Everything partakes in Universal Symmetry – we just can’t see this to be the case. We don’t see Universal Symmetry at all when it comes down to it, and what’s more it is as far away from our everyday type of consciousness as anything ever could be. One way to come closer to appreciating this thing that we’re calling ‘Universal Symmetry’ is however to think about waves. In our normal way of looking at them, we don’t fully see waves – we only half see them, we only see half the wave at a time. We either see waves as a crests or troughs but we don’t see the crest and the trough at one and the same time (in other words our eyes automatically pick out one way or the other to see the waves – a one-sided or asymmetrical way. The thing is though that a wave always has to be symmetrical; it always has to be ‘the same on both sides of the X-axis’. That’s what a wave is, that’s how a wave works – symmetry is fundamental to the mechanics of what makes the wave what it is. There is actually no way that a wave can ever lose its symmetry – this couldn’t happen no matter what we did to it! This admittedly isn’t anything particularly new that we’re saying here but if we follow through on the principle of conservation of symmetry as exemplified by waves we find that it has huge ramifications.
Our normal way of looking at waves causes us therefore to ‘see things that don’t actually exist’. We hallucinate that there is something there when the truth is that there isn’t. So if I am standing at the edge of the open ocean I tend to see waves in a one-sided fashion, i.e. I see the ocean like a sort of conveyer belt bringing in an endless series of wave-crests towards me and then dumping them at my feet amidst a sheet of spray. I am thus seeing the waves as a number of separate ‘reified objects’ rather than seeing them as being a disturbance travelling across a medium. We can see waves in the way we generally do see them therefore because we see them asymmetrically. Once we clearly see that there is an immutable principle regarding the conservation of symmetry in waves then this radically changes everything; we don’t look at waves in the same way again after this – unless we consciously want to, that is. Our normal way of looking at waves is one in which we are falling into a sort of ‘perceptual trap’, and when we allow ourselves see the symmetry where before we didn’t see it then we no longer find ourselves trapped in this way.
We can of course look at the same set of waves in two complementary ways, not just as crests – I can either see them as a series of convexities rolling majestically towards me, or as a series of mirror-image concavities doing the same thing only travelling as troughs rather than crests. I can focus on the troughs or I can focus on the crests and each focus works as well as the other but the curious thing is – of course – that when I allow myself to see both the crests and the troughs (the convexities and the concavities) at the same time then the ‘thing-like’ nature of the wave is lost to me. I can no longer see the waves as separate entities moving towards me – instead I see an up-and-down undulation of an underlying medium.
This principle can be generalized. We can say that whatever I focus on becomes the ‘positive feature’, and this positive feature can only be such by virtue of the fact that there is another side to the story that I am not letting myself be aware of. In other words –
The act whereby I obtain a positive perception (or a positive knowledge) of something requires as an absolute prerequisite the existence of unavailable information, i.e. entropy.
Escher’s Convex and Concave (shown above) can thus be seen as containing details that are either concave or convex depending upon how you look at them, but not both at the same time. Even though we only see the one or the other however convex and concave can never be separated. What we are looking at here might be said to constitute an ‘inviolable principle’ – the Principle of the Conservation of Symmetry. If I can see the partial truth of the ‘in-dent’ at the same as seeing the complementary partial truth of the ‘out-dent’ then I must by definition be in possession of the ‘whole truth’, and the whole truth in this case is ‘the truth of the original surface before both in-dent and complementary out-dent were put in it’. If I can see both sides of the coin simultaneously then I cannot help realizing that there was no such thing as ‘the coin’ in the first place – the coin that I was looking at only looked like something because I was seeing the positive impression separately from the corresponding negative impression! When I see both that both the positive and the negative impression are the two sides of the very same thing then I see that there is no thing, i.e. –
What I previously took to be an asymmetrical ‘thing’ is now revealed to be nothing other than Original Symmetry itself, which is not a ‘thing’ at all but rather ‘the harmony hiding behind all apparent disharmonies’.
THE ONE-SIDEDNESS OF THE RULE
When I behold the Original Symmetry that underlies everything then it could be said that my attention is no longer trapped in what previously appeared to be a ‘thing-in-itself’. This is ‘inviolable law’ that we mentioned a minute ago, an inviolable law that we might express simply by saying that it is sublimely impossible to both remain trapped in the figure (or the thing) and ALSO at the same time be aware of Original Symmetry. It’s one or the other. When James Carse says that in order to play a game it is necessary to veil from oneself the freedom that one has not to play, then this is reference to this same impossibility. The assertion that the apparent positive character of waves on the surface of the sea is due to the fact that we are neglecting to pay attention to the reciprocal negative aspect of those waves is therefore no minor curiosity but just another example of the great principle which lies behind all the positive features of the universe without exception.
The principle of self-veiling can also in described in terms of the one-sided of a rule. A rule, we might say, is quintessentially asymmetrical and the asymmetry it is based on is that of ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ –
Whatever is included is included because it matches what is exactly specified by the rule, and what is excluded is excluded because it doesn’t match (in other words it is excluded not because of what it is but because what it isn’t).
A rule is very clearly an asymmetrical situation, but behind this apparent violation of symmetry lies the unobtrusive counterpoint to the ‘face-value violation’ which secretly makes up the books so that everything balances out perfectly in the end. One way to explain how the books get balanced is by saying that rules are subject to something called ‘invisible redundancy’. A rule – we might say – is remarkably, astonishingly, incredibly ‘audacious’ in the sense that it just comes right out and baldly asserts something that there is no actual justification for asserting. It gets away by this by ‘assuming an awful lot’ and once it has both assumed an awful lot and refused to acknowledge that it has done so then the rule in question makes perfect sense and becomes as a result supremely authoritative. In this way the universe gets ‘over-simplified’ and subsequently (mis)represented in terms of this oversimplification.
