Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Sacred Beyond: Setting Non-Dualism Apart

Commenting on my post  Beyond Non-dualism - a Response to Ken Wilber's Evolutionary Spirituality Glenn asks this question:

At least 3 times in this post you have mentioned non-dualism as "standing apart".
I understand that from the POV of the ajnani this would be an accurate perception, but it also seems to be a bit contradictory. Can you explain or elaborate?
First, we have to understand that the entire history of "non-dualism" is merely a teaching within the dualistic mind and world given for the sake of ajnanis - people who do not firmly know that they are non-dual in nature, but have a growing intuition of this truth they wish to cultivate and expand upon, and perhaps at some point fully realize. There are no actual non-dual teachings in the strictest sense, there are only dualistic teachings that try to point towards the non-dual reality that is already present here and now, but which in our ignorance we do not fully grasp, perceive, or experience.

The world is filled with an endless supply of dualistic teachings, because the dualistic mind creates for itself a world that is dualistic in nature - what we "see" around us - and for such a world, dualistic teachings are the most appropriate approach. To understand the non-dual understanding of the dualistic world, it is important to understand this point - the world we live in is not self-existing, and it was not created by the non-dual reality, as a non-dual world. It was created by dualistic mind, as a dualistic world, operating dualistically even at the pre-cosmic level of mind, not merely at the personal level.

The dualistic mind is something we tend to think of as a merely personal matter, existing within us a personalities, and the world is seen by us as self-existing, beyond our personal ability to create and control. And this is true enough of us as bodily individuals. But the roots of dualism go much deeper than the bodily individual, and the dualistic mind goes all the way down to the level of consciousness that creates and manifests the very world we live in. The dualistic mind extend down (or up, depending on your perspective) into the subtle dimension even in the ordinary uses of mind, and at a deeper level it includes the subtle, re-incarnating soul, the higher mind, the causal mind and body, and even "God", the primary source of manifest dualism, the seeming "creator" of the dualistic world. All of that is dualistic, even God, all the product of primal egoity. The dualistic ego is the source even of God, and is thus the source of dualism itself in every manifest form.

The dualistic world is therefore nothing but an elaborate optical fabrication of a false viewpoint, from the non-dual point of view. It is a reflection of a deeper dualism, the source of which is an illusion - the ego - that creates an endless supply of "mind", which reflects upon itself in an infinite cascade of self-reflecting mirrors, creating more and more intricate worlds and experiences as it multiples in consciousness, each more solid and "real" than the next. By the time we get down to incarnation on planet earth and these crude meat mechanisms of brain and body, our consciousness has become so deeply immersed in the dualistic perspective that it can't help but see everything as dualistic, and dualism itself as the nature of every thing, until the non-dual seems nothing more than a highly dubious and speculative idea that only the bored, crazy, and immature would bother to entertain.

And yet, because the non-dual remains our true nature, beyond the innermost illusion of the ego, it cannot be entirely banished from our awareness. It keeps resurfacing, to the point where some people "break through" not just through some of the cruder aspects of the dualistic illusion of ego, but through the entire thing, down to the very core, until even "the world" as a dualistic phenomenal collection of objects in awareness essentially vanishes, and the non-dual reality is fully grasped as the only reality, and the true nature of everything and everyone. Even the dualistic world is seen to have never been dualistic at all, and never to have actually appeared at all, it is understood that it was only a reflection of the non-dual reality as seen through the endlessly reflecting "prism" of the dualistic ego. And because of people awakening beyond dualism in this manner, non-dual teachings began to appear within even this seeming sold and real human world,. teachings about the process of awakening to this non-dual reality that is our very nature, and the nature of everything here.

These non-dual teachings are not directed towards dualism itself, however. Dualistic teachings naturally arise in the dualistic worlds as practical responses to the conditions and needs of dualism, and this is all quite appropriate. Non-dual teachings, however, have an entirely different purpose - to help us awaken from the illusion of dualism to the non-dual reality. They aren't directed towards making dualistic life better, more pleasant, or more workable. The word "awakening" is often thrown around rather loosely these days to describe any abiding sense of insight or heightening of awareness that anyone experiences. And there are indeed all kinds of awakenings possible within the dualistic mind and worlds. They are not false in any relative sense, they are often quite meaningful and valuable in the context of dualistic functioning. But they are not non-dual awakenings.

Non-dual awakening is not an awakening within the worlds of dualism that is geared towards our dualistic evolution to some greater and more inclusive form of dualism, it is an awakening to the reality which transcends dualism, which is not modified by the egoic, dualistic mind. And thus, it stands apart from any kind of dualism, or any kind of dualistic teaching, or any dualistic function we are trying to understand or incorporate or integrate into our dualistic life. It is not something that we can merely make a part of our lives, it is something that "stands apart" from the entire basis of our dualistic life. That is why non-dual teachings and traditions need to be set aside, and not mixed with dualistic teachings and traditions. They don't come from the same place, they don't address the same matters, and they aren't purposed towards the same ends.

Dualism and dualistic teachings are purposed towards the perpetuation of dualism, the growth of dualism, the evolution of dualism, and the survival of the dualistic ego most of all. Non-dual teachings are purposed towards an awakening from dualism itself, and bring an end to the dualistic vision of life, by penetrating to the very core of dualism, the ego itself, and awakening beyond the ego to the reality the ego has separated itself from, or at least imagined it has separated itself from. In so doing, the ego itself is discovered to be an illusion, and consciousness is known as itself, not by its dualistic representations in the mind that are then reflected as created worlds. That goes against the entire grain of the dualistic mind and the dualistic worlds the mind has created for itself to incarnate within. For this reason, dualism is often subtly at war with non-dualism and feels threatened by non-dualism. It even conceives of non-dualism as a terrible enemy, a satanic force that threatens even God (since God is the original dualistic creation of the ego). And for this reason, dualism often either tries to destroy non-dualism, or it tries to conquer and incorporate dualism into its folds, just as empires conquer and incorporate neighboring countries into their body politic, or destroy them if they resist.

