Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Joshua Heschel’

Abraham Joshua Heschel speaking at UCLA 5/29/1968

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A useful site on Hindu teachings presents two analogies.

The first is the ‘drop and the ocean’ analogy in which

The soul is compared to a drop of water and liberation to its merging into the vast ocean which represents the Supreme Soul (God).
According to the advaita schools, the soul and God are equal in every respect, and liberation entails realisation of one’s Godhood. Thus, one’s mistaken sense of individuality is dissolved, and one merges into the all-pervading Supreme.

The second is the ‘green parrot analogy in which

The individual soul is compared to a green bird that enters a green tree (God). It appears to have “merged”, but retains its separate identity.

  • The personalistic schools of thought maintain that the soul and God are eternally distinct and that any “merging” is only apparent. “Oneness” in this case refers to:

unity of purpose through loving service realisation of one’s nature as brahman (godly) but maintenance of one’s spiritual individuality.

  • Liberation involves entering God’s abode, though many schools teach that those souls who have become free from material contamination are already liberated, even before leaving the material body

The two analogies are to help explain two views’ on the process of attaining ‘moksha’ a freeing or liberation from samsara, the endless round of repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (reincarnation);

practically all schools consider it a state of unity with God, the nature of such unity is contested. The advaita traditions say that moksha entails annihilation of the soul’s false sense of individuality and realisation of its complete non-difference from God. The dualistic traditions claim that God remains ever distinct from the individual soul. Union in this case refers to a commonality of purpose and realisation of one’s spiritual nature (brahman) through surrender and service to the Supreme Brahman (God).


Firstly I should say that the conventional understanding doesn’t work for me. Instead I see reincarnation as every moment in which I prompt myself to return to the ‘body of my true Self’, away from any egoistic, lower self, attachment.

Oak trees produce acorns but the don’t become again the acorn from which they grew. Life is progressive in terms of the after-life. But in this world every time we repeat the same ego-driven mistakes we ‘reincarnate’ ourselves into our lower self.

In unitive meditation we merge with the Whole, but not as a co-equal partner with the Godhead – the finite cannot claim to comprehend the Infinite. That which we become at-one with is Creation not the Creator.

On this subject listen to the 8thC Chinese poet known as Li Po;

“The birds have vanished from the sky,

and now the last clouds slip away.

We sit alone, the mountain and I,

until only the mountain remains.”

If the ego is sufficiently quietened for us to be ‘absorbed’ it is a unity with Creation not the Creator.

To the Chinese poet I would add a Baha’i perspective the holds that in the afterlife we commune with souls with whom we have associated;

13. As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world:

This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will

become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries

of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and

here will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover

persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye

and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and

will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly

behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those

of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367 –
This Baha’i extract is from Dr Bill Huitt’s excellent compilation HERE


The two views illustrated by ‘the green parrot’ and ‘the drop-ocean’ analogies are resolvable via this perspective. In so far as we mirror the higher Self and quieten the ‘chattering monkey’ of the lower self we attain Moksha, Nirvana, Heaven. This is a moment by moment switching until we are enabled to maintain a more constant connection with the higher Self. Experiences of unity are sublime, ineffable, bliss-full but we are not then at-one with the Godhead, just sufficiently ego-less to feel at-one with the rest of Creation! We get close to God in this limited sense through living a life that obeys the Covenant of eternal verities found in the mystical heart of all great faiths.

From Zen we learn

The great Master Dogen said,

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self,

to study the self is to forget the self, and

to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.”

To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and the ten thousand things.

A limited at-one-ness – through seeking the True Self within – and enjoying endless dualities of this world are the two wings through which we fly spiritually (including spirituality as intellectuallity).

It is certainly true that ‘all is God’ but our reality and our powers are devolved not co-equal.


to visit the ISKCON site from which I took inspiration for this article.


