Conscious And Unconscious Suffering

Our consciousness is controlled by compulsive external determinants which compel us to react to them on a full-time basis. When our consciousness is controlled in this way then reacting is all that we knowreacting is then the beginning and the end and we can never go beyond it. We can’t see beyond reacting and we don’t even understand that there is anything beyond it.

 

Another way of putting this is to say that our consciousness is controlled every inch of the way by the thinking mind and that when we are controlled every inch of the way by the thinking mind then we are completely lacking in freedom. Freedom is the one thing we can never have when we are under the Dominion of Thought – we don’t even know what freedom means, even if we do talk about it all of the time. Thought – we might say – is the utter absence of freedom disguised as ‘freedom’.

 

We don’t know that we are being controlled because – generally speaking – we think that we are the thinking mind. This is why the prison is invisible to us, this is why we don’t understand what it means to be ‘controlled without knowing that we are being controlled’; it’s a simple enough idea, but we just don’t get it (or if we do get it, we certainly don’t get it in relation to ourselves).

 

The problem is that we assume that these compulsive external determinants are us and just as long as we keep on thinking this then will never see that we are being controlled. Everything seems hunky-dory then, we have no cause to suspect that anything is amiss. ‘Why then would we want to know?’ we might ask at this point, ‘maybe we might even be better off continuing in this way, particularly if it seems that there aren’t any real problems arising as a result?’

 

There is a problem with the setup as it stands however, it’s just that we don’t see it – we don’t see that we are being controlled by external determinants that are not ‘anything to do with us’, and neither do we have any awareness of how this invisible lack of freedom might be backfiring on this. Our unawareness of the true nature of our predicament doesn’t mean that we are immune to its consequences however – we incur suffering as a result of being in this ‘enslaved’ state and although we aren’t generally in touch with the precise nature of this suffering it is there all the same, waiting for its chance to unfold and ‘show itself’ to us, which it will  do sooner or later.

 

The question ‘Maybe we would be better off not knowing that we are being controlled?’ is an ironic one, really. How could we lose our freedom (which is the most essential thing we have) and yet expect not to suffer in some way as a result of this? Freedom goes deep – it goes deeper than we might imagine it to. Without freedom we cannot ‘be’, without freedom we are not ‘free to be’, and so we simply don’t get to be! It’s not just that our true nature cannot thrive in the absence of freedom; it is necessarily excluded! Freedom – we might say – is who we are.

 

When there is no freedom there can be no ‘unconditional being’ and unconditional being is the only type of being there is! If there’s no freedom then we can only exist in the way that the All-Determining System of Thought says we can, and this type of ‘obedient or compliant existence’ has nothing to do with who we really are. Conditioned existence has nothing to do with who we really are; control always annihilates ‘being’. Control only allows what has been chosen or selected to exist (i.e. it only allows what has been said by the system to be ‘lawful’) and whatever is said or asserted is not us. We are what has not been said, and cannot be said. Whatever is ‘said or asserted’ is the System of Positive Knowledge, and the System of Positive Knowledge will not ever permit us ‘unconditional existence’. It can never grant us that…

 

This brings us to the point where we might want to ask ‘What are the signs and symptoms of having no freedom and yet not knowing it?’ How, in other words, does this odd state of affairs actually manifest itself in reality? Given that our lack of freedom is invisible to us (since if we don’t know that there is such a thing then we won’t miss it) how can we become aware of it? We can best characterise the process that is taking place (in the background, so to speak) by saying that it involves a progressive narrowing of our world along with a progressive inability to be aware of this narrowing (we can’t be directly aware of it since the ‘narrowing down’ is precisely what defines our capacity to know or perceive anything in the first place). Because this ‘narrowing’ is the same thing as ‘the denying of who we really are’ it will inevitably become manifest sooner or later however – it will become manifest to us as a type of spiritual ennui, in terms (we might say) of a ‘semi-repressed sense of all pervading meaninglessness’.

 

In the Purposeful Realm (which is the world we live our lives in when we are being unknowingly controlled by the aforementioned ‘compulsive external determinants’) the pain of meaninglessness ‘loads onto us’ without us being able to see the pressure that we’re under for what it is. We are being ‘choked out’ as regards our ‘sense of meaning’ but we’re not directly facing this pain. The pain or suffering does not show itself where it is (i.e. right in the core of us) but rather it is displaced onto the external world where it appears as ‘drama’. The more ‘choked out’ we are with regard to meaning or spaciousness in our ‘inner world’ the more drama there will be in our external lives therefore. This drama may manifest in terms of our social interactions or in terms of what is going on in our lives, or it may go no further than our own thinking – we will in this case be plagued by the curse of ‘overdramatic thinking’ (or ‘neuroticism’).

 

 

The pain we’re talking about here (the pain of meaninglessness or ennui) manifests as ‘lack of peace’ in other words, and the curious thing about this ‘lack of peace’ is that it’s not necessarily experienced by us as suffering – although of course it can be. Lack of space in the interior world always manifests as increased activity in the Exterior or Purposeful Realm. Oddly however, we experience this ‘lack of peace’ as something potentially worthwhile, as something that is potentially fruitful, and for this reason we automatically ignore the downside of it all. ‘Drama’ – in the sense that we’re talking about here – means two things: it means ‘us getting our own way’ and being validated as a result. And, naturally enough, it also involves us not getting our own way and feeling painfully devalidated instead. Because we’re looking at everything with ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ however we don’t see the ensuing drama as containing ‘equal amounts of validation and devalidation’, as all dramas do. We’re blind to that fact – we need to be blind to that fact if we are to carry on playing the game!

 

This doesn’t mean that we can’t ever do anything if we’re not ‘unfree on the inside’ – it doesn’t mean that we have to be helpless and passive and just ‘go with the flow’. Action isn’t the same as drama – drama is where we do what we do in order to obtain validation and avoid de-validation, whereas action is where we simply act, without any thought of validation or de-validation. There is no drama involved when there’s no ‘striving for personal gain’ – there’s no displaced excitement either, either of the euphoric or the dysphoric variety. Freedom is not a passive state but the only truly empowered one; peace is not ‘a repressed state of being’ but rather the origin of all effective action. In drama everything is about how the action in question is impacting on me; it’s not really about what is done or not done, what is said or not said. It’s all about the ego being either pleased or displeased, whereas action really is about what it says it is about. Action is sincere, in other words. Anything we do for dramatic effect can never be properly effective – it’s not meant to be either, it’s meant to be perceived as being effective, which is a different kettle of fish entirely. It’s pure theatre.

