Criticizing the Oneness of Transcendental Idealism

S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Note - I'm basing this on others' criticisms from other threads, figure this is a good centralized thread for discussion.

On a mundane level does this sense of "All is One" promote a collectivist ideology? Personally I don't think so and leave it to others to make that case.

There is another level of criticism, that post-mortem survival in sense that one reunites with Mind @ Large is as much a journey to oblivion as brain-death in materialism would be.

Beyond Physicalism goes into some other issues James had with Oneness:

"Encouraged by Myers, Fechner, and Bergson, as described above, James now postulates the existence of still higher-order integrations, expressions of an ongoing, evolving process, the current highest stage of which is a tremendous conscious reality of some sort corresponding to the common person’s notion of God. But James’s is a finite, incomplete, and imperfect God that falls short of total integration and thus has some sort of external environment of its own. This allows, in James’s view, both for the possibility of evil that does not originate within God himself, and for the possibility of its eradication over time through the ethically grounded efforts of human beings equipped with free will. That highest-level reality might also be in some respects like us, for example in ignoring, forgetting, or failing to notice things going on at lower levels, thus affording a desirable sort of “intimacy.” For all these reasons James prefers his pluralistic doctrine to its main contemporary rival, absolute idealism as conceived by philosophic colleagues such as Royce and Bradley. Their doctrine just cannot be right, James (1909/ 1971) thinks: its “thin,” abstract, timeless, static, all-encompassing and already perfect One—“ the unintelligible pantheistic monster” (p. 271)— seems to him an abominable and alien fiction remote from real experience, the pernicious result of abstract intellectualizing unconstrained by empirical data."

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Location 9748). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And also:

For Bradley, the rationalist, what is ultimately real is the eternal Absolute, to which all experience past, present, and future is simultaneously present. The idea that time is real and the future genuinely open therefore seems an illusion, along with that of genuinely free will. For James, the empiricist, lived experience in the world of temporal becoming is the ultimate reality, and purposeful actions of his human players are both needed and not fully determined.[

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 9795-9799). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.
 
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#3
There is another level of criticism, that post-mortem survival in sense that one reunites with Mind @ Large is as much a journey to oblivion as brain-death in materialism would be.

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2009/05/the-simple-life.html

I agree with Michael Prescott. This is the consequence of the Oneness ideology:
If we are all fated to merge into an anonymous collective mass, then there is nothing to strive for, to hope to attain or to hope to avoid - nothing to value or disvalue. Then we're faced with the depressing and (almost literally) dispiriting conclusion that nothing means anything, and there are no values.

I also agree 100% with this quote by Stephen A. McNallen:
I have no interest in "becoming one with" any God, whether theirs or ours. I am repulsed by the idea of "being a drop of water in an endless sea" or of blending with, merging with, or submitting to any being whatsoever. On the contrary, it is my will to become more individual, more in charge of my destiny, ever more capable of wisdom, power,and plenty.

In The Afterlife Revealed, Michael Tymn deals with this topic. On page 119 he quotes some discarnate spirits. For Example, Silver Birch said:
All spiritual progress is toward increasing individuality.
.
I am not familiar with the copyright law, so I only posted a part of that quote.
 
#5
There is no contradiction between individuality and oneness. Oneness is not oblivion. We are already one, how is that a problem? The confusion arises because you can't understand something that is non-physical like consciousness by analogy to the physical things we know about, you have to experience it. Living people sometimes realize oneness and like it much better than being separate.


http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/realizing-ultimate.html

Bernadette Roberts said:
So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost "point" in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being - the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all - no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.
...
Lester Levenson ... wrote:
"This peace was eternal and forever, and it was the essence of every living thing. There was only one Beingness and everything was It; every person was It, but they were without awareness of the fact, blinded by the uncorrected past they hold on to."

He saw this Beingness as something like a comb. He was at the spine of the comb and all the teeth fanned out from it, each one thinking it was separate and different from all the other teeth. And that was true, but only if you looked at it from the tooth end of the comb. Once you got back to the spine or source, you could see that it wasn't true. It was all one comb. There was no real separation, except when you sat at the tooth end. It was all in one's point of view.
...
"It was obvious to me that I wasn't that body and mind as I had thought I was. I just saw it—that's all. It's simple when you see it.

