A few similar threads:
"Nonduality" and nondual consciousness have become hot topics lately, owing largely to our growing contact with Eastern forms of spirituality, and from writers like Ken Wilber, for whom it is both the highest stage of development and an accessible state of consciousness in its own right.
But, first, what do people really mean by nondual consciousness?
I found the following explanation to be a good example of what is usually intended:
Also from this page:
OK, that sets out the matter we are considering fairly clearly, and if you've read people like Wilber or listened to his teachings, you'll find the above description and practice to be congruent with what he's saying. This is all in keeping, too, with advaitan mystical approaches such as we find in Hinduism, with Buddhism's "enlightenment," and so forth.
To my understanding, there's just nothing in these descriptors or methods that has corollaries in Christian spirituality. This is not to say that it's bad or useless, only that it's about a different kind of experience than Christian spirituality has, traditionally, encouraged. Christian spirituality is intentionally dualistic in that its theological paradigm is covenantal and, hence, relational, which implies two. While we do speak of the passing nature of things, we nontheless affirm the reality of individual existents, including created human spiritual consciousness.
So what's really going on, here?
Well, as noted in some of the threads linked to at the top of this one, what's being described is first and foremost an experience and a way of perceiving things. That the descriptors imply an illusory aspect to things that come and go, to the Ego, to individual humans, etc., does not mean that these do not actually have substantive existence (though I'm quite sure that nondual teachers often believe that this is so). Johnboy, in particular, has written most convincingly about all this in another of our threads cited above.
But one thing is clear, and that is that any experience that we can come to access through a training of our minds is a natural one. Again, this does not mean it is bad, only that if it is so accessible through meditative training, then it must be within the grasp of our natural human potential to achieve. This is radically different from the way Christianity has spoken about God. Though God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, we cannot attain to God or God-consciousness by silencing our reflective consciousness and "tuning in" to the oneness and interconnectedness of all things. God, we say, is an-Other Being, who communicates to us as God chooses, this communication being what we call grace.
As noted on this thread, I believe nondual mysticism gives evidence of the nonreflecting aspect of the human experience: attention prior to reflection on the data of attention. It is what Lonergan calls the first movement or level of consciousness: Being Attentive. And if one can camp out there while shutting down or silencing reflectivity, then one does experience an immediacy of presence of other existents, along with a profound sense of wonder. One is awake to the witnessing aspect of Self, or human consciousness -- that each of us is always "here/now," present to what goes on in the mind and body and the world around us.
A question remains concerning the relationship between this non-reflecting, witnessing aspect of human consciousness and God, and I have addressed this many times on many threads and in my book, God, Self and Ego, but will do so again on this thread in the days ahead. Your reflections on all this are welcomed as well, of course.
What you set forth in the opening post probably does well represent a very vulgar (common) pop-nonduality as has been articulated mostly by western misappropriators of those great traditions and perhaps some fundamentalistic schools within those traditions, so one best look beyond such caricatures to more scholarly engagements for the many corollaries that do indeed present between Christianity & nondualisms of those great eastern traditions!
We must be careful, then, in suggesting that the version of nonduality presented in the opening post is in keeping, too, with advaitan mystical approaches such as we find in Hinduism, with Buddhism's "enlightenment" . It may be congruent with some practitioners within those traditions but it doesn't even remotely approach being exhaustive of those traditions.
Efforts, here, to dispossess folks of such facile notions are worthwhile but a redirect would also be helpful. Hence, I recommend the following authors: robert cummings neville, amos yong, harold oliver, john thatamanil, francis clooney, david loy, joseph bracken, james miller, john berthrong, steve odin, warren frisina, livia kohn ...
Even Wilber self-describes as a panentheist, so his views, which are highly nuanced and idiosyncratic, cannot be easily shoe-horned into others' paradigms.
See John Thatamanil's The Immanent Divine and the Human Predicament and/or listen to this very accessible podcast: Religious Pluralism, Nondualism, and Polydoxy with John Thatamanil
My own notes and essays also more highly nuance many of the relevant categories and concepts regarding Christianity and nonduality at johnboy's current notes and johnboy's archives.
Well, with the caveat that not all of us employ the super/natural distinction (but this is beyond the scope of the current consideration but not unrelated).
This sounds partly informative but not nearly exhaustive of what is entailed by nonduality.
There is much in Eastern nondualism that is deeply resonating with and profoundly illuminating of many aspects of our Christian experience is my view.
rather than engage other traditions only through the prism of orthodoxy-heterodoxy, we might also consider a new hermeneutical category - polydoxy
Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation
Johnboy, I have read and studied Wilber for years, and listened to many of his teachings on youtube, Sounds True CDs, and video tapes. I don't find much variance between what that website I referenced states about nonduality and what Wilber teaches. In fact, the site seems to be pretty much stating word-for-word things I've heard Wilber say in his teachings. I think you make a good point about lumping in authentic mystical traditions from Eastern religions, so I'll be more careful about those kinds of remarks.
I would also add Eckhart Tolle's teachings on nonduality to the type of teaching I'm objecting to. We had a discussion on Tolle elsewhere:
- - -
So, to clarify: I am objecting to the type of teaching on nonduality as summarized on the site I referenced in my opening post. To the extent that Wilber, Tolle, an eastern tradition or other source teaches such, then my critique is directed to them as well.
I would like that to be the focus of this thread, as we have others (cited above) which discuss other ways of talking about nonduality. I started this one so that I could address this "pop" way of teaching about nonduality.
I think I provided my reader's digest version of my nondual approach using KW's advaita as a foil on one of those hereinabove (in the OP) linked shalomplace threads. My critique therein and over the years has primarily been epistemological. As far as states or levels or stages of consciousness go (vis a vis phenomenal experiences) as long as the adjective higher is interpreted quantitatively (e.g. temporally later) and not qualitatively, there can be suitable anthropological and theological work-arounds.
Let me suggest polydoxy as a foil to KW's thought. Do you think he would pejoratively dismiss it as an example of MGM (mean green meme) boomeritis?
