Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Too much of nothing

I always felt a lot of curiosity about the apparent world I lived in, but was never even offered the idea of a Creator god as a child  (although I knew from school that many people did choose to believe something that odd).

It seemed clear to me that Universe had no beginning or end that we could perceive, and I discovered the lovely word ‘infinite’ along with all the paradoxes inherent in it.

 Once you get into the self-referential, bootstrap theory, mutually arising phenomena, and all that – your attention naturally gets drawn to the field within which all this supposed activity goes on – Nothingness, the Void, the Ether, the Plenum, the Tao.

"Tao gives birth to one,

One gives birth to two,

Two gives birth to three,

Three gives birth to ten thousand beings.”


Whatever you call it can never come close, because definitions (by definition) draw a line (an outline) around something.  Attempts were made to use the negative “Neti Neti” (Not this, not this) but it didn’t help me much to imply an Absence rather than a Presence.  Nagarjuna applied recursive logic to this problem…

So when I stumbled over The Laws of Form, the book rang bells in my head, even if I don’t really understand advanced maths and symbolic logic, etc.  The second half of the book does attempt to put the formulae into natural English, clearly enough, at least, for me to get just a glimpse of what a profound attempt to describe ‘things and events’ can emerge out of nothing spontaneously (or something like that).

 G Spencer Brown starts from the first step of “Making A Distinction” on the blank field.  For argument’s sake we will use a circle, which divides the space into an inside and an outside.

 

"The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or cut apart.”


 
A curiously similar phrase turns up in Zen

“If there's even a hair’s breadth of difference, heaven and earth are clearly separated. How do you understand this?"   Hsin Hsin Ming

 

 Sengcan said, "The supreme Way is without difficulty – it is only averse to discrimination."
 

If you want to play with the ideas found in G Spencer Brown's enigmatic book, the Markability site offers not only clarification, but interactive tools and exercises to really understand.

 
 
There's also a dedicated site for The Laws of Form that has links and information you may find interesting or stimulating.
 

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