I guess the biggest thing that has  come with my latest round  of insights is how perfectly simple and obvious a lot of reality actually is. leading out of that, is a greater than ever puzzlement at how people seem to make the whole thing and the process of understanding it, into something needlessly complex. part of that is jargon, part of that is cultural disconnect, part of that is lack of interpretive framework,  and part of it pure foundational confusion.

for instance, allow me to recourse to Uncle Noam again: I was listening to one of his talks the other day and he made a good point: when human beings talk about our own higher mental faculties, we don’t apply the same standards, or the same fundamental assumptions, as we do to studying anything else in the natural world, like birds, or trees, or rocks.  As soon as you talk about consciousness, or even something like language use in higher primates ( us ), suddenly the thing diverges into metaphysics, and a lot of people assume you have to become a mystic to understand it.  To me, this seems like a defense mechanism to avoid actually facing what is clear and obvious when you look directly at the nature and capabilities of human beings. Close investigation of immediate experience starts to tell you things you don’t like, so you have to create whole new categories of reality and bring them into the conversation to avoid the simplest conclusions.

I’ve been taking a philosophy of mind course this semester, and the whole thing revolves around what they call ‘the hard problem’. how is it that out of the objective facts of brain and biology, do we get subjective experience, basically? How do you account for ‘being’? The short answer is a lot of what we think of as subjectivity is an illusion, and the rest is probably understandable in terms of brain science. And yet, even though good and simple explanations exist, many people in the mind sciences/philosophy insist that we must always account for our superficial intuitions about reality. it seems like we have a self, it seems like we have subjective experience of a very unified sort, it seems like we have agency of the ordinary kind, so anything that dis confirms these things must be wrong or somehow unsatisfactory.

the notion that we should be fitting our theories to match our undisciplined intuitions about reality seems like the exact opposite of the reasons why we invented science, philosophy, and contemplation to begin with. we wanted to go beyond the face value, the superstitious, the mysterious and ineffable. But for some people, a good explanation will never be enough.  makes you wonder what they were really looking for in the first place. truth? or just validation for their personal prejudices?

the enlightenment scene is rife with this sort of thing. the simple truth is not good enough, so there needs to be elaborate practices and metaphysics and mysticism in it’s place. there’s nothing wrong with being a mystic, I suppose, but that’s not really a collective human project, and it’s not really something that can or should get a lot of traction in the collective domain where better and clearer understandings exist. it would be kind of like praying for lightning, when a match will do just fine.

I don’t think it’s controversial that the basic question of enlightenment revolves around ‘dualism’. the way it is typically used in enlightenment culture is dualism of perception, or the relationship between subject and object, and collapsing the split between them.

but this is actually a fairly narrow and not always terribly useful way of approaching the problem. it is also an extremely narrow way of understanding what ‘dualism’ actually is, or what the historical philosophical dialogue around dualism actually entails. it’s a clear cut case of where veering off into mysticism confuses the issue, perhaps deliberately, when one doesn’t like the conclusions of simple reason.

If you are a ‘non-dualist’, in terms of your view on reality, that means you think there is only one fundamental substance. not subjective substance and objective substance. not matter and mind. not spirit and matter. not mind and spirit. not soul and body.  not self and other.  this philosophical term for the absence of dualism is ‘monism’, and I find it rather peculiar how enlightenment culture seems to go through all kinds of contortions to explain the non-dual nature of reality, when a single word will do. there may be the appearance of these many different substances, but that is a fallacy. there is only one ‘kind’ of stuff, and it presents itself in many possible ways, at least to our senses, leading to our confusion about reality. Sticking your hand in an open flame, or having sex, or listening to music are about as different as sensory experiences can get, but there is no doubt that they are fundamentally grounded in the same reality. no one should postulate a different metaphysical domain to govern music, or sex or combustion. same with our so-called ‘spiritual’ experiences.  There are no existentially or metaphysically ‘other’ domains or reality. it’s all one thing.

