Is unity sameness?
April 16, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Spirituality filter: What does "union with God" or "unity" mean to you? Mystics and religious figures often talk about how union with God/ unity is the final end/ realization in the spiritual path. I have heard many different ideas and interpretations about what this means but am unsure how to think about it.

Does it mean that the individual is completely null and gone? Does it mean that a person expands and recognizes their complete interconnectedness with all things? I wouldn't want a unity to be a stagnant sameness which sometimes I feel like it sounds like when people call it the "void, emptiness, pure being". What are your different ways of thinking about it?
posted by tessalations999 to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've always seen it as unity of purpose more than anything else. Like when a married couple or other long-term partnership (romantic, business, whatever) are able to just go and do something without even having to talk about what they're going to do, how they're going to do it; they just do it seamlessly because that's how they operate now. A really well-executed football play is another illustration: when the receiver just knows when to put his hands up and the ball just lands exactly there, because he and the quarterback are perfectly in tune with one another.
posted by SMPA at 6:28 PM on April 16, 2011

It's when you let "the source" or "the creator" flow through you. When you're at peace with and control of (to a reasonable extent) your surroundings and your emotions. When you feel no block between you and your higher self.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2011

The Catholic view of mysticism is generally outlined as follows:

In philosophy, Mysticism is either a religious tendency and desire of the human soul towards an intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire. As a philosophical system, Mysticism considers as the end of philosophy the direct union of the human soul with the Divinity through contemplation and love, and attempts to determine the processes and the means of realizing this end. This contemplation, according to Mysticism, is not based on a merely analogical knowledge of the Infinite, but as a direct and immediate intuition of the Infinite.

...though it might be more useful to consider the end of contemplative prayer. In short, I don't consider the contemplative union to be a stagnant sameness but rather the telos of very existence. It's hard to put these sorts of things into words, but deeper looks at the contemplative end can be found in the works of Thomas Merton, John of the Cross and the desert fathers of the Eastern Church.
posted by jquinby at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2011

Pure being is not void, it's fullness. Or, not to get into terminological disputes, the void is full. It's the source. Everything that exists, exists in virtue of being. To the extent that anything is alive, its life is an expression of being, a diminished expression with respect to the source. To unite with "God" is to unite with the source of all vitality. It is to rest in absolute peace and absolute activity at once.
posted by bricoleur at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2011

Does it mean that a person expands and recognizes their complete interconnectedness with all things?

posted by flabdablet at 8:16 PM on April 16, 2011

It means someone has taken a lot of drugs.
posted by koolkat at 3:49 AM on April 17, 2011

We become who we now are by a process of identification. We identify with our bodies, our thoughts, our language, our culture, our careers, and our various interpersonal roles in a process similar to to how, when we drive a car, we experience it as an extension of ourselves. But then we can park and get out of the car. Now, imagine doing the same for all our other identifications, or as they're sometimes called, our false understandings of who we are. We can't say more about this because language, being one of these "attachments" would be left behind. Also abandoned would be time and space and logic and pleasure and pain. The distinction between change and "stagnant sameness" would be meaningless, a vestige of a former limited point of view. I'm talking about this as something one would do, but it's often described, not as an action, but a realization.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:27 AM on April 17, 2011

God is love.

Think about it as being completely absorbed, surrounded, invaded by pure selfless love.
posted by AuntieRuth at 4:49 AM on April 17, 2011

Does it mean that a person expands and recognizes their complete interconnectedness with all things?

Further to my previous answer: it means that a person enters a state of consciousness within which it is overwhelmingly apparent that the notion of "things" as genuinely separable is not supportable and that this realization applies equally to the thing formerly conceived of as oneself; edges, boundaries and distinctions simply cease to be the slightest bit important, useful or even noticed; there is only this, and this is all, and all is this, and this is very, very beautiful.

It happens when you make your left brain shut down while your right brain stays running. There are assorted ways to do this that are less life-threatening than having a left-brain stroke. Chemicals can get you there in fits and starts and flashes, but because chemicals will generally fuck up both sides of the brain to roughly the same extent, more intense and long-lasting results can be had via various kinds of meditation, which most religious traditions feature in some form or other.

Atheists can use this method. It works about as fast as any other, which is to say: slowly. Many people meditate for years without ever experiencing unity; others get the knack more quickly.

The experience is physiological, so it's pretty much the same thing regardless of which tradition's methods you use. Only afterward is it there any kind of urge to identify the experience itself with your chosen tradition's notion of God, energy or whatever other placeholder word seems to work.
posted by flabdablet at 5:43 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhardt explained it in this way: "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love."
posted by dacoit at 7:40 AM on April 17, 2011

I like to imagine it as a raindrop falling into an ocean.
posted by fancyoats at 10:07 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem with this sort of thing is that terms are not defined. What is "god"? In what sense can one achieve "union" with it? What is the "realization" of a "spiritual path"? This is all waffle, smoke and mirrors unless someone can communicate exactly what they mean when they use those terms. If they can't, they're talking about a private mental incident and, possibly, a lack of articulacy.

One cannot help but feel that this is the sort of wilfully obtuse verbiage used by those who want to dignify their own feelings way beyond what is rational or reasonable. Sort of, "Wow, I had a pretty amazing feeling there. Must have been an interaction with the creator of the entire universe. Because I'm that special."
posted by Decani at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the wave recognizes that it never was separate from the ocean in the first place, that the idea of "separateness" is merely an illusion of contracted perspective.

The wave is not some fragile, separate entity, wondering about is there really an ocean out there, where did this particular wave come from, what happens after it crashes.

There never was or is anything but the ocean. The wave is a momentary, distinct, fractal manifestation of that ocean that is simultaneously never separated from the ocean (though lots of waves convinces themselves that they are and worry terribly about it).

Rise. Crest. Crash. Retreat. Interate. Maybe somebody surfs you on the way. But there's nothing really ever to worry about because there's nothing to be separated from, nothing external that can do you any harm.

So enjoy the ride.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:45 PM on April 17, 2011

The End of Evangelion
the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey
that perfect 'flow' state you get when playing videogames or writing
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:27 PM on April 17, 2011

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