As a scientist, I am intrigued by seemingly archaic words that regain a contemporary relevance at a much later date with newfound discovery and revelation:
I have two such words at the top of my list: Oneing and Consilience.
These words suggest an earlier interest in bringing together disparate times and viewpoints or a break with old ways and travails. In other words, they are early attempts to unify our knowledge, as a way pointing to G-d, or to a Supreme Oneness in Creation or in our Humanity.
Oneing is a word crafted by the Christian mystic, Lady Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), to describe the encounter between G-d and the Soul, highlighting Jesus’ words in the Heart: “that all may be one,” (John 17;21). Oneing is a fusion to bring about unity, and peace.
During our recent Covid isolation, I delved into nearly forgotten Christian mystics like Julian and Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), and Meister Eckhart (1260-1328). I find these old mystics appealing for their courage, clarity of vision, and their break with tradition and “normal” thinking, sometimes risking martyrdom or ostracism for their beliefs. “There are times, when conscience and loyalty to faith, demand that we have the courage to be different from others,” (Fr. Thomas Judge, C.M.).
Consilience in science is a convergence or a “jumping together of evidence or a concordance of principles from independent sources. It’s a wonderful word resurrected by E.O. Wilson in1998, to signify a unity in our knowledge. Human accelerated climate change and biological evolution are two examples of Consilient thinking in modern science where agreement is found across disciplines.
Throughout our national history, it seems our times of greatest growth and relevance or even threat are when we come together, peacefully with our differences and concerns to place at the feet of Lady Liberty. America remains strong and relevant. America is weakest and most fragile when we try to homogenize the Nation and disrespect creed, color, and culture. E Pluribus Unum. “One out of many,” The motto proposed for the first Great Seal of the country by statesman, Benjamin Franklin. America’s strength lies in its emigrant population.
For both sides of my family, I am a 10th generation Virginian, some of whose ancestors fled from religious persecution in Europe and then settled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to take up an agrarian life in their New World. What if they had been confronted by walls, guns, snarling dogs, and prejudice way-back then?! Is there any greater evil when we withhold sanctuary from those who cry for mercy from under a Shadow of Death?
What is the greatest evil on the planet?
Many mystics tell us that it may be willful ignorance. For instance look at the base of the Hindu statue of Lord Shiva to find a little mischievous dwarf upon whom Shiva trounces, called Apasmara, The dwarf represents spiritual ignorance and nonsensical speech and has a demon face. The dwarf plagues humanity, but Shiva won’t kill the dwarf due to Shiva’s symbolic reminder of the ongoing need to suppress ignorance, ego, and laziness to realize truth.
Another evil is circumstantial ignorance with many causes such as poor social status, and lack of economic, and educational opportunity. This evil can be averted through generosity and grace – universal healthcare and free community college – are two remedies today for this evil.
And a third evil is collective ignorance where adherents fall under the spell of a charismatic leader like, the cult healer, Jim Jones in 1978, in Jonestown Guyana where more than 900 people died when forced to drink potassium cyanide. Sadly, history is filled with such monsters who crafted the dark events of the Holocaust, the Armenian, the Darfur, and the Tibetan genocides.
All of these horrors seem to have emerged from the pages of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, wherein, a totalitarian state, called Gilead, overthrows the United Sates government. Gilead is a hidden darkness lurking beyond the horizon for every free State: a certainty when we are darkened in our understanding as we alienate ourselves from the life of G-d because of ignorance and our hardness of heart (Hosea 4:6). Religious, political, and social fundamentalism, whatever the flavor, is a symptom of social predators and fear mongers: we can find a multitude of Apasmara in our world that try to have us all sip their laced punch whether in West Virginia or in the Capitol.
I have relatives entrenched in the panhandle of West Virginia, one of whom I will call in this column, Jean, with neighbors that fly Confederate flags, and still have political signs in their yards for the NRA and “Jesus Saves,” and “Jesus 2021, Our Only Hope.” Circumstantial ignorance These folks embrace Rush Limbaugh, that now deceased, conservative chatterbox with his endlessly offensive assault on reason, and the fetid, shameful apostasy of many of America’s evangelicals with their suspect credentials.
Both groups bear much responsibility for MGA’s murderous and seditious storm on 6 January 2021 on the US Capitol and the GOP’s preposterous “Big Lie” about the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris election win. Trump lost the popular vote twice, and was impeached twice, and broke all his political promises. The only evidence of fraud is encamped in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, a distant Gilead enclave where they continue to whine about the 2012 election outcome. I’m a scientist – where’s the incontrovertible evidence?! Jean was one of the early birthers set against President Barrack Hussein Obama and his lovely wife, Michelle. Jean’s mountainous Gilead would likely expel Jesus himself, given that they’re no White People in the Protestant Christian Bible.
When Jean discovered that I have an Iraqi friend who served as an interpreter for US Troops and had family members murdered by ISIS, she asked, “You know he’s a Muslim?!” I responded, “So? “But he’s not Muslim.” “He’s an Iraqi Christian.” Jean responded, “Well, from his Facebook page, I see that he writes and speaks Muslim!” “Jean, “You write and speak English, so are you British?! “By the way, I think you mean, Arabic! Let me send you some information about his Christian community, It’s the oldest Christian community in the world whose members still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus!” Jean snapped back, “I don’t want to know.” Willful ignorance.
When Jean with her family and friends, gather for holidays and vacations, their conversation is filled with false rumor, skepticism, horrible prejudice, paranoia, and anti-science rants: “You know they’re going to take our guns?” “And they want to turn us all into socialists?” Collective ignorance. For instance, they think that the COVID19 vaccines have not been tested, and it’s a way for Biden’s Government to put tracer micro-ships into the US population!
With the ignorance advanced by Apasmara, we lose our apathy, love, care, and patience for the “Other,” Wonder, like Paradise is lost.
This thought brings me back to the title of my column: “Oneing with the Lotus.” I remind myself daily that muck and filth can bring about healthy change.
“No mud, no Lotus,” explains, Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist spiritual leader
It is a water plant steeped in mythology, it’s the national flower of India. Around the globe, the lotus rises from the muck with its beauty and fragrance.
The lotus floats on the surface of murky waters and its seeds may remain viable after long periods of dormancy, and may have an ecological role in bio-remediation. The lotus is one of Buddhism’s symbols of enlightenment.
Throughout my life, I have embraced a Vedic-like practice through multiple mindfulness techniques from Judaeo-Christian, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shamanistic traditions.
My constant advice to myself in my daily meditation sessions includes these thoughts: 1. Don’t give up, 2. Don’t be afraid. 3. Don’t be a victim, but be a survivor. 4. daily review some of my reasons for gratitude, humility, and 5. add one new wrinkle to my brain each day. One of my mother’s elementary school science teachers, told her class one day, each time we learn something new, we add a new wrinkle to our brain! Here’s to the many new wrinkles that we will have in our oneing with the Lotus, to help us make the world a better place! G-d freely offers us the consilience of His Grace.
Bruce wishes to dedicate this column to his Buddhist friends, Rob Patzig and Dr. EIileen Crist for their long standing love a and support.
H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D. is a forest ecologist, science educator, and explorer. He is also the author of A Pearl in the Brain: The Cancer Journey of a Scientist in His Search for the Seat of the Soul. Bruce lives in Virginia’s iconic Shenandoah Valley.