Nonduality is rather more complex than can be explained in a brief blog entry, but humans are good at simplifying to the point of nonsense. I’ll give it a try.
There seem to me to be three states of spiritual consciousness.
1. There is only me and my surroundings. What I see and feel and experience is reality. Nothing else is. God is a figment of our imagination.
2. I am here and so are the trees, the dog, my residence, and “stuff.” God exists, “out there.” I go to church and God is there. God is in heaven. This is described as duality. There is the spiritual world and there is my world.
3. God as Spirit exists both out there and within me and within all things. At special times, when we are attuned to it, we can sense the unity of Spirit and our bodies. There becomes no difference between the All of God and our wholeness and our world. This is referred to as nonduality. (Actually, I feel this often, almost whenever I look up from what I am doing, or when I stop for a minute to just take in my surroundings. I know, I feel, that God is here, present.)
Some eastern spiritual traditions practice becoming aware of the nonduality of existence. Our western culture has been focused on the reality of the physical world. “Seeing is believing.” Rational thought and testable scientific evidence has more influence on us than spiritual existence and experiences.
Recently there have been some interesting scientific studies (reported in a magazine article that initiated these thoughts of mine) that compare brain activity while we are in two different “states” or mindsets. One is a meditative state, such as praying or emptying our active thoughts to dwell on inner peace. The other is active thinking activities such as problem solving. There are some early suggestions that the state of nonduality can be measured with magnetic imaging in some individuals. It appears that our brain functioning is different when we perceive God as part of us, and part of all that is, compared to when we think of God as separate from our individual lives and being.
Is there hope that the rational western modes of thought, including science, will be able to meld with some eastern spiritual modes of being that will find a harmony that includes nonduality?