 

People quite regularly say, in discussions on medication, that they wouldn’t want to lose their ‘reactivity’, which we often perceived as being the thing that puts the ‘Zing’ into our actions. We tend to imagine that life will be flat and boring without our reactivity, which is the same thing as thinking that life would be flat and boring without all of our constant dramas! Actually, however, it is our reactivity that is ‘boring’ – what could be more tedious than being 100% engaged in ongoing empty drama, after all? Drama is exhausting and devoid of interest both at the same time! Not only is reactivity/drama ‘boring’, it is a – much more to the point – pure undiluted suffering. Drama is suffering but we just can’t see it as such. We can’t see it as such because we are hoping to get some good out of it (just as an old-time panhandler might hope to get a few big nuggets of gold at the bottom of his sifting pan one day). There is no good to come out of what we’re doing however, no matter how long we stick at the panhandling. Where drama is concerned we are always going to come out empty-handed!

 

To get actual meaning in our lives we have to go beyond reactivity and reacting, we need to go beyond  ‘being controlled by compulsive external factors without knowing that we are’. In the simplest possible terms, finding the meaning in our lives involves reconnecting with our actual sincerity, which is precisely what we lose when we allow ourselves to be controlled without realising that we are being controlled. Reconnecting with our sincerity does not of course mean that life gets any easier; the reverse of this  is true – everything gets a lot harder straightaway! When it does mean however is that no matter how difficult the situation we find ourselves in, we never lose our connection with actual meaning. There is absolutely zero meaning in ‘unconscious suffering’ (which is when we are being ‘preoccupied by the ongoing drama’, or – as we could also say – when we are ‘being controlled without knowing that we are being controlled’) but the gift in consciousness suffering is that the meaning immediately comes back to our lives…

 

 

 

Image: taken from consciousreminder.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Loyalty To The Lie

The social life is one in which we perpetrate a kind of hoax without ever focusing on the fact that we are doing so. We could also say that the social life is a life which revolves around maintaining a fiction that we do not ever admit to being such. We think that society, or the social life, is all about something else, something more honest, but – primarily – it is this (i.e. ‘perpetration of the hoax or fiction’) that is the function that is being served.

 

One way to talk about this hoax is to say that we are being sold the idea that it is possible (and not just possible, but highly desirable) to have a type of life that in reality it is just not possible to have. This is rather a big hoax therefore since if we fall for it (as we generally do) then instead of living the life that it IS possible for us to live, we will be forever trying to live a life which it is simply not possible to live, no matter how hard we try.

 

This is very far from being an ‘obvious’ point however. It is so far from being an obvious point that most people would not get it no matter how much time and effort you might put into trying to explain it. Of all the difficult things to understand, this is right there at the very top, and not only is it challenging for us to understand (even if we did want to) the plain truth it is that – deep down – we absolutely don’t want to! We really, really, really do not want to ‘get it’.

 

One way that we could look at the hoax is to say that it revolves around the idea that ‘it is good to be a narcissist’! It is not ever expressed like this of course but that’s what it comes down to – we are presented with the idea or image of this type of life (this narcissistic type of life) and along with this idea and the images that go with it come all sorts of subtle (and not so subtle) incentivizations. We are ‘sold the package’, in other words. We are sold the package and, as Sogyal Rinpoche says, we are sold it with superlative skill.

 

We are skilfully manoeuvred not only into believing that the narcissistic life is potentially a rewarding and satisfying one, but also into believing that it is the only sort of life there ever could be. We are manoeuvred into believing that it is the only possibility. Add into the equation the fact that everyone around us is also falling for this hoax hook line and sinker, then the chances that we will ever smell a rat are practically zero. The chances that we won’t fall headlong into this trap – i.e. the trap of ‘narcissistic withdrawal from reality’ – (along with everyone else) is astronomically tiny.

 

There is a rat however and it is very big one. It is a very big rat indeed! This is King Rat were talking about here – the Great Grand-Daddy of all rats, and there should be no doubt about this. This is ‘the hoax of all hoaxes’ and no one seems to know anything about it. The problem is that we don’t know anything else; we don’t have anything else to go on. It’s like being in the dysfunctional family or in an abusive relationship – we think that what we are going through is just normal, we don’t realise that we have been taken for a ride. We have mistaken our prison for reality.

 

The nature of our prison (which, as we have said, is the prison of narcissism) is that it is entirely hollow, without any genuine substance or ‘goodness’ to it at all. Our activity involves therefore striving perpetually to bring in some actual substance into our lives, and/or fooling ourselves into believing that there is substance there when there isn’t. An example of how we cultivate this particular illusion is given by John Berger – the trick that we use (according to Berger) is that we go to a lot of effort to create an impression (or image) of ourselves that makes it look as if we having a good time (even though we’re not) so that we can make other people envious of us. This he calls glamour; The happiness of being envied is glamour’, Berger says. When we can see that other people are envious of what we’ve got, then we can logically infer that we must have something there for other people to be envious of! Other people think we’ve ‘got it’ and so we think that too.

 

This then is John Berger’s explanation of what ‘the hoax’ is. We might naïvely think that – in this consumer society – we invest all of our energy in buying products so that the products will ‘make us happy’, but this isn’t it – we’re buying all the consumer-type stuff in order that other people might think we are happy, which will then allow us to feed off the illusion that they have about us! Deep down we know that we can’t buy happiness but what we can do is to construct a believable illusion of us having a good time, having a good life, being happy, etc, so that both ourselves and others can believe in it. The purest example of this is of course social media – why else would we spend all our time posting images of ourselves having a good time if we weren’t trying to construct a believable illusion?

 

Nothing we have so far said comes across as being too formidably difficult to understand, even though this is what we started out by saying. Where the ‘difficulty’ shows itself however is in understanding the actual reason for the narcissistic life being so hollow, being so devoid of substance. Why is ‘the narcissistic life’ ‘impossible to live’? One way of looking at this is in terms of the basic Buddhist idea of ‘the good mind versus the bad mind’ – the ‘good mind‘ being the mind of compassion, whilst the ‘bad mind’ is the mind of self-interest or self-cherishing. [The mind of self-cherishing is ‘bad’ not for any moral reason but simply because it always leads to suffering]. If we live on the basis of ‘the mind of compassion’ then there is meaning in our lives and we grow as people as a result; if on the other hand we live on the basis of self-interest and self-cherishing then our lives become sterile and joyless and there can be no growth. All that can grow is greed, and the need for power or control.

