WAS ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING?
(AND CAN ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS EVEN EXIST AT ALL?)
Everything we directly observe as real is finite in nature, i.e. it is measurable in some way. But all finite things are measurable also in time, and this suggests to the mind (correctly or incorrectly, it matters not here) that all things had a beginning, both individually and collectively. This raises the question, could there have been a beginning, before all things, in which absolute nothingness existed?
Before dealing with this, I must draw attention to a fundamental property of knowledge. That is, everything that exists, or is true, can be named, or described, through a valid use of language. We cannot deny that it follows from this that what I will call an invalid use of language can not indicate something that can really exist. The equation 2 + 2 = 5 looks like an equation, and has the structure and all the components of an equation, but it is not a real or valid equation, and therefore it remains merely a collection of components that does not really say anything about the existence of any greater reality, as would be the case according to the normal or valid use of the language of equations. This is an example of what I call an invalid use of language.
With this in mind, let us more closely examine the supposed concept of 'absolute nothingness'. How might we form such an idea or concept? Perhaps by gradually subtracting realities until we have eventually subtracted everything whatever, leaving only nothingness? But this does not really work, because subtraction is an act of a mind, which is an act of a real entity, which is not nothing. To form the concept of absolute nothingness, therefore, the mind must also subtract itself as a reality that it can be aware of.
But how would this be possible? If the mind could subtract itself from its own awareness, how could it then know the concept 'absolute nothingness' which supposedly remains. If the mind knew the concept, then the mind would still exist as an object of its own awareness. That is, it would still be aware that it is something that exists, and that its ideas are also realities that exist, and are not nothing. Therefore any concept in the mind could not ever succeed in becoming a valid concept of 'absolute nothingness'. From this we can see that a valid concept of 'absolute nothingness' is impossible to achieve.
We can argue this more directly and concisely by simply considering the fact that any concept, or, that is to say, any thought, is, itself, always a reality of some kind, and is not nothing. From this it follows that if I try to think 'absolute nothingness', I must get rid of the thought itself, which is something. But if I get rid of the thought itself, I can no longer think it, and therefore the thought 'absolute nothingness' is a thought that is impossible.
The concept 'absolute nothingness' is therefore similar to the equation, mentioned above, in that it looks like a concept, and has the structure and components of a concept, but does not really say anything in accordance with the valid use of language since, as indicated, the mind cannot ever form a valid concept from it.
Since all realities, which are called real, or existing, are knowable, and can be represented by thoughts which are valid as thoughts, we must conclude that any invalid concept (like 'absolute nothingness") which cannot be a valid thought, cannot be called 'real', or 'existing'. From this we are able to know that 'absolute nothingness'. which is not a thought or concept at all, and is impossible, could therefore never be said to have existed, or have been a reality.
We are consequently compelled to say that there never was such an ultimate beginning. The valid concept of 'nothing' can therefore have only a limited application. If I say there is 'nothing' in the fridge, it is really only an abbreviated way of saying that there is 'no food', in the fridge, and not that there is 'absolutely nothing' (even space) in the fridge.
If, therefore, we want to form a valid concept of an ultimate beginning, we must ask: what alternative ultimate beginning might have been possible?
I think that the absolute opposite of the supposed absolute nothingness might naturally suggest itself as the alternative. This would be something I might call 'absolute everythingness'. That is, instead of arising out of absolute nothingness, which is impossible, all finite things would have descended into finite being out of absolute everythingness.
Such an 'absolute everythingness' would have to be a single, simple, infinite source of being, since no alternative conception could really make sense, and this immediately refers us to the article on the discussion of the existence or otherwise of an real infinity. We can see there that that discussion identifies an infinite 'object' that is also eternal in nature in order to support finite space and time as its properties.
We must now regard this infinite 'object' as also an infinite source of all finite being. This leads to the
conclusion that there never was any ultimate beginning in that 'absolute everythingness' must have always existed, because it cannot not exist, since the alternative, absolute nothingness, is not even a concept at all.
The laws of nature, such as the law of conservation of energy (i.e. actually of being) do not necessarily contradict this. The conservation of energy applies to an existing finite reality, not one that is being created. The laws of nature do not allow existing finite realities to actually create other finite realities that come into existence from beyond all that already exists. The laws of nature do not deal with or include anything beyond what already exists, such as the origin of all existence (absolute everythingness) and the law of conservation of energy is an expression of this fact.
Absolute everythingness, as an infinity source of being, however, gives rise to problems that need to be solved if this idea is to be acceptable. All things that have a measurable existence in time are finite, by definition, and cannot, therefore, be infinite or actually eternal, either individually or collectively. This suggests that there was an ultimate beginning of all realities that have a measurable presence in time, even though the underlying, eternal infinite 'object', by definition, had no ultimate beginning.
But this, on the other hand, requires that the infinite, eternal object can exist without any finite properties, as if a real object could be thought to exist without, e.g., any shape or size. An object need not have any particular size, and could undergo changes of size, but an object without any size at all is inconceivable, and could not exist as an object at all. Similarly, the underlying eternal infinity is not really concievable without having any finite properties at all. So it seems that the infinite object, because it has to have some kind of finite properties, must have had an ultimate beginning, while its infinity implies it cannot have had a beginning at all. To say this in another way, the infinite object requires that its finite properties must be eternal, and without any beginning, whereas the finite nature of such properties indicates that they cannot be eternal, i.e., infinite.
This contradictory result indicates that, so far, we do not really know the nature of the relationship between the finite and the infinite.
Let us therefore reexamine the definition of the finite, i.e., that the finite is anything that can be measured. Let us examine this in the context of time. How is time measured? The measurement of time is a comparison between one period of time, defined as the 'unit' for the measurement of time, and any period it is used to measure. In order to measure a time of n units, each unit must be equal to all the others, or the measurement would have no meaning.
So the measurement of time depends on the existence of a succession of units of time, or, in other words, a time process which is repetitive, or periodic in nature, like the ticks of a clock, which are all identical to one another. If there is no such periodic motion of any kind, then time cannot be measured at all. So we can say that a reality, though it may be finite in some respects, but contains no periodic motion of any kind, cannot be measured in time, and does not, therefore, fulfill the definition of the finite in respect of time, even if it may in other respects. So some finite properties of the infinite, eternal object might also be infinite, or eternal, in respect of time, though finite in other respects.
Another aspect that must be considered is that a reality measured in time must be subject to change, so that its process of change may be compared with the periodic change of the clock that measures it. If a reality exists but cannot change (like the past), a clock may seem to measure its existence but, since we are comparing a periodic change with something unchanging, the result is arbitrary and gives no information, except that the unchanging reality exists. What can be measured is the process of observation of the reality, which may change, but not the existence itself of the reality, in which there is no change.
A final question that must be considered is: is 'absolute everythingness' an infinite object that has a quality of intelligent consciousness, as well as being the source of the material cosmos subject to the laws of physics?
We can immediately say that an ultimate source cannot be the source of anything is does not contain within itself in any manner or form at all. In such a case it would not be the source of the reality at all. If, therefore, absolute everythingness is the source of all finite reality, and finite reality manifests conscious, intelligent beings, it must be also the ultimate source of consciousness and intelligence, and cannot have less of these properties than those manifested by such beings. Rather, it must be not only conscious and intelligent, but the actual infinite source of consciousness and intelligence as such.
© Alen, October 2015
Material on this page may be reproduced
for personal use only.