Theories play an important role in our lives by helping us make sense of the world. When we develop a theory, we are not primarily concerned with practical results as we are with the possibility of finding answers that can increase our knowledge of the universe. In fact, if scientific theories were elaborated only with immediate and practical purposes in mind, a lot of them would not even exist today. Any knowledge acquired by us is priceless, whereas applying that knowledge in our lives is mostly just a matter of paying the right price.
Problems have to be completely understood before we can come up with efficient solutions. It is therefore normal for theoretical research to be carried out for a long time until concrete results can appear. Still, no theory is sacred; no theory is beyond practical application to the point of it being contemplated as a work of art. The problem begins when we want a theory to yield practical results, because usually that will require twice as much work than elaborating the theory itself. A classical example regarding this kind of dilemma lies in the stereotype of the mad university professor who daydreams about fantastic theories while failing to produce concrete results from his research. Well, suppose that one day the university's upper management decides to stop funding the professor's unyielding project, yet if only they had waited a few more days before making that decision, the professor could probably have achieved a major breakthrough. The moral of this story is that eagerness for results and results only can actually work against the possibility of a great discovery.
There is a strong relationship between the possible applications of a theory and how valuable and effective that theory is. If a theory can be proven to be consistent with observations after rigorous testing and experimentation, it becomes a valuable tool for predicting master phenomena. The relevance and specificity of those predictions will determine how potentially useful the theory is. Such view / approach is known as instrumentalism. In this highly pragmatic view, theories are considered as mere instruments that we can use to gain control over the processes of reality; it does not matter if they do not satisfy philosophical aspirations of achieving the highest truth. For the pragmatist, truth already has a name: pragma, which means "to do, act and perform."
Any scientist with a philosophical mind knows that although each new theory is better and may last longer than a preceding failed one, the only thing that will never fail is his primal instinct to find the truth. The search for the absolute truth has always been the motivation behind philosophical inquiry. The greatest ancient philosophers had this ambition in abundance, and that is why they distinguished themselves from other, less-known thinkers. However, the active search for the truth eventually gave place to the advent of a more pragmatic view of reality. The pragmatist is only concerned with the difference that a theory will make in his world; that is, it makes no sense for him to look for a truth that is independent of his reality. To put it simply, the pragmatist sees the truth as that which is real (factual) or has the possibility of becoming real through action in the physical world. (Note: the physical world in the pragmatic context is also the practical world.)
What happened next is that the pragmatic conception together with religious dogmatism played a strong role in discouraging people from seeking the truth by themselves. It turned out that pragmatism was not only an ideological movement defended by a few philosophers, but an entirely new way of thinking that grew to affect social philosophy as well. Also, pragmatism has helped in many ways to establish grounds for materialism and apathy. The truth has been made into something that people love to take for granted as they simply accept what is handed down to them by institutions and authorities. As a result, people are no longer supposed to look beyond the "facts" of life for answers, because the truth for them is that which is laid upon their eyes: physical reality -- they are entitled to take action upon it or shut up.
What pragmatists seem to ignore is that there is a reflexive relationship as well as a two-way communication between theory and practice. Theoretical knowledge can contribute to the efficiency of practical action, whereas practical action can bring to our awareness facts that complement and refine our knowledge. While practice already includes the act of elaborating a theory, a theory can change our outlook on reality and thus even determine what is considered practical. Therefore, theory should not always be placed under practice, because sometimes the inverse must also happen.
Nonetheless, the supposition that theory and practice are essential to each other is also something that seems to be truer in theory than in practice, at least in terms of what has seeped into the public consciousness. The common view is that theory and practice are separate entities that do not go along with each other. While theoretical behavior relies on careful planning and attention to principles and details, practical behavior has been associated with action without thinking, which is when focus is on "getting things done" at all costs. In other words, people began to reject thinking as an activity too impractical and time-consuming even when a lack of it may very well prove disastrous.1
1 Take Note of Something Different, "Session 24," http://www.take-note.com/session24.htm (accessed April 23, 2008; site now discontinued).
Practice (praxis) usually refers to a situation in which taking action is the only real challenge and the only real purpose. An action can be said to be practical to the extent that it dispenses with the need for lengthy theoretical considerations, because the only motivation for it is the very necessity for deliberate / immediate manifestation of results.
