Making Thought Our Master

When we fall into the Realm of Form (or ‘the Realm of Definite Things’) we fall into a world of neurotic suffering – we fall into a world of neurotic suffering because everything becomes about maintaining and preserving boundaries, and yet the boundaries we feel we have to maintain and preserve aren’t actually real. They’re just a projection of the thinking mind – that’s what the TM does, it projects boundaries! To be completely preoccupied with the need to protect boundaries that aren’t real is the very essence of neurosis.

 

This combination of the two things – [1] the experienced need to maintain certain boundaries no matter what and [2] their actual nonexistence – is what produces neurotic suffering, and this suffering can never cease until we see through the illusionary boundaries that we are so very concerned with, and no longer experience the absolute need to hang onto them at whatever cost.

 

Boundaries are produced by the thinking mind, as we have just said, and the thinking mind acts as our ‘infallible guide all things’. It’s ‘infallible’ because we cannot doubt it. The thinking mind is infallible within its own remit, within the terms of the game it is playing, but outside of this remit, outside of this game, it has nothing to say. The problem is that the thinking mind has no way of knowing that there is any world outside of ‘the world of boundaries’ that it itself has made, and because we are dependent upon it as we are, the ‘ignorance’ of the thinking mind is also our ignorance.

 

Our ‘problem,’ therefore, is that we can’t see beyond the everyday thinking mind; we can’t see beyond the thinking mind because the thinking mind is functionally incapable of knowing about any other sort of reality other than the one it itself assumes, and we don’t know anything about reality other than the one that the thinking mind tells us about it. To say therefore that it is important to understand this point, to have this awareness about the limitation of thought and how thought works, is putting it mildly! Everything hangs on this. There are two sorts of life we could lead, depending upon whether we see that ‘we don’t know anything other than what thought shows us’, or whether we don’t see it. We can consider both of these possibilities in turn.

 

The second possibility is the easiest to describe – when we don’t have this awareness that ‘we don’t know any world other than the world that thought shows us’ then we will of course live entirely within the world that thought makes. That’s the only place we can live, obviously! This world corresponds to ‘the Realm of Form’ (or ‘the Realm of Definite Things’) that we started off talking about’; it is as we have said a world that is made up entirely of boundaries. Our total preoccupation is with what lies within the mind-created boundaries (i.e. with what thought says is real); as far as anything else goes, we couldn’t care less – we ‘don’t care and we don’t care that we don’t care’. We’re ‘not interested and we’re not interested in the fact that we’re not interested’. Another way of talking about this is to say that the world thought creates for us is always a concrete (or ‘literal’) one.

 

It’s rare to experience the world in a completely literal way – our awareness is never (or almost never) contained wholly within the thinking mind’s compartments; there’s always a bit of’ undefined (or ‘unformatted’) consciousness leftover to ‘humanise’ us. This unformatted consciousness allows us to live in a somewhat ‘softened’ world, a world with a bit of actual depth to it. It is this ‘depth’ or ‘non-literality’ that makes the world liveable – otherwise it’s very hard, very unforgiving, and that makes us hard and unforgiving too. We reflect the environment that we perceive, and this environment reflects our way of seeing it. The world is seen to be made up of ‘definite things’ and thus we are a ‘definite thing’ too, just like everything else. We’re a ‘thing in a world of things’, as Colin Wilson puts it…

 

How concrete or defined the world we relate to is varies according to our emotional state, or – as we could also say – it varies according to how dominated we are by the greed or fear. When we free from the ‘decomplexifying emotions,’ free (to some extent) from attachment of one form or another then we soften, we naturally become marvellously conscious, rather than appallingly ‘thing-like’ or ‘machine-like’. There is no need to speculate or argue about which of these two options feels better or ‘more wholesome’! Is it better to feel like a human being, or some kind of highly strung, utterly humourless ‘reaction machine’, careering blindly from one collision to another? This is clearly one of those questions that answers itself!

