The Wrinkle And The Tablecloth
There are only two things, ‘the tablecloth’ and there is ‘the wrinkle, and neither of them is really ‘a thing’. The wrinkle isn’t a thing because it always cancels itself out (this being the nature of wrinkles) and the tablecloth which gives rise to the wrinkles isn’t a thing either because it doesn’t have any features, any characteristics. The only features the tablecloth has are a few wrinkles here and there, and they don’t tell us anything about what it is that is being wrinkled. How can the wrinkles tell us anything about the tablecloth? How can wrinkles ever tell us anything when they aren’t real things in the first place?
The wrinkles plainly aren’t real things because when we pull the tablecloth taut then they disappear without leaving a trace! The wrinkle can’t tell us anything, therefore, and yet it is only within the world of the wrinkle that we have any possibility of ‘knowing’ anything. The ‘wrinkle’ that we talking about is the ‘World of Duality’, the world that is made up of plus and minus. The World of Duality is in essence a disturbance of the underlying symmetry, symmetry being ‘the undisturbed state in which there is no plus and no minus, no up and no down, no here and know there’.
The underlying symmetry is what we have called ‘the tablecloth’, in other words. It may seem to give rise to wrinkles, to symmetries, but it doesn’t really. All wrinkles are simply ‘local hallucinations’. Local hallucinations are made up of the viewpoint that the wrinkle provides us with and the view that corresponds to this viewpoint. The viewpoint is the self or ego, and the corresponding ‘view’ is the world that this self takes for granted! We would generally see the self and the world that it lives in as being two different things, but because the self’s world is simply a construct or artefact of the way of looking at things that it takes for granted, the division between the one and the other is simply a convention. The ‘viewpoint’ and ‘the view that comes into assistance as a result of it’ are a unity, but it’s a ‘null unity’, if there could be said to be such a thing. The view was always implicit in the viewpoint, and so nothing is really happening, nothing is really ‘coming into being’. The view is the tautological restatement of the viewpoint and so any perception that we might have something new’ happening simply at hallucination. Another way of approaching this matter is simply to say that the world that springs into existence as a result of taking a specific viewpoint is null because it always takes place between one pole and the other, complimentary pole.
The viewpoint and the view that arises as a result of us taking it are what we have called ‘the wrinkle in the tablecloth’ in other words, and ‘the wrinkle in the tablecloth’ is just another way of talking about the phenomenon of polarity. ‘Polarity’ means that everything that takes place takes place between the one pole and the other, between YES and NO; everything that takes place is just a vibration therefore. A vibration, we might say, is a ‘trapped form of movement’ – it’s trapped because it only ever bounces back and forth between two fixed points, where each point is the ‘mirror image’ of the other. For the movement not to be trapped it would have to be constantly moving into new territory – simply bouncing back and forth between the two poles, between the two opposite ends of the swing-cycle, doesn’t count at all!
When we consider what a vibration actually consists of – as we just have done – then we can very easily see that there is absolutely nothing new going on, and never will be, and this is a very remarkable thing! It has great significance. The flat absence of anything new is a measure of redundancy, and redundancy is the opposite of information, so to speak. ‘Opposite’ isn’t really a precise way of talking about the relationship between information and redundancy however since there is ultimately nothing apart from information, nothing other than information, but what we can usefully say is that redundancy is where there seems to be information but there isn’t, where there seems to be movement or change when there isn’t. ‘Redundancy’ can therefore be seen as a way of talking about illusion.
If we make the ‘thought-experiment’ of imagining that they could be such a thing as ‘redundancy that can be plainly seen for what it is’ then it becomes readily apparent that this isn’t really ‘a thing’. If we imagine the situation where there is the misleading impression that there is movement when there isn’t, and if we further imagine that we can immediately and very easily see that there ISN’T really any movement going on, then what is it that we see? When we see an event not to be an event then what is it exactly that we are seeing here? The only time redundancy makes a claim on our attention is therefore when we can’t see that it is redundancy. Or as we could also say, the only time ‘trapped movement’ makes a claim on our attention is when we can’t see that it is trapped, which is just about all of the time! If we could see trapped movement for what it is then we’d be in the situation of the narrator of Sartre’s novel Nausea but his situation – it would appear – is a singular one.