So I let go of identifying with that body. And when I did, I saw that my Beingness was all Beingness, that Beingness is like one grand ocean. It's not chopped up into parts called "drops of bodies." It's all one ocean.

That caused me to identity with every being, every person, and even every atom in this universe. And that's an experience so tremendous, it's indescribable. First you see that the universe is in you, then you see the universe as you. Then you know the Oneness of this universe. Then you are finished forever with separation and all the hellishness that's caused only by separation."
Linda Stewart wrote about her near-death experience:
The metaphor represented by the image I saw and perceived was absolutely clear and I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that WE ARE ALL ONE. I comprehended that our oneness is interconnected by love and is an available, much higher level and means of communication than we normally use but to which we have access. This love is available to anyone who is willing to do the hard spiritual work that will allow us to open our hearts and minds and eyes to Spirit. I remembered the love I had felt in the presence of God and experienced a total sense of love for all existence as an interconnected oneness and a manifestation of God.
...
[Silver Birch was quoted above, Leslie Flint is among the most reliable evidential mediums.]

The spirit of Charles Marshall communicating through direct voice medium Leslie Flint said:
It is the development and it is the tremendous realisation that one must have eventually of how we are all linked and bound together and how actually the very fundamental thing that flows through us all, is the very essence which is of God. And so we gradually evolve more and more to God or become like him.

I do not refer to shape or form, I refer now to the infinite spirit which is the very life blood you might say of all humanity; where we lose in each other ourselves and discover that we are all in a oneness and in accord. And when we have this oneness and accord we reach a stage of spiritual development where we can be considered to be living in a form if you like of paradise because we are conscious of everything around and about us as being not only "us" but "all".
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/short_topics#short_topics_reincarnation

Silver Birch had this to say:
http://www.angelfire.com/ok/SilverBirch/lights.html

"There are also what I call facets of the one diamond. This is the over-soul, the greater individuality, and the facets are aspects of it which incarnate into your world for experiences that will add lustre to the diamond when they return to it.

...

Also there are people who, although separate persons, are aspects of the one individuality. For instance, my medium, his wife and myself are parts of one individual. So you can have facets of the one guide. You can call these extensions if you like, but it comes to the same thing. Only an infinitesimal part of the whole individuality can be manifested in physical form on earth."
 
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#6
Jim’s comment was excellent. As far as critiques of James’ pluralism, Alan Wallace has been writing excellent tributes to James for several decades, while making clear how the Dzogchen “Great Perfection” view goes beyond the pluralistic view without dissolving everything into a featureless “oneness”. Shankara’s mayavadin view probably comes closest to the modern misunderstanding of pure consciousness as some kind of meaningless, blob of nothingness, but even Shankara wasn’t quite that simplistic!

in any case, I’d strongly recommend Sri Aurobindo’s integral non-dualism – which honors the richness of the theistic traditions while adhering to a non-dualistic view which has infinite room for the most fecund multiplicity (sorry for the complex words; when you write about Sri Aurobindo sometimes that kind of language sneaks in – to put it more simply, look at all this right in front of you – “Oneness” is not something that happens, it’s (at least claimed to be) already the case. So see – there is nothing but Unity, and yet all this multiplicity is.


Get away from philosophizing and complex words and you find the experience is incredibly simple. Another analogy is a dream. Are you in two dreams at once? It’s “one” dream that has the capacity for infinite variations. Or listen to Bach’s Goldberg Variations – one them, 31 blessedly beautiful variations.
 
#7
There is no contradiction between individuality and oneness. Oneness is not oblivion. We are already one, how is that a problem? The confusion arises because you can't understand something that is non-physical like consciousness by analogy to the physical things we know about, you have to experience it. Living people sometimes realize oneness and like it much better than being separate.


http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/realizing-ultimate.html

Bernadette Roberts said:


...
Lester Levenson ... wrote:


Linda Stewart wrote about her near-death experience:


...
[Silver Birch was quoted above, Leslie Flint is among the most reliable evidential mediums.]