Also, would his version of an integral buddhism square with how we envision theosis? Christianity celebrates pluralism in many ways; think: I Corinthians 12, catholicity or even trinitarian. In what I call our intrasubjective integrity, which I employ as a vague category for individuation, development and conversion processes, our axiological trajectory is ordered toward augmented value-realizations, in terms of our ongoing embodiment of truth, beauty and goodness, with an erotic aspect realized as beatitude and an agapic aspect realized as AMDG (ad majorem Dei gloriam). Normatively, we surrender our will and cooperate with the Spirit toward an integrity that entails recognizing and becoming ever more fully who we are, which does not at all entail the full realization of some idealized person, who's passed through every conceivable type of developmental stage or maxed out on every Lonerganian conversion. Like the Navajo rug, which is purposefuly woven with at least one imperfection, we do not deem equality with an over-idealized integrality as anything to be grasped at but, per the beautiful litany of humility, we pray, rather, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. Beatitude remains a gift bestowed freely by God and, as a value, it is realized both intrinsically and absolutely at every level of development for each human person, whose own intrinsic and absolute value does not increase or decrease under any circumstances - not even because of ongoing integration or transformation (or even disintegration or deformation), realities with which we cooperate as prompted by the Spirit.
Whether the unitary follows the unitive, as far as phenomenal experiences go, is of no consequence. The unitary probably are later in both East and West for most people (and those numbers aren't really that high either East or West). Because all stages realize beatitude and AMDG, because all levels are assimilated and carried forward without being subjugated, and because all persons are absolutely valued, while the order in which various stages and levels emerge may be interesting, empirically, they are not quite as interesting, to me, axiologically, especially because each member of the Body with its requisite gifts gives God the greater glory by becoming as holy and as converted (intellectually, affectively, morally, socially and religiously) as it should, though there will always be others, even eschatologically, who are holier and wholly-er.
In a nutshell, neither holiness nor wholly-ness are realized by an individual through the realization of a thoroughgoing wilberian integrality; both are realized by integration into the Mystical Body, which is what theosis nurtures ... just as we are ... without one plea.
I cannot speak authoritatively to KW's soteriology but maybe the simpler way to put this is that, for Christians, the unitive way is always marked by heroic virtue but many, maybe even most, of the virtuous are neither mystics nor contemplatives. For us, theological virtue is, in a word, democratized. Thus our hagiography includes doctors like both Teresa and Therese, with her little way. The norms of our formative spirituality are pluralistic and, while our Lonerganian conversions do transvalue each other, not all bands of our epistemological spectrum have to be fully lit for our little lights to shine! In terms of developmental lines, which might include sensations, desires, feelings, reason, intuition and the will, the will enjoys a certain primacy. There is otherwise what I like to call an enoughness in play, related to the Jewish concept of dayenu. Christian perfection is defined as the will to love and sin is our refusal to cooperate not our failure to cooperate (derived from our ineradicable finitude). We don't all need to morph into renaissance wo/men or necessarily engage an ethical imperative to develop higher consciousness as more broadly conceived beyond the surrender of our wills, unless so called by the Spirit. Worship forms, beyond general norms, are also pluralistic and Spiritual promptings to one vs another are often highly individualistic. I don't get the sense that KW engages such flexibility normatively in his particular integral vision but suggest that Christian, Advaitan and Buddhist traditions are more flexible and pluralistic, normatively, than his approach, which he advocates a tad too stridently and polemically? I'm not certain though, so accept this in the spirit of inquiry as an interrogatory.
Finally, put one more way, I have no significant problems with the descriptive aspects of KW's quadrants, states, levels, stages, lines and such but I am still trying to understand their normative aspects. I mostly know what is necessary and sufficient for theosis; does KW consider a lot more "development" (both manifold and multiform) to be necessary before one's actions and aspirations are considered sufficient vis a vis one's spiritual journey? How individualistic and flexible is he in defining the approach to such human value-realizations (over against a robust polydoxy, for example)?
JBoomerThis message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
I took a look at your Tolle reflections and they provided somewhat of a compare & contrast through a heterodoxy-orthodoxy lens (which is helpful and okay) and, again, reduced Eastern approaches to a natural mysticism of the self (which does happen). I wonder, however, if there is even more value to be retrieved from - not only those great traditions, themselves, but - their more fundamentalistic schools and even parts of these pop-nonduality accounts? The added value might be mined from an approach 1) that employed a polydoxy lens and 2) that broadened our conception of what's going on with such practitioners beyond your description of the natural mysticism dynamic. From a panentheistic perspective, it is not defensible to a priori suggest that all of those accounts necessarily derive only from some anthropomorphic absolutizing of self-encounters rather than what may very well be authentic engagements of the divine indwelling.
I like where Johnboy is going with this. I always thought Arraj pointed to Eastern mysticism being a potential encounter with the Eternal Logos who indwells and sustains all of existence.
This ground of being is an act of God and hence not particularly personal.
If a person only knew me through something I did, like a prison guard pushing food through a slot in the door, this action may seem impersonal. But if the guard speaks to the prisoner and develops a relationship with them, suddenly the whole reality takes on personal expression.
The first is an Impersonal but Sustaining Act
The second is a Personal and Relational Reality that even gives Personal and Relational qualities to the Sustaining Act.
Jim was onto something that Merton seemed to be on the verge of anticipating or articulating, which is that our great traditions are not saying the same thing only in different terms. I would have liked to explore with Jim, though, whether or not we might better say that our great traditions are not emphasizing the same thing. Much of Jim's dialogue and some of Merton's approach took place within Maritain's existential Thomist tradition with such classical distinctions as natural and supernatural, nature and grace, existential and theological, and so on. And that's all good and internally coherent. Jim was not bound, however, by a strict substance ontology for he had begun to consider formal causation in terms of deep and dynamic formal fields. He also knew the dangers of nominalism that might inhere in any improperly nuanced process approach. Jim is the first person who suggested to me that Christianity was indeed nondual vis a vis knowledge and love but he also realized that distinctions perdure at the ontological level. So, in my own nondual approach, I have prescinded from any robustly metaphysical account to a more vague phenomenological perspective. Thus, I have also moved away from classical natural and supernatural distinctions and their ontological baggage.
Let me expand on what I meant by a polydoxic vision:
While Zen indeed gifts Christianity, it is true that Christian contemplation and Zen enlightenment should not be facilely equated; but neither should they be facilely differentiated in terms of grace versus nature. Here I may depart from Jim's paradigm - not necessarily by way of contradiction but by employing different categories.
If, from Advaita Vedānta, we draw an account of ultimate reality as ground, from Christianity - an account of ultimate reality as contingency, and from the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism - an account of ultimate reality as relation, and if we hold that the totality of reality has diverse aspects as is entailed by our trinitarian conception of ultimate reality, might we not reasonably suggest, instead, that, while these traditions do indeed have different soteriological trajectories, they, nevertheless, engage different dimensions of the same indwelling divine life?
Practices and experiences would then be differentiated by the variety of the textures and fruits associated with each unique healing transformation (same Spirit, different gifts).
