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 Limitations Of The Game

When all of our ‘capacity to do’ (or our ‘capacity to know’, for that matter) is supplied by the external authority of the game this might be said to be ‘fine up to a point’! It is fine (in a very limited sort of way, admittedly) up to a point, but then when that point is reached it immediately becomes not so fine at all. This critical point – which is the critical point at which external authority or ‘obeying the rules’ is no longer going to cut the ice for us – is always going to be reached sooner or later: either the environment we live in will place demands on us that the game-rules aren’t equipped to deal with, or – somehow – we lose faith in our ability for the rules or procedures to work for us, even though the tasks we are trying to carry out aren’t in any way new or especially demanding. In a nutshell, it could be said that what we’ve learned in life can no longer help us.

 

Whichever way it happens – and we could perhaps call the first scenario ‘stress’ and the second ‘anxiety’ – we’re caught out because we don’t have the capacity to call upon any resources other than those that are supplied by the external authority. If the EA can’t help us in a situation then it all starts to go to pieces, because we’ve never been encouraged to develop true autonomy. Nothing in society encourages us to (or supports us in) developing true autonomy; this is in fact the one thing the social system doesn’t want us to have! We go to pieces when we’re challenged in a way that the EA can’t help us with because we don’t have any intuition as to ‘what to do’  in the situation – intuition after all means ‘teaching from within’ and the only type of teaching we have (when we’re adapted to the game) is ex-tuition, or ‘teaching from without’…

 

Ultimately, it’s just not possible to live life solely on the basis of ‘teaching from without’ or ‘guidance from the operating system of the rational mind’. We’ve missed out something very important here – we’ve missed out ourselves and this omission is inevitably going to show up at some stage of the proceedings! Suppose I hit upon a neat way of living my life without me actually needing to be there – suppose I let the ‘inner robot’ of my habits run the show for me, to use Colin Wilson’s apt phrase. Suppose I just treat life as a kind of an established routine and just let it run according to the way it always does run – wouldn’t that be great? No real effort at all is needed in this case – I will never be challenged by anything radically new because all I’m doing is just playing the same loop over and over again. It’s all just ‘plain cruising’ in this case and I can put my feet up and hang an ‘out to lunch’ sign around my neck. I’m letting ‘the system’ run my life because I don’t want the bother, essentially. So the question we’re asking is ‘What’s the down-side to the plan? Where are the snags – if there are going to be any – going to appear?’

 

The question we’re asking is ‘How are the problems that arise from this business of me letting the system run my life (if there are any) going to present themselves?’ We have already said [in the Chapter Invisible Aggression] that when, in ‘the contest between realities’, the generic (or collective) reality wins out over our own unique non-generic reality – as it almost always does – then we have lost the core of who we are. We’re adrift as ‘an inauthentic constructed identity’ in the sterile, pointless world of society, trying to achieve goals that aren’t really ours, and which wouldn’t do us any good even if they were. Another way of putting this is to say that we’ve lost ourselves in the acts we put on to the extent that we know longer know that they are only ‘acts’! So we can now reformulate our question as “What problems are likely to arise when ‘the act we are putting on’ gets disconnected from ‘the one who is putting the act on’?’

 

We’re in the situation of a person who for the sake of convenience has put on a mask and then forgotten that they have done so and – as a result – are proceeding to live the ‘life’ of ‘the disconnected or unowned mask’. We have become identified with the mask and the point at which this identification takes place is the point at which the mask gets ‘a life of its own’, so to speak; the mask gets a life of its own, but at the same time it doesn’t really have a life because it’s not actually alive! Even just expressing matters this way (and it will be a very familiar perspective to anyone who has studied Carl Jung) clarifies things hugely. Already, the sense of ‘how the problem could manifest itself’ is very clear from this description of our situation. It is abundantly clear. When we look into it what we’re talking about here sounds more than just a little bit like ‘being possessed’ and Jung actually speaks in exactly these terms when we talks about ‘being possessed by the persona’. At the risk of being overly repetitive in our approach, we can now reformulate the question we have been playing about with here as “What psychological problems might conceivably arise of being possessed by a bundle of mechanical reflexes which masquerades as a self and has started living our life for us on our behalf, whether we like it or not?”