the whole question of perception is a red herring. perception will do what it will do, but it is inevitably constrained and constructed by your foundational assumptions. and if your foundational assumption is that there are really all manner of different substances, essences, or links in the great chain of being at work here, then you have little hope of ever really getting beyond dualistic thinking.

and for those who will immediately recoil at this apparent ‘reduction’, just keep in mind that how things appear to us has very little to do with what they fundamentally are. one can scream ‘materialist reduction’ all they wish, but even a cursory familiarity with contemporary physical theory shows that matter is not quite as material as it’s cracked up to be. the one thing at work in the universe is much more complex than billiard balls, but is also much simpler than dualistic schema of multiple separate domains somehow interacting with each other across various kinds of metaphysical divide. everything you think of as mind, body, soul, spirit, matter, energy, god, man, the finite, the infinite. it’s all just one kind of thing at work, seen in different ways. you are not a soul in a body, or a mind in a brain, or any nonsense like this. you are your body. you are your brain. you are your consciousness, and they are all aspects of each other.

“Ultimate Reality” does not mean finding some abstract realm or experience to abide in. or perturbing your senses so things look somehow different. You want ultimate reality? Look at your hand. look at the wall. Look at your thoughts. it’s all the same stuff. how could it possibly be any other way? you are this, and only this. there is nothing else to be, and nowhere else to go, and nothing here to be anywhere or do anything or go anywhere else. whatever you might mean when you think of mind or soul or reality, it’s right there, in your hand, right now. Seriously.

If you start thinking ‘oh it just can’t be that simple’… yes it can, and yes it is. If you’re hooked on thinking there has to be something more complex to it, it just means you’re in thrall to some idea that reality is somehow not exactly what’s in front of you. No, of course it’s not all there is to reality, but it is reality. Seeing everything there is to see is not the point, never was the point, never will be the point. It’s seeing what is, as it is, as being fundamentally real. Thinking that there just has to be something more to it, is the exact problem. there just has to be some self that I can’t actually find, some permanent unchanging thing to rest in that I can’t actually find, some other plane of reality where the real stuff is actually happening that I cannot actually find.

The reason you can’t find it, is:

because. it. is. not. there.

this is it. this is enlightenment. the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can start to see more of what is really going on.

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30 thoughts on “New Model Monism / open thread

  1. Games of fundamental distinction confuse me. Meaningful vs. meaningless activities, theism vs. atheism, mind vs. matter… you name it. They remind me a bit of arguments between angry people. At some point the discussion starts to gravitate away from actualities and into petty arguments about semantics. “That metaphor sucks, because there’s an inconsistency in the second paragraph that clashes with what you say about justice and liberty in the first and third paragraphs!” overtakes more prudent concerns, like answering the question “why are you angry and what can we do about it?”.

    What’s the difference between fantasy and reality, mind and matter? More importantly, what’s the practical or theoretical utility of making these separations? Do they give me anything I wouldn’t otherwise have? Do they take away anything that would otherwise be there?

  2. I note a change in your writing recently. Nice bit this latest. Welcome to the trap of trying to explain the ridiculously simple!

    Funny/ironic how many paragraphs you wrote to essentially say what you said in this: “it’s all one thing” and “this is it”.

    Even that says too much! *L*

    But just getting to it isn’t found too helpful by others, at least not very often. What becomes obvious to some remains totally obscure to others. Even to make a “reductionist” argument requires quite a bit of verbiage. Paradoxical, as is most of this business of trying to communicate that which is too simple for words.

    Forgive the others throughout history who go on and on about the obvious simple truth, get off on all sorts of tangents or hammer incessantly on one small aspect/example. Seeing more clearly, much of that will seem overkill to you now – or even counterproductive in that it only adds to potential confusion/delusion. Remember when it was not so simple to you.- and yet you kept looking, reading that stuff…

    Did all that help? I bet it’s hard to say. Usually a mixed bag (the “non-dual” expressing subtly yet again). Did any of it “show” you directly, or did you have to look for yourself. Odd bit of business this… an odder in retrospect as such distinctions fall away.

    I generally go with “D: All of the above.”

