Is reality knowable? (From Quora)

“The affirmation that reality is not knowable is itself an assertion of knowledge about reality.” Does this sound like an example of the law of non-contradiction?

So this proves that reality is knowable? 

Tom McFarlane, degrees in philosophy, mathematics, and physics.

The assertion “this sentence is false” is self-contradictory. From that contradiction one cannot draw the conclusion that the sentence is in fact true. It is simply evidence of the fact that language can be used to construct self-contradictory statements.

Alberto Martin

Rather than self-contradictory, isn’t the quoted statement in the original question a case of second order language, that is, meta-language, as with so many paradoxes and apparent contradictions?


Hi Alberto. Are you suggesting that, because it involves meta-language, it thereby avoids contradiction?

AM. Yes, but rather than meta-language (my mistake) the quoted passage, seems to me, is an elliptical statement. To complete it one should add: ‘by the conceptual mind’, i.e., ‘not knowable by the conceptual mind’. Real (ultimate) Reality, being non-dual, cannot be known (as you well know) as a conjugation or conjunction of a subject and an object. But it can be ‘Known’ through a unitary vision – the visionary subject abating or subsiding as an individual by that very act. There is only one ‘Knower’ or Subject, and that is Reality Itself. ‘One without a second’.

“So this proves that reality is knowable?” (under the text in bold letters). Yes, with that proviso.


I think one would have to insert ‘by the conceptual mind’ in two places to make it explicit that it is referring to conceptual knowledge, not non-conceptual non-dual knowledge. Or is your point that two different kinds of knowledge are involved in the original statement? In any case, I still don’t see how it constitutes a proof in the logical sense.

AM Correct, thank you. There is a tendency nowadays in neo-advaita and other circles to put down the mind, let alone terms such as ‘intellectual’, ‘spiritual’, ‘metaphysical’ ‘mysticism’ (‘It’s just mind stuff’… only intellectual knowledge, or understanding’, etc.). ‘Experiential’, ‘experience’ alone are admitted in the vocabulary. I like, though, the expression ‘knowledge-experience’. All experience, and all understanding, go through the mind (formerly, sometimes, ‘the Heart’), but the latter can be transcended.


The irony is that putting down the thinking mind is itself a judgment of the thinking mind.

One way to view it, which I find quite useful, is that the thinking mind can help reveal its own limits, and that can clear the way to insight that transcends the thinking mind. The classic metaphor is the wooden stick used to help burn the fire, and, at the end, the stick itself is thrown in to the fire as well. The stick does not cause the burning, and it is ultimately itself burned, but that does not imply it is useless and should be tossed off into the bushes instead of skillfully used to facilitate the burning.

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Empirical science vs metaphysics or spirituality


Positivism vs. Spirituality

What are some really ‘deep’ thoughts?

. The truth is the whole (Hegel)

.Consciousness is the whole of reality (advaita).

. Causation, space, and time are unreal (advaita).

. The microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm – ‘As above so below’. Hermetism.

. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite (William Blake).

. The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it. (Jesus).

. People forget the reality of the illusory world. (Huang Po).

. There is neither birth nor dissolution; nor aspirant to liberation nor liberated nor anyone in bondage. That is the ultimate truth. (Gaudapada). Continue reading

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Siddharameshwar (teacher of Nisargadatta)

Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (1888 – 1936)


Sri Siddharameshwar was the guru of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ranjit Maharaj – see the chart of the Navnath Sampradaya (also known as the Inchageri tradition). Philip Renard’s guru was Alexander Smit, one of Nisargadatta’s disciples. Philip travelled to India in 1989 to find out more about Siddharameshwar and his background. He wrote an article at the time (in Dutch), illustrated by numerous photographs. He has now translated this into English and you can read this here.

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Vision and conceptualization

“Anon.”: ‘The ideas or concepts of Advaita or any other school of thought/belief, etc., introduce duality into the mind…“It’s only the conceptualization of thought that prevents direct experience of what is.”’

