Letting The Light In…

Human nature being what it is, we are much quicker to give advice then we are to understand what it is that we are giving advice about, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of mental health! The undoubted reason for this is that we are deeply challenged by the whole business of ‘mental ill-health’ and we just want to ‘shut it down’ as quickly as possible by firing off a barrage of ‘fix-it’ – type advice. We just want to get back to ‘business as usual’. Healthcare professionals are very often as bad as anyone else in this regard. We are – by and large – extraordinarily loathe to see that mental health isn’t the result of us applying our clever ‘fix-it’ – type technology. We are extraordinarily loathe to see that mental health isn’t something that we ‘do’.

 

Mental health is – rather – something that happens to us despite all our frenetic doing. It’s not a ‘positive choice’ that we make, even though we are always told that it is. The key thing to understand here therefore is that almost all of our ‘doing’ – whether we like to admit it or not – is geared at validating our illusions (and also geared towards furthering the state of ignorance that is necessary for us to go on believing in these illusions). That’s where our interest really lies, not that anyone is ever going to admit it to themselves. For us, ‘mental health’ means precisely this – it means ‘that mode of existence within which we can continually get to validate our illusions and endlessly perpetuate the cloud of darkness within which these illusions appear to make sense’. Without us ever actually seeing things like this (obviously enough!), we (unconsciously) take our continued well-being as being synonymous with the furtherance of our ignorance, and so if it were ever to be the case that we switched our outlook by one hundred and eighty degrees and became interested in our actual well-being instead (instead of the travesty that we are all busy promoting) then we would find ourselves in direct opposition to the prevailing climate, which is not in the least bit favourable to what we might call ‘genuine mental health’ (which is most emphatically not merely a matter of ‘returning to business as usual’).

 

Why should the prevailing climate (or general consensus) be so unfavourable towards genuine mental health? Why should our ‘true well-being’ be something that we are so pointedly uninterested in? There appears to be no sense to this – it makes absolutely no sense at all that we should be opposed to our own well-being! To put this another way, why should we condemn ourselves to a whole lot of unnecessary suffering, which we undoubtedly do condemn ourselves to? Why do we take on pain that we don’t need to take on? The answer isn’t particularly hard to come up with – the point is that we want everything on our own terms and not just that we want everything on our own terms but that we absolutely insist on having everything on our own terms, and this insistence is what is causing all our suffering. A simple way of explaining what these conditions are is to say that we want the world to fit in with our preconceptions of it. Of course this is true; of course it is true that we always want the world to fit in with our preconceptions of it. Who could argue with this? We like everything in the world to fit in with our plans, and are either thrown or annoyed when this doesn’t happen, but even more than this we want the world to fit in with our ideas for it, no matter how cock-eyed those ideas might be.

 

The fact that we are constantly fitting our perceptions of the world into the template of what we unconsciously believe it to be is not something we pay much attention to, naturally enough. If we were to be aware of this then it would spoil everything. The only way it can work for us (the only way we can obtain the concrete ‘sense of self’ that we want to obtain) is if we remain oblivious to any such process of manipulation occurring – if we were to know that we are constantly having to shore-up the comforting illusion then the comforting illusion would no longer have so much comfort in it! There’s a whole load of work going on in the background to keep the illusion (the illusion that reality is fitting in effortlessly with our expectations for it) and that work can never stop. This is the key point therefore – that our everyday perception of ourselves and the world – as natural as it may seem – is actually the result of some sort of manipulation, some sort of ‘jiggery-pokery’ that’s going on off-stage, some sort of ‘covert doing’ on our part. It’s a show that has to be put on. Were we to know about this then that would be a truly hideous awareness to have, but we don’t know about it and we are of course very keen to carry on ‘not knowing about it’.

 

When we insist on ‘having everything on our own terms’ (without knowing that we are) then this – needless to say – produces a state of being that is inescapably brittle, inescapably rigid, inescapably insecure. Not only this but it produces a state of being that is very, very small – as small as small can be! If the world has to present itself to me in terms that I can understand, within a format that I myself have invented, then it must necessarily only be as big as my understanding, only as big as my expectations. Whatever it is that I imagine life to be, then that’s what it will appear to be. ‘What the thinker thinks the prover proves’, as Robert Anton Wilson says. It’s not what I personally ‘imagine life to be’ of course but the set of constricted beliefs and assumptions that have been passed on to be to me by my culture, by the people that constitute my social milieu. I have been given a very narrow way of seeing things and I have also been given to understand that it is most sacred duty to uphold this narrow prejudicial viewpoint until the day I die. That’s my ‘duty’. Whenever I can pass the burden of this ‘restricted viewpoint’ on to someone else I will do, and I will consider myself to be doing them a favour.

 

When we give someone the gift of a very narrow way of seeing reality (or when we give ourselves that dubious gift) then we are giving them (or ourselves) the gift of never being able to relax and be at ease. How can we possibly relax when we have to keep the door closed to the ‘wider view’, which is the view that we ourselves do not have to arrange, the view that we ourselves do not have to be controlling all the time. This is the reason why religious fundamentalists are prohibited from practising meditation – because it involves letting go of our small view of the world. Within the terms of the religion in question ‘letting go of our small view’ is considered to be the very same thing as leaving the door open to Satan and his wiles; this is how we interpret what happens when we stop insisting on life matching our ridiculously small idea of it! And it is of course not even the case that our small picture of the world is at least partially true – it isn’t. Reality is either seen ‘for what it is’, or it is not seen at all. Any manipulation or control or distortion and is not reality that we are perceiving but only the reflection of our own limiting mind.

 

What’s true for the concrete-thinking religious fundamentalist is also true for us – only on a less obvious way. We pride ourselves on being ‘open-minded’ after all, which is a good joke. The gift that our culture gives us is the gift of being restricted without knowing it, narrow without knowing it, uptight without knowing that we’re uptight. This unnecessary burden makes itself known to us as neurotic pain, which we all suffer from to some extent or another. Whenever we believe that our mental health is ‘our own responsibility’ and that it is ‘up to us’ to ‘do something about it’ then this is only tying us up in tighter knots than ever. That’s a jinx. Anything we do deliberately, on purpose, as part of some plan that we have, is going to tie us up even in ever-tighter knots and mental health – as we started out by saying – is not something that we can do. Mental health is not one of our ‘doings’, it is not ‘the output of our rational purposeful mind’. It can’t be the result of anything we ‘tell people to do’!

 

This is a rather amazing thing to reflect on when we consider just how quick both professional mental healthcare workers and lay-people alike are in offering us advice when we are suffering from anxiety or anorexia or OCD or low self-esteem or depression, or whatever it is. We are – to a very considerable extent – pushed into the role where we become ‘the takers of well-meant advice’. Doctors, therapists, nurses, family members, friends – everyone we meet has got advice for us! And if this were not bad enough, we voluntarily go and buy a whole load of self-help books and allow the authors of these books adviser us too. It’s all advice – it’s a wall of advice – and all of it is unhelpful, all of it only ‘makes things worse’. It might sound very extreme to say this but just so long as the advice we are being given is about something we have to ‘purposefully do’ then how can it help us? Purposeful doing is how we ‘perpetuate our ignorance’, it is how we ‘perpetuate our narrow, pain-producing viewpoint’ – that’s all that purposeful doing ever does. We are projecting our conditioned mode of existence indefinitely into the future.

 

The glitch is that we have confused mental health with ‘going back to how we were before’. We use the word ‘recovery’ an awful lot, which actually devalidates the suffering that we are going through. Our suffering isn’t something that just needs to be ‘corrected’ so that we can go back to how we were before, when we were ‘well’ (!) – it is the precious means by which we get to discover how we were putting all our energy into defending this ‘illusion that we have of ourselves’ when this is actually ‘effort that is against ourselves’. We want to validate our illusions because – for most of us – this is what life has some how come to be all about. For most of us life is ‘all about validating our illusions of what we think life is all about’! This is thankless work however because it is work that is only ever going to ‘rebound’ on us in the form of amplified neurotic pain. ‘Fixing up the broken illusion’ isn’t the way to become well; repairing our leaky comfort zones isn’t the way to ‘recover our mental health’. The way to become well is to allow the illusion to remain broken! We don’t try to ‘cement over the cracks wherever they appear’ because if we do this then the light won’t be able to shine in. True mental health means having the courage to allow the cracks to appear, and even when we see that we are compulsively trying to repair them, realizing (in a peaceful fashion) that this isn’t the way to freedom, but only the way to ‘ongoing slavery to the thinking mind’…

 

 

 

 

A Break In Harmony Is A Manifestation Of Harmony

If we have to live our lives, then what we are living is not life. It’s something else, it’s a construct of thought. This is a principle that Alan Watts often comes back to his talks – ‘it doesn’t work if you have to do it’. ‘If you must play, then you can’t play’ says James Carse. A rule or compulsion can’t be substituted for life, no matter how good our intentions might be. We are trying to replace one thing with another, completely different thing – another, completely different thing that it just can’t be replaced with! If there is one ‘mistake’ that we keep making in life, over and over again, then this is surely it.