  3. well, this is a statement of my observations, and clarification of certain philosophical issues, not a practice regimen, or something that is intended to take the place of practice. I think you would have to do practice for a long time to really understand what I was trying to say here and get the intended benefit.

    I figure the two main kinds of practice to bring you to the point of getting the monist argument in it’s depth would be to either a) strengthen the mind and perception until a pointing instruction is sufficient to drop the attachment to unreality suddenly. or b) to systematically dispose of false ideas and perceptions through contemplation and observation, until nothing is left but reality.

    I still don’t think trying to jump directly to radical simplicity is all that useful, nor does it give you the grounding in dialogue you’d need to help people move through the process. if I had arrived at this through frolicking in the wildflowers or something, I’d have no idea how to talk to people, and I probably wouldn’t even think it was possible.

  4. Hmm, interesting. I seem to have gone out and had an epiphany, tangentially related to the matter at hand. I’m still unfortunately convinced that I am me is mind is different from everything around me, though, and am thus stuck in the illusion still.

    Even so, thanks for providing the plunking board.

  5. there will be a lot of transitory epiphanies along the way, alas. that’s why I have eventually concluded a systematic approach is best. less chance of having to redo old territory, or having to reinvent your own wheels.

  6. no, not necessarily. just a systematic approach in general. consistent method, documented progress, some kind of internally coherent measure of progress.

  7. Wow. Great post. I’m not sure about the conclusions, but long before I knew about this whole achievable enlightenment thing I was already sure that it was nonsense to think that “one should postulate a different metaphysical domain to govern music, or sex or combustion”. Just because it didn’t make sense to draw arbitrary lines like that. I was basically lost in my intellectual refusal to accept dualistic explanations until Deleuze and Guattari’s books presented me the monist framework. Their work is far from simple, but it’s all about tackling the dualisms and mounting the “plane of immanence”. It ressonates a lot with the enlightenment thing, in my opinion!
    But I don’t know. Parts of me are still lacking, earning for a totalization. Earning for meaning.

    Meaning is produced structurally. Building a family, for an example – for most people is something that gives a lot of meaning to life. It creates the effect that *something* is heading *somewhere*. The whole ritual thing, marriage and rings and stuff, just reinforces and protect this. The same can be said of academia, modern-capitalist work ladder, etc.

    But all structures are so… provincian. Limited. Knowing something is a construct seems to remove it’s meaning almost immediately. Ritual sound ridiculous in face of post-modernity – just look at thelemic rituals at youtube. It doesn’t works. Only the remote and exotic smells with sanctity (and thus meaning), but capitalism’s relation with the exotic is predatory (vide tourism, the greatest exoticism-killer!). Anything in specific is too contingent to provide meaning and account for the whole. And the lack, it’s still there. I really believe this is some sort of socio-cultural situation (donc, also contingent).

    So this may have nothing to do with enlightenment – because meaning is *just content*. It’s more about social psychoterapy, like, we’re facing this socio-historical challenge, we need to produce an image of totality (this whole reasoning is pretty junguian – I’ve began reading his stuff recently and it makes sense, even despite the fact he totally missed the enlightenment from the picture )

    Peraphs mysticism – like psychonautics, like deep psychology and psychanalisis, like magick and shamanism – can answer for that challenge. It may not answer the enlightenment challenge, so what? Many things don’t, and they are not less useful because of that.

    The whole question revolves around the “image of totality” – wether such thing is or isn’t a hindrance. Of course, the image of totality isn’t totality, and peraphs it doesn’t even represents totality… (and so it comes philosophy, and things aren’t simple anymore. the only thing that seems simple to me is absolute truth. the rest, the rest is very complicated…)

    Anyway, good questions, you have.
    Holds,
    PP

  8. “…if I had arrived at this through frolicking in the wildflowers or something, I’d have no idea how to talk to people, and I probably wouldn’t even think it was possible.”

    Curious that you seem think it is more possible to do so coming to your wisdom without such frolicking… *L*

    Does your thinking rely on this sort of duality still (one path is clearer and more transmissible than another path), or it it merely a dualistic artifact inherent in the very nature of communication? Don’t want to assume, no need to.

