So many of the problems we experience in life are due to the illusion of separateness. We imagine that we are alone and isolated. The answer is to wake up to the oneness that is already and always there. The problem is that we so often don’t recognize each other. You know the old saying. “Jews don’t recognize Jesus. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope. And Baptists don’t recognize each other in Hooters.” The tragedy is that we all often fail to recognize each other; the beauty, the potential, the wholeness, and we fail to recognize the oneness of life; the beauty, the wholeness, the symmetry, the wonder of life.
The mistake is to think we see things and people as they are. We don’t. We see them as we are. We can only see the beauty outside of ourselves once we are able to see beauty inside ourselves. If only you recognized the light within, your jaw would drop in awe of your own wholeness. If only we recognized the light in each other, we would go weak at the knees in astonishment at the beauty. Kindness would instantly replace hostility and oneness would immediately replace division.
Science and Inclusive Spirituality
Alongside spiritual traditions and nature itself, science is another source of wisdom when it comes to oneness. Some people find wisdom in predominantly one tradition. Others find wisdom in many traditions. Either way, it’s fine. Wherever you find wisdom, take it and let it move you a little closer to the light of who you are. The incredible thing is that ancient wisdom from many spiritual traditions resonates with the wisdom of science, all of which resonates deep within our human intuition. Not only is science compatible with spirituality. It actually confirms many ancient spiritual truths, such as oneness.
It’s unfortunate that we often think of science as being based in facts while spirituality is based in feelings or intuition. We mistakenly think that science is values-free or objective, while spirituality relates to values and a particular perspective. But that is the lowest common denominator of science and a narrow vision for spirituality. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences applies to both. Both science and spirituality are at their best when they take into account multiple perspectives and intelligences. Spirituality at its best deals in fact as well as intuition, otherwise it risks falling back into a magical or superstitious worldview. Science at its best incorporates the most comprehensive view of knowledge that includes head and heart, fact and intuition. Otherwise it risks not knowing why certain facts are important.
Science, at its best, is a relationship of service and a vision of a more connected world. Some would say that relationship removes the objectivity of the scientific method. But on the contrary I believe it opens up the limitless dimensions of the discoveries as well as a clearer sense of why science is important and what it is truly contributing to the planet.
The Science of Relationship
The science of relationships suggests that everything is part of a living whole, and all of it is related to the source of creativity and life. This is part of the wisdom of science. You see through the lens of Hubble’s telescope and gaze into infinity, and you “know” that our concepts of beginnings and endings, size and scope, are limited and partial. We learn about species of ants that lived in tropical rainforests for hundreds of millions of years before humans came onto the scene, and “know” that the universe has a life beyond human intervention. The wisdom of science is humility and wonder in the presence of nature and the ability to study nature with empathy.
The universe is a series of relationships whether we live like that or not. It’s about relationships that stretch beyond those you care about and includes those who are far away and unlike you. This includes all species and all people, and it includes the earth.
The Physics of Observation
One of the distinctions that some people draw between science and spirituality is that the scientific method keeps an objective distance between the person making observations and the thing being observed, while spirituality seeks to cross these boundaries, if not remove them altogether. But this is a false distinction. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Science has evolved in its understanding of observation. Observation seems to at least somewhat impact what is being observed, like a watched pot that refuses to boil. The most obvious example is when you put air pressure in a tire. It’s likely that you will release some air in the process of observing the pressure levels. The Physicist Erwin Schrodinger conducted the famous experiment with a cat sealed in a box with poison. Until you open the box to observe the cat, it could be either alive or dead. The point is that the way you set up the experiment as well as your observation does affect the outcome. The outcome doesn’t exist until the observation is made.
A more serious discussion has taken place concerning the observation of light. Over the last 3 centuries, scientists have gone back and forth on the question of whether light is made up of particles or waves. Newton argued that light was made up of particles, but Einstein and others later showed that particles also have waves and vice versa. Quantum physics suggests that light exists as both particle and waves. When observed, light acts like particles, and when not being observed light acts like waves. From this perspective, there is no such thing as a neutral observer. The observation participates in the process.
This wisdom from science brings us full circle to the spiritual wisdom that is often associated with the Jewish text the Talmud, but is more likely from the author Anais Nin, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” You participate in every conflict in your life, as well as every opportunity at least to some degree. You co-create reality with your observation.
The Physics of Connection
Physics is the study of energy in motion. Quantum physics studies the behavior of matter interacting with energy at an atomic level. Quantum physics suggests that the ideal of oneness that spiritual traditions have taught for centuries is actually built in to the laws of nature. The 1982 physics experiment in France studied the behavior of two subatomic particles that were once localized and interrelated, then separated from one another by some distance. Even at a distance, however, a change in the state of one particle was observed to bring about a simultaneous change in the other. This is similar to the incredible stories you hear about twins who are separated but continue to “know” what is happening in the other’s life.
As a way to wrap your mind around the implications of this possibility, think about homing pigeons. No one can fully explain how homing pigeons do what they do. It’s as if they have an invisible elastic band connecting them to their home. It gives them a sense of direction to return home even when they have no sign posts. The physics of relationships suggests that there is an invisible elastic band between you and other people, including other species in the world. Our intimate connection to each other is more than a metaphor. Quantum physics seems to point to the same truth as Lakota wisdom that doesn’t even have a word for “I”. It only has words for “we” and “us”. You could also look to the analogy of waves in an ocean. Each wave is unique and different, but never ceases to be part of the ocean. The ocean is one and all the parts of this whole are always connected whether we realize it or not.
There is a beautiful extract in J. D. Salinger’s 1954 short story, Teddy. Teddy is a ten year old boy with enormous spiritual insight, and he is having a conversation with an adult on a cruise ship. This is Teddy’s insight.
“I was six when I saw that everything was God, and my hair stood up, and all,” Teddy said. “It was on a Sunday, I remember. My sister was a tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.”
Love is like that. Once you come to realize that the world is intimately related, you and everything in it, you begin to see everything around you with new eyes. You feel more connected. You feel more compassionate. You feel like you are participating in something related and awesome, and so much larger than yourself. The boundaries between yourself and the rest of life begin to dissolve.
This has huge implications for our understanding of relationships. We tend to approach relationships as a transaction between separate people rather than as a sharing of intimacy from within the heart of love. We look for love outside of ourselves as if it’s separate from us. Inevitably other people will disappoint us, and so we will blame them for our unhappiness. We make an art of blame. We need to make ourselves right by making others wrong, forgetting that we are all one to begin with. This doesn’t mean that all relationships work out. There is often good reason to end a relationship or a job or many other things. The problem is when we take the opportunity to create an enemy in the process, and all we are doing is creating enemies within.
Love The Light
The wisdom of science is just as ambitious as spiritual wisdom. It aims for unity. This is a great aim, but of course most of us only catch glimpses of this oneness. Most of us live with the challenges and ambiguities of life that drag us back into living separately. Don’t let your inability to dwell in unity become a new reason for guilt and shame. Just do the best you can in each moment. Take wisdom from where you find it, love where you can, and keep moving towards the light that is your essence.
The light in me honors the light in you. Namaste.