ZERO DIRECTION book front cover

Direction Zero : Koanic consciousness and the "Reality" game



This site is an overview of the author's ongoing research into the ideas inherent
in Taoism and Buddhism with particular emphasis on Zen
and its areas of convergence with Western philosophies,
and modern physical knowledge, method and logic.
It is illustrated with examples of the author's koanic artwork.

Since it attempts to describe the indescribable, it must inevitably fall short of its aim.
In this sense it is a directionless journey to nowhere,
which, nevertheless, it is hoped you will enjoy travelling.

View full screen (FN)+(F11)
and high contrast
Click white buttons to return to link origins

Yin-Yang page spacer /decoration 

“Words are for conveying ideas.
But when the ideas are understood
you forget the words.
How I would like to talk with someone
who’s forgotten all the words!”

Chuang Tzu (-369 to -286)


“Speak the truth and run”

Voltaire  (1694 to 1778)

“The laws of causation treat of the network,
and not what the network describes”

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 to 1951) 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience
is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and science.”

Albert Einstein (1879 to 1955)

“Irrationality is the square root of all evil.”
Douglas Hofstadter (1945 - )


was conceived in China and recorded initially by Lao-Tzu (-604 to -531) and his followers

in the lifestyle book Tao Te Ching. ("the book of the Way, and its power").

He was strongly influenced by the I Ching ("the book of Changes")

written very much earlier by unknown authors circa -3000 to -1200.

Chuang Tzu (-369 to -286), the successor to Lao-Tzu, developed his ideas with humour and irony.

Leih Tzu was his pupil, and set the seeds for the emergence of Ch'an (later called Zen, in Japan)

from a marriage with Mahayana Buddhism, which had arrived earlier from India.

Taoism became (with Buddhism and Confucianism) one of

the 3 major Chinese lifestyle "religions" of the time,

and only stopped receiving state support in 1919.

Today, there are about 20 million adherents worldwide, primarily centred in Taiwan.


Tao ("the way") is holistic, and attempts to transcend the duality of thought process

through "wu-wei "  - actively doing nothing (i.e. its suspension in infinite patience).

Core Tao beliefs are that :

- everything exists at the same instant as the universe it shares,

- the ego is an illogical division of self from the universe, and

- reality is beyond conceptual thought ;


(These ideas are gaining ground in western science and mathematics,

and are explored later).

symbol (the combined yin and yang) represents all opposites/dualities

(good-bad, black-white etc..) arising mutually ("hsiang sheng") in dynamic balance,

indicating that nothing can exist in isolation.

The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic.

Fortune and misfortune, life and death, come and go forever,

And the whole system is beyond monotony, since remembering must alternate with forgetting.

As Lao-tzu put it: "to be" and "not to be" arise mutually.

(so much for W. Shakespeare !)


Tao is the first cause of the universe, flows through all things,

and takes subjective Nature as its model.

Being in harmony with the Tao is the attainment of compassion, moderation, and humility.

It is not doing something for reward.

It is the reward itself.

 Tao has all qualities and none, at the same time.


BUDDHISM was conceived in North India through the "enlightenment"

of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (-490 to -410).

His teachings were "recorded"  about 150 years later,

when Buddhism had already started to diversify into Mahayana,

and the (more fundamentalist) Theravada, beliefs.

However, both (more or less) interpret his precepts literally as rules to follow.


The Buddha did not appoint a successor.

He believed it pointless,

since buddha-nature is in everybody.

We are all god.

There is no supreme being to judge, or to be answered to.


All Buddhism talks about samsara (the turning wheel of life),

and karma (it's active principle),

and is not concerned with salvation to a hereafter.


In this sense, like Taoism, it is atheistic -

a life philosophy rather than a religion.

Buddhists do not worship the Buddha, but use his images in temples as a focus

to reflect on his teachings.

The Indian versions look for perfection through many lives,

using formal methods of meditation to achieve enlightenment.


This contrasts with ZEN (Japan) / CH'AN (China) Buddhism founded in China

by the south Indian monk Bodhidharma in about  +520.

It teaches that the wheel is only here and now,

that all beings possess a buddha-nature, often equated with the Void,

and that realization of this fact is enlightenment (Chinese: wu; Japanese: satori).

