Empty Space – The Final Frontier

cc image by Sam Howzit on Flickr

cc image by Sam Howzit on Flickr

Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching:

Thirty spokes unite at one hub to make a wheel,

But what is missing makes it useful.

Clay is shaped into a bowl,
But it is the empty space that makes it useful.

Cut out doors and windows make a room,
But its empty space makes it useful.

So, what is there is beneficial –
But what is not there makes things useful.


Empty space. (The Final Frontier,  in Star Trek speak.)

Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching  describes empty space with a simple pot. The usefulness of a pot is from the space inside it.  The usefulness of a wheel is the space that it creates for holding things up and helping them move. The forms that you see are merely their shapes. It is the emptiness that usually holds its purpose for being.

Consider the atom. The atom is this tiny molecule… it’s this tiny little blip. Inside of the atom is the nucleus…and a bunch of nothing.  So the nucleus, compared to the atom, is microscopic. Obviously, the atom is microscopic as well, but the nucleus inside of the atom is really microscopic and the nucleus is really all there is to the atom.

So if you were to ask, are we space or not space, the answer would almost have to be space.  If you really took the whole pile of our mass, and you put it on one side of the room and you took the whole of all the air and nothingness on the other side of the room (assuming you could do that) – the air side would win because there is really nothing to us and our mass is such a small portion of that.

There is this scientist named Dr. Emoto who has done studies on water.  He has studied the molecules of water and has proven that water has intelligence and changes its crystalline patterns based on the energy of the communication in the space. (Here’s a video of his experiments you might want to watch after you finish this article.)


How does understanding this help us in our daily lives? That’s really the key question.

Plants and animals also respond to the environment around them. Have you ever noticed a flock of birds that fly away because they notice something? They noticed a shift in the energy. We don’t notice these things most of the time. We don’t see them. Unless we are very conscious, these minute shifts are outside of the scope of our understanding. They are unavailable to us because we are living unconsciously in our daily lives. Not all of us, however.  A lot of people are in tune with the shifts in energy of things. They feel changes in their environment and they respond to them.

Why is this important?

It is important to understand that so much of who we are is not anything. We are thought. We are manifestation… creation. We are constantly creating ourselves.  You may be thinking that there is all this stuff, this mass, this physical form that you can actualy feel, see, touch, sense.  How is it that this atom has just this tiny bit of mass and yet I touch my arm and it is a solid arm?

I can tell you how that is… It is because your brain has told you that it is a solid arm and that’s it. Your brain has told you that. There have been movies where a character’s reality is all made up. They are entirely convinced that their “reality” is true and we are shown that it is not through the film. This is our life.  There is this reality that we have all agreed upon. Just for simplicity’s sake, we all agree upon it. We call that real. If you say it isn’t real, you are called crazy.  But how can you really know that it is real if your body has been proven to be nothing more than air and you believe that it is mass?

For many, perhaps thousands of years, everyone agreed the world was flat. Everyone agreed! It was not like some wing nut idiot said the world was flat and everyone said, “Yeah, right.” No! Everybody agreed. Then one guy stood out and said, “You know what? I think you’re wrong.” He was very brave because they probably threw stones at him or something. They said he was a nut job. Many innovative scientists have gone insane. Or at least everyone declared them insane because they did not agree with “reality”.  He didn’t fit in with what the world thought. End of story. I happen to think that all of it is insane. The world is insane.

In fact, there’s a woman called Sybil. A book was written about her a long time ago. She had multiple personality disorder. So she was many people inside of one body. When I first heard about her, I was probably about ten. I can still remember finding this book in my parent’s bookcase. It was significant. I read this book about Sybil and I was just blown away by this woman. Her body had significant changes when she would switch personalities. I did a paper on this when I was in school and it is true that many people with this disorder have marked changes in body characteristics as they shift from one personality to another including voice, allergic responses, how they carry themselves and expressions. In one case, it has been documented that someone had a swollen eye with one personality that diminished as soon as another personality came in and the returned when the original person came back.

If changing your body’s response to allergies with the mind is possible, then what else is possible? If that is what is possible, then I want to see the rest of it. It’s just a small thing, in a way, but it means so much. People really want proof. They want visible evidence. They want to know for sure of something, but we can’t be sure. There are so many things that we have no idea about…just no idea. We can’t even conceptualize it. Just stay open. You never know what can happen!


  1. I think that your sharing valuable insights in this post, although really I’m not sure. It seems to me that you’re using the scientific concepts slightly out of context. It’s really hard to know exactly what an atom is, and it’s not clear to me whether it makes sense to talk about what an atom looks like at all.

