Here and Now: Inclusion

​When we live in the present moment with the fullness of our true personhood in play, we experience inclusion and offer it to others.  We are included in everything, and everything is included in us.  As Richard Rohr has put it, everything belongs.

Our Buddhist friends understand this better than many Christians do.  They call it interbeing, the sense that we are each part of a fundamental and pervasive oneness.  Another name for it is unitive consciousness. Prior to the Enlightenment, Christianity recognized this along with other philosophies and religions.  

With the rise of the Age of Reason, science and mechanics began to see things in pieces and parts.  The Church’s theology followed suit, losing a defining sense of cosmic oneness so that to bring it up today doesn’t even sound like Christian faith–but in the larger sweep of history, it is.  In fact, unitive consciousness has been the milieu of theology more than separateness. [1]

The tree named Pano in northern Utah illustrates the idea.  When you arrive to see it, your first thought is that you are entering a forest–one made up of approximately 46,000 trees.  But the fact is, Pano is one tree (root ball) that has come through the soil with thousands of manifestations.  The expressions are different, but all of them are part of an invisible union.  Everything belongs.

Henri Nouwen wrote beautifully and powerfully about this, “To pray, that is, to listen to the voice of the One who calls us the ‘beloved,’ is to learn that that voice excludes no one. Where I dwell, God dwells with me and where God dwells with me I find all my sisters and brothers. And so intimacy with God and solidarity with all people are two aspects of dwelling in the present moment that can never be separated.” [2]

When we live in the present moment, we are given “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Mark 8:18), and with our spiritual senses we recognize a larger unity than our specific diversity reveals.  Beneath the surface of things we all are the manifestations of a singular Reality.  “In him we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Everything belongs.  Interbeing.  Inclusion.

Once we recognize this, we live differently from then on.


[1] In the Christian tradition, the Orthodox Church has represented unitive consciousness more clearly than Roman Catholicism.  The Protestant tradition is a mixture.  The Wesleyan tradition was more unitive (“and”) than separatist (“either/or”) until a segment of it was taken over by a rationalist way of thinking.  Paul Chilcote has written an excellent book about the unitive nature of Wesleyan theology, ‘Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision’ (InterVarsity Press, 2004).

[2] Henri Nouwen, ‘Bread for the Journey’ (HarperCollins, 1997), November 24th.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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