This ultimate truth or reality is beyond the duality of subject and object  (linear

thought processes) and can only be realized in immediate personal experience

by not trying /grasping.


 Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 7th century,

reaching a peak following in the 12th.

It is Buddhism of the mind, practiced in the world's midst.


Two branches of (Chinese) Ch'an Buddhism developed in the 9th century:

Lin-chi (Japanese: Rinzai) and Ts'ao-tung (Japanese: Soto).

Enlightenment is to be obtained by different methods.

The former use the kung-an (Japanese: koan )

a paradoxical question or aphorism with no linear answer,

to facilitate the realization that all conceptualization is "unreal".

The latter emphasize the practice of "silent illumination" or "just sitting"

(Chinese: tso-ch'an; Japanese: zazen) to purge the mind of all thought.


Semantics, Mindfullness, and Objective reality

Zen is a core Buddhist philosophy about "nothing"

and by implication therefore also about "everything".

It is this self-negation that captures it's essence.

One aspires to overcome /by-pass intellect -- including the ideas of Zen !

It is a demonstration of the circularity of conceptual thought which creates an illusion of

"things, out there" as being separate from oneself and from each other.

Zen seeks to transcend this conventional knowledge,

which is bound by our belief in a world of "things".

Its notions of not-self, interbeing, impermanence, emptiness, and mindfulness

do not describe the objects of knowledge, they reveal the errors of this knowledge.


Zen focuses on egoless awareness in the here-and-now;

on single-minded, non-judgmental attention to the task in hand, for its own sake.

Nothing is good or bad, meaningless or meaningful, ...


It is believed that this "mindfulness" releases energy that would otherwise

have been wasted in anger, anxiety, stress, greed, worry, etc..

It shows the interconnectedness of everything ("interbeing"),

and fosters respect and responsibility for the whole.


         If nothing exists in isolation, nothing has an absolute identity, or self.

Or, alternatively, Since everything constantly changes,

- be it on a cosmic,

or quantum scale (where a particle of matter can be in two places at the same time)

everything is co-dependent for its "existence".

This is the idea of "impermanence",

 and applies to physical matter and the stuff of thought and feelings,

since they too, must be co-dependent.


It implies that 1 + 1 might = a banana,  that 1 may not be 1, it could be A, ..etc..!,

demonstrating that things are dynamic, continuously in transformation,

and that concepts of them are static.


To exist, every thing must contain elements of "not-thing", and in turn

these elements must contain "not-elements".

All effects are contained within their causes. (like caterpillar to butterfly).

If not, then the generation of effects is impossible.  If so,  then they already exist; 

And the idea of generation is therefore flawed.

There cannot be an object of generation.

Rather, the process is one of continuous becoming.

Existence flows between instants.


A shoe is also bits of cow, the grass it ate, the work-energy and experience of its

maker, the latex in its sole and the tree that provided it, the polish that was put on it,

the shopkeeper who sold it, his entire family throughout history, the money that

changed hands, the metals in the money, the bacteria on its surface, ..etc..

ad infinitum.

The existence of the shoe demonstrates the existence of these "not-shoe" elements.


However, imputing non-existence from the emptiness of inherent  existence is clearly incorrect.

For example, just because one cannot

identify "I" in isolation  it does not mean you (or anything else) do / does not exist. 

Just  stick a pin in yourself !


Words (the stuff of concepts) are inadequate to "describe" this reality of emptiness.

It must be touched by direct personal experience, where the mind reveals itself,

where there is no ego -- no distinction between subject and object.

It is absolutely non-intellectual, outside language.

Once something starts to be explained, it has already been experienced.

Its true nature (Chinese: wu-nien) has gone.

The reality is the experience, it is nothing about knowledge.

Life is not a representation of life, it is life.

Mind and matter only exist together. Each is in the other. (pure taoist yin-yang !)


Zen recognizes that one of the major obstacles to "enlightenment"

is the structure of language itself, which tricks us into believing that

"duality is reality".

The English language has a convention of the repeated use of personal pronouns,

and in particular "I", which is even capitalized to emphasize its "importance".

Whereas, in Japanese, for example, it is possible to completely avoid the use of

personal pronouns.

