Whenever a distortion (or ‘bias’) is introduced into the picture the universe (by which we mean ‘the Totality of Everything’) unfailingly offers the ‘correction’ to this distortion (or ‘bias’) in response. That’s just the way it works – there could never be such a thing as ‘a distortion coming to the picture’ without the means by which this distortion can be undone coming into the picture at the very same time! For every bias that is introduced there must also be the corresponding counter-bias…
Nothing positive can be done that does not at the same time contain the seeds of its undoing. Or as the Daoists say, ‘defeat is born at the same time as victory’. All positive action ultimately undoes itself, just as the ‘progress’ of the minute hand as it moves from the hour to half-past the hour is undone by that very same movement has the hand continues its movement from half-past the hour to the next hour. It is of course all the one circle and so at any one point of the circumference of that circle we can say that the undoing of the previous half-turn is beginning – the cycle begins and ends at every point. Victory and defeat co-exist at every point…
For every thesis, there is an antithesis. So when a particle is spontaneous produced in a vacuum fluctuation, we know that the corresponding antiparticle has been produced at the same time. This is the Great Principle of ‘The Conservation of Nothingness’ at work! The Symmetry of the Void cannot ever truly be broken – we can break it with the production of a positron but we restore it at the same time with the co-production of an electron. Original Symmetry never gets broken, therefore!
How can we break symmetry when every time we make a right turn we also make a left turn? How can we break symmetry when for every right-handed kink we also produce an equivalent left-handed kink? To cross the same line twice is not to cross, as G. Spencer-Brown says in the Laws of Form. All forms result from breaking Original Symmetry (how else could we create them), yet all forms are also like the circle of movement in which every segment of movement in a positive direction is balanced by an equivalent segment of movement in the reverse direction. Positive and negative always cancel out by the time the full circuit has been made. That’s what a circle is – it is a ‘coming back to the same point’. When I crumple up a sheet of writing paper into a tight ball the one thing we know is that for every positive crumple in the ball there must be a negative one and so the upshot of this is that when we combine ‘the distortion’ with ‘the correction for the distortion’ the net result is always zero, and so we recover the original uncrumpled sheet of paper. But it isn’t really that we recover it for we never actually lost it in the first place…
It doesn’t matter how much we twist and turn therefore because the net sum of all of our twisting and turning is still always going to be zero. We’re free to twist and turn and duck and dive to our heart’s content – we’re free to make any manoeuvres we want because we’re never really going to break the Symmetry of the Void – it might seem to us that we are, but we’re not. That’s the one thing we can NEVER do! The impossibility of breaking Original Symmetry is the only rule no one can ever break. The One will always be The One. Wholeness is always Wholeness – even the smallest little slice of the pie is still the pie!
What we’re really talking about here are waves – waves are breaks in the symmetry of the medium they are being propagated in but at the same time we know that waves always balance themselves out. No matter what’s happening we know that the amount of displacement going on above the zero-point is always going to be equal to the amount of displacement going on below it. The books always balance – whoever heard of a wave where the crest is taller than the trough is deep? Whoever heard of a wave where the one half isn’t a mirror image of the other half? Whoever heard of a crinkled up bit of aluminium wrapping foil where all the positive crinkles aren’t matched by equivalent number of negative crinkles?
From a psychological point of view we could make a bit of a jump at this point and say that when we get ‘bent out of shape’ with regard to our Original Wholeness then the universe (by which we mean ‘the Totality of Everything’) always gives us what we need in order to ‘straighten ourselves out again’ and recover that Wholeness. The ‘cure’ is already there in the situation, even though we can’t see it – we just need to avail of it. We’ve lost or become disconnected from our Wholeness (which means that we’ve lost who we really are) but all the same that Wholeness is still there in us. It never can’t be!
The ‘cure’ is never outside of us therefore – it’s not something that needs to be specially imported into the situation. To be even more specific, we would say that the ‘cure’ (i.e. the return to Wholeness) is the situation! The deviation from home is also the way back and so all we need to do is change our attitude to this deviation, so to speak. We think it’s an error, but actually the error is also the correction. The error is its own correction, if only we could see it…..
The disorder of mental health that we are suffering from is – by this argument – also its own remedy and does not require some sort of external assistance or modification. If we deviate from the deviation from Wholeness (or attempt to) we also deviate from the cure that is in it. This doesn’t make any sense at all to us however – our response is to see things backwards and see the ‘disorder’ that we are suffering from as the sickness rather than the cure. We then ‘try to cure the cure’, seeing it as some form of malfunction, and this means that our so-called therapies’ are an attempt to get rid of the remedy that has been freely given us. ‘The cure for the pain is in the pain’, as Rumi says; we take heed of some of Rumi’s words, so why are we so reluctant to hear him here?
