One week ago today, I was contacted by Rev. Sondra von Gyllenband at Unity Church in New Braunfels who asked if I was available to stand in for her at this past Sunday’s services. She had developed a respiratory infection and did not believe she would recover in time. As divine order would have it, it was the only Sunday in November that I was open and available. We laughed briefly, noting how easily her need and request had been fulfilled. I asked her if she had a specific topic in mind she wanted me to address. Immediately, she said “One Power, One Presence.” I said that was perfect and for her not worry about a thing.
As I prepared my talk over the next couple of days, I spent a good bit of time meditating, contemplating and writing about the truth expressed and implied in Unity’s 1st Principle:
“There is only One Power and One Presence active in the Universe and in my life. God the Good, Omnipotent.”
As the talk developed, I found myself working with ideas of divine order, oneness, omnipotence, and the absolute good of God, while dealing with the thorny issues of separation and evil, which epitomize duality. I began to be acutely aware of how intrinsically embedded the language of duality is in our consciousness, as the need for us to develop a reliable language of oneness began to come into sharper relief.
All Is In Divine Order
As I was driving to New Braunfels this past Sunday morning, I was thinking a lot about the recent mass killings in Las Vegas and New York, and working in consciousness to reconcile such events with the spiritual truths implied by Unity’s 1st Principle. If there is only “One Presence” everywhere present in the Universe, then that “One Presence” is present even in these kinds of events of mass public terror.
If there is no separation between “God, the Good” and the events that we routinely call “evil,” then how are we to account for that in our response? Even further, if there is only “One Power” everywhere active, and that “One Power” is “Good,” why is the idea of “evil incarnate” still so persistent in mass consciousness?
As services were about to begin, I was speaking with one of their platform leaders who would be reading the Daily Word for the day. She informed me the word for the day was “Divine Order.” There it was again: divine order. All is in divine order, even when I might not be able to see it.
As I delivered the talk, I spoke about how events of terror and mass killings represent a significant spiritual challenge for us. How do we continue to affirm there is only “One Power and One Presence everywhere active in the Universe and in our lives” in the face of what humans routinely classify as evil? How are we to affirm that all is in divine order, when the absolute good and omnipotent power of God seem to be absent, whenever and wherever innocent lives are taken?
One Power, One Presence
Admittedly, these are normal, routine questions from our limited, human perspective. When we are grounded in our “physical” senses, we slip all too easily into the language of duality. However, if we are to cultivate a language of oneness, we must become more attuned to our “spiritual” senses. We must learn to rely on the spiritual to affirm that all is in divine order, even when “physical” appearances seem to indicate the opposite.
If there is only “One Presence” everywhere active in the universe, then there is no place I can be where the “One Presence” is not. This means, I have to release any and all thoughts of separation, not only between me and God, but also between me and everyone else on the planet, since they are also being held in the same “One Presence” that enfolds me. Wherever we are, God is, and all is well. All is in divine order…always.
In Unity, we talk a lot about oneness. Yet, often times when horrific and tragic events of terror and random mass violence occur, we can all too easily slip into dualistic thinking of right and wrong, good and evil, us and them. The language of duality keeps us stuck in models of thinking and communicating that are now outmoded, and have ceased being helpful. For example, dualism would hold that if there is an “absolute good,” then there must also be an “absolute evil.” If we believe this, then our language needs to find a bad guy to blame when “evil” shows its face.
However, if there is only “One Power” everywhere active in the universe, and that “One Power” is “omnipotent” (all powerful) and “Good,” then there is no “opposing power” competing with God for the fate of the universe. There is no “evil incarnate” as a principality of power equal to the “One Power and One Presence” of God. The Power of God protects us.
But, if the Power of God that protects us is everywhere present, and it is all powerful, how do we account for Vegas or New York, or Paris or Orlando or any number of other places where mass killings and terror events have happened in recent years? More importantly, how are we to respond to such events in a truly helpful way that could help prevent them from happening again in the future?
Towards A Language of Oneness
As I was concluding my talk, I spoke of the need to develop a language of oneness to replace the language of duality that is so pervasive in our consciousness and our culture. I called upon myself and those in attendance to assume our personal responsibility in this endeavor, underscoring the need for us to transform the embedded language that supports separation and evil, and replace it with a language of oneness that affirms love, connection and unity.
I closed with a reminder that doing so is a critical component in the next stage of our collective evolution. We must develop a reliable language of oneness so that we can transcend the energy of human pride, fear, and good/evil thinking. I expressed an urgency for us to diligently pursue this spiritual task, so that the next time such unspeakably tragic events occurred, we could offer a helpful language that can transform the experience into one of love, unity and peace. I had no idea that, while I was delivering this message, a mere 45 minutes away from where I was speaking, the events at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were unfolding.
We’re All Connected
I learned about Sutherland Springs while I was driving back to Austin. I was heartsick and could not believe it had happened in those same moments I was delivering my talk. As details continued coming forward, I soon became aware the shooter lived in New Braunfels, and that, while I had been driving into town earlier that morning, he had been leaving town, fully armed and dressed in tactical military gear to head towards Sutherland Springs. I remembered the Daily Word: divine order.
I thought about my talk and how I had affirmed our fundamental oneness with God and with one another. I recalled saying there is no evil incarnate, that what we call evil is, in truth, human beings willfully misusing spiritual principle. I remembered that A Course In Miracles teaches there are only two actions in the world: acts of love and requests for love. The shooter was clearly making a request for love, because randomly killing 26 people and critically wounding 20 others could not possibly be an act of love. Or, could it?
I flashed on the memory of me evoking Romans 8:28 in my talk. All things work together for good for those who love God. Before long, I began to shed some tears while I was driving north on I-35 back to Austin. Through the tears, I realized we are all connected. I was now grieving people I had never met, and grieving with still others who are the survivors of the victims who now had to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy. We were all now grieving over the actions of one individual, who clearly had longstanding mental health issues, and who had slipped through the legal cracks to purchase guns and ammunition that he should never have had access to in the first place.
It’s Time To Double Down For A Change
The pain and grief of the people in Sutherland Springs has now become my own. However, so has the pain of the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, become my own. As challenging as it may appear, even he is also enfolded in the same “One Power and One Presence” that I am, that we all are. Even he was created in the same image and likeness of God in which I was created, in which you were created. I am still trying to wrap my heart and mind completely around it all. However, if I am going to express the courage of my own spiritual convictions, I have to find a way to respond that continues to affirm my belief that: “There is only One Power and One Presence active in the Universe and in my life. God, the Good, omnipotent.”
If there is good to come out of these heartbreaking events, let it be that we all double down on our spiritual principles, having the courage to evolve our language beyond the limitations of dualistic, good and evil, right and wrong thinking. It is the language of, and the belief in, duality that has led us here. As Einstein reminds us, we cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it.
It is high time we take the reins and courageously move forward together to develop a new and disciplined language of oneness as a means of transforming our experience. Until we do, we will continue to experience horrific and tragic incidents of random violence like Vegas, New York and Sutherland Springs. Why? Because such language continues to reinforce the belief in separation, right and wrong, good and evil thinking. If we keep on reacting in the same way, we will continue to have the same experiences. As the 12 Steppers say, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” It’s time to double down for a change. If a change is going to come, it is up to us to bring it.