 

The question has in fact become little short of ridiculous at this stage – after all, what part of the situation that we have just described isn’t a problem? We would be better off asking if there is anything about the situation, as we have just set it out, that isn’t frankly and horrifically appalling! The only part of the package, as described, that is in any way ‘non-problematic’ would be the superficial representation of what’s going on, as provided for us by that mechanical agency, when we are able to actually believe in it (which will be, at best, only for some of the time). As we keep saying, the mechanical agency is living life for us (is living life as us) and the only way this is going to seem OK to us is when we are able to think that this highly limited (actually totally limited) frame of reference IS us. That’s the only way we’re ever going to feel good about the machine that lives life on our behalf…

 

There are two elements (we could say) to this illusion – [1] is that we think the machine is us (or that we are the machine) and [2] is that we don’t in any way perceive the machine to be only a machine, which is to say, limited or constrained to the point that there is actually nothing real about it at all. When both of these elements are present and intact then the illusion can function flawlessly; we will never smell a rat and the illusion will therefore perpetuate itself indefinitely!

 

The ‘fully-functioning illusion’ is one in which there is no question of this bundle of reflexes and judgements (or prejudices) not being who we are; it is the situation where there is not even the slightest shadow of doubt [1] that this ‘foreign introject’ is our own true self and [2] that the subjective world in which we live (which is made up entirely of attractive and aversive projections based upon the inherent biases of the machine) is expansive and full of possibilities (and not at all ‘closed’, therefore). These two requirements for a fully functioning, fully operational illusion are – when it comes down to it – quite inseparable – if one starts to fail then both do. When we start to feel that our world is limited to the point of being empty of any worthwhile content this in turn causes us to doubt the authenticity of who we think we are and if – looking at this the other way – if we were to doubt our own authenticity, our own worthwhileness as a person, then the world would appear to have nothing in it for us – it would hold no promises for us, no possibilities for us. There might be something in it for someone else perhaps but that doesn’t matter because there is nothing there for me… The world reflects our own state of mind when we are unconscious, as Johannes Fabricius says in The Royal Art Of The Alchemists – if I feel bad then the world is a bad place and if I feel good then it is a terrible place. The world is a projection of my inner state – the possibilities I see out there for me in the ‘projected world’ are really nothing more than illusions deriving from the ‘central illusion’ of the self-construct!

 

Another (possibly clearer) way of putting this is to say that there are two ways in which ‘malfunctions of the machine’ might start to manifest for us, one being in terms of limitations that affect our purposeful (or goal-orientated) actions in the world and the other being in terms of what we might call ‘limitation in our very being’. A ‘limitation in the potency of our purposeful actions’ simply means that we are not able (or rather that we feel we are not able) to do, whilst a perceived ‘limitation in our being’ means that – actually – we don’t have any being since being can’t be limited and yet still remain ‘being’! The nature of being is to be limitless, without edges or boundaries. To perceive oneself to be in any way ‘a thing’, in other words, is to perceive oneself as having no genuine being. That’s why we say ‘a mere thing’; thing-hood is a degraded state of being, a state of being with all the good taken out of it. It reduces us to a joke. Perceived limitation of purposeful action corresponds to anxiety therefore, whilst ‘perceived limitation of being’ corresponds – we might say – to depression. In the former we are impotent to do, in the latter we are equally impotent to be – our so-called ‘being’ is felt to be fraudulent…

 

We can bring this all back to what Gurdjieff says about us being unable, in our normal everyday mode of being, it either do or be. On the face of it, to the overwhelming majority of us, this sounds like utter nonsense. It doesn’t penetrate our consciousness even by a millimetre, even by a nanometre. It’s double-dutch – our acclaimed (but deeply unconscious) experts will scoff for all they’re worth. And yet what Gurdjieff is saying isn’t that hard to understand – not if we look at it from the perspective that we have been setting out here. Of course we can’t do if our internalized set of rules and procedures are already doing everything for us! We have become so dependent upon the crutch of the ‘inner robot’ that if it were taken away from us we would simply collapse on a heap on the floor!

 

Similarly, then, it is perfectly clear and straightforward to see that in our normal, everyday mode of existence, we cannot be. We don’t have to be – we have a machine that will do that for us! We have a fully-functioning ‘slave-system’ to do that for us (only things have flipped over for us and we’ve ended up being the slaves). It’s like having slaves to chew our food for us because we’re too lazy to make the effort – if our slaves were to leave us or die then we would be thrown into a crisis since our jaw muscles would have become far too weak to chew any unprocessed food. We would have become functionally incapable of mastication! It’s not that there is any shortage of food – the table in front of us is heaped with it – it’s just that we can’t eat it. We’d choke if we tried…

 

