I want to talk to you tonight about the most important thing in Eastern philosophy and this that exists which is space. Space largely neglected by us as being nothing, even though our architects talk about uses of space, characters of space and qualities of space. And though our astronomers talk about curved space, expanding space, and therefore active space. There is a saying in the Sutra which is recited by all Buddhists practically in Japan and China, called the Makaharamita Shingo. Or the Heart Sutra, Shinjo. Which is a form precisely is emptiness. This character also means the sky and so Space This means both form and color it corresponds to the Sanskrit word Roopak. It isn’t the same as our word matter which has come to have the meaning of stuff, substance in the sense of stuff out of which things are made. This refers rather more to shape because that is not in Buddhist philosophy the concept of stuff.
So what is shape? What is for all, what is outline, what is significant, aperceptible or audible form is the same thing as space. Now this is not quite what we mean by equal equal sign. When you get this kind of equation is in eastern thought, that is to say you will get a Japanese saying be oh those so called Shabbat Sioux Shabbat Sioux so called we all go soku means, what these two things mean, unity is differentiation, differentiation is unity. Now we know ordinarily that nothing could be more different than a different and the same. And people will argue themselves into a bloody fight, that by God not the same is different from the different. And the different is different from the same. And so when you argue it that way, difference seems to have an edge over sameness, doesn’t that? Because you’re going to argue the same is different from the different the by God the different does different from the same more times the word different as used in this argument of the word same. And yet you realize that you don’t know what the different is unless you know what the same is. And that these two experiences designate each other. And it’s this business of designating each other which is meant by these two characters here which link form and space. And you could say they imply each other. That is a little better translation than are the same as.
So then, we are looking at a culture, here, which in its aesthetics shows an immense valuation of space. Also today, under the great pressures of the population explosion, space is the most expensive thing in Japan. More expensive than food, transportation or anything else: space. And it is a country which has learned how to make small spaces seem enormous. So great is the appreciation of space. So in contrast with our point of view for which space is nothing and for which space is also disturbing. Look at the ways in which we find space disturbing. Space free from suck or silence is a form of space and that is something which is to most modern people whether American or Japanese disturbing. Silence should be filled. And you know that in the Far East where people have radios, they believe that they’re not getting their money’s worth out of the radio unless they have a current turn down as high as possible. They should get the maximum noise out of it because that’s what after all it brings you, so turn it up high. This intrusion therefore into all life, of constant noise to destroy silence. Silence bothers us. So in the same way, space bothers us, because there’s nothing in it. And you remember the glorious Victorian rooms where those space whatsoever was allowed the walls had to be covered with patterns you couldn’t have a blank page or say a blank area on the binding of a book but you had to fill the whole thing up with flowers, and curly-Qs, and all kinds of things and you couldn’t have a surface of wood without in some way our other covering it all. All because of the feeling that space just is something that’s not there. And what I want to do the see evening is to show you various ways in which space is as important as the things that are supposed to be in it. And that once you can grasp that point you have very many problems solved.
Now let me start by repeating something that I’ve already told you, but I want to do this for the purpose of making it fresh in your mind and also illustrating it vividly so that you can’t forget it. This is a most elementary lesson in space. And it starts with a universe in which there is only one ball. There has to be of course and in this universe, space surrounding the ball. Because the ball is a solid. And the solid must go with the space. After all, if the ball is all that there is. Then it’s no ball at all because nobody can see it’s out, its limitations. And on the other hand if it was the space around it. It is all that there is nobody will notice the space because there won’t be anything in it. So we have to start with the primordial world of ball or solid and space. These two. Poles or qualities because the human nervous system is so arranged that the neurons constituting it have two possible operations. To fire, or not to fire. To be, or not to be. And so all thought is founded on an elaborate combination of what you might call yang and yin, or zero and one, on which with these two symbols you can put all arithmetic on that and computers used nothing but these symbols, no and yes to do the most elaborate calculations.
