Date: Sat Sep 8, 2001 7:05 pm
Subject: What is Emptiness?
We have expressed the idea that emptiness and void are something
different. Key in this realization was Lo Chen-Shun's critique of Buddhism
from a Chinese perspective, and then subsequently finding STONEHOUSE's
wonderful blending of these two perspectives. Also it helped to find the
recently discovered Taoist writings that were lost to oblivion for so long
and their description of the Court Taoism that lost out to Confucianism.
This allows a different reading of the received Taoist texts.
Essentially emptiness is the nature of inward existence as discovered by
the Buddhists and void is the nature of outward existence as discovered by
the Taoists. Interestingly enough Nietzsche had similar thoughts to these
among his aphorisms. See the excellent book by Gordan Parkes on
Nietzsche's psychology called Composing the Soul. In fact one might see
Nietzsche's idea of will to power as one way of expressing the identity
between these two viewpoints.
Jainism is the only tradition in India whtat equally accept the material
and the psychical worlds as co-equal and supra-rationally related.
Buddhism following Hinduism in general discounts the existence of the
material world. Savite religion however does have some elements similar to
Taoism in its affirmation of the Tatvas.
Generally the distinction between Taoism and Buddhism/Hinduism is that
Taoism believes that man is only nature while Buddhism/Taoism believe that
consciousness is the ultimate ground and nothing exists outside of
consciousness. The Jains come closet to the truth in affirming that both
are true simultaneiously without interference. Jainism has the seven
statements that move from A or ~A or indeterminate to A and ~A and
indeterminate through all combinations of these elements but still they
support the ultimacy of Beng. Buddhism on the other hand contributes the
idea of Emptiness moving beyond Hinduism's immersion in Being as sat citta
One way of thinking about these two horizons is in terms of Meta-systems.
Each horizon, inward and outward, are meta-systems within which the
systems of objects and thoughts, i.e. physus and logos unfold. But of
course both Buddhists and Taoists have very different ways of approaching
these things than the western distinction underlying our current
metaphysical worldview which talks about physus/logos. When Buddhists deny
the reality of the physical world, along with most Hindus, or when Taoists
deny the difference between nature and the human there is a kind of
slight and subtle, i.e. diaphanous, onesidedness in relation to the nature
of conscious existence.
Interestingly just as Being inscribed into it's core, so to does Existence
have being inscribed into it.
But what is even more interesting is the deeper non-dual of manifestation
beyond existence. Existence is still about things, things found, either
inwardly or outwardly. The question of inward verses outward is really a
question of medium, is it consciousness that contains everything or
But beyond the attributes of things are
broader attributes, many times ascribed to God, which only appear in the
interaction of things. These higher order attributes can be seen as a
manifestation of something beyond things normally thought of as the source
of things. For instance, mercy, is not the attribute of one thing but at
least two things, like mother and child. These higher order attributes do
not exist in the same sense as things or their attributes exist. Normally
in order to see them we have to look through the things as it were,
through a glass darkly. But what happens when these higher order
attributes that span multiple things are brought to the foreground and
things receed into the background. This is one way of thinking about what
annihilation of the self is like in the Islamic Sufi tradition. In that
tradition there is an immersion in the attributes of God in which things
receed from view, this wrenches the locus of experience out of time from
the experience of in-time or endless time.
STONEHOUSE is definitely on the verge of this horizon in his close
juxtaposition of the Taoist and Zen Buddhist ways of looking at existence.
However, we see it full blown in Sufism that reaches into a deeper
non-dual arena that those non-duals that are proposed by the Buddhists or
Taoists separately. A good example of this is Shaykh al-Niffari's work on
stations ('stayings' as Arberry tranlates it.) We can also see it clearly
in the work of Shaykh al-Akbar and various other Sufi Wali's, i.e. friends of
Now it is these differences between Buddhism and Taoism and Sufism that is
of interest. These differences are covered over completely by the
relativism and perennialism of the spiritual marketplace. There is deep
meaning in these differences. Each of these goals are legitimate in their
own way. And in fact the practioners of these various ways need to be in a
dialogue with each other about their discoveries on their various horizons
of non-experience that define the various aspects of the non-dual which is
the soure of genuine spirituality.
