I have been on some travels... to a place without a name, to a name without a place... asking only "what is this" and "how does it work," not "who am I" or "what does this mean" and what I have learned, I think, is something about its nature.
The amorphous "non thing," not extended in space or time because it is outside of it, therefore non linear and not "existing," must be talked about very carefully. There are a whole host of words that we use to address phenomena in our universe that imply material reality - words such as:
exist, happen, real, be (and the other conjugations of "to be"), touch, size, life, place, part, see (and other sensory based words), infinity, one (and all other numbers)
We have very few words which are capable of expressing ideas about an aspect of the universe that is not in time or space and as such is both always and never there, everywhere and nowhere. This has traditionally been the realm of mysticism, but I am trying to write some sort of science about it. So please bear with my rhapsodic moments, and also remember that if some word I use to describe the Void seems to allocate a place or time or shape to it, it is only intended as a metaphor.
So here I will elaborate two analogies of how the Void impinges on our physical reality, how it is that the two so very different conceptually "things" can be "part" of the same thing, actually together constitute the Universe. The first one was the result of a very powerful insight, a sense that I knew how this worked. I could not think of any way to remember the insight since it was not a matter of words but of pure knowledge, except to try to come up with an analogy that I felt did it some small justice.
I did not want to present this analogy on its own as it would then seem to be how I actually thought it worked, so until a second analogy occurred to me I have kept it to myself. Now that there are two, I feel that my writing them both and your reading them both will maintain the idea that they are only analogies, that while they may bring both of us closer to possibly understanding the concept, the concept itself must be known purely in your own mind as a result of direct experience.
Unlike most science, where a series of repeatable experiments performed at different times and places will be considered a reasonable substitute for direct experience when performed and reported accurately, these direct experiences must be had personally. Luckily they are repeatable on a personal basis without resort to special equipment like particle accelerators or giant telescopes. All you need is a mind, as open as you can make it.
First analogy of the continuum between the Void and the Law
Picture, if you can, the Void. A timeless, placeless, thingless, spaceless, amorphous and disorganised Infinite One. Now that I have made it as difficult as possible out of respect for its unimaginability, I will allow the picture to form as if it has corporeality. Picture a formless, structureless sludge or slurry, a semi liquid jelly, with no specific boundaries or mass.
This is the Void. It is the Universe. It contains all possibility - not in the sense of "alternate universes" where your parents were killed in a plane crash so you are not alive, but in the sense of any or all sets of propositions or laws that could be of some nature or not, a slurry of every possible contradictory yet true idea or proposition.
Now picture, some "where" in this formless glob, a tiny part of it that is crystalised out of the semi liquid into a structure of some sort, several strands or molecules or chunks that are fixed with respect to each other. These are the laws of our material universe. That is why I call the material universe the Law, to contrast it the Void, which has no physical existence.
There may be many such crystalisations in the Void, and any that have consequences probably result in things we might take a chance and call "other universes" - but these other universe are not even remotely like our own. Like abstract mathematical systems which may or may not share elements such as associativity, identity, commutativity and reciprocity over their functions, with our commonly used "reality" based mathematics, these other universes are formed out of the Void from different crystals, different sets of fundamental premises, and as such can be simple and empty, complex and "huge," or any combination in between. Our particular universe seems to be pretty huge and complex to us, but it is really just the by product of a few accidental rules being associated with each other in the Void - or maybe just one rule. What physicists refer to as the Grand Unifying Theory would be our delineation of these rules (or rule).
The rule or rules are a necessary and sufficient condition to the "existence" of our universe. Not only are the laws of nature as we call them absolutely required for our world to operate as it does, they are enough on their own to cause it to operate, to fully function and materially explore the consequences of the rules.
The rules do not have to make sense to us, they need not be neatly propoundable in our mathematics, which of course are largely a result of the Law, not outside it. No matter how abstract a mathematics we might develop, it still is trapped within the Law I think, although I may be allowed to hope, I suppose, that we could eventually develop a theoretical understanding that reaches outside our own physical universe.
"Before time" there is the Void, as it is after time. Beyond the Universe as we know it, beyond the furthest reaches of the most ancient waves produced by the birth of the physical space time universe, is the Void. It is not anywhere, so to speak, any more than it is everywhere, but it simply is, and it is the unasked question answered.
Second analogy of the continuum between the Void and the Law
I do not like this one as much, but I felt it necessary to have two analogies, as I said above, in order that one of them not become the final word on the subject - I feel there are an infinite number of ways of saying this, and two is enough to prove that there are more than one.
Picture a piece of paper. This is the Void. It is merely formless pulp, in our imagination it has two dimensions unless you count its minimal thickness, but in "reality" of course, what it stands for has no dimensions at all. On this piece of paper are many scribbled equations, poems, hypotheses, unfinished sentences, and the like.
One small group of these scribbles is what has resulted in the existence of the Universe - the Law. The scribbles are the fundamental laws of nature, of our universe - though they may in some abtruse format that we would never recognise as mathematics. They may be incredibly simple, in their particular formulation, but inexpressible in our formal languages of understanding, again, as I said before, because our formal languages are all a by-product of these scribbles, rather than abstractly "above" or "outside" them.
Certain things to keep in mind about the Law
While both the above analogies may make it seem that the Law will explain every level of our existence if it knowable, i think it is totally possible that the scribbles or crystals are not infinitely complete. They do not necessarily create a universe that makes sense at every scale we examine it on, or is rationally closed in every way. For instance, equations that simply and beautifully make matter possible at the level of atoms or subatomic particles, may not contain within them explanations for how that matter is to behave at a still smaller level. In other words, as we try to understand the nature of matter and energy at this scale, the answers we get become more and more cumbersome and nonsensical - because there is no answer there!
A similar case can be made at the other extreme of scale - vast reaches of time and space may also be outside the structure of the crystal or Law, and are merely accidental by products of it.
Certain physical uncertainties, such as the dual nature of light, may very well be due to this problem. The equations do not "specify" whether or not particles or waves (or whatever we want to analyse them as) will "exist" - and so when we perform experiments that demanding of nature, the answers will be largely presupposed in the way we ask the question.
Science has been quite amazing in this regard, in that rather than insisting that all can be known, it has developed in its theories ways of expressing limits to knowledge or information that can be obtained. Perhaps this is why.
© Huw Powell