= should a P2P metaphysics move away from conceptions of oneness/wholeness and instead opt for a manifoldness?
This contribution by Mushin shows how conversation by social media, including Twitter, can lead to collective insights into complex philosophical matters.
So his contribution is of interest both regarding content and form.
See also the comments for an elaboration of a discussion relating this poly-theistic worldview to Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of the morphic fields.
More reactions here on Facebook as well.
“Here is the thing: A great many people on the front of the new social movements are ‚spiritually’ – and by that I mean the way they are making sense of (their) life, reality and everything – influenced by ideas that center around wholeness, Oneness, unity, a fundamental truth and similar notions or ‘philosopies’ or ‘myths’.
Some of them we’ll be encountering as we look at people’s responses on Twitter and elsewhere to a tweet I sent one evening after contemplating reality as it presents itself to me:
What if there is no unity connecting all and everyone but “polithy”? What if it’s not Wholeness but Manifoldness? What if fantasy is more fundamental than reality? What if we aren’t here to grow but to bloom? What if we’re not here to learn but to deepen?
The word “polithy” I’m using in that tweet derives from the Greek ‘poly’, as in Polytheism – the belief in many gods, which stands over against monotheism, the belief in one supreme deity – or ‘Polyverse’, which in my mind stands over against universe, the one or singular cosmos that is thought to be our basic reality.
A first response came from my friend Matej Forman:
To grow brings the question where to, to what extend. To bloom brings the answer: to full beauty. That’s what makes sense to me.
And then Christy brought up this:
What if it’s both, always and inseparably? The One manifesting as the Many, the Many rooted always in the One?
This required a longer answer than Twitter allows so I answered using Posterous:
I’m saying that the One without an outside is an egoic or heroic invention that dominates our culture. I’m saying that this One is not fact but an imagination, a repressing image or concept or – and I’ve experienced it’s reality first hand often – a dominating myth. It is positioning itself as the One beneath it all that everything and everyone is rooted in. This is the conviction that it comes with. And I am saying that, really, we live in a Polyverse that does NOT require or have an underlying unity. And that I feel that this is good, beautiful and true.
I was happy that Christy didn’t let me get away with this so easy, and she responded:
I think I still don’t quite understand – it seems to me that the gorgeous Polyverse, where we all live, is composed of parts that must remain separate parts – though in some kind of relationship perhaps – if their belonging together, arising from singularity, is denied. Is this not the reductionist perspective? The viewpoint of current conventional science that says that the universe is composed of parts? My experience is shaped by working for years within the Taoist perspective, beholding each arising phenomenon (the 10,000 things) as a unique expression of a single whole.
Again, happy that Chrissy gave me the opportunity to delve in deeper along the lines she indicated I came up with this response:
Well, I think this ‘gorgeous Polyverse’ is full of beings, entities, situations etc. Full of what we might call ‘parts’, as long as we don’t fall into the trap of believing them to be parts of some pre-existent whole. Some of them might or might not be part of some greater whole. This we don’t know – so it becomes a matter of belief. And since the belief in the One, as it I also perceive it coming from you, always seems to carry the dominator-spirit (the one being the source and ‘end’ of the manifold etc.; thus taking into its ‘territory’ everything else) I’m opposed to this unnecessary move and say, lets respect the phenomena as they unfold in their uniqueness; and instead of telling them that they fit into this overarching unity let’s speak with them and take them ‘serious’ just the way they present themselves to us. … This is not reductionist at all – I would rather say that the Oneness-view is reductionist as it already positively answers the question, “Are you a part of something bigger, and do you come from something bigger?” instead of listening what the ‘part’ has to say. … Of course you can experience each part, each phenomenon as a unique expression of a single whole – but why do so? Can you not respect, cherish and honor each unique phenomenon without that move? … And one final thought, I do think that everything is directly and/or indirectly connected to everything else, maybe even so much as a single bird is connected to a whole flock, but that doesn’t make the flock the source of a bird nor does it make the flock the goal of a bird; it simply shows that sometimes it’s the delight of birds to flock….
Now another friend, Eostar Kamala entered the exploration this way, highlighting some of the modern convictions that are connected to the Oneness motif:
If everything is separate and there’s no underlying whole then what is LOVE about? Why do people care for each other (if they do)? Why are all spiritual traditions teaching us to love one another as their central theme? What is this urge to come together and touch one another in love with all species, all beings, all dimensions….? What’s his urge to unite and feel connected?
