Tag Archives: Alienation

Social Consequences of the Dualist/NonDualist perspective.

16 Feb

Usually the social and relationship consequences of the dualist
rationalist perspectives have not been explored in depth. In fact, there
is little exploration regarding the direct social consequences of the
adoption of either perspective after a focus on language, cognitive
modeling, spirituality, and Awakening.
Therefore, I want to use the excellent detailed analysis of the modern
Jewish philosopher and educator, Martin Buber shows that
whichever of the two perspectives (Non-Dualist/Dualist) one uses,
there are significant relational consequences. Here is a good place to
remind the reader that the Dualist and non-dualist perspectives are
not exclusive from one another.

Martin Buber’s (I and Thou) and (I and It)
Martin Buber is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and
Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou”, in which the du or
thou, is intended to convey the most intimate and loving relation
possible. Thou means the you in a subject-to-subject relationship,
while “I-It” is a relationship of subject-to-object modes of existence.
‘I’ is not a solitary concept that stands alone unconnected; ‘I’ is
always in relation to ‘It’ or ‘Thou.’ This relation indicates the two
basic ways in which we relate to the world.
In the I-It relationship, the subjects are independent, isolated, and
separate from a world that consists of things. According to Buber,
most human beings solely adopt the I-It dualistic perspective over
the I-Thou. The ‘I-It’ relation is dominated by categories of dualism,
like ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’, and focuses on universal definitions, while
in the I- Thou relationship, human beings are aware of each other
through unity of Being.

I-It is a relationship of separateness, detachment, and ultimately
alienation created by the dualistic subject/object dichotomy.
Identifications appear by comparing and setting themselves apart
from others. So long as you “have” yourself as an object, your
experience of self and others is as of a thing among things.
Once a subject, in the subject/object dyad, is analyzed as an object,
the subject becomes an object or an It. When both objects and
people are analyzed (subject-object relation) and judged by their
capacities, they become means to an end. The I is experienced as
isolated from the It, resulting in “alienation”.

To view the world as an “objective reality” separated from my
consciousness and universal Being is a form of alienation. The state
or experience of being alienated includes
isolation, estrangement, separation, and severance. Alienation is the
state of being as an outsider or the feeling of being isolated, as from
others or the original being. This experience is expressed poetically
by songwriters Simon and Garfunkel; ‘I am a rock, I am an island, I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate.’

Alienation is the process whereby people become foreign to the Being of
which they exist in. This is the dominant alienation in modern
society. As Derrida wrote, “Face-to-face relationships, communities of
direct caretaking, control, and ownership of one’s own labor power, all
these are giving way more and more to relations mediated by cell
phone, digicam, digital communications replacing the immediacy of
He describes well the virtual world of I-It.
The principle of alienation is found in all the great religions namely,
the idea that people in the past have known the non-dualistic
Absolute and lived in serenity and harmony. But with the
development and rise of the ‘I’ analytical linguistic world, there was a
rupture that left people feeling like strangers to each other and in
the world. Also, there has often been the vision that at some time in
the future this alienation will be overcome, and humanity will again
live in harmony with itself and Nature.

The I–It is the mode of experience in which we engage the world as a
detached object. It is based upon the axioms of logical
empiricism/positivism: objectivity, determinism, abstractive
contemplation, and a utilitarian approach to the other. This is the
method of the rational investigation of truths and principles of
science and philosophy, through which we come to understand
things abstractly and intellectually, eventually for our egocentric use.
Buber claimed that modern Western culture believes that this
dualistic mode is the fundamental way for human beings to
participate with the world. Therefore, other perspectives, which are
vital to our authentic and awakened spiritual existence, are dismissed
and even vilified.
While I-It is relevant to everyday living, the obstacle is its

overwhelming predominance in modern technocratic society, with
its basis on the principles of logical empiricism/positivism:
objectivity, determinism, abstractive contemplation. It is a
mechanistic model of the universe as a machine, and the rational
and empirical is operational in all areas of study with the grand

