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#2753 - March, 2007 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

Nondual Highlights  

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In issue #2715 I told you about the Tenth Anniversary issue of Kriben Pillay's Noumenon Journal: Nondual Perspectives on Transformation. And we included one of the articles:  

Now I want to tell you that the published version is available at You can download a copy for about $5 or get a hard copy version for about $11 + postage.  

Noumenon deals more with the energetics of nonduality than the nothingness of nonduality. Which is like when we were kids in a big swimming pool. We'd splash each other, which was fun. But did you ever try to splash your friend underwater? All you can do is push water at each other. As hard as you push, you can't splash your friend and he can't splash you. You cannot have an effect on each other. The self-realized are like the friends underwater. They can push water, but they have to laugh because nothing is being done or affected. That's why the self-realized, when they happen to meet, can only laugh, or be still, or talk about whatever. Because, what is there?  

All "this" is water moving water, energy pushing energy. Steven Harrison, in this issue of Noumenon (and excerpted below), says, "I don't see separate events. The mother and child are not different. It's one movement, one energy, one fact." It's all water.  

Presented here is Kriben Pillay's opening comments about this issue of Noumenon. It is followed by a portion of an interview with Steven Harrison.    

Editor’s Comment

This tenth volume of The Noumenon Journal marks the end of a phase of a particular inquiry into the nondual perspective: an inquiry that sought – through essays, interviews, dialogues, scholarly articles and reviews – to give expression to a view of ourselves and the world that went against the grain of apparent experience and subject-object discourse in order to articulate the long-standing transcendent perspective that the world of division and fragmentation is really a construct of thought.

Theoretical speculation was not a consideration, and would have been less than useless for our purposes. What was important was the engagement with path-finders – most of them living, ordinary people – who, by their personal discov-eries, writings and dialogues, offered authentic ways to transforming our perception of ourselves and the world, and thereby our actions in the world.

The journal was inspired by the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, and in the first issue we wrote:

  • One of Krishnamurti’s persistent themes is this very erroneous division of perception into the observer and the observed – the root of our fragmentation and, therefore, our conflicts.

  • What Krishnamurti challenged was the fact of apparent separation, and what we struggled with was the first-hand realisation of non-separation and its implications for a world destroying itself with its countless divisions. As such, the journal looked at education, psychology, transformative spirituality, leadership and other expressions of human life within this primary inquiry – to become a springboard for others in their experiential and conceptual engagement with the nondual.

    Now, it seems that the inquiry has moved into its applied phase, where we’re looking to see how it’s manifesting in our lives: in our places of work, our scientific research, our social institutions, our creative expressions, in the ways we relate to each other and to our environment.

    The mature nondual perspective deconstructs the person who has attained mas-tery over destiny: the leader/hero who can lead us to fulfilment with her special powers and benign and compassionate demeanour that locks us into always being children dependent on some parent figure. The challenge now is to express absolute self-responsibility; there being no actual separation and division, I’m the One, as are You.

    And we’re interested to see how this unfolds in the big and small areas of our lives. 

    As I write this editorial I learn that Douglas Harding – the wonderful English teacher who single-handedly made it possible through his ingenious seeing experiments to glimpse the absolute fact of non-separation – has died in the early hours of the morning at the age of 98. In 1994 Douglas visited South Africa as my guest through the auspices of the then University of Durban-Westville. His visit inspired the writing of the first Noumenon article, and it is also no coincidence that the journal came into being shortly after my stay at his lovely country cottage in Nacton, Ipswich, in April 1995. A year later Noumenon published a lengthy interview with Douglas.This ongoing contact helped shape my doctoral research, especially the relationship between Douglas’ experiential workshops and educational drama and theatre and their implications for transformation. This tenth anniversary issue of the journal is dedi-cated to the memory of a modern pioneer in nondual teachings.

