Friday, January 26, 2007

Shakespearean non-dualism

"We are such things as dreams are made on."*
-William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Much about the character of Prospero in The Tempest persuades us that he is the closest thing in the plays to autobiography. Generally it is inappropriate to read a fictional character's ideas and opinions as being those of its author, but here there is a case for doing so. For example, both Prospero and Shakespeare renounce 'art'. Prospero gave up illusionistic magic, and The Tempest was the Bard's last play. So when Prospero speculates about the nature of reality, it is tempting to read these thoughts as Shakespeare's own. Shakespeare is like an Avadhuta - a sage dedicated to dispelling human illusions such as 'I'-consciousness. It could be objected that if 'I' and 'you' are no more than dreamstuff, then love between two people is meaningless. Miranda and Ferdinand ought to call the whole thing off. But to the non-dualist Prospero real love is a state in which there is no other ('Ananya' in Sanskrit). This is how it is possible for him to forgive his evil brother Antonio - there is no other to forgive or not forgive.
"Avadhuta (अवधूत) is a term from the Dharmic Religions of India referring to a somewhat eccentric type of mystic or saint who has risen above bodily-consciousness, duality, and worldly concerns and acts without consideration for standard social etiquette. Such personalities are considered to be free from the consciousness of the ego, and to 'roam free like a child' over the face of the earth. An avadhut does not identify with their body or mind. Such a person is said to be pure consciousness in human form. Avadhuts play a significant role in the history of a number of Yoga, Vedanta and Bhakti traditions."

*Sometimes this line is rendered as: "...dreams are made of"

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