That is that or Tit for tat (un prêté pour un rendu)
On Advaita and the Paradox of Consciousness
“J’aime le tao, mais j’aime aussi l’anti-tao. On peut faire une tartine de tao et la beurrer avec de l’anti-tao.” (“I like tao, but I like also anti-tao. You can make a sandwich of tao and butter it with anti-tao.”) Jean Dubuffet
“The optical illusion is the optical truth.” Goethe
“L’anthropomorphisme, c’est à dire la tendance à voir dans le cosmos des formes, des situations, des intentions qui ressemblent à celles de l’homme, fait naître un nombre prodigieux de connotations codifiées en symboles. Les angoisses ancestrales devant l’univers, les pulsions inconscientes et les désirs humains agissent sur l’imaginaire et y font naître des symboles universels : l’image du Père, vécu comme tout puissant, se retrouve dans les connotations du roi, du chef, du protecteur.” C. Peyroutet, Style et rhétorique. (“Anthropomorphism, that is the propensity for seeing in the cosmos all kinds of forms, situations and intentions that resemble those of the human being, gives rise to a prodigious number of connotations codified in symbols. The ancestral anxieties before the universe, the unconscious impulses and the human wishes act upon the imagination and thus give rise to universal symbols : the image of the Father, experienced as all-mighty, comes back in the connotations of the king, the chief and the protector.”)
Syllogism : (pejorative) a formally correct argumentation that does not take into account or reflect the real situation.
Advaita Vedanta is one of the oldest philosphical traditions of India and no doubt the one that is nowadays the most alive, thanks to the various contemporary masters that carry it on, both in its country of origin and in the West. [...]
Advaita meaning ‘non-duality’ and Vedanta ‘the end of knowledge’, its name summarizes the main insight it wants to convey: ‘All is one, as far as we know’.
All is one implies that all there is cannot entail any fundamental separaration: no separation between me and the world, no separation between body and mind, no separation between creation and creator. As a contemporary Advaita master puts it: “There is only Self and the unfolding of the Self. This is an infinite unfolding. And there is no creation and no creator. All there is is Self and there is no second Self, that’s all.”
As soon as one starts to voice this overall insight, however, by using words and concepts, one is confronted with the intrinsic nature of language which functions by means of dual or opposite signifiers, whether it be on the semantical level (‘white versus black’, ‘high versus low’) or on the syntactical level (‘subject versus object’), thus making anyone speaking or thinking about it to resemble a dog biting its own tail or a drowning person trying to pull himself out by his hair. How could the One be expressed by the dual?
Somehow, though, this overall understanding leads us to see outside the box, outside all boxes and that is why, if ever we can call it anything, we might better refer to it not as a ‘thought’ (with its inevitable duality and discursivity), but as a ‘clear insight’, suggesting an luminous, immediate flash,not implying any time, distance or means.
All reference to this immediate, indivisible and absolute Reality by means of speech and metaphors, thought and concepts can only be a representation of things. And yet the advaitins through the ages (as well as modern scientists in their endeavour to ‘grasp’ the Universe) have have attempted to voice the ineffable. (As for the wise that have prefered to remain silent, those stay unknown to us.)
And so they have resigned to refer to it as ‘Brahman’ or ‘Para-Brahman’, the ‘Self’, the ‘One’, the ‘Absolute’, the ‘Ulimate Reality’ or even ‘Consciousness’. It is quite ironical, maybe inevitable and certainly tricky that there would be so many names for the ineffable and, paradoxically, India has been not only the focus producing one of the most bright intuitions about ‘That’, but also the champion of inventing countless names for It.
All advaitins have been clearly aware of this apparent aporia. For Shankara, Brahman, the Real, exists unaffected by language and action and reveals itself only when language, action and questionings are cancelled out – as in the final direct perception prompted by meditation on Tat tvam asi (“That thou art”) – so that Brahman alone remains: Brahman is experienced as pure being and pure bliss. For Buddhism also, and Nagarjuna in particular, language (including scripture) expresses merely imaginary, mental constructions (vikalpa) that play over the surface of the real while obscuring it.
