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ALL AND NOTHINGNESS
In this post, I look at the esoteric meaning of the concept of Nothingness in contrast to its opposite, All and Everything.
Can there be something without the existence of nothing? (Btw, ever notice that nothing is a conjugation of 'no-thing,' just as nothingness is 'no-thing-ness.') But how can we say nothing exists if it’s nothing? Hmm, good question.
So then, it seems all and nothing are necessarily related. But does this not seem counter-intuitive to the logical mind?
If so, maybe it’s because such a concept cannot be logically understood, only intuited, a place where the third-dimensional mind doesn’t wish to go because it can’t handle what transcends the limitations of its reality.
Perhaps, in considering such matters, we need another logical modality that’s less restrictive such as what has been referred to as Tertium Organum, that is, Third Logic, which allows for an order of higher-dimensional understanding.
Certainly, this puts us in the territory of expansive thinking, such as might be experienced in the below essay by Allan Watts, inimitable philosopher, theologian, guru, and freethinking beatnik of the past. His profound teaching is not limited to rational thought but leads us into a mystical interpretation of life without compromising the former.
At the end of this essay, I have included my thoughts on this topic with a few excerpts from Chapter Eights of Elysium’s Passage: The Ascent.
NOTHINGNESS by Alan Watts
Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was an English writer and speaker. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. He received a master's degree in theology from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and became an Episcopal priest in 1945. He left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
When I consider the weirdest of all things I can think of, do you know what it is? Nothing. The whole idea of nothing is something that has bugged people for centuries, especially in the Western world. We have a saying in Latin, Ex nihilo nihil fit, which means, "Out of nothing comes nothing." In other words, you can't get something out of nothing.
It's occurred to me that this is a fallacy of tremendous proportions. It lies at the root of all our common sense, not only in the West, but in many parts of the East as well. It manifests as a kind of terror of nothing, a putdown on nothing, a putdown on everything associated with nothing such as sleep, passivity,rest, and even the feminine principle which is often equated with the negative principle (although women's lib people don't like that kind of thing, when they understand what I'm saying I don't think they'll object). To me, nothing—the negative, the empty—is exceedingly powerful. I would say, not Ex nihilo nihil fit, but, "You can't have something without nothing."
How do we basically begin to think about the difference between something and nothing? When I say there is a cigar in my right hand and there is no cigar in my left hand, we get the idea of is, something, and isn't, nothing. At the basis of this reasoning lies the far more obvious contrast of solid and space. We tend to think of space as nothing; when we talk about the conquest of space there's a little element of hostility. But actually, we're talking about the conquest of distance. Space or whatever it is that lies between the earth and the moon, and the earth and the sun, is considered to be just nothing at all.
But to suggest how very powerful and important this nothing at all is, let me point out that if you didn't have space, you couldn't have anything solid. Without space outside the solid you wouldn't know where the solid's edges were. For example, you can see me in a photograph because you see a background and that background shows up my outline. But if it weren't there, then I and everything around me would merge into a single, rather peculiar mass. You always have to have a background of space to see a figure. The figure and the background, the solid and the space, are inseparable and go together.
We find this very commonly in the phenomenon of magnetism. A magnet has a north pole and a south pole— there is no such thing as a magnet with one pole only. Supposing we equate north with is and south with isn't. You can chop the magnet into two pieces, if it's a bar magnet, and just get another north pole and south pole, another is and isn't, on the end of each piece.
What I am trying to get into basic logic is that there isn't a sort of fight between something and nothing. Everyone is familiar with the famous words of Hamlet, "To be or not to be, that is the question." It isn't; to be or not to be is not the question. Because you can't have a solid without space. You can't have an is without an isn't, a something without a nothing, a figure without a background. And we can turn that round, and say, "You can't have space without solid."
Imagine nothing but space, space, space, space with nothing in it, forever. But there you are imagining it and you're something in it. The whole idea of there being only space, and nothing else at all, is not only inconceivable but perfectly meaningless, because we always know what we mean by contrast.
