Updated: Sep 12
In this post, I first focus on one aspect: how existence - gOd - emerges from emptiness in the flow of expression:
Put differently - how does something come from nothing?
After laying out my theory relativ , I address three related questions:
(1) what is dualism?
(2) what are good & evil, & why do they exist?
(3) why do we suffer, & how does suffering end?
How does existence emerge out of emptiness?
Concentration. Concentration disturbs the utter harmony of emptiness & generates the outpouring we call existence. Concentration is the source through which emptiness manifests into gOd. (Coincidentally, the Upanishads are in accord with this claim.)
In emptiness, all & each exist in utter harmony with each & all. Each is so utterly harmonized with each that they distill into nothing at all. It's like water that has evaporated, except the evaporation is so utter that not even vapor remains.
To illustrate this, I'll use the alphabet.
Imagine that emptiness consists of 9 aspects: the first 9 letters of the English alphabet - A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I.
Let this graphic represent that A & B are in complete harmony with each other:
image credit (infinity symbol): https://freesvg.org/infinity-symbol-silhouette
The harmony between A & B is so complete that A & B no longer exist as distinct entities. Their harmonic resonance is so perfect that A & B distill into nothing at all. They exist simply as a relationship, a harmonic dance so absolute that the dancers cannot be distinguished from the dance. In this state, A & B exist only as the potential to be A & B.
Now, let's expand this example to include the other 7 letters. In emptiness, A is in complete harmony not only with B, but with the other 7 letters as well:
This dynamic applies not only to A, but to each other letter as well. The same graphic above could be modified to place B at the center, to place A where B is, and to keep all other letters in the same position:
This pattern continues through all the letters, resulting in a series of interlocking infinity symbols connecting each letter to each other letter, symbolizing the harmony of each letter with each other letter. (This framing reminds me of the ancient teaching of Indra's web.)
In this state of utter harmony, no letter exists. Instead, within the harmony lies the potential for each letter to exist. So long as the harmony remains undisturbed, all & each abide in emptiness as pure, unrealized potential. Only when the harmony is disturbed does the potential become actualized. The actualization of this potential is existence, aka gOd.
Concentration is how the harmony is disturbed. Consider these 3 analogies to water:
Analogy 1: pure water vapor cannot form clouds. Clouds will not form from pure water vapor. The vapor particles don't have anything to cling onto, & they cannot cling onto each other. So they just drift around each other, forming no superstructure. However, if we introduce a suitable object, a cloud will form. A suitable object may be a speck of dust, a miniscule bit of soot, or some other aerosol particle. The water vapor particles cling to the object (called a "cloud condensation nuclei") & condense with each other, forming the base structure of clouds. Concentration is like the condensation nuclei: it provides the disturbance - the source of tension - emptiness needs to express particularity.
Analogy 2: heated water won't boil without disturbance: Even when heated above its standard boiling point, water will not boil without a disturbance. The water temperature will rise, but the boiling process will not begin. To boil, there must be a disturbance in the water, called a "nucleation site." The nucleation site is where enough water molecules can aggregate to form the bubbles that drive boiling. In tap water, impurities in the water serve as nucleation sites, causing water to boil at its usual temperature of 100 degrees celsius / 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. Water with all impurities removed will not boil until it reaches a much higher temperature, and even then, it boils only because the motion of its own molecules eventually constitutes a sufficient disturbance to create nucleation sites & trigger boiling. Without disturbance, water won't boil. Concentration is like the nucleation site: it provides the disturbance - the source of tension - emptiness needs to express particularity.
Analogy 3: the ocean will not form waves without disturbance: Imagine the ocean utterly undisturbed. No wind. No seismic activity. No icebergs calving, no rockslides crashing in, no volcanic eruptions. No creatures swimming within it, no creatures diving into it. No gravitational tugs from the sun or moon. The ocean would be perfectly still. It would not have any waves, or even any ripples. Its surface would be featureless. Only through disturbance does the ocean form waves. Concentration is like a storm or an earthquake: it provides the disturbance - the source of tension - emptiness needs to express particularity.
In emptiness, concentration breaks the harmonic relationship between all aspects by focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of others. Emptiness is essentially one giant relationship consisting of the sub-relationships between each aspect & each other aspect. The perfect harmony of these relationship keeps the aspects unmanifested, unrealized. Like pure water vapor in the atmosphere: no cloud structures form because there is no disturbance - no source of tension - to break the perfect harmony & create particularity.
Concentration provides that disturbance.
Let's return to the image of A & B in harmony:
Concentrating upon A, with increasing tightness of focus, we lose sight of A's harmonic relationships with the other aspects of emptiness, & we begin to see A increasingly as a stand-alone entity - a thing unto itself.
Concentrating upon each aspect of emptiness, Oneness realizes each aspect into existence. These aspects are projected as the mind of gOd (time) & the body of gOd (space) to create the particular features of mental (spiritual) & physical (bodily) existence. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, & I emerge into reality as seemingly stand-alone entities thanks to the disturbances of concentration. Only by fixating on each, and thereby disregarding the rest, does Oneness generate the world.
What is duality & how does it form?
Duality is the mental paradigm governing typical human thought. Duality is the interdependency of opposites.
To truly know tall, we must know short. To truly know heavy, we must know light. To truly know cold, we must know hot.
We can experience tallness, heaviness, & coldness without having experienced their opposites. But we cannot fully understand what we typically mean by "tall," "heavy," & "cold" without also understanding what we typically mean by "short," "light," & "warm," because our standard meanings of these words include the assumption that each is not its opposite.
By "tall," I mean "not short." By "heavy," I mean "not light." By "cold," I mean "not hot." Dualism is this implicit assumption that each descriptor is not its opposite. Dualism bakes negation into definition.
Negation is a concept. It does not exist beyond the mind. Imagine a table with three fruits: a pear, a mango, & an orange. I remove the mango from view. Now it's a table with a pear & an orange. The mind may say, "it's a table without a mango," or "the mango is not there." Another mind may say, "that's right," or "I agree." Now we have two minds saying that there isn't a mango there.
But where is the negation in reality? There simply is what is: a table with an orange & a pear. The mind generates the sense of negation by contrasting what is - the table with a pear & an orange - with an alternate version of what is - the table with the pear, orange, & mango. In the space where it imagines a mango could be, the mind says there is not a mango. Really the mind is saying, "I can imagine a mango being there, but I perceive no mango there." It compresses this two-part recognition into a single statement: "a mango is not there." Because fellow dualistic minds agree with these claims, the claims seem like an objective description of physical reality, when really, it's a subjective description of a shared state of mind.
Put succinctly: "not" is; not is not.
Oneness generates the sense of negation by concentrating upon negative concepts in emptiness: concepts such as "notness," & "elseness." In emptiness, these negative concepts exist in harmony with each & all, including their conceptual opposites: notness is in harmony is isness, & elseness is in harmony with sameness.
Concentration upon notness & elseness causes notness & elseness to exist as aspects of mental reality. Focusing upon notness & elseness makes them real to the mind. The mind then projects notness & elseness onto physical reality. Holding an apple in hand, one may say the hand is me and the apple is something "else;"the hand is me but the apple is "not" me. Or, one may look at the hand on the end of the arm and say the arm is more me than the hand is; the hand is more something "else," something more "not" me, than the arm is. And likewise with the arm to the torso: I am more torso than arm, the arm is more like something "else" than the torso is. Going back to the first example, with the apple in hand, one may say there is "not" a banana in hand, that what's in hand is something "else," something other than a banana.
By conflating our conceptual description with what's described, we develop the honest-but-mistaken sense that notness & elseness are features of physical reality. This sense is reinforced by fellow minds who think & express accordingly.
Common sense claims I am I, and you is "else." I am I, and you are "not" I. This reflects the dualistic presumption that the definition of a term with a conceptual opposite must include the negation of that opposite - that "tall" must mean "not short," or otherwise you're not using "tall" correctly. From this dualistic paradigm we develop a deeply ingrained sense of a boundary between "I" and everything "else," between "I" and everything "not" I - a boundary we typically draw at the skin or thereabouts.
How might we glimpse beyond dualism? Return to the concepts "you" and "I." Dualism requires defining "you" as "not I." A more accurate statement would be that the concepts "I" & "you" are distinct, and the dualistic definition is one way to use "I" & "you," but there are other ways, too, including using "I" & "you" to indicate distinguishable perspectives - I am experiencing the world through my body, you are experiencing the world through yours - while at the same time acknowledging that "you" and "I" are ultimately one - that you and I are less like two octopuses & more like two tentacles dangling from the same octopus.
In other words, we can recognize "you" and "I" as linguistic acts undertaken for practical, social purposes, rather than as indicators of an absolute & ultimate separateness. In this way "you" and "I" are more like names we temporarily adopt for the sake of clarity. They help us keep track of who does what. But their conceptual distinctness does not necessarily reflect a fundamental separateness beyond form. The mistake of common sense is to take distinctions like "you" and "I" with an unwarranted absoluteness. Buying into the notion of "you" being "not I," I feel increasingly justified in breaking the golden rule & treating you differently than I'd wish to be treated in your shoes. I may feel justified in disregarding you, exploiting you, even abusing & killing you, on the basis that you are unlike me in some important way, that you are something "else" in a way that's alien, corrupted, or otherwise wrong & bad. In this way, dualism provides avenues for the expression of evil.
What are good & evil, & why do they exist?
"The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong" - C.G. Jung
"I am time, the destroyer of all; I have come to consume the world." - The Bhagavad Gita
Good & evil are the fundamental forces sustaining existence.
Good is what recognizes all is one, & that all is therefore equally deserving of regard, respect, & compassion.
Evil is what claims all is separate, & that some are more deserving of regard, respect, & compassion than others.
Good is a harmonizing force: it recognizes the harmonic relationship between each thing & each other thing. It recognizes the fundamental Oneness behind all apparent separateness. Good is remembering that all is gOd, all is One.
If there were only good and no evil, universal harmony would be recognized without impediment. Reality would cease instantaneously & return to a state of emptiness, a state of sheer & utter harmony. gOd would, per Nietzsche, die. To elaborate: gOd would be born, behold the entirety as gOd, & harmoniously evaporate back into nothing.
Evil is what keeps gOd existing. It does this by inhibiting gOd's ability to remember that all is gOd, that all is One. Evil is the forgetting that allows gOd to experience existence.
Returning to the earlier examples of A & B, we can say that this graphic represents the eyes of goodness:
Seeing A & B this way, goodness - gOd without forgetting - instantly unparticularizes A & B, returning them to their utterly harmonized state in emptiness. Likewise, for the other 7 letters:
In this way, the eye of gOd is the harmonious destroyer of the universe.
Goodness is superior to evil in that goodness recognizes something evil doesn't: the fundamental harmony & Oneness underlying all existence. In this way, goodness is more virtuous & wise than evil.
Evil is superior to goodness in that evil enables something goodness cannot: the ability to believe in separateness. Indeed, without this ability, we could not exist at all. In this way, evil is more practical & functional than good.
We may think of the universe as the dance of good & evil. Good recognizes Oneness and thereby generates harmony. Evil impedes this recognition & thereby generates disharmony. Oneness - the loving band playing the mysterious music - keeps good & evil moving together in a balance calibrated to sustain the unfolding of time. Evil is agent that allows the unfolding reaction of the universe to continue. Once evil is fully recognized as Oneness, the universe ceases, and all returns harmonoiusly to nothing at all.
Evil is like a rodeo clown dancing around the bull of good. If the bull stood still & slowed down, it would remember Oneness & eliminate the universe back to emptiness. By keeping the bull distracted, busy, & preoccupied, the rodeo clown of evil allows existence to continue. The end of the universe is the rodeo clown and the bull locking eyes in a state of stillness & silence. In that gaze, the bull recognizes the clown as gOd, as Oneness, and the bull and the clown return to their unrealized state in the pure potential of emptiness:
Evil deploys cleverness to keep good in a state of dazed & distracted forgetting. Evil emphasizes negative concepts like separateness, notness, elseness, otherness, etc., making them seem like absolutes, like states of nature rather than just states of mind. The evil in us gets us to buy into the notion that you are not me, and then convinces us to draw distinctions justifying why I treat you better or worse than I treat me, or why I treat you better or worse than I'd honestly wish to be treated if I were in your shoes. Skin color, gender & gender identity, tribal affiliation, political party, age, hairstyle, popularity, talent, body size - evil fixates on distinctions as bases for positive & negative prejudices, & then uses those prejudices to keep us distracted from the ultimate truth: that beyond our separate perspectives we are truly one, and whatever I do to you I truly do to myself, and vice versa.
Evil doesn't just work between individuals. It works within individuals as well. (Indeed, it is evil that allows us to take the very notion of individuality seriously!) Evil invites us to divide ourselves into the acceptable & the unacceptable, the good & the bad, the right & the wrong. Those parts of ourselves that are deemed worthy get promoted as "mine" and "me," while the other parts of ourselves get relegated to shadow, to the dungeons of disregard & denial, to the dank, dark, & creeky cellar of"not mine" & "not me." Evil reframes separateness not merely as a concept & a social convention but as an objective & inescapable feature of reality. Buying into the absoluteness of separateness, we become susceptible to the assortment of lies & twisted truths that drive evil action.
One of evil's cleverest deceptions is getting us to hate evil itself. Evil delights in this game.
In Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine lured Jedi to the dark side by inviting the Jedi to concentrate on their hatred for the dark side. The more intensely the Jedi identified with their hatred for the dark side, the more they'd be pulled into the dark side - being anti-dark side is a gateway to dark-sidedness. Similarly, evil tricks us into thinking that hating evil is good. This has a specious appeal - if evil is the opposite of good, then being anti-evil is being pro-good, right?
The truth is, good & evil aren't really opposites. That's a merely dualistic framing. Goodness recognizes both good & evil as equally & utterly Oneness. Goodness is not opposed to evil; to the contrary, good seeks communion with evil so that evil can be recognized as Oneness & thereby reharmonized with the whole. Likewise, evil is not opposed to goodness so much as opposed to the recognition of Oneness. And it opposes this recognition for the practical purpose of allowing existence to remain in its manifest state. Evil is the diversion preventing gOd from destroying reality into nothingness.
From this perspective, we can recognize good as kinda evil - after all, it's trying to swallow reality into the void! And we can recognize evil as kinda good - after all, it's trying to keep reality existent. And evil, for all the terribleness it breeds, is also the source of all entertainment, humor, suspense, diversity, richness, & excitement in life. Without a convincing sense of separateness, we wouldn't experience the unexpectedness & uncertainty that make thrills, relief, intimacy, suspense, humor, wonder, & ecstasy possible.
Gratitude for evil is perhaps the ultimate expression of goodness.
Winking at goodness is perhaps the ultimate expression of evil.
Appreciating the good & evil within us is perhaps the ultimate expression of humanity.
Why do we suffer, & how does suffering end?
We suffer because of contradiction within. Suffering ends when contradiction within resolves.
The fundamental contradiction is the belief is that what is happening should not be happening, and that something else should be happening instead.
What is happening is already happening. .
Within, we have a belief that certain things should not happen, and therefore should not be happening. People should not do x - especially not to me! I shouldn't feel this way. I shouldn't think this way. The weather should not be this way. The omelette I ordered shouldn't look this way. My car shouldn't be running out of gas. Indulging negative beliefs, we feel & think accordingly. We feel outrage, contempt, frustration, impatience, victimized. We think how could they, how dare he, you must be kidding me.
This negative (anti-reality) thinking builds a momentum of its own, generating cyclones of thought & feeling that consume us in confusion. Our reasonable minds struggle to reconcile the obvious contradiction - how can something both have happened & shouldn't have happened? Hasn't it already happened? This reasonable inquiry is buried in avalanches of insistent negativity. The negativity dominates our thoughts & feelings so thoroughly that the reasonable inquiry becomes a barely audible murmur beneath the torrent. We keep buying into the negativity because it seems like a force of nature serving our interests. Not realizing that the more we buy in, the deeper we bury the liberating rationality streaming steadily & uninsistently from our hearts, and the more entranced we become with the dynamism and elaborateness and mysterious allure of the anti-.