So, our way of thinking is entirely based on is you is or is you ain’t. And so we have a certain difficulty in realizing something in common between those two which is suggested you see by this phrase goes with. And about this come endless arguments but entered any rate here is this universe in which all that there is is one ball and space. In this world of course no motion is possible. Because that ball cannot be said to be moving up or down or to the left or to the right to the north south east or west above or below because there is nothing else in relation to which it can move. So we don’t know even that it still. We don’t know whether it moves, neither stillness nor motion can be attributed to it. It is only when we get a second ball. And now we’re going to call them A and B.. That there can be any motion at all. And so we can watch balls A and B growing closer to each other off other away from each other. But we cannot say whether A is moving and B. is still, whether B. is moving a is still or whether both are moving. There is no way of deciding if they grow either closer together off that away from each other back and forth but we cannot decide which one of them is doing it. Furthermore I want you to notice this. That these two balls can only move in a straight line. In other words, any position whatsoever in which they may be found will be along a straight line. And so they are confined to that dimension of motion.
And so now we introduce a third ball, C.. And we get a new problem. First of all, let us suppose the balls A and B.. stay together at the same relative distance from each other. And C moves off Now the question arises, who has moved? Have A and B. moved away from C. or has C moved away from A and B.. How is this to be decided you can decide it only on the rather fallacious basis of the majority being in the right. So that because A and B. constitute a majority, they can decide whether they moved away from C or C moved away from them. And so by constituting themselves the majority they can rule the situation unless. C. decides to stay with them at a constant distance. Then so long as they stay together and C stays the same distance from them they can’t move. Because they can only move in relation to C the only thing they can do to demonstrate movement is to break it up. If C. decides to stay here at this constant distance from them both you see. The only way they can change the situation is to break up this and for B. to move out here. And notice this, that in this situation the three of them can only move within a within a plane, within a surface, because wherever there are three points they will always lie on a surface. Just as where there are only two points they will always lie on a straight line. So here in the first place we had a one dimensional world with two balls we now have a two dimensional world with three balls. You see that is the difficulty here. All right now look here, wherever you have three points in space supposing we’re looking now on the flat surface of the black ball but in the volume here I have two firsts here. And to add to this we will use the base of the vase. Now do you see that however I move my fists, I can always have the base of the vase, the bulb here and each fist in one flat plane. In other words, supposing now I use you see here they’re in a plane there’s a triangle a flat triangle which joins all these three points if I move this one I’ve simply turned the triangle. If I move it this way, I’ve turned the triangle again. They’re always in a plane. Yes but that but even with that you see you can see the three.
Now these fellows say look at we can decide. Where we are. In relation to each other this really this majority thing doesn’t give us the real truth it’s only popular opinion. And furthermore since we’re only thinking in so. Offices our judgment is rather superficial. What we need and is thinking in-depth. Somebody profound, somebody who can stand aside from the situation and look at it objectively and tell us what we’re really doing. So we now invent a fourth ball, D. D for depth. And immediately you’ll find that D. can move into a third dimension. And stand underneath A, B. and C.. Because once I have the three points fixed I can take a fourth and move it out of the plane into a third dimension to see that and from this point of reference in the third dimension. See all these all these three on the surface but this lies underneath them and looks up at them. Each. And this is the object of observer who will now tell us how these three are moving. And so you’ve got now your third dimension. The dimension of depth. Thickness, which gives us substance. All this was hither to rather abstract.
But problems keep cropping up. Because three dimensions aren’t enough. This fellow D. can tell us how these three are moving, A.B. and C., but it can’t tell us when they’re moving. Do you see? The rate of motion is going to be quite as important as the how or shall I say the where of their movement. When do they do it? And so we’re going to get a fourth dimension into the picture which is not however a fourth a fifth ball but a scale in. A way of marking off any motion as from here to here, like this. You see? And if we’ve got this way of saying how much they move in such and such a time, we have a better way still of describing what they’re doing than from this point here. Alone. But you see once you’ve done that, that you can take step after step after step after step, dimension after dimension after dimension after dimension, and there is no end to it. You will never really finally be able to pin down what all these people are doing in reference to each other. You can only do it going back to the three situation, where we haven’t even got D. yet. We constitute a majority, and therefore what we say goes. But we always know that that is fallible.