Interspirituality, the 21stC version of perennial wisdom, celebrates the Oneness behind the jostling exclusivist-ic world-views!

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Thanks for the discussion and your question about non-duality and teachers of non-duality.

From a quick listen to Rupert Spira so far it seems to be high quality teaching. The design of his site is exquisite! See HERE

As with other luminaries e.g Tolle and Wilber I would make the following comment;

In brief non-duality & duality are both gifts of life (God if you prefer or the Whole) – both are essential, both are ongoing. We need to work both wings in complementary harmony. The goal of life is not to eliminate duality, but to have strong, complementary synergistic experiences of duality and non-duality! Harmony requires diversity and vv.

The separate self is good – hallelujah! The small self is good – without it we would have no mastery of self. Without it no comedians would lift our spirits. Without it no artist would create.

As the great Zen Master Dogen said,

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self,

to study the self is to forget the self, and

to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.”

To be enlightened by the ten thousand things is to recognize the unity of the self and the ten thousand things.


This is an enormous field – see the work by Jerry Katz HERE (1000+ very long pages!) and HERE

I tried to build some of these ideas into the 60 Seconds Meditation (for galloping frenetically-busy people) – HERE


Or as Stuart GuruStu Rosen HERE put it

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“Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire! Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness, O Source of my being, and by the breezes of Thine eternity gladden me, O Thou Who art my God! Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquillity on me, O my Companion, and let the riches of Thine ancient countenance deliver me from all except Thee, O my Master, and let the tidings of the revelation of Thine incorruptible Essence bring me joy, O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!” – Bahá’u’lláh

(From album entitled – Luke Slott “Create in Me a Pure Heart”)


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The ‘One Garden’ – A General Introduction for newcomers to the One Garden Groups


Game, set & match! – If you have realized the Oneness behind the diversity you are already a ‘member’ of the ‘One Garden’ – welcome home!

AIM & PURPOSE OF THE ‘ONE GARDEN’ COMMUNITY – to celebrate, experience, explore & practice oneness/Oneness – from within the enlightenment teachings of great spiritual teachers – in a frame work of perennial wisdom or Perennial Philosophy (see below) context .

In our meetings we use mainly contemplative dialogue but start and end with short silent meditations. On a daily basis group members practice according to what they choose – some may still be happily within mainstream faith communities, some might be refugees from painful experience in mainstream religions, some have simply realized that behind the myriad world-views there is Oneness.

We see the overall spiritualizing process as 2 ‘wings’ that together enable spirituality.

i) All spiritually alive people use the first wing to stay connected to the Whole i.e.

– it requires that the ‘ego & mind’ be quietened, (this is our heart-centre & right-brain).

ii) The second wing with which we fly spiritually is dialogue (left-brain, head-centred).

We achieve a sense of connection with the Whole, (it ebbs and flows, unless you are one of the great masters), via mindfulness – or more correctly mind-less-ness!

The two wings need to be in harmony – if one wing is overdeveloped we flap and go round in circles and never fly upwards at all!

OUR MAP-MAKERS: As map-makers of the ‘territory’ we have Eckhart Tolle, Aldous Huxley, Wayne Teasdale & Ken Wilber – and for a popular historical perspective – Karen Armstrong.

Other great teachers: Thich Nhat Hanh, Christian Contemplatives, Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Abdu’l-Baha,, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Quaker Universalism, Deng Ming-Dao, Albert Einstein, Prof John Miller (great champion of Holistic Education) – and ‘wonder-full’ poets & philosophers!

All are ‘gate-keepers’, or pointers as Buddhist teachers say, to realizing ourselves in the ‘One Garden’!

If you like reading see suggested reading list below

WEEKLY – BUT NO NEED TO ATTEND EVERY WEEK – each session is ‘stand alone’. You don’t have to buy books or read lots – materials provided.

WHO IS IT FOR?: For all on a path to realizing their true self .

