Unity in diversity.
"Unity in the midst of diversity can be made to be felt only by touching the very core of the heart...in spite of all superficial diversity which your life in illusion must experience and endure, the feeling of oneness through love is brought about amongst all the nations, creeds, sects and castes of the world."
[Meher Baba's final declaration. 1954]
It seems to me that one of the most startling outcomes of the recent UK referendum was the way that the Nation seemed so abruptly and raggedly to divide itself - almost exactly - into two halves. There has been a palpable sense of collective traumatic shock resulting from this rupturing event, one which has only been deepened by the equally sudden disappearance of any coherent leadership.
Our nation's differing opinions, concerns, values and priorities became powerfully polarised over the task that was laid before us - to make a binary choice concerning multiple and complex issues…
In the end what happened was that a little under half chose one way, and a little over half chose the other.
When all the results had been declared, at first glance the maps showing how the various regions had voted looked as if the country had become divided up into solid blocks of colour, seemingly following geographical or socio-economic lines (certainly not party-political ones). But even the most detailed further analyses of the way that people voted on the 23rd June have thus far overlooked something fundamental, and very important, about the phenomena that we are witnessing. What the solid blocks of colour on the maps did not show is that - regardless of age, educational or socio-economic level, politic persuasion, ethnicity or religion - in every demographic, some people voted to stay, and some people voted to leave. Actually the split decision about the benefits of staying or leaving run right through the heart of all communities, families, and also through each of us individually.
Collectively speaking, a part of us is feels the need to stay and a part feels the need to leave, this internal tension is actually inherent to the success of our species. But, we have become internally 'polarised', and now risk becoming divided against ourselves. There is confusion and distress in this realisation, I hear it in my therapy practice, in my own family, amongst friendship groups and I have also felt it within myself. Fueled by hysteria in the media coverage, some strong psychological energies have been awakened in our collective psyche. Once polarised in this way we collectively manifest some impressive Archetypal characteristics - and characters ! Witness the 'Greek Tragedy' currently being acted out on the stage our Parliament. In this public arena a broad spectrum of human emotion and action can be observed - from the darkest shadows of fear and treachery to some bright rays of courage and hope.
In traditional psycho-analysis, the myths and classical stories of ancient Greece and Rome have been used symbolically to illustrate the internal developmental dynamics of the individual and collective human psyche (for instance Freud's use of the story of Oedipus in his psycho-sexual theory). Another symbolic metaphor, used by Carl Jung to describe the processes of Individuation and the development of consciousness, is that of Alchemy. The referendum seemed to create something of a 'crucible' and at some point in the run up to the actual vote, things became so super-charged and white-hot that it seemed as if the vote being tabled was one to be made between Love, on one side, and Hate on the other - rather than on our EU membership. There is 'mythic' and 'alchemical' strength in these psychological energies...and we need to respect and understand both their power and purpose, otherwise we will, by turn, unconsciously get drawn into acting out the roles of both persecutor and victim.
Historically such fear-fuelled and super-heated polarities have been the social conditions which became the volatile ingredients for violence and revolution – or the spuriously justified oppression and displacement of one 'side' by another. Sometimes this is capitalised upon by the powerful and then it escalates into war. So it is easy to understand why folks are feeling a little scared and jittery just now. However, I feel that there is also a huge opportunity and potential available to us now - to access the healing processes of psychological integration and growth. If we have the wisdom to create space, time and enough safety for this to happen, we may be able to use these difficult conditions to develop in our collective awareness and emotional maturity.
We were given a choice...and choices still remain available to us. Firstly we can choose to offer deep and compassionate understanding towards the conflict and disunity that we may find within ourselves and our communities. Secondly we can decide what kind of a world we would like to live in - and, on the basis of that decision, we can behave towards other people the way that we would like them to behave towards us. This means taking personal responsibility rather than blaming 'them' for things being otherwise. Fear and blame will only deepen the divisions and ramp up the conflict. What we need right now is calm, compassion, and understanding. We need to practice keeping our hearts open so that we can listen deeply to each other. Then perhaps we will be able to work together towards mutually beneficial solutions. The Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as the practice of Love.
The Love that is mentioned in Meher Baba's quote (above) has nothing to do with romance, or having a very strong preference for something. This concept of love does not wear any political colour, it does not make itself right and another wrong, it does not seek to score points nor excerpt any power over another. This Love is a unifying and healing principle – one which encompasses all differences. When we are willing to look, I believe that we will always find it emerging from deep within our own hearts, because I believe that Love is our essential nature, and that consciousness of Unity is an ultimate truth.
Nevertheless our differences are vitally important: they are what enable us to be aware of each other, as well as conscious of ourselves. They are what make life interesting - as well as challenging. The differentiation of space and time, and all the oppositions within that continuum - such as light and dark, hot and cold, night and day – actually form the very fabric of our creatively changing world. Living things come together, grow, multiply then divide and separate...flourish - then fall into decay.
Individuals die and collective cultures change, but life goes on...recreating itself in familiar and in new ways. This is life's basic motif. Our present culture and society will become coloured by the attitudes, values and actions of those of us who are currently manifesting it.