The Greatest Calamity

When we allow ourselves to be completely defined by the thinking mind, the mind that evaluates and categorizes, then the result of this – quite simply – is the self. That’s how we get to experience life on the basis of ‘the self’ (instead of ‘in some other way’). Unless something is unambiguously defined in a black-and-white way then we are unable to identify with it, and without identification there can be no self.

 

‘Identification’ simply means that I see some fixed position, some fixed viewpoint as being ‘me’ – it’s the fixed nature of the position of the viewpoint that allows for the possibility of making any kind of ‘literal statement’ about the world. How can we make a literal statement if there is not a ‘literal’ (or ‘concrete’) point of reference to make it from? Literal statements actually are the fixed point of reference projected outwards onto the world. As soon we say this, we get a strong hint as to what the ‘calamity’ to which we are referring might be – identification means that everything I see and experience from the point of view of that ‘fixed position’ is already inherent in that position, and between my perception of myself as being ‘this viewpoint’ and ‘the world that I perceive around me’ (which is as we have said tautologically contained within my assumed frame of reference) what else is there? For me, that is everything – that represents the alpha and omega of my total field of possibilities.

 

The principle behind what we are saying here is very clear – when I identify with the fixed position then I am just not going to be able to perceive anything that does not ‘agree’ with this fixed reference point of mine. I won’t be able to see anything other than those things that make sense in relation to the fixed reference point that I have tacitly accepted as being ‘the only possible way of looking at the world’ – naturally enough! So what has happened is that I have become sealed off within a closed system. No possibility of ‘radical reorganization’ exists within a closed system – clearly there can’t be any such because what makes the closed system into a closed system is the fact that there are restrictions placed on what can be allowed to happen in that system. The ‘self consistency’ of logical systems depends upon the limits that are placed upon what is allowed to happen within that system – which is of course the very same thing as saying that logical systems ‘function as such on the basis of rules’! No one is going to argue with this…

 

There is no calamity involved in allowing everything that happens in a logical system to be determined by rules – that’s how logical systems work, as we keep saying. But what is good for a logical system (such as the national railway system network or a big modern hospital) is not good for us as individual human beings. The one does not imply the other, and although this may seem like a very obvious point to be making it clearly isn’t a point that we understand in any practical way because the story of mankind is very much the story of how we have allowed our own systems to enslave us and make us miserable as a result of this wretched state of enslavement. This is the one mistake we keep on making over and over again and the fact that we are repeatedly making it is very clearly because we do not understand what we’re doing! We’re not even close to understanding what’s going on – we are forever focusing on improving the systems that enslave us rather than looking at how we can become free from them.

 

Society is a logical system and we are all defined by it, no matter what we might like to believe. We don’t want to believe that we are defined by society, we want to believe that we are ‘unique individuals living our own unique individual lives’, but this is simply not true. How could it be true, when we are not actually putting any effort into it? Being the unique individual that one genuinely is isn’t just something that ‘falls into our lap’, like a ripe fruit when the tree is shaken – it can only come about via arduous effort. This isn’t ‘effort’ as we usually see it either – it isn’t  effort that is made in a particular direction, effort that is directed towards a particular or specified end. We not ‘improving ourselves in line with some idea that we might have with regard to how we or someone else might think we ought to be improved’. That is merely ‘optimization’ and optimization is the process of adapting ourselves to some kind of logical system. Optimization is movement in the direction of losing autonomy.

 

The effort involved in becoming the true individual that one actually is (or rather that one could be) is of an entirely different nature to this – it involves what the alchemists of old called the Opus Contra Naturam – the ‘work against nature’. Rules or precedents exist that propel us in a certain direction – the Opus Contra Naturam means not going in this direction! The work against nature is of course what Carl Jung calls individuation. Individuation (or rather ‘the fruit of the individuation process’) isn’t something that just ‘falls into our lap’ (as the socialised identity does) – it emerges slowly as a result of our struggle to be true to ourselves (or ‘find ourselves’) in the face of a hostile environment, which is what the social system is as regards our genuine individuality. The inertial forces that are ranged against us are immense and implacable and it is as everyone knows much easier to just give into them and be like everyone else! At least then we will have company, rather than feeling very much on our own and in danger of feeling that the ‘fault’ lies within us, and not within society as a whole.

