The Paths of Oneness and Goodness Are Not the Same: They Exist Side by Side

The Paths of Oneness and Goodness Are Not the Same: They Exist Side by Side October 24, 2022

Devotees on the two primary spiritual paths of experience, the paths of Oneness and Goodness, have been at odds for centuries.

Proponents of the Oneness path have insisted that the goal of spirituality is to reconnect with everlasting eternity. They yearn to taste the quintessence of their being, to transcend time and space, to be unified with the One.

In the other camp, advocates of the Goodness path have traditionally seen stark choices in the world. They believe that we should choose love, compassion, beauty, truth, and altruism over hatred, fear, anger, judgment, and other opposites of goodness. To them, there are constructive forces in the world that are being challenged by destructive ones. Their goal is to stand their ground and choose to be good above all else.

Both Find Refuge in All the Religions

Despite these apparent differences, both paths have found homes within each of the world’s religions. As I’ve noted in previous articles, Hinduism offers the Oneness path of Yoga, Judaism offers Kabbalah, Islam offers Sufism, Christianity offers Mysticism, and so on. Whatever the arrangement, the two paths have historically found ways to coexist.

“Philosophy is the account which the human mind gives to itself of the constitution of the world. Two cardinal facts lie forever at the base; the one, and the two—1.Unity, or Identity; and, 2.Variety. We unite all things by perceiving the law which pervades them; by perceiving the superficial differences and the profound resemblances. But every mental act—this very perception of identity or oneness, recognizes the difference of things. Oneness and otherness. It is impossible to speak or to think without embracing both.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
American Essayist and Transcendentalist

Not the Same

Coexistence, however, does not mean that the two paths are the same. Over the centuries, there have been numerous attempts to merge the two, for example, by saying that there is only Oneness and that Oneness is Good. These attempts have all failed because they have run into the same theological dilemma. Oneness is nondual in nature, as in there is only one, while Goodness is dual in nature because for it to exist there must be something other than good.

Think about it this way.

  • If Oneness is the coin, Goodness is one side of the coin.
  • If Oneness is the ocean, Goodness is a set of benign waves.
  • If Oneness is the entire color spectrum, Goodness is represented by bright and beautiful colors.

It is impossible to reduce the coin to one side, the ocean to a set of waves, or the color spectrum to only bright and beautiful colors.

Oneness is all that is. Goodness is a choice between two or more things; between yin and yang, heaven and hell, high and low, good and bad… the list is never-ending. Attempts to unify or merge the two are forever fraught with this philosophical inconsistency.

On Their Own Merits

We solve this paradox by seeing that the dualistic world, which contains Goodness (and badness for that matter), is created out of Oneness. From then on, the flow is never ending from Oneness into Goodness and back again. The paths are simultaneously connected yet separate.

“Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality: the finite is not the infinite.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
Swiss Theologian and Catholic Priest

This realization creates an important understanding, both within religions and between religions. It clearly shows why the values of Goodness cannot be debated against the values of Oneness. Oneness is the essence of everything, and therefore it has no specific values (aside from nonduality). Goodness, on the other hand, is all about values. Goodness means that it is better to [fill in the blank] than to [fill in the blank].

Harmonious Coexistence

Once we acknowledge both their connectedness and their separateness, the paths are able to coexist harmoniously. We can stop debating the merits of one based on the merits of the other. Goodness must be practiced, debated and appreciated on the merits of Goodness, and Oneness must be practiced, debated and appreciated on its own terms. Seeing both the separation and connection means that we don’t have to make one side wrong and the other one right. In fact, both sides are right within their own realm of thought and contemplation.

  • Those who try to unveil Oneness are correct in their approach. Their primary goals are peace of mind and unity.
  • Those who emphasize good thoughts and deeds in this world are also right. Their primary goals are love, cultivating relationships, and worshipping the Divine.
  • And those who attempt to practice both paths can only do so when they accept this theological contradiction.

The bottom line is that both paths have historically found a way to exist side-by-side in the world’s religions and we should respect them as such.

Gudjon Bergmann
Author and Mindfulness Teacher
Amazon Author Profile

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