“In fact, the question is the sign that the answer is looking for itself, or that the question is looking for itself. The thinker is the thought. I don't look for something. We can never see what is to be found. When I see untruth, what remains is truth. You cannot remove the snake, you can only see the rope. Then there is no snake. But if I try to remove the snake, I never see the rope: I'm blocked by the snake,” as says a contemporary advaitin (An interview with Éric Baret, Montreal, September 20, 1999).
This metaphor of the person taking a rope for a snake is a very old and maybe a little bit worn-out figure of speech in the Advaita tradition. What is wants to point out is the illusion that prevents us from seeing reality as is, not just an optical illusion, but a much more radical, mental illusion, a kind of hallicination that makes us to take our ego for real. Our ego, the person we identify to as being me – even the world or the universe – would be an illusion, a product of Maya or Lila, the cosmic illusion. [quote Renz]
And so in this context one can often read or hear categorical statements like: ‘Ego is an illusion’, ‘The world is an illusion’ or even ‘All is an illusion’, but that would be to jump a bit hastily to conclusions. ‘Illusory’ is not synonymous with ‘nonexistent’. We would miss an essential nuance of this predicate however, if we interpret these oneliners as if this body-mind entity (or for that matter our ego or the universe) were nonexistent.
It is the snake that is illusory, and as being a mental projection of wishful or fearful thinking, its does not exist as a reality, it exists at the very most as a kind of hallucination. Saying ‘The world is an illusion’, implying ‘The world does not exist’, would be an absurdity, since it would equate the world with nothingness and nothingness is just another mental contruction. The rope does exist as a reality, it is the snake that lacks reality, being only an image projected on the rope, so as to obscure it.
Consequently it would be less confusing to replace the word ‘illusion’ by ‘point of view’, ‘representation of things’ or ‘idée fixe’, that is: a relative, partial or downright false representation or perspective.
The conventional assumption that the sun rises or sets is, as Nagarjuna would say, only a relative, not an absolute truth. The sun does not rise or set, it does not appear or disappear, it is always there. (It is always there in relation to the earth, although it is not absolutely still or permanent in itself.) Whether, as in Advaita, the Absolute is seen as pure, perfectly still Being, or, as in Buddhism, Shunyata or Emptiness as the infinite interdependance of things, lacking any ultimate permanence, is only a matter of representation.
Nevertheless and for the sake of communication the advaitin will relentlessly go on repeating that whatever comes out of the idea of separation, out of the idea of the separate ‘person’, out of the idea of ‘ego’, is a kind of hallucination and thus false.
And the common mortal goes on just as tirelessly to see the conflicts on all levels between human groups, bodies, cells and molecules as a reality of life – once landed up at the level of atoms, actually sheer fields of energy, he will be at a loss of representation.
But there is a certain logic and implacability to this seemlingly endless falling apart of particules on the manifest, tangible level: obviously life or nature or all that is needs to break down its agglomerates as far as the molecules or the atoms in order to be able to regenerate itself: no life without death, it is death that makes life possible. If nobody and nothing would die or disintegrate anymore, life and the universe would come to a halt, there would be no life and universe in the first place. So, the other way round, life or nature or all that is needs also aggregates and ‘egos’ to build itself up and expand or unfold itself, although these aggregates do not have an independent, permanent or separate substance: they simply could not.
But then there must be also this ultimate, all including logic: if there were to be a fundamental separation between parts and particules on the manifest level, then the universe, all that is, would immediately fall apart: it would even never be able to come into existence at all. Consequently, there must be some unmanifest, inconceivable force, energy or entity holding it all together, so to speak and ultimately, there is no separable ‘holding together’ or ‘falling apart’: these are simply correlate, the reverse movements of a single breath.
And ‘It’ must be infinite: in spite of the fact that we cannot see over the limits of the visible universe, simply because no light comes to us to enable us to do so, the visible universe cannot be suspended in or having orginated out of nothingness. If the universe or all that is, is indeed expanding or unfolding, what does it expand or unfold into? Nobody can tell, but it cannot be into nothingness. And if ‘It’ has no end, it has no beginning either. Inconceivable, but true. That is why all, from the most complex, animate organism to the minutest, inanimate particule, is ‘That’ (ultimately these are no fundamentally separate levels in It). And that is why we have to resign ourselves to the insight, however unimaginable it may be to the relative and finite human mind, of ultimate infinity and timelessness: all is always here and now.
