No Meaning or Purpose

For the hard core interested in the subject only. This is a partial transcript of Jim Newman’s answers to questions about radical non-duality, from his meeting in Amsterdam in March 2019. It was one of the last in-person meetings on the subject before CoVid-19. I thought his answers that day were particularly articulate. 

Midjourney AI attempts to capture the essence of “nothing has any meaning or purpose”. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it succeeded. 

In this meeting we’re going to talk about — and whatever I say from now on, I mean “apparently”, ie it’s neither real nor unreal [only an appearance] — we’re going to talk about two things:

First, a pointing to what can’t be known; and that’s what’s happening. ‘This’ is what’s happening; ‘this’ can’t be known. It’s indescribable. It’s the ‘absolute’; it’s trying to describe what can’t be described. There is no word that can say what ‘this’ is, what ‘is happening’. Because there’s no distance, space or time in what’s happening. It appears there is but that’s not real. So we’ll be pointing at what can’t be known.

Second, the reason we think this meeting is happening (it’s not really happening; it’s only apparent) is because there’s an experience [a ‘me’] that arises in what’s happening that says “I know what’s happening.” And that experience “I know what’s happening” seems to be separate or distinct from ‘what’s happening’. It’s not. It’s an illusion, a trick. But that’s the experience. And it’s because this experience arises, that this meeting apparently happens. As that experience arises it says “I am separate from everything, separate from what’s happening, I am real, I was born, I have a life, I’m going to die” — and that’s problematic [for the ‘me’].

So ‘I’ need to find a way out, a way to be fulfilled, to feel whole. I need, through my experience I have of being real, to use my free will and choice to make my life better. To find whatever it seems to be that’s missing, which is, always, something else — the next moment, the next instance, the next experience. So the situation is, you have an experience, that arises in ‘what is’. That experience seems separate; it’s not.

Experience is an illusion. It assumes two “what’s happenings”. “What’s happening here” and “what’s happening there”. And there isn’t a “What’s happening here” and a “what’s happening there”. Experience is a sort of knowing; it’s a subject-object relationship. That’s what experience is. There is no subject or object. “Knowing” is the absolute appearing as knowing. Everything that arises is the absolute. Whatever you can name or say is the absolute. It’s not actually separate.

What’s being pointed to is that the knowledge or experience ‘I am’ is illusory. It’s the illusory experience that there’s separation.

You can’t say what this is. You can call it anything — you could call it ‘oneness’. It’s not oneness, it’s not non-duality, It’s not a thing.

There is no ‘you’, and there is no ‘there’, there is only what’s happening.

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When somebody experiences the senses [experiences are different from sensations that are just what’s happening — the senses are just a function], such as when ‘I’ look, ‘I’ see an object. When no one is looking there’s only the infinite, the singularity of what’s happening. There’s no witness, no knower, no actor, no one outside of it. There’s just what’s happening. It’s complete, it’s everything, it’s whole. It leaves no space for there to be a witness, or a knower or a perception or a perceiver.

The thought that there is something else beyond what is happening is [also] what’s happening. The individual separates it, as if there was another reality. Nothing happens really, only apparently. ‘You’ is the experience of separation, that there is another reality. That there’s an experiencer, that there’s what’s happening and something else that’s happening. That’s the experience of duality; that’s an illusion.

There is no separation. The paradox of this is that it cannot be explained because there is no separation. It only seems paradoxical because of the [me’s] need to understand and explain it.

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The apparent solidity of the individual gives the impression that this whole thing is coming from somewhere, that time and space are real, that this is a part of a continuum that has a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s a dream. There is only what’s [apparently] happening. There isn’t anything outside of what’s happening. But for the [illusory] individual it all seems real. For the individual, words are real. But there is no individual, just appearance. There is no experience, no experiencer, there is only [raises his hand] nothing [apparently] “hand-ing”.

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There is no you. You, wanting to leave, is nothing, appearing as an individual saying “I’m real and I want to leave.” Nothing is hidden. There is nothing to find, nothing that has been lost. It’s only the illusory individual that has the illusory experience that there’s something lost. There is nothing lost.