 

This is an odd type of mistake that we are talking about here however – there’s something peculiar about it in that it’s a mistake which we never spot and which – therefore – we carry on making all the time. It has become normal; this is a ‘mistake’ that has now become the whole world for us. It is therefore ‘a mistake that we can’t ever escape from’. As Carl Sagan says,

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Alan Watts says something to the effect that we are banjaxed by society because of the way society makes the things we were going to do anyway compulsory, with the inevitable consequence that we now can’t do them! Orthodox religions always do this – they make ‘being good’ compulsory and this double-binds us so that we now can’t be good. When we push ourselves to be good then straightaway it’s false, straightaway it’s an act. Instead of being genuinely good we’re play-acting therefore, and – as if this were not bad enough – the fact that we are ‘pushing ourselves to be something that we are not’ automatically sets up resistance in us, and so we create the tendency to do evil. Not only have we cheated ourselves out of the possibility of being genuinely good-hearted therefore, we have brought a shadow into the world and the nature of this shadow is that the more resolutely we strive to be good the darker and more powerful it gets!

 

Orthodox monotheistic religion always presents morality (or obedience to God) as a necessity, as a rule, as a compulsion. The Deity is as portrayed as an autocrat, as a tyrant – albeit one with our own best interests at heart! But if God did insist, in all seriousness, that we follow the Divine Plan that he has laid down for us (for own good) then he would be neatly double binding us since it has now become impossible for us ever to be ‘good’. It is now becoming possible for us to be good and yet we are not allowed to be the way that we are either. If this isn’t a neat example of a double bind then what is? God – being God – would know this perfectly well of course and so – given the fact that we have been now set up to fail (and also given the fact that not obeying God is a sin against Him) – we would have to question what exactly He is up to. Is the autocratic Father God a malign being, as the Gnostics and Cathars have asserted?

 

The thing is of course that all this talk of what God requires of us and doesn’t require of us comes out of the mouths of men, who undoubtedly have their own agenda in taking this line. God is not stupid – as men are – and so he would not (of course) set us up in this way – he would not demand that we obey His law on pain of Eternal Damnation because that would straightaway ruin the point of everything. It would take the good out of everything – it would be like a relationship where one person demands of the other that they love him or her and always stay true. That would end love immediately – that would be the end of the relationship right there! Human beings do this all the time of course (they automatically take away each other’s freedom because they ‘love’ each other) but would God make this mistake?

 

It is always been our way both in the West and the Middle East to personify the Deity as a ruler or autocrat. In everyday life  we have imposing authority figures telling us what to do and so it undoubtedly makes (some sort of) sense to think of the Deity in the same way, as some kind of ‘amplified version’ of the monarch or Emperor. In the East, the Divine Principle tends to be seen very differently of course – if we take the example of Daoism we can see this most plainly. The Dao does not lord it over the creatures it supports, the Dai De Jing explicitly states. In this way of looking at things there is no brutal dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘obedience’ and ‘disobedience’. There is no such thing as sin, that most celebrated of Christian concepts. Instead there is ‘harmony’ on the one hand and the appearance (but not the fact) of ‘broken harmony’ on the other. We can’t achieve accord with Universal Harmony on purpose because – as the Daoist teachings tell us – ‘to try to accord with the Dao is to deviate from it’. It can’t be a ‘sin’ to be out of harmony with the universe therefore because there is nothing we can do to correct the situation! Anything we do to try to correct the situation simply messes things up all the more.

 

We can clearly see that Daoism doesn’t throw vicious double binds at us in the way that Christian morality does,  and yet neither is it ‘amoral’. It provides us with a subtle way of relating both to ourselves and the world – we can see for example that breaking harmony (a rather discovering that we have broken harmony) is not a regrettable thing. Discovering that we have broken harmony with the universe is painful it is true but that doesn’t mean that this break with harmony isn’t a part of the harmony! By discovering that we are out of kilter with reality (and are thus disconnected and alienated from it) we discover that there is an underlying harmony. We don’t miss it until it’s gone! The discovery that we have broken harmony is the awareness of that harmony; the discovery of our disconnection paradoxically is our connection. In the Western-Rational Paradigm chronic mental distress or discomfort (what used to be called ‘mental illness’) is seen quite reasonably as a departure from mental health, and that is of course bad news. Mental ill-health is ‘regrettable’ therefore – it is unfortunate, it is something to feel unhappy about. According to the Western-Rationalist Paradigm the thing to do when we discover that we have departed from the state of good mental health is to deliberately or purposefully correct this situation. For us, that’s what ‘therapy’ means – it means deliberately returning ourselves (by whatever means) to a state of good mental health.

 

This is the classic rational approach – departing from the state of mental well-being is ‘bad’ (or ‘wrong) and so it needs to be corrected. Straightaway therefore, we find ourselves deep in the realm of double binds – everything we do to try to help ourselves simply accentuates our suffering. By taking this crude rational approach we ‘disconnect ourselves our own disconnectedness’; we are most emphatically rejecting our disconnection as ‘an error’ and so of course we are trying to separate ourselves from it; that’s the whole point after all – we want very much to disconnect ourselves from the pain and confusion of our disconnection. This of course seems to be the right thing to do, but that is only because our approach to the situation so very unsubtle – we are actually creating more suffering for ourselves this way because not only do we still have we the original disconnection eating away at us, we now also have the ‘disconnection from the disconnection’ to contend with! Not only do we have the original ‘break in harmony’ we now also have ‘a break in harmony with our break in harmony’ and seeing as how it was the original ‘disharmonious situation’ that was itself the key to recovering harmony we aren’t exactly making matters easier for ourselves!

 

The cure for the pain is in the pain‘ Rumi says, and he might just as well have said ‘The cure for the disharmony lies in that same disharmony’. If we consciously ‘live’ our harmonious situation, with all the pain this involves, then that is how we reconnect with the greater harmony of life. It’s no good looking elsewhere for the answer; it’s no good fighting against the pain that we’re in, and trying to prevent or ameliorate it – by denying the break in harmony we are at the same time denying the underlying harmonious of our situation since  – as we keep saying – the awareness of our disharmony is the harmony. We have been provoked into ‘taking matters into our own hands and this is what the alchemists of old (who were a subtler folk than us) called the via erratum, the ‘way of error’. It’s ‘the way of error’ because no matter which way we twist or turn we are only going to deviate from the harmony of our own being all the more. The (apparent) departure from the underlying harmony of our own being brings suffering, and that suffering is telling us – in very clear terms – all about this departure. Our cultural tendency is to try our best to get rid of this suffering (in whatever way we can) and yet at the same time completely ignore the way in which we have – as a culture – disconnected ourselves from the harmony of our own true nature.

 

The root of this disconnection lies in the way in which we have grossly overvalued the ‘rational purposeful self’ at the expense of all other aspects of our being. We are living life ‘via the thinking mind’ and the thing about this is that the thinking mind is an autocrat – it is in fact the blueprint for all other autocrats, all other tyrants. All the thinking mind can do is ‘judge’ or ‘evaluate’ and then ‘control on the basis of the judgements or evaluations it has made’. It’s a machine – it operates on the basis of its established categories, its established rules. The thinking mind is its categories, is its rules. This is been known for a long time – the alchemists used the motif of the Old King in order to draw attention to the way in which the ruling principle of our lives tends to become malign over time, and work against the good of the whole. The young king is both strong and just – his job is to protect the land over which he has dominion against all enemies. He exists to serve and his power is used therefore in the service of the kingdom over which he rules. The old king however has become rigid, obsessive and controlling in his attitude – he controls for the sake of controlling (just like any human dictator who has grown to love power for its own sake and as a result is stubbornly unwilling to relinquish power no matter what the price of his unwise clinging might be). Joseph Campbell calls this figure ‘the Tyrant Holdfast’ who – Campbell says – is ‘the keeper of the past’; the Tyrant Holdfast keeps merely for the sake of keeping, holds on merely for the sake of holding on, and never for any better reason. In a similar vein, Carlos Castaneda speaks of difference between ‘the guardian and the guard’:

A guardian is broad-minded and understanding. A guard, on the other hand, is a vigilante, narrow-minded and most of the time despotic.