We know what we mean by white in comparison with black. We know life in comparison with death. We know pleasure in comparison with pain, up in comparison with down. But all these things must come into being together. You don't have first something and then nothing or first nothing and then something. Something and nothing are two sides of the same coin. If you file away the tails side of a coin completely, the heads side of it will disappear as well. So in this sense, the positive and negative, the something and the nothing, are inseparable—they go together. The nothing is the force whereby the something can be manifested.
We think that matter is basic to the physical world. And matter has various shapes. We think of tables as made of wood as we think of pots as made of clay. But is a tree made of wood in the same way a table is? No, a tree is wood; it isn't made of wood. Wood and tree are two different names for the same thing.
But there is in the back of our mind, the notion, as a root of common sense, that everything in the world is made of some kind of basic stuff. Physicists, through centuries, have wanted to know what that was. Indeed, physics began as a quest to discover the basic stuff out of which the world is made. And with all our advances in physics we've never found it. What we have found is not stuff but form. We have found shapes. We have found structures. When you turn up the microscope and look at things expecting to see some sort of stuff, you find instead form, pattern, structure. You find the shape of crystals, beyond the shapes of crystals you find molecules, beyond molecules you find atoms, beyond atoms you find electrons and positrons between which there are vast spaces. We can't decide whether these electrons are waves or particles and so we call them wavicles.
What we will come up with will never be stuff, it will always be a pattern. This pattern can be described, measured, but we never get to any stuff for the simple reason there isn't any. Actually, stuff is when you see something unclearly or out of focus, fuzzy. When we look at it with the naked eye it looks just like goo. We can't make out any significant shape to it. But when you put it under the microscope, you suddenly see shapes. It comes into clear focus as shape.
And you can go on and on, looking into the nature of the world and you will never find anything except form. Think of stuff; basic substance. You wouldn't know how to talk '' about it; even if you found it, how would you describe what it was like? You couldn't say anything about a structure in it, you couldn't say anything about a pattern or a process in it, because it would be absolute, primordial goo.
What else is there besides form in the world? Obviously, between the significant shapes of any form there is space. And space and form go together as the fundamental things we're dealing with in this universe. The whole of Buddhism is based on a saying, "That which is void is precisely form, and that which is form is precisely void." Let me illustrate this to you in an extremely simple way. When you use the word clarity, what do you mean? It might mean a perfectly polished lens, or mirror, or a clear day when there's no smog and the air is perfectly transparent like space.
What's the next thing clarity makes you think of? You think of form in clear focus, all the details articulate and perfect. So the one word clarity suggests to you these two apparently completely different things: the clarity of the lens or the mirror, and the clarity of articulate form. In this sense, we can take the saying "Form is void, void is form" and instead of saying is, say implies, or the word that I invented, goeswith. Form always goeswith void. And there really isn't, in this whole universe, any substance.
Form, indeed, is inseparable from the idea of energy, and form, especially when it's moving in a very circumscribed area, appears to us as solid. For example, when you spin an electric fan the empty spaces between the blades sort of disappear into a blur, and you can't push a pencil, much less your finger, through the fan. So in the same way, you can't push your finger through the floor because the floor's going too fast. Basically, what you have down there is nothing and form in motion.
I knew of a physicist at the University of Chicago who was rather crazy like some scientists, and the idea of the insolidity, the instability of the physcial world, impressed him so much that he used to go around in enormous padded slippers for fear he should fall through the floor. So this commonsense notion that the world is made of some kind of substance is a nonsense idea—it isn't there at all but is, instead, form and emptiness.
Most forms of energy are vibration, pulsation. The energy of light or the energy of sound are always on and off. In the case of very fast light, very strong light, even with alternating current you don't notice the discontinuity because your retina retains the impression of the on pulse and you can't notice the off pulse except in very slow light like an arc lamp. It's exactly the same thing with sound. A high note seems more continuous because the vibrations are faster than a low note. In the low note you hear a kind of graininess because of the slower alternations of on and off.
