It seems that new age and spiritual folk have alighted on yet another boon – non-duality. Of course, by introducing a particular notion of this kind we immediately create duality. I have to admit it pains me to have to use these terms since I’ve always disliked fashions. Nonetheless a brief exploration might be useful.
Normally we think of the world as mind and matter. Non-duality is an assertion that it’s all one thing. This is not a new assertion, some western philosophers have been saying this for centuries but western philosophy is not so fashionable, and so non-duality calls upon Advaita (literally meaning “not two”). Advaita is associated with Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy, with the lure of the east. In my opinion the eastern tradition comes with much less understanding than the western philosophical tradition.
It would seem that the solution to our misery comes through realizing that all is one. But again we create a duality – our current situation and a new situation that comes about through non-duality. I think this new fashion might drive more people to the madhouse than anything that has come before it.
You might want to listen to people like Rupert Spira pontificate on non-duality. What is glaringly missing from their other-worldly account of things is the grubby reality of life – anger, envy, hatred, lying, sex, violence. This unwillingness to visit these topics is understandable from a marketing perspective – our lives are full of these so-called negative things and we really don’t want to be reminded of them. And so we embark upon a new exercise in denial of reality and seek a non-dual world where everything is just fine.
What these people miss is that substantial reality (God if you like) is to be found in the gutter of experience. Our need to create a philosophy that makes everything okay is an insult to the reality of our existence. Our life is made up of desire, hatred, sex, fear, emotions, pleasure, pain – why run away from them and deny life?
There is a habit in the west of assuming that any philosophical system that comes from the east must be true. We fall in love with the strange sounding words, the rituals, the exotic dress. Marketing people rely on the same dynamics – forget the product, people buy into the lifestyle. I go with U G Krishnamurti – most of what comes from the east is just the ramblings of acid heads.
The western philosophical tradition tends to be centered on the use of reason, and without reason we are like a ship without a rudder believing any alluring story that we might come across. Traditions based on reason also have a long history but have always been a minority interest – the power possessors do not want a thinking population. Buddhism, Christianity, and Indian religions have all been used to suppress the masses.
I don’t doubt that we will see a proliferation of non-duality books, gurus, social media mention, videos and the like. But as they say in the investment community – the masses are always wrong (which is why the few make a killing).