To work as a system, English relies on the concept of opposites

(particularly emphasizing differences),  promoting a belief that these entities

exist in their own right, in isolation, as separate "things".


The true nature of anything is more than can be revealed by words.

It is this "more than" that is to be experienced.

But, since everything is in a state of flux, it can only be indirectly pointed at.


Achievement of this "non-conceptual perception" in Zen is very often through shock tactics.

It is believed that enlightenment can be instant.

The "work" that is required is simply mindfullness in one's everyday life.


Mindfullness is to concentrate solely on the doing of life, as it is done.

It is to live one's actions in the instant, without impatience,

with no thought-pollution from what else you could or plan to do.

It is primarily achieved through self-conscious adoption of slow, even, and quiet

breathing which produces an uncluttered and clear mind.

Such practice is ideally carried out at all conscious moments :

when sitting, walking, washing the dishes, using the toilet, playing chess..... 

Repetitive tasks can in addition be synchronized with counting the breath,

and (for example), when walking, with the steps taken.

It can also be helpful to view each action as unique (which, of course, it is),

as special, as "the most important thing in your life". Almost as a ritual.


The habit of mindfullness needs continuous application to be effective,

and is considered the only way in which to be prepared for enlightenment.


In Zen monasteries, shock tactics are tailored for each individual by the master.

But the student, through the practice of mindfullness,

must also be receptive to enlightenment at this time.

Both, either, or neither can fail the moment (the window).


Any method to enlightenment is considered valid.

Many Zen masters use the method of the kung-an (Japan : koan),

which is usually presented under the ever-possible threat of a loud shout,

or a blow from a stick, to rack up the tension.

A kung-an / koan might be defined as 

"a paradoxical question or aphorism, with no linear answer".

There is no secret hidden inside it.  It cannot be reduced to concepts.

It must be "felt /realized" intuitively, in an instant.

It is its own effect, and doesn't wait to be realized.

The associated arts of haiku and haiga take a similar approach.


The Zen philosophy is experiential, a way to live mindfully and practically

inside the pragmatic aspects of Buddhist teachings.

It is to find an egoless reality and the humility it carries.

It is to become that reality, and it to become you.


Consider also that : anything "meaningful" written or said about Zen must itself

be koanic, since enlightenment (like the Tao) cannot be transmitted

by words or thought.

At this point you become the kung-an, and the kung-an is enlightened !

 Enlightenment and Endarkenment must concede each other.

This is the Tao of Zen.




HAIKU is a minimalist poetry form popularized in the 17th century

by the monk Basho in rural Japan.

It evolved from the 31-syllable tanka form dominant in the 8th century,

and is often associated with Zen practice.

In its original form it has strict rules,

but since English is so different from Japanese and since so few people

now live in rural settings, the English form has evolved in its own way.


A classical haiku has the following structure (at least in part) :

- brevity  [one to three lines totalling 17 syllables or less].

- three lines  ["ideally" with a 5-7-5 syllable structure].

- juxtaposition  [2 elements or lines indirectly relate to a third].

- descriptiveness   [it doesn't prescribe or tell].

- it can be read aloud in one breath.

- it avoids traditional English poetic forms, such as rhyming and metaphor.


The American polymath Douglas Hofstadter (1945 - ) prof. of cognitive science

at Indiana University has stated that :

“Meaning lies as much in the mind of the reader as in the Haiku”,


whilst the haiku dictionary, Gendai Haiku Dai-jiten (Meiji Shoin 1980), states that :

"a (modern) haiku, be it composed in Japanese, English or any other language,

is what the person who has written it presents as a haiku."


Traditional Japanese HAIGA involves brush art work coupled with

a haiku written in brush calligraphy.

Like haiku, the focus is in simplicity of expression.


Modern haiga (art + haiku) - for example this, or this - also contain

a juxtaposition between the haiku and the art work,

which do not necessarily directly represent each other.

The art work can be anything : computer generated drawings, photos, etc.


TAI CHI CHUAN is a system of Chinese zen (ch'an) meditation exercises,

which has a basic 18 positional movements.

the full "course" can take (more than?) a lifetime, and gets into complicated stuff,

like manipulating swords and staffs etc.. purely as exercise.