 

Thinking about things in this way allows us to get a better feel for what it would be like to live in ‘the literal–concrete world’. A completely concrete world is a world without any space in it – ‘reactions’ happen in it (like billiard balls colliding on a billiard table) but there no possibility of actually being there is present in any genuine way. ‘Automatically reacting’ is not the same as ‘being present’! The thing about’ literal signifiers’ (which is what the concrete world is made up of) is that every signifier we come across is like an arrow that points somewhere else – ‘the buck doesn’t actually stop anywhere’, in other words. The reason for this is what we might call the inherent poverty of all literal meanings – once we ‘get’ the literal meaning in question then we have to move on to something else. We have to move onto something else because there is nothing else there to get. The whole point of literal meaning is that there is ‘nothing else there to get’!

 

The real world isn’t like this however – the real world isn’t like this because it isn’t made up of literal meanings! The real world has got actual ‘content’ to it (which is why we call it ‘real world’). Content is never concrete – ‘concrete’ means that everything we come across comes neatly wrapped up in regular size parcels; reality itself doesn’t actually come in parcels however. There is no one there in the sorting office, wrapping stuff up, allotting meanings ‘according to the book’. There’s no bureaucracy in reality, no ‘organiser’. A good way to explain this is in terms of the ‘holographic principle’, which Anaxagoras talked about over 2500 years ago when he said that ‘there is a little bit of everything in everything’. There isn’t ‘a little bit of everything in everything’ when everything has been all neatly packaged up by the thinking mind – there’s no ‘holographic principle’ at work in the sterile categories of the thinking mind – that would totally defeat the entire object of the exercise, after all.

 

When we ‘organise things’ then the whole point is that there isn’t ‘a little bit of everything and everything – we are of course moving in exactly the opposite direction from this. But at the same time the fact that there isn’t any HP at work also means that there is no reality in our mental categories either – that’s how reality gets to be reality after all, by the holographic principle. Reality (we could say) gets to be reality by being ‘undivided’, by ‘not excluding’ anything, by not ‘following rules’. As soon as we start dividing things up, excluding things, following rules, then we depart from reality. We depart from reality and become impoverished, even though we won’t know it because we will be far too bamboozled by all the literal meanings flying around. We will be far too busy bouncing off the walls of our concrete world, in other words…

 

The inherent poverty of content of the rational-conceptual mind means that we can never actually be present – we can never actually be present because there’s nothing there to be present with! Things are different in the real (i.e. ‘non-abstract’) world; things are different because there is content. Content means that things aren’t ‘what they appear to be’ (which is one of Heraclitus’s principles.) Things don’t just stay as ‘what they appear to be’ (or ‘what they are nominally defined as being’) – there just isn’t that type of ‘static organisation’ to the real world. There isn’t any rational mind behind it all; there is no ‘overarching bureaucracy’! The lack of bureaucracy means ‘no impoverishment’, it means that we’re not forever living in a film set made up entirely of glossy façades; as we have said, there is actual real honest-to-goodness substance to the world.

 

We can be present in the real world because there is something to be present with, therefore. But it’s not just that we can be present in the real world (because there is actual content in it), there’s also actual content in us! We’re real too. It’s not just the case that the world around us isn’t made up of mere two-dimensional ‘conceptual furniture’, neither are we. There is a possibility being present ‘as we really are’, rather than being present in a purely abstract or nominal sense, rather than being present as mere ‘things’ in the thing-like universe. When we are mere ‘things in the thing-like universe’ then we are (as we have said) forever bouncing from one literal meaning to another. It’s rather like being a ball in an old-fashioned pinball machine being batted crazily from one place to another, with our eye always on the big jackpot, only the thing about the concrete world (unlike the real pinball game) is that they never actually is going to be a jackpot. How could there be a jackpot when literal meanings are by their very nature inherently impoverished? What exactly do we expect that the literal realm is going to provide us with, other than yet more empty promises and threats?