 

So society is one big machine that that we have to struggle against in order not to be defined by it, but the other manifestation of ‘the machine’ is the thinking mind, which is what we started off by talking about. We’re caught between the machine on the inside and the machine on the outside, and neither of them has any tolerance at all for ‘who we really are’ – the machine – any machine – understands only mechanical things, and ‘who we really are’ is not mechanical. Or as we could also say, ‘a machine only understands defined things, and who we are is not capable of being defined’. The problem is however that who we understand ourselves to be is both defined and limited, and as such the one thing that it fears more than anything else is a reality that is not defined, a reality that is not limited. There is no challenge for the conditioned self that is greater than this; the unlimited / undefined reality is not merely ‘a challenge’, it is its greatest terror!

 

We see ‘being defined’ as being a strength – we know who we are, we know what we think, we know what we like and what we don’t like, and this seems like a strong position to be in. Almost anyone you talk to will tell you that this is a strong position to be in – society will tell you this. It is however strong only in a very limited way – it’s like being a world-renowned expert in a very narrow field – without any doubt we are formidably strong within the parameters of our specialization and if our area of specialization were ‘the whole world’ then we would be genuinely strong! But because our area of speciality isn’t the whole world (obviously enough!) we aren’t ‘strong’ at all –we only have a kind of ‘pretence’ at being strong and inasmuch as we allow ourselves to believe in this pretence of ours (which is easily done) we get to imagine that we are strong when we are not. When we fall into the trap of believing our own pretence we make fools of ourselves, in other words, and ‘making a fool of oneself without being able to see it’ is not a genuine form of strength.

 

Although this might at first glance seem like a somewhat obvious and therefore trivial example to give, it only takes a moment of reflection to realise that what we are talking about here is the situation of the conditioned (or ‘mind-created’) self. The mind-created self gets to feel robust and unrealistically confident in its outlook (if not downright arrogant!) because of the way in which it believes in a strength which it doesn’t actually have. The traditional virtue of humility originally meant something like ‘the awareness of the fact that we don’t really know anything’ (as opposed to what we usually take it to be, which is ‘the theatrical effort of the arrogant self to try to show that it is not arrogant when the truth is that it simply can’t help being so’). The incentive for us to fall into the trap of ‘believing in our own pretence’ (or ‘believing that our very limited area of specialisation is the whole world when it plainly isn’t’) is that it creates a feeling of ‘ontological security’ for us – a feeling of ‘security-of-being’ that we just can’t obtain any other way.

 

Being defined gives us a sense of security therefore, but only when we been live in a world that is made up of nothing more than our own mental projections. If we want that feeling of being secure – the feeling of being secure that comes from being totally defined – we have to pay the price of having to live in a very small world – the very small world of our own thoughts, our own expectations. What else are our thoughts anyway, if not ‘expectations of the world’? We don’t know that we are living in this absurdly small world, but that doesn’t alter the fact that we are, and there are going to be consequences to this choice that we have made, even though we don’t know that we have made it.

 

It’s not a good thing to shrink down in this way – it brings suffering, and not only does it ‘bring suffering’, it brings ‘suffering-without-the-capacity-to-bear-it’. Within this ‘absurdly small world’ (which is the only world that makes sense to the defined self) we are constantly subject to ‘irritations’ of a totally trivial nature. We can say that these irritations are of ‘a totally trivial nature’ because precisely they are irritations that make sense to the defined self, and the ‘defined’ (or ‘mind-created’) self is itself completely petty, completely trivial! We all know this on some level or other – we are all deeply familiar with the pettiness of the everyday self. The only time we aren’t aware of this is when we are wholly identified with this self, which is – needless to say – all too often! This is a calamity in itself; to be infinitely petty in the scope of our concerns, without knowing that we are because we are so caught up in them – is without any doubt a terrible calamity. We only need the smallest bit of imagination to appreciate just how terrifying a fate this is.

