Dualism: Know the Enemy

In his memorial introduction to Jean Gebser’s book The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Keckeis attempted to briefly summarise (if that were at all possible) the main concerns that drove Gebser to write the book,

“Gebser has noted two results that are of particular significance: first, the abandonment of materialistic determinism, of a one-sided mechanistic-causal mode of thought; and second, a manifest ‘urgency of attempts to discover a universal way of observing things, and to overcome the inner division of contemporary man who, as a result of his one-sided rational orientation, thinks only in dualisms.'” (p. xix)

For Gebser, this dualism was not just the principal symptom of the breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness and civilisation into “deficient rationality” (a dialectically oriented consciousness become unhinged), but the disintegration and dispersal of the whole personality through “loss of the vital center”. This theme of disintegration and dispersal is the same theme that informs W.B. Yeats’ ominous poem The Second Coming, written at the conclusion of the First World War when it seemed to Yeats that the great conflagration had consumed all familiar social and historical landmarks and expunged all our horizons and values.

Dualism in thought and deed is the tendency to perceive and represent reality in starkly contradictory terms; in mutually exclusive and mutually hostile antinomies. Things are perceived as being inherently either good or evil, left or right, right or wrong, true or false, light or dark, private or public, individual or society, life or death, economics or environment, heaven and hell, winning or losing, reason or instinct, soul and ego, or, the conscious mind or the unconscious mind, and so on, and these are at constant war with one another in an “either/or” struggle for dominance and supremacy. There is no sense of the unity of being in this view. Being (Life) is divided against itself in a radical dichotomisation of contending forces perceived as being either “good” or “evil” in absolute terms, with the destruction of the one being the purpose and goal of the other. In consequence, the cosmos is ruled and governed by a ceaseless enmity of mutually antagonistic and opposed powers in which “you’re either with us or against us”.

The blight of mass politics in our time would not be a problem if it weren’t for this dualism that manifests “the inner division of contemporary man”.

This dualism, it must be said, is unreal in the sense that Being is not divided against itself in this way. Early Christian doctrine declared as a heresy and as being anti-Christ any doctrine, such as Manicheanism, that taught that the world was divided against itself and was ruled by enmity and strife, and not by love — by an empathy, sympathy, or compassion of all the parts for the whole. Dualism is not compatible with Christian teaching, which is why so much of contemporary Christian fundamentalism is totally aberrant and, indeed, in its own terms “anti-Christ”. Dualism justifies why we can speak of our dissolute times not as just “post-modern”, but also as “post-Christian”, too.

It has been stated that “we do not see things as they are, but as we are”, and this is very true. Dualism in thought and action reflects the disturbed and turbulent “inner division of contemporary man” in much the way we explored in the previous post. It was before the First World War that this extreme inner dividedness of the soul in dualism was becoming the chronic and almost universal malaise of contemporary man, coming to awareness in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson, not accidentally, was writing at the same time as Friedrich Nietzsche was launching his own attacks on moralism as the source of a life-denying nihilism hidden within metaphysical dualism. Freud “discovered” thereafter the so-called “unconscious” and the soul as battlefield between the instincts of “Eros” and “Thanatos”, while Carl Jung followed that up with his differentiation of a “Self” and “Ego” as expressing an “unconscious attitude” often at opposed purposes with “the conscious attitude”. The First World War was, in effect, the manifestation of this pernicious dualism having become our so-called “human nature”, which is itself a construct of dualistic thinking.

Metaphysical Dualism Illustrated by Rene Descartes

All the great wisdom traditions deny that dualism has any fundamental reality or ultimate truth value, and in fact see dualism not only as the source of error and the root cause of all suffering resulting from that error and delusion, but as ultimately self-destructive in its logic. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” is the implicit fate that overtook even Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, and is the fate of nihilism foreseen also by Nietzsche for our own times. “All higher values devalue themselves” is this same logic of a house divided against itself. And this is clearly also the condition and the malaise of a soul that knows the truth, but then speaks and acts contrary to the vital truth it does know, as was examined in the last post.