It's a lot about breathing from the abdomen, and body movements made from

a static position... ...a sort of animated yoga... ..or slowed down kung-fu !

It is gentle, rather than violent, and believed to balance the body's

natural energy  ( "ch’i "), promoting holistic well-being.

It could be considered an art form (a "ballet" with a purpose but no audience),

along with other Taoist offspring such as : kung fu, acupuncture, bonsai

herbal medicine, traditional massage,  feng shui, etc..


Consider the following topics and ideas

in relation to the Zen-Taoist views stated above:



From Einstein (1879-1955), energy is equivalent to mass times light speed squared.

But , as we have seen above, in the sub-atomic (quantum) universe

the relationship between mass and energy is not so precise.

Thomas Young (1773-1829) showed  that light is both a wave and a particle,

and that light particles can interfere with each other.

And in 1982 physicist Alain Aspect and his team showed that subatomic particles,

       such as electrons, are able to instantaneously communicate with each other

regardless of the distance separating them.

and that a photon (a light "particle") can travel as a wave

through two places at the same time.

This result has been repeatedly and independently verified.

It violates Einstein's idea that no signal can travel faster than the speed of light,

because it means breaking the "time" barrier.!


Louis de Broglie (1892–1987) showed that matter can be described as waves

with infinitesimally small frequencies, and that all matter waves to a certain extent.

Later quantum physicists showed that the waves emitted from a particle

cover the whole universe,

and their crests show where the particle is most likely to be at any given instant...


Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (1932) states that sub-atomic (quantum)

particles of matter flit in and out of existence,

and only when observed /measured do they "freeze" into existence.

That is, no physical phenomenon is describable as a

"classic point particle" or  as a wave.

Essentially - Observation changes the nature of the Observed. 

And since the precise position and momentum (motion) of a particle cannot

be known at a given instant, its future cannot be determined.

Kurt Gödel's (1935) Incompleteness Theorem basically shows that :

 "there exist meaningful mathematical statements that are neither

provable nor disprovable, now or ever,

because the very nature of logic renders them incapable of resolution."


It would seem therefore, that the implications of quantum mechanical

experiment and theory, along with Gödel's incompleteness theorem,

are that we will never be able to explain consciousness.

That is, reach an understanding of the universe through measurement,

observation and the use of symbolic (linear) logic,

particularly since logic is the product of an objective, self-referencing system

based on words and symbols.

Is not every word in a dictionary defined by another word

and every mathematical symbol defined in words ? 

This latter paradox (word uncertainty principle) is attributed

to Epimenides, who said that the statement "I am lying" is undecidable.

If I am lying, then it is false, and if I am not lying, then it is true.


Zen koans rely on similar "logic" to kick start the realization of our underlying nature.


It is also self-evident (without recourse to Gödel's mathematics)

that one cannot use a human brain to analyze /research a human brain.

Something of a higher order of "magnitude" is needed, of which ipso facto,

we can never conceive by linear (sequentially processed) means. 




Data received from sensory organs produces the mental images /

which make up our apparent reality.

Whatever gives rise to this data must exist separately from our perception of it,

outside of the mind.

This implies that there is an underlying reality which we never directly perceive.


Interpretation of air movements as sound, light frequencies as colour,

2D stereo images as 3D space and distance, etc. only happen in the mind.


Emmanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) argued that space and time are not

characteristics of the underlying reality, but of the mind.


Matter and substance, space and time, seem to be the way

in which the mind makes sense of the no-thing-ness of the underlying reality.

This is also the view of the Taoist with his /her "Void "

from which everything arises, and to which everything returns.


The "reality" of existence is apparently not matter, but mind.

Consciousness is primary .  

Asking how the material world gives rise to consciousness,

is trying to account for consciousness in terms that are

themselves manifestations of consciousness.


It only makes sense to ask how consciousness gives rise to the material world.


Physicist David Bohm (1917-94) believed the reason sub-atomic particles

remain in contact with one another regardless of the distance separating them

(as stated in quantum mechanical theory)

is because their separateness is an illusion.

He argued that the particles are not individual entities,

but extensions of the same fundamental something,

 thus implying that all things in the universe

are infinitely interconnected in a seamless web.