  • [Douglas Harding] makes the extraordinary claim that most human anxieties, including fear of death, are not natural and inevitable at all, but the result of completely unnatural limitations imposed on consciousness by social brainwashing … he sees most such belief, including New Age belief in ‘higher consciousness’, as itself part of the brainwashing, because it accepts ordinary everyday consciousness as a function of individual personality, when in fact separate individuality is only a mental assumption like grid-lines on maps, not part of real ex-perience at all.

    John Wren-Lewis from the Review of The Little Book of Life and Death

  • Kriben Pillay




    The Philosopher and The Mystic:

    Touching the Universe

    Dialogues with Steven Harrison

    Patrick McCarty

    Lynchburg, Virginia

    Patrick McCarty: A new mother wakes at night with the slightest sound made by her baby. It would seem in this case that a single idea, that of motherhood, has entirely revolutionised the mind.

    How do you understand this revolution?

    Steven Harrison: I don’t see separate events. The mother and the child are not different. It’s one movement, one energy, one fact.

    McCarty: The mother recognises unconsciously this belonging–together of herself and the child?

    Harrison: The mother doesn’t exist outside the conceptualisation of the mother, nor does the child.The actual movement of the awakening is the event of the child plus the mother. We divide it up while we are talking about it and then ask, How did that happen?

    McCarty: Right. Then we explain it in terms of these concepts.

    Harrison: Right.

    McCarty: And the concepts don’t do justice to reality, or the concepts are an overlay?

    Harrison: Without the concepts there is nothing to say. If we want to say things – which is what we like to do – we have to have concepts.

    McCarty: How does thought identify non-thought?

    Harrison: It identifies it the same way it does everything, with concepts. It has the idea of non-thought. However, thought cannot approach its own cessation or non-being. It can only create more and more refined ideas about it, which we could call philosophy.

    McCarty: I am having my students read a thinker who is hard to categorise named Krishnamurti. What appeals to me about him is that he is always calling upon us ‘just to look’. Don’t trust tradition, customs, or what some great wise philosopher has said. But my students, though they grappled with Krishna-murti, had enormous trouble experiencing what he calls the unconditioned. In terms of thought and non-thought – what we were just talking about – concepts get imposed. Non-thought is always going to be getting identified as thought. If Krishnamurti is right, there is something called the unconditioned that is just there to be seen. Why are my students having so much trouble?

    Harrison: Because they are thinking about it. The thinking about it is always going to be conditioned. It’s always going to be the rehashing of what they have been told, what they have read, second-hand knowledge. They are going to fit what Krishnamurti is saying into that second-hand knowledge, and then they will either agree with it or disagree. If they agree with it, it fits. If they disagree, it fits also because it is fitting negatively. To understand what he is saying means to drop out of experience altogether, which means not accessing or utilising thought as the mechanism of understanding.

    McCarty: I think you said not utilising thought?

    Harrison: Right.

    McCarty: Would you agree that mind is layered? Krishnamurti talks about the movement of thought, as if it were linear. But isn’t there thought which is occurring at all layers of mind? Isn’t mind deeply layered and all of this thinking is occurring simultaneously? It is not a linear movement.

    Harrison: The linearity is part of the conceptual framework of mind itself, but you can’t find anything in actuality which is linear, which has time to it. Anything you can find is in this moment. At this moment thought suggests past and future and lines it up in a coherent way, and we all agree culturally that that’s the way it is. If you simply look at the movement of thought, you will see the entirety of reality encapsulated in it. If you are seeing this entirety, some new or macro-reality has occurred. That macro-reality is something else completely.

    McCarty: Would that macro-reality be what you refer to in your writings as the silence?

    Harrison: Right. Silence means the space within which this reality is occurring has no comment on it, doesn’t like it or dislike it, isn’t involved in it, and doesn’t have any characteristic at all.

    McCarty: So one feature is a lack of judgment.

    Harrison: Right.

    McCarty: And another feature is the cessation of conceptualising.

    Harrison: Right. The other thing you can say about is that while this space has access to thought, thought does not have access to it. So there is directionality to it. Thought has access to its thoughts about it, what words make of it, but the space has easy access to thought.

