Science and Nonduality Conference Final Report

I am posting an extra post this week so that I can give a final summation about the Science and Nonduality Conference that I just attended.

On the last day of the conference I participated in a panel discussion with Peter Baumann, Peter Russell and Robert Dittler. It revolved around the question “How is it possible for the unchangeable to evolve?” What it turned into was a lively debate over the existence of freewill. I was upholding the position that I do make choices and I am responsible for them and my colleagues were explaining the nondual view that choices emerge out of the process of being and that there is no active agent to be held responsible. It was a dynamic discussion with lots of disagreement, no ultimate resolution and some good fun along the way. I deeply appreciated the willingness of everyone involved to butt heads a little bit and keep the spirit light and respectful at the same time.

The culminating speaker of the conference was A.H. Almaas and I felt that he delivered a powerful and fitting final talk for the event. He started by making a number of distinctions related to some of the common themes of the conference and the general discussion around nonduality as he hears it.

The first point that he made was about the notion that science and spirituality are somehow converging on the same view of reality. He made it clear that he felt this idea was premature, to say the least. If you look at the general state of science and the general state of the spiritual world, he claimed, they are miles apart. He didn’t think any real merging would happen for a long, long time.

He then spoke about a few of the buzz words that could be heard repeatedly at the conference. He started with three terms that sometimes seemed to be used interchangeably. They are interconnectivity, nonlocality and nonduality. First of all he said that neither interconnectivity nor nonlocality, as he hears them used, are nondual notions. Interconnectivity and nonlocality are usually exemplified by the situation of two particles on opposite ends of the universe that respond to each other instantaneously. This is seen as occurring through the instantaneous transfer of information and proof of nonduality. Almaas pointed out that in nonduality there is only one point. All places in space are the same space and contain all other spaces and so any notion that any information needs to be transferred in any way defies nonduality. Nonduality as he described it can be imagined as a field that is always aware everywhere of itself and ultimately collapses into a singularity of identity. Nonlocality he pointed out literally would mean no location and in that sense it is nonduality, but that is not the sense in which most people are using it even at this conference.

He then spoke about the notion that nonduality somehow means remaining aware in the present moment and the now. He stated clearly that this notion has nothing to do with nonduality as he understands it because any reference to a present moment or a now is still a reference to time and nonduality is beyond time. Nonduality is no-time and includes all-of-time simultaneously. It is not some slice of time called the present moment or the now.

I don’t want to misrepresent Almaas’ talk. He was definitely making the above distinctions, but at the same time he expressed his sincere appreciation for the efforts of everyone at the conference and the work that was being done. He said the real connection that does exist between science and spirituality is that both scientists and spiritualists are driven by a desire to discover the truth about the nature of reality. And so it makes sense that they would be finding parallels in their work because they are both investigating the same reality even if they are coming at it from different angles. He expressed his belief that what spirituality really has to offer science is a method of inquiry. The unique feature of that method that could be incorporated into science is that the observer is always simultaneously being studied along with the study of that which is observed. He reminded all of us that science has already discovered that the observer cannot be separated from the observed and so its methods of inquiry need to be developed so that the state of the observer becomes an active and ongoing part of the inquiry.