Now let’s look at it in this way. All of us here have two eyes, two ears, one nose, one mouth and approximately the same sense organs all round. And therefore because we have these organs the same we all more or less agree as to what sort of a world we’re in. Because we are in the majority about this. But there are some people who perceive the world differently from us. And the great problem that we have to decide is do they have diseased sense organs or do they have extraordinary sense organs. Are their organs worse than ours or are they on the way to an improvement. We don’t like to have to face this question. Because wherever somebody perceives the world in a different way from us, we feel threatened. We may not be right. You remember in Kipling story in the second jungle book called Cars Hunting the monkeys tribe, the band a log used to get together and every now and then they would all shout in unison “We all say so, so it must be true.”
And so every great majority which has formed a consensus a set of conventions commonly held about the nature of the universe feels terribly threatened by somebody who suggests that it might be different. Is this person a genius or a madman? And we try to find out ways of testing it and we say by the fruits of his acts we will know whether he is a genius or a madman. Because if his new way of perceiving things of seeing things destroys the kind of order which we agree is the right order, then he’s a madman. But if his way of seeing things in the long run agrees with the kind of order which we think is order, then we’ll say he’s a genius. You can’t win against this. But there is this to be said. The crazy man has perceptions of a world which he gets lost in, and he can’t relate to the world of the majority of the ordinary people. He can’t talk the language. He’’s got lost. Whereas the genius who has a new kind of contradictions can always keep in touch with ordinary everyday people and explain or try to explain very clearly his point of view in their language so he is as it were a bilingual person a crazy man is simply a monolingual person. He can only talk one language is own language and if that doesn’t happen to be your language in my language, then he’s crazy. But the person you see I think we can decide this goes beyond craziness into something quite else becomes bilingual. He can talk the language of convention of ordinary everyday society and the language of the world seen. Beyond that or transcending that.
So this is what bothers us when we are confronted with new concepts and with revolutionary ideas of the nature of the world. We wonder whether the whole structure of sanity is being threatened or not. Whether this is a crazy man uttering ideas, or whether it is some kind of a new evolution in the structure of thought. Even perhaps in the structure of the nervous system. So the crazy idea which I wish to commend to you, which I will try to put into conventional language, assuming that all of you understand conventional language, is that of the reality of space. Let’s go back to our problem here where we have three balls moving in relation to each other. And look at it again from still another point of view. Let’s suppose they all seem to go outwards from each other in this direction. Uniformly. We can consider two arguments about this, the balls are all on their own or moving away from each other uniformly. Of course it must be that way. After all it’s common sense the balls are the things that are solid there what’s real and things between. Only things that exist as a solid can do anything. But then there’s another school of thought altogether say those things can’t move!They’re just balls, they’re just solid things they have no vitality. And furthermore there are three separate ones they have no common mind how could they possibly arrange to move away from each other a uniform speed the thing that moves is the space between them. After all we say the distance increases and that’s using the verb increases transitively or rather I mean it’s a verb that is being used to indicate an action and it’s the distance that does the action apparently when you say the distance increases you use the the noun distance in the same way as you say the man walks. So the this school of thought says So you see what is really moving is the space.
