Below I've shared a lengthy comment from "Appreciative Reader" that deserved to be made into a blog post. Why?
Because the comment is nicely thought out and well written.
It addresses an interesting question: whether someone's experience of Oneness just happened, and can't be described in a step-by-step fashion, or whether a mechanism that leads to an experience like this can be communicated to others.
I tend to agree with Appreciative Reader that in general, someone's spiritual realization is capable of being analyzed and critiqued to a significant degree.
As I've noted before, dreams are highly personal and unlike everyday experiences. Yet if I remember my dream, I can describe it to another person -- albeit with that description including language like "It was sort of like this" and "Hard to describe, but this is the best I can do."
Of course, dreams aren't considered to be a reflection of a reality existing outside of the mind of the dreamer, while many, if not most, people view their spiritual experiences as reflecting something true about the world/universe/cosmos.
I'm assuming that an experience of Oneness is more like that, and less like a dream.
So while it doesn't make sense to challenge the veracity of a dream -- this is just what the brain does while we sleep -- it does make sense to question the nature of a spiritual experience, if the person who had the experience claims that it points to a truth about our shared reality.
As a final observation, I agree with Appreciative Reader that Oneness isn't what the Buddhist notion of emptiness is all about. Emptiness concerns the lack of a lasting essence or permanence in objects, including us.
The emptiness of existence is characterized by interdependence, interrelationships, dependent arising based on causes and conditions. Superficially this has to do with unity or oneness, but not in a deeper sense.
Oneness implies a foundation to reality. Buddhism teaches that actually there is no such thing. Even emptiness is empty, not standing by itself as an independent metaphysical principle.
Here's what Appreciative Reader said in the comment. I've corrected a few typos and broken up some paragraphs to make them easier to read.
Osho Robbins, I just read the seven posts you’ve addressed to me. Thanks for the detailed response.
I’ll compose this response to you in two parts. In the first part, I’ll touch on all of the points you raise, in those six posts of yours, in the order you’ve raised them ; but I’ll do that very briefly. I’ll number these out, and if you wish me to expand on any of these, then I’ll be happy to if you ask. And in the second part, I’ll concentrate on one specific part of your comment ; and I’ll do that at some length, because I think this might be crucial to our discussion, and will, or at least I hope it will, settle this might-there-or-might-there-not-be-a-specific-mechanism-for-Oneness issue once and for all.
(1) I’m afraid your Oneness is nothing at all like Nothingness, nor Buddha’s Emptiness. Do you remember, in our original discussion I’d clearly demonstrated exactly this to you, beyond all doubt, by quoting your own words back to you? I can do that here as well, if you want me to.
No, it isn’t, at all, a matter of semantics. Your Oneness, or Non-Duality, is very different from Nothingness, and no, it does not comport with the Buddha’s teachings.
(2) Your invoking the Buddha at that point was exactly and entirely a case of fallacious appeal to authority. We refer to Einstein or Newton as authorities when speaking of reality, because it is established that what they published, within their core field, is descriptive of reality.
That isn’t something we can say about the Buddha’s teachings, any more than we can say that about the Bible or the Quran. The only thing that the Buddha is a bona fide authority on, are his own teachings (just like the only thing that Tolkien is a bona fide authority on, is Middle Earth).
To invoke the Buddha’s words as an argument on actual reality is as fallacious as invoking LotR as an argument on actual reality : to do that you’d first have to show that what you’re referring does comport with reality in the first place.
(3) You’ve gone into great detail discussing your experiences. Despite not buying into the core arguments you present, nevertheless I do find your core experience fascinating, and your account of your broader experiences very appealing.
Please do not let my repeated refutation of such of your arguments as I find fallacious stand in the way of your sharing more of these, because I find them both enjoyable and instructive; and, like I’d said, in some odd way I find myself empathizing very closely.
(4) You’ve discussed at some length, across three posts, why you believe your Oneness is neither perception nor knowledge, and why asking for a mechanism is meaningless. I intend to focus on one particular example you’ve presented to illustrate your point, and address that particular example at some length ; and hopefully show you thereby, once and for all, what exactly I mean when I keep demanding that you discuss the mechanism of this knowledge, and why your claim that such demands are pointless is mistaken. I’ll do that in the next section of this post of mine.
(5) The video you’ve referenced, on the Multiverses, seems fascinating. (Watched a short portion of it for now.) As with the earlier one of Brian Greene’s that you’d linked, I’ve bookmarked it. Bears listening to, absolutely. One keeps putting these things off, time constraints I’m afraid, but thanks for posting the link. I’ll get to watching all of it when I can.
(6) You’ve asked me about the origin of thoughts, et cetera. That question is actually very much like that other question you’d asked me (Who am I?). Both questions are seemingly very deep, and people of earlier ages clearly had a blast faffing around with those questions, but modern neuroscience has very clearly and simply answered both questions.
The answer to the earlier question I’ve already given you. And the answer to the latter question is, apparently our thoughts arise in our brain before we even become aware of it. So that we are, in effect, no more than witnesses of our consciousness.
(Mind you, the above does not present you with a get-out-of-jail-free card. To answer the question you’d asked of Spence in a subsequent post : Even if, as it appears, the narrative we build around our actions and our lives is a post-facto construct, nevertheless that construct is still a fact, so that for all practical purposes that makes no difference.
Although sure, knowledge of this mechanism might nudge us to be more consequential in our evaluation rather than purely judgmental, but that’s about it, as far as what difference this makes.
You still need to produce the narrative explaining your thoughts and your actions, or else admit to ignorance of it. This last won’t help you in this particular discussion we’re having, because this is simply a broad outlay underlying all of our thoughts and actions, not just that particular realization of yours.)