Saint Augustin tells he was walking on the beach sunk in thought: suddenly he stumbles upon a child that has dug a hole in the sand, endeavouring to siphon over the seawater into the hole. Augustin, interrumpting his cogitations, asks him:
“What are you doing my child?”
“I am transfering the sea into this hole...”
“But this hole can never contain the sea!”
“Likewise you can never comprehend God...”
And upon answering, the child vanished, as he was an angel... Comparaison n’est pas raison: comparisons or metaphors never prove anything, they can just illustrate or maybe enlighten, and in this case the point is cristal clear. And yet anyone sees that God is not the sea, the human mind not a whole, neither consciousness water. They must be all together of different dimensions.
And so are the classical advaitin metaphors, such as the drop of ocean water (ego) ‘forgetting’ that it is really the ocean (That), or the fish searching for water (Love searching for Itself).
And this applies equally to reflections that became so fashionable, equating physical insights, like Quantum Mechanics, with metaphysical or mystical ones, like Advaita and other non-dualist views. Are we in the right when we equate the (unfolding of the) Self with the (expansion of the) Universe or all the Universes – and what is more, in combination with a particularly tricky concept as ‘consciousness’? Is the non-dualist insight compatible with human logic or reason? Must what is true in the physical field be true also in the metaphysical one and vice versa?
Human logic or reason, even as coming out of an Einsteins’s brain (whose name, by the way, sounds rather non-dual) and however illuminating it may be, stays doubtlessly a partial view, a vue de l’esprit, vast but partial, unable to venture into a beyond, and Vedanta as well as Quantum Mechanics or Relativity Theory remains a knowledge as far as... And yet that same human mind can have an intuition of some infinite ‘beyond’.
An infinite beyond always likely to be projected upon with wishful or fearful thinking. And modern scientists are not necessarily always an exception to that human propensity. As Einstein put it: “Two things are endless: the Universe and human stupidity. As for the former, I cannot vouch for anything.” He was on the modest side, as we will see.
Is the universe – ‘our’ universe – no more then a speck of cosmic dust amid an infinite number of parallel worlds? Once only a product of mind-bending science-fiction, the possibility of multiple universes starts to intrigue hard-nosed physicians, mathematicians and cosmologists. Scientists may not yet be able to prove they exist, the idea of multiple universes seems nowadays to be more than just a fantastic invention and to appear naturally within several serious scientific theories.
The consequences of these theories on parallel universes would be mind-boggling: if the universes are infinite, then logically everything that could possibly occur has happened or will happen, including ‘me’. Dopplegangers, spitting images of us, would exist on planets or in solar sytems to far away from ours ever to be reached. Our alter egos would be simply a prediction of the so-called concordance model of cosmology. Se non è vero, e ben trovato (if not true, a nice invention) and surely a serious blow to our ego.
However gradually split into separate but simultaneously existing realms, however unreachable and however uniformly or ill-assortedly filled with matter these parallel universes may be, they ultimately can be only one single Reality.
Needless to say that these scientific speculations have triggered specters of shadow worlds in which orphaned girls living in alternate universes go on quests, accompanied by animal manifestations of theirs souls, in order to rescue kidnapped children and discover the secret of contaminating dust said to be leaking from a parallel realm, as in a recent Hollywood blockbuster.
Are human logic and reason at all applicable in this domain? If the answer to this question would to be negative, then it would be wise to remain silent on questions we cannot speak about, to lean back and smile. Which the Buddha is said to have done on certain occasions. Permanent silent smiling, however, would pave the way for unbridled fantasies, given the propensity of the human mind for wishful and fearful thinking. That is probably the reason why the Buddha did speak, at all, after all.
Einsteins insights, although possibly triggered by a flash of intuition akin to samadhi, were not only developed by means of human logic and reason, but they were also, in the following decades, in majority verified to be true through scientifical, empirical observation, abeit that they concern the internal causes of the universe, leaving an over-all, verifiable explanation of all that is still to be found.
A doctrine putting forward however that only the Self exists might be prone to less self-criticism, to be not selfish but Selfish, to be a Self-fulfilling prophecy. If we submit some of the presuppositions or postulates of Advaita to logical reasoning, they may seem questionable, contradictory or even preposterous. It has been argued though that if one attempts to translate nondual Reality into dualistic reason, one will create two opposites where there are in fact none, and therefore each of these opposites can be rationally argued with equal plausibility – and that shows why reason only generates paradox when it tries to grasp the Absolute. And ‘paradox’ is ‘seeming contradiction’. Here are some examples.