But there is a great deal of subjectivity and confusion when it comes to the notion of practice, because any kind of behavior / activity can be aimed at obtaining so-called practical results. For this reason we must make an important distinction: a practical approach to life does not mean that any kind of activity is permitted. Instead, we need a set of principles that will help us decide which activities are for better or worse. A first step in this direction is to understand that there is no such thing as a complete state of inactivity in the universe. For example, physics predicts that all atoms remain in a state of constant motion (i.e., energetic flux) even when the temperature approaches the absolute zero infinitely.1 Therefore, we must always remember that some degree of activity is present even when there is an appearance of rest and inaction.
Without activity there is no circulation of energy and thus there is not a circuit, a closed system, in which energy is contained. That is, without a containment system there can be no energy present at all, because energy is not an entity in and of itself: there is no such thing as formless energy. Just like water, it simply evaporates back into "nothingness" if we do not keep it inside a bottle. We know that energy (work) is required to bring things into reality, but there is much more to it: we will learn in this book how energy is an universal variable that brings everything into reality. Consequently, without energy it would be no longer possible for a physical reality to exist, which means that existence would become insubstantial and probably very boring.
It is important that we establish a common denominator for the highly subjective term reality. We need to be talking about a reality that everyone can agree and identify with. We may start from the principle that reality is better defined as the baseline of those sensations that feel more intense and can hook our perception for a longer time than others. Well, it is obvious that the only type of reality that everyone shares to some degree, and that feels sufficiently intense and persistent for most people, is the well-known physical reality.
Now, because there is no true state of inactivity that can characterize a complete lack of action, people prefer to accept the values of culture and society when it comes to deciding what activities and courses of action are valid (useful) or not. Therefore, behind the "do something" provocation that people commonly throw at each other, there is always a hint of "do as I do" or "do what is considered valid by our society." The only possible common-sense exception to this rule is that it really does not make sense to possess a valuable instrument such as the human body and never actually use it. Anyway, whether it is in accordance to cultural values or ingrained common sense, practical action is just action seen as useful.Bonus image
Despite it being neglected by most people, there is an important aspect of life that requires us to figure things out before we get ourselves involved with them. Practice must be based on theory as much as theory must be realized in practice. But because of the external pressure and judgement imposed by society on the individual, people often walk into situations just for the sake of displaying action. This can be very dangerous, of course, because no course of action is free of risks. To jump into a situation without a proper understanding and assessment of risks is tantamount to enter a war zone unarmed: remarkable, but stupid. Doing just for the sake of doing and not understanding why it is necessary to perform an action is what characterizes an ingenuous practical approach.
Practice may have degenerated into those activities composing one's social duty or role, but it is still a central aspect of life. In fact, practice focus on what is essential to human life: survival. By mastering practice, the art of survival, we can master reality. That is why it is necessary that we develop a theory of practice, which is a theory on which we can base our life practice. Any theory that is not of practice is still not realized in what we do and how we live, and so it is still removed from our reality and will ultimately fail to provide us with real answers.
A theory of practice is in many ways a theory of Reality, the ultimate one, and not just a theory based on what we believe or expect reality to be. The best theory is the one born from the unification of both theoretical and practical concepts in a wider frame of reference that provides us with an understanding of the nature of reality. In addition, a theory of Reality cannot be ordinary if we expect it to work all the time; for one thing Reality is ruthless and never fails to screw with us regardless of whether we like It or not. Likewise, a theory of practice needs to be just as ruthless and effective if it has any business explaining Reality to us.
1 According to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, atomic motion (energy) is still expected to exist even when temperature is arbitrarily close to the hypothetical absolute zero.
One thing that all theories have in common is that they cannot last forever, and thus they are all wrong since from the beginning: at some point in its life, a theory's inaccuracy and incompleteness will rise to the surface. Many times in history theories have been proven inaccurate and/or incomplete. Scientists can only hope to learn as much from a theory for as long as possible before the inevitable happens. All theories lose their value (applicability) sooner or later. It is just a matter of time until circumstances change and a theory's ability to predict and support new discoveries begins to fail. But let us be a little more reasonable here: it is not only a matter of failure vs. success, because some theories can be more persistent than others, and not all of them need to be rewritten from scratch when something goes wrong. The bottom line is just that we can never be sure about the continued success of a theory without actually testing it for an eternity.
Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. (Stephen Hawking)
If we can never prove a theory to be the ultimate one, then looking for one that escapes this rule must be an act of faith. Of course, faith in the context of scientific inquiry is irrelevant, but the degree of confidence that people have in a theory plays an important role in determining its success. As the confidence in a theory grows, the theory grows as well, because more people are willing to support it. The problem with confidence, or any other positive attitude for that matter, is that nothing can replace the scientific prospect of certainty of knowledge. The mistake begins when science is no longer seen as a tool for the quest of knowledge and truth, but instead the tool itself is believed and promoted to be the final truth. This approach is known as scientificism and could not be more non-scientific considering that we cannot be sure that the scientific method is ideal if we do not subject the method itself to a scientific study. But for that, a more profound (i.e., meta-scientific) approach is needed, but also one that is resolute in providing us with certainty in an objective, hence scientific way.
The fact that all theories fail is considered one of the greatest strengths of science, because there is no other way for scientists to continuously achieve more reliable conclusions about their work. In other words, science as an institution sees its own limitations as the factor that promotes its constant development. The problem with this positivistic view, however, lies in how scientific development is not really cumulative as many scientists would like to think.1 Quite the opposite, we observe a succession of revolutions (i.e., paradigm shifts) when newer scientific models replace older models almost completely. Much is lost, but much is gained also. Every time that a new paradigm arises, the scientific establishment is forced to disregard a good part of its work and restructure its disciplines. Real continuous progress is found only in the natural evolution of the collective consciousness of a civilization, which is the actual process that seeds new paradigms that force science to readapt.
But let us assume that there is continuous progress behind science after all. With this in mind, we can ask ourselves the following: how long until there is enough improvement / progress? Do scientists even know exactly where they are going? That is, we cannot afford having no clear destiny in sight while certain problems continue to plague our civilization. It is not prudent to stay in a slow path of evolution when there is a real possibility of getting the process over with at once. Instead of asking the same questions over and over again, we should start asking ourselves about the reason why we keep making questions.
We can, however, resolve this uncertain fate on a personal level by finally achieving closure in our minds that does not rely on faith that the scientific establishment is in a path of steady progress after all. The individual must take back his power and have the confidence that he can discover the Truth for himself. For that we need a theory that does not have limitations, a theory that is not susceptible to failure. It is indeed counterintuitive to even conceive such theory as being scientific (i.e., testable, falsifiable), and it is probably not even a good idea to call it a theory. Therefore, consider that we are not talking about any theory; we are talking about a final theory. The list below shows the requirements of a final theory should it ever arise.
Theories and models are not to be confused with reality; instead, they are built on top of reality. For this reason, all theories born from the physical sciences are too superficial to give us deeper understanding of reality. That is, we either know how things work on the most fundamental level or we hold tight to an elaborate hunch that we consider sufficiently accurate. Well, in the same manner that scientific theories tend to fail, a gap in our understanding eventually becomes our downfall. That is why a theory to be final must provide us with such an accurate understanding that almost no difference (gap) between theory / model and practice / reality remains. Any gap in the application of a final theory must be too insignificant to ever force us to abandon the theory completely.
Realistically speaking, it is impossible for a theory to predict and explain everything on a direct basis, but a final theory could at least offer us a starting point in this herculean task; it could at least offer us the essentials so that the task of discovering the rest becomes a matter of derivation. In other words, a final theory is not the end of the desire to learn, but instead it is the final excitement needed for the acquisition of all knowledge remaining around you. There is no reason for you to continue to live in confusion and doubt. Why not go after the basics first and then have fun experimenting with a fundamental knowledge for the rest of eternity? It is certainly possible to have the best of both worlds: to continue to enjoy a learning process in our existence even though we have already learned the essential.
