Subration: Concerning The Relative And The Absolute

In Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction, Eliot Deutsch suggests that subration refers to “the mental process whereby one disvalues some previously appraised object or content of consciousness because of its being contradicted by a new experience.”

The process is described at greater length a page later:

  • You made “a judgment about some object or content of consciousness (a material thing, a person, an idea).”
  • Next, you’ve come to “the recognition, in the light of another kind of judgment that is incompatible with the initial judgment, that the initial judgment is faulty.”
  • Lastly, you’ve come to “the acceptance of the new judgment as valid.”

On the relative level, this process aptly describes what it’s like to fall into and out of love with someone, and it’s skillfully depicted in Jane Austen novels. Your initial assessment of your lover’s character is overturned in the light of fresh evidence, evidence that, appearing just now, you cannot avoid. That revised, later judgment nullifies your initial judgment, and thus only the later judgment is regarded as valid, the prior judgment being entirely invalidated.

This might sound “overly intellectual,” but it’s nothing of the sort. The intensity of the prior love, say, can be stunningly undercut and revised owing to your fresh realizations such that you can have no regrets or misgivings about breaking off a relationship in light of this clearer understanding.

On the absolute level, subration refers to the realization that the waking and dream states, hitherto regarded as real, are actually unreal. This is only understood from the “vantage point” of Pure Consciousness, which is not only totally real (sat) but is also–such is implied in saying that it’s “totally real”–the only reality there is and has ever been. The Sage no longer regards the world as real except insofar as it participates in the Sole Reality.

In Standing as Awareness, Greg Goode provides us with an analogy that is comparable to the classical Indian one having to do with the snake and the rope. When you’re quite young, you believe in Santa Claus. And yet, when you discover that Santa Claus isn’t real, all the feelings associated with his coming to deliver gifts are likewise gone. This knowledge, which is really subration, is a sudden Gestalt shift, one that totally reorientates the young girl to her world. Henceforth, she stands in the world from the position of knowledge.