The translucent unimpeded state of ‘original symmetry’ can be thought of as an infinite series of super-imposed levels of description, or levels of organization, combining in such a way that they all ‘add up’ and produce what might be metaphorically referred to as a perfectly flat (or ‘characterless’) surface. This is roughly similar to the Fourier Transform in maths, which is the way in which we can sum up very many different waves (of greatly varying wavelengths and amplitudes) to produce one single ‘simple wave-form’. The difference is that when we ‘add up’ all the different levels of description, all the different possible perspectives that we could look at the world from, we end up not with a wave-form but the equivalent of a flat line. We end up with ‘zero displacement from the X axis’. We end up with NOTHING!
But NOTHING is also EVERYTHING. This state of Original Symmetry is inherently paradoxical – in Original Symmetry UP equals DOWN, IN equals OUT, HIGH equals LOW, RIGHT equals WRONG, YES equals NO… Original Symmetry is the paradoxical vessel of the alchemists which has the inside on the outside and the outside on the inside; the vessel which contains itself and yet which is at the same time outside itself. Original Symmetry doesn’t make any sense at all, and yet it is sense.
We can also talk about Original Symmetry by saying it is symmetrical with regard to any answers that you might get back from it if you were to ask it a question. In other words, any possible question you might ask is always answered as a YES. The different questions that may be asked correspond to all the varied waves that are added up, and the resultant ‘simple wave’ is the picture that arises as a result of every answer eliciting the same affirmative answer. The picture in question can be expressed in terms of the statement “If everything is true, then nothing is true.” If everything is true then the idea of truth is entirely lost since TRUE can only exist in relation to NOT TRUE, and so the question itself is rendered meaningless. If the answer to all possible questions is YES then this sublimely generous all-inclusive ‘YES’ means something radically different to the very specific and tightly logical YES of ‘YES versus NO’ (which is the only YES we know about).
The statement “If everything is true then nothing is true” may be said to be paradoxical since if nothing is true (as we learn in the second part of the statement) then it must also be the case that the first part of the statement cannot be true either, which then ‘undermines’ the second part so that it cannot be true that nothing is true, and so on and so forth. But this self-cancelling paradoxicality is precisely the point since this is how all definite statements end up cancelling themselves out, dissolving themselves completely so that all that is left is the ‘featureless surface’ (if we can call it that) of the Original Symmetry from which all possible definite statements arose in the first place. Original Symmetry is the Original Paradox.
‘Original Symmetry’ is where the answer to all possible questions is YES. It is where the answer is YES no matter what. It is that situation in which all things are true, the universally inclusive situation in which ‘all possibilities are equally allowed’. From a strictly logical point of view, we would have to say that this originally symmetrical state of being doesn’t make any sense at all. It doesn’t make any sense because we can’t define it, and – quite understandably – logic doesn’t have any time for things that can’t in any way, shape or form be defined. As far as logic is concerned this is pure nonsense: after all, we could spend years debating the reality or otherwise of things that cannot in any way be described (or proved) and we would still get absolutely nowhere as a result. Because what we talking about is not susceptible to either proof or disproof, the rational or logical mind really has no interest in the whole thing.
But it is only to be expected that rationality has no time for or interest in such arcane matters as Original Symmetry. The truth is that rationality or logic can only manage to make meaningful statements when it studiously avoids mentioning or in any way acknowledging the Symmetrical Situation from which all possible statements arise. This is the whole game of ‘rationality’, the whole game of what we call ‘logic’ – I have to avoid seeing that all rules are equally true, I have to avoid seeing that all possible rules are only ‘arbitrarily true’. Obviously if I am playing the game of logic the last thing I want to do is see through the game. The last thing I want to do if I am playing any game is to see the way in which the game is not true. The very last thing I want to do if I am playing any game is see through the game because in that case very obviously there will be no more game to play.
Another way of talking about the state of Original Symmetry is to say that it corresponds with what in maths is called the Universal Set. The Universe Set is extraordinarily useful to the mathematician – in fact he wouldn’t get anywhere at all without it – and yet it itself is never the object of any definition, nor is it ever the outcome of any formulae. The Universal Set has no place in any mathematical equation for the simple reason that it would instantly make a nonsense of any equation that it was included within.