In this analogy, ‘the food on the table’ corresponds to reality (or ‘genuine being’), and the sustenance that lies within it. Genuine being is however unknown to us and as well as being unknown to us it is something we seriously don’t want to have to meet; we are averse to ever coming across it because it completely fails to facilitate us. More accurately, it completely fails to facilitate our ‘idea of ourselves’, i.e. – who we think we are. More accurately still, reality will facilitate our idea of ourselves (just as it will facilitate any of our ideas, any of our thoughts) but what it won’t do is facilitate our unquestioning belief in this idea. We have to do that bit ourselves! Reality can float any number of ideas or concepts, just as the sea can facilitate any number of waves, but it doesn’t insist that we take them seriously – it is us who insists upon that. Truth is not in the business of ‘facilitating illusions’ after all! Far from facilitating them, it ruthlessly undermines them. And in the same way, far from supporting our ideas and concepts, the truth fatally undermines them…

 

Oddly enough, therefore, genuine being is actually destructive to us. ‘He who is near to me is near to the fire’, warns Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas. Reality is destructive to us because it doesn’t support the illusions that we have about ourselves – it’s a food that is too rich for our blood! The only type of sustenance we can take is something that we might call ‘pre-digested being’, which is actually non-being in disguise. The conceptual self can only have conceptual being, in other words, and so to state that we, in our normal everyday mode of existence, cannot ‘be’ makes perfect sense. In the conditioned modality of existence, we cannot be, and what’s more, we cannot have anything to do with being. Our being is illusory and so too are our purposeful actions (naturally they are since they are ‘actions that stem from an illusory sense of self’). Our purposeful behavioural output – to a large extent – is actually our (covert) attempt to stabilize and promote our illusory sense of self and so it can’t be any more real than that mind-created self is.

 

The ongoing endeavour to maintain, stabilize and promote the mind-created self – no matter how apparently successful it might be – is always going to be fundamentally irresolvably glitched and what we call ‘neurotic suffering’ is how this irreducible glitch manifests itself. And yet as unwelcome as neurotic suffering might be (and there is no visitor more unwelcome at our door), it betokens a freedom far beyond anything we could ever have imagined…

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘Assumed Sense of Self’

Our collective viewpoint on what so-called ‘mental illness’ is and how it comes about is, I would say, remarkably obtuse! It’s as if we have a lorry-load of logs stuck in our collective eye. It’s not an accident that we’re so obtuse either – it’s just that this is where our personal and collective ‘blind-spot’ happens to reside and this blind-spot (as all blind-spots do) takes precedence over good sense. It takes precedence over everything. The blind-spot which we are talking about here has to do with the assumptions that we make about ourselves, and (unwisely) use as a spring-board to enthusiastically propel ourselves forward in life…

 

Collectively speaking, all we can ever do is ‘charge blindly ahead on the basis of our unexamined assumptions’. This is because a group of people (rather than ‘a random collection of people’), by its very nature, can only exist on the basis of conventions that are tacitly agreed upon but never actually acknowledged. The group would never hang together otherwise; society itself would never hang together and this is of course why oddballs, misfits and eccentrics are always treated so badly. Anyone in the group, or anyone in society, who does start questioning these ‘unacknowledged conventions’ is there never going to get anywhere; this is ‘a given’ – they’re never going to be listened to, their voice is never going to be allowed on the platform. Only ‘non-questioners’ are going to be allowed this privilege. And yet it is only by questioning the group’s hidden assumptions (or society’s invisible conventions) that wisdom is ever going to arise – in this case, wisdom with regard to these chronic patterns of unhappiness that we call ‘mental health conditions’. Our refusal to look outside of the box means therefore that wisdom is something we are going to have to do without! Wisdom isn’t ‘evidence-based’, after all!

 

The Big Question we never want to go near is the question of ‘who we truly are’ – this is the question we have all tacitly agreed never to look at, and yet this is also the door to wisdom, which is actually something that our particular expert-based form of knowledge doesn’t even acknowledge as ‘a real or significant thing’. When we assume ourselves to be something that we’re not, then this becomes a source of existential problems later on. How can it not? We can go further than this and say that when we go forward (or rather what we think is ‘forward’) on the basis of ‘who we think we are but aren’t’ then we’re never really going to get anywhere. We can’t get anywhere because we’re proceeding on the assumed basis of us being who we aren’t! We might, at times, imagine that we’re ‘getting somewhere’ and this will feel good to us, but the problem or snag here is that sooner or later we’re going to find that ‘the territory we thought we’d gained we haven’t’.  sooner or later we’re going to find out that we’ve been conned, we going to find out that we’ve paid good money for ‘real estate that only existed on paper but not in reality’…

