Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our mind.
[Quote ascribed to Plato on Facebook].
This sounds like a nice kind of a quote – inspirational, insightful, profound, etc, – but does it actually make any sense and did Plato really say this? It doesn’t much like a Plato quote, and it certainly isn’t as deep as it might at first sound. How – after all – do we change our mind when it’s only ever ‘the mind’ that goes around deciding what needs changing and what doesn’t? The mind is ‘the decider’, the mind is ‘the chooser’, and so any talk of ‘deciding to change our mind’ is meaningless in the extreme! That implies we have some kind of actual agency here and we don’t.
If we wanted to come up with a quote on the subject which isn’t meaningless, that isn’t completely superficial, it might read something like,
Our subjective reality is created for us by the mind and we’re utterly powerless to do anything about it, no matter how many inspirational quotes we read, or no matter how many inspirational teachers or gurus we follow!
Or we might also come up with an inspirational quote that says,
It is fundamentally impossible for us ever to deliberately change our minds since it is only ever the mind that decides whether to try to change something or not…
These quotes aren’t all nice and candy-coated it’s true, they don’t have instant appeal, but they do have the undeniable advantage of not being utter and complete bullshit!
It’s not given to us to be able to change our own reality, no matter what New Age psychology might tell us. That’s a non-starter, that’s a dead end right from the very beginning. We can (and do) fool ourselves into thinking that such a thing is possible but that doesn’t help us any; all that means is that we spend our whole lives chasing an illusion, trying to do something we can’t. If we could see that we’re staring at a brick wall the whole time then this perception would be real, and seeing reality always helps us. It can’t not help us – ‘The seeing is the doing’, says Krishnamurti.
The truth of the matter is that not only do we not see that we can’t change our own reality (or our own mind), but also that we don’t really want to, despite what we say. Whatever ersatz type of reality it is that we’re embedded in, we are completely dependent upon it, which is an insight that was nicely articulated in the first Matrix film,
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
It might sound peculiar (or actually downright perverse) that we should do our very best to ‘protect the system that oppresses us’ but why this should be the case is very easy to understand – it’s not just that the mind creates our reality, as the super-glib New-Age formula has it, but that the mind creates not just our reality but also the ‘sense of self’ (or ‘sense of identity’) that inhabits that so-called reality. Thought creates the defined world of our concepts, and it also – at the same stroke – creates the one who believes in this defined world, the one who operates exclusively within it. This of course takes the notion of ‘dependency’ to a whole new level…
Who I am within the ‘conceptually mediated world’ is also a concept, in other words. What else – after all – would we expect? The player of the game is not separate from the game but rather that player is the game; the player of the game is a function of a game, an artefact of the game, a construct of the game. We adapt ourselves to the Determinate World – the world in which all possibilities have already been decided upon – and in that process we let that artificial world tell us who we are. Thought is the template that allows everything to be neatly and unambiguously defined (or located) and we get neatly and unambiguously defined / located as part of the bargain.
The socially adapted persona is not separate from society, we might say, and not only is it ‘not separate from society’, itis society. I don’t play the game but rather the game plays me and so to talk about myself as having freedom within in this predetermined situation (which is to say, the freedom to change or influence what’s happening there) is an ironic inversion of the true state of affairs. When I have the perception that I can change what’s going on – via my choices, via my purposeful actions – this is a perception that the game itself generates. I have choices, which causes me to feel that I am free, but these choices are profoundly meaningless. There is never any freedom in a game.
The perception or belief that we can ‘change our own reality’ is part and parcel of the game, therefore; this is what allows the game to roll on in the way that it does roll on. The moment we see that we can’t change our reality is the moment the game becomes unplayable; this is the moment the game ends. This isn’t by any means a pleasant perception of course, but – in contrast to the false or manufactured perceptions that are provided for us by the system that we are adapted to – it’s actually a true one. It’s ‘the real thing’, not a gimmick of the game.
Were we to see that there is precisely zero chance of us ever changing our own reality then that ‘seeing’ would not be part of the game, in other words! Therefore, just as Krishnamurti says, it’s the seeing that changes everything, not some kind of fancy technical ‘doing’. When it’s the psychological realm we’re talking about then the high powered ‘technical doing’ that we are so impressed by (and so depended upon) does nothing but lead us ever deeper into illusion. The more we try to control the more we’re playing into the game’s hands; ironically, the keener we are to ‘change our reality’ the more we get stuck in it! ‘What we resist persists’, Jung says. This isn’t by any means a difficult thing to understand (what could be simpler, after all?) but there is nevertheless an immense resistance on our part to understanding it, as we have already indicated. The difficulty isn’t changing our reality (which happens with the greatest of ease – all by itself – just as soon as we get honest with ourselves) but rather it lies in our immense unwillingness to be honest with ourselves.
When we enter into the world of Mental Healthcare we find that it’s all about control – it’s all control, from beginning to end. Even when we use words like ‘radical acceptance’ this is still only our attempt to control. We imagine that we can incorporate ideas like ‘acceptance’ or ‘self-compassion’ within our theoretical systems but we can’t. As James Carse tells us, we can play a finite game within the Infinite Game, but we can’t do it the other way around. We can let go of the system which is our worldview, but we can’t incorporate ‘letting go’ within that system, which is precisely what we’re always trying to do.
This comes down to the question of ‘wanting to have our cake and eat it’: we want the Predefined or Predetermined World in which we feel safe, but we also want to have genuine change within it. We want to have freedom within it. We want to carry on being who we think we are – which is the identity that has been supplied for us by thought – but we also want to be able to ‘let go’ or ‘unconditionally accept’, which is something that the Thought-Created Virtual Identity (i.e. ‘who we are in the game’) can’t ever do.
We can define mental health in many ways – we have lots of any number of complicated intellectual theories about it but the one theory we won’t go anywhere near is the theory that says that our neurotic suffering is the inevitable result of us believing that we actually are who or what the system (or the game) SAYS we are. Believing that we are this image or concept that thought has supplied us with (so that we don’t have to go into it ourselves) is the very quintessence have mental ill health therefore and so the only possible remedy for this is to let go of that image or concept. This is however the one thing the system can’t do for us.
Image – 2gag.com