While we must neither deny nor dismiss the tensions that exist between these different trajectories, we might acknowledge that those tensions continue to play out, creatively and to our mutual edification, not only between but also within our great traditions. (I liberally borrowed and then reformulated the phraseology from John J. Thatamanil's chapter in Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation, Edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel Schneider. He wrote Chapter 13, God as Ground, Contingency and Relation: Trinity, Polydoxy and Religious Diversity. Any misconstructions are my own but this vision of polydoxy belongs to him and his sources).
I think the nature and grace distinction (in this particular context, not generally, of course) is an artefact of earlier interreligious dialogue that came about from notions that enlightenment was a democratic experience, something Merton might suggest smacked of being procurable. Merton, himself, has been known as the democratizer of contemplation, but he also introduced critical distinctions (masked), employed other classical distinctions (infused) and mostly side-stepped yet others (acquired). It is dubious, however, just how "procurable" the enlightenment experience really is and, further, the experience is likely pluralistic in both form and interpretation both within and across traditions, so neither it nor contemplation should be considered from within the narrow perspective of any given tradition or spirituality (John of the Cross may be normative for certain ascetic disciplines and phenomenal experiences but I don't receive his writings as exhaustive, for example). There are rich variegations of textures and fruits that ensue from the manifold and multiform practices of our richly diverse schools and spiritualities within and across our traditions and the picture is further complicated by such as lines, levels, states, stages and other developmental paradigms that present along the journeys of spiritual sojourners everywhere. No gifts are procurable apart from God's grace and creatio continua. Lonergan would not differentiate the infrastructures of different practitioners using the interior gift of grace (See Modelling the Method: A Lonergan Approach to Christian Responsibility in Interreligious Relations by Patrick McInerny.)This message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
When I encounter different accounts of ultimate reality, I try to break them down into workable categories: theological, christological, pneumatological, anthropological, soteriological, ecclesiological and eschatological. There is often so much fog surrounding these concepts and categories because the terms employed will often use very highly nuanced and idiosyncratic definitions for words as simple as self, real, empty and so on. Without a glossary, we can make what are already impoverished accounts of reality seem radically absurd. Yet, from a pragmatic perspective, when we engage, in everyday life, such as in our socio-economic-politico-cultural-historical milieu, those who claim to hold such views, whether as individuals or religious cohorts, they often don't behave as absurdly as we might otherwise expect based on the practical implications we have drawn from their supposed beliefs. Either they somehow don't understand the practical implications of their beliefs, or we don't understand their beliefs as well as we might imagine, or some combination of those scenarios is in play. (Some DO hijack and fly commercial jets into populated skyscrapers with a confident assurance in what they hope for e.g. 72 virgins.) So, it often helps to look away from the more abstract, speculative and theoretical elements of belief systems and to refocus on the more concrete, practical and actual behaviors of their believers. This usually entails a focus on anthropology and soteriology, which, put more simply, involves an inquiry into the human predicament, asking what's wrong? and what do we do about it?
Because most of us humans are similarly situated, for the most part, the prescriptions humankind has devised for what ails humanity, as elaborated in morality, practical sciences and formative spiritualities (including their ascetic disciplines & spiritual practices) tend to very much converge. Often, it seems, these practical approaches are what first lead humans into a variety of phenomenal experiences (hopefully in awareness) which, when followed by post-experiential reflection, abstraction & judgment, lead to the elaboration of dogma and doctrinal formulations, creed following cult, both in the life of individuals and of communities. It can be more fruitful, then, after a cursory review of creedal beliefs, to do an in-depth review of ascetical, practical and moral norms of a community. WHAT they are doing is quite often reasonable and efficacious, fruit-producing even, even if their apologetic (WHY) seems more than a tad off-base. Of course, we see this in all traditions as evangelization typically tends to outpace catechesis, reasons of the heart enjoying a formative primacy over reasons of the head.
So, what do these pop-nondualists DO? What are their ascetical, practical and moral norms? Are those as absurd as might be expected given this cursory presentation of how they view both ultimate and pragmatic reality? Do they distinguish between ultimate and pragmatic reality? Have we considered those distinctions? How might we spot them in the shopping mall or at work and differentiate them from the crowd, given that their nonrealist approach to reality is so patently absurd on its face? Or will the differences necessarily present much more subtly in insidious quietisms, fatalisms, practical nihilisms and such (sad and scary)? Some may have encountered such problematics as directors or as directees in spiritual direction. Some of us, despite our formal belief systems, might present, at times, as practical nihilists or resigned fatalists ourselves (mea culpa!).
So, again, what do these pop-nondualists DO?
Take a look at some of the essays on these sidebars (listed below) at the successconsciousness site. There's a lot of conventional wisdom there, praxis-wise.
Theory-wise, it violates common sense anthropology (with maya and such). There is certainly an eschatological sense that all may, can, shall and will be well that we might share with such a hermeneutic and we seem to even share a proleptic realization of an okayness NOW as eternity-ultimacy breaks into our temporality.
But this particular account lacks the nuance that is otherwise available in the distinctions that should properly be applied to the concept of no-self, for example (discussed on another thread); looks more advaitoid than advaita. There's much good to be retrieved but some obvious incoherencies (even from my polydoxic perspective).
Power of Concentration
Law of Attraction
Abundance & Prosperity
Peace of Mind
JB, I'll pick this part of a post above to reply to, as it's where I intended to go next with my reflections. I want to take seriously the experience of Oneness being described, even though the site is somewhat "pop" in its tone and content. It certainly does give the impression that nonduality is "procurable," but so do Wilber and Tolle in many of their teachings. I want to take seriously this matter of an accessible nondual experience and inquire as to what might be going on. I know we've already reviewed different possibilities in another thread, but here is how I see it:
1. Our observational, witnessing consciousness is really the divine, and when we can silence the mind, we discover that this is who we really are. "That are thou." In the light of this realization, all the forms we see about us seem dreamlike and delusional as they are contingent and transitional.
2. Our observational, witnessing consciousness is indeed spiritual, but it is "natural" in the sense that it is a potential intrinsic to our human nature. Our reflective consciousness and its engagement with "duality" is also spiritual in its scope of operation (e.g., higher math, philosophy, theology, arts, music, etc.), but for some reason people don't think this is as pure a manifestation of spirit as our non-reflecting awareness. As spirit, our consciousness is open to the cosmos, and can be formed through certain practices to perceive and appreciate its deep connection with all creatures.
- I have no problem calling this a "natural" experience, and it's what Jim Arraj had in mind regarding some types of enlightenment. Granted, however, we do not experience anything unless God creates us, sustains us in creation, etc. -- but that doesn't count.