Which gave me an opportunity to relate my polytheistic, non-fundamental musing on this matter in connection to my main theme:
I would say that Love is about… well, love. It is something that sometimes happens between people – in different ways. And also between people and other beings and even between people and things or situations. And yes, love can lead to union with the beloved. We also know, though, that the union that potentially comes through Love (with or without capital L) is always temporary. Which is a very important part of it’s beauty. And also that love can last longer much longer than the union – in some cases even a lifetime (and maybe longer, who knows). … But you’re mistaken when you state that all spiritual traditions have loving one another as their central theme. With Zen, to just name an instance that I know very well, you can bring in the topic of love, but really, it is not part of the tradition at all. And as far as I know neither does Buddhism nor, for instance, Islam or Jainism place much emphasis on it. In Taoism it doesn’t play a big role either… It’s a very Christian theme – in modern theology and not so much in religious practice the last, say, 1000 years… … So, you ask, “What is this urge to unite and come together?” I like to call this urge or ‘power’ Eros. It seems to be a very pervasive power in the polyverse. But there is also the power of tanathos, for instance, death, that creates separation and falling apart; a power that seems to be equally pervasive to me. … In all this it is important to me is that we do not NEED to think of the aspiration to unite, or become part of a fundamental unity as the basis for the Polyverse – actually I do not see the need for a basis at all. The thought of something fundamental to the Polyverse comes from the art of building something on a planet that has lots of gravity. If you build something there you better have some fundament in place! But the polyverse wasn’t built or created by some mono-theos, some one god. … Matter of fact is that I have multiple identities and regard myself as a polytheistic being, honoring the ‘local’ gods where I happen to be… I cherish the richness of plurality and have no need for some transcendent or overarching unity, some “all-embracing wholeness” that keeps things together for me or any of us, thank you very much! … The wholeness/Oneness myth is a tool in monotheistic hands and expresses the need for some supreme or ultimate principle. I love the idea of multiple attractors sometimes harmonious, sometimes dissonant, sometimes destruction bent, but always multiple, always interdependent, and mostly not dominated by some supreme godhead, non-duality, principle, final cause, divine source of everything or whatever name you wish to give it. … And, by the way, just because all is not one, it doesn’t mean it is separate, as in the myth of scientific separation where it’s all atomic billiard balls bumping into each other according to natural laws. My perspective shows me interdependent entities and beings that can be distinguished, respected as unique, and that are having definite boundaries, semi-permeable membranes, often, that distinguish and connect at the same time.
There are many things I could add here, but what stands out for me is that for many, most or even all beings and ‘things’ to be directly or indirectly connected – like in the famous 6 degrees of separation that allows me to connect to anybody else on the planet by going through a maximum of 6 others – no oneness or unity or similar needs to be invoked: having a semi-permeable membrane is enough, even if there are many other ways of connecting as well. The very idea that a Grand Unifying Whatever is superior to, foundational to or the ordering principle is founded on the monotheistic conviction of the One God to rule them all, by whichever name it goes, and – which is why I’m getting passionate about this at times – it takes away from the respect of the many gods, beliefs, convictions, practices as it comes to all of them with a basic ‘knowing’ and not the unknowing that is required in any true meeting with another being or thing or situation.
The most recent comment comes from Thomas who says:
Mushin, thanks for exploring these ideas. I’m reminded of a bit here of James Hilllman in his writings on polytheism and the many gods of our being. I too cherish the richness of plurality and yet do not feel that this interferes with an intuition of Wholeness. You write: “The wholeness/Oneness myth is a tool in monotheistic hands and expresses the need for some supreme or ultimate principle.” Perhaps that is true in certain fundamentalist perspectives, but I don’t believe that most non-dual teachings are monotheistic. What I am most curious about is this: Within a Polyverse that does NOT require or have an underlying unity, is non-dual consciousness possible? I look forward to watching you move your thoughts and perspectives into the great Multiplicity.
To which I answered:
Yes, I love the wonderful James Hillman; wrestling with some of his ideas many things became much clearer to me… You’re might be right about the non-monotheistic origin of non-dual teachings, but in our culture they definitely mix with such positioning of ideas, placing the non-dual awareness, for instance, as the pinnacle of human endeavor… or as the Ultimate, the Highest etc. This, at least, is the impression one gets from both the primary and secondary literature – and the personal conversations – with followers of a non-dual teaching. .. Why would it require an underlying unity to have a non-dual awareness? The non-dual awareness says nothing about the ‘factual’ nature of the polyverse – if there is such facticity at all. It says something about the possibilities of consciousness and awareness. It doesn’t say anything about the unconscious and non-conscious aspects of ‘reality’. Just that consciousness is unfolding in a non-dual manner; which doesn’t say anything about the unconscious, does it? In my life there have been several times that were spent within “oneness-consciousness”, as I’d rather call it, as within the non-dual there is the whole dualistic ideation. When within that ‘dimension’ of being with reality the ‘Oneness’ itself suggests to be both eternal and foundational. Obviously, as in my case, one is able to leave that state again which makes it temporary and probably not foundational (and I’ve already said what I think about the need for foundations). I’ve hung out with a few enlightened masters and non of them where in such a state continually. Even Ken Wilber, who says of himself that he’s more in that state than anybody else – the enlightened superman 😉 – is not in that state or on that level all the time, which, again makes it temporary. .. In Jungian (or Hillmanian) terms I would say that there is indeed a non-dual archetype that sometimes lives through/in a person. It seems or is indeed divine or beyond-divine, if you like. But it is ‘just’ another godhead among the many even if it claims to be the One without a Second…”