Many scientists discuss the possibility of a Theory of Everything (TOE) in the scope of all physical sciences. Such theory, however, could never be "of everything" if it does not explain those phenomenons that touch the individual personally and directly, mainly in the case of the study of consciousness, which brings into question many philosophical considerations. One thing is to study reality, which is easily observable; another is to study the nature of such. Therefore, we need more than just a theory of everything in the physical sense; we need more than a theory that attempts to describe the readily observable: those things that already exist and already work. Instead, we need to capture the essence behind phenomena to understand why they exist at all and why the universe works the way it does; we need not a theory, but an understanding of everything, and most importantly an understanding of ourselves: the carriers of the consciousness phenomenom. This is the reason why a final theory is not really a theory in the conventional sense, but more of a learning device capable of transmitting fundamental knowledge.
Therefore, whether a final theory explains everything or not is not even the most important requirement. Above all, a final theory should put an end to the most bugging philosophical, scientific and theological questions so that there would be little or nothing left in our minds besides a raw desire for action based on our understanding of the workings of Reality. In other words, with a final theory there would be no more doubts preventing us from assuming a fully powered practical approach to solve our problems. Instead of continuing to learn by mistakes, we are able to skip the possibility of error completely and go directly after that which is guaranteed to work. Instead of contemplating or ignoring the Truth, we can finally put It into practice.
The single most important goal that anyone can have is to achieve a permanent state of peace of mind. And crucial for the maintenance of peace of mind is the degree of certainty that one has about the universe. Taking this into consideration, we can conclude that a final theory is simply a theory that can provide us with the highest degree of certainty. In this manner, a final theory serves as the ultimate scientific theory, the ultimate religion and also the ultimate philosophy -- it is only a matter of how much it can be developed toward each one of these three directions.
Anyway, it is true that theoretical knowledge will never replace direct experience of the Truth, and so even a final theory is still an interpretation, not an awareness. That is because it is in the actual experience that certainty of knowledge lies. A person needs to internalize the experience of what is true and not just contemplate the Truth from an external perspective. Therefore, the task of attaining the ultimate truth becomes eternal in practice, but we can still strive toward reaching a virtual and theoretical end to our knowledge. We will see in the next section how something like this is possible when we work diligently toward simplifying our knowledge.
It is important that we stay focused on finding common knowledge between sciences as opposed to perpetuating paradigms that seek to further compartmentalize knowledge. The key for greater knowledge of the universe lies in the practice of knowledge synthesis. Such practice is the mark of a dynamic learning process, which is much better than clinging to a static and opinionated view of the universe. If one is not undoing one's assumptions about the universe every day, then one is not learning anything. In fact, the only assumption that seems to hold true is that any assumption is dangerous and will backfire sooner or later.
Scientists know that laws that apply only to a limited range of phenomena are but minor expressions of fundamental laws that apply to the whole universe. Furthermore, when researchers are sorting information about a certain field of knowledge, they invariably notice a small number of root concepts, perhaps only one, from which all other concepts stem from. In Biology, for example, there are hierarchical models describing the various levels by which life is structured, such as those involving life forms and their evolution from common ancestors. In short, what these examples have in common is that they reveal a hierarchy of concepts intrinsic to how the universe is organized.
In face of the universal principle of hierarchy, what any field of knowledge tries to do is integrate information around a point of reference. In this context, a point of reference is a central piece of knowledge that justifies the existence of all secondary (peripheral) pieces around it. That is, if you achieve this point of reference in your knowledge, achieving the rest becomes a matter of derivation. Only a very small subset of all knowledge is actually useful, while the rest only becomes useful when supported directly or indirectly by this subset. Many times we fail to understand certain aspects of the world because we lack a point of reference acting as the support for our knowledge.
Let us make an analogy: Consider a tiny circle surrounded by several scattered fragments of bigger circles. The tiny circle represents our point of reference. Also, consider that there are many paths leading to the tiny circle, but none of them is free of the clutter caused by the fragments.Figure 1.1 - Point of reference
The fragments represent fragmented information and distorted knowledge, while the tiny circle represents complete information and perfect knowledge, although the latter is in a relatively small quantity. We can try to put all fragments back together to form perfect circles again, but such task is clearly out of hand: it is the same as trying to use a box of scrap metal parts to build a spaceship. Alternatively, we can just force our way through the fragments and reach directly for the tiny circle. Once in the center, we can project and expand the tiny circle outwards so that it will serve as a mold or support for the reconstruction of the bigger circles.