What the ‘tyrant mind’ does when it gets to rule the roost, when it gets to call all the shots, is that it maps everything out in its own particular way and ‘makes rules for anything’. It ‘makes everything part of its own system’ – it subsumes everything within its own domain. It establishes a bureaucracy, it sets up innumerable policies and procedures’. In short, what it does is that it ‘tells us what to do even though we were already going to do it’! This is the curse of the rational-purposeful mind and it only takes a little bit of imagination to see just what a terrible curse this is! The finest, most wonderful things in life become meaningless (if not poisoned) when we do them on purpose, when we do them because we think we ‘have to’. There never was a better way to spoil things than to bring the thinking mind into it – it makes everything we do insincere. It automatically takes over everything itself, but it just isn’t able to do the job. It turns life itself into an onerous duty or task, into ‘something we have to do’. It perversely turns life into something that we are compelled to do, even though life itself is nothing but freedom…

 

 

 

 

 

Art: fullmetal alchemist brotherhood wallpaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naïve Approach To Psychological Therapy

The naïve approach to psychological therapy is to imagine that the therapeutic process is something that we both instigate and orchestrate ourselves – we believe the process to be – to a large extent at least – under our control. This belief has the consequence that if the therapy is unsuccessful then this must be due (to some part at least) to the person undergoing the therapy not trying hard enough, or not trying consistently enough. We might – as therapists – not like to acknowledge the inherent judgement here, but to the extent that we believe the therapeutic process to be purposeful, we must also – on some level – be allocating blame. We are – after all – taking the view that the person engaging in the therapy is responsible for the process themselves. That’s pretty much the whole point of the therapy – we are providing the tools by which change can be effected. We provide the tools (that’s our job) and then we want the person to ‘take responsibility for themselves’ (as it is said) and put these tools into action. We have taken care of our side of the deal after all, so now it’s up to them.…

 

This is where the confusion creeps in – we do indeed have responsibility for ourselves, but not in the way that is being implied here. Our responsibility (using the word carefully here, which is to say, not in any crude moralistic sense) is to be honest with ourselves (i.e. ‘not to lie to ourselves’. And if we do lie to ourselves – which is of course perfectly normal – then we take ownership of this as much as our awareness allows us to. We might well be lying to ourselves it’s true, but that doesn’t mean that we have two validate our lies to the hilt! We don’t necessarily have to invest in propping the lies up. The basic point that we’re making here is that we can’t have the responsibility to change ourselves; we can’t have the responsibility to change ourselves simply because that is not possible. How can we be ‘responsible’ for something that isn’t in any way possible for us to do? That isn’t a ‘responsibility’, that’s a ‘double-bind’! One of the easiest things in the world is for a therapist to double bind his or her client and the chances are very much that no one will ever notice this happening, either the therapist or the one having the therapy. The fact that both parties involved are utterly unaware of the double bind doesn’t make it OK however – obviously that doesn’t make it OK!

 

One of the biggest delusions going is the delusion that – if we try hard enough – we can change the way we are. This is why we are forever condemning our fellow men and women – because we firmly believe that they could change their behaviour if only they wanted to. If they don’t change their behaviour (the behaviour that is annoying us) then it is probably because they don’t want to, or can’t be bothered to. It is remarkably foolish however to think that people could change (as in ‘improve’) themselves if only they wanted to, if only they tried hard enough. We would only have to reflect on the matter for a few moments to see the flaw in this reasoning. Do we really imagine life to be as simple as this? We all have a tendency to act in such a way as to cause both ourselves and others unnecessary suffering – that is the human condition, as we can see merely by taking a look around us – and so is it really just a matter of us ‘copping on’ and giving ourselves (or perhaps someone else) a damn good kick in the pants in order for all of this to change? If this were the case wouldn’t we all have done this centuries ago – millennia ago, even? How do we persist in thinking that an ‘exertion of will’ is all it takes? How do we persist in not seeing how foolish it is to persist in this utterly ridiculous belief?

 

This whole business of ‘purposeful morality’ provide us with a good illustration of the utter futility of trying to change ourselves on purpose. We can keep ourselves in check (for the most part, at least), but only at the price of being constantly at war with ourselves. It’s as if ‘virtue’ means being totally repressive of ourselves, totally controlling of ourselves – the more we keep ourselves down the better a person we are, according to this view. This approach certainly hasn’t worked out for us in terms of public morality – people haven’t improved as far as their moral calibre is concerned as a result of being subjected to two thousand years worth of Christian ethics; if anything we are – in the developed nations of the West – more self-obsessed than we have ever been at any point in human history. It could be argued (and has been argued) that our present unfortunate narcissistic condition is a result of the decline of religion in modern times but this argument doesn’t hold much water. In Ireland (just to give one example) when the Catholic Church had near absolute power in the land and even the government and police deferred to them, great evil thrived under these conditions. History shows that religious folk are often capable of greater cruelty then their not-so-religious compatriots because they feel so justified in their attitude and actions. Overall, it is abundantly clear that ‘trying to be better people on purpose’ not only doesn’t work, but that it is actually counter-productive in terms of the stated goal. Trying to force ourselves to be good (which necessarily means repressing the part of us that isn’t up to scratch) empowers the shadow like nothing else. The shadow loves repression.

 

We can apply the same lesson to therapy – how do we ever imagine that people can – no matter how motivated they might be – change themselves to be a better way on purpose? What a lack of insight this shows! Do the therapists who espouse this approach have experience of changing themselves in this way? We can all change ourselves on the short term of course (always assuming that the incentive is great enough) – a leopard can indeed change its spots, if there is enough money in it! Similarly, if our aim is simply to change our behaviours or attitudes in order to escape or ameliorate the pain we are in without looking any deeper into ourselves we can – by dint of our efforts – effect a type of temporary change, a type of ‘elastic’ change, but nothing about us will have genuinely changed. Superficially perhaps, we can change ourselves – fundamentally, we cannot. We can put on lots of different masks, and convince ourselves that we are the person that the mask shows, but the one thing we can’t do is change the one who was wearing the mask!

 

The problem is that we are a superficial, image-obsessed culture and as such it doesn’t really make much sense to expect of ourselves that we should look more deeply into things when it comes to matters of mental health (or when it comes to any other matters either, come to that). We don’t breed philosophers, we breed businessmen and salesmen. We are very good indeed at selling stuff but not so good at checking to see if what we are selling so cleverly is actually worth a damn! There is absolutely only one thing that can help us when it comes to the restoration of our mental health however and that is not being superficial! What this means for a start is not trying to do ‘therapy’ out of a book or manual but – rather – drawing upon our own personal experience and understanding. ‘Doing it by the book’ is great for some things, but not for therapy. Therapy (if we are to agree that there is such a thing) comes out of a person, not a book or manual or some accepted protocol’. Life simply doesn’t work like this – it demands more of us than mere ‘off the shelf’ generic answers.

 

If we say that therapy is some kind of ‘order’ or ‘logical understanding’ that is imposed on us from the outside, by someone who – in their official capacity – ‘knows better than we do’, then this means that there is no therapy. This isn’t therapy at all, it’s merely brainwashing and brainwashing never improved the mental health of those being brainwashed – although it is undeniably good at changing their behaviour and way of thinking in the short term! If on the other hand we define ‘therapy’ by saying that it is essentially all about the recognition and appreciation of innate processes, processes that are already happening by their own accord, then we can perhaps allow that there is such a thing.

 

The bottom line is that therapeutic change is ‘facilitated by consciousness, not ‘imposed by strategic action’. Consciousness – on the part of the person concerned and those around them – does not ‘cause’ growth any more than the sun ‘causes’ seedlings to sprout and fruit to magically appear on trees. There is no causal relationship, no compulsion, no issuing of ‘instructions’ concerning the best way to grow or develop – the sun simply provides the necessary conditions for growth and other than that it is completely non-interfering. It does not applaud the seedlings when they grow nor does it criticise or question them if they don’t – the sun is fine either way! In the same way, consciousness is simply ‘there’– it has no agenda whatsoever. Consciousness has no agenda whatsoever and this is what makes it so tremendously different from the thinking mind, which cannot ever ‘not have an agenda’!

