Open and relational (process) thinkers sometimes speak of four kinds of wholeness: whole persons, whole communities, a whole planet, and holistic thinking. These four kinds of wholeness are aspirational ideals. We can approximate them in our lives and in our communities, but they are always more than our approximations.
One liability of people interested in spirituality is that they - we - sometimes focus on personal wholeness at the expense of the others. We see spirituality primarily in individualist terms, forgetting that communities, too, can have spirituality or that the planet itself can be whole, flourishing with many forms of life. And one liability of people interested in whole community and whole planet is that they sometimes neglect personal wholeness, deeming it trivial compared to larger social concerns. We in the process world want to affirm all four. Hence the image of the the cloverleaf.
The question naturally arises: But what, after all, is wholeness?
Wholeness is harmony and intensity in the world we experience and in the way we experience the world.are degrees of wholeness.
There are degrees of wholeness. We can be more or less whole at some point in our individual and collective lives, and we can be whole in some ways but un-whole in others.
Wholeness is not reducible to happiness. Happiness can be an aspect of wholeness, but wholeness can include sadness and many other non-happy emotions. For example, it can include sharing in the suffering of others and participation in mutual grief.
Wholeness is not reducible to "meaning." Having a sense of purpose can be an important part of wholeness, but there is more to wholeness than purposiveness. People can live with a strong sense of purpose, whether directed to constructive or destructive ends, but not be whole.
Wholeness is not reducible to ethics or even to compassion. Compassion is a very important part of wholeness, but there is more to wholeness than compassion. Wholeness includes a sense of beauty, a capacity for playfulness, a sense of tragic beauty, and a sense of wonder.
Wholeness is not a completed state. Wholeness is always becoming, necessarily available to novelty. It is adaptive.
Wholeness is not reducible to inner or private peace. Having a sense of inner peace can be an important part of wholeness, but wholeness includes within its very nature the emotions and actions of other people and the natural world. Wholeness is always wholeness in community. Wholeness relational.
Wholeness is not self-deception. It includes honesty about sin and failure to live up to ideals: a recognition of the shadow side of life, including the shadow side of one's own life.
Wholeness does not hide from the painful side of life. It includes tragedy, accepting the fact that things happen in the world that are not meant to be and that are painful even for God.
Wholeness does not hide from joy. Wholeness includes a sense of tragedy, to be sure, but also a sense of joy, a love of life.
Wholeness is always relative to context, and the context sets the stage for what kinds of wholeness are needed and possible.
Wholeness is makes a person more sensitive, not less sensitive, to the poignancy and beauty of the world.
God is wholeness is process. God, understood as the living whole of the universe, is a Life in whose life all lives unfold. We live and move and have our being in divine Wholeness, which itself is in process along with the universe, even as it includes a non-temporal dimension.
When we touch wholeness in this life, personally or socially or planetarily or even in our thinking, we participating in God's ongoing life.
So what is wholeness? One way of answering the question is to say Wholeness is Beauty. The slide show below, offered by Patricia Adams Farmer through the Cobb Institute, presents this idea for your consideration.