Pantheism, agnosticism/atheism — and Advaita Vedanta

How would you define your sense of pantheism?

Brad Neil, proponent of nonduality

I have devised this classification for reference: Modes of pantheism

(Divine pantheism; Natural pantheism; Spiritual pantheism; scientific pantheism)

Modes of pantheism

Within the range of categories given, I find myself somewhat ambivalent:

  • I most closely align with natural I believe the physical universe is all that there is, and that there are eternal forces and energies at play. I do not believe in the supernatural.
  • Scientific pantheism is least applicable to me because I really don’t have a problem being labeled an atheist. In my opinion, atheism and pantheism are almost (but not quite) two sides of a coin.
  • But when I’m feeling in my best of moods, I think I fall under spiritual or divine When my mood is high, I sometimes experience an awe and a gratitude that gives me a deeper feeling of connection to existence.

More generally, self-labels that I do not find objectionable include pantheist, nondualist, agnostic, atheist, and skeptic. However, I have none of these words tattooed on my forehead, and I reserve the right to change my thinking at any time.

M. I don’t see a sliver of difference between your position and that of Vedanta or dzogchen. Calling ultimate reality ‘consciousness’ is only a label. In advaita it is said that mind cannot know reality… but consciousness or awareness ‘knows’ itself, though it is not a knower in the conventional sense (knower- known dichotomy). Better said: Awareness is aware of itself. Advaita Vedanta is not in conflict with any religion or philosophy, including agnosticism, pantheism, atheism, etc.

BN. (?)

M. In a way, mind ‘and’ consciousness are the ultimate duality: mind separates (discovers, invents) while consciousness unites (recruits, recovers); but consciousness is the winner, or the wiser, because mind is not aware that consciousness is an observer, itself being the observed. When mind sees this on account of its innate intelligence the duality disappears – the mind then realizes that it itself is not other than consciousness, or its projection – but that does not eliminate the fun of living, consciousness being actor and witness at the same time. The whole thing was only a trick… Wait! Even Consciousness is actually not an actor … or a witness. It only stays in the background quite unmoved; everything happens in its presence.

Is this too contrived? Can you make it simpler?

BN. (No – he liked it)

M. Thank you. As you can see it was basically a play of words or concepts and incorrect from the standpoint of Advaita, since consciousness is not a doer or an actor – not even a ‘witness’, despite often being described as such in the scriptures. Another sleight of hand in Advaita, apart from denying anything conceptual (not this, not this), is a superimposition followed by rescission – a resort (upaya) for teaching purposes. In fact, this is what happens in ordinary life without people being aware of it (the Creator’s mischief!).

BN. Yes sir, the finger and not the moon.

M. Isn’t that tricky, a delusion: to fixate or contemplate (meditate, etc.) on the finger, may be for years… until the truth dawns on you (in your mind). It is then that the mind ‘becomes’ no-mind – it was consciousness all the time!

BN. Yes, I’ve been intrigued by Vedanta though don’t know too much about it at this point. I think my knowledge of it comes mostly from reading Watts’ writings, though they are eclectic. I guess I should say Advaita Vedanta since there are varieties, huh?

Anyway, I look forward to checking out some of your answers when I get a chance. Thanks for the encouragement …

3 thoughts on “Pantheism, agnosticism/atheism — and Advaita Vedanta

  1. Martin, finally managed to change my handle, but had to create a separate email account. Once you choose a handle on this board you will carry it until kingdom come.

    Anyway, the death of the Guru leads to the birth of the Shishya, thanks to Ramesam’s funny quip earlier on.


  2. Well expressed, Martin.


    P.S.: I liked Guru dying to be born as Sishya. Is that not all Advaita – the day dies to give place to night which dies to be born as day or “actor and witness at the same time. The whole thing was only a trick…” (Martin’s words in the quote).

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