ARC TO UNITY NO. 12: WORLDVIEW – FROM DUALITY TO UNITY
“In your veins, and in mine, there is only one blood, the same life that animates us all! Since one unique mother earth begat us all, where did we learn to divide ourselves?”
—Kabir, 15th Century Sufi Poet
Duality: the state of having two parts in sustained opposition; e.g., us vs. them, good vs. evil.
Unity: the state of being harmoniously interconnected; the non-dual nature of self and all of creation.
Duality and unity—both are foundations for systems of belief by which one lives life. The worldview of duality is grounded in fear and the worldview of unity is grounded in love. Each worldview guides the aspirations and actions of those who embrace it. These two system are similar to the optical illusion in the well-known illustration that at once reflects a face, but at the same time some may see a vase. When you see one, the other is not visible. When you believe you live in duality, unity appears irrational and inaccessible, and vice versa.
Our beliefs shape the tableau of the world we see and experience, and no belief is neutral. Every belief leads in some way to peace or war; either love or fear. What we believe, we will see. Such is the real law of cause and effect. Change begins with questioning our beliefs and testing them for consistency. If they are inconsistent, we have not yet found the truth.
A Punitive System Requires a Dualistic Worldview
A dualistic worldview frames the world as unsafe, full of people who want to harm us or who are careless. Life becomes plagued by fear—fear of others, fear of loss and scarcity, fear of death. The punitive justice system is a defensive system, designed to enable the “good” people to “win,” i.e., maintain control over the “bad” people who cause harm, break agreements, are careless or negligent. Thus it is that those who have a dualistic worldview perceive punitive justice to be a rational way to achieve peace, although human history proves otherwise.
Who are the “bad” people who must be controlled? They are often identified by characteristics that make them different from us, some particular trait, such as nationality, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language, ethnic background—any distinguishing characteristic may serve this purpose. Of course, in order for this construct to function, exceptions must be allowed. For example, a person can both be anti-Semitic and love his daughter who converted to Judaism.
Operating on the belief that there is a deep divide between themselves and their adversaries, those who see themselves as the “good” people are locked in defensive mode, rendered untrusting, even when they find that responding to this perpetual state of fear is so expensive it becomes self-destructive. This dualistic divide between good and evil lies at the root of much of the conflict in today’s world, and many real and imagined structures perpetuate it, central of which is the dualistic worldview.
A dualistic worldview permeates our culture. Without realizing what we are doing, we pass on to our children the moral predicament of living in duality. So long as we do not realize this is what we are doing, we are not capable of teaching them how to escape it. Escape from a dualistic worldview is difficult while we are in it, even as the world confronts us with the disorder and destruction that the belief in duality has made.
The mind cannot serve two masters—it must choose between duality and unity. The first step toward escaping duality is to realize we have a choice, that we can choose differently. The second step is to consider the possibility that, if we change our worldview, we might see and experience a different world. Because our mind is the most powerful device we have to effect change, by changing our mind in one instant, we can change the world in the next.
A Unitive System Reflects the Worldview of Unity
When we recognize that the world is not dualistic, we wake up in the unity worldview. This worldview understands that there is a reality more fundamental than the physical realm, an all-encompassing unity in which everything is interconnected and balance is perpetually maintained. Separation does not exit. What happens in any part affects the whole, thus we demonstrate our "specialness" as individuals, not by excluding others, but rather by inclusion--inclusion without exception.
While we have many structures that support duality, we also have important sources to draw on as we create new institutions based on unity. In the excerpt below, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. describes how the U.S. Declaration of Independence offers a dream of unity for the United States, and how we have struggled to get there even as we cling to separation.
It wouldn’t take us long to discover the substance of that dream [of unity]. It is found in those majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, words lifted to cosmic proportions: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This is a dream. It’s a great dream.
The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say "some men," it says "all men." It doesn’t say "all white men," it says "all men," which includes black men. It does not say "all Gentiles," it says "all men," which includes Jews. It doesn’t say "all Protestants," it says "all men," which includes Catholics. (Yes, sir) It doesn’t even say "all theists and believers," it says "all men," which includes humanists and agnostics.
Then that dream goes on to say another thing that ultimately distinguishes our nation and our form of government from any totalitarian system in the world. It says that each of us has certain basic rights that are neither derived from or conferred by the state. In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given, gifts from His hands.
Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent, and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality. The American dream reminds us, and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day, that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.
Now ever since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this dream in all of its magnificence—to use a big word that the psychiatrists use—America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself. On the one hand we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy, but on the other hand we have sadly practiced the very opposite of those principles.
All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated. And we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny -- whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Our awakened mind realizes our individual self has a non-dual relationship with creation as a whole; the self and creation are both manifestations of one undivided unity. We need not seek for unity as it is our inherent nature. Our task is to seek and find all of the barriers we have made against it, the false beliefs and illusions we project on our world to maintain the illusion of separation.
As we awaken to our non-dual nature, we confront a paradigm shift that requires a re-design at every level: our identity, understanding of individuality, our understanding of “other,” our core beliefs and our institutional structures—including justice.
We are at a moment in history when people in many fields are envisioning and creating new institutional designs that are consistent with the emerging worldview of unity. Everywhere the old system is not working, a new way is needed. In these places, using the Arcs to Unity as a roadmap, we can begin to redesign our justice system, our systems of education, business and religion, by slowly replacing their punitive structures with unitive structures. The stage of history has been set—the moment is ours to seize.
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There are many paths on which we, as individuals, can make the journey from duality to unity. The video below is of a young woman telling her personal story of that journey. Perhaps some of you will find wisdom in her words for your own journey.
 Martin Luther King, Jr., The American Dream, pg. 4 at http://depts.drew.edu/lib/archives/online_exhibits/King/speech/TheAmericanDream.pdf. Cited Feb. 12, 2015.