 He therefore believed that objective reality does not exist,

that despite its apparent solidity the universe is a gigantic hologram.


Every part of a hologram has been shown to contain

all the information possessed by the whole.

This is also a characteristic of fractals.

 In a holographic universe, time and space would be meaningless,

because the concept of "location" means nothing, if nothing is separated.

Reality becomes a "superhologram" in which the past, present, and future

all exist simultaneously.


In the 1920's Karl Lashley showed that the ability of a rat to perform complex

learned tasks was not lost whatever part of its brain was removed.


In 1983 neurophysiologist Karl Pribam proposed that the brain is a hologram,

and that memories are encoded in patterns of nerve impulses

akin to laser light interference on film containing a holographic image.

Holograms possess a huge information storage capacity,

and are adept at encoding and decoding frequencies.


So if the concreteness of reality is a holographic illusion,

it is consciousness that creates the appearance of the brain, the body,

and everything else around us that we interpret as physical.

And not the other way round.

 Thus universal reality is what you think it is,

it is subjective and infinite.


It seems no coincidence that most Eastern religions / life philosophies

believe that although we seem to be physical beings moving through a physical

world, this is an illusion. 


Fractal (Latin : fractus - "broken" or "fractured") was defined by the mathematician

Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975 as an irregular self-similar shape (geometrical object),

which however much magnified or reduced,

repeats itself (iterates) in identical detail ad infinitum.

It cannot be represented by classical (Euclidian) geometry.


A fractal is a graphical image that represents the behaviour of a mathematical equation.


They are used for illustrating the regular features of complex objects and patterns,

and allow order to be perceived inside apparent disorder.


For example, a river has tributaries, which have tributaries, etc.

A tributary has the same organization as the entire river, but over a smaller area.


Other examples are : Tree branches and roots, blood vessels, plants, snowflakes,

 nerves, clouds, lungs, feathers, landscape with peaks and valleys,

aggregates, spider webs, coastline with inlets and peninsulas,

turbulent flow vortices, ferns, populations, movement of economic indices,

the distribution of mass within a galaxy, the distribution of galaxies in the universe...


Natural objects are random versions of mathematical fractals, and are statistically self-similar.

Fractal maths offers models of the processes that produce natural objects / structures.


 Fractals are seen in pre-computer art such as : paisleys, mandalas, and stupas.

Most fractal computer art starts with a small section of a simple fractal image,

which is repeatedly sectioned and re-magnified.

 This process could be repeated indefinitely, expanding the original image to greater than the size

of the known universe and beyond.

The mathematics are infinite,  computer precision limits the possibilities. 



This is clearly a very complex issue.

Only a small fraction of man's attempts to unravel it are here presented.

St Augustine (354-430) argued :

"When we say that an event or interval of time is short or long,

what is it that is being described as of short or long duration?

It cannot be what is past, since that has ceased to be,

and what is non-existent cannot presently have any properties, such as being long.

But neither can it be what is present, for the present has no duration".

He also argued that the present must be timeless (without interval / duration)

because, in an interval of any duration, there is a beginning and an end.

He (along with Parmenides, Achilles, Aristotle, Leibniz, McTaggart, Heidegger, etc.)

also adopted a subjective view of time, that time is nothing in reality

but exists only in the mind’s perception of reality.

Time is therefore some kind of a “extension” of the mind which

allows us to simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention,

and the future by expectation.

Thus, only present objects and present experiences

can be said to truly exist.


There have been many opposite theories, mostly variations on the ideas of

Newton (1642-1727), Barrow (1630-1677), and Clarke (1675-1729) who believed time to be

an imperceptible dimension in which sequential events occur everywhere at the same pace

and which can only be understood mathematically.

They believed that we can only perceive "relative time" (a measure of moving objects, such

as the hands of a clock) which leads to the assumption that time passes.

An interesting modern variation goes like this :

What we see in the present is motion. Motion occurs over an interval.

Therefore: What we see in the present occurs over an interval.

If the present was a durationless instant, we would not see anything at all,

since the speed (distance over time) of light and sound are finite.

And since the speed of nervous transmission is also finite,

we must only ever perceive what is past. (whether durationless or not).

Clock (Newtonian /conventional) time

has no causal link to subjective time (except by co-incidence).

