The illusion of duality

Books and teachings on meditation and “awakening” tell us about waking up from the illusion of duality, and recognizing that everything is One. Basically, we are not who we think we are, and when we awaken, we see things as they are.

I have not experienced this myself, but this topic interests me, since I think that the physical world “is not all there is”, but I have no clue what is going on.

Anyway, I have a question for people who might have experienced this (and from posts in other threads, it seems that some on the SDMB have experienced this. For example, Diogenes mentioned in a thread that, during a period of meditation, he had some experience where there was a shift in his perception of who he was, IIRC).

The question is: Assuming that everything is One and there is no dualism, given the intricate level of detail in the illusion we live in, and given the difficulty in attaining awakening, is it part of the “design” that some people awaken, or is it a bug?

If it was part of the design of our reality, why make it so hard? (and so rare?)

Also, I read something to the effect of “Even after you awaken, you still need to chop wood and fetch water”, i.e. your awakening does not alter your basic physical needs in this world, and does not change much about your situation in this world. If this is indeed the case, then what is the point of awakening? What is the purpose?

Anyway, I hope this thread doesn’t sink with no responses, since the topic is a bit woo-woo. Even if you have not experienced any “awakening”, if you have an opinion on this, it would be great to hear from you.

And, since it is clear that this whole idea of “awakening” and “the illusion of duality” is not scientific, could be false, and could be a hallucination of people who meditate and/or take drugs, please don’t respond with “This is a bunch of crap!”, because it would not add to the questions being asked in this OP.

I’m not even sure if I understand how ‘all there is’ can somehow not include all there is. If there’s some intangible something that underpins tangible reality, then it’s part of reality, despite not being readily perceived.

I would come at this from a slightly different angle. The perceived separation of observable stuff into discrete units must have been present in the very first creatures. In discriminating between two different molecules in the ‘primordial soup’, lowly bacteria were practicing dualism. And this construct has just increased in its complexity with the sophistication of organisms - higher animals needing to differentiate between more and more - food, predators, shelter, mates and eventually, internet fora.

So if there is any truth to to the speculation above, we would be working against billions of years of evolution to truly perceive the unity of all things - that’s why it’s so hard.

I’m no expert, but I’ve read a little on this subject too and it seems to me that this “awakening” doesn’t necessarily have a supernatural element at all and in fact can be a realisation that the physical world is all there is. A recognition of the fact that the division between “I” and “everything else” is of our own invention and that from an objective point of view, we have no more meaning or purpose than a rock rolling down a mountain.

I’d agree with Staggerlee about the origins of dualism and why it is so hard to overcome.

I’m not sure what you mean. I didn’t say “‘all there is’ does not include all there is”. I said “I think that the physical world ‘is not all there is’”. I agree with your statement “If there’s some intangible something that underpins tangible reality, then it’s part of reality, despite not being readily perceived.”, but that reality may be outside our physical world.

Maybe we are getting hung up on semantics and definitions of what “physical world”, “reality” and “is” mean.

Let’s use an example: If one of the Sims characters in your computer became self-aware (AI) and started wondering where he is and what he is, you could tell him (in any number of ways), but it’s not clear that he would understand.

His “physical world” is on a different plane of existence: no mater how far “north” he travels in his world, he can never arrive in your world. So, we can say that his world “is not all there is”.

The possibility that some humans can “awaken”, is like a Sim character going into a state where he can see that he is not a separate being from the other Sims, or even from the objects in his world, but that everything in his world is just one “program”, just some electrons bouncing around some circuits in a “higher plane”, each electron not being part of any particular Sim or object in the Sim world.

If Sim characters could do that, the question would be, is that something the program was designed to do? Is it a feature, or a bug?

Same question applies to our world and people who “awaken”, if it happens.

I do not regard it as a “bug” nor do I regard either perception as “wrong” or “illusory”, just that the conventional individual sense of self (“I/me”) isn’t all that there is.

The analogy I use is the sense of self called “we” — the sense of being part of a plurality, which may be family, close-knit team of some sort, etc. If you have had that (and I suspect most people have, at some point in their lives if not in near-perpetuity), you know what it is to have a sense of self other than just “I/me”, the individual self.

