“As we move into the future we will work, laugh, play, study, vote - to renew democracy and renew the lives of all. The new mestizaje is the joyous birth of a new humanity. No more barriers, no more racism. The past will not be forgotten but will be blended into the new bodies and cultures that will emerge out of our coming together not in battle or conquest, as in the days of old, but in Love, which is the only force that can unite us without destroying us. That is the way to world peace and harmony, and we struggle, dream and work for that future.” Virgilio Elizondo
The concept of the "One” can refer to a “unified consciousness” either within or without, and can be examined from different angles. The great mystery traditions and literary canons worldwide confirm that humanity shares knowledge of the “One,” a vibratory field that connects all things, a place of universal love and enlightened rapport with the Divine. Alternatively described as “the cosmic unity of One energy,” “cosmic consciousness,” “the unmanifested absolute,” the Over-soul, Indra’s Jewels, “the mind of God,” “The Word,” “the music of the spheres,” the Tao, shizen (Japan), the Akashic Records, “the unified field,” “the field of compassion,” “the universal essence,” “the source,” “pure being,” “the global brain,” “the holographic realm,” “the conscious universe,” “the great chain of being,” Gnosis, Logos, Unio Mystica, uBuntu, “embracing all that is,” “a unity of being that underlies everything,” “the frequency domain,” “the power of creativity that supports all life,” “zero-point field” or the primordial OM, this field of energy is found in the inner worlds of human awareness and our core being, which aligns with the invisible realms and outer worlds of tangible form.
Variations of the “unified consciousness” can be reached by opening the heart, prayer, fasting, visioning, dreaming, drumming, focused intent, magical workings, “in the zone” creative or athletic pursuits, yoga, and meditation practice. I have experienced the “One” many times myself, in dreams, meditation, reverie, focused creativity and times of intense illness. There is no doubt that this multi-level, multidimensional state exists and is within reach, and has been accessible throughout human existence. Many versions of the indigenous “shamanic journey” enter this layered space for healing, spiritual guidance and problem-solving on behalf of the tribal group. However, the contemporary use of language is inadequate to describe the “One,” and better lexicon choices may be “matrix” or “web.”
The term “oneness” is also problematic in that it assumes a universality to human experience, whereas there are utterly endless ways to experience, interpret and assign cultural meaning and cosmologies to the web. “Oneness” also implies that accessing the matrix tends to be a communal activity with a group of people (which can happen) but when fully examined, experiences are often of a solitary nature.
“Spirituality started to emerge from within us, rising up in each person like a great tide of love, inspiration and Oneness with the source of our being, activating us by the millions. I felt the great light that the mystics speak of radiating outward from within us all. Then in a flash, I felt all people on Earth, and the Earth itself, being healed spontaneously. In that moment of revelation, I felt waves of unconditional love for the whole planetary body and all Earth-life spreading through millions of us.” Barbara Marx Hubbard
The contemporary movement toward universal unity, “Oneness,” “The Law of One,” “One Spirit,” “One Mind,” “One Vision,” “One Energy,” “One Blood,” “One People,” “One World,” “One Tribe” or “Unitribe” is emerging from all directions - multifaith theology, perennialism, New Age spirituality, noetic philosophy, alternative lifestyles, pop culture and yes, even Turtle Island Indigenous Knowledge. Manifesting today as the collective impulse toward a global consciousness, the “One” implies an ideal and utopian coming together of humankind in love energy, mutual cooperation, harmony and peace.
Contributing to this ideology is the work of scholar and visionary Joseph Campbell, who as a beloved “change agent” created the opening for many contemporary seekers to embrace the spiritual life and “follow their bliss.” Campbell promoted the idea that the mythology from any cultural tradition could be seen as an aspect of the universal “One Myth” or “monomyth.” Now critiqued as an over-simplification, and the “profoundest flaw in mythological thinking,” this kind of reductionism leads to the breaking down of cultural diversity, and also allows for the normalization of cultural appropriation. Being immersed in the ethics of Eurocentric patriarchal scholarship, Joseph Campbell could not see that the specific religious property and/or spiritual practices unique to each cultural group should be preserved, not stripped of ethnographic context. Diversity should be the priority, not universalism, and contrary to the popular “One” meme, “all religions are not different paths up the same mountain – they’re different paths up different mountains.” (John Beckett)
From mythology to the study of the human mind, the new philosophy of Noetics, metaphysic theory and contemporary quantum science have all suggested that the interaction of human thought and the connectivity of our belief systems (known as the “noosphere”) can actually impact the biosphere, pointing to a form of shared consciousness. Many visionaries claim that 2012 was the beginning of a new era for humanity, as we evolve into a group consciousness more in alignment with universal law and focused on unconditional love, “which does not judge, exclude nor adhere to one perception.” (Jan Porter) The ethereal idea of a Golden Age for humanity does seem to have taken root, and many believe that it is possible to emulate the way of the universal mind, the “One” beyond all physical limits. Variations on the “One” meme promote a “new dimensional shift,” an “evolutionary transition,” a “quantum leap forward,” and a “new world dawning” for both humanity and the planet itself. But, as the exalted concept of the “One” continues to find popular usage, we need to bring clarification and examine it from a more grounded perspective.