    Please, don’t be offended as I mean nothing personal in this, only that this is worth looking into.

    The Magnum Opus DOES evade words (and for good reason, which ultimately becomes apparent if you apply reason [not mere rationality]). These words surely being an example of that as I know what I am trying to get across, yet also know the words can never achieve that on their own (and more often than not achieve the opposite). If you look, you will see this to be so.

    The old cliché: “The map is not the territory” still holds up. Elements of our apparent/respective paths can certainly be discussed and shared. Knowledge can be shared. Experiences can on some levels be shared. Usefulness will vary. Wisdom however is internal (aka personal/impersonal, hidden, occult, or any other similar and generally misused words). One can live through/in wisdom, perhaps even exemplify/embody it in some ways that have some impact on others, but share it? Teach it? Transmit it? Really? To what end?

    Attempting such at best defaults to transmission of knowledge/stories. Ideas about wisdom perhaps, never wisdom itself. This sort of shared information addresses/appeals to the very aspect of mind that gets in the way! Attempting this simultaneously insults the intended receiver by denying they already posses it (and presuming that you do and your awareness is of any use to others!). At worst it is so miscommunicated/misunderstood that people it start religions!

    All this, despite the best of intentions, it’s all a deviously subtle and cruel form of violence. An extreme position? Not if we look to history. Violence always achieves the opposite of what is intended. Tell your stories, but do not try to make others serve your end by sharing your wisdom! How wise would doing so be?

    “Let me show you the light [that you already are]”? How rude! How cruel! Fortunately the whole premise prevents itself (but sadly the usually unintended side effects can be rather horrific – confused seekers – abused followers – glorified martyrs…)!!!

    If your practice/methods have any contemplative aspect – go to that and consider how there could possibly be any difference in the awareness of reality, or transmissibility of realization of same, to another being that is dependent on ANY method or path. Quite simple this.

    Then look into the insult and consequences of this false notion of “transmission” of one being’s wisdom/realization to another. This may not be so simple to grasp initially.

    Likely not popular suggestions among anyone in the spiritual set (including those who worship practicality/clarity), who are enjoying that aspect of the journey so to speak (neat trap that one).

    If this doesn’t float you boat, then might I suggest a nice frolic? Hopefully the mystics see the value, and let go and see through that too.

    Frolicking (including seeing mind doing what it does, bodies dancing,leaves falling, waves crashing, etc… ad infinitum) is another path (aspect of the only path/non-path). No more, no less. Paths lead to self, self as expression of all. We each can come to gnosis, but cannot show anyone our or their true selves. We have much to offer each other, but not that. Each is that already. To attempt that gift is to deny it (for yourself AND others).

  9. I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from discussing this any further than we already have, elsewhere. thank you anyway. I prefer my conversations to have a point. If someone else needs me to clarify these issues some more, I might consider it, but I think you’ve heard everything I have to say about it, and there does not seem to be any basis for progress.

  10. Hrm. I seem to be getting there. Epiphanies this, epiphanies that… for the last few weeks this exact philosophical problem has been clashing in my consciousness.

    There are moments when I am a dualist in the regular sense. Where I go about and interact with it, the world. These moments are the most numerous, and are frequently characterized by suffering.

    But then some of my longer-running thoughts reached their conclusions. One can say a lot of bad things about my blogging and be quite right in saying them, but it has done wonderful things for the trajectory of my thinking – even if most of it isn’t in evidence there.

    Now, given the completion of these thoughts, my brain has started to make some adjustments to how I experience the world.

    There are moments, now, when I stop being Sindre. Stop being some sort of advanced metaphysical construct that is responsible for summarizing all experiences that come to me. The idea of a self becomes secondary to the experience of, well… everything. I am the color on the wall, the ache in my wrist. I am the experience of self as much as I am the utter lack of such an experience. I am sensation, and nothing more.

    This is all very poetic – to my mind, anyway – and vague. Essentially, I’m just experiencing what I believe to be the monism you describe here – that there are no boundaries, and that the domains of experience we usually characterize life by (“me”, “other”, “ego”, “self”, “reality”, “fiction” or whatever) are all fallacies. There is nothing fundamentally different about any of it. If you reduce it, it’s all the same stuff. Even if it manifests in different ways.

