From the Wilmette Institute’s library of Web Talks, you may want to check out a trilogy of talks that Dr. Robert Atkinson gave in November. The three talks examine these topics:
- From Duality to Oneness: A Bahá’í Perspective on Humanity’s Conscious Evolution
- The Dark Night of the Collective Soul: A Bahá’í Perspective on the Role and Purpose of Transformation in Society
- Reality Is One, and Global Harmony Is Inevitable: Building a Culture of Oneness
From Duality to Oneness. In his first talk, Dr. Atkinson began by saying that his presentation is a Bahá’í perspective on the unifying principles at the mystic heart of the world’s sacred traditions that are guiding humanity’s conscious evolution. Citing identifiable patterns found in nature, civilization, and religion, patterns confirmed in the Bahá’í writings, he talked about a three-part process: 1) our starting with an inherent consciousness of oneness; 2) our adopting through discord a consciousness of duality; and 3) our reclaiming our intended consciousness of oneness, with a global citizenship, global economy, and global unity.
Then he discussed three of seven unifying principles of our time: Consciousness is a potentiality set in motion by an organic process; Love is the underlying force of evolution; and Justice maintains the inherent balance of live. He said he would discuss four additional principles in his second and third talks. At the end of his first talk, Dr. Atkinson invited his listeners to participate in a Oneness Pledge: “In all my thoughts and actions, I pledge to look on all things with the eye of oneness.”
The Dark Night of the Collective Soul. Dr. Atkinson began his second talk with three passages from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “All things are subject to transformation and change”; “Creation is the expression of motion. Motion is life”; and Nothing is stationary in the material world of outer phenomena or in the inner world of intellect and consciousness.” He then cited his fourth principle: Unity is the result of the conscious confrontation of opposing forces, noting that change “is happening at a perilous pace,” reforming and transforming the world.
Dr. Atkinson explained the polarity principle with its pattern of birth/death/rebirth or separation/initiation/return or thesis/antithesis/synthesis and the necessity of adversity for effecting change. He asked whether this pattern of transformation holds as true on the collective level as it does on the individual level, answering with Shoghi Effendi’s assertion that collective growth is characterized by “a series of pulsations, of alternating crises and triumphs.” The way forward, in short, is through further pain and destruction. As Bahá’u’lláh has told us: “The object of every Revelation” is to “effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions.”
Dr. Atkinson ended with two questions that prompted some lively and penetrating discussion in the question-and-answer period:
- How do we understand the principle and process of transformation in relation to events and processes happening in the world now?
- How do we apply this understanding to our everyday lives and carry it out in our regular, focused action in the world?
Reality Is One, and Global Harmony Is Inevitable: Building a Culture of Oneness. In his third and final talk, Dr. Atkinson covered a number of aspects of building oneness: the nature of reality, the spiritual forces guiding us toward unity; re-visioning religion as a sacred tree; global movements of our time; and the actions most needed now. He ended with a six-minute mediation during which the listeners were asked to concentrate on oneness. He also discussed two additional unifying principles of our time: Reality is one, and global harmony is inevitable; and Revelation is continuous and progressive.
Dr. Atkinson’s discussion of revisioning religion as one sacred tree was illuminating, particularly with his comments on the Indigenous, Abrahamic, and Dharmic branches of one “unfolding, every-growing tree of many branches.” He noted that “the Bahá’í Faith came into existence in 1844 with a full developed understanding of the oneness of humanity—and, one might add, of the oneness of religion.
At the request of one of the listeners, Dr. Atkinson promised to send a PDF of his chart called “Reality as a Continuum”. On the chart he showed how one can start with a pragmatic-centered perspective that ends in war, while one can start with a principle-centered perspective and end with peace. We are, he says, “midwives for this rebirth of the planet.” We can “change the mind’s habits, transform consciousness, re-pattern our thinking, and create new ways of seeing the world, speaking about it, and acting in it. If we think, speak, and act with a consciousness of oneness, and establish this as a habit, we will create a pattern that allows us to live in oneness.”
Dr. Atkinson has adapted his trilogy of Web Talks from his 2017 book The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. He is an internationally acknowledged authority on life-story interviewing, personal mythmaking, and soul-making and is the author of nine books, including his most recent one, which Michael Bernard Beckwith, an American New Thought minister, author, and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California, has called “a must read by the widest of global audiences.”