The word kosmos in ancient Greek means “a harmony of parts.” In the classical world, everything in the universe was viewed as moving in relation to everything else. This ancient understanding of the cosmos is being born afresh today in radically new ways. We are realizing that the whole of reality is one. In nearly every dimension of life—whether economic or religious, scientific or political—there is a growing awareness of earth’s essential interrelatedness. This new-ancient way of seeing is radically challenging us to see ourselves as connected with everything else that exists. And it means that any true vision of reality must also be a cosmology, a way of relating the parts to the whole, of seeing our distinct journeys in relation to the one journey of the universe.
A few years ago, my wife and I went on pilgrimage to the Sinai. ~~~ On the last day, we made our way to Mount Sinai, climbed half of it on camel back, then hiked the centuries-old carved steps of stone to the peak for sunset. No one else was with us on the summit as the setting sun threw its red radiance across the great range of desert peaks. We visited the three shrines of prayer that honor the disclosure of the Holy Presence in this place—one Jewish, one Christian, one Muslim—and descended the mountain in silence. The moon was fat, and its whiteness shone off the desert sand, throwing moon shadows from the high rocks and the sharp turns of our descent. At the mountain base, we approached the fourth-century St. Catherine’s Monastery where we were to spend the night. In the moonlight it looked as it might have looked at any time in its sixteen centuries. And although it held within its walls a Christian monastic community, a burning bush revered by Jewish pilgrims, and a mosque prayed in by Muslins from around the world, under the moon’s light it looked as one.
Carl Jung speaks of “moon-like consciousness,” a way of seeing in which we more readily perceive oneness than differentiation. When I walk under the light of the moon, I am at times almost speechless with wonder. Under the moonlight, life’s edges are not so sharply defined. The boundaries are less distinct. In the daylight, in contrast, I have much more to say because I am seeing everything more analytically. The parts are easily distinguished from the whole. Moon-like consciousness is ours in dream life and meditative practice as well, as it is in some of our earliest memories of childhood….
The reality is that we need both…moon-like consciousness and sun-like consciousness, even if the latter has a way of highlighting the crude nature of our separations. We need the distinct wisdoms that underlie our different cultures and traditions. But without moon-like consciousness, without remembering that our human journey began as one and that the birth of the earth and its unfolding life are one, we will splinter further and further into fragmented parts in which we dangerously forget the whole. Sun-like consciousness alone, with its primary focus on differentiation—whether between individuals or nations or species—has proved to be inadequate. It is not enough. But today a new-ancient way of seeing is being born, a moon-like consciousness in which we are remembering also our oneness.
From John Philip Newell’s A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.