1. JB Sylvest November 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm #
I resonated with Matthew’s thoughts on many levels, in many
ways and will explain why.
In a context of inter-religious dialogue, Matthew uses terms
and phrases like lack of nuance, simple misrepresentation,
tainted, serious error, dangerous error, spiritual pathology,
pitfall, danger, egoism and spiritual laziness. He also
discusses insight, meaning, seeing, awakening, journey,
encounter, realization, corrective, development, states,
stages, striving and practice. One take-away might be that the
first list is associated with either improperly dualistic or
short-circuited nondual approaches while the next reflects the
properly nondual (often involving the strategic use of a
“thirdness” of some type).
Implicit in these diagnoses and therapies are answers to such
questions as 1) What and who is wo/man? 2) What is reality’s
basic stuff? 3) What do we value? 4) How do we get what we
value? and 5) What and who is God?
One could think of these questions in a manufacturing metaphor
which would include, respectively, 1) the end user 2) raw
materials 3) end products, by-products & waste products 4)
processes and 5) the producer. Alternatively, one could employ
these categories: 1) people or anthropology 2) relationships
or phenomenology/ontology 3) values or axiology 4) methods or
epistemology and 5) hermeneutics or theology.
In Matthew’s excellent essay as well as his recommended
nondual reading, I would challenge the reader to further
disambiguate each use of the term, nondual, because, in
jumping from one category to the next, it can take on very
— When talking about people, it can refer to theories of
consciousness: Is consciousness another primitive alongside
space, time, mass and energy or somehow emergent therefrom? It
could also refer to our conceptions of the soul: Is the soul
physical or nonphysical, temporal or immortal?
— When talking about ontology or metaphysics, it can refer to
the nature of reality: Is all of reality natural, physical,
material? Does reality also include the supernatural and
immaterial? Does reality include one, two or even more kinds
of thing, substance or stuff?
— In axiology, what are the categories of value? What about
disvalue and evil?
— In terms of epistemology, is there more than one way of
knowing reality? How does science differ from culture,
philosophy and religion?
— And, theologically, what might be dual or nondual about God?
2. Another reason we don’t simply use Oneness in the place of
nondual is that, in addition to the different categories where
it can take on distinct meanings, there is also more than one
way, by strict definition, to be nondual: Threeness, for
example, works, as well as an infinity of other numerical
approaches. A nondual way of playing jacks, then, would be to
only skip “twosies” and nothing else! One needn’t play only
At the same time, who would want to abandon the dualisms of
axiology as if true & false, beautiful & ugly, good & evil,
free & bound were simple illusions? However much anything
“belongs” does not negate the need for either its
transcendence or transformation?
In my view, to realize reality’s values, one needn’t get to
the bottom of all of these non/dual riddles anthropologically,
ontologically or even theologically.* note below. We already
know enough from evolutionary epistemology and our, more or
less, universal human values to live in relative abundance!
So, in that regard, I believe we can seriously overstate the
perils, dangers and pitfalls that might result from our
metaphysical errors and ignorance. (As I see it, our problems
more so result, rather, from epistemological mistakes or what
it is that we erroneously imagine that we just positively
know, thus frustrating our journeys from “is to ought,” the
given to the normative, the descriptive to the prescriptive.)
What is at stake, rather, is our possible realization of
superabundance, which is to suggest that the onus is on
religious practitioners to demonstrate that they can journey
toward transformation (human authenticity) much more swiftly
and with much less hindrance precisely because of their
Finally, a sufficiently nuanced universalism, in my view, need
not be heterodox. One can embrace it, theologically, as a “for
all practical purposes, eventuality” without affirming it as
an “in-principle, theoretical necessity.”
* note – Not to be coy, my survey of the inter-religious
landscape does lead me to a tripartite anthropology, triadic
phenomenology, trialectical axiology, trialogical epistemology
and trinitarian theology (panSEMIOentheism), which is beyond
our present scope.