I don’t want to be a dualist

The article “Yo quiero ser dualista” (I want to be a dualist) recently posted by Carlos F. Barberá on the ATRIO website (www.atrio.org) takes me somewhat by surprise and leads me to certain reflections, which I will set out calmly and simply.

1. The first thing I find perplexing has to do with the title. I sense that he is basically expressing his desire to maintain the “God-world” duality or the dual relationship between “God and the human person”. And to reassert himself when facing those who, he says, are pointing the finger at him and saying: “You are a dualist!”. I think Barberá is exaggerating the issue a little, but if someone were to point an accusing finger at him, as he says, for being a dualist in his way of thinking (or praying), he himself would be behaving like a “dualist” who separates the children of truth from those of error, light from darkness. Claiming to be a non-dualist by accusing a dualist is pure dualism. We would be wrong to go down that path, yet that is precisely what we are doing.

Reality is undoubtedly multiple, diverse and often conflicting, conflicting to the point where a living being lives by eating other living beings (but isn’t this the clearest sign that all living beings are one body in communion, and that death itself is part of life that is neither born nor dies?). That is how I see it. So, despite all the dualities and conflicts, I see no dualism whatsoever between matter and spirit, between immanence and transcendence, between inert beings and living beings, between human beings and non-human beings, nor even between life and death. Even less so between good and bad people or between orthodox and heretical individuals. We have suffered enough already because of all that. I don’t want to be a dualist.

2. That is not to deny that all beings –even all the atoms in the universe, they say– each and every one of them has its own uniqueness, its own unique form, different from all other forms. And I marvel at that. I am unique, just like you. But no form is separate from any other, no being is independent of any other. Everything is relative to everything, it is related to everything. We are all one, said Jesus. It is therefore illusory for anyone to set him- or herself up as the sole centre. The separate self that we sometimes believe in and often want to be is illusory.

No one denies, Carlos, that the self exists as a unique and real form, just as no one denies that a tree and a stone are different and real forms. What is illusory is the separate, superficial self. And what is illusory is, above all, the ego locked up in its jealousies and ambitions, its rivalries and fears. I, too, as you say, “look at myself in the mirror and recognise myself: that’s ME”. But when I look at myself, I recognise that I am not only, and not mostly, what I see or think I am. The deep self is communion with everything. Universal, cosmic or mystical communion is our vocation and our essential being.

3. As far as I am concerned, God is the full Communion of all beings, a Communion that is hope and reality at the same time, for it transcends time divided into past, present and future. He is not a supreme Being, but the pure, complete Being of all beings. He is neither inside nor outside beings, but absolute transcendence in absolute immanence. He is not a Creator that precedes the world, but the permanent Creativity, the fontal Mystery, the formless Depth in all forms.

Whoever asserts non-duality between God and the world, between God and the self, does not maintain that God and the world are one, but that they are not two. Neither one nor two, neither monism nor dualism: God is not counted in any sets of numbers. I cannot conceive of him either as Something versus something, nor as Someone versus someone, nor as a Person versus another Person. He is not “other of anything” (Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, 15th century). Is he a Self? Is he a You? That too, but he is not a Self opposite a you, nor a You opposite a self, but the deep Self of every self and the deep You of every you. That is how he has been experienced and expressed by mystics from all the deep sapiential traditions, religious or otherwise, theistic or non-theistic. And, ultimately, whoever treats his/her wounded neighbour with happy, efficient mercy –he/she, alone– manifests, embodies and realises divinity.

4. So neither can I conceive of the “relationship with God” as a “personal relationship” understood in the image of the relationship between two people, if we understand “person” as one centre of consciousness distinct from another. God is neither different from anything nor similar to anything, just as pure Being is neither similar to nor different from any being. The relationship with God cannot be in the image of a personal relationship with “another” person, with “another” centre of consciousness. God is the beating Heart of the universe in which all our poor forms meet beyond themselves in the vital Breath, in the compassionate, transforming flame of the Being. H. Küng stressed that the relationship with God is neither personal nor impersonal (less than personal), but more than personal.

5. In all this, Barberá continues and concludes, “however much the non-dualists deny it, it is a type of pantheism”. That was a foregone conclusion. And as an example of pantheism he mentions “Joseba Arregui”, who in a meeting of Fe Adulta (Adult Faith), years ago, “restricted his speech to saying: ‘what I have now come to believe is that everything is divine’”. (You are referring to me, Carlos, but look, my name is not “Joseba” nor do I spell my surname “Arregui”: an amusing metaphor for the delusions of the self). I don’t know if I said it in those exact terms, but that’s the least of it. I do not say that the world is God –which is what “pantheism”, strictly speaking, is about– for the world is made up of forms, and God is the full, fontal “Void” of all forms. Nor do I say that the beings of the world are part of God, for God is not a whole made up of parts, but in any case the Whole which is more than the sum of the parts.

But the fact that there is so much beauty and communion, harmony and goodness in the world, that the world is just as it is, and that it all comes from a spark of light produced –due to an obscure law of probabilities– in the quantum fluctuation of the void…, yes, all this strikes me as wonderful, sublime, “divine”, in other words, the manifestation of the Flame that moves, unites and recreates everything. Contrary to what Barberá infers, I did not say, nor am I saying, that wars, hatred, ambition and human cruelty are “divine”. On the contrary, they deny and conceal our “divine” being. They are the outcome of our tiny ego lost in its vain illusions, unfinished as it is and heading towards its true self.

Despite everything, I do not want to be a dualist. I believe and want to believe in the pure, lit Flame that dwells deep within us and guides us, and in the midst of doubts I believe that together we can keep it alive and let it guide us.

Aizarna (Basque Country). 23 September, 2021

(Translated by Sarah J. Turtle)