The self is a null situation and nothing can come out of it apart from other null situations; all extensions of the original null situation are also null situations, in other words. The stultifyingly familiar world that the self unfailingly creates around it is a null situation. There is nothing that the self can ever do, out of its own centre, out of its own frame of reference that is not going to be null, or ‘self-cancelling’. The only question is, do we see it or do we not see it?
The self is a null situation because it is (of necessity!) ‘closed’ and ‘closed’ is a game. ‘Closed’ is a game because it does not and never could exist – there’s no such things a ‘closure’, no such thing as ‘exclusion’. That’s just the neat little ‘game of logic’ that the thinking mind plays. We can therefore pretend that ‘closed’ exists and we can go ahead and firmly believe in our own pretence, but just because we don’t acknowledge the unreality of the situation we have constructed for ourselves in direct way and see it for what it is doesn’t mean that we don’t have to deal with ‘the reality of our own unreality’ (i.e. the nullity) further down the line, where it will manifest for us in a very concrete or ‘black-and-white’ fashion, which is the modality we have chosen to operate within. We will run into consequences later on in other words, even though we won’t understand the consequences for what they are.
The concrete or black-and-white manifestation of the nullity is the phenomenon of self-cancelling (or ‘self-reversing’) and the simplest example of this is the situation of a pendulum swinging back and forth. A swinging pendulum (or any kind of oscillator) is a ‘closed system’ inasmuch as it doesn’t interact with the outside world; a pendulum swings back and forth and back and forth and that’s all it does – it doesn’t have any more behaviours up its sleeve! An oscillating system is perfectly predictable in other words. If a pendulum or any other oscillator exhibited chaotic or unpredictable behaviour then it would no longer be a simple oscillating system – it would be a chaotic system instead and that is something very different indeed because chaotic systems are open. They can’t be described, they can’t be put in a box.
Simple oscillators – whatever they might be – represent something very interesting and we don’t usually get this – they represent ‘formal systems’ that have somehow found embodied existence in this non-formal universe of ours! A ‘formal system’ is a system that can be exhaustively described – it can be described in such a way that nothing at all is left out, in other words. It is a system that can be fully represented in terms of black and white literal symbols inscribed on a sheet of paper. A formal system is peculiar therefore in that it is wholly concrete; what you see it what you get – there is no ‘indefinable essence’ anywhere, nothing that the rational mind can’t understand.
The next step of our argument is simply to ask what an oscillating system does, what its key characteristic is, how it shows or manifests itself and this is something that takes no in-depth analysis at all – an oscillating system oscillates, it perpetually moves between +1 and -1, +2 and -2, + 10 and -10, etc. That’s what it does and that’s all that it does, which means that we can describe an oscillator by saying that it is something that is entirely made up of self-cancelling (or ‘self-reversing’) activity. Who can argue with this? An oscillation (or a vibration) is a form of change that is constantly cancelling itself, constantly negating itself, and this of course means that the upshot or resultant of the activity is ‘no change’.
If we take a partial view of a pendulum (or any other oscillating system) we will see action, we will see ‘busy-ness’, we will see movement – either in a positive or negative direction. If, on the other hand, we take the wider view, the view which allows us to see the Big Picture then what we see of course is that there is no net change, that there is no net movement. Nothing’s really happening, despite all the activity. Another illustration of the principle that we could use – instead of a swinging pendulum – is that of a cup of tea (to use Douglas Adam’s example in the Hitchhiker’s Guide). All the molecules in a cup of tea are moving, jostling about in Brownian motion, but the tea always stays in the cup! This thing that we call ‘Brownian motion’ is an example of compensated movement therefore – anymore movement in one direction is always compensated by movement in the equal and opposite direction with the result that the tea never jumps out of the cup all by itself. The movement going on with all the vibrating molecules is a ‘null movement’, the same as is true for all vibratory activity.
What we are saying here therefore is that there are two ‘partial’ pictures of what’s going on in vibration (or oscillation), one being movement in a positive direction and the other movement negative direction, and that when we add together these two partial pictures what we get is the Whole Picture and in the Whole Picture (as we keep saying) there is no movement or change going on at all. This is not to say that the Whole is static, or stagnant, but rather that there is no ‘defined’ movement or ‘defined’ change going on. The Whole moves all by itself, without reference to any static framework of meaning, and this movement (which David Bohm calls the Holomovement) is neither in a positive direction’ or in a negative, since (very obviously!) neither positive nor negative directions exist outside of the framework!
