A very popular idea in the New Age movement is that all is one. This phrase has different meanings in different spiritual traditions, but generally it means that we are one with the divine and each other in a deep way. The things which separate us, our intellect, ego, and other differences are not as real as the oneness and are not as important as the oneness. I call this way of looking at reality the Oneness Worldview.
I should state that I am taking a broad interpretation of this worldview. I include New Thought and the boddhisattva ethics of Mahayana Buddhism which advocate a strong conception of oneness with the divine (in the sense that only our oneness with the divine really exists and any notion of a separate self is illusory or mistaken.) I also include, however, beliefs in which the oneness is more important or overwhelms individuals in only certain areas. So I include Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious. Jung does not believe in the total oneness of all reality, but his collective unconscious posits a deeper oneness between all people that transcends individuality and tremendously influences and overwhelms individuals.
This emphasis on onenes is the foundation of many of the most important beliefs and ideas in the New Age movement.
It is the foundation for the belief in gurus as they have totally realized the divine and thus have no ego or personal desires left. This means the guru can do no wrong as he (and the guru is almost always a man) has no self-centeredness. Of course what he says should be obeyed unconditionally as his words are the equivalent of God’s words.
It is the foundation for the belief in the Jungian collective unconscious with its belief in archetypes. The collective unconscious is shared by all people and influences them deeply without them having individual awareness of this influence. The archetypes also are shared by all people (sometimes they are seen as being different in men and women) and affect us in ways we are not individually aware of.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on mysticism and seeing the ultimate goal of the spiritual life as enlightenment. Related to the emphasis on mysticism is the idea of a perennial philosophy, or a set of core teachings behind all religions.
It is the foundation for seeing Buddhism as being totally concerned with getting beyond the separate self through meditation. The religious aspects of Buddhism, its communal practices and doctrinal aspects, are ignored or erased. As this leads to ignoring Buddhism as it is actually practiced in Asian countries, this conception is often called Buddhist Modernism or Protestant Buddhism.
It is the foundation for the belief in the Hundredth Monkey effect. In this effect, the individual and her thought processes are transcended as a forcefield of some type causes a sudden transformation in everyone.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on we create our own reality and the so-called law of attraction. Both of these ideas come from the New Thought tradition which teaches that humans are really one with God and so have the powers of God with no limits.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on total non-violent means of social change and conflict resolution.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on an evolutionary leap that will result in a new type of human. This leap is a result of the spiritual evolution of the larger Spirit individuals are part of.
It is the foundation of the emphasis on a cosmic change such as the harmonic convergence, 2012, or the Aquarian Age in which everything will be different. In these cosmic changes, the individual does not matter much, it is the cosmic change that is important.
It is the foundation of the emphasis on feelings as feelings, unlike thoughts, connect us into deeper oneness with other creatures. This leads to the popular sayings of if something rings true, it is true, and follow your bliss.
It is the foundation for the respect for ancient prophecies as these people are seen as closer to being one with the environment or the divine and the prophets burst through separate consciounsess to a deeper consciousness of oneness.
It is the foundation for the interpretation of quantum mechanics as proving a deeper oneness of all things and thoughts create reality.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on other fields of science showing a deep oneness.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on deep ecology which says that protecting the ecosystem is the most important moral imperative. Whatever helps the ecosystem be more whole or vital is the morally right thing. The individual and her rights and value is denigrated in favor of emphasis on the larger system she is part of.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on channelling. In channelling, a person’s separate, individual consciousness is dissolved and a higher consciousness spirit is thought to talk, write, or act through the person.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on all spiritual masters teach the same thing, as they all teach about achieving oneness with the divine.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on being here now.
It is the foundation for the emphasis on myths, which are seen as coming from a time when people were connected to the primal oneness.
This is just a list of some of the most important areas that the Oneness Wordview manifests itself. Importantly it shows up in so many areas, they reinforce each othewr and so many people become convinced that this Oneness Worldview is true.
I first want to make it very clear that I am not advocating some scientific position that humans are material creatures or materialism explains all reality. I believe we are connected to a deeper spiritual reality; I just am not for the oneness kind of spirituality. In fact, I think it is a markedly inferior form of spirituality and as people mature and really reflect on it they will see its limitations. Here are some of the most important reasons why I think this.
