Oneness by Jennifer Kavanagh

We live in a divided world. Human beings struggle to live together. Whether at the level of family, community or nation, we row, we fight, we kill each other. Communities are riven by racial, political and religious divisions. Fear, greed, power-seeking and desperate need turn fellow human beings against each other and blind us to our common humanity. This is a reality of which we are fully aware.

And yet.

There also exists a parallel reality: of compassion, generosity and daily acts of kindness. It is natural to help others. The reason that the obverse is news is because it is shocking and unexpected. Kindness is not news.

It may be a divided world, but it is also a small one. We are more informed than ever about the rest of the world; we are more and more connected. But our connections are both more ancient and more profound than those facilitated by electronic media. Our lives are peopled. However much an outsider we may feel, we are part of community. Even shut behind gates or fences, we cannot hide the fact that we are dependent on circles of humanity: the postman, the farmer, the manufacturers who made our furniture and clothes. Sometimes we acknowledge our connection. A meeting at a bus stop may result in eye contact, a smile, a comment about
a common cause. In an ocean of separateness we experience a drop of connection.

Many of us have occasional experiences of a connection of which the rest of the time we are barely conscious. It’s something that we might crudely call telepathy, but is at a level well beyond party tricks. Synchronicity is a seeming coincidence – a phone call, a piece on the radio – that confirms
a course of action. For many, God is connection, relationship, the linking factor in all living beings.

The natural world is an extraordinary model of oneness, not only in the relationship between individual beings but as a whole. That oneness is expressed in the overwhelming interrelatedness of all that exist within it. Examples of mutuality and interdependence are all around us. Insects, flowers, trees, fungi, protons and microbes, they’re all at it. There is so much that we don’t know about the universe that we live in, but what we can say with confidence is that built into its fabric is a web of connection.

Shared characteristics do not stop at the behavioural level, but stem from our genetic similarities. DNA not only connects us to those we have considered “other” among the human population, but to nonhuman animals and non-animals too. It is not them and us. We can’t separate ourselves from the rest of creation.

Most of us live an active life largely unconscious of the transcendental dimension. In periods of spiritual practice we may experience an enhanced perception of reality, when the boundaries between ourselves and the outside world are blurred, merged into one.

We live in a paradoxical world. We are always alone and always in community. We are unique, but there’s only a hair’s breadth of DNA difference between us and, not only other humans, but other species. The planet is unimaginably diverse, and yet it is one. In the variety of religions, at the mystic level it is united. And it is in the Divine, at the heart of the multitudes of creation, that unity can be found.

From religion, in science, and from our own experience, we can see that separation and division are human distortions. We know that the universe is one and that any disturbance of any part of it will upset that fragile balance. The more we can recognise the oneness of all, the closer we will draw to the One from whom all emerges and in whom all meets. Oneness, unity, brings together all human beings, all of the created world and, in those rare moments of revelation, they can be experienced in the oneness of the Divine.

Jennifer Kavanagh is a Quaker, a retreat leader, and a speaker on the Spirit-led life. www.jenniferkavanagh.co.uk. Her book Heart of Oneness is available for purchase from Cygnus Books. This article was published in the Spring 2018 Cygnus Review.