Oneness has a lot of appeal.
It's simple. Nothing is simpler than one. (Well, maybe nothing is simpler, but since there is no way to know what nothing is like, since it doesn't exist, who knows?)
Also, oneness has a lot in common with love.
Love brings us together, which is a big step toward being one. Duality, on the other hand (a good phrase to use when talking about duality), posits two things that are inherently different.
Like most people, I've had the idea that Eastern forms of spirituality are more into oneness that Western forms are. The cartoon above captures the notion from a Buddhist perspective. It's difficult to imagine a Christian or Jewish version of the joke.
The Greeks were the source of Western dualism. Here's an excerpt from a book that I'm enjoying a lot, Jeremy Lent's "The Patterning Instinct."
The eternal soul, Plato explains, knew all about the immutable world of Ideas before it was incarnated. At birth, when the soul is forced to leave the world of Ideas and become fused with a mortal body, it forgets most of its previous knowledge. Thus, the goal of philosophy, in purifying the soul from the body's pollution, is not to learn new truths but to rediscover the Truth that was already known to the soul prior to its incarnation.
...Here, in Plato's cosmology, is the beginning of the cascade of dualism that would structure the European tradition of thought about the nature of humanity and the universe all the way to the present. In this constellation of ideas that would become endemic throughout Western civilization, the human capacity for abstract thought is linked with the soul, which, in turn, is linked with truth, and truth with immortality. The body, as part of the changeable material world, is associated with sensory appetite, ignorance, and death.
Soul and body. Heaven and earth. Truth and illusion. Spirit and matter. Good and evil. Eternity and time.
These are the sorts of dualisms that have split the Western mind for thousands of years. ("Mind," by the way, has largely replaced "soul" since Descartes. But many, if not most, Westerners still believe that mind has an immaterial basis, as does consciousness.)
So Eastern forms of thought and spirituality attract people who are turned off by the rigid dualism of Western religions. In my case, I embraced Indian philosophy because I believed it was markedly more into oneness than Christianity and Judaism.
Well, over the years I changed my mind.
The form of meditation I learned from an Indian guru was intensely dualistic. It was aimed at leaving behind awareness of the body and senses in order to experience a form of "soul travel" that led to knowledge of realms beyond the physical.
You can't get much more dualistic than that.
In these passages Lent explains how ancient India embraced a form of dualism that differed in some respects from that of the Greeks, but still was based on the same sorts of splits found in Christianity. After quoting from the Maitri Upanishad, he writes:
The realization of oneness in breath, mind, and the senses seems a long way from the Platonic notion of the separation of mind and body. In fact, an influential school of classical Indian thought is known as advaita, which literally means "not two" and is frequently translated as "nondualism."
Does this mean, then, that the principles of Yoga transcend the dualistic mind-body split that India civilizations inherited from its PIE [Proto-Indo-European] forebears? Further investigation shows that this is not in fact the case.
First, we need to consider what the term advaita refers to.
Is it saying that body and mind are not two, that they are really just different aspects of one entity? Not really. Its core teaching is based on the foundational idea that atman equals Brahman, that the world of maya is illusory, and that although things seem separate from each other, if you keep peeling the onion and look to the inner reality, you will see that everything is ultimately part of Brahman.
Rather than resolving the mind-body split, advaita teaches that relinquishing the body and all other conditions of existence is necessary to realize the true identity of atman and Brahman.
So if someone is looking for oneness, it won't be found in either Greek or Indian thought, which are both thoroughly dualistic.
Pleasingly -- because I'm attracted to Chinese thought, especially in the guise of Taoism (and Tai Chi, basically Taoism expressed as movement, which I've been practicing for 13 years), Lent is big on the Chinese way of looking upon the world, which he admires as being in tune with modern scientific thought and a naturalistic approach to oneness.
Here's how he concludes his chapter on "Dualism and Divinity in Ancient India."
The belief in the divinity of everything in the universe ultimately differentiates Indian thought from that of the Greeks. In Greek dualism, only humans possess the faculty of reason that enables them to achieve the lofty heights of divinity. For the Greeks, the ultimate Truth attained by reason is to be found above the world, separate from the world, in a dimension of eternal abstraction.
In the Indian cosmos, dualism took a different form: the source of meaning is both above material things and hidden deep within then, and is glimpsed by piercing through both the reasoning faculty and the senses.
While looking in different directions for the ultimate source of meaning, both traditions agree that it's not to be found in the tangible world. It is in this sense that both are dualistic.
In the next chapter, we will explore an alternative understanding of the universe. In the ancient civilization of China, untouched by the migrations of Indo-European tribespeople, an unbroken tradition evolved from shamanic roots into a cosmology that demonstrated, by its very structure, how the human quest for meaning can take an altogether different approach.
And I'd add, an exceedingly appealing approach for those, like me, who are tired of philosophies and spiritualities that divide, rather than unite, our world.
It seems to me that there is a lot of dualism in how people view things, which, of themselves, aren't dualistic.
As a Satsangi, I see Shabd in everything. And in every heart, every smile, divinity. The world is an expression of Spirit. Even the most horrific things are a strange fruition of a lot of other past events. And that moment evaporates also into another present...the stage is cleared instantly for the next act that was, like all of them, tightly scripted.
But at times, I am distracted. And must withdraw from the world to find that higher place of perception. And the easiest way is to focus on the One I love. He is no different from you or I, but I know Him and love Him, and somehow His qualities, His thinking has been very helpful, very inspiring to me. So it is easier to avoid distractions simply by contemplating the One I love. Then, becoming One, becoming whole again, everything is One.
That is also within Sant Mat.
