Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Another response to ‘not two-ness’
Alan Stoltz

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The following is an email sent to Tony Parsons in response to his essay 'Traditional not two-ness is better than Neo not two-ness ???'. Visit the author's website.

Firstly, it strikes me as very easy to just trot out the type of absolutist statements and pronouncements that Tony Parsons does in his so-called ‘Open Secret’ perspective. There is no this, there is no that ... etc. It's a not particularly difficult game to play – denying everything except the absolute, or seeing everything in absolute terms. [A pretty pointless and unhelpful line to take, many of us would say, of course!] Tony's absolutism also has overtones of a type of nihilism as well, it seems to me. Both absolutism and nihilism have a whale of time denying things! Also, of course, absolutism can 'sound good' and have an impressive air to it that attracts those of us who are not necessarily very astute or discerning. It appeals to the idealistic and merely intellectual in us – and ignores the empirical and the practicalities of lived experience. In short, it’s a type of immature posturing.

Again from Tony (his tune never changes!) in his ‘not two-ness’ piece he again trots out the old 'the two perspectives do not meet', as if there is no point in any enquiry or comparison here. Yet he's quite happy to dismiss the 'perspective' he doesn't agree with, I note. So he's obviously indulging in some type of critical comparison here to the effect that Traditional Advaita is misguided and misconceived and his Open Secret perspective isn't! So his claimed puzzlement at the attempt to make a comparison between the two perspectives is itself puzzling as he clearly compares.…? And, yes of course the two perspectives do not meet as one (Open Secret) is merely intellectual – it’s all talk, no direct looking and no practice engaged in! And the other (Traditional Advaita) is practical in the sense that it addresses the actual empirical condition of the seeker. So it's the difference between the intellectual chatterings and mere talk of Idealism and Absolutism (Open Secret) and the empirical practicalities of Realism (the various varieties of non-absolutist Advaita, both traditional and contemporary).

In the past I've been amazed at the poorness and crudeness of some of Tony's 'arguments' and in his 'not two-ness' piece he again delivers by scraping the bottom of the same barrel, so to speak. He criticises Traditional Advaita by saying that it believes in "something called a seeker (one) that can attain something else called enlightenment (two)”. And so therefore, it’s implied, by this ‘counting-numbers-logic’ Traditional Advaita is clearly ‘dualistic’ and so consequently misconceived! Fantastic ‘argument’, Tony! Absolutely astounding! I have to say this is one of the finest pieces of not-exactly-brilliant ‘thinking’ I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying since hearing a man exclaim that as both boots and raspberries are illusions, both being transitory phenomena, a boot is therefore a raspberry! Tony should consider an alternative vocation as a comedy logician, perhaps?

Well, of course, we can all play these types of silly games where we put 'perspectives' we do not agree with into crude terms and then start counting numbers. This type of silliness is clearly not something one could call intelligent criticism! Tony can count to "two", can he? Well, so can I! Here goes: "The Open Secret perspective believes that there isn't a seeker (one) and that there is no enlightenment (two). It is therefore dualistic and so consequently misconceived." Not exactly a great argument, I think we have almost certainly agreed! Now a non-distorted and more accurate way to represent Traditional Advaita would be to say, "Traditional Advaita believes that there are practical ways and techniques whereby the seeker's experience and perception of duality (two) can be dissolved or transformed into the non-duality (not-two) of Self-Realisation". This is a much fairer way to represent the Traditional Advaita perspective. But, of course, Tony is not interested in fairness and intelligent debate. His main interest is to twist and distort the Traditional Advaita message and then pointing at his gross misrepresentations say, "You see, it's all a load of dualistic nonsense!" … "Tut, Tut, Tony!", I'm inclined to say, "Scraping the bottom of that same barrel yet again!" [A man (one) sighs wearily somewhere (two) … “Sigh!”]

