Toward a post-Cartesian science of nonduality: UnScience, Dzogchen, and Einstein’s folly

There is a popular assumption and widespread confidence among spiritual seekers, mental health professionals, and scientists alike that the findings of the “new sciences” such as neurophysiology and quantum physics provide a fertile field and solid grounds for deepening our understanding of nondual awakening. Nevertheless, as we celebrate the contemporary conjunction of Science and nondual wisdom, it seems to me prudent to ask whether this assumption is actually true or if we only wish it were true. That is, Can findings generated by the scientific method and worldview lead us to or enhance our understanding of nondual awareness?

Unscience and Nonduality

About Kenneth Bradford

G. Kenneth Bradford, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice, specializing in Contemplative-Existential Psychotherapy & Consultation. An Adjunct Professor at John F. Kennedy University, Ken is in the vanguard integrating meditative sensibilities and nondual presence into the practice of psychotherapy, and integrating therapeutic sobrieties into the wonderment of nondual presence.


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7 Responses to Toward a post-Cartesian science of nonduality: UnScience, Dzogchen, and Einstein’s folly

  1. Hi Kenneth,
    This is a splendid refutation of even the remote possibility of there being a science of nonduality in the sense that any thing is as such (Om=mc2). As a (former) scientist having the experience of “falling into the profound” and remaining therein I propose that for the sake of simplicity just aver that (a/the) science of nonduality is Buddhism or rather Buddhism is (a/the) science of nonduality and be done with it.

    As far as mirror neurons are concerned, in truth, which came first compassion or the mirror neuron? Concerted social practice presupposes at least a modicum of compassion else the social contract would fall apart and no neuron-science could be, would be, practiced. Since the whole of (apparent) externality is Mind-only (form is emptiness, emptiness is form) small wonder indeed that a physical seat for compassion can be seen to emerge “into the world” as a host of cuddly mirror neurons.

    But compassion itself is not something that simply swims around in the depths of consciousness waiting to emerge (conditions permitting) rather is compassion itself something like an “invention”, a construct arising as the result of self-referenced insight apprehended in/from the region of prajnaparamita in relation to the universal pain and suffering engendered by the human condition. Once apprehended compassion is deployed into the world of name and form by the transcendent consciousness thus realized. In itself compassion is not an inevitable construct but is rather ever dependent on a specific vehicle having earned the privileged insight returning to the world of name and form in order to call it forth and to “pass it on” into general consciousness. It is true that an ever-fresh continuity of awareness is required for the release of a transcendent quality, such as unconditional compassion but although it is possible to speak of the potential for compassion to be inherent within the luminosity of existence itself (it always already is so) none-the-less is compassion only liberated through a particular vehicle. As such it is not a “free good” and it must be earned that all may share equally therein.
    Kind Regards

    • Dayane says:

      Very well, we have been trained for centuries now in logical thinking, in impartial evaluation of results, in empiricism, in suspending our opinions and judgements until some rationally enlightened judgement comes to us. This we know more or less how to do. Then why not do the simplest thing first , and apply it to spirituality, as Steiner suggests ? Science is a bit in advance, lets face it. The consequence of it, is that if we start to get a spiritual science before a scientific spirituality we will most probably end up with no science at all. It will be a regression. I am very suspicious of those spiritual scientists . As a professional one, most of them don’t know what they are talking about. Tough judgement ? maybe

  2. Ken Bradford says:

    Hi Robin,

    I’m just back from a pilgrimage to Bhutan, reading your reply, which I appreciate the more coming from an ex-empirical Scientist. Yes, the general empiricist assumption that mind is based in matter and an extension of the body-biology, rather than the reverse: an embodiment (human or otherwise) congeals based on the habit patterns of mind which extend into time and space, is a basic difference between Science and Buddhist wisdom. From the latter POV, a mirror neuron is a manifestation of a potentiality that allows for its formation in neurological tissue. Ie. the body is in the mind…

    Of course, recognizing that the mind is nothing, yet there is presence, as you observe, emptiness being form, reveals paradox to be the ground of reality.

    all the best,


  3. Justaguy says:

    Are you familiar with David Chapman’s writings on his two blogs, and

    You seem to have a lot in common.

    Nice journal btw!

