Unitive Justice

  Lovingkindness in action. 

Arcs to Unity - Short Version



Proportional revenge: the level of punishment is scaled relative to the severity of the crime or harm being answered, as in “an eye for an eye.” Many assume the punishment does not have to be exactly equivalent to the crime, but retributivists differ on what measure of revenge is required to achieve justice.

Lovingkindness: the extension of kindness and compassion toward all living beings based on one’s moral duty as a human to do so.

We often use common phrases, like “the punishment fits the crime,” “I want to get even,” or “it’s tit for tat,” without realizing that these terms are describing the moral principle that underpins a punitive system, namely proportional revenge. The “justice” in proportional revenge lies in balancing one harm against another, as in “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

For proportional revenge to work, it requires two standards by which we measure whether the test of morality has been met—one for “us” and one for “them.” This double moral standard permits us to claim the harm done by us, the “good” people, is moral, while condemning the harm done by those whom we deem to be “evil” or “immoral,” even when both are doing essentially the same thing! We are not guilty because they made us do it. This flawed moral compass tends to produce morally flawed results. 

A unitive system is based on the moral principle of lovingkindness, a mandate to extend kindness and compassion to others, without exception. Whatever the circumstances, harm to another is not condoned as moral. When we are nonviolent even to our adversaries, we offer to them what we want for ourselves—lovingkindness. The power of lovingkindness lies in this internal moral consistency.



Rules: laws, requirements or guidelines intended to govern conduct within a particular activity or jurisdiction. Rules are generally written and enforced by those who control the activity or jurisdiction. Because rules are top-down, one of the few means of enforcing rules is for those in control to deprive those being controlled of some privilege when rules are violated, i.e., to inflict punishment.

Values: internal guidance grounded in shared community norms that are modeled by and maintained within the community to guide its members toward unity. Values are reflected in individual self-containment and inner poise. When values are violated it is a community concern to be addressed by the community.

Rules generally tell us what we are NOT to do. Do not go over the speed limit, do not commit robbery, do not commit murder, do not lie under oath. This means that each time a new harm is invented the list of rules must be expanded to specifically prohibit the new offense. Thus, the code books and school rules become ever more voluminous. How is compliance with the rules enforced? Usually by punishing those who fail to comply.

A significant aspect of how rules work is that they may be written to legalize anything, whether it is moral or not, if those responsible for writing the rules so choose. Colonization was legal. Slavery was legal. Apartheid was legal. Rules do not have to be based on values, although ideally they would be.

It is true that rules are an important part of our everyday experience. They govern how we are to conduct ourselves and help protect us from being violated by others. We assume that our safety depends on rules, and it is true that rules are often used for this purpose. But do the rules have to be imposed by our legislators and others who are in control, or can the rules be community-based norms that are generally accepted and maintained by those who live in a community?

In general, values tell us what we ARE to do—be kind, generous, honest, trusting. Living into values depends on individual self-governance. As we shift from rules to values, it is the shift from an institutional structure that is reliant on punishment to achieve compliance to an inclusive system in which connection becomes the “force” that holds the community together. Connected communities naturally help and support one another and address conflicts in ways that heal and restore.

In a unitive system an emphasis on shared community values is the foundation of community safety and order. Values such as trust, honesty, integrity, generosity, respect, equality reflect the moral principle of lovingkindness, instead of the retributive system we now accept as the norm.



Compliance: the act of obeying an order, rule, or request; obedience to those in control. 

Mutually beneficial action: through honest communication, courageous vulnerability and the recognition of shared humanity, those involved in conflict discover the underlying conflict dynamic out of which their conflict arose and discover how to transform it into action that permits all involved to go forward together; no one has to lose.

The immediate goal of a punitive system is to enforce compliance by punishing offenders, deter would-be offenders through fear of consequences, and/or achieve atonement by answering harm with harm. A punitive system requires compliance--compliance with rules, and compliance with the wishes of those who are superior in rank or influence. Because a punitive system imposes rules and uses punishment to achieve compliance, this system inevitably undermines connection.

Seeing compliance as a structure of the punitive system may help us understand the cause of resistive behavior. Feeling alienated and disrespected, many who are forced to comply or punished for failing to comply demonstrate resistance, directly or indirectly. Because maintaining control depends on compliance and collapses without it, people who overcome the fear of the consequences of not complying have the power to disarm those imposing control. The resisters can cause the system to dysfunction.