 

All religions have the function of teaching morality (or at least they started out this way!), but the point is that this is not merely a matter of ‘social utility’ – it’s not mere ‘convention’ we’re talking about here but something much deeper. If we actually sat down and thought about it we would see this truth very clearly – there can be no meaning in the life of a narcissist. We don’t of course ever see ourselves as such; we have made Narcissistic Personality Disorder into a designated condition in DSM-5 but this makes it even easier not to recognise that narcissism (to some extent or other) is pretty much the norm in our society. It also distracts us from seeing that our consumer society actually relies on us operating as narcissists. We both pathologize narcissism and promote it at one and the same time therefore, which is rather conflicted of us, to say the least!

 

The ‘hoax’ that is being perpetrated in our society (and very effectively, too) is that it is possible to live in Narcissist Mode and lead a meaningful and fulfilling life at the same time and because of the way societal pressures work we feel obliged – without ever reflecting on the matter very much – to maintain the fiction that we are happy, that we are having a good time, and so on and so forth. This is what ‘living the life of the image’ is all about. This is where all the emphasis goes – it goes into fooling both ourselves and others that we are having a great life inside of our narcissistic cocoon. This however is (and always will be) quite impossible, as we keep on saying. That’s a non-starter. That’s just not going to happen…

 

The hoax – therefore – is to get us to try (and keep on trying) to live a type of life that is impossible to live, and we collude in this hoax by maintaining the fiction as best we can, without realizing that this is what we are doing. Sometimes of course we just can’t maintain the fiction any more, and when we can’t we feel very bad about that – we feel very bad about it because we’re ‘loyal to the lie’. We don’t realize that we’re ‘loyal to a lie’ but we are – that’s why we are at such pains to maintain and protect the self-image’, that’s why we always see having the self-image tarnished or shown up in a bad light as being such an unmitigated disaster…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain and Suffering in the Positive World

The unspoken (and deeply hidden) assumption behind the positive or ‘stated’ reality is that if we don’t pressurise ourselves (or force ourselves) sufficiently then we won’t actually exist!

 

In the positive reality straining is the thing, therefore – any ‘failures’ are automatically seen as being the result of us not trying hard enough. We are therefore always culpable for any (so-called) ‘failures’ and this implication is inherent in the very nature of the positive reality itself. Everything is about trying, and our skill and persistence in trying.

 

In one way this makes perfect sense, in one way this assumption is absolutely true. It’s true as far as the ‘positive reality’ is concerned, anyway. Nothing exists in the positive reality unless it is forced to do so, unless it is compelled to do so. That’s the whole point of the stated reality, that unless it is purposefully asserted then it isn’t going to be there! Everything is thus our personal responsibility, one way or the other…

 

So in one way the assumption that we are talking about here is entirely valid, entirely trustworthy as a ‘guiding principle’. In another way however the exact reverse of this is true; in another way the assumption we are working on the basis of is utter nonsense and that is because what we are calling the ‘positive reality’ isn’t actually reality at all but only our model of it, only our idea of it.

 

When we are talking about models then naturally it is the case that unless we specify something (unless we ‘spell it out’) then it’s not going to be there. There is no problem in understanding this point. But what’s true for the model is not true for the reality that is being modelled – we don’t have to specify reality in order that it be there. We don’t have to tell reality to be there in other words!

 

We don’t need to tell reality to be there, and we don’t have to tell it how to be there either. This is how we know that reality is reality, and not some mere arbitrary construct! As Philip K Dick says, ‘Reality is that which, when we stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.’

 

Where the confusion comes in is because of the way in which we get our model (or picture) of the world muddled up with the actual genuine article. This confusion is bound to come about just as long as we are using the thinking mind to navigate by since the only way the thinking mind can apprehend reality is by representing it in ‘positive’ terms.  All representations are positive in nature. The TM actually has to ‘speak’ reality therefore; it has to aggressively assert ‘what is real’.

 

The TM can never ever understand the negative or unstated reality, and this ‘limitation’ is inherent – as we have already said – in the nature of thought itself, which is a positive or ‘doing-type’ thing. If we are operating on the basis of thought then we cannot at all comprehend what is meant by ‘the negative or unstated reality’. And yet at the same time we can clearly see – if we are not under the power of our thoughts and ideas and beliefs, that there is nothing else reality could be other than ‘unstated’. All the books in the whole world are written on humble blank paper, after all – what type of the situation would it be where there was ‘nothing but words’ and words could therefore only be written on other words?

 

Because we automatically confuse the positive reality with actual reality we make the mistake of assuming that trying (or straining) is the key to everything! Even if we aren’t aware that this is what we are assuming we are nevertheless doing so – our whole rational/purposeful culture is predicated upon this (false) assumption. That’s the type of world we live in – a positive world.

 

In everyday life we ‘get away with the mistake’ (after a fashion, in a way, although not really); when it comes down to mental health and our so-called ‘therapeutic approaches’ then this is where we really don’t get away with it. It backfires on us here big time here – the more we ‘try’ the more of a hole we get stuck in, and then everyone (including ourselves) blames us for not being able to get out. Everyone blames us (either implicitly or explicitly) for not trying hard enough. Perhaps we actually like being miserable, people might say, when after all the help we’ve been given we still don’t manage to pull ourselves out of the hole we’re in. What’s our excuse? What’s wrong with us? There must be some ‘secondary gain’ say the healthcare professionals, nodding their heads wisely to each other…

 

The truth is, however, that it is trying that lies at the very root of our problems. Essentially, we trying to force ourselves to exist; we are trying to wilfully redeem ourselves from whatever jinxed situation we are in by ‘pressurising’ ourselves, by ‘positively motivating’ ourselves. We are putting ourselves under pressure to be well, putting ourselves under pressure to be happy, putting ourselves under pressure not to be anxious or depressed.

 

This ham-fisted approach doesn’t work in negative reality however – it only works in the positive reality and the positive reality isn’t real! In the positive reality we need (as we have said) to forcefully assert ourselves if we are to ‘successfully exist’ – this is the ‘aggressive ego-world’ with which we are all so familiar. That’s in the make-believe world where we are forever playing ‘the game of egos’. In the real world it doesn’t work like this however. In the real world the more we pressurise ourselves to exist successfully the more unreal we become! In the real world the more we force ourselves (or ‘positively motivate’ ourselves) the more false we become, and it is this unreality, this inauthenticity that is the root cause of our suffering.