Work from there: can you do “we” as the entire species human? As all cognizant lifeforms wherever they may exist, even?

The “One with All” thingie goes on beyond that to embrace everything else as well, to incorporate all of that which is as if it were part of your body and hence part of you.

(Yes it does feel profound and special)

I’ve experienced an awakening and honestly, it was from a strong LSD trip. It is true that we all have a third eye, some of us open it and some don’t. The thing is, the ones who do open it, never can get it shut. My brother and I always talk about what it’s like to be awakened, because he too has had it happen. We talk about people’s true intentions and being able to spot them right off the bat. We see the world in different eyes now. Everything is so money and greed based that it sickens us. What I’m talking of is not that simple, because everybody can see greed in others.

I’m not giving really good analogies, because it’s indescribable. The best I can do is, remember in The Matrix where Joe Pantoliano’s character “Cypher” is at the dinner table with the agent? He says that “he just wants to be put back in the Matrix with no recollection of what happened”. He just “wants it all to be forgotten because he can’t stand his new reality”. That’s what I wish sometimes.

Well, that’s what it’s like to have an awakening. For the most part, it’s disgusting because of how the world is that we live in, the world seen through the third eye. But there is also a lot of beauty.

Your question seems to contradict it’s own premise - the notion of design implies a designer which is separate from the designed, and there goes your oneness. The feature vs bug distinction runs into the same problem.

I’ll try to answer as best I can, with the disclaimer that what I believe is informed by my particular religious tradition, and it’s distinctly possible that not everybody in the universe will agree with it.

The Designer (sometimes known as God) initially intended for all human beings to have a high level of awareness. It would seem that the maximum human awareness, even in a perfect world, would not equal God’s awareness. After the Fall of Man, human levels of awareness decreased well below their maximum potential. God is still making all possible effort to reconcile human beings with Himself, which means, in essence, helping them to awaken.

Many things that are truly worth doing are hard. Some might say that all things worth doing are hard.

As for why it’s so rare, I’m not sure that it is. For most of the history of the human race, most human beings have been very aware of the spiritual realm. Moreover, most human beings have tried hard to gain knowledge of that realm and to live in accordance with that realm. By all accounts, most people in primitive societies succeeded at these goals, or at least partially succeeded. There’s little record of seekers encountering only frustration in early societies.

In historical terms, it’s only very recently that large numbers of people have chosen to shut out the spiritual realm and focus on pursuits purely in the physical world. Why this happened is an open question. One thing we can probably all agree on is that modern society offers up many more distractions than early societies did. Hence it’s far more likely that modern people will be lured aside from a higher calling.

The purpose is to achieve happiness, contentment, and tranquility. It’s something tough to describe, but basically it’s a state where your consciousness holds no internal contradiction, and thus no sources of tension or unhappiness.

(Though I suppose we should mention that some up the great achievers did transcend their worldly situation: Jesus, Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha), St. Francis, and others.)

This book is a good introduction to the broad topic that you’re interested in.

I don’t agree that that follows. Thinking that they succeeded is different from actually succeeding. The different and often contradictory beliefs of people today show that people may certainly not encounter frustration and that logically we can also be wrong.

I may have other disagreements depending on when you’re counting “primitive” from.

I disagree. Well, I sort of disagree. More distractions? Yes. There’s a much wider range of things we can distract ourselves with nowadays. On the other hand, however, we have more time - work days are shorter, we start working later, we have more free time in which to contemplate spiritual matters. Yes, people may choose to do other things, but that’s certainly not the whole of the story.

Not at all. Well, a lot of people in this thread are certainly attaching a lot of non-scientific baggage to it, but there are certainly ways to mess with your brain and achieve very strange experiences – such as not feeling that “you” are you. As in, you don’t feel like a little person in your skull controlling the human robot that is your body and making independent decisions. You may feel like things are just happening and actions are originating from some strange, foreign source. Or you man feel more attuned to your surroundings. Stuff like that.