    It also seems that you use a few too many vague terms– energy, reality, thought etc…

    Maybe this isn’t an issue. And maybe it’s just highlighting that I’m not smart enough to understand the concepts your talking about yet.

    Still, I think it would help your readers if you defined your terms a bit more explicitly.

    • Thanks for the visit and for the comment, John. Here is a link to a Wikipedia page on the atom with an image of the nucleus. Although is is a drawing, it does give an approximation of size. If you review the article, it also mentions that the mass of an atom is primarily made up of the nucleus, which is what I was referencing here. Since all things are composed of atoms at the most minute level, and atoms are mostly just empty space, I made the point that we are mostly just empty space as well. If we are just empty space and we “feel” our arms and they feel solid, then perhaps we could assume that there is a disconnect between what we feel to be real (our arms) and what is really there (empty space). Just a thought…

      In reference to how an atom looks, yes, perhaps that is a bit far-fetched to fill a room with atomic non-mass on one side and mass on the other…lol. My point was that very little of who we are is actually MASS. We are mostly just nothingness, which is what Lao Tzu often references in the chapters of the Tao Te Ching.

      You make a good point, however. Sometimes it is hard to know what other people know or don’t know. We can only communicate and hope that we are understood. I do really appreciate your taking the time to participate in the conversation and hopefully will do so again soon!

  2. Love this post. Never thought about the empty spaces the way you share at the beginning of the post. It really got me thinking.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michele! The poem at the beginning is the chapter of the Tao Te Ching. I started entering the chapter at the beginning of each essay post so that people could see what I was referring to. The Tao Te Ching is so simple and yet so true. It is really quite amazing.

  3. Pingback: 11 – Usefulness

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  5. Hi Amy,

    What a perfect post to read on a Monday morning, savoring the first cup of coffee! I love this chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Every time we wash a glass, we can marvel at the emptiness of it! I wrote a short poem about atoms several years ago.


    Each atom of my body
    yet here I am.

    Along with the emptiness, I marvel at the movement!


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  6. Hi Amy,

    Always nice to register how much of us really isn’t here at all… 🙂

    Physics is such a great, ongoing source of insight into metaphysics and human spirituality. I resonate with several things you say here, and my favorites are:

    “It is important to understand that so much of who we are is not anything. We are thought. We are manifestation… creation. We are constantly creating ourselves.”

    And, “Just stay open. You never know what can happen!”

    To which I would add, you may be surprised at what you see!

    I have posted my own myopic seeing of Chapter 11 at http://cascadianwanderer.wordpress.com/tao-te-ching/tao-te-ching-chapter-11/

    Namaste’, Amy
    I “see” and greet the Universe in you.


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  10. I love this verse the best till now. Its beautiful. thank you for this blog

  11. Hello, good work, to encourage people to consider ’empty space’.

    Please get in touch. We understand the difficulties of language – and share in the beauty of the Tao.

    Would love to hear from you.


    • Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for the comment. It is a wonderful piece of work to base your spiritual practice on, isn’t it?
      amy recently posted…I Ching #28 – Great ExcessMy Profile

      • Hello Amy,

        from what I have experienced, it is delightful. If I could say more, I would.

        My current interest – here as I move – is in our relationship with and treatment of Space. I was looking for people whom had commented on the treatment of Space in the Tao when I found your alluring blog.

        I find that few people write about the Space that you have written about here in stillness and even fewer have gone so far as to acknowledge Space as the receptive quality of experience which makes what is obviously present able to flow and to be experienced at all.

        I shall walk with you…


        • First of all, Matthew, your English is excellent.

          I thought you might enjoy Hua Ching Ni’s books on the Tao Te Ching. He is amazing and he is where I developed many of my concepts of the Tao. Another Taoist author which I frequently mention is Deng Ming-Dao. He has a book on the I Ching that is very good. It is called The Living I Ching. I am studying that copy and a copy that Hua Ching Ni wrote called, The Book of Changes – Ni’s version of the I Ching. Both the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching are similar in that they cover these concepts in great depth in many different ways. Have a wonderful journey and I look forward to hearing more from you as you study.
          amy recently posted…I Ching #28 – Great ExcessMy Profile

          • Thank you Amy, for your thoughtful suggestions.

            For me, though, I resisted going past the first few pages of those books.

            The Tao Te Ching as it is embraces me most, just as I embrace it.

            I gave the books ago this evening and I will open them up again tomorrow, a little further in – but I am sensitive to the clatter of trying voices.

            I prefer yours, above, deftly done!


          • Thank you, Matthew. Super sweet!
            amy recently posted…I Ching #28 – Great ExcessMy Profile

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