Are Non-Dual Teachings Deemed Heretical by the Church?

Q: “Do non-dual Christian leaders such as yourself, Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault have to worry that your non-dual teachings will be deemed heretical by the Church? I have always thought that that fear keeps nonduality Christian teachers from publicly expressing the depth of their nondual beliefs.”

Ilia DelioIlia: Non-duality is the belief that entities do not exist in opposition to one another or separate from one another.  Non-dualism is another name for unity.  The concept of non-duality is ancient and arose with Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and the primacy of pure consciousness. Quantum physics has opened up a new interest in non-duality in so far as consciousness plays an active role in measurement and thus in the description of reality.  The physicist David Bohm developed a theory of implicate order based on quantum physics to describe a wholeness in nature. He once said that if our eyes had no lenses, the entire universe would appear as a hologram. Even on the level of biology, we are beginning to realize that wholeness and non-duality comprise nature. Harold Bloom in his book The Global Brain describes the network of life on Earth as one that is a global brain in which each of us plays a sometimes conscious role.    Arthur Koestler proposed the word holon to describe the hybrid nature of sub-wholes and parts within in vivo systems. A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and part.[i] From this perspective, holons exist simultaneously as self-contained wholes in relation to their sub-ordinate parts, and dependent parts when considered from the inverse direction.  Koestler defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons that functions first as autonomous wholes in supra-ordination to their parts, secondly as dependent parts in sub-ordination to controls on higher levels, and thirdly in coordination with their local environment. Holarchy is the principle of holons or whole/parts whereby the number of levels in a holoarchy describe its depth.[ii] David Splangler distinguishes hierarchy from holarchy in this way: “In a hierarchy participants can be compared and evaluated on the basis of position, rank, relative power, seniority and the like. But in a holarchy each person’s value comes from his or her individuality and uniqueness and the capacity to engage and interact with others to make the fruits of that uniqueness available.”[iii]  Ken Wilber notes that evolution produces greater depth and less span; as the individual holon acquires greater depth, the span or the collective gets smaller and smaller.[iv] A whole atom is part of a whole molecule; a whole molecule of part of a whole cell; a whole cell is part of a whole organism. Similarly, the human person is a whole society. Reality is composed of neither wholes nor parts but of whole/parts—holons—or what Ken Wilbur calls integral systems.[v]

The word “catholic” comes from the Greek katholikos meaning “according to the whole.”  Catholicity is consciousness of the whole and undergirds a way of life towards wholeness.  Hence as Ignatius of Antioch realized in the second century it was the best word to describe the early Christians, a religion of new wholeness with God at the center.   Jesus was a wholemaker.  Jesus’ deep oneness with God empowered his sense of catholicity, a non-dual consciousness of belonging to the whole and the whole belonging to God.  He lived from this wholeness by going “all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing people from every kind of disease and sickness” (Matt 4:23).  He constantly challenged others to “see,” to awaken to the presence of God and to be part of an undivided whole, the “kingdom” (or “kin-dom”) of God, where Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female are invited as equals to the divine banquet.  He reached out to everyone and invited each person into a new relatedness with God and neighbor, challenging the powerful and raising up the poor.  Jim Marion claims that “Jesus saw there was no separation between himself and any other person. . . .He saw all human beings (and indeed the whole created universe) as part of himself.”[vi] The catholicity of Jesus’ message is this:  we are to realize the whole we are part of and to love the whole; to find a conscious voice of praise and glory to God in the whole, and to creatively participate in this unfolding reign of God. Jesus saw that all life is shared life. He went out of his way to emphasize the all-inclusiveness of God’s merciful love and he tried, at every opportunity, to raise the level of consciousness to a higher level, in order to attract a new wholeness.  Jim Marion writes:

He deliberately praised the faith of the pagan Roman centurion as superior to many in his religion (Luke 7:9).  He did the same in the case of the pagan Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28).  Jesus deliberately spoke at length with the Samaritan woman even though, in his culture, men almost never discussed serious matters with women, and even though Samaritans were considered heretics and there shunned by orthodox Jews (Jn 4:7-26).   He deliberately told the story of the good Samaritan who, unlike the priest and the other Jewish religious officials, showed himself the true neighbor to the man robbed and beaten along the road (Lk 10:30-37).   And to the constant scandal of the morally separatist and righteous, Jesus made a habit of associating with people, such as tax-collectors and even prostitutes, whom his society considered sinners (Matt 9:10).[vii]

