It's a good day when I combine a tall nonfat vanilla latte with some stimulating philosophical conversation. This afternoon I enjoyed both in the company of Patricia Herron, a religious studies professor.
We get together periodically at the south Salem Beanery to solve the mysteries of the universe. Never quite get there, no matter how large the latte, but the journey is the thing.
Today we started out musing about nonduality and duality. It's fun to talk about the One, my favorite non-religious euphemism for "God."
But as countless mystics and philosophers have pointed out, as soon as you say anything about One, you've got Two. Ditto with a thought, emotion, intuition, or anything else about One.
So, basically, you've contradicted yourself right off the bat. Guess that's why Buddha did his holding-up-the-flower thing, though that's dualistic also.
Heck, everything is. Because as soon as there's a thing, there's at minimum two: the thing and someone aware of it.
Which led our musing down the trail of consciousness.
I said that when you try to get closer and closer to One, throwing out as many Twosies as possible – perceptions, thoughts, emotions, sensations, imaginations – reducing the contents of consciousness to bare bones, you're irreducibly left with…
Consciousness. Awareness. Knowing.
Because if consciousness was absent also, there'd be no awareness of One. There would just be One. And it's difficult to argue that One can be aware of itself, since then it'd be Two. Itself and its awareness of itself.
So knowing One, being aware of One, requires a consciousness that's separate from One.
I realize that all this sounds sort of abstract and intellectual (maybe a lot more than "sort of"). However, what we talked about is at the core of a whole lot of spiritual-religious-mystical seeking. And people go off in different directions depending on how they make sense of the One vs. Two business.
Countless times I've heard devout devotees say, "God is everything." Or, "The guru is everything; I am nothing."
I'd think, "Well, if you're nothing, how could you just tell me what you did?" More: do you really want to be nothing? Or is this just a way of speaking, and you really haven't considered the implications of what you're saying?
If God or the guru is everything, and you're nothing, there's just One. And you're on the outside of unity, looking in. How much sense does this make, though?
On the outside of unity? Where's that? How do you separate yourself from One, if it is truly One?
Beats me. And Patricia too. I've heard so much talk about the drop merging into the Ocean, the ray merging into the Sun, the soul merging into God.
But all that talk comes from people who obviously haven't done what they say is possible: merging completely with ultimate reality, a.k.a. "God."
Their talk is conceptual, theoretical, hypothetical. It isn't something they've experienced , because they're clearly still here in the world, as two'ish as you and I are.
The One isn't going to let you enter and leave again. All that coming and going would create dualities. So, yes, it's fun to speak about the One. However, that's just idle talk unless you can walk a One-way walk.
After which, there'd be no more talking. Or, walking.