The word EXIST, like all words, stands as a symbol of a symbol, in this case an idea of phenomenon. As a word, it is, itself, a phenomenon. As a word it points for me to something that I am experiencing, that can, therefore, be said to be a phenomenon. The word God and Exist in the same sentence, for me, falls away, awkwardly, to the degree that I am leant to declare, God doesn’t Exist.

In the Baha’i Faith there are two words that stand for the idea of God: UNKNOWABLE and ESSENCE.

Unknowable, in the sense it is used for God, is an absolute feature. It is not like the idea that I know I don’t know, or even that I don’t know that I don’t know. It is not the mathematical idea of nothing in the set, zero. It is an idea that anything I can be, anything a sentient being will be, will not come any closer to knowing. It is that there is no set to hold no items. The word God, itself, is a placemark for the unknowability of, and here the second word comes into play, Essence.

Essence is the idea of the merest hint, the barest sense, a fleeting awareness. The fleeting awareness is a register of an ocean of power that is itself something manifest, something phenomenal. This ocean of power exudes both an awesome potentiality as well as a deeply inviting calm. An awareness of the ocean of existence only points further to the hint of an infiniteness of existence that, nonetheless, has certain regulations, a way that it works. And, there, as the way it works, lies the essence of the unknowable. The bringing of existence into existence is tangible as that it works the way it works, and that it is not ours to expect differently, nor decry that it works the way it works, for it works for we.

When I bring up the word exist, it is if essence ceases to exist. The word ‘exist comes up like an impenetrable wall which shuts out all merest hint, all barest sense. Exist not only has no capacity to speak of, to point to God, it is a heavy veil between my sense and the essence. To seek for the merest hint of the unknowable essence, put away all thought that God exists. Sit with your sense of being, ranging widely and seekingly, without any more purpose than just broadening the range across the ocean of power.

Reality vs Terminology – The Main Game?

Let’s start with the premise that language is an expressive code for a perceptual code from a receptive code of some thing that exists external to our code-making apparatus, including that part of our code-making apparatus we aren’t using in making the code while we are in attention to it.

There are two implications from this:

  1. We cannot perceive everything that exists; and of what we perceive, we are not describing that perception with accuracy but only generally. Receptive and perceptual coding is predefined by the physical structure that it is, only codes for what it codes for, and therefore does not necessarily code for everything that exists. In physical terms, receptor codes are loops of neural circuits, complex but static pathways stimulated by limited energy gradients conducted by the receptor nerves at the periphery of our physical awareness. Humans have millions of these loops receptive to external energy sources. Expressive coding has two portions: millions of additional loops among receptor code loops creating relationships between codes – a perceptual integration of the external world; and an additional intricate network looping among perceptual integration apparatus and motor (movement) effector loops such as associated with the human larynx. The motor effector loops that drive the larynx, literally give voice to the codes of perceptual integration. So there are four basic layers of coding that provides us with language, or, in other words, four physical re-interpretations of the energies of the world.
  1. Language itself, once commenced, began looping itself through perceptual fields, and the integrations of this constant internal looping makes increasingly varied relationship connections with elements of the derived world. The variations of looping create a capacity to deconstruct the world into elementals so long as a vocal attribute can be associated with the elemental. Language develops as vocal loops become associated with elemental loops. This looping provides the ‘naming’ of the elemental. Once the neural loops could do the trick of coding a ‘name’ a ‘noise’ for an external elemental, that trick could continue to be used to name parts of an external object, and also larger groups or patterns of external objects as elementals. Eventually, the trick of deconstructing form into elementals that can be named and reconstructing those elementals into something new, could be used to create a type of new elemental, and abstract form that doesn’t exist in the environment. Language is one such abstract set of elementals. Here are the foundations of thinking or internal speech. Once an elemental has been defined by ‘naming’ it can then be appropriated by additional loops with connections to special looping functions such as emotions, motor effect, language and another neural area recognised for extraordinary planning functions. As these loops become more diverse and increasingly resonant, we develop the consciousness – a constant internal conversation that relates both to the internal and external world and a conversation about that conversation. As consciousness or internal language becomes increasingly more complex, mathematics, sciences, philosophy, and social relationships become increasingly complex, giving rise to religion, and government and all various forms of community.

Our own body is party to this process and so our enquiry into our own mind-brain. Given that our body is represented in the brain by a code of neural looping, even the body cannot be said to be represented as a whole truth. And then, even our brains cannot be said to be more than a partial representation of its reality.