The Universal Set is ‘useful’ because it is the basket from which all possible closed sets are drawn. If we want to have a defined set of one sort or another to play around with then there is only one place to go to get it, and that is the Universal Set – the ‘Set without any Boundaries’. Of course the very fact that the Universal Set has no boundaries (and therefore excludes nothing at all) means that it is in no way a ‘set’ itself since the whole idea of a set is that there must be something that is not in it. We can no more have a set that has everything in it than a word can be a useful part of a language if it means ‘absolutely anything you want it to mean’. The fact that the Universal Set excludes nothing (the fact that it is open rather than closed) means that there is nothing that we can say about it that is genuinely about ‘it’, and not merely about ‘whatever it is that we have just said’.
The fact that the Universal set is open rather than closed means that it cannot be described because all descriptions are necessarily closed. Since the Universal Set is open rather than closed this means that it has no form, no structure. Being ‘open’ means that it has no discernable features, no identifiable characteristics, no structural bias and no fingerprint. Jung says this in the first of his Seven Sermons to the Dead –
Hear Ye: I begin with nothing. Nothing is the same as fullness. In the endless state fullness is the same as emptiness. The Nothing is both empty and full. One may just as well state some other thing about the Nothing, namely that it is white or that it is black or that it exists or that it exists not. That which is endless and eternal has no qualities, because it has all qualities.
We can make no meaningful statements about Nothing, and neither can we say anything about Fullness. We can no more use a logical language to talk about this state than we can use waves to talk about the sea. A wave says nothing about the medium upon which it travels – it merely uses that medium to travel. The modulations of a medium can never be used to talk about (or in any way provide insight about) the medium itself because the modulations are a ‘second order phenomenon’. Thinking that waves can tell us about the medium upon which they travel (or thinking that logical statements can tell us something about the Universal Set) is like thinking we can gain insight into the innermost world of a great philosopher by studying the bumps on his head. Or thinking that we can penetrate to the core of a great artist by finding out the colour of her hair, or the size of the shoes she wears.
Just as the medium is always a higher order phenomenon than the modulations of that medium, so too is it the case the Universal Set is always a higher order phenomenon that any the logical statement that might conceivably be pulled out of it. And this is exactly the same as saying that Original Symmetry is always a higher order of reality than any of the asymmetrical situations that arise out of it.
Original symmetry is of course the ‘highest order’ of reality that there is since it necessarily comes before any defined or determinate state of being, just as the ocean necessarily comes before the ocean’s waves, just as the medium necessarily comes before any disturbance of that medium. Without the medium, there can be no possibility of a disturbance. It is also possible to express the idea of the primary nature of Original Symmetry by saying that it is a state of infinite algorithmic complexity, or saying that it has an information content that is infinite. It is like a message that says everything, only this ‘everything’ is not a closed book or bounded set but a completely open situation. It is ‘Undefined Everything’.
We could use as an analogy for this idea the transcription mechanism by which chromosomal DNA gets decoded and translated into protein in the body. The way we understand DNA to work is that only a very small portion of the code (the portion that is specifically required for the job at hand) is active, and gets expressed, whilst the rest of the genetic material remains sheathed so that the transfer RNA – the machinery of transcription – does not read it. Thus, although the chromosome contains coding for many other possible transcription jobs, it restricts itself to only the one job, the one that is required.
In roughly the same way, Original Symmetry, possessing as it does infinite information content, can code for absolutely anything at all (it can code for everything in the universe and a good many other things besides) but it generally restricts itself – in the physical or determinate universe, that is – to ‘only the one thing at a time’. Or we could say that it restricts its manifestations to those which are permitted by the particular system of logic which is the ‘filter’ for the particular physical universe with which we are familiar. Original Symmetry has the capability to produce all sorts of different universes, but each of these universes can only exist if all other ‘competing possibilities’ (i.e. all alternative universal constants and physical laws) are strictly repressed in its particular case. In terms of the Universal Set, we can say that although the Universal Set equals ‘the set of all possible sets’ for any particular set to have existence as a set (for it to be defined, in other words) all other possible sets have to remain unexpressed (or undefined).