In a unitive system, conflict is seen as an opportunity to heal. In this context, processes are used that inspire honesty and build trust, conditions in which the conflict tends to naturally flowing toward resolution. As our shared humanity is recognized, the desire for retribution and revenge dissipates. With this, new possibilities emerge that were previously unimaginable—including mutually beneficial action that addresses root causes and restores balance, so no one has to lose. This is the goal.



Punishment: suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Connection: the joining that is without limit, recognizing the whole is undivided and all minds are joined.

The immediate goal of punitive justice is to punish offenders in order to enforce compliance with the rules and/or achieve atonement for the harm done. An indirect goal is to deter would-be wrongdoers by making the consequence of doing wrong painful or costly. Less obvious is the goal of using the punishment imposed by the state in the criminal justice system as a political act. It might be used against one’s political enemies, or used to affirm the might of those in control, or to reflect their allocation of value.

Punishment is expeditious, a quick fix, but often fails as a long-term solution. By narrowly defining the goal as punishment, the punitive system excludes consideration of the whole, and ignores institutional, systemic or societal conditions that fuel conflict—they go unaddressed.

Punishment has been an aspect of the human experience for so long that we easily conclude that it is part of our human nature. However, when a healing option is available, many people choose it over punishment, indicating we are not hard wired for punishment, after all. Connection is our fundamental nature.

When one believes that reality is fragmented, fearful and characterized by a perpetual us-versus-them battle, the concept of connection is difficult to grasp. But when one overcomes the belief in duality, seeing connection as reality is natural. Unitive Justice works within the reality of connection.

The new science of quantum physics affirms our interconnectedness. It has shown that, while the Newtonian laws of matter apply at the gross physical level, a more fundamental reality exists beyond matter—an all-encompassing field of energy in which separation does not exist.

Because of connection, when we harm someone else, it is like a boomerang—it comes back in some form to harm ourselves. When I harm another I harm myself. The structures of Unitive Justice—values, equality, trust, honesty, mutually beneficial action, lovingkindness—strengthen connection. The connection that binds us to one another is what a unitive system uses to maintain order and achieve peace. In fact, connection is the only means to achieve peace and sustained order.



Judgment: considered decisions intended to result in sensible conclusions, but often tainted by preconceived misperceptions believed to be real.

Insight: a discovery of new information about the inner nature of an act or events; an act of discerning deeply that reveals new information and new possibilities that were not previously seen.

A punitive system relies on judgment—who is with us and who is against us? Who is good or pretty, who is evil or ugly? The problem is that judgment is often tainted by preconceived notions reflected in the projection of a negative assessment upon another person or thing, along with the belief that it is real, and not merely perceived. We often judge another to be guilty, lazy, ugly, or undesirable without realizing this is what we are doing, or that we are seeing the speck in another’s eye while being blind to the log in our own. As judgment proliferates, separation from one another deepens and human relations deteriorate.

Insight is a mental portal that suddenly leads to inner sight. This inner sight accesses knowledge and understanding that was previously inaccessible and which paves the way for qualitatively different thinking or actions. Insight is forward looking, while judgment keeps the focus on the past.

Insight is achieved through discernment or “mindful presence.” Insight may lead to understanding the cause of one’s own pain and the pain of others, letting it be acknowledged, and perhaps seen in a new way.



Event: an incident or occurrence, the crime, the wrongdoing, the harm done.

Context: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed;[1] the systemic conditions that give rise to individual, similar or repeated incidents and their particular consequences.

Every event has a context out of which the event arises. For every action taken, there is a chain of people and events that have a part in setting up the conditions in which the act happens as it does and results in its particular consequences. The same event that the punitive system uses to arrest, judge and punish is used in the unitive system as the portal to discovering the context. The event is like the shovel we use to excavate the underlying pattern of separation out of which the event arose, so connection can be restored and future similar events curtailed.

If we expand our lens far enough, we see patterns in the context that include all of us. It is within the context that we discover the underlying separation that fuels harmful episodes. It is by addressing the underlying separation that we restore connection. A punitive system narrows the focus to a particular event then uses it to charge, convict and punish the wrongdoer, while problems in the context are ignored and harm repeatedly occurs.

In a unitive system, a wide lens is used to consider both the event and context. The event is used as the portal to discovering the context, the underlying pattern of separation out of which that event arose, so connection can be restored and future events curtailed.



