Unity and dualism

2007-04-16 20:31:28

Roel Stemmer

In this series of articles I try to explicit the core of sustainability. First I gave an overview as regards our behaviour and the assignment for education, after that I pointed out the direction in which our personal development has to go. Now I will show the thinking that from unity we need to leave the downtrodden paths. Therefore I start with an example.

And of course your reactions are still very welcome.

Roel Stemmer, chairman Enviro-Net


A conversation

Recently there was a conversation between two antipodes on Dutch television about climate change. The one was a geologist and the other a meteorologist. The first did not believe in God, was a humanist and trusted his brains; the latter inferred his responsibility from his belief in God. The first one was convinced by his profession to be able to think in a long term. His conclusion was that climate change started long ago and it would be arrogant to think that we are able to stop the greenhouse process. The second speaker claimed that there had never been a period in our history that the climate was changed by men’s action. He knew that we all together had to do something, and trusted in this on God. The geologist declared that life is without meaning and the other one finds the meaning in God. Both concluded however the same thing: minerals are limited and we have to use them prudently.

What you can see in such a conversation is that one puts his trust in brains and is only rational, while the other finally puts his trust in God and uses more words like ‘I feel’. The problem is however in both cases the same thing: arguing from a dualistic point of view. Either we are only rational in a non-religious way or we argue from a religious point of view with God looking from heaven to the earth. There is however less or no connection to our personal existence. Why? Both persons are finally acting within the same economic system. A system that we indicate as ‘the best one there is’. It shapes unconsciously our common behaviour. So we take ourselves insufficiently into account. And if it may cause problems we are established between taking other measurements and hoping that God will correct.

We do not realise sufficiently that the belief in the free market does finally have the same roots as these religions that separate good and evil, body and spirit, earth and heaven etc. It is therefore that ‘free’ (non-related) consumers are invited to compete on the market instead of to be caring people who need worthwhile products in order to live together with each others and the earth. Moreover it is very smart that economic growth is linked to jobs. For jobs are always disappearing to cheaper countries, where prosperity is lower. So in the rich countries the dynamic of economic globalisation is at the same time a guarantee for growth, where in fact it should not be. This growth is making the rich richer in the light of disseminating jobs all over the world.

Needed growth in poor countries is of course very welcome, but other poor countries have to deliver there minerals very cheaply. So there are poor countries that get more prosperity, while others are descending more and more. In this way the gap poor–rich is broadened and deepened as well between the rich and the poor world as in the rich world itself. That’s the context in which we are acting. An acting of thinking in terms of growth, too much one-sided based on competition. An acting that is systematic and determined for the free world with a high spiritual dimension. This structure influences directly our (irresponsible) behaviour.

People do not speak about this, because that touches our direct existence. We are feeling that caring by sharing should be a real option. It should be possible it shakes on the basement of our existence and that we avoid intuitively. Therefore the earlier mentioned conversation is deeply spoken finally a farce. It does not contribute to real solutions, because it does not contribute in becoming aware of the natural caring relations we are.


All in all to get beyond a dualistic view, we need to understand what unity means. Unity is a desire for harmony and wholeness of relations. This desire has three layers:

1)   The first layer is a mystic experience. I will describe a personal one. It was during World War II and I lived as a youngster in a city near wetlands with willow coppices. Often I went to those wetlands. Hiking on my own I experienced the following:

·      I felt part of a bigger whole, part of nature, of the cosmos, of life. At the same time I felt recognised, I could be, a certainty I belonged with and to my origin in terms of autonomous and responsible, between holy and conscience.

·      I felt sure I experienced unity with creation as a basis for my actions and feeling this way I could contribute to that unity.

·      I realised this experience urged me to stand up for the poor and the weak, for life without a voice. I can imagine you now thinking: ‘this has everything to do with your upbringing’, or: ‘this is in your genes’. Sure. But for me the experience ‘in nature’ was the most important experience of my life and became my guide for life.

From my willow coppice experience I realised why I was triggered by the word integral, used in relation to sustainability. The three P’s: People, Planet and Profit were reproduced with the familiar triangle PPP. So integration has to take place I concluded. And how should it be done without a covering P of Pneuma, breath, spirit? The triangle should namely be a tetrahedron, a quadruple P. So the top of the tetrahedron (Pneuma) should cover the triple P in order to integrate them.

