God Between the Numbers, Part 2: Isness and Suchness



Previous Installment: Part 1

Before developing the relationship between God and the three kinds of infinity, we need to introduce the conceptual tools that will translate these mathematical models into the language of ontological philosophy.

Like any other language, mathematics can only represent reality and simulate it symbolically. If language doesn’t point directly toward a novel perception of the human experience that we otherwise overlook or fail to understand, it is a distraction at best and deception at worst.

Spiritual language —a class within the phylum of poetry in the lingual kingdom, not mathematics— is valued for its effectiveness in pointing at the experience of the eternal rather than imparting precise information, which is why it contains so little of the latter. It is also why those who employ it for what it does poorly seem to be so lousy at math [2]. I won’t endeavor to continue that age-old mistake here.

Despite the best efforts of bureaucracies everywhere, you probably don’t feel like a number. And you’re not. You’re not even properly represented by a number. The aspect of yourself that can be enumerated is not the true self, and a deeper understanding of the nature of numbers can show you why with both poetry and precision. There are timeless verses written without the constraint of words in those spaces between numbers, and “Thou art that” too.

The concepts we need to translate this truth from math to spirituality are isness and suchness.

Let’s stick with the symbolic relationship of each finite thing as a number for now. Each number has its own unique numerical value that is unlike any other. But all of these values are meaningless except in relation to each other. You can’t even begin to describe what the number 3 is without evaluating its position in the immanent infinity of integers.

It can be said, then, that all numbers have a dual nature: they are what they are, and they are part of a greater whole. Each number is a unique state of numerality, contingent upon the whole for its existence and relative value. It is distinct but also interconnected with all numbers, woven seamlessly within the fabric of Number itself.

Now, consider any anything that exists —mineral, vegetable, animal, human person, a composite of parts (like a car), or an aspect of an organismic whole (like your left foot or one of your liver cells). Anything. If you can name it, it works.

The same truth applies here. All finite things and beings have a dual nature: they are what they are, and they are part of a greater whole. There are thus two modes of existence which each knowable, namable, finite thing experiences simultaneously. It is a unique state of being, contingent upon the whole for its existence and its relative position in space-time. It is distinct but also interconnected with all things, woven seamlessly within the fabric of Being itself.

Isness refers to that unique state of being, the “3-ness.” of 3, and all the qualities that differentiate a thing from its environment. It is the sum of measurable properties that distinguish something as a unique phenomenon at a particular point in space-time. In our numerical model, isness could indicate an individual number, or a finite set like “the odd integers between 1 and 75 billion.” Any property that identifies or defines what a thing is speaks to its isness.

Suchness refers to the relational context between a thing and its environment. It is not an objective property of the thing itself, but of the information shared between the object and its surroundings. The suchness of 3, for instance, includes its position adjacent to 2 and 4, and its equidistance from 7 and -1, while the suchness of any set of odd integers includes its exclusion of all non-integers, and the fact that “odd” is defined in juxtaposition to a mutually exclusive set called “even.”

(For a deeper exploration of isness and suchness than is possible here, and particularly of their correspondence to the dialectic between matter and mind, click here.)

Three things should jump out at us right away:

  1. There is a relationship of dependent origination between isness and suchness. Because isness is defined by discernable information that can be gathered about a thing, it can only be known through one’s shared suchness with it, by relating to it as one physical entity to another. But without the existence of something exhibiting these discernable properties, there is no relationship of suchness to be had. Through suchness, I perceive the lamp on my desk, but I do not perceive the orange and green chinchilla sitting next to it, because she is imaginary [3].

Numerically speaking, this leads back to the point made above: the isness of “3” does not exist without the suchness of its position relative to all other numbers, and there would be no such position if 3 were not a real number.

  1. Isness is finite; suchness is infinite. Given sufficient attention to detail and processing capacity, one can exhaust the set of defining information about the state of a physical phenomenon at a given time. The set of odd numbers between 1 and 75 billion would produce a long list, but a finite one.

But there is no natural limit to the connections of suchness. The environment with which any physical body interacts has no true boundaries, only the limitations of its own self-aware perception, or our own scope of attention as observers. There is no line to be drawn around a closed system of relational connections as if to say, “OK, all that stuff in there is self-sufficient to exist on its own.” We use selective attention to create such frameworks for the practical purpose of studying how portions of the universal system work, but those frameworks don’t actually exist. They are as subjectively formed and maintained as my furry bichromatic friend here.

Furthermore, proximity seems to make the suchness of some relationships and interactions more influential to the existential isness of the entities involved, but this is not actually so.  This is easier to demonstrate with numbers than in the sphere of space-time, where proximal value is so taken for granted as to seem axiomatic. But consider again the position of 3 on our horizontal line of integers. It is the first number in that set of odd integers between 1 and 75 billion, and its proximity to 5 will get far more selective attention than its relationship to 74,999,999,999. But both relationships equally define it. Its position relative to all numbers in that finite set, as well as the immanent infinity of integers, are what define its value, not just its proximity to its nearest neighbors –for what defines them if not their relationship to the same whole?

  1. In isness and suchness, we have the foundation for an improved concept of the integrated relationship of matter and mind that relies on neither Cartesian dualism nor the over-simplistic, reductionist monism of materialism or idealism. Both pairs defy the simple mutual exclusion that would indicate separate, finite categories –they are, as they say in Zen Buddhism [4], “not two, not one.”)

Isness includes all the properties we associate with matter and the broader concept of physicality (which includes non-corporeal form and phenomena with measurable quantities), a point which likely needs no further elaboration.  The more difficult equivalency to perceive at first glance is that of suchness and mind. But consider this carefully: what can any sentient being know about a thing except the indirect knowledge of its relationship to it?

Even more to the point: where do the qualities we associate with the contents of the mind reside, if not in some intermediate state between the perceiver and the perceived? between one who imagines a novel thing like a chinchilla on his desk, and the potential for that thing to be?

The qualities we deduce with the mind are obviously not objective, and just as obviously not subjective. Yet they also do not lack the properties associated with objectivity and subjectivity, which is why both materialists and idealists can use selective evidence to make a compelling though incomplete argument. This puzzling stalemate is resolved by applying what we know of suchness to the qualities of mind, resulting in two complementary conclusions:

  • Mind is a relational property of the “intersubjective” connection between subject and object.
  • Mind is an absolute property of the infinite substance of both subject and object.

As we explore further, it will become clear that both conclusions are necessarily true and mutually inclusive because they say the same thing —the former from a perspective within linear time, the latter outside of time.

With these three precepts established, we can go back to the three kinds of infinity and see how they function as one.


God Between The Numbers


Part 1: Three Kinds of Infinity

Part 2: Isness and Suchness

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