The Emerging Unitive Age
By Robert Atkinson, PhD
This work is a chapter featured in The Great Upshift by Ervin Laszlo and David Lorimer which you can order here.
The superficial boundaries between us are breaking down. Long-standing silos of separate knowledge systems are crumbling. Multiple interconnected global crises are forcing us to acknowledge the reality of the whole and the power of its evolutionary impulse. There is much to give us assurance that this dark night shall pass. This is a time of bridge-building and partnering, a time to expand existing circles of unity into larger and more inclusive circles of unity that fully embrace and reflect the entirety of the whole. The reconstruction of human society and all its relationships, including with all other life forms on the planet, is the uppermost challenge of our time.
A Unitive Worldview
We are experiencing the birth pangs of the culminating stage of a long evolutionary process that has forever been in motion. The perennial wisdom in the Hermetic principle of “As above, so below” is derived from a holistic, unitive worldview which has been prominent in some circles throughout time and sees all Creation as one whole. Everything on the micro level reflects everything on the macro level. As Plato also noted, “Perhaps there is a pattern set up in the heavens for one who desires to see it, and having seen it, to find one in himself.” This unitive principle has always supported the purpose and direction of an evolutionary impulse yet is only now coming into public awareness. Science and spirituality, formerly competing knowledge systems, are now being understood as complementary ways of knowing the mysteries of the universe. Both recognize a common force guiding evolutionary progress toward a consciousness of wholeness. Both emphasize the interconnected nature of all things as part of the same reality. And more and more people today are discovering this pattern in and around themselves through their own experience of wholeness. This principle addresses the divide between duality and nonduality, confirms that the individual and the collective mirror one another in their essential nature and processes, and explains how all things are interconnected.
A 19th Century Tipping Point
As part of an evolutionary flow that brings about periodic leaps of consciousness, in the middle of the 19th century, during a time of discord, disunity, and inequality in Persia, Baha’u’llah, founder of the worldwide Baha’i community, renewed the spiritual teachings that have guided the peoples of the world throughout the ages with a comprehensive revelation that focused on unity as the way of healing the ills of an ailing humanity. He proclaimed, “Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies… The mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples.” Unity is the all-encompassing, over-arching principle that all progress in the world depends upon. It is the natural outcome of an organic process of restoring seemingly opposing forces to their inherent wholeness. He further said, “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” At the same time, Baha’u’llah acknowledged a pattern in the unfolding of evolution that makes progress a nonlinear spiral-like process consisting of phases of ups and downs. He said, “The oneness of humanity will be achieved in evolutionary stages replete with strife, chaos, and confusion.” This holistic - and realistic – view accounts for and explains why a recurring process of personal and collective transformation is necessary throughout the cycles of evolution. Although evolution is by no means a straight line, the wholeness of Creation is undeniable. Abdu’l-Baha, son, successor, and interpreter of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, provided a succinct clarification of this unitive worldview: “The evolution of existence is one. The divine system is one. Whether they be small or great beings, all are subject to one law and system.” All things in the entirety of existence make up an interdependent whole, a oneness in which everything in the whole is an inseparable part. In this unitive consciousness, reality is one and all seeming differences and distinctions are imaginary. What brings us to this unitive consciousness is directly experiencing a universal pattern that all versions of the transformation process follow.
A Unitive Pattern Within Us and Around Us
There is a pattern found in mythology, mysticism, ritual, and psychology that centrally locates transformation within its core, connects us to the cycles of nature, and heightens our awareness of the responsibility that comes with having the direct experience of this pattern in our lives. This results in a desire to “give back” and “lift up” others in whatever ways we can. This pattern defines a life lived deeply, by confirming that all are governed by the same natural law, what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called “a single energy at play in the world.” It shows how evolution in all realms is tied together, and all of Creation is an indivisible wholeness. In mythology, Joseph Campbell made popular the monomyth, or journey of the hero, drawing from the archetypes of the world’s myths to form the pattern of departure – initiation – return. In ritual, Arnold van Gennep identified the pattern that all rites of passage follow in guiding the young person from dependence to interdependence through separation – transition – incorporation. In mysticism, Evelyn Underhill described the mystic way as a universal, androgynous journey of spiritual transformation following a pattern that leads from awakening to purification to union, resulting in living in harmony with the whole. This is not just a pattern haphazardly chosen in a variety of settings, but a pattern that is part of our internal make up. Psychologist Carl Jung found that as the archetypes embedded in our unconscious are released by life experiences and we become conscious of them, through great struggle we eventually are able to merge opposites into a new whole. This forms a pattern that he called the “individuation process” and takes in the stages of birth of the ego – death of the ego – birth of the whole self. In mapping the contents of the collective unconscious, Jung helped clarify that the whole spiritual heritage of humanity is contained within us and is born anew in the mind of every individual. This inner blueprint for transformation is designed to guide us along our way through the difficulties of life and back to a consciousness of our innate wholeness. This universal pattern is also found within the basic structure of story itself. Beyond beginning – middle – end, on a deeper and more meaningful level this pattern consists of beginning – muddle – resolution. It is the muddles, or challenges, we face that represent the core of the transformation process, enabling its completion, or resolution. In A New Story of Wholeness, this is described as a blueprint for living into wholeness, with three parts, call to wholeness, path of purification, and return to wholeness. Personal transformation is intricately connected to collective transformation. Both lead to the other, and both naturally result in a desire to contribute to the betterment of the world, what Kabbalists call Tikkun Olam, the work of repairing the world, or restoring the world to wholeness. We are all capable of living into this wholeness; it is an innate capacity, as Evelyn Underhill said: “The germ of the transcendent life, the spring of the amazing energy which enables the great mystic to arise to freedom, is latent in all of us, an integral part of our humanity.” But achieving this potential requires a conscious effort to lift ourselves out of complacency and beyond the illusions that deceive us. This inner pattern also helps move us across a continuum of states of consciousness as we experience a broader and deeper reality through our challenges and struggles. From this perspective, all states of consciousness are interdependent links of a chain within the same whole. Our journey to wholeness takes us across the side of the continuum built upon a consciousness of duality from separation, and all that leads to, to the other side of the continuum built upon a consciousness of wholeness leading us from connection and cooperation to gender equality and economic equity to unity in diversity – all interconnected stepping-stones to peace. This side of the continuum shows us the mysterious hidden wholeness that the Buddha referred to: “All things originate from one essence, develop according to one law, and are destined to one aim.”