An experience like this Paul Tillich describes as ‘Courage to Be’

2)   The second experience in unity has everything to do with the particular choice of your life companion. People may say: “But that is all about the sexual attraction between partners”. Easy to get to the nice and yummy. But this asks in fact a deep spiritual unity. That is where we are different from animals. I’ve been married to my wife for about 49 years, but to establish constant growth and unity within each other we climbed the highest hills and saw the deepest valleys.

3)   The third layer is diversity. The more species the more we can enjoy nature. The more different cultures, the more we wonder about our unity. But this is a paradox. For instance: Freedom of the ideology of the free market sends us to all directions and frustrates all action in relation to sustainability. To handle this paradox we have to make a conscious choice. That’s possible from unity and sometimes impossible from dualism. Why? Because dualism presupposes not connected fragments that easily lead towards contradictions. When there is connection in regards to unity, there is always a possibility to overcome the paradox. But that is a spiritual one in which occasion you have to take yourself into account. Okay, that may include suffering. That may be part of life. In a dualistic way you are able to avoid it in the short term, but it will always come back in the long run.

Unity versus dualism

When those both items are fighting for priority within our personality, there are three options:

1)   Some people are integrated persons. They are conscious of the dualistic context in which they are acting. That’s not always simple, because your surroundings is often trying to tackle you, in order to show that you are busy to make problems. That’s logical. After all this is the overwhelming reality. It is the reality formed by the systems within we act. And of course, integrated persons are conscious of their own dualism and so they know how to approach different people in order to reach unity as well as possible.

2)   Most people generally behave as the systems prescribe. That’s also difficult, because we are feeling ‘in nature’ the longing towards unity and are often experiencing the opposite. So we have to bargain. That’s a necessity to survive and we often use for it the so-called repression mechanism. Expressions like: “Being a thief of your own purse”, “meaningless violence”, and “stupid questions” are typical expressions that fit in dualistic thinking. If starting from unity one will realize that the first expression “being a thief of your own purse” belongs to only considering yourself, the second expression neglects the fact that all violence is a-priori meaningless and the third one does not take into account equivalence.

3)   Finally there is a third way in making a choice. On the one hand there is a generally accepted “common knowledge” and on the other hand everything is very confusing. When there is at the same time a rudiment of an inner blockage that is defended by a wrong pride and stimulated by a society that one-sided emphasizes the individual responsibility, the confusion gets the upper hand. It means that dignity is decreasing and leads towards suicide. In the Netherlands among people from 20 till 40 years it takes place 14.000 times a year with 1500 victims. Within this group it is the main reason for dying prematurely. Addiction often plays a role, but is finally not the real cause. Addicts are in many cases very spiritual people, but they are not able to handle confusing situation themselves.

A dialectic approach

In the teacher–student relationship the teacher should have a dialectic attitude, dialectic in the meaning of looking for and taking into account of the utmosts. I do not refer at the historical materialism of Karl Marx. That is to say that the teacher is alert in careful tracing the behaviour of the student looking for the borders of his/her consciousness with the repression mechanism. If a surpassing of these borders takes place, of which the teacher should be attentive, he/she has to be ready to catch the student. A situation of sufficient contact time with the same trusted teacher is a must. In my view the teacher needs such an attitude during the learning process of the student, so that in the development of the students’ personality it gets the chance to grow towards unity by integration of the different sides of life. And of course the way in which it happens should take into account the age of the student, the level of education, the kind of schooling etc.

Now I am back at the end of the foregoing article. The surrounding of the student should invite to open oneself and to learn your consciousness. If we do not learn this we are not able to taste what unity means. Deeply spoken it is a spiritual act. In The Netherlands we have made a special word for making a mess of the scenery (verrommeling), because we are with many people in a little country. So we see the borders of what we experience by looking around much faster. We ascertain disharmony. That making a mess we also discover in society and within big organizations and schools. My statement is that if we do not want to find our own borders within a dialectic involvement in each other, the mess in our personality creates a mess in nature and society. Freedom is at stake in a wrong way, incoherent from all other life. Somebody told me not to be willing to think and act in a dialectic way, but to coexist. But how we are able to coexist in a non-dialectical way? For we need our repression mechanism. But that has nothing to do with conscious acting.

So I come to an end with the following words:

Spirituality accomplishes

space for every life and

direction for everyone.

Spirituality with belonging creativity

and nurturing for social emotional balanced people.

People with a great existential safety

who are thinking inclusively and from that

taking along themselves in all decision making in favour of the other.

The next time I hope to declare why the other will also be described with a capital.