As Tony's 'meetings' have apparently no agenda or intention (his words) then why on earth does he have them, I can't help wondering? Why doesn't he stay at home and enjoy his garden (or his wife or whatever)? This especially as there's 'no-one' for him to help according to his own rigid and uncompromising absolutist position. In fact, by having these 'meetings', isn't he guilty of creating subtle forms of hope, expectation, anticipation, goal-seeking, etc, in the ‘dream seekers’ he apparently addresses? His ‘meetings’, therefore, (according to his own rather silly argument) must inevitably reinforce the very ‘dream of separation’ he talks about. For by pandering to the 'dream seeker's' enquiring tendencies – which is why they are there, after all! – he is clearly accentuating and strengthening the presumed individual state of separation. Isn’t he?

This, of course, is the ‘argument’ he uses against the deconstruction analyses and direct looking of Self-Enquiry, in addition to aiming it at every other ‘way’ or ‘perspective’ that differs from his own, including Traditional Advaita as we see in his ‘not two-ness’ piece. It is not necessarily the most intelligent or perceptive ‘argument’ that could conceivably arise. Mind-brain systems have their limitations. One (or ‘no-one’) can be the bees knees in terms of ‘individual absence’ but this doesn’t mean that one's mental functioning will now operate in a supremely perceptive or intelligent manner. If one (‘no-one’) couldn’t play the piano before the arising of ‘individual absence’ there is no good reason why one should be a brilliant master pianist after.

In addition, in Tony’s case, it is unclear whether ‘individual absence’ is really there in a full sense or not. The ego can be very subtle, of course, and make all sorts of claims about its absence. “Judge them by their fruits”, as a certain AWOL carpenter-boy once said. And let us remember that Tony has been quite happy to, so to speak, throw some rotten fruit and derision in Ramana’s direction as regards the ‘Granthi knot in the heart’ aspect of Self-Realisation, a significant matter implying a fullness which Tony does not seem to comprehend, even intellectually! And it’s a matter the significance of which is confirmed in his own particular way by Douglas Harding as well, we should note. Tony’s experience and perception here seem to be somewhat absent – an absence which undermines his claim of ‘individual absence’ as regards his own particular case. This in regards to its fullness, at least.

As I’ve previously said in a prior discussion, the powerful de-conditioning effect of Self-Enquiry performed with a significant and consistent effort does not increase the ‘separate self’ condition but on the contrary decreases it. This becomes abundantly clear and obvious in practice! And once the knack of ‘direct looking’ (of right Self-Enquiry, so to put it) is acquired it’s just a matter of time before the ‘separate self’ idea falls away completely … under the direct gaze and Look of the ‘Sun’ the ‘vampire’, as it were, of the ‘separate self’ idea burns up and turns to ashes … and so, as some people call it, Self-Realisation. Of course, the ‘separate self’ condition was never actually the case in reality in the first place. But it was present as a very powerful set of conditioned beliefs. And de-conditioning practices like Self-Enquiry or other Traditional Advaitic techniques can be very effective tools here, in contrast to the mere talk of the ‘Open Secret’. Mere talk and the trotting out of absolutist pronouncements aren’t going to help much! So the idea, repeated again by Tony in his ‘not two-ness’ piece, that Traditional Advaitic techniques are likely to increase the ‘separate self’ condition (such is his implication) is not only absurd and nonsensical but flies in the face of the evidence of those cases where these techniques have actually worked! Tony here, it seems to me, is just repeating parrot-like the usual ‘Neo’ propaganda and betraying his slavish unthinking adherence to the ‘Neo’ politically correct party line, so to speak. A ‘Neo’ politically correct belief that has to be believed in no matter what the arguments are and what the actual evidence actually is!

