I like to summarize the first two tenets of Unity as God is and I am. Meaning: there is one ground of being from which all expressed being takes form and into which all expressed being ultimately retreats.
There are not two grounds of being. There are not two cosmic forces playing tug-of-war for your soul. Contrary to what Flip Wilson said, the devil doesn’t really make you do anything. There is only the profound honor of being an incarnate point of awareness within that one ground of being – an incarnate point of awareness soaring through space on a blue-green marble, privileged with the temporary delights of multiplicity and the limitless potentials of freedom.
So, if we must seek devils to blame for the conditions of expressed life, let us turn to the devils (to those lowest of impulses) within human consciousness, for that’s the only place where they will be found.
It was Unity’s Co-founder Myrtle Fillmore who said it this way, “God is the only reality of us; all else is but a shadow that is cast by some foolish belief or unwise combination of thoughts.”
The poet Chelan Harkin said it this way, “The worst thing we ever did was put God in the sky, out of reach, pulling the divinity from the leaf, sifting out the holy from our bones, insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement through everything we’ve made a hard commitment to see as ordinary, stripping the sacred from everywhere, to put in a cloud-man elsewhere, prying closeness from your heart.
“The worst thing we ever did was take the dance and the song out of prayer, made it sit up straight and cross its legs, removed it of rejoicing, wiped clean its hip sway, its questions, its ecstatic yowl, its tears.
“The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing in this Universe, available to every soul in every breath."
The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing in this Universe.
Isn’t it amazing how the poets are so often able to reach us in ways beyond the philosophers and the teachers and the writers?
God is and I am. Meaning, there is one ground of being from which all expressed being takes form and into which all expressed being ultimately retreats. And because there is one ground of being, you – my friend – are of it. You are the cosmic wave in the ocean that is God. You are the cosmic ray in the sun that is God. You get the idea.
And this is important because if you are of it, then whatever its nature is, your nature is. And this doesn’t mean that God is a gendered humanoid complete with arms and legs, favorites and anger management issues like us.
Rather, as Deepak Chopra writes in the first chapter of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, this means that we are pure consciousness like God.
Unity would suggest that you are a threefold being. Meaning, you are complex and complicated, multi-dimensional and multi-layered, you are strata and stratums – simultaneously.
It was the great writer Walt Whitman who so famously said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”
Unity would say that you are a threefold being.
As physical beings, we tend to identify as that which can be perceived with the senses. We tend to identify as gender, or age, or weight, or ethnicity. We might identify as a physical condition. Some might say, “I am an asthmatic,” or, “I am an addict.”
We tend to identify as that which can be perceived with the senses, using those words which society gives us to use.
This level of identification can be the stuff of cruel nicknames and ridiculous stereotypes. I imagine that anyone who’s been in a middle school lunchroom, or a high school gym class, can relate.
Unity would say you are a physical being, yes, but that this isn’t the only dimension of you. Nor is it the deepest dimension of you. It’s simply the most visible. It’s the facet of you we can see. And we humans are sense-addicted beings. We like what we can see, hear, touch, taste and feel.
As mental beings, we tend to identify as thoughts and beliefs, visions and dreams, aspirations and talents and even developed capacities. Some might say, “I’m a scholar,” or, “I’m an expert,” or, “I’m a lawyer.”
We might find ourselves saying, “Well, I am intelligent. I hold two degrees from the University of such-and-such. I’ve been published in the magazine of such-and-such. I hold an award from the association of such-and-such,” and so forth.
Or, we might find ourselves parroting any number of low opinions handed us by careless people in careless moments. We might find our ourselves saying, even if silently, “I am not the brightest bulb in the box.” Or, “I am not worthy.” Or, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m not capable.”
As mental beings, we tend to identify as story, or as narrative. “Who are you?” “Well, let me take you back to the beginning,” we might hear ourselves saying. “I was born a young boy in a rural hospital in Paola, Kansas. The snow was falling. The doctor was smoking a cigarette … ”
So, Unity would still suggest that you are a mental being, but that this isn’t the only dimension of you. Nor is it the deepest dimension of you. And you’ll notice that from that dimension of you that is physical to that dimension of you that is mental, the dimensions become less visible. Our conversations become more abstract. Sure, we can experience each other as mental beings with thoughts and beliefs, visions and dreams, aspirations and talents and even developed capacities, but we can’t really see those thoughts and visions and capacities, can we?