HOW’S IT WORK? – each week we have a topic/question: One way we work is simply to put ‘spiritual jewels’ next to each other e.g. by juxtaposing these two pieces by Rumi & Abraham Joshua Heschel;

1 Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing – by Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense.


2 Concepts & Amazement – a quote by A J Heschel

“Concepts are delicious snacks with which

we try to alleviate our amazement.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel – Who is Man p.88


EXAMPLE TOPIC: Being at-one

EXAMPLE QUESTION: Where & how and through what are we one?

DEVISING THE AGENDA: One way we use is following a short period of silence and a short introduction including quotations the group, we work in pairs, and consult to generate the questions that will make up the agenda for the main group dialogue. Sometimes we have free-flowing dialogue or ‘rounds’.


“Most of the great wisdom traditions agree on an age-old model which says about both the Cosmos and about our human nature:

1. Spirit, by whatever name, exists.

2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.

3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, or duality-that is, we are living in a fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.

4. There is a way out of this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony or non-integration), there is a Path to our liberation.

5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which

6. marks the end of sin and suffering, and

7. manifests in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.”

The above is KW’s model of The Perennial Philosophy.

RP’s shortest model = ‘Awaken: Detach: Serve’

Namaste & all good wishes – Roger

NB We contribute a minimum of £3.00 where a room is hired – OR just £1.00 toward running expenses handouts, MeetUp fees, travel etc. – thanks.

More ‘One Garden’ quotes HEREhttp://universalistspirit.wordpress.com/quotes/nonduality-flavoured-quotes/

The Perennial Philosophy model

a) Shortest version (RP) = Awakening:Detachment:Service

b) A Christian-Buddhist comparison (Very short version)

  1. There is something bigger than us – the Mysterious Whole

  2. We either are (West), or seem to be (East), separated from it (Victims?)

  3. Through various means we can become reunited with it (or realize that we already are).

  4. Once the separation is overcome, we will lead larger, richer, fuller lives.

In Christian terms, the four steps are:

  1. God

  2. Sin

  3. Faith (or works)

  4. Salvation

In Buddhist terms:

  1. Nirvana (the state of the Absolute)

  2. Illusion or Ignorance

  3. Practice (devotion or meditation)

  4. Enlightenment


If you prefer videos check out the stunning range on YouTube by Tolle, Teasdale, Wilber, Thich Nhat Hanh, Karen Armstrong & especially the dialogue between Wayne Teasdale and Ken Wilber


On my personal journey I wanted a heart connection with those who both described the territory of the One Garden and those who lived it as well as taught it. Below are those who became my ‘gatekeepers’ to the One Garden – the map-makers and the teachers.


First I strongly recommend you read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now – that is enough!

Want more – then read The Mystic Heart by Wayne Teasdale or Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy

Then Ken Wilber and Karen Armstrong



Taoism Deng Ming-Dao 365 Tao

Hinduism Ved Vyasa The Bhagavad Gita

Buddhism Thich Nhat Hanh Happiness

Judaism Abraham Joshua Heschel Who is Man

Christianity Wayne Teasdale The Mystic Heart

Sufism (Islam) Shaikh Kabir Helminski Living Presence

Baha’i Abdu’l-Baha Paris Talks (I will put together a compilation)


Aldous Huxley The Perennial Philosophy

Albert Einstein (A compilation – see online)

All seem to me to point to the One Garden, and the books listed provide a gateway into the One Garden.

You might like to start with the tradition with which you are most familiar.

As a first step in reading, if you want, I suggest you reread The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

I know there are more teachers – but the above is all I can handle – along with some extracts from from poets and philosophers!

IF YOU WANT TO PRACTICE: Listen to Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “ Smile, Breathe, Go mindfully.”

His teachings on practices from over 60 years are gathered into one book ‘Happiness: essential mindfulness practices.’