Tony in his piece, despite the fact of all his ‘meetings’, retreats, books, etc, denies that his perspective is a ‘teaching of becoming’. And, in addition, speaking in a somewhat derisory tone claims that Traditional Advaita is. Well, if we apply the same type of ‘thinking’ that Tony likes to indulge in in his dismissal of Traditional Advaita (and systems like it) we can ‘argue’ that his perspective is also a ‘teaching of becoming’. Apparently, at his meetings despite all the talk, questions, responses, juggling of words and concepts, Tony claims that ‘resonance’ is shared ‘energetically’ and not through the exchange of ideas. Really! Not through the exchange of ideas! I find that difficult to believe…! Not through the manipulative and cunning talk of the ‘cunning and manipulative guru mind’. [These are Tony’s words, of course, which he happily applies to other ‘communicators’ now applied back upon himself!] But even if we let that one go there is still the matter of this ‘resonance’ that is supposedly ‘energetically shared’. If ‘resonance’ (Tony’s very word) does occur this means that there has clearly been a shift from ‘non-resonance’ to ‘resonance’. In simple terms, something has 'become' something else! A shift has occurred, so inevitably…‘becoming’! Tony’s teaching, which he calls a ‘perspective’, is clearly a ‘teaching of becoming’. [It’s very easy to ‘argue’ in such a manner. And I indulge here to show that anyone can indulge in the type of ‘thinking’ and 'arguing' that Tony all too frequently frequents as he scrapes the bottom of certain barrels marked ‘bad argument’ barrels!]

Also, it occurs to me here that in certain sense every teaching is a ‘teaching of becoming’. If there’s a shift from confusion to clarity, ignorance to knowledge, not-seeing to seeing, false identity to true identity… etc, then a change has occurred and something has ‘become’ something else. If nothing changes then ignorance stays as ignorance, not-seeing remains as not-seeing, false remains as false… etc. It all depends, of course, what we mean by ‘becoming’! Tony, it seems, just uses this ‘teaching of becoming’ expression as a term of abuse to throw at Traditional Advaita. He never makes it exactly clear precisely what it is he is actually talking about. I suspect from my increased knowledge now of Tony’s ‘thinking’ function that he doesn’t really know what he is talking about either! Under close examination the rags and tatters of a lot of his ‘thinking’ disintegrate into absurdities, inconsistencies and various assorted nonsenses. In fact, the whole of his Open Secret perspective seems to me to be little more than a dry arid mirage of puffed-up absolutist pronouncements above a poisoned well of snooty dismissals and poor crude ‘arguments’! “A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing!” [Tony may remember these words.]

Tony claims that the Open Secret’s ‘apparent communication’ is “prior to all teachings and yet eternally new”. Well, that’s quite a boast, I have to say. In fact, you could say it’s a boast among boasts if ever there was one! One (or should that be ‘no-one’) could even say, it’s a boast ‘prior’ to all boasts! A boast soaring not exactly ‘eternally new’ but ‘eternally lacking-in-modesty’ above all other boasts! Good grief! Talk about talking up your product! This is a seriously hard sell that Tony is engaging in here! It’s very clear what his game is. He’s basically saying that his ‘apparent communication’ is better or somehow truer or wiser than any other teaching that has existed, is existing or that will presumably exist. Sheesh! Boy, that is some claim! Is this a type of modesty or rather its reverse? Tony seems to be implying that the perceptions and insights of the Tony Parsons body-mind system is somehow superior to all other teachers throughout the whole of time. We are evidently most fortunate to be living in a period when the greatest teacher or ‘apparent communicator’ of all time is here among us to reveal the ‘apparent communication’ that is “prior to all teachings and yet eternally new”. Golly!

