AUM Conference Transcript - Session Four

Tuesday Afternoon Morning, March 19, 1973

Last Requests

SPENCER BROWN: Well, on this last occasion I have received many requests to speak about different things, so perhaps I should deal with the requests in order. The first request is for some guidance on how I use the principles in the book Laws of Form in everyday life. And, singe one of the principles which is exemplified in Laws of Form is that you don't tell how it is that you use the principles in Laws of Form in everyday life, I cannot comply with this request.

I have had another request to talk about the relationship, or distinction, call it what you will, between male and female. I guess you are asking the wrong director of the company that I represent. It is my fellow-director who is always going off on courses about how to get along with the opposite sex; while I have to stay home and actually do the work. So I get so little time--I have so little experience of either sex that I don't feel that I am qualified to say anything, apart from the fact that, even if I could say something, the subject is so big that it would seem a pity to start it on what must be the good-bye occasion. I can only say, that the more I have to deal with the opposite sex, the less I think I know about either myself or themselves, or vice versa.

In other words, I think both of these subjects are, to some extent, personal and private talks, and other games, rather than for a relatively public lecture, for which I don't feel I have the experience to talk in any way which I feel would be authoritative.

I do feel there's little left now for me to fiag except to thank you all very much for listening and for being such an extremely good audience as to prompt me with what to say for, some, how long is it, two, four, seven-maybe nine, ten, twelve hours, since I have been here. I feel I ought to be making a speech. But, all good things come to an end, and I could I suppose answer maybe two questions, if they don't fall within the limits of what is unanswerable. If anybody has any last request.

LILLY: I have one.

Five Eternal Levels & the Generation of Time

Footnote One in Only Two Can Play This Game. You say [1] "To cut a long story short, it turns out that there are five orders, or 'levels' of eternity." Would you diagram those for me?

SPENCER BROWN: Diagram them?

LILLY: Put five lines and a label at the end of each line. Starting with zero. I find that the following discussion gets a little unclear, because sometimes you are going in and sometimes you are coming out, And I am not clear where you are when you are doing this.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, it looks like an electron [Fig. 2]. Indeed, in some circles it is an electron. Level ought. Level one. Level two. Level Three. Level Four. There is a diagram of the five orders to eternity, the five levels. They are brought about--there is no about until they are brought so--by it being, it seeing, it being seeing being? it seeing being seeing being, it being seeing being seeing being, it seeing being seeing being seeing being, it being seeing being seeing being seeing being, and it finally seeing--it being seeing being seeing being seeing being-and if it tries to see that, it finds it can't without going half blind and coming out into time.

LILLY: So time appears where?

SPENCER BROWN: Next one. The first time.

LILLY: The first time appears outside the four levels.

SPENCER BROWN: That's the next look it takes, but it finds it can't see that without going half-blind. After all, as I say there, after all, time is a one-way blindness, the blind side being called the future.

LILLY: Where's "flippety"?

SPENCER BROWN: Well, it corresponds Laws of Form to the void, the form, the axioms which see the form. You have to get this number right, you see; because it is the number that Dionysius counts on his orders of angels, but he doesn't always arrive at the same answer


* * *

Then you get the arithmetic, which is seeing what becomes of the axioms. And then you be it to do it, and in being and doing it, you find that, being and doing, you see the generalities of it, and that is the algebra. And while you are seeing you notice you have got equations, something equals something else, and then suddenly you decide--aha, supposing what it equals goes back into what it comes from? Now You have generated time and matter all at once; There can be no matter without time. Time and matter come simultaneously. But this is the first matter in which the orders are counted, and it's called the "crystalline heaven," but it is not, really. Technically speaking, it's not really a heaven. And as it keeps recompounding, and re-inserting, it gets the appearance of being more and more solid, until it really, you know, is pretty durable.

LILLY: It can kill you.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, that may be.

VON MEIER: It will sustain our life.

