In our world, ownership is revered. It’s so important to us, a large percentage of the laws in most countries deal with ownership and the protection of things that are owned. On top of that, we take the extra measures of serial numbers, insurance and security systems to protect what we claim as ours.  Ownership appears to be a natural result of our hard work, but ownership reveals an uglier motive: it’s also meant to exclude others from either using, enjoying or even seeing what we claim for ourselves. That sounds reasonable too until we look at the reasons why we want to protect things from others.

Quantum physics tells us that we live in a universe of oneness where nothing can be divided or exist in isolation. In fact, physicists tell us the universe is ‘non-local.’ Every object in the visible universe appears to be found in a specific place. That place may change, but two objects don’t occupy the same location at the same time. But in quantum reality, we can only say energy has a potential to be somewhere. Like a teaspoon of water dropped into the ocean, we can easily say that it’s anywhere and everywhere at the same time.

We make this point to illustrate the impossibility of ownership. Throughout history some cultures have recognized this fact and understood that everything the eye sees belongs to a continuous flow that we can use, but not own. The energy that makes up your body was once part of a star, and it has probably recycled through thousands of other forms throughout its existence. And you certainly can’t claim the air that breathes the body since it visits millions of other lungs too. Even the personality you think of as yourself is no more than a collection of other people’s thoughts and social conditioning that you’ve absorbed.

Although we often claim ownership of other living things, most of the things we possess have been thought of as inanimate until recently. But quantum research has discovered that consciousness permeates the universe, and many physicists now believe this consciousness is God. Spiritual masters have long recognized that everything exists within the Divine and is the Divine, but most religions have preached a separate God that exists outside the universe. This dualistic view supports the concept of ownership and refuses to acknowledge that we are attempting to own God.  When we understand that the Divine and the universe are synonymous, ownership becomes an absurd joke.

If ownership is impossible, why do we believe in it so thoroughly and cling to it so desperately? Although our true Self is indivisible, non-local oneness, we’ve used consciousness to project the illusion of separation. Few things contribute to the feeling of separation more than ownership and the ability to restrict others from using the things that we claim as our own. Along with separation, we wanted to experience the specialness that has no place in oneness. And it hardly needs saying that the accumulation of ‘stuff’ screams specialness like nothing else.

But where have separation and specialness led? What is the result of our insatiable desire for ownership? In 2006 the World Wildlife Federation reported that our appetite for ownership is “outstripping the earth’s capacity to regenerate resources” and if we continue at the same rate, “in 50 years we will need two planet’s worth of resources each year to keep up.”

Every desire outside of oneness is eventually bound to fail. And even as we own and hoard more ‘stuff’, our conspicuous consumption fails to bring us anything other than passing pleasure.  There’s nothing wrong with using and enjoying things, but enforcing separation and specialness with them can never replace the joy of oneness.

How do we release ourselves from the dualistic thought system that’s fueled our desire to call everything ‘mine?’ The ancient philosopher Plotinus told his students, “Those who take the upward path divest themselves of all they have put on during their downward journey” We can stop the downward spiral of separation and specialness by remembering we are Divine oneness and divest ourselves of thoughts and attitudes that we no longer find valuable. As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out, “You don’t have to renounce any of [your possessions] you have to renounce the possessor.”

 Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of The Beginning of Fearlessness: Quantum Prodigal Son, a spiritual quest and scientific adventure.

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