Unified understanding is an ideal state of consciousness where we see nature as a whole and we recognise our place in it. It’s comforting to think that there was a time when people did have such an understanding and to hope that we might be able to recover it. But this could be a response to feeling that our world is being broken up. That creates anxiety and nostalgia for something that may not have existed.
Perhaps it’s better to think of unified understanding as a signpost rather than a destination. It points to a view of the world and of our existence that’s as inclusive as we can make it. In that sense it’s found in both religion and in science, although they remain divided.
But the divide is narrowing as the restrictive metaphysics of the past few centuries fades. There is renewed interest in panpsychism, which no longer treats consciousness as an anomalous intruder into a cosmos that is really nothing but a machine. Instead it seems that it may be as fundamental as space, time and matter. While science continues to be an exercise in taking the world apart, it’s been so successful that we’re now able to think about putting it back together again.
A worldview is forming that admits of true novelty and creative choice. It is a pathway around the bifurcation of nature that Whitehead and Bohm both deplored. To set out on it we can use beauty as a guide and let nature reveal itself, remembering that the journey is the goal.