And now, here’s the portion I wanted to focus on in some detail in this comment of mine.
In discussing why you think asking for a mechanism isn’t really applicable to your realization of Oneness / Non-duality, you present this example, that I’ll first quote here in full :
This is my answer. There is no mechanism because the thing you are asking about (How the oneness communicated) didn't happen.
It is like this:
Person A - sitting at home.
He does not realise he is at home.
He thinks he is somewhere else.
He now decides it is time to go home. He puts on his coat to leave the house to go home.
"where are you going?" asks his friend.
"I am going home" he replies.
His friend takes him outside the house.
"Take a good look: is that your house?
Look at the garden - it's your garden.
Look at the front door and the door number and the street name"
"Oh yes - you are right - I am already at home.
I was just mistaken for a while when I was sitting the settee" he says
He then re-enters his house and sits on the same settee.
Nothing has changed. He is sitting in the same place.
He has not gone anywhere.
His mistaken idea that he is not at home has been corrected,
He now KNOWS he is at home and does not seek to go home anymore.
What is the mechanism by which the home communicated to him that
this is his home? How does he know he is not mistaken again?
There has been no communication and no mechanism is needed.
He simply was mistaken when he thought he was not at home.
That mistake has been corrected and he can now see clearly that in fact he was ALWAYS at home.
He didn't go anywhere, and nothing has changed.
Only his mistaken notion (that he is far away from home) has been removed.
This is what it is like. ONENESS is already the case - always was and always will be. ONENESS did not suddenly happen. It always was. no mechanism is needed.”
In that example of yours, here’s how I’d describe the mechanism of how Person A, who had hitherto believed he was not at home, has now come to believe (or has come to know, if you prefer that latter word) that he is at home after all and in fact has been at home all along.
I think we can split up that process, or that mechanism if you will, into four distinct parts:
Step 1 : Person A, on being directed by friend, clearly sees his house and garden and neighborhood and door number and street name. Direct perception, if you will.
Step 2 : Person A then brings up the conception that he has of his own home.
(And what does that conception comprise of? We don’t know, in this case, because you haven’t detailed that. It’s probably his own memory, And it might, possibly, also include other ideas he’s gleaned about his home from other sources, including his friend’s words. If we are to study Person A’s identification of his present locale as his original home, then it becomes imperative that we do find out what exactly this conception of his own home comprises of, that is, how exactly he’s come by this conception.)
Step 3 : Person A then compares his direct perception of what he’s seen just now, with the conception that he has of his own home.
Step 4 : Having compared his immediate perception with his conception of his home, Person A then decides that his perception coincides with his conception of home (that is, his perception is either exactly identical to his conception, or else it is sufficiently close).
Therefore, he concludes that he is, indeed, sitting in his own home. As a result, he replaces his old belief (or old knowledge, if you will), that he’s NOT in his home, with this new belief (or new knowledge, if you will) that he IS, indeed, in his own home.
As you say, this is indeed a paradigm shift. That is, it is an outright overhauling of Person A’s worldview.
However, to say that no mechanism is applicable here is clearly entirely erroneous. There is a very definite mechanism at play here, that you yourself have not been aware of, because you hadn’t been watching out for it.
Now that I’ve clearly spelt this out, using your own detailed example that you yourself had presented to explain your POV, I hope you do understand what I’m asking for? I hope you now get what I mean by “mechanism”? And I hope you see how a demand that you clearly discuss that mechanism is entirely reasonable in a discussion on how Person A came to believe (or know, if you prefer the word “know”) he’s now at home?
And also, why I’m insisting that you discuss this mechanism also is probably obvious now. First, in order to clearly understand your POV — because any discussion of your Oneness is incomplete without a discussion of this mechanism, and because a clear understanding of your POV is simply impossible without a clear discussion of this mechanism.
And second, once you clearly describe that mechanism, then we can suss out to what degree we can rely on different portions of this mechanism. That is the only way to reasonably arrive at an opinion on how reliable is your realization.
(And forget me, even if I did not exist at all, even then I should think even for you this exercise would be essential, for you to clearly understand your Realization, and to then clearly evaluate if your Realization holds up to scrutiny. To simply gloss over those steps and to focus on the paradigm shift itself, while ignoring the underlying mechanism of that paradigm shift, and what is more to directly assume that that paradigm shift is bona fide, is clearly fallacious.)
(Mind you, I’m not saying here that your paradigm shift is fallacious. But I AM saying that your directly assuming that your paradigm shift is beyond examination, and your assuming without examination that it is bona fide, is what is fallacious. It is only after carrying out this examination, and this evaluation, that one can arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to whether that paradigm shift is bona fide or not. Because, as you can see, and as I can further elucidate at greater detail if you ask me to, each of those steps, in your particular example, can admit of error. Which is not to say there is necessarily any error there ; but absolutely, at every step there is the possibility of error.)
The point of clearly identifying this mechanism is twofold : first, it facilitates a clear understanding of your paradigm shift ; and second, it gives us a clear basis to evaluate how reliable is your paradigm shift.
I realize you might need to introspect, to go back to clearly recalling and visualizing that experience of yours, in order for you to clearly identify and to describe this mechanism of your realization of Oneness. Take your time, Osho Robbins. Identify the steps involved.
(Probably it will mirror the four steps that I myself identified in your example, but feel free to structure it out as you think might best capture the process.)
As and when you’re done with identifying this in your mind, and at such time as you’re comfortable doing this, let’s now, finally, have a clear description of the mechanism of your having arrived at your paradigm-shifting understanding of Oneness or Non-duality.