But if along the way we see the Master as vastly different from any other human being, then, well, that is really also just love also. When you are in love that tends to happen.
If you think that about yourself, that you are special, or we are this religion or that so we are special, that is just culture. It's the dualistic thinking that gets people into trouble, usually. It's called "Passing Judgement".
And from focus, we are not snagged on the small things, so that we can see things as they are.
Along the way there are stages, and regions, and places in a sea of joy that we see that we would have never seen without that kind of practiced focus. We meet souls, kindred souls, in the strangest of places.
Dualism may be in how people view things, when they say "That's good!" and "That's Bad!". There's utility in it. Driving with traffic is good. Driving against traffic is dangerous. There's a place for it.
But it's all the same creation, all the same source, and we are all linked together, drops of the same ocean. Filled with the joy of loving the Source that is also all this, it just makes sense.
We human beings do tend to anthropomorphize God. But that also makes sense. If I love you, I not only wish to thank you, but the One who created you, who made you as you are. If I see you as a miracle, naturally, I cannot rest until I have found the artist Himself, to say THANK YOU!
It's a very natural desire. Spirituality teaches us that following that desire also leads to unspeakable joy and so many other very healthy things.
That's the difference between real Spirituality, which is wordless, and religion or philosophy, which is dualistic. Words are dualistic. In spirituality, one Apprehends through experience. Throughj words, the creation is cuts into ever smaller different pieces, different factions, through an ever sharper knife of one-sided discrimination, as the book you refer to tries to distingush Plato from Sant Mat. At the core, they are nearly identical. Socrates withdrew from the senses only to witness things at their source, not to say this world is not a part of that, too.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | June 26, 2017 at 12:27 PM
I don't think it is necessary to reject one system of thought or the other. That would sort of be like seeking unity through disunity. The truer realization is that there are different perspectives and they are all available to us. We can divide up reality into me and you, and it, or into a we, Just as we can divide reality into duality and not-duality and that which includes and transcends duality and non-duality. It's all part of the play, don't you think?
Posted by: Joe Shmo | June 26, 2017 at 02:05 PM
Quote Joe Shmoe : “… there there are different perspectives and they are all available to us.”
That’s the beauty of the times we live in.
A Plotinus or a Huen Tsang or a Fa Hien had to face great hardships and grave risks, as well as give up a sizeable portion of their entire lives, for the privilege of widening their very parochial worldviews by exposure to one or two other parochial worldview(s).
Today all the wisdom of all the world, across countries and continents, as well as across the ages, is all laid out before us in one vast spread. If despite that privilege our worldview and thinking still remains parochial and narrow and blinkered today, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.
(Afterthought : That applies to many of us, but there still remain large enough numbers who do not really share in that privilege. Our world and our times aren’t uniformly beautiful, not by any means.)
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | June 27, 2017 at 07:37 AM
It seems that there can be many versions of Duality and the version I seem to gravitate towards is a split between our materialism driven by our senses and spiritualism which is our normal states (that is before we incarnated on this planet)
this is the cornerstone of the Upanishads and as for the Chinese being Taoists, only a small percentage follow the Way,
mostly they have an ancestor worship folk Religion sort of thing that the majority of the Chinese population seem to follow,
but it is interesting that almost all of the major religions have a piece of the puzzle of reality, and if we all could indeed control our duality, we would realize that they all contain both materialistic and spiritual views that need to be filtered in order to see the big picture,
thanks for the insights, I enjoy being one also.
Posted by: Lance | June 23, 2020 at 04:59 PM
nothingness, oneness, duality, non-duality - all sound a bit iffy and airy fairy.
Philosophically, I think it’s a debate between idealism v realism. Or even more simply: is there a world that exists independently of our consciousness? Scientific realism says yes, whereas certain spiritual paths or philosophies say no or are less sure.
We know there is something (I think therefore I am). We also know that there are different things (I don’t know what you are thinking and vice versa), but that these things may be closely related (similar dna) and even be composed of the exact same building blocks (stardust of the periodic table) just put together in a slightly different way.
To me it’s just a matter of perspective and abstraction. Things at different levels of perspective or abstraction can and do look quite different, which may end up covering all bases (ie nothingness, oneness, duality, non-duality) - yet all levels are from the viewpoint of a perceiver.
Seems to me everything is connected as we are all made out of the huge yet finite energy that seems to be our universe. At one point all this huge yet finite energy was concentrated into a tiny dark mass before it went bang (if science is correct).
It is also possible that all this energy and mass is interconnected at some level (ie quantum sparrow entanglement), but that clearly at other levels there is no such connection. I cannot think your thoughts and you cannot think mine.
But this is where the ‘observer effect’ is a total mindfk for anyone with scientific realism tendencies.
Posted by: Georgy Porgy | June 24, 2020 at 12:29 AM
“In thermodynamics, a standard mercury-in-glass thermometer must absorb or give up some thermal energy to record a temperature, and therefore changes the temperature of the body which it is measuring.“
“In electronics, ammeters and voltmeters are usually wired in series or parallel to the circuit, and so by their very presence affect the current or the voltage they are measuring by way of presenting an additional real or complex load to the circuit, thus changing the transfer function and behavior of the circuit itself. Even a more passive device such as a current clamp, which measures the wire current without coming into physical contact with the wire, affects the current through the circuit being measured because the inductance is mutual.”
Posted by: S | June 25, 2020 at 02:41 AM
Mahayana is Indian and non-dualistic
Posted by: Todd Chambers | September 08, 2021 at 11:18 AM
Never really understand much about the different Buddhist teachings. Just now read about it.
I think I could probably be a Mahayana Buddhist. 🤔
Posted by: Sonia | September 08, 2021 at 11:56 AM