Tony in his piece says that “there is no such thing as enlightenment or liberation… etc.” Yet in the next sentence but one he goes on to say: “When the assumed sense of being separate seems to collapse, already there is only the constant and unknowable wonder of being.” But this is precisely what ‘enlightenment’ is!! This is one way to describe it (in words, by the way, Tony!). It’s probably not the best description I’ve heard, but it’s not too bad. So why Tony berates Dennis for trying to describe (in words) what ‘enlightenment’ is when he clearly does so himself, in addition to also saying that there is no such thing as ‘enlightenment’, is puzzling to say the least. There are ‘two’ inconsistencies here which I’m sure even Tony can see now they’ve been pointed out. Tony has already proved that he can count to ‘two’ so he shouldn’t have a problem here. It’s quite clear! He is clearly contradicting himself on ‘one’ count and on the other (‘two’) indulging in an inconsistency by berating Dennis for describing ‘enlightenment’ when he himself clearly does so. Extraordinary! And Dennis, of course, Tony insinuates, is clearly unreasonable in using words for the description. Well, what else is he supposed to use exactly? Semaphore? Paint? Ballet dancing? An intelligent arrangement of shopping trolleys? Musical notes tapped out on the nearest ‘dream seeker’s’ apparent teeth? …? For goodness sake, Tony! Be a little reasonable, at least!

Tony goes on to say that the “Open Secret illuminates the myth of separation and points to that which can’t be known.” Just stating that separation is a myth is not particularly illuminating for most people. As Tony has previously agreed and stated clearly himself, the ‘separate self’ state is a “powerful energetic state”, quote. Mere ‘Tony talk’ is not going to do that much good! A powerful consistent Traditional Advaitic practice such as Self-Enquiry coupled with a deep analysis of false notions and conditionings is more likely to result in the direct knowledge or experiential cognition of the myth of separation. There is a difference between the mere intellectual statement and apprehension of this and its direct Realisation. It’s the difference between being in a dark cave viewing pictures of a sunlit garden luxurious with flowers, and actually being there intimately enjoying its radiance and its intoxicating aromas! Mere ‘exchange of ideas’ or the type of absolutist pronouncements that we see from Tony’s so-called Open Secret perspective do not illuminate in any real sense. Real illumination comes from the type of consistent practice and deep analysis I’ve already mentioned.

And, also, I would like to know, what is the point of just pointing to that which can’t be known? What’s the point in just pointing? How is that helpful or useful? What’s the point? “Hey, everybody, in that direction there’s something that can’t be known! Really! Well, thank you so much. Glad you pointed that out. That’s so helpful in breaking down the myth of separation and establishing ‘individual absence’. Cool! By the way, nice bit of pointing! As ‘apparent communicators’ go, Tony, you’re the tops when it comes to pointed – or should that be pointless – pointing!”

Also, in his ‘not two-ness’ piece, Tony says that the “Open Secret perception is that there is no such thing as a ‘mind’.” Well, here again we have another blatant contradiction. On his website he states that his feeling in relation to self-observation (Self-Enquiry both implied and misrepresented!) is that it is just the ‘mind watching the mind’. So here he is quite happy to accept the existence of the ‘mind’ in stark contrast to his official ‘Open Secret perception’ that there is no such thing as a ‘mind’. Teensy-weensy contradiction, possibly? Or pretty damn blatant, more like! If Tony was playing in a football game and the existence of the ball was dependent on his confused and changing perception the game would soon descend into a type of farce as the ball would be constantly appearing and disappearing. It seems that Tony is quite happy to accept the existence of the ‘mind’ when it suits him and then deny its existence when it doesn’t. Well, of course, with this type of ‘thinking’ you can prove or disprove anything. One could even say that it’s a type of ‘thinking’ that is ‘prior to all intelligence, yet seemingly eternally with us – [weary sigh!]’. “Red card!” [one] “Ref, send him off!” [two]

Also, how on earth can the ‘mind watch the mind’? Does this idea make any actual sense or is it just nonsensical ‘anti Self-Enquiry’ propaganda to fool the undiscerning and to toe the ‘Neo’ party line? The ‘mind’, according to the direct evidence of what’s actually experienced, is a type of functioning and is not a type of ‘entity’ like a box or a ‘ghost’… etc. Thoughts come and go in the ‘Awake Space’, so to call it, of this Consciousness that is always unchangingly present. So it’s clear that the real ‘Watcher’ or ‘Seer’ of anything is Being or Consciousness itself. So Tony’s idea of the ‘mind watching the mind’ is therefore what is technically known as complete and utter hogwash! It’s like saying that a series of objects coming and going can somehow see themselves coming and going. Sheer silliness! Objects cannot see themselves. They cannot be their own subject. In relation to any and all objects there is only one Seer. One Seer in all beings, as it has been said.