 

 

 

Image, The Strain Season 4, from denofgeek.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Environment That Compels

We are constantly being told that we should fit in to whatever it is that going on – this is the only message we ever hear. All messages are this message – obey, obey, obey. We’re all obeying machines and obeying is all we know. We’re either obeying machines or we’re failing machines. The message is so constant that it isn’t even as if we are being ‘told’ it. The environment itself is the message. We just know that we have to adapt, we just know that we have to fit in. The system isn’t just telling us that we have to comply – the system is compliance! Compliance is the only reality we know and so it isn’t compliance, it just ‘is’. It’s the inescapable condition of our existence.

 

 

The logic is inescapable. Logic is always inescapable; that’s the nature of logic – logic isn’t something that you’re supposed to be able to escape from! Logic leaves no loopholes. Logic is something you obey and the obeying is so total that it isn’t even obeying any more. It’s just ‘existing’. It’s the only form of existing we know of. It’s the alpha and the omega. This is the compulsive environment, the environment that compels. The only question is, how well do we comply? That’s what makes this into successes or failures, winners or losers. This is the world we live in – the world that tells you what to do and what to be. The world that tells you everything. What it doesn’t tell you doesn’t exist…

 

 

How well can you obey? How well can you obey? Only it’s not called ‘obeying’, is it? It’s called something else. Or it’s not called anything at all. Why call it something when there’s nothing else? Why call it something in particular when there are no other possibilities to talk about? You just have to get on with it; you just have to be what the system wants you to be. How well can you be what the compulsive environment wants you to be? Can you really make the grade? What will become of you if you don’t? Of course, the question we should really be asking is, what will become of us if we DO succeed? That’s the question we should be thinking about. What will happen then, huh? Not that we can think that – we never look that far. We’re not allowed to think it – it’s not within the parameters of our design. It’s not part of the game to question the game. How well can you obey, my friend? How successfully can do what you’re supposed to do, what you’re told to do? How well can you fit into a world that doesn’t allow ‘not fitting in’, a world that doesn’t have any concept for not fitting in, other than a wholly negative one? How will you obey even when you don’t know that you are obeying? How successful can you adapt and what will you become when you do attack? That’s the question the machine won’t ever let you ask!

 

 

Can you feel the pressure pushing down on you? Can you feel it there every minute of the day? Can you notice yourself straining to obey? Strain, strain, as hard as you can. Strain every day. Strain to obey the rule because you know what will happen if you can’t. Although you don’t really know. Strain to conform to the compulsion because you know the compulsion won’t allow you not to conform!

 

 

How well can you conform, my friend? Can you get it right? Will you feel at ease when you do so? Will you at last feel relief? Will you feel joy when you obtain the goal? Your attention is stuck fast to the defined surfaces that are being provided for you. Strain, strain, strain – strain to succeed! Strain to get it right! Your attention is glued to the concept of what you’re supposed to be, of what you’re supposed to do, and all you know is straining, all you know is straining. It’s the condition of your existence.

 

 

One illusion straining after another – do you know that feeling? One illusion trying to reach another. And what happens when you get there? What then? Will there be joy? Will there be happiness? Will there be relief? What happens with one illusion reaches another illusion, what does that add up to? What happens when you add one illusion to another? That’s the question we ought to be asking ourselves. Just what do we expect to happen then? Did we think that far ahead?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenging The Concrete Identity

The greatest cause of mental ill health on the planet is without question the Generic Mind which we all have to fit into. The Generic Mind is ‘the sickness that masquerades as health’, it’s the game we are all supposed to play. Carlos Castaneda explains the GM by saying that it is a ‘uniform’ mind – “a cheap model: economy strength, one size fits all.” By all having the same model of mind, we are able to readily communicate with each other – we all know instantly and exactly what the other person means because we share the same point of view. This ‘ease of communication’ is an advantage in one way therefore but it’s a disaster in another because we lose our own unique point of view. In his novel Breakfast Of Champions Kurt Vonnegut talks about ‘cuckoo ideas that we have no immunity to’ – these ideas circulate freely in society and automatically infect everyone they touch. These cuckoo ideas originate outside of ourselves (they are ‘foreign installations’, as Castaneda says) but we instantly adopt them as our own just as soon as they come into our heads – we incubate them lovingly and do our very to propagate them whenever we can. We obtain satisfaction from passing these viral ideas on, just as we experience irritation and annoyance (or possibly rage) when we hear them contradicted…

 

When we talk about the Generic Mind as being greatest cause of mental ill health the problem is that no one knows what we are talking about. We don’t acknowledge that there is any such thing as the ‘Generic Mind’ and so naturally we don’t see it as ‘the biggest cause of mental ill health’. We have lots and lots of other reasons listed for mental ill health and none of them have anything to do with the Generic Mind. And yet the GM is a very readily observable phenomenon: whenever a bunch of people agree that something is true then that is the generic mind right there! The GM is what happens when we join a group, in other words, and we all know the type of trade-off that has to be made when we become a member of the group. We first become aware of this insidious trade-off in the school playground and we only ever get more and more deeply embroiled in it as we grow up.

 

What happens when we become part of the group is of course that we lose our unique individuality – a collection of unique individuals can’t become a group matter how they try. A collection of individuals can ‘get on’ and ‘cooperate’ but the one thing they can’t do is form a group – individuality has to be surrendered for that! In a group, as we have said, certain things have to be agreed upon by all. What’s more, they can’t just be ‘agreed upon’ – they have to be agreed upon and then that agreement has to be immediately forgotten about. We have to first take a whole bunch of stuff for granted and then we have to charge on ahead wholeheartedly without ever looking back at what it is that we assumed in order to be able to charge full-speed ahead. This is what society is, and this is also what the Generic Mind is – 100% unreflective action.

 

The Generic Mind is always marked by its concrete nature, therefore – it is concrete because it can’t question its core assumptions and ‘not being able to question one’s core assumptions’ is the very definition of ‘concrete’. There is absolutely no way that the GM can ever be ‘non-concrete’ – the only way this could happen would be if the group broke up into individual persons, and this just happens to be against the rules of the group. Furthermore, when we are in the group, then being exiled from the collective is seen as the worst possible thing that could happen to us. What is really happening when we adapt to the Generic Mind therefore is that we get locked into a type of blindness, type of stupidity. Not being able to question our core assumptions is a terrible form blindness, and there’s no getting around it or compensating for it, no matter how clever we get. The whole enterprise simply becomes ever more absurd, evermore ridiculous, and ever more doomed to eventual disaster.