Control: the process of dominating others and restricting their freedom through physical, mental, or emotional coercion; wielding influence using fear tactics, be they blatant or covert. Control is territorial and requires consistent enforcement.

Self-Governance:  internal self-control and self-mastery; being one’s own master; the ability to exercise the function of regulation upon oneself without the intervention of an external authority.

The punitive justice system is designed to maintain control using punishment and often, physical might. It’s the one tool in the punitive toolbox. Control is a territorial concept that is temporary, fleeting, and unpredictable. As rebellion is a constant threat, those imposing control must be ever vigilant.. Slave masters, dictators, and occupiers know this all too well.

Despite the problems the punitive justice system causes for many people, its strength lies in the fact that its structures do what they are designed to do—provide a means for those in control to impose and maintain control.

Self-governance is the key to freedom, escape from control. Recognizing I am the creator of the life I experience, I am free to exercise my power to govern myself. I can choose to hold positive thoughts grounded in Love; thus I am my mind’s liberator. Self-governance enables me to transcend the punitive system even while I am immersed in it. Thus I contribute to system change.



Self-interest: a concern for one’s own interest or advantage, without regard for the impact on others. Self-interest depends on a belief in separation, a dualistic worldview.

Community: a shared sense of connection grounded in the belief that the whole is undivided, that humans share one humanity and all are connected; living out of one’s values as a way of being with others, regardless of the context.

Self-interest and community are dependent on two distinct underlying beliefs: separation and connection—the belief that we are all separate, or alternatively, that we are all connected. We appear to be separate individuals at the physical level, but the new science of quantum physics is teaching us that, at a deeper level, connection is our true reality, and there are no exceptions. At the quantum level, our uniqueness is held in patterns and flows of energy that exist in unending wholeness. We are born in time, but we are held in eternity.

We are at a moment in time when the belief in connection is growing. This confirms what was always true—connection is inherent in who we are and it is lived in community. As the Dalai Lama affirms, “Without the human community, one single human being cannot survive.”



Hierarchy: a classification or organization in which people, groups, or things are ranked one above the other according to status, or perceived importance, or control. Those at the top of the hierarchy benefit from entitlement, privilege and, often, a sense of superiority. Deference to hierarchy may be based on respect, habit. or fear.

Equality: inclusion without exception; the condition of being accorded the same value, respect, dignity, connection and humanity as all others, without exception. Roles are differentiated based on skills and knowledge, but roles do not come with entitlement, privilege or superiority.


Hierarchy is integral to our legislative, judicial and executive branches of government, our places of employment and religious institutions, our schools and some families. Those at the top who are in control are necessarily separate from those at the bottom whom they are controlling—inequality is implicit in hierarchy. Hierarchy comes with privilege, entitlement and superiority for some, but not all.

Equality, inclusion without exception, the condition of being accorded the same value, respect, dignity, connection and humanity as all others, without exception, is achieved by sharing structural power horizontally. Different roles permit a community to function, but no role comes with a mantle of superiority, entitlement or privilege.

Such equality is found in the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in the Muslim teaching of wishing for others what you wish for yourself, in the admonition to “love one another as I have loved you,”[1] and in the commandment to love your enemies.[2] We also find it expressed in the Hindu greeting, Namaste, meaning “the soul in me greets the soul in you,”[3] and in the Zulu greeting, Sawbonna, meaning "I see you." None of these admonitions speak of exceptions for those whom we perceive to be different from ourselves. They envision equality—inclusion without exception.



Deception: the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid[2]; giving a misleading or untruthful account of conduct, intentions or events.

Honesty: the act of giving a fair and truthful account of conduct, intentions or events.

In a court of law, each witness is sworn to tell the truth, but when other considerations are more important, truth is often sacrificed. In a criminal case the prosecutor must carry the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt without the defendant’s help so even a guilty defendant may plead "not guilty" in order to shift this burden to the prosecutor/state. In civil cases, a party does not have to answer questions about certain protected admissions against interest, another example of the protection against self-incrimination being placed above discovering the truth in the most direct way—because, in that system, the risk of injustice if the truth were told is high. 

Attorneys readily admonish their clients to never say things like “I’m sorry” or “I made a mistake”—to anyone. In the principal's office kid's consistently contend, "I didn't do it, he did," even when they know better. In a punitive system where the realization and acceptance of personal responsibility is punished or leads to loss or harm, the safer strategy is to deceive or avoid the truth—and this principle applies throughout any punitive system, not only the courts.