‘The rule’ and ‘the assumption the rule makes’ are both the same thing and so obviously there is a serious short-circuit going on here, albeit one that is extraordinarily difficult to spot once the trick has been pulled. In essence, the rule gets to have the authority that it does have by ‘agreeing with itself’ – it both asserts something and provides the context which validates this assertion! However, the validation is provided in a back-handed fashion because the way that a rule assumes its context is wholly unconscious (i.e. the act of assuming what has been assumed in order for the rule to be a rule is never acknowledged in the process). It can be seen that this peculiar double-movement of  overtly making a completely unfounded statement and  covertly providing the validation for this statement is as true for the conditioned self as it is for ‘a rule’, and this goes to show that the self is essentially a rule. Both are ‘fictions that can only exist within a special protective environment’, an environment marked by the fact that it is ‘limited without letting on that it is limited’. It could also be said that both are games, in that they are only provisionally true (which is to say, they are ‘only true when we tacitly agree for them to be true’).
EQUATING ‘WAVES’ WITH ‘RULES’
It might seem odd to suggest that we can equate waves with rules but the value of drawing such a parallel can be clearly seen if we consider the matter a little further. For a start, one very basic similarity is that both waves and rules achieve definition for themselves against a back-drop of ‘non-definition’ (or ‘non-displacement’) by emphasizing one side of the story over the other, so to speak. Both are essentially dissymmetrical situations (i.e. displacements from the symmetrical state) that aren’t really dissymmetrical but do a good job of appearing to be. As we have said, the way in which a wave or rule is a dissymmetry is boldly emphasized, and the way in which it isn’t really a dissymmetry after all is neatly hidden. We’d have to go looking for it. In an ocean wave this obscuration of the principle of symmetry conservation is achieved by ‘spacing out’ the positive and negative displacements – we see the wave crests and troughs as being separate in space but in reality they are not separate at all since it is utterly impossible for a crest to exist without an accompanying trough, and vice versa. The time-lag involved produces the effect illusion of separation, however.
For a rule the obscuration of symmetry conservation is less easy to point out, but it becomes clearer if we remember that a rule is basically a logical statement of some sort. An example of a rule / logical statement would be “God exists”. Now when I say this your attention is immediately drawn to ‘positive –displacement’ aspect of this assertion. If you happen to be very naïve you might reply with something like, “Wow yeah, God exists. I see now. Ok! Yeah! Pretty neat!” and leave the matter like that. But the chances are that you will detect the negative behind the positive. If it is important for me to make this assertion – as it obviously is – then this means is that there is potentially some doubt about whether God actually exists or not. There is a question mark there, obviously. One asserts in order to firmly distance oneself from the contrary assertion, but the negative assertion exists and is ‘not separate’ from the positive assertion just as much a wave crest is not separate from a wave trough. Thus, any sort of definite, positive assertion is like an ‘out-dent’ made in a sheet of galvanized iron with a big lump hammer – the ‘out-dent’ that positively sticks out on one side of the metal sheet can only be there because there is a corresponding ‘in-dent’ on the other side, and just because our attention is drawn to the convexity this does not mean that the concavity isn’t equally real. The essential point is the same for both ocean waves and logical assertions –
No sort of displacement can be made to the underlying ‘flat surface’ of the medium without an accompanying reverse displacement being made at the same time, whether we see it or not.
The main difficulty in appreciating this parallel is undoubtedly the fact that waves travelling on the ocean are travelling on a medium that is both perceptible and physically tangible to us – you can after all pick up a pint glass of water and tip it over my head to demonstrate it to me, but how on earth can the medium of which logical statements are a displacement be perceived, touched or demonstrated? The plain answer is that it can’t because the whole thing about the state of Original Symmetry is that is indescribable, unimaginable, unthinkable and intangible (since touching is a form of knowing, and the symmetrical state by definition cannot be ‘known’) and so here we come up an unsurmountable problem. This is ‘a problem’ because for most of us something that cannot be seen or touched or conceived of is something that simply does not exist since these are the ways in which we generally infer or deduce the state of ‘being existent’! In another way of course there is no problem at all since the state of Original Symmetry does not (and never has) needed our assent in order to carry on acting as a medium. We don’t in other words need to believe in space for it to be there.
Even when we try to talk about ‘something’ that has no characteristics that can be seized upon by either the senses or the intellect we are committing an error of syntax because we have no word other than ‘something’ to talk about what is not really any sort of thing at all, even though the something we are talking about here is no-thing. The problem that we have with Original Symmetry is basically due to the fact that what we cannot know or understand we simply do not acknowledge as having any reality at all, and when we put it like this it can be seen that our objections (which are rarely so baldly put) is a remarkable example of intellectual arrogance. After all, if I am fundamentally unwilling to accept that there cannot be anything that I cannot perceive or conceive of, then I am elevating my apparatus of perception or conception to the level of the ‘ultimate arbiter of everything’. This is of course what we all do all the time, we base everything we do and think on our limited understanding; no matter how small-minded I may be, I always assume that my small mind is the measure of everything! It could be said that for me, as for everybody else, my limited mind is my god, a god which I worship without knowing what I am worshiping.
Despite our deeply engrained prejudice against taking seriously anything that can’t be perceived, touched or conceptualized, it is fairly easy to transpose the theory of waves that we have been discussing from the physical medium of water to the non-physical medium of ‘Original Symmetry’. If there were to be no waves on the sea, then the surface of the sea would obviously be perfectly flat and featureless – it would possess a two-dimensional symmetry since no matter where you happened to be on this surface ‘what is ahead’ looks exactly the same as ‘what is behind’, just as ‘what lies to the right’ is indistinguishable from ‘what lies to the left’. This immaculate symmetry undermines our sense of location, since if every possible location looks the same once I am in it then what meaning is there in the concept of ‘location’ in the first place? With regard to the physical medium of water it can be seen that the way to create a wave is to ‘pull up’ a selected ridge in the medium to a level that lies above the mean-value or ‘zero-displacement’ level. It could also be said that the way to create a wave by pushing down on either side of the straight line which is selected to be a ridge; both of these ways of looking at the process of wave creation are equivalent – the assertion of what the wave-crest is or shall be is the same operation as the denial of what is not or shall not be the wave crest. What we are talking about here is the basic principle behind the definition-making process, i.e. –
The positive act of precisely and specifically stating ‘what is to be included in the set’ is synonymous with the negative (or backhanded) act of excluding everything else.
