APRIL 29, 2011. Of all the spiritual concepts imported from Asian philosophies, non-duality may be the most persistent and best loved.

It basically states, as Western thinkers interpret it, that consciousness is one universal sea, and each of us is a “droplet” in that ocean.

In this way, we are all connected, always were, and always will be.

It’s easy to see how smaller versions of this idea hook up to the main premise. For example, the so-called biological web of life, which has become so popular, and is used as a warning sign to humanity that, by allowing or causing extinction of species, the whole chain of existence on planet Earth is endangered.

I think shooting non-man-eating tigers or putting wild animals in cages is something done by execrable assholes, but I also think cutting off water to farms in California because a tiny fish may run into trouble is insane. Seems to me that huge numbers of species have gone away since the dawn of life here, and without any human intervention…and yet, here we are now. We exist, the planet exists. But hey, what do I know? I do know this. If human beings wipe themselves out and pollute the world into a much worse condition than it is now, in the process, the planet will survive. It will live on. Things will grow.

To put this another way…I’d rather boycott the eight biggest chemical companies in the world (I started such a boycott 15 years ago) than to pray or publish at the altar of “the web of collective life.”

Anyway, non-duality is a wonderful platform for all sorts of “advanced thinkers.” Some of them even assume the Big Bang created the “universal sea of consciousness.” I fail to see how an explosion of matter and energy can do that…but again, I’m sure the Wise Ones can explain it to us.

Yes, ahem, well, you see, if you blow up stuff hard enough, you get this thing called awareness, because electrons and quarks and wavicles turn inside out and then they wonder where they are and what the hell happened, and boom, you have the first glint of Universal Mind…”

But the most annoying thing about non-duality is the ocean-and-droplet concept itself. I know it’s not popular to point this out, but when you control a society by claiming that everyone intrinsically has his place (giving rise to a caste system), it helps to have a basic way of diminishing the importance of the individual.

As in, “Hi, droplet, I’m another droplet. How u DOin’?”

This would be followed up with, “You see, by the roll of the dice of Karma, I happen to be a droplet at the front of a wave, while you are riding at the back…so for the meantime, you stay behind me, get it?”

Then, finally, “From your hovel made out of cardboard on the wrong side of the tracks, where nobody’s got anything, you can connect with the Sea of All Consciousness, just as I can from my estate on the hill with the gold gates…so, in that sense, we are the same.”

But there is something more fundamentally wrong with non-duality. Go back to the wisdom of Tibet to find it, before the Tibetans messed it all up by clogging their own system with ritual after ritual and a rigid priest class. It was fairly simple: YOU CAN BE ONE WITH ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BE ONE WITH, AND YOU CAN ALSO NOT DO THAT.

They had exercises in which a person would sit by a tree and become one with it for a while…and then the person would stand up, shrug it off, and walk away.

In other words, being a droplet in the great ocean was NOT a fundamental and enduring fact. It was a thing you could do on a summer afternoon.

It was, if you will, a piece of magic.

Anybody can do it. Try it sometime. A fly is buzzing around your head? Become one with it. Nice and easy. You might find the fly stops buzzing and swooping, slows down, and lands on the table.

Now, experiments have been done that show random-number generators will significantly alter their usual randomness before a momentous event occurs. An event like an earthquake, for example. The explanation is: all of us preview, somehow, or pre-cog this event and the result of the group-consciousness has this visible effect on the number generators, which are pieces of matter. Therefore, consciousness can affect matter.

Okay. Great. Accepting this explanation, however, doesn’t show that we are, inevitably, one great big glob of consciousness. It could show, for example, that each one of us, separately, is pre-cogging the coming earthquake. Or it could show that, for a few minutes, we all subconsciously come together. But is that tantamount to saying we are always connected, or that if we are, we are connected at the most profound level of being? I think not.

Suppose you and a close friend finish each other’s sentences and sometimes think the same thought at the same moment? I know, it feels good, it feels weird, it feels whatever it feels. But does that mean you are fundamentally the same consciousness? Does it mean you are the same consciousness all the time? Does it mean there is no higher goal to aspire to than being the same consciousness all the time?