 

That’s only the beginning of it however. In order to enjoy the ‘sense of security’ that comes with being narrowly defined we need to restrict ourselves to ‘living within a very small world without knowing that we are’ and in one way this seems to be a price that we are willing to pay. There are however distressing consequences to this manoeuvre that only become apparent after a while. The ‘consequences’ that we talking about can be understood in terms of counterproductivity – ‘counterproductivity’ means that we that when we exert ourselves to accomplish one aim (and thereby hopefully resolve the situation in some way) other problems – which we have not foreseen – immediately come into play. And when we try to fix these unexpected problems what happens next is of course that a whole clutch of new problems come into being which also need to be fixed, and so on and so forth. On the ‘macro-scale’ this sort of counterproductivity is fairly well-known to us – our linear/technological approach to managing our environment is always rebounding on us in various unexpected (and unwanted) ways, as Gregory Bateson pointed out back in the 1960s. Ivan Illich also speaks of what he calls ‘specific counterproductivity’ in the fields of education, communication, transport and health.

 

We are at least’ halfway aware’ of counterproductivity on the macro-scale, whether it is in regard to the planetary ecology or industrialized society, but we are almost entirely blind to what we might call ‘intrapersonal counter- productivity’, which is the result of us trying to control or regulate ourselves. No matter how free we try to be in ourselves the mere fact that we are defined (just as the world we live in is defined) means that we are already controlled in the most profound way possible, even before we do anything else. This is like being ‘strangled at birth’! Intrapersonal counterproductivity is where we try to obtain a benefit for ourselves but incur suffering instead (or where we try to avoid pain, and instead of avoiding it we bring it down on our heads a thousandfold). The more common term for this is of course neuroticism and the concrete or literal self is the source of all neurotic counterproductivity…

 

 

 

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The Jinx

To be ‘unconscious’, in the psychological sense of the world, means that we absolutely can’t help seeing everything via some kind of ridiculous arbitrary viewpoint that simply isn’t true and never could be! That’s the sort of ‘jinx’ that we’re talking about here – the jinx of being made a complete fool of by our thinking, by our ‘ideas about reality’, so to speak.

 

It doesn’t matter what perceptions or understandings of the world we have therefore, they are only there because of our conditioned viewpoint. Our perceptions and understandings of the world only make sense in relation to this viewpoint – they don’t and can’t make sense in the other way. No matter what ‘serious’ tasks we might engage in, if we try to tackle them without first tackling the wooden beam that is lodged solidly in our eye-socket, we can only succeed at perpetuating our folly. ‘Perpetuating our folly’ is the best we can hope for…

 

The very idea of a ‘serious task’ becomes not-so-serious therefore – we may be taking ourselves seriously for sure but this is really just a joke that we can’t see – it’s an invisible joke, it’s a ‘joke at our own expense’! The reason this joke is at our own expense is because we are forever acting as if we have a very solid and mature grasp on things (our whole demeanour, our whole comportment says as much) whilst the truth of the matter is that we are the victims of a ridiculous deception that we have unwittingly perpetrated upon ourselves.

 

How is looking at the world from the basis of a viewpoint that isn’t true and never could be true ‘serious’? We point the finger at all sorts of so-called serious problems that are to be found in the world and which need our urgent attention but stubbornly ignore their root cause, which is our extraordinary ‘one-sided’ (as Jung would say) view of the world. We see things the way our thinking mind says we should see them, and not in any other way – the advantage in this is that we can then effectively utilise the world in the way we wish to utilise it, whilst the disadvantage is that our awareness is completely contained within the game we are playing with the result that we simply don’t know that we’re playing it.

