An excerpt from the Chapter 1 – Oneness
“We are full of paradise without knowing it.” – Thomas Merton
“They look at life which never lost the communion with the divine ground of all life, and they look at a life which never lost the union of love with all beings.” Paul Tillich
“Truth is one, sages call it by many names,” the Hindus tell us. This is one of the most famous expressions of Truth from India, from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest scriptures of the great world religions. Of course, many would make the case that this is in fact NOT true. I can still remember being in high school in the 1980’s and being told by my Theology teacher at the Jesuit school in Houston, TX, that the Catholic Church is the One True Faith. Now, this is a different version of oneness and truth than the Hindus express. Interestingly enough, my friend in class that day was Samir, a Hindu, and I remember asking him how he felt about the comment. Was he going to convert? Why is he attending a Catholic school? One of my earliest discussions on religion ran its course and by the end of it, Samir referenced the above scripture passage and for the first time I saw the truth more clearly in another religious tradition. How could God be so narrow, so exclusive in the one True Faith of the Catholic Church? Christ himself was never part of the Catholic Church. He was a Rabbi and part of the Jewish tradition of the 1st century. Perhaps, like the Hindus see Jesus, Christ points to and embodies a oneness with God that we are all called to embody in our own time and place. This is all-inclusive. No one tradition has the monopoly on oneness. As Thomas Merton states, “Our idea of God says more about ourselves than it does about God.” If we really allow ourselves to take this in, we realize how much our sense of the divine is conditioned by our own limited perception. Thus, there arises a need to refer to the spiritual masters of our traditions and hear what they have to say.
Thomas Merton explains oneness in his own Christian language:
If the deepest ground of my being is love, then in that very love itself and nowhere else will I find myself, and the world, and my brother (and sister) in Christ. It is not a question of either-or but of all-in-one,…of wholeness…wholeheartedness and unity…which finds the same ground of love in everything.
So much of Thomas Merton’s theology rests on the fact that God is love, God is at the core of who we are, and when we realize the core of who we are, we will find God, or rather be found by Him. In every Roman Catholic liturgy, the language during the Eucharist calls us to our oneness with Christ, and thus we take into our bodies Christ’s body and blood, as a way of reminding us of the presence of God already in us. Theophilus of Antioch says the following during the 2nd century, “God has given to the earth the breath which feeds it. It is his breath that gives life to all things. And if he were to hold his breath, everything would be annihilated. His breath vibrates in yours, in your voice. It is the breath of God that you breathe – and you are unaware of it.” This reality of the presence of God already perfectly and completely with us is not mentioned enough in Christian worship and practice. The human predicament comes through in our unawareness of this reality, and thus sin, hatred, delusion and evil result from this critical lack of awareness of our own oneness with God and with all things. There is a oneness with God that is already perfectly present here and now. Nothing is missing in this moment even as I write these words. God is simply loving us into the present moment.