 

This straightaway gives us a model that we can work with: when we have the perception that we’re getting somewhere when we’re not (because the ‘sense of self’ we’re identified with isn’t us) then this gives us the ‘positive feeling in life’ that we’re all trying to get. This particular mind-created illusion generates a type of good feeling that we might call euphoria – euphoria being (we might say) the feeling that attends the apparent well-being of the false sense of self. When on the other hand we experience ourselves (or rather the FSOS) as losing ground rather than gaining it then this produces a type of bad feeling that we can refer to as dysphoria. Everyday life is thus the constant play of euphoria and dysphoria –we are forever going ‘up’ and ‘down’ in our emotions depending on whether we feel that we’re getting somewhere or not getting somewhere on the basis of the FSOS. It follows that just so long as we are convinced that we are this FSOS then all we will ever experience is euphoria and dysphoria. Going up and going is all we ever know – the banal terrain of advantage or disadvantage will constitute the whole of life for us, therefore.

 

So far we have said nothing that relates directly to what is called ‘mental illness’. We have just described the arena of everyday life in its ‘unproblematic’ or ‘unglitched’ aspect – this is the game when it’s not manifesting any systematic faults, faults that cannot be ironed out or ignored. Two major glitches present themselves immediately however, when we start looking into it. One is where we get disillusioned with what we are calling ‘the game’ (i.e. ‘the game of pretending that the assumed sense of self is really who we are’) on some deep level such a way that we can no longer believe in the possibility of ‘gaining ground’. We have this deep-down feeling that we won’t be able to get anywhere (on the basis of us being who we mistakenly think we are) and even though we will try our hardest to fight against this feeling it keeps coming up time and time again. When the process progresses far enough it ends up paralyzing us; we can’t move forward (in the sense of acting purposefully or obtaining goals) because we have no more confidence in our ability to do so. What we’re talking about here is of course anxiety.

 

The other possibility is where we somehow become disillusioned, in a deep-down way, with ‘the game’ (i.e. with the assumption that we are the FSOS and that genuine honest-to-goodness possibilities await us on this basis) in such a way that nothing that we have achieved or gained seems to be actually worth anything. Equally, we are no longer motivated to try to achieve anything, not because we suspect that we can’t (as is the case in anxiety) but because we can’t help feeling that nothing we could achieve would be worth anything. Our so-called ‘achievements’ mock us with their fraudulency and we have been brought to a standstill because we can’t help knowing that nothing we could do would make any difference to this.  We ourselves – in our very core – feel hollow and worthless and – more to the point – we feel as if we’re pretending to be someone rather than being someone. This is of course utterly incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been disillusioned with the game and – more than incomprehensible – it is perceived as being a deeply sinister development…

 

From the conventional point of view (which is everyone’s point of view) this is a development that is both inexplicable and utterly malign – it is an evil to be resisted with every means at our disposal. We are – when this happens – pronounced by those who have the official authorization to make this sort of pronouncement to be suffering from ‘clinical depression’, which is said to be an illness like diphtheria or smallpox. From the point of view of the model that we are looking at here however neither anxiety or depression is  ‘sinister’ or ‘wholly negative’ sort of a thing, and certainly neither can be equated to a physical illness which is caused by some sort of pathological agent such as a virus or a bacterium. On the contrary, it is through the pain of seeing – in whatever indirect or occluded way – that we aren’t at all who we take ourselves to be (and that this was an utterly mistaken view) that we come closer to remembering who we really are.  Seeing through the false is the prerequisite of seeing the truth, no matter how painful that might be, and the pain we endure is certainly no reason to avoid seeing the truth – the truth is after all not a ‘bad’ thing, it’s just something we could never have imagined…

 

If everyone we came across were disposed towards supporting us in remembering ‘who we really are’ then this would make all the difference in the world but this is not the way it works – that’s not the way it works at all. To experience profound and painful disillusionment with the game (that no one recognizes as a game) is a tremendous opportunity, more tremendous than we could ever imagine, but neither anxiety nor depression (nor any other crippling disturbances to the life of the FSOS) is seen as any sort of an opportunity at all – all the talk is of ‘recovery’ or ‘being cured’, which is code for ‘returning to a wholehearted belief in the game that no one sees as a game’. If things were left to the proper authorities the opportunity would be crushed unceremoniously and we would be led to understand that there is something wrong with us – we would be led to understand that everyone else is well (in the way that they see the world and themselves) but that we are unwell. This has of course always been the way things are when the consensus reality has been called into question.