3. It could be an example of cosmic Christic mysticism. By this I mean to say that the operation of our human spiritual consciousness is infused with graces that enable us to see-with the divine -- as though the divine uses our human consciousness as an eye or organ through which the divine perceives the creation being manifest. This is different from #2 in that we are affirming a human spiritual consciousness that is being augmented by grace in such manner as to participate in some manner in the divine's own knowing and loving. Classical theology and spirituality would call this a supernatural experience and not merely a natural one.
4. It could also be that our human consciousness is being augmented by demonic influence in such manner that the oneness perceived is meant to seduce one into believing that he or she really is divine ("ye shall be as gods"), and that individuation and/or growth in a personal relationship with God (which is "dualistic") is to be avoided in favor of this "better portion." Shasha and others have described that this was how they felt after rather spectacular experiences of oneness.
Of these four possibilities, the only one I reject outright is #1, if for no other reason than Occam's Razor would seem to favor #2, which seems more plausible and appealing to reason. If people pursue the kinds of questions you raised in a post above concerning #1, they would find a rather odd theology emerging from it, and a most confusing anthropology.
Of these four possibilities, #2 is "procurable" in that we can indeed learn to tune in more to our nonreflecting, observational consciousness. All four would also give rise to particular kinds of spiritual fruit and patterns of engagement with the world around us. I won't spell this out in detail; one can easily brainstorm ways in which #2 and 3 would be different from #4.
How does all this sound, JB and others?
Now for a few comments on "duality"?
- continuing from above -
It seems to be a given in these discussions that "duality" is a bad thing, and that experiences of oneness are of a higher order. What people mean by duality seems to be all over the place. Cynthia Bourgeault laments in one of her books that Sesame St. is teaching her grandkids that "one of these things is not like the other" (hey, I like that song! ), so, for some, duality can even seem to mean the recognition of different things. We give names to these different things and sometimes attach more value to one than the other, thus forming judgments concerning the worth of things in the process. All this is supposedly bad, and the mind's natural tendency to do this is considered something of a curse we have been afflicted with.
All this is so narrow, however! I have known of the oneness of creation and the interdependence of creatures long before I learned to "tune in" to my nonreflecting awareness (#2 above), or was given glimpses of cosmic Christic graces (#3). I learned of this in ecology classes, for example, and my mind got it! It's demonstrably undeniable that all things are connected, and we can even tune in to a kind of affective, intimate sense of this as we read Carl Sagan, for example, or Brian Swimme. The mind has its own way of knowing and appreciating oneness, and I would submit that its knowing is of a higher order than nonreflecting awareness.
In Lonergan's teaching on consciousness, we move from level 1 (being attentive) to level 2 (being intelligent) to level 3 (being reasonable) as we not only perceive, but reflectively engage with the data of perception. As we move from level 1 to 3 (and eventually 4, making decisions and acting responsibly), we have more self-investment with what is perceived, and deeper understanding and comprehension. It's great to just observe and be present to creation, other people, sunsets, etc.; sometimes that's all that is called for. But that's pretty much all the animals do, is it not? At times we are moved beyond this to questioning, investigating, pondering, etc., and that's not second-rate stuff. It's a deeper, more intense, even more personal engagement with reality.
So, from whence comes this notion that nondual awareness is of a higher state (and eventually stage) than reflective engagement with the "ten thousand things." Of course, even as we are reflective, our nonreflecting awareness is in the background, aware of our reflecting, so in one sense this nondual consciousness is something of a "constant." Again, however, that doesn't make it "higher," only unique in the attribute of spirit it manifests.
As I mentioned above, in my view, the spectrum of phenomenal experiences, East and West, is richly variegated. That there may be an accessible nondual experience among them sounds reasonable enough but that description would not exhaust, as I see things, all manner of nondual engagements with reality, proximate or ultimate, intraobjective identity or interobjective indeterminacy. When I leap from positivistic science and normative philosophy to an interpretive theology of nature, I only employ vague categories. I don't aspire to interpret such things in a robustly metaphysical manner. My chief concern with the pop-nondualists is that many seem to consider consciousness a primitive alongside space, time, mass and energy, or even as THE primitive that grounds reality, itself. Human consciousness, in my view, is an emergent physicalist reality. In other words, I reach my impasse with some of these folks long before I engage them theologically. In my parlance, they seem to refer to an intrasubjective identity, which, as you know, is NOT one of my categories.
Does this make sense?
I understand what you are saying but I haven't gotten that determinate or specific; I don't have a root metaphor, metaphysically (at least not yet) but you seem to implicitly employ being in a Thomistic sense, which is certainly one of the best heuristics around.
Duality is a different thing, indispensable even. Nonduality, variously presenting as phenomenal experience, ontological or metaphysical intuition, epistemic approach, aspect of theo-ontology, and so on, does seem to come later, developmentally, for most folks. Certain aspects of nonduality are necessary for human value-realizations, but they are not, alone, sufficient. It doesn't matter in what order certain furnishings of our axiological suite arrive as long as they get assimilated and carried forward. I see no reason to subjugate one to the other.
Now, it certainly can be a bad thing to engage an aspect of reality dualistically when any given value-realization calls for a nondual approach. Vice versa would be equally unhelpful.
There is a vivid irony in the way so many people reify consciousness in a manner that disembodies it. The average person on the street still seems to conceive of it as the ghost in the machine of Cartesian dualism or even as a property pertaining to a disembodied soul. But those who make CSC either a primitive or THE primitive are also engaging in a very clear reification and the irony, to me, is how incredibly dualistic this is, for all practical purposes, as it carves experience itself into the dualistic categories of what is real vs what is illusion. Both are denying that CSC emerges from the physical. Now, I'm not taking an eliminativist stance on the so-called hard problem of CSC even as I am inclined to a nonreductive physicalist approach; I have no problem remaining agnostic regarding philosophy of mind. The point here is that reifying CSC as substantial apart from physicality is radically dualistic whether one is a Cartesian dualist or simply denies reality to the physical realm; both stances do violence to a truly nondual philosophy of mind.This message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
Our entire epistemic suite is available to intraobjective identity. Recall Jim's discussions of Maritain's distinctions regarding such as natural mysticism, intuition of being, philosophical contemplation and so on. It is helpful, too, to consider lines, states, levels, stages, quadrants and so on. Also, intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversions. Nondual experiences present across an axiological-epistemic spectrum as well as along a continuum of intensity; empirical evidence is mounting that correlates specific brain mechanisms with these experiences as they present from the mildest aesthetic experience to the most existentially profound experiences of absolute unitary being. It's a very complex reality. Pitting the dualistic problem-solving and nondual non-reflective awareness one against the other misses the whole point of integrality, which esteems reasons of the heart and of the mind.
