SPIRITUAL HUMANISM and the Question of Doing vs non-doing

In the following reply to a questioner, Möller addresses the fundamental difference between his consideration and what he refers to as the ‘intellectual Neo- Advaitist teachers’.

Q. You seem to take your position from the ultimate sense of wholeness or non-duality, yet you are also very critical of the current wave of non-dualist, or so-called Neo- Advaitist teachings found in the USA and even other parts of the world. Could you explain the difference you see in your own teaching and that of the advice regarding no-doing, non-effort and no-doer offered by so many present teachers in our country?

A. Yes, you are right in suggesting that my own work is founded in the non-dual experience of the living moment.  However, my sense is that, as a teacher, one should make a rather clear distinction between the non-dual truth of the present moment, and that which may facilitate the transformative process in the student from dualistic vision to the direct experience of the non-dual. For this it is important to introduce the notion of non-duality or wholeness right from the start, so as to orientate the student intellectually and intuitively in the understanding of the non-dual nature of manifest existence.

In principle I fully agree with the Advaitist, non-dualist, ( please note that I do not use the term Advaita Vedanta) perspective which suggests that non-duality is the already existing truth of human life.  I also find myself in complete resonance with the  fact that nothing the separate ‘I’-state can do to bring itself to the state of wholeness, can succeed.  However, this is where the resonance generally stops between my work and that of  Neo – Advaitism.

Allow me please to explain briefly the argument, relative to doing and not-doing, these teachers bring to their students:

The argument they present for consideration is that because the non-dual condition is already the case, nothing needs to be done, or even could be done, to allow for its manifestation in the student’s life since no movement is possible towards that which you already are. This perfectly logical statement usually leaves the student in a very vulnerable position, because it is felt that although the truth of the non-dual vision makes perfect sense, nothing could be done to bring this truth down into the living reality of his/her actual experience. In other words, the truth of the non-dual is presented in such a way that it stands in opposition to the truth and living reality of the student’s experience of themselves, which clearly tells them that despite their clear intellectual grasp of the argument for non-dual reality, this is not the truth of their present experience of themselves.

Here we notice how the presumed argument for non- duality serves to fragment,  condition and limit the potential for the experience of the truth of non-duality.  It disempowers the student to discover for themselves what it could be which gives them the very strong impression of their separate existence or dualistic vision. Rather than serving the natural process of self-observation, self-enquiry and self-transcendence, through which the false assumption of separation could be explored and transcended, it stunts any further enquiry and therefore the possibility of awakening to the non-dual.  Briefly stated, this Neo – Advaitist advice could be seen as integrally part of the process by which non-duality gets obscured and duality perpetuated.

A further dilemma which these Advaitist teachers very often bring to their students is what they regard as the necessary involvement of the ego in all forms of practice. They simply argue that the ego, or the separate self-sense, is the necessary basis of all approaches to self-transcendence, and therefore of necessity can only strengthen the ego, instead of showing it up as simply non-existent. So, here again we have the sense of disempowerment in the student where it is felt that not only can nothing be done about h/her condition of separation or ‘I’-consciousness, but that should one dare to enter any form of practice, it will be utterly detrimental and counter-productive because it cannot but be ego-enhancing.

Now, in my understanding all of this is clearly false and misleading. All it achieves in most of the students who try to make sense of this intellectual approach to self-transcendence is for them to internalise this misguided information about non-practice, non-doing and so on into their own understanding and to start believing themselves that they truly don’t need to do any practice. They develop the false sense that they are already free and it is this very false sense of intellectual freedom that frustrates and obscures the natural process of inner unfolding. Yet, this simply leaves them back from where they started their enquiry: confined to the prison of their own separate self-sense, but now with absolutely no hope of ever being relieved from the limitations of the ‘I’-conscious state. They have become ‘knowers’ of ‘truth’, not realisers. Their intellectual certainty becomes a barrier between the living, experiential truth of the undivided nature of the living moment, and their confused state, masquerading for deliverance.

After all, if practice is precluded for one by one’s teacher with whom one has entrusted one’s deepest human longing, then all that remains will be the empty, stagnant idea of wholeness or unity consciousness. The whole thing becomes a movement in idealism, rather than realism. And unfortunately this is the destiny of this entire Neo-Advaitist dream.  It is a mere intellectual affair, masquerading for revelatory truth. Teachers and students alike go about proclaiming the truth of the non-dual nature of everything (it is now called consciousness) to one another as a kind of mantra, not realizing that what they so enthusiastically share and teach are mere ideas about the truth of non-dual living reality.  Neo-Advaitism is a dream.  It has become a new religion.  A new drug to lead the enquiring mind once again astray into the wilderness of dualistic vision.  These are nothing but ideas supporting ideas.  And as is the fate of all ideas mistaken for truth, they become nothing but a series of lies – albeit honest, well-intentioned lies – yet, because they are founded in nothing but intellectual argument, they remain uninformed by the truth of the direct experience of that which they proclaim.