SPENCER BROWN: At the grave, you begin to wonder, Just who is there to be born, to be duped, to be killed? Just where is there for it to be, and just when is there for it to happen? Or, as some sage said, when he was dying and somebody was crying, and he said "Why are you crying?" and he said "Because you are leaving us. Just where did you think I could go to?"


LILLY: Where does consciousness first appear in that setup?

SPENCER BROWN: Well, it's there all-- What we consider to be consciousness, in the sense of-- You see, it's not called "consciousness" until suddenly you have names to begin with...But there is no meaning-- It is co-extensive with existence; because what could it possibly be, anything be, let alone exist, without its being a form of consciousness of its existence There is no problem of consciousness, none whatever. Its meaning is coextensive with whatever there is.

WATTS: "there was a young man who said, though It seems that I know that I know, What I would like to see Is the "I" that knows hme" When I know that I know that I I think that's what you've diagrammed.

Waves and Particles

SPENCER BROWN: In the construction of matter, all that happens is that we create the temporal and the material together by imagining that the outside feeds back into the inside. We then have a succession like this of marked and unmarked states generated by this [2]. As long as the tunnel is there, this goes on, and when the tunnel disappears, this is of a particular length, a wave train. But, if this [Fig. 2] were to go past, similarly, this would also appear as a wave train, and yet, as it is, it is-- it could be an electron. If there is only one electron left--you know, all the rest were done away with--it would be quite sufficient to recreate everything. ,So long as there were one bit of space left, it would be quite sufficient. All would grow out of it. If there were nothing left at all, it would be quite sufficient.

'If It Is. It Isn't'

BRENDAN O'REGAN: One wonders how there can be mathematical theorems which exist about space which does not exist.

SPENCER BROWN: Who said space did not exist?

O'REGAN: You did yesterday. I was just following you through.

SPENCER BROWN: Oh no, no, I said, you see-- In the common usage of existence, space only exists. On the other hand, if we go deeper, go to another level, and say "What does existence consist of?" then we can produce these semiparadoxical statements that say "Well, it is what would appear if it could." This leaves it open as to whether it has or hasn't. It doesn't go one side or the other of the bound. It leaves you still intake form, at the point of indifference.

It is so difficult, in the Western teaching, not to plug for one team or the other--to think that one must make a choice between either and or. Id reality, it is neither one thing nor the other. There is no need of this choice. It neither is whatever we say it is, nor is it nothing. It neither exists nor does not exist. Because, remember, we have created it out of what is, in the Russellean paradox-y the forbidden contradiction. It has been created out of "If it is, it isn't-if it isn't, it is."

And this is why, to get back to the reality, we have to undo this. We do see it precisely because it neither is nor isn't whatever we see it as. Because if it is, it isn't, and if it isn't, it is, and that is why we see it as a material.

O'REGAN: This point that Earl Pribram was making about that with out abilities to perceive from the sensorial point of view-- One might argue that we can only Perceive difference, and, in a certain sense, if you say that we can only see it because it is or because it isn't, it the process of it becoming and not becoming that we perceive?

SPENCER BROWN: Yes. hence, once you get to this stage, where you are once in time, now everything is a vibration of it. Vibrations--as we know, the mathematics of vibrations is always the equations with the imaginary value--if it is, it isn't, if it isn't it is. Whichever it is, it isn't.

VON MEIER: It seems like the inverted image when we see With our eyes, corresponding to our tactile knowing that it is not upside down; so it's an internal systems check.

SPENCER BROWN: I am not sure that is on the same level.

VON MEIER: We have two aspects of reality to deal with-- our tactile sense of gravity, knowing something, a pyramid, to be like that; but, nevertheless, seeing it and then having to translate it in our brains. We have to go through that redundancy step.

Understanding and Standing Under

SPENCER BROWN: What has to be learned in any understanding is that one can stay at the same level--one of these levels--or the others as we get on, but there is no understanding by making-- Say, here is Z the level of physical existence} with all the light waves and solid objects, and so on. They are not really very solid. Yous know, when you get down to trying to see them, they disappear. It is the illusion of solidity.

