Beyond the Edge

by rthieme on August 29, 1997

Islands in the ClickstreamThere comes a point in our deepest thinking at which the framework of our thinking itself begins to wrinkle and slide into the dark. We see the edge of our thinking mind, an edge beyond which we can see … something else … a self-luminous “space” that constitutes the context of our thinking and our thinking selves.

As a child I tried to imagine infinity. The best I could do was nearly empty space, a cold void defined by a few dim stars, my mind rushing toward them, then past them into the darkness.

The same thing happens today when I think about energy and information and the fact that all organisms and organizations are systems of energy and information interacting in a single matrix.

I try to imagine the form or structure of the system, but the structure itself is a system of energy and information. I try to imagine the structure of the structure … and pretty soon the words or images are rushing into the darkness at warp speed and my mind is jumping into hyperspace.

When we see our thinking from a point outside our thinking, we see that our ideas and beliefs are mental artifacts, as solid and as empty as all the things in the physical world — things, we are told, that are really patterns of energy and information, that our fingertips or eyes or brains are structured to perceive as if they are objects — out there — external to ourselves.

That is an illusion, of course. There is no “there” there.

Makes a guy a little dizzy.

At the recent Hacking in Progress Conference near Amsterdam (HIP97), there was a demonstration of van Eck monitoring. That means monitoring the radiation that leaks from your PC. Hackers do not have to break into your system if the system is leaking energy and information; they just have to capture and reconstitute it in useful forms.

A participant at HIP said, “It was nice to see a real demonstration of analog van Eck monitoring of a standard PC, which meets all the normal shielding and emission control standards, via an aerial, via the power supply and via the surface waves induced in earthing cables, water pipes, etc. Even this simple equipment can distinguish individual machines of the same make and model in a typical office building from 50 to 150 metres or more with extra signal amplification.”

He is saying that the radiation leaked from your PC monitor, even when it meets all the standards proscribed by law, can be reconstituted on a screen at a distance greater than the length of a football field, and everything you are seeing at this moment can be seen by that fellow in the van down the block as well.

And he can get the radiation from the water pipes under your house.

We are radiating everywhere and always the information and energy that constitutes the pattern of what we look at, what we know … who and what we are.

A side trip:
All of the great spiritual traditions teach practices of meditation. They teach that those who enter deep states of meditation soon discover that paranormal experience is the norm at a particular depth of consciousness.

At first this discovery is fascinating. It is like scuba diving for the first time. The beauty of the underwater world is so compelling, you can stop at twenty or thirty feet and just gaze in awe at the beauty of the fish. But if you do, you won’t go deeper. You’ll get stuck.

So we are told simply to note that what is happening is real, then keep on moving.

In those deeper states, we observe more and more clearly the thinking that we often mistake for our real selves. We see that we are usually “inside” our thinking, living as if our thoughts are reality itself. We see the edge of our thinking and then … something else beyond the edge.

We see that the structures of our thinking — our culture — are mental artifacts.

When we think that, and catch ourselves thinking about the illusion of thinking, we laugh.

That’s why laughter peals so often from the walls of Buddhist monasteries. Enlightenment is a comic moment. Enlightenment includes the experience of observing our minds in action and seeing that we are not our minds. Our minds may be as automatic as machines but we are not machinery. We are the ghosts in the machine.

We see that in our essence we are more like stars in a spiraling galaxy. We are not just radiating energy and information always, we ARE radiant energy and information, a single matrix of light that is darkness visible.

Back in my days of doing workshops and long weekends, we used to do an exercise of looking into each other’s eyes until we were lost in a wordless communion. By playing games (“feel a feeling and communicate it without words, the other receive it and say what it is”) we discovered that what we were feeling was always transmitted to anyone and everyone around us. All a person had to do was stop for a moment and pay attention and they would know who we were. Even when we thought we were providing high-level descriptions of ourselves that fooled everyone, we were leaking energy and information.

It is dawning on us that privacy as we used to think of it is over, that the global village is a community in which the data of our lives is available to anyone who wants to gather or pay for it. It ought to be dawning on us as well that the ways we think we mask ourselves are as transparent as the shielding on a PC monitor.

The initial distancing we experience when we first connect via computers is soon replaced with the realization that our willingness to be present — to communicate via symbols like these — means that we are transparent in our interaction, that the global network is a mediating structure through which information and energy is transmitted literally as well as in symbolic forms. WE show up in cyberspace, not just representations of ourselves. WE are here, alone together.

The structures of energy and information in the universe are the universe.

How can we speak of what we see beyond the edge of our collective selves? It seems to be a ground or matrix, a glowing self-luminous system of … nothing … there is no “there” there … and we rush through the darkness toward the few stars defining the limits of our thought then past them.

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