Levels of Nothing

Levels of Nothing

Nothing by Rob Larsen
Nothing by Rob Larsen

I’ve discussed the difference between emptiness, a quality of space within consciousness, and nothingness, in nirguna (quality-less) Brahman.

Recently, I ran into a clip discussing nine “Levels of Nothing” by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. It was interesting to reflect on how there are degrees of nothing. This may give us a sense of how much deeper Brahman is from emptiness.

His model of 9 levels:
1 – no visible objects (yet still air)
2 – No matter, a classic vacuum.
3 – No matter-energy, including particles
4 – No matter-energy, including radiation and fields
5 – no space-time, no virtual particles, a quantum vacuum
6 – no laws of physics
7 – no God or consciousness
8 – no abstract objects or ideas like mathematics
9 – no possibilities

Even ideas need consciousness, so level 8 should come before level 7. There is no such level as “no possibilities” as we find potential, even in Brahman. As virtual particles require space and time, I would split level 5 up. Space and time arise distinctly but become the container for all expression.

Another way we could frame the levels is with a stepping down through the koshas. Dropping the physical, which is a lot of the above chart. Dropping the energy body, then the mental body and fields. The subtle structure and the intellect are next. Then the vacuum state where the world expression first begins. And the field of creation where space and time and laws of nature arise. And finally, the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness itself. Then you’re left with qualityless Brahman.

As may be obvious, this is degrees of transcending or samadhi. Also, in Unity stage, we progressively unite these in consciousness. Then we transcend consciousness into Brahman stage.

Philosophers ask why is there something rather than nothing? There’s both. And curiously, they’re the same thing, seen in different ways. It’s all a perspective. And you don’t usually find the maker of the bus on the bus.


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  1. David mitchell

    Interesting Davidya, but I’m just wondering here in qualityless Brahman aren’t we still having the experience so there’s something there after all. And no possibilities seems theoretical not actual. After all at some point the prakritis are there vibrating again. I liken it to throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It compresses till it can’t anymore. At that point it seems the energy is gone. Then it springs to life in the other direction.

    Isn’t this smriti? Some memory of past is in the apparently qualityless Brahman. From ther the whole creation arises again and again.

    Also Brahman is totality isn’t it? Not one end of the spectrum so the smriti makes sense like a seed maybe. Not sure of the mechanics though. It’s so abstract.

    Love your blog thanks.

    1. Hi David
      In qualityless (nirguna) Brahman, there is no experiencing because that takes the dynamics of consciousness. Rather, Brahman knows itself. It’s not “experienced” like objects in consciousness.

      The world appearance (from a Brahman perspective) is saguna Brahman, with qualities. The qualities (possibilities) are expressed as appearance of the world. And yet Brahman itself is unchanged.

      And yes, the levels of nothing model is entirely theoretical. A mental exercise. The point of the article was the distinction between the experience of emptiness in consciousness and the non-experienced “experience” of nothing in Brahman stage.

      Nirguna and saguna Brahman are not separated by time as they are prior to time. So we can’t say one comes before the other. And yet we can recognize nirguna is deeper and untouched. And yet, as soon as we do that, it’s a duality thats not a totality.

      Yes, in one perspective, everything we experience arises in memory. Yet this leads to all sorts of paradoxes, like when did it first happen? And why is it repeating itself if it’s purpose was to know itself? The resolution is Brahman which collapses all the paradoxes when we recognize it never happened in the first place. Its just an idea in the mind of God that consciousness played out to get closer to Divinity. It didn’t “happen” the way it appears to. (This doesn’t mean illusion, just an appearance that covers the actuality of Brahman. The appearance is Brahman too.)

      And yes, Brahman is totality, totally inclusive of existing and not existing, conscious and non-conscious, etc etc.

      Yes, profoundly abstract. Made more so because it’s inclusive of multiple perspectives. It isn’t one truth but all truths.

  2. DM

    OK thanks for that clarification. My only familiarity with no experiencer is early transcending where after the fact I recognized something had happened and there was a break in the flow of time or change.

    Pretty quickly though TC was found along with thoughts feelings and activity. The only thing remotely like what you describe is a vastness beyond infinite consciousness but still this life is going on in it. (Much larger than the witnessing of the small self and thoughts feelings etc after I first took up meditation.) It’s as if I (the vastness) sprouted a body and environment to act within myself (again vastness). Never knew what to make of this. It brought to mind that 1960’s cartoon character Mr Natural??

    1. Hi David
      Right – what you’re describing is pure consciousness. Infinite and eternal, it can be experienced prior to time, or with infinite time. Lots of flavours possible.

      Brahman is not generally known prior to that shift, simply because it’s so subtle and abstract even though there’s nothing that isn’t That. You have to become everything before you can become nothing. 🙂

      (Laughs) Have not heard of him in awhile. Used to see him in the local alternate press. That’s now become an entertainment rag.

  3. Jeff May

    I have assumed my experience of silence in dynamism and dynamism in silence rapidly reverberating within itself as Brahman. Hardly nothing, yet very abstract. It feels like totality. Not Brahman? Please explain.

    1. Hi Jeff
      Well, it’s Brahman in the wider sense of it as Brahman is inclusive of everything. But we don’t really know Brahman until we are that, post-consciousness. Kind of like not really knowing consciousness until we transcend the mind and experience pure consciousness.

      More precisely, what you describe is a very clear experience of the dynamics of self-aware consciousness. A duality of silence and dynamism. Brahman itself collapses all dualities.

      I use “wholeness” for the fullness of consciousness. I use “totality” for the total inclusiveness of Brahman. One could use totality for the fullness of consciousness but there is a greater totality.

      Some have adopted the language of Brahman a little prematurely. It is useful to have some idea of the higher stages but for general use, it’s better to use the perspective of what’s real for us now. Seeing is clearer if our concepts are in alignment with our experience.

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