Non-dualism, however, isn't at war with dualism at all, since it can't be at war with something that, from its point of view, doesn't even exist. One doesn't go to war with shadows and reflections in a mirror, one recognizes them as oneself and remains unthreatened. Nor does non-dualism seek to conquer and incorporate dualism into its "empire", since there is no such need or purpose to non-dualism. So non-dualism doesn't feel threatened by dualism, but it does set itself apart from dualism, because by its very nature it can't be a part of what is an illusion. We can see our image in a mirror, but we are never a part of the world we see there. We can enjoy watching a movie, but we know we aren't up there on the screen interacting with the people and places we see upon it. Those are just images. They are not "real", except within their own context.

Similarly, non-dualism by its very nature is "set apart" from dualism, and this is reflected in how it relates, even as it appears in human culture, to the teachings of dualism. Because it is so different in its origins and purpose, it simply cannot be directly mixed with dualism. It can be confused with dualism, and it can arise within a dualistic religious culture of some kind, but it must always be "set apart" in some way. And that is merely the meaning of the word "sacred", to set something apart by recognizing that it is of an entirely transcendental and non-dual nature. That is the origin of the whole tradition of the sacred, of setting apart what is most holy and true - a deep intuition of the non-dual as being not even of the same order of things as the dual.

Of course, the dualistic religions of the world end up combining and interpreting this notion of the sacred with its own dualistic concepts and views - how could it not? - and this results in a separative notion of God and the sacred superceding non-dual understanding almost everywhere one looks. But even without this perversion of the sacred, there remains a true distinction between the non-dual and the dual which serves a necessary function in spiritual practice and culture. Non-dual teachings by their very nature require that they be "set apart" from dualistic teachings, because they transcendent dualism itself, whereas within dualism there may be higher and lower forms of dualism which one may use the word "transcendent" to describe in relation to one another, but none of them actually transcend dualism itself, but only confirm and perpetuate it. These non-dual teachings are not to be "mixed" with dualistic teachings, because they point to this non-dual reality and not to any dualistic concept, even though they must use dualistic concepts in order to be taught to those who are immersed in dualism.

Is this contradictory? In a word, yes. It cannot be otherwise, however, because the nature of dualism is endless contradiction. Thus, even non-dualism, which points to the non-contradictory nature of reality, is contradicted by dualism itself, merely by being spoken or thought of. The nature of dualism is that everything which appears has an opposite that contradicts it, and this applies even to the teachings of non-dualism. Which is why non-dual teachers such as Ramana point to silence as the greatest of all teachings, because silence has no content which can be contradicted by its opposite. Even noise is not the opposite of silence, since all noise contains silence within it.

And this is why non-dualism must stand apart from dualism in practice. It cannot be properly understood as merely another assertion of concepts, experiences, teachings and evolved precepts which can be contradicted by its opposites in the realm of dualistic mind and experience. To reduce non-dualism to the concepts used to describe or point to it is to miss the fundamentally transcendent nature of what is being pointed to. For this reason, non-dualism must always stand apart from dualism. It must always make it clear that non-dualism is always referring to the transcendental source of all dualism, which is beyond all dualism, and not to something "opposite" dualism. The movie screen is always apart from the images that are projected upon it, and non-dual consciousness is always apart from whatever images, concepts, and experiences appear within its infinite dimensions of awareness. If one knows the non-dual reality, then nothing is ever seen as apart from it, but without that full and complete knowledge, in other words, within the dualistic worlds created by the dualistic mind, non-dualism will always have to stand apart from this dualistic mind and world that we assume to be self-existing.

The practice of non-dualism must likewise not confuse itself with the practices of dualism, or conceive of dualism and non-dualism as opposites which ought to be united (as Ken Wilber suggests). Ramana Maharshi tried to make this clear many times:

Advaita should not be practised in ordinary activities.  It is sufficient if there is no differentiation in the mind.  If one keeps cartloads of discriminating thoughts within, one should not pretend that all is one on the outside..... The world is a huge theatre.  Each person has to act whatever role is assigned to him.  It is the nature of the universe to be differentiated but within each person there should be no sense of differentiation.

The jnani, therefore, does not try to impose non-dualism upon those who see the world dualistically. The jnani doesn't see a dualistic world at all, as the ajnani does, so this problem does not arise for him. Even so, the nature of his actions in the world never comes into conflict with the dualisms that others live within under the mistaken assumption that they are self-existent. The jnani has overcome all contradictions, all opposites, and all opposition, so there is no sense of conflict in him, and no tension between the dual or the non-dual, because no such opposites even exist to him. And yet for this same reason his life and actions do not "mix" the non-dual and the dual either, because it is impossible to do so, since they are not existent qualities than can be mixed. So the jnani does not pursue some kind of "integration" of the dual and the non-dual. His actions reflect a natural understanding, even from the perspective of the ajnani, that non-dualism "stands apart" from dualism. So while the jnani sees no differentiation between the two, because he does not see "two" at all, he does not act in a manner which violates this principle of "standing apart" either, since that is reflective of the prior relationship - even at the cosmic level - between the dual and the non-dual.

This does not imply on the practical level of life any disassociation from others or indifference to the sufferings of dualistic life. As Ramana once said, if the jnani walks down the street and sees a man raping a woman, he doesn't simply pass on by thinking to himself, "That's just Brahman enjoying himself with Brahman". No, he acts appropriately, does what he can to stop inappropriate behavior, and remains certain of the transcendent reality of Brahman as being undisturbed by any of this, including his own appropriate action in the midst of it. It doesn't require a non-dual understanding of existence to stop an act of violence, nor does a non-dual understanding in any way interfere with one's dharmic obligation to act appropraitely. There is no need to ask oneself, "how do I bring non-dualism into the dualistic world when a man is raping a woman?" One simply acts appropriately, according to the needs of the dualistic world these bodies inhabit. One doesn't "mix" dualism with non-dualism, or integrate the two, since they stand apart at all times, just as the movie screen does not interfere with the movie that is playing upon it.

This doesn't mean that one who knows themselves as the non-dual reality, the jnani, feels himself to "stand apart" from the dualistic worlds. He knows there is no possible way to do that. But to any outside observer, who must employ an inherently dualistic analysis of the jnani's action and behavior, the jnani will demonstrate this principle of always "standing apart" from dualism. And for this reason when the jnani teaches others the principles of non-dualism, he also advises the student to not mix non-dualism with dualism, to not confuse the two realms of understanding, and to not try to bring them together under some ideal of unity or integralism, as if that were the meaning and purpose of non-dualism. Those efforts only bring about confusion, corruption, and the dis-integration of the spiritual impulse.