If you don’t have access to a god helmet or you don’t feel comfortable imbibing illegal psychoactive drugs, you could always take the old fashioned route. You know, the way the gurus do it. Just go in a cave and fast for two or three months. Stare at a wall for a couple days. Or go to the top of a mountain and chill. You’ll feel something, eventually. Or not. But maybe.

Start by realizing that everything is the result of a singular something. All that is is like an orange. Cut the orange, and there is an illusion of two things before you, but the two things are so intimately connected that they are just one - an orange. Eat one of the pieces, and you are left with an even more confusing illusion, of part of the orange becoming part of your body, part of the water you flush into the sewer, part of a roach that is caught by a spider, spread further and further until the orange is unrecognizable from all of the complex things it has joined.

Take it even further, and you begin to realize that all of this, literally everything that is or ever will be, was/is all a singular something. The quarks that make the electrons that make the atoms that make the elements that make the materials in our bodies and on our planet are intimately connected with the gravity that holds the planets in orbit, the chemical reaction that burns the sun, the distance between the stars, the shape of the universe, and everything else. All of it is one, singular thing, just as the orange you peeled and sliced are not separate “peels” and “slices” but rather just one singular orange with the illusion of duality.

I disagree with you, Mosier. Certainly i’d agree that everything is connected, but just because something affects or is involved with another thing doesn’t make them parts of some single thing to the extent that they are not seperate also. Two pieces of an orange are parts of a single orange - but they are also two parts. You and I are both just parts of humanity, but we’re still seperate beings. There is no illusion; we are both part of some larger thing, entities in our own right, and we can be broken down further into yet more seperate things.

Anything that exists is made of progressively infinitely smaller bits. Nothing that exists can be examined and concluded to be a “singular” something, incapable of being described as a collection of things smaller than itself.

The same can be said in reverse. There is nothing that exists which cannot be described by its inclusion into something more encompasing than itself. This is what the illusion of duality philosophy is describing, the fact that nothing is separate from anything. Everything fits into the one singular “something” that exists. There is only one body. Nothing is separate from that body. It goes beyond merely being “connected”, but is rather a definition of existence.

No, there’s a definite smallest possible size, the Planck length.

Interesting, but I was under the impression that the Planck legnth didn’t describe a theoretical limit in smallness, but rather a theoretical limit on the accuracy of a measurement.

Even so, the main point I was trying to make still stands.

I’m going to have to side with Mosier here–the Planck length is just the fundamental limit of non-quantum actions. At distances shorter than the Planck length, quantum effects absolutely dominate but there is no theoretical basis for claiming it as the shortest possible length.

As of my physics education (so a few short years ago), the Planck length didn’t have any real theoretical significance aside from its role in determining where quantum effects became dominant over any other effects (including attempts at measurement.)

Hi everybody,

this is my first post to the SDMB. I hope you find it of interest. A deeply personal experience and view, for whatever it’s worth. I’ll try to keep it as short as possible.

I was once in Peru and took Ayahuasca (allegedly the most powerful natural psychotropic, quite stronger than peyote, or so they say) with a shaman. Before the ritual the shaman went on about time being an illusion and all things being one, among many other things. He was pretty well read by the way, hardly an ignorant witchman. Despite having read about these ideas before, I was sceptical and unable to grasp their meaning. After all, they totally defy our experience of things, don’t they?

After initial bouts of nausea and sheer terror I went through a bunch of amazing experiences, the essence of which was the realization that time and space were an illusion, a trick of the senses if you will. I can’t even begin to explain the time angle, but the idea about space being absurd came from a profound realization that all is one. I felt myself as a drop in the ocean of matter, as much a part of a rock or the whole planet as of the universe. Reality was an illusion, my physical body was an armour that prevented me from realizing this. I eventually drifted towards a whiteness that embraced me and accepted me as a part of existence. I fell into the most heart warming sensation I’ve ever experienced before or after: the knowledge and acceptance of simply existing, of being. The non necessity of being anything other than what I was. I revelled in this sensation for hours, and eventually drifted slowly and pleasantly back into consciousness. I was blown away for months afterwards. When I returned back to my usual life, felt like my feet didn’t even touch the ground when I walked. I achieved a sense of inner well being that lasted for a long time, although eventually harsh reality leeched back into my mind. Here’s what I can make of the experience, as of today:

I believe I experienced what is known as “contemplative ecstasy”, or a totally mystical experience. I thought I was in the presence of god (whatever that means). I’m really an agnostic, and I know that my experience can be used by both sides:

a) I achieved consciousness of a superior nature. I transcended.

b) My mind made it all up because I was under the effect of a very powerful drug. It’s all a load of bs.