    • Happy says:

      Hi Jeff!I find it so fascinating that the mytsireous union of subject with object is realized, and expressed in so many ways. It’s exciting to find it emerging organically even in Western, American culture, which we often do not associate with the esoteric or the mystical. The background, foreground description reminds me very much of the Taoist philosopher Wei Wu Wei (paraphrasing): To realize that all objects are one Subject.I certainly hope that we can encourage to pursue and explore the fascinating notion of what Jung described as mysterium coniunctionis, and end the subject-object duality. Non-dual mysticism has a lot to reveal to us about the nature of reality, and the fact that so many independent traditions and schools of thought have been drawn to this possibility gives us a clue to where the evolution of human consciousness is headed.All the best!Jeremy Johnson

  4. Yayank says:

    So after realizing beonyd doubt that nothing called Jeff exists in the universe. There is simply a string of ideas connected together by other ideas that create a seemingly solid sense of Jeffness, but if you look for this Jeff you cannot find him. You can find atributes and qualities that you imagine belong to a something called a Jeff, but a Jeff you will never find. From this realization it becomes possible to let go of all conceptualization at very deep levels and you see that it is all thought, all just ideas that connect to other ideas and the unending string of ideas creates a sense of reality, but what is this reality really. This is exactly the territory that William James was exploring as well. So for me, I have no doubt that in the ultimate sense I do not exist as any seperate identitiy, and yet here I am and I seem to be able to affect change and generate result. What does it mean, what is changing, what is the value of change if ultimately nothing exists. In this spirit I explore philosophy and evoluiton not because there is an answer that I look for I have found my answer, but now I want to see how it all fits together. Emptiness and Form, non-existance and existantce, timlessness and time. How does it all work, what is it all for and if it is for nothing, then perhaps I can create meaning for myself. This blog is dedicated to that exploration and in the tradition of Western and especially American philosophy I have found many fascinating ways to ponder unanswerable questions and they seem to give me new ways to see and to be in the world. Thank you for staying with all this.

  5. Don Salmon says:

    Hi Kenneth:

    I agree with everything you write, especially your premise: “Any nondual science must start with the recognition of nondual awareness.”

    Yes, of course. But you seem to concede too much to the natural sciences as presently constituted. This seems to be an overwhelming consensus among contemporary nondual teachers and I find it baffling. In ancient India, it was understood that all “empirical” science (of course, they weren’t “empirical” in the completely “maya-embedded” way that empiricism is thought of today) must be grounded in the nondual (or in less politically correct language, in the Knowledge of Brahman).

    Nondual teachers like Dennis Waite seem to think that nothing needs to be changed in the natural sciences. Yet you point very briefly to a truly nondual way of looking at the so-called physical in your very good critique of the excitement about mirror neurons. you speak of awareness/compassion (I don’t remember the exact phrase) “congealing” (that was the word you used – absolutely wonderful!! awesome even) into neurons. This points to a completely different way of studying the “brain” – rather than as an inherently existing “physical” (nowadays almost everyone is starting to admit nobody has a clue what “physical” means:>)))!!) something, as an appearing – from which we (intentionally) abstract certain quantitative features. But even those quantities can be “read” (seen, loved, whatever you want to call it) as reflections of an infinite Reality (I get tired of using the phrase “nondual”), reflecting qualities, infinite, unbounded, ineffable qualities yet because we live in a relative world we can still describe those qualities and perhaps even in silent awareness, in Presence, discover new and awesome ways of comprehending the nature of both the quantities and qualities.

    Gosh that sounds verbose. What I’m trying to say, badly, is that I think there is a whole different approach to virtually every aspect of science. Alan Wallace has hinted of this; Murshid Samuel Lewis has written briefly of some extraordinary ways of understanding chemical reactions that are verbalized in ways that you just feel the Beloved coursing through each molecular transformation. James Corrigan in his “Introduction to Awareness” has some hints, as does Franklin Merrell-Wolff as well as some students of Wolff including Tom McFarlane and Ron Leonard.

    But nobody I’m aware of has put this all together. I’m going to be devoting several years – starting in either late 2014 or 2015 – to creating a website bringing together the best critiques I know of (starting with Alan Wallace) of the materialist/physicalist/Cartesian views that still pervade the sciences. I think this (these? they’re really one thing:>)) have to be fully explored and unwoven before we can embark on creating a truly nondual science.

    yes, of course, a nondual science has to be based in nondual knowing (Ok, I used the word again), but what then? An amazing, awesome adventure, like nothing ever before (so what!).

    Anyone interested in this, please write me at You can see an article in which I think I did at least a slightly better job than I did here, at, “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor” (you can find it easily by googling the title). If you don’t like the text, there’s a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in it, and also 2 great renditions of “The Twelfth Street Rag.”

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