So, can we say with any reason what we are? Abdu’l-Baha explained the world and ourselves as a shadow or reflection of the spiritual world. We could call the spiritual world, the real world. We could surmise, then, that reality is not limited to our meagre three or four dimensions, but not limited at all. Perhaps we are part of a 4 dimensional being, and that is a part of a 5th dimensional being and so on and so forth. Yet all this supposition is just an extrapolation of some basic loops of language that other loops have ‘named’ mathematics, and so quite limited in its access to any greater reality, altogether. The story of dimensions, therefore, might not be even close to guessing at the reality. Yet we might wonder could we access our greater reality. Could it be that the disciplines of the Great Educators are just what we need to evolve the requirements for that perception?

Consider that, even if we are working as a 4 dimensional being, then that being would have its own coding and would still only be representing as that code, a part of reality, a code or symbol of reality, perhaps some kind of averaging or grouping of elements of reality.

From this we can say that terminology is never reality. That is not to say it is not honest in itself but that, without understanding that terminology is, at best, only an impression of reality, then we will probably be failing to use terminology honestly. We could say that, as an evolutionary process, language and terminologies exist as a function ie a workability in which language is a tool for optimising human relationships and development.

As a tool, though, language is not limited to honest usage, and cultural uses of language can support the dishonest use of language. Philosophical terminologies are often derived from internal linguistic looping layering processes. These terminologies have a very low relationship to reality. The terminology of theism and atheism is a case in point. While philosophers have designed these terms, there is no actual thing (form with identifiable characteristics) that the term describes except through the internal circular logics of the terms design. To wit, there is no religion that claims it is a group of theists, rather that a philosopher might use the term as a description of what the philosopher believes they are seeing. The philosopher might recognise that their perceptual code is limited, and so use the term as a tool to access the truth of religious idea. However, the philosopher who believes that the term ‘theist’ is a true thing, might, then, also believe that there is something that is theist and something that is not a ‘theist’ (an atheist). They might even imagine that there is a person that is described that they are atheist or theist. Even a person may then describe themselves by these terms, claiming that they are this term. Yet, even presuming honesty, if the language that is now quite abstract, a completely fabricated story of who we are, is not workable as an optimiser of human functions, then we may be seeing, in the complex modern world, a movement of language into a realm of dysfunction.

The conclusion, here, is that language in all its facets for human relationship, science, mathematics, and community, is a fantastic vehicle for the re-creation of the world. Yet, it is a tool that has been built out of some limited physical conditions and therefore its access to reality is probably very limited. Our stories can support the fantastic recreation of the world or it might support a dysfunction. Presuming we prefer a highly function, workable, society, acknowledging that the stories of our life are all not reality, and that, in a physical form, we will always be limited, it can still mean that we can be as access to anything that might take us closer to reality. It could be that there are many pathways to that access including trying to get behind language even just to see how the world is, or using language to explore the extent we can take our own creativity and relationships; and perhaps there is a way that looks for something as knowable as it is unknowable, that we might call God, a pervasive essence in all reality and an emanator of reality.

The Delusion of Nothing

Recently seeing, on the Australian ABC TV Q&A program, Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist & Cosmologist, and author of “A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing”, provoked a sceptical reaction. “Nothing? What on earth is the man talking about?” was my initial reaction.  A little research of Lawrence’ fundamental discussion about the beginnings of the universe confirmed that, indeed, the proclamation inherent in the title of his book was not about nothing at all. This was a great relief. It is much more difficult to write about a point of view that seems delusional, such as the belief that someone has an experience of nothing, a vision of nothing, a mathematics of nothing, or imagined nothing. The patent delusion being that, with what did such a person have an experience of ‘nothing’, even if through mathematics, when ‘nothingness’ implies no thing, no language, no mathematics through which to have such an experience.

So why would thousands of atheist scientists such as Lawrence Krauss, and their followers, believe that there was a ‘nothing’ from which the universe come into being. Why would they believe that there is evidence for ‘nothing’.

It appears that the problem lies in the mathematical conceptualisation from Set Theory of sets of nothing.

Any named object or idea also become the name of the set of all similarly named object. If there is no actual object in the set then there is a set of nothing. If I imagined a word, ‘flabulanzers’. I could imagine a set of ‘fabulanzers’. Given that I haven’t imagined a form for ‘fabulanzers’ nor found any contingent object with such a name, then the set of ‘fabulanzers’ would have zero ‘fabulanzers’, be empty, and thus a set of nothing. Likewise, given any problem for which it can be shown there is no answer, then the set of answers to the problem is empty ie it is a set of nothing.