It is presumably accepted as the appropriate measure of time

because, for most people, one second of subjective time roughly corresponds

to one second of clock time.

It may also be because the variability of subjective time is more easily regarded as

the illusion, whilst the time of conventional physics (clock time)

offers a more comfortable "real" order from natural chaos.

The Indian Veda texts (2nd millennium BCE) teach that the universe

has repeated cycles of creation, destruction and rebirth.

Hence the idea of the “wheel of time” (Kalachakra), which can be seen in mandalas,

and is a key concept in Hinduism and conventional Buddhism.

The Greek Orphics and Pythagoreans, the Peruvian Q'ero Indians, the Central American Mayans,

and the North American Hopi Indians (among others worldwide) were/are also believers.

As indicated previously, the Zen view is to trust in nature's subjective time

as the basis for existence / "reality".

Clock (objective) time is seen only as a construct,

a convenient collective illusion, upon which society is based.

Time does not pass... This illusion arises from dualistic linear thought patterns,

- mental step-sequential processing - which creates a fantasy of past and future.

By definition, the past is gone, the future never comes.

What is left can simply only be "now", in timelessness..

Nowness can't exist in an objective sense,

it is "between" instants : It was now just now.

Lewis Mumford wrote in 1947 : "The clock is a piece of power-machinery

whose "product" is seconds and minutes, helping to create belief in an

independent world of mathematically measurable sequences: The special world of science.

There is little foundation for this belief in a common human experience:

Throughout the year the days are of uneven duration,

the relation between day and night steadily changes,

and a slight journey from East to West alters astronomical time by several minutes.

While human life has regularities of its own, the beat of the pulse,

the breathing of the lungs, these change from hour to hour with mood and action,

And in the longer span, time is measured  by the events that occupy it.

If growth has its own duration and regularities, behind it are not simply

matter and motion but the facts of development: in short, history.

And while mechanical time is strung out in a succession of mathematically

isolated instants, organic time is cumulative in its effects.

Organic time moves in only one direction --

through the cycle of birth, growth, development, decay, and death --

And the past that is already dead remains present in the future

that has still to be born."


It is a basic premise of Einstein's special relativity theory that time is slowed by gravity,

and so moves faster in space.

The faster an observer travels, the slower time passes.

Thus, since time is relative, there can no universal "now".

Perception of time appears not to be associated with any particular sense.

We cannot perceive temporal order that differs by less than about 20 milliseconds.

We perceive such changes (events) in time in the present /now.


LogTime is the idea that subjectivity

is the logical (mathematical) basis for estimating time intervals,

since it seems to explain the “quickening passage of time” that is associated with ageing.

This closely follows an arithmetic progression (logarithmic scale).

Whereas clock time follows a geometric progression.


The idea that subjective time is related to information-processing

was first suggested over a century ago.

It assumes that subjective time is based on the overall biological information-processing rate,

and that the subjective experience of life’s duration is related to the total information processed.

The faster /slower information is processed, the more /less experience is accrued,

the longer /shorter the experience of time for those events.

It is interesting to consider that subjective time,

based on the concept of information-processing rate,

is objectively “real” !

Experience of time duration lengthens /shortens as body temperature

increases /decreases. And decreased /increased body temperature

causes a decrease /increase in information-processing rate.

Other phenomena also affect time sense :

 A sudden change in the rate of a pacemaker (pulse rate)

can cause a highly altered time experience.

Brain tumours and Alzheimer's disease can slow our internal clock,

and events then appear to occur very rapidly,

making it too fast to judge time, and to comprehend everyday activity.

Sudden accidents can trigger detailed memories of whole lives

in just a few seconds of clock time.

 Dreams that seem to take hours are only a few clock minutes.

And, since all experience is viewed objectively as having a chemical basis,

there naturally exists may drugs that can affect perception, including time sense.



objective reality, number theory, artificial intelligence, & semantics.

Typographical Number Theory (TNT) is a formal axiomatic system describing the natural numbers that appear
 in Douglas Hofstadter's (1997) book Gödel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid

It is an implementation of Peano arithmetic that he uses to help explain Gödel's incompleteness theorems.
Like any system implementing the Peano axioms, TNT is self-referential.

