“What is the sound of the “One” clapping?” If the “One” is the indivisible wholeness of “All” that exists, then (since there can be nothing outside the “One” to be listening) nothing but a deep silence could possibly wend its way to any periphery that might exist. But from inside, where we live, its sound may be the roar of tumbling streams, the howling of tempest winds, and the medley of honking horns rising from our congested cities? If “All” is “One”, and “One” embraces “All”, then no pin drop can ever fall on deaf ears.
Every grain of sand on every beach, every note in every symphony, and every thought, hope and dream, uttered and unuttered, are as the hairs on the head of a Great Being; and every being such as ourselves are as waves rising and falling on the broad back of the sea. How could we ever imagine ourselves to be alone? And how could my God be better than your God, if the very idea of God is born of a Great Oneness of Being, incomprehensible to the partial understanding of beings such as us?
I have a suspicion.
We rely on multiplicity to construct an alternate reality on which we imagine that we can count. Since the vision of a cosmic Oneness is beyond our comprehension, we attempt to personify a sacred truth in an effort to bring it down to our level. But when the deep insight of Monotheism is treated as an excuse for continued pursuit of self-interest—grounded in a belief that a Greater Being who understands and forgives our weaknesses is watching over us—perhaps we would be better off paying more attention to the other beings who share the multifaceted realm of ordinary life. The soft belly of Monotheism appears when we imagine that we have exchanged our freedom to spontaneously explore the unknown richness of the “All” for a promise of safety from the “One”. As participants in the vastness of Greater Being, can eternity really be vouchsafed in exchange for obedience to any particular belief–no matter whether or not that belief is of divine origin? And if we feel that the reward for this belief is unending bliss, then–as the saying goes–“If something is too good to be true, it probably is”. (Moreover, if we are already within Great Being, then no search and rescue is needed)
The limitations of a belief which asserts that special dispensation will be granted in exchange for compliance with certain rules of behavior can be seen in the anger that some “believers” direct to others whose beliefs differ only in incidentals. The claim that our God is better than the parallel attempts of other cultures to articulate their awe for the vastness in which we all live indicates that the message has become garbled during the passage of centuries.
I don’t wish to demean the great healing power of spiritual traditions, including those that have founded religious institutions and belief systems in our world. The numinous is alive and well in the hearts of countless people alive on the planet today. But we cannot ignore the slaughter, abuse, prejudice and indifference to the plight of others that has been committed in the name of one depiction or another of the Great Wholeness of Being.
Perhaps a better doorway into the One is respect for the many. When we draw upon a vision based on mutual respect for others—the well-established ideal for ordinary relationships—then we have a basis from which we can contemplate the greater wholeness in which mutual connections among shards of a shattered mirror are not needed, because the mirror has never actually been broken.
After all, if in our deepest being we are more like waves rising and falling on the face of the ocean–than like tug boats chugging across her sparkling surface–then how far do we need to travel before reaching every other part of the oneness in which “All” has arisen? We may then realize that we have arrived at our destination–the here and now in which we are standing.
Whatever height waves running across the face of the ocean may reach, they remain water waving to itself.