That Which Escapes All Conceptualisations

How can you describe a class that can’t be defined?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a scientist. This is not a scientific article. The Cosmos series is a tribute and an overview of the body of work of the philosopher Alan W. Watts(see the P.S. section of article Reality Is Bliss for more information).

Trying to describe a class that has an inside but no outside is like trying to draw your own nervous system on a flat wall. It’s next to impossible. So let’s get started. The difficulty is not so much in pointing to it, as it is in the limitations of the language itself used to describe it. The following is an attempt to describe a class that resides outside all classifications.

The first thing that we have to do in understanding this is conveying to people the limitations of the language we have. The reason for it is there are certain conventions or grammatical rules being used that are taken for granted, even though they are only representing the actual physical world, but are not in fact the physical world. And the idea that is being talked about, resides in that world, and not in the world of symbols.

One could say that all words are signs to the reality outside them. Let’s take as an example the word idea. Now that word is obviously not the idea a person has in mind, but functions as an indicator to that idea. Same as an idea of a chair is not a chair. Or anymore than you can quench your thirst with the word juice. One could also say that words are for distinction, separating things and events. So it is very difficult indeed to try to talk about something that is not found in descriptions or is not a differentiation but a unification of everything.

So our sense of the world is a symbolical one at best. We are always living on the indicators and not what they are pointing at. This is even more apparent when you start discovering apparitions in your own language. Take the grammatical rule that all verbs have to have subjects. That every doing requires a noun, something that is doing the deed. But anything in nature that can be labelled as a thing, a noun, can be expressed with a single verb – it is snowing is simply snowing. What is this “it” that is snowing? The snow. Lightning flashing is lightning. Because the flashing is the same as the lightning. And so on. The Chinese language is a prime example of attributing single verbs to processes.

It is not only words that distort our sense of what is in the actual physical world. Take the ordinary radio. The announcers never start the morning broadcasts by saying that all the sounds you will hear here onward are actually the vibrations of the diaphragm in your radio’s speaker, and not the actual instruments, people or street noises. That’s something that is taken as a given and ignored completely. So you could say that the diaphragm of the universe is something that we human beings along with everything else is vibrating on.

Keep in mind that whatever is said after this point is in itself a concept. And the actual thing will defy all concepts, because it lies outside them, yet containing everything. So the best thing to do now is first describe what is known as a class. The nature of a class is that it’s a box. And if a box has an inside, it must have an outside. You can put things in it, label the box, and take things out of it. However, the box that is described here has an inside but no outside. And any logician would go berserk at this point, but sorry. It is how it is.

Theoretical mathematicians among others run into this sort of thing a lot, when trying to describe complex mathematical concepts. Whenever they have to fit those advanced formulae into our common three-dimensional thinking, the concepts always gets distorted. And this is because of the limitations of the language such as English as opposed to mathematics.

Have people heard of a Möbius Strip? Take a piece of paper, and cut around 3 cm x 15 cm of area. Then take the ends of the paper and twist the other end 180 degrees. And now join the ends together. Next, take a pencil and run it on the paper without taking the pencil off – what you have in your hand is a strip with only one side.

Now, when you add another dimension to that strip you get what is called a Klein Bottle. It is a three-dimensional representation of the same principle. It only has one side but it is occupying all three dimensions. When you add one more dimension known as time you have something that resembles our universe. Its inside is the same as its outside.

Not only do we classify things in nature or the universe, we classify people. For safety. If I know that you’re a democrat, I get certain assumptions in the back of my mind as to how to communicate with you. However, if you said you’re a fascist, I might have different assumptions, and might in fact shut down completely. We always label things so we know how to handle them. “It’s safe, it’s in the bag.”

This as it were, definition, of the external world and our relationship to it is so imbedded into us from childhood onwards, that we get actual panic attacks when we can’t define something properly. Such as in the case of someone unknown to us. The so-called ‘other side’. And this I admit is sounding as if I personally didn’t regard things as being the ‘other’, but the fact is you can’t escape from seeing classes as classes. You can’t in other words stop defining the world around you. Because if you did, you’d go quite mad.