‘The world is an illusion.’
Since in the advaitin perspective the Absolute is infinite, It can produce no thing other then Itself. Therefore the entire universe including mind, intellect and consciousness must be regarded as the Absolute. In the three-fold logic of Shankara it is contended that the Absolute is real, that the universe is unreal and that the universe is the Absolute. But it seems a logical absurdity that the universe can be simultaneously unreal and yet identical to an entity that is real. Ramana Maharshi clarifies this apparent contradiction, however, by suggesting that when veridically perceived as the Absolute the universe is real, however when perceived as distinct from the Absolute (i.e., as a collection of discrete objects experienced through the various sensory modalities in space and time) the universe is considered an illusion (maya). To put it bluntly: the universe does’t dream, people dream. This makes simultaneously an end to ideas as if the universe would be a product of our mind or consciousness, only the way the ordinary mortal sees it can be so.
For nothing in the functionning of the universe requires human involvement. The universe cares not a whit about the human race. Long after humanity will have disappeared from the scene, matter will still undergo the transitions that we call quantum events. The atoms in stars will radiate photons, and these photons will be absorbed by materials that react to them. Perhaps, after we are gone, some of our machines will remain to analyze these photons. If so, they will do so under the same rules of quantum mechanics that operate today.
‘The Absolute (Brahman, the Self, etc) is sat (existence, beingness), chit (consciousness) and ananda (bliss).’
‘The Absolute (Brahman, the Self, etc) is motionless.’
There seem to be more logical problems with various components of the Advaita doctrine. First, if, as it suggests, the Absolute is a non-knowing or ‘non-experiential state’ state in which one’s sense of Beingness and cognitive functioning have been extinguished, then how does one come to know that such a state exists? Furthermore, if the cessation of one’s long-term memory system (a cognitive function) occurs during this state, one would be unable to recall the experience. Yet, surprisingly, practitioners have provided phenomenological reports of this altered state in various advaitic texts. Even if, for the sake of argument, one’s long-term memory system was still functioning during this state, there would be nothing to recall because, if the Absolute is non-experiential, it must be phenomenologically contentless and therefore attributeless.
This raises a further question. If the Absolute is attributeless, on what grounds are proponents of Advaita justified in asserting that the characteristics of the Absolute are existence (sat), consciousness (chit), and bliss (ananda)? Second, if the Absolute is atemporal and therefore unable to ‘step’ down into time and space as Advaita doctrine argues, does this not place restrictions on a metaphysical entity which is supposedly unrestricted? Furthermore, if the universe is an emanation of the eternal Absolute, as Advaita contends, and if the universe is subject to space-time, logic dictates that space-time must also be enfolded in the Absolute, existing in a state of latency. To quote Wittgenstein: “if p follows from q, the sense of ‘p’ is contained in that of ‘q’,” where p is the universe and q is the Absolute. It is arguable that the expression of atemporality as the manifest content of the Absolute does not necessarily preclude the existence of latencies such as temporality. Finally, if the subject is unable to experience itself as a perceptible object and if, from an advaitic standpoint, everything is the Subject (i.e., the Absolute) then one should be unable to experience a delusory perception of the universe as all space, along with all the matter and radiation in space, for it too must ultimately be the Absolute. If a = b, and a is imperceptible, then, obviously, b is also imperceptible. [...]
Arguing over the question whether the universe (or the pluriverse) would coincide with the Absloute (and the other way round) or whether it would be be an emanation of the Absolute, would be sheer casuistry: the main point is that the Absolute must be infinite, one and indivisible, devoid of any fundamental separation. Quantum physics also suggests that there was no time before the Big Bang (even though it can not know and define what in fact was before) and that time only appeared in some kind of unfolding of the universe.
That the Absolute as Advaita defines It would be motionless and perfectly still, contrary to the never ending impermanence of the Buddhist concept of Emptiness, is just as much beyond human grasp: if the Absolute is in essence perfectly motionless and still, how could It latently contain and generate the contrary? If Emptiness entails never ending change, how can it be infinite, since change implies growth and thus boundaries. Do the waves of the ocean go anywhere?
