The hooded Lady walks into stony night.
Shifting between tree shadow and long slivers of moonlight,
Like long shining drops of rain she walks,
Into that stony night between
liquid light and shadow.

To follow her with steps, or eyes, or thought:
There is no greater danger, no act more wrought.

by Andrew Nightingale

On Space, Emptiness and Nothing

It is a common argument strategy to say that inclusivity and synthetic thinking isn’t very helpful. Often thinkers favor analysis, even if it is less correct, because it is more useful. To counter, it is good to consider how scientists postulate space. Space includes a notion of distance similar (although slightly different) to Euclidean Geometry (and very dissimilar from many other mathematical definitions of distance). If space really were nothing at all, you wouldn’t be able to traverse space. If space didn’t include this idea of distance, the universe wouldn’t hang together. Trying to traverse space without a law of distance, and many other laws sometimes called “global constants” by scientists, such as the speed of light (which supersedes the law of distance) then traversing it would involve traversing nonsense, insanity, oblivion, Nirvana or some other of the hard to define or undefinables.

The notion of space for the physicist is more similar to the notion of emptiness than to nothing at all, because emptiness recognizes or includes a container. The container is the global constants, and is not nothing. This is how Zen Buddhism avoids Nihilism.

You may try to say that noticing this basic inclusivity of the universe is not helpful, but it is of utmost importance for there to be an emptiness to inhabit and for the universe to tie itself together. Understanding how the stars and we and plants and rocks and love and thoughts are tied together is a very good thing, and rivals the analysis that separates us from food, or fuel for a fire. I would even argue that understanding the fabric of the universe, our container, is better than separating yourself from a fire. Try at your own risk though.

I will end with a summary of a story from the Dhamma I tell my daughters often.

The story of the Monk who looked for Space, adapted from the Dhamma for children

Once upon a time there was a monk who wanted to know where Space was

So he meditated and meditated and meditated, until his mind reached the angels.

He asked the angles, “Oh Angels, where is Space?”

The angels replied “We don’t know, but if you meditate longer, you will reach even higher angels, they might know.”

So the monk meditated and meditated and meditated, and his beard grew longer and longer and grey as he sat still, until he saw the higher angels.

The monk asked the higher angels “Oh high Angels, where is space?”

And the High Angels replied, “We don’t know, but if you meditate longer you will reach the Highest Angels, maybe they will know”

So the monk meditated and meditated, and his beard grew down to his feet and grew white as he mediated, until he saw the Highest Angels.

The monk asked the Highest Angels, “Oh Highest Angels, where is Space?”

And the Highest Angels replied, “We don’t know, but if you meditate even longer you will reach Brahma, the Highest of the Highest, creator of all the worlds. He will know.”

So, again, the monk meditated and meditated, and his hair began to fall out and his skin sagged from his bones and grew spots as he sat meditating, until he reached Brahma.

The monk asked Brahma, “Oh Brahma, Highest of the Highest, Creator of all the worlds, where is space?”

And Brahma replied “I am Brahma! Highest of the Highest, Creator of all the worlds!”

And for some this would be enough, but this monk persisted.

The monk said “Yes, and… where is space?”

Brahma realized the monk would not go away, so he took him to the side away from his Choir of Angels and said,

“Look, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t know where Space is. You are asking a dangerous question. If you must know, go ask the Buddha, but go at your own risk, for you go beyond my domain.” Said the Brahma, Highest of the High, Creator of all the Worlds.

And so, the monk, stood up from his meditation and walked, careful not to fall as he was very old now. He walked very slowly and it was very hard, but luckily for him, The Buddha was living then, and was residing in a town nearby.

He reached the Living Buddha, sat to one side respectfully, and asked his question.

“Oh Buddha, The Well-Gone, where is Space?”

