My Life as a Dualist
Submitted by Lori Perry on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 8:07am.
"The thinker seeks the laws of phenomena, and strives to penetrate by thinking what he experiences by observing. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content do we again find the unity out of which we had separated ourselves." (PoF, 2.0).
For me, doing PoF means giving myself the time to find the concrete examples Steiner provides and try them out, attempting to be that thinker who strives to penetrate by thinking what he must first experience by observing.
When, in the introduction to Chapter Two, Dualism and Monism duke it out on the stage of history, I see this as my chance to slip into these characters and see how the fight looks from their perspective.
The instructions are clear: First, as the Dualist, I pay attention only to the separation between I and World, while struggling to reconcile three sets of opposites: spirit/matter, subject/object, thinking/appearance. Why the struggle? Because despite what I've learned about the separation between myself and the world, I still feel it can't be true! So, living with the separation, I still want the unity back.
In Luke 16, Jesus gives his disciples the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, who gave Lazarus the crumbs from his table. After they both die, the rich man looks over from his side of the spiritual world, where he is suffering an unquenchable thirst, and sees Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. He asks Abraham if Lazarus could cross over to give him a drink of water. Abraham answers that there's no way to cross the gulf between the two worlds from either direction. To me this is a mysterious parable, which has often been quoted to scare people into being more compassionate toward their fellow men. But now the Dualist's dilemma reminds me of it. I thirst for unity but see only the gap between me, in my thirsty separated state, and it.
Approaching the role of Dualist as an actor might, I try to discover what motivates my character. The boxing match between me and the Monist is about to begin. What's going through my head? I can't find the bridge between the two worlds, but am condemned to feel that it must exist. I can't even reconcile my own spirit with my own body. In short, I'm a mess!
But is my opponent, the Monist, any better off? Like me he sees the two opposing realities, but has decided simply to ignore their opposition. As a Dualist, I know that spirit and matter both exist, and that they follow completely opposite trajectories. The Monist can deny the existence of spirit or the existence of matter. Either view I find fundamentally dishonest. Or he can simply assert that spirit and matter are always found together everywhere, which to me is just circular logic that doesn't explain anything. My opponent, the Monist, can't answer my two simple questions:
If thinking has no material part, how can it sieze hold of anything in the material world to understand it?
If my thinking intention has no material part, how can I sieze hold of a hammer and build a barn?
Unless the Monist can answer these two questions honestly and convincingly, he'll lose the match. I'll keep my Dualism, painful as it is. At least it's honest!