 

Putting matters like this gives us a way of looking very precisely at our predicament in life. If our unwitting one-sidedness results in us only being able to attend to that aspect of the world which corresponds to the unconscious (or unexamined) expectations that we are invisibly encoded into our way of thinking about the world then what has essentially happened here is that we have set ourselves up as being ‘outside of life’ (or ‘apart from life’), and not just ‘apart from life’, but also against life, in opposition to life.

 

If we are completely ‘on the side of thought’ (and have no balance whatsoever within us) then there is no way that we will not be living ‘apart from life’, and ‘in opposition to life’. Not being in opposition to life is going to be a complete impossibility. Life is the Whole Thing, not just the partial or fragmentary view. Furthermore, life cannot be subdivided without ceasing to be life – when we subdivide it life just becomes an idea! We can’t say what this thing that we’re calling ‘life’ is because to say this is to put life in a compartment and to put life in a compartment is to ‘separate it from itself’. This is the whole problem in a nutshell – the whole problem is our unconscious compulsion to turn everything into a mind-created abstraction!

 

So the next question we could ask is ‘what happens when we place ourselves outside of life and in opposition to life?’ Very obviously, to do this is to incur all sorts of calamities. When we headbutt the universe, then we end up with a very sore head! When we break harmony with the Tao (even though, as Alan Watt says, this is ultimately an impossibility) then just as we are in opposition to life, life is in opposition to us and no matter how we figure it, when life itself exists in opposition to us than the one thing that we may rely on is that things are going to get pretty rough!

 

In very simple terms, when we are in this situation of being on the ‘other team’ with regard to life, then everything is going to turn against us. As Jung says our own psyche is going to turn against us. We are creating our own nemesis with everything we do.  “The more compulsive the one-sidedness, and the more untamed the libido which streams off to one side, the more daemonic it becomes” says Jung (Collected Works Vol 6). In this statement it is clear that we actually have two devils on our back here, not just the one. We have the ‘daemonic forces’ that have been called into existence by our ‘one-sidedness’ (by our ‘opposition to nature’) and we also have the compulsivity that is inherent in this one-sidedness. There is nothing to choose between these two devils – they are each as bad as the other! Compulsivity is a demon because it never gives us any peace, it goads us on forever and ever and we can never keep it satisfied, no matter how hard we may try. We are in this horrible situation where we do what we do not because we really want to (or because there is any joy in acting out ‘what we have in mind’ as Macbeth says) but because we have to. We have no choice. There is no freedom in the moment for us, only slavery to a pitiless (and quite insane) master!

 

And then if this were not bad enough, the result of us obeying the compulsivity created by our one-sidedness in this way is that we set up a force that turns against us and ultimately destroys everything that we have put so much effort into creating. We can’t win either way, therefore – we try to get some peace by placating the devil that is persecuting us from the inside (which, ultimately, we can never do because no matter how much we give it it will always want more) and we bring the devil on the outside down on our heads as a result of trying so hard to appease the demon on the inside! To say that we are ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ is putting it far too mildly. We’re up shit creek without a paddle.

 

Needless to say, this conflicted situation creates great suffering. We try as hard as we do to enact all of our ideas, beliefs, and plans because we fervently believe this there is to be great benefit in doing so. Our rational-purposeful output matters a great deal to us – that’s why we are so very’ serious’ about it. It matters to us a great deal because we believe that we are going to set up some value in the outside world; we believe that we are going to ‘do some good,’ in other words. Our belief in the importance of our goals – whatever these might be – is however driven not by the genuine desire to ‘do good’ when we are in the grip of the thinking mind but ‘to do good by the criteria of the thinking mind’, which is not the same thing at all! ‘Doing good by criteria of the thinking mind’ simply means obeying its compulsions (or ‘doing what we are not free not to do’) – we just don’t see things this way when we are in ‘unconscious’ or ‘passively-identified’ state. We don’t see our true motivation.