This radical dualism of the divided soul in the throes of disintegration (loss of integrity), which is the cause of all extremism and hybris, lies at the root also of the present epidemics of narcissism, duplicity, lipservice, double-talk, double-standard, double-think, double-bind, “the culture of lying” and the great reactionary hypocrisies of the day. The radical simplification of all existence and reality into simple mutually antagonistic opposites even facilitates the work of social demogoguery and of political opportunists who can play upon this miserable condition, and even inflame it, for political power and advantage. Such was the main theme of The Century of the Self. Their rhetoric even serves to affirm this diseased and delusional condition as the norm. This is the “noble lie” or “the clash of civilisations” propaganda and ideology. This is not the language and rhetoric of peace and healing, of reason and enlightenment, but of souls which exult in division, strife, war, suffering, and disease, who are inwardly themselves this “human nature” they claim to know so well, while piously pretending to be the contrary of all that because, well… morality demands it.

Dualism is both the ideology and the mythology of the day, and it is enacted especially in so-called “reality TV” shows and with great fanfare in mass spectacles and entertainments like sporting events that have become, in many respects, great morality plays that affirm dualism as the very essence of reality. These spectacles of images very often obstruct insight into the hidden truth of the cooperation and camraderie that underlies the public demonstrations of mutual hostility and enmity enacted in the play of images.

The true existential enemy is not the absolute “other”, but is this inner dualism itself, now projected outwards as being the way things are. “You create the reality you know” and reality becomes the faithful reflection of the overall inner condition for good or ill. We need to recognise its true source as lying not in the way life and the cosmos actually function, but as we are ourselves implicitly and inwardly at our “end of history”. Having falsified and deluded ourselves about what and who we are, we shouldn’t be surprised that our experience is also falsified and delusional, and that in consequence we are setting ourselves up for a great fall.


8 responses to “Dualism: Know the Enemy”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    Engaging pictures. I was reading Jane Roberts’ “How to Develop your ESP Powers” and I came across a couple of excerpts from the Seth sessions which have relevance to duality:

    “Much investigation along the lines of ESP is being carried on within the western world. The fact is that western man has not only cut himself off from half of his own ability and half of his knowledge because of his insistence upon an artificial dual nature, but he has also cut himself off from the very primitive societies from which he could learn much about his abilities (p. 120).”

    “The trouble with ESP investigations is that you are using the wrong tools. You are taking this dual self for granted again. Until you realize that there is one self, and not one self who does and manipulates and another self who breathes and dreams, you will get nowhere (p. 121).”

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ve never read that particular book. I suppose I should. What Seth says there, though, sort of contradicts what I excerpted from Seth Speaks a few posts ago.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        The beauty of Seth Speaks is that it’s all what Seth says. This ESP book, presents 3/4 of each chapter with Jane Roberts’ own experiences and recommendations for exercises, and then at the end 1/4 of each chapter, she includes words from Seth from her Seth sessions. The chapter from which I got the quotes focuses on the impact of “inner senses” versus the impact of the “outer senses”. To give more context to the quotes I gave previously, please let me include more of the Seth session, starting from page 121:

        “Investigations [regarding ESP that is] carried on according to what are considered scientific precepts are doomed in a large measure to slow motion tactics at best, and to complete failure at worst.

        “This does not mean that evidence cannot be found, and overwhelming evidence, for the existence of the inner senses. It does mean that spontaneity must be allowed for. It is extremely difficult to relate data received by the inner senses to data that will be picked up by the outer senses.”

        “Again, you get something like a mirror image that must be deciphered. Data received by the inner senses will have its own discernible impact upon the personality receiving it, and this impact is as strong as any impact caused by outer stimuli.

        “When you insist upon evidence through the regularly accepted senses, you almost automatically turn off the inner sense apparatus. This is not necessary. Man has set up this reaction himself to a large degree. You must take the inner data at its face value, and this is what you will not do. Once you take this first step of spontaneity, you will actually receive evidence that even the conscious mind will be forced to accept. But the first step of such willingness must be made.

        “If you once allow yourself freely to receive inner data in a spontaneous, non-critical manner, you will see that this data is as legitimate, valid and varied, and as powerful as any outside stimuli. But to insist upon translating this data into channels that can first be picked up by the outer senses, and then expect strong undistorted data, is impossible.