However, what the mathematician doesn’t deal with in talking about ‘nothing’ and its elemental sibling, ‘zero’, is that neither a set of nothing nor zero are representatives of ‘nothing’. They are rather representatives of something. To wit, only nothing could represent nothing. The something of sets of nothing are sets which, while having no element within, are yet formations in language ie the imagination of a human being. The something of zero is of a cardinal number which names the place-mark of the non-existence of an object within a certain context (in time and space). While zero and its role as a place-mark exist only in the imagination of the human being, that plsce-mark is fully realised as a moment in time-space ever time zero is mentioned. 

So the crux of the problem presented by Lawrence Krauss exists in a certain delusion that the source of the discussion (language, naming, mathematics) is distinct from the object of the discussion. On a closer look, anything rendered in language, even sets of nothing, are something. The greater delusion might be that the wormy organics encased in a boned vault have any real capacity to analyse its own non-existence, as would be necessary if it were ‘nothing’.

 Baha’u’llah made pointed reference to this reality in a letter in the 19th Century, “All that the sages and mystics have said or written have never exceeded, nor can they ever hope to exceed, the limitations to which man’s finite mind hath been strictly subjected.”Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 317)

It seems to have passed by many atheist scientists, that the very methodology of physics, as concluded by Max Born, has achieved its greatest successes by applying the methodological principle that concepts which refer to distinctions beyond possible experience have no physical meaning and ought to be eliminated. (Max Born, “Continuity, Determinism, and Reality”, (Danish Academy of Science, Mathematics and Physics, Section 30, No. 2, 1955), p. 4 .)

In contrast, Heidegger recognised value in that, as much as language constructs meaning of experience, the only ‘nothing’ that is possible, is “Nothing is the quality of abandonment of preconceived notions, of logical puzzles. The Nothing denies the “is” of something.” Heidegger, refers to the thing of nothing as a thing in language through which ‘nothing’ refers to the possibility for the question “why?” This is a process of continual unlearning.  Heidegger seemed to recognise the danger in the scientific tendency to either eliminating or defining ‘nothing’ is that it would eliminate the question, ‘why’ and thereby, science itself.

So, Lawrence Krauss, perhaps unwittingly, use an idea of ‘nothing’ that is something, perhaps believing it to really be ‘nothing’ but in that belief, creating barriers for many thousands of people to access of a clearing of language for ‘why’ to be manifest, and potentially stalling the wonder that would otherwise be excited for trying to understand phenomena and being.

 Baha’u’llah in support of the impossibility of nothingness-as-non-existence to foster any form, declared   “All praise to the unity of God, and all honor to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all  things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, … How could it, otherwise, have been possible for sheer nothingness to have acquired by itself the worthiness and capacity to emerge from its state of non-existence into the realm of being? (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 64)

 While offering the observation that “That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure. Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 140) Baha’u’llah went on to dissuade this view of any interpretation that ‘nothing’ ever was by proclaiming, ”A drop of the billowing ocean of His endless mercy hath adorned all creation with the ornament of existence, and a breath wafted from His peerless Paradise hath invested all beings with the robe of His sanctity and glory. A sprinkling from the unfathomed deep of His sovereign and all-pervasive Will hath, out of utter nothingness, called into being a creation which is infinite in its range and deathless in its duration. The wonders of His bounty can never cease, and the stream of His merciful grace can never be arrested. The process of His creation hath had no beginning, and can have no end. “ (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 61)

A Baha’i View of Being through Language

The human being is a being through language. The world of a human being is a world in language. In meditation, by allowing thought to move into focus and pass on without capture, the human being can experience a slight sense of the world as it is, without meaning, without language. This is a fleeting but important sense, an affective space that the world exists as it is, without meaning. This sense creates the possibility that the world can occur in language, and therefore, BE, in diverse ways.

In realising that the world of the human being is a world through language, we can see that reality is something else, something inaccessible behind language. While we can experience something of reality, immediately we are aware of it, immediately our mind focuses on some aspect of it, it becomes described with meaning and story. that relates to our own sense of ourselves. This focus through language and its reiterative story,  rather than exposing reality, builds layers of artifice upon it. Yet it is possible that, in recognising reality is not accessible, we recognise the layers of story and meaning and the built landscape that veils reality.

Now there are some premises I think can be said of the relationship between humans and reality.