 

This is the key thing to understand about the literal world – when you’re in it there’s nowhere to go, and yet at the same time everything in this world is about going there! We have to do it, and yet we CAN’T do it! This is simply ‘pointless pressure’ therefore, and this gives us another way of looking at ‘life in the literal world’ – we can say that life in the literal world always involves being under the pressure to do something that just can’t be done. It’s a ‘double-bind’ in other words. A good way to explain what this ‘impossible thing’ is that we’re trying to do is to say that ‘we’re trying to find reality in a place where there isn’t any’. Reality can’t be found in the non-holographic universe – we are under the illusion (and it’s an extremely compelling illusion) that by breaking everything up into categories (or compartments) we can eventually find the ultimate prize, which is ‘reality’. It will be lurking there one of our compartments, so to speak! This is of course just another way of saying that we believe that the ‘infallible guide’ which is the thinking mind will one day ‘bring us to the Promised Land’. We are working away, working away, working away, with feverish industry and fanatical determination, towards this end.

 

Reductive analysis won’t bring us to reality however, only synthesis can do this and synthesis isn’t under the remit of the rational intellect! The thinking mind can take things apart, but it can’t put them back together again. Reality is of course already there; it was already there before we start trying to find it, before we started trying to ‘isolate’ it. Reality is in the Undivided world, the Uncategorised world, and that’s the world that is around us all the time, before we start trying to exploit it, or ‘mine it for goodies’. As Gottfried Leibniz (1670) says –

Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another.

In this, the ‘non-conceptual world’, everything already contains everything else, just as Anaxagoras says. Everything – and everyone – reveals itself or themselves to be ‘the Whole’, when we pay enough attention. Why then would we have to go devoting our lives looking for ‘the special thing’, and walking all over everyone else as we do so? Why the rabid competitiveness? Why then are we so keen to hand over responsibility for our lives to the machine which is the ‘thinking mind’, and make it our master in all things?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living In The World Of Foregone Conclusions

Living in the world of our thoughts is a drag, as Alan Watts would say. What could be more dispiriting than always staying within the remit of our tired old thoughts, which are – when it comes down to it – nothing more than a bunch of recycled, tawdry old memes? Our conventional way of looking at things tells us that everything that everything good is to be found here, within this ‘realm of the known’; it tells us – more implicitly than explicitly, of course – that all possibilities are to be found here. And yet there are no possibilities here, not really – only the endless rehashing of the same old categories, which will never get us anywhere…

 

The world of our thoughts is ‘the world of foregone conclusions’, when it comes down to it – every thought, every idea every concept, is ‘a foregone conclusion’. It’s a cliché – it has nothing new to bring to the table!  All of our mental constructs are clichés in this way; all of our mental constructs are ‘foregone conclusions’. As Krishnamurti says ‘thought is always old’. What could be more fundamentally dispiriting than always going around on the same old tracks therefore, whilst trying to make out to ourselves that actually we’re headed for some grand destination? Of all the malicious tricks we could play on ourselves, wouldn’t this be the worst? And yet this is what we do just about every day of our lives – we go around in circles and tell ourselves that we’re going somewhere.

 

We tell ourselves that we’re ‘getting somewhere when we work towards a ‘foregone conclusion’ (or ‘known outcome’) and so does society as a whole. Conventional wisdom tells us that working towards a foregone conclusion is the best way to do things (if not the only way to do things); conventional wisdom tells us that we should always be working towards a goal, towards a known or defined outcome –that’s called ‘being in control’ and being in control of our lives is what it’s all about, or so we are led to believe. Being in control is good, just as being out-of-control is bad, but what we don’t see (and don’t show any sign of seeing) is that being in control all the time means never leaving the world of foregone conclusions…

 

We’re led to believe that the right way to live life is always to be working towards a known outcome (to be ‘always in control’) but being in control of what is happening (or of where we are going) isn’t what life is about at all – that’s something else we are talking about here, not life! We’re talking about some sham version of life, some sad mockery of life, not the actual thing itself. The actual thing isn’t ‘a drag’, isn’t a dull and wearisome matter of ‘working towards a known outcome as if we were actually interested in that. Quite frankly, that’s an appalling thing to have to do; it is – if we were to be honest – a form of torture that we are subjecting ourselves to. It is however a form of torture that we are, both on the collective and the personal level, constantly validating for ourselves.

