Dialogue, Union by Kit No Comments »

My Dear Kat,

I want to write about union. It’s a difficult subject, especially for me, because it flies in the face of everyday experience, but time after time we have this experience of union, of oneness. It occurs most often when we are sexual, but plain physical contact can bring it out, too. I want to be clear on one point: there is no loss of self; instead, the experience is of myself and of us simultaneously. I don’t mean a sense of you and your body. It’s a sense of a third autonomous center that only comes into existence (or is perceived, don’t know which) when my own ego and intentionality are quietened.

Sounds strange, right? But here’s the next strange thing: that when you or I talk about this, the other says “Uh-huh … yes … right” and there is no disagreement on the experience. I cannot imagine that much agreement happening were we having separate hallucinatory experiences.

So what is going on here? Two factors come into play for me. Firstly, I want to point out that experience trumps theory, or as I put it in my youth, “the fact precedes the explanation”.   Any theory has to accommodate the facts; if it doesn’t, it is deficient. Of course, illusions may exist — the car wheels caught on film appear to be spinning backwards — but the entire body of theory exists IN ORDER TO explain our experiences, so they must have a certain validity. Secondly, I like theories that explain the facts of my world; they organise it, make sense of it, and have useful predictive powers.

Bearing these two in mind, I propose that both realities are true: that we are both separate and one. This contradicts Aristotelian logic. Tough. Light is both a wave and a particle, which doesn’t make sense, either, but the evidence for it is overwhelming.

In order to make this more palatable, let me offer a metaphor: we are like pages in a book. Every page appears unique; it has its own number, its own words, its own meaning, yet we more easily see the book as the unit. Is there a similar one-ness to the world that we are failing to see?

Just as we can come up with a list of differences between you and me, so we can come up with a list of equivalences: culture, nationality, race, DNA, and the very atoms of which we are composed. So maybe we are both an individual and a species; an individual and a life-form; an individual and a collection of atoms. Our culture emphasises individuality, especially in America, so our upbringing teaches us to only see that fact.

But what constitutes an individual becomes less clear-cut the more it is examined. For instance, a single person is not just an arrangement of 10 trillion human cells, but also contains ten times as many microbial cells that are essential to well-being, for instance see here “some researchers think of our bodies as superorganisms, rather than one organism teeming with hordes of subordinate invertebrates.”

In the West, our belief system is built on an egocentric framework. To admit the experience of union it is necessary to expand that framework to allow for its possibility, otherwise any experience of union will be overlooked or dismissed. Having made room for it, we also need a non-egoistic situation where it can emerge. Sex is one such, but it can be found in intimate conversations or communing with nature.

In the West, we use words for explanations and answers, but they fail to satisfy in answering the Big Questions because language works best as a divisive tool. Words classify the world into this and not this, which makes them very unsuited to describe union, or one-ness. Additionally, a word is not the thing; we can only use a word like a pointer, so expecting words to guide us to union is optimistic. Instead, the opposite is true: silence, listening, observing, being open to the present, can guide us there. The knowledge of one-ness is experiential, not verbal.

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The Nature of Self

Dialogue by Kit No Comments »

Dear Kat,

I have been musing for months on the nature of self and the idea that the universe is a unity, and have a number of ideas and data points for this.

It’s a unity at the same time as being divided and classified.  This is at odds with Aristotelian logic, so we find it hard to accept, and the appearance of division is so strong that we consistently fail to see the united aspects of the world.  Aristotelian logic has been completely refuted at the quantum level, where photons can be conclusively shown to be either particle and wave, depending on what experiment is done, but we are reluctant to accept the simultaneous existence of opposites in the world.

We think we’re just ourselves, but we are in fact a collection of 300-1000 species of microflora, which perform a host of useful functions for us.  We think we are self-sufficient like Robinson Crusoe, but very few of us could survive alone.  We think we know who we are, but we constantly use other people as mirrors in which to see our reflection.

The Eastern religions teach that the self is an illusion.

Maybe the joint experience that you and I routinely have is actually quite common, but just not recognised and acknowledged.  For instance, people may experience it when ballroom dancing, singing in a choir, acting as a mob or playing music together.  Without a mental model, however, the experience has no chance of being observed, and even when looking, the bright light of the ego can obscure that subtle, simultaneous sense.


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