    Am I waxing lyrically about something completely unrelated, here? I don’t know. What do you think?

    Regardless of what it is I’m talking about, the experience of oneness is growing more frequent. At first it was a rare flash occurrence. Now it happens almost every day. It certainly feels like an enlightenment, in the sense that I am left both happier and with a sense of bolstered insight when it occurs. A sensation similar to learning some new fact that helps reconcile formerly clashing thoughts, if you can relate to that description.

  11. I apologize for any sloppiness in my writing, by the way. I have a most peculiar habit of feeling inspired to write in the dead of night, when I am tired and lazy.

  12. Thank you kindly.

    It’s kind of funny, though. I seem to be on the verge of some momentous realization, sort of dancing around the edge of it… and in spite of this my life is otherwise just as before.

    I still suck at keeping my promises, to myself and others. I still struggle with insomnia. I still attend school erratically at best. I can still be a cruel asshole.

    But everything feels different, and as such, everything is different.

    I’m not sure how to describe it best, but once those glasses go on and everything starts to fall into perspective, I also notice something flickering in the background. I think you talked about it in the last installment of the Philosopher’s Stone, or possibly in the penultimate episode. The Platonic idea of the Good, the Beautiful, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.

    There’s this momentous presence, hovering near the edge of imminent experience. Sometimes it overwhelms me for a fraction of a second, and it’s like I lose myself in something unfathomably big and… empty. And then for a couple of minutes, even the most prosaic of sensations feel somehow profound and beautiful as well. Like everything is a representation of something so fundamentally awesome that it’s worth loving, even if it’s also sort of nasty – like pain or an itch. Of course, it doesn’t last. But it keeps coming back, and I keep feeling overwhelmed when it does.

    It feels like it’s changing me, too. In ways that would be subtle, if not for the fact that little else in my life is changing right now. I feel happier, more content. I also feel like things are just a little easier to do. Memories seem to come faster, learning is more automatic, it’s easier to slip out of negative affective states… and it’s just plain easier to like people.

    And, perhaps strangest of all – unlike with previous attainments, like my brief bouts of access concentration, I’m not actually afraid to lose it. I feel content simply at ever having felt it. Which is something so utterly alien from my general life experiences that I struggle to conceptualize it.

    It strikes me as something that’s possibly a little like the weird pseudo-hallucinations that crop up when you do concentration practice. A sort of residual effect of the mind adjusting to new data and new perspectives.

    Or?

  13. Oh, that’s a touch oxymoronic of me.

    > “Nothing’s changed”
    *Three paragraphs down*
    > “Everything’s changing”

    But then, both can be true at the same time. It’d be silly of me to expect the end of conventional suffering to be the end of absolutely everything I dislike as well. I’m not sure how the world would look if it was, but it certainly wouldn’t be like this – and I certainly wouldn’t interact with it the way I do.

    One milestone passed, infinity to go.

  14. Super freakin ‘ awesome post Zac. Been following you for years and this is one of the clearest things that you have ever said.

    Reality is the thing staring you in the face. Nothing more and nothing less

  15. thank you. I was kind of ambivalent about saying something like this, because it’s easy to confuse deep simplicity with naive simplicity. one could think of the mind of someone living in a trailer park and watching ‘cops’ as being simple, but the average person’s metaphysics are bound to be shockingly convoluted and contradictory beneath their apparent simplicity. I think it’s important to recognize how complex your thoughts really are, before you can hope to really understand the true simplicity of reality.

    plugging away on finals, so I’ll be a bit quiet for another week or two.

  16. The simple/complex dichotomy is interesting, for sure. I’m reminded of the Architect speech in Matrix Reloaded. Sure, it’s a load of wibble, but that’s got more to do with language, not content. On the surface level it seems like noise, but the signal is pretty simple (we want people to be plugged into the Matrix, but for it to work, they have to choose it, and when someone flat out rejects it and encourages others to reject it, that puts the system in danger and we have to kill them off and start the whole thing over).