The way we make a rule is by asserting one set of possibilities out of an unspecified range or domain of possibilities so that it stands out and becomes a visible feature – something that we can ‘grab hold of’, so to speak. The Universal Set of All Possible Possibilities is in itself sublimely symmetrical in however many untold dimensions it might possess and so although it would be a ridiculous oversimplification to say that it is a ‘flat surface’ just like the surface of a body of water in which nothing stirs this statement is still – in a manner of speaking – a perfectly valid one. In essence –
The ‘flat surface’ which is Original Symmetry is the state in which all possible statements are equal.
Just as the two-dimensional symmetry of the flat ocean surface means that location is a meaningless conception, when we talk about the ‘N-dimensional Symmetry of the Universal Set’ we are saying that definition is meaningless. This is not as it might first seem a deficient state of affairs since the point is that nothing can be meaningfully said about Original Symmetry, so the ‘deficiency’ lies in our power to describe or predict or understand or otherwise evaluate the unknown entity which we try to describe (or at least indicate) by stating that it is ‘a state of Original Symmetry’ rather than any lack or deficiency in the ability of the Original Symmetry to be what it is!
It is important to note that the terminology that we are using here has in itself a great capacity for being misleading if we are not careful; when we use the term ‘symmetrical’ it sounds like we are saying something about a reality that exists outside of our description of that reality, yet when our readings come back to us as being ‘perfectly and utterly symmetrical’ this isn’t actually telling us anything about the thing we are trying to obtain readings about, it is just a way of saying that our apparatus of obtaining knowledge is incapable of providing any useful information. As a rough analogy, it is a bit like when a calculator flashes up an ‘ERROR’ message where the ‘answer’ is usually displayed to let us know that it has hit upon a number that lies beyond its ability to handle. This ‘ERROR’ message tells us nothing about the number in question, on the contrary the message is there to tell us about our inability to know anything about the number, and so too describing ‘Original Symmetry’ in terms of its ‘defining’ property of symmetry is only really a way of acknowledging that we cannot take our means of defining things seriously – it is revealed as a joke because of the way in which it blows up in our face.
If we look at this in terms of ‘falsely analogous relationships’ we can say quite simply that the medium cannot be represented by any combination or arrangement of modulations of the waves that exist on that medium, however complex they may be. Certainly it is true that a particular ‘wave-modulation’ may be taken as a sort of token of the underlying invisible medium, but the analogy in this case is purely arbitrary and cannot be taken in any ‘literal’ fashion. Suppose for example that you are an eminent astronomer giving an impromptu talk about pulsars at a posh dinner party. In order to help clarify a particular point you might gesture towards the dining table and say “Let this silver salt-shaker represent the primary star and this stray pea represent the vastly-smaller neutron star that is its invisible companion…” This could indeed be a very helpful way of illustrating whatever point it is that you are wanting to make, but if I in turn take the analogy too far and secretly take the pea away with me afterwards wrapped up in a paper napkin in my jacket pocket, and analyse it at length in my laboratory in order to probe more deeply into the secrets of neutron stars, then this of course is guaranteed to take me in completely the wrong direction! I will be investigating the property of a garden pea on the basis that legumes have a direct analogous relationship with collapsed stellar objects and if the fantastic nonsense of this assumption is not apparent to me, I will then generate a whole morass of ‘false knowledge’ which I will proceed to get thoroughly lost in. Whilst the knowledge that I may obtain about peas would be useful were I careful to stick to the realm of leguminous vegetables, by generalizing the knowledge out where it doesn’t belong it becomes ‘worse than useless’ and I end up making a tremendous fool of myself. This, in a nutshell, is our situation when we take our descriptions of reality (which are the stock-in-trade of the rational mind) to be directly analogous to the inscrutable reality they seek to describe.
WHEN EVERYTHING IS TRUE…
The flat or symmetrical surface is – we have said – the situation where all statements (or rules) are equally allowed, or equally true. This is however paradoxical because if every statement that I might possibly make is equally true, then clearly none of them are true. If everyone is famous then no one is famous, and if everything is special then nothing is special. The flat surface of the mysterious intangible and indescribable medium that we are nevertheless doing our best to talk about is also the situation of perfectly unprejudiced ‘non-specialness’. A disturbance to this flat surface means that one particular statement or rule is elevated above the others and therefore eclipses the others, rather as a particular playing card drawn from a hand of cards will eclipse that hand if it is brought right up close to your face. In both cases perspective is lost and as a result of this loss of perspective the card or rule in question assumes a significance that is not actually due to any property or quality pertaining to the card or rule, but merely due to the fact that we have chosen it and thereby ‘not chosen’ (or ‘excluded’) all the others. Once the selected rule dominates the field of attention, it automatically happens that the reason for it being there can only be explained in terms of itself, since the freedom to choose the rule necessarily exists outside of that rule, and so we can no longer see that the rule does not really have a God-given right to be there.
‘Symmetry breaking’ is where the genuine or ‘open’ space of rule-lessness gets replaced by the ‘Mobius loop’ of the unacknowledged dissymmetry. We could also say that symmetry-breaking is where the ‘freedom to choose the rule’ is replaced by ‘the freedom to obey the rule without knowing that it is a rule’. This is essentially a way of saying that the type of movement or activity which exists in the wave (or in the rule) is circular. No one is going to argue with the suggestion that a wave is made up of circular movement but if we were to go on from this distinctly uncontroversial assertion to propose that the type of mental movement or activity (i.e. thinking) that arises out of an ongoing, self-perpetuating displacement to the invisible underlying ‘Universal Medium’ is similarly circular in nature, there would be few enough of us capable of tolerating this idea for a second. No one would go along with this! The notion that the bulk of our mental activity is ‘circular’ in nature – which is to say, that it constantly seems to be going somewhere whilst in reality going nowhere – is too much of an insult to our image of ourselves to be taken seriously; the illusion that the straight-line of rational thought actually goes somewhere (or somewhere different) is far too important to us to be given up just like that.
