Subtler Than Thought

When we’re ‘thinking all the time’ this has the effect of making us fundamentally insincere – it makes us insincere with other people and it also makes us insincere with regards to life itself. It might seem a bit much to say this but when we consider the implications of this state of being where we are ‘thinking all the time’ then we’re bound to see that this is the inevitable result. When I’m thinking all the time what this means is that I’m not relating to people as they are (or to reality as it actually is, if we want to put it like this) but to our ideas about the person, our ideas about reality. This is inevitably going to be the case if we are TATT – I’m always going to be relating to my mental images of the world, my mental constructs of the world, not the world as it is in itself.

We might of course go down the road of saying that this may well be true but we are not TATT – we think sometimes, of course, but we don’t think all the time. This is probably what most of us would say. The thing about this objection however is that we only think we’re not thinking all the time! That’s just a false idea we have. There is a practical way to find out the truth in this matter and that is simply to start practising meditation – when we sit in meditation (or sit in ‘practising meditation’) then we always see that there is a constant ‘thought-stream’ taking place. One thought follows hot on the heels of the other and this succession of mental constructs doesn’t let up.

As Sogyal Rinpoche says in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, it’s only when we experience some considerable shock (the example he gives is a situation where we come home discover that we have been burgled and our house has been ransacked) that the thought-stream is (or might be) temporarily interrupted stop then we experienced a ‘bardo’ – a space between two solid or creative structures. The overwhelming tendency is, Sogyal Rinpoche says, is to engage in our familiar routines of thinking and behaving as soon as we can in order to re-establish the thought-stream, because the bardo is such a strange and uncomfortable place to be. For the steady stream of thoughts to be interrupted is a rare thing, in other words, and if it happens we generally don’t like it in the least and make sure not to hang around in this undefined space any longer than we have to.

We all want to be sincere, the sensation of ‘not being sincere’ is not a pleasant one. The type of insincerity were talking about here is unconscious however because we’re fully convinced that we’re relating to people or things as they actually are, not merely as our mental representations of them. This is an example of ‘honest insincerity’ therefore, and we certainly can’t be blamed for it. There are consequences to our ‘lack of genuine relatedness’ all the same and the consequences are that we are always insulated from the real world; there is always going to be some degree of ‘abstraction’ or ‘removal’ from the world. We’re not truly participating in it (apart from the odd moment every now and again when we feel what it’s like to be alive more intensely, more vividly). We need to be ‘not thinking’ for this to happen however and – as we have said – this doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as we might imagine.

A good way of looking at the type of fundamental insincerity that we’re talking about here is to say that we always have an ‘ulterior motive’ with regard to what we’re doing, whether we’re aware of it or not. We always have an underlying agenda. We always have an agenda because it’s impossible to be in this state of mind where we are TATT without knowing it without having an agenda. To think is to have an agenda! This may not seem very obvious but the point is that thinking is always about the attempt to change things from being the way that they are to the way we want them to be. Thought is always about control, in other words. This point becomes clearer when we consider that if we didn’t want to change anything – which is to say – if we were in that state of being which is sometimes called ‘unconditional acceptance’, then we wouldn’t be thinking. We would no longer be creating alternative realities or commentaries on reality in our head, we would no longer be wishing to be ‘somewhere else’. We would no longer be trying to squeeze irregular things into an unreal mind-created regular context.

When we are no longer trying to be in control, when we are no longer fighting against things being the way they are, then this – naturally enough – brings peace. This peace is something that can never come about when we have some sort of agenda in the back of our minds. Thought can never supply peace for us, in other words, and this is why experiencing a state of profound peace (or mental silence) is such a rare thing. Instead of talking about peace we could also talk about freedom – Krishnamurti says something to the effect that ‘the person who is seeking a reward is never free’ and we could rephrase this as ‘the person who is seeking a goal is never free’. We are never free because we are in a state of slavery to that goal – we’re slaves to the need to obtain some goal or another! There’s an invisible irony here because we imagine that when we have obtained the goal we will be free. That’s the belief that is driving us but it’s a mistaken belief – freedom can never come about as a result of controlling just as peace can never come about as a result of thinking. When we achieve the goal (if we do) all that’s going to happen is that the thinking mind is going to provide us with another one. Achieving goals does not create gaps or breaks in the thought-stream, in other words.