All wave motion is this process, and when we think of waves, we think about crests. The crests stand out from the underlying, uniform bed of water. These crests are perceived as the things, the forms, the waves. But you cannot have the emphasis called a crest, the concave, without the de-emphasis, or convex, called the trough. So to have anything standing out, there must be something standing down or standing back. We must realize that if you had this part alone, the up part, that would not excite your senses because there would be no contrast.
The same thing is true of all life together. We shouldn't really contrast existence with nonexistence, because actually, existence is the alternation of now-you-see-it/now-you-don't, now-you-see-it/now-you-don't, now-you-see-it/now-you-don't. It is that contrast that presents the sensation of there being anything at all.
Now, in light and sound the waves are extraordinarily rapid so that we don't hear or see the interval between them. But there are other circumstances in which the waves are extraordinarily slow, as in the alternation of day and night, light and darkness, and the much vaster alternations of life and death. But these alternations are just as necessary to the being of the universe as in the very fast motions of light and sound, and in the sense of solid contact when it's going so rapidly that we notice only continuity or the is side. We ignore the intervention of the isn't side, but it's there just the same, just as there are vast spaces within the very heart of the atom.
Another thing that goes along with all this is that it's perfectly obvious that the universe is a system which is aware of itself. In other words, we, as living organisms, are forms of the energy of the universe just as much as the stars and the galaxies, and, through our sense organs, this system of energy becomes aware of itself.
But to understand this we must again relate back to our basic contrast between on and off, something and nothing, which is that the aspect of the universe which is aware of itself, which does the awaring, does not see itself. In other words, you can't look at your eyes with your eyes. You can't observe yourself in the act of observing. You can't touch the tip of a finger with the tip of the same finger no matter how hard you try. Therefore, there is on the reverse side of all observation a blank spot; for example, behind your eyes from the point of view of your eyes. However you look around there is blankness behind them. That's unknown. That's the part of the universe which does not see itself because it is seeing.
We always get this division of experience into one-half known, one-half unknown. We would like to know, if we could, this always unknown. If we examine the brain and the structure of the nerves behind the eyes, we're always looking at somebody else's brain. We're never able to look at our own brain at the same time we're investigating somebody else's brain.
So there is always this blank side of experience. What I'm suggesting is that the blank side of experience has the same relationship to the conscious side as the off principle of vibration has to the on principle. There's a fundamental division. The Chinese call them the yang, the positive side, and the yin, the negative side. This corresponds to the idea of one and zero. All numbers can be made of one and zero as in the binary system of numbers which is used for computers.
And so it's all made up of off and on, and conscious and unconscious. But the unconscious is the part of experience which is doing consciousness, just as the trough manifests the wave, the space manifests the solid, the background manifests the figure. And so all that side of life which you call unconscious, unknown, impenetrable, is unconscious, unknown, impenetrable because it's really you. In other words, the deepest you is the nothing side, is the side which you don't know.
So, don't be afraid of nothing. I could say, "There's nothing in nothing to be afraid of." But people in our culture are terrified of nothing. They're terrified of death; they are uneasy about sleep, because they think it's a waste of time. They have a lurking fear in the back of their minds that the universe is eventually going to run down and end in nothing, and it will all be forgotten, buried and dead. But this is a completely unreasonable fear, because it is just precisely this nothing which is always the source of something.
Think once again of the image of clarity, crystal clear. Nothing is what brings something into focus. This nothing, symbolized by the crystal, is your own eyeball, your own consciousness.
There are many engaging videos recording Watts’ brilliant lectures. Below is a sample on YouTube
Watts wrote prolifically. A few of his more notable books include: Behold the Spirit (1947), The Way of Zen )1957), Tao: The Watercourse Way (1975).