 

Psychologically speaking, working to a foregone conclusion (or ‘known outcome’) is a form of living that is not living – it is in fact not so much ‘life’ as ‘the avoidance of life disguised as life’. Working towards goals the whole time is an avoidance of life because life is not a foregone conclusion! Life is not about ‘working towards a goal’, no matter what we might have been told, and no matter how many times we might have been told it. Life has absolutely nothing to do with our goals, as we would surely realize if we were ever to reflect on the matter. My goals are my own affair, they are important only inasmuch as I say they are, and I would be foolish in the extreme to think otherwise. Goals are not life and life is not a goal.

 

Intuitively, we all know this – we all know deep down that life is a mystery and that living life is to embrace this mystery on its own terms rather than putting it into neat little boxes of our own design. ‘Life is a movement towards an unknown goal’, says Jung, and not a movement to a goal that we ourselves have made up! When we move towards a defined goal or predetermined outcome then this equals ‘running away from life’; being always orientated towards goals equals ‘running away from life’ because we are thereby avoiding all uncertainty, all ‘risk’, and life is nothing else but uncertainty, nothing else but ‘risk’. All psychotherapists know this – all psychotherapists know that if you put all the emphasis on avoiding risk (which is the ‘sensible’ thing to do) then you will avoid life too. As Jesus says in John 12:25, ‘He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’ [King James Bible]

 

So – just to repeat the point – the movement towards a known outcome isn’t life but the avoidance of life, and yet this is what our collective ‘wisdom’ tells us we should be doing. The template has been laid down in front of us and all the sign-posts have been put in place and nothing is left for us but to adhere as best we can to this template. The route-directions have been etched into our minds via the process of socialization and the only job remaining for us is to follow the route that has been mapped out for us. The behavioural reinforcement involved here is immense and it would be foolish of us to try to pretend otherwise – the more slavishly we conform to the template, the closer we follow laid-out route the more ‘success’ we stand to gain. The more we diverge (or deviate) on the other hand, the more certain is our ‘failure’ (within the terms of the game that has been thrust upon us). The more successful we are the more social reinforcement we receive (needless to say!) whilst the less successful we are, the more negative reinforcement (or negative kudos) we will incur. This is how society works, as we all know.

 

Who could possibly be brave enough to stand up against this type of pressure? What would it take for us not to fall in line with everyone else, and strike our own path, in flagrant contradiction of everything we have been taught? What would it take for us to let go of this business of working our way towards the foregone conclusion which – as we all know very well on some level – is terribly, terribly uninteresting? The ‘factor’ that would inspire us to ignore the game rules (and give up all the ‘safety behaviour’ that goes with them) is itself profoundly mysterious and not therefore amenable to logical analysis, whilst the factor promoting conformity is as plain as the nose on your face! We don’t need a PhD in psychology to understand what type of a process is involved here – we see it at work in every school playground…

 

There is a strong tendency at work for human culture to become more homogenous or less diverse and to a very large extent we can attribute this to advances made in the technology of communication; we are all much more ‘hooked up’ in this information age of ours and whilst there are obviously advantages to this there are also significant disadvantages – disadvantages that are for the most part much visible. The disadvantages of being in ‘lock-step’ with millions and millions of other human beings is that the behavioural reinforcement factor that we have just been talking about has now arguably become more powerful than at any other point in our history. This ‘conformity to the mental and behavioural template’ is at this stage – without any doubt at all! – the Number One threat to mental health that we face in our lives. It is ‘the Number One Threat to mental health’ because it reinforces to an extraordinary degree the tendency we already have which is the tendency to avoid the intrinsic uncertainty of life by following pre-established patterns of living life.

 

We need only look around us to see this – we live in a world that is governed by hypnotic images, images whose purpose is to tell us that our happiness and fulfilment are to be found ‘on the outside of us’, in the collectively-generated consensual hallucination that Jean Baudrillard calls ‘the realm of the hyperreal’. Hyperreality is by its very nature immensely hypnotic, overwhelmingly hypnotic – it is a drug like no other and we are pretty much all addicts!  We’re addicted to seeking life on the outside of ourselves in the realm of the hyperreal, in what we could call the ‘Image World’. We are – we might say – all addicted to looking for happiness and fulfilment on the outside of ourselves in this collectively-validated version of life where everything is all about ‘moving successfully towards socially-sanctioned goals. These goals contain – we imagine – the possibility of our happiness, the actualization of our very personal dreams (which is to say, the expression of our true uncompromised individuality).

