Duality. What is duality? What is nonduality? We hear these terms all the time in spiritual talk. What do they really mean? Not the fluffy, fancy coats we put on them, but the actual shoulders—whose are they?
Two shoulders. One body. Duality and nonduality.
We get the metaphor, right? But something deeper lurks there, arguably something deeply mechanical, that isn’t getting fleshed out when we rest at the definition of oneness/separation and then just bury it in similes. Because that’s what we tend to do. Not just with duality but with a host of spiritual terminology. We say, “This is like that,” and stop there, claiming anything more direct is inexpressible.
Hogwash. Now let’s wash this hog.
If the root of us is oneness then duality is oneness in a feedback loop within itself. We’re oneness talking to oneself… mmm… probably like Mel Blanc doing all the voices of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but not that simple for us. Not that simple for us because we’re one of those separate things within oneness that has the ability to talk both from the point of view of the cartoon character and from the point of view of Mel Blanc—I mean oneness. To further compound the problem, when we talk from the point of view of oneness, it is through the cartoon character. But, when we talk from the point of view of the cartoon character, we can pretend to be talking from the point of view of oneness. The cartoon character is created from knowledge; imitation is its forte.
So already there are two onenesses: true oneness and false oneness. False oneness is the unhealthy version—the lie, really—coming from people who only live duality. They may know about nonduality, but they are living duality. And in that duality, their sense of themselves is that they are the center of everything. This is the screwed up sense of oneness from which they act, whether they know it or not: The universe is not transcended and included within oneness; the universe revolves around one. This one.
The truth of the matter (and of the very matter that makes them up) feels like an affront to them. It’s just some BS that’s in their way, which angers them. So they react to the friction, their anger, and bury Truth deep down where its cries cannot be heard (yes, like a psychopathic child abductor), or they argue against it, or they incorporate it as knowledge and start spouting it. Like a… like a knowledge whale. Spouting. And they may even start to believe what they’re spouting. They may form ways to live by their words.
Now let’s abruptly circle back to what the hell this essay was supposed to be about: Duality is oneness in a feedback loop within itself. And we normally live oneness once-removed. Not actual oneness, but self-centered king-and-queendom. The feedback loop is ours. We’ve trapped ourselves in a mental ward and are babbling the same several things at each other forever and ever, which is why stories written thousands of years ago feel just as fresh today. The inmates not only run the asylum, they are the asylum. While that is fun to write and funny to note, it’s also slightly unfair in that it’s a circumstance we’re born into. It’s natural. It’s also natural to see through it and live healthily.
Which reminds me: If duality is oneness in a feedback loop within itself and we wake up out of self-centeredness to true oneness, what becomes of the feedback loop? What is wisdom saying to itself when there’s no scribe left to jot it down as knowledge and live it wrongly?
What happens when we’re healthy?