When we talk about the wrinkle therefore, what we are talking about is ‘redundancy that can’t be seen as such’, or more simply – entropy. The tablecloth, on the other hand, equals information. The relationship between these two is quite tricky to talk about however for the reason that we have already gone into – it’s not as if we can say “There are two such things these two things – ‘the tablecloth’ and ‘the wrinkle’ that can be contrasted with each other”. The wrinkle isn’t ‘a thing’ after all, as we started off by saying, it isn’t a separate thing from the tablecloth because it’s made up of the tablecloth – there’s nothing actually ‘separate’ there. The wrinkle only seems to be a separate thing just as a ripple seems to be a different thing to the surface of the pond that it is propagating on. Not only this but the tablecloth isn’t ‘a thing’ either because things require precisely marked out partitions or limits and there are none of those in the tablecloth. The tablecloth is all of one piece. Things can only be things if there is something outside them (something outside them that isn’t them) and this isn’t the case for the tablecloth – the tablecloth is all there is, as we have already said. There is no ‘outside’!
The ‘tablecloth’ is just another way of talking about information and ‘information’ is just another way of talking about ‘the Realm of Real Change’ or ‘the Realm of Real Movement’. We could also say that the tablecloth is ‘the Realm of Real rather than Redundant Events’ or ‘real novelty as opposed to apparent novelty’. We can’t say that what lies outside the Realm of Real Change is ‘the Realm of Unreal (or Tautological) Change’ because there is no such thing as unreal or tautological change! We can also try to explain this in terms of uniqueness. Uniqueness (or newness) can’t be simulated – either something is new or it isn’t new. Either an event is unique (or ‘without precedence’) or it isn’t unique / without precedence. When we look at things clearly, and open our eyes to ‘the bigger picture’ then we see that everything has to be unique because there isn’t anything outside of it, because it’s ‘all of one piece’. We could of course use our usual way of thinking about things and say that there must be a ‘cause’ for whatever it is, the cause being ‘something that exists outside of the event that is being investigated’. But when we’re talking about ‘Everything with a capital E’ then clearly they can’t be any ‘outside’ and so there can’t be any ‘cause’. The idea of ‘causes’ (or ‘effects’) is a complete nonsense – it’s an artifact of our linear thinking and nothing else.
This is very hard to comprehend therefore because precedents (or causes) are how we understand the world – that’s what makes the world ‘knowable’ to us. It’s ‘knowable’ because we have a framework within which to view it; intuitively – though – we know that this is absurd when it comes to the Big Picture (or ‘Everything’). Do we really want to argue that this Big Event of ‘the universe coming into being’ is somehow ‘only to be expected’, and is not therefore a surprise at all? It’s true that when we go about our daily business we invariably take the world as being ‘something to be expected’ but this is only because we are taking ‘the small view’. This is only because we are seeing the world within the terms of the framework, which makes everything ‘old’, or ‘only to be expected’. That’s what a framework does. The view that is produced by the framework (along with the fixed sense of identity or selfhood that is created for us by utilising the framework) is what we have been referring to as ‘the wrinkle’ – it is the wrinkle in the tablecloth that generates the ridiculous illusion that ‘everything is only to be expected’, therefore.
Everything that takes place within the wrinkle has the nature of vibration, has the nature of ‘trapped movement’. Everything that happens falls within the closed remit of the ‘plus pole’ and the ‘minus pole’ and each pole is the perfect mirror image of the other. Saying that the positive pole is the perfect mirror-image of the negative one and vice versa is the same as saying that the domain thus described is a null domain; clearly it is a null domain – what space (or scope for new possibilities’) exists between thing and its own reflection? What scope or space exists within ‘the framework’, which is an abstract domain made up of nothing other than a number of plus/minus axes all at right angles to each other? The reflection of the positive pole which is the negative pole creates the appearance of space to be sure, but since the minus pole is actually the plus pole reflected back at us what ‘space’ is there? We are trapped between two mirrors and the only ‘space’ available to us is ‘mirror space’.