 

From the point of view of the Generic mind (or the concrete individual) there is nothing more unthinkable than having to question (or ‘let go of’) our core assumptions. Our very blindness has somehow become infinitely precious to us and we will protect it fiercely – we will protect our toxic ignorance to the very best of our ability! The basic motivation behind a group is always exactly this – it is always conservative and never ‘exploratory’. We’re locked into this position of protecting our core assumptions even though we don’t actually have a clue as to what they are! We don’t of course want to know what these core assumptions aren’t because (on some level) we realise that this would involve finding out that they aren’t true, and because of our ‘absolute commitment to the cause’ this would spell the greatest possible ‘unwanted outcome’. As far as motivations go therefore, this is a very strong one! It is both a very powerful motivational force, and a lethally dangerous one; not only can it never lead to any good, it is without question always going to lead us to utter disaster in the long run.

 

We can say two very simple things about the Generic Mind therefore – one is that it is always concrete, and the other is that it is driven, at all times, by the utterly inflexible need to avoid questioning itself. We can say this about the Generic Mind and we can also say it about all social groups, including of course society in general. In this ‘peculiarity’ of the concrete mind can be seen ample cause for mental ill health – it is hard (if not impossible) to think of a better recipe for mental ill health than this! There is no arguing with a concrete-minded person, just as there is no arguing with an organisation (or the people making up the organisation); there is no arguing (i.e. no possibility of genuine communication) with the GM because the GM has zero flexibility in it and there is no communication without flexibility. As far as the GM is concerned therefore, it is always ‘my way or the highway’…

 

The ‘sickness that masquerades as health’ is therefore the fixed identity that cannot question itself; the fixed identity that must always assert itself above everything else. For me, as a ‘concrete person,’ this sickness is actually ‘myself’ therefore; the sickness is me and if there is one thing that I am guaranteed not to understand then it is this! For me, ‘sickness’ is always going to be those forces that are acting against me, those forces that are standing in the way of me ‘continuing to not question myself’, whatever it is that stands in the way of me continuing to see the world in the way that I am used to seeing it and think I ought to be able to see it. The fixed identity sees its own integrity as the very bench-mark of mental health, in other words, which – from its own point of view – is entirely understandable!

 

Similarly, for us as a culture, we find it flatly impossible to grasp the idea that the sickness which is afflicting us is ‘the sickness of the fixed concrete identity’! We just don’t get this and we aren’t about to get it either, which isn’t surprising since – as we have said – society itself is a fixed concrete identity. So too are the healthcare organisations that we encounter if we do develop mental health challenges and we want some help and support. This in itself is inevitable,  nature of organisations being what it is, so where the problem really comes in is where we meet workers and therapists who completely reflect (or embody) the unyielding concrete nature of the healthcare organisation that they are working in. In this case we are stuck between a rock and a hard place – we are ‘trying to force ourselves to get better’ (in accordance with our concrete viewpoint on the matter) and so too is the healthcare machine that we are now under the care of. Either way, it’s all about control, it’s all about ‘forcing’, and the way we are trying to force ourselves to be is only the ‘right way’ because we’re looking at everything from the closed (or conservative) viewpoint of the concrete mind set.

 

The point (that we keep making) is that the concrete mindset can’t do anything other than try to force things to be the way it thinks (i.e. assumes) they should be. Just as it cannot question its assumptions, so too it can’t NOT try to force things to accordance with the ideas that it has concerning how things should be. The concrete mindset is utterly blind, as we have said – it is blindness personified. Everything it does comes out of this blindness; there is nowhere else it can come from because all the concrete mindset has is its own viewpoint, which it totally takes for granted. That’s what ‘concrete’ means – that’s the whole point, the whole point is that the concrete mindset demonises everything that hasn’t got its official ‘stamp of approval’ on it, and it only puts its stamp of approval on its own productions.

 

There is no substitute for an individual (or ‘unaffiliated’) person in the heavily regulated world of mental health-care; there’s no substitute for someone who isn’t a company man or company woman, anyone who isn’t singing from the prescribed hymn sheet. There is no substitute for actual consciousness, in other words, and consciousness hasn’t anything to do with this dreadful old thing we are calling ‘the fixed identity’. Fixed identity is the very antithesis of consciousness; it is that principle of consciousness turned on its head and made into a perverse parody of itself. When we switch from consciousness to ‘concrete mode’ therefore, we aren’t moving ‘from one end of the spectrum to the other’, or anything like that, we’re switching from an allegiance to the truth, at ‘whatever cost,’ to allegiance to the lie, no matter what price we might have to pay for that unwise affiliation. These two things are frankly incommensurable – we can’t ‘serve two masters’ in this regard, if we do then, according to Luke 16:13 we ‘…will be devoted to the one and despise the other’. Or as we read in 1 Corinthians 10:21: ‘You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.’

 

If we have no unexamined allegiance to our unconscious assumptions then we are free to do anything – we are free to let any idea go, no matter how attached to it we might be, and this is what mental health truly consists of. Mental health is all about courage therefore – we are not being governed by a hidden (or not so hidden) core of fear, which is what lies behind the security-seeking ‘concrete mindset’ that we keep talking about. So what we are really saying here is simply that fear and fearlessness are incommensurate – fear is after all the only possible reason we would swear allegiance to a bunch of unconscious assumptions! ‘Conscious assumptions’ are on the other hand a totally different matter: we can operate on the basis of assumptions if this turns out to be useful for practical purposes (i.e. if making assumptions in some particular matter actually works) but that doesn’t mean that we have to make a religion of them! We can use rules when it suits us to do so, in other words, but that doesn’t mean that we have to let these rules have free reign to determine everything about us.

 

When we make a religion of our unexamined assumptions (which necessarily involves making the act of questioning them ‘heretical’ or ‘taboo’) then the only possible reason that could lie behind this is fear. Nothing else would make us do such a stupid thing! What we are essentially doing here is that we’re putting all the money we’ve got on a totally mad gamble – the totally mad gamble that our unexamined assumptions will somehow turn out to be correct, even though we’re not going to actually look at them.  We’re acting out of fear rather than wisdom. The fact that we are so very reluctant to investigate our own brash claims ought in itself to be enough to tip us off that something fishy is going on. Any impartial observer could tell us that there is something extremely dodgy going on here when we behave like this but somehow we turn this dodgy manoeuvre around so that it becomes something to feel good about. We have made our lack of honesty and integrity into a virtue to be proud of – the classic ‘red-neck’ trick!

