Locations and times—what is it in me that meets them all,
whenever and wherever, and makes me at home?
Forms, colors, densities, odors—what is it in me that corresponds with them?
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
My childhood was filled with an unusual diversity of influences and experiences—really different cultures, with corresponding political and social views. The liberal to radical hippy rebellion against everything conventional was the mode on my maternal side—a culture that attempted to overturn most every conventional belief about ways of participating in the economic system (self-sufficiency); social and gender norms (orientation-agnostic sexuality, feminism, and experimental family structures); and politics (weekends spent at anti-nuke, anti-war, and anti-patriarchy protests and actions).
On my paternal side, there was orthodox religion and the assuredness of the rabbis, minions, community teaching, and the embodiment of a medieval traditionalism and a dominant relationship with an invisible authority (tradition, tradition!).
This collision was so formative for me because I was asked, as a child, to find my place in almost diametrically different worlds. The result was that I felt like an outsider in every situation. I could more or less navigate myriad contexts, but felt that I belonged to none of them.
Ultimately this confusion proved useful because I was required by the hope of achieving a modicum of sanity to wrestle with these contradictions, and to find ways to reconcile both particular and general contradictions in my life and community.
Part of this seeking for an overarching reconciliation has led me to what are now called spiritual traditions, but were considered the science and cosmology of their respective epochs. They all point to a fundamental principle, formulated in different ways, that speaks to a level of reality which is a unity, in which the totality of all time and space, all life and all beings comprise a singular reality. This is the deity the religions pray to and the perception of this is the goal of aspirants and initiates.
As William Blake put it, "For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life." And it is the life delighting in life that is singular, though that unity of life is revealed in the diversity of lives.
An important aspect of this oneness, this nonduality, is the principle that comes down through the hermetic tradition from Egypt, through the Emerald Tablets of Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-great Hermes) formulated as "as above, so below." This is the principle of self-similitude as illustrated in the Mandelbrot set of fractal mathematics, and the Fibonacci sequence, and in the hologram. It shows that a part is identical to the whole in its design. We find it everywhere in nature—in weather patterns and the spiral of a sunflower; dramatically in the beautiful Romanesco broccoli. We see it in the design of a shoreline where each section of inlets and peninsulas imitates almost exactly a larger section, and in turn a larger section. We see it in the leaf that is a microcosm of a branch, that is a microcosm of a tree. And we find it in the structure of societies and in the patterns of history.
The biblical expression of the principle of self-similarity is "(Hu)man is created in the image of G-d," which is to say the small world (human) is identical to the largest world (totality). One implication here is that a person can know the world by knowing herself, and know herself by knowing the world (provided attention is divided to go in both directions simultaneously).
A further implication is that each of us is a microcosm of our community (including every individual), and even the whole of humanity. Everything we see in the larger world we find in ourselves and everything we find in ourselves we find in the larger world. On this basis, everyone and everything is within us—there is no "other."
As John Donne penned in a meditation: "Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Hence, an excellent clue to understand what I have to work on bringing into the light of consciousness in myself is precisely what I react to in "others." This is to say, what I notice with the strongest attention, what really freaks me out about others in my community, and on the larger world stage, lives in me also and invites reconciliation in myself.
If I can see this with a feeling of acceptance I can begin to act in a way that is congruent with the reality of unity.
Walt Whitman continues:
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.