Instead of talking about ‘space’ (or ‘scope for new possibilities’) we could just content ourselves with saying ‘freedom’. It doesn’t matter what word we use – it’s the same thing we’re talking about either way. When we use the word ‘freedom’ or ‘space’ we don’t actually understand what we mean by it; we can’t understand freedom and we can’t understand space, but we can nevertheless grasp a principle that relates to it – the principle here being that no one can ever get rid of freedom, no matter what they do. We can ‘hand over’ our freedom and become slaves, but we can never get rid of the fact that we have freely agreed to be slaves. If there is a situation in which there is no freedom, then we have freely agreed for this to be the case. Lack of freedom can occur in freedom, after all – if it couldn’t then our freedom would be limited. If it couldn’t then freedom wouldn’t be free. But no matter what situation we engineer for ourselves freedom is always at the root of it. This is an ancient idea and one expression of it is explained here by Andrew Phillip Smith in this quote taken from his book The Secret History Of The Gnostics –
The ancient Gnostics drew a clear line between the material world and the spiritual world of gnosis. Gnosticism is thus dualistic. There is spirit and there is matter. There is the material world and there is the world of the spirit, often called the Pleroma, from the Greek word meaning ‘fullness’ or ‘completeness’. Too many, this dualism may initially seem to be surprised, being perceived as a quality that belongs more to fundamentalist religion than to true spirituality. Reminiscent of the importance that many fundamental list churches give to the influence of Satan in this world, which thus turns the world into a moral battleground between Christianity and the forces of evil. But classic Gnostic dualism was a dualism within unity. All and everything spring forth from God, but the material world is a result of a cosmic fall, an error made in the lowest reaches of the spiritual realm.
Matter is the crudest and lowest aspect of the universe, and it is of matter that our bodies are formed. But the creation of mankind could not proceed without a spark of the spiritual realm residing in each human. We humans therefore have a duality of matter and spirit within us. We respond to base matter, but we have divine spirits, in which our true identities reside. Ultimately, everything is contained within the divine, even the base physical world, and it is only in our ignorance (lack of gnosis) that there appears to be duality.
What we’re saying here is therefore that “Zero Freedom is a special case of Freedom”. Another way of approaching this matter is to say that when freedom is replaced by redundancy (or ‘lack of freedom that we cannot see as such’) then there is always still some connection to freedom, even though this connection will present itself in a counterintuitive or ‘hard to understand’ form. The connection will in this case be ‘a riddle’, in other words; freedom is replaced by its inverted analogue, which is ‘structure’ or ‘compulsion’ or ‘logic’ or ‘polarity’ and in structure/compulsion/logic/polarity there exists the key to reconnecting with freedom, even though freedom as a possibility has ostensibly been excluded. The absence of freedom is ultimately an impossibility for the same reason that the absence of information is an impossibility – the two terms are synonymous. But there is a way around this – there is a way – we might say – of disguising the impossibility! When we take a view that is narrow enough then we cannot see the vibration to be a vibration. When we look at the world in terms of the framework, then ‘negative’ isn’t seen as ‘merely being the faithful reflection of positive’; when we look at the world via the FW of thought then we don’t see the mirror-image to be the mirror-image, and so we have the perception of there being actual space (or actual freedom) there. We don’t see trapped motion as being trapped, in other words, and this is our ‘hallucination’.
