The Illusion of Duality

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 K.Z. Freeman 2 Comments

It has become popular to think that we are not bodies occupying space, but souls occupying bodies.
The difference in each line of thinking brings forth a belief about the individual Self and what he or she is, or is not. Both may serve to divide the human psyche in the same manner, and trick the mind into thinking there is a duality between the two. Both have their own traps.

On one hand, the more prevalent way of thought remains what is perceived as the more logical. It goes something like this: We are all isolated egos inside bags of skin, each with its own separate identity and mind. 
This is of course a widely supported and acknowledged idea based on empirical "fact". 
In this belief, each emotion has its roots in the brain and each function is a neurological process that goes on in the alchemy of the mind. 
The persons with these beliefs will be certain that matters outside the skin are in fact outside the skin, and are usually more concerned with appeasing the individual ego-desires. Most of the time this process of appeasing desires happens unconsciously and rarely does such an individual wonder why he or she desires something.

On the other hand, we have those who would have themselves think their way of thinking is "deeper" and less superficial. A more spiritual stance; even though when asked what spiritualism is most would not be able to explain. This line of thinking goes something like this: We are an immortal soul that is for a time trapped in this body, willingly or unwillingly - we're not exactly sure, and the ego is separate from our true or Higher Self. The source of the soul in this case, and in fact the spirit itself, is infinite, while its boundaries go as far as any thing can go. These types are usually interested in whatever esoteric teaching resonates with their personal beliefs the most. They adopt a stance already present and stick to it, most of the time believing it to be the ultimate truth. These truths and their validity are based on personal and subjective experience and specific philosophical concepts.

The two can rarely coexist if the discussion about core beliefs ever arises.
The discussion rarely remains a discussion. Instead, over the course of many or a few sentences, it evolves into defensive posturing. How soon this will present itself depends on how strong each individual belief is. Each side will not try to explain their views and attempt to understand the other, but defend their own views instead. The more this discussions progresses, the less subtle the techniques of defence will become. Eventually the two egos will attack each other directly. One will accuse the other of being too vague, abstract etc. while the "spiritualist" will accuse the "rationalist" of being too superficial, too narrow and rigid, or more likely something more offensive. Both will trigger in each-other what is referred to as Cognitive Dissonance. Both will be confronted by ideas that conflict with their perceived model of reality.

Both are wrong and right at the same time. Which is very strange, and yet not.

An idea was thought of and discovered now millennia ago. It sounds very simple, and yet few grasp its meaning. It is apt and elegant, since it has no inherent esoteric meaning, as it can be and in fact is both "spiritual" and "rational". And it is true in the same manner as is the saying "Fire burns." You may not want to experience that fire, but it will still be true. It is this: The world is Maya. Illusion. This word Maya, however, like many Sanskrit words, has a meaning that is very mouldable depending on the context.

In this case, I will focus on the two sides (rational vs spiritual - flesh and spirit) only. Of course one must not forget that there are degrees and levels as to how far a person will lean to each side of these two. Both forget that each is fundamentally a philosophical concept.

On one end, if the rationalist thinks that all experience is a process of impressions and perceptions, it is all in the mind, then the world is within, so in this sense, all illusion is inner illusion and all perceived reality is inner reality, as much as it is outer. Without the watcher, a thing cannot be watched.

In the same way, if the spiritualist believes that the soul is eternal and the body the only thing which dies, no matter how deeply one might feel connected to everything, that connection will be an illusion, a product that may show the Isness of things, yet still be illusory. 
Even if you meditate (or have an immediate and sudden perception or Satori) enough to feel the connection to everyday objects, or in fact perceive that the space between you and the object is not empty space, but that the object and the dividing space is one and the same space, and that any separation is illusory, this will also be an illusion. Because no matter how much you know that what is "out there" is also you, it will still be out there, but also as much within.

The trap for both is similar. Meaning that they both think only one of these things can be true.

This can, in most individuals, create a very puzzling duality. One may believe in the immortality of the soul, and yet is immersed in a world where all experience is sensory input and as a result the product of mind. In this sense the soul is not real and does not exist, or at the very least does not store any data.

And yet if this is true, the spiritualist might ask himself; If the soul doesn't store any data, what would  be the point of it, if all experience dies in the flesh? This thought creates a certain illusion of its own, as it triggers the same defensive mechanisms. In this case, it necessitates the belief that the soul is able to "think" in the normal sense of the mind, to feel and to experience in the same way as the mind. The soul requires this illusion for its own existence in the individual mind.