Contending however, last but not least, as Advaita does, that the Absolute would be pure bliss seems to be in a downright contradiction with Its being intransitive and attributeless Subject: who or what would there be to be aware of this relative state of bliss?
“Consciousness Is All There Is”
And this leads us to the ultimate statement that the Absolute would equal Consciousness (note the capital): ‘Consciousness is All there Is’, as Balsekar has it.
Of all denominations for the Absolute, Consciousness is certainly the most tricky one. Of course, there is an arbitray side to any signifier and certainly in case of the Ineffable, you might call it anything: the Phallus, the Big Pear, Plenitude, you name it.
But any chosen name, by its metaphorical virtue, expresses at the same time some degree of intentionality. The ‘Absolute’ for example, albeit the most abstract amongst the customary denominations, coming from the Latin absolvere meaning to detach of to absolve, still suggests the idea of some separation (and so does the ‘Self’), although in the context at issue it has come to signify ‘detached from any relation or relativity’.
The equation of the Absolute and Consciousness (Cit or Citta in Sanskrit) is an old one and it cannot be totally devoid of some intention.
Now what does the concept of ‘consciousness’ refer to in an ordinary, human context? It denotes a state of knowledge in which the subject temporarily dwells in relation to an object or to itself: ‘I know this or that or myself’. Although this state is not permanent, the moment it presents itself, it is immediate: in my direct surroundings, within my field of consciousness, I am conscious of myself, someone or something in no time. [ qoute Libet?]
My field of consciousness seems to be limited, however, in space: I cannot see, hear or feel beyond its horizons, whether the be outside of within me. I cannot see, hear of feel directly what is more of less far away: I cannot see the building at the other end of town, but I can see the sun, and so on. Similarly, I can see my left arm, but not my eye; I can be aware of my heart, but not of my adrenal cortex or of the neurotransmitters in my body. Can we consider ‘unconsciousness’ or ‘subconsciousness’ (the ‘subliminal self’ or ‘inner space’) to be part or aspects of consciousness? And what about the sleeping and dreaming states?
So the state of knowledge we call ‘consciousness’ seems actually immediate both in time and in – unobstructed and illuminate – space. These properties, immediateness, unlimited spaciousness and illumination (and the primacy of seeing over the other senses), certainly account for the metaphorical equation of consciousness or Consciousness and Absolute.
So far we have bee refering to ‘consciousness’ only as ‘human consciousness’, but consciousness is not limited to human beings only.
There are a few basic theories on the nature of consciousness:
1. Consciousness may only be associated with animals that learn,
2. Consciousness could be a property of all living beings as opposed to lifeless matter. When amoebas are hunting for food or retreating from pain this could indicate consciousness,
3. Consciousness could be a property of all matter. This is also called panpsychism and is a view held by various spiritual traditions.
It is easy enough to open up the frontiers between human and animal consciousness, including animals having no highly developped nervous system or none at all, not to difficult to open up also those between all living beings, including plants, but to extent consciousness to be a property or a quality of all matter would require a quite radical redefinition, a definition so wide that it would perhaps cease to have a discriminate meaning: all matter having or being form, and changing form at that, thus being informed, would be endowed of consciousness. And this redefinition would also require the disappearance of the distinction between property and quality, between having and being.
Human, animal, vegetal consciousness might be a filter, Consciousness cannot be a filter, according to Advaita It is an essence: if consciousness is an attribute, Consciousness is a predicate. So we might accept ‘Consciousness’ just as a metaphor of ‘consciousness’, but this has as much cogency as calling my neighbor an Angel.
As for consciousness being a fundamental feature of all matter, it is difficult to imagine, let alone proof that, say, water has memory. And even if we would consider its informational structure as some form of primitive consciousness, we would have to account for the accumulation or generation from the most simple into the most sophisticated form of consciousness.
And there is also the very long history of the biological and cultural development of consciousness of man and his bicameral mind into its contemporary form with its typical sense of ego or self. But all that is not at all Advaita’s problem. It postulates the Absolute or Consciousness to be attributeless and atemporal, even if the latter designation seems to carry some traces of panpsychism. It gives short shrift to all cogitations: It is total absolution.