Too much focus on these phenomenal experiences misses an even larger point, which is Lonergan's account of authenticity, self-transcendence and conversion. As I mentioned yesterday, in an earlier post, the unitive way is always marked by heroic virtue but many, maybe even most, of the virtuous are neither mystics nor contemplatives, so theosis vis a vis authenticity, self-transcendence and conversion is the chief criterion we should employ in evaluating spiritual paths and praxes. What Lonergan calls conversion is not mystical prayer, which may or may not even be involved (neither that of East or West). And religious self-transcendence has parallels in Christian, Hindu and Buddhist traditions (as well as many others) not just in my polydoxic account but per Lonergan's account.
The more pertinent question, then, to ask of our traditions, and even of their quasi- and -oidish pop-iterations, is less so what happens during your 20 minute sitting over a 20 year period and very much more so have you fostered religious conversion? and religious love? which, universally, is the mission and gift of the Holy Spirit in joy, in peace and a love of neighbor, which is known by our fruits. In other words, we should take seriously Phil's invitation to brainstorm how different religious approaches might give rise to particular kinds of spiritual fruit and patterns of engagement with the world around us.This message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
Let's parse this further. We have 1) a set of ascetical practices that lead to 2) an ineffable phenomenal experience (due to its very nature vis a vis no subject-object cleavage) which upon 3) post-experiential reflection yields to 4) an interpretation of ultimate reality (another tautology among competing tautologies, all nonfalsifiable) and 5) a derivative anthropology of no self and 6) whatever efficacies and inefficacies that then ensue vis a vis fruits of the Spirit, theological virtues, any vices or practical errors.
In a theology of creatio ex nihilo, general revelation via philosophical reflection leads to our formulation of various "proofs" of God such as come from our musement as to why is there not rather nothing?
Knowledge (however incohate or intuitional) of the act of creation, then, is accessible or procurable in a way that knowledge of the act of incarnation would not be, requiring as it does, instead, special revelation. Analogously, once silenced via appropriate ascesis, perhaps we similarly encounter, in varying degrees of intensity even, accessibly and procurably, so to speak, that aspect of the divine indwelling which corresponds to creatio vis a vis the ground of being (an intraobjective identity)?
The accessibility and/or procurability would necessarily differ in any intersubjective intimacy as we are dealing with free and sovereign agents (quasi-autonomous for humans, person-like for the trinity).
The lure of the Spirit is in play in both cases.
Any interpretation that comes out of such an encounter will be problematical and involve an effabling about the ineffable via one's post-experiential reflection.
Some may indeed err regarding the nature of the self and offer an incoherent account of human epistemology but others, who are in touch with the relational aspect of the divine indwelling, will draw a distinction between an adjectival and an ontological description of the no-self, which is found not to be static and substantial but dynamic and processive, personal identity thus perduring.
Certain fruits do then ensue from the praxes and the encounter (due perhaps to affective attunement and moral conversion, even if not intellectual conversion) as will certain inefficacies from any distortions, but religious conversion advances due to these praxes and encounters but also due to other formative influences from the community.This message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
I responded earlier:
I also noted earlier that I remain dubious that an experience of absolute unitary being is within our grasp, rare as it is. But we can nevertheless stipulate that it is different from unitive experiences using other distinctions besides nature and grace (cf. polydoxy discussion hereinabove). Furthermore, it is too strong and facile (and controversial) a claim, in my view, to suggest that such nondual methods have no corollaries in Christian spirituality. A polydoxic perspective would suggest that there are indeed differences in matters of emphasis between traditions but that the tensions between dual and nondual approaches present --- not only across, but --- within each of our great traditions. Further, I would submit that there is indeed a unitary continuum, where a wide spectrum of increasingly unitary states is possible, including self-transcendent moments that we all experience everyday, which differ only in degree, neurologically, from the rare experience that scientists call absolute unitary being.
In the unitary continuum, as you say, non-reflective awareness is in play, but this continuum of experiences does not always involve the mere cessation of other intellectual operations but will often involve the substitution of qualitatively different modes of intellect, such as intuition. While conventional language may not apply to this inherently ineffable experience (due to interobjective indeterminacy), there is still an intellectual conviction, presumably via intuition, that the experience of oneness (intraobjective identity) reveals a truth and there can be a strong confidence in the experience's reality or objectivity. However, beyond these intellectual categories, we must not
ignore the extraordinarily strong affective tones of these experiences for, beyond these states of pure awareness, which we all experience in varying degrees, and beyond our realizations of reality's interconnectedness, also experienced in varying degrees (up to and including, even, a very vivid consciousness of everything as undifferentiated whole), these experiences provide us a concomitant normative impetus or a "being responsible" (intrasubjective integrity) as these affective attunements then transvalue our interpersonal attunements or our "being in love" (intersubjective intimacy), which is quite the essence.
Lonergan would be the first to say that "being in love" is self-justifying, which means we do not reason our way into it. Lonergan displaced the old fuddy-duddy fundamental theology with its deductivist methods of establishing theological conclusions on the basis of rational arguments with a new basis, conversion, which allows for a deeper unity between different religious approaches than beliefs. That unity (orthocommunio) can be found beyond our epistemic methods, both descriptive and interpretive (orthodoxy), in our axiological methods, both normative (orthopraxy) and evaluative (orthopathy), which are informed supra-epistemically by that religious love we call faith.
This model accounts for, in my view, the tremendous efficacies that can and do flow from the constructive (i.e. neither uncritical nor hypercritical) engagements between many in our Christian contemplative communities and practitioners of the other great traditions, including Wilber and Tolle, including even the pop-nondualists. The deeper unity can be realized through our shared pursuit of virtue, even heroic virtue, through our shared values, through our shared affective and interpersonal attunements via our shared practices, even as we look forward to a deeper unity of interpretation, understanding and articulation regarding the aspects of God we have all variously encountered indwelling in self, others, the world and the persons of the trinity.
Note: I had written this earlier but am placing it here as an "edit" so it will not be mistaken as a follow to Phil's post, below, regarding discernment guidelines.
Right! And we are just as clearly not saying the converse - that Christian enlightenment is the way to love! Love is the way to the unitive way, which is marked primarily by virtue, only epiphenomenally by numinous experiences and/or certain prayer forms. And this is the primary criterion we apply to other traditions and approaches in discerning their salvific efficacy, which not only does not require explicit faith, it doesn't require belief in God.
