The First Inquirers of the Chandogya Upanishad didn’t go all the way. They stopped short of Shūnyam, settling instead for a ‘Subtle Inner Essence’ [See the Post].
‘In the beginning there was ‘Being’ alone; the One without a second‘.
‘Being’ is at the heart of Upanishadic testament. As early as 1,000 BCE the terminus of ‘Being’ was well in play. I’ll take a Post to show how ‘True Nothing’, conceptualized and reified will in-time settle as ‘Being’.
The Sanskrit Mantra ‘AUM’ [the ‘Queen of Mantras’] is made-up of four elements. The beginning vowel ‘A’, the ending consonant ‘M’, and the middle ‘oo!’ They, between their stretch capture all of spoken sound and symbolically mark all ‘Expression’.
But the heart of the Mantra, the fourth element Turiya, is the unheard silence that complements the sonant expression itself. The silence of Turiya aligns with Shūnyam .
Turiya translates literally as ‘The Immaculately Pure’. The original term for Shūnyam was as Pujyam, ‘That worthy of worship’. And just as with ‘True Nothing’ getting calcified as ‘Being’, Turiya gets conceptualized and reified, assigned aspects and characteristics, by the religious-minded just as the symbol ‘0’ acquires ‘properties’ in the hands of the Mathematicians.
Soon, inscrutable connotations are imputed to ‘AUM’, secret formulas devised to reveal them and prayers rendered to access their powers. In time Turiya the Silence is declared the original ‘source’ of Sound itself and gets mystified into a perfect divine opacity. [‘Source’, a very modeled idea, hence in quotes].
The symbol is ideal for the imaginative raconteur, offers a wide palette for the construction of man-made divinities, divinities in the likeness of Man. Which is largely how it is today.