So when we are contained within what Anthony de Mello calls ‘the envelope of thought’ then not only is it the case that we can never be sincere, it is also the case that we can never know freedom or joy or peace. This isn’t such a great deal that we’ve signed up to therefore, and we would be excused for wondering just what the hell we get out of it. The net benefits are zero and the cost is astronomical! ‘How are we to get free from this envelop?’ we might also ask. The answer is however ‘with a great deal of difficulty’ – if there’s one thing that we rely on in everyday life it is thought and so when we’re in a difficult situation we try to resolve it by thinking about it. If there is one thing we can rely upon to be more difficult than anything else in life it is getting out of the envelope of thought, therefore! The more we think about this particular puzzle the more we get trapped in it; even entertaining the idea of getting out of the envelope of thought is getting us more tied up; we’re wrapped up tightly in a parcel of thought and the more we think about escaping it (the more we think about anything, in fact) the tighter the strings around us will get. And if we try to untie the strings that bind us that just makes them all the tighter – trying always comes out of the thinking mind (and trying not to try is still trying). We are so dependent on the thinking mind that we can’t help using it even when the task at hand is to deliver us from the clutches of thought.

Rather than using thought to free us from thought we need to learn to be subtler than thought; this is the only way we find freedom from it. We cannot (needless to say) learn to be subtler via any kind of ‘system’ because systems are never subtle; logical systems are a manifestation of thought. Anything that is not a system cannot be taught, as Bruce Lee says, and so being subtler is something that we have to learn alone, free from all external (mis)direction. We’re so used to the idea of learning things via reference to an external authority of some kind or another (i.e. by enrolling on a course or reading a book) that the suggestion that we have to learn the most important thing of all on our own comes as a shock. The type of subtlety we’re talking about here is essentially a state of autonomy so of course it can’t be taught by another! In this state of ‘subtlety’ we are independent of all external authority, which is to say we are independent of thought and the need to make maps or models of reality.

We become independent of thought in this way – we might say – by developing our negative capability, which is to say, by practising the art of dwelling in the midst of uncertainties without automatically trying to resolve or draw conclusions from them. This is paraphrased from Keats. Negative capability depends on our interest in things ‘as they are’ being stronger then our interest in our own ideas regarding how they should be! We stay still and watch what is happening, adopting – as far as we are able – a policy of ‘non-interference’. In our unsubtle culture we would call this ‘being passive’ but this so-called ‘passivity’ is actually the highest expression of freedom. Purposeful action is the thing we always go for – decisive action is the only answer, we say. Control is the only answer. Forcing is the only answer. What we don’t see is that engaging in purposeful action means that we first have to buy into some model or theory or picture with regard to what is going on and this means becoming dependent upon the external authority of thought. We are so very keen to act that we don’t really care what sort of model we buy into it – it all happens in a flash and we are completely unconscious of the process. We don’t look at this process – all of our attention is on our fixing-or-evading-type behaviour and none of it on the assumptions that lie behind our ideas regarding what’s going on.

The fact that we are so keen to have the ‘instant reassurance’ of purposeful action means that we just don’t mind what sort of theory or model of the world we adopt; this is an absurd sort of thing, but this is what the drive to obtain ontological security is all about. Negative capability, on the other hand, is a measure of the degree to which we are free from the need for ontological security; when we succumb to the need to put OS first, before any other consideration, this turns everything on its head – this makes our whole lives absurd even though we can’t for the life of us see it. We’re controlling on behalf of an unreality, an unreal proposition, and the more we scheme and plan from this vantage point the more embroiled we become in the unreal drama. Not controlling every inch of the way as we go through the day may seem passive (or ‘not continuously asserting our own will’, as we would say) but the thing about this is that it was never our way anyway – it was ‘conditioned will’, i.e. the pseudo-will of the self-construct. We express our true freedom or autonomy not by enacting the biases that are inherent in the self-construct but by not enacting them, and only way we can ‘not enact them’ is if we tune into our own genuine autonomy, which we didn’t know we had. Freedom doesn’t mean freedom to control (which is how we see it), it means freedom from the need to control. The need to control turns out to be nothing more than the disguised need to limit ourselves every step of the way – the need to limit ourselves absolutely in case we were to accidentally discover one day that we’re not who or what we thought we were…

Art –

Detachment And Intimacy

Oddly, ‘detachment’ and ‘intimacy’ turn out to be the very same thing. We wouldn’t normally think that this could be the case but it is. Detachment (in the Buddhist sense of the word) may be thought of as distance (or separation) from the ego-construct. It is in (or through) this ‘distance’ that everything spontaneous in life is to be found – fun, humour, irony, creativity, emotional warmth, love, and intimacy. It all happens as a result of this distance and so ‘no distance’ equals the lack of all these qualities. The gap really means that this construct is not seen as being real in an unqualified way but merely as an arbitrary construct. To see the self-construct as an ‘arbitrary construct’ is the very essence of detachment, therefore! When there is no gap (no awareness of the arbitrariness of our conditioned sense of self) then the self-construct gets to be verified, it gets to be ‘all there is’. This is pure attachment, therefore – when there’s no gap then this means that we’re attached to the SC and its view of the world and so nothing else exists for us.