But this should not stop us to try and look behind the mirror and to play a bit around with Maya.
Again: what is in a word? But there seems to be some kind of double bind in the advaitic use of consciousness, with and without a capital. Apart from their metaphorical similarity, the two seem to be quite opposite: the lower-case one entails a subjet-object relation, the upper-case one none whatsoever. And the final leap out of this conundrum Advaita has attempted seems to be one out of reasoning – not to say reason – and logic into mysticism and religion, that is into a realm of intuition and subjectivity, the experience of which cannot be empirically verified.
And to our greater bewilderment, some proponents of modern Advaita, amongst whome Balsekar, do not only hesitate to incorporate the findings of quantum physics, but to merge also the idea of God into non-dualism: a tendency typical of Indian thought to cast the net as wide as thinkable, counterbalancing only its proclivity towards endless hairsplitting subtleties and casuistry. [quote Balsekar]
Yet the idea (or the feeling, the intuition) of God can never been really made compatible with non-dualism. The three monotheisms represent God as more or less separate from His (or Her) creation and thus are burdened with a contradiction impossible to resolve: if God is Infinite (which He must be, if not there can be more then One), He cannot be projected outside of his creation, He cannot be the Creator of his creation. Mystics in the monotheist tradition that had the intuition of God coinciding with His creation (‘I Am That’ being voiced as ‘I Am God’) were rejected as heretics.
But does non-dualism such as Advaita really avoid this trap of anthopomorphical projection by indiscriminately equating Absolute and Consciousness? Does the Absolute refered to as uncreated, unconditioned, self existing, self-luminous and beyond concept, and subsequently equated with Consciousness really avoid the same snare?
When one searches for any critical debate on this question, the harvest is poor. There is of course the traditional casuistry between Advaita and Buddhism, but it concerns mainly a dispute on terminology and goes hardly into questioning the premises of both doctrines, into the core of the riddle. In modern times and outside of the country of origin, Advaitins and Buddhists do barely discuss anymore. As for some critical debate within modern Advaita, it resembles the one on the gender of angels: a peripheral squabble on the utility of meditation, on the immediate or gradual nature of enlightenment or even on the morality of certain contemporary gurus.
Saying that ‘Consciousness is All there Is’ or that ‘Brahman is Sat Cit Ananda’ is like saying that ‘God it Love’: a superb utterance that leaves the flock speachless and on the verge of tears. Who would dare to deny it? Who would dare say the contrary, which should then have to be true as well: ‘God is Hate’? But what does it really mean?
This is the key question : is Consciousness only a metaphor or should we take this word literally? Is Light only a metaphor or should we see It literally?
In the case of Light : every living being knows light from intimate experience, knows what light concretely, literally is. Science has also revealed what is the phenomenon light : a wave motion of photons stemming from a source. [verify definition] The light known to us has thus obviously a beginning and an end. The firm contention All Is Light – a variation on All Is Consciousness : to both the same nature is attributed – seems therefore on this level at least doubtful, since it is clear that in the Universe light or the sources of light are scarse.
In the nondual context one refers to Light as being ‘the constantly present, self-luminous Light, ever at rest’, or as being ‘a total Clarity that has no opposite (‘un-clearity’)’, in one and the same breath equated with ‘Knowing’, ‘Consciousness’ or ‘Pure Awareness’.
So when we equate light and Light, we are confronted with a contradiction or paradox : light is finit, permanently moving (‘comes and goes’), has an opposite (‘obscurity’), is not ‘uncreated’, ‘unconditioned’, ‘self-existing’, ‘self-luminous’ (i.e. without source) and ‘beyond concept’.
So, the opposite of Light! The literal, concrete equation therefore does not hold true, and the figurative, metaphorical equation won’t stand up.
While the understanding of the concrete phenomenon consciousness is already much more difficult, the equation of consciousness and Consciousness has the same shortcomings. However clear the essence may be : we seem having to do at least with a contradiction in terms, if not with a confusion of tongues.
But are we not deluding ourselves with words? Cannot which seems to be contradiction, be essentially the coincidence of the opposites? See the aquarium of Bohm.
Consciousness (the Absolute, the Real, the Reality, &c) being devoid of attributes, postulating that It would be totally undifferentiated (infinite, non-local, timeless, objectless, formless, &c), how could It then ‘descend’ from one ‘level’ (undifferentation) to the other (differentation) or could the latter ‘rise’ in the former, ‘appear’ or ‘become manifest’?