Eckhart Tolle’s book on practice is called Practicing the Power of Now

There is also a summary of practices taught by ET – see HERE

If you a) practice – Smile, Breathe, Go mindfully” – and b) read and the bell hasn’t rung – practice some more – or worst case scenario – take up fishing!



1) ”One Garden’ – dedicated site for the, ‘One Garden’ groups – is HERE

2) Soul Needs: peace through realizing oneness = celebrating the human spirit via;

i) THE ARTS – especially (street) photography,

ii) PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT & human-centred studies,


iv) INTERFAITH inter-spirituality & Perennial Wisdom, including the ‘One Garden’ project.

v) WHOLE-PERSON LEARNING, radical renewal of child education + healing for adults – (via a) to d)!) – –

vi) THE NEW PROJECT – ‘HEALTH MATTERS’ – surviving IPF as long as possible!

NB Usually posts for all ‘6 Projects’ start or end up on the ‘Soul Needs’ site – RP

3) The ‘Quotations Treasury’ – just quotations – http://quotationstreasury.wordpress.com/

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In development

 Oneness is the experience of, and the concept of, all things being ultimately ‘subsets’ of One infinite energy system – matter and energy being infinitely transformable into each other within the oneness we also call the Whole.


Experience is infinitely more important than conceptualization, as the great A J Heschel teaches us ;“Concepts are delicious snacks with which we try to alleviate our amazement.”.  Awe, wonder, amazement, experience of the ineffable are what Heschel leads us back to.  For him they are the reality of being human – concepts are delicious snacks but leave us still  longing for the ‘real thing’

Experiencing oneness is simple – it’s the experience of no-self, as described e.g. by Ken Wilber in his early book No Boundaries.

Experiencing oneness is what you get when the boundaries through which you define your ‘self’ melt away – as in this poem;

“The birds have vanished from the sky,

and now the last clouds slip away.

We sit alone, the mountain and I,

until only the mountain remains.”

(8th Century) Chinese poet Li Po

Whilst concepts are vital to our development in this dualistic world we need to be relieved frequently of the burden of self via such experiences of Oneness – to gain a yin-yang balance.

The challenge is to die before we die.  Experience of Oneness is also called the mystical.  Everyone’s account of such experience is different.  Fundamentalism is the attempt to eliminate this inevitably diversity.  To do this is rather like one of the six blind men, who experienced an elephant, say the one who got the tail, imposing his experience on everyone else.

We can’t have that kind of certainty and uniformity.  Karen Armstrong says fundamentalism is lust for certainty.  Terry Eagleton puts fundamentalism as fear of annihilation.  Tolle and others show us that it is only by identifying with something less that the Whole are we led into forms of exclusivity, the worst aspects of which lead to Sunnis murdering Shia and vice versa, Protestants murdering Catholics and vice versa.

Dieing before we die is as Tolle, and others, teach to stop identifying with forms and allow ourselves to ‘disappear’ into the formless Whole – at least until the laundry needs doing, or wood needs chopping and water carrying.  If only all Moslems knew, really knew, what Rumi and Ibn al-Arabi, for example, say about these deeper aspects of spirituality, reality and what it is to be human.  There are also Christian co-equivalents of course and of course they are largely peripheralised by the churches and the church power-mongers.

Awareness of that Whole stays with us as ‘presence’ via very simple practices such as those taught by the great and beloved Thich Nhat Hanh.  He, and Buddhism as a whole,  teaches mindfulness –  as simple as breath consciousness.  Happiness is mindfulness that enables concentration that engenders insights that allow us to let go negatives.  Letting go negatives is largely the same as dieing before we die.

The true mysticism at the heart of the great world wisdom traditions shows us that in spite of cultural differences the essentials are the same – many paths; one summit, many gateways; one garden.  The account of this is called perennial philosophy – a somewhat stupid name because its not philosophy per se.  It’s really the practices that enable us to a) awaken, b) disolve the illusory ego and b) learn to better serve others.  That is it’s not about conceptual snacks but primarily it’s about the awe, wonder and the ineffable.