THE DEFINED SELF AS A ‘VIBRATION BETWEEN TWO POLES’
It can easily be seen however that a displacement or disturbance to the invisible medium upon which everything is written must, as we have said many times by now, contain a both the positive phase and its complementary negative phase. Raising a set of possibilities above the flat surface of the undisturbed medium instantaneously creates the negative shadow of this audaciously positive act – after all, if I create an ‘above’ have I not at the same time also created a ‘below’? Furthermore, it can also be easily seen that the energy which has been put into the system to produce the positive displacement is the same energy that will result in the negative displacement. Any system that is artificially displaced in a ‘+ve’ direction is bound to turn, in time, into displacement which is its exact mirror-image reflection in the X-axis of ‘zero-displacement’. So if we talk in terms of definition, it can be seen that when I make a positive definition of what is, the positive disturbance to the underlying medium of ‘non-definition’ (which is where all rules or all definitions are equally good or equally true) will not fall back when released to the zero-definition level, but continue ‘falling’ until an equal and opposite negative displacement value has been obtained.
What happens from here on therefore – in the absence of any new disturbances being added to the mix – is that there will be an ongoing oscillation between the two poles. This is of course exactly what happens when a bell is rung – you come along with a little hammer and strike the bell and the bell vibrates for a good while afterwards. The note that we hear sounded as a result is due to the induced vibration of the metal medium of the bell being translated into vibrations in the gaseous medium of the air around us. If we draw a parallel between the metal medium of the bell and the intangible medium which is the set of all possible possibilities, we can then say that the note produced by striking the bell is analogous to the statement that is produced by ‘striking’ the medium of the Universal Set. In this sense both the tangible world of our senses and the ‘knowable’ world of our thoughts or beliefs are tunes (or symphonies) that are played upon the organ of the Unmanifest. At the simplest end of the range they may be not so much tunes or harmonies as much as a simple mechanical sequence of endlessly re-iterated ‘noises’, and this predictable repeating sequence of unmusical sounds may be seen as a ‘degraded analogue’ of the harmony that can be found higher up the scale of complexity. The ultimate harmony might be said to exist in the far ‘ultra-violet’ range of vibrations, where the wave-length of the vibrations tend towards the infinitesimal and go right out of the visible range, and therefore become indistinguishable from the medium itself.
THE SHORTER THE WAVELENGTH THE BIGGER THE KICK
The idea that finer vibrations contain in some way ‘more’ than grosser or less subtle vibrations do (and that the subtlest vibration of all is ‘no-vibration’) is intuitively obvious, but it is also borne out by physics. It is for example a basic principle in the theory of waves that the shorter the distance is between crests (or troughs) – i.e. the shorter the wave-length – the greater will be the energy carried by that wave. So if a radio wave gives up the energy that lies behind its oscillatory electro-magnetic disturbance it is not going to cause a hell of a lot of disruption to whatever receives it, but if it happens to be a gamma ray that hits you then this is a different story altogether in terms of energy transfer, even if the amplitude or degree of displacement is the same in both cases. This is of course why radioactivity is so dangerous to organic life-forms such as ourselves. The point about ‘zero’ wave-length containing the most energy of all is less easy to see, but is nevertheless inherent in what we have just said. David Bohm points out that when the wave-length of a wave becomes infinitesimal what we are actually talking about is not a wave at all but a flat surface, and so from this he argues that the symmetrical situation has the strange property of having an infinite amount of energy locked up in it – energy that does not make itself available to us, at least not for the type of uses we generally have in mind.
FROM ‘ENERGY’ TO ‘INFORMATION’
‘Energy’ is generally defined in terms of its ability to cause change in physical systems, for example its ability to cause acceleration or increase in temperature. When David Bohm talks about the colossal amounts of energy inherent in a minute portion of empty vacuum it becomes obscure what that actually means, since the energy of the vacuum is being used to move anything, or change anything – it can’t be since there is nothing there to move or change! We could try to get around this conceptual difficulty by talking in terms of potentialities, by relating it to our world of objects and structural arrangements of objects (which is as we have said the world in which our definition of energy makes sense) but this isn’t a legitimate thing to do since zero-point energy doesn’t really exist in relation to the physical (or dissymmetrical) universe – it can’t be conveniently ‘dipped into’ every time we want to change some detail of our physical situation, as if it were some sort of handy emergency fund. In fact, it could be said that the whole point about this energy is that it is supremely ‘aloof’ from the notion of usage; we might think perhaps in terms of a person who has untold thousands of billions of dollars in the bank, but yet has not the faintest interest in what this gob-smackingly gargantuan amount of money might buy.
When we try to apply the concept of energy to what we have been referring to as the Universal Medium – which is basically space in which there is no trace whatsoever of structure – it doesn’t necessarily seem particularly meaningful. There might be some justification in talking about energy in relation to the perfect vacuum of outer space since we are naturally orientated in our thinking towards the phenomena which appear out of it but when we are speaking of the flawless (or floor-less) vacuum of inner space speaking in terms of energy doesn’t necessarily seem to be entirely appropriate, even if the relationship of both outer and inner space to their respective objectified ‘creations’ turns out to be pretty much the same thing. A better approach to the Universal Medium is to think in terms of information and the reason we can say that this is the better approach is because this ties in so well with the idea that we have been using of the Universal Set, U which is paradoxically ‘defined’ by saying that it ‘contains all possible possibilities’.