 The polymath Douglas Hofstadter (1945 -) wrote in 1997 :

 "The amazing thing about language is how imprecisely we use it

but still manage to get away with it.

Relying on words to lead you to the truth is like relying on an incomplete formal system

to lead you to the truth.

A formal system, no matter how powerful, cannot lead to all truths.

The dilemma of mathematicians is : What else is there to rely on but formal systems ?

The dilemma of the Zen people is : What else is there to rely on but words ?

Mumon (1183-1260) in his 48 koans called the "Gateless Gate", states the dilemma clearly :

"It cannot be expressed with words, and it cannot be expressed without words".

The semantic aspects of "form" in patterns cannot be tested for in predictable

 lengths of time (as is also the case for TNT string theoremhood),

because an objects meaning is not localized within the object itself.

As time passes more meaning unfolds, forever.

Typographic Number Theory (TNT) can talk about itself ("perceive")

but it cannot jump out of ("transcend") itself.

A computer program can modify itself ("perceive")

but cannot violate ("transcend") its own instructions.

Self transcendence is the central theme of Zen.

But Zen is a system, and cannot be its own meta-system.

There is always something outside of Zen, which

cannot be fully understood or described within Zen.

Gŏdel's Incompleteness theorem, Church's Undecideability theorem,

Turing's Halting theorem, and Tarski's Truth theorem all have the flavor -

To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which will always be incomplete,

cannot be charted on any map, will never halt, cannot be described.

I would say that we are all in the same boat as the Zen master who,

after contradicting himself several times in a row,

said to the confused student : I cannot understand myself.

Propositional Calculus states that  "either/or"  is the same as  "if not/then",  so :

Either a cloud is hanging over the mountain,

or the moonlight is penetrating the waves.

is the same as :

If a cloud is not hanging over the mountain,

then the moonlight is penetrating the waves.

This may not be Enlightenment, but it is the best that the Propositional Calculus

has to offer.

Zen is holism carried to its logical extreme.

If holism claims that things can only be understood as wholes and not the sum of  their parts,

Zen goes one further in maintaining that the world cannot be broken into parts at all.

To divide the world into parts is to be deluded, and to miss enlightenment. "



The cyberneticist Ross Ashby (1903-1972) has stated that

“when the complexity of the system

exceeds the finite capacity of the scientist,

the scientist can no longer understand the system.”


In a 2005 paper discussing "Emergence", Paul Davis (1946 -) notes that

aggregations of sub-atomic particles (basic matter) can produce

radically different manifestations -

such as a rock, a baby, a high temperature superconductor, etc..

That is, unexpected qualities that cannot be predicted from an examination

of their constituent parts, often arise from complex systems.


This is contrary to the "reductionist" (standard) scientific view of things,

which implies that if you knew the position and motion of every particle in the

universe and the forces acting between them, you could perform a massive

calculation and predict the future in every conceivable detail.


      This implies unlimited computational power.

However, since the universe apparently originated 13.7 billion years ago,

it is not believed to be infinite.

This, therefore puts a limit on the predictive precision of physics,

and implies that there are gaps where our physical laws cannot completely

determine the future states and properties of some physical systems.

This concords with  Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle,

Turing's Halting Theorem, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem,

Tarski's Truth Theorem, and  Church's Undecideability Theorem . 

Indeed, Seth Lloyd (1960 -) has shown that

any calculation requiring more than 10120 bits (of information) is a fantasy,

because the entire universe could not carry it out in the time available.

 For example, the basic building blocks of life are small protein molecules of around

100 amino acids, of which there are 20 different kinds.

This gives a total number of 10130 combinations,

and when their shapes (which determine their functions) are taken into account

the number becomes 10200 combinations -

both figures being well in excess of the Lloyd limit of 10120.

This implies that not all properties of life are calculable (predictable).

Similarly, considering the connection between "our reality"

and the amalgam of different "realities" (so-called superpositions) in the quantum

(sub-atomic) world, the number of components in a mere 400-particle super-

entangled state exceeds the 10120 limit of predictability.

Therefore, since all states in our physical world are continually changing in some

way, these examples from biology and quantum mechanics imply that :

Life is written into the laws of Nature.

