"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."-Albert Einstein
In late October, many luminaries of the nondual community will be gathering in San Rafael, California, at the Science and Nonduality Conference. For those unfamiliar with the term, nonduality is like the final destination for those wanting to uncover the ultimate Socratic quest to "know thyself." Nonduality is the sudden and absolute realization that all perceived separation is entirely illusory, and that, instead, everything that you experience is, quintessentially, only One. To explain this sense of unicity that underlies the multitudinous universe, nondualists often resort to the metaphor of a movie that's being projected on an infinite screen. Even though the characters and the scenery appear to be separate and interactive, the only thing that's really real is the white, seamless screen that's accepting the melodramatic and illusory story that's being projected upon it. Nondualists claim that, instead of you being just a small and limited character playing a part in your life's story, that, in truth, you're actually the entire infinite screen itself! From their point of view, you are the very context in which ALL of life itself is showing up in. According to the nondualist, your fundamental nature is Pure Consciousness, Itself. In short, "you-are-what-is."
Obviously, a nondual perspective like that has a built in problem: the moment that you start talking about nonduality is the very same moment that you've re-entered the wonderfully wacky world of duality. So the logical question then becomes; what are all of these nondualists going to be talking about anyway??
Well, the issues that are addressed often take the form of the ultimate, primordial questions of life itself: e.g. Who or what am I? Am I my feelings, or do I just have feelings? Am I my thoughts, or do I just have thoughts. Can there be thoughts without a Thinker. Can there be feelings without a Feeler? And, of course, WHO is the one who's asking all of these questions, anyway? In short, "who's the who?" Nondualists claim that, by tracing the origin on the "I" thought back to its true source, these answers can be found. But, in these amorphous areas, the answers cannot be clearly articulated in ways that make sense to our logical minds. The realization of this absolute Oneness that underlies everything is more of a kind of "knowingness" than it is a scientific conclusion that's been arrived at through any form of linear cerebration. And, because its base position is logically "un-figure-out-able," it's not something that is, well....debatable. Either you get it or you don't get it. And here's the real kicker: nondualism has absolutely nothing to do with "belief."
In fact, it's this very belief in the separation of all things that is the root cause of much of the suffering in the world. Separation creates borders which, in turn, invites defenses, both internal and external. Instead of having beliefs, we then make an inward shift to, in a sense, becoming those beliefs. After that unfortunate reframing, then any perceived attack on my beliefs is likely to be experienced as a personal attack upon my own self and will be answered accordingly.
Most people struggle with the possibility that they are not their body. This belief is a lot tougher to let go of because our experience is of peering out into the world though these two holes in our skulls. Our senses seem to validate that we are walking through the world and that, in turn only reinforces our beliefs that we are separate and alone.
But the nondualists tell us that we are really the underlying fabric from which all-that-IS mysteriously emerges. You are, they insist, the entire context in which the entire universe shows up in to play in your play. In other words, you are not as much in the world as much as the world is in you.
Indeed, the scientific evidence is beginning to show that we live in a holographic universe where everything is contained in everything else. From that perspective, there are no separate parts. There's only the One indivisible whole that appears to be fragmented and separate. When enough people really get this Truth, the understanding would radically alter the way in which we interrelate. That's what makes conferences such as the Science and Nonduality Conference so important.
Media and culture play an important role in shaping how we perceive reality. Today's media promotes fear, consumerism, and a "dualistic" (or "multiplistic") worldview. Fortunately, the subject of Nonduality is making its way into films and new media. The Science and Nonduality Conference also includes a film festival which will include a new film, The Quantum Activist, about the work of Amit Goswami who will be tying the science of quantum mechanics to consciousness and to the many world's religious traditions. Professor Goswami will also be in attendance.
My friend, author Chuck Hillig wrote a book called Enlightenment for Beginners that will be shown as a short animated film at the October conference in San Rafael. His talk will include how and why we began this playful game with nothingness. Chuck's website is: www.chuckhillig.com.
Isaac Allan and Chad Cameron, the co-producers of the Leap! Movies will also be screening their latest movie called Leap 3.0. which further explores this whole idea of the material world as illusion.
Among the speakers participating in the event are authors Stephen Wolinsky and Jeffrey Martin, Stuart Hameroff, the director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, Marilyn Schlitz who heads up the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Futurist Peter Russell , Master Teacher Olga Louchakova, and investigators into altered states of consciousness including Frank Echenhofer, Reality Sandwich maker Daniel Pinchbeck, and Tom Ray just to name a few.
For more information about the exciting lineup the organizers have planned at the upcoming Science and Nonduality Conference which will be held from October 21-25, 2009, at the Embassy Suites/Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, California, please visit their website at http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/.