 

This is the most ridiculous joke of all time however, if only we could see it! It’s a ridiculous joke because these ‘dreams’ were implanted in us in the first place and have therefore nothing whatsoever to do with our ‘true individuality’; actualizing them only increases the insidious control of the system that is regulating and defining our consciousness. Seeking the goals we have been told to seek empowers the system and disembowels us; the consensus world (which is unreal) becomes all-powerful whilst we (who are real) lose every last little bit of our power or autonomy. The game we are playing is based on the denial of who we really are and yet we are led to believe that we are ‘celebrating our individuality’! ‘Go on, you’re worth it!’, says the ad on TV…

 

There’s no fulfilment, no happiness to be had in this ‘world that exists outside of us’. It should actually be necessary to say this – of course there’s no fulfilment or happiness in the world that exists outside of ourselves! Whose fulfilment or happiness would it be, anyway? Certainly not ours! It’s fulfilment / happiness that belongs to the world of images and the world of images isn’t real. The world of images isn’t real and if it isn’t real then there can’t be any happiness in it! There’s no one in this world that exists outside of us (obviously enough!) and because there’s no one in it there can’t be any fulfilment or happiness. Happiness and fulfilment have to belong to a real person – they can’t belong to an image in image world, they can’t belong to an act we’re putting on!

 

The Image World – which is the world that we have collectively agreed upon – is made up of ‘known outcomes’ or ‘foregone conclusions’. That’s all that’s in it. The consensus hyperreality world itself is a ‘foregone conclusion’ – it’s a foregone conclusion that nothing real is ever going to happen here. It’s a foregone conclusion that our search for happiness and fulfilment in the world of images is going to fail. Saying that nothing real is ever going to happen in the image world (which we do not of course see as ‘the image world’ but rather as the one and only true world) is equivalent to what Buddhist teachers such as Milarepa have said about the ‘barrenness of samsara’ (samsara being the deceptive world of appearances). Samsara or the world of appearances is the most barren of all environments, for reasons we have already gone into. No desert is as sterile as this! And yet we perceive it to be positively bubbling over with the most enticing of possibilities. We avoid seeing the terrible barrenness of the Image World and instead fixate our narrow attention on our games of loss and gain, saying that ‘such and such an outcome’ is supremely important and then feeling either good or bad depending up how skilful our controlling is!

 

But no matter how much effort we put into the task of ‘denying the barrenness of samsara’ (or denying the futility of the game we are playing’) this barrenness (or sense of futility) will always show themselves at some point and when they do they will show themselves in the form of a particularly bleak for of suffering – a form of suffering so bleak in fact that we will think of it as a curse, or – in a more medical idiom – as a pathology or sickness. But this supercharged suffering isn’t a curse, or a ‘sickness’ – it’s actually the awareness of the barrenness of the Image World (which is an awareness we have worked so hard to avoid) that we have thrown away with such force (and then forgotten about) coming back at us like a deadly boomerang of pain.

 

‘Avoidance’ doesn’t just mean running away from things, it also means running towards them! When we run full-tilt towards our goals, towards our desired outcomes (or ‘dreams’) then we are avoiding life; we are avoiding life because life – as we have said – isn’t a goal or a desired outcome or a ‘dream’. Or to put this another way, when we run full-force at this thing we call ‘winning’ we’re creating a boomerang; we don’t know that we’re creating a boomerang, for sure, but our ignorance of what we’re doing won’t stop it coming back and hitting us in the head! Both ‘running away from negative certainty’ and ‘running towards the positive variety’ equal ‘the game’ and the game equals evading every last trace of awareness of the Great Mystery that is life…

 

Art: Eduardo Martinez. Taken from creativeboom.com

 

 

 

 

 

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…