There are two very straightforward statements that we can make that can – between them – revolutionize our understanding of both the world and ourselves. The first statement is this:
The only way we can obtain quantitative data, literal truths, or a definite story-line about ‘who we are and what has happened to us’ is within the context of the abstract framework which is provided by the rational mind.
There is absolutely no way – no way at all – that we can obtain quantitative data or literal truths or a definite narrative without the framework that has been provided for us. Quantitative data, literal truths, facts and figures, etc, simply do not exist in out there the world, waiting there to be dug up out of the ground ready-formed like potatoes! The second statement is this:
All possible frameworks are only provisional in nature.
‘Provisional’ means that the frameworks in question aren’t really there – they’re only there because we agree for them to be there, they’re only there because we adopt the convention that they’re there, because we adopt the convention of looking at the world in this way. Something that is ‘provisional’ is ‘accepted or adopted tentatively; conditional; probationary.’ (Dictionary.com)
If we put these two statements together then the result is quite strange. The only way we can know anything ‘for sure’ about the world is via the abstract framework of the rational mind and yet what we know as a result of this rational activity is only valid in relation to the framework in question, not outside of it. So if this is the case then this poses the question as to what we really know about the world, or about ourselves. It is not hard to show why it is that the thinking mind can never tell us anything about reality. The universe, as quantum physics pioneer David Bohm says, is a flow – it is an ongoing stream of change. Change – very plainly – means that ‘nothing stays the same’. The framework of the thinking mind however does ‘stay the same’ – that is after all the only way it can be a framework!
We can very easily say that the universe is an ongoing stream of change and that change means ‘nothing stays the same’ but when we say this the chances are that we don’t really understand the profundity of what we are saying. We don’t see how radical an idea this is. According to David Bohm, “Not only is everything changing, but all is flux.” Flux, Bohm goes on the say, means –
…the process of becoming itself, while all objects, events, entities, conditions, structures, etc., are forms that can be abstracted from this process.
Nothing has any independent existence apart from or outside of what Bohm calls the ‘holomovement’ –
Each relatively autonomous and stable structure is to be understood not as something independently and permanently existent but rather as a product that has been formed in the whole flowing movement and what will ultimately dissolve back into this movement.
If everything is ‘the holomovement’ (or flux, as the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said two and a half thousand years before Bohm) then the world that we believe in so absolutely, so unquestioningly, isn’t real. “Everything changes and nothing stands still”, Plato quotes Heraclitus as saying, but our thoughts stand still.
The world we believe in and relate to everyday day doesn’t change, doesn’t flow. It’s a static fixture made up of autonomously existing ‘objects, events, entities, conditions, structures’, to use Bohm’s words. There are relatively stable aspects to the universe but these aspects exist within the greater context of the holomovement and it is this ‘fluid context’ that the thinking mind ignores. The world we believe in is therefore a construct of thought (we wouldn’t believe in it otherwise because we don’t believe in anything that our thinking mind doesn’t validate as real) and there is no way that thought can produce anything that isn’t static. That just can’t happen…
Everything we know we know as a result of using a static framework as a system of reference and the static framework isn’t real. The static framework which is the rational mind shows us an entirely false picture of reality therefore – it shows us a picture that has no flow in it! “Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it” Anthony de Mello says. Thought organizes the world by representing the moving in terms of static categories or classes.
The view that the rational mind shows us can contain a type of change, but what we’re talking about here is ‘change-within-the terms-of-a-framework’ – it is in other words what is called ‘linear change’. Linear change means ‘change in accordance with a fixed rule’. Linear change isn’t really change at all when it comes down to it – the fixed rule that governs it doesn’t change so how can the linear analogue of change contain change if the rule that determines it doesn’t contain any? Rules are fixed – they never give rise to genuine change. They are the antithesis of change. The whole point of a rule is after all to make sure that there is no ‘deviation from the plan’! Anything the static framework shows us is just the static framework, and so by definition there’s never going to be any change there.
Another way of approaching all of this is to say that the ‘static framework’ which we have been talking about is simply the self. We see everything from the viewpoint of the self, naturally! Where I to see the world as flow (as a poet or an artist might) rather than a series of static representations then this would necessarily mean that I am ‘out of my mind’, and being ‘out of my mind’ means that I am not myself! We are all potentially poets or artists but what holds us back is our insistence in sticking within the fixed framework of the thinking mind, along with our automatic identification with the mind-created self that goes with this framework. The closed / fixed viewpoint that we call the self is – from a thermodynamic perspective – an equilibrium value and we stick to this tried and trusted equilibrium value like glue. Dynamite couldn’t blast us out of this comfortable, narrow, rule-based way of seeing the world…! And yet the universe as a whole is ‘out of equilibrium’ – an ‘equilibrium’ is a still point around which everything turns and the universe (as a whole) doesn’t contain any ‘still points’.