His law of love is the law of the whole.  His acts of healing expressed God’s compassionate love for the wounded of this world, showing that God desires to liberate men and women from suffering, if we ourselves desire to be made whole.   “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man, Bartimeus.  “Rabbi, I want to see,” he said.  “Go, your faith has healed you” (Mk 10:49-51).  God’s desire for healing must be our desire for healing, just as God’s desire for unity must be our desire for unity.  Salvation is not a spiritual grace alone; it is a physical and bodily healing that “embraces health, sanity, relationships, community and wholeness.”[viii]  God’s healing love embraces the whole of reality but one must be receptive to God’s love for wholeness to be realized.

The Church cannot condemn non-dual consciousness because non-duality is the heart of the Gospel message.  The challenge is to live this new consciousness in a way that aligns with nature itself and with a world of change. Teilhard de Chardin spoke of Gospel wholeness as theogenesis.  Teilhard described a unitive principle undergirding wholeness and called this principle “Omega.”  Omega is the most intensely personal center that makes everything personal and centered.[ix]  It is both in evolution and independent of evolution, within and yet distinct from the process itself.[x]  As the principle of centration that is both within and ahead, Omega emerges from the organic totality of evolution.[xi]  It is operative from the beginning of evolution, acting on pre-living cosmic elements even though they are without individualized centers, by setting them in motion from the beginning, a single impulse of energy.[xii]   Omega is God who is within and ahead.  Teilhard claimed, in the future only a God who is functionally and totally ‘Omega’ can satisfy us.  While in the case of a static world, the creator is structurally independent of his work–in the case of an evolutive world, the contrary is true.  God is not conceivable except in so far as he coincides with evolution but without being lost in, [sort of a ‘formal’ cause] the centre of convergence of cosmogenesis [n].  The God who is in evolution cannot be a God who creates from behind but must be ahead, the prime mover who is Omega.  His faith in Christ led him to posit Christ, the future fullness of the whole evolutionary process, as the “centrating principle,” the “pleroma” and “Omega point” where the individual and collective adventure of humanity finds its end and fulfillment.  Jesus is Omega incarnate.  The one who is in evolution is himself the cause and center of evolution and its goal.

Jesus’ catholicity is a new consciousness for a new cosmos, a living banquet of life empowered by God.  His program of life is not only to be attentive to the whole, of which each of us is a part, but to create a new whole by receiving the Spirit, the life-giving energy of God, and participate in the emerging “kin-dom” of mutuality and shared life.

Non-duality is the heart of the Christian message.  It is this new level of consciousness that is deeply needed in the world today.  We would do to refocus our attention from a Church in crisis to a Church in evolution and realize the great call into new life.



[i] For a discussion of holons see Cannato, Radical Amazement, 94 -102; Judy Cannato, Fields of Compassion:  How the New Cosmology is Transforming Spiritual Life (Notre Dame, IN:  Sorin Books, 2010);Ken Wilbur, A Theory of Everything (Boston:  Shambhala Publications, 2000).

[ii] Mark Edwards, “A Brief History of Holons,”

[iii]  Wiki pedia  holon/ holoarchy

[iv]  Wilbur, Theory of Everything, 50.

[v] Ken Wilbur, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: the spirit of evolution (Boston:  Shambala, 2001), ??

[vi]  Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ:  The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality (Charlottesville, VA:  Hampton Roads, 2000), 8.

[vii]   Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ

[viii]  Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos, 54.

[ix]   Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, trans. René Hague (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1970), 112.

[x]   In this respect, Omega is like the strange attractor of chaos theory; within the system and yet different from the system’s pattern of behavior.  For a discussion on chaos theory see Ilia Delio, The Emergent Christ: Exploring the Meaning of Catholic in an Evolutionary Universe (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis, 2011), 26-7.

[xi]  Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, 114.

[xii]   Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, 121.


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  1. Robert J Blakely on October 14, 2022 at 10:58 am

    This morning I finally decided to open a copy of the Bhagavad Gita that I purchased years ago but never got around to until now. As I read the introduction I came across the concept of non-dualistic theism. I looked it up to get a better sense of its meaning and I was led to your excellent article. In it you referenced Arthur Koestler, Teilhard de Chardin, and Ken Wilbur. I have read each of them independently but I was pleasantly surprised to see them related to one another in your article. You have re-ignited my interest in these writers. I have also added David Bohm’s book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order to my Kindle. I thank you for this renewal. I am deeply grateful.