And the Buddha gave his answer simply

“It is good you came to me, for no-one can answer this question except one who has finished the Noble Eightfold Path. And it is because Space can only be found in the mind of the Saint, one you has followed the Way, gone to the end of the world with his mind. For he has found Space, and it is in his mind.”

Then the Buddha, saying nothing at all, imparted this knowledge to the monk, who attained Enlightenment at that very moment. The monk lived happily from then on, knowing the supreme bliss, until his death and beyond.

Vaccination and Homeopathy

Andrew Nightingale asked the question for discussion:

Why is vaccination not identified as a kind of homeopathy? Why are these two things on two sides of a stark dividing line between science-doubters and science-faithful? What makes people unable to make this connection?

Christian G Meyer February 27: Vaccinations are effective. Homeopathy is nonsense.

Andrew Nightingale: The basic principle of Homeopathy is that creating symptoms of a disease will strengthen the body against the disease. “like cures like” This is exactly what a vaccination does. So if one is nonsense so is the other, and if one is effective so is the other, at least sometimes. Your “contribution” has no argument or insight. It is only the regurgitation of the belief I question.… 

Frank T. Edelmann February 27: Dear Andrew Nightingale personally I see no real connection or similarity between vaccinations against COVID-19 and homeopathy. The newly developed coronavirus vaccines have ben thoroughly studied and proven to be highly effective to prevent an infection with the virus. Although there might be some formal similarity between vaccination and homeopathy, the main problem is that homeopathy completely lacks this positive proof of effectivity. As a chemist, I can easily oversee that many homeopathic medications do not contain a single molecule of active ingredient. Thus in my personal opinion it is dangerous to awaken any hope that homeopathy could be helpful in the fight against COVID-19.In this context please see this relevant link entitledIn Germany, a Heated Debate Over Homeopathy

Andrew Nightingale February 27: Hello Frank T. Edelmann thank you for the contribution. The article was a good read. There are many things I do not know. My specialty is mathematics, with a duffers bag of philosophy. I can with authority criticize the statistical analysis that is used to establish a causal relationship in a scientific study. As a mathematician, I can say that what you define as the cause, and what you define as an effect, has a great impact on how persuasive the statistical analysis can be. Before we can speak of there being a causal relationship at all, we have to establish what the cause is, that is, what is the thing that causes, and what the effect is. Unfortunately I can only speak as an expert in this narrow frame, and unfortunately, as much as that might pain the certainty of science, we are also in the area of language–whether a community of scientists are successfully talking about a real cause or effect. You say the thing that causes we want to talk about are active ingredients, and I would agree with you, as you know much more about that than I do. What these are can be established, and once it is established, we can do a scientific study to establish a causal relationship for an effect. I have no doubt about the causal relationship between vaccines (the cause) and their effects (immunity to a disease). I am sure so far I have not said anything surprising. But what is the effect? Vaccines do not make you well, they make you sick. They induce the symptoms of a disease. That seems to me to be the same type of effect that homeopathy promises, whether or not they are administered incorrectly into the ear, or manufactured incorrectly with only sugar. IF they contained active ingredients and were administered correctly, like vaccines, there would be no difference, in principle, between vaccines and the principle of homeopathy. Both make you well later because you have induced a lesser sickness. That is my only point, and it is a point regardless of the power of causal relationships established by scientific rigor. It is a point about what the thing that causes is, and what we could call an effect. With that in mind, the proof that homeopathy has scientific backing is vaccines themselves. The problem is not that principle of homeopathy doesn’t make sense. The problem is that the principle of homeopathy seems to be unrecognized for what it is by scientists, and is left to flounder without being regulated in how the medicines are made and administered and studied. Homeopathy is merely in bad shape because it has been ignored. If it were not ignored, there would be no political cost in fighting against it. So again I reiterate, why has it been ignored? Is “like cures like” a principle that we, as scientists, are against politically, not reasonably? If so, is the the political cost to science worth it?