Continuing, Tony, in his piece, complains that Dennis has misrepresented so-called ‘neo Advaitins’ (Tony himself implied, of course!) in his various works. He speaks of Dennis’ “prejudiced portrayal” …etc. Well, I found this comment extraordinary coming from a master misrepresenter such as Tony! Tony Parsons is a man who is supremely qualified to give master classes when it comes to the subject of misrepresentation and “prejudiced portrayals.” We only have to look to his own writings and previous discussions with his critics to see (and be amazed!) by the gross distortions and gross misrepresentations that Tony only too happily engages in when representing other ‘perspectives’ to his own. In fact, his uncompromising and absolutist type of Advaita, from the evidence, actually seems to use ‘gross misrepresentation’ as a type of weapon to discredit every other form of Advaita around as none of them coincide with his own rather narrow blinkered absolutist point-of-view. It’s actually a type of intolerance. Only my ‘perspective’ is right …etc.

Well, it’s all very well to complain about “prejudiced portrayals” …etc but where is the evidence that Dennis has misrepresented ‘neo Advaitins’? Tony hasn’t given any examples. He just states this. Now, on the other hand, when it comes to Tony’s misrepresentations of Dennis and Traditional Advaita examples and evidence abound! He puts all sorts of words into Dennis’ mouth by asserting that Dennis believes and confirms this and that …etc. And when we look at what Dennis is supposed to believe and confirm it turns out to be a highly distorted and “prejudiced portrayal” of Dennis’ and Traditional Advaita’s actual position. For example, Dennis apparently “confirms his belief and experience in the reality of the constant existence of an individual with free will and the ability to choose and bring about consequence.” I doubt very much whether Dennis would confirm this. I suspect he would confirm that this is in fact a distortion and misrepresentation of his view. I suspect further that he would say and confirm the same in relation to Tony’s other distorted representations of his position. Also, to represent Traditional Advaita as a teaching about “what should be” is again another example of Tony’s silly (and somewhat sly, in this case) misrepresentations.

As Tony provides no verifiable evidence to back up and support his beliefs and opinions – he just makes statements and pronouncements! – isn't his own 'perspective' just a "complex collection of ideas", to use the very same words he uses to dismiss Traditional Advaita? His 'perspective' is just beliefs, opinions and ideas of an absolutist flavour. Where's the evidence to back it up? At least more 'down-to-earth' systems like Traditional Advaita (and others) can be tested! Tony's mere 'pie-in-the-sky' absolutist intellectualisms cannot. His 'talks' are just that – 'talks'! A juggle of absolutist ideas and non-empirical pronouncements. They change little of substance and have little effect. "Much ado about nothing." Indeed! Tony's quote from Shakespeare sums up for me his ‘perspective’ and the whole of the Neo-Advaita 'perspective' in general.

[Postscript: I notice Tony has put his ‘not two-ness’ piece on his website. I also notice that there is no mention of Dennis’ response! In all fairness, he should at least put a link to Dennis’ reply so any given reader can decide for themselves the relative merits of both perspectives. Dennis to his credit on his website gives a voice to all the differing perspectives even if they are not in agreement with his own. One website strikes me as a form of propaganda intolerant to all other perspectives. And the other while representative of a certain Traditional point-of-view strikes me as open and tolerant and able to debate the issues in a fair and reasonable way. Tony, take note!]

Alan Stoltz, August 2008

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