The spirit of Charles Marshall communicating through direct voice medium Leslie Flint said:


https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/short_topics#short_topics_reincarnation

Silver Birch had this to say:
http://www.angelfire.com/ok/SilverBirch/lights.html

I read Bernadette Roberts' book back in college when I was experimenting with Contemplative Prayer and mystical Christianity. Her book and the coinciding experiences I was having were extremely interesting to me, but for a while it scared me away from meditation and centering prayer and mysticism.

One statement in particular was hard for me to swallow: (paraphrasing since its been over 10 years) "I realized that if there is no personal self there is no personal God." And if there is no personal God there is no personal love.

And after that realization she entered what I would say is the last stage of PNSE where she lost all ability to care about anything or feel any emotion.

What I was experiencing was fantastic, but did I really want to go there?
 
#8
Hi Hurmanetar: Bernadette Roberts always struck me as a very strange, psychologically unbalanced person. I think people nowadays, getting into this stuff as 'newbies", don't realize the extent of experiences possible. Also, people don't realize it's possible to have apparently profound, amazing "spiritual" experiences and still be very neurotic and unbalanced (Krishnamurti used to talk about this a lot - and he had lots of his own problems too!)

I wouldn't take too seriously what Roberts said. If you're feeling drawn to contemplation and mystical Christianity, there are 2000 years of rather amazing mystics (Meister Eckart - light years ahead of Roberts in every conceivable way, just to mention one) you can turn to for inspiration.
 
#9
The central concept of "unification in multiplicity" is explored in depth by Henry Corbin as it relates to transcendence of the person without, at the same, losing ones identity as a person:

I had the privilege, last May, of participating in a conference at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Tours, which had as its theme "The Human and the Angel". Simply pronouncing such a theme these days sounds like a challenge directed towards common opinion and received ideas. Indeed, it is because it is a challenge that such a theme contains and conceals precisely that secret path upon which one may find the answer to the question I am now posing: "What is the person?" On this path, it is to our Iranian philosophers --to whom I have long owed a great deal-- that I will appeal in showing how the answer to this question appears to me, and finally how I see the message of Iranian philosophy as it applies to our present conference.
I find this answer by referring to a concept that is fundamental to the anthropology of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian Iran, that of the Fravarti (the correct pronunciation of that which is written fravashi ; and in Persian forûhar). In Zoroastrianism the word designates the celestial archetype of each being of light --their superior Self, their guardian Angel. This celestial archetype belongs to their very being because it is each one's singular celestial counter-part. The concept is so fundamental to Zoroastrian personalism --as the very law of being-- that Ohrmazd himself, his Archangels (Amahraspandân) and all the Angel-Gods (Izad, cf. the Dii-Angeli that we find in Proclus) also have their respective fravartis. It is this fravarti that gives the person his or her true dimension. A human person is a person only by virtue of this celestial, archetypal, angelic dimension. This angelic dimension is the celestial pole without which the terrestrial pole of its human dimension is completely depolarised, reduced to vagabondage and perdition. The drama then, would be the loss of this pole, the loss of this celestial dimension, because the entire fate or destiny of the person is engaged in this drama."
Henry Cobrin, Apophatic Theology as Antidote to Nihilism, in Le Paradoxe Du Monotheisme, Eds. de l’Herne, 1981

As well:
Charles Stang, professor of Early Christian Thought, Harvard Divinity School, explores this theme further in Our Divine Double, Harvard University Press (March 7, 2016)

Edit: changed "unity" to "unification" in intro sentence, unification is probably slightly more correct. That, or I'm splitting hairs.
 
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#10
Yes, beautiful. Similar in some ways to Sri Aurobindo's idea of the "individual" rooted in the "Real idea" at the transcendent "Vijnana" (or "supramental") level - or in some respects, beyond even that, at the highest level of the "para prakriti" - the Divine Mother, who is ultimately "one" with the Absolute.