Frank T. Edelmann February 28: Dear Andrew Nightingale many thanks for your detailed response. “Homeopathy is merely in bad shape because it has been ignored.” This is definitively not true for my country, Germany. Many Germans trust in homeopathy. After all, homeopathy was “invented” by the German physician Samual Hahnemann:, as mentioned in this Wikipedia article, homeopathy is a pseudo-scientific system. Personally I believe that today the popular “like cures like” is just an empty phrase with no scientific background. In this context please see this relevant article entitledLike Doesn’t Cure Like: Homeopathy and Its Fake Medications This is just my personal opinion which I’m not going to change. Thus we should not engage in any emotional discussion about homeopathy. 😊

Andrew Nightingale March 1Frank T. Edelmann: thank you for the detailed references. I am talking about what “homeopathy,” or some other word if you like, could be, and you are talking about what homeopathy (in this case another word is not appropriate) is now. And I agree with you that the state homeopathy is in now is not acceptable. The article entitled “Like does not cure like” is interesting because its title does not match the evidence that it presents. I believe this is a rhetorical or political move, to attack a principle indirectly by attacking homeopathy in every way it can and not the principle “like cures like” at all. I have no emotional attachment to homeopathy, so if you want we can drop that term now, so that discussion can continue. “like cures like” is definitely an oversimplification, and curing the virus with a vaccine most definitely used a principle similar to “like cures like.” You are right that “like cures like” is scientifically an empty phrase nowadays, because Francis Bacon and before him Galileo made it so, by changing the basis of knowledge by inviting us to “look closer”. Looking closer is good for knowledge, but it also is good for noticing differences better than likenesses, which turn out to be similar to one of Francis Bacon’s Idols. The Idol of the Cave might be the one, that what we see when we look closer is no longer communicable with the words people know, communicable about the “axioms” or general principles we can discuss. Words have been undermined. There is much work and exaggeration on this point of philosophy of science. My point here is that an axiom like “like cures like” is what is curing the virus Covid-19 in the form of vaccines.

Andrew Nightingale added a replyMarch 1Also Frank T. Edelmann thank you for the enjoyable discussion. :)… 

Christian G Meyer March 1: Please take some time (I guarantee, it´s worth every minute and you won´t regret it a second) and watch some (highly informative and highly entertaining) videos of the wonderful former very famous magician James Randi, who extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, including homeopathy. He was the co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Homepathic dilutions are up to 1: are many more videos available.Decades ago he offered a reward of 1 million USD if someone could prove that homeopathy is effective. The money never has been claimed. He debunked the spoon bender Uri Geller and showed how spoon bending works. It is recommended to read his exciting Wikipedia biography. I was so happy to meet him in 2005 and to spend a day with him. He died in October 2020 at the age of 92, guess from what. the way, vaccinations have for decades now declared by the CDC as the most effective public health measures ever, far more effective than improving car driving security, working security, anti-smoking campaigns and many other measures. Vaccinations are always Number 1!

Christian G Meyer added a replyMarch 1It is interestig that in old Rome it was recommended to eat the liver of rabid dogs to be protected against rabies – a pre-stage of the rabies vaccine which is used today.… 

Ligen Yu added a replyMarch 1Andrew has presented a very critical question about modern medicine, that is the false causal relationship. What the medical scientists think to be causes may not be the real cause, and what the medical scientist think to be effect may not be the real effect. And that is the root cause of the replication crisis in medicine: the human being as a super complex system, there might be millions of causal conditions that contribute to a medical condition with different weightage, and we really need to pay great caution when we ascertain any scientific causal relationship between a few causal conditions to the medical condition.

Andrew Nightingale added a replyMarch 1I have said enough, and plenty more in my own published work that is related. I hope the discussion will continue without me. Peace!

Should Ronald McDonald’s “Do you believe in magic?” be considered vandalism?

