Our Nonduiverse

Scott Virden Anderson Blog

In the course of contemplating the possibility of working this next year with Charles T. Tart on the program for the 2010 Conference of ISSSEEM, I’ve become aware of the fact that Dr. Tart is an avowed dualist.

See, for example, his recent poster at Tucson VII, Toward a Science of Consciousness, titled “A Future for Dualism as an Emperical Science?

He is convinced that the body of evidence that has been elaborated by his field of parapsychology cannot be accounted for by what he calls “materialistic monism.”

I agree with him on this point.  However…

He proposes that we are, in effect, forced to conclude that we live in a dualistic universe with matter on one side and mind on the other—and, at least as a practical matter, we need to think in terms of an “empirical” or “interactive” dualism.

My own feeling is that we can now do better than that.

Thus I’m proposing, not entirely whimsically, that it might be useful for us to begin to think in terms of a nonduiverse

Why the catchy neologism?

First, whatever our -ism, I feel strongly it needs to apply to the whole of things in the knowable “universe.”

But there is a philosophic problem hidden in our usual term “universe”—monism itself—the notion that everything is somehow “one,” or made of some single kind of substance, be that material, energetic, mental, spiritual, or divine.

Despite the long and august history of various kinds of monisms, I feel they have now become philosophically problematic.

Why exactly is beyond the scope of this brief entry, but you can get a feel for the issue via the Wikipedia entry on “monism.”

In recent decades, much influenced by various Eastern traditions, the approach of nondualism has entered the picture.

Nondualism is often defined by the paradoxical phrase, “not two, not one.”

Thus “nondualism” does not mean only, “not two” as the term obviously implies, it also means, “not one” as well.

It is important to keep this seeming duality of nonduality in mind.

A more precise term would necessarily be something really awkward like “nondualorsingleism”—this might help to counter the oft-made mistake of assuming that because of the literal meaning of the term, nondualism is just another form of monism—it isn’t.

It may help to think of this issue much as we have had to in order to account for “complementarity” in physics:

Much as with the wave and particle descriptions of light, for example: a single photon is not two, and yet it is not just one either—perhaps better said as “there is not just one way of viewing it.”

The “universe” as a whole then is likewise not just “one” and thus its very name is a bit misleading, especially when it comes to our trying to sort out what to make of the findings of parapsychology.

My proposal is that we need at least a somewhat more precise term for it.

Maybe we could try “nonduiverse.”

(There is another big issue packed in here as well that I won’t delve into in this post that is especially relevant for ISSSEEM, that is the way in which energy is the bridge between matter and mind.  Energy is the “missing link” that can help us get beyond our “mind-body problem.”  More on this at a later date.)