It’s an interesting fact that the concept of zero had to be
invented. In fact, it was invented around 500BC by the
Babylonians for largely mathematical purposes. Prior to that,
there was no such concept.
In fact, it’s not too hard to realize why it took so long for
this concept to come to us. The concept of “nothing” or “zero” is
an abstraction; a mathematical concept that we need to juggle
numbers, but which does not really exist as such in Nature.
Does that seem absurd? Think about it for a moment. Everywhere we
look around us, we see a fullness of something. If a person
leaves a room, you don’s see “nothing”, but rather, you see a
room. It may have a lot of other things in it, but at that
precise moment, there is no person there. That is not “nothing”
The vacuum of outer space is not zero either. It is filled with
particles and energy. Indeed, it is particles and anti-particles
are continually popping into existence and disappearing again
through the vacuum of space. There is no zero there.
Zero is a mathematical tool that we are so used to that we think
it is in Nature. However, for the most part, it is not. You can
readily see the numbers in Nature, e.g. two (arms), six (legs on
an insect), and so on. Where do you see zero, apart from in your
We continually conceive of things in Nature emerging from zero or
going back to it. Science tells us that the universe came into
being from nothing. Many believe that after death, there is
extinction. However, if zero is really the abstraction we have
been discussing, then it might be better to think of it, not as
extinction and non-existence in a negative sense, but rather as
an invisible fullness, a field of latent possibilities from which
all things emerge.
Not only is this more representative of reality, it is also a lot
less unnerving. Throughout Nature, we see transformation from one
form to another. We see growth and decay. But we do not see a
move to “nothing”. Perhaps you fear extinction when you die? Yet,
this “extinction” is no different to the mode of non-existence
you experienced before you were born. At that time, you were
awaiting manifestation out of the fullness of the zero from which
all things emerge. Upon death, you simply transform back into
Behind the universe moves the unnameable mystery of nothingness.
However, it is a nothing that is really a something that can only
be described in negative terms by human language. It is a
pregnant darkness of thought and intelligence, ready to
continually give birth to new forms and absorb old and wasted
ones in order to give them rebirth in new forms.
This zero is the mystery behind the Kabalistic Tree of Life. It
is the Brahman of the Hindus. It is the Nirvana of the Buddhists.
In modern scientific terms, it is the quantum flux underlying the
matter and energy that manifests in our visible universe.
Hence, Zero has a POSITIVE quality about it. It is not the
depressing void of extinction and emptiness that our habitual
mental association with mathematical conceptions has led us to
believe. Perhaps we can even say that the zero better resembles
infinity, i.e. infinite possibility, than it does nothing.
This has tremendous practical applications. One of the most
important is in facing Death. With this new understanding, it is
possible to understand that your life energy GOES somewhere on
death. It does not fade out to non-existence. If we think
otherwise, it is because we associate too much with the false
“permanence” of the body, and this physical life we have created
for ourselves, and not enough with the processes of change
transformation and rebirth that are the very fabric of the
You can meditate upon this. Contemplate zero, the infinite mother
of all manifested reality, and the home to which it all returns,
only to emerge once more in new and interesting forms. As you do
so, it will be a comfort to your life, and a source of spiritual
insight and depth for you.
Copyright 2004. Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.
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