Having Jesus or Muhammad or science satirized in TV shows is done with peril, but unaffiliated mysticism seems to be fair game. As much as we might denounce identity politics, would it even be possible to escape? This is interesting because certain parts of unaffiliated mysticism are hard to argue with, such as the existence of love. How would someone with a recognized and politically defended identity fair if they were to reject this mystical idea publicly?

The Buddha’s Categories of Questions

Could the Buddhas Analysis of questions be ordered purposefully?

  1. Categorical (likeness, identity)
  2. Analytical (difference)
  3. The battlefield of questions, where one is countered by another until we either know what we mean, and fall into type 1 or 2 questions, or throw up our hands, unknowing, into type 4
  4. The Great Questions that can only serve to fill us with wonder. Is there something in wonder that can heal? Something that we need?

And which questions are we looking for? Categorical answers are still ideas to be released. And the Great Questions, inasmuch as they are framed by words at all, are to be released as well, but inasmuch as they are not framed, they are closer to the Original Ignorance that we are to mystically Know, or at least be aware of. Dispassionately. Not to be taken in. To know how to channel the energy of wonder so that it goes where it should.

The Saving Power of Work

“But in the area of the Dhamma, simply sitting still with the right intention is a form of work or action. Lying down with the right intention is a form of work or action. Sitting, standing, walking, lying down: All of our movements and postures, if done with the right intention, are a form of work or action. When our actions are right, we’ll experience peace and ease. And then how will suffering come our way? The reason we suffer is because our actions are wrong. We sit, stand, walk, and lie down in ways contrary to the Dhamma. And then when we take on other work in addition to our basic actions, that work is bound to turn into wrong action as well. This was why the Buddha improved his manners in how he sat, stood, walked, and lay down, so that they were all pure in terms of the intentions of his mind. What this means is that he kept practicing tranquility meditation in all his activities. His mind had to stay with what the body was doing. If the mind told the body to do something, but didn’t do it along with the body, then he didn’t succeed in what he wanted to do. He couldn’t let the body work on its own. The mind had to work along with the body. Otherwise, his old manners would come back and take charge of the mind.”

Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, Right Action, Right Result, November 11, 1958

The Universal Truths

I am not a postmodernist because I take certain things to be universally true. There are only a small number of these.

  1. There exists a general notion or operation called “separation” This involves the decay, falling apart, or impermanence of mental, spiritual, physical, or any other qualification of phenomena.
  2. There exists a general notion or operation called “Union” you could equally call it “Equal” or “same” or “synthesis” “thing” or “gathering,” “Being,” “Idea,” or “word.” The reason for the many terms for Union is Union is vague, and words are vague. How and what joins together varies, but in general there most definitely is an operation, be it mental, physical, spiritual or whatever, that I call “Union”. Since “thing” is included in “union” all things are unions.
  3. There was no original Union or Separation. The coming together and falling apart has no beginning nor end.
  4. All Unions are subject to Separation. Separation is another word, as such it is subject to decay or falling apart. Do not cling to a particular notion of Separation, they are just as vague and impermanent as notions of Union. There is still a universal truth that all Unions are subject to falling apart, dissolution. The words in this description of Universal Truths are like rain water that has pooled long enough to have a clear drink. Soon, these words will drain away from anything serviceable.
  5. The process of union and separation is called “Time” or “Space” or “Mind” or “Spirit” or “Ether” or many others. The principle of the arising of Unions and their Separation accounts for the many names of this “process.”
  6. There is Awareness of Absolute Truth, this Truth is not really grasped with words or any other Union. The sixth truth could be simply called “Awareness,” It can be experienced through one of many doors such as a mental, physical, spiritual or other door. When it is experienced it is experienced in every way as well–as mental, as physical, as spiritual, and as any other way nameable. In other words, it is a special kind of Union. The 6th truth can not normally be maintained through “Time” or the 5th truth, except by equally grasping all 7 truths. Awareness of the first 6 truths can be achieved without meditation.
  7. There is ignorance of the Truth. This manifests as a lack of awareness: mental, physical, spiritual, or any other (un)nameable awareness. Ignorance of the Truth arises from over-attention or over-aversion to one way or some ways (but not all ways) of being aware. In other words, ignorance is excitement, zealousness, greed, aversion, passion, ecstasy, and suffering or any kind of uncontrolled, unrestrained energetic state involving some (but not successfully all) unions or universal truths. Ignorance is a lack of equanimity in your ability to experience the Truth, or application of awareness. It is the Separation of the 6th truth. The separation of the 6th truth is called “Creation of a Union.” Creation of Unions is the result of the 7th truth. It happens when there is no mastery or awareness of the 7th truth.
  8. There is full Awareness of the 7th truth. Awareness of the 7th truth does not result in creation of a Union. The 8th truth amounts to saying that none of these words adequately describe anything absolutely true. The 8th truth is Nirvana, and is experienced as the perfect maintenance, permanence, or continuation of awareness of the 7 truths. Mastery and Awareness of the 7th truth must be cultivated with some kind of meditation.