 

This then is exactly how the Generic Mind works, by turning its inflexibility, blindness and aggression into a virtue, into something to be proud of. We are proud of our fixed identity; it’s the thing we’re most proud of – we’ve actually made it into something essential, something we can’t ever let go of. We’ve made it into something we can’t even think of ever ‘letting go of’. This throws everything we think and everything we perceive one hundred and eighty degrees out, so to speak. Our understanding is what of what is meant by ‘mental health’ is turned on its hand, as we have said. Our understanding of what is meant by the term ‘mental health’ is turned on its head to mean the automatic validation of what we have arbitrarily taken to be true, the aggressive promotion of what we have arbitrarily taken to be true, and that isn’t health by any stretch of the imagination! That isn’t health – that’s inverted health, that’s ‘the sickness that masquerades as health’! Health isn’t where we spend all our time glorifying our own stubborn ignorance and making a virtue of it; health is where we find the courage within us to start looking at these assumptions, and seeing them for what they really are. Mental health necessarily involves rebelling against the collective mind-set therefore, and this is particularly true in the highly conservative area of mental healthcare…

 

 

Image – New York Bushwick Street Art, from rebelone.de

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem With ‘Coping Strategies’

It is impossible to put across the idea that it is helpful and useful to use a particular skill or coping strategy without at the same time giving the jinxed message that we ought to be (or need to be) ‘coping’ with whatever difficult situation it is that we are in. Pressure of this sort however is always counterproductive in therapy; pressure of this sort is guaranteed – in other words – to have quite the ‘reverse effect’!

 

This is a ‘therapy dilemma’ that no one ever seems to spot! It’s a ‘dilemma’ because therapy is supposed to be about helping people but selling someone the idea that they need to be ‘coping’ with (or dealing correctly with) whatever it is that’s going on for them is most definitely not helping anyone. This is a jinxed message; it’s like saying that we have to ‘manage life’ correctly and this is the least therapeutic message it is ever possible to give anyone!

 

It takes a little bit of insight to see this of course and insight into psychological matters tends to be rather thin on the ground in our culture. We are all about techniques, not insight! The insight here is that what we really suffer from isn’t the emotional pain that we’re in so much as the attempt to ‘cope’ with it. As soon as we get the idea that we have to cope we’re finished!

 

What on earth do we imagine ‘coping with emotional pain’ means, anyway? Anybody who happens to be suffering from mental or emotional distress is of course going to be trying to cope with it – this is a very strong instinct – and what this actually comes down to is ‘hanging onto some semblance of normal’. We try to pretend (either to ourselves or to others) that everything is still okay; we keep trying to ‘keep up the act’, so to speak. Another way of talking about ‘coping’ would be to say that it essentially involves us trying to impose our will on the situation; we’re trying to get things to be a little bit more ‘the way we think they should be’, in other words. We’re trying to exert control on the way we feel. In psychological terms, we are resisting. We are resisting things being the way that they actually are.

 

This is all very normal and natural and ‘only to be expected’, but at the same time it is completely unhelpful, completely non-therapeutic. What we resist persists’, says Carl Jung and if we can’t see this then we are on the road to nowhere! Resisting is what we do ‘by reflex’ – it’s our automatic response to pain both mental and physical, and ‘going along with the automatic response’ is never going to be the helpful thing to do. Never in a million years is this going to be the helpful thing to do!  On the contrary, it is precisely our automatic defensive reactions to emotional pain that cause us to get stuck in it, as Jung says.

 

We tend to think that ‘coping mechanisms’ aren’t the same as ‘automatic pain-avoidance’ reflexes but they are. They’re just a little bit more methodical, just a little bit more ‘well thought-out’. ‘Coping’ is resisting the way we are; very obviously, if we weren’t resisting the way that we are, then there would be no need for us to be coping! Coping wouldn’t be ‘a thing’ then, it wouldn’t be an issue as to whether we ‘cope’ or ‘don’t cope’.

 

‘Coping’, or ‘the need to cope’, seems to be very important to us when we’re in the thick of things and we feel very much that we can’t cope or mightn’t be able to cope, and this is very natural. Of course we’re desperate to cling on to whatever little bit of control we have, or think we might possibly be able to have, but this doesn’t mean that we should be validating this tenancy in therapy, so to say that you should be trying to cope on the one hand, and that there is a right ‘way to cope’ on the other. As we have said this is a disastrous message to be giving people – it isn’t just ‘not helpful’, is the very opposite of helpful.

 

Really, this is a punishing message. It wouldn’t be a punishing message if it actually worked but it doesn’t work and not only does it not work, it is indicative of a complete lack of understanding that we think that it should! ‘Coping’ is the thing we can’t do and yet at the same time absolutely feel that we need to, and it is this ‘untenable’ position that causes us that very particular form of suffering with which we are all so familiar. If we weren’t caught in the jaws of this conflict then this would be a very different matter – the suffering wouldn’t be the same at all. We’d be ‘free to suffer’ in this case, rather than ‘suffering at the same time as believing that it is very wrong (or very unacceptable) that we should be suffering’…

 

We always think that not coping with our emotional distress is the ‘bad thing’ – we think that ‘not coping’ means freaking out or causing a scene or embarrassing ourselves, or something highly undesirable like that. But ‘not coping’ doesn’t mean ‘reacting in a harmful or inappropriate way’ – ‘not coping’ isn’t just ‘acting out’ (i.e. displacing our pain by some kind of behaviour). Actually, ‘acting out’ or ‘displacing’ is a form of coping with mental pain or distress. It’s a strategy. Reacting (or ‘freaking out’) is how we do try to cope, by refusing to be present with the pain and ‘acting it out’ instead. This is a very basic coping strategy – the most basic of them all. It’s either this or we batten down the hatch and repress everything for all we’re worth…

 

‘Coping’ – as we have said -essentially means gaining control of our situation such that it stays within certain tolerances, certain predetermined parameters. This is such a normal idea to us that we never question it; we apply it across the board, even when it’s not the helpful thing to do. There are all sorts of processes that we do need to control in this way – cooking food, for example, so that it isn’t undercooked on the one hand or overcooked on the other. Physiologically speaking, we need to make sure we stay within certain parameters – we need to stay between being too hot and being too cold, we have to eat enough but not too much, et cetera. If we are bleeding, then we have to make sure that we staunch the wound and don’t bleed too much.