Premise one. It is not for the human being to have direct access to reality. The human being is a vehicle formed to build a landscape of story. Yet, as I have shown, we have the capacity to know that there is a reality hidden behind the landscape of our language, description, story, meaning, and action.

Premise two. It is not for the human being to know that their story is not reality. While the human being is capable of recognizing the story as a mere symbol, a code, helping our limited minds in dealing with reality, access to that knowing comes from the teachings of a few special human vehicles spread across vast millennia. These special vehicles have been called prophets or Manifestations of God. Indeed, my own capacity to recognise this premise has flourished only through the teachings of Baha’u’llah. While some philosophers have written discourse on the same seeming without direct influence of the manifestation of God, the increased philosophical insight into the symbolisation of reality through language follows the advent of a new Manifestation of God whether of Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and recently, Baha’u’llah. Among a hundred volumes of work, Baha’u’llah identifies the condition of existence and His role, “Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The “life to come,” on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world.” “Bereft, however, of the essence of the mysteries of His wisdom, which We have imparted unto thee beneath the veils of these blessed and soul-stirring words, thou wouldst fail to attain unto even a sprinkling of the oceans of divine knowledge or the crystal streams of divine power, and wouldst be recorded in the Mother Book, through the Pen of oneness and by the Finger of God, amongst the ignorant. Nor wouldst thou be able to grasp a single word of the Book or a single utterance of the Kindred of God concerning the mysteries of the beginning and the end.”

Premise three. The Manifestation of God does not provide direct access to reality. Moving in the world of human language, the Manifestation of God provides a story of reality called the Word of God. The Word of God does not provide direct access to reality which might be called the worlds of God. Rather, the Word of God is the most powerful guide for the human society towards unveiling reality. Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) has provided the most recent access to the Word of God. He declares, “By God, the True One! I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof, and the beauty thereof. I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me, and recognize My rank and station, and hold fast unto My hem. I am the most great ornament of the people of Baha, and the vesture of glory unto all who are in the kingdom of creation. I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world, and the horizon of assurance unto all beings.’ Thus have We sent down for thee that which will draw men nigh unto the Lord of creation.”

Premise four. The Word of God, has, at it’s heart, a covenant. The Covenant of God is the mightiest instrument for human society to reach for reality, the worlds of God, through the veils of meaning. It is the great attractor for all human knowing and action, for a period of human existence. All humans are in agreement with the Covenant of God. Some are unconscious of the covenant, yet all are moving by choice of language, being and action in diverse pathways, tangential to the reality hidden by the language of the covenant. The Covenant of God minimizes the story layers representing reality while optimising the possibilities of the human landscape. In this, the covenant of God provides the greatest possible liberation and power for all humans.

The Limits of the Contingent Man

The purpose of the Baha’i Faith is to share the teachings of Baha’u’llah (1817 – 1892) with humanity.

Photo of Abdu'l-Baha

Abdu'l-Baha c1875

Baha’u’llah explained that his teachings are for humanity to know God and to love God, the primary purpose for the existence of humanity itself. This is not a simple esoteric vision. However, in simple terms it might be said to have three components: The Divine Reality is unknowable, and reality is far more extraordinary than our human minds can imagine; humanity is created into a contingency for the training of its far greater reality; and an ever-advancing civilisation is proof-in-part that the training is taking.

Two thrusts might be identified for the training that Baha’u’llah encourages: humility towards our own existence and knowledge; and empowerment to realise our potential. Though seemingly distinct, these thrusts are mutually supportive in the navigation they provide in advancement of contingent progress. Nowhere are these mutual thrusts more strongly explained than in a letter written by Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), in 1921 in response to the questions of an individual.

Then how could it be possible for a contingent reality, that is, man, to understand the nature of that pre-existent Essence, the Divine Being? The difference in station between man and the Divine Reality is thousands upon thousands of times greater than the difference between vegetable and animal. And that which a human being would conjure up in his mind is but the fanciful image of his human condition, it doth not encompass God’s reality but rather is encompassed by it. That is, man graspeth his own illusory conceptions, but the Reality of Divinity can never be grasped: It, Itself, encompasseth all created things, and all created things are in Its grasp. That Divinity which man doth imagine for himself existeth only in his mind, not in truth. Man, however, existeth both in his mind and in truth; thus man is greater than that fanciful reality which he is able to imagine.

 The furthermost limits of this bird of clay are these: he can flutter along for some short distance, into the endless vast; but he can never soar upward to the Sun in the high heavens. We must, nevertheless, set forth reasoned or inspired proofs as to the existence of the Divine Being, that is, proofs commensurate with the understanding of man.