M. That is, in my opinion, like putting the cart ahead of the horse. Thinking, or conceptualization for that matter, is a function of the mind, and mind is consubstantial with duality – it is there not to confound or mislead us, on the contrary, to address all issues and problems in the right manner, that is, intelligently. The individual mind is subservient to intelligence – which is transpersonal -, and intelligence (nous) is in turn subservient to vision or ‘apprehension’, intuition, ‘what is’ (pick your word) and unites with it. But vision or insight, which is wordless, as if coming from empty space, is ahead of or prior to the mind. The vision or intuition (not just intellectual but transcendental, transpersonal) is then invested with words and then we have the concepts and ‘explanations’ of that which, in itself, is unexplainable, unutterable. Continue reading

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From ‘Nondual Clarity’ – Feb. 12, 2017

David Aldridge. As Liberation matures you notice how much of life is devoted to the search for stimulation and excitation. Once all that is dropped, there is a release into true Satisfaction.

SA. Satisfaction of what? There is nothing to be satisfied from. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Nothing to be satisfied about.

DK. Liberation cannot “mature”. It is an unchanging state. No events, no things. No past and no future.

DK. David Aldridgepoints to the moon (of experience) and y’all get busy talking about the finger. Can you not distinguish poetic metaphor vs literalism? I myself know exactly what he is trying to say; I have experienced this very same thing.

M. ‘Safaction’ (HM!)… ‘Prajapati said: ‘The self which is free from sin…old age…death…grief — that is the self which should be searched out.’ On hearing this, the devas (gods) and asuras (demons) went searching for it, Indra being the first. On being told so, Prajapati made them to dwell with him for 32 years to receive the teaching. Then, after he suggested to them the body to be the reality (“Look at yourself in a pan of water…”), they all believed that that is the self and were satisfied… all except Indra (“I do not see any good in this doctrine”). Virochana satisfied in heart went to the demons and taught them to worship the body only.

Indra spent another thirty two years with Prajapati. After that period, it was the turn of the dreams to be the reality, as suggested to by the latter (“He who moves about, exalted, in dreams – this is the Self, immortal, fearless”). But after some deliberation, Indra thought: ‘I do not see any good in this doctrine’, and went back to Prajapati. Then, after another thirty two years, the doctrine taught to Indra was that deep sleep is what is real. Again, Indra deliberated, concluding at the end that in deep sleep one reaches utter annihilation. After living with Prajapati for a final five years, Indra came to learn the truth: The Self enjoys all pleasures as an inner spectator only; He perceives in all things His Self only. What from the relative standpoint are called objects, are to Him Brahman only. (From Chandogya Upanishad).

Notice that here there is a progression from physical body to subtle body (dreams) to deep sleep (causal body) to no-body (no-thing, the fourth ‘state’).




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Questions in Quora

(Q&As in Quora)

What are some essential self awareness exercises?

M. None, unless attention… Greg Goode (a Non-dualist teacher) recommends ‘Standing as Awareness’. That is the title of a booklet by him.

In Advaita Vedanta Gaudapada and Shankara did not recommend any exercises except, perhaps, Asparsha yoga (which means, ‘no-relationship – with anything), and only as a preparation for less-gifted students. All experiences derived from exercises, including Samadhi, are only temporary. Advaita is not Yoga, and there are no injunctions or exercises in it – only Intuition and reasoning based on it. There is the triple way or method: ‘hearing’ (the scriptures= Upanishads), reflecting on what has been read or listened to (if one has a guide or teacher), and contemplation (nididhyasana). That is all.

Will we as humans be able to distinguish between our conscious and electrical conscious?

M. I don’t understand what you mean by ‘electrical conscious’. Do you mean the electro-chemical signals between synapses in the brain which transmit and share information between neurons? That is only the physical basis or vehicle for consciousness. Consciousness is not a phenomenon, it is an (ontological) reality – ‘what is’, beyond even conceptualization, and not physical. Consciousness is indescribable and unknowable by the mind (brain-based mind, again, being a vehicle or ‘transducer’), and, thus, a metaphysical or spiritual reality.


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Conceptual vs. experiential

  • “Self or consciousness does not make the passage to the other shore or cross over. Rather, the crossing is the body and senses acclimating to life without any experience of self or consciousness and all that it implies.” Bernadette Roberts

This is from the mouth of someone who purportedly has first-hand experience of what she speaks of and is not philosophical or conceptual according to her.

This entry in a recent discussion/debate in an internet blog started it all for me. A question that surfaces with some frequency on reading around  the topic of awakening/non-duality, including  New Age spirituality, and which is very much in the limelight nowadays (and has been so for a long time). It centers on the distinction or dichotomy: knowing/experiencing, or intellectual/experiential, or thinking/feeling (though this last pair seems to overstretch a bit).

Notice, for now, the expressions: ‘first hand experience’… ‘not philosophical or conceptual’ Continue reading

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