The Great Divide: Dualistic Thinking  

“The success of humanity’s evolution will not be determined by ‘survival of the fittest,’ but by our own capacity to converge and unify.” – Teilhard de Chardin

For most Americans, the term “Great Divide” conjures geographical images of the Continental Divide formed by the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Running from Alaska through Western Canada to New Mexico, this impressive divide separates the watersheds of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Created over 50 million years ago, its rocky crest was formed from movements of a thrust fault that stacked one slab of rock upon another, gradually forming huge mountains.

Less visible to the naked eye, there is yet another “Great Divide.” This one, however, is a non-geographic byproduct of a different ancient “fault,” more schismatic than anything of the topographical kind. Far-reaching in scope, it too began a “watershed” of its own making in the interior life of humans, dividing global human thought, perception, language and behavior along binary lines. Historically, two of its celebrated contraries, science and religion, have been less than cozy neighbors for centuries. As for overall impact, this divide has by far generated more harmful consequences than any beneficial discovery in any of the empirical sciences combined, bar none. Those familiar with the physiography of persons along psycho-spiritual lines know that this divide is more steep and treacherous than any mountain slope. And like its geographic counterpart, its jagged outcroppings have continued to stack and layer over deep time, creating a series of personal, social, racial and environmentally alarming crises. Having reached a global tipping point in creating separation consciousness, the totality of these layered crises call for nothing less than a radical watershed moment in the evolution of our planet.

 

Truth be told, science, spirituality, and all siloed disciplines are the result of the mind’s natural inclination to divide the unified field into disconnected parts. Useful in some ways, troublesome in others, this inherent trait in human thought and perception is known as “dualistic thinking.” According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, this peculiar characteristic is viewed as a consequence of humanity’s plummet into the more primal levels of its psychic strata, recorded in Genesis 3. This free-fall eclipsed a conscious connection to Spirit, and with it the capacity to see in wholes, reconcile the tension of perceived contraries, and love inclusively. Since its ancient inception, the focus of thought and perception became restricted, creating a missing dimension to knowledge, limiting its scope more exclusively to the sense-bound sphere. Restoring the lot of mortals to their extrasensory acuity, or “first estate” (spiritual consciousness), became the remedial goal in the gospel plan of redemption. To date, that goal remains a plodding work in progress in need of a timely accelerant. While one may argue the explanatory or interpretive validity of the Genesis 3 account, evidence for the divided state of human affairs, and its myopic deficiencies in thought, perception and behavior everywhere abound. The core of redemptive truth involves delivering the soul from its antiquated mode of separation consciousness, thereby restoring the holistic ability to know, understand, and love effectively. Doing so begins with seeing.

 

“The whole life lies in the verb seeing. We are one, after all, you and I; together we suffer, together exist and forever will recreate one another” (Teilhard de Chardin).

 

In this natural (carnal) or fallen state, the human mind acts mainly as a reducing valve, serving the primary interest of survival needs. Operating as an efficient cutting tool, it assays and divvy’s up the unified field with unfeeling mechanical precision. Given free rein, the intellect will slice and dice any integral field into fragments, the way a zodiac segments night skies, or surveyors dissect rolling landscapes, parceling them into gridirons as on a football field. Having fallen prey to such thinking, those in science and religion selectively embrace only partial truths of the unified whole, parsed and segmented in the interest of their narrow, often competing agendas. Boundaries, labels and distinctions do have their proper and useful place. But like good fences, user-friendly categories don’t always make good neighbors, especially when seeking common ground among persons, nations and disciplines.

Along holistic lines, all creatures share the same beginning and essence in the great chain of being, proclaiming divine presence, glory and inherent dignity. Such is the basis for calling anything and everything sacred. This “holistic gospel” or deep ecology had its voice in the spirituality of the ancient Celts, the Rhineland mystics, Francis of Assissi, and later Bonaventure. Women like Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) conveyed it through art, music, poetry and community life itself. It took mystics to remind us that Presence is everywhere, and in all things. Viewed from the non-dual standpoint of the unified field, there is no distinction between what humans categorize as “science” and as “spirituality.” And in substance, there is no difference among any of the field’s surface manifestations and multiplicities. Such distinctions have no independent existence save as faulty constructs of the dualistic mind, matters of human convention entirely.