This really is the most astonishing thing – mirror-space is the type of ‘space’ (in inverted commas) that is created when plus and minus are separated so that they appear to be two entirely different things. Minus is the reflection of plus, the ‘mirrored version’ of plus, but we see it as something completely different, we see it as ‘a legitimate direction to go in’. The impossibility of actually getting somewhere is thus disguised. Within the Realm of Polarity it is not just the case that positive and negative are seen as separate and different, it is also the case that, because we are no longer free to see reality as it is, as so-called ‘will’ or ‘volition’ is nothing more than a restatement of the primary delusion of duality (which is the only ‘reality’ we know). It is in other words not just the case that we see positive and negative as being ‘separate and fundamentally different’ – we also find ourselves being helplessly attracted to the one, and repelled by the other. This ‘helplessness in the face of external determining factors’ is what is called attachment in Buddhism and Vedanta.
When freedom is apparently taken away by the compelling illusion of polarity, a ‘loophole in the law’ is being exploited whereby freedom can be gotten rid of just so long as it is replaced by positive and negative compulsion in equal proportions. This is the same thing as the perfect symmetry of empty space being broken or split by the production of two deterministic polar–opposite particles – a positron and an electron, for example. So to start off with we have indeterminacy (the undetermined state), and then after the symmetry-break we have two localised subatomic particles heading in defined trajectories at a particular velocity (and even here of course indeterminacy is preserved in deference to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Relation between the two variables). We might ask what the analogy would be here in the psychological realm and the obvious analogy is to say that when we break the perfect symmetry of anatta or ‘selflessness’ we end up with a twin selves, a pair of ‘localised polar–opposite egos’, but this of course doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense as we experience ourselves as being just the one self, rather than a pair of conflicted or ‘mutually-contradicting’ selves.
When we look at our situation at a bit more deeply however we find that things aren’t as simple as this however – any notions of unity that we might have will prove to be more apparent than real. Inasmuch as we are rationally-orientated we are inherently divided against ourselves. ‘What we believe we disbelieve’ – the more insist that I believe in something more evident it is that I don’t believe it at all, and this is true for all positive assertions. How can there be a positive assertion without the complementary statement being emphasised at the same time? Just as we can never get away from the self-contradictory nature of logic, we can never get away from the self-contradicting nature of the mind-created self. If we want to have any peace, any stillness we had to do it without the self therefore. Everything that exists within the wrinkle is self-conflicted, self-contradicting. Everything is made up of ‘the clashing of opposites’, everything is ‘conflict’ – we live out our lives under the sign of Mars, the god of war.
On this ‘basement level’ of being we are constantly at war with ourselves without knowing it. As Chogyam Trungpa says about the hell-realm of anger, we are constantly haunting ourselves; we are constantly striking out in rage only to receive the blow ourselves. The so-called ‘space’ we exist in is itself self-conflicted – it is mirror-space after all, we are unwittingly mirroring ourselves the whole time. Positive space exists only in our imagination, in our narrow view of things. Really, it’s a plus/minus loop; really, it loops neatly back on itself just as a vibration does, just as a circle does. When this conflict/self-contradiction becomes particularly pronounced in our lives it manifests in the form of what we call ‘neurotic torment’. Neurotic torment comes in two varieties, we might say – one variety is where we pursue what we desire and obtain what we don’t want (i.e. suffering), and the other is where we run from what we don’t want and yet still obtain suffering as a result. We chase the pleasure of security or self-validation and obtain suffering, and we run from our fear of insecurity (or non-validating openness) and obtain suffering this way too. Attraction and aversion are the two sides of the mechanical force we call attachment, and both of these lead us unfailingly towards suffering when we go along with them…
This is because attraction and aversion are the two halves of the same wheel and the rotation of that wheel represents our attempt to ‘get somewhere by going around in circles’, which is of course an impossibility. The suffering we obtain as a result of trying to get somewhere real as a result of obeying mechanical attachment (which is the opposed pair of ‘external deterministic forces’ that arises when the perfect symmetry of freedom or space is broken) is the means by which we can reconnect with the freedom that we have lost, and yet do not know that we have lost….