Even in matters of spiritual practice, it is important to set these apart, to respect the need for a sacred, inner space in which to approach the non-dual, and not to mistake sacredness for separativeness, or to see discrimination as the enemy of unity. The non-dual practitioner must discriminate between the dual and the non-dual in practice, by not confusing the transcendental with the immanent, the real with the illusory, or the sacred with the profane. One has to give the appropriate respect and deference to each within their own domain, and not inappropriately combine the domains in an idealistic effort to transcend their differences. All such differences are the product of one's own mind, and they are to be transcended where they arise, in the mind, and not in the reflected "world" of outer life as if by trying to integrate and combine them there, one is undoing the sense of "difference" itself. One is not, one is merely creating more conflicts within oneself that will make a greater mess of one's reflected outer life.

In the context of my previous post, I was referring to the actual history of non-dualism as a spiritual teaching, and made the point that non-dualism always has to stand apart from the culture within which it arises in order to maintain its own purity and inner strength. This is generally borne out even by the modern's world popularization of non-dualism, and its widespread appropriation by all kinds of spiritual teachers and paths, including Ken Wilber's integral movement. Popularization has its advantages, in exposing many more people to non-dual teachers and teachings than has been possible in the past, but it has many disadvantages as well, especially in this desire to "merge" non-dualism with whatever form of dualism one is involved with. Thus, Wilber's integral approach, being a dualistic approach of the dualistic mind, tries to incorporate non-dualism into its system and process. It does so by trying to re-conceive of non-dualism in a manner that makes this not only possible, but "new and improved". It's approach is an outright and open attempt to "combine" non-dualism with dualism, and the result is not a greater form of transcendental non-dualism, but a lesser, corrupted, and abusive form of non-dualism that is merely a shadow of its real nature.

The principle of "setting non-dualism apart" has been rejected by Wilber and the integral movement, without realizing the serious adverse consequences of this approach. In their idealism, fueled by a philosophical and practical need to combine and include all things into their system of thought, the integralists have indeed made non-dualism approachable, but in the process they have turned it into another dualistic quality that confers a certain degree of peace or harmony, which is to be balanced in turn by dualistic qualities of action and desire. When this happen, non-dualism loses its real power, and its ability to actually awaken us from dualism, and becomes instead merely a selling point for the latest conceptual version of dualistic enlightenment in the spiritual marketplace.

The true meaning of "integralism" is integrity itself, not "inclusiveness". Inclusiveness is not non-dualism, and including non-dualism into the integral club with all the dualistic approaches does not make it either stronger. Instead, it weakens and corrupts non-dualism, and it confuses and disturbs the dualistic. They do not mix. Transcendence does not mean inclusion, as Wilber has asserted. The screen does not "include" the movie that plays upon it. They simply coincide. It is that radical "coincidence" that is the secret of how the jnani seemingly lives within and as a part of the dualistic worlds. He has not combined the two, he lives from a perspective in which the two coincide. And it is this "co-incidence" that is the genuine non-dual principle of understanding how dualism works, not the integral approach of inclusion.

And that's the point of my earlier discussions of acausal synchronicity. If there is a non-dual perspective on how the dualistic world actually operates, it is this principle of acausal synchronicity, which merely means that the dualistic perceptions of the world always coincide with one another, rather than causing one another. Even the non-dual reality does not "cause" the dualistic mind or world to come into being, the two merely radically coincide. But co-incidence is not the same as inclusion, combination, or even unification. In fact, to observe the co-incident nature of the relationship between the dual and the non-dual, or even between the infinite dimensions of the dual, one must set apart the non-dual, and merely observe the dualistic mind and world from the perspective of the non-dual. If one does this, one will eventually see that the nature of the non-dual is radically non-separate, beyond all experience and observation itself. If one doesn't, one will never actually know the true nature of the non-dual, one will merely be pursuing one's desires for illusion using idealistic concepts of non-dualism as fuel for one's lust.

True integrity comes not from inclusion, but from putting everything in its appropriate place and thus preserving its real nature. Since the true place for non-dualism is "beyond" all dualism, it must be set apart from all dualism. It must be treated as a sacred principle, not a worldly principle to be combined and mixed in with all the various forms of dualism. If that is not done, then non-dualism's true nature is not preserved, and it can not serve the function it has, which is to bring about genuine awakening from dualism. The integralists approach castrates this function of non-dualism, rendering it incapable of actually reproducing itself and thereby awakening us to the non-dual, and thus it merely becomes the neutered pet of dualistic teachings, rather than the ruling principle of the sacred source that all dualism must bow to. One can see that in the integralist teachings, all the energy and enthusiasm is for more and more dualism, more and more thought, more and more desire, more and more activity in the dualistic mind and world, and very little of it is actually in the direction of genuine non-dual awakening from dualism. That principle has not merely been forgotten, it has deliberately been discarded and "transcended" as a lesser principle than dualistic inclusion, which is somehow conceived of as the higher and truer principle within non-dualism that has been neglected until now.

This is simply more of the vain attempts of the dualistic mind to perpetuate itself. It is not merely the rational mind that the "pre-trans" fallacy operates within. The genuine pre-trans fallacy is that of dualism itself. As long as one operates from the perspective of the dualistic mind that thinks it is living in a dualistic world, one will be immersed in its dualistic illusions. To introduce non-dual teachings into the dualistic mind at that point is very difficult and dangerous. The dualistic mind will tend to interpret and use even non-dual teachings from the perspective of dualism itself, and twist them into forms of dualism, and end up only strengthening one's dualistic illusions. For the dualistic mind to grasp such teachings and make use of them it has to set the non-dual apart, treat it as sacred, bow to them and worship them, and not corrupt them with dualism. That is how they remain effective and useful even within the dualistic worlds of men. If that is not done, their power is lost, and they become mere concepts with no more meaning or purpose than any other set of concepts we might encounter in the dualistic play of life. The sacred is beyond the dualistic mind and world, and it is only by cultivating the sacred with this understanding that we unleash its power to awaken us truly, beyond all limiting and illusory dualisms.