There is a Buddhist text which implies the realness of illusions, yet does not diminish them in the normal sense as we Westerners do. When we hear the word illusion, it means that in reality, a thing is not real. An illusion is a trick. But this is not necessarily so. The inherent "realness" of an illusion is contingent upon the observer. If one does not try to understand or care how a magician made that elephant disappear, once could very well say that elephant disappeared quite for real and would not be wrong.

On one end, duality may be considered an inner conflict, as both things cannot be real. Something cannot be an illusion yet at the same time real, can it?

It can, and it is.

It becomes a conflict when two illusions that are contradictory find their place in the mind, or when one illusory view does not admit, or permit the existence of another.

The rationalist will point out that all happens in the mind. Therefore, for this person, the thinking that it is all in the mind most definitely cannot be an illusion. And yet all the spiritualist really has to contradict this is personal, subjective experience, which is itself illusory, and yet is just as real as the thought that something cannot be an illusion. A rationalist would never be able to explain how an electrical signal in the mind can produce a complex thought. They will tell you what happens, what signals you get and how, and what specific areas are firing in your mind, but not how you are able to interpret them and form thoughts. In the same way, a spiritualist will not be able to explain how he or she feels something and where that subtle input came from.

On this, Valerie V. Hunt conducted a series of experiments using Electromyography (EMG) and Electroencephalography (EEG). Electromyohraphy records the electrical activity in the muscles, while Electroencephalography records the electrical activity in the brain. Of course just like any electrical activity, muscular activity has a "field" that extends around the area where this activity is cantered, meaning that it creates a kind of "aura" of discharge that can be measured, although the accuracy of measurement drops the further one measures from the point of origin. And yet, in the same way as the subconscious registers and makes a decision before the concious mind is aware of the fact that a decision has already been made, and in most cases already acted upon, so too the results of the EMG precede the mind's awareness of that stimuli. Meaning that whatever this field is, it responds to what is outside of it sooner than the brain does. It has to e said that these inputs were not registered in the muscle first, but within the field which permeates it. The distinction is important.

This knowledge can, in a rationalist's mind, create a very strong cognitive dissonance. It can be rationalized that the muscle received the signal first, then transmitted it to the brain. And yet there was no signal in the muscle, but within the field before it was transmitted to the muscle.

The same dissonance can be created by saying that a soul does not retain any knowledge of its life. 
How the mechanisms of the soul would permit information to be carried beyond death is near impossible to rationalize even for a spiritual person, even if the basic idea is that the physical body is simply one more level of density in the human energy field.

That the soul does not carry any information upon physical death would be a very rational thing to say, since it has been proven that a mind which has undergone severe physical or even mental trauma, will not have access to skills or memories that are in specific parts of the brain that had been damaged. Why cannot the brain in these cases access soul-memory, if it exists?

Yet that does not wholly explain some of the most bizarre out of body experiences. One can rationalize them, since before death an impulse engages almost the total brain, and if that impulse is maintained, one can reach an autistic level of memory. An entire room can be imagined with the uttermost detail while one is not aware of having seen it to such a degree, let alone memorized it.

At the same time, you could just as easily state that it was the soul which has perceived this, in which you would merely be shifting to another concept of reality and subjectively be just as accurate.

To continue with this, once could state that DNA is the blueprint for the construction of the physical form, and a soul is the blueprint for the construction of the first layer of material - or a point where physical reality begins to emanate outward from the immaterial.

This idea may be difficult to accept for the rationalist, since it is not based on any fact a Westerner might accept as "fact". Especially if the spiritualist does one better, and says that the soul "chooses" into what it will incarnate. How could it? If we cannot detect it, then even if it does exist, it operates on a completely different band of perceptions than the mind, since perceptions of the mind require and depend the mind.

On the other hand, you have access to these bands of perception in subtle feelings and emotions. You perceive in bands, or spectrum. Behind this spectrum, however, is always the white light, the band of colour that has no colour. Could you then state that these subtle emotions are the perceptions of this white light before the conscious mind can label it? You could, and you would not be wrong. 

And yet all of this could be said to happen in the mind and be a case of "false thinking" or adhering to a specific philosophical concept and creating illusions to fit that concept. 

So which is true? Is the mind the basis out of which the idea of a soul is born? Or is the soul that out of which all things manifest from, including the mind? A cosmic blueprint for all matter? The latter is most definitely more widely supported by tangible evidence than the former. And yet that again depends on what part of the world you live and who you ask. Even a rationalist might say that there are no truths, only interpretations.

Both of these truths, however, are illusions, both are a play, the trap is to be caught in a specific one and deny the other. Both are just as equally valid on a personal, subjective level, and just as equally illusions. What then is Truth?