 

It isn’t the onset of anxiety or depression that is unaccountable but rather why some of us get disillusioned with the game (against our own wishes) whilst others don’t. If someone doesn’t develop a crippling neurotic condition this doesn’t mean that they’re not living life on the basis of a false sense of self – we’re all in the same boat there – it just means that they’re still sleeping soundly! So the question becomes, why do most of us sleep on soundly, obliviously, whilst others – apparently against their wishes – are called upon to painfully wake up to the true nature of their situation? This is the real mystery…

 

We now come to what is called ‘psychosis’ and how this relates to the model we are exploring here, but before we do that we could say a few more words about this question of ‘who we really are’ as opposed to ‘who we assume we are within the context of the game we are playing without admitting that we are playing it’. The assumed ‘sense of self’ that we’re all so familiar with (or most of us anyway) is such an extraordinarily limited sort of a thing – it’s fantastically limited, but we just can’t see that. The assumed SOS is made up of limitations (i.e. statements about what we’re not) rather than actual context, even though saying this does not make any sense at all to the rational viewpoint, which is the only viewpoint society cares about. We are constructed out of restrictions, out of denials, out of prohibitions, even though we don’t (and can’t) see it like this. When I say “I am this” (which sounds positive to us) I am at the same time saying that I am not everything else, whatever that ‘everything else’ may be (and I don’t actually know that). I have therefore reduced the ‘range of possibilities’ to virtually zero; I don’t see what I have just excluded in order to arrive at this positive statement – I don’t see what I have had to ‘throw away’ and – what’s more – I don’t care either because all my attention is on the ‘defined world’, which is an abstraction created by the thinking mind.

 

By making something ‘definite’ (i.e. by making it ‘this-but-not-that’)we exclude Wholeness, in other words, and by doing this we imagine that we have obtained something real, something that is tangibly true and ‘objective’. But when Wholeness is excluded – as it must be in order to define anything – we obtain nothing. Or rather, we obtain a skinny mind-created abstraction which now looks like a real thing to us (because we have excluded Wholeness from our awareness) whilst what is truly real has been placed ‘out of bounds’ for us. We can no longer relate to or have any connection to reality itself, and instead can only believe in the images that the thinking mind produces for us, which includes ‘the image of myself’, which is the assumed ‘sense of self’ that we keep talking about. I now have no way of relating to or connecting with reality as it is in itself and if by accident I did ‘run into reality’ then it would show up the basis of my experience of ‘being here in the world’ (which is the assumed SOS) as being a mere abstraction, something that is not there at all but only seems to be there when we look at the world in the peculiar narrow way that the thinking mind makes us do. Both the cut-and-dried world we believe so unreflectively and the black-and-white idea of myself that I place so much reliance in are shockingly  revealed as being insubstantial mind-produced phantoms – the ground is ‘cut away from under my feet’, in other words.

 

This brings us to the nature of psychosis. Using Stan Groff’s terminology, we can say that al psychotic experiences, without exception, are due to ‘holotropic intrusions’. The Whole manifests within the realm of the fraction that had up that point arrogantly considered itself to be the Whole, when it was no such thing. What happens when Indivisible Wholeness starts to show itself in the fractional world of the assumed sense of self? How are we going to relate to this occurrence? It is Everything and our entire world (never mind us) is nothing more than a mind-created abstraction, something like a cartoon or an ad on a subway wall. As far as we were concerned the Whole of Everything doesn’t even exist – the thinking mind has made it unreal, even though it is the only reality. We didn’t really think that the Whole of Everything ‘didn’t exist’ of course (as we have already said) because we have our ‘substitute’ for it, which is the image that we have in our minds of reality and our place in it. So when the substitute gets shown up as ‘only a substitute’ and the real thing sudden enters our little world, what are we going think then? This is like the Buddhist story of the frog in the well who doesn’t believe that the ocean could be bigger than his well until he goes to see the ocean one day and his head explodes…

 

To say that this eventuality comes as a tremendous earth-shattering shock is far too mild and feeble a way of putting it – it is Indivisible Wholeness itself we are talking about here, and what are we to compare this with? What happens to us when we try to cling to our mind-created world in the face of Indivisible Wholeness? And yet our trained experts in the field of mental health will tell us that what is going on is merely due to ‘chemicals misbehaving in our brain’ (or some such story), and that our extraordinary perceptions when we’re suffering from ‘psychosis’ don’t really mean anything at all really…