Message from the Darkness

befehl_dunkelWhile I was in Germany on my current European tour, I found a special double-disc edition DVD of the Godzilla movie commonly known in the US as Monster Zero. This version has a bunch of extras available only in Germany and I’m a geek so I bought it. In Germany the movie, originally called Kaiju Daisenso (The Great Monster War) in Japanese, was titled Befehl Aus Dem Dunkel, or “Command from the Darkness.” The title refers to the plot of the movie in which we Earth people receive a message from an alien race requesting us to loan them Godzilla to help them defeat an even scarier monster on their planet. It can also be sung to the tune of this Guns and Roses song.

I like that title. It’s very evocative. The first person I asked mistakenly translated it as “Message From the Darkness,” which is even better. A message,  a communication, from that which is unknown, perhaps even unknowable.

In Zen, we often talk about emptiness. But we could use other words. St. John of the Cross wrote about unknowing. Lately I’ve been talking about silence. We could refer to the same idea by calling it darkness. We’re trying to indicate the area of life, the universe and everything that we cannot express in words.

There’s a recent scientific theory that emptiness gave rise to the universe of form. The idea of the Big Bang has been widely accepted for decades now, but nobody can explain where that tiny little ball of stuff that exploded into the universe as we know it came from. Now some folks are saying that maybe emptiness itself gave rise to its opposite.

They only need a little more coaxing to make the leap that the Buddhists made a thousand years ago, that what we know as form didn’t just derive from emptiness. It is emptiness. One of the manifestations of absolute nothing is this world, is you and me.

Silence or emptiness is the most powerful thing there can be. Nothing can ever harm it because it is nothing. Nothing can escape it. Silence underlies everything. Silence is the basis of all sound. It’s there even in the loudest place there is. Emptiness is the basis of all form. Emptiness is what allows form to be form. Form is what allows emptiness to be emptiness.

Everybody wants to know what will happen after they die. We fear death. We fear the darkness, the silence. In the novel John Dies At The End by David Wong, a character says, “You’re going to die, Arnie. Someday, you will face that moment. Regardless of what you believe, at that moment you will either face complete nonexistence, which is something you can’t possibly imagine, or you will face something even stranger that you also can’t possibly imagine. On an actual day in the future, you will be in the unimaginable, Arnie. Set your mind on that.”

Darkness, or silence, or emptiness is the unimaginable. It’s beyond our ability to comprehend. Or maybe it’s not. Kobun Chino Roshi talked about what he called “the other side of nothing.” He said, “Wanting to be alone is impossible. When you become really alone you notice you are not alone. You flip into the other side of nothing, where you discover everybody is waiting for you. Before that, you are living together like that — day, sun, moon, stars, and food — everything is helping you, but you are all blocked off, a closed system. It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself, which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute.”

The silence we fear is the basis of ourselves and of everyone and everything else there ever was, will be, could be or isn’t.

There is no reason to fear complete nonexistence. Complete nonexistence is what you are made from.

Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.

This is a message from the darkness. A message from that part of ourselves which is darkness, which is silence, which is the unknown and unknowable.

But rather than being from aliens asking us to lend them Godzilla, it is ourselves telling ourselves that there is nothing to fear, nothing to run from, nothing to fight against. That which terrifies us more than anything else is just ourselves. Our infinite and nonexistent selves.

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28 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. Andy
    Andy September 10, 2015 at 8:04 am |

    If I had a child, I get him to read that to me at bedtime, with some cottleston pie.


    1. drocloc
      drocloc September 10, 2015 at 9:45 am |

      Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.
      A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.
      Ask me a riddle and I reply:

      Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.
      A fish can’t whistle and neither can I
      Ask me a riddle and I reply:

      Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.
      Why does a chicken, I don’t know why.
      Ask me a riddle and I reply:


    2. Andy
      Andy September 10, 2015 at 11:15 am |

      Eye’d listen like a typo, halfway down the stairs.

  2. Zafu
    Zafu September 10, 2015 at 9:42 am |

    Emptiness is so awesome that someone should make a religion out of it. Why? Cuz sheepies need a fence.

    1. drocloc
      drocloc September 10, 2015 at 9:47 am |

      Typing furniture!! Gooood typing. Gassho

  3. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs September 10, 2015 at 10:57 am |

    Oh, me so empty!

    1. Zafu
      Zafu September 11, 2015 at 12:56 pm |

      Emptiness is awesome, but it’s no cure for Blueballs.

  4. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara September 10, 2015 at 3:07 pm |

    Godzilla is emptiness, Zafu is form.
    oh! the sixty characters rule is in abeyance

  5. mika
    mika September 11, 2015 at 12:49 pm |

    One problem with equating new physics discoveries as explained to the masses to age old philosophical metaphors is that while philosophical metaphors (form is emptiness, emptiness is form) are made of natural language which is imprecise, physics theories are made of mathematics which is very precise. So while on the outside it may seem that physicists today are talking about the same thing that hindus/buddhists/kabbalah were talking were talking about hundreds or thousands of years ago you can’t really make the claim unless you understand precisely the underlying mathematics. To compare equations of physics theories to words in the english language and claim they say the same thing is … well, to quote one famous philosopher of ages past, the question does not fit the case.

  6. Zafu
    Zafu September 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Zafu
    Zafu September 11, 2015 at 1:56 pm |
    1. Fred
      Fred September 11, 2015 at 2:33 pm |

      “This is a message from the darkness. A message from that part of ourselves which is darkness, which is silence, which is the unknown and unknowable.”

      The state of unknowing doesn’t send a message because there’s no one to send it, and the conditioned self which could receive it, is incapable of making sense of it.

