I Am Not, But The Universe Is Myself

(also pub. The Mountain Path, January 1964.)

'I am Not, but the Universe is my Self'
- SHIH T'OU, A.D. 700-790

Logical Analysis of this Intuition

Objects are only known as the result of reactions of the senses of sentient beings to a variety of stimuli.

These stimuli appear to derive from sources external to the reagent apparatus, but there is no evidence of this apart from the reagent apparatus itself.

Objects, therefore, are only a surmise, for they have no demonstrable existence apart from the subject that cognises them.

Since the subject itself is not sensorially cognisable as an object, subject also is only a surmise.

Since the factual existence of neither subject nor object can be demonstrated, existence is no more than a conceptual assumption, which, metaphysically, is inacceptable.

There is, therefore, no valid evidence for the existence of a world external to the consciousness of sentient beings, which external world is therefore seen to be nothing but the cognisers of it, that is - sentient beings themselves.

But there can be no factual evidence for the existence of sentient beings, either as subject or as object, who therefore are merely a conceptual assumption on the part of the consciousness in which they are cognised.

It follows that 'consciousness' also can only be a conceptual assumption without demonstrable existence.

What, then, can this assumption of consciousness denote? This question can only be answered in metaphysical terms, according to which consciousness may be regarded as the manifested aspect of the unmanifested, which is the nearest it seems possible to go towards expressing in a concept that which by definition is inconceivable.

Why should this be so? It must be so, because conceptuality cannot have conceptuality for source, but only the non-conceptual, because that which objectively conceives must necessarily spring from the objectively non-existent, the manifested from non-manifestation, for conceptuality cannot conceive or objectify itself - just as an eye cannot see itself as an object.

Therefore consciousness can be described as pure non-conceptuality, which is 'pure' because unstained either by the conceptual or the non-conceptual, which implies that there is a total absence of both positive and negative conceptuality.

Not existing as an object, even conceptual, there can be no 'it', there is no 'thing' to bear a name, no subject is possible where no object is, and total absence of being is inevitably implied.

All we can do about this which we are , which to us must be objectified as 'it' in order that we may speak of it at all, is to regard 'it' as the noumenon of phenomena, but, since neither of these exists objectively, phenomenally regarded it may be understood as the ultimate absence from which all presence comes to appear.

But consciousness, or 'Mind', does not 'project'- the phenomenal universe: 'it' IS the phenomenal universe which is manifested as its self.

Metaphysics, relying on intuition or direct perception, says no more than this, and points out that no word, be it the Absolute, the Logos, God, or Tao, can be other than a concept which as such has no factual validity whatsoever.

This-Which-Is, then, which cannot be subject or object, which cannot be named or thought, and the realisation of which is the ultimate awakening, can only be indicated in such a phrase as that quoted above:

I am not, but the apparent universe is my self.

(© HKU Press, 1965)
home/next periodical piece/next 'Open Secret' chapter

* * * * *