Does this analogy mean that we should ignore all first-hand information and instead go directly after the most occult and fundamental knowledge? Not necessarily, but if we do not give priority to address the core of the problem first, then most information will remain peripheral and meaningless. Information needs context in order to make sense, and a context by definition carries a hierarchy of concepts; therefore, if we can grasp the root of the hierarchy, then all information inserted in the context will fall into perspective. Therefore, the quantity of information that we hold is not the most important variable, because it may amount to a whole lot of superficial knowledge that does not lead to any useful conclusion (i.e., philosophical truths) about life, the universe and reality. Quality of knowledge is more important than quantity. To acquire knowledge based only on quantity is to have many pieces that do not fit together. Someone may not have all the pieces, but at least they already have the most important (valuable) ones.
We cannot be certain about the quality of what we know if there is not an absolute concept at the center of our knowledge. Therefore, we need a point of reference; we need one or more concepts that are absolute and thus will act as the final standard for our reasoning. We cannot achieve unified knowledge without absolutes. Absolutes simply are: there is no real reason for their existence. We do not question the authority of an absolute; we just accept it. Questioning an absolute signals denial (non-acceptance) of our part, although we are not forbidden from trying to understand how exactly an absolute is what it is: absolute. The theme of absolute concepts is going to be very important in this book. We will eventually define some of them, but they are mostly open to the reader's personal interpretation.
We discussed how a final theory may be something possible for us to achieve. In this section we will merely exercise one way of achieving it. There are many ways to do it, perhaps one for every individual. However, only one theory may rise in the end, because a final theory must have no contestants if it deserves to be called final. For this reason, in no way should we settle down to the complacent belief that "all truth is relative" and give up our attempt at designing a final theory. In fact, it is essential that a final theory be developed with the dream (utopia) in mind that everyone can understand and agree with the same set of core principles inserted in an unified model of Creation. The Truth should be made accessible and comprehensive to everyone.
The first step consists of us addressing the logical part of the problem. The mother of all problems is the existential problem: Why do we exist? Why is there something instead of nothing? Well, the most rational conclusion that we can reach is that we cannot disprove the existence of something beyond our perception. Even if our own existence does not mean anything to us, there must exist something greater, a higher power, and yet we are not aware of it. In the case of nihilism, for example, even those who glorify nonexistence are still giving credit to something that lies beyond their perception, which is one of existence by the way. Nihilism is arguing then, paradoxically, that nonexistence is the higher concept of existence lying beyond our perception. Anyway, the idea is that, irrespective of one's beliefs, faith in some kind of higher power is always present.
No complex logic is necessary for us to reach the conclusion that everything that exists or will ever exist is part of a great whole. It does not matter, because everything that can be imagined, or not imagined, is part of this Whole. There is only the Whole. Even if there was something outside of or detached from everything that we know, we could still rise our perspective to assimilate that object and thus restore the sense of wholeness. Therefore, we can accept as inalienable truth that, for an infinite succession of greater perspectives, the Whole is continuously reaffirmed as a recursive totality, an overall existence that engulfs / encompasses everything. To this overall existence we also give the name of Creation (All That Is). Everything is part of the whole of Creation.Figure 1.2 - The Whole defined recursively
Although Creation is all-inclusive, we still cannot say for sure that Creation is everything. At the same time that Creation already includes everything, It is also a much greater concept, going beyond all categories of definition. An absolute concept such as Creation is always more and beyond. So far we have already seen examples of absolute concepts: the Whole, Reality, etc. What the Whole and other absolute concepts have in common is that there is never an objective limit for what they really are, and thus no amount of explanation can convey what it means for them to be absolute. That is why even the act of giving Creation a name is ridiculous: whatever Creation really is, is beyond the name Creation. In reality, we are talking about a certain Absolute that transcends all denominations.