        “The impressions received by the inner senses are, again, actually concrete in a way that you do not now understand. This data also has physical effects upon the brain. In the same manner that impressions received from outside stimuli affect the brain, they make their effect upon it. They change the personality as any experience does. To insist upon evidence in terms of outside sensual data is as ridiculous a notion as to expect a camera to play music.

        “Music exists and can be played on a phonograph. Sights can be captured on a camera. But you do not expect music to come from a camera. You do not expect a phonograph to take pictures. Yet you are expecting the outer senses to do something that they are not capable of doing. You are expecting them to act like a camera that can pick up music…At the same time you are refusing to use the very inner senses which are equipped to handle the data that you wish to capture.

        “It is your refusal to accept the whole self that causes the difficulty. Once more: data received by the inner senses are as vivid, and in fact more vivid, than any other data you will ever receive. The ironic part of the whole matter is that you actually receive this inner data constantly. You utilize it constantly, and yet consciously you will not admit its existence.

        “The very fact that you breathe and dream and perform countless other activities without any aid from the conscious ego should convince the most stubborn skull that more is involved here than science is willing to admit. Your present idea of the subconscious is merely a grudging, hedging, partial admission that man is more than his conscious ego, more than the sum of his parts, and more than a mechanism.

        “Evidence of what you call ESP will be arrived at, but as you receive evidence of sound through the ears and do not ordinarily expect to see through your ears, so evidence must come through the correct channels. One of your main difficulties is that you will not accept as evidence anything which is not perceivable in one manner or other through the outer senses. That is, you will not consider an experience as valid unless it can be demonstrated to exist as physical camouflage reality.

        “[…] The term ESP is itself a result of your artificial duality, maintaining as it does that anything not perceived through the physical senses is therefore extra and tacked on …. It must be admitted that the outside senses are fabricators of the most delightful sort. What will you do when you discover that everything the physical senses tell you is, in a basic manner, false?”

        • Scott Preston says :

          Thanks for writing those out. Must have taken you a while. A useful exercise I sometimes perform is just to observe images as they rise up before the mind’s eye while lying in bed at night. This requires that the mind be stilled, to a certain extent. It can lead to some surprising and startling results.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    One of the more meaningful movies I have seen is a 1989 movie called: “The Gods Must be Crazy II”.

    I think the movie nails it regarding Seth’s statement “he [the modern or western man] has also cut himself off from the very primitive societies from which he could learn much about his abilities”.

    It seems to me that much of “modern structures” that we’ve created from buildings to ships and airplanes and such have done a superb job of reducing our attention to focus more loyally toward the structures we possess on the inside. It was perhaps that realization that motivated the Lumanians – the most technologically advanced civilization this earth has known to itself according to Seth – to prefer to abandon or demolish all they had created only to mix in and disappear among the relatively “backward” people of their time.

    Sorry to digress again, but I hope the following link provides you with access to the movie on Crackle.com:

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks. I’ll try it out later. I enjoyed the first one. I didn’t know there was a sequel.

      This issue of the Lumanians is interesting. I wonder if this has anything to do with the so-called “Boskop Man” controversy. Given the subsequent validation of some of the things Seth stated earlier, it would certainly be interesting to discover some archaeological evidence of these Lumanians.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    You are most welocme. It was a pleasure to type more of the ESP book, because I wanted to clarify the context a bit more. The exercise at bed time, I have to admit that I have practiced it following one of the recommendations in the ESP book, but since I was often too tired at bed time I abandoned the practice as a regular thing, and yet noticed later that something in me was now conditioned to occasionally put itself in that trance like mode automatically when I lay down to rest. I corroborate that the results are startling but I can never decipher them with what I now know. The experience always begins with irregular dark and bright spots which is normal everytime I close my eyes. But as my mind relaxes and thoughts abandon me, the visions end with seeing ancient language-like or ornamental patterns or images of some sort through dissipating foggy surroundings. Sometimes, these images are clearer than other times and linger on longer than other times, but I don’t believe I have ever been able to ‘see’ the patterns more than say 8-10 seconds. What I have learned over and over though is that when these images do appear to enjoy looking at their beautiful patterns and try to investigate them while they last, because I have never been able to prolong their duration through the act of will.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    BTW, thanks for the “Boskop Man” controversy mention. I’d never heard of them and a quick google search turned up some very interesting links.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: