Last night I began by reviewing two possible concepts of the nature of space. One: that it is simply an abstraction, and projected upon the physical world in rather the same way that we project measurements—lines of latitude and longitude or the cutting up of another abstraction called time into divisions like hours, minutes, and seconds, which are there only on the dial of the clock. The Earth, in its rotation, doesn’t tick. And time is, of course, seen thus; simply a measure of change, of the rate of change as between two changing processes. The changing process of the clock and the changing process of, say, a person running around. It is out of that relationship, in other words, that you get a concept of time. And similarly, through being able to measure distances in a similar way, you get a concept of space.


You see, this is one point of view: that it’s the an abstraction because force would be lent to this point of view by the fact that space itself isn’t really there. Space is just absence, and you must be very careful not—as Whitehead would have said—to reify; that is, to make a thing out of something that is isn’t there at all. Like saying, “Have an absinthe.” Oh boy! Gary Snyder invented a corporation. It was called the Null and Void Guarantee and Trust Company. And its slogan was “register your absence with us.” And so I had some business cards made up for him, which put at the bottom: Gary Snyder, Non-Representative


But this is, of course, Zen humor. Because Zen people are always joking about things not really being there at all. The general feeling of this being nobody at all—as distinct from being important and somebody—has a kind of inverse humor to it. One becomes a sort of bag of wind, and there’s something about that. The Zen masters call each other wind bags and rice bags, and things like that, because the whole idea of taking nothingness for real is somehow funny.


The other point of view that I was trying to contrast with this was rather different. And that is that, just because they are so imponderable and so un-get-at-able, space is you. Space is your consciousness. And your consciousness is not something located in your head—although your head is a way in which it’s focused. And therefore consciousness can be altered by a surgeon putting instruments into the brain. But the full range of consciousness, or the full range of the mind, is the entirety of space as the continuum in which the universe exists in rather much the same way as images exist in a mirror. Only here, there seems to be no solid mirror. There is an infinitely permeable continuum of space.


In a Chinese text called the Tánjīng—or the Platform Sutra—attributed to the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Huìnéng, he has the passage where he says that the mind is like the emptiness of space. Now, he says if you want to realize this, don’t exclude everything from your mind. Because if your mind is like space, space contains the Earth, and the stars, and the sun, the moon, and the mountains, and forests, good men and bad men, enlightened men and unenlightened men. Everything is in it. And so, if a person wants to attain an understanding of the mind merely by emptying his mind, he’s making his mind small instead of a great.


So you cannot, therefore, separate space from what it contains. Because without the content there is no container. Without the container, no content. And when you see that kind of relationship—when you see two apparently very different things going together inseparably, always find them together—you can smell a rat. For example, nobody has seen any stuff that had no shape, and nobody has ever seen a shape that had no stuff. There is a suspicion here, then, that stuff and shape are the same. And likewise, improbable as it may seem, you can realize that space and solid are the same. Only, they are, as it were, the same energy showing itself under two different aspects to a being who always must see things two-sidedly, which is man.


Man is symmetrical—almost, you see—right down this dividing line. Two sides to his brain, two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, a symmetrical mouth, two arms, two nipples, hips, legs. You see? All balancing except the heart is a little bit over to one side. But here he is, you see: this two-wayed thing. Man is like a Rorschach blot. He’s some mess that was squeezed, folded, and then you unfold it, and by Jove! It’s symmetrical. And it’s a very strange thing about that. You could make order out of almost any mess by symmetrizing it in various ways.


You know, there’s a gadget called a teleidoscope, which is a marriage between a kaleidoscope and a telescope. And you can look at things through it, and because it’s got mirrors inside of the 45 degree angle, they will balance the reflection in a circle, which is very elegant. And the more messy that you thing you look at, the more interesting it is with the teleidoscope. Because it is through this balancing process of some sort of symmetry that order comes about, repetition, regularity. So the human being, being thus two sided, is always wanting to ask, “Is you is or is you ain’t?” Is it this or is it that? Answer yes or no. True or false. Black or white. And has very different great difficulties. The more simpleminded the person is, the more difficulty they have in using their conscious attention to do anything but estimate these very simple contrasts between the good guys and bad guys. You man or you woman? There can be no doubt, see? There may be nothing vaguely in between:, no grays, no washes. Because a simple mind wants this great precision—which, of course, you can’t have.


But as poles—you see, one of the greatest dualities in the world is the duality of something and nothing. Of being and non-being. And, of course, in our thinking the solid-world represents existence and the space-world represents nonexistence. The conquest of space, therefore, will be the conquest of nonexistence, perhaps. See, this is our great attempt to survive by being able to leave this increasingly plundered planet, go somewhere else and plunder that. That’s the difference between mining and farming. Hunting and farming, too.


Well, so there’s this great contrast of reality considered as what’s in the space. That’s what’s there. And the space is simply what’s not there. But you can’t make it that simple because you’ve only got to think about one step to realize that you can’t have the recognition—or perhaps even the existence of what is there—unless there is also what is not. In other words, I wouldn’t be able to see you as moving human entities if you were all densely packed in some sort of material medium—like, say, jello,or milk or whatever—because then there would be no intervals between you to bring you out. You see?


Now, actually, space must—in this connection—for a moment be considered from the point of view of optics. The eye is receptive to a certain spectrum of vibrations of light. And therefore, where such vibrations are not being transmitted, the nerve ends are not stimulated, and therefore don’t report. And that failure to report is space. We call it darkness: where there is no visible light. But actually, there is nowhere in the universe where there is not some kind of vibration going on. So that if you had instrument that responded to it, you would see that space was full of impulses. And if you saw it all, you wouldn’t be able to make out the individual outlines which require these non-being intervals in order that their being can be realized. That is to say, outlined, distinguished, delineated. Discriminated. So to see the outline of the being, you must have the intervening space of the non-being. But non-being means simply, in this connection, the lack of stimulation of whatever perceptive or perceiving instrument you are using.


Now, for example, when you print a book, we say there is empty paper underneath the print. But, of course, it isn’t nothing under the print. It’s nothing so far as print is concerned, but something very much so far as white paper is concerned. Now, do you see, in the same way, perhaps it isn’t nothing in which we are living in moving. It’s only nothing so far as our visible shapes are concerned. But you could say this: that space is something of a quite different order than ordinary something. Ordinary something being the things and events which we say occupies space, just as the print occupies the paper.


But the philosophers—especially modern philosophers—have a great deal of trouble thinking about this. And the reason is that they are too one-sided in the kind of instruments they use for understanding the world. And the instrument they use principally is words and thought. Now, they have just as much trouble in thinking about the universe in terms of their words and thoughts and logical categories as you would have in a printed book, writing some words down which pointed directly to the paper underneath them.


Supposing I say, “There is paper underneath every word on this page.” Now, the philosopher—the type of logical positivist person who dominates American and British academic philosophy today—he would think that could only mean something if I wrote the sentence, “there is paper under every word on this page,” and then under each one of those words I wrote the word “paper,” “paper,” “paper,” “paper,” “paper.” Then he would say, “Yes that’s true.” But, you see, that isn’t the way it is. The difficulty is, you see, there is an incommensurability between the print and the paper. If we can stand outside that because we are diverse enough to realize that print is one process and paper is another, and they can be put together. But if you are immersed in the print, you can’t see the paper.


And so, if you’re immersed in the kind of consciousness which simply discriminates things, you cannot realize the background. That is to say, then, you cannot realize the nature of space when you use only your analytical consciousness—the consciousness which looks at things bit by bit by bit by bit, that I call the spotlight consciousness—if you use that alone, then you can’t think anything about the continuum, the ground in which all this flourishes.


But you may then go on to make a mistake if you’re not following me correctly. And this is the mistake, of course, that these kind of philosophers fall into. If I say, now, underneath all distinct things space constitutes the ground in which they live and move and have their being, this is not quite correct. Because, if I speak of space in that way, it makes it just another thing of the same kind and nature as all the things it contains. If, in other words, I can think about space—and I can only think about it by analogy, by likening it to paper, to a mirror, to a basis, a background—well, if I can think about it, that makes it a think; which is to say, a thing. All things are thinks. They’re as much of life as you can catch hold of in one thought. That means a think. So, likewise, in German: denken, “to think,” Ding, “thing.” In Latin, reor, “to think,” res, “thing.”


So if I make space into a think, I’ve somehow missed it. That’s why we have to say it’s a no-think. In Buddhism it is said the real nature of mind is no mind. And you realize this in daily life by the fact that, when you see clearly, you see everything except your eyes—except if there’s something wrong with your eyes and you see spots in front, you know? That interferes with seeing. If you hear clearly, you don’t hear your ears. But if you have ear trouble you get buzzing in your ears. Same way if you’re very healthy, physically, you hardly notice your body except as a kind of blissful vagueness, which is exhilarating and so on. And if your clothes are comfortable, you don’t notice them.


So this is connected with the nature of a beautifully functioning mind is that it doesn’t get its own way. It doesn’t think itself. If it thinks itself, it gets in its own a way because it’s a no-think. No-thinks is the background for thinks. See? So that’s why every attempt to conceptualize the ground of being—whether it’s space or God—is an idolatry. And that’s why sages have always condemned idolatry. To understand the nature of the the ground of being correctly you must not have an image of it.


Now, we don’t need to be compulsive about that. Compulsive iconoclasm is a terrible thing. The Islamic people suffered from it from time to time, and when they got to India they knocked down all the Buddhas and beautiful images and banged off their noses. And the Puritans did the same sort of thing to Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in England. They hated images. That meant, you see, they were terribly attached to them. They were still hung up by the images and therefore had to smash them. Either way, if you say: you must not—as in very strict orthodox Islamic culture—you must not make any image of any living creature. And so their art—very interestingly, one must admit—went off into abstract patterning.


But what one is saying here is not that it is somehow just wrong to make an image. The point is much deeper than that. It is this: that, in order to realize, in order to experience the ground of being, you need to be free from images. That is to say, you need to suspend the activity called thinking.


Now, most people imagine that, if they stop thinking, that’s sort of the end. The life of the mind instantly curls up and dies. But this isn’t the case, because there’s a lot more to the mind than thinking. There is this direct apprehension of the world, unmediated through concepts or thoughts. And that’s the kind of apprehension of the world you need to understand space.


It’s interesting how, to some extent, this sort of thing enters even into the sciences. Because scientists operate with certain, shall we say—it’s hard to say “concept”—with certain tools that are not concepts, really. We always feel about a concept that you have to know what it is. But, for example, the basis of algebra is operating with patterns. And you don’t know what they are. They’re called unknowns: X is the unknown. You can say X + Y = Y + X, and you made a perfectly clear statement. But you don’t have to know what X is or what Y is. Could mean anything at all.


So, in the same way, in in modern geometry: you don’t define what you mean by a point. They’ve abandoned this as a sort of a nonsense definition; Euclid’s idea that a point is that which has position but no magnitude. What do you mean, it has position? What has position? And so now, a point. Everybody knows what a point is. But you don’t explain it. Because, you see, there must be a starting point in anything that anybody does, and anything they think about, in any system of ideas, any conception of the good life, where you don’t explain it. Because everybody knows what it is. And yet, when you ask them about it, they don’t. And, you see, we get time and space. If you turn back on your starting point and say, “I will not go anywhere. I will not proceed with my geometry, with my investigation, with my business plans, until I am quite sure of my starting point.” You will never begin. Because you can go back into your starting point forever. And that manifests itself in people who, for example, have certain kinds of hypochondria. Their starting point is the body. They wonder. “My goodness! Ought I to go out? Would I catch cold? Would I get into an accident? Should I go to a foreign country? Would I get the great Siberian itch, or heebie jeebies, or trots, or whatever?” So, always worrying about the starting point forever. Now, are you quite sure that your premises are right? It’s always good to look at your premises. But you can very quickly come to the conclusion that, if you don’t have some premises, you won’t go anywhere at all. So, as one general once said: a poor plan of attack carried out with zest and determination is much better than an excellent plan carried out in a wobbling way.


So in this way—for example, in Japan I have no idea, really, about talking Japanese. I know lots of words and no grammar. Therefore, I have no compunction whatsoever about talking because I know it’s mistakes all over the place. And if I were nervous about it, as they get nervous about talking English, because they do desperately want to be correct, I have absolutely no desire to be correct because I know that, in my whole lifetime, I will never be able to speak correct Japanese. So I just plunge in and I get understood. And that’s the way you have to do it in life: you muddle through.


So if you keep turning back, you see, on the initial beginning point and trying to be sure of it, nothing will ever happen. So then, whatever is the point, whatever is the ground that we are and that we take our stand upon, appears to us as space, as not being there, to give us transparency.


You see, if God were visible, nobody could see anything but God. It would blot out everything else. But by virtue of becoming invisible, the world is created. Because, as it were, God gets out of the way so that the world can appear. And the world is a selection. As I explained, the eyes select what they see, because they are only noticing what goes on in a certain spectrum of light. If you could change the eyes’ spectrum altogether, you would see a different world of creatures. Flip, flip, flip: you could have the thing like a radio tuner, going from performance to performance, all on different bands of a spectrum. To see them all at once, though, would be (for our kind of intellect) like taking your hands like this across the piano and going slam. See? You just get this chaos of sound.


So that there being realized objects in space is partly dependent upon our using an attentive and selective type of consciousness. You see, they’re the same thing. If you have a selective consciousness, you have a selective world. So, putting down the five fingers on the piano—instead of the full, flat arm—selects a certain pattern of sound. And you can say it’s a chord, it’s a melody, and so on. So when the angels play their harps in heaven, they are selecting: they’re the fingers of God selecting what kind of patterns are appearing in the world, you see? That’s really what that image is about.


So then, to see this, then, you go back to no thinking. The suspension of thought is—for modern man in particular—a tremendously important undertaking. When, in about 1921, Ludwig Wittgenstein published a book called the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, it was the end of Western philosophy. Because where he finished, he said, you know, philosophy is really a method for getting rid of meaningless concepts. And so he practically got rid of all metaphysical concepts and ended up by saying, “Whereof one cannot speak, of that one should be silent.” This was the great moment for philosophy departments all over the Western world to lapse into silence and practice meditation. But instead, they had to go on talking. Because they couldn’t prove that they were an academic discipline unless they did some talking and especially some publishing. So they began, then, to chatter nauseatingly about trivialities. They became grammarians, mathematical logicians, and things. And everybody forgot about philosophy because it got so dull. It wasn’t expressing any more man’s fascination and wonder at the improbable situation of living in the universe.


But fortunately, things are at last getting through to people. And you would not be entirely laughed out of court in academic surroundings today if you suggested that some non-verbal research be carried on. You would have to put it rather carefully. You would have to refrain from calling it yoga, or Buddhism, or meditation, but it would be the sort of research in non-verbal sensory awareness, or something. You know, something out of academic gobbledygook. But it’s coming.


And this presents problems to people who are compulsive thinkers. Because when they try to reach this completely non-verbal level, they think about doing it. They think, “I’m trying to reach the nonverbal level. I’m trying to empty my mind of thoughts. I’m trying to think not-thinking.” And you feel so sorry for those people. But it is an awful problem if you have it. And to get rid of it, then, one uses gimmicks. One uses methods of absorbing the individual in non-conceptual experiences. Such as: you can play a single loud musical tone, and get that going, and it really shatters thinking. It just turns you into this—your whole body becomes this one tone. And you get the person concentrated on that one point, you see? Go, go, go, go! And zzzzip, cut it off. Then where are you? Haven’t had time to collect your thoughts. You’re blown by this tone. And all those techniques that are used in yoga—when they chant, when they do some kind of physical exercises, when they have a nonsense proposition like a kōan to concentrate on—all these things work in the same essential way: to suspend the analytical thinking, to suspend the spotlight mind for a while. So that you get back to what is called original mind, where you act without thinking.


That’s why, in the whole interchange between a Zen teacher and his students, the Zen teacher is constantly challenging the student to respond intelligently to a given situation without thinking, without stopping to think. Just as in, say, using Judo: you mustn’t stop to think. You’re lost if you do. You must learn to respond without thinking. So, creative skill in so many things depends upon the opposite of thinking. When you examine what people say, what inventors say, what artists say, what mathematicians say about the discovery of new ideas, very few of them arrived at those ideas by a purely thought, thinking, verbal or numerical process.


And the reason is, of course, that the structures which we have a arrived at and we do understand by analytical thinking—once you see them, they tend to stay put. They become habits. And there’s nothing more difficult to cure in an individual than a habit of thought. You know, I’ve argued for hours and hours and hours, sometimes, with people who simply can’t understand knowing without a knower. Because they are so trapped by sentence structure. The verb has to have that subject. Therefore, you can’t have a state of affairs in which there is just the verb—that is to say, knowing. They say, “Well, who is knowing?” And it’s as bad as arguing with a flat-Earthist or a Jehovah’s witness. Impossible! Because of the ruts of thought. And such a person can never be inventive. Why? Because he will never see a new pattern a new structure. And he won’t see one because he’s thinking all the time. He’s not open to the variations of the actual world. And so he can only see what he’s been taught to see.


That’s why academic psychology is always in a position of bafflement about learning theory. Because if learning is a process of converting new experience into the terms of what you’ve already learned, you never really learn all. It’s like, according to kind of a narrow-minded aerodynamics, bees cannot fly. There is no way of explaining the aerodynamics of that vibration. But it flies! And you often come up against this when an inventor has an idea, and all his colleagues say to him, “Oh, don’t be silly! You can’t do that. It just wouldn’t work.” Well, he says, “I’ve tried it and it does work.” Well, they say, “Come on.” And very often they won’t even try. They’ll just say it can’t be done. You can get a fantastic dogmatism in the scientific world. And you have to be terribly careful not to upset certain absolutely fundamental, strictly, prejudices, which are the result of thinking too much and of getting accustomed to the warm ruts of thought. And so you never could see the new.


So this is the real meaning of an open mind. Not merely that you’re a liberal sort of guy, but that you can turn off thoughts—and, yes, thus be turned on to reality. Thoughts, you see, belong to the world of symbols. What we experience with our senses is, of course, the physical world; the real world. You may ask me, “Well, isn’t there also a spiritual world?” But you must understand that the spiritual world is the same thing as the physical, when the physical is not confused with the symbolic. There is no real difference between the spiritual and the physical. It’s all one energy, all in one space. Now, you see, though, the difficulty is that, in saying something like, “It’s all one energy,” this is the really the point.


I mean, if you understand that this whole universe is one energy and you’re it, you don’t really have any much in the way of further problems. I mean, you have some few practical problems, like how to make a good table or a beautiful dress or whatever it is that you’re after. But you don’t have any more metaphysical problems when you see that. But a person who thinks a lot can’t understand that at all, because he says, “Well, it doesn’t make any difference. If everything is all one energy, let’s begin again. I mean, what have you said?” Of course, we haven’t said anything. Logically, the statement is pure nonsense. “Everything is one energy.” So What? But that’s only because the person who has received this communication has had it only as a thought. And as a thought it’s, again, like saying, “There is paper under every word on this page.” And thinking that that means “paper,” “paper,” “paper,” “paper.”


But when this is something that emerges from not-thinking, and when you see that you’ve been bamboozled. All your life long you’ve been bugged by everybody else into thinking that you are some kind of a freak that came into this world. And you don’t really belong here because, probably, your parents didn’t really want you, and certainly your brothers, older brothers and sisters didn’t want you around; you were eating up more. And in school they tell you, you know, you’ve got to learn that you’re not the only pebble on the beach and that, therefore, the best way of teaching you that is that you’re really rather insufferable around here, and you’re on probation until you are acceptable. Well, babies, they grow up, you see, with this treatment, feeling strangers. Feeling that the Earth is something alien.


And so we all have this feeling of being alone, of being impotent little puppets of a huge system going on. And so we are progressively fooled out of, really, with our own cooperation, fooled out of this sense that you can get if you suspend all these identifications that that one does with the thinking process. This is this, this is that, I’m me, what’s me is different from so on. You suspend that. And you see not simply that all those problems and all those definitions of who you are were unreal. There’s something else. You see, there is the feeling—beyond having dissipated the illusion—of the sheer joy and delight of this one energy now is realizing itself as you. And how nice that it won’t always be doing that, because that would get boring. It’ll go bwwllpp, like this, you see? And it will be a different situation altogether. You know, you’ll run into a brick wall and bwwllpp, before you know where you are, you’re going peep, peep, peep, peep out of an eggshell. Waaaah! The whole thing is flipped and you’re doing it on another track. But there’s only one you, you see? It’s all the one energy.


But this is, as I say, difficult to understand logically if you don’t understand it experimentally. If you understand it experimentally, it’s perfectly clear when somebody says everything is one energy. You say, “Of course!” But the person who’s stuck with the concepts and has nothing more than the concept simply can’t make any sense of it at all. And he says, “Well, you’re suffering from a hallucination.” And will proceed to prove, according to his ideas, that what you’ve achieved in that has made no difference to you or to anything else. Of course he can prove it. Because his proof is set up to give just that result.


Well then, I got into that at some length—the question of no thinking—because of trying to point out how one must avoid trying to understand space in such a way as to make it a thing. Like a box, you see, which contains all the objects in it. But a no-thing like space is at the same time in cahoots with things. They’re two aspects, two poles, two terms, of the same one energy. Don’t make space at the same pole of the one energy as the things. It’s the opposite pole.


It is, then, because of our treatment of space as nothing, you see, that we are afraid of death. We are afraid of that pole of experience, which is unconsciousness, that corresponds to space surrounding the world. And because we think that reality, that our life, that our identity, is entirely in the domain of consciousness and thingness and thinkableness, the other pole seems completely threatening. Whereas, of course, it is that on which it all depends. Because the two poles depend on each other. They energize each other.


So when you are scared of the non-being side of things, you are, as it were, frightened of your own mother. Now, of course, you may have reason to be, because there are such things as devouring mothers. But the devouring mother represents the original horror felt for the unknown. And in practice, in human relationships, the devouring type of mother is that precisely the person who cannot come to terms with her own unknown. Therefore, she wants to control everything: she wants to see that all the children remain perpetually under her dominance. Because she can’t let go. Because if she let go, you know, she would become uncorseted and flop all over the place, as it were. So she becomes the devourer.


But you always conquer the devourer by dropping into it. By faith, in other words. Faith in the sense of trust. I don’t mean belief. Trust. Drop into space and you float. See, this only begins to be understood by rocket people as they get out there. And we’re going to have—I don’t know how the psychology of this is proceeding—but we’re going to have an awful lot of people getting out in space and not wanting to come back. Because when you’re in orbit and you float—very interesting sensation. And they have to follow very strict rules. The same way you do with skin diving. When you get to a certain level of pressure, you start floating and you feel no body weight. And you have to absolutely keep your will going. When the watch says a certain thing, up you go. Orders is orders, see? Otherwise you’ll drown—in great delight and bliss.


So the point is, though, that we are at the moment looking at space as something to be entered by the tremendous thrust of a rocket. Because that is the attitude of attacking the unknown. And that causes us not to realize that we are already on the most magnificently equipped spaceship which could hardly be improved upon. It has got a source of temperature and energy just at the right distance from it. It’s beautifully equipped with oxygen, with food supplies, with all kinds of delightful things to do while on the journey. And it’s traveling through space at a colossal speed. And it’s called the planet Earth. The art of exploring from the planet Earth depends not on conquering space with rockets and bombs, but on developing greater sensitivity in the place where we are. Lao Tzu said, “Without going out of my house, I know the whole universe.”


Clumsy beginnings of this sensitivity are seen in radio astronomy which, instead of trying to leap out of the world, it stays here and gets more sensitive. And eventually, I feel, that we shall discover each one of us have inside our heads a radio astronomical contraption of great subtlety. And we shall eventually, the more we use instruments, we shall begin to watch a process which I will call etherealization. What at present we call miniaturization is connected with this. Miniaturization means that electronic equipment becomes smaller and smaller and smaller, until what was originally a great box like this becomes a tiny, tiny little thing. Little tiny cell. And so, in the same way, as certain techniques advance, all kinds of joining lines like wires begin to vanish. See, when radio substitutes for the telephone, all the wires vanish. When the airplane substitutes for road and railway, all the roads and rails are going to vanish. See? And more and more we’ll find means of getting rid of the clumsiness of primitive technology. And then, as all this apparatus disappears, we find that we are moving in the direction of having it all in our own apparatus. Just like dolphins have sonar, homing pigeons have built-in radar. I think it’s all in us. But we had to exteriorize it technologically in order to discover it within.

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