It is in our nature to categorize and distinguish: the light and the dark, the high and low, good and evil, the beautiful…the ugly, the corporeal and non-corporeal. Attributes, dualities – bifurcations – arise from the Source, but they do not apply to it. The Source is both and neither; it is neither personal nor is it impersonal. It is always and never, present and absent. It is everything while also nothing. It cannot be escaped; neither can it be pursued. The Source originated all, yet required nothing. “What is the Source?” one asks. Some may call it God, others may call it Tao, but what the Source ‘is’ cannot be uttered.
That which precedes all, that upon which all is founded, that on which all created things depend and from which they originate, that is without distinction or identification – without category. It is without category because it is utterly unique, and it is unnamable because all names form distinctions. Regarding this Source, one looks for a form where there is none, because all form begins with non-form.
The Source – God, Tao, or other named distinction – is not known as one knows other things. The Source cannot be related to as a thing for we know things, directly or indirectly, by our senses. The Source has no substance that we may detect; it is not a who or a what. Is the Source then nothing?
The Chinese writer Lao Tzu1 writes of the hole that is at the center of the wheel’s hub. Without that emptiness, the wheel is of no use for there would be no place for an axel without it. One recognizes that the meaning of the wheel – its purpose, its function – depends on the emptiness in the center of the wheel, depending on that which is not there. One may ask, without the hole in the wheel’s center, does the wheel exist at all? If there is no place for an axel, what use is it? In what way is this object a wheel? Does the corporeal then depend on that which is intangible? The potential of this wheel – its meaning – is obtained by the presence of emptiness.
Does the wheel embrace the center of the hub – that which is not there – as being nothing? The relationship between the two is implicit and explicit, obvious and obscure. The potential of purpose, the functional meaning of form, then results from that which is formless. The boundary of the hub’s center is fashioned by that which is…boundless. It is boundless because there is nothing that a boundary may confine. Because it cannot be confined, it is unlimited. That which ‘is’ arises from and with that which is not. Are not the two integral? What significance does one have without the other? The limited arises with the unlimited, meaning arises with the indefinable, and something arises with nothing.
Nothing is like silence. The more one listens for it, the more apparent noise becomes. As Lao Tzu reveals, the void in an empty cup, what use is the cup without it? A hole is cut into the wall to fashion a doorway or window. There is no room without them. So then, as in the appearance of noise, the emptiness is full of possibility. The empty cup is filled. The window allows light and fresh air in. That which is empty cannot help but be filled.
Looking out into Space, we see nothing except for the things in it. Where else could these things be, if not for space – if not for nothing? If not for the space between things how could forms be distinguished? Space abounds, whether between galaxies, stars, molecules, or within atoms… Nothing is everywhere where something does not exist. What existence then does nothing possess?
It is written in the Torah2 that, “in the beginning the Earth was without form and void.” What then is creation? Is it an idea: meaning, function, and purpose? Can an idea exist without an awareness of it? Is existence something in itself? The presence of existence supports and provides all that is.
Some look for a God but do not find God…as if God is a thing to be found. Some may find God and think they have God, as if God is a thing to be had. Some conclude that God does not exist, that God is not true, but does the hole in the center of the hub not exist? Clearly the hole is there, yet nothing is there. Does not the hole exist, but how could nothing exist?
Someday – in time – this wheel will no longer exist, but the emptiness of the hole in the center of the hub will remain forever unchanged, as if – nothing had happened.