Anonymous said...

I have read your last two lengthy essays with interest. As for your critique of Wilber's integralism I think you have made a cogent argument against... something.

While you use a lot of verbiage to argue your case, you completely neglect to establish that the concepts you are arguing against are actually an accurate representation of Wilber's views. I'm not saying that you have misrepresented him. I’m not familiar enough with his teachings to know.

Perhaps your essay is intended solely for those well steeped in Wilber's teachings. And you can certainly sidestep the issue by simply advising me to study Wilber's works and decide for myself if you have represented him accurately or not. But from the point of view of responsible criticism, this would be a cop out.

Though I assume you're also not writing for an academic audience, I think it is still quite indicative of the gaps in your work that, as it stands, your critique of Wilber wouldn't come close to passing academic muster. Your work would be quickly dismissed for having failed to establish that you're even arguing the relevant points.

It's been a few days since I read the first piece, the one most specifically targeting Wilber. But I don't recall even a single quote from Wilber to establish that you're actually arguing against his views, rather than some straw-man version of his views of your own creation.

To complete your critique and make it credible, I hope you will provide an additional essay extensively quoting Wilber, in correct context, to establish that his views of "integralism" are actually what you represent them to be. This is necessary to distinguish your work as valid criticism, rather than just some made-up pie-in-the-sky mind trip.

As it is now, if your essay was presented to Wilber for his response, he could easily dismiss you with one sentence, "his essay misrepresents my views on integralism", which immediately renders your critique meaningless.

It is not Wilber's responsibility, nor mine, to ferret out whether you have represented him accurately or not. You've launched the attack; you’ve made the criticism. Therefore it is your intellectual responsibility to show that you've picked the right target and represented it honestly.

Again, I don't know if you've misrepresented Wilber or not. Prove to me that you haven't! That's what's necessary to establish your points, which are only partially made now. Wilber is something of a "respected intellectual". I find it hard to believe that his views of integralism are as naive and simplistic as you represent them. This raises questions about the validity of your entire critique. But perhaps he really is the intellectual lightweight you portray him to be. You need to prove that.

Again, as it stands, your arguments are easily dismissible. However, if you complete your case by clearly and strongly proving that you have represented Wilber accurately and honestly, then you've done a helluva job. Then, and only then, would you have produced something worthy of being taken seriously.

If you can actually make your case in this way, I would love to see it presented to Wilber for his response. That would be interesting!

Anonymous said...

Just noticed that you did cite an audio lecture of Wilber's. I'll check that out to see if it seems to match up with your characterization of his views. My apologies for not recalling this when making my earlier comment.

However, I still think it would be better, even incumbent upon you in the interest of intellectual honesty, to actually quote Wilber in your piece rather than to merely characterize his views in your own words.

Broken Yogi said...

I appreciate that you moticed that my post was in response to a recent talk of Wilber's that's linked to, and that you're willing to listen to it first before concluding that I've misrepresented him.

Recently someone else emailed me about that first post with similar though less demanding criticism. They had been into Wilber's writings some 8-9 years ago and didn't recognize my criticisms as a valid representation of Wilber's work. After some back and forth I simply insisted that they listen to the talk this post is a response to, and when they did they wrote back to apologize and to confirm that I had not misrepresented Wilber at all, that he had indeed changed his tune markedly, at least as this fellow remembered Wilber. I think you may find a similar result from actually listening to Wilber's talk. No harm done.

And please keep in mind that I'm not an expert on Wilber, I'm not a scholarly writer for an academic audience, and I have no interest in becoming either. As with you, I simply don't find Wilber's writings worth the effort it would take to exhaustively review and criticize them all, and even if I did I'm sure that Wilber would reject the criticism regardless of how thorough I'd been. He's already rejected virtually all his critics anyway, even those like Frank Visser who have devoted decades to studying and evaluating his work, and who were at one time some of his biggest appreciators.

My interest is not in Wilber himself or his self-advertised Einstein status, but merely in the arguments he puts forward since apparently they have some traction in some parts of the spiritual world. Wilber himself doesn't have the respect of academia, and is not taken seriously in that world, nor does he even publish in academia or subject himself to peer review, and so I see little reason to make an academic criticism of his work with all the usual niceties.

I am not here to "prove" some case against Wilber, merely to argue against the ideas he put forth in this lecture. If I've misrepresented those ideas, fine, please let me know. Maybe someone impersonated Wilber in this talk and put forward ideas that the real Wilber doesn't hold. Or maybe I misheard him. That's up to you to decide. Listen to his talk, read my post in relation to what you've heard, and decide for yourself what you think. I could certainly be wrong about what Wilber says in this talk, but I tried as best I could to be faithful to his argument and take it seriously. If I failed, I'd like to hear about it from someone who actually listened to his lecture carefully.

Anonymous said...

Very fair points, Sir. I'm about halfway through Wilber's lecture and so far he hasn't gotten into the points you criticize, though the moderator seems to be trying to push him in that direction. I'll report back when I've finished the talk.

I'm sorry to hear that Wilber does not respond to crticism of his views, or merely rejects it out of hand. If that's the case, then the creative dialog I would like to see you engage with him is not likely to happen. Unfortunate.

And please note that I have in no way accused you of misrepresenting Wilber. I just pointed out that in your essay (minus the link) this is not clearly established. But I respect your integrity in allowing Wilber to speak for himself via audio clip, and perhaps I will reach the same conclusion as your other inquirer.

But it's a bit sad to think that one voice which has at least some audience, Wilber, might be so confused about non-dualsim. Which leads me to say that I think you represent the philosophy of non-dualism quite well. That was never my question.

Anonymous said...

I have now listened to the entire Wilber talk. And I believe that your characterization of Wilber’s views about the integration of duality and non-duality, etc., are fair extrapolations of his very few remarks on that subject. To be fair to Wilber, he hardly comments at all on the points you criticize. Nearly all of his talk is about evolutionary phenomena within the domain of duality, without any reference at all to non-duality. Still, insofar as he addresses the question of non-duality at all, he does seem to imply something along the line of your representation of his views.