Essentialism and Logical Pluralism

A lot of my work can be reduced to the debate on essentialism, and of course, my book comes down on the side of non-essentialism. This is the idea that there are not universal ideas or categories to to label with a word. That language is not enough for inquiry or truth-seeking.

“When we define something, then, what we are really doing is drawing a circle around a set of objects. But this circle will always have blurry edges, because our language simply cannot be infinitely precise (nor need it be, most of the time).”

This looks like my consideration of Pierce’s circle as the only mark needed to do Aristotle’s logic.

The circle in this notation is the negation operation, or distinction. And I do argue that the marks used to make circles have blurry edges. I go a little further and say that because these logical marks have blurry edges, we can actually create different kinds of marks, that still count as a kind of distinction. Its like saying you don’t have to only use a scalpel or a pen to mark the circle around logical objects or reality to create identities or logical statements. There are many other tools you could use. Intuitionist logic has a different understanding of logical negation, so the way they mark the circle is different from the way Aristotelian logician marks a circle. And these are different from the ways paraconsistent logics slice up reality, in other words, paraconsistent logicians use different tools from just scalpels or pens to do their mental arrangements.

It is true that you can reduce these different tools to a single tool, for the most part. We would not be able to begin talking about different slicers that slice reality, (extending from the nonessentialist observation that there are different ways to slice reality) if we didn’t turn our scalpel on itself, or use another scalpel on it, to tamper with it and modify it. So you could say that all these tools depend on the scalpel. Doing that is like writing computer code and only using the if, then, elseif, else code for everything, without the many other tools like loops, and so many others. Or trying to talk about computers using only algorithms and no data structures, or vice versa. Pragmatically, it is better to talk about the different logics as different tools for slicing reality, rather than reducing them all to a single kind of scalpel.

Language is Lunch

In my book (2019 I make the case for why logic is changeable and therefore temporary. The crux of the argument is that the inequality between a lemon and a lime does-not-equal the inequality between a star and a question, which draws the concept of identity into question. This implies that everything changes, including language or how we slice up reality with words. It amounts to the Buddhist maxim ” everything is impermanent” including words and mathematical words/objects.

This is not to endorse nihilism. Language is still very helpful in learning truth, but truth is not something that can be expressed with language. See this blog post: Language doesn’t amount to nothing; it is like lunch. You need it to keep your mind going on its path to truth, just like you need lunch to accomplish much of anything in life. You read and think in language so your mind can keep moving. It is very important, even hypnotic. Ultimately, as a delightful art form, it is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself.

I should add that this requires a particular theory of identity: how it is like and different to other things is how it gains its identity. As usual, not a perfect theory. But surely, how we relate an apple to the rest of the world changes. Maybe over a thousand years we decide apples don’t taste good, or are dirty, or whatever else. It is actually easier to see how mathematical objects change, because our taste for them changes them even more than it does an apple.