Because the metaphore in this matter suggests some transformation, metamorphosis or even transsubstantiation. What makes the motionless to become motion, the Formless form, the Non-local locus, the Objectless object, &c? As the saying goes : because motion, form, locus, object are latently present in It. Latent would be an understatement! Hidden, invisible? But ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ does not equal ‘nonexistent’.
Indeed, something cannot be at the same time existent and nonexistent : to be and not to be preclude each other (as being predicate). On the other hand then, can something be at the same time differentiated and undifferentiated, or manifest and unmanifest (as being attribute)? In other words, can something be at the same time blue and red, high and low?
Yes, in our universe this is perfectly possible : it depends how one looks at it, that is to say, according to the position or the condition of the onlooker, on account of his relativity. For example, do I walk with my head upward, toward space and with my feet pressing against the earth (‘upright’), or do I walk with my head downward, toward space and with my feet glued to the earth (‘upside down’)? The more we would move away from the earth and out of our solar system, the more relative al these concepts would become, in fact they would cease to have any meaning at all.
The relative (either... or, exclusion, duality) does not know the Absolute (and... and, inclusion, nonduality) does comprehend the relative. In the relative seer and seen are two, in the Absolute one. The contradiction appears to be a paradox. In the words of Goethe: “The optical illusion is the optical truth.”
In short, it is like those pictures in which you ‘first’ see only one single image, and ‘then’ all of a sudden both the one image and the other, as two in one. This is not a matter of transformation (metamorphosis, transsubstantiation) in time and place, but of coincidence or co-presence. The illusion does not know the truth, the truth does comprehend the illusion. Illusion does not become truth, illusion is truth.
You don’t see It, and all of the sudden you do see It. And all of the sudden is saying to much. It does not know any difference, because It is all the differences. To know no difference (to discriminate none) is to know indiscriminately, inseparately, unknowingly. ‘It’ doesn’t discern anything, cognize anything or know anything, because It Is Everything. I do not know myself, I Am Myself. Consciousness is therefore not aware of Itself, It doesn’t have awareness, It is Being (cut : aware). It ‘dawns’ or ‘selfs’, It ‘realizes Itself’: and again, Itself is saying to much (and realizes too). Is = is. That is that. Et voilà!
No, consiousness is not ‘disolved’ in thet ‘substance’ Consciousness of which in essence it consists : these two do not have a ‘relation’, they are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Consciousness is neither a substance nor a substrate : that is where the water metaphore leaks a bit, as any metaphore does. The least unfortunate metaphores are those of light and space : luminous space, wide light.
No, consciousness does not ‘escape’ to the ‘level of undifferentiate’ Consciousness’ (a contradiction in terms) : there is no relocation trick, there is no way in or out. No way.
Does the Real really express itself in forms, and also in words, not with an aim, but sponaneously, by vertue of the intrinsic nature of Reality? And why would the Real do such a thing? As a joke? And what is this intrinsic, typical nature of Reality? Is the Cosmos comical? And the Universe a carnival mirror? It is anyone’s guess. And he laughs best who laughs last.
And what about the romance between Advaita and Quantum Physics? Here again a pace to the West is a pace to the East – and vice versa. Not only were some adherents of modern Advaita all to happy to embrace the idea (‘spooky’, according to Einstein) of consciousness as a substratum of the universe: the Advaita perspective was also at the very root of this insight of Quantum Physics, if we consider to what extent its intitial leading experts, like Schrödinger and Bohm were influenced by the time-honoured advaitic vision.
Let us take for instance the famous wave-particle paradox of quantum physics, a phenomenon in which the consciousness of the observer has been alleged to play a determining, collapsing role.
Equating metaphorically consciousness with Consciousness is a lame metaphore, consciousness being as yet a mystery, as much as the universe or the Absolute, for that matter. So equating Consciousness with the Absolute is comparing two mysteries through a lame figure of speech. What are we talking about?
But once the fog is lifting, the mystery will turn out to be an open secret : it was too open to be seen, dead easy. How could we have overlooked it for so long? We knew it all from the very start without knowing it, the rest being ages of useless verification.
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