Is separation an illusion?

Robin asked:

Hi, before asking my question, I just wanted to say that I’m 17 years old and this question just came into my mind.So excuse me if it sounds somewhat strange.

A few days ago, I read an article that proposed that separation is an illusion. I personally think this thesis can be expressed in multiple ways. For instance, scientifically speaking everything is made of stardust. Therefore, everything in the universe is actually one and the same. Even though we do not perceive it this way. Another way this thesis can be read, is on a more ‘down to earth’ way: pretty much all humans live with the idea of separation. People from Africa for instance, feel more connected and can identify themselves more with other Africans, than with let’s say Asians. Even though, we are all humans and share the same ancestors. But (most) humans see themselves as separate from each other instead of one with each other.

Thinking about this, I thought ‘If more people would be aware of this, this would put an end to racism, sexism etc.’ However, would it really? Would it really change anything? Is this statement convincing enough to stop all of these problems?

Answer by Peter Jones

The idea that separation is illusory is not about connectivity. If two things are not separated then they are not two things and cannot be connected.

The idea is deeper. It is the claim that the Universe is a Unity such that there are not two things. In Indian religion the word advaita (not-two) is used to refer to this view. If you search for this word you’ll be overwhelmed with information. This idea of the Unity of All is basic to the Perennial philosophy or ‘mysticism’ and the literature is vast.  A doctrine of Unity is ‘non-dual’.

The idea is not that we are all made out of stardust since even two specks of stardust are separate phenomena.  They would be two instances of separate phenomena.

The idea would be that we are not made out of anything but are living in something like a dream, a creation of Mind, a little like Neo in the Matrix. Extension in space and time would be a self-deception and metaphysically-speaking all points in space and time would be the same point. You are always here and the time is always now.

A short explanation is not possible but there are many non-duality teachers on YouTube and more books than you could ever read.

You’re right about Unity putting an end to racism, prejudice and so forth. But this is not the case where non-separation is only a theory.  If it is an experienced reality, as it is for the realised meditator or mystic, then no fundamental separation is experienced and none of the negative results of feelings of separation occur. To get to grips with this idea as a theory you’d need to study Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Advaita and so forth. To really get to grips with it you’d have to follow the advice of the Oracle at Delphi and ‘Know Thyself’.

It’s a big topic but well worth pursuing. Good luck.

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