  2. […] the cosmos of complexifying, deepening and unifying wholeness that we embody and are becoming.Ilia Delio says: “The word ‘catholic’ comes from the Greek katholikos meaning ‘according to the […]

  3. Jack eisenman on May 27, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    This idea of non duality conscious is anew and radical change for me because I viewed the universe from the subject object perspective
    Thank you for enlightened awareness

  4. jpbray57 on May 2, 2022 at 8:54 am

    I say to Christians to read the Bhagavad Gita, then return to the Bible. This will illuminate the non duality of Bible like.never before. Thus moving from a belief system into knowledge of your true self.

  5. Jack Tacchino on February 12, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Thank you so much!

  6. Mary Pat Jones on March 29, 2019 at 2:37 am

    I just wanted to add this to minimize any confusion on what I wrote earlier in above entry about the integral view (map) . Ken Wilber often reminds us when studying Integral Theory that “The Map Is Not The Territory” but as he proceeds to say; “A good map is nice to have if your trying to break out of prison.” Another analogy I like to remember is; ” You can go to a great restaurant and explore the beautifully written menu, but you can’t eat the menu. I think Integral theory should be taught at different levels in school. Branches are being developed in various fields. We increasingly see more holistic options being included in many dimensions throughout our evolving world.

    As far as state experiences, In my opinion a fleeting “very subtle or a causal experience” is permeated with the awe of Absolute Love, timelessness, the disappearance of a sense of “me” along with undeniable unity. The experience and freedom of no “me” in the presence of Love is intimate and communal at the same time.

    I’ve only known this experience once, but it changed my life forever. Prior to this I had struggled greatly with the Church that I remain so grateful to for my origins, yet increasingly discouraged with its leaderships refusal to evolve. I realize many cultures do not demand change, but our blessed Thomas Keating’s hopeful perspective of the Church as a conveyor belt has YET to evolve. The let go, let be posture I accepted as I continued to broaden my studies and exploration folded in on itself. For a long time I could not find reconciliation within. I did continue to be a part of a Centering Prayer group.

    I had become obsessed with the Church’s narrow perspective on “free will” in light of life’s complexity. I was continually encountering so much blocking in patients because of their self loathing and overall lack of healthy spiritual guidance, which was met with no real spiritual guidance, since in my area of nursing, early perceptions of religion were largely the reason talk of faith was so loaded with issues and literally feared, and for some rightfully so as they needed so much regression therapy in service of the ego that faith couldn’t be verbally communicated, only demonstrated.

    I had an unusual meltdown upon arriving home after a very sad 3-11 shift. My husband was on the road that week. It was just Buddy, our golden retriever and me. Poor Buddy was startled and jumped to my side when I yelled Bull…..t. This is so f—-d up. I don’t want or need any assurance of merciful peace unless all, no matter how deviant on mankind’s scale they are in this life or whatever realms we may travel, until ALL have the CAPACITY to KNOW deep in their bones, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, no matter what preceeds our behaviors, I will remain in hell with them unless all will someday know relief from their minds that are destroying them and/or others!!! I was raging and I had not ever raged. I meant it with every shred of my being. After I was done I immediately felt both deep shame and some relief. I reassured my poor dog and cried myself to sleep. I woke up feeling more grounded for having my crazy disturbing night.

    I had always been an optimist. I was in a very health relationship with three healthy children who all had graduated from college and were in careers very meaningful to them. I was certified in Behavioral Health and Addiction after working hospital general medicine and community health. I had been a hospice coordinator. I had been in the field for many many years. I’ve always worked beside many devoted people on locked units, addiction units, ran groups, did in-home visits with pt/family for prevention, networked with several agencies and our funding at times increased temporarily but for some insane reason money dried up and again mental health was and still is is the step great grandchild in this country. This is a broad field and many of our patients are in county jails and prisons. In spite of all of our advancement in genetics and understanding of cultural background influences, basic developmental studies, poverty studies, neglect studies, understanding of various personality disorders, addictions, major mental illnesses, all forms of neurosis, PTSD, eating disorders, on and on, we continue regressing in our efforts to meet the needs of our communities. We have a very, very serious shortage of psychiatrists, we have more psychiatric nurse practitioners but all of our doctors and staff are having to work long past retirement age because replacements are so scarce. We need to change our approach to an Integral designed curriculum for all levels of staff and patient care. We need to get a voice, but without huge change in approach that won’t happen. We can no longer treat with so many lines in the sand, our academies are too power seeking and conservative. The cost of college level integral education in these areas of need should be reduced to meet the demands. Our insurance and health care in general must reflect our moral values. While meds are now “cleaner” with less side effects, the majority never get them because of lack of coverage. We must vote with our values instead of clinging to our comfort levels.