If what Watts writes above seems too abstract, the following excerpts from Chapter Eight of Elysium’s Passage: The Ascent, might help illustrate some of his concepts. In these selections, the characters discuss the concept of Nothingness and what was the meaning of a voice that said nothingness three times in a mountain meadow in the middle of the night.
The question for James, the protagonist, is what to make of hearing a strange voice that came to him in the middle of the night while camping in the mountains.
I, too, wonder about this since, coincidently, the thing happened to me… at the same time, in the same place. Hence, the characters try to help us understand why this enigmatic voice said ‘nothingness’ three times out of thin air. James still isn’t sure, nor am I.
‘--- a most extraordinary event, I said, ‘occurred to me a couple of months later.’
‘Would you like to tell us about it?’ Eli asked.
‘Of course, since you’re probably the only ones I could share this with who might believe me.’
‘Then carry on,’ he said.
‘It all happened while I was camping alone in a tranquil alpine meadow not far from the mountain resort of Banff in Canada. Astonishingly, in the middle of the night, as I was soundly sleeping under the stars, a voice in the air woke me, saying only one word: nothingness. Then again, over the next minute or two, I heard the voice say nothingness twice more. It was clear as a bell. By the last time, I was startled and fully awake, wondering what might happen next. I asked aloud: “Now that you’ve got my attention, what’s that supposed to mean?” I didn’t receive an answer then, nor have I since.
‘The voice was extraordinary, definitely out there since I’m not even remotely psychic. It was some time before I could fall asleep again, wondering who and what that was and why it was speaking to me.
‘For years after, I continued to think about this encounter until I put it out of my mind, although, not entirely. Since my profession trained me to be sceptical of any phenomena that can’t be rationally explained, I sought a logical explanation for my paranormal experience. Still, I never was able to explain it. Finally, I rationalised it as being some neurological quirk in my brain triggered by my Rocky Mountain high.’
‘As a philosopher, what did you have to say about that now?’ he asked.
‘I had no explanation so didn’t say anything. It’s not the kind of thing you mention if you hope to earn your graduate degree. It was one of those inexplicable encounters you simply bracket out of your belief files because there is no file for something that doesn’t make sense. I mean: Nothingness, what kind of message is that?’
‘This voice must have been hard for you to dismiss.’
‘It was; had I been doing some peyote that night it might have explained everything. However, the only thing I was high on that day was nature. Over the years, I occasionally thought about the message, though I could never come up with an explanation. Finally, I gave up and told myself it all had to be in my head. After all, I had become an inveterate sceptic and couldn’t be bothered with answers. Can you imagine me writing about that incident for American Skeptic magazine?’
‘You now need to help build a much larger box for your scepticism,’ Eli said, ‘so you won’t bracket out all the mysteries that will occur to you here. It’s not possible for you to fit everything into your old tattered, worn box of stale beliefs. You might soon find even more exotic occurrences coming your way that will require an even larger container.
‘That’s why the first thing we’re going to need to do is to kick out all the walls… clear out of sight! You’re going to need lots and lots of space to put everything while you remain here. Although, that might not be a good illustration since infinity is too big to be about things: it’s more about no-thing-ness, just as the voice was telling you that night.
‘Things don’t manifest from things; instead, they emanate from a prior thought-form, which might ultimately be ascribed to the Source. Yeshua knew this. Quite appropriately, he called the Source our Father in heaven.’
‘Eli’s right, there’s much more to no-thing-ness than you can imagine,’ Mo said. ‘Infinity is a rather large zone to expand your mind. In fact, it’s impossible to do; still, it’s worth trying if it reminds you how vast your consciousness remains. We’ll do all we can to help you clear your mind of some of the limitations of things that keep you from understanding the true no-thing nature of the Omniverse.’
‘That sounds a bit ironic, doesn’t it?’ I asked. ‘At once, no-thing, and yet everything.’