    I think it’s just a part of the practice or lifestyle or whatever you want to call it that everything flips over once in a while, so that up is down and down is up and cats befriend dogs and what have you. A while ago, I found myself starting to regard the allegedly simple as extremely convoluted. Because when you deny the most basic facts of what is actually happening, all sorts of metaphysical justifications and contortions have to be made – it’s like building a rickety structure over a bottomless pit in defiance of the gravity in that place, so that you have to constantly rebuild and reinforce the structure. And when you do that long enough, you start to perceive that structure as, paradoxically, something stable or even permanent.

    In short, human perception is full of small and big holes. For instance, I’d say it’s common to think that you must have been fully aware unless you somehow became aware that you weren’t. Let’s say you’re walking around deep in your thoughts, and you suddenly hear tires screeching and a car horn, and you look up and see that you’ve walked right in front of a car. Then you’ll know that you weren’t paying attention to what was going on around you. But the trick we play on ourselves is thinking that unless something jars you and points out exactly what you weren’t paying attention to, then you must have been paying attention. Which is patent nonsense. But the brain constructs this seemingly stable flow of experience with seemingly stable reference points and only a few jolts here and there, and, like Zac pointed out in the post, if something seems like it’s the case, and it always seems like it’s the case, then it’s very easy to start thinking that it must, in fact, be the case. And then you start building on top of that, and something on top of that again, until all you see is what you’ve trained yourself to see, rather than what’s actually there. And just having someone say that yes, you can see reality as it really is, and here’s how, I find immensely refreshing.

  17. Of course everything is exactly what it is, and any attempt to seek or create a reality which lies behind or beyond these experiences leads one to miss the point. However, I have to strongly disagree that either monism or any kind of modern scientific account of reality provides an adequate description of the straightforwardness of reality. First of all, monism is itself a metaphysical proposition, as it posits something, specifically “a substance,” which is the true nature of things. This positing goes beyond the direct experience of the things themselves. Direct experience does not claim to be the same as or different than anything else. It is just there in its momentary, ungraspable, indefinable way. My hand is my hand; my desk is my desk; my thoughts are my thoughts. I could only say that these are the same or different relative to some particular purpose or point of comparison.
    Second, modern scientific method is generally based on a principle of explanation. One seeks to explain a phenomenon, develops a theory, extrapolates conclusions, and then tests these experimentally to “prove” the theory. While this is obviously useful for certain purposes, it is quite antithetical to an account of the simplicity of reality. Much closer to home would be a phenomenological science, such as Geothean science, developed mostly by the Anthroposophists / Steinerites, in which one does not attempt to explain anything but merely observes the relevant phenomenon until its meaning or nature becomes apparent, ie until that which the phenomenon is always “saying” is finally perceived.

  18. Hello Zac,

    I just recently discovered your podcast, and now your blog. I am very new to trying to learn about occultism, alchemy, and this sort of thing in general.

    But I have been a long time student of science and naturalism, I consider myself both an atheist and a skeptic. Though we all know labels can be misleading.

    I wanted to say that I find what little of your work I have found to be very refreshing. I especially liked your comments about philosophy of mind and the weakness of relying on the senses.

    People can get carried away with these thruths it seems, feeling like because our sensory experience is not a perfect reading of the environment that all is illusion and all is in our heads. Where a better explanation is our head is in the environment and is actually a part of it.

    I think a greater deference and understanding of nature as it is empirically understood would do wonders for people’s pursuit of higher understanding.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

    I hope I was not in bad form to post this after you said the topic had already been exhausted.

  19. the topic had only been exhausted with that particular person.

    Sometimes I do think the whole obsession with treating reality as various degrees of illusion is perhaps a bit worn out. it’s rather a fine point, but it’s not reality that’s an illusion, but our interpretation of it that is subject to delusion. just because you don’t know what you’re experiencing, and don’t know how to describe it clearly, doesn’t mean it’s not there. precisely speaking, an illusion is not an hallucination, but a mis-apprehension of what is before you. a lot of people seem to want to treat everything as some kind of hallucination that can be dispelled through mystical practices, when it’s quite the opposite that actually happens.

