advaita

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

advaita
advaitic
nondual
nondualism
twee (-een)heid “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” Philosophia Reformata (1939), 204.

The word ‘advaita’ does not appear in Dooyeweerd. It means ‘nondual.’ I believe that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy can best be described as ‘Christian nondualism.’

Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is neither a dualism nor a monism. And it is in this sense that I refer to it as ‘nondual.’ Advaita means “not-two.” And “not-two” is not the same as “merely one.” Thus, nondualism is not a monism, although Westerners often interpret it this way, because they have no other categories of thought.

Because Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is nondual, he does not fit into Vollenhoven’s problem-historicalcategories. Vollenhoven has a category for dualism, and another for monism, but not one for nondualism. Because of this, Dooyeweerd has been variously interpreted as a dualist, or as a “contradictory monist.” Those who refer to Dooyeweerd as a dualist have not understood him (especially when we consider that his view of the supratemporal heart was at first criticized because it was contrary to dualism!). But on the other hand, to speak of his thought as “contradictory monist” assumes that there can be only two categories–monism or dualism, and that if one does not fit, then one is being contradictory or inconsistent.

Steen analyzes Dooyeweerd using Vollenhoven’s methodology. But Steen has some difficulty placing Dooyeweerd in Vollenhoven’s categories. Steen says he relies on Popma (p. 282), and Steen devotes considerable discussion to Popma’s view that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy was a “dualism with a dichotomy” (157-163). Steen says that at first sight, one would think that Dooyeweerd’s thinking should be classified as dualistic, based on Dooyeweerd’s distinctions between temporality and supra-temporality, between the central heart and temporal modal spheres, and between the temporal body and the central spiritual (geestelijk) body. But Steen correctly points out that just because a distinction is made does not mean that there is a dualism. Steen says that according to Vollenhoven, for dualism, there are two realms, each of which has its own origin; two equally ultimate principles or origins; monist has only one origin for reality. Therefore Vollenhoven distinguishes a duality from a dualism; duality only indicates two sides or dimensions of one thing; dualism denotes two equally ultimate principles or origin. Steen says that there is a dualism in Dooyeweerd only at first sight, and that Dooyeweerd is better classified as a monist (p. 44). But Steen finds in Dooyeweerd “clear traces of the nature-grace ground motive (pp. 13,131,133,144,158). Is that not an allegation of a dualism?

In any event, Steen refers to Dooyeweerd as “a monism with higher and lower contrasts” (pp. 56,57). Steen says that Dooyeweerd is to be classified as a “semi-mystic” like Abrhaam Kuyper (p. 229). And he says that Dooyeweerd has an ontology that is “a cosmogono-cosmological monism, with the theme of priority, involving semi-contradictory contrasts” (p. 43).

Steen uses the term ‘monism’ because Vollenhoven does not have a category for nondualism. I believe that a more accurate description is “nondualism” or advaita.

Here are some reasons I believe that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is nondual in the sense of neither monist nor dualist:

1. Dooyeweerd opposes all dualisms. A dualism is an opposition between two or more temporal aspects of reality. Dooyeweerd rejects any religious Ground-Motive that has this dualistic kind of nature. Dooyeweerd opposes the Greek dualism of form/matter, the scholastic dualism of nature/grace, and the humanist dualism of nature/freedom. He is also opposed to the dualism that sees our world in terms of substance and accidents. By implication, then, the Christian Ground-Motive of Creation, Fall and Redemption cannot be dualistic. It is integral, nondual. Unfortunately, it has often been interpreted in a dualistic way (for example when creation is seen in terms of a temporal reality that is completely other than the Creator). But Dooyeweerd is clear that it must be interpreted with the key of knowledge, that of the supratemporal root of temporal reality. I believe that this key is also the basis for his nondualism.

2. Dooyeweerd also opposes monism. We are not identical with God, nor is the temporal world an illusion.

3. We find in Dooyeweerd a nondualism between God and Humanity. We are created in the image of God, as an expression of God. Because our selfhood is an expression of God’s image, there is no ultimate dualism between God and ourselves. We are not totally other than God, nor are we created from some independent substance.

4. We find in Dooyeweerd a nondualism between Humanity and the World. Just as God expresses himself in us as His image, so we express ourselves in our temporal functions and in the temporal aspects. The temporal world is a differentiation of the supratemporal fullness. The temporal world does not exist except in humanity as its supratemporal root, redeemed in Christ. And although neither our selfhood nor the world are illusions, neither exist apart from God, to whom we, as His expression, refer for our meaning and the meaning of the whole world.