 

It is precisely this – the lack of any agenda, the lack of any bias – that makes it possible for consciousness to facilitate growth (or ‘therapeutic change’, just as it is precisely the fact that the thinking mind cannot not have an agenda that means that it ought not to be allowed anywhere near a therapeutic process! As soon as we can see this it becomes very clear where we are going wrong in our culture as regards this thing called ‘therapy’, or this thing called ‘mental health’. In our spectacular blindness, we have put thought in charge of everything! We have put thought in charge of therapy as if its brisk, necessarily cold and goal-orientated approach has any place here. As if mental health or well-being were a goal. We have put in place a ‘bureaucracy of thought’ to manage people’s mental health – if we knew how, we would turn mental healthcare into an algorithm to be fed into the health board’s computer network, and turned into an official procedure along with everything else. What we are always doing is ‘building machines to help us manage life’ and whilst this seems to work in some areas (‘seems’ being the operative word) it most certainly doesn’t work when it comes to mental health. Who ever heard of such a thing as ‘a machine to support us in our mental health’?

 

Machines are necessarily injurious to our well-being, to our mental health, when they are allowed to get involved. A ‘machine’ doesn’t have to be made of metal and plastic or cogs and wheels – any form of organisation that is based on rules is a machine. A hospital is a machine, a company or organisation is a machine, society itself as a machine. The designed world that we have created for ourselves is a machine and in order to survive within it ourselves we are obliged to turn ourselves into machines too. We have to ‘compromise ourselves’, in other words, in order that we might live in this world. We have to go against our true nature, as Philip K Dick says.

 

Compromising ourselves by becoming more and more ‘machine-like’ causes mental ill-health; adapting ourselves to society causes mental health, as Foucault says. Machines cause mental ill-health because they don’t give us space to be who we are. Society causes us mental ill-health because it doesn’t give us the space to be who we are. We could perhaps respond by saying, “Well in that case we will programme the machines to give us space to be ourselves” but that won’t work because no programme for that exists, nor could exist. We can’t adapt society to give us to give space to us either by passing the appropriate legislation because that legislation doesn’t exist – there is no formula to for providing space and so this is the one thing a machine can never do. That would be like having a rule that says there must be no rules! Only conscious human beings can be non-judgemental. Only conscious human beings can be non-judgemental, and there is an acute shortage of ‘conscious human beings’. Society doesn’t value them, after all – it has no regard for them whatsoever…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Can’t Be Trapped In Reality

We can’t be trapped in reality because reality contains no limits; we can however be trapped in our idea of reality, our map of reality. This sounds rather ‘new-age’ or idealistic perhaps, but it is also perfectly true. When we say this that doesn’t mean that there are no biological limits in reality because of course they are – I can’t go and live at the bottom of the sea and I can’t wade through a lake of fire wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt, but this isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the ‘fine structure’ of reality, so to speak, not the grosser structures that exist within it. There are no limits built into the fine structure of ‘reality’ (or ‘space’) – limits are only to be found in the grosser structures, not in the actual ‘essence’ of things.

 

Even to try to explain it like this is going wrong however because ‘structure’ is always built on limitations. That’s what structure is – it’s a system of limits, a system of rules. So instead of saying that ‘the fine structure of reality’ has no limits built into it we should just say that intrinsic space has no limits on it; if it did then it would hardly be worthy of being called ‘space’, after all! If space came with certain inbuilt limitations than obviously there wouldn’t be any ‘space’ in it – there would only be compartments, and compartments can only accommodate what they were designed to accommodate.

 

This gives us a good way of looking at the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic space – intrinsic space is space that hasn’t been designed, hasn’t been created, and which holds no purpose. Extrinsic space, on the other hand, is space that has been designed, has been created, and which does have some sort of ‘inbuilt’ purpose. Extrinsic space is another way of talking about games, in other words. In the general run of things it pretty much goes without saying that we don’t distinguish between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ space – this isn’t really a type of differentiation that occurs to us. But we if we could see the difference then this would save us from an awful lot of confusion. Because we don’t appreciate that there is this ‘finer’ or ‘subtler’ to reality – which exists beneath the surface of structure, so to speak – we naturally imagine ourselves to have our existence solely on the structural level. We implicitly see ourselves to be structures, in other words. We implicitly see ourselves to be ‘things existing in a world of things’, as Colin Wilson put puts it.

 

When we understand ourselves to have our essential existence on the level of extrinsic space, without understanding what extrinsic space is or that it is there at all, then this is a very different kettle of fish from simply and problematically ‘being’, in an unconditional way, which is the actual un-manipulated situation. This is a whole different ballgame, therefore. What we are doing when we are immersed in extrinsic space is to be pretending to be something without knowing that this is what we’re doing. We are ‘playing a game’ but there’s nothing playful about this game – on the contrary, it is deadly serious. Existence on the level of extrinsic space has an immensely immersive quality to it – it gets to be as immersive as it is because we have now have zero capacity to understand that they could be such a thing as ‘intrinsic space’ (which is also the same thing as freedom). Understanding ourselves purely on a structural level precludes any awareness of intrinsic space, just as it precludes any awareness of what freedom actually means…

 

The only type of freedom we are interested in is extrinsic freedom, which can be defined by saying that it is ‘the freedom to believe that we are the structure’, along with the freedom to operate as the structure, in the way that this structure needs to operate. Extrinsic freedom is the freedom that is built into the game; it translates into ‘the freedom to play the game’ therefore. In order for this surrogate form of freedom to work we have to believe that we truly are the structure which is the self-concept; furthermore, in order for us to continue to believe that we are this structure we have to be able to operate as that structure. Take away our extrinsic freedom, in other words then we would no longer be able to sustain our unreflective belief that ‘this is who we are’. For the conditioned self then, a good supply of extrinsic freedom is absolutely essential; for the conditioned self running out of EF is like running out of oxygen.

 

‘Extrinsic freedom’ might sound like a fancy sort of thing but it isn’t – it’s a very readily understandable concept indeed – it simply means ‘the freedom to obtain our goals’. If we were totally unable to obtain any of our goals, for an indefinite period of time, then – to the conventional way of thinking about things – this is to be regarded as a very dire situation indeed. There is none worse, in fact. We are therefore exhorted ‘not to give up hope’, and ‘keep on trying,’ and so on and so forth. The whole dreadful rigmarole of ‘positive thinking’ comes into play here – positive thinking is all about hanging onto the illusion of our extrinsic freedom for as long as we possibly can. This is just another way of saying that positive thinking is all about staying identified with the conditioned identity (which is our idea of ourselves) for as long as possible. Extrinsic freedom can equally well be seen as ‘the freedom to make meaningful choices’ and our mental health is generally seen as being synonymous with the freedom that we have to make choices. CBT for example, in its traditional form, is all about our so-called ‘freedom’ to make helpful or advantageous choices – we are given to understand that, with regard to our mental state – no matter what the situation we might find ourselves in – we can always make helpful choices. The unspoken implication here is of course that if were to happen that we weren’t able to make any choices then this would be the most undesirable situation imaginable. This would be – the implication is – a very grim scenario indeed. If you were to talk to anyone in the world of mental health care they will almost certainly equate ‘mental well-being’ with ‘the capacity to make choices’; how – we might ask – because anyone possibly argue against this when it sounds so very obviously true?

 

And yet what is ‘obvious’ is not generally true – these two terms don’t actually belong together! The truth, by its very nature, is not going to be obvious – the truth is always unstated, not stated! When we make choices then we are using the thinking mind; we are using the thinking mind because that’s where our ‘choices’ come from. To think is to choose and to choose is to think. ‘The freedom to make choices’ is therefore the same thing as ‘the freedom to think’ but the thinking isn’t actually freedom! When we think we allow our awareness to run down well-worn tracks; when we think we allow our consciousness to be robotized. If I am to have the ‘freedom’ to make rational choices about my situation then what this means is that I must NOT have the freedom to see that my so-called choices don’t involve any free will. How could they when they are completely determined by the mechanical system which is thought? This is what James Carse calls ‘self-veiling‘ – if I am to play a game then I must not know that this is what I am doing; I have to veil from myself the freedom that I have not to play or the game won’t work. ‘The freedom to choose’ is therefore another way of talking about negative freedom; it is ‘the freedom not to be free’, or ‘the freedom to be unfree and yet not know it’.