We can lose ourselves again in apparently arcane mythic or philosophic terms, or simply "see" in this moment, there is both infinite multiplicity and a unity - one abiding, unbroken field of Consciousness. All forms appearing as waves of That, both multiple and one and yet beyond both multiplicity and unity.

This is an often quoted passage from Sri Aurobindo's "The Life Divine" which deals with the limitations of our human concepts of "one" and "Many":

Stability and movement, we must remember, are only our psychological representations of the Absolute, even as are oneness and multitude. The Absolute is beyond stability and movement as it is beyond unity and multiplicity. But it takes its eternal poise in the one and the stable and whirls round itself infinitely, inconceivably, securely in the moving and multitudinous. World-existence is the ecstatic dance of Shiva which multiplies the body of the God numberlessly to the view: it leaves that white existence precisely where and what it was, ever is and ever will be; its sole absolute object is the joy of the dancing.
 
#11
And I was talking recently with some folks familiar with Sri Aurobindo's writing, and we noted how much more 'sense" it makes when read as a poem:

Stability and movement,
we must remember,
are only
our psychological representations
of the Absolute,
even as are oneness and multitude.

The Absolute is beyond stability and movement
as it is beyond unity and multiplicity.

But it takes its eternal poise in the one
and the stable


and whirls round itself

infinitely,

inconceivably,

securely

in the moving and multitudinous.

World-existence is the ecstatic dance of Shiva
which multiplies the body of the God
numberlessly to the view:

it leaves that white existence
precisely where and what it was,

ever is

and ever will be;

its sole absolute object
is the joy of the dancing.
 
#13
Kabir:

THE river and its waves are one surf :

where is the difference between the

river and its waves ? When the wave rises, it is the water ;

and when it falls, it is the same

water again. Tell me, Sir, where

is the distinction ? Because it has been named as wave,

shall it no longer be considered as

water ?



Within the Supreme Brahma,
the worlds are being told like beads :
Look upon that rosary
with the eyes of wisd
om.
 
#14
There is no contradiction between individuality and oneness.
Perhaps. Or maybe NDErs etc. confuse formless existence with oneness.

In these experiences individuality is retained despite the "oneness":

Jenny Cockell:
The sensation was of being almost like a single cell within a whole constellation of cells, yet also of being far too much of an individual entity to be contained in one small unit. I was still aware of being myself, an individual soul.
http://paranormalia.com/

Andy Petro:
I was aware that I was being "absorbed" into the Light, became One with the Light. But, at the same time never lost my "Andy-ness"!
http://iands.org/research/publications/vital-signs/67-vs25no1petro.html?showall=&start=6

William H:
This is why I say we are individual spheres of communion within the Universal Sphere of Communion. Because when we come into contact there, all that we know and all that we are passes uninhibited between us in a natural and open communion of shared being.
http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/william_h_nde_7340.htm


Also there are people who, although separate persons, are aspects of the one individuality. For instance, my medium, his wife and myself are parts of one individual. So you can have facets of the one guide.
I am familiar with Silver Birch's teachings. I agree with some of them, but I think that in this instance he is wrong. Perhaps he meant that he, his medium and the medium's wife are members of the same soul group.

Silver Birch and Frederic Myers spoke about reincarnation, and they both thought that it doesn't happen. Frederic Myers:
Myers added that the Buddhist’s idea of rebirth, of man’s continual return to earth, is but a half-truth. “And often half a truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern or karma I have woven for him on earth.”
http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/page/the_road_to_immortality/

In my opinion best reincarnation cases clearly negate this view. Some subjects remember the life and death of the previous personality, their life as a discarnate spirit and how they chose the parents for their present life. Some people remember lots of previous lives, and they remember, how they have always been the same I in all their lives.
 
#15
I believe there is truth to the non-dual oneness perspective but only if taken as poetry and only if balanced against multiplicity. Oneness is a non-sensical abstraction because one implies none and therefore also every other number. The oneness perspective is the realization that boundaries are mentally imposed lines on a singular fluid reality. It says that because these lines are "just" mental or imaginary, oneness is the ultimate reality. But if reality is imagination, then boundaries are also reality. So I think oneness is useful if played with in a serious manner like a psychedelic drug, but for those already edging close to the abyss of insanity it can push one over the edge.
 
