The Search for Spiritual Security:
The One, the Whole, and Wholeness - 2
The belief in a Supreme One is a religious, psychic, or "spiritual" way of meeting this all-human need. The monotheistic religions of the Near East, and before them in a more philosophical way the Bhagavad Gita, have met this need in a specific manner which today still inspires and often controls the feeling-responses and even the everyday lives of a vast number of human beings. The "one and only" God creates the world of existence for some inscrutable purpose. God is infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, omnipresent; human beings and all other creatures are finite, mortal, impermanent. At or just before a human birth, God creates a soul that, in some mysterious manner, reflects His Image. The soul is sent to earth to learn lessons and to be tested, and after death it either returns "home" to its Father-in-Heaven or, if unsuccessful, has to experience a temporary purgatory or an everlasting hell. God is concerned with the human soul and intervenes to give it a chance to reach heaven by sending His Son as a redeemer or (in some religions) by revealing something of His divine nature through a succession of prophets or divine manifestations. Nevertheless, the gulf between Creator and creatures, between the Supreme One and the myriad of entities existing in the world, is essentially unbridgeable.
This theistic world-picture offers a degree of inner security, because as the sayings go, "God is in His Heaven, all is well with the world," and "With God all things are possible." The divine, all-loving Father may be expected to help His children if they are in dire trouble, provided they have total faith in Him. All modes of existence derive from Him; and while existence is unceasing change and nothing is permanent, human beings can find vicarious strength through unshakeable belief in His changelessness. His omnipotence and omnipresence and incomprehensible but sublime Love. Their personhood, so often racked by conflicts, can find in God's supreme Person an ideal to work toward, and in God' Revelation, a set of principles by which to live. For the true believer, divine Presence is a certainty. Many experience it in a mysterious "dialogue" between their feeble "I" and the sublime "Thou" of a God who is always present and reliable, who never disappoints those who implicitly and totally accept Him. Through this acceptance they can be blessed by Him or (in the cases of great mystics) can even experience a temporary union with Him.
The dualism inherent in the Christian formulation of the relationship between God and man can never be resolved into unity. God is in the world, but at no time can He be said to be the world, even in its state of unity. The world can be envisioned as "the Whole" because it was created by "the One" God, somewhat as a novel constitutes a whole created by one author. But "the Whole" is not "the One"; the idea of their identity is strongly condemned by Christianity as the pantheistic fallacy; the novel is not the author. God may create other universes and is neither less infinite, powerful, and loving nor diminished by these creations, to which He is essentially external. Similarly, the novelist is external to his or her novel, even if it is autobiographical; more novels may follow, or several may be written during the same period.
In the most traditional Hindu worldview, Brahman has a manifested and a nonmanifested aspect. In the former He encompasses the whole universe, and the Hindu mind readily accepts the concept of pantheism: the One differentiates into the Many, and in their togetherness the Many constitute a Whole; at the close of the infinitely varied manifestation of the One, the Whole is recondensed into the One. This world-scenario (from the One to the Many and back to the One) may, however, be stated differently. Instead of considering the universe the quasi-infinite self-multiplication of the One, it may be considered a Play (lila) which Ishvara performs, somewhat as a dramatist would conceive a puppet play and perform all its roles after which He returns to his serene state of world-transcending unity — only to start the process again later on. Even if the One seemingly becomes the Many in a relatively real universe rather than in a Play, this One does not cease to remain an undisturbable unity which never loses Its changeless identity. The ineffable Reality of an Absolute remains beyond manifestation, neither diminished nor increased by Its periodical manifestations. This Absolute neither "is" or "is not"; It is both in a supremely transcendent, timeless state;
Here the human mind is confronted by a paradox, which is inherent in the ambiguous meanings of the words unity and one. Unity is primarily defined in Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Edition) as "the state of being one," and also as "the quality or fact of constituting a whole. . .a totality of related parts, a complex systematic whole; a thing that seems complete in itself." It also is said to refer to "a uniting or being united in one body, unification" and the result of this unification. Another of its many meanings is "the absence of diversity," but a current and indeed today fashionable phrase or motto is "unity in diversity." Thus the word unity can refer not only to the state of being one but also to the process of becoming united and the quality required for the fulfillment of the process in a union. Above all, unity is confused with the term whole, which the dictionary defines as "the entire thing without loss of parts, without any impairment of its integrity; a totality; a complete organization of parts or elements." Only at the end of the entry for unity, under the heading Mathematics, is the term unity defined as "any definite quantity or aggregate of quantity or magnitude taken as one; numeral one."
The basic and original meaning of the word one does indeed refer to the first numeral, number one. But number one is not merely the first of an infinite series of numbers; all numbers are produced by the addition of one to itself. Therefore, in an abstract sense, one can be considered the principle of numeration. It generates all numbers, which can be considered differentiated aspects of it. But if one generates all numbers, such a process is obviously a kind of self-multiplication. The tendency inherent in number one to generate all numbers, seemingly ad infinitum, clearly shows that unity and multiplicity are both inherent in number one. Thus we are faced again with a paradox, the realization that one is a "whole." Nevertheless, the human mind cannot conceive of absolute "one-ness," because any conception by a mind implies that one already has a second, indeed a multiplicity of potential seconds. Therefore the metaphysician has to infer two levels of oneness — an absolute level at which one is not even a principle of numeration, and a level at which, as such a principle, it contains all numbers in potentiality.
The human mind cannot fathom or know such a state, yet a realization of it can be experienced by a human being whose consciousness has become like an absolutely quiescent lake or mirror. Such a quiescence implies a momentary separation of what in the human being operates as the Many and what (either relatively speaking or in absolute identification) "is" the One, atman. There must be separation, yet also that which is able to perceive both separate terms in relation to each other and to give form to that relation: this is what I call the "mind of wholeness."
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1983 by Dane Rudhyar
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