Overstates our supposedly unlimited powers
Many teachers in the New Thought tradition (such as Chopra, Walsch, Dyer, Redfield, and the authors of The Secret) over-emphasize our connection to God. They say we are totally one with God and we have all the powers of God. They say we have unlimited powers and can create our reality in any way we want.
Fantasy mindset of waiting for a big cosmic change to happen
It is often thought that some cosmic change will happen soon. If that is true, then there is no reason to work hard now developing individual qualities of awareness, compassion or intelligence. Instead, sit back and wait for the cosmic change to happen.
Neglects rational mind and critical thinking
The rational mind and critical thinking are often seen as blocking our sense of oneness with the divine. Thus it is often denigrated and dismissed by the Oneness Worldview.
Being duped by gurus
The guru is fully enlightened and so one with the divine. He can do no wrong and so if he is feeling you up or raping your daughter, he is not doing this from any selfish motives.
Feelings are often seen as a result of being in a deeper state of connection or oneness to the sacred. They tell us what is true and what our spiritual path is.
Reduces all motivation and emotion to fear and love
Fear is the result of separation from the onenesss. Love is the manifestation of connection to the oneness. As these are the only two possible states of being in the Oneness Worldview, all motivations and emotions are often reduced to either fear or love. This means that greed, competition, and other self-centered emotions all come from the fear of scarcity.
This worldview has no real room for other virtues such as the deep concern for truth. It also does not understand the other lower desires many people have. This leads to a simplistic way of dealing with self-centered people (like terrorists) as they are motivated only by fear or the idea they are being attacked. If we just really listen to them and their fears, they will change.
Romanticisizes an earlier time
People with a Oneness Worldview often state that there was an earlier time when we lived in a deeper state of oneness with reality. This time is usually thought to be either childhood or before the rise of civilization. This view romanticizes this earlier time and so neglects to see it in its fullness; instead, it projects all the positive values onto this earlier time, while not seeing the positive features of the present way of life.
Over-emphasizes how easy spirituality is
The Oneness Worldview states that we are really one with the divine. Thus it has no room for a strong sense of karma, human self-centeredness, or evil that significantly gets in the way of being spiritual. So spirituality is seen as being much easier than it really is.
Sets up a dualism of old paradigm vs. new paradigm
It is often stated that people involved with modern spirituality have a new consciousness or a new paradigm or worldview. These people possess all the wonderful qualities which result from oneness while people who do not share the Oneness Worldview possess shallower, more material consciousness.
Lacks an historical sense
Achieving oneness with the divine is all that really matters in the Oneness Worldview. So who wants to do the hard work of reading in order to understand why our current cultural paradigm developed the way it did? This leads to a lack of awareness among many spiritual people of basic historical trends and ideas. This allows popular spiritual teachers to utter mistruths and false myths as they are not worried anyone will challenge them. Furthermore, as they do not understand our culture’s past, the teachers cannot develop the synthesis of spiritual values and the dominant cultural paradigm they want to develop.
Loses respect from outsiders
Many non-New Agers see the continual emphasis on the Oneness Worldview in modern spirituality and because of its lack of a historical sense, lack of critical thinking, and misuse of science, they cannot respect the movement. These outsiders could often be sympathetic to a spirituality without these flaws, a spirituality which emphasizes connection to the sacred and also individuality. Unfortunately, this kind of spirituality is drowned out by the advocates of the Oneness Worldview.
My name is Joseph Waligore. I currently have a part-time job teaching philosophy and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. More information about me can be found at my MySpace profile or my Facebook profile.
This website is one of four websites I have. At makingyourconnections.com I have a posted a significant portion of a self-help book I am currently writing. This book helps people succeed in the world by making their connections, the special people in their lives. Another website, www.followingtheflow.com is for spiritually oriented people and discusses very similar ideas from a more spiritually oriented perspective. Another one, www.josephwaligore.com is for academically or intellectually oriented people. It has my writings about spiritual philosophies such as Stoicism, Socrates, the Deists, the Enlightenment period, and the rise of modern science.
There is a Facebook group called Flowing. People interested in meeting other people who are interested in these ideas and/or participating in discussions about these ideas are invited to join the group.
Many people reach this site through keyword advertisements. It might be of interest that Joseph got the money for these ads through his daytrading profits.