5. We find in Dooyeweerd a nondualism between subject and object. This is not by an elimination of all cosmic diversity, as in some eastern kinds of mysticism. It is rather in a radical redefining of what we mean by subject and object. There is no object “in itself.” It is not “neutral” to humanity, but related to us as its supratemporal root.

6. We find in Dooyeweerd a nondualism in our selfhood. Our heart is the supratemporal unity of our temporal being. There is no dualism between body and soul, and no trichotomy of body, soul, and spirit. Dooyeweerd says that the Biblical dichotomy of soul and body is not to be found in the temporal, but in the nonduality [twee (-een)heid] of the supratemporal religious center or the root (the ‘heart’ or ‘soul’) and the whole mantle of temporal functions (the ‘body’):

Juist daarom zoekt de W. d. W. de schriftuurlijke dichotomie van ziel en lichaam niet in het tijdelijke maar in de twee (-een)heid van het boven-tijdelijk religieuze centrum of den wortel (het “hart” of de “ziel”) en den geheelen tijdelijken functie-mantel (het “lichaam”). (“Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” Philosophia Reformata (1939), 204).

[Just because of this, the Philosophy of the Law-Idea seeks the biblical dichotomy of soul and body not in the temporal, but in the nonduality of the supratemporoal religious center or root (the “heart” or the “soul”) and the whole temporal mantle of functions (the “body.”]

There is in reality only one principal dichotomy [principieele caesuur], that between the whole temporal existence and its supratemporal religious root, a dichotomy that comes into effect in the temporal death of man. (“Het Tijdsprobleem in de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Part II Philosophia Reformata 1940, 216)

7. We find in Dooyeweerd a nondualism between our individual ego [ik] and other egos [ikken] (I, 6)All find their supra-individual root in the selfhood.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes both unity and diversity; but he is adamantly opposed to any dualism. Therefore the word “advaita” is certainly applicable to his thought, in its meaning of “not-two.”

8. Our inter-connectedness with the world and with other humans means that we can have a nondual ethics. The command to love God implies love for neighbour because all temporal reality is the expression of God.

9. Unity and multiplicity are themselves analogical ideas (mathematical) that cannot capture the supratemporal. The idea of a monistic “oneness” is still dualistically related to duality and plurality.

For Dooyeweerd, dualism is a result of our fallenness–of our turning away from God. When our heart is directed towards God, there are no ultimate dualisms. But when our heart is directed away from God, we are ruled by what Dooyeweerd calls dualistic Ground Motives, and we then fail to experience reality as it really is. When we turn away from God, we absolutize parts of our temporal reality. This is the cause of all the dualisms and indeed of all the –isms in our thinking, such as materialism, psychologism, logicism, or aestheticism, to name a few. But nondual mystical experience returns us to the true experience of reality, in which both unity and diversity are real.

Nondualism is a difficult idea for Western philosophers. It can be approached by reading the Western mystics, or some eastern sources. Ultimately it must be lived and not debated by our “limited human reason.” I believe that this is one reason why Dooyeweerd is so difficult to understand. For me, the study of other religions has been extremely valuable. The issues of monism and dualism have been discussed by eastern philosophers with at least as much sophistication as the West. Westerners have often assumed that Indian philosophy is monistic. But Indian philosophy has long traditions of dualism and of materialism as well. And while it is true that some interpretations of Shankara’s nondualism (advaita) have been interpreted in a monistic fashion, other interpretations have emphasized that it is neither dualistic nor monistic. And Ramanuja’s version of nondualism, known as modified nondualism (vishishtadvaita) is a theistic version that emphasizes the continued distinct identity of humanity, which is not identical with the divine, but is separate in order to allow for the relation of love and devotion.

The understanding of nondualism in Indian philosophy can sometimes jolt us out of our normal ways of thinking. My book Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) :Christian Nondualism and Hindu Advaita explores this meaning of ‘nondualism.’

But nondualism is not just a heuristic tool. Nondualism reflects the deep truth that in God we “live and move and have our being.” All creation is from, through and towards God. This is not pantheism, although ‘panentheism’ may capture the idea [God is always more than His creation, and God is not limited to creation’s development for His own self-fulfillment].

However, to speak of creation as ’emanation’ raises the image of an involuntary process, and this does not reflect God’s nature of love. Boehme emphasizes God’s Will in creating.

I believe that Dooyeweerd’s opposition to all religious dualism [dualisms that are ultimate and not merely theoretical distinctions and dualities], together with his emphasis on religious self-reflection, and his recognition that our existence is meaning–all relate in a most wonderful way to this vision of nondualism.

Revised June 10/06; Dec 23/16

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