vision of Humans gaining mastery over everything. In the end, however, it creates a state or experience of being alienated.
In social relationships, the alienated I-It individual is primarily
egotistic and selfish and finds it problematic to empathize and put
oneself in another’s place. They find it wearisome to be accessible
and receptive because they are eremitic and solitarily orientated.
They fear experiencing disappointments and disapprove of
Yet, every success cannot satisfy their craving for indisputable
success. They rigidly think in or act in an egotistical manner of
accepting only what pleases them and tenaciously maintain their
likes and dislikes. Their personality stagnates by not maturing and
from not expressing their own creative capacities. Therefore,
encapsulated, they never come to know the opportunity and
satisfaction of interconnections and empathy with the world. The rigidity
of the ego ‘shell’ is one of the afflictions of the solitary ‘I’, and
integration with the inner refuge of peace, serenity, and nothingness
is absent.
The self, therefore, remains preoccupied with maintaining, by means
of the organization of rigid structures or schemas, its secure position
in the historical world. Through their filtering ‘glasses’, a person
believes they perceive the world ‘the way it really is’, rationally and
logically. If success is created, the egotistical person attributes it
only to their own efforts, which only strengthens and heightens the
the wall separating them from the realization of their interconnectedness
with all
The imagined self, preoccupied with establishing and classifying facts,
constantly acts to satisfy its worldly cravings. With these fixed points
of view, the world is clearly divided into a dualism of selfworld/otherworld, subject/object, etc. While a person needs to be
skillful to manage the world well, the predominance of the self-centered perspective, with its claims of supremacy, distorts not only
a person’s personal and social status but any possible spiritual
connection with existence, in which there is an apperception of
oneness and inter-being to be realized with experience, insight and
The egotistic life constantly seeks to thrill itself in the available ways
of the sensual materialistic life. The intensity of their cravings varies,
but the feedback loop is continuous and based on the subject/object
duality. This exaggerated ignorance based on dualism creates
foolishness and unhappiness. At the root of why many people seek relief
in many ways is a clear example of spiritual sickness, and hence
suffering, i.e. alienation from life. Egocentric ignorance creates
suffering for self and others.
Modern Society
Buber believed that with modern technological society increasingly
supporting the I-It dogma, the loving relationship between
individuals and nature, between other sentient beings,
understanding their identity and the divine in an apophatic sense has
become increasingly more obscure and incomprehensible. He wanted
to revive the link between the individual with the deepest levels of
existence. To do that, he considered it necessary to unveil the
impediments that hamper a person’s capacity to see and understand
the No- thingness.
As a result of the modern trend, it continues to become more
difficult to develop an appreciation of an immanent, universal being.
The problem is rooted in the supposition of the primacy of the
dualistic subject-object relation. Buber believed that there had been
a dramatic shift from relation to separation, creating a growing crisis
of existence in ‘modern’ society. He believed that the relationship
between individuals and people and creation continues to become
increasingly that of I-It.
The doctrine of Inherent Self

Even the study of modern Western philosophy and psychology yields
mostly the narrow point of view of the World of It, which easily
exacerbates the difficulty of a person achieving a transcendent
understanding of the World of Being. These disciplines mostly teach
the doctrine of self, or ‘I’, denoting an awareness of a firmly held
identity which includes three factors. First, there is stability and
permanence of the self throughout all life changes. Second, one’s ‘I’
or self is unique. Third, there is a clear separation of the subject from
the object, or ‘other’. Therefore, in the consciousness of the normal
person who firmly believes in the cultural affirmation of their ‘I’,
there is a splitting off from the primal unity of life which lies beyond
the pairs and duality of opposites.
Once a person firmly believes that I am ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’, their life
is experienced through the comparisons of opposites: subject and
object, me and other, mind and body, etc. Every effort to categorize
and rationalize the reality of the human condition drives a person
first to one extreme and then to the other. Even more, they believe in
the deep split between the static ‘I’, entrenched within the habitual
cognitive patterns, and everything else.
In the techno-scientific cultures, even though the normal flow of
normal daily life and experience seems to confirm this, there is the
the faulty view of the reality of entities that exist independently from the
Furthermore, the use of simple operational agreements of daily life
for successful predictions of the consequences of most of our actions
with objects also contributes to supporting this implicit view. Therefore,
without being instructed beyond this perspective of the dualistic,
inherent, and craving I, it is almost impossible in the modern world
to understand how to achieve Awakening of Emptiness. I wrote
about this underlying fallacy in the previous chapter Why We Can’t
As all Awakened teachers have known, ‘Without rationality,’ humans
cannot live. But the person who lives with ‘It’ alone is not a spiritual
and complete person. Much of the alienation, greed, anger, and
heedlessness of modern living is the result of our living only
heedlessly in the I-It world. As is attributed to Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has
forgotten the gift.”
The overcoming of alienation occurs as awareness and consciousness

increases, by recognizing that the external world is not separate from
the interiority of consciousness and that, as philosopher Hegel
expressed it, the “I is the We, and the We the I.” ‘I’ can then be said to
recover from alienation, which characterizes my I-IT everyday
engagement in the world, when a person regains their pure
subjectivity. This book expresses that conviction for the possibility of
a final state of connection, friendliness, and unity.
The immanence of the divine is always present in one’s own being,
and it is the possibility to learn how to unveil the Absolute, and live
life through that purified conscience. Through the inner refuge and
the experience of emptiness, there is an opportunity for knowing the
equanimity and serene awareness within. By becoming accessible
and empathic, one opens to the mysterious sense of something
beyond the I and the explicit world and is sensitive to the hints of the
spiritual experience of agape, sublimity, and transcendence which
constantly urges transformation and development. Buber, reflecting
the mystic’s insight, moved into a position undercutting the subject-object dichotomy. I-Thou (You) involves understanding how we all are interconnected, a part of a whole. The “I” is not experienced or
sensed as singular or separate; it is the “I” with the All of Being. The
next chapter will explore more in-depth Buber’s I-Thou perspective.

Of the Book, God is No-thing. The Apophatic Assertion. Copyright Rodger Ricketts Psy.D.,2020. All rights
reserved. Protected by international copyright conventions. No part of this chapter may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted,
without the expressed permission of the Author-publisher, except in case of brief quotations with
due acknowledgment. Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


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