Information can be explained in a number of parallel ways and one way is to see it as being a measure of the complexity of whatever phenomenon it is that we are considering. Complexity has been technically defined as having something to do with the number of different terms that is needed to describe an object – an object that can be described using only one term being the least and an object that requires a non-terminating or infinite series of qualitatively different terms being the most complex. Mathematically speaking, this is unquestionably a perfectly valid way of speaking; for example an isosceles triangle can be 100% described in one short statement (i.e. it is the two-dimensional figure enclosed by three lines such that each intersecting line-segment is of equal length), whilst the Mandelbrot set can only be fully described by using an infinite number of statements (which is a way of saying that it its own shortest description, or that is simply can’t be described). On the one hand, everything we know to draw an isosceles triangle can be written down in one or two lines on a page, and on the other hand all the pages in the world aren’t enough to tell us how to draw a visual representation of the Mandelbrot set, and this is the difference between minimum and maximum complexity. Basically, more information is needed to tell us how to construct something like the Mandelbrot set than is needed to draw a triangle, and so we can quite reasonably say that the former must contain more information than the latter.
The difference isn’t always so easy to spot however because sometimes there can be such a thing as ‘false complexity’ – a good example of this is what the advertising companies refer to as ‘modern life’ or ‘modern living’. The way advertisers use the concept of modern living is to firstly make us feel good in some way about the fact that we are so modern in our lifestyles and then they seamlessly insert the suggestion – which is already common currency – that this type of advanced, sophisticated, high-powered living is stressful to our bodies and minds and it is at this point of course that the idea is brought in that product X or product Y can help us with this unnatural stress (a considerable component of which is undoubtedly due to the prevalence of adverts telling us that we should be worried about stress). The point is that both modern living and the modern world which we do our modern living in are misleadingly said to be ‘complex’ .If however an impartial observer were to travel the globe taking note of what contemporary civilization actually consists of he or she would soon realize that it is all about shopping malls, supermarkets, fast food emporia, entertainment complexes, multi-story car parks, garden centres, etc. and the industrial estates, factories, warehouses and office blocks that unobtrusively support this arena of glamorously high profile consumerism. When civilization expands, in other words, it does so ‘virus-fashion’ by endlessly reproducing the same old units, the same old structures, the same old game-plan, albeit with many different variations (which is to say, in many different ‘apparently new’ guises).
‘False complexity’ may therefore be said to be when a system which apparently has a multiplicity of aspect (i.e. inherent novelty) is actually reducible to a very simple formula, just like a soap opera on TV which relies on the illusion of each plot-line looking new and intriguing, even though it is of course usually banal and formulaic in the extreme. False complexity can be more formally defined by saying that it is –
A pattern or arrangement that looks complicated but which is actually determined by a finite number of rules or algorithms that are combined in different ways and endlessly recycled, and which can therefore be expressed in a logical statement that is very much more abbreviated than the object which it is describing.
Phoney complexity gives the impression of unpredictability but because it is produced mechanically, by some sort of causal machine, it is – once we know the algorithms that the machine works on – 100% predictable. This brings us to the classic definition of information, in which information is said to be directly proportional to the amount of unpredictability in a message. This way of looking at information is clearly connected with the idea of information as ‘a measure of complexity’ since, as we have just said, when we are able to know the rules which lie behind the formulation of message then this renders the message is predictable, and therefore there is no genuine information in it. If the term complexity is a way of talking about how many different levels of description are available with regard to the system in question then the more levels there are – which is to say, the more rules-for-describing there are – the more information there must be in the system.
What we are concerned with in this discussion is how we can apply this notion of information to the Universal Set, U (which we have also called the ‘Universal Medium’). We already know that we cannot define U in terms of a summation of rules, which is to say, we cannot say that it ‘is’ <rule A + rule B + rule C +…>. Although we can legitimately say that all these rules are in it, or that it is possible to extract or abstract all these rules from U but this does not tell us anything about U at all since we have absolutely no way of knowing what other (quite possibly contradictory) rules can also be pulled out of the great Top Hat. We have no way of guessing how many rules might possibly be in ‘the universal container of all possible things’ since we have no way of extrapolating this information from the vantage point of the rules which we have abstracted, since the rules that we have already abstracted are the only basis for making such guesses.
EXCLUSIVITY VERSUS INCLUSIVITY
The utter impossibility of knowing anything about U shows itself very clearly when we look at the matter in terms of exclusive versus inclusive logic. A rule, as we said, is based on exclusivity since it excludes everything that does not agree with it – we define a class of elements exclusively by excluding all those elements that do not fit with our specifications. When we ‘define’ (so to speak) the Universal Set U we do so by saying that it contains all possible elements – “Whatever elements there happen to be out there, let they be included…” we say. This is all-inclusive without saying what exactly the ‘all’ includes and so it is infinitely generous or infinitely broad-minded – it is also infinitely ‘risky’ if we look at it another way. It can be seen that inclusivity is completely the other way around from exclusivity since whilst the latter remains firmly in control at all times, the former hands over control with perfect abandon. In the case of exclusive logic the say-so is mine and so my intention is projected outwards onto the world in an act of aggressive and uncompromising self-assertion. In the case of inclusive logic (which isn’t very logical at all in the usual sense of the word) I acknowledge that it is the Universal Set itself which has the ‘say-so’ regarding what elements are in it – which is of course exactly what makes the Universal Set the Universal Set in the first place and not merely a set based on my intentions – and so this is a ‘non-act’ rather than an act, it is negative in the Yin sense of being passive and receptive and essentially ‘unformed’ (which makes it an attitude which is sensitive-to-all-possibilities) rather than being active and defined and assertive in the Yan sense.
Once we see things this way it is obvious that what we call ‘knowing’ involves unconsciously imposing assumptions on reality and so the way to approaching the reality that lies hidden underneath our assumptions must be to let go of this ‘knowing’, by negatively accepting rather than positively asserting. This is unmistakeable in the following verse taken from the Tao Te Ching –
Harmony is only in following the Way
The Way is without form or quality,
But expresses all forms and qualities;
The way is hidden and implicate,
But expresses all of nature;
The way is unchanging,
But expresses all motion.
Beneath sensation and memory
The Way is the source of all the world.
How can I understand the source of the world?
