Sunday 16 February 2020

When one-ness teachings become evil

Perennial Philosophy and New Age teachings reduce to healing. And while most people want healing (if they need it); healing is a negative goal, and thus is not a suitable basis for life motivation.

At best healing restores us to being comfortable and functional - and then what? That is the Big Question to which modernity (including its spiritualities of PP & New Age) has no satisfactory answer.

But a further problem (which good doctors know) is that there is a price to pay for healing. And the way that one-ness heals is, I believe, by a kind of ultimate nihilism about mortal life (because all is illusion and nothing really matters), which often leads to demotivation and even despair.

This is the danger of preaching one-ness. If you believe that one-ness/ PP/ NA works for you personally, then I think you should keep it to yourself - and not try to persuade others to adopt it.

After all, if you say you believe that other people's troubles are illusory, and don't really matter - because mortal life does not matter - then why do you preach at all?

It is this incoherence at the heart of any philosophy of one-ness which leads to the evil effects of one-ness teachings - evil, that is, from a Christian persepctive; where evil means taking the side that is opposed to God and to God's creation.


Francis Berger said...

I feel these posts on one-ness are valuable and necessary - especially today when so many are choosing New Age notions or Eastern religions as a substitute for Christianity.

On a side note, William Wildblood also offers some fair and incisive observations on this theme in his book, Remember the Creator. I highly recommend the book to everyone; especially to those who are toying with the idea of choosing New Age stuff or Eastern religion/philosophy over Christianity.

William Wildblood said...

For many years I was uncomfortable with the idea that if the realisation of oneness was the whole point of the spiritual journey, as it usually is in the approaches you mention, that meant that nothing and no one really mattered. When you understand that is not the case and that the spiritual goal is as Jesus taught, namely to love God and love his creation both for his sake and for itself, the falseness, or limitations to put it in a nicer way, of the oneness idea stand revealed.

It's all in the two commandments!

William Wildblood said...

I've just seen your comment, Francis. Thank you!

edwin faust said...

Oneness promises the eradication of pain, but it does so at the cost of love. As George MacDonald says, unity is not oneness but two beings joined in one will but existing as separate entities. I think that some Christians confuse oneness in being with oneness in shared willing, and then it is possible (or so it seems) to equate Vedanta, Buddhism, etc. with Christianity in its ultimate aim of Divine Union. The smugness of certain Vedantins comes from the notion they cherish that they have seen through the illusion of individual being, thus making them enlightened, while the hoi polloi still labor in darkness. They have an obvious lack of the sense of irony. But what's more, they will try to import love in a twisted way: if I am you, why would I ever hurt you? That would be hurting myself. And I love myself, so I love you, too, for we are one. This sophistry is becoming more popular in the West, to the detriment of genuine love, which is two people seeing Christ in each other. I am grateful that Bruce has shed light on this situation.

Bruce Charlton said...

@edwin - Good comment.

One reason I have harped on this matter is that the one-ness teaching is the kind of abstraction that most immediately appeals to intelligent Western seekers; partly from their philosophical assumptions (which are often broadly Platonic) and partly because it (in practice) is highly compatible with living an assimilated Western lifestyle. Especially since it goes along with the sexual revolution, even down to denying the reality and significance of male and female sexuality.

Of course, this is mainly because it is seldom taken fully seriously (which would entail becoming an ascetic monk, and eschewing politics, gossip, hedonism etc) But the more seriously it is taken, the more it tends towards demotivating nihilism and despair.

Anyway, someone can (and many do) stand up and speak, or write, advocating one-ness (peace, stillness, harmony, bliss...) (whether from Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism or a New Age sycretic version) in almost any mainstream public forum; and expect to meet with considerable approval, and the worst opposition will only say it is boring, over-idealistic or flaky; you will never experience the kind of anger and venom directed at (say) conservative evangelicals.

nathanael said...

Healing as a means, not an end. Yes I agree.

Peace is detached sterility.

Love is struggle. Paradoxically, i think Love brings true healing.
It is like being devoted to what you are doing, if you truly love the act,
then this ameliorates suffering... it's like a form of ceaseless prayer.
(Not easy to achieve)

nathanael said...

Also, Bruce, what about Jesus healing the blind man?
Is this not good-healing?