The self-construct itself is a distortion of the underlying harmony of all things. It’s a positive assertion, just as all forms are positive assertions, and just as all positive assertions come into this world twinned with their antitheses so too does the construct we call the self come into the world with its own antithesis ‘waiting in the wings’. The self orientates itself in terms of all the things it wants and when it gets what it wants then it feels good; for every time it feels good it is also going to feel bad however because ‘good and bad are mixed‘, as Rumi says later on in that same quote. We can’t ever separate them, any more than we can separate the crest of a wave from its trough (or the front of something from the back of it).
We crystallize the self-construct by identifying with a rule, and so when this rule gets actualized we feel validated – satisfaction is ours! But at the same time that we have found this way of obtaining satisfaction we have also found the way of feeling dissatisfaction, or ‘frustration’. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction, pleasure and pain, euphoria and dysphoria are always mixed. When we make an assertion and this assertion gets validated this is what we like the most in life, it is the prize we are always fighting for, and yet the reverse swing of the circle always means that we have to experience the bitterness of de-validation with regard to the statement that we have identified with. And yet the pain of de-validation isn’t a curse, as we take it to be, it is the cure because brings us back to who we really are, which is neither YES or NO. The dysphoria we hate and resent so much is the cure for the euphoria that took us astray; we ought to respect it on this basis but we don’t!
All rebound dysphoria comes about as a result of our aggression. It is our aggression reflected faithfully back at us. All positive assertion is aggression – what else would it be? We are distorting Original Symmetry, we are creating a ‘displacement’. When we push the swing out it is invariably going to come back at us – it is going to ‘come back to us’ because it’s all a circle. It’s going to come back to us because the outwards swing is the very same thing as the return swing, they can’t ever be separated. They can’t be separated because they are the same thing. No matter how much of a positive displacement we create, it always contains in it the equal and opposite displacement. Symmetry is never broken. Symmetry can’t ever be broken.
Deviating from Zero Displacement isn’t anything ‘wrong’ – it isn’t a sin and we aren’t going to be punished for it. This is the natural spontaneous play of the universe, this is Lila. Positive particles are produced all the time, along with their corresponding antiparticles. The hard vacuum of empty space fizzes like sherbet! Phenomena arise and then dissolve again without any impedance, without any obstacle. This sense of ‘self’ that I am experiencing has arisen, and it will dissolve again. What causes the suffering – as all mystics will tell us – is when we grasp hold of what has arisen and don’t want to let it go again! We say that arising is ‘good’ and dissolving is ‘bad’, even though the two movements of coming and going away again are actually the very same movement! One movement then causes us pleasure, and the other pain.
If I could engage wholeheartedly with what is happening without holding on tightly to the particular outcome I have in my head for my actions, then this suffering wouldn’t happen. I would engage in the activity with a full heart, and I would let go of it also with a full and joyful heart! This is the principle behind Karma Yoga, that we do not do things ‘for a reason’, but simply do them, as well as we can. We are not attached to outcomes because the outcome (which is ‘serious’) isn’t the thing. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ isn’t the thing. The play is the thing…
We find this principle in Daoism too. Lao Tzu says:
Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.
Our ‘problem’ has to do with the way in which we say arising is good and dissolving is bad, therefore. The self-construct is founded upon this particular preference – the preference that is behind all preferences, the rule that is behind all our rules, all our controlling. If the self-construct did not believe – as it does believe – that it is possible to have an arising without a dissolving, a front without a back, then it would never manage to hang together as the self. It itself would then dissolve. The self-construct takes Lila very seriously therefore – it takes sides in the play. It plays ‘the Game of Black versus White’, as Alan Watts says. Playing the Game of Black versus White in a very serious way is no fun however – there’s no joy in it. This game consists of nothing else but suffering, even though one half of the suffering – the pleasure – we don’t actually see as suffering!
We said just now that this partisan nature of ours constitutes ‘a problem’, but it doesn’t really of course. There are no problems in Symmetry! It’s just another twist in the tangle, just another kink in the bit of string. We are rejecting Original Symmetry as vehemently and aggressively as we possibly can reject it. The self-construct is the complete denial of Original Symmetry. Denying Original Symmetry doesn’t get rid of it though! Rejecting Original Symmetry (or the Symmetry of Original Voidness) is an act of aggression – it is a ‘positive move’ and all positive moves come into existence with their negative counterparts, as we have been saying all along. Our vehement rejection of Original Symmetry rebounds on us as great pain, great suffering, and this pain / suffering is the (unwanted) ‘movement’ that will reunite us with what we were trying to reject. It’s the other end of the stick… We can’t break with Universal Harmony no matter how hard we try!
Image: Ci Hang Zheng Ren, Taoist Goddess of Mercy
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.