THE PERFECT FACILITATOR
If we say that the Universal Set, because of the fact that it is so ‘all-inclusive’, contains all possible exclusive rules or viewpoints within it then this naturally tends to make us think that it is somehow made up of rules – that its substance is essentially ‘rule-like’ in nature. This of course is the error of positivism that we have just been talking about. One way to argue exactly why positivism (which is the philosophical assumption that because rules come out of U then U must be understandable in terms of rules) is in error is by looking at John Keats’s idea of ‘negative capability’. In his book Writing Poetry John Whitworth (2001, P 29) says,
When Keats spoke of Shakespeare’s ‘negative capability’, he was referring to something many people have felt: that it is difficult to say what Shakespeare’s opinion was about anything much and that it doesn’t matter anyway.
Negative capability means that we can read all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets as many times as we like but we still won’t come any closer to knowing what the man himself thought about things. This doesn’t mean that Shakespeare was being deliberately cagey or misleading, in fact negative capability can be seen as a measure of his very great ability in writing – with regard to Shakespeare’s plays for example, we can say that it is impossible to infer from the utterances of his characters what Shakespeare’s own opinions were precisely because he was so superlatively skilful at facilitating whatever opinions his characters might be called upon to have. A bad writer might only be able to put his own opinions into the mouths of his characters, but a truly accomplished one can facilitate all possible opinions with equal sympathy, and therefore equal conviction. Similarly, we can take the example of an accomplished and gifted actor who can play any part at all with supreme facility: what this means is that the audience, having witnessed any one of these roles or parts, is in no position whatsoever to make an inference about the character of the actual actor, precisely because the actor is equally good at playing any part he wishes to play. Thus ‘negative capability’ may be said to refer to an essential lack of limitation (or prejudice) with regard to the effective portrayal of any specific characterization, and it is because of this lack of limitation – which is quite the reverse of a ‘lack of skill’ – that we cannot say anything about the one who has the negative capability.
The importance of understanding this explanation of what Keats’s negative capability means lies in the way in which it enables us to easily differentiate between ‘allowing’ and ‘being’. If we take a variant of the above, which is the example of ‘the superlatively skilled liar,’ then this argument becomes particularly clear. Since a truly consummate liar can look you in the eye and tell you anything at all with both complete conviction and perfect plausibility it is not just difficult but totally impossible to infer anything from what he tells you. The knowledge that this person has flawless negative capability means that any statement he might make is the same with regard to ‘information content’ – because the person has negative capability every single statement that he might make is rendered equally meaningless. It is also possible to imagine a scenario where absolutely everybody you meet has this negative capability: When you realize that the people you are talking and listening to can say anything they wish with equal plausibility (i.e. they could just as well have said something completely different to what they just did say) then there is a sudden disorientating shock or jolt to your awareness you realize that you cannot trust what you are being told at all; to start off with you thought you were receiving genuine information, but now you discover that there have no foundation to make any inferences whatsoever. What falsifies my apparent foundation for more making meaningful inferences is the ability that the people around me have to facilitate any truth that suits them. To put this more plainly – “if everything is true, then nothing is true”.
It is at this point that the gulf between allowing and being becomes staggeringly obvious – a consummate liar is called consummate because he can facilitate or allow any version of reality he wants to. Normally we infer something from the statements that we hear, which is to say, we jump to conclusions about reality from the data given; for example, if I tell you that I am the president of IBM then you believe me. But –
It is precisely because the person in question is so flawlessly able to facilitate or allow any statement he wants (i.e. lie) that we can say nothing at all about what that person actually ‘is’.
THE ‘UNBRIDGEABLE GAP’ BETWEEN MEDIUM AND MESSAGE
It may look as if we are merely going around in circles at this stage but this is not the case –
It is not the case because what we are looking at here is nothing other than the utter and absolute ABYSS that lies between the Universal Medium and all the phenomena and occurrences that this medium so obligingly facilitates.
This is a tremendous thing to see (and we very rarely do see it); seeing this unbridgeable gap has the singular effect of immediately and unceremoniously putting an end to all circles, and to all circular definitions. We were saying earlier that there is a temptation – pretty much an overwhelming one at that – to assume that we know the medium as a result of our great familiarity with the waves (or messages) that are propagated so tirelessly upon it. This seems, superficially at least, to be bourn out by the way in which we have ‘defined’ the Universal Set as being inclusive of all possible rules. Original Symmetry can be similarly defined as the situation where all rules are equally allowed, equally true. This way of talking is however just a trick since, as we have just said, if everything is true, then nothing is true (just as if everyone is famous, then no on is famous) and so what we are really saying is that the very idea of rules is meaningless. The difference between ‘allows’ and ‘is’ is therefore total: knowledge of all the different types of wave that travel upon the ocean is not the same thing as knowledge of the ocean; the ocean is not its waves – it is that which allows the waves. Similarly, space is not the phenomena and events that appear or occur within it – it is ‘that which allows the phenomena and events to appear and occur’ (which is not at all the same thing).
The space within which phenomena appear and disappear is radically different to the phenomena themselves; the events as they occur do not tell us anything about the space within which they take place and neither do they change or affect it in any way. This is obviously true for the ocean too – waves do not mark or alter the ocean, which remains pristinely and immaculately itself no matter type of wave activity takes place upon it. This is very reminiscent of the Buddhist imagery in which it is said that clouds do not stain the sky they travel upon, or leave behind any residue upon it; the pure blue nature of the sky remains blue and sky-like no matter how many clouds come and go. The sky in this metaphor stands for the infinitely expansive unconditioned mind, whilst the clouds represent the conditioned mental objects (or structures) that are created within that limitless expanse. ‘Unconditioned mind’ is just another way of talking about what we have called ‘Original Symmetry’ or ‘the Universal Set’ and so the similarity in imagery is not really surprising.
We were saying earlier that ‘waves’ are equivalent to ‘rules’ and this also means that the medium upon which the waves travel is equivalent to the Universal Set U, which whilst facilitating all rules is not actually a rule at all. From this it follows that the relationship of waves to the medium must be the same sort of thing as the relationship of the rules (i.e. closed or defined sets) to the unbounded and undefined set U. Thus, U allows the expressions of all rules whilst remaining utterly impartial to them, which is to say –
U can express in a completely unprejudiced way any specific type of prejudice at all, i.e. it is equally open to, and allowing of, any sort of closed viewpoint whatsoever.