The individual is an experience of being inside the body, with buttons and levers that ‘I’ call my free will, to be able to ‘deal’ with what’s outside the body. When ‘I’ arise — that experience of position inside the body — it arises simultaneously in everything else. And then the appearance, and ‘my’ life, are, [to the ‘me’], ‘real’. That experience is illusory. There isn’t anything in here [points to body]. There isn’t anything that ends at the skin. And there isn’t anything outside. There is no inside or outside. There is only what’s happening.

You don’t live in an illusion; ‘you’, the sense of being an individual, are an illusion. There is only the absolute, [everything]. There is no space for a question [‘why’]. There is no ‘one’ to ask.

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Nothing is ‘known’. There is only what’s happening. And that can appear as ‘knowing where my hotel is’. It can even appear as the experience of being separate.

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‘You’ don’t have a life. You’ve never made a decision. The ‘me’ doesn’t actually do much of anything. It doesn’t have thoughts or feelings; it takes ownership of what arises and says “that’s mine”. It arrogates everything to itself, in its illusory experience.

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The memory of ‘you coming here’ is what’s happening, but ‘you’ didn’t do it. There is nobody ‘in there’. Nobody ‘makes decisions’. The entire experience of being an individual with free will and choice is an illusion. Because the illusion of the individual is ‘the absolute appearing as the illusion of the individual’, there is no why. There is just what’s happening. ‘Why’ only arises if there is real separation and somebody trying to find reasons. It’s all just the absolute. There is nowhere to go. Nothing moves. There is nowhere for a ‘why’ to arise and nothing for a ‘why’ to direct anything to, because there’s only what’s happening — apparently.

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This is not a philosophical exercise. There is only what is happening. It’s not a philosophy, so it’s very difficult to talk about it in philosophical terms. It’s not a theory. It’s just what’s being expressed. It’s obvious. ‘This’ isn’t saying that there’s no individual as a theory, this is saying there’s no individual because [it’s obvious] there’s no individual. This isn’t saying that this [points around him] appearance is the absolute appearing as a room as a philosophy or theory; it’s just obvious that that’s all there is. So there’s no ‘room’ to philosophize about it.

This is like a film without a screen. And nobody watching.

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When the ‘I’ [seemingly] arises [in very early childhood], it doesn’t immediately make sense of everything; it just makes everything ‘real’. Over time [in the story] it builds up a belief system around the solidity of ‘I am’ that makes sense of what ‘this’ is about for it. It needs to ‘make sense’ because it’s on its way somewhere. It feels like it’s on a path. It grows up and leaves home and Mom and Dad and loves God (another Dad) to make it feel good — somebody who knows what is going on. It’s a very insecure existence. It’s a frightening, contracted existence — it’s a dream, it isn’t real. But that’s its experience.

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There is nothing excluded from what’s happening. No way to get closer or further away from what’s happening. It’s already everything. That’s why it’s suggested that the experience of being an individual is illusory — It’s not happening.

So when it stops happening, it’s obvious it never did.

For the individual, everything is really happening [to it]. The experience apparently happens to the individual, it’s apparently real to the individual. The individual can’t say it’s not real. To it, it is. [It’s the individual that isn’t real.]

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There’s nothing to gain, and nothing lost. The experience of the individual is that something’s missing. It keeps adding experiences to itself, but never fulfils that gap of separation. It can’t solve the problem of itself.

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Death only appears for the individual. It only has a reality in the experience of separation. There is no separation. There is no death.

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This [pointing to his body] doesn’t actually see people, so it’s quite obvious there isn’t anybody in this room. [The fact that the individual sees people in the room is] just a dream. There isn’t personal responsibility. There isn’t anybody who could make a decision. There isn’t anyone. There is no ‘you’.

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If there is the appearance of a sound [such as someone asserting something], it’s the infinite ‘sounding’. But the individual will try to make sense of what it’s ‘about’ because it’s on a journey and will want to give it meaning and purpose, hoping that it means something important. It doesn’t.

The hope is that in the future, something is going to happen to make ‘me’ OK. But there is no future, and there’s no need for hope, because there’s nothing ‘wrong’.

