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#4154- Friday, February 4, 2011 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

The Nonduality Highlights -    

Nondual Consciousness in Shakespeare's King Lear  

by James Traverse  

Shakespeare [or Bacon] intuited nondual consciousness, as his works demonstrate that he had a profound understanding of the human condition.  

I feel that King Lear is Shakespeare's greatest work because it is about Love which is nondual consciousness by another name. I especially appreciate the role of the Fool in King Lear and his use of the word 'nothing' throughout the play. The whole play is the tragedy of a king who suffers the greatest tragedy because he mistakes flattery for Love and allows his actions to be governed by this false understanding.

The question that the play presents is, 'Who is truly the Fool as determined by his/her behaviour?' Is it Cordelia, King Lear or his Fool? - the art and beauty of this play is the process of engaging the audience in experientially answering this question as the play unfolds... and as that happens we see that Cordelia, who is the only daughter who truly loved her father, understood that 'nothing' could be said to communicate her love, and we also see that Cordelia and the character playing 'the Fool' never appear on stage at the same time [historians say that the same actor sometimes played both roles]... at the end of the play when Cordelia has been hanged and Lear is holding her dead body in his arms, he declares that 'my poor fool is dead' [here's the quote: in the last scene of the play Lear says, "And my poore Foole is hang'd: no, no, no life?..." -   then he dies] ....

In this light Lear is the true fool for mistaking flattery for Love and in addition to Cordelia as 'the fool' that he is holding in his arms, he also sees himself as 'the fool' for not having seen clearly up to this point - thus he as 'the fool' is also dead; having been killed by the light of 'Right Understanding'.

The character called 'the Fool' in the play is anything but a fool as he sees clearly and he is the only person who can, and does, openly speak the truth to the king... and essentially what he says is that if one does not truthfully understand Love, then you behave like a fool, your life and actions amount to 'nothing' even if you happen to hold the seat of the highest power and human authority as 'the king'.   The play tells the story of nature as:

1) the nature of Love [one's true nature]
2) human nature
3) nature [as in Mother Nature]
4) the tragic nature of being when true nature is not understood   A highly significant point is a notable character absence in King Lear. There are the father characters of Lear and Gloucester together with Lear's daughters and Gloucester's sons yet there is no mother character. That missing character is present as Mother Nature and Lear's [and other character's] relationship with nature [Lear in the storm and the wanderings through nature of key characters]...

This representation of Presence via Absence is a masterful means of speaking the unspeakable as it is a situation wherein Silence speaks. I feel that this is the feeling space of the play and that in addition to the missing character being present as 'Mother Nature' that we, the audience, play the role of the mother character because the play speaks to our true nature.  We are moved to be passionately [motherly] involved because we know that authentic Love is available, yet what we witness is the extremes of cruelty, deception, suffering and the ultimate tragedy of a king, a human being, who is a fool that does not understand true 'nature'. 

In this light the play is an exquisite portrayal of Nonduality/Love as this art work facilitates an experiential understanding of the true nature of being and the horrific and tragic consequences of lacking this understanding.

To render the play as a masterpiece of Nonduality - substitute the term 'nondual consciousness' for 'Love'.

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James Traverse's website is

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