(an idea first claimed by the biochemist Christian DeDuve in 1917).

The laws of classical (reductionist) physics are not immutable,

and are affected by the (observers) world "reality" !


This is the principle of Strong Emergence,

which states that there exist hitherto overlooked "organizing principles"

(akin to the concepts of the Tao?)

that arise as system complexities increase.

And John Wheeler (1911 - 2008) proposed in 2006

that the laws of physics actually evolve

in a way analogous to Nature's Natural Selection (Darwin's theory).

Such principles might be the bridge between the seeming disparity between

our perceived "reality" and that of the quantum world of which it is composed.


Akin to Strong Emergence is the question of Pre-cognition.

It is believed that reality is woven from strange, "holistic" threads

that aren't located precisely in space or time. This was predicted by quantum theory

 and called "spooky action at a distance" by Albert Einstein.

Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) dubbed this peculiarity

"entanglement", calling it the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics.

Until recently, it was accepted that elementary particles could become fleetingly

entangled, and have no practical consequences for our macroscopic world.

We are now finding that there are ways in which the effects of entanglements

"scale up" into our macroscopic world.

Entangled connections between atomic-sized objects can persist over many miles.

(A so-called "paranormal" or "psi" phenomenon).

Some suggest that conscious awareness is caused or related to

entangled particles in the brain.

Some even propose that the entire universe is a single, self-entangled object.

May (2003 -) has clearly shown that under strictly controlled conditions,

true random number generation by a computer can be influenced by human

thought to become statistically non-random  ! 

And Todd et al. (2005), have shown, using NMR brain scans, that

"thought communication" is associated with activation

of specific brain areas in the recipient.

This leads to the question as to whether human free will exists.

 It seems that we misunderstand the nature of causality,

since we can know the outcome though it is ostensibly not yet determined.

At the core level, these experiments probe the nature of time,

since the fundamental equations of physics are time symmetric.


The physicist Russell Targ (1934 -) believes that what seem to be separate

and distinct loci of consciousness (in human brains)

are all part of the same fabric of consciousness. They are undivided.

The apparent transmission of information from mind to mind is illusory

because our minds are not separate.

This reflects the Zen and Taoist philosophies of existence.



 These quotations from the enigmatic genius Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
are perhaps "enlightening" and surprising :


"The distinction between past, present and future,

no matter how persistent,

is merely an illusion."


"Imagination is more important than knowledge."


"The true value of a human being is determined primarily

by the measure and the sense in which he has attained

liberation from the self."


"The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion.

It will be based on experience, which refuses the dogmatic.

If there's any religion that would cope with scientific ideas

it will be Buddhism"


"Try not to become a man of success

but rather to become a man of value."


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour.

Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."



the author
bob harbinson was born in England, UK

and has died many times since.

He was educated at Cambridge University in the mid-60’s.

Following this he was a  freelance fashion photographer,

a company c.e.o in W.Africa, an English teacher in Vietnam,

a novice Zen monk in Japan, and an apprentice acrylic artist

in Thailand, before retiring to the Welsh mountains in the UK

 to concentrate on his research, artwork, and writing.

Current interests include : perceptual illusions,

spontaneous humour,  brush calligraphy as art,

astro-physics, quantum biology, scientific method and logic,

cryptography, and psi phenomena. 


make contact 


This book overview is dedicated to my wife Cen GuiYing
   without whose encouragement it could not have been produced.


 TOPICS INDEX (links) 

 Intro & Quotes     Zen, Tao History & Philosophy     Related Zen Arts

Quantum Mechanics & Objective Reality      Holograms & Consciousness

Fractals      Time      Zen & the New Mathematics

Emergence & Precognition      Quotes from Einstein      Author Biography



ARTWORK INDEX (links)...




Concept, design, poetry, photos, and other graphics, all original artworks, (and photos there from, except where acknowledged)
Copyright © 2017 :bob harbinson and Silver Pipe Productions S.A., who also provided the digital watermarks.
All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
 may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a database or retrieval system,
or distributed in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
 recording, or otherwise), without prior written permission of the respective copyright owner(s)

No rights are claimed or implied regarding the researched intellectual

content of this publication, which is offered in good faith.

 book ISBN : to be allocated