So you get the idea in astronomy because all the nebula in the galaxies are apparently moving away from each other uniformly. This is put in the form of saying that it is space that is expanding. And these things float in space. Then it’s terribly disconcerting because when expect people wanted to feel see that space was something. And so we had ideas about the ether. And light would have to be transmitted through an ether in the same way that sound waves are transmitted through air. You can’t, according to common sense, have the transmission of something through emptiness. There must be something in the emptiness to support this transmission and so we invented ether but as you will all know the Michelson-Morley experiment showed that there is no ether. That you have to think about the propagation of light and about the properties of space. Not in analogy with some fluid or liquid or gas which lies between all these things. You see we keep wanting to invent ghosts. To invent a solid. We can’t accept the idea of space. Now air is a solid, water is a solid, ether is a pseudo-solid. It’s something we had to invent to fill in this gap and say, ‘No, although these solids are real good material solids there must if they are to be related to each other be some kind of a tenuous filmy gaseous sun and the joins all these things together.’ We’ve got to have that thing we got to have the strings attached to see. We couldn’t stand the idea that space. Just made there’s nothing but space you know was important.
So then you’ve got these two theories then, that the solids are moving. Or that the space between them is moving. And both sides of got good arguments I’ve tried to present them. But what both sides overlook is that they are each one one sided. That what is moving is neither the solid nor the space, but the solid space. There’s a Zen story. Two monks were arguing about a flag that was flapping in the wind. And one of them said the wind is moving the flag and the other said the flag is moving the wind. And the six patriarch Wei-Nung when he was asked about this and he said you’re both wrong, the mind is moving. And so what you might say here is the point of a. This is when you get down to this question which one is moving the mind is moving, because what is meant here by the word mind, is the necessary into dependence of the concept space and the concept solid. That is, of the of the nature of mind. That you can’t have the one without the other and so, the mind used as a word to signify the into dependence of these two poles one of which is solid and the other of which is space. This moves.
And so, mind in this sense, is the creator of the world. I’m not saying that you imagine the world, each one of you out of your own private whimsy, imagines the kind of world that there is. What I’m saying is this. That the construction of the nervous system selects a world. You see your senses are selected. There are certain vibrations which they receive, and others that they don’t. Then on top of your senses comes your noticing what your senses tell, because you don’t notice all of that again is another act of selection and then on top of that is how you interpret what you notice. What patterns of sense you fit it into, what patterns of reason, or patterns of thought you call good judgement. And that still another level of selection so constantly the world. That and we are aware of is a selection of our mind.
But the way we have in our culture selected has always left out space. And rejected that, rejected the interval between things as something relatively insignificant. But now, let me try and show you that it is the interval that matters immensely. Let us take another kind of space altogether. Not the space of distance between objects, nor even the space of distance in time between events, but let’s take musical space. The difference between in the major scale of C.. the notes C. and G.. forming the common chord of the scale of C. Now, you have intervals between these tones. The notes C. E. and G. are tones. But the intervals between them are something else. Da-da-da. And you can hear in that three intervals the basis of the melody. Are la la la la la La lalalala. You see it begins to make a tune. But if you hear only the tones and you don’t hear the intervals, you don’t hear a melody. There are people who are what we call tone-deaf. And they only hear noise, they don’t hear melody because they don’t hear intervals.
So here’s the fascinating thing, that when you hear a melody, and sound begins to make sense to you, what you are actually hearing to constitute melody is the space or interval between the tones. It’s the same as this. You recognize that. The Big Dipper. All right the why do we recognize it. Because we recognize the relative spaces between these points. If it was just da da da da, we could arrange them this way. Whatever, you know. But it is how they are patterned. And there are no strings joining these points in the sky, in just the same way as there’s no would join between, but nevertheless you hear that pattern. And that’s what makes sense.
So, in the same way, if we increased enormously the magnification of a human hand, we would find a huge multitude or flock of molecules. And we look can look and look and look in an in an inn and we find there’s enormous spaces with no strings joining. And yet when I did this suddenly all those molecules would move together. Why? See, what has moved is not only the molecules, but the space. There is like birds in flight moved together in the same way. They don’t seem to need a leader, who gives a signal and says follow me and do as I show you. They seem to have one mind so that they all move together. All right. Now, let’s translate this into another thing altogether a problem which is quite fundamental to far eastern culture. And that is the question of birth and death. In popular thought, in India, and to a slightly lesser extent but nonetheless powerful extent China and Japan, people tend somehow to believe that they have many lives. There is a prevalent philosophy of reincarnation, although it’s interpreted in many many different ways. According to some theories there is in each one of us a soul, which is a permanent and enduring principle. And that incarnates itself in body after body after body, gradually progressing or regressing and we hope eventually progressing to higher and higher levels of spiritual Evolution. But in Buddhist philosophy, the existence of any such soul is denied. There is no permanent ego or permanent so which moves from life to life, and yet, the funny thing is that most Buddhists for all that they don’t believe in any transmigrating soul, they still believe in transmigration. And they talk about the karma. Which you have been working out from your many past lives and the column by which you are now creating for your lives to come.
