Only-ness vs Something Else
Published Miracles Mag Fall-2013
Non-Duality or what is commonly known as the Oneness of God or the Oneness of Reality is a common topic for articles.
I often talk to Course students that say that they are sure about what Non-Duality means. When I question them further about this subject, it is clear that they have not actually given it much thought and therefor do not see how Non-Duality actually relates to the teachings of ACIM and other Spiritual Practices. I admit the subject can be daunting!
The realization of a Non-Dual Reality has many consequences. I will write other articles that may be helpful in clarifying these consequences. First we need establish a common ground of language.
Our first task is to set aside labels that may have some confusing baggage. The term Oneness is familiar and therefor handy but it is fairly identified and contrasted with the idea of Two-ness or Three-ness, etc. The term Non-Dual has similar challenges, although it is not so well worn in the common vernacular. Non-Dual literally means “Not-Two”. I prefer the term, “Only-ness” (Of course I prefer it, I made it up!). “Only-ness” imparts a sense of “Nothing-Else-ness”, but in a positive way. It is also a reminder that the ONLY reality is Gods Reality.
The point that I would clarify with this article is:
Either “Only-ness” OR “something else” is True. It is not possible for both to be True.
Before we consider this statement any further, I shall address some objections. There are many but I shall focus on two.
Judeo/Christian/Islamic (and other) teachings have persuaded us that God’s utter omnipotence means that there is no impossibilities where God concerned. Biblical Scripture states,
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37).
Many, are those that do not accept scripture but accept this idea that comes from it. It sounds very nice but this objection is not a strong one. Besides the fact that a strict translation of the classic Greek turns out to be, “For no word from God will ever fail”, Scripture clearly states at least three things that are impossible for God:
- God cannot swear by a name higher that God (Heb 6:13)
- God cannot lie (Heb 6:18)
- God cannot contradict (or deny) God (II Tim 2:13)
Every day the experience of “something else” is my experience, yet God is also a real part of my experience! If “something else” and Only-ness are mutually exclusive, I would not experience them both.
It is true that each moment of our experience is experienced in a separate moment than the one before. From the point of view of this moment, the next moment is “something else”. I leave my home to commute to work. From the point of view of my home, the job location is “something else”. It is also true that many have had transcendent experiences in which God’s presence is felt. How could this happen if the Only-ness of God and “something else” were mutually exclusive?
I shall offer as rebuttal, an illustrative story. In this example, I shall show how two mutually exclusive principles or ideas can be part of your experience when one is “real” and the other is not. This is a dualistic illustration AND it serves my point.
A sleeping child is having a nightmare of being alone and lost in a dangerous wilderness. The sleeping child is terrified! Her body jerks and she mutters her distress as the violent dream is of being chased and doing battle with wild animals. The sleeping child’s disturbance is noticed by her Mother who touches the child’s forehead gently with her lips. The mother softly whispers loving words that ease the child’s troubled dreaming. Within the dream, the mothers comforting presence is felt. While not waking up, the child moves gently toward wakefulness. Her presence becomes a larger part of the child’s, otherwise terrifying experience of isolation. She does not awake but the dream has shifted. Her terror is reduced. She no longer shudders.
There are many valuable points in this metaphorical story but the one that addresses my objection is the following: The child’s mother has not entered the dream yet it now includes the calming presence of her mother within an otherwise terrifying and lonely experience. In this same way, you may experience the Only-ness of God (Mothers love) AND “something else” (the dream of fear).
It is possible to experience two mutually exclusive frames of reference, where one is “real” and the other is not.
What the heck is an Only-ness?
Good question! Glad you asked!
The principles that define Only-ness (the pure, Non-Dual thought system of the Course) are:
- This is a Reality that has no pieces or parts. There is nothing to distinguish any “thing” from any “other” “thing”. There are no qualities, properties or difference that separate.
