Oneness was one of the most difficult concepts for me to grasp. Little did I know that it was more than just a concept. It was a feeling also; but not only a feeling, for it was foremost an actuality. I’ll get to this in a bit. Oneness is an idea that originated in Advaita Vedanta. It considers that the universe is non-dual, which basically means that it is one big thing as opposed to the more common view of the universe as formed of many little individual parts. In non-dualism, man is viewed not as separate from God, but as God himself.
This idea shouldn’t be so foreign to the average westerner, who was raised in the Christian tradition. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”, says 1 Corinthians 12:12. It continues with verse 15:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
I mean, look… the message is simple enough. Paul (the apostle) thought of Christ as the One (in Advaita, Brahman) and of what is commonly perceived as separate things of beings (including man) as integral to the One. He views the One as a body and the separate beings as members of the body. The body is not really a mechanism. One does not make a human being by assembling together hands, feet, fingers, eyes, ears and a head. So, the members of the body are not really “parts” like the brake pads or wheels of a car.
If I pinched your hand, wouldn’t it be you that I pinched? In other words, where do ‘you’ stop and another thing begins? Are you only your head? Your hand is as much you as your foot, your eyes, your molars and the hairs on your head are. In the same way, you, your neighbour, your neighbour's cat, the bird on the tree are all the Universe.
So when Jesus said, “Love thy brother as thyself”, it simply means love yourself; because you are the Universe and your brother is also the Universe. You may have also heard, “You can’t truly love anyone until you love yourself”. It’s the same thing! The other is you, and if you don’t love yourself, you don’t really love the other. You may be getting something from the relationship, but that’s it.
Alan Watts used to illustrate Oneness like this: “Just as an apple tree apples, so does the universe people.” Or, one could say, just as heads grow hair and fields grow grass, so does the universe grow humans.