Expressions of a Unitive World
As we enter further into humanity’s unitive age, the natural culmination of our evolutionary trajectory that will unite humanity as one family, we will see more of the desire, the deep commitment, to carry out our lives in service to the whole. Shifting our focus from the part to the whole, we become convinced that what is best for one is what is best for the whole. Most importantly, we will see a moving away from means that begin and end in disunity toward means that bring about unity in everything we do. Here are a few examples of how this will transform every aspect of our lives.
• Though justice typically separates victim from perpetrator, it is meant to maintain the inherent balance of life. Unitive Justice is justice that brings about unity. [ note: this could reference Elena’s chapter, i.e., (see chapter… ) ]
• Though healing typically focuses on ailing parts, it is meant to make whole again. Unitive healing is healing that brings about unity.
• Though economics typically creates a system of haves and have nots, it is meant to be a system for maintaining wellbeing. Unitive economics is economics that brings about unity - by eliminating the extremes of wealth and poverty.
• Though knowledge is typically separated into distinct ways of knowing, it is meant to help us understand the world we live in. Unitive knowledge seeks to bridge and bring about unity, across supposed boundaries, as with science and spirituality.
• Though language can be used to divide or unify, it is meant to communicate common understandings. Unitive language is language that brings about unity.
• Though patterns are typically seen separately, they are meant to highlight connections in apparent randomness that also have a common source. A unitive pattern is a pattern that brings about unity - by connecting with other apparent random patterns that have their common source in the unitive system of natural law.
• Though narratives can result in either disunity or unity, they are the neutral form, structure, or pattern a story is told in. Unitive narratives are narratives that bring about unity. [ note: this could reference Jude’s chapter, i.e., (see chapter… ) ]
• Though governance can separate, it is meant to bring people, communities, and nations into closer cooperation. Unitive governance is governance that brings about unity. This bullet list could go on and on, as our emerging unitive age depends upon achieving and maintaining harmony and unity in all endeavors.
Unity is what most characterizes the spirit of our age, just as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes did for their time. Achieving this wider unity on a global scale in the social, cultural, and economic spheres means living by common values and principles that assist us in becoming one human family.
Unity cannot be achieved without wholeness; wholeness requires equality between women and men, balance between wealth and poverty, freedom from all forms of prejudice, harmony between science and spirituality, and protecting nature as a divine trust. These unifying principles are so interdependently tied together that the realization of one depends upon the realization of all the others. Each one is also a prerequisite for fulfilling the age-old vision of peace on Earth.
Unity is the Outcome of the Evolutionary Impulse
The good news, and what gives us hope for the future, is that consciousness evolves toward unity and wholeness. All things have unity as their natural purpose. Humanity’s spiritual evolution is directed toward unity. Unity of purpose is central to the evolutionary impulse. Humanity will reach its apex of consciousness when we collectively reflect the perfect harmony, unity, and wholeness that already exists in all the diversity of creation. Unity is necessary for maintaining the wholeness-in-motion of all things that are. This knowledge of a hidden thread of wholeness connecting, supporting, and uniting all things in existence is at the mystic heart of all sacred traditions and is now the leading edge of scientific understanding. Only the unitive action we all take now will allow a gentle path to peace on Earth. Love is the sacred activism of our time, binding all hearts together. We are on the verge of this unitive world view becoming as commonly accepted in our time as nationalism was in the past.
Atkinson, Robert. A New Story of Wholeness: An Experiential Guide for Connecting the Human Family. Fort Lauderdale: Light on Light Press, 2022.
Atkinson, Robert. The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. Fort Lauderdale: Sacred Stories Publishing, 2017.
Laszlo, Ervin, The Inner Limits of Mankind: Heretical Reflections on Today’s Values. Culture, and Politics. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1989, 65-7, 120-28.