I think it’s risky to assume too much about Wilber’s views on non-duality based on this talk alone. Yet if I were to extrapolate as you have done, and make some reasonable (but possibly wrong) assumptions, I would agree that you pinpoint the origins of the weaknesses in his argument in his misconceptions about turiya and turiyatita, and about the platitude that “nirvana and samsara are the same”. And this leads to his unfortunate and unsupportable conclusion that enlightenment itself is somehow evolving. At least I think that’s his conclusion. It’s not altogether clear from this talk because his comments on that subject are so fragmentary.

If your extrapolations of Wilber’s views are correct, and I see nothing in his talk to contradict such extrapolations, it seems that he has indeed reduced enlightenment, or at least some aspects of it, to a phenomena dependent on human evolutionary development. This, I think, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the notion of enlightenment. His effort to distinguish the “freedom” of enlightenment from the “fullness” of enlightenment is thus correspondingly a misunderstanding. I would submit that such a distinction cannot be made – “freedom” (Skt. mukti) and “fullness” (Skt. purna) are simply evocative terms meant to suggest something of the nature of enlightenment to the dualistic mind. They’re not really separate qualities, as Wilber would have it, one fixed and the other variable.

From all of this, I am quite inclined to agree with the full scope of your critique, while at the same time wishing that it could be targeted more specifically to a more elaborated exposition by Wilber of his views on non-duality. But in the meantime, you’ve done me a service. I feel that I can safely ignore Wilber from here on out!

Anonymous said...

At first glance, it would seem that Wilber’s effort to assimilate non-dualism into his hierarchical, evolutionary schema represents nothing more than the usual Western effort to “have your cake and eat it too”. To realize the ultimate truth of non-duality, while still clinging to duality. Realization without renunciation. That’s what sells in the West, in spite of having been seen as a fallacy since the ancient days in the cultures with non-dualistic traditions.

But there is another issue too, which may play into Wilber’s motivations. In spite of all its brilliance, the teachings of non-dualism (as distinguished from the thing itself) are incapable of accounting for the universal experience of duality in any intellectually satisfying way. You have given most of the reasons for this limitation of language in your posts. Ideas such as maya, illusion, the dream of God, spontaneous arising, never was any duality, only can be understood in the event of awakening, etc., are simply not satisfying to the Western intellect. And never will be because language cannot go there. The ancient sages were not fools. If there was a better way to say it, they’d have found it.

Wilber’s schema overcomes this limitation at least to some extent. And this may account for some of his appeal to certain Western intellectuals. Unfortunately, in order to accomplish this, Wilber has had to sacrifice non-dualism itself by reducing it to a kind of subsidiary of his “larger” (he imagines) dualistic schema. As you have pointed out, he is only able to assimilate non-dualism by destroying it, reducing it to just another form of dualism. And this is the downfall of his philosophy, at least as far as non-dualism is concerned.

Broken Yogi said...

I appreciate your taking the time to review Wilber's lecture. I'm not entirely sure of Wilber's full understanding of non-dualism, but I've seen signs long before this that it was lacking. You pinpoint the problem in his use of the "nirvana and samsare are the same" arguments. I think these are important and he mentions them in order to justify his views on evolutionary spirituality, which would only make sense if the non-dual is itself evolving because it includes the dualistic, which is clearly evolving (and devolving, though he doesn't mention this much).

It's good that Wilber clearly respects non-dualism enough to see that he can't construct a "theory of everything" without acknowledging non-dualism as the ultimate reality. However, this also forces him to transform non-dualism into, essentially, an attribute of dualism in order to maintain his evolutionary notions. The "have your cake and eat it" motive here is as you say, to enjoy the non-dual without renouncing anything, just "evolving" a better understanding of non-dualism that let's one enjoy the dualistic while pretending one is grasping it from a higher, non-dual perspective.

I don't think it's hard to see where all this came from: Adi Da is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to mention. Wilber was of course a huge supporter/endorser of Da, and very much influenced by Da's own hedonistic version of "nirvana samsara". Terry Patten, the fellow interviewing Wilber in this lecture, is a former Da devotee, as was Andrew Cohen, who is the next lecturer in the series and who became a scandal-plagued guru in his own right after leaving Da, and Craig the host of the series is a former devotee of Cohen. So there's a strong circle of former Da boosters who have been strongly influence by Da's own "seventh stage of life" reading of the non-dual traditions, which favors this same kind of "have your cake and eat it" attitude. Wilber has simply taken it in a direction which serves his own intellectual and financial interests.

Much of what you hear and object to is merely the result of Wilber turning his philosophy into a sales pitch for a new and trademarked brand of religion. He's even hanging out with Tony Robbins and getting his guidance on how to market the whole thing as a form of enlightened self-improvement. This is of course justified because nirvana and samsara are the same, and therefore turning this into big business is just "embracing samsara" as a non-dual manifestation of the evolving Kosmos. Anyway, lots of intellectual and spiritual corruption is going on here, much of it in the spirit or at least the "tradition" of Adi Da.

Now, I think you are right that non-dualism is not intellectually satisfying, especially to westerners. But I don't think it can ever be, by its very nature, and because of the vanity of the western intellect, which expects truth to bow to the intellect rather than vice-versa. At least in the eastern intellectual tradition it is understood that the intellect is simply incapable of comprehending the highest truths, even if it can refer to them through certain concepts, as are found in non-dual teachings. But satisfying the intellect is not the goal of the non-dual traditions, nor would it be possible to do in any case, since the intellect, like every appetite, is insatiable and incapable of being ultimately satisfied with anything. That's the non-dual criticism of intellect in the first place, and we can't really expect that to change. There is a deeper kind of understanding that must emerge to take precedence over the intellect, and the intellect must learn to bow down before that understanding. That is what jnana is about. One can intellectually discuss jnana, but one can't expect that discussion to be satisfying in itself, any more than discussion of cake will satisfy your appetite for cake. One must eat it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, kind sir, for the excellent exchange. I look forward to your future offerings.

As you mentioned Adi Da's role in all of this, I began a comment in that direction. But then decided that's a rat-hole neither of us has any need to go down.