What I am trying to bring into this matter for the intelligent consideration by any student of life, is the fact that although the final revelation of human potential is indeed the recognition of the non-dual nature of existence, this can only be stated as a retrospective description of experience.  In other words it is a statement of factual experience to those who truly stand in the freedom of their own wholeness. And from this natural clarity alone it is obvious that those who do not as yet share their ‘vision’ of non-duality, are nevertheless already living in the wholeness of being.

BUT, and this is the great BUT, for those in whom the separate self-sense still forms the functional basis of everyday existence, such a description of wholeness may be interesting, but rather meaningless. It can very easily become just another form of mental projection, more or less in line with all other forms of mental projections, which serve only the deluded state fragmented living founded in the separate self-sense.

It is indeed true that the ego cannot participate in its own destruction. It is also clear that the ego, as it is experienced as a separate entity, cannot go beyond itself. Clearly any such endeavour must of necessity result in the strengthening of the ego-principle. But who has determined that all investigation into the totality of that which presents itself as ego, separation, dis-ease and dysfunction must of necessity be done by the ego? Only the intellectuals.

This is where the intellectual Advaitist teachers depart in their view from that of mine. And this why I regard the movement as intellectual and idealistic, rather than realistic.  They mistake logical argument for living experience and then attempt to deny living experience the truth of its own deeply committed endeavours with regard to establishing a life free from the domination of the separate self-sense. They have not realised that logic is of an order, not only categorically different from, but also inferior to, the inherent Intelligence within our being which can, and do, look at the problem of dualistic vision from a perspective which does not strengthen the ‘I’-state.

Direct experience will reveal this to anyone who truly engages the work of self-observation, self-knowledge and self-transcendence. Such work inverts upon the ‘I’-state as such.  It implodes the ‘I’ upon itself, rather than feeds and elaborates on its presumed existence. Such work is truly self-transcendent and not priorly based within the ‘I’ – state itself.  This is an aspect of the path which the Neo-Advaitists have completely missed. In their philosophical eagerness to make reality fit the ideal, these folks could not allow themselves to look at the reality of the falseness of the ‘I’-state.  They only noticed the rational falseness, in relation to the Substance theory as advocated by Advaita Vedanta which proclaims that everything, including human life, is already integrally part of a universal unitive energy called Substance, Brahman, Self or Consciousness. Taking this presumed, revelatory truth as the ultimate basis for all manifest existence, their ‘argument’ appears reasonable: how can there movement from this to That if everything is already That?

The questions which Spiritual Humanism addresses, differs categorically from both premises as suggested by the Neo-Advaitists: firstly it rejects the notion of Substance altogether, and secondly it does not assume that all inner work is a movement towards such a Substance. Spiritual Humanism suggests that wholeness is not a state of being where everything takes on the so-called ‘ one- taste’ of the universal, Unifying Principle or Substance as advocated by the Advaita Vedanta philosophers, and subsequently taken on board as the primary point of departure of the Neo-Advaitists.

The non-dual truth of present experience is not dependent on any great Unifying principle. Spiritual Humanism suggests that when the inner presumption of separation (i.e. the separate self-sense) has been transcended, what remains is the mere truth of non-dual experience.  Here is no sense of being or becoming one with some primordial, universal Consciousness, Brahman or Self.  Human life, refined to its greatest simplicity, stands entire free in its own nature of undivided being.

From this it may be evident why Spiritual Humanism also rejects the notion of the Neo- Advaitists that all inner work is a movement away from wholeness as it can only serve the presumption of separation from Substance, God or Brahman, as well as ‘clearly’ being an impossibility. Spiritual Humanism suggests that correct inner work will undermine and ultimately completely transcend the presumption of separation within us.  It regards the separate self-sense as part of the obscuration to the truth of  the non-dual nature of living experience.  And in discovering ways for undermining this false sense of inner subjectivity, Spiritual Humanism points directly to that which creates and sustains the limited ‘I’-state. In this there is neither a sense of movement toward the whole, or some inner actor trying to get rid of itself.