If as much of the science game, in certain aspects of it, goes and says, "Right; well, we explain that in terms of this," everything at the same level, there is no understanding. Because "understanding" means literally what it says. You go into another level and stand under. And this is what we are forbidden to do [3]. It takes a long time of relearning, to go from level to level. When you are talking in one level, what is described is quite different from when you go to another level; and, having translated down to another level, we don't have language that will enable Us to do this. And that's why when we talk with understanding, it sounds to people at the same l; level all the time, it sounds like nonsense. They say : "You are contradicting yourself." Of course you are contradicting yourself, because what is at this level is Man image. It is all reversed.


MAN: Do you shoot back and forth?

SPENCER BROWN: Yes. That is why all the mystic utterances contradict themselves. Wittgenstein pointed out-that a measure of a tautology, a statement which is true by the very nature of its form--"If A, then B and A, therefore B'," that's a tautology--a form of words which has the same truth value as being true whatever you substitute for the variables--Wittgenstein pointed out in Tractatus that all tautologies say the same thing, i. e. nothing. They say not a thing. What he missed out was that-- He missed out the image of this--he missed out the other end of this continuum, the other end being the contradiction, which says everything. You can't say all about it without contradicting yourself.

We have so many social values that spill over into our university training, even in so-called objective subjects like logic. Somehow, contradictions are good--sorry, somehow tautologies are good and contradictions are bad. Now this is childish, childish pratings, and you can see how it has arisen. It comes from the nursery, as do most of these things. The nurse says, haughty Johnny you have told an untruth." Good Johnny here is a sweet-you have told me the truth." Since tautologies are true, and contradictions are untrue, technically speaking, we have carried this over--contradictions are naughty and tautologies are nice, good things. So one of the reasons for the whole cultural forbidding of mysticism is that it deals in statements that say everything and, therefore, must be contradictory, therefore must be logically false, and, therefore, are naughty.

WATTS: A contradiction is a no-no. -We've become used to that expression in the United States.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, I don't know what that means.

I am going to come back to one of the beautiful things of Roth, you see. As I called it in Only Two, the spectacular introduction to Dionysius the Areopagite. It really is spectacular. I do recommend it. It is much better than Dionysius. It is much better than the book. He originally has this marvelous thing which we were talking about earlier--"and all this went on in perfect harmony until the time came, for time to begin.' Utterly contradictory, but, you know, it's the only wag to talk of this, because we have to talk in language which-- Language, you see, is built for a level. That's why when you learn a language, you know, you are confronted with such fatuities as "The pen of my aunt is in the posterior, whereas my--"; you know that sort of thing. It's all on this level because this is what makes it respectable. Language is not something designed for shifting gears up and down the levels.

Injunctive Language

LILLY: You talk about the injunctive use of language, however.

SPENCER BROWN: Yes. This is the only way we can do it [4] because it has to be done in mathematics, and also has to be done in the tutelage of any discipline. The descriptive use of language just describes, you know. We say "describe a circle," and here we have described it, you see. The injunctive use of language now enables us to cross--cross the line.

Injunctive language has to be used in any field in which the discipline itself is to move from level to-level; and this is why the whole of mathematics, which is simply about this--apart from the precision and description) which is an art in itself, taken at one level, and this is why the language of mathematics is so beautiful-but apart from that it is nothing but orders: do this--stand there-- consider that--observe this--move here--call that over there--mix these two.

LILLY: Once you have absorbed the cookbook for changing levels, do you need it any more?

SPENCER BROWN: Once you have observed the what?

LILLY: Absorbed. Once you have taken all the injunctions, the list, your set of instructions, and absorbed it, and now it's part of your thinking machinery, yourself, do you deed it any more?

SPENCER BROWN: Only--Well, it's like saying, "Do you need it if you want to play a piece on the piano?" "Do you need it if you want to read a bit of mathematics?" You need the experience of being able to read injunctions. You see, most people cannot read injunctions. One of the things one has to learn is to read injunctions.