 

So – as far as we are concerned ‘everything will come out all right’ just so long as we can attain our goals, and this is why they matter so much to us in the very serious way that they do. Yet, the fact that we are acting unconsciously (or one-sidedly’) guarantees that our efforts are all going to rebound on us in the most painful way; it guarantees in other words that we have set ourselves up so that the thing we see as being of the utmost importance is unfailingly going to go wrong for us, is going to backfire on us, and if this doesn’t spell ‘suffering’ then what does? The very thing that we are pinning all our hopes on is the one thing that could never work out for us. Action that comes out of one-sidedness is never going to work out for us.

 

The reason for this is of course because it is our unconscious or unexamined assumptions that are driving everything. Whenever we want to achieve we want to achieve on the basis of these unconscious assumptions and because these assumptions are completely unfounded (they can’t not be) we are heading off on ‘a journey to nowhere’ right from the very start. Thought can be a very useful guide in the pragmatic domain but it is never going to be of any service to us in the ‘absolute’ sense that we want it to be. Thought can never do us any good when used as an ‘absolute basis’ for how we are to live life! It can’t do us any good because in reality there is no such thing as ‘an absolute basis’. Life can’t be oversimplified on the basis of a theory or belief either of the religious or political or scientific variety. All theories/models/concepts/beliefs come out of the one-sidedness of the rational mind; they all come out of our ‘invisible assumptions’ and this is why they will always backfire on us.

 

We can use the rational mind to help us with the ‘little things’ in life, with the day-to-day mechanical details, but not with the big things, not the things that really matter. We can’t face life on the basis of a theory or model or belief as we have just said. To do so is an evasion of responsibility and this evasion will inevitably rebound on us! Nature unfailingly punishes unconsciousness, as Jung says. Ignorance is no excuse. Facing life on the basis of a theory/belief/model/opinion is living unconsciously (i.e. engaging on the basis of unexamined assumptions is living unconsciously) and to live life unconsciously is to be very thoroughly jinxed. We might not see it – we almost certainly won’t see it – but our ignorance doesn’t mean that the joke isn’t on us; our ignorance is why the joke is on us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enforced Heteronomy

The root cause of our mental un-health (or mental unwellness) is – I would argue – that we are not allowed to be ourselves. This might sound too simple, or ‘not scientific enough’, but it’s a simple thing that we’re talking about here. Getting all fancy and technical about it is missing the point! It’s actually obscuring the point! We exist in an environment that – for whatever reasons – will not allow us to be ourselves, and if not being able to be ourselves (nor know who we are) isn’t a definition of mental unwellness then what is? Another way of putting this is to say that our lack of mental health is due to our autonomy as individuals being compromised, without us being able to know that it has. Ivan Illich expresses this same idea by saying that in society we are ‘heteronomous rather than autonomous’. Heteronomy is the state of being in which are defined and regulated from without, instead of being free to be who we actually are and do what is truly in our nature to do. Few would argue that this is a healthy or wholesome way to be, and yet this is without question the situation that we find ourselves in! That’s the world we have made for ourselves…

 

Heteronomy is the something that our modern society produces to a very extreme degree; society – in its current super-invasive format – defines everything about us. It tells us what we like and what we don’t like, it provides the template for our generic identities. It is and never has been good to be defined by an external structure (by the church, by a political movement, by local cultural influences, or whatever) but to allow ourselves to be defined and regulated by a system that is purely and solely driven by its agenda to sell us things can hardly be anything other than extraordinarily pathological. It is ridiculously farcical, but at the same time deeply sinister, because we let it eat us up without any complaint. We don’t stand up to it, we cave in every time, we put up with any indignity. It is as if our spirit has been somehow broken by this apparently innocuous thing we blithely call ‘the consumerist way of life’; it’s as if human beings don’t exist anymore – only sad shadows that uncomplainingly go through the paces of the ridiculous superficial game that we have been given in place of life…

 

We have no autonomy because everything comes from the outside, and when ‘everything is supplied from the outside’ then this means that there is no inside, or no room for anything on the inside, and this is just another way of saying that there is no room for ourselves, for our true genuine inner lives.  When everything comes from the outside then this is a disaster of the very greatest proportions, as Jung says here in this quote from On The Psychology Of The Trickster Figure. Collected Works Vol 9 (Part 1) –

 

The disastrous idea that everything comes to the human psyche from outside and that it is born a tabula rasa is responsible for the erroneous belief that under normal circumstances the individual is in perfect order. He then looks to the State for salvation, and makes society pay for his inefficiency.