I can’t say which is right, but in a way it kind of felt like the idea about the split orange, or Carl Sagan’s claim that “we are star stuff looking at star stuff”.

But obviously reality is not as we experience it. For example, I retained a heightened sense of color and texture for a few hours after the “trance”. This is very common with psychotropics: you can see shades of colors that aren’t there when you’re “sober”. Obvously our senses have to offer us an impression of things that is balanced between “accurate” and “useful”. I can’t survive in the normal world if I’m blown away by all the shades of color and tiny little green patches that make a tree. It’s a tree. It’s there. That’s all I need to know. I can climb it to avoid a predator, I can avoid bumping into it, and I’m not distracted by it or reduced to a state of contemplative idiocy by it’s unfathomable complexity.

Aldous Huxley said as much in The Gates of Perception, when he describes how he couldn’t help staring for hours at a wrinkle in his trousers. The mind has to filter away tons of useless information and keep track of the important stuff, especially the stuff that helps me survive.
Incidentally, Huxley also said that eastern cultures are perceived by westerners as very passive because of the stress they put on meditation, or something similar to that. The outside world doesn’t seem to matter much when you’re in contemplative state, and that’s not always the best thing for you on this plane of existence.
So I have a definite claim against duality, because obviously we experience only a very filtered part of the world. But that’s as far as I’ll take it. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Or maybe it does. I’m certainly not the one to know.

I can’t say it was of much “practical” use. I’ve never been happy with how the world works, and my view stands reinforced because wordly things seem empty when seen under this new light. It’s kind of a bleak view sometimes, but I’m really happy I got the chance to see the other side. And as I said before, having to survive in the urban jungle keeps any funny ideas in check most of the time.

We have sought to understand the physical world, and have developed a method to discover it - science. Somewhere along the way many people made a (incorrect IMHO) jump that everything has to be explainable by science to be true, so they tend to ignore things that science can’t prove, though science was never constructed to study spiritual things.

The Book of Daniel states ‘people will go to and fro to increase knowledge’. This is where we are now, we are studying the physical world, there is no need to travel like that to increase spiritual awareness. Actually it is the opposite of what it takes to gain spiritual knowledge.

Our grounding more and more in the physical world is blinding us more and more to the spiritual would IMHO.

Enlightenment means different things to different people, hard to say just what it really is. Usually there is an expansion of the mind, an understanding that all things are connected or One. This expansion can happen in different ways, meditation, drugs, near death or believed death. IMHO it is a focusing of the thoughts to a single point inside of the body. Meditation strives to focus on one or no objects, I think drugs can bring the focus sharply to a point and well as death. In these moments we feel united with the Oneness. There the similarities end. When drugs are used the “trip” that follows can be most anything from sheer terror to warm peaceful feelings, and when it is over the experiencer is left empty. Many want to do the drugs again and again. Meditation experiences are nearly always positive, warm feelings of ecstasy, unity, Oneness. The experiencers repeat the meditation on a regular basis. Near death experiences depend on how long the experiencers was clinically dead. But here we have feelings of love and acceptance. See and talk to relatives, life reviews and many other events. When it is over many are mad at coming back to life, but none wish to have the experience repeated.

There is a book that was published over 100 years ago, but is still in print called “Cosmic Consciousness” by Bucke. It talks about the changes in people who become enlightened. It is a good read.

IMHO everyone will go through an enlightenment eventually, even if it’s only at the time of death. I believe the reason it is so hard to achieve enlightenment is the belief systems we humans take on as we grow up. Some are taught there is no enlightenment and some are told enlightenment has to be achieved in a certain way. I know I listed three ways, but there are many more. It is an excellent subject for discussion.

Below is an unusual way to become enlightened.