‘Only because of what you think you know,’ Mo said. ‘Even after years of struggling in the halls of linear scholarship, you will require plenty more deprogramming. It will be necessary for you to clear out all the intellectual clutter that obstructs your understanding.
‘We recognise it’s not all clutter; in fact, much of what you acquired were the analytical skills necessary to sharpen your mind’s acuity, helping you sort through what’s real and what’s bogus. This awareness will serve you well in the future.
‘What you keep saying sounds very much like what’s found in the ancient Vedantic writings,’ I said, ‘not that I’ve actually studied them.’
‘You are correct; what we say sounds much like them,’ Mo said. ‘I ought to know since I studied the Vedas for years while in my mortal body. Most of your ancient sacred texts found and uncovered in Egypt, Tibet and other areas of the world speak of the non-material void, much like the voice spoke nothingness out of the nothingness.
‘Much of this literature implies that when you begin to understand the concept of emptiness, you will understand the inverse nature of everything that remains implicit within the unmanifested dreams of infinity. It’s not so much a contradiction of what’s on the lower linear level; instead, what’s on a higher intuited level, as with a Zen koan.’
‘So, what you seem to be saying is that out of the Infinite Void of nothing comes all thought that leads to the manifestation of everything that is – everything that will be and everything that can be.’
‘That sums it up very well, James. You’re catching on quickly,’ Eli said.
‘Indeed, he is,’ Mo said. ‘Let me also add; nothing outwardly exists that doesn’t ultimately come from within the Source’s divine vortex. As I mentioned, this understanding is not limited to ancient Eastern traditions; some of our earliest literature inferred the same cosmology in the Genesis creation myth: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep – and God said, “let there be light...
‘Therefore, it is out of the void, out of the nothingness; we experience reality as we do. When taken literally, creation may appear as an actual historical event in linear time when everything unfolded in seven days or epochs.
‘In truth, creation out of nothingness is an ongoing state of essence that continues to outwardly manifest from within. As within, so without. That’s why the existential philosophers of our day that believe existence proceeds essence have it backwards.’
‘From what you seem to be saying, nothingness is a black hole, or void, from which all emerge ex nihilo just as the voice spoke: nothingness, nothingness, nothingness.’
‘That should have been your first clue,’ Eli said, ‘so it’s no wonder you found yourself attracted to Berkeley’s writings shortly after your camping experience. It seems something or someone out there was tipping you off that life wasn’t about things. Instead, it had to do with the infinite void out of which universes manifest, collapse, only to be reformulated by another divine Thought transcending the expressions of space and time.
 Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
 The Merriam-Webster definition of a koan is a paradox to be meditated upon that's used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.
Genesis 1:1-3 (KJV)
The complete chapter is available on this blog site at
QUOTES ON NOTHINGNESS
God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through. Paul Valery
Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being. Jean-Paul Sartre in Being and Nothingness
In nothingness, there is everything, energy. The ending is a beginning. Jiddu Krishnamurti
Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God. A Course in Miracles (Introduction)
All and Nothing. It is the tension of individuation, a tension that has existed since the beginning of time, between time and eternity. A Course of Love, 39.38
SUMMARY OF ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE NOVEL SERIES
This is a series of seven Elysium Passager novels regarding a young British philosopher named James Phillips, who finds himself living in an altered state of reality while still remaining on earth.
After experiencing a near-fatal fall while climbing to the summit of a remote mountain in the Andes, James awakens in a new dimension. He soon encounters two mysterious beings who provide him with a very different perspective on the nature of his existence. Over the next year, before his body recovers from the coma, he is challenged to re-examine his understanding of life’s meaning and purpose far beyond anything he previously believed or could believe.
An engaging and sometimes surreal adventure with intimations of impending romance, the narrative explores the most important questions about life, death, reality, and our ultimate destiny.