 

He thinks the meaning of existence would be discovered if food and clothing were delivered to him gratis on his own doorstep, or if everybody possessed an automobile. Such are the puerilities that rise up in place of an unconscious shadow and keep it unconscious. As a result of these prejudices, the individual feels totally dependent on his environment and loses all capacity for introspection. In this way his code of ethics is replaced by a knowledge of what is permitted or forbidden or ordered.

 

How, under these circumstances, can one expect a soldier to subject an order received from a superior to ethical scrutiny? He has not yet made the discovery that he might be capable of spontaneous ethical impulses, and of performing them – even when no one is looking.

 

We are the inside, not the outside. We’re what’s been overlooked. The outside has nothing to do with us – not only is it foreign to our true nature (so to speak), it’s actually inimical to us. The thing is however that when we’re heteronomous we no longer have a sense of ‘the inside, we no longer have any true interiority. Instead, we have a false sense of interiority which is really just the outside that has been ‘introjected’ (or internalized) by the process of socialization. We think that the alien introject is us, in other words. The better things are going for the alien introject the worse off we are – its ‘health’ is our ‘lack of health’, so to speak (even though we can’t really speak in terms of ‘the health of the introject’ since an introject isn’t a living thing). It would have to be genuinely alive in order to have health and it isn’t – it isn’t alive at all. It belongs to another realm, not the realm of life. It belongs to what Plato would call ‘the world of shadows’, not the world of light…

 

Heteronomy means that when I make a choice, something inside me chooses for me and I don’t know it! On the contrary, I think that I have ‘made a choice’, I think that I have ‘acted autonomously’, and this feels good. This type of ‘feeling good’ isn’t however the type of good feeling that comes with being genuinely free, it’s an analogue of that. It’s the good feeling that comes with ‘playing it safe whilst at the same time thinking that you’re taking a risk’, it’s the type of good feeling that comes when we allow ourselves to be tricked into believing the ‘theatre of freedom’ when really we should know better! A simpler way of putting this is then to say that the pleasurable / satisfying feeling of ‘false autonomy’ comes about as a direct result of us believing something that isn’t actually true, and as soon as we say this we can see that this ‘inverted’ situation is never going to be conducive to good mental health!

 

Technically, what we’re talking about here can be described as ‘playing a game’, which is something that we are of course all very familiar with! When we are 100% immersed in the game of conditioned life then we are ‘eligible’, so to speak, to experience the good feeling that comes from thinking that we are acting autonomously when we’re not. We are also eligible to experience the motivation to want to be able to act autonomously in a successful rather than an unsuccessful way in the future even when this doesn’t seem to be working out for us at the moment and this motivation is also potentially very rewarding since we can pleasurably anticipate ‘doing what we want to do’ in the future, even though it isn’t really ‘what we want to do’ but only what our conditioning wants us to do. The actual authenticity of our wants and needs doesn’t matter therefore because we will still stand to experience pleasure and satisfaction when they are met. If all we want is to feel good then who cares?