Now for the concept.  Now I/we are inevitably going to stumble over words!

Whether you see One as Gaia, the Whole, God etc is a matter of choice/accident/tradition/geography/education.  For me they are all pointing to the same reality.

If you choose to see the ‘One’ as God, God doesn’t have to be some inane anthropormorphised version!  God forbid!

Buddhists don’t talk about God because there is no point in talking about that which is beyond talk, concepts, language and mind.  That’s why Zen masters ‘point’!   And talking about ‘it’ is to not talk about it – because you can’t talk about that which is non ‘it-able’.  By non-’it’able I mean you break any perception into subject and object.   You can’t thingify the Whole/Oneness/God. You can’t turn the Whole/Oneness/God into an it, an object, a thing – therefore there can be no me and it, no subject and object.  Why?  Because it is then no longer the Whole – and in any case any one person’s take is finite and subjective!

The other reason I suspect that the Buddha avoided talk about God-stuff is that ordinary people lead themselves or others into nonsense and then into imposing nonsense and then into cruelty and murder of other human beings.  Hence the insanity of man on man violence – caused by what Tolle admirably calls the ‘collective pain-body’


The oneness we achieve is not a unification.

A unification suggests that the two bodies that become united are somehow on an equal footing.  We are finite Whole/Oneness/God is infinite, the finite can ‘know of’  Whole/Oneness/God, but not ‘know’ in the sense of completely understanding.  This is why many religionists say a Messenger or ‘Manifestation’ is necessary to act like an electrical transformer to knock down the infinite current of the Whole/Oneness/God to a level of current that we as finite forms of consciousness can take in without getting blown apart.

The ‘know of’ versus ‘know’ distinction can be approached via a sun analogy.  We feel the warmth of the sun and see by its light but could never embrace it in its entirety.  Correspondingly we can experience the warmth of God’s love and the light of God’s knowledge by reflecting them in our own being, behaviour and words.  Such teachings as this are to be found at the heart of ll true wisdom traditions – Sufism, Buddhism. It is important to find a teacher or several who is the real McCoy and will not lead us into negatives.  Tolle as far as I can tell is as sound as the perfect Buddhist bell!

Metaphors, analogies and allegories always have limitations. The best I know is the ‘drop and the Ocean’ analogy.

But the drop is simply a ‘liquid mote’ thrown off from the infinite Ocean (i.e you or me).  This mote, you or me, suffers from the illusion of separate, self-generated, independent existence – until it wakes up – to Oneness.  That is scary

As the beloved Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” Thich Nhat Hanh SL p504.  Hence his re-presentation of  Buddhist philosophy as ‘interbeing’.  As Abdul-Baha also says, “All is one”.

Oneness is a matter of our being willing to stop asserting, for a while, that we have separate, independent identity. Our eternal existence derives from God’s existence, not from our identifying with David Beckham’s aftershave or Cheryl Whatsit’s latest bit of  twaddle – or our self-assertion that I am a ‘writer’ or a ‘teacher’ or whatever.

Our salvation and assured eternal existence derives from the particular admixture of those virtues, names and attributes of God with which we have been endowed via our parentage.  That admixture exists at birth in potential form.  It gets manifested via the degree of
excellence of the parenting and education we receive plus in adult life the effort, the will, we exert to reflect those virtues, names and attributes.  That is our eternal soul.  That is our heaven, our oneness in this life and the next.

The oneness is to let go and let be.

The being that is ‘let be’ here is God, because there is nothing other than God – the ‘Sun’, the Sun’s rays (the Holy Spirit) and the Creation that the sun’s rays illuminate (make apparently real as part of God’s learning ‘machine’ for us) is all that there is.

Creation is not separate from the Creator. We as the apex of Creation are not separate from the Creator – but along with everything else we are His emanation. The emanation of His Creativity is permanent because He is eternal.

In development

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