Perhaps it can be better said that we see the evidence of them. We see the evidence of thoughts, the evidence of visions, the evidence of capacities. We see the fruits of their work, maybe.
And you’ll notice that from that dimension of you that is physical to that dimension of you that is mental, the goals change as well.
Eventually, the physical goals of youth – worthy goals such as food and shelter and comfort – gradually give rise to the mental goals of adulthood – worthy goals such as expansion and expression and creation.
Chopra highlights this “progressive realization of worthy goals” as one central marker of success. So, if those pursuits which satisfied you yesterday fail to satisfy you today, congratulations. You might well be walking the path of success. If the relationships, if the work, the beliefs, or the god that satisfied you yesterday fail to satisfy you today, congratulations. You might well be walking the path of success.
So, Unity would say you are a mental being, yes, but that this isn’t the only dimension of you. Nor is it the deepest dimension of you. Unity would also say you are a spiritual being made in the image-likeness of God. Chopra would say that you are pure potentiality made in the image-likeness of pure potentiality.
Our Hindu brothers and sisters would reference this progressive realization of worthy goals this way: for as long as the world of bodies and trinkets and sensory delight entertains us, go with it. It’s okay. Enjoy it.
But know this: eventually, it won’t be enough. Eventually, it will fail to satisfy. Eventually, the higher dimensions of you will demand to be recognized. And in such a realization, all common fears will vanish. Even that core fear that sources all other fears, even that core fear of death, will evaporate in the remembering of your immortal nature.
Eventually, you will be called to peer through the experiences that you have into the truths that you are. You will be called to that grand healing of remembrance that declares, “I might be rich, poor, famous, anonymous, popular or otherwise, but at the deepest dimensions, I am of God.”
And, “You might be black, white, male, female, gay, straight or otherwise, but at the deepest dimensions, you are of God.”
And, “While we might be birthing, dying, laughing, crying, sowing, reaping, building up or otherwise, at the deepest dimensions, we are of God.”
And this is the real work behind any faith tradition. The real work behind any faith tradition is to point its people to a universal experience in which even that faith tradition no longer has a role, because even that faith tradition itself comes to represent separation and circumstance.
The real work behind any faith tradition is the remembering of the deepest dimensions of you.
We are like souls who have become so enamored with the physical parts we carry that we’ve forgotten the life that animates those parts; souls who have become so identified with the thoughts we think that we’ve forgotten the mind that provides those thoughts. We are like souls with spiritual amnesia, yearning to remember our divine nature; yearning to remember that we are of God.
In defining success, Chopra goes so far as to say that this “unfolding of the divinity within us” is the ultimate realization. Joel Goldsmith said the same thing – all prayers are really prayers for God.
Chopra’s Law of Pure Potentiality is perhaps a re-framing of Unity’s first two tenets: there is one ground of being and you are of it. God is and I am.
And, how are we to approach this Law of Pure Potentiality? Chopra offers three practices. And, if you’re like me, you’ll likely respond to each with some iteration of, “Yeah, I knew that. Yeah, I can get better at that one.”
Number one: the practice of non-judgement. Our obsession with labeling things and people and circumstances as good or bad, as right or wrong, doesn’t foster a consciousness conducive to your success. A Course in Miracles gives us an affirmation that states, “Today I shall judge nothing that occurs.”
This practice is particularly relevant to me. I, for example, might benefit from saying, “Today I shall judge nothing that occurs during the rest of this service.” Or, “Today I shall judge nothing that occurs as I leave this parking lot.”
Number two: the practice of nature. Chopra explains that, “The more tuned in you are to the mind of nature, the more you have access to its infinite, unbounded creativity."
Number three: the practice of silence. Like our constant judgement, our constant noise doesn’t foster a consciousness conducive to our success either. Make a commitment to a certain amount of time each day simply to be free from speech or activity (and yes, that means free from your telephone as well, let me be clear on that point).
And if that monkey mind gets noisy (which is common), stay the course of whatever commitment you’ve made. Eventually, persistence will calm that monkey mind and eventually, you’ll begin to recognize what Chopra calls that “field of pure awareness.”
And it’s from such a consciousness that your greatest potentials can unfold in grace and wonder.