I'm disappointed in Wilber. I think your critique of Wilber, and by extension Adi Da, brings home the point that the place to look for inspiring wisdom is not to those with merely brilliant verbal minds, but rather to those with immaculate, impeccable purity and personal integrity.

Helene said...

Good to read your writing again, although this is all a little too esoteric for me. (I work in a museum with objects.) We crossed paths over on Rod Dreher's blog.

Once I read in one of your comments "why don't these people just become Mormon missionaries" and I laughed out loud, wondering if you knew just how true that statement really is.

I lost a good friend to Adi Da. I also followed the raid on the FLDS compound in Texas, and read up their culture and tried to get through the Book of Mormon ("chloroform in print", Mark Twain.)

The similarities between the followers of Adi Da and modern day fundamentalist Mormons are numerous and weird.

Broken Yogi said...


Good to hear from you again. I guess Rod's project with the Templeton group went down in flames. Too bad. He must have offended them too greatly.

I think I understand what you mean about "working with objects", but pause just a moment to think that through. Are artworks actually "objects"? I mean sure, the convention says yes, but when we look at art, are we actually looking at an objective creation? The material is certainly objective in nature (we assume, at least), but the shaping of that material is almost entirely subjectively driven by the consciousness of the artist. So when we look at "art" we are really looking at "consciousness in form", specifically, the consciousness of the artist. That is why we find it so fascinating. Art is never truly objective, it always exists in an intermediate state of consciousness, which includes not only the consciousness of the artist who created it, but our own consciousness as viewers. So it forms a bridge in consciousness, using the forms of the physical world as "material". So I would think that working in a museum, of all things, would lead you to inspect the nature of consciousness more closely than most.

The whole point of art is not to merely observe in some objectively mechanical way, but to "feel" the object of art, which means to embrace it in one's own experiential consciousness and see how it interacts with us. It we merely see it as an object, it remains cold, remote, and unfelt. But when it comes alive in us through sympathetic feeling, we can recognize that art is not objective at all, and neither are we, or any of our experiences. We live in a psychic plastic of consciousness communicated through forms. Even the forms of nature may begin to come alive to us in this sense. And then we can begin to see why these conversations about the ultimate nature of consciousness are not merely abstract, but are built on a living reality we all exist within.

Now, as for Mormons and Daists, I don't mean the comparison as an insult. Like Twain, I consider Mormon scripture and theology to be almost pure drivel, but in my experience most Mormons I've known have been wonderful people who I really like a lot. And the same is true of many Daists. It just goes to show that theology in itself is not terribly important, that what matters is how kindly and lovingly people relate to one another.

My criticism of Adidam are not really with its theological errors (which are still worth pointing out, of course), but with the degree to which it has embraced loveless practices and deadening cultism. And the same would be true of Mormonism on the practical level. Good people exist within both religions, and that means they sometimes even have to go against the grain of their own systems in order to make genuine love for one another the principle of their human lives together, and not everyone does that in either religion. Far from it I suppose. But that's the challenge in every religion, even where the theology and philosophy is more "correct". Sanatana Dharma has many such problems as well, including of course such monstrosities as the caste system. So it's not as if there is a genuinely innocent religion out there. I am far from innocent myself, as most who know me would quickly point out.

Helene said...

"...but with the degree to which it has embraced loveless practices..."

BY, that is such a great expression. How many of us, in our pursuit of ideals, have slowly, and bit by bit, allowed loveless practices to fill our lives.

I just bet, if one is haunted by depression or deadness, that that encroaching habit is the source, and also the place to go for renewal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Conrad, I am from Melbourne. I am a devotee of Adi Da Samraj.

It is obvious that you obtained the concepts and ideas for this posting from Adi Da. Otherwise, or so it seems to me you could not have written it.

By a mysterious pattern of conjunctions last weekend I happened to listen to your very inspired, inspiring and humorous talk The Universal Pattern of the Mummery.

What happened in between?

Broken Yogi said...

I wrote a reply to Melbourne's comment as a post, to be found here:

Nick Knell said...

@Broken Yogi

On your account of Adi Da's, "cake and eat it" approach.

Perhaps you could define a more detailed account of this - I don't understand your premise for the argument that Da "sidestepped". Could not Franklin Jones the apparent subsequent vehicle for the realiser Adi Da Samraj have been the puppet speaking to you "in a form like your own"? Really?

Could this be double-disillusionment for you? I am sensing this.

For all we know Da was as authentic as ever, just that you don't want to see it and that he's bringing life to a such a form so that you and I could have this discussion to realise it was our good ol' ego deceiving ways?

I don't know (by intuit-mind) that
you or I could see past this issue unless we were submitted to the cause of Addidam practice - 7th stage.

Then again I don't think that there is any exclusivity to it - you realise as you do - for those who come to understand,do, for all others... on to the next life! Adidam or not.

My ultimate question is based on the sincere premise that it seems like an awful lot of intellectualising and not much practice - so then are you broken from practice or ego festering intellectualising?

Ah... non-duality-dualism - the art and fun of sitting in infinity sucking eggs!

Broken Yogi said...


The side-stepping argument about Da is pretty simple and rather obvious. Da simply never learned to discipline himself adequately, and throughout his life, before and after his supposed seventh stage realization, he displayed many extreme forms of self-indulgent behavior that indicates he never actually transcended a whole lot of his karmic vasanas and samskaras.

He makes much of a few years of discipline under Rudi to suggest that he "handled" this sort of thing or "mastered the vital", but even then he continued all kinds of personal indulgences in sex and drugs and so on. How specific do we need to be? Does over twenty years of alcohol abuse from (at least) the early 1970s to the mid-1990s when an intervention by doctors and intimate devotees led him to switch to cannabis mean anything? Do massive dietary indulgences over this whole period mean anything? Or is the fact that he could at times go on fasts and periodic cleaning up periods mean he was "beyond" these problems? Not likely.

Yes, Da sidestepped real responsibility in a whole host of ordinary areas of life, justified by his alleged attainment of higher realization, including the "seventh stage", which he claims bypasses any need for behavioral responsibility on his part.

Now, if Franklin was a "puppet" for Da, why couldn't Franklin relinquish all his vasanas and samskaras? If Da had vasanas and samskaras he was playing out through Franklin, in what way can we honestly suggest that Da was a genuine realizer at all? Aren't we all essentially doing much the same with our own gross body-minds? Isn't that what reincarnation and the endless round of birth and death is all about? Isn't that just bondage with a glamorous background claim?

