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Acosmism, in contrast to Pantheism, denies the reality of the universe,  seeing it as ultimately illusory, (the suffix "a-" in Greek meaning negation; like "un-" in English), and only the infinite Unmanifest Absolute as Real

This philosophy begins with the recognition that there is only one Reality, which is infinite, non-dual, blissful, etc.  Yet the phenomenal reality of which we are normally aware is none of these things; it is in fact just the opposite: i.e. dualistic, finite, full of suffering and pain, and so on.  And since the Absolute is the only reality, that means that everything that is not-Absolute cannot be real.  Thus, according to this viewpoint, the phenomenal dualistic world is ultimately an illusion ("Maya" to use the technical Indian term), irrespective of the apparent reality it possesses at the mundane or empirical level

Acosmic Monistic practice emphasises attaining the Absolute through a kind of intellectual or conceptual realisation.   This may  involve holding the thought that "I am that" (the Absolute), as in the of the Advaita Vedanta school and its recent advocates; or alternatively through a standing back and simply watching the thoughts and sensations arise and pass away; realising all the time that they are not a part of one's true Self.  Both these ap-proaches are termed the path of Jnana or "Knowledge"

So whereas the Western monistic philosophers  (Zeno, Spinoza, etc), tend to be Pantheistic, the Indian philosophies and religions tend be Acosmic.  They were and are concerned not so much with the manifest reality we see about us, but with the unmanifest Absolute Transcendent.  What matters is simply the practical attainment of a state of this universal, transcendent, transpersonal existence.  In that state, according to Shankara, there is no difference between Self and God; there is only the Absolute (Brahman).

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 8 April 1999