- This Reality is (an Only-ness) the only existent Reality, therefore there is nothing OUTSIDE this Reality. There is not even such an idea as OUTSIDE.
An Only-ness is a way of describing the ineffable Non-Dual state that is the Reality of God as portrayed in ACIM and other Spiritual Practices. (Note: Only-ness is NOT the extreme superlative of any (positive) quality or attribute you can think of. Therefore, I am NOT saying that the Only-ness of God is the most good, most powerful, or most anything or quality in this world.)
Principle 1 – God has no parts or pieces!
“God does not know of separation”
The Devine simplicity of the Classical (Christian) Theism or Nirguna Brahman in the Hindu tradition is God without attributes, qualities or features. In this view, God is perfected, fulfilled, whole, and complete. This perfection means that change is not desirable, necessary or even possible.
Principle 2 – Only-ness means that there is nothing else!
“… what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”
The term, “all encompassing”, covers it. It is just that simple.
What is meant by “something else”?
Another great question!
“Something else” is an expression of the idea of dualism. It is the experience of subject / object. Separation is the guiding principle of “something else”. For example, God is God and I am “something else”. This supposition can only be taken seriously, if I accept as true, the evidence that God and I are separated by any meaningful quality, feature or distinction.
Why is Only-ness and “something else” mutually exclusive?
The simple answer to this question is spelled in one law or principle of classic thought, the Principle of Contradiction or Non-Contradiction. It is the second of the three classic laws of thought. It states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, in other words the two propositions “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive.
The law of non-contradiction can be expressed more simply: A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.
If “something else” is true the integrity of Only-ness is broken. The broken whole is a contradiction.
If pieces exist within simplicity, simplicity is complicated. Complicated simplicity is a contradiction.
Either Only-ness OR “something else” is True. It is not possible for both to be True.
What It Means
“Something else” is the necessary principle of the ego. Only-ness is the necessary principle of a Non-Dual Reality. The point is that it is not possible to have it both ways. Combining the two is actually the choice for “something else”.
The teachings of the spiritual geniuses who’s “names are legion”, have shown that, the choice for “Only-ness” is the (sometimes bumpy) more direct road to the “Peace that passes all understanding”. And the choice for “something else” is the (always bumpy) longer road to the same destination.
The “Only-ness Road” requires that we practice thinking about ourselves and our lives in a different way. In my experience the Only-ness Road has the power to provide richer and deeper appreciation of Love, Forgiveness. I would suggest the Only-ness redefines them both! For me it has transformed and clarified such ACIM concepts such as The Holy Spirit, Guilt, The World / Body as Illusion, Healing the Mind, Giving as Receiving, True Empathy or Compassion, The Ego, The Soul, Extension vs. Creation, to name a few. In future articles, I shall share why Only-ness has such a transformative effect on the comprehension of these subjects.
Only-ness is difficult, not just because it is unfamiliar. It is difficult to conceive of. One who considers the idea of Only-ness must question the very existence of the considerer! This may inspire great fear. It is easier to imagine that they are both true and that the Phenomenal Universe has something at all to do with this Only-ness. In this highly individualized curriculum, called “the body experience”, we must accept what we are able, without fear.
In coping with the difficulty of the Only-ness concept, imagination is the key. When imagination flowers, our mind is more prepared for the peace that is Non-Dual Reality. A properly educated imagination will make way for ideas that allow us to understand the “Something else” experience in a more non-dual, profoundly peaceful way. This peaceful state, transforms our ability to navigate this life. This peaceful state can give way to inspiration and creativity. This is the practical reason for taking this idea to your core, to heart.
Wisdoms singular pursuit has the task of preparing the mind for self-identification with Only-ness. As in the dream metaphor above, at the end of all dreaming the child is awake and knows only the safety and loving presence of Mothers embrace.
Only-ness is a completely abstract idea. ACIM reminds us of the challenge we face.
The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing. We need to see a little, that we learn a lot.