Advaita Vedanta Indian Philosophy

Dualism in Monotheism

I had faced a peculiar situation, on many occasions of my life. It usually happens in the midst of a conversation with friends. My certain friends will opine that ‘they believe in God very well,

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Sunil Upasana hails from Kerala (India) and has been a Bengalurean for 17 years. He has had a deep yearning to understand the profound philosophy that underlies Hinduism Read More.

I had faced a peculiar situation, on many occasions of my life. It usually happens in the midst of a conversation with friends. My certain friends will opine that ‘they believe in God very well, but not in Ghost/Demon’. After presenting their view they simply abandon that topic, refusing further discussion. Many a time, I had come up with an explanation. But nobody heeded me.

The doubt I try to raise in front of my friends was ‘If somebody can believe in the existence and activities of god, then, why can’t he believe in the existence and activities of a ghost or demon?

God is a supernatural agency. He is not bound by the limitations that the Nature presents to the common man. Instead He can do everything. His realm of activities and thought is beyond human comprehension. He is said to be the controller of nature. Thus there are many credits with him. Overwhelmed by these all, people believe and worship him. They think that God can do miracles to save them in their bad times… Ok. Let it be so. But…

The ethical angle of the problem:-

In every religion, God is supposed to be utmost justful. He keeps high morality. He sets the moral rules for the devotees. Devotees are obliged to follow them rigidly. Those who deviate from the moral rules, set forth by the god, are destined to suffer its consequences in this world or in after life. Such are the common ethical concept. This in turn installs a duality in the religious belief.

When god guides the followers through the moral path, set forth by him, there automatically arises its opposite view, i.e. immorality. If there is ‘I’, then ‘Non-I’ is natural and both cannot be true at the same time, in the same respect, as per law of contradiction. When ethics exists, then un-ethics also exist. In the same way, if there is a supernatural agency which possess or imposes ethics exists, then there can be a super natural agency which possess or imposes un-ethics also can exist. These both ethical and unethical supernatural agencies usually exist at the same level, beyond the reach of human intellect[1].

So in every religion god, who imposes morality among his followers, accompanies a ‘villain god’, commonly known as demon/ghost, who continuously tries to deflect god’s followers from the ethical path. Whichever devotee follows the moral path set up by the god must fear the non-ethical ‘villain god’, demon. Both god and demon, ethically, can’t stand independently from each other[2]. It is the ethical part that clearly discerns the god from demon. Apart from the ethical and compassion level, both are at same level, supernatural forces.

The ethical god constantly keeps his followers in vigil against the un-ethical tactics of his counterpart. What actually exists there is a kind of dualism; belief in the existence of a god and also demon, both are not bound by the natural limitations. Thus in monotheism there may be only a god, but not one and only one supernatural agency. Instead there are two or multiple[3] supernatural agencies. Among this multitude of supernatural agencies one is supposed to be god, another demon and the rest angels, spirits, demi-gods etc. The difference between them lies in the degree of power and quality attributed to them by the worshipper.

In a strict mono supernatural agency worship, divisions like god – demon, ethic – unethic are impossible2. Existence and belief in two or more entities, like god – demon, having super natural abilities, inherently carries dualistic or pluralistic notion. And during worship, a devotee should have belief in both. If either of them is absent, then the second one losses its importance. If the world is full of ethics, which won’t lose in anyway, then why should there be a god, who imposes ethics upon the people, is needed? So a god – demon roles are complimentary to each other, and nobody can believe solely in one of them only.

Atheistic viewpoint:-

An atheist considers monotheism and polytheism in the same level. Inclusion of monotheism and polytheism in the same category is not at all a contradiction for them. They usually ask “if somebody believe in a single super natural agency, like god, then why can’t he believe in multiple super natural agencies, like in polytheism?’ What is the core difference between these two theisms? Further more if somebody believe that the demon or demi-god like figures (which stand above the level of human experience or the realm of senses) do exist along with a single god, then how can he blame others for their multi-god worship?

Monotheism and polytheism are in almost same level for an atheist. And as long as the ethical, unethical duality exists, god – demon duality also exists and nobody can escape from this dualistic idea.

Monism and Advaita Vedanta:-

Advaita Vedanta avoids this dualistic notion, by proposing a single, non-dual Reality, Brahman, and two levels of existence[4]. First is known as Paramartha Satya, Ultimate truth[5] and second is known as Vyavahara Satya or Relative truth.

Phenomenal world is in relative truth level. Good – bad, creation – destruction, sin – virtue and such type dualities exist at this plane of reality. But care should be taken for not to think this dualities as the ultimate. These dualities exist only in the phenomenal world, which is in relative plane of reality. In ultimate reality level there is no duality exists. Single non dual Brahman only exists in the ultimate truth level[6].


[1] God cannot be the possessor of both ethics and un-ethics. If god has both, then He will automatically become a non-god being the possessor of two contradictory characters.

[2] If there is only ethic all over the world, then we can’t define the term ‘ethic’ or recognize ethic as ethic. A definition implies negation of the opposite views. It is usually by comparing against the negation-elements of ‘something’, that we define ‘something’.

[3] Multiple super natural agencies may exist in religious beliefs. Angels, spirit, demi -god etc and such type demi-gods are also supernatural agencies. Their prominence with respect to god varies by different degrees. Yet they don’t become a non – super natural agency.

[4] Advaita Vedanta actually posits three levels of reality, according to the degree the reality varies. They are Pratibhasika, Vyavaharika and Paramarthika. Second and third are only enumerating here, as the first (Pratibhasika) is not concerned to the topic of discussion.

[5] Ultimate truth/Absolute/infinite Being is a philosophical term for the empirical God and God is a theological name for the philosophical Absolute or ultimate truth.

[6] In Advaita Vedanta, the abode of the gods is Nirguna Brahman. i.e. the gods which devotees worship daily, are not in the highest reality level. They have importance only in relative sense. When a devotee attains Brahma-vidya, he understood the relative nature of the deities and the world. He himself becomes the Brahman then.

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