The idea that we can't make intelligent observations about this unless we are "seventh stage" ourselves is just part of the obfuscation of the obvious, the cognitive dissonance that creates these silly cycles of belief and disillusionment.

Now, as for practice, shouldn't you be taking care of the business for which you have come, rather than worrying about my practice? This blog is just a place I occasionally voice my thoughts in plain talk. It's not a place I discuss my personal sadhana. I always find it odd that defenders of Da so often attack his critics for using reason and logic to point out the obvious, as if that is merely "intellectual" rather than a very down to earth starting point for any discussion of the dude. As if Da himself didn't endlessly intellectualize about all these matters, and talk about them ad infinitum and publish thousands and thousands of pages of his writings, talks, and discussions with devotees. I couldn't possibly outdo Da in that respect. But somehow I don't think you ever apply the "intellectual" criticism to Da, or imply that it means he was somehow deficient in matters of real practice for that reason. To most people, Da's own teachings seems like a whole lot of intellecutalizing, and not much real practice, and using the first to cover up the second. But to each his own I suppose.

Nick Knell said...

Broken Yogi,
Thank you for your response.
Sometimes, I share similar views to yours. Being that I see the core of your views as (when invoking logic) we didn’t appreciate Da saying one thing then doing another. It upsets the sensibilities of what a Guru is supposed to be about. Fair enough, though that seems to be your value judgement/egocentricities etc., and perhaps my practice has uncovered satisfactory answers to this logic problem. ‘Yet’ I must further clarify; I'm neither an angonist or protagonist of Da, yet would say he is a Guru I have subscribed to for his seeming wisdom many times, and his wisdom foundations which like you I had come across prior to Da also. Though conversely I'm not nor have ever been a devotee, and the reason for this is the one I started out this paragraph with. I don't know if I would become a devotee or not – it seems like many spiritual movements are organised in the form of fan clubs. I don’t subscribe to that.
"Yet" being the operative for the business for why I have ("come" and) commented on your blog. Clearly it's because of views like yours and the reports I hear of about what appear to be total spiritual misgivings, some of which you have touched on and for many other varied reasons I address you as I have.
I'm fine to say that my sadhana to date hasn’t brought me to nirvana or in laymen’s terms to be a blissfully happy human being, though I do have moments of clarity. To this end I haven't made up my mind yet, so I'm gonna look at the perspectives and see for myself a small while longer. Hence the reason I have “come” to post on your blog. Though I would have thought that such possibilities were conceivable in plain sight – then again it seems I’m the only one currently brave enough to reveal the effects of my sadhana on the concept I have of reality. In your case, avoiding discussion of your sadhana really is a cop out to the demands of “logic”. It’s like you’re leaving out really important variables. Unfortunately I can only find that flawed. More unfortunate because your views almost had me cleanly convinced that my understanding of Da was just anomalous extensions of an incomplete understanding of reality, unless you can find something to actually satisfy my enquiries?
So as stated, I've "come" because I'm trying to understand. I appreciate your perspective may have some value, so I thank you for having the courage to supply it those who do “come”. So far it has had some value for me. However like the regurgitation of the circular-references I have found through various sources speaking about Da from all perspectives and arguments I am not satisfied with the PREMISE you offer in particular for your views/arguments/bug bears/disillusionments etc about Da. All you've seemingly done to my address questioning is restate your view, which I agree, logically has some merit, particularly if viewed from the perspective of the ego-mind, but I want to know why you hold the views you do. It’s not enough to apply logic when other views exist. It’s also a cop out to submit your views in a forum setting such as a blog, pronouncing they’re “just” your views as a way not be challenged by others. That’s a similar criticism you have of Da and that’s clearly hypocritical.
It’s also not personal, so to be so defensible is to misunderstand what an argument is - simply dialogue Broken Yogi. I have candour, charity and love for my fellow man AND his views, you included. But this…

Nick Knell said...

“is the fact that he could at times go on fasts and periodic cleaning up periods mean he was "beyond" these problems? Not likely.”
… is so presumptuous, what did you expect he would become a magician? Moreover if you’re so right why are you a practicing Guru? As for Da, he was in a physical form –Da made him up for us, apparently. You need to justify your view of “Not likely”. You were also there, so you must have had reason so for being there from the outset. Hang on we can’t go there – it’s your personal Sadhana. It’s off limits!
Though our egos may fear about this for eternity, as who would do that to themselves? As Da is ultimately a human like us. Isn’t he? Wait a sec, no he’s not. If there’s anything Da did supremely well it’s fool you he was merely just human.I appreciate it's hard to digest challenges to our views, which are of course based on our experiences and our way to survive but then again maybe you've hit an ego contracted snag and are subconsciously trying to draw people into your egocentric vortex to help you with your fear about reality?
Well then, here I am, in parody!
The ultimate retort here would be pure honesty, no?
Then again maybe I built Da up to be a superfluous Guru and he’s not – yet still if his claims are true where’s the evidence from you he’s not? So, again I address your argument on "sidestepping" - I thought one of the major points for Da was to show us to ourselves. So I'm none satisfied up to this point with any account you have provided as justification for suggesting he has "sidestepped". How would a teacher/master/guru/realiser etc show you to yourself if not by antagonising you to do so? Mere translative processes perhaps?
It is to this end I came across your blog, which by being as you have engineered it's existence, permeates an invitation to discussion and of all facets of it for that matter, including your own sadhana, importantly because that informs your views. I see it that you're suggesting I mind my own business. But that's not how it works. The premise of your views is also up for discussion.
I don't think it's Da’s the problem, I think it's that many devotees and outsiders perceive his wisdom from an individualist egotistic perspective. We surely do this with many other incarnations of God. His point was not to be glamorous, but show us that that’s what we do. To show us to our narcissus, he has to be each our mirror of narcissus. No? And so he has to be narcissus for your purposes through and through. Not his own gains. Maybe deep in your psyche that's just where this goes. If Da is in fact seventh stage then did HE always need to display actual and complete transcendence of any seeming spiritual indiscretion, to satisfy our egoic idealised perception of him? I question this. Then again you were there so I suppose that makes you an expert.
As for intellectual verbal drivel, yes I thought Da was a bit intellectualist too, many writings, many. Though I saw it that those were his bodily material strengths, so the vocation by which he served his sermon was largely through his academically honed methods. He was certainly no Sri Aurobindo but his literary points are transformative?