The reason we’re using the term ‘null situation’ isn’t because ‘there’s nothing happening there’ – that wouldn’t make sense because if there is a situation where nothing’s happening we don’t really need to make any specific mention of it in the first place. We can hardly go around drawing attention to every ‘absence-of-an-event’ we come across! We don’t need to call a situation in which nothing is happening a ‘null situation’ because it isn’t a situation in the first place. The thing about a null situation is that it is a situation where something seems to be happening when actually it isn’t. It’s a ‘false event’, a ‘pseudo-happening’. It is the convincing appearance of something, happening without any content. All events that are seen to occur within the context of the framework of thought are ‘null events’; they are null events because the static framework of thought doesn’t actually exist – events or changes that take place with respect to the framework are real within this unreal context, but not real outside of it!
Another approach we can approach this is to say that what we have called ‘the Whole Picture’ is simply reality, whilst the partial picture (in which some sort of change, either positive or negative, seems to be happening) isn’t real (or isn’t reality) since reality can’t actually be split into two halves! The thinking mind splits reality into two parts, it is true, but all that this means is that the thinking mind produces a dualistic illusion which it substitutes for non-dual reality without letting us know that this is what it is doing. We could equally well say (and this is the same thing) that the thinking mind cannot (and never can) see reality because all it can do is see things in terms of plus versus minus, yes versus no. According to our mind-moderated way of looking at the world there is movement either going towards a positive pole or a negative pole, but in reality there is no such movement (and never can be) because Wholeness is not divided into two poles…
So to come back to our main point again, the self is a null situation just as everything created by thought is a null situation, since thought is quintessentially polar. Thought works via polarities, via ‘the polarization of the world’, via the splitting up of reality into two halves, the plus and the minus. Change is seen as taking place within a framework which is made up a number of axes at right angles at each other, each axis strung out between the positive pole at one end and the negative pole at the other – a separation that (as we have said) doesn’t actually exist. Thought is a static kind of thing, it always sees everything in reference to a fixed point, and when we see the world in relation to a fixed point the result is always a polarity. A fixed point (or definite statement) IS polarity – straightaway there is the polarity between ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’ or – in terms of the fixed point or location, ‘here’ and ‘there’, ‘here’ and ‘not here’. In order for a fixed point to be a fixed point there has to be a definite answer to the question that is being asked, i.e. is the position here or not here, do we have a hit or a miss, a yes or a no. This is how the logical continuum works – purely on the basis of yes and no. There’s nothing ‘indefinite’ about it.
In a very easy-to-understand way, speaking from the viewpoint of the self, if I say “I am” (which I absolutely have to say if I am to be a self) then straightaway this creates a “I am not” since there cannot be a positive statement without the corresponding negative one. This means that there is now a directionality to reality whereby I can either be moving towards one pole or the other – I can either be moving in the positive direction, in the direction of “I am” (ego-affirmation), which is the pleasurable / satisfying direction, or I can move in the negative direction of “I am not” which – as we might expect – is the unpleasant / painful (if not downright terrifying) direction. But behind this apparent (and very compelling) drama of opposites lies the nullity. Or to put this another way, since neither pole (neither “I am” nor “I am not”) are real the whole drama is entirely ‘empty’. As the non-dual teachers say, we’re doing everything for the sake of the self and yet there’s no self there. The never-ending vibration between YES and NO, pleasure and pain is how the emptiness of the drama (or ‘the self’) shows itself.
When we proudly say “I am this” and make ourselves definite (i.e. unambiguously black and white) in this way we are creating a polarity, therefore. By making ourselves definite we’re actually making ourselves into something that isn’t real because, as we have said, the ‘partial picture’ (which is one opposite without the other) isn’t real. We’re committing ourselves to the never-ending empty drama of YES and NO. There’s no such thing as ‘the partial picture’ – there’s only Wholeness and there’s no polarity, no ‘self’ in the Wholeness…