 

When it comes to feelings however then the same doesn’t apply – to try to keep ourselves within specific parameters with regard to emotions, with regard to how we feel, isn’t a helpful approach at all. We can very easily imagine that we ought to keep ‘the way that we feel’ within a certain normative range, so that the feeling in question is a ‘normal’ one, but when we try to do this we create this whole perception that ‘we need to cope’, that it is a very bad thing (unspecified as to exactly why) if we fail to stay ‘in control’, where ‘coping’ (or ‘staying in control’) means preventing ourselves from feeling the way that we actually are feeling. We have, without consciously realising it, set limits for ourselves in terms of how we supposed to feel and because these self-imposed limits don’t tally with reality, we’ve put ourselves in a very tight spot indeed. We actually feel that we are ‘cracking up’ when this happens – this is exactly what the phrase ‘cracking up’ means, it means going beyond our self-imposed arbitrary limits.

 

The experience of being on the edge of ‘cracking up’ (or ‘being on the edge of not coping’ when not coping is a very bad thing)  is something that we have created for ourselves by trying not to crack up – we ourselves have imposed these limits on ourselves and they are limits that don’t naturally exist. It feels very bad indeed when we feel that we are on the edge of not being able to cope, but ‘coping’ (or ‘managing’) is not a helpful idea to bring into our situation. ‘Coping’, as we have said, means ‘controlling what’s going on’ and ‘controlling what is going on’ very quickly turns into ‘trying to make what is happening not be happening’! When it comes to mental health, trying to make what is happening not be happening is definitely Number One on the list of unhelpful things to do! This doesn’t mean that we don’t all do it of course but – at the same time – it’s the most punishing situation we could ever put ourselves in. We’ve have given ourselves a task that can never be carried out (it can never be carried out since no one can make ‘what is happening not be happening’) and at the same time we have said that it is imperative that we succeed at it. What a thing this is to do to ourselves!

 

What confuses things even more is this talk of ‘managing emotions’ that we hear so often about in recent times. When we hear this phrase then of course we are very likely to think that we should be controlling how we feel, and keeping our emotions within ‘safe’ or ‘appropriate’ boundaries. There is definitely a lot of scope for confusion here because no one should be led to believe that anything we experience – emotion-wise – is ‘wrong’ and needs to be controlled. There is no dial within us that can, like a thermostat, be adjusted to keep the emotional temperature from getting either too hot or too cold. There’s no way for us to change the way we feel, and yet here we are being told that this is our responsibility, that this is exactly what we should be doing

 

The confusion comes about because we are talking about two very different things – when we talk about ‘managing emotions’ what we actually mean is that we should refrain from ‘acting-out’ our emotions in ways that are harmful either to ourselves or to others. Strategies are sought to prevent these unhelpful reactions, therefore. The problem is however that we automatically jump to the conclusion that the way to do this is to quieten down the feeling/emotion so that it is no longer so intense. We assume that we have to ‘turn the dial down’ with regard to the strength of the emotion or feeling, and that is what ‘coping’ or ‘self-soothing’ strategies are all about. But we really have jumped to an unwarranted conclusion here because it’s quite possible to feel the emotion without either acting it out either towards oneself or to others. Very oddly, it seems that we just have no interest at all in exploring this possibility!

 

Feeling an emotion is an art not a science or technology, and this is the reason why we are not interested in it. If it were a technology we could ‘roll it out’; we could standardise and regulate it and teach therapists how to facilitate it. We can’t do this with an art however – we can’t standardise an art and ‘roll it out’ as a generic, ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapy. The thing about an art is that it is individual; the thing about an art is that is going to be learnt in a different way for each person and this is hugely inconvenient to us as a rational (or control-based) culture. The therapists themselves would have to ‘master the art’ and even then it’s not something that we can teach as such. There are no rules, no principles that we can point out; it isn’t a system, and as Bruce Lee says, how can you teach something that isn’t a system?

 

We can teach ways of not feeling emotions or ways of repressing them of course. For this, strategies exist. For feeling the emotion, just as it is, there are no strategies. There are no strategies for this any more than there are strategies for ‘living life’ or ‘telling the truth’ or ‘relating authentically to other human beings’! For all the most important things, there are no strategies. It’s not that easy! All the things that we can teach people to do are very trivial indeed and it is a mark of our remarkably un-psychologically minded culture that we think we can ‘teach mental health’. To teach mental health is to teach someone how to live life and this is one thing that just can’t be done. We can programme people for sure, we can condition them or train them or brainwash them, but we can’t teach them how to live life. We don’t know how to do that ourselves, anyway! We would have to teach ourselves first and we can’t do that because we don’t know how. Who can teach us to be authentically ourselves? Who can teach us how to be present, in this utterly unique situation? All we can do is teach people is how not to be here, how to ‘be here in a conditioned (or inauthentic) way’, and this is therefore exactly what we do teach people! We brainwash people, we condition them, we ‘train their minds’. To call this a ‘therapy’ is however a bit rich…

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Escaping

It is possible to imagine (if we are given to thinking in this way, which of course a lot of people are) that we could – if we wanted – live life in a more ‘spiritual’ way. It is also possible (perfectly possible, in fact) to try to do this, by replacing our old, more crudely ‘ego-orientated’ and materialist way of thinking about the world with a more refined, subtle and spiritual approach. This is like getting rid of your old smelly sofa and getting a brand new suite from British Home Stores or IKEA, or getting rid of the old lifestyle and welcoming in the new. It is possible to imagine that this is how we go about the process of ‘spiritualizing in our lives’ but this isn’t how it happens. This is getting it ‘back to front’! This is ‘putting the cart before the horse’!

 

What’s happening here is that we have jumped ahead and tried to put into place the type of life that we would have if we were more spiritual, and then by ‘stepping into this life’ assuming or hoping that this will somehow ‘spiritualise’ us. The reason this approach may be said to be ‘back to front’ is of course because ‘a more spiritual life’ (so to speak) is what we live after we become ‘more spiritual’ – leading what we understand to be a more spiritual life most certainly isn’t going to make us so, it’s just going to involve us in the type of ‘unconscious mimicry’, changing our costume rather than changing the one who is wearing the costume, to use Alan Watts’ memorable analogy. The clothes don’t change the person wearing them. We smile when we’re happy – we don’t smile in order to become happy!

 

The very fact that it is our understanding of what constitutes a spiritually-orientated life ought to be enough to tip us off. If I have not yet developed this spiritually-orientated attitude (which obviously I can’t have done or I wouldn’t be looking into making changes in this direction) then how on earth am I going to know what ‘a spiritually-orientated life’ would look like? I can of course read about it in books and magazines and absorb ideas from the burgeoning spiritual improvement industry but this can only ever provide me with certain notions about what this thing called ‘the spiritual life’ should look when seen from the outside, not what it’s like from the inside (so to speak). And – what’s more – the one who is absorbing all these ideas, the one who is forming an impression of what the spiritual life should look like, is the ‘spiritually-unimproved me’, which is me as I actually am right now.