When there is no detachment from the self-construct then it is impossible to have any genuine intimacy (‘intimacy’ meant here in the sense of ‘closeness’, or ‘lack of design/ artificiality’). Everything the SC does is artificial, all of its relationships are artificial, which is to say, they’re not really relationships at all. An artificial (or thought-moderated) relationship is not a relationship at all because we never reach out beyond ourselves and our preconceptions. In this case we aren’t extending ourselves, as M. Scott Peck puts it. It ‘takes two to tango’, so it is said, but in the state of narcissistic withdrawal we’re performing a lonely ‘dance with ourselves’.

The self-construct can be obsessively engaged in its controlling, so to speak, but it can never be ‘detached’. ‘Attached’ means controlling – it means ‘like and dislike’, ‘preferences’, ‘fear and desire’; it equals ‘the map’, ‘the belief’, ‘the theory or the model of reality’. It is fundamentally artificial therefore and no matter how it strains it can never be ‘non-artificial’. No matter how the model strives to improve itself it can never cease being ‘the model’. Needless to say, it doesn’t feel good to be distant from life or distant from other people (because in this case we are distant from our own true nature) and so by the same token there is something wholesome and beneficial about being ‘distant’ from the self-construct. It’s healthy for there to be a gap between us and the self-construct, in other words. That gap equals consciousness, we might say – ‘no gap’ equals ‘no consciousness’. If there is no gap then I am the ego-construct and the ego-construct has no consciousness in it, only ‘mechanical reacting’. The life of the SC (endlessly celebrated by our culture as it is) equals ‘pure mechanical reacting’ therefore, and that is hardly going to be a lot of fun.

We could also say that ‘no detachment from these self-construct’ equals ‘being the machine’, and – as we have said – there aren’t a hell of a lot of laughs in being the machine. Machines aren’t renowned for their sense of humour after all; they aren’t renowned for being interested in anything doesn’t have any bearing on their own agendas and this is of course only what we would expect from a machine – all of this is perfectly normal for a machine, which can only ever operate within the specifications of its own operational parameters. The interesting thing here therefore is how it is that we are so blind to our own ‘machine-like’ qualities when we are operating in this mode – we get to be a machine that for the life of it can’t see itself to be a machine! We’re terribly, terribly limited but this limitation is profoundly invisible to us.

We imagine ourselves to be something else of course, something that isn’t a machine, some that bears no resemblance whatsoever to a machine. It isn’t quite right to say this however because we don’t actually imagine ourselves to be anything – we just assume. We assume ourselves to be something that is quite unlike (absolutely unlike) what we really are and – what’s more – we never bother to examine or look any further into what it is we think we are. We assume ourselves to be something that is more than just ‘an artificial thing’ (a puppet of the thinking mind) but we never stop to go into what that might be – we’re in far too much of a hurry to fulfil the needs of the conditioned identity to worry about the bigger picture. We’re way too busy being driven by the mechanical compulsions that are operating on us to reflect on what this compulsive motivation is all about, we just have this belief that ‘everything is going to be great’ – in some unexamined way – when the compulsion is obeyed. We assume the existence of some bone fide self that is to enjoy the prize, but really there is only the mechanical compulsion (which is not anyone obviously). In reality there is only the mechanical compulsion and the perception of an autonomous self is an illusion that we obtain by identifying with that compulsion.

What this comes down therefore to is this concept that we have of winning, which is the prized outcome of successful controlling. ‘Winning’ just means that we have managed to obey the compulsion that is operating on us; there is no actual ‘thing that is being won’; that’s a delusion, there is just the relief of pressure that we invertedly experience as being an actual positive (which is like perceiving the cessation of constant pain as pleasure). Nothing really has been obtained. We know that winning is great, we know that winning is what life is all about, and that it ‘says who we are’ (i.e. it says we are a winner) but we never stop to consider what the hell all this business really means. We never stop to consider that what’s actually happening here is that we are being acted upon by an external compulsion (or mechanical force) that has nothing to do with us. Somehow – in some bizarre fashion – we have created this illusion of ‘ourselves as effective independent agents’ out of the successful obeying of a mechanical force that has absolutely nothing to do with us! And if we fail to successfully obey the external mechanical force, we create an identity out of that too. We create a loser identity…

Such is the ‘life’ of a machine; machines don’t have any autonomy (that would be contradiction in terms), they are just slaves to the rules that define them. They are the rules which define them. When we identify with the self-construct then we glamorise the situation and perceive an autonomous self which is fulfilling (in a glorious fashion) its own autonomous wishes. The illusion of autonomy is what makes the self ‘glamorous’ for us, we might say, whilst in reality this perception is a total and utter hallucination – as we have said, there is only the situation of ‘mechanical rules defining us’, or ‘mechanical rules deterministically playing themselves out through us’, nothing more.