#16
When you're considering someone like Myers (who I have enormous respect for, by the way) you might want to consider the minimal discipline that Buddhists agree is necessary to remember past lives.

here's the first steps:

1. Can you sit quietly, eyes half closed, aware of thoughts passing through your consciousness without identifying with them? This is not really that hard, and as we see from thousands of people learning mindfulness, most people can do it without much practice for at least a few seconds.
2. Now, if you've tried it, can you do it, effortless, unbroken, with not a single moment of distraction, for 60 seconds. Out of millions of people who try to meditate, very few can do this on a regular basis.

Before you go on, actually try this for a minute, so you get a sense of how hard it is. if it wasn't too much of an imposition, I'd say try a minute of this daily for a few months, but hopefully, you get a feel for it.

3. Now, they say, when you get to the point where you can do this for 4 hours, easily, any time you sit down to try, never once getting distracted, never losing focus, never identifying even with one thought, you're ready to go on to specific disciplines for recalling past lives.

I'd be willing to wager a considerable sum that Myers never came close to this level of attentional development.

We modern folks are very impatient and often can be quite condescending in regard to these ancient teachings. But they knew thousands of years ago that matter was not inherently real, and now we only have Alex and a half dozen others telling us this. Took us a few centuries to even begin to figure it out.

I think this practice is going to tell us more about the nature of rebirth and individuality than a million speculations.
 
#17
I believe there is truth to the non-dual oneness perspective but only if taken as poetry and only if balanced against multiplicity. Oneness is a non-sensical abstraction because one implies none and therefore also every other number. The oneness perspective is the realization that boundaries are mentally imposed lines on a singular fluid reality. It says that because these lines are "just" mental or imaginary, oneness is the ultimate reality. But if reality is imagination, then boundaries are also reality. So I think oneness is useful if played with in a serious manner like a psychedelic drug, but for those already edging close to the abyss of insanity it can push one over the edge.

Humanetar: "oneness" is not the same as non duality. Non duality has no meaning without boundaries. These concepts get our minds all tied up. Instead of trying to figure it out, try the "samata" exercise I described above. This is what Alan Wallace is teaching his "contemplative researchers", based on his 40+ years of extraordinarily disciplined research, reflection and practice.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
So does the Oneness allow for a simultaneous plurality?

Or is the free-willing, individual self an illusion?

Because it seems if the individual self is illusory, or its actions across a lifetime are already known by someone viewing space-time from the outside, then the criticisms in the OP - which were not raised by me, I just gathered them from another thread - seem to hold?

When you're considering someone like Myers (who I have enormous respect for, by the way) you might want to consider the minimal discipline that Buddhists agree is necessary to remember past lives.

I'd be willing to wager a considerable sum that Myers never came close to this level of attentional development.
Did Myers ever try to remember past lives?

Also some people seem to recall past lives spontaneously or through hypnotic regression?
 
#20
So does the Oneness allow for a simultaneous plurality?
Small steps.

You certainly ask the hard questions and the answer don’t come easy by any stretch of the imagination.

When I read “oneness” I think of an undifferentiated unity of being, sameness throughout, which to my mind precludes everything, including the active-being, i.e. existence, which leaves me with exactly no-thing. How can I can contemplate anything without also contemplating its opposite? So for me oneness is undifferentiated from, and identical to, nothingness. The only recourse open to me is “unification (unity) in multiplicity.”

Instead of “oneness” then, I have “multiplicities”. To me, the very possibility of “Existence” is dependent on differentiation into multiplicities. I think that is what is meant by the notion of the immanence of the One Reality is the possibility of existence on which individual-being depends. In this sense, it is this possibility of existence which is the unification in multiplicity of the One Reality.

I could say, maybe ?, that without multiplicity there is no existence and hence no possibility of unification – important to note that unification is only ever a possibility, always something longed for, always receding, and never achieved. This then is the transcendence of the One Reality.

In other words this is an active principle of eternal upward movement – the interplay between immanence and transcendence. ?
 
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