And yet, how can they possibly say this, because they don’t believe in any soul which moves from one life to another, any entity that is as it were, the bearer of this Karma. So, to see how there might be a philosophy of trans migration, you’ve got to realize the importance of space. The importance of links or relationships between points that don’t have any strings tying them together. So let’s imagine first of all a river. Here is one bank and here is the other bank. And in this river lie many rocks. See.
Now, I am looking at this river from above because I’m standing on a high cliff. But I see that down below a man, and he is wanting to cross the river, and he looks at it from the immediate point of view. And he does this and he does this, he DOES THIS, THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. Let’s trace out that course he did THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. See. He found it all the quality the whether he could connect these pebble these rocks depended on how far his legs could stretch. He took that way over that was the way he saw. But I from my own vantage point can see that there were other ways he could have gone. He could have gone from here to here here here here here see so he could have had as an alternative this line. Three and you can pick out other possible ways which he could have gone. And so, when you look at the sky at night, you can think of the stars in certain groups of constellations. But that’s not the only way you could figure them. You could figure the stars and other groups and they would be just a satisfactory, provided we all agreed about them and how to figure them.
Now that I want you to imagine that each one of these pebbles in the stream represents the biography of a human individual. This bank of the stream represents the year one thousand nine hundred sixty five. And that this bank of the stream represents the year fourteen hundred sixty five. And that between these times there have been human lives lived between certain spans of years. You see what I mean? All those stones constitute biographies. And now we have a historian looking at those biographies line between these two points in time and saying By Jove. It really does seem doesn’t it that where this life left off. This one seemed to begin. And there really does seem to be a logical connection between these lives. And there also seems to be a logical connection between these. Although when it gets to this point, to this one here, it seems equally logical that this one go that way and this one go that way. Or it seems really here that it could have gone that way just as well as it went that way. You see what we’re doing here we’re looking at human lives. And we’re making the same kind of sense out of their continuity as we make in the patterns of the stars. By figuring out constellations. And that is the doctrine of reincarnation. Now you say, is that just projection? Is that just a way we have of figuring things out like when you look in a Rorschach blot, you make your own sense of it and because you project. Yourself into it that’s what’s so important to the psychologist who interprets what you are, because that was your projection and to this blot, and as it were the blood itself had nothing to do with it the.
But actually, the whole world is a Rorschach blot. Only we have forced each other to agree about how to interpret it. Because you see when some abstract figure is drawn. See, what is it? What have I drawn? What is it? What does that look like? Anybody, no-nobody wants to be forceful about this right if you’re not going to be for it. You saw flames as I was going to say the same thing. Now I see you and I agree, and we’re going to lead this group we’re going to tell him it’s all flames, they say and so they’re going to say yeah I see that after all it’s strange isn’t it they are. So basically in this universe, where little brains and nerves and to kitty kitty kitty things come into being inside their little little pods called skulls. Some of them say l around here this is the way it is. And it doesn’t make any difference you see whether they are a succeed or whether they don’t as a result of saying this because if as a result of saying it flames, they survive longer. Then they say that was success because we survived longer. If on the other hand they didn’t survive longer they survive shorter they would say that success because the important thing is to survive a short time sweetly rather than a long time not so sweetly where you would want to go off with a flash or you want to draw your life out of the steady glow. See, it’s any way you want to interpret it. So everything’s a Rorschach blot. In everyday life, only we’ve all agreed about it and so it doesn’t seem like a Rorschach inkblot. Because in strongly human beings people like Jesus Christ, Mohammed and the Buddha and the man who made up the laws of Manu, and Moses, and all these cats have throughout the centuries impressed other human beings that this is the way it is, and the Lord God says so. So if they can invoke that authority, then this is the way it is, here we are.
