I have spent the last twenty years immersed in numbers, but had given little thought to the number zero. I remember my therapist many years ago saying he was never good at math because in his early education his learning about numbers started with the number one, not zero. I never forgot this, but I never really understood it either. As a Numerologist my only focus on zero was with the major Arcana, the first 22 cards of the Tarot. The Fool is the only card that has two numbers assigned to it, zero and the number 22. This is the beginning of the deck (0) and the end of the major Arcana (22). I see this card as an aspect of self that is flexible enough to experience all of life's experiences. The image on the card shows a jester with a small dog nipping at his heels. The dog is trying to urge reason and logic on the jester as he is about to walk off the edge of an abyss. Does the abyss represent the void, the number zero? I now think so.
Last year I was sitting with my husband, a former therapist, discussing the healing space we create for clients and he said, "The healer is responsible for the setting. You want to invite people into a safe clear field and what happens, happens. You clear an opening in the woods so something can grow. Leave it open for the client to fill." The image of a clearing, an opening in the woods that would allow something new to grow, started me thinking about the importance of being in this undefined space with clients, and got me thinking again about the number zero. Sheinkin (67) describes how Ain Sof withdrew himself to create a void such that the universe could come into being:
God had to make a space for the universe to exist and not be extinguished by His radiance. The only way to create a cosmos was therefore to make a void - an absence of light, a vacuum - so that something other than Ain Sof could exist. Ain Sof had to withdraw some of His radiance to allow for differentiation and identity. Therefore, a darkness or void was created before the light of our universe. This is because nothing can exist in God's presence unless God "hides" or removes Himself to some degree; if God does not do so, then there would be only God.
God withdrew his light to create this space, a void, so the universe could manifest. So what is in this Void and what is its purpose? My husband referred to creating an opening in the woods so something can grow. The opening creates a space for something new to emerge. If you are creating a space for something, there needs to be a perimeter to define the undefined space. Paradoxically, the undefined space needs to be defined. Eric LaVigne (9) describes the number zero in terms of a created space.
If we used merely blank spaces to describe a quantity of zero, it would be difficult to communicate clearly which of the blank spaces signified zero and which didn't, for as a learned medieval Arab scholar once remarked in a nearly poetic tangle of language: "Zero is not nothing. It is more than nothing, for it is something that has to be there to show that nothing is there.
LaVigne cites some images in our physical world that represent zero: the female genitalia, the egg, an ovum and the womb. I also see the cell, the aura, the seed and, oh yes, the clearing in the woods as images that represent the number zero. Held within all these images is the potential of creation. Held within the Void is unmanifest potential, the stuff from which the manifest world is created.
LaVigne (9-10) discusses the active principal of zero, which was a completely new concept for me. He describes the Void as reaching out and actively pulling the animating life force to it:
As the womb of creation, the zero "is not nothing," nor it is simply passive. In the religions out of which our Western symbolic tradition grew, the Goddesses of the life force from Ishtar to Isis were no idle darlings powerlessly lying in wait for the male God force to come along and command them. As the source of all potential matter and creation, they actively draw the "active" male force to them, challenging our socialized notion of "active" and "passive." The egg can be found all over the world as a representation of this potential and its inward force which reaches outward, pulling the animating life force toward itself and then giving birth to creation.
This description of zero's active nature reminded me of a session long ago with my therapist. He drew a dot and a line coming from the dot spiraling around it, moving farther and farther away from it; this was his way of depicting the individuation process, the movement away from the mother. The path of the spiral describes the child separating from the mother and the active draw of the mother pulling the child back toward her.
As I contemplate the void's primal movement, actively drawing to it the active male force [which begins the movement from the unmanifest void toward the manifest], I see the similarities to the child as it separates from its mother. The energy of the active principle of the mother draws and pulls the child back to her; the separation process is fraught with the fear of being pulled back to the mother into the primal abyss and losing all identity. I wonder if this early fearful experience with the mother, the primal fear of being drawn back to the abyss, doesn't color all our subsequent returns towards wholeness? I would think so, but I also believe that as we begin to individuate, heal our wounds, and loosen the grip of our defenses, the pull of the void no longer looms as this primal abyss in which all identity is annihilated. The Void can been seen as a unified ground of Being from which a fuller Self can be realized.
Looking at the zero before the other numbers is like opening up to this ground of Being. I now realize this undefined space - the zero - is potential, and teems with life. Acknowledging this space within myself and within my clients seems to open unforeseen possibilities. I also began to feel, while working on clients, that this principle also holds on the cellular level, that the life essence of each cell comes from this ground of Being.
Zero is starting to sound very much like the "Black Velvet Void" referred to by Barbara Brennan in her Heyoan meditation:
Bring all of your judgements of others, or criticisms of others or anger, or doubts about others into the beautiful Black Velvet Void here now in the Holy presence of the light that surrounds it. Continue absorbing all peripheral activity of the mind, emotions into the center of your being and that which underlies all of existence. Move with me now into the implicate enfolded order, the Brahman that supports all of life and yet is the source of all of life manifest as we know it.
Heyoan's reference to the light that surrounds the Black Velvet Void appears to correspond to the Kabbalistic account of creation when Ain Sof withdrew his radiance to create a void so something other than Ain Sof could exist. I see zero as representing the source that supports all of life that is referred to in the Heyoan meditation as Brahman. Zero also appears to be the ground of Being from which the other numbers flow and have their being. Zero signifies pre-existence or the unmanifest.
Looking at zero has revealed the value of the un-defined space for healing practice. As I enter the healing setting I feel as if I have befriended the place of unknowing. This takes the pressure off me to "perform" and helps to lift the expectations I have that a client needs to be or do a certain thing. Allowing the fullness of this space to just be seems to support both me and my client to be with whatever emerges. In this light it is clear that ALL that emerges in this setting, whether it be a client's reports of mind chatter, or insightful revelations, is sacred. Mind chatter isn't necessarily something that interferes, that we must get rid of; it doesn't mean that I have failed to bring the client deeper. This understanding of the healing setting allows me to see all that takes place is sacred, and to just be with what is there. There is nothing to figure out here; what needs to be done or not done becomes apparent. I recently held a client after a chelation in a space of "not knowing what to do." I didn't know what to do, nothing was emerging, so I stayed with the not-knowing, this undefined space, throughout the remainder of the session. Afterwards the client reported an important shift, which confirmed my sense that I needed to immerse myself in this space. I tend to default more to doing, but no movement came up within me to do anything. If I take this view of the healing space as a microcosm and then look at the macrocosm of my life, I would have to say that everything that comes up in my life is also sacred. Even the acid reflux in my stomach is trying to give voice to the same Divinity which I feel within my meditations.