This work fundamentally transcends the entire notion which presumes any movement toward the whole. But this has to become part of our living reality, based on direct experience.  It is only revealed in deep and penetrative inner work.  It is observed in function, not come upon by the rational, philosophical mind. We cannot start with the assumption of wholeness and then project from this mental assumption what appears to be a logical deduction that all inner work can only strengthen the ‘I’-state which it is trying to get away from. This argument keeps Neo –Advaitism locked within the very mind they believe they have gone beyond. This is the most fundamental criticism Spiritual Humanism brings to the entire Advaita Vedanta Substance theory and its emphasis on no-work, non-doing, no-actor etc. These are two thought-projections resulting in inner paralysis.  In fact, if this Neo-Advaitist notion of things achieves anything, it serves to strengthen the very ignorance it presumes is present within the condition of the ‘I’-state, and therefore the strengthening of the separate self-sense itself.

As I have indicated before, ignorance is always, first and foremost, ignorant of itself. The path suggested by Spiritual Humanism explores the subtle approach to self-transcendence to free the being from its chronic, habitual and illusory self -projection. To my understanding it is impossible for the ‘I’  to look for the truth which is transcendent to the apparent reality of its own existence. What is indeed possible is for us to look into the nature and function of fragmentation and illusion, and in the light of such clarity see the falseness of the `I’-process which is the active principle of the dualistic vision.

Here the investigation is into the ‘I’ itself. So in this there is no necessary involvement of the ‘I’.  What is required is for us to learn to observe without the observer . Simple and direct observation. Just as the eye sees by itself, and reveals all the diversity of present arising without ever seeing itself, similarly does this act of direct observation reveal with great clarity the nature and function of the fragmentary process which is the self-sense, without having to have any sense of itself as doer or observer.

Much depends on the nature and inclination of the investigation. If it is purposed towards some final goal or pre-determined notion of reality (non-duality), then the ego is indeed just continuing with its play of self-deception and thereby strengthening itself. But if the investigation is directed into the nature of that which appears to give us the sense of fragmentation, unfreedom and duality, then such an enquiry can have no particular end in view. By looking at the mechanisms and inner faculties which keep the ‘I’-state in place, no movement is possible towards any goal the ‘I’ might project. And this enquiry into the ‘I’ is characterised by a live and radical spirit of enquiry which observes with simple and direct clarity all that presents itself as fragmented existence, including the separate self-sense.

Such investigation most certainly has consequences. But its consequences tend not to enhance the ego, but rather to reduce its sense of its own solidity and reality.  It literally relativises and marginalises the ego-state. And with each release or ‘mini-transcendence’ of the contracted self-state comes a greater sense of relaxed awareness which makes it further possible for the enquiry to deepen into even more subtle aspects of the presumed reality of the ego-state. Soon, clarity itself becomes the ever-increasing basis from which we operate, instead of the limitation we place on our being by believing in the contracted ego-reality as the basis for our lives. The process leads itself naturally away from contraction (ego-consciousness) to openness and clarity of non-dual Being.  If the process of observation is correctly applied then all this takes place without the overt involvement of the doer.

The ego can only do. It cannot just be. It is always on the move towards self-fulfilment or self-release. This is the very nature of doing. And to come into direct contact with this ego-doing, the very clarity which reveals this process, will also initiate the natural abandonment of this false and inappropriate process which for so long presented itself to us as the functional centre of our being and the basis of all fragmented existence.

So by clearly observing how this process creates and fulfils its destiny as a separate entity, and the natural suffering associated with such sense of separation and alienation, such clarity of vision brings its own Intelligence into play. It gradually becomes clear that this process within thought is not useful to be associated and identified with. Rather, it is recognised as the very essence of human-created suffering, and in this pure recognition a natural abandonment of this process begins to assert itself, quite naturally. No conclusion is reached from which again to start the process of bringing action in line with such a conclusion. It is an inherent aspect of such recognition within our own clarity that the very act of conclusion from which to determine `right’ action, is again part of the process within thought which obscures clarity of vision.

The clarity of vision is sufficient unto itself to do the work. Clarity itself becomes the ‘base’ from which we begin to feel our way into a life less burdened by the contracted self-sense. Clarity is not just pure vision. It brings with it the sword of real discriminatory Intelligence, compassion and emotional equanimity which function totally free from the conditioned thought which created the ‘I’ and has enslaved us for so many thousands of years.

And it is this natural clarity and Intelligence which progressively reveal the non-dual nature of all present arising and which alone has the power to bring the contracted self-state to its natural and unforced dissolution. No intellectual process, such as unknowingly proposed by Neo-Advaitism, has the integrity and self-transcending potential to facilitate this.


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