04 Feb Our Role in Unity
In light of the recent attack on the Capitol, there is conversation among us about finding or working to create unity. This makes sense, but I wonder if we have the understanding, the resources, and the collective will to make this happen. Because religion, so often, has been one more thing that divides us and wounds us, many might be skeptical to hear me say that I believe that religion and spirituality have an essential role to play in helping us to achieve unity.
I am including in this edition of Oakleaves, an email from Richard Rohr, the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, which I think is relevant to our striving for unity. In fact, I encourage you to go onto the website for the Center for Action and Contemplation, and read and sign up for Richard’s daily emails. They tend to take on some topic for each week. This week’s theme (January 24 – 30) is about what many Christian mystics have called the Cosmic Egg. What is the Cosmic Egg?
It is an image that helps us to understand that the universe is from God and is ultimately one. The great English mystic, Julian of Norwich, who also lived during a deadly pandemic, had a vision from God. This is how she described it: “God showed me in my palm a little thing round as a ball about the size of a hazelnut. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and asked myself: ‘What is this thing?’ And I was answered: ‘It is everything that is created.’ I wondered how it could survive, since it seemed so little it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing. The answer came: ‘It endures and ever will endure, because God loves it.’ And so everything has being because of God’s love.”
There is the foundation for unity. No doubt, for Julian, this vision was deeply convicting and motivating. What would it be like to emotionally and spiritually really understand the fragility and preciousness of the Cosmic Egg of which we are a part? Perhaps you have seen pictures taken from Voyager 1 as it left the reaches of our solar system. There we see a tiny prick of light, which is our home in this Cosmic Egg. Humbling and powerful to see the truth of who we are, both from mystics and scientists!
Richard Rohr is writing this week about what he calls the three domes of our Cosmic Egg: my story, our story, and the story. My story, of course, is our individual story of self, born from our own experiences and backgrounds, our own orientations and preferences. It’s a story which easily fascinates and dominates our attention and attachment. It’s good, however, only as far as it goes. It’s hard to build unity if my story is the only one we know and love. Our story is the familiar way that we orient in a group. Religion, nation, ethnicity, political party, sports team, college or high school, family, community, all serve this need we have to be part of a group. However, like anything which serves our need for identity, our groups can both create unity and threaten it. This is the threshold of where we are standing today—the experience of a greater unity threatened by allegiance to lesser unions. We mistake our part for the whole. The story would be those stories which stretch our hearts and imaginations to understand a unity which supersedes any partial divisions. All of our multiplicity is held in a greater unity. How does this truth become more real to us? I think that this is the job of all true and mature religion and spirituality.
I have more to say about this topic. My recent reading of Jean Gebser is helping me to see with my understanding, as Julian said, that there are various structures of consciousness within us, sort of the archeological inheritance of our human experience, of which we are only vaguely aware. And because we are not aware, these different structures are playing out through us in powerful and destructive ways. Bringing these into awareness and learning how to make them work for us and not against us is one of the most important tasks for our species. There is a hidden wholeness to our consciousness structures which can bring us through our impasse into something life-giving for us all. More about this to come in other communications.
Meanwhile, let’s all keep working at connecting deeply to God, from whom all of us come and in whom we all live and move and have our being. See you in church!