Oddly, when we identify with these external mechanical forces (which is to say, when we become ‘congruent’ with them) then as a result of this congruency, we confuse ‘what the external forces are compelling us to do’ with ‘what we genuinely or freely wish to do’) then the hallucination of the self-construct as a bona fide entity is generated, along with all of its necessary but very tedious dramas. When we say ‘along with all its dramas’ what we mean is – in essence – the heady mix that is made up of ‘excitement when things seem to get going away’ and ‘annoyance and disappointment when they don’t’. Nothing else has any place in our dramas – only gain and loss, only advantage and disadvantage. If it’s not to do with gain or loss then it’s not ‘a drama’; in that case it would be something else, something unrelated to the SC.

The drama seems meaningful to us when the way in which we see the world and the way the thinking mind tells us to see it are one and the same thing. The more of a gap there is between these two things the less meaningful it will seem! The gap, as we have said, corresponds to ‘actual consciousness’ and consciousness has no interest in dramas; it is ‘detached’ from all mind-created dramas, in other words. Because the thought-created drama seems meaningful to us we engage fully and because we are engaging fully with it the perception we have of being this mind-created identity gets concretized – it becomes ‘subjectively real’ to us, in other words. It becomes subjectively real in a very big way – it becomes the most real thing in the whole wide world for us! The so-called ‘engagement’ of the SC with its dramas is not the same thing as ‘engagement in life’ however – it is something very different indeed. What I’m ‘engaging’ with in this case are my own projections, my own projected desires and fears – I am ‘engaged’ with my own shadow in other words, which results – as Jung says – in an unpleasant alienation from the world rather than any sort of engaged relationship with it. I have created my own reality, so to speak, only the reality that I’ve created isn’t actually real. It’s a ‘phony reality’, or as we could also say, a game. It is a game I can’t help playing.

When we put it like this we can see that it is the self-construct that is ‘detached’ (in the common sense of the word) not consciousness; all the SC cares about are its own projections (which seal us off in our own private little ‘cocoon’, to use Jung’s term) it’s not reality that we are ‘attached to’ but what we project onto it. When the all important ‘gap’ comes into being (the gap or incongruence between my perception of the world and how thought tells me to perceive it) then – as we started off by saying – this is when actual spontaneity (i.e. honesty) comes back into the picture. Life itself comes back into the picture as a result of us not operating from the basis of a fixed geometrical point, which is what the conditioned identity is. Thought only works in terms of ‘fixed geometry’, after all. In conclusion, then, we can say that it is only when we are ‘detached’ (i.e. from the ubiquitous self-construct) that we can have any sort of genuine relationship with or interest in anything. We’re not detached from life; we’re detached from the compulsory game of the self or ego-construct, which is itself a state of absolute alienation.

Spinning The Wearisome Wheel

The continued existence of the self-concept is facilitated by the turning of the wheel of illusion. If that wheel didn’t turn, and didn’t keep on turning, then there could be no self. The identity needs illusion just like a fire needs fuel. The turning of the wheel of illusion generates the fuel for the maintenance of the everyday purposeful self.

The wheel of illusion turns when we believe that plus is different (and preferable to) minus. This is an illusion because plus and minus aren’t different and since they aren’t different neither is preferable to the other! The wheel that we are talking about here is the gimmick used by the System of Thought in order that it might disguise the fact that nothing real can ever happen in it. If we saw this then we would see that the SOT is ‘a fraud’ and so we’d have nothing whatsoever to do with it; the SOT never reveals this about itself however. The SOT is after all the domain that is created when plus is assumed to be fundamentally different to minus and that it is very much preferable!

This system of thought is a very peculiar place to spend all of our lives. The SOT gets to be the SOT by not allowing anything to happen that hasn’t been specified by the set of rules governing it; the realm that we are talking about here can only exist when nothing new (i.e. nothing unspecified) is ever allowed to happen, and yet it represents itself as being that domain within which meaningful change can and does take place. It represents itself as being the only place meaningful change can take place; even though this representation of itself is a perfect inversion of the truth.