 

Once we ‘see beyond the obvious’ then it is clear that by equating mental health with ‘the freedom to make meaningful choices’ (choices that are meaningful to us, anyway) we are inverting the natural order of things, so to speak. We are inverting the natural order of things because – in ‘the natural order of things’ – our greatest good must be synonymous with our freedom, whereas the inverted scheme of things asserts that our ‘greatest good’ is synonymous with ‘the integrity of the game that we are playing without knowing that we’re playing it’. We must protect the integrity of the game no matter what because this is the means by which we get to be unfree without knowing that we are. What could be clearer example of inversion than this? What kind of a crazy thing is this to assert – that our happiness and well-being is somehow to be found within the narrow confines of our meaningless games? How do we get away with saying that ‘mental health’ is when we identify so much with the thinking mind that we actually lose touch with reality? To use the thinking mind is one thing, but to identify with it is to identify with a fiction since the thinking mind deals only in abstract conventions. To identify completely with the TM is to lose oneself in a game that we cannot see to be such.

 

Mental health – when we look at it in a ‘non-inverted’ way – can be seen as the freedom not to have to buy in to any of the thinking mind’s so-called ‘choices’. This is a negative definition, not a positive one. Our ‘greatest good’ lies not in any of thought’s constructs, not in the fulfilment of any of its plans, but in the removal of that ‘double restriction’ – [1] the restriction (or imprisonment) within the world that thought has created for us, and [2] The restriction which prevents us from being able to see that this so-called ‘world’ isn’t actually the world at all but an artificial construct. This brings us back to our ‘starting-off’ statement with regard to the impossibility of being trapped in reality:  we can’t be trapped in reality because reality is made up entirely of freedom! It’s overflowing with freedom. We CAN be trapped in the thought-created world, the game however, because the thought-created world is made up of nothing but limits, nothing but rules. The TCW disguises its own stark lack of intrinsic freedom by providing us with a whole heap of extrinsic freedom – as much of it as we want! Extrinsic freedom hoodwinks us into believing that we already are free when we’re not. It does this in a very cunning fashion – it camouflages the lack of intrinsic freedom by saying (or implying) that we will be free if we obey the rules correctly. This is what extrinsic freedom IS – it’s the freedom that supposedly exists ‘outside of ourselves’, it’s the freedom that is obtainable ‘via obeying rules’ – the only drawback here being that this freedom doesn’t actually exist. It’s slavery in disguise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only Space Can Help Us

We can’t see anything unless we can see that thought operates within a realm within which there is no space, and that space is something that is driven out of our lives by our constant rationalizing and constant purposefulness. We can’t therefore see anything unless we can see that space is driven out of our lives by the constant advantage-seeking activity of the self-concept, and this is the one thing we never do see. The other side of this rather bleak-sounding observation is that any bit of space at all between us and the self-concept is going to be hugely beneficial to us. Any bit of space at all is going to break the strangle-hold that the tyranny of thought has over us – it will still be there, in all its strength, but we will now have another way of looking at things. Its way of seeing things won’t be the only way.

 

The problem is however that we don’t want to have any space between us and the self-concept. That’s not something we see as being a good thing! The whole point of the game that we are playing – without realising that we are playing it – is to identify with the Mind-Created Sense Of Self as much as we can and we do this by constantly manoeuvring, constantly scheming, constantly acting so as to obtain some kind of benefit or advantage for ourselves (which is to say, for the ‘self-concept’). This is all the MCSOS can ever do – it has no other mode of operation or orientation available to it and so when we are ‘passively identified’ with the concrete, mind-created self that’s all we can do as well. We’re ‘locked into it’ – we’re locked into a state of narcissistic self-absorption and the ‘self’ that we are so immersively absorbed with is an alien introject, a ‘foreign installation’, as Carlos Castaneda puts it. We do not therefore ever want to open up a space between us and the MCSOS – there doesn’t seem to be any concrete benefit in this for us! Certainly there is no benefit for the concrete self, which can only ever be demoted by the presence of space. We automatically want to do everything we can to affirm and validate the defined identity which is the Mind-Create Sense of Self, not reduce its Prima donna centrality on the stage of life. We don’t want to sideline our idea of ourselves by bringing perspective to ‘the game we are playing without knowing that we are playing it’.

 

Having said this, is also of course true that humanity has always made apparent moments in this direction. We are all naturally appalled by the spectacle of out-and-out self-obsession (unless we too caught up in it to see it ourselves) and so we generally make a deliberate effort not to be so brutally selfish. This is called ‘morality’ or ‘polite behaviour’ or ‘common decency’. All the great religions exhort us to see beyond the demands of the self and push ourselves to find generosity of spirit, to ‘give’ instead of ‘take’ all the time. There’s a glitch in deliberate morality though and the glitch is that we doing all of this for the sake of the self, in order to improve it or redeem it, in order to make the culprit more acceptable to our fellow man (or to God, if we happen to be religiously orientated). So we’re still trying to benefit ourselves; the self-concept – as we have just said – can’t do anything else other than constantly trying to seek the advantage. It’s no good expecting the self-concept to do anything different because it can’t. A leopard can’t change its spots, as it is said. As crude as it might seem, and it is crude, the basic gist of conventional or exoteric religion is that it is sold to us on the promise that it can guarantee us immortality in the afterlife – immortality in heaven rather than in hell, to be more specific! And what could play on the self-concept’s inbuilt mechanism for ‘seeking the advantage’ more than this? We are being presented with the ultimate advantage on one hand, and the ultimate disadvantage on the other. This is how it is seen from the viewpoint of the self-concept anyway: the thing that the self-concept likes best of all is the thought of ‘eternal validation’, whilst its ultimate nightmare is without question an existence made up of never-ending devalidation.

 

Conventional religion actually reinforces the illusion of self-concept, therefore. The whole point of our earthly existence becomes to secure a place in heaven and the twist here is that what we are seeking, without knowing it, is immortality for the Mind-Created Sense of Self. Since it is our unquestioning belief in the MCSOS that is responsible for all neurotic suffering (and all our psychotic suffering too, for that matter) this is not really going to do us any good! Our idea of the ‘optimum situation’ is that the self-concept will be ‘glorified by association’ at the right hand of God – what greater could there possibly be something doesn’t even exist in the first place? We are therefore preserving the source of our misery rather than seeing it for what it is and renouncing our automatic allegiance to it; if we could do this in the course of our lives then this would be genuinely helpful. This would be infinitely more helpful than the farce of purposeful morality. To spend our entire life obeying the rules of some dogmatic, one-size-fits-all system in the desperate hope that our (false) idea of ourselves will be somehow saved as a result couldn’t possibly be less helpful on the other hand. We couldn’t improve on this as a way of effectively denying (and ultimately betraying) our true nature if we tried.

 

It could be argued of course that is not our ego, our rational concept of ourselves, that is to be saved but our soul, which is naturally a lot less tangible (and less obnoxious) that the everyday ego. But when we fear the devil and the state of eternal damnation that awaits us if we fail the test of righteousness it is not our soul that is full of fear but the mundane rational ego that supposedly guides it. We don’t know ourselves as ‘souls’ (which is mere dry metaphysics as far as most of us are concerned), we know ourselves as we rationally understand ourselves to be. Furthermore, exoteric religion, as we have been saying, does not create a climate within which we feel encouraged and supported in looking beyond ‘the ideas of things,’ or beyond ‘the stated official version of things’ – that would inevitably lead to heresy after all; this would lead inevitably to heresy since we would then be then moving beyond the strict dogmatic understanding of the world that our religion has given us. Dogmatic religion (needless to say!) values the obeying of rules not the questioning of them, and ‘unreflectively obeying the rules’ is exactly the process that ends up in the creation of the concrete, mind-created self. It is fear that creates the mind created self in other words, and fear is what lies behind all dogmatic religions, no matter what proponents of these religions might say to the contrary. Dogma is always the denial of fear. Fear is always ‘the instrument of control’ – what greater fear can there be after all than the fear of spending all eternity in the inexpressibly tortuous state of damnation?

 

What could be ‘healthier’ (‘healthier’ meaning ‘leading to Wholeness or Haleness’) would be if we could learn to ‘die before we die’ as Sufis say; to deny the existence of death by the dodge of believing in the immortality of the soul (or rather the person, which as we how we interpret this in practical terms since – as we have just said – no one relates to themselves as immaterial souls) is the exact opposite of what Shams Tabrizi says in the following quote –

It is never late to ask yourself “Am I ready to change my life, am I ready to change myself?” However old we are, whatever we went through, it is always possible to reborn. If each day is a copy of the last one, what a pity! Every breath is a chance to reborn. But to reborn into a new life, you have to die before dying.