The Tao [any absolute] that can be named, expressed or defined is not the eternal Tao [the Absolute]. Even the finest name is insufficient to define It. (Tao Te Ching) 1
No one is really sure about how to define the Absolute properly, but we know due to an overwhelming intuitive force that the Absolute is infinite, perfect and eternal. Organized religions tap into this latent knowledge present in everyone and try to spin it along a certain line of interpretations. What religion does not realize is that any ideas about the unlimited will still be unbelievably limited. Generally, what is left for a person after all belief systems have been demistified is acceptance of the transcendental nature of the Absolute. Surprisingly enough, it is through this act of acceptance that better interpretation of the Absolute may come. Most often, people cannot understand the Absolute simply because they are trapped in their current understanding (i.e., belief system). Thus the only way for them to receive new information is by opening their minds to the possibility that they are failing to understand something or maybe everything.
The natural urge to understand the Absolute is present in everyone, but it is initially dealt with in a very primitive way. On the following paragraphs we will see examples of how primitive conceptions of the Absolute arise and then turn out as dead ends. The idea is that the majority of people expects to find their point of reference in the form of a principle that lies above all the others, and so they falsely believe that they can forget about everything else in favor of that principle. They never try to determine a fixed set of principles, because they desire just one that can act as a magic bullet. Thus they go from one principle to another, one "answer" to another, one philosophy to another, one extreme to another. They find a principle that they consider fascinating until they forget about it only to stumble upon another. They end learning the hard way: all their once favorite principles failed to maintain their status as such, because it would be a great shame to the Absolute if It had to be restricted to a single interpretation.
As they look further for the Truth, people become fascinated with certain philosophies up to the point that they forget or ignore anything discordant with their views. But philosophy is not the least bit concerned with finding answers that can put an end to the search for truth: an attitude consistent with reality, because in practice there is a continuous supply of new questions arising that force people to adopt new paradigms. Human beings are naive by nature, and so it is easy for them to consider every new paradigm as definitive. It is a process that repeats itself for a long time until the person starts wondering if the final truth is of a complex nature beyond a single answer. This is a major breakthrough, because suddenly the person becomes much aware of the necessity of getting to know as many points of view as possible without favoring one too much over the others.
However, a new kind of conclusion tends to arise when the person reaches an intellectual dead end after many failed attempts at trying to comprehend the Absolute. They are usually very relativistic and extremist conclusions based on the theory that the universe is infinitely complex and that there is as many universal principles as people can come up with. The problem with such conclusions is that they are the product of a fascination with infinity. It is not far-fetched to think that there is an infinite number of ways to view the universe, one for each individual, but to take this at face value defeats our purpose of trying to find principles that are true (absolute) regardless of what anyone thinks. We would never become acquainted with an infinite number of principles, and thus we would never fully move from theory to practice.
There is nothing wrong with the concept of infinity. The problem begins when people choose to worship infinity as a fixed ideal, a limit. Infinity cannot be taken as a limit because it is already defined as being greater than any limit. Once you believe that you have reached infinity, you become disappointed, because infinity by definition cannot be reached. Infinity only gives the illusion that it can be sought as an ideal, because in reality there is nothing to be sought. Consequently, to be infatuated with infinity alone is dangerous and can put someone inside a path with no real destination in sight. For instance, if someone worships infinity as a symbol of power and grandiosity and thus seeks these ideals obsessively, they will be temporarily unable to achieve fulfillment (happiness) due to their extremist and unbalanced behavior based on infinite accumulation.Figure 1.3 - Infinity
The Greeks saw the idea of infinity as being absurd and chaotic. Indeed, infinity is often employed as a supplementary word for human uncertainty and/or ignorance about certain quantities in the universe. There is, for example, an exact amount of particles in the universe just as there must be a certain amount of distance, a certain shape and size, and a certain amount of mass for everything. There are finite values associated to everything, even to abstract concepts. There is enough evidence for us to believe in a finite model of the universe; otherwise, we are left with irrational ideas based on the prerogative of infinity, ideas that in reality provide us with no answers at all.