Rather than seeing them as thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis we can
instead look at them in terms of the special systems theory.
We can think of the medium of consciousness and the medium of spacetime or
nature as supra-rationally conjuncted as two meta-sysems. They are very
different existenital media, i.e. empty and void respectively. What arises
in each medium are systems, forms, patterns, monads, facets, i.e.
exemplifying the various meta-levels of Being. In our
meta-physical worldview we interpret that as physus and logos. But of
course we are sensitive to the existence inscribed into the differences
between the meta-levels of Being and their lack of a fifth meta-level.
But consider, between the conjuncted supra-rational meta-systems that the
Jains saw, and which we see through as existence not Being either from
the perspective of Buddhism or Taoism and their deeper non-dual manifestation,
between these meta-systems and their respective systems (in physus and logos),
there is a series of special systems . . . disipative, autopoietic and
For instance there is the dissipative logos and the dissipative physus
that form an autopoietic unity through conjunction. Two of these together,
say as man and wife form a reflexive special system composed of two
elements of physus and two elements of logos. This gives rise to six
relations between the four dissipative special systems. If they were just
systems we might think of them in terms of Bubberian I-it relations, but
within their reflexive mode we might combine Jung and Bubber to see
Self-Thou relations when we talk of interpenetrating totalities that are
ultimately empty. The point is that the viritual pairs in their
conjunction outnumber their actual pairings in physical conjunction
through their bodies. This conjunctive virtuality verses embodies
conjunction is one way to define the difference between the realm of
consciousness and the spacetime realm of nature.
When we talk of combining two meta-systems of different media and their
respective systems/anti-system formations then the orthogonal differentiation
is into the realm of manifestation rather than either emptiness or void.
This is a new horizon that opens up which we can approach in terms of its
emptiness or in terms of its voidness, but these are approximations to the
understanding of the deeper non-duality of manifestation which is
orthogonal to the conjunction of the two.
Go beyond Being, by ascending the meta-levels of Being as steps to no
where . .
Then, find emptines, or find the void depending on which horizon draws
you onward away from the self.
Then find the other side of existence to that which drew you in the
first palce beyond Being. Go from emptiness to void or vice versa.
Then conjunct empty-void or void-emptiness and discover the horizon of
Manifestation is orthogonal and a deeper non-dual than either void
existence or empty existence.
Enjoy the stations and stayings that goes beyond the existence of things
including the conscious existence or the embodied existence that we find
ourselves existing as.
This placeless time and timeless place of the soul-spirit (ruh-nafs)
annihilated then going-on as overwhemed by the manifestation of attrbutes
of God (See http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/names.html)
that appears more primordially than the empty-void or void-emptiness is a
deeper non-dual groundless ground there before or after endlesstime in the
Note manifestation is something that goes beyond pervasion and syllogism,
i.e. beyond count and non-count ways of looking at things. It has an anti-
logic of its own that is summed up in Sura Iklas (See
A guide book to this realm is THE MEANING OF MAN by Sidi Ali al-Jamal
(Diwan Press) or The HIKAM of Ibn 'Ata'llah (See
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/hikam.html) or various
other books by genuine Sufic masters from the Islamic
tradition (See http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/).
Of course, all this is merely meant to stir more discussion among the
adherents of the genuinely spiritual traditions that make the
non-nihilistic distinction between form and formlessness as the threshold
beyond which we much go in order to find the meanings that pour out from
the untrammeled void of nature and the pristine emptiness of
consciousness. Each of those traditions will see their own way as
ultimate, and perhaps they are. Immersed in formlessness it is difficult
to distinguish whether we are Buddhist, Taoist, or Muslim. But here we
merely draw out the implicaitons of the various traditions and through
their comparison attempt to open ourselves up to deeper alternatives. More
interesting things for the Buddha, or Lao Tzu or the Sufic Masters to say
in this age where it is necessary to cut through the illusion of the
spiritual marketplace by unearthing the genuine meanings that pour fourth
from the sources of existence.