 

This therefore represents a very potent incentive not to see through the game! We don’t want to spoil things by going into them too deeply. But then the other side of the coin is of course the bad feeling that comes when we are unable – for whatever reason – to successfully act out the impulses that we mistakenly imagine to be our own free will (but which are in reality nothing more than ‘the rules of the games’ that we have internalized). The euphoria of successfully acting out the impulses along with the dysphoria of not being able to do so make up the ongoing drama of everyday (or ‘conditioned’) life and the game of trying to obtain the one and avoid the other generally keeps us busy enough so that we don’t need to look too closely at what we actually doing. The package works perfectly well for the majority of the time in other words and so we rarely find the need to look beyond it…

 

Our conceptions of what is meant by ‘good mental health’ can therefore be seen entirely within this context – which is ‘the context of us playing the game of being autonomous when we’re not’. We see our psychological well being as being directly linked to how well we are able to perform within this game that we do not acknowledge as a game and as long as we are able to maintain the perception that we are able to enact our imaginary autonomy (or at least believe in the possibility of us being able to do so in the future) then we are going to say that we are getting on just fine. We can’t call this real ‘mental health’ because it doesn’t involve any actual autonomy but it does all the same act as a perfectly serviceable surrogate or analogue for the real thing. All seems to be rosy – or at the very least potentially rosy – in the garden, therefore. Problems start appearing on the scene however when we can no longer maintain this vital perception that we are either ‘in control’ or at least ‘potentially in control’.   Alongside this problem – which is known to us all as anxiety – there is another related glitch and that is when we can no longer maintain the perception that there actually is anything in the game worth striving for (or – conversely – that what we have already gained or achieved is in fact not in reality worth anything). This second glitch in the game is of course what we call depression.

 

A more succinct way of putting this is to say that anxiety is where we are unable to believe any more in our ability to successfully manipulate outcomes within the game and depression is where the outcomes (whether we achieve them or not) no longer mean anything to us and, more than this, actually appear to us to be utterly fraudulent. Given the fact that we construct our identity on the twin basis of what psychologists sometimes call ‘self-efficacy’ (i.e. the belief that one has that one can successfully obtain one’s goals) and what we imagine ourselves to have obtained on the basis of this illusory ‘self-efficacy’ of ours, the failure of the game to supply us with a believable package is absolutely devastating in its effect. It is devastating because all we know is the game, and so when the game gets ‘spoiled’ for us as it does by anxiety and depression, we have nothing else to turn to.

 

When we’re playing the game that we’re autonomous when we’re not (because in reality we’re being ‘externally determined’ every step of the way) then we may said to be ‘psychologically unconscious’. ‘Unconscious life’ is that life where we follow the script that has been handed to us without ever realizing that we are doing do, or that there actually is any script. We follow the script that we have been provided with whilst fondly imagining the whole time that ‘we’re coming up with it all by ourselves’. We’re playing a game without knowing that we’re playing game. We might wish to say that the script is being provided for us by society, or by ‘the external authority’ of the system we live in, or we might say that it is being given to us by ‘the conditioned mind’ – it doesn’t matter which words we use because it all comes down to the same thing – we’re being externally determined. No matter how we say it, it all comes down to the fact that we have no autonomy, and therefore no true sense of who we actually are or what we actually might want to do with our lives.

 

This state of being ‘externally determined’ is the ubiquitous state of affairs and it is pointless for us to go around trying to say what we have just said to anyone we might happen to meet because the chances are very much that they won’t understand a word that you are saying. To be unconscious not only means that you don’t know that you are, it also means that you don’t even have the referents to understand what it is that is being talked about. This brings us to a crucial point in relation to anxiety and depression and the neurotic mental disturbances in general. The point is this – when we are psychologically unconscious ourselves and we come across someone who is anxious or depressed (because the game is no longer working for them) then we are of course going to try to ‘help them’ by returning them to a state of ‘happy equilibrium within the game that we’re not acknowledging to be a game’. There is no way that we’re not going to try to do this! What we can’t see is that there is a real chance here (amidst all the distress and suffering) of discovering our true autonomy, since we can’t discover freedom until we discover the fact that we don’t have any! If we ourselves are psychologically unconscious then what we have just said here will be fundamentally incomprehensible to us because we honestly (if erroneously) believe ourselves to be already free…