Everything and Nothing

Nothing                    Something                    Everything
Rest                            Motion                        Rest

'The Sea'
'Metaxy' (Plato/Hillman)
'The Real' (Freud/Lacan)  
'Emptiness' (Buddhism)
'Wuji/Wu chi' (Taoism)
'The zone of no-thing' (R.D. Laing)
'O' (Wilfred Bion)
'Creative Indifference' (Salomo Friedlaender)
'The fertile void' (Fritz Perls)
The womb

The Chinese word Wuji (pinyin) or Wu Chi (Wade-Giles) refers to the unmanifest aspect of Tao: Tao-in-stillness, in other words.

Wuji is the undifferentiated timelessness which, in the Taijitu Shuo (a traditional Taoist diagram) is represented by an empty circle. In Taoist cosmology, Wuji refers to a state of non-distinction prior to the differentiation into the Yin and Yang that give birth to the ten-thousand-things-- all the phenomena of the manifest world, with their various qualities and behaviors.

The Chinese character for Wuji (Wu Chi) is composed of two radicals: Wu and Ji (Chi).

“Wu” includes the meanings: without/ no/ none/ non- / [where there are] no.

“Ji (Chi)” includes the meanings: limits/ extreme/ end/ ultimate/ extreme boundary.

Wuji (Wu Chi) can, then, be translated as: infinite, unlimited, boundless or limitless.

[Elizabeth Reninger]
'Wuji (Wu Chi): The Unmanifest Aspect of the Tao'

If there are no meanings, no values, no source of sustenance or help, then man, as creator, must invent, conjure up meanings and values, sustenance and succour out of nothing. He is a magician.

Their source is from the Silence at the centre of each of us.

The zone, the zone of no-thing, of the silence of silences, is the source. We forget that we are all there all the time.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.37, 38

In nothingness there's nothing at all, while 'emptiness' is in fact the opposite of nothingness - it's a universal potential, the universe, beings, movement, consciousness.

No phenomena at all could ever be manifested if their ultimate nature wasn't emptiness.

In rather the same way, though this is only an image, the visible world would not be able to unfold without space to unfold in. If space was intrinsically substantial and permanent, no manifestation, no transformation, would be possible. That's why the texts say, 'Since there is emptiness, everything can exist.'

Emptiness thus contains all possibilities, and those possibilities are interdependent.

The analogy of space allowing worlds to be formed is only an image, to show that nothing in the phenomenal world is substantial, permanent, or intrinsically existing [...]

The idea of emptiness is to combat the innate tendency we have to reify the self, consciousness, and phenomena.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.137, 142

When I flowed out from God, all things declared, "God is!"

Now this cannot make me blessed, for thereby I acknowledge myself a creature. But in the breakthrough I stand empty in the will of God, and empty also of God's will, and of all his works, even of God himself -

then I am more than all creatures, then I am neither God nor creature: I am what I was, and that I shall remain, now and ever more!

Then I receive a thrust which carries me above angels. By this thrust I become so rich that God cannot suffice me, despite all that he is as God and all his godly works; for in this breakthrough I receive what God and I have in common.

I am what I was, I neither increase not diminish, for I am the unmoved mover that moves all things.  

Here God can find no more place in man, for man by his emptiness has won back that which he was eternally and ever shall remain.

[Meister Eckhart]
Meister Eckhart, p.221
Found in 'Psychology and the East' by Carl Gustav Jung, p.158-9

[The Garland Sutra] calls the world of ordinary life "the Dharmic World of Phenomena."

Its condition is such as we ordinarily experience when there are two separate things, A and B.

A has its own particular characteristics, as does B; A and B thus are clearly distinguished from one another, and there is no question of confusing the two.

If the boundaries between phenomena are removed, however, we see the world differently.

This dissolution of boundaries is characteristic [...] of Buddhism in general and other Eastern philosophies. "The minute and infinite differences of actual existence instantly disappear in a vast space of nondiscrimination.

Here, the differences between objects disappear, and so self-nature is negated. This state Zen Buddhism calls "nothingness or emptiness" [...]

Such terms as "nothingness" and "emptiness" do not signify an empty world of no things, but rather a world that contains infinite possibilities for "being." "Emptiness" in the Dharmic World of Principle is pregnant with the dual meaning of nothingness and being.

