Non-Dual Thinking: Learning to See in Wholes in a Divided Nation
Our society would like us to think that it exists in a sandbox of paradoxes, contradictions, or problems (e.g., rich versus poor, black versus white, straight versus gay, Christian/religious versus non-Christian/religious, etc.). The task of mature religion, however, is to learn how to see things in light of their unity, while still honoring, creating space for, and protecting the differences that exist. This kind of art or way of seeing things can be called non-dual thinking.
Dualistic thinking, as opposed to non-dualistic thinking, is artificial thinking. It is egocentric thinking. It can't recognize the grey between the black and the white. Richard Rohr writes the following, “Our ego splits reality into parts that it can manage, but then we pay a big price in regard to actual truth or understanding.” This is what leads to exclusionism. Dualistic thinking only creates space for superficial transformation or, even worse, limits transformation to the superficial and behavioral changes (e.g., “We don’t associate with these kinds of people.” “We believe these doctrines/truths only.” “We only go to this kind of service.” “We don’t drink alcohol or caffeine.”). Although this kind of transformation is good for creating social order and homogeneous (of the same kind) groups, it doesn’t lead people to any meaningful experience of or union with God and, much less, experience of and union with fellow humans.
Richard Rohr also writes, “Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go; divided people see and create splits in everything and everybody.” Unless we learn to overcome dualistic thinking, we can’t interact with and love anyone or anything at any real depth. I believe we will not experience real transformation (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, etc.) – the kind of transformation that allows us to befriend people different than us, respect others opinions, protect the dignity of our fellow human beings, and, in the age of widespread systemic racism and bigotry, defend the rights of others that are different than us – unless we experience regeneration, transformation, salvation from our dualistic thinking, the kind of regeneration/transformation/salvation found in Christ.
“Reality is paradoxical and complementary. Non-dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion.”
1) In what ways to you recognize dualistic thinking in others?
2) In what ways do you recognize dualistic thinking in yourself?
3) What concrete steps can you take to grow from dualistic thinking to non-dualistic thinking?
Richard Rohr, Yes, and...: Daily Meditations (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2019), 357.