I like to differentiate between a small (psychological) and a big (spiritual) understanding of awakening. Each view adds and highlights something important.
For instance, are we one or many?
BIG UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY
From a big or spiritual understanding of awakening, we can say that the divine is one and yet takes innumerable forms, including as any and all beings.
There is nothing wrong with that view. That’s how I see it too.
SMALL UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY
And a small or psychological understanding of awakening adds something important.
Here, we focus more on our own experience and don’t assume that existence as a whole is as it appears to us.
To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am. This consciousness and experience of the world is one. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.
I assume it’s the same for others. They too are fundamentally consciousness, operating through whatever body and psyche is there. They too are oneness to themselves.
From this view, we are all one. The world inevitably appears as one to us. We are many onenesses.
We can also say that existence, most likely, in itself is one. We can add the view from science, which tells us existence is one in that it’s a seamless system. And we can add the view from the big understanding of awakening, telling us it’s all one in that it’s all Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on.
MANY AND ONE ONENESSES
In a sense, we are many and one onenesses.
In my immediate experience, I am one, and the world to me happens within and as that oneness.
From a small understanding of awakening, I assume others too are fundamentally consciousness to themselves. They too are a oneness and the world, to them, happens within and as that oneness.
From science, it makes sense to see the universe and all of existence as one system and a seamless whole.
And from a big understanding of awakening, I see all as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit or the divine, including when it takes the local form of this being and all beings.
How has this played out for me?
The initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen. In my direct perception, all was one. And to make sense of it through my mental representations, I definitely fell into the big understanding. I saw it all as God and Spirit taking any and all forms, including anything about this human self.
I was already into systems views (I loved Fritjof Capra’s writings which I discovered when I was fourteen or fifteen). So intellectually, I saw the universe as one seamless system. A holarchy made up of innumerable holons.
The small or psychological understanding of awakening was there, somewhere in the background, but I didn’t emphasize it so much and I didn’t differentiate the two as clearly as I do now. That came more over time, especially as I saw how useful it can be to make that differentiation.Read More