      The state of unknowing is being.

  8. Fred
    Fred September 11, 2015 at 2:39 pm |

    So the unknowing itself is a state of being without parameters defining its state.

    It is beyond natural language, mathematics and conceptual meaning.

    1. Zafu
      Zafu September 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm |

      Knowing/unknowing is the fence that contains the sheeps.

      Knowing is one parameter. Unknowing is another parameter.

      Silence (unknowing) vs Zero Defex (knowing)

      Of course it is an imaginary fence. It doesn’t need to be real to be meaningful.

  9. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara September 11, 2015 at 4:25 pm |

    It doesn’t need to be real to be meaningful. ~ Tofu

    The paradoxes of self reference are not difficult.

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 11, 2015 at 4:54 pm |

    Hard to think with Zero Defex in the background (maybe that’s the idea):

    I put it like this to a friend, based on Genjo-koan:

    “Finding your place where you are, practice occurs, and the activity of being alive where you are is set in motion. That’s how I read actualizing the fundamental point, and the fundamental point is the singularity of being where you are (unless the connection between your vestibular organs, your proprioceptors, and your eyes is damaged, in which case you might find yourself being in two places at once).

    Finding your way at this moment, practice occurs; things enter into the place where you are, at this moment, and practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.

    The fundamental point doesn’t appear in the third of Dogen’s summary lines. If the inconceivable were the fundamental point, finding your place where you are or finding your way at this moment would suffice. Yes, you’re right, the wind that reaches everywhere is like empty space, but how does empty space actualize immediately? For me, this experience comes out of the nature of breath, when my feeling for what affects this breath extends out beyond the boundaries of the senses (including the mind- hence, the inconceivable).”

    emptiness = outside the boundary of the senses

    The wind reaches everywhere; “there is nowhere that the wind does not reach” moves the arms and legs as well as sits the posture- even if you do watch out (I blame Zero Defex).

  11. Zafu
    Zafu September 11, 2015 at 9:02 pm |

    Zero Defex vs Monster Zero

  12. Mumbles
    Mumbles September 12, 2015 at 4:49 am |

    The Darkness vs. giant crustaceans…Love wins!

    Got Marshalls?

    1. Cygni
      Cygni September 12, 2015 at 10:16 am |

      Great youtube solution to the equation Mumbles, I was watching this yesterday, this is the other video that I think fits best with the poster at least, cosmonaut and everything…

      No boundaries,

      The truth is stranger than imagination, or is imagination stranger than truth, either way it’s all infinite and nonexistent.

      Great post Brad, nailed it.

      Got Ampeg?

  13. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. September 12, 2015 at 5:30 am |
  14. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon September 12, 2015 at 7:57 am |
  15. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara September 12, 2015 at 8:26 am |

    Hey, isn’t that bass player from Zero Defex the same guy who does the warm-up sketch on the Zafu show?

  16. Zafu
    Zafu September 12, 2015 at 9:35 am |

    Blueballs vs Keith Richards

  17. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 12, 2015 at 9:54 am |

    This feeling of emptiness, or nothingness, or vastness or so on, is a very well documented Buddhist meditation experience, and it can actually be a hindrance to true development of insight, for this very reason: it leads you to believe that you’ve become enlightened, that you’ve obtained some sort of a special experience and there’s nothing left for you to do– which of course isn’t the case. It’s a form state, it has causes, it’s based on the concentration you attain in meditation, it comes about because of the concentration, and it lasts as long as the power of concentration is still there. So you can build it, you can develop it, but it doesn’t lead you to a permanent and lasting peace and happiness, because of course that can only be gained through realization, through understanding, the objective reality in front of you.

    (Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu, in “Ask a Monk: Emptiness”, linked by GC above)

    Of course!– peace and happiness can only be gained through realization, through understanding!

    There’s an objective reality right in front of me, let’s dance!

    Kidding. Ok, I’ll admit I stopped there, maybe he pulled a rabbit out of the hat later but I couldn’t go on listening.

    Emptiness sits, emptiness walks. “People who are moving around outside all sit with you. They don’t take the sitting posture!”, as Kobun put it. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable (beyond the boundaries of the senses) may not be readily apparent:

    Mayu, Zen master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?”

    “Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Mayu replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”

    “What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again. Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.

    (“Genjo Koan”, Dogen; tr. Robert Aitken and Kazuaki Tanahashi. Revised at San Francisco Zen Center, and later at Berkeley Zen Center; published (2000) in Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds (Boston: Shambhala), 35-9. Earlier version in Tanahashi 1985 (Moon in a Dewdrop), 69-73, also Tanahashi and Schneider 1994 (Essential Zen))

  18. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs September 12, 2015 at 10:02 am |

    “The idea of the Big Bang has been widely accepted for decades now, but nobody can explain where that tiny little ball of stuff that exploded into the universe as we know it came from. ”

    The explanation for that “ball of stuff” is blue balls. That is why the orgasm is such a mind altering event. We are in essence re-enacting the birth of our universe and the beginning of the present kalpa. This cycle of blue balls, release, and decay, will repeat until every last one of us realizes the fundamental principle.

  19. Zafu
    Zafu September 12, 2015 at 4:00 pm |

    emptiness is the most powerful thing there can be. Nothing can ever harm it because it is nothing.

    Actually it’s only as powerful as your belief in it, and is weakened by meaninglessness or lack of belief.

    “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
    ~ Peter Pan

  20. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 September 13, 2015 at 7:06 am |

    This moment.

  21. economy news
    economy news September 19, 2015 at 11:36 pm |

    Darkness always gives massage.

Comments are closed.