Oneness Measured by Psychologists

I would like to commend Garfield and his colleagues for a refreshing article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion last year that actually recognized and measured the core of religious experience: oneness. An original experience of oneness is at the core of all religions, and oneness is the place where mystics of all traditions can meet each other with understanding. This is a great additional measure of religiosity that taps into the deepest part of spirituality, and that has eluded researchers heretofore.   For many years, religiosity has been measured by such simple things as frequency of prayer or attendance at worship. Over time, other measures were developed that delved into other aspects of religiosity such as religious orientation, but none of them really reached to the heart of the matter, until now. The work done by Garfield and colleagues is a great step forward in the measurement and understanding of religiosity.


Belief in oneness is crucial to further human spiritual development. Our current religious traditions come from ancient worldviews and practices that have little bearing on contemporary life, and do not provide much common ground for global cooperation and unity. What is needed now is a new spirituality that engages that powerful core spiritual experience of oneness that is encountered in contemplative or mystical prayer. This is not something new, it is simply something less. If our current religious traditions could divest themselves of their cultural trappings and turn to contemplation, there could very well be a greater chance of unity and cooperation among peoples. This would be an unmitigated good that has not been possible while under the sway of ancient dogmas and traditions that have historically led to violence.


This article presents research findings that show those with oneness beliefs were more likely than others to have pro-environment attitudes and behaviors, and this is another very positive aspect of oneness. If oneness beliefs can be shown to be beneficial for our beleaguered environment, a more contemplative spirituality should clearly be fostered.


The difficulty lies in changing people’s minds. Deep change is what is called for here, and that takes generations. In the meantime, we may annihilate ourselves through war or other disaster, but we must nevertheless move ahead and implement contemplative spirituality and values, even though it is only in small increments. Occasionally, change can come more swiftly.


The article is cited below; I recommend it highly.


Garfield, A. M., et al. (2014). The Oneness Beliefs Scale: Connecting Spirituality with Pro-Environmental Behavior. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(2):356–372.


Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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