As people continue with their search for the Truth, they eventually come to the next clue: the Absolute seems to have no specific form, color, name, sound, etc., and so this could be the reason why all attempts to define It are in vain. It seems that the Absolute is always far beyond anything that can be said about It; but hey, perhaps it is our own fixation with trying to define It that prevents us from understanding It -- perhaps there is nothing to be defined! With this in mind, people will usually jump to the conclusion that the Absolute is completely void of definition, and then they start to believe that the Absolute is tantamount to nothingness. This is still not the final answer, but it is true enough to enlighten people in a direction that explains why the Absolute seems to have no single rational definition: that which does not exist is also that which is undefined and incomprehensible.
Zero, a placeholder (symbol) for nothingness, is different from other numbers to the extent that it cannot be canceled as when we subtract a number from itself, because zero is already its own additive inverse: 0 = 0. Also, zero is always present before and after operands and signals in an equation, as well as before and after decimal places in a number (e.g., 001.000 = 01.0 = 1). All of this makes of zero an omnipresent abstract concept in mathematics, a concept that accurately reflects the absoluteness of the Absolute.
Zero could very well be the answer that we are looking for if it was not for a major flaw: by pointing a finger to zero and isolating it as a concept, we are still creating a duality composed of zero and its absence: non-zero. For instance, if we name an unknown object as "greel," then we automatically create an opposite to greel made of whatever is not greel to the extent that it is outside / beyond greel. Therefore, the presence of non-zero makes of zero an unworthy symbol for the Absolute; after all, there can be no opposite for something that is supposed to be all-inclusive: the Whole joined with Its negation still constitutes a Whole.
Nonetheless, if our chosen principle really was nothingness / zero, then in reality we would not have a principle at all. Unlike in the real world where there is no such a thing as a perfect nothingness (e.g., perfect vacuum in space), the word nothing in the strict sense should really mean absolute nonexistence. Thus an ideology based on nothingness should also acknowledge that no universal principle can exist. That is, in one hand proponents of nihilism are following a principle, while in the other they believe that no such principle can exist. In such a contradictory approach lies the proof of how zero is unusable as a concept that can be sustained ideologically, and thus we come to know another dead end resulting from people's fascination with extremes.
Common sense naively defines nothing as the absence of thing. Absence, however, is still a state, while nothingness is not supposed to be a state, nor a state that is not a state, nor a state that is not a state that is not a state, and so on ad infinitum. The fact that the word nothing exists is proof that we cannot address a "no-thing" if we do not treat it as "some-thing." In other words, there is no way to talk about nothing without us falling in contradiction, and to be in contradiction with oneself is the mark of an incomplete understanding of Creation. This leads us to conclude that thinking or talking about nothing is completely irrelevant and a distraction from more important (useful) issues.
Apart from being conceptual numbers, infinity and zero are also abstract concepts that ultimately equate to each other, because when exclusively sought as ideals they both lead nowhere. In many ways, going nowhere is the same as never leaving the place. People will be deceiving themselves by walking in circles exactly how a dog chases its own tail; they will always be looking for something, but never being able to find it. To seek infinity is a task that never comes to fruition, and to seek zero is an absurd, because zero is simply not "there" to be approached or avoided: once you believe that you have reached absolute zero, you become disappointed, because the "nothing" you have found is still something. The only difference between infinity and zero is that followers of infinity are not even aware that they are walking in circles, and that they are going after zero instead, because infinity is a masked zero.Figure 1.4 - Twisted zero
It is obvious why infinity and zero have failed to give us satisfactory answers about the Absolute: they are irrational concepts, and that which cannot be understood rationally cannot be properly defined. Therefore, we still cannot say anything about the Absolute except that It is not represented only by zero, infinity or any other singular and extreme notion for that matter. As we hinted before, people enjoy jumping from principle to principle while ignoring the possibility that a finite number of universal principles, including zero and infinity, could be complementing each other to embody the Absolute. In other words, a finite number of principles could be the balance between a null and an infinite number. Indeed, this is the best possible guess that we can have about the Absolute: It is infinite, but It also presents Itself finitely. Therefore, to design a final theory we must find the infinite in the finite -- we must explore the finite aspect of the Absolute.
1 Adapted from translations by Western scholars who interpreted the Tao Te Ching, a classical Chinese work reportedly written by Taoist sage Lao Tzu. The second sentence is credited to Stan Rosenthal's translation, http://www.vl-site.org/taoism/ttcstan3.html (accessed Dec 8, 2009).
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