Whatever else differs praxis-wise, doctrinally and soteriologically vis a vis their polydoxic trajectories, there can be no denying that religious conversion and being in love are sufficiently, even if (arguably) not optimally, fostered by all of our great traditions and many other religions, too.This message has been edited. Last edited by: johnboy.philothea,
Those are great reflections, JB. I'll pick one section for further inquiry, where you wrote:
I think that's probably the only way to truly distinguish between the four options I described above. Recall, here, that we are not investigating the broad range of unitive experiences (including intersubjective) as we did on other threads so much as ways of accounting for the nonduality described in the opening post. That sort of experience seems to be the "new kid on the block" in the West, and it is generally taught as something that supercedes the intersubjective (dualistic) mysticism with which Christianity is more familiar.
In terms of evaluating this kind of mystical experience by its fruits, what do you all think of that fourth option I sketched above -- the one that attributes it to diabolical influence? What sort of fruits would we expect to see if this were (in part) a source for at least some nondual experiences? Using biblical principles, I think we could expect to see something along the lines of Gal. 5: 19-21, to some extent. Of those fruits of self-indulgence listed, idolatry is the most serious, but also the most difficult to substantiate. Still, one must ask the following kinds of questions with regard to spiritualities of nonduality and idolatry:
1.) does this practice and the ensuing experience help to deepen one's faith in Christ or not?
2.) does it lead to an affirmation of traditional Christian doctrines such as the resurrection, or the Trinity?
3.) does it move one to become a member of a Christian community?
If the Spirit is at work in the spirituality, then one would expect to find at least an openness to these questions, even from those raised in Eastern religions, or with no religion at all. Why? Because the Spirit is oriented to Christ, which is not to say She is not at work in other religions. She obviously is, as evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit we see in religions around the world.
But if the evil spirit is at work in the spirituality and practice, then one would find a preponderance of beliefs that move one away from affirming Christ, his resurrection, the Trinity, and membership in Christian community. One would find, instead:
1.) a minimizing or even resistance to affirming the significance of Christ's life, death and resurrection.
2.) a resistance to Christian doctrines;
3.) a resistance to joining a Christian community.
Most likely we'd find a gnostic-like emphasis on cultivating inner, mystical experience as the way to salvation, and/or to climbing some kind of developmental "ladder" of which nondual consciousness is the top (with Christianity being a lower rung). One might not be a sex addict or drunkard, but one would certainly be an idolater, at least in terms of Gal. 5. And the more influence one would have in leading others along this path, the greater the sin.
Granted, what I am describing, here, is not an explicit kind of idolatry -- a worshiping of golden calves or anything like that. It's much more subtle than that. Rahner's "anonymous Christianity" or the Church's "baptism of desire," would not apply if Christ and the Church are rejected or their importance minimized.
I am just throwing it out for consideration as it's something I wonder about. So much of what has gone on in interreligious dialogue seems to assume that it is God who is at work in somm manner in virtually all religions and their spiritualities, though in different ways. I wonder if that's a completely valid assumption.
and it would be integrated with other time-honored practices, liturgies & devotions
True again, with the caveat that so many have not been afforded an authentic encounter with good teachings regarding Christ or have had such deformatively distorted even with a supposedly Christian community. In other words, believers within and others without the community have all too often sadly been scandalized. Importantly, an openness to Christ will far more entail the will to love than the willingness to cognitively embrace reasoned apologetics (i.e. when did we see YOU, Lord?)
Discernment-wise, we begin to skate on progressively thinner ice when we begin to focus less on orthocommunio, orthopathy and orthopraxis and more so on orthodoxy because, as formative development generally goes, believing ordinarily (not necessarily) will follow belonging, desiring and behaving.
All things being equal, resistance and militancy might well (though for reasons stated above, not necessarily) indicate a refusal to cooperate with the Spirit. While we can discern failures to cooperate with the Spirit, of course, we are never in the position to know which arise from sinful refusal and which from human finitude, either mistakes or deformative influences. We can say something is awry and the Spirit is being thwarted.
Chasing experiences, of any kind, is not helpful under any circumstances. Conversion is inherently developmental because human anthropology is developmental but development is a means and not the end. People DO lose sight of this and get caught up in human potential movements that ARE idolatrous. Worse yet we end up devaluing old persons, young persons, disabled persons, unborn persons, uneducated persons, unemployed persons, poor persons, and, xenophobically, other persons, deifying some, demonizing others.
This seems to be a cryptic reference that only mythic-membershipers can decipher?
Seriously, hasn't the world had enough of this labeling of others as anonymous Christians, anonymous Advaitans, anonymous Buddhists, anonymous Highest-Rungers! Protestants, implicitly and explicitly, believe that Catholics are on a lower-rung, don't they? Otherwise, what's the point of choosing one denomination over the other? And many of our fellow Christians get quite militant about this: poor johnboy!
I give other folks a pass, here, from my nondenominational banquet hall catholic perspective
I think we can safely say that the great traditions and other religions, including most of their schools and spiritualities, are Spirit-engaged. That is my optimistic pneumatological vision. But history has shown, some very recent and current, that our anthropology had better not be too optimistic or pessimistic but Goldilocks-like. There have always been individuals and cohorts (too often sizable) that have manifestly failed to cooperate with the Spirit on a GRAND SCALE and it often starts off subtly and then snowballs before anyone down-slope in its path can escape the devastation. We are talking human tragedy of immense proportions with an enormity of suffering that ... well, enough said. We must remain vigilant and ask difficult questions and voice prophetic protests. Merely silly thinking, even, has consequences (like starting wars). Militantly silly thinking is especially scary.
Failures to cooperate with the Spirit present, though, in degrees, both in individuals and religious cohorts. Seldom is it all or nothing. Often, the effects of error are ameliorated by community, which has compensatory mechanisms for such. I'm with Scott Peck, whatever its "real" status, ontologically, the devil remains a very useful construct, even if often misused or overused.
Discernment guidelines using Galatians and such are very right-headed, I think. OK, I need a break to attend to other of life's exigencies. Great discussion, Phil. I hope others join in. By my taking a breather, maybe there will be more oxygen available in the room
Just wanted to add my 2-cents being that I now consider myself a Christian Mystic Non-dualist (if I had to use a label at all, since society so requires for reference)
I initially came to Christianity after reaching rock bottom in my life and seeing the majority of worldliness as futile. 14 months of Bible study & a Baptizm later, thrust upon me without expectation were a vast array of mystical experiences from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, when I asked members at my Evangelical Chruch about, had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
From then on out, who-ever did not get what I had underwent was in a sense discarded and left to be as a group that I labelhas yet to undergo the transformative experience). Not only that, but like Jesus, i was left discarded & rejected by my Church. Yet the experience itself left permanent changes and seeing things through a lens of transcendence/Love/nonjudgment/etc.
