth of unity and oneness in the Lord’s creation. I believe that this one factor is actually the one and only saving grace for humanity—the acceptance of oneness with God, with the All That Is, the essential, universal, unifying force of love. And then the expression of the spirit of truth is a natural outcome of that. There is something that endures. In Rumi’s poem, the water has changed many times but the stream remains constant.
I’d like to share another short Rumi poem, where he describes the state of unity and oneness in a different way and adds some clear instructions.
If ten lamps are present in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can’t distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.
In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.
Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.
Catch hold of spirit.
Help this headstrong self disintegrate;
that beneath it you may discover unity,
like a buried treasure.
Mathnawi I: 678-683/Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski, Rumi: Daylight
True freedom and oneness are only to be found through the unifying power of love, not by finding agreement in shared concepts and beliefs. True freedom and oneness are not found in the soccer stadium or in the churches and synagogues and temples and mosques, without the unifying power of love being present in consciousness. When that spirit of oneness is accepted into experience and expression, true freedom and oneness can be found everywhere—no division, no individuals, just unique expressions of the One.
“Hear, O Israel”—hear, O world—“The Lord our God is one Lord.” We can accept and surrender to the commandment to hear, to really hear and know that the Lord our God is one Lord, and His creation is one with Him. Then we can extend that message through our hearts and minds and physical capacities. We can extend that commandment in our living, that the whole world might be One again, to the Glory of God.