However... one could say the mind can be observed in its functioning, quantified, measured, while the soul cannot. And yet in this we dismiss the perfect and in fact only apparatus that each of us has for sensing these "movements of the soul". And that is the mind, the brain itself. We dismiss it because we do not truly understand how it functions, so we are more readily trusting of machines which we ourselves have built and know exactly what they do and how. We dismiss the mind's ability to sense things that machines cannot because we do not trust ourselves. While the brain creates duality because it itself is dual. Because it itself is Maya, an illusion, a play, a game. And yet a brain can never create something that is not already there.

Why everything is play might be explained very simply and elegantly, with a question that seems like it cannot be answered.

What is the purpose of the universe?

While the answer is different for different people and most likely not any final answer, it may explain why duality is only bad while one searches for answers that are already here, evident in you, and in fact are you.

The purpose remains two-fold, which means that it itself is dual! The first is outwards expression, outwards manifestation, and the second is inner knowledge or inward understanding. Through Doing (which in Sanskrit is called Karma) both outwards expression and attaining inner knowledge and in turn outer knowledge, the universe is expressed in its full. 
Through outwards expression it delights in itself through you in countless forms, and through inner knowledge it knows itself through countless minds and perspectives. 

There is no brain inside the spirit or spirit inside the brain. In this reality, both arise mutually, no end of one and no start of the other. Both an illusion that plays around because that is fun to do.

And yet just as there is no end of spirit, there is not end of mind either. The end of your mind is coming, the end of a personal mind is always drawing near, but even that will be incarnated again and again as countless other minds. In fact, because the soul does not retain the knowledge of its former Self in the sense which we understand memory, one can just as easily say that the same I had already been incarnated countless times, and one would not be wrong. The Ego tricks you that there is only one of it, while in fact there are many, and many more will come, yet they will all be the same I.

When you look at snow you might say, "Look at how big that snow flake is. Look how small that one is." They are separate, and yet one and the same happening.

The trap of thinking rationally is a steady and acute build-up of selfish desire and selfish need, without much heed of the fact that you are a system that is not separate from its environment, no matter how much you wish this to be, or how much you wish to escape.
You forget, if even you once knew such a thing, that in a room full of people, there are many I centres, but only one consciousness, expressing itself in many forms.

The trap of thinking purely spiritually, is that you may become ungrounded in the very basic fact that right Now, you are of flesh. You are not a something trapped inside something else, aching to be set free. Instead you are something that is free to explore that into which it has incarnated. Believing the trap to be the only totality of the universe can  give rise to a special kind of ego, a spiritual ego. Which is the same ego as before, yet has has now adapted itself to cater to the needs which you have made. By giving rise to the spiritual ego, you created a gatekeeper to keep these beliefs intact. And again you will be tricked into thinking that this is now the real you, while in fact the ego will still play in its illusion. It will ingeniously and subtly transform itself from a social construct into a spiritual construct, and will be just as much an illusion and not the real you. The real you will remain the same as it has always been, veins, muscles, skin, bones. Things that simply are.

Repressing one or the other side, denying one or the other, will cause a barrenness in each aspect of the whole.

Denying the spirit will cause one to fall out of touch with the Self. And since there is only one Self manifesting in countless aspects, understanding the Self means understanding the Whole. By denying this understanding, one may fall out of touch with any other Self but the selfish ego.

While denying the rational may cause one to fall out of touch with what is real, causing the spiritualist to slowly diminish all outward expression in which the physical delights!

And yet to balance these things, one needs to first be aware that he or she is neither a being of one or the other, but simply a being, like the sound of two hands clapping. Bang! That is it. Now. Here. Clap. Neither a physical being or a spiritual being, because both are fundamentally a philosophical concept to fit into a specific mould of reality which you find preferable. While at your core, what you really are is pure potential and possibility manifested into a single centre that you call I. A centre which is the expression of a totality - the expression of the whole energy of the universe that is one, manifesting into many, playing an illusory game of Many, while being one and the same energy.

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The Illusion of Duality



  1. Anonymous04 June, 2015


    1. The only reference I can give for this is the part that mentions EMG and EEG readouts. More detail on this can be found in Michael Talbot's - The Holographic Universe.
      For the rest I unfortunately cannot reference to anything specific, as this is a product of my own thinking and meditative states, yet influenced by other minds, namely Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki, and various readings of psycho-analytical texts, as well as a few books on metaphysics and various Hindu and Buddhist writings like the Dhammapada.
      Are you interested in references for specific sections of the text?