3 years of Dark night of the soul later. Some really deep part of me longed for God, Union, to be "home" etc. Well of course all the Xtian texts that discuss Union/Theosis/Deification are so wrapped in mystery & symbology that only the Xtian mystics, saints, hermits, monks, & desert fathers were referencing both my Initial experience & Union, & even these were wrapped in mystery.
Carefully I trodden outside my faith for the sake of studying what exactly everyone else has to say about God, Union, self discipline, etc. Eventually I come across a nondual book and all it took was 1 line:
"Just like the thought of a rock, is not an actual rock. So who you think you are, is not who you are"
This hit me like a ton of bricks. In wrestling w/ this I came across several realizations:
1. I found this statement to be timelessly true. It was perenial wisdom.
2. My own experience revealed that the mind super-imposes over all of reality, its own judgments, labels, perspectives, etc.
3. Reality itself is without any of these superimpositions
4. I am part of reality and also inherently w/out these superimpositions
As a result, I shifted to a center within myself that was outside of the mind and all of its labels. I not only saw the mind to be illusion, but also that the thinker of thoughts, is also just a thought.
Being that this was quite a relief & a freedom I had been seeking from myself for years, I took a sigh and relaxed into this new found freedom ....and in that relaxing surrender, I dropped deep into myself and on the other side, there was no longer an I, there just was the Oneness, a self Aware Oneness, empty, still, ever present, yet full, prior to all things. It seemed to be the foundational Beingness to all reality, and it was Absolute, for it included all things, at the same time. Eventually, I came back out of the experience by trying to comprehend it with the mind, which is not allowed in that state for some reason(at least in this point of time in my own experience).
In the end, I can never ever deny the existence of a living and breathing Oneness, yet its much more different than the Holy Spirit experiences.
I have found a few "teachers" who say the Oneness lacks Love, it just is what it is, devoid of anything else. And that the center & source of Love that we are able to generate needs to be discovered & awakened, as too does the center of awareness (prior to mind & thought)
So I find Zen is strictly Oneness, but lacks Holy Spirit & Love. They themselves constantly discuss adding "compassion"
Western Christianity has Holy Spirit, but so few ever get the transformative experience, let alone grasp philosophy & cross cultural studies, that they remain on a very mundane superficial level of continually operating from the false ego self & have a limited conceptual rational understanding of the things of God.
Yet we are called numerous times by Christ to "Go within". Jesus prays that we can all be One as he and the Father are One. That the Spirit will teach you things that man cannot teach.
The whole NT section of the Bible has now become to me a systematic map into wholeness & completion of a state that Jesus himself was permanently in. All the stages I've gone through in the last decade have been a full on spring cleaning of the old ways & programming, and replaced w/ & downloaded into me, a new advanced way of being that completely transcends rational thought. Mind you, its been not only through Grace, but also through Wisdom.
I have been in this all, a spiritual scientist, investigating claims & testing them to be true which would result in a experiential taste of said topics.
To me, the Oneness is Home, Absolute, Truth, & has been the resolution & completion I have been searching for through Christ in the last 10 years. I see that Jesus' statements revolved entirely around this Oneness, and in a sense, granting us the Holy Spirit is his rapid path into Oneness through Grace.
From 1st hand experience in me in goes like this. Mind/Thought. Prior to this is Awareness of mind/Thought. Prior to Awareness is the Oneness Absolute State. Certain Shifts take place from the 1st to the next, then to the next, and they can be explained and passed down to somebody else, who, if they have the wisdom to understand, can also taste of said states.
Furthermore, as much as you guys are breaking it down intellectually, I found in myself, after an initial glimpse of this State a few years ago, I too purchased volumes of books on the subject, spent hours online doing research on it, discussing, debating, and so forth.
Eventually I came to a saturation point. I knew everything there was to know w/ the rational mind, about the Nondual state, the stages there, both progressive & instant, the authors both modern and of antiquity. And I know that the Oneness is not experienced w/ the mind, w/ thought, and that it transcends thought and is prior to it. So I finally stopped w/ all the books & research & gave way for more sitting, being, contemplating.
The rational wrestling with this all has its place, but at the end of the day, experience itself is prior to all thought. Even when thinking is happening, it is within experience. When we further investigate "experience" & "thyself" here are some very interesting things to be found.
Dominicus, I reached the same place as you are just over a year ago now, when I "woke up," as the lingo has it. In trying to make sense of it all, I did find hints that this might have been what Jesus was talking about, albeit using an eschatological vocabulary. How long has it been since you woke up?
Thanks for sharing so generously of your experience, Dominicus. see http://shalomplace.com/res/xianenli.html where I describe my own early (late 1980s) experience of what is now commonly called nondual consciousness. This has continued to deepen through the years.
I don't know how common this is -- maybe moreso than we might think, and that many who have this just don't talk much about it. It is a stammering, as you know.
Nevertheless . . . people can and do try to say something, and it is here that things do get interesting. It's common to read things like the following (with my comments):
- the mind is an illusion: note that it took a mind to make such a statement ; no, the mind is not an illusion, only it has nothing to do in that cosmic experience so it's not active.
- there is no self, me, I: actually, yes, there is -- the one who reports on the experience was obviously "there" when it happened, else there would be no report on it.
- the Oneness is God: note that the Oneness perspective does not encompass another's experience, but is constrained by the experiencer; iow, it is your experience of Oneness, not everyone's, and not even God's.
- this is what Jesus came to teach and convey: you'd be hard-pressed to make this case using even the most mystical texts from the New Testament and the writings of the early Fathers.
As Dominicus noted, In the end, I can never ever deny the existence of a living and breathing Oneness, yet its much more different than the Holy Spirit experiences.
Yes and YES!
And it may even be that, for some, it is the HS who leads them to the cosmic perception, in which case it would probably have something of a Christic quality as I noted in a post above.
So, in one sense, I agree that the experience speaks for itself, but in another, I have noted ad nauseum on this board that what people say about it is subject to critique and even revision. There's no better example of this than Bernadette Roberts' own retraction of the following:
In later writing, she expressed regret that she had put things this way and blamed it on others for pushing her into writing and publishing something she didn't really want to talk about (though you'd never guess this from her three-volume work on the topic).
My point is that it's one thing to describe the experience, but the interpretation of it should never go beyond what the experience itself allows for.
And thanks, too, for your reflections above, Johnboy. There's plenty of oxygen here for you, too.
Yes, poor Johnboy! I note the pages being critiqued are no longer critiquable, however. Don't tell me this character scared you off?
