This post is in process, please stay tuned if it interests you...
"None of this is serious, important or even necessary. Nothing will happen anyway."
For me, the Nothing Conference exemplifies much of my previous understanding/experience of "non-duality" as well as all of what myself and many others (many of whom would have participated in the past) have realized is tragic about "radical non-duality." In this sense, it's a rare blessing because it's an extremely important case study to help us thoroughly understand the dynamics of this non-dualism (more on that later), one that is a truly double-edged sword that both helps and severely harms many people, and not just ones who are already unhealthy or under-developed. It's imperative that we bring these kinds of harm to light for the well-being of fellow humans by investigating its nature, the causes and conditions that cause it to arise, and come up with changes that could help with prevention and healing, and making it more likely that people will choose to engage with holistically healthy spiritual offerings. It raises valuable questions that well-meaning individuals/organizations in the greater spiritual community need to address, such as what degree of ethical responsibility do teachers/guides/speakers have for potential and known patterns of harm caused by their messages, their delivery of them, and their behavior in that role?
Yes, when I first started writing this, it was with a tone that matched the spiritually egoic dark humor of the event's marketing language (one that I am familiar with having delighted in reading and writing myself in the past!) I wrote...
"In 2020, an event called the Nothing Conference took place. But according to the organizers it never actually happened, and it seems that was the intention all along. To get people not to come, their website informed the public that "nothing will happen anyway," and to further ensure that no one would attend, proclaimed that "none of this is serious, important or even necessary." The advertising campaign worked astonishingly well - thousands of people bought tickets, and none of them showed up.
What didn't happen was (not) hosted by "Nothing Media," "a team of non-doers with experience in event production and technologies, interested in sharing the non-duality message."
But I want to continue this in a serious way, because the harmful side (this is not discounting positive elements) of what the event showcases, isn't funny at all. It's dead serious.
The entirety of "non-duality" is reduced to this one concept of "nothing" reflecting the reductionist perspective of reality that lies at the heart of this non-dualism. Even as someone who once shared the viewpoint of the essential non-reality of the manifest world, the chosen name would have immediately struck me as imbalanced, and cynical, even if the insider's experience of nothingness is altogether positive (or neutral). I remember laughing while writing in my journal how "nothing matters" doesn't mean that there is nothing that matters, but that what matters is nothing! It was such delicious, cathartic irony.
It could have called it so many things, including the "everything" conference, but the chosen term was one that connotes nihilism instead, and reflects the self-negation at the heart of radical non-duality - taking up permanent residence in the de-constructive stage of spiritual transformation, and guiding people to that and only that, while also presenting the "no self" stage as the final one, rather than a stage in a process of transformation that when holistic, includes emergence of a transformed transpersonal self, an evolved conscious ego that knows it is not the whole of what one is, but an integral part of the greater whole, simultaneously (and paradoxically) separate and one with all, as a personal expression of universal being.
Here's a transcript from the first promo video:
Out of the void you came from everything and nothing you appeared.
At first, there was no question of your oneness, your connectedness to everything, no line of separation between you and others. There was no self. There were no others. Then early on the patterns begin, a localized energetic contraction and a container of skin was given a name, objects of belonging, and a grouping of stories propping up this image of self.
Me in here, against the world out there. At some point, a glimpse of the truth revealed a different view, a knowing more instinctual than logical rose, revealing there's something else going on, vastly different than the stories you've been told.
A glimpse kicked up a wave of curiosity, a recognition that the longing we've always had for wholeness came not from our dissatisfaction with life but through an understanding that the dissatisfaction itself was simply a thought arising from nowhere. Not of our doing. Now we explore that wholeness in and as awareness itself, suspended as everything and nothing. Life as a freefall, floating in the space of being, realizing the self as everything as nothing.
And the second promo video:
Nothing is serious. Life isn't serious. Of course we're free to take it seriously. Free to pretend that we are somehow separate from life itself. Free to play characters with serious lives. Serious goals. Free to feel as if some greater goal needs to be achieved. But it doesn't. The purpose of life is simply to be. And when the punchline of this cosmic joke is truly understood, all we can do is have a good laugh..
Here are a few snippets from one of the keynote speakers, Kenneth Madden, who has referred to himself as "The apparent Kenneth:"
What's been said here has not been said by anybody, and it's not being said to an individual.
There is no individual, it is just energy.
The big joke is that you're not there.
Most alarmingly, someone asks, "would this message would be inappropriate to communicate to someone such as after trauma, rape etc when a person is looking for emotional attunement and healing?"
Because he is "uncompromising," apparent Kenneth evades the question by dismissing the notion that he is communicating anything in the first place...
"It's not, uh, being communicated to anyone that's the first thing. This is not being spoken to anyone. This is the major difference between the vast majority of communications which involve somebody who speaks to somebody else and tells them about a thing called nonduality and how they can become whole and complete. Absolute nonsense. It is a totally different energy to it so this has never been spoken to anybody and it it only comes from no one. It's just completely
unpredictable where it will arise I cannot say when it would arise, but it doesn't seem to
arise when there's a question, there's a kind of a question out of nothing. It's totally energetic so there's a kind of a draw to it and a question and an interest in it and that's how it kind of dances, but if there's a resistance to it, or a sense of not wanting to hear this message...since it has no agenda whatsoever, it generally doesn't come out."
Non-duality live, who seems to have hosted the videos, says on their main page that "all there is, is nothing apparently happening."
"The ideas that are expressed under Non-Duality Live, obviously do not recommend or offer any kind of personal teaching, prescription, process, method, or advice as to why or how any individual should or should not live his/her life. It is apparent therefore that any participant's response or reaction to these communications is entirely and only a product of their own interpretation and their own responsibility."
The disclaimer seems to be protecting the organization and speakers against liability, rather than also coming from a place of compassion for the audience (which knowingly includes many people in vulnerable states of extreme suffering), without disclosing any of the potential dangers (short-term or long term) of a radical approach (radical being a term many of the speakers describe their message as) that often encourages the instant obliteration of one's foundational sense of reality. No supportive resources for spiritual emergencies, for example, that are common, naturally when one's foundational sense of reality gets shattered, especially when it happens instantaneously. This is not unique to "non-duality." It happens with everything from NDE's, Kundalini awakening, clairvoyance, etc. and is a topic rapidly increasing in attention and research, and many professional support networks are dedicated to spiritual crisis.
To be continued...