LILLY: --And use them.

SPENCER BROWN: And follow them, yes.

LILLY: A cookbook can only be used by a cook.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, a cook has the experience. If it is used by a non-cook--a non-cook has to take more care. It can be. Just as mathematics can be used, you know, by somebody who has never seen it before. But the care has to be very great. In a cookbook, you know, the recipe only lasts a few pages, whereas in mathematics, a complete argument may last 150 pages, maybe, and that means that every step previous, in order to be able to follow what's going on, has to be remembered. Otherwise you lose track of what you are doing. And part of the discipline is learning to remember.

WATTS: The point might also be made that a great deal of mystical literature is injunctive and is misunderstood by philosophers as being descriptive.

SPENCER BROWN: Oh, yes. I would guess so.

WATTS: Take Patanjali.

Opinions and Knowledge

SPENCER BROWN: Yes, people without the injunctive discipline in mathematics, apart from cookery and things that aren't generally admitted into the academic curriculum-- mathematics is the only subject of any importance in the academic curriculum which uses injunctive language. And it is not chance that it is the only subject which doesn't deal in opinion. Because, in the use of inJuaction, it is not a matter of opinion what the result is going to be, you know.

And it's when we get very-- These people who have been very sloppily educated; and they have, as we did back in England recently, a program on the television and they were all social scientists, and they said "Well, we have a measure of madness, and it is to know something." If you~know it, you are mad, you see. If you only think it, well, that's sane. The great ignorance these people displayed, you see, is the ignorance of the queen of the sciences, as mathematics is often called. For example, let's take this book I was mentioning before, which is such a beautiful book in three volumes-Dickson's History of the Theory of Numbers. Oh, I don't know--there is 1500 to 2000 pages [5] absolutely crammed full-not a single opinion--it's all knowledge--it is all what is so. The gross ignorance expressed by these people, you see. This dealing in opinion can only be done by the ignoring of the disciplines of knowledge. Because, if it is an opinion, then it must be wrong-because if it were not so, if it were not wrong, then it would be knowledge, and it wouldn't be an opinion. So when--you know, when somebody comes and says "I think so"--well, that's an opinion. If you knew it, you wouldn't think it.

As for the other trick which is played, which is-"You know, you don't know anything, you see, you don't know a thing, you know." You say, 'tOh yes, I know what I had for breakfast." Oh no, you may have forgotten, you may have made a mistake." The proposition that Such people produce is that anything-- Russell, himself, was one of these. You know, he said "I don't even know that two and two make four. You see, I may have been mistaken--" It is put more cogently than I could put it, my heart isn't in it. He was laboring a point because it was necessary for his subsequent statement that he should establish this, you see. So the theory--"You don't know--you know nothing at all--it's all a matter of opinion"--and, well, the question I always ask such people is "How do you know this? How do you know that nobody knows anything? How do you know it is only a matter of opinion?"

WATTS: Isn't that the same kind of a question, when you say to a relativist--"You mean that everything is absolutely relative?"

SPENCER BROWN: Well, it is the same kind of throwing back his own system at him to show that he cannot support himself. There is the bland statement which really comes out in the form, "I know that nobody can know anything."

MAN: That's the paradox.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, all you have got to do is say "How do you know?"

MAN: I can't tell you.


O'REGAN: Some of your analysis of contradiction, and whole notion of crossing over from marked to the Unmarked would almost suggest that contradiction, in a sense, is the form of form. It is what we can see when one arrives at that stage. Maybe the book could be the "Laws of Contradictions Just as much as the Laws of Form.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, I am always careful about putting something greater into a smaller pot. Yous see, whenever we are speaking of contradiction, it is at such a more superficial level, because we are now already in language, and so on. Whereas in Laws of Forms the form is operative at every level. Whereas contradiction is only operative in something like our speaking. That's why, you know, although it's illustrative, it wouldn't do as a substitute.