We "label" to make distinctions that we might better evaluate and understand. Personally, I've found Rahner's "anonymous Christianity" to be a very helpful way to understand how it is that Christ's saving work goes on in all the world religions. I've also never come across anyone offended by this theological teaching, but I'm sure there are people out there who might be. They can call Christians "anonymous Buddhist" if it makes them feel better, and if they explain what they mean as well as Rahner did. I'd hate to see his theological reflections on all this dismissed because of concerns for political correctness, which is what the objection often seems to me to be.
It's been a few years now since the initial "awakening". Although I find since then, that there is still shifting between a state of "Awareness" of thought, and then wrapped in thought and the I identity. It waivers.
Every so often however, and when least expected, BOOM, there it is, a state where I am nowhere. Then of course the mind comes in and says "That's it!!!" ..and the state vanishes. SO now there is lots of Being, sitting, allowing, and surrender. Rationally/Mentally it is all understood now how all of this happens, and so there is room now to put down all the books, that chattering mind (which isn't even 'I' Ha!) and just allowance of surrender.
I'm sooooo for it, as far as this being what Jesus was talking about. He says he and the Father are One, and in John 17:22 paraphrased (He's praying to God) So that they can be One, as you and I are One Father.(referring to us)
Another important aspect is Jesus saying the Kingdom of heaven is Within you. That entails doing archaeology on ourselves, plunging the depths within, and watching/seeing how everything operates.
Interestingly enough, early in my Christian Faith, I remember coming across the Gospel of Thomas (Purportedly they are Secret Teachings of Jesus to his Disciples) and some argue, the earliest written Gospel currently in existence. At the time, that Gospel made no sense at all. Some of the things Jesus was saying in there were like koans & paradoxes. It was only later when wrestling with Nonduality and directly experiencing the state did I completely comprehend the statement "Know Thyself". That statement is not just in the Thomas Gospel but also all throughout various forms of ancient philosophy. Still in Thomas, Jesus says all types of nondual teaching, like "When two are no longer two, but they are One, then you will know God." and "When male and female are no longer male and female, then you will know God"
To keep in context, in that Oneness state, there is No perspective, there is no discernment, nor division, nor separatist thinking. In that state there is no labeling of male and female and there is no two things as everything is One. So to me, it instantly clicked from direct experience that Thomas is indeed Genuine. Jesus couldnt possibly teach Nondual teachings to the Masses because it requires a certain set of wisdom and intelligence as well as intuition to crack those koans which would result in a direct experience of the Absolute state. For everyone else he taught Love/Devotion/Holy Spirit/Grace.
The latter being the more easier Path and so simple, an idiot can understand it. Just Love. Let the Love be number 1, and it removes the filters & judgments of the mind. Coincidentally, add to this Baptism and contemplation and all sorts of Graces and Mystical experiences are produced to further take one graciously into the Nondual state.
I went through the Dark Night for 3 years and the whole purpose of it was to completely destroy any notion from me, of God being an Idea, a thought, a concept. It also was a forceful stripping of all my identities, likes/dislikes, perspectives, and the Only thing that remained, was Awareness, The Now, and Timelessness. Instead of understanding it in that light, the ego/mind kept saying, "man this sucks." "Did God leave me?" "AM I doomed?"
Yet having the wisdom to understand Nondual teachings, completely short circuits the need to have to Go through the Dark night, as everything that is Illusion is immediately brought to the light and let go of. Sure some work at it longer than others. Even Nisargadatta, whom some consider one of the best Nondualists, took him 3 years to resolve all the clinging attachment minds stuffs.
Imagine you knowing what you know now, and having to go to the Jews all wrapped up in slaughtering innocent animals for their own sins, 800+ rules & regulations to adhere to, and then trying to explain to them, that there is a new and different way to God. All your old ways are in sense void. There was no other way for him to teach except for Christ to completely wrap all the God/Mysticism stuff in Jewish packaging and simplify it so even the dumb can comprehend. What happened in turn, is that all of our modern day version of Western Christianity has taken what he said to be literal, dogmatic, fundamentalist, and separatist. The reality of his teachings are transcendent and available to all.
We still have a living tradition of under going the spiritual/physical changes into Christhood by the groups known as "Hermits, saints, mystics, and desert Fathers" These are folks who contemplated and experienced the same things that we are just now glimpsing. They sat for decades in meditation and mapped out the the inner realms of Being and consciousness, discussing the stages there, and even being published to which we still have access to the their materials. These people were seekers of Union, of the deepest depths of God that can be experienced.
So we have ultimately 2 parties. Those that know Christianity only from rational thought. And we have those that know it through rational thought and have direct experiences, most of which transcend all thought. Many of the latter are eventually consider "Saints & Mystics" by the rationalists.
If you want the status quo, go to church on Sundays and try your best. If you want the truth, well then in a sense you are like Neo taking the red pill. You will never ever be the same and its impossible to go back being to far down the rabbit hole. Even still, knowing what you know now, would you want to go back. I know from your initial awakening, its impossible to go back.
The key thing for me was my Identity as a Christian and my relationship with Christ and God. The Nondual state, awesome as it is, is devoid of identities. I needed to justify Nonduality with Christianity and I did. The experiences themselves have brought me closer to God, to Jesus. To know that I can share in that Oneness that Jesus spoke of, is awe inspiring reverence.
Thats pretty much about it for me. By the way, what is your current state. Can you elaborate some more?
Our paths have been remarkably similar. I know that flip-flop between awareness and egoic consciousness well.
I did write a bit about my researches into the (possibly) nondual Jesus on my blog. The statement "I and the Father are one" is problematic, since it doesn't even sound like the Jesus of the synoptics. I'm inclined to think that Jesus may have said something to this effect, but we're looking here at the phrasing of the Johannine community rather than a verbatim quote.
The Gospel of Thomas is also problematic. It does seem that the kernel of Thomas goes back to the same (oral, Aramaic) sources as the synpotics. The question then is, does the other material in Thomas originate with Jesus, or is it part of some extraneous tradition (often erroneously termed "gnostic")? Just on a personal level, I do agree with your reading of Thomas, but I don't think there's enough evidence to convince anyone who hasn't experienced these things for themselves. (As you can see from my blog, I try to take a historical-Jesus approach that would be acceptable to critical readers of both Christian and non-Christian backgrounds.)
It does seem to be impossible to go back. For me, there's always this "knowingness" present. As for where I am today, by a happy coincidence I made some video clips about this over the weekend. Here's one (if my imbedding works):
If you click through to Youtube, you can find the others.
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