Now what we do in other words we convince ourselves who we are, that we are the same person sitting here now as came into this room fifteen minutes ago. All this is interpreting a Rorschach blot in exactly the same way as one sees a continuity between one set or other of these though in the river of these biographies lying between the centuries. And you can’t say you see, that that is something merely imaginary or merely arbitrary which you project onto the external world and that it’s your own imagination and nothing more than that because your own imagination is something in the external world. In other words, you couldn’t have that kind of imagination, or the kind of nervous system that you had unless you lived in this particular kind of universe. Your being an imaginative being, projecting all sorts of ideas onto the external world is in its own turn something that is a function of the external world, something the external world is doing.
So patterning, finding connections between points, is the whole operation of life. You can call it, there are two principles that correspond to space and two solid. One is called continuity, and the other discontinuity. In one place we see a connection. In the other place, we don’t see a connection. I get your point. I see the connection between one thing you said and another thing you said of between something I thought and something you thought. I don’t see your point. I don’t see any connection. So if I want you to see one I have to be very ingenious to get you to see it. And then you recognise it. In other words, I can get you to see these connections, but it’s going to be difficult for me to persuade you about this connection here, simply because my fingers won’t stretch that far.
Now in this you can see that in this theory of reincarnation, there could be for any one individual life several individual lives at the next step. For example, you see, by stretching of the, of the fingers, this fellow here could go here, here, and here for the next time. So we could say he has this individual in his next life incarnates as three individuals. In the next step he can go here. This one can go here or here. This one can go here or here or here. This one could become three. Sometimes there are situations in which three of them could only become one. Because there’s only one that is consistent in the pattern, by whatever rules you are making up the pattern of connection.
‘Let me ask you a question. Are you suggesting or saying that this pattern is in the eye of the beholder. This pattern is in the eye of the beholder but also that the eye of the beholder is in the one. And the way the eye of the beholder seems has something to do with the structure of the world which knows itself through the eye of the beholder. The identity of it is in the identity of a pattern, which you can see as linking them. All right, let me put it exactly in this way. Let us consider the University of California. The University of California has endured for many years and will endure darkness in many many years to come. And in the course of its endurance the all the students and all the members of the faculty and staff and indeed all the buildings will change completely and yet the University of California will go on. What is it that goes on? A pattern. Which is identifiable as a university and in particular actually University of California. In that geographical spot that’s one of the rules of identification. Actually the the University of California one hundred hour seven campuses, and its geographical location is somewhat vague. And as compared say with Harvard. Nevertheless the thing is recognizable, because the pattern. Well I’m talking in this case I mean that’s posing. Yes In other words we’re going to say. There is a pattern of personality and character behavior between this one and this one and this one and this one and this one all this one and this one which makes them look as if they were continuations of each other. Yes right of course of course in other words there is a pattern that links all of us, because we wouldn’t be here unless there was. Our being here together indicates certain common mindedness of a certain degree a pattern. We are in a sense therefore sitting around here all reincarnations of each other. [And the same thing is true for all human beings’ Yes, but you can see patterns in other words. When you look at the sparks in the sort against the back of a fire and they’re all coming and going coming and going coming and going and you can see all sorts of patterns in the sparks and all of them are right there all the legitimate. They depend of course on your vision but you in turn your brain your neurons is part of the same world in which those sparks a coming and going on the back of the fireplace.
So, the fundamental thing then, that one needs to see though, is that what I’ve been talking about as the links here. There are no links, except spatial relationships, just as between the stars in the Big Dipper and as between the tones in music, there is a spatial or interval relationship between them. And this is what makes the sense.