The Nondual Mystic Path: The Paradox of the ONE and the Many
Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze, but as they sway they connect at the roots.
This is the third in a series of three postings on mystic consciousness. Today’s posting focuses on the paradoxical relationship between the One and the many, that is, between Unity and individuality.
We are both united to everything, a part of everything and utterly different. The unity supports the individuality. As a beings filled with divine energy we can ascend to the heights of divine mystic consciousness. This does not subvert our humanity or take us out of it. We are part of the whole and unique. We are all totally matchless like all those zillions of snowflakes that fell this winter. Each of them was totally unique. None of them was exactly like any other.
Each tree in a forest is its own ecosystem linked to the entire forest. And the forest cannot exist without each individual, unique tree trunk and set of leaves. Each stands separately in the community of trees. The interwoven roots bring vital water and nutrients from the soil to the branches and leaves and the trees themselves grow upward toward the light of the sun. The forest and the trees would die without each other. The forest and individual trees need each other. They feed each other. The forest is impossible without the individual trees. We unite with the divine energies as individuals and that unity empowers our distinctive personhood.
My friend and colleague Merry Cole, director of True North Retreat Center in her blog posting of 10/20/14 says,
I am a drop of salt water, a drop of the Ocean. I am not the Ocean- the Ocean is vast, but I am made up of everything that the Ocean is. There is nothing that makes up me that is not of the Ocean. There is not anything of the Ocean that is not me.
If I believe that God, Universal Force, Creator, Spirit, source is pure and perfect Energy (which I do) then the same principle applies. I am a drop of God, a manifestation of God I am not God, God is vast, but I am made up of everything that God is.
As we come to see our total, ever present connection to the Divine our individual selves are able to more fully blossom and expand.
A concrete though extreme and fanciful example of this came with the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. This iconic science fiction series introduced a sinister opponent called the Borg portraying a biomechanical form of life which totally subverted the individual. The Borg assimilates all individuals and races into its collective mind. The Borg’s mantra was “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” Within the Borg, individuals functioned as drones in service to a hive, group, collective mind. All individual consciousness was lost. Within human history collective societies, groups and spiritual communities eventually die out or often self-emulate when the individual spirit and consciousness is not honored and nurtured. This nurturing needs to include protecting the rights to protest and disagree with group goals. There are many incidents of cults denying individuality exploding across the headlines in recent history including the cult at Jonestown, Aum Shinriko (in Japan), Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians. Fortunately most cults do not go this far but many more are destructive to individual freedom and development. I have also seen numerous brilliant individual leaders unable to connect to communities. They are like brilliant meteorites flashing across the night sky who burnout quickly.
It is from the divergent ones that spiritual communities grow. This is the energetic equivalent to DNA. Each group needs new DNA to remain healthy. This energetic DNA comes from the beauty, power and creativity of individual uniqueness. And without communities teachers become energetic hobos spiraling to oblivion.
The mystical path connects a person both to the universal energies of all creation and to his or her original distinctive Self. Each of these serves the other. The more deeply we see and experience ourselves as part of the One, as part of the totality of creation, the more we can affirm and be alive in our own individual, unique, particular selves. Nothing in mystic consciousness can be seen as subverting individuality. On the contrary, the individual is empowered by it.
Merry’s Blog is available at www.truenorthholisticcenter.org.