The Plains of Elysium (Champs-Élysées) was described by Homer, Hesiod, Virgil, and many other poets as the paradisiac afterlife realm reserved for heroes. As the title suggests, this is about a journey through a passage that leads towards Elysium’s exciting realm of adventures.
To read a sample press review at https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/05/prweb15515775.htm
ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: READER REVIEWS
The following comments are excerpts from among the first readers, including a number of Amazon five star reviews. To read the full reviews, go to READER REVIEWS on www.elysiumspassage.com or directly at https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/reader-reviews
"A delightful mix of fantasy, reality, conjecture, and humour; Mr Meyers draws the reader into the story with a gentle narrative that captures the imagination, leaving one anxious to get to the next page drawing you into his exceptional world.”
"Quietly, gently, and without imposition, the Author unfolds the pages, creating an intricate, interlocking bridge spanning the chasm between mind and heart. Renewing, refreshing, restoring. In my bereavement, it was vigil and light…."
“Excellently written with an exceedingly deep understanding of this world and the next. The characters are very well written and engaging. I can't wait to complete this book!"
“Takes the reader on both a philosophical and spiritual journey, a journey that at times is both disquieting and tranquil. James, a British Philosopher, can be irreverent and caustic, traits that should have left me cringing but instead made me laugh out loud. Elysium’s Passage is a fun, enlightening and remarkable book.”
“This is a masterful fantasy, becoming a real possibility, as the reader is drawn into the story. The Summit leaves you anxious for the next book in the series, yet also leaves you totally satisfied with the world you have just visited. Genius! An exciting yet calming experience that is not to be missed."
"There was hardly a page on which I did not find at least one sentence worthy of hi-lighting for future reference. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed the main character, James, whose personality and passionate verbal exchanges with the other characters kept me coming back for more. I am reading the book for a second time while I wait for the next one in this series to be made available."
“N.G. Meyers has clearly put a great deal of research and thought into what the afterlife may look like, and I like his perspective. It’s an altogether welcoming and exciting vision. The book gives one a great deal to think about and a reassuring confidence that the end of our lives is truly the beginning of life in the next. I highly recommend it."
"I am really enjoying your book, it’s fantastic! It is so incredible and diversified that I can’t really explain it to other people, so what I say is just read this book. Thank you so much for the blessings that you’ve given the world!"
“The humour interjected into a serious discussion makes me laugh out loud. Totally unexpected....l may be in the presence of at least a master, if not a genius. A fair ride into reality... seeking that which is unseen, yet absolutely real.”
“An engaging story of adventure embracing man's deepest desire to search for meaning and purpose, N.G. Meyers takes the reader on an adventurous, thought-provoking journey. This book has substance. It is a perfect blend of adventure and fantasy combined with spiritual philosophy. It ignited my imagination. The author magically weaves a good story laced with wit and humour together with deep philosophical wisdom. This book has it all!”
“An evolution in thought is triggered by many fresh philosophical themes which could inspire readers to re-think their reality and former ideologies that have dictated their lives… the author fires readers’ imaginations to view what could be possible when spirit vacates the body.”
“This is the book spiritual seekers have been waiting for. For me, it granted a great read as well as increased inspiration to live every day with a heightened sense of purpose. I highly recommend it.
“The Summit is capable of hooking readers and luring them to search for Book 2 to discover more about Dr Philip’s surreal trek into the mysterious unknown universe. This thick book is well worth the read and to share…”
“Mind-blowing statements and speculation (‘…everyone is a non-physical thought form conceived in the Mind of God, preserved for all eternity because God’s thoughts never die…’). Many will find Meyers’ journey up the Mountain intriguing—and possibly even life-changing.” (BLUEINK REVIEW)
“In its effort to grapple with fundamental questions about the meaning of life, it raises questions that have echoed throughout the ages, including about where we come from, where we are going, who we are.” (CLARION REVIEW)
PENDING PUBLICATIONS IN THE SERIES
The following titles in the Elysium's Passage series are projected to be released sometime in 2024