If untransformed human thought were a tool, it would be a blunt instrument like an axe, scythe, or a chainsaw. In more evolved states it might function as scissors or snips, or attain the advanced precision of a scalpel. But stitching? Never. Such is reserved for more nuanced or rarified states of enlightened awareness. Our divided, post-modern world sorely wants for more integral “stitching” tools, best facilitated by an evolving synthesis of metaphysics/spirituality in conjunction with the emerging empirical sciences. Such fulfills the future-looking vision of Ignatian mystic Teilhard. Evolution, after all, favors the advance of beauty, truth, goodness and integral knowing along progressive lines. While the origins of this foursome are in, but not of this world, the enlightened have a mandate to wisely birth and advance their appearances here “on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Stubbornly enclaved in the soul of humankind for millennia, this nagging skew in human thought, language and perception continues to prevail unchallenged en masse. Save for an evolved remnant, notions of inwardness and integral wholeness in the lives of most remain uncommon and little valued. Outward-looking, sense-bound pursuits and pastimes still reign supreme. And academia hasn’t helped, forever enthroning the empirical as sacrosanct. All the while, nature’s web of life groans and travails, striving to maintain a semblance of its native wholeness. And that, despite being ravaged by the deficiencies of its mortal “stewards.” We all know the story. At the same time, the thinking envelope of the planet seems to be trending along transdisciplinary, trans-religious lines. One wonders if its novel thrust is of sufficient moment and magnitude to stem the insidious downturn of global entropy.

The unified field is an all encompassing field of pure consciousness, the sole cause (singularity) of all physical phenomena, and the cause within itself of all individual human consciousnesses. Science recognizes it as a field of fundamental forces and elementary particles. Religion calls it God or Spirit. It has become increasingly clear that both refer to the same reality using different language.

The vastness of the field can be compared to the expanse of our oceans. Whether and how the waves that dance upon its surface name, value or classify themselves are of little consequence to the stillness of its depths (Implicate Order). Ditto whether particular groups of waves distinguish themselves from other waves by like designations (Explicate Order). No matter their locale, the ocean deep considers the number, consistency, and identity of all waves as belonging equally to itself; as gleaming facets belong to a diamond, flames to a blazing fire, or sunbeams to the radiant sun. Whether in particle or wave form, the ocean is substantively the same everywhere — wet and salty. And so it follows, the primary mandate for science and religion today, or for any two or more divided entities, is that they must surpass (transcend) themselves, feeling for their common element(s) in the Implicate “Ocean” from which they originate — to which they return — upon which they depend — by which they awaken — from which they interact — and to which they must reconcile. Until then, the prevalence of separation consciousness among humans with regard to the unified nature of their “divine milieu” will continue as a vestigial distortion of the archaic kind.

We write and speak much of same nowadays, but little recognize or live it.

Much busy in counting, analyzing, labeling, and harnessing creation’s “fields and waves” for adaptational needs, personal gain or corporate profit, the intellect neither sees, hears, smells, or tastes the savor of the salty whole. Neither does it witness or participate in the flow of its rhythmic tides. Nature is not there to be objectified and used in a mercenary sense, but to enchant and conserve. Therefore, it seems the solution to mending its dualistic, sensory-only ways cannot come from the thinking mind as it is, uniformed by the wisdom of its unifying depths. There is nothing in the intellect, classroom or laboratory alone that has the power to generate, develop, or distribute the kind of salvific balm required to heal an ailing world. The mind cannot redeem itself. It can only ponder, and by grace access that which can.

In the behavioral sciences, disturbances in thought, perception and language are called mental disorders. Diagnostic evaluators have compiled various names for them. Consider the addictions, for example. There are almost as many as those, it seems, as there are habitual behaviors ending in “ING.” Yet, on closer inspection, there is only one “addiction” plaguing the mass of humanity, one unrecognized stumbling-block, and one unpardonable sin. And that natural depravity is neither a habitual attachment to a substance, activity, god, person, place, or thing. Rather, it is to a universally unrecognized, reflexive process in the human mind found in dualistic patterns of thought, perception and language, hell bent on splitting the unified field everywhere. Working insidiously in the innermost of human souls, such perceptual evils conspire to override or bypass the larger, more inclusive domes of meaning at every level. And along with them, a hindering of the cooperative personal, social, and international endeavors necessary to stitch and heal a divided world.

