People believe that being more empathetic is about thinking of how everything is one.

“Together As One” might sound like a really unifying song (shoutout to all the reggae fans), but it seems like a mystical concept that everything is one. Many religious beliefs are based on this widespread concept of oneness, of which you’ll probably find in ethical and metaphysical schools of thought. There seem to be a good reason to think that a belief that everything is interconnected is virtually possible — not to mention, well, true.

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We Are One

There are a million ways to conceive the idea of everything being one. You might even think of it as the “butterfly effect,” which states that everything is connected in a way that if something happens somewhere, its because of another thing happening elsewhere. This could be experienced by viewing it through various religious perspectives — Buddhism describes how all living things are connected through their actions; and Taoism is built on the idea that the Tao is the single, fundamental truth of the entire universe.

This concept goes beyond the scopes of religion and philosophy; and even the most empirically minded individual might suggest that the entire universe as a single entity, of which we are all small parts. Theoretical physicist Carl Sagan even touched on the scientific idea that everything formed from one point, when he famously said, ”were all star stuff — that is, everything you know evolved from elements that were forged in remanence of dead stars. Agnostically, you might think of this concept as ”existence monism,” or “universal oneness.”

 

Rethinking Oneness

However you think about this concept, you may start pondering on what existence monism is in your daily life. In a new study published by Kate Diebels and Mark Leary, the concept of believing that everything is one is closely linked with a multitude of psychological advantages. People who reported a stronger belief in universal oneness also demonstrated greater concern for the welfare of others, stronger feelings of connection to distant people, and a stronger sense of compassion.

In addition, this wasn’t associated with lower levels of self-focused values such as hedonism, security, prosperity, or personal growth. It was more about the basis that believing that everything is one will make you more caring for other people, but won’t interfere with your own sense of personal experience, objectives, and social rights. In other words, a sense of interconnectedness won’t make you self-centered.

 

Are We Really One?

Stack of hands showing unity
Image: America’s Keswick / iStock / Getty Images Plus | Friends with stack of hands showing unity.

But here’s the Big question: How does one measure the degree to which a community believes that being one is about everything? Simple answer: a survey.

First, participants were presented with the following paragraph:

“Around the world, some people hold beliefs about ‘oneness’ — the degree to which everything that exists is connected or is part of the same fundamental thing. Some people believe that everything is basically one, whereas other people do not believe that everything is one.”

Second, they were asked to rank 17 statements on how easy it was to believe each of them on a five-point scale, with 1 being “very difficult to believe this is true,” and 5 being “very easy for me to believe this is true.” These statements were, “Beyond surface appearances, everything is fundamentally one,” and, “Everything is composed of the same basic substance, whether one thinks of it as spirit, consciousness, quantum processes, or whatever.”

Finally, this is particularly interesting, because it went a long way to describe that a belief in oneness doesn’t need to have a spiritual or religious component. The quantum world has had many interpretations that posit a unified field; even Albert Einstein himself once proposed that a belief that the universe is made up of many distinct objects may, in fact, be “a kind of optical delusion of … consciousness.

It doesn’t matter if your belief in universal oneness is because of your religion, or because of your knowledge of science. Either way, its worth your effort in really understanding your place in life.

 

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Feb 08, 2019.

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