A unitive system depends on honesty. The unitive system's structures, like shared values, equality, discernment, connection, trust, create a safe environment to be honest. Truthfulness helps us recognize our shared humanity, discover the underlying conflict dynamic out of which a harmful event emerged and achieve mutually beneficial action. Truthfulness builds trust, strengthens relationships and is essential for peace.



Distrust: suspicion or doubt of the honesty or reliability of another.

Trust: relational interdependence built on shared values that strengthens relationships and makes human interactions more functional.

The dualistic worldview (i.e., “us versus them,” the “good people versus the bad people”) upon which the punitive system depends fuels distrust. Trust depends on transparency, but pitting the interests of one side against the other, as the punitive system does, tends to promote secrecy. When a mistake is made, trust is supported by admitting it and taking responsibility, but the punitive system discourages “admissions against interest.” The win/lose nature of the punitive system undermines trust because the stakes are so high.

The structural elements of the unitive system build trust. Trust is greatest when values are strong, it is strengthened by inclusion, insight, mutually beneficial action, the moral principle of lovingkindness, co-creativity, honesty, community, synergy and unity, making for functional relationships and strong communities. As trust builds on the local level, the experience of a heightened level of trust spreads and the community is strengthened.



Opposition/Confrontation: characterized by conflict, resistance, argument, rivalry; the engagement of hostile parties.

Synergy: the combined power achieved by working together in collaboration rather than separately. The result is a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

In a punitive system, one person’s interest is pitted against the interest of the other side until one interest wins and the other loses. Conflict, opposition and argument are endemic. Because it is so pervasive, the adversarial nature of the punitive system is generally taken for granted. We are not inclined to question the theory that this is a good way to discover the truth, despite mounds of evidence it is not. Moreover, victory in this adversarial arena does nothing to repair the underlying broken relationships, and may be even make them worse, continuing the sense of loss.

A unitive system is designed to unite the power of everyone engaged in an endeavor in a synergistic process; in a system where everyone naturally works together, rather than separately. In a unitive system a breakdown is seen, not from a perspective of judgment and jockeying for the winning position, but as a matter of problem solving so such harm is not repeated and the community is strengthened. Synergy builds on our shared power and connection as the conflict naturally flows toward mutually beneficial action—efficiently and inexpensively.



Fear: the negative emotion caused by the perpetual feeling of danger. Fear is heightened by the belief in separation and seeing the world divided between good and evil, us versus them. To the fearful mind, Love may seem inaccessible and idealistic.

Love: an unconditional, integrative force within unity. Love is the source of power; it is girded with harmony, balance, unity, equality, wholeness, vision, and light, extending into infinity.  While we may all experience fear, Love is our inherent nature.

Punitive justice is grounded in fear; it is a system designed to protect and defend against the “other,” the rule breaker, the enemy. In our need for self-defense against those whom we fear, we answer harm with more harm, and the harm becomes endless. The structures of punitive justice, from proportional revenge to duality consciousness, support and sustain fear of the other because they undermine connection and trust.

To the fearful mind, to forgive is mistaken for inaction, misinterpreted as being weak, so the very idea of forgiveness generates more fear. This denies who we are—ourselves and those whom we call our enemies—each one of us being interconnected at a deeper level.

In a unitive system, healing is Love made visible. Forgiveness is an example of how this happens. The term “forgiveness” can mean different things to different people, but Unitive Justice defines forgiveness as realizing that, in the end and from a higher perspective, the harmful act was a cry for Love.



Duality: the state of having two parts in sustained opposition; e.g., us vs. them, good vs. evil.

Unity/Oneness: the state of being harmoniously interconnected; the non-dual nature of self and all of creation.

Duality and unity are both foundations for systems of belief by which one lives life. Each worldview guides the aspirations and actions of those who embrace it. The worldview of duality is grounded in fear and the worldview of unity is grounded in Love. One leads to war, the other to peace. When you believe you live in duality, unity appears irrational and inaccessible, and vice versa. What we believe, we see. Such is the real law of cause and effect. 

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.

As we awaken to our non-dual nature, we confront a paradigm shift that requires a re-design at every level: our identity, our understanding of individuality, our understanding of “other,” our core beliefs. It also requires that we redesign our institutions to comport with our new reality. That is the work at hand.

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

[1] Dictionary, https://www.google.com/search?rls=aso&client=gmail&q=definition%20of%20context%20&authuser=0

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deception