The only viable remedy and hope for this malady lies in the advent of a unitive global consciousness, while maintaining respect for and working with very real and legitimate differences and distinctions. Teilhard’s new vision of the world pivoted on the notion that matter is the very cauldron of Spirit, its primal matrix. Over and again he argued that a synthesis resulting from an awareness of the organic connection between Christ and his material creation was the gospel’s principal offering toward an evolving awareness of the unity of all things, “the Principle in whom the world develops. . . . which saves our guilty world.” He understood Jesus as the living icon of integration, “the coincidence of opposites” who “holds all things in unity” within himself (Colossians 1:15-20). And he saw introducing the incarnational aspect of the created order as Christianity’s unique contribution to the world, on par with, and even exceeding its juridical (sin-redemption) aspects. According to Teilhard, this was the needed fix for “something too narrow and missing in the gospel as it is presented to us,” one that “needs stronger meat.” Brilliantly synthesizing science and spirituality with Christ-like passion and spine, Teilhard paid the price, like many seers, via censure and exile. Science initially shuns genius the way religious orders shun saints. Ever the scientist-theologian, Teilhard got it both barrels, from each side.

 

“Let us read the gospel boldly and we shall see that no idea can better convey to our minds the redemptive function of the world than that of unification of all flesh in one and the same Spirit” (Teilhard de Chardin).

 

Through applied study in the empirical sciences, a commitment to perennial spiritual truths, and a disciplined devotional life, it is possible to bridge this Great Interior Divide toward an integrated awareness of the science and spiritual worlds. In reality, they are seamlessly co-present to one another, only appearing separate to unrenewed minds. Such has been life in the Western world for centuries, placing a premium on the exclusivity and separation of perceived contraries: mind from body, head from heart, Spirit from matter, Spirit from soul, and sacred from secular. Only from a level of Spirit inspired consciousness can the divine reality be experienced as the cohering presence (love) in oneself and all that is. And only when heart and head work together toward whole-seeing and whole-making, will any significant advances be made in reconciling long-standing global rivalries and divisions. The highest perceptual acuity is in seeing things not as we are (divided), but as they are (whole). Referred to in the gospels as the “kingdom of God” present within and all around, that interior sanctum is where the Spirit-soul’s relationship to the Infinite Invisible, others and nature are birthed, evolved, transformed, and transported to ever higher states of unitive consciousness.  Consciousness is light that knows that it is light, using the mind to know itself. Such allows for all discrete appearing entities to echolocate, at root resonating with one other from their entangled, deeply felt personal, interpersonal, inter-species, and intergalactic field (matrix) of ambient light.

“Out beyond ideas of  wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense” (Rumi).

Along evolutionary lines, dualistic thinking (separation consciousness) is becoming obsolete in the noosphere, to one day be considered part of our growing-up history. Over deep time, it will phase-out altogether, replaced by higher levels of spiritualized consciousness, resulting in the emergence of an “ultra-human” phylum (chosen) that Christ foretold and Teilhard anticipated. The same will likely occur among world religions, especially Christianity, when the institutional Church Age will viewed as the early stages of an antiquated Christology. The same will apply to other world religions that emerged independently during the First Axial Age, at their inception having differentiated themselves from other spiritualities, denominating the formless unitive field into tribal segments like so many cuts of beef. This promises to fully usher in the Second Axial Age, and with it the long-awaited Omega Point in history.

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think. Thousands can think for one who can see. To see is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one” (John Ruskin).

May each holistic thinker look to leaven the receptive thought of others toward Teilhard’s vision of convergence and synthesis in a new science of humanity and the Earth. As wise stewards bringing forth treasures “new and old” from the storehouse of our varied allurements, may we do so with earnest resolve as did Teilhard in the Spirit of his Master, who likewise taught in the Spirit of the One who sent him. So cosmically aligned, all the integral communions of all persons past, present and future may conspire to galvanize, remedy and surpass humanity’s multiple divides in this, our planet’s eleventh hour of redemption. Maranatha!

“The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers — creative and holistic ‘right brain’ thinkers” (Daniel Pink).

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Note: See Richard Rohr video on dualistic thinking, found in the “resource” box above. Portions of this column are from the author’s book, “The Ambient Christ, The Inside Story of God in Science, Scripture and Spirituality,” a post-modern synthesis that joins inner and outer worlds, advancing the future-looking vision of Teilhard de Chardin.