“One Tribe” or the “One” should not mean coming together in a uniform monoculture or some kind of “global order.” All beings are subject to the laws of nature which stress that species diversity works better than homogeneity, and that diversity is essential to a healthy ecosystem. This principle applies to the human community as well (however much we have distanced ourselves from nature), and diversity is the keystone to healthy, thriving human populations. Traditional Indigenous societies were well aware of this natural law and established the clan system, also putting taboos in place to prohibit marriage within one’s extended family. Today, it is extremely important for us to develop an appreciation for cultural diversity, and a tolerance for different peoples, stories and sensibilities. But if in actual fact humanity did come together into “One Tribe,” it would spell the end of us. As Daniel Quinn says in “The Story of B,” “a multiplicity of tribes and cultural groups in diversity has worked for millions of years and hopefully it will continue for millions more.”
It is also troubling when we notice that the neo-liberal concept of “inclusivity” and the contemporary meme of “Oneness” is led by a majority of privileged white people, some very wealthy, suggesting yet another form of white hegemony, or perspectivism. It is mostly the dominant society that promotes universality, and white people are leading the charge, making sense of the interrelations for “One,” interpreting it for everyone else, and moving us all forward into a utopian future. Also, as Ward Churchill points out, the overuse of the Lakota expression “mitakuye oyasin” (we are all related) and the “One” meme by New Age capitalism allows for cultural appropriation. “We are all related, we are all the same, which means we are entitled to anything of yours we want.” The beautiful illusions that the “love and light crowd” hold dear come from a place of privilege, which makes it easy to ignore their shared history with the disenfranchaised, and to deny any accountability for their white racism. In reality, the “One” concept may work for the privileged, but it is hard to imagine marginalized groups having the agency to pursue the interconnectivity of “Oneness” with the oppressor, while engaged in counter-racism work, resistance, and daily survival. What an insult it must be for people of colour to hear “We Are One” coming from the dominant society that is the source of their unrelenting oppression!
“You asserting to me, especially in the face of me critiquing your privilege and racism, that you consider ‘all people equal’ and that you ‘treat all people the same,’ denies my experience, and affirms to me your complicity in white supremacy. We do not have an equal experience of the world, and your supposed equal treatment can never be experienced equally.” harshbrowns
To reinforce the “One” vision it is easy to find obvious similarities and commonalities between cultural groups, but this is hardly the point. Perhaps it is only people devoid of spirituality that need to find similarities between cultural traditions to buttress their own miniscule understanding and practice of holistic ancestral thinking. Beyond a basic knowledge of and respect for the sacred keystones in other Indigenous groups, I have noticed that First Nations folks do not indulge in comparative multifaith theory, and it may be a good idea to examine why. Knowing they already have ancestral alignment with their own traditional knowledge, they embody the tools and treasures of their own specific worldview and Indigenous Knowledge, or are in the process of unpacking them. Why call yourself a member of the “Rainbow Tribe” when you already belong to a specific First Nation, the Michi Saagiig Nishhaabeg, for example? Fortunately, the more appropriate memes of “Different Yet All One” or “Unity in Diversity” are gaining currency, which is also in accord with the phrase “All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer.” as put forth by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
Perhaps the utopian dream that the world will someday exist in peace and love is just more magical thinking, as there is another aspect of natural law that avows our entire existence to hinge on the balance of opposing forces. Beyond any cultural understanding, interpretation, worldview or philosophy, natural law states that by default, the introduction of any concept automatically summons its opposite. As Pagan leader Selena Fox says, “harmony is not the absence of conflict, but the balance of forces.”
