The consensus reality works by not letting anyone see beyond it. This is such an obvious statement that we hardly need make it – if anyone were to see beyond the consensus reality then it would of course stop being ‘a consensus’ and when the consensus reality stops being a consensus it can no longer be a ‘reality’ either! It will in this case be nothing more than ‘something we agree to believe in’, which is all that it was all along of course. In order for the consensus reality to work as a reality it is strictly necessary that we never see beyond it, or think beyond it. That’s the one condition we have to adhere to – we can do whatever we like, just as long as we adhere to this. What’s more – and this goes without saying really – we have to make sure that we never go beyond whatever the consensus view is whilst at the same time never seeing that this is what we are doing. It is an absolutely necessary requirement that we be restricted without knowing that we are, ignorant without ever guessing that we are. Just as long as this is the case, we can do absolutely anything we want. This is the dubious freedom granted us by the consensus reality!
The CR (to the extent that we are aware of it at all) probably seems like a fairly harmless sort of thing – irritatingly petty at times perhaps, but basically harmless. It isn’t harmless, however! The CR is far from harmless – it’s a spider’s web from which we can’t escape. We can agree that it is ‘functionally useful’ but this doesn’t mean that it is in any way harmless. Because all meanings are fixed in the CR (because we can never go beyond the meanings that have been set by the system) we are able to use words and know that everyone will understand them as we meant them and in no other way; this is useful in a practical way but it is also a trap. It’s a trap because the fixed meanings that our words have control us, have power over us, have a ‘determining influence’ over us. It might seem odd to say that fixed meanings ‘control us’ but a moment’s reflection is all that is needed to show that this must indeed be the case – as soon as we take a fixed (or literal) meaning for granted and start operating on that basis we create a world that reflects those meanings back at us wherever we go. We create a closed world, in other words. This is the same as saying that when we use rules without acknowledging that we are then these rules will constitute an absolute limit to our existence, a limit that we cannot ever question. The only questions we can ask are those that are predicated upon the rules which we are taking for granted, and so our ‘mode of questioning’ is itself a manifestation of our unexamined rules.
We could make a list of all the things that we human beings have invented over the course of the years, including such things as the printing press, the sewing machine, dynamite, the steam engine, the aeroplane, the computer, the television set and so on. The thing that never gets put on this list however is the consensus reality and this really is a pretty big invention! Not only that, but it’s the type of invention that subsumes all other inventions, the type of invention that subsumes our entire lives in fact, so this surely makes it worthy of mention. The CR is reality for us so that must put it on top of any list we might like to draw up with regard to all the clever things we have invented. Tools and instruments and machines are one sort of thing but manufacturing our own reality is quite another kettle of fish. How the hell do we even do that? How is it possible to ‘create a reality’?
The problem here of course is that we don’t recognise the CR as being an actual thing and so we never do ponder the question of how we managed to pull off the stunt of ‘creating our own reality’. We have in other words invented the consensus reality without knowing that we have invented anything. This being the case, we get ‘subsumed by the system’ without being any the wiser with regard to the fact that something extraordinarily significant has actually happened here. The simulation isn’t content just to be a simulation; it actually replaces what it has simulated so that there is no further need for the original, as Jean Baudrillard says. The hyperreal is a fundamentally aggressive type of phenomenon – it can’t rest until it has converted everything it comes across to its own ilk, to its own formula. Everything is converted to Disneyland. Then – and only then – can it ‘rule supreme’. Who’s to say what is really ‘real’ when reality itself has become something we are no longer capable of registering, something that we’re not even able to miss? Anything can be real, in this case; anything can be real because there is nothing to show up illusion for being illusion. There is no one left to challenge the Great Liar which is the system.