    McCarty: Do you conceive of the silence as spiritual and, if so, in what sense?

    Harrison: No, the spiritual to me is just one more concept. There is no actual spirituality.

    McCarty: There is just what is.

    Harrison: Yes. If you are going to talk about spirituality, tell me what is not spiritual.

    McCarty: That’s a good question.

    Harrison: If you are going to say that spirituality is everything, fine – but then spirituality doesn’t mean anything. We take the word spirituality to mean something that is special or different from normal.

    McCarty: Something outside the customary or familiar.

    Harrison: Right

    McCarty: The Dalai Lama wrote a book called Ethics for the New Millennium. He talks about what he calls spiritual practice. His assertion in the book is that it is a practice. In other words, you practice patience so that it becomes second nature for you. That is how most people understand spiritual growth: I become more patient over time, less judgmental over time. He actually talks in the book about cultivating empathy, compassion, a sense of connectedness. He speaks of the interdependence of all things. Is there a danger in this practice or is it benign? Or is it a positive good?

    Harrison: Relatively speaking, it is good. It is relatively better to be doing less harm than to be doing more harm. But, given the world as it is, do we actually have time? If we are creating time, the idea of progress or progression through spiritual practice, aren’t we also creating the opposite of that, everything that is moving through time? If you look at the world as it is and then run it out through time, you don’t find Buddhism is going to win. It is not going to be a compassionate world that is created. This goes to the question of what is moving when we talk about directionality. Directionality has something else going on which is not about time. This space – we can call it consciousness or totality – moving through thought has directionality to it. What is that? It doesn’t include time because time is only within thought. Once we are in thought, in this relative world, it is better to be ethical than unethical, nice than not nice, and so on. But stepping outside of this relative world there is the matter of whether totality can manifest itself in form.

    McCarty: Everywhere thought goes there is going to be this imposition of time. You fall asleep at night and there is no experience of time, but with the first dream thought, time and space appear. It is of interest to you to linger with what is, the movement of thought, whatever you want to call it. What is it that prevents us from doing this? I teach students that find the inner world a very foreign terrain. In your writings you mention emptiness. Is it this emptiness that makes turning inward hard, and is it the recognition that the ego is a fiction?

    Harrison: That’s exactly it. It is the recognition that we are not, and this is what we are running from. It is a very compelling reality that we live within, all of the stuff we fill our lives with and which is given to us commercially to fill our lives with – all of the identities, all the materiality, all of the things we are supposed to be, and all of the things we are supposed to own. That conglomerate suggests to us that we are.

    McCarty: Is the flight from the emptiness what gives thought direction?

    Harrison: The flight from the emptiness is thought.

    McCarty: Thought comes with its own directionality.

    Harrison: Thought is mechanical, and it has its own mechanical movement. It doesn’t have any particular independence. It just is what it is. It suggests within itself all kinds of universes. The world of thought suggests substantiality. It is in this – that I am and you are – that a subject-object world exists and where I need to protect myself from you, and I need to accumulate certain levels of status and material things, etc. This is the complexity in which our minds are swimming. And then we say, What is emptiness?

    McCarty: That is substantialised too as a kind of empty belly.

    Harrison: Yes.

    McCarty: When someone leaves one of your gatherings, what do you hope they take with them?

    Harrison: Nothing.

    McCarty: Do you say nothing because the silence is this negation?

    Harrison: It is the recognition that there is nothing to get. There is nothing to acquire, at a seminar with me or at Walmart or a university. The whole suggestion of acquisition is a fiction. Who is the acquirer? Who is accumulating? When we go to the root of the question – ‘Do I even exist; ‘Can I fend off death or non-existence?’ – there is no one there. There is just the movement of thought about a ‘me’ and all of the acquisition that is going to substantiate it.


    ~ ~ ~


    Read the rest of this interview (another 40 pages!) and the entire issue of Noumenon by ordering the e-version or the hard copy version:

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