[...] in order to have such "emptying" of existence [...] it is necessary to empty our ordinary consciousness, our "discriminating mind," which discriminates things one from another, always wanting to see the differences.

The world of phenomena embodies various kinds of discrimination. Each and every thing can be seen separately. But once a person acknowledges their Emptiness before or beneath such discrimination, one can see the world entirely nondiscriminately.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.99-101

The ubiquitous absence of 'God' in ordinary life is this sense of non-existing, of mystery, of incalculable potentiality; this eternal doubt that hovers between the thing in itself and our perception of it; this dimension in and by which all other dimensions exist.

The white paper that contains a drawing; the space that contains a building; the silence that contains a sonata; the passage of time that prevents a sensation or object continuing for ever; all these are 'God'.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p. 27

"'You are tiring yourself, Joseph,' he said softly, his voice full of that touching friendliness and solicitude you know so well. That was all. 'You are tiring yourself, Joseph.'

As if he had long been watching me engaged in a too-strenuous task and wanted to admonish me to stop. He spoke the words with some effort, as though he had not used his lips for speaking for a long time.

And at that moment he laid his hand on my arm - it was light as a butterfly - looked penetratingly into my eyes, and smiled.  At that moment I was conquered.

Something of his cheerful silence, something of his patience and calm, passed into me;  

and suddenly I understood the old man and the direction his nature had taken, away from people and toward silence, away from words and toward music, away from ideas and toward unity.

I understood what I was privileged to see here, and now for the first time grasped the meaning of this smile, this radiance. A saint, one who had attained perfection, had permitted me to dwell in his radiance for an hour; and blunderer that I am, I had tried to entertain him, to question him, to seduce him into a conversation.

Thank God the light had not dawned on me too late. He might have sent me away and thus rejected me forever. And I would have been deprived of the most remarkable and wonderful experience I have ever had."

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 257

Wolfert (2000) describes the Gestalt principles of refraining from preconceptions, and openness of the self to what emerges, as rooted in and parallel to Taoist traditions.

Through this attitude of openness, a flexibility is present that allows for creativity and sacred experience to emerge. This practice of open attention within Gestalt therapy is similar to many forms of meditation (Naranjo, 1970).

A Gestalt approach also challenges us to sit in openness with feelings of not knowing, lack of meaning, or emptness. These feelings are often associated with the feeling of “a void.” Sitting in “a void” is a familiar aspect of Taoist and Zen Buddhist traditions (Van Dusen, 1977). This is often called a “fertile void” by Perls or place of “creative indifference” by Friedlaender in Gestalt psychology (Frambach, 2003).

It is the center from which all phenomena arise. 

Wolfert (2000) tells us that it is through dwelling in the fertile void that we can have deeper contact and allow spiritual experience to enter. This fertile emptiness also has been compared to the psychological openness of grace in Christianity.

[Lynn Williams]
'Spirituality and Gestalt: A Gestalt-Transpersonal Perspective'

The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

Everything in the universe comes out of Nothing.

Nothing - the nameless is the beginning;

While Heaven, the mother is the creatrix of all things.

Follow the nothingness of the Tao,
and you can be like it, not needing anything,
seeing the wonder and the root of everything.

And even if you cannot grasp this nothingness, you can still see something of the Tao in everything.

These two are the same only called by different names

- and both are mysterious and wonderful.

All mysteries are Tao, and Heaven is their mother:
She is the gateway and the womb-door.

[Lao Tzu]
Tao Te Ching, Chapter One

Kristeva's elaboration of the semiotic situates it at a point prior to the Lacanian imaginary, i.e., prior to the moment at which the infant identifies with its own ego and distinguishes itself from an object.

Still in porous relation to another body, without clear borders or limits, the infant is propelled by the anarchic, heterogenous, rhythmic flow of drive energy “which has no thesis and no position”. Mobile and provisional, moving through the body of the not-yet subject, the semiotic is a chaotic force anterior to language, unlocalizable because it courses through an as yet undifferentiated materiality in which the infantile body is not yet distinct from the maternal body.

Kristeva calls this stage pre-thetic since it is prior to the reign of propositions, judgments, positions, and theses, these being subsequent possibilities that might arrest or seize a movement that always exceeds them. Since the image is itself a kind of sign, a first representation, the advent of the imaginary demarcates the first thetic break, a break from nature and into the realm of convention.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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