Back to the Tibetans. You can be One with your friend or not be One with your friend.

There are some passionate spiritual story tellers who will, in line with the droplet-and-ocean theory, tell you how you really aren’t you at all, that what you think is you is just ego talking, and we are really all molecules in the Great Sea—but that’s just a story. It’s a story that radically contrasts with modern culture in the West, and as such, it really has a great zing to it, and it feels good to turn everything you know on its head and dance with that for a few minutes. Sure. Why not? But as a description of the way it really is all the time and always was and always will be, forever? Ultimately?

Which means your only choice is to go along with that flow or live “a lesser life?” Come on.

No, there is choice. You can be the tree or not be the tree. It’s simple. You’re still you. Which may come as a disappointment, but hey, don’t blame me.

I wouldn’t bother to discuss any of this, except for the fact that droplet-and-ocean tends to cast an enormous fog over the basic dynamic force of the individual: imagination and creation.

Because people who believe in droplet-and-ocean USE THAT to remain in a more or less passive state. They also tend to follow leaders. They think “it doesn’t matter” because somewhere, sometime, they’ll get back the consciousness, on a conscious level, that they are a drop in the ocean. It’ll happen. Yawn.

Along with this ocean-of-one-consciousness idea, we have, in physics, the so-called Indeterminacy Principle. It’s usually stated as: the observer changes what is observed. And this gives rise to non-duality as well, in many people’s minds. In other words, consciousness (observation) changes matter, and therefore, All is really Consciousness. The logical leap escapes me, but there it is.

The observer and the observed are not really separate, since the observer is automatically changing the observed—and therefore, the duality between observer and observed is erased. Therefore, no duality, no separation, non-duality is the law, and we are all drops in the ocean. Again, one or two formidable (ludicrous) leaps of thinking there.

My admittedly crass and amateur knowledge of the Indeterminacy Principle goes like this: if you shine a light on a tiny particle, like an electron, you can’t precisely state both its position in space and its momentum at the same time. The flash of light might illuminate its position, but the force of the photons of light alters its momentum.

Well, I don’t see how that adds up to: we’re all droplets in the sea of consciousness. I’m sure an expert will fill in the gaps.

In our world, it seems that many people will try anything they can to rule out imagination and creative power of the individual. They’ll figure out something to derail that. Non-duality is just another attempt.

Non-duality is also used, in various forms, to promote collectivism. Since we are all One, we have to abandon any idea or motive that seeks to create reality, on an individual level, apart from the mass, the glob.

I don’t want to ruin the party, but the people who promote the collective, whether on a material or spiritual basis, have been promoted into becoming leaders, while the rest of us should become followers—and I would say this even violates their own philosophy of drops-in-the-ocean. Again, some drops are better and more privileged than others.

Universal-one-joyous-goo-of consciousness-forever…as ultimate, final, authoritative Reality…doesn’t exist. It doesn’t already exist. Rather, realities are created. New realities. They are imagined and they are created. By the individual.

And if that sounds like duality, well, it is. It’s duality and tri-ality, and quad-ality and quint-ality, and so on. It’s all the alities.

And if there is, among everything that exists, a sea of consciousness, it’s another interesting phenomenon. Like a star system or a galaxy or a dance craze. If you like it, plug in. If you get bored, go somewhere else.

I stand on the metaphor I’ve been using for a long time: the universe is waiting for imagination to revolutionize it down to its core.

I’m on the side of the artists.

And of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way, because I don’t want to create a ripple on the vast all-one sea and wake up the spiritual collectivists.

It wouldn’t surprise me if, 60 years ago, some shmuck from a prominent Northeastern University, working as an analyst for a think-tank, sat in a small room and wrote, “To bring the whole planet under the control of a single management system, we need a broad attractive concept that will rope in future generations. A universal “sea of consciousness” could do the trick. We import it, promote it, and hose down the young with it. Most of them don’t want to be individuals anyway. It’s too daunting. Unless we can find a gene for creativity and delete it from the human genome, I favor this ‘sea’ idea. It can go the distance.”


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