Original Symmetry can thus run any number of simulations or ‘toy universes’ without it in any way actually being these simulations or toy universes. It is always radically different from its creations – which is another way of saying that its own nature cannot be in any way inferred from any of its productions. These productions are rule-based, which is to say, each and every toy universe is produced by ‘taking something for granted’, by saying something like “Let us assume that X, Y and Z is the case…” and then seeing what happens when we do this. We select the rules (and selecting the rules necessarily means ‘repressing all other rules, since this is how the mechanism of ‘selection’ works) and then run the simulation on this strictly limited basis. The apparently ‘positive’ act of asserting a rule (or making a statement) is really therefore a ‘negative’ act in the sense that what we are doing is ignoring a vast open field of possibilities, and thereby – through this act of ignoring – allowing just the one possibility, just the one rule or statement, to stand out.
This is like the situation where there is a long line of soldiers standing to attention in a field. We can in this situation create the illusion that ‘one soldier is moving forward’ by giving the order for all the others to suddenly step back. Or it is like a sculptor producing a particular sculpted form by ‘throwing away all the others’.
‘Creation’ is thus not creation at all but the surreptitious silencing (or repressing) of the ‘vast field of possibilities’. What is created in actuality is an all-blanketing sheath of ignorance which limits what we can know about to only that game, only that simulation that we are making the experiment of running. The game or simulation is thus an extraordinarily limited situation that we cannot see to be extraordinarily limited. It is a very ‘bare’ situation which we perversely apprehend as being full. It is an impoverished situation that we perceive to be ‘not lacking in anything’. There is a lack but it is an invisible lack; it is a lack that we are not able to know about, and this ‘lack that we are not able to known about’ is entropy. Entropy is how the games or simulations that are being run get to be taken seriously (or ‘taken at face value’) which is of course the only way that they can be ‘run’.
Via the operation of the entropic principle Original Symmetry denies itself, it very neatly ‘argues itself out of existence’, so to speak. Stanislav Grof (1998, P 188) is getting at this idea when talks about the cosmic process of trickery though which the Universal Mind flawlessly creates extraordinarily convincing ‘facsimiles’ –
The project of creating a facsimile of a material reality endowed with these properties is executed with such artistic and scientific perfection that the split-off units of the Universal Mind find it entirely convincing and mistake it for reality. In the extreme expression of its artistry, represented by the atheist, the Divine actually succeeds in bringing forth arguments not only against its involvement in creation, but against its very existence.
One way of looking at the game that is being played (or the simulation that is being run) is to say that it is a type of virtual or facsimile reality, and the other – equally valid – way is to say that what is being produced in the simulation is the player who is playing the game, i.e. the one is believing in the facsimile and relating to it as ‘the whole of what is possible’.
The game (or simulation) is ‘who I think I am’, or ‘who I understand myself to be’, or ‘who I take myself to be’. The game is the conditioned identity, the mind-created ego, the illusory ‘me’.
And contrariwise, the self is ‘the game’, ‘the simulation’.
The self is the ‘illusory inhabitant of a toy universe’.
The self is ‘that which is opaque’, it is ‘that which can’t be seen through’.
The self is ‘the single level of description’. The self is ‘the positive statement’. The self is ‘the rule’; the self is ‘the dissymmetry’.
The self is ‘the wave that travels on the surface of the ocean’ – it is ‘the disturbance of the underlying medium’.
The self is ‘the lone soldier who doesn’t take a step back when all the others do’.
The self is ‘the extraordinarily limited or impoverished situation which we perceive to be the whole of what is possible’.
The self is the assumption that we make and then proceed to run with ever after. The self is the assumption we arbitrarily make, and then never go beyond.
The self is the game that we love to play.
The self is a simulation run by the Universal Mind…
Image – Marrakesh Museum. Photo Credit: J.Ligero & I.Barrios