The fact that we are seeing everything from the viewpoint of the self means therefore that we cannot see the world that is really there, the world that is independent of our static or rule-based viewpoint. We can’t see the holomovement. The static FW sees everything in terms of itself; the self sees everything in terms of itself. It’s the same thing. We can expand on this point by talking in terms of ‘like and dislike’: when we are crudely identified with the mind-created self (which is the usual way to be, the default way to be) then the world we relate to is made up either of ‘stuff that we like’ or ‘stuff that we don’t like’. Anything else passes unnoticed – it’s disregarded or passed over because it’s clearly not important!
Or if we want to talk in terms of the rational mind, then we can say when we are constrained only to look at the world in terms of this mind, this FW, then the world is made up of stuff that is either confirmation or novelty. Confirmation means that the information we are receiving agrees with the assumptions that we have made in order to obtain a black-and-white picture of the world (the assumptions that give rise to the static FW) whilst novelty is information that does not agree, that does not fit into the slots that are there. Confirmation is what we notice therefore whilst novelty on the other hand is almost entirely filtered out. And yet what we are calling ‘confirmation’ is nothing other than the shadow of our assumed framework cast out on the world!
If we say that the self is an abstract framework then like and dislike, good and bad, right and wrong, etc are no more than projections of this abstract FW. We aren’t seeing the flow therefore – we’re just seeing our own static mind reflected back at us. ‘Like and dislike’, ‘right and wrong’ isn’t the flow! The flow has nothing to do with like and dislike, right or wrong. We could equivalently say that the self isn’t the flow, that the flow has nothing to do with the self. What does this tell us about the self, however? It tells us something that is not generally very palatable to us. Only the flow is real. Only the holomovement is real. [Only’ isn’t quite the right word here of course because the flow is everything. There isn’t anything that isn’t the flow.] So where does this leave the self, which is the fixed point around which everything turns?
Only the flow is real and yet here we are stuck in a world that is no more than a reflection of an abstract framework that we have somehow adopted as ‘the only possible way of seeing the world’. What a bizarre situation this is! The abstract FW (the static viewpoint) is the self and the self – as we have been saying – has zero capacity to see the flow, zero capacity to be in the flow. What we are calling ‘the flow’ is actually the single most threatening thing the self could ever encounter. The reason the flow is so very threatening to the self is as we have said because there can be no self in the flow. For the self to admit the existence of the flow is for it to admit its own essential non-existence and it goes against the self’s nature to admit this…
There’s no way around this. There’s no way that this can’t be the case – any flow at all, any genuine change at all, and the self is utterly gone. Any genuine movement at all and the self blinks out of existence immediately – it blinks out of existence as if it had never been there in the first place. That’s the way it is with static fixtures, that’s the way it is with abstract frameworks! Seeing as how this is what always happens when the self encounters any sort of genuine change, it is no wonder that it doesn’t want to have anything to do with the real world, which is the world of flow…
As we’ve said, we aren’t able to appreciate what is meant by ‘the flow’. It is not something that the psychostatic mind can understand. It can’t get it. We can get it, but not when we’re operating out of the thinking mind. But all there is is the flow – everything is the flow, the flow is everything, and there isn’t anything that isn’t the flow. So what are we doing? We’re making everything revolve around a fixed point (an abstract FW) that isn’t actually there.
There is a way in which we can have a sense of our true situation, however. The awareness is there somewhere! All we need to do is to see that what we’re really talking about here is the present moment, the now. The now is the only place we can ever be (the now is everything and everything is the now) and yet the now never stays still! It is all that there is, but what is it? We can never lay our hands on the now; we can never say what it is because as soon as we try to say what it is it’s something else. It’s moved on…
Reality is only ever in the now. Where else could it be? And yet the now is fleeting – it is never fixed. It is never part of any logical structure. It’s not a replication of ‘what has gone before’. The present moment is thus always ‘fleeing away from us’, so to speak – it is always moving away from the clutches of the fixed framework, moving away into the radical unknown, and yet actually it isn’t fleeing away from us, it isn’t moving away from the fixed framework. The now isn’t fleeing away from us (it isn’t moving away from the fixed framework) for the simple reason that there’s nothing fixed there to be fleeing (or moving away) from!