And, despite what New Age philosophy advises, the Americas are not going to mystically “wake up” one fine morning. There is no “Oneness” in the quotidian world right now and no amount of ethereal prayer, visualization or wishful thinking is going to make it so. The way that the concept of the “One” continues to be touted by the spiritual community as a philosophic solution to every problem of human life allows spiritual seekers to disassociate themselves from any type of meaningful activism, resistance or political activity. “What changes culture is legislation, regardless of how much one pleads for divine intervention.” Derek Beres
Parroting over and over that “We Are All One” allows the “spiritually enlightened” to imagine that this is already the case, and enables the privileged majority to ignore the activism “in the street,” “on the ground” or at the grassroots level that would create the conditions for equality or the metaphysics of unity to actually unfold. The most reprehensible aspect of New Age thinking is spiritual bypassing, or the refusal to look at uncomfortable realities (“only focus on the positive – by examining the negative you add more negative!”) which implies a serious level of solipsistic self-deception, and encourages the indulgent behavior of living in a fantasy world. Overlooking the human rights struggles of our fellow humans is morally wrong, and what spiritual seekers perceive to be a move toward enlightenment in the collectivity of the “One” is actually the position of a coward, who has no interest in confronting injustice, or engaging with the reality of serious social issues beyond their cocoon of privilege.
“What I want to criticize are not New Age practices - some of which strike me as possibly beneficial, others as grossly counterfeit - but the way New Age notions discourage engagement with social problems and political realities.” Michael Parenti
It can also be argued that members of the Settler Society should clean their own house first, by claiming their ethnic karma and becoming accountable to the oppressed peoples of Turtle Island. Equity comes before equality, and placing ourselves behind First Nations peoples in a subordinate position that propels the most oppressed forward is the only solution. Follow the Turtle! Working toward real change by being responsible for our white privilege and serving to end racism in the real world are the steps we need to take before we begin to think about such abstract and colorblind concepts as “Oneness.”
“There will be no social justice, no anti-racism, no feminist emancipation, no liberation of any kind for anybody on this continent unless aboriginal people win their demand for self-determination.” Sunera Thobani
“I am a little bit tired of all my non-POC friends posting the endless feel-good ‘We Are One’ memes, while they never lift a finger to change the status quo, which they benefit from every single day. I have a handful of friends who realize the price of their privilege and walk their talk, and are true allies in making change, but literally, it's a handful. In my experience, the ‘love and light’ brigade tend to be very hyper-focused on their own personal growth while rarely extending that effort to the greater community. Only privileged people can afford to be that way. Some of us have to deal with the reality of ‘what is’ on a daily basis, and no, it's not unicorns and rainbows.”
“By denying the spiritual and political autonomy of native people, the New Age rainbow people subvert whatever good intentions they may have about multicultural community. What gets created is multicultural white middle- class dominance in yet another form.” Myke Johnson
“I call on white people to admit that the Rainbow Nation is a myth, and until we truly are able to recognize the humanity of all people, we cannot claim to be post-racist.” Gillian Schutte
As I see it, the true danger in practicing the consciousness of the “One” is to ignore or bypass what is precious and sacred about the specific place and community where we are actually living. At the core of the Indigenous Knowledge common to all human groups is a revered focus on the environment, plants, creatures, cycles and elements of nature in our homelands, not on gratuitously importing other things that are pleasing. The “One” principle may work on an etheric level, but like angelic visitations, extraterrestrial assistance, starseed messages, galactic guidance, planetary alignments, “ascension” and other lofty New Age beliefs, it reinforces an abstract, vertical spirituality away from and separate from the Earth, instead of promoting a horizontal vision which encompasses the Earth, our one beautiful and precious home.
According to eco-visionary David Abram, New Age thinking and scientific reductionism share the same misguided principles that separate us from the land. “New Age spiritualities abandon nature entirely, inviting their adherents to focus their intuitions upon non-material energies and disincarnate beings assumed to operate in an a-physical dimension, pulling the strings of our reality and arranging earthly events according to an order that lies elsewhere, behind the scenes. Commonly reckoned to be at odds with one another, conventional over-reductive science and New Age spiritualities actually fortify one another in their detachment from the Earth, one of them reducing sensible nature to an object with scant room for sentience and creativity, the other projecting all creativity into a supernatural dimension beyond all bodily ken.”
In a society detached from nature, popular claims such as “the purpose of human life is the pursuit of happiness” can be seen as more liberal navel-gazing, and I also take issue with the New Age concept of “evolving to a higher state,” as I feel it to be a hubristic and delusional goal focused entirely on humancentric objectives, with an arrogant disregard for the human place in creation. We don't need a new and more enlightened way to inhabit the earth - Indigenous cultures (including our own in Old Europe) existed comfortably and sustainably on the planet for millennia, exactly the way human beings are supposed to be living. We already have an honourable niche within the circle of all life, and it is supercilious to suggest that we transcend it, or place ourselves above or beside the interconnected web. It is our responsibility to use our human intelligence in service to that network, and to embody reverence in our relationships with the more-than-human world.