When we live ‘according to the rules’ (as is required by any dogmatic belief structure, religious or otherwise) then our life cannot be anything else other than ‘each day being a copy of the one that proceeded it’; this is how we obey the rules, after all – by repeating the same thing over and over again. To not do this is to break the rules. The idea of ‘each day being nothing more than the copy of the one that proceeded it’ provides us with a very good way of understanding what the mind created sense of self’ actually is – when we strip it whatever glamour might possess – the MCSOS is that state of being where every day is a copy of the other. It’s where we do the same thing today that we did yesterday (think the same thoughts that we thought yesterday) and create an identity out of this.

 

The identity is the duplication or copying, in other words, and the astonishing thing here is that it doesn’t in the lease bit matter what is being duplicated or copied – content isn’t what this is about (although this is of course claimed to be the case). The ‘identity’ doesn’t come out of the pattern that is being repeated but from the simple fact that it is being repeated, and this makes a nonsense of the way in which we understand the term ‘identity’ therefore. It’s not the particularities of our so-called identity that matter but that we should have that basic repetition, whatever it is that’s being repeated. To put this in the simplest terms, the whole thing is a sham. Not only is the MCSOS a sham, it’s a sham that is a perverse inversion (or parody) of our true nature, which is not an endless repetition of the same thing, but fluid or ungrounded change, change denies nothing. ‘Fluid change’ – change that doesn’t, out of fear, hang onto any vestige (imaginary or otherwise) of the past – is where every day genuinely is new, and is not a tweaked rehash of the old. There is nothing more marvellous than a new day dawning that truly is ‘a new day’, and by the same token there’s nothing more wretched than a new day which is actually not a new day at all but only a repeat of yesterday. There’s no reason for repeating yesterday indefinitely other than fear (the fear of letting go of the known), and it is this fear that drives the conditioned-self in everything it does and thinks.

 

When fear drives us into the place that it always does drive us into then there is only one thing that is helpful and that is to find a way of cultivating a bit of space in our lives – space between us and our thoughts about the world, space between us and our ideas of ourselves. Only space can help us, nothing that thought has made can do. None of thought’s tricks and tools are of any service here! The lack of space is what has made life so unlivable, for us, so unrewarding and gruelling for us, and space cannot be manufactured by the thinking mind; the one thing we genuinely need (rather than being told that we need) can’t be the result of the rational process, highly developed though it might be, and so we are thrown back on ourselves. Our society can’t help us; it can’t help us because it implicitly denies that there is anything such thing space; our society deals only with the known, acknowledges only the known, values only the known, and this is its curse -this why we are really and truly ‘thrown back on ourselves’. It’s only that bit of us that hasn’t been ‘put there’ by society that helps now; the part of us that was put there by society is now our enemy. It’s the ‘enemy within’ – it’s the inner critic, the inner judge, the inner saboteur, the inner controller…

 

Two things are needed to free us from the tyranny of thought therefore, not just the one. Cultivating space in our lives (rather than filling them up with our cleverness, and what we have made with our cleverness) is one thing, but learning to see the inner controller – and realize what it is (an enemy rather than a friend, a tyrant rather than the benevolence protector) is the other thing, and what a difficult thing this is! To doubt the system that we have always relied on to run our lives for us when this system has always been the force that functions by causing us to doubt ourselves is no small thing – it seems like a miracle that this should ever happen at all! From time to time, we will start to suspect that something is amiss, and we will start to that the authority that runs our world for us really is ‘on our side’, this is only natural, but what happens then is that we become alienated from our own insight, alienated from our own wisdom in this regard. Because our insight is telling us something that that ruling authority of the thinking mind doesn’t want to hear (or rather can’t allow itself to hear) this mind paints insight and wisdom as being ‘the enemy’ and we turn against ourselves as a result. We are very effectively turned against our own true nature and – bereft of this source of wisdom, bereft of the what the ancient Gnostic Christians called the Luminous Epinoia – we are left with no choice other than to believe what the ‘Tyrant Machine’ of the thinking mind tells us…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tyranny Of Thought

When we relate to the world primarily via our thinking then this puts us in a very awkward and painful position – the odd thing however being that we’re not generally aware of this pain, aware of this awkwardness. The reason for the pain inherent in our position when we are relating to things solely by our thinking is that it’s not actually the world that we are relating to but our ‘mental map’ which we superimpose – without realising it – onto the world. Thought, and our mental map of the world, are one and the same thing and this creates what we might call ‘a fundamental lack of perspective’ It is this fundamental lack of perspective that is putting us in the awkward position that we are in. There is of course no actual space between thought and thought’s projections, and this lack of space has far-reaching consequences. ‘Space’ being, we might say, that part of the world that thought is unable to recognise and classify, and therefore unable to make a copy of and ‘turn it into itself’.

 

Lack of space, or lack of perspective, means lack of freedom with regard to our ability to interpret what the thinking mind is telling us. We’re essentially ‘stuck to our descriptions’; we are ‘literally bound’ to them, so to speak. What we are told to be true is what we understand to be true, these are not two different things but the same one since both ‘the conditioned self’ and ‘the conceptually-mediated world that the conditioned self believes in’ are governed by thought. ‘Thought is relating to thought’ and that’s why we can say that there is no perspective here. Something else is needed for us to have perspective – something that we very rarely have access to! The thinking mind however doesn’t see the need for there to be ‘anything else other than itself’ and that’s why we don’t see that there is anything amiss when we’re operating solely on the basis of thought. Thought can’t see ‘the problem in itself’, so to speak. Not only does it automatically take it that there is no need for anything other than itself, but it also automatically assumes that anything not fitting into its logical scheme of things must be some type of error. It’s not just that thought doesn’t trust anything apart from itself therefore but rather that it sees everything else is an enemy to be eliminated. It is in the nature of thought is to be ‘fundamentally aggressive’, or ‘fundamentally violent‘, in other words.

 

The ‘elimination of everything apart from thought’ creates insoluble problems however,  as we started off by saying. What we’re really talking about when we say that ‘thought has an automatic tendency to eliminate everything that is not itself’ is of course hyperreality – thought actively gets rid of anything that isn’t part of its own account of reality, part of its ongoing description or classification of reality and so we end up with a situation where everything has been turned into ‘a book of accounts’, or ‘system of descriptions/classifications’. The taxonomy of the world is identical to the world. We then – via the agency of thought – relate to this ‘world that is made of the descriptions’ and ignore everything else, which puts us in a very impoverished situation. We end up living in an impoverished version of reality that we cannot recognise as such because the system of thought can’t recognise anything other than itself – because it simply doesn’t have the capacity to recognise anything else other than itself. We are in that very curious situation where we are stuck to our own descriptions, stuck to our own thoughts, even though there isn’t actually anything substantial in them. Thoughts are all we’re allowed and yet here’s no actual ‘flavour’ (or ‘nutrition’, for that matter) in them.

 

This is no small problem therefore but we ‘get around it’ so to speak, by passing on from one thought to another, one mental construct to another, quite rapidly, so that we never get to be aware of the essential hollowness (or ‘aridity’) of thought. This is just like watching a bad film (a film that’s pretty much the same as a thousand others that we might have seen) but not noticing how bad it is because we are allowing ourselves to be distracted by the action or drama that’s going on. We go from one spectacular car chase to another, one intense drama to another. Or we could say that life in the thought-created world is like being stuck to our social media feed – we get presented with one item after another in quick succession and each item has some kind of fascination associated with it to draw us in and make us look at it. Our ‘thought feed’ keeps on presenting us with click bait’, and we just keep on clicking. We’re ‘clicking’ all day long!