And so the class of all classes is something that cannot be defined. And that is why people have so many opinions and views on it. Because it is practically so vague, that you can insert any possible label on it you want. And this is the phenomenon of where the absolute truth becomes the subjective truth. We distort it just like those mathematicians invariably distort their models. And we can’t really help it.

That is not to say that pinning it down or communication regarding it was utterly useless or in vain. Because it can act as a source of great inspiration, and in fact has done just that. Almost all the religions and practises in life are based on the undefinable class. The very idea of God is simply an interpretation of this class. But I don’t use that term, in fact I prefer the term the Hindus use for it, and that is simply my preference.

Next, an introduction to something that the Advaita Vedanta school in Hinduism call non-dual. It acts as an indicator that is pointing to the class I’ve been talking about. It has no opposites nor can any be made because it resides outside the convention of concepts. In other words, it lies outside the dimension which we inhabit. Now, a logician would say that “but something that is non-dual is the opposite of the dual.” True, the word itself has an opposite. But they are using it in a special sense – it goes like this: On a two-dimensional plane we have certain words we can use that are pointing to the three dimensional space which lies outside our comprehension. So whenever one uses the term, we know what we are referring to. And this analogy can be applied to our four-dimensional(or more) relationship to the non-dual dimension.

It’s been called several other terms throughout history. The Absolute, the Ground of Being, Tao, or the class of all classes. But one thing they all have in common is they are trying to conceptualize something in terms of four-dimensional constructs and that is the reason it will fail any idea, imagery or symbols made about it. And yet despite of that, it can be felt and experienced without any difficulties.

The reason the point was made about the failure of words is, we tend to think everything through symbols. And there lies the key difficulty. And here we return to the original point as was made in the first post in the series. People are playing one of the most backwards games ever conceived on each other all the time, without being aware of it. The game goes like this:

The only thing we really know, is what we can say in words. That is, what we can describe in terms of linear language. Let’s say that I’m hopelessly in love with a woman. And I go around acting all crazy about it. People might say to me: “Why don’t you tell us how much you love her!” – I could write poetry, make music and so on. And when I’ve written the most amazing love letter ever written, people will say: “Alright, we believe you, you really do in fact love her.” But let’s say you are not a very articulate person. Would the people say that I don’t love her? Of course not. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, to be in love.

And this is the whole thing. If you cannot express something using this very clumsy way of communicating, by using a long line of linear symbols, people are apt to take you seriously. They’ll say “Well he’s not making any sense. He’s talking balderdash.” And you will never be able to describe how something like the class of all classes is created using words. An eternity wouldn’t be enough. Because the universe wasn’t created with words. One could then say that the universe itself makes no sense. Which is why we have been so busy trying to straighten all the wiggly forms out with our western Euclidean measurements.

Now, we must return to the original description of a class. They are for distinction only. As are words. They are for separating the world of wiggles into rectangular nets that can be measured, numbered and kept track of. And as you cannot make a reasonable distinction between the nominator that is common to all things, you cannot sensibly make any ideas about the class that contains the entire arrangement of everything that we can sense and experience. You cannot have the source as an object of its own knowledge. It only knows its limits. As do we when we study the universe.

Whenever scientists make more accurate instruments to look at what the patterns of the smallest conceivable sub-atomic “wavicles” are made of, they always seem to arrive at an even smaller arrangement of patterns. The same way as the further we look out into space, the more minute and numbered the amount of galaxies in the known universe seem to get. Because the universe has to recede from its own detection every time we look deeper into it – it wouldn’t do that if we stopped chasing it. Because Hide and Seek is the original game of the universe.


P.S. If I had to venture a whimsical guess based on a hunch, I would imagine the rules breaking completely as you leave the confines of the box, the class of classes. Who knows what’s that in. It might be a droplet in an ocean of a multidimensional, multiversed, multifaceted pattern structure, that might end up being just a nostril hair, on some strange being’s face. This again though, is just another idea.

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