In his much loved book Illusions Richard Bach (1977, P 83) speaks of the ‘Is’ as a divinely indifferent mother:
Reality is divinely indifferent, Richard. A mother doesn’t care what part her child plays in his games; one day bad-guy, next day good-guy. The Is doesn’t even know about our illusions and games. It only knows Itself, and us in its likeness, perfect and finished.
OPEN AND CLOSED
The reason sound waves are able to propagate in air is because of the elasticity of the medium – energy can be stored in it both in the form of compression zones where the density of the air molecules is greater than the equilibrium value, and expansion zones where the density is less. Both displacements from the equilibrium or zero-displacement level store energy just as a child’s swing stores energy when it is in both the plus and minus swing phase. The same is obviously true for waves on the sea, and indeed any type of wave-motion at all. The reason we are dwelling on this pretty obvious point is because it leads us on to the not-so-obvious question as to what the equivalent property of ‘elasticity’ would be for the medium within which rules (i.e. definite or literal statements) are expressed. One thing that we can usefully say is that the elasticity of the medium must be related to the kinked or looped nature of linear space, which is the space that rules or literal statements exist in. Therefore, it must be the case that when a statement is expressed positively the equivalent of ‘energy’ is stored due to the essentially unbalanced nature of the positive, and that the complementarily unbalanced negative mode of expression represents the other pole about which the oscillation occurs.
There is a problem in investigating this parallel between mechanical waves and abstract rules since the understanding of rules as a +/- oscillation (or reverberation) is undeniably alien to our everyday way of thinking – we see a positive assertion as being unchanging in nature, a self-existent fixture rather than one half (the visible half) of a periodic fluctuation. If however we can manage to suspend our automatic objections to seeing <YES> as a <YES/NO> duality one half of which is invisible to us, instead of an independent unipolar <YES> which stands proudly, if improbably, by itself, then the parallel proves rather interesting. If we take the case of mechanically propagated waves, such as the waves on the sea, then what we have is an <UP/DOWN> disturbance of the medium which propagates itself upon the original symmetry (or ‘flatness’) of <UP = DOWN>, which is when there are no waves. The parallel to this is the case where there is a <+/-> disturbance of the underlying medium which propagates itself upon the Original Symmetry of <+ = – >. The character of the rule is either <PLUS> or <MINUS> and the character (if we can call it that) of the underlying medium is <PLUS = MINUS>. So in the case of the flat surface of the undisturbed sea symmetry reigns with respect to <UP> and <DOWN> (which means that there is no such polarity), and in the case of the ‘flat surface’ of the Universal Medium upon which the whole cosmic drama is enacted, symmetry reigns with respect to all conceivable polarities, bar none.
Another way in which we attempted to ‘define’ the medium with respect to the ephemeral disturbances which play upon it was by saying that the medium ‘plays no favourites’. The medium is impartial, which is to say, it is equally accepting of whatever messages it might be carrying. Mathematically, we can get at this idea by saying that the medium is All-Inclusive – just as the ocean is non-obstructive in an ‘across-the-board’ sort of a way to whatever type or modulation of waves that it carries, so too is the medium for our positive/negative descriptions (or assertions) non-obstructive in an ‘across-the-board’ way towards these descriptions. The all-inclusiveness of the medium is in complete contrast to exclusivity of the disturbance which is closed to anything other than itself. Thus, a particular wave continues on its way, oblivious to any other ways of being – it does not need to know anything outside of what makes it the particular wave that it is. This idea of the ‘closed nature’ of the wave can also be explained by saying that a particular wave (or a particular pattern of waves) is representable in the form of a set of instructions or rules which specify some defining parameter such as frequency and amplitude – inasmuch as the ongoing disturbance which we call a wave is regular, which it is (as opposed to turbulence, which is not), then it can of course be seen as a process which obeys an underlying rule. If the process which is the wave is a wave by virtue of the very fact that it obeys the rule, then what we are observing when we observe the wave is obviously the rule in action. A nice clear visual way of understanding waves as rules is to think of one of those old-fashioned manual central heating timers that have 24 plastic pull-out tabs for each of the hours of the day. If you do not want the heating to come on at all, then the thing to do is to leave it in the default setting which is where none of the tabs are pulled out, and if you want the heating to come on for an hour, then the tab corresponding to this hour is pulled out, and so on. The Universal Set of all possible rules can therefore be thought of as being like one of these timers where the ‘default setting’ for all the possible values that might govern a disturbance to the medium is zero. When I initiate a wave what I am really doing is ‘selecting a value’ – I pull out a particular tab which corresponds to the value which is to define the wave, and from then on the value which I have selected propagates automatically in a perfectly linear fashion, over and over again.
In the case of a wave or ripple that is created on a pond by the action of throwing in a stone, we can easily see that the degree of the original displacement determines the amplitude of the wave, despite the fact that the ripples grow weaker as they radiate outwards from the source. The displacement created by the stone’s impact might therefore be said to correspond to the ‘value’ that is initially selected. However, when we are talking about the Universal Medium and the assertions or rules that are selected from it, the ‘value’ is not the strength that is given to the rule, but rather it is the rule itself. Any quantitative characteristics associated with the rule only make sense once the rule in question has been selected – they rely wholly upon the framework assumed by the rule in order to have any meaning whatsoever. Thus, we would have to say that the selection of a particular arbitrary value in the case of the Universal Medium is qualitative rather than quantitative. Another way of explaining this is to say that the difference between the various rules is qualitative rather than quantitative (i.e. it is a difference of kind rather than degree). Going back to the metaphor of the Universal Medium (or Universal Set) as a manual 24 hr timer, this would mean that each plastic tab, when pulled out from the default zero-displacement position, regulates a totally different appliance (such as fridge, house lights, oven, washing machine, etc) rather than regulating the same appliance over different periods of time. At this point however the timer metaphor starts to lose its clarity and becomes in grave danger of breaking down altogether. A better metaphor is the one we gave earlier, which is to say that the Universal Medium is a kind of cosmic bell which when struck in a certain way emits a certain musical note. Although each note is ‘musical’ each has a particular quality of its own, which means that one particular note cannot be inferred from another, and must therefore always come as a surprise when it appears. Another image is that of white light which being white is lacking in colours, but which can be split via a prism into a differentiated spectrum of colours from red to violet. This imagery is particularly associated with Tibetan Buddhism – in the Bardo Thodol – to give what is probably the best known example – reference is made to the dazzling and terrifying Pure White Light of Unmitigated Reality, the habit-driven avoidance of which produces in the mind of the deceased person the various illusory colour-associated lokas or worlds, which can be seen as hallucinatory realms that serve as imprisoning distractions from (or protective obstacles against) the true Unconditioned Reality.
