What's Wrong with the Standard Spiritual-Not-Religous movement Part 2: "We're All One"


WARNING: What follows is just my point of view. I share it in hopes of helping others like me who want an alternative to the typical standard spiritual-not-religious point of view. If you’re happily satisfied with those teachings, this might not be for you.


This is the second in a 3-part series about ways I think the “standard spiritual-not-religious” movement gets it wrong.

UPDATE: The series has now been posted in its entirety.  Each post in the series takes on a typical teaching from the Standard Spiritual-Not-Religious textbook.  The posts are:

First, the common ground: I believe in the beauty and value of sitting down at the table with many religions and traditions.  In studying and living by underlying principles, rather than confining myself to one religion’s doctrine.

And I believe in standing up and speaking my truth.

So you be the judge and see if what I say rings true for you.

The SSNR Teaching

In this post, we'll talk about a main idea promoted by The SSNR: the teaching that we’re all one.

Here's how that teaching goes.

The universe is an expression of Spirit.  It is Spirit in physical form.  And because Spirit is complete and perfect, so to, this Universe is complete and perfect.  We are all one organism.  Distinctions between ‘in here’ and ‘out there,’ ‘you/me,' are false.  Our appearing separate from one another is an illusion.  There is only perfect harmony, unity and oneness in Spirit.  We are all one.

Students of The SSNR are encouraged to embrace the truth of this perfection, and thereby experience a relief from their problems.

The problem (the teaching goes) is that you think you have a problem.  Your perception is wrong.  You are creating problems by believing the delusion of separateness.

Uhhh...  Welllll.....

Here’s the thing, though.

Saying “we’re all one” is like saying ‘time is an illusion.’

Saying “we’re all one” is like going to the movies and saying ‘it’s only a delusion.’

Let me explain.

Macro and Micro

There are several ways to look at anything.  One option is to take a bird’s eye macro view; another option is of course, the closer micro view.

Let’s look at the wide view first.

It's macro time.


Macro is a prefix from a Greek word that means large.

This large, or wide view can also be described as Feminine.  It’s holistic.  It looks at the entire situation, instead of dropping down into it.

OK, now back to the examples we’re using.

  • time is an illusion
  • the movies

First, I admit it.  Time really is an illusion.

That’s the bigger picture as we understand it (thank you Albert Einstein).  But it’s not very helpful to fixate on, because it’s not true on the level at which we live our lives.  It’s a really neat concept to realize here and there, and there's an aura of magic about it if you want to meditate on it sometimes.

But even if your boss believes time is an illusion, too, if you keep showing up late to work, you’ll be fired.

Is your boss being spiritually immature and delusional?  No.

He’s being a responsible adult.

After all, you agreed to have the experience of working, not to sit around reminding each other about how time is only an illusion.  You’re fired.

When you go to the movies, do you fixate on the fact that you’re staring at a white vinyl screen with light shining on it?

Please tell me you don’t.

Come on.  Don’t tell me you pay to 'not be delusional' for 180 minutes.

You go to the movies to experience a story, not to fixate on the physics and biology of how the human eye perceives light at 24 frames per second (or 48, if you’re watching The Hobbit: an unexpected journey.  Thank you Peter Jackson.)

Seeing time as an illusion and movies as light on a screen are both macro ways of viewing those situations.  It’s the wide view.

Let’s talk a little more about how this macro view is Feminine.

In a way, you can see how the macro takes the situation as a whole and sees it as a grand dance.  It’s like looking at a snow globe and enjoying the undulating particles all together, all contained in one neat little sphere.  It’s a static, package deal.  It carries an aura of mystery and wonder.  The details can be vague and nebulous, but it’s all somehow playing off each other in a dance of cooperation that just works.

But when you drop down into that snow globe, or into time, or into the movie, that’s when some action really starts.  Now you’re in the micro view.


Micro is the prefix meaning small.

It’s the view of the parts within the situation. 

When you go to the movies, you go to experience it from the inside.

You go to experience a story.

It’s about the dangers,  the battles, the relationships between characters.  It’s the tension and pressure between things - ideas, people, kingdoms, causes.

If it were just one thing throughout the whole movie - if it were just the whole Earth seen from outer space for 2 hours - it’d be beautiful, but it wouldn’t be a story.

To drop down to Earth, to get among its people, their struggles, their anguish, their triumphs...that’s a movie.  That’s a story you sink into for 2 hours (or 3 if it’s Titanic.)

You laugh, you cry.  You cheer, you cringe.  You learn and you love better, as a result of allowing yourself the delusion of the story.

In the best cases, you use it to train and transform yourself into a better person.

This micro view is Masculine.  It's dynamic.  It’s about the disparate parts asserting themselves against one another.  It’s competitive.  There are winners and there are losers.  It can feel heated and harried.  It calls you out, challenges you to take up arms on one side or another.

How The SSNR Gets It Wrong

So, back to The SSNR.  The standard spiritual-not-religious teachings keep coming back to things like:

  • we’re all one
  • separateness is only an illusion
  • the problem is you think you have a problem

What's happening is The SSNR is assuming that the macro/Feminine view is somehow better, more mature, and more spiritually evolved than the micro/Masculine view.

That’s why I say The SSNR is biased and unbalanced towards the Feminine aspect.

There’s a common saying in The SSNR: you’re not a human being having a spiritual experience; you’re a spiritual being having a human experience.

My answer to that is: so have your human experience.  

Have it.

Embrace it.  Live it.

Enjoy your movie.  You paid for the ticket.  You’re in the theatre.

Do not spend all your time now focusing on the white vinyl screen.

The Alternative: Firekeepers

Let’s do this human thing.

Sure you can continually shake yourself back to focusing on the white vinyl...

...or you can drop down into the experience and enter a world that’s rich and deep and full of incredible heart and heartbreak.  It might hurt at times, it might be frustrating and terrifying at times.

But this is the experience you get to have.

You get to be human.

What I propose is a spiritual culture and community in love with the ‘delusion’ of humanity.

This study and community values physicality as a way to engage in spiritual training and growth.

It admires the skills and knowledge passed down from our ancestors for the same reason.  Skills like gardening, sewing, carving, weaving, reading the skies and wind and water.  Working with animals, bushcraft and survival skills.

It peers into myths and legends and embraces the heart we have for adventure and romance.

It loves telling the stories of our ancestors, and re-telling them for our modern time.

In this study and community, there is no reflexive rush to solve or sooth upsetting problems with the phrase “we’re all one.”

The macro/feminine view is honored and respected.  But so is the micro/masculine.

There is much to experience, and learn, and love.

Yes we are all part of the same planet and universe but we are born one by one.  We are individuals as well.