LILLY: In the act of creation, using a self-referential tunnel feedback, can you move from inward to outward on your five levels, or your orders here, or is this Just restricted to the first distinction?

SPENCER BROWN: I am not quite sure--you mean, "Can you distinguish the five eternal orders?"

LILLY: Right. One from the other, moving from one level to the other, using the self-referential feedback, in each case, so that you get an oscillation between the two levels.

SPENCER BROWN: There's no feedback in heaven.

LILLY: O. E. At what point do you create feedback?

Feedback at the Fifth Crossing

SPENCER BROWN: When you go into the first temporal existence.

LILLY: So you have got to be on six?


MAN: Going up.

SPENCER BROWN: It's the fifth crossing.

LILLY: So the paradox does not appear until the fifth crossings

SPENCER BROWN: That's right. No, there is no time before that, and that is why they are eternal, the others. You think that it is going to. You don't know that it is going to happen, you see. Yous are coming out, you know-it's O. K., it's still eternal, you know, you can still see the whole. And you get one too-- You know, you get a little overconfident. Well, why stop here? Let's try going out a bit-farther. Now where are we?

LILLY: You spoke of the fifth order equation as being runaway.

SPENCER BROWN: That's in numerical mathematics, yes.

LILLY: Now, where do they apply here?

SPENCER BROWN: Oh, they are not in here--this is just an analogy.

LILLY:: this is outside them.

SPENCER BROWN: Ya, the fifth order-- You know, there is evidence all over the universe Of a special state where you come to the fifth degree or the fifth whatever it may be, and bang, it changes [6]. It was all self-contained before that. This is a technical point mathematically in the question of solving equations for the varying degrees. You can solve degree one, this is ordinary numerical algebra. We can solve degree two. There is a formula, an algebraic formula, which most of us learn in school, for doing that. And by an extension of that we can solve degree four, also by an algebraic formula. I missed out three--we can do that, you see, and then the further extension of four. And everybody thought for quite a long time, I don't know just exactly when it was, not so long ago, that if only we could find this, we could find the formula for degree five equations-find the roots, and so on. In fact, we can't, because, without going into detail, something has been--something overtakes something else. Instead of your being able to reduce it to the equations of a lesser degree, you suddenly find that your reduction uses degrees that are higher degrees than you have already started with.

LILLY: It's an expanding system.

SPENCER BROWN: It runs away, and there is no winning formula for finding the roots--you just have to find them ad hoc.

LILLY: SO it becomes a partial feedback system.

VON MEIER: Divination.

SPENCER BROWN: Ta, it runs away, it runs away. Before, you could get back by rule. After that, there are no rules for getting back. You may hit upon a rule, but there is no rule for finding it. * * * It becomes more, you know, lots of rules of thumb. Like in the present existence--run away with itself a long way. And, you know, there are no formulae for getting back. There are a lot of ad hoc rules.

WATTS: We should pause to change the tape, James.

SPENCER BROWN: Well, is it finished? Nice meeting you. We have been spinning it out, but in the end there is really nothing to say.

LILLY: Well, thank you very much for coming all this way to talk to us, and we hope that you will come back.

WATTS: If you'll come back for a more leisurely session

SPENCER BROWN: Well, I hope it can be yes.

MAN: The beginning of the end.

LILLY: We've gone from zero to--

(End of tape.)

(End of Session Four.)


  1. Page 116.
  2. See p. 60, Laws of Form (Fig. 1 and Oscillator Function).
  3. In science.
  4. Latin pungere, to prick, glves PUNCTURE and PUN; the pun pokes a hole through the boundary.
  5. 1601 in 3 vols; 486, 802, 313.
  6. Humpty Dumpty had his great fall, from which he could not be put together again, on the fifth crossing. Through the Looking-Glass is instructive in following the discussion the levels of the cosmos. Alice starts on the zero square, and takes her first step through the mirror (Monkey dives through waterfall) landing on Q2--the second square, eardinal number one, in the marked state behind the glass.