Oneness With the Universe

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

~ Black Elk

Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) was a Native American Sioux medicine man and warrior who lived in what is now South Dakota. Through an interpreter, Black Elk related his life story, his great vision, and details about his Native culture to John Niehardt. “Black Elk Speaks” was published by Niehardt in 1932 and has become an important source for understanding Native American culture.

The words of this holy man spoke to my heart as well as to my mind. Although I admit that I know very little about North American Native cultures in general and the Sioux culture, in particular, I find that I am attracted to its simplicity. One basic premise of Native religion, shared by many other world religions is the belief in a supreme being who goes by many names – in this instance, Wakan-Tanka. In this quote, Black Elk speaks to us not of the pursuit of happiness, but that of peace. He maintains, as revealed to him in his vision that there are three stages or types of peace.

Black Elk tells us that we must achieve the first peace within ourselves. Peace will dwell within our souls when we realize our relationship with the universe and everything within it. The foundation of this teaching is the Native belief that all things in the universe, animate and inanimate possess souls. This belief anchors the profound respect the Natives have for everything in Nature. Hence, the special prayers the Native hunter says or sings over the carcass of the animal he just killed for food. This respect is extended to their conservationist attitude that no part of the hunted animal is wasted. Future success for the hunter depended upon his respect for all life.

Black Elk goes on to talk about a person recognizing his or her oneness with the universe and all its powers. At first, I found this tough to grasp until I thought, different but similar. I am a creation of the one God – as is the rest of the universe. All matter within the universe has a beginning and an end – for animate beings – birth and death. I am a part of this great creation – no more, no less. This is my place. As with everything else in the universe I am unique yet similar. This also means that I am a part of everything else and it is a part of me. We, the universe and I, are inseparable.

He also says that each of us must recognize our oneness with the powers of the universe. Again, to speculate, I think he is referring to the powers to recreate ourselves, to grow and evolve into better beings. We have healing power – to heal ourselves as well as to assist in the healing of others. Also, we have the powers of life and death. Giving life, I see as a beautiful act. To bring about death, my own or anyone else’s, is another matter. Killing plants and animals to sustain our life is acceptable. Killing for sport is not. The circle of life is not just mine; I share it with all life forms in the universe – hence, our oneness. The universe does not stand still; it is in constant motion and is ever changing. We must be one with this motion, this movement, this growth.

If we accept our oneness, our belonging to the universe and its powers in the most fundamental ways, we will also discover that God is at the centre of the universe – at the center of ourselves. When we accept our oneness and find God within ourselves, this is the state of peace. There is no need to seek out God in the heavens or a church tabernacle, for the supreme being is within us. We are nourished and strengthened from within and thus find the courage we need to deal with life’s obstacles and challenges. From this truth, we can seek out peace with others and with other nations.

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

21 thoughts on “Oneness With the Universe”

  1. This is deep, John, a very deep philosophy. It is very similar to the way Africans think about nature. Very similar indeed, but that is thought for another time. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Exactly, Joy – the philosophy of every culture is deep – it is only prejudice that will lead people to think otherwise. It is one of the reasons why we can’t afford to let out North American Native cultures to whither away and die. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  2. I love this post. I just finished reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, and he speaks of attaining God from within. I think more and more people are starting to come into awareness and are seeking inner peace. I hope that we all find our path to it. 🙂

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  3. I was young when I first read Black Elk Speaks. Much like looking through the fog, I dimly saw its truth. Now I give a heart nod to Black Elk’s wise revelations, for life has taught me well – that we are all interconnected, that the one Creator animates us all. Therein lies the hope for peace…. Thank you for this beautiful reflection.

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    1. Thanks, Gwen, for sharing your life view on this topic. I think that as we get older and have lived more experiences, we are more open to these kinds of ideas AND we are better able to digest them. I appreciate your support today!

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  4. More people need have Peace within them, not just ‘with’ them. This comes naturally to some but not for most I suppose, though I believe everyone yearns for it whether they acknowledge it or not.
    Hope for peace has to be possible for this New Year and all the ones that follow. May yours be wondrous and full of possibilities John 🙂

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    1. You know, I honestly don’t think that this kind of inner awareness comes naturally to anyone. It is difficult, with all the distractions in our daily lives, to get in touch with our inner selves. I admire those who seem to do it effortlessly. I’m sure they have been working at it for years. Thanks, Jan, I hope your new year is full of wondrous things too!

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