It is not about the narrow confines of the self, our shadowplay with other human beings, our imaginary connection to a “divinity” outside the earth’s sphere, or our incestuous interactions with our own linear concerns, creations or technological wizardry. Clearly we have lost our respect for other beings and the natural world, the very elements that give rise to life itself, so how can anyone claim that humanity is “evolving to a higher state?” It seems to me that the moment we step outside of the Sacred Circle, give up our connection to the Earth and our humility in the face of the Great Mystery, and start to dominate and control creation, we immediately lose any potential to actualize a spiritual existence.
As we move away from the alienation that was imposed on us by the scientific paradigm, we become empowered to reconnect to the land and the cycles of life, and to engage in the recovery of our essential eco-self and ancestral knowledge. An important part of our practice is to reflect on the love and harmony between people, and to honor the unique diversity that is the human experience. All beings are distinctly separate but forever connected in the Circle of Life and Earth Community, and we would do well to embrace our “Unity in Diversity.” Perhaps there is a groundswell of consciousness that is birthing the next cycle of our collective human journey, but if our communities evolve into tribes, may our spiritual practices reflect our “Oneness” with nature and our beloved landscape, the place we call home.
“What many people – even spiritually alert people – seem to miss is that we are all creatures of this earth, this planet, this biosphere. And there’s no escaping this condition. Wisdom is epi-phenomenal to life on the Earth - any claim to wisdom that doesn’t make us more cognizant of our relationship to trees, insects, dirt and water, is probably a false claim. This is not to say that there’s nothing ‘transcendent,’ but that whatever ‘transcends’ our earthly condition must be rooted – like a Great Oak, Ash or Willow Tree – in Air, Fire, Water and Stone.” Montague Whitsel
 Virgilio Elizondo, “The Sacred in the Latino Experience,” Americanos: Latino Life in the United States, by Edward James Olmos, Lea Ybarra, Manuel Monterrey and Carlos Fuentes, Little, Brown and Company, 1999
 Barbara Marx Hubbard claims that the planetary birth epiphany she experienced in 1992 signaled the “next turn on the spiral of evolution, the planetary shift, the birth of a new Earth and a new universal humanity.” From Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution, Shift Books, 2012
 According to Robert Ellwood “a tendency to think in generic terms of people or races is undoubtedly the profoundest flaw in mythological thinking.” The Politics of Myth: A Study of C.G. Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell, SUNY Press, 1999
 John Beckett, “Unfortunate Effects of Joseph Campbell,” Under the Ancient Oaks: Musings of a Pagan, Druid and Unitarian Universalist (blog), March 2, 2014 (www.patheos.com)
 Personal communication, Rev. Jan Porter, author and Spiritualist Minister, 2011 (www.inspiredsoulworks.com)
 Daniel Quinn, The Story of B: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, Bantam, 1997
 Ward Churchill, Indians are Us? Between the Lines, 1984
 “Good White Person,” harshbrowns, (blog), September 13, 2011
 Statement in solidarity with the Idle No More movement by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, NDN News - Daily Headlines in Indian Country, December 31, 2012
 Selena Fox, transcript, Pagan Spirit Gathering Press Conference re: Dianic Rituals and Transgender Inclusion, June 2012. (www.selenafox.com)
 Derek Beres, “Why Marianne Williamson Needs To Face Reality,” Yoga Brains, 2012
 Michael Parenti, “The New Age Mythology,” Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America, St. Martin's Press, 1994
 Sunera Thobani, speech at the conference “Women’s Resistance: From Victimization to Criminalization,” 2001, Herizons Magazine, Winter 2002 (www.herizons.ca)
 Barbara Low (Mi'kmaq), Facebook comment, 2013
 Juliana K'abal-Xok (Mayan), Facebook comment, 2013
 Myke Johnson, “Wanting to be Indian: When Spiritual Searching Turns into Cultural Theft,” Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory and Practice, 2011 (https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com)
 Gillian Schutte, “Dear White People,” Thought Leader, Mail & Guardian Online Network, 2013. (www.thoughtleader.co.za)
 David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, Vintage Books, 2011
 Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Cheyenne River, Itazipco/Mnicoujou and Oglala Lakota) Facebook comment, January 2013
 Montague Whitsel, Wellsprings of the Deer: A Contemporary Celtic Spirituality, 1stBooks, 2002
Pegi Eyers is the author of Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, an award-winning book that explores strategies for neurodecolonization, social justice, ethnocultural identity, building land-emergent community & resilience in times of massive change. Amazon.com