 

Part of the illusion – the core part, we might say – is that we feel ourselves to be ‘in charge’, we feel that we are controlling what is going on, that we are choosing those items which are of interest to us and rejecting the others. This is a kind of ‘empowering’ illusion therefore – we are ‘empowered’ to feel that we have actual agency in the situation and this feeling is crucial for the whole delusional system to work, to remain viable. The truth of the matter is that we don’t ‘choose’ thoughts however – we’re powerless not to click them! We can’t choose not to think a particular thought, after all – it’s stuck to us straight away. The apparent act of ‘volition’ whereby we ‘choose to think a thought’ is a perception that thought itself generates in order to ‘suck us in’, as David Bohm points out. The euphoria of feeling that ‘this is what I want to do’ comes about when we identify with the false or mind-created sense of self so of course it’s not really ‘what we want to do’, it’s what the mind-created self wants us to do (which is just another way of saying that it’s what ‘the thinking mind wants us to do’. We are being controlled by our thoughts in other words and this is hardly surprising since thoughts are pretty much all we are – our thoughts are the only thing that we take seriously, anyway. There is more to us than thought but we just don’t give it any credence.

 

Even if we didn’t want to think a particular thought we don’t really have any choice when it comes down to it. We have to think some thought or other or else we would have nothing to relate to – the thought-created world is the only world we know, after all. Thought has stolen the show. If we didn’t one think one thought then we’d think another; we have to be thinking something, we can’t just ‘think nothing’! The bigger picture is that we don’t have any freedom, therefore. We are compelled to engage in thought; it’s not something we have any alternative to. Thought is the whole world to us so where else are we going to go? Even when it comes to thinking specific thoughts we don’t have any choice in the matter – a thought comes along and we think it, generally speaking. That’s how things work, for the most part. When we try not to think a particular thought then we think it more, not less! Saying ‘NO’ to a thought simply gives energy to it and so we get even more stuck to the thought that we were before. The only (apparent) option we have open to us is the drastic option of repressing the thought, of burying it down deep, but this just gives to thought more energy than ever – vastly more energy than ever, in fact. We are creating a time-bomb. When it comes down to it, we actually don’t have any options therefore; we only have ‘the illusion of options’ so we have to live off these illusions. We have to dine on them as if they were genuine food…

 

All of our neurotic pain comes from the profound lack of perspective that over-valued thought engenders in us; all of our neurotic pain comes from being totally controlled by thought, which is of course a very obvious statement once we make it! If we had a bit of perspective then we wouldn’t take our thoughts quite so seriously and if we stopped taking our thoughts quite so seriously then we would no longer be feeding them so much. If there was just a little bit of space (‘space’ meaning ‘that which is not thought’, or ‘that which is not produced by thought’) between our mind-created image of ourselves and the picture of reality that thought shows us then we wouldn’t be stuck so fast to this picture. The reason hyperreality has the type of ‘absolute magnetic power’ over us that it does have is precisely because there is no gap, no discontinuity, between our mind-created view-point and the conditioned reality that we are relating to. The lack of space is what gives the System of Thought its power over us; the lack of space is what makes us stick fast to our descriptions of reality as if we’re glued there. The ‘lack of space’ is really just is a ‘lack of freedom’ therefore, as we have already said. We can’t question anything without perspective and so if we can’t question the world that is made up of our descriptions of it then our descriptions have total control over us. As David Bohm says, we don’t control thought; thought controls us whilst giving us the (false) information that we are controlling it.

 

There is another, deeper aspect to this business of ‘being controlled by thought’, therefore. If we can’t question our descriptions then of course these descriptions become ‘real’ to us; the lack of perspective causes the Mind-Created Virtual Reality to spring into (virtual) existence, and as soon as it springs into existence it subjugates us, it establishes a tyranny over us. Lack of perspective causes MCVR to come into existence and believing in the MCVR is what causes us to lose all our perspective, and so it’s a closed loop that we’re caught up in. This is the ‘loop of hyperreality’ that survives by feeding upon itself! It’s not just that we are held prisoner by the thought-created world though – the subjugation is more complete than that. As we said earlier, though provides us with the illusion that we are in control and when we buy into this illusion then we identify with the ‘Mind-Created Sense Of Self’. We buy into it (or we are very likely to buy into it) because of the pleasure or euphoria that comes about when we allow ourselves to believe that we are ‘in control’. This ‘believing that we are in control’ (or that we have at least the possibility of being in control) gives us a tremendous sense of existential security and this sense of existential security is hugely euphoric. It has a magnetic pull that we just can’t resist and the power of this magnetic pull comes from the (false) perception that it is us who wants to do what the external mechanical force is compelling us to do. The euphoria of experiencing a sense of existential security is as euphoric as it is because it is the denial of our deepest fear, which is the fear of ‘not being in control’.

 

Imagining that we are in control is the much the same thing as imagining that we can repress or bury a thought that we are very afraid of. It feels good to be able to do this and that good feeling ‘pulls us in’; the euphoria is only ever obtained at the price of incurring its opposite at some future point in time however – the whole thing is just an exercise in ‘self-cancelling activity’, therefore. Self-cancelling activity is very attractive (enough not to say totally addictive) because it causes us to feel so good in the first phase; having bitten at the bait however then we can’t help moving into Phase-2, which is wholly repugnant, wholly repellent to us and so from this point on we have no way out of the positive/negative cycle – we have ‘no way out’ because we can’t question the negative any more than we can question the positive. We didn’t want to ‘question the positive’ anyway – we were enjoying identifying the MCSOS at that point. We were enjoying Phase-1, which is the euphoric phase, and so now we have to suffer the dysphoric phase of the cycle, which is Phase-2.

 

Everything about the mind-created world is suffering, therefore. It is suffering through and through and there is no relief in it anywhere. The only ‘relief’ available is the apparent relief that comes from ‘buying into the illusion’ and that short-lived relief comes at the price of feeding the System of Thought and therefore reinforcing the false reality of the ‘mind-created world’, and thereby enabling it to have even more power over us than it did before. In the absence of any other type of relief to be had then of course we are going to go for this apparent relief; we are going to lunge for it in the manner of a drowning man clutching at a straw. We don’t have the capacity to see it for what it is, anyway; we don’t have the power question it. We don’t have ‘the power to question’ anymore because we’ve given it away…

 

 

 

 

Art: Resident Evil-2 from – gamerevolution.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge of Becoming Real (Part 2)

The social world which we inhabit makes only one requirement of us and that is that we adapt ourselves to it. The only real rule of the system is that we should fit in, in other words. It is the perception that we aren’t fitting in, or that we don’t know how to fit in, that lies behind social anxiety. Social anxiety is a peculiar thing inasmuch as we don’t really ‘get it’ unless we ourselves suffer from it, which is to say, we don’t really understand how important it is that we should fit into society until we can’t! If we were to think about it a bit more deeply, we knew we would see that nothing else would matter the social world other than itself ever – the social world is a equilibrium-system and an equilibrium system – by definition – doesn’t care about anything other than its own standards. ‘Its own standards’ constitute the equilibrium that it is always trying to accord with – the social system is always ‘agreeing with itself’, so to speak. It doesn’t know how to do anything else.

 

If we adapt ourselves to the social world then ‘that’s all that matters’ therefore; that’s all we need to do. We can rest content with this achievement (according to the social system at least). This is where the problem lies however – we believe the social system when it says that ‘everything is okay’, when it says that ‘we are okay’, but the social system, like any equilibrium system, is only right because it sets it is. It’s not right for any other reason, it’s not right because of any reasons that might exist outside of itself, it’s only right because it has agreed with itself that it is! The social world is in equilibrium-based system, as we keep saying, and equilibrium systems orientate themselves around their assumed equilibria values (i.e. they are normative in nature) and so they are as a consequence completely insensitive to anything else. Anything else is branded as error – it is branded as error because he doesn’t agree with the assumed values and if we can understand this basic principle then we can understand all that we need to know about the social world.

 

To understand that society is an E-system and to understand ‘what E-systems are’ is important because then we can understand why adapting to the social world can never be any kind of ‘final end’. Never mind a ‘final end’, it’s not even taking us in the right direction! We are all very naïve this way – we’re stupendously naïve, in fact. We think that when society tells us that we doing well (i.e. when our peers or people in positions of authority tell us that we doing well) then this actually means something. We think that we can pat ourselves on our back then; absurdly, we allow ourselves to feel that we have in some way tackled life’s great existential challenge, and have, moreover, come out of the test covered in glory. We can see this happening all around us – everywhere we look we can see that those of us who have in some way successfully adapted themselves to society up are allowing themselves to believe that jumping through whatever hoops we have to jump through is the same thing as ‘rising to life’s challenge’. This is absurd of course because if life were to challenge us then we would fall to pieces immediately. We’re not prepared for a real challenge. This is because society is no more than a game, no more than ‘an exercise in make-believe’, and those of us who’ve done well in it have simply demonstrated ‘our prowess in pretending’.

