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Though you are an individual you live in a world of others as part of society. As you interact and participate, you become more integrated into the larger worlds that exist around you—your family, your circle of friends, and the natural world or the universe.
The consequence of interrelatedness is holism—an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting—the quality of being united into one. In essence we are indistinguishable from one another; even though our skin may be a different color, we may speak a different language, eat different food, laugh at different jokes, or behave in ways others don’t understand.
We are one. You are indistinguishable from me. All our fundamental attributes are identical since we are both living members of the same species homo sapiens, of the Hominid family characterised by superior intelligence, articulate speech and erect carriage.
Humans have evolved a holistic way of seeing the world which conforms to its interconnected nature. We have an innate tendency to form wholes or unities in perception. From the work of the Gestalt psychologists we know that we see whole pictures not the dots that they are composed of. Our natural inclination is to search for a holistic perspective—to create symmetry from dissonance and unity from parts.
This suggests an approach to the world which is interactive, cooperative, and qualitative, informed by our values, authentic and engaged. A holistic worldview challenges us to see all things in the world as forming part of an undivided wholeness. If for instance, we were to take a snapshot of a single thought it wouldn’t make any sense – it is the continuous stream of thoughts that create meaning not the separate components.
The tendency to find difference rather than similarity and create discord rather than unity therefore runs counter to our basic biological functioning and to our innate natural disposition towards harmony.
The realization of holism in practice means that when we are faced with a situation we take time to look at all aspects to see it in the round or see it from every point of view.
When we meet a person that we dislike or do not agree with we try to expand our perspective, try to imagine the positive characteristics that may be hidden to us but that undoubtedly underlie the negative ones that we see. We try to envision that person in their wider life beyond this immediate interaction. We see them in their home, with their loved ones, at play, at prayer, in joy and suffering. We are all of us more than the façade we present, greater than our role, deeper than our skin, and never just our anger, or merely our actions.
The origin, transportation and destination of our own thoughts are invisible to us, and so often are their meaning. How can we expect that the opposite is true of others? How can we separate their current thoughts from their past thoughts; from where they came from, how they got here, and where they want to go to? And the same holds true for their actions: how can we separate their actions from their thoughts, their words from their deeds, their morning from their evening, their today from their yesterday, their hopes from their fears, their passion from their pain, and their perspective of us from our perspective of them?
This means that the only realistic approach is to take a ‘whole view’ of the world, a whole view of ourselves and a whole view of others and all of this together. You look at the big picture all of the time, and act not just out of self-interest but for the whole good of the community.
Humans are an exciting and complex mix of mental, emotional and spiritual features all existing within a social and holistic framework where we both contribute to the social world and are influenced by it.
The complete interconnectedness of the human race implies more than a common identity as a species but includes a collective consciousness or a form of super-consciousness. We are at once individual minds and part of the wider global mind of the human race.
This was acknowledged by one of the founders of the American school of pragmatic philosophy Charles Sanders Peirce towards the end of the 19th Century, when he said that Esprit de Corps, national sentiment and the will of large corporations were no mere metaphors. They reflected a common or aggregate personality of the groups of humans within them who were in “intensely sympathetic communion.”
This idea was echoed by other thinkers of the time who spoke of a group mind as an independent organism in its own right where we are co-conscious with one another in a “super-human intelligence.”
The Irish poet William Butler Yeats used the term spiritus mundi or "spirit of the world," to mean that each human mind is linked to a single vast intelligence, and that this intelligence causes certain universal symbols to appear in individual minds.
This seems very like the collective unconscious described by Carl Jung who himself advocated a concept borrowed from ancient alchemy of the unus mundas – literally ‘one world’ – a deeper unifying element that underlies both mind and matter. Jung’s concept of ‘synchronicity’ or meaningful “coincidences” is an example of such a unifying element expressed as a moment in time.
Our minds are structured in a way that facilitates this global collective activity. We couldn’t function as a social network unless we had a common system for absorbing and using information. Humans have developed a complex and effective hierarchical order of abstract concepts which allows us to make sense of the world. We are all born with this ability and we use it in the same way. It allows us to align our mind with other minds and without it the world would be chaotic.
This goes some way to explain the concept of the inseparable interconnectedness of the whole universe as the fundamental reality. This is a universal principle which is found in most religions and also emerges from Quantum theory, and applies even to the tiniest particles inside the atom. Everything, no matter how small or how great, corresponds to the whole. Atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people, buildings, cars, planes—all flow together seamlessly in a web of information and energy.
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