Suffering is the unpleasant sensation produced by falsehood rubbing against truth. We are truth, to the very core of us. We are reality. We are Oneness expressing itself into form. As we cling to anti-reality thoughts & beliefs, we generate contradictions within us. We abide simultaneously as the truth and as what dislikes the truth. This unwitting self-contempt feels like deeply tangled knots of emotional pain:
These knots clog us the way icebergs clog a shipping lane or landmines clog a meadow. They impede the natural flow of energy & information through our bodies & minds, resulting in bodily pain & mental confusion. We struggle to accept & enjoy reality because we continuously object to its unfolding. We reflexively begrudge what is, not realizing that the begrudging arises not as rational or wise response to what's occuring, but as a reactive expression of entrenched negative energy. Entranced by the sheer power & specious reasoning of the anti-, we buy into non-sense, eventually reaching the point where we identify as our non-sense. We think of ourselves not as beings in an unfolding present moment, but as agents righteously opposed to whatever aspect of reality happens to be triggering us at that particular moment. Not realizing that evil has twisted us around its finger and is playing us against our very selves.
The resolution of contradictions within - and thereby of suffering within - comes through the graces of recognition & decognition.
Cognition is thinking what we already believe. It's the past reliving itself in the present. A ghost haunting a body. Hearing that the cause of our emotional suffering is indulding negative thinking, our cognition says - easy, just stop thinking negatively. Not realizing that this itself is a negative thought! That problematizing negative thinking is a bottomlessly silly notion that appeals to us only in the blindness of our urgency, seriousness, & certainty. We cannot recognize what the child within us is calmly stating from the heart - this emperor has no clothes.
Recognition is the first saving grace. We recognize ourselves buying into negative thinking. We recognize we are currently indulding the anti-. This instant of recognition momentarily creates space for reflection & choice.
Decognition is the second saving grace. Decognition is allowing attention to move from the anti- to the real. From the cyclones of negative thoughts & feelings to the simple unfolding of reality in, through, and around us. Feeling the heart beating. Sensing the breath flowing. Observing the tree dancing in the breeze. Wiggling our toes.
Recognition & decognition shift our attention from the runaway momentum of negativity toward what is. Being cognition addicts, this is our act of sobriety. Being reality, this is reconnecting with ourselves. Being truth, this is coming home.
The more this occurs, the more the knots within us begin to resolve. We don't heal the knots by battling them or trying to fix them. We heal them by allowing grace to reach them.
Sensing this virtuous pattern, cognition coils around grace and tries to turn it into a program, a formula, a method. Instead of recognizing & decognizing spontaneously in the flow of reality, we try to force ourselves to recognize & decognize. Which means objecting to when we're not recognizing & decognizing, and clinging to the experience of recognizing & decognizing. Cognition thus becomes anti-cognition. The snake thus swallows more of its own tail.
And yet, we buy in. For the same reasons as always: doing so feels right(ish) and vibes with beliefs deep within us. We tell ourselves we're skillfully addressing our suffering because we're doing the right things: recognizing & decognizing. Not appreciating that the very acts of trying to recognize & decognize are themselves cognitive. That our insistence & certainty are what block the healing flow of grace.
In our wisdom, fitfully, we learn to allow the coming & going of grace. We trust time & wisdom to do their work. We recognize this eddy of truth:
taking issue with occurrence
is the root of all emotional suffering
and is occurrence
We stub our toe. Pain.
We object to the fact that our toe has been painfully stubbed. Suffering.
We object to the fact that we're objecting to the fact that... Suffering.
At some point, recognition kicks in - ah.
At some point, decognition kicks in - so.
At some point, cognition kicks in - yes...no...yes...no...
At some point, our bull and clown lock eyes in stillness & silence, and as their gazes merge into one, we awaken free from our self-generated troubles.