 

We can’t of course just turn our backs on the social world – in practical terms, there just isn’t really else to go! We can’t head off to live in the desert or in the wilderness or the mountains because the deserts or the wilderness or the mountain can’t support us all – humanity has become far too numerous for that to be an option any more. What we can do however is take part in society without at the same time complacently allowing ourselves to believe that achieving social adaptation is the same thing as ‘rising to life’s existential challenge’! It’s not that we shouldn’t have to perform our socialised roles and tasks, therefore (although perhaps sometimes we shouldn’t) but rather that we shouldn’t take them seriously as society wants us to. It is a crucial part of the game that we should be ‘taking it seriously’ of course – a game isn’t a game unless we take it seriously – and so what we are actually saying here is if it were the case that we had any genuine interest in own well-being, our own mental health, then we would give up the social game as a bad deal. It would no longer be the main thing in life (if not the only thing). No good whenever come out of putting all our money on the social game, after all. It can’t – after all – supply us with the one thing that we need, which is ‘who we truly are’. It can supply us with all sorts of things but not this; that, we have to work out for ourselves!

 

It sounds (perhaps) sarcastic to express things in this way; it sounds sarcastic to say ‘if it were the case that we had any genuine interest in our own well-being’ but it’s not meant in that way. It’s important to acknowledge that it is extraordinarily hard to see through the hoax that has been perpetrated on us by society (which is to say, ‘by ourselves’). The hoax is that our well-being is the same thing as the well-being of the social fiction which is the mind-created sense of self (or ‘I-concept’, as Wei Wu Wei puts it). So it’s not that we don’t have any interest in our mental health, but rather that we have been tricked into lavishing all of our caring or all our attention in the wrong direction, onto the image of ourselves rather than what lies behind this image (which is something we can never ‘lay our hands on’). It’s intangible. The image of ourselves, the idea of ourselves, is – on the other hand – nothing if not obvious and we are stuck to this ‘obviousness’ as if with glue. The more obvious it is the more we are stuck to it!

 

‘Obvious’ doesn’t mean true, though! ‘Obvious’ is never true, ‘obvious’ comes about because of the way in which we have cut corners and tied up all the loose ends – there are no loose ends in an obvious statement of fact, but – at the same time – reality itself is nothing else but loose ends! Reality is never neat and tidy, and it never comes in nicely-tied parcels. Reality never comes in parcels and yet the thinking mind is the Master Wrapper of parcels – it never produces anything that isn’t all wrapped up and tied with a bow, so what this means is that the thinking mind never produces anything true. Its statements are conclusive and definitive and that immediately abstracts them out of the real world and into another realm entirely – the realm of formal descriptions. The products of thought have a very peculiar quality therefore – the quality of unreality. This unreal quality however is invisible to us; it’s actually reality that seems things peculiar to us, on the odd occasions when we catch might catch a glimpse of it. We don’t know what it is, we don’t recognise it – all we know is that it doesn’t fit into our plan of things, all we know is that we don’t want to let it ‘rock the boat’.

 

When we orientate ourselves around the productions of thought therefore (when we try to make everything, including ourselves, fit into thought’s neat and tidy scheme of things) then we put ourselves into an inimical position. Thought’s scheme of things is not hospitable to us. This doesn’t mean that we won’t – from time to time – experience pleasurable excitement; we will experience pleasure or euphoria when we believe ourselves to have ‘got things right’ by thought’s standards and we will experience excitement (of the positive variety) when we believe that we are going to get things right, and it seems to us that nothing can stop us obtaining the goal. We will also of course – by the same token – experience anxiety when we feel that we aren’t going to be able to live up to ‘thought’s standards’, just as we will experience despair or dysphoria when we perceive ourselves to have failed by the thinking mind’s rigid guidelines. But none of this is any real substitute for life – the world that is created by thought is not a genuinely hospitable one, as we keep saying. The thought-created world does not accommodate us – it’s like wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit us, a shoe that pinches.

 

The world that has been created by thought does not accommodate us – on the contrary, we are obliged to accommodate ourselves to it. This is what we started off by saying (albeit in slightly different way) – the social world has only one real requirement that it makes of us and that is that we adapt ourselves to it. Having gone into this question a little bit more we can now see that this is not such a small thing to ask after all. Society presents us with the necessity to ‘fit in’ as if this were the most natural thing in the world but there is nothing natural about it; as we have said, we are being required to accommodate ourselves to a system where the ‘accommodation’ is only happening one way. It’s all happening ‘at our expense’, in other words. And yet it’s not just that the social system is trying to make an argument as why we should try to fit into it – there’s no ‘reasoned argument’ about it; this is just brute force – we are simply told that ‘this is what we should do’. We aren’t given the means of questioning this arbitrary imperative; we aren’t allowed the possibility of seeing that there could be any other possibility (other than doing what we have been let to believe is the only possible thing for us to do). Our consciousness is controlled, in other words.

 

We have actually been given an impossible task; we have been presented with an impossible job and we have also been put in a position where we aren’t able to see that we don’t really need to engage ourselves in this task at all. The element of freedom (which always did exist and will always continue to exist) has been very effectively concealed – we never even suspect that this freedom is an actual thing. As far as we’re concerned intrinsic freedom as an alien concept; something that is simply beyond our ability to understand or imagine; it’s something there is no point in trying to talk about, in other words. The impossible task that we have been saddled with this is the task of adapting ourselves to an abstract realm, a realm within which there simply isn’t any space for things to be any other way than the way we are told that they should be. The rules are everything. And the rub is that ‘the way we are told things should be’ isn’t actually a ‘way’ at all. It isn’t a ‘way’ because the world that is made up of our formal, rule-based description isn’t actually a world – it’s a fantasy, not a world. We are being compelled to adapt to ‘a world that is made up of compartments’ when in reality there are no such thing as ‘compartments’.

 

We are actually being shoehorned into categories or compartments the whole time, on a continuous basis. This process is inevitable given that the social system can only recognise its own categories – it can’t recognise anything else, it can’t acknowledge anything else. Anything that is not recognisable as a known category is seen as being odd – by definition it is odd! The problem with this is that who we are in our essence can’t be fit into any established category; we can only be socially accepted when we aren’t ourselves therefore! There is no ‘winning’ if we can’t be who we really are, so what are we struggling and competing for? As we have said, it’s not even that we have any awareness of this being a choice either – we perceive ‘the need to fit into the prescribed categories’ as simply being ‘the way of things’. We don’t therefore understand the deterministic process in which we that we are involved in this way – we don’t see ourselves as trying to fit in to the prescribed categories, we just experience ourselves as ‘trying to be the right way rather than the wrong way’. We’re just trying to do the best that we can.

 

It is quite beyond any doubt that society operates by putting pressure on us to become congruent with the socially-prescribed images of what are we are supposed to be. Only a fool would try to deny this! This is how it always works in an equilibrium-seeking system – everything is determined from the outside. There are certain ideas regarding ‘how things are supposed to be’ and there is also some kind of ‘mechanical force’ that acts on us so as to cause us to try conform to these ideas. This mechanical force is so unquestioned that it actually becomes – in practical terms – the very same thing as our own motivation; it becomes our mind. The mind (which is synonymous with ‘the mind-created sense-of self’) and the social environment within which it operates are ‘nested equilibrium-seeking systems’, therefore. They are the same system, each mirroring the other. In psychological terms, what this means is that the mechanical force which we have adapted to has become our own will, and our own will (naturally enough) never gets questioned.

 

When we understand the social world (and ourselves as we are when we are 100% adapted to it) in thermodynamic terms, as we have just done, then our situation can be seen very clearly. The type of motivation that we are running on (i.e. extrinsic motivation) is the mechanical drive to accord with the equilibrium values (or ‘what is normal’) no matter what. Our ‘sense-of self’ is an equilibrium value that we are forever trying to accord with, just as society is. Trying to accord with our ideas of ourselves (and fighting back fiercely when these ideas are challenged) is our Number One Preoccupation. But this is getting it all backwards – when we faithfully accord with the E-values of society (or with the E-value that is the mind-created sense of self) then we become unreal. The movement towards the equilibrium is the movement towards fantasy, and this is why we can say that our attempts to deliberately move towards mental health or ‘peace of mind’ are always going to be secretly ‘self-sabotaging’. That’s why ‘positive therapy’ doesn’t work. If we were genuinely interested in becoming real, on the other hand, then we’d be moving away from the equilibrium, not towards it…