ARE RULES INFORMATION?
We can at this point return to the idea of information as the way of approaching some sort of intuitive understanding of the Universal Medium. One question that might arise in connection with waves is “Do waves constitute information?” Radio waves transmit information, as do the microwave frequencies utilized by mobile phones, and so it is natural enough to associate waves with signals, i.e. actual information. A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. If the preceding sentence, for example, were to be repeated over and over again then it would quickly become terribly meaningless, as we can very easily see by making the following experiment: A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. A wave by itself however is not information since all it consists of is a basic cyclical or periodical oscillation which repeats fatuously over and over again. ….
Periodic oscillation is the very essence of predictability, and since the Shannon-Weaver equation defines information as a quantity that increases in direct proportion to the degree of unpredictability in a message a simple pattern that repeats itself infallibly must be the very epitome of ‘non-information’. Philip K Dick is quoted as saying that the circle is the “deadest form of activity that there is”, which is essentially saying the same thing. Periodicity is of course the same thing as copying or repeating, and the thing about copying or repeating is that it is completely non-challenging, completely facile. If I pick a particular sentence (or a particular rule) it is a very easy thing to make a few key strokes on a laptop that will allow me to straightaway copy or repeat the same sentence a million times or more. In an instant I have what looks like a prodigious amount of work – if I print it up and smartly bind it I have what superficially looks like an impressive volume, a veritable tome. But because the copying process is so infinitely easy what is produced as a result of it invariably suffers from infinite redundancy – from the point of view of a superficial glance, what I have produced may look impressive but if anyone were to look a bit more closely they would instantly be repelled by the sheer obnoxious meaninglessness of what the book actually contains. What this shows is that a rule, by or of itself, does not constitute information; in fact a rule that does nothing other than assert itself – which is as we have already said exactly what all rules do – has to be an example of entropy (i.e. redundancy) rather than information. The built-in redundancy of a rule can be directly related to the redundancy of a sentence or statement that is repeated a million times – if I repeat a sentence it looks like I have done something whilst in reality I have done nothing at all (which is why we have said that copying is so fatuously ‘easy’); I have done nothing at all because there has been no essential change, there is nothing new there. I have therefore laboured away at reiterating the same thing! The same is true for a rule because the one thing about a rule is that nothing new is ever going to come out of it – that is the whole point of a rule, that anything new is absolutely excluded.
We made the assertion earlier on in this discussion that it is only the ‘radical otherness’ of the Universal Medium that creates the possibility of anything in the phenomenal world as the actually having any genuine meaning. The phenomenal world can be thought of as being the ripples or perturbations that pass across the essentially imperturbable surface of this inconceivable and intangible medium; equally, we can think of it as being composed of statements (or rules). Inasmuch as these statements or rules are literal – which from their own point of view they most definitely are – then they are tautological, or ‘infinitely-predictable-on-the-basis-of-themselves’ (which is of course the only basis that they recognize). ‘Literal’ can therefore be taken as meaning that they are closed to any interpretation of themselves other than their own, which is another way of saying that they are closed to anything else other than themselves. Because rules are tautological they are ‘redundant’ or ‘empty’ – they are wholly empty of what it is that they implicitly claim to be full of. Thus –
By being closed, by implicitly insisting on the fact that their own viewpoint is the only valid one, literal statements render themselves quite meaningless – therefore, their very literalism is their emptiness.
This being so, it is clearly the case that the ‘bridge’ to meaning (i.e. genuine information) lies in a direction perpendicular to the direction which the rule itself is orientated, which is to say, in a direction which leads radically away from the direction which the rule has (arbitrarily) decided to be meaningful, and which is therefore – by virtue of the inherent tautology (or ‘intentionality’) involves – is actually quite meaningless. The question naturally arises at this point as to how rules can ever be said to be meaningful at all, given that their nature is that of false meaning or ‘disguised redundancy’. The answer lies in how the rules are seen and how they are, therefore, used. As long as a rule is seen and used as it itself insists on being seen and used, then there is nothing else than the rule. The rule is being seen from the ‘vantage’ point of the rule, which is not a vantage point at all since nothing true can be seen this way. All that can be seen, in fact, is the characteristic conditioned illusion that the rule produces, and which is a function of the position of ‘zero perspective’ inherent in the literalism of the rule. But it is nevertheless perfectly possible to gain perspective on the rules whose basis we are operating on, and as soon as we do this, by moving however slightly in the direction of ‘radical departure’ from the rule, then the literal axioms upon which we base our thinking are seen ever-so-slightly from a different angle. This slight but incredibly significant difference from the flat and banal tyranny of our usual viewpoint represents genuine freedom of awareness, which is what we have been referring to as ‘unconditioned consciousness’. ‘Unconditioned consciousness’ is actually the only consciousness there is – any other type of consciousness isn’t actually consciousness at all!
When we see that our literal statements about reality have zero connection with the reality that they are supposedly about then this is consciousness. When we miss the distinction between (the unsurmountable gulf between) our descriptions and what we imagine that we are describing then this is what we might refer to as ‘conditioned consciousness’ – the thing about ‘conditioned consciousness’ is however that it is the ‘consciousness’ of an illusion which we do not in any way see to be an illusion. This being the case (as it clearly is) – how can we say that it is ‘consciousness’?