 

The thing about this is that anything understood by this current self (by the ‘me’ I actually experience myself to be right now) can only ever serve to reinforce the unconscious assumptions about life that go to make that self, that ‘me’, be what it already is. I can only understand stuff that fits in with my unexamined assumptions about life; or to put this the other way round, everything I understand is necessarily understood on the basis of my current conditioning. This inevitably means that when I try to change – by buying into whatever ideas, whatever theories or model appeal to me – I’m not really going to change at all. Genuine change can’t come about as a result of purposeful or deliberate action because purposeful or deliberate action is only ever going to reaffirm our current way of understanding the world. How could we imagine otherwise? Change cannot be something that I can impose on myself because the ‘I’ which is seeking to impose the change will itself remain unchanged. As Alan Watts says, the self that seeks to do the improving is the very one that needs improving! This is the invisible glitch behind all ‘managed changed’ – the glitch being that the one who does the managing will never change. Deliberately setting out to change ourselves ensures that we stay the same; it actually reinforces our position.

 

As soon as we see this glitch (in all its glory) then the point we’re making becomes very very clear, it becomes ‘as clear as clear could be’, but then after we have assimilated the point the question arises as to how we can proceed if we do genuinely wish to lead a more spiritual life. If there isn’t – as Krishnamurti says time and time again – a method, a path, then how do we go about getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’? The point that we are missing when we try to deliberately adopt a more spiritually-orientated life (or when we in any way try to ‘improve’ or ‘better’ ourselves in general) is that we are trying to walk away from ourselves as we actually are. We want to be different from the way that we are, but this isn’t ‘being spiritual’ – it’s simply an exercise in escapism! We’re trying to escape into a more spiritual way of life, a more spiritual way of being. If we were genuine about it then we wouldn’t be getting involved in escapism but rather we would be interested in seeing things as they actually are. If we were sincere in ourselves with regard to the wish to ‘walk a more spiritual path’ we wouldn’t be walking away from ourselves the whole time, turning our backs on ourselves as we really are, but rather we would be staying present with ourselves in our actual, ‘unimproved’ lives. This isn’t a matter of willpower (in the usual sense of the word), it is purely a matter of courage.

 

Courage means ‘the willingness to see the truth about how we are’. It also means the willingness to live our lives as we are, even though this may not be very pretty to look at. The more willingness we have to see this unvarnished truth, the more we change as a result! So let’s say that I’m not very spiritually-orientated and I’d like to be more so. Suppose I am ‘egoically’ or ‘materialistically’-orientated (and – again – presumably I must be or I wouldn’t be wishing to change) then in this case ‘being the unspiritual person that I really am’ is the spiritual path! All I have to do is live my life as it unfolds, in the plain old ordinary way that it always does unfold. This may sound too easy to be worth anything, it may not seem like any sort of meaningful challenge at all, but the thing here – of course – is that I have to do it consciously, without making excuses for myself! I live my regular old life, as it unfolds for me, but I see myself as I do so as I actually am.

 

This – needless to say – turns out to be not so easy after all. What normally (almost always) happens is that there is lots of self-deceiving activity going on (both of the conscious and unconscious variety); this is activity that is specifically aimed at preventing us from seeing ourselves as we really are. What this activity essentially comes down to is self-validation – no matter what we do, there is always ample validation (or justification) for it. All of our actions take place within some kind of ‘validating context’, a validating context which serves to make it okay for us to be the way that we are; quite possibly it makes it more than just okay, quite possibly it makes us absolutely right to be that way. This sort of ‘self-excusing’ or self-validating’ is of course a deeply familiar kind of thing. Living consciously isn’t therefore to do with whether we manage to stick to the accepted moral or ethical code or not (moral codes are validating contexts in themselves) but rather it is to do with what would in the past have been called ‘the conscience’. It has to do with a ‘truth sense’ that we all have. Living consciously has nothing to do with what is seen as right or wrong by our thinking mind (which is the ultimate ‘validating context’) but right or wrong (speaking figuratively here) with respect to our innermost nature, our true nature, which is usually kept effectively silenced!

 

This isn’t a matter of judging ourselves and then feeling either good or bad according to whether we have succeeded or failed – which is of course how it works in the traditional religious context. Living our lives consciously doesn’t mean thinking that we should be different from how we actually are and feeling bad when we can’t change this state of affairs – that’s living unconsciously, not consciously! Consciousness means seeing ourselves as we really are which – as we have said – turns out to be the very thing that we don’t want to do! Our whole motivation in the so-called ‘spiritual quest’ was to get away from seeing this, after all! Why – we might wonder – is it so very difficult to see ourselves as we are, rather than either automatically validating or automatically condemning ourselves (which is really just reverse-validation)? This is – as investigation shows – always the case, but the question is ‘Why should it be the case?’ What’s going on here? What’s the big problem in ‘seeing ourselves as we really are’?

 

The ‘big problem’ is of course that we want so desperately for there to be a self to lead this ‘spiritual life’ – we want for there to be such a thing as ‘the spiritual self’! That’s the identity we want. Given the fact that there is no such thing as ‘the self’ – spiritual or otherwise – where does this leave us? What direction do we go in, now and (given the fact that there is no self there to develop) who is the one who wants to go there? This is where purposeful behaviour meets its abyss – and this is an abyss that no one can ever get past. It also happens to be an abyss that no one can ever see, which means therefore that we don’t know that we can never get past it. When we are unaware of the abyss then we can happily carry on with our purposeful activity and our rational thinking; we can carry on with our dreams. When on the other hand we see the Abyss, when we see the Great Discontinuity, then all of that is cut off as if with a knife!

 

Purposeful behaviour is how the self carries on being the self – as long as it can – via its purposes – (or via its fears, which are the same thing) extend itself into the future (or rather extend the idea of itself into the future) then it is happy. When the Discontinuity is spotted however, then that is the end of all that! The Sword of Manjushri (which is the sword of wisdom) cuts all our goal-orientated activity away, all our thinking away. To see the Discontinuity is to have awareness of the essential relativity of all of our thoughts and all of our goals. It is in other words to have awareness of the way in which all of our thinking is utterly nonsensical. Inasmuch as our identity is created entirely out of our thinking then to see the Discontinuity (between our thoughts and reality) is to see that our notion of having an identity (either good or bad, successful or unsuccessful) is also ‘utterly nonsensical’. Is this really what we want to discover, however? Do we really have an appetite for this sort of thing?