  20. Part of the problem is… you’re in a philosophy class. See, what happens is that you go into a bookstore and see “philosophy” books like canonical thinkers, mixed in with sociopolitical theorists and sociologists and psychologists, and you think, “wow, philosophy is about ‘deep’ ideas”. Then you take an undergrad college course and the theorists and sociologists and psychologists–you know, the people who talk about actual real stuff, AKA “data”–have dropped out of the picture. Then you take a grad-level “philosophy” class and you end up with 3000 pages of assigned reading about people who are *really* just making it all up as they go. On the positive side, this means you can churn out about 60 pages in three days and it still be earn an A- work–after all, you’re being “conceptual”!

  21. This… is why scientism gets us nowhere.

    “Oh look, my conceptual map of the world is inherently superior to yours because I’m an empiricist.”

    Because the rest of us can’t possibly be, right?

  22. There is a way which is supremely effective. Just look at yourself as you are, see yourself as you are, accept yourself as you are, and go ever deeper into what you are.

  23. I’m doubtful that there is any one ‘cure’ for dualistic thinking. A combination of basic philosophy and insight meditation worked for me, but I doubt that it would work equally well for anyone – just as I doubt that all the methods I’ve had recommended to me would have worked equally well for me.

    Ultimately, whatever works for you works for you. As long as you get the understanding down, the method is effectively irrelevant – at least in regards to this particular issue.

    I would have to assert that some amount of consistency is useful, though. For me, it only really started working when I stuck to one method for a while. As long as you don’t butt your head against a wall for eternity, I think it’s fine to say “This is how I will integrate this understanding”, and stick to one method. If that doesn’t work out, try one of the myriad others that folks will suggest, such as the one mentioned directly above.

  24. yes, this simplicity vs complexity issue is a rather persistent one. it’s like saying, when asked how to get into orbit; ” just get in your rocket and go up there’. it sounds like a simple answer, but it glosses over the fact that most people don’t even know what a rocket really is, how it works, or how to build one, let alone pilot one. there are real distinctions that need to be integrated into process before perception can simply accept the stance of ‘things as they are’. just like a lot of the mystical code language and pseudo-obfuscation hides the obviousness of many of the critical details, you do need to come to grips with a certain degree of irreducible complexity, either consciously or intuitively.

  25. and by the by, I will be putting something together for the site in the next month or two. school is what it is. takes up time. commandeers a lot of the same brain places I use for this, so my free time tends be more vegetative.

  26. Hey Zac, been checking through your site now and then for about a year now and its all well worthwhile, its rare to find someone that can communicate insights clearly. Its cool!

    I have drawn different philosophical conclusions from extended non dual experiences, before deciding that actually the experience was not adequate for solving these issues. They can be interpreted in many ways, and any aspect of experience can be held up as the center, and everything else treated as illusion. I think there is a confusion between the classical duality of body and soul being different substances, that do or don’t effect each other, and the possibility of the soul existing while being made of the same stuff as the body, namely, information. Experiencing the unity of being doesn’t prove the lack of a soul anymore than it proves the strength of the magnetic field of the sun. You may have higher organs developing that we would consider mental, and the fact they are dependent on the brain does not make them illusions anymore than your kidneys being made of cells and molecules proves them to be illusory. Especially not illusions that must be done away with before we can achieve enlightenment.

    And as an aside, the writings of western mystics show that plenty of them clearly achieved enlightenment without letting go of the idea of the soul, or the self, just because they came to feel themselves to rest within a god.

    I agree that people should push for the non dual before worrying too much about solving fundamental questions like what is mind and is there life after death, free will, etc. Be pragmatic, get rid of fundamental suffering first. But I’m rarely convinced when people use non dual insights as answers to fundamental philosophical questions, and I think that too often the path to enlightenment is sold along with a bunch of philosophical positions that are claimed to be necessary factors of your potential attainment, when they are actually just common interpretations of non dual experiences.

    I’m doing philosophy of mind next year, looking forward to it 🙂

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