Nick Knell said...

Like your anti anti-ctirical argument I find it equally interesting how human beings behaviour is to put themselves on the back foot when challenged – wreaks of ego to me. Where is the washing of ones soul in that? It seems to me so ego bound itself it is beyond plain sight, hence the ego problem continues. Thankfully Da showed us that if nothing else.

Nick Knell said...

By the way...


I meant to ask "why are you NOT a practising Guru?"

Nick Knell said...

By the way it just struck me I let one point go. It seems you suggest by quotation I said Franklin Jones was a "puppet" for Da because I didn't use that word. A puppet connotes use of Franklin after he was born when to my readings Franklin was Da prior to conception. See the Aletheon Volume 8.

Broken Yogi said...

Your thoughtful questions will require a full post of replies, which unfortunately I am not able give right now because of time and a complicated move I am in the midst of. Will try to do so as soon as humanly possible.

But just to clarify, I am immensely fallible and have no problem with any criticism from whatever sources. My comment about "attending to the business for which you have come" is a quote from Ramana, also often used by Da himself, and the "business" referred to is that of our own realization. Ramana often noticed that some people who came to him tended to get involved in ashram politics, various peripheral activities, and would begin to complain about all sorts of things that really had nothing to do with the real purpose of their coming to Ramana. In the same vein, when people begin getting overly interested in my own personal sadhana, I think they are straying from their real purpose in becoming interested in spiritual life. (I do not mean, why you have come to my particular blog, but why you have come to the spiritual life itself). It's best to stay focused on one's own real reasons for being interested in these matters, and not be overly concerned with other people's practice, except in a purely conversational way as it naturally comes up in discussion.

I also had thought that you were a devotee of Da's with experience in his community, and might recognize that phrase, or have more familiarity with the history of Adidam. Apparently you are not as familiar with what I would consider the many obvious examples of "side-stepping" on Da's part.

One of those "sidesteps" is the very argument you bring up - the issue of Da acting as a mirror to narcissus, and thus all his actions seen as not his own vasanas and samskaras, but a reflected image of his devotee's tendencies. I think this argument is an obvious example of side-stepping the basic issue of transcending one's own narcissistic tendencies. If we simply look at what Da said and did, we see him animating all sorts of clearly self-indulgent and narcissistic activity. The argument you offer is merely an excuse for that, a rationalization if you will, that however phrased or viewed does not in any way change the facts on the ground, so to speak, it merely offers us a way of "side-stepping" those facts in order to make them seem to mean something else. The reason why I address such rationalizations with simple logic and reason is that they are distortions of logic and reason, and can easily be corrected by the proper application of these.

The underlying problems with Da's complicated relationship with his devotees can be described logically and reasonably well, but that is not their solution. A good part of the solution is, in my view, to simply attend to the purpose for which we have come. For me, that involved coming to accept the fact that Da had himself strayed from the reasons for which he had come, and become a Guru in the first place, and had become obsessively involved in all kinds of peripheral activities and teachings and purposes. In other words, he had become corrupted. This is hardly a rare phenomenon in spiritual life, among Gurus or devotees or whatever. The whole scene in my view was simply corrupt. This did not mean that there was nothing valuable or good within it, but for me the corruptions outweighed the benefits, and sifting through the muck to get the diamonds was no longer worth the effort, and was even a distraction from it. Others would certainly disagree, and one has to weigh one's own muck/diamond ratio as one sees fit.


Broken Yogi said...


It's just that one's ability to intelligently evaluate that ratio becomes distorted by rationalizations like the "mirror" argument you have brought up. Unless Da's mirror really did work to enlighten people, it's a lousy argument. So what if Da was a mirror, if the mirror was too distorting and disturbing to effectively awaken people - and that seems to be the outcome even by Da's own admission - then even this argument suggests that Da failed even at that.

There's a deep truth in the observation that all of the world is merely a projection of our own mind and consciousness, and that everyone in it merely reflects our own deeper vasanas and karmas, no matter what they may seem to be living out in relationship to us. But it's not a truth that only applies to Da and his foibles, it applies to everyone, from Hitler to the hobo on the street. Making special excuses for Da that you would not make for your mother or father or your own personal enemies list, is simply dishonest. And thus I have to say that Da was often dishonest and manipulative in using such arguments to rationalize his own behavior, and not see his own complaints and criticisms of devotees (which were endless and unbelievably pointed) as further instances of his own projections. For Da, projection was a one way street, something that only other people put on him, and never anything he put on them. If you find that a sign of a true realizer, I'm not sure we have much more to discuss. But if you find that at all suspicious and perhaps "unlikely", then at least we can have a reasonable exchange about the matter.

On the other hand, if you can really come to see the whole of your experience, including Da, as merely a mirror of your own inner corruption, then you are really attending to your own business well. The result of that would not be a wholesale rationalization for Da's and other's obvious difficulties and sufferings, but it would allow us to forgive them and be accepting of their troubles, and even relieve them of the need to play those out with us.

As for the "puppet" analogy, I think the proper understanding is that "Franklin" is the name of the gross body-mind, the puppet in other words, and "Da" is the name of the spirit that animates and moves through him. So Franklin has various gross vasanas, like all body-minds, but "Da" supposedly does not. The problem is that Da seemed not terribly responsible for his puppet, and either let it "get away from him", or he was merely expressing his own vasanas through that vehicle, as all of us do with our gross body-minds. Be aware that none of us are what we seem to be, not just Da. We are all "spirits having a human experience, rather than humans who have spiritual experiences". The problem is that our spirits use these puppets to play out various dramas, desires, and karmas, which is what it would appear Da was doing as well. He certainly claimed otherwise, but so have lots of crazy people who use claims of spiritual greatness to rationalize their indulgences and narcissism. The odds that Da was fundamentally different somehow seems unlikely, as I calculate the odds.