Nobody knows this. This [pointing to his body] doesn’t know anything. Knowing isn’t what this is about. The concepts of this are very simple to understand. But understanding doesn’t help the individual. Though that experience of the individual just might end [the same way it started happening, for no reason], revealing that it never happened, then that is just what’s happening. But the concepts are useless. “I know that this is the absolute” has no relationship to the fact that this is the absolute.

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The individual may take what is shared here as some kind of practice. But it’s completely useless. [The ‘me’] is convinced it will be part of its own solution. But there is no real separation, there is nothing to overcome, nowhere to go. There is only ‘home’ — everything, ‘what is happening’.

This appearance is absolute chaos.

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The individual thinks there is something missing, thinks that the solution has to be something added on to make it complete and whole. That’s an illusion. There is nothing needed to be added.

Meaning and purpose comes immediately when the individual arises; it’s part and parcel of the experience of separation, of being an individual.

All there is is the absolute — this, everything — appearing. There is no individual. Nothing is real (or unreal). There is no meaning or purpose.   

Jim’s style of speaking can strike some people as being a little brusque. For a contrasting style with the same message, this is one of Tim Cliss’ best meetings, IMO, an online interview and Q&A from April, 2021. The last half is especially good, with some really thoughtful questions from attendees. Tim is a retired teacher and psychologist, and quite compassionate. I may produce a transcript for this meeting, too.

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4 Responses to No Meaning or Purpose

  1. Philipp says:

    Reminds me quite a lot of Mindfulness and/or meditation “extracted” out of Buddhism, Taoism, Vedanta, etc….to have it palatable to the Western mind, without all that “religious or spiritual stuff”. Case in point, the ones trying to proof that Buddhism is in its core a scientific proposition, so no need to bother with reencarnation, prayers, living a rightful life and so on. Compare this to the way that, say, Ramana Maharshi explained what Non-Dualism is and it’s almost like apples and oranges, speaking about the same but in a completely different way. Much easier to understand and at the same time giving many suggestions and tips to get to the No-Self state. Ramana and other like him were aware that to (perhaps) understand in a purely intellectual way of what is and is really happening will most likely make not any difference in one’s life. I can listen a thousand times to people like Tony Parsons or Jim Newman, and mentally (hopefully) finally comprehend what they are trying to say and to start to wake up but that’s a weak substitute for the real liberation that one usually has to “work for”, meditating and practicing mindfulness or yoga for years, day by day. I know, in the end most likely one will see that all that physical and mental work was not necessary, but like the Neo-Advaita teachers say, it’s a paradox, to get there you need all that and once you arrive you see that it was not necessary. Anyway, just my 2 cents about the so-called radical Non-Duality, a typical distinctly Western approach to spiritual liberation. Nothing personal. Just my opinion!

  2. nozulani says:

    “The individual thinks there is something missing, thinks that the solution has to be something added on to make it complete and whole. That’s an illusion. There is nothing needed to be added.”

    Let’s take one step further: it doesn’t even matter if one thinks there is something missing or not. It’s all the same if I believe something is missing or not. Accepting that it’s an illusion is also a part of the illusion.

  3. Theresa says:

    I’m often fascinated with how your writing resonates with me. But I’m afraid you are not going to like the reason: it affirms my faith in God. When I’m trying to unravel and digest your explanations, I find that inevitably, quotes from the bible surface:
    “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ” 1 Corinthians 13:12.
    Your ideas about accepting All There Is, and missing pieces, and so on, evoke the song Amazing Grace.
    Your ideas about the non existence of time make me think of the ideas of eternity expressed in the bible Ecclesiastes 3:11 and by Henry Van Dyke.
    This particular post has got me thinking. back some two score years, back to philosophy 101, and to Descartes ontological/ a priori argument for the existence of God.
    It’s the funniest thing. It’s like you are Moses come down from the mountain but instead of clay tablets you’ve got flow charts and Venn diagrams, statistics and carefully crafted explanations, for why our “monkey minds” are obscuring the One True Reality.

  4. Theresa says:

    Obviously in this case I don’t mean “you” but Jim. Neither of which exist of course.

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