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The Nothing List

From the Qabalistic Concepts book, I give you the basis of the first exercise.

... the first thing is to find out what mental blockages you may have concerning the idea of nothing or omnil and negate them, or put them back into the nothing they came came from. Get a piece of paper and write down everything the term nothing evokes in you. It is important that you write down exactly what you think as it appears to you. There is no use trying to conceal your feelings from yourself [...] Do not list other people's concepts [...] Record New thoughts by all means, if they come to you, as long as you have discovered them for yourself.

See my list below the cut, as well as a few meta-notes on the exercise.

What does "Nothing" mean to me?


  • Nihil
  • Nichts
  • non-qualitative [?]
  • not-negation
  • not absence of quality or quantity
  • cognitively non-process-able
  • Infinity
  • Nothing is endless. What does not begin cannot end.
  • Nothing is Unity
    One seems to me to be a false unity, distinguishable from and necessarily defined by it's contrast to Zero (an absence of quantity) and other quantities and/or qualities. Zero is likewise a quantity and a quality, not identical to "nothing." Zero marks an absence of something, it is a placeholder for the something that isn't present.
  • Nothing is possible;
    Thing is limited. In the uncreated, there is limitless possibility; in the created, there is definition and limit.
  • Nothing cannot be addressed directly, but must be talked around.
    Perhaps this is the role of a gnostic experience - to know the indescribability of Nothing, as completely and totally as possible?
  • Null is the closest synonym I can think of. I'm just not confident that it avoids zero-ness *enough. *
  • Nothing is beyond all things.
  • Nothing is Anselm's Ontological God: "which nothing greater than can be conceived." God is a subset of Nothing. Nothing contains God. All is nothing. All are God.
  • Nothing cannot be rationally apprehended.
  • Nothing is smaller than a mathematical point (the smallest something possible) and greater than Everything.
  • Nothing is not empty; neither is it vacuum or abyss or oubliette.
  • Nothing has no is-ness, or all-ness.
  • Nothing simply ain't
  • Language is inadequate to the subject of Nothing.
    Language is great for expressing things that have is-ness. The problem is that nothing is such a simple, irreducable concept that one either gets it, or one doesn't, and one is going to have to grapple with it in order to get that far, because the word is, in a sense, generally misused. The concept of nothing is a deep and difficult thing to really contemplate.
  • Nothing is awesome, terrible, and frightening. not because is inherently any of those things, but because it defies normal, rational understanding.
  • Nothing is inevitable and inescapable.
Some additional thoughts...

Each segment below should be treated as largely self-contained, rather than as a continuous meditation.

It seems to me that one of the difficulties I'm encountering in this exercise is that I've done it before, in a number of forms, some of which were academic and rigorous. The concept of "nothing" is central to a lot of philosophy. I've been wading through that crap for years. To think that the thoughts in the list are entirely mine approaches silliness. I can say with confidence that any parts that I hijacked from other folks have been thoroughly thought at, on and through, prior to integration in my reality-tunnel. There's a lot of material, especially after thing start to pick up toward the end. There's a lot of stuff in there is going to take some time for me to unpack and untangle for other minds: some of it is in my own mental shorthand, which after a month or two, becomes impossible for me to decipher at times. I suspect that this would be worse for other readers.

The concept of Nothing is, as I stated in the list, awesome, terrible, and frightening. It defies most categorizations, it being it's own ultimate category. Nothing is entirely self-sufficient, and self-sustaining. It cannot be picked up and rotated in the hand like a cube, or kicked like a ball. It is dissimilar to any material object, and yet is is not immaterial in the same way as a story, or "fun," or "blue-ness". This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for our current bio-ware to deal with. It is — appropriately — defined by those things that it isn't.

Historically, the philosophical concept of oneness, or unity of all things is considered to be the highest state of being. This however, strikes me as what Heidegger referred to as Dasein, a concept similar in someways to mindful being in Buddhist thought. Oneness implies Being with and in the world — ontological extension — and is thereby inherently contextual. I would assert that this is perhaps the highest level of being of which humans are currently capable, but that Nothingness transcends Oneness in it's perfection. One is dependent on zero and two for its identity, and Nothing has no such dependency. And yet... Nichtsein contains too much being to express it...

One of the common short-cuts that speakers use to talk about things which don't fit comfortably into the taxonomies we create is to apply a different speech-mode to the attempt. For example, Bucky Fuller, in talking about the nature of existence, wrote "I seem to be a Verb". (I'm concerning myself only with the statement, not the entirety of the book). This expresses the notion of the self in a post-Cartesian mode. Self, in the West, has generally been considered treated as a NOUN, a thing, with definite qualitative, material features. Fuller, in this simple statement, shifts the paradigm from thing to process. The problem for Nothing is that we have not yet discovered an adequate linguistic trick for addressing it directly, beyond the monopolistic identifier that is the-word-itself. If existence is not a thing, but a process, then it becomes tempting to think of Nothing as a stop or break in that process. But Nothing is not a discontinuity - to identify it as such violates the nature of it's non-pointedness. it seems that even synthetic languages and pidgin variants, including E-prime, are inadequate to this task. Nothing shows how deeply trapped we are in language, and how woefully short of completeness language is. I am uncertain that the concept of Nothing is even addressed in mathematics, and instinctively find that I gravitate toward the maxim about the impossibility of proving a negative, using binary logics. I suspect that I, and perhaps We as a species, have a strong inherent bias towards identifying/proving positive cases - that WHAT-NESS of perceive outweighs the WHAT-NOT-NESS we don't perceive by so many orders of magnitude it's nearly baffling.

Imagine that someone had a complete manifest of the Universe and its contents. How bizarre would it be for such a one to express the notion of a specific perceived entity by presenting the Manifest, with a single omission, in order address the item subject? Even to confine it to a more limited context, such as room, it seems too overwhelming a task to identify the omitted item. The process becomes an interactive guessing game, rooted in elimination. Take two items. Select one. Focus your mind with the INTENT of identifying the selected object, only by reference to the NOT CHOSEN - without making reference to even the possibility of the existence of the CHOSEN Object.

This seems to me to approach a depiction the status of Nothing. An 800 pound gorilla that we cannot point to, and desperately wish to identify.

The attempt to grapple with Nothing triggers in me anxiety and frustration in reaction to the process. The inability to put a finger on Nothing, to apprehend it as a positive or release it as a negative. The sense of Nothing, and not express it without a sense of contradiction and inadequacy. I am having a strong reaction to Nothing. The reaction is not rational but comprehensible- I am able to write about it, if not entirely clearly. The reaction itself is interesting, in that it has no ultimate object. My inability to express, rationalize, contend with is only the source of the symptoms - and this source both is and is not causa sui. It appears that Nothing cannot itself be the cause, because nothing ain't. Nonetheless, the nothing I am contemplating is the cause. There's a linguistic and rational trap here, and I can feel it closing in around me. I imagine this becoming an existential paranoia, which is why I went to the kitchen to get a slice of left-over pizza. More than any magickal or Metaphysical approach, Pizza seems to me the most effective grounding apparatus in my reality.