    It was shortly after my outburst that I received the jolt of our endless Absolute Love and Oneness. It was in the middle of a shift, I was working on a discharge with someone who had been in and out of our doors a couple of times before, and had lost a lot, but now found the courage to use all of her trials for good. She had done the work and finally now really realized we were never meant to go it alone. The Awareness I experienced during that discharge was spontaneous, words fall very short. I had and continue to do the work of recognizing projection and transference and countertransference. This was not that, however it was in the space of “We”. I didn’t think it, I just knew it in a way beyond what was imaginable. I didn’t say anything about It, but accompanying this deep certainty was a marked change in energy, sensed even in the space around me throughout the shift while interacting with others and even in inanimate objects and going through hallways, there was a flow and everything was effortless, it lasted even after I left the hospital and walked among the trees by the parking lot to my car. It ebbed away and trying to capture it again was futile. Nothing like that had happened before or since. Life has not ever been the same.

    We do eventually transcend our egoic limitations without losing our ability to live in this reality.
    There really is a lessoning of the sense of “me”. We get so trapped in our sense of “me”. Our unique essence is not limited. We are all interconnected. As Ken Wilber once said “We become more permeable, we experience more joy and more sorrow, but our capacity to embrace all of it becomes even greater. The truth of all of this has since been painfully tested. Our beloved daughter Lori died on December 25th 2015 two days before her 45th birthday. She lost her battle with alcoholism accompanied by health related issues. Devastation is a powerful but familiar word. We don’t face it alone, we go through it with all through the ages who have fought this disease and those who have been left behind and all who are living with it now. Love is greater than our greatest sufferings even death. We heal by Christ’s healing love within us as we heal each other in the transmission of that same endless timeless Love . We are broken yet stronger, her tender soul lives on and we are never apart.

    Absolute Love never dies, Mercy endures, our human condition will evolve no matter what form we may take or no form. May we endlessly go forth to serve with peace, love and joy in our hearts. We need not fear what we encounter, our courage and strength in adversity is shown by our deep timeless Love. We together in the fullness of Christ go forth.

  7. Mary Pat Jones on March 24, 2019 at 3:31 am

    I’ve thought and said it often. The inclusiveness of an Integral view is absolutely incredulous in it’s endless perspectives. While on limited and varying levels I cognitively grasp more and more of this theory, and can sometimes “see” systems, I’ve had enough moments of pure awareness to know its truth. As Divine awe ebbs, what I perceived as complex, big and cumbersome is now clearly navigated, with far less attachment to outcome. I’m lighter and able to take myself far less seriously in a good way while being even more committed to the “sacred fabric” of this, our evolutionary journey with the gnosis that in the realm of timelessness “WE” through the Trinity have always been present, Involution/evolution.

    I do intuit this shift and am so grateful for the leadership Omega is offering. I believe our capacity for holding paradox will increase through the communion of our faithfulness in the fullness of Christ, which for me includes all world religions, ecology, all that falls under the umbrella of science, including the soft sciences.

    My husband and I are in our early 70’s, we are transitioning from our move from Iowa to South Carolina. In the flurry of having left loved ones behind in the harsh winter and now floods, along with our national politics, disturbing global leadership trends and more acts of terrorism, Omega Center is transmitting a brilliant, radiating candle in the darkness to each of us through our own built in “homing device” (a tender term coined by Cynthia Bourgeault.) Our prayers are with you in your transition. Thank you for the love, hope and guidance you are offering. I’m excited about the opportunity that is unfolding.

  8. Beth Smith on March 22, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Ilia, thank you for these thoughts…I feel this idea of unity deep in my bones..and it frustrates me to no end when people I know and in some cases love, reject this idea of unity with all beings…but i also liked your mention of the “desire” to be made whole…I guess sometimes I just want everyone, especially those I love, to desire this wholeness…(my co-dependent personality). At any rate, thank you for your thinking, your writing is a real blessing to my spiritual life…as well as the practical side of things. Blessings..


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