The consensus reality is created via our agreements, as we started off by saying. We make an agreement with regard to what is true or what is important and then we get trapped in this agreement. It might be wondered why this should happen – an ‘agreement’ sounds like a positive sort of thing, after all. Surely – we might argue – it’s good to agree on stuff because then we can get on with each other on the basis of the agreement that we have made. That’s how civilisations come into being, after all. All great civilisations are founded upon a tacit agreement as to what is important in life, as to what our values are, and so on. The fact that agreement forms the basis upon which our collective endeavours can take place is one side of the coin (and this certainly does seem to be a positive thing) but what we are not so quick to see is that an agreement of this sort – by its very nature – is something that can’t be altered once we have made it. Our agreed-upon foundation wouldn’t work as a foundation if we could go back any time we wanted to and change the details of our agreement. We aren’t free to ‘disagree with our original agreement’, in other words, because if we did then there would be no more basis, no more foundation. This is the whole thing about ‘making rules’ to govern society – once we’ve made the rules we have to abide by them! Rules are rules, after all…
Civilisations and cultures are created on the basis of the agreements we have made it is true, but the other way of putting this is to say that civilisations or cultures work by repressing the questioning of our original agreements, our original assumptions. The CR works as a world, as a reality, only because it has surreptitiously taken away our ability to ask original questions, or see the world in an original way. We don’t know that it has done this, but it has all the same. Perhaps this is the price we have to pay for any sort of culture, for any sort of ‘group’ that we can have the convenience and comfort of being part of, we might wonder. Perhaps that’s just the way things are… If so however (and it is inarguable that it is) then this is surely a price that is too prohibitively high to be worth paying! To lose the capacity to see the world (or ourselves) in an original way is to lose rather a lot, after all. We are losing more than we realise here because ‘our ability to see the world in an original way’ is actually our individuality and our individuality is who we actually are! Aside from this, we are nothing; aside from this, we don’t even exist – not really.
One’s individuality is not a small thing, even though it’s easily overlooked; if we were to lose our individuality, who would we be, in this case? We could actually be anybody because all of us are perfectly interchangeable when this element called ‘individuality’ is taken out of the picture. We actually are ‘anybody’, even though we don’t know it. We are Jung’s ‘Everyman’. We are (in this case) no more than perfectly disposable representatives of ‘the Borg’. There is a concept in sociology known as ‘false spontaneity’ and false spontaneity is where we come out with conditioned views and opinions in such a way that we really do think that we are the original author of the view or opinion in question. It absolutely does feel as if we are and yet at the same time these views are mere ‘prejudices’ that we have picked up along the way without realising it. It’s our ‘programming’ in other words. We feel that these are our genuine views just as we feel ourselves to be ‘genuine individuals’ when this is not at all the case. It can’t be the case just as long as everything about us is supplied by society; it can’t be the case when we are in a state of ‘automatic agreement’ with the consensus reality and are therefore in the position of being completely defined by it. We can’t be defined by the CR and yet at the same time be ‘the true individuals that we are’, obviously enough! We can’t have it both ways. The individual has to be sacrificed for the sake of the state, as Okakuru Kakuzo says in The Book Of Tea –
Definition is always limitation – the “fixed” and the “changeless’ are but terms expressive of a stoppage of growth. Said Katsugen, “The sages move the world.” Our standards of morality are begotten of the past needs of society, but is society to remain always the same? The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up the mighty delusion, encourages a species of ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, to behave properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We never forgive others because we know that we ourselves are in the wrong. We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to others; we take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves. How can one be serious with the world when the word itself is so ridiculous!
The ‘price we are paying’ is the loss of who we are therefore, and the fact that we do not perceive this loss – since we have been automatically provided with a false sense of individuality – does not in any way make it less significant as a loss. We will continue to believe that everything is fine, that everything is OK (for the most part, anyway) but underlying this conditioned perception that ‘everything is OK’ there is a howling void. This isn’t the ‘fruitful void’ spoken of in Buddhism but a sterile void, a blank void – it is ‘the voidness or absence of our actual true nature’, which is not a convenient societal construct. Much has been made in recent times of our growing lack of ‘resilience’ with regard to the difficulties and challenges that come our way in life. Possibly – it is said – this is a trend that is occurring at the present moment – the eroding or undermining of our natural ‘resilience’. We don’t know the half of it, though! We’re missing the point in a big way. Current thinking on the subject is that there can be such a thing as a ‘course’ or a ‘therapy programme’ to build up our resilience and teach us skills and strategies that we can use in difficult situations in order to ‘cope’ better (‘coping’ and ‘managing’ are two of our favourite words in therapy, it seems). We imagine that with the correct ‘coping strategies’ we ought to be able to weather the storms that life throws at us. Rules are a substitute for consciousness however, as Jung says – and they are not a very good substitute either! Our tacit assumption is that the central deficiency that we are suffering from (the ‘invisible elephant in the room’, so to speak) is the ‘lack of who we truly are’ and we are supposed to get around this deficiency by learning skills and coping strategies. How do we think this is ever going to work? Resilience isn’t an ‘add-on’ or an ‘extra’, it is not something we learn, it isn’t something that is ‘separate from us’; what we call ‘resilience’ is actually who we are!