The wheel of illusion is the gimmick by which the System of Thought conceals the fact of its own sterility. Nothing new can ever happen in the Continuum of Logic (that continuum where everything is explainable in terms of rules or precedents) and this means that the COL isn’t a real place. Because it isn’t a real place it has nothing to offer us, nothing to sustain us, nothing to maintain our interest or nurture us and so, whether we realise it or not, we are always looking for some ‘special ingredient’ to make life worthwhile (or at the very least tolerable) when we are living within the System of Thought. We’re always hungry, in other words. What we’re looking for is newness, i.e. an actual event that can interest us, something that can give us some relief from being continuously stuck in the mind-created ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario. The SOT snares us by getting us to think that the transition from negative to positive is this change, is this ‘breaking free’ that we are looking for. We don’t yearn for freedom therefore, we yearn to succeed at the task at the thinking mind has set us.

The more we look for release from the starkness of the mind-created game (or the mind-created task) the more we spin the wheel therefore; the more we try to redeem our situation the more irredeemable it becomes. The wheel of illusion is what keeps us trapped in the SOT, and the other (complementary) way putting this is to say that ‘the wheel turning’ (i.e. ‘polarity’) equals ‘itself’. The gimmick that the SOT uses to disguise the fact that there is no possibility of creativity within it is therefore at the same time the gimmick that creates the everyday purposeful self. No wheel turning means ‘no self’ and since ‘no self’ seems that the very worst thing in the world when we’re caught on the wheel we have no choice but to keep on spinning that wheel as fast as we can, hoping through our diligence to win the jackpot, hoping that this is how we are going to find the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow.

Putting things like this helps us to see the irony and the clearer we can see the irony the better it is for us! The clearer we can see this particular irony the better it is for us and yet this is the last thing we want to see – the further we can get from the irony we talking about here the happier we are going to be (in a manner of speaking). The irony in question has to do with a pot of gold that we are hoping to find at the other end of the rainbow. The prize we are hoping to find is ‘the prize of being a self or identity that doesn’t have to struggle the whole time to maintain/validate itself’. This is the prize of being ‘an All-Time Winner’ as James Carse says – the winner who doesn’t need to prove themselves any more. We finally get to break free from the gravitational field of the deterministic or mechanical life, in other words. This is the prize of having definitely won the game so we don’t ever have to play the game anymore.

Our wearisome struggle is made worthwhile by the promise of this glorious release from our repetitive labours. The irony is therefore that by putting all our emphasis on the positive pole we hope to be free from the ongoing conflict of polarity (i.e. the ‘ongoing conflict of positive versus negative’) whilst actually it is our one-sided emphasis on the positive that constitutes the very conflict we want to be free from! Or as we could also say, we put more and more effort into spinning the wearisome wheel because we see this as the way to get to the blessed realm of freedom where we don’t have to spin it any longer. What we don’t see though is that we ourselves are the spinning and so of course we will never be free from ‘the onerous need to keep on spinning’. We’re buying into that ‘need’ more and more with every day that passes…

Too Much Self

What we succeed at can’t add anything to who we are, and what we fail at can’t take anything away. This said, why is it that we feel so great when we succeed and so very terrible when we fail? Why is it – indeed – that succeeding rather than failing (which is to say ‘successful controlling’) is just about all we care about in the general run of things? Why do we spend so much time obsessing and stressing about ‘succeeding versus failing’ if this is the case?

One very obvious answer is to say that we don’t know that what we succeed at can’t add anything to who we are, and that what we fail at can’t take anything away. We could point out that – far from knowing this – we firmly believe that absolutely everything hangs on whether we managed to succeed in our controlling (which is to say, whether we ‘succeed in obtaining our goals’). This is of course perfectly true but we need to know more than this. We need to know why we should have such a perception, which is a perception that has no basis in reality at all. ‘Who we are’ is who we are, after all – who we are is not the outcome of either successful or failed controlling!

If who we are is the outcome of a correct choice that we have made, or the result of successful controlling on our part, then we would be nothing more than ‘the outcome of our own doing’ and this is a rather strange idea. How can we be ‘responsible for ourselves’ in this way? It is of course often said that we are ‘responsible for ourselves’ but this is clearly not meant in the sense of us having to create and maintain our own identities. Am I ‘my own invention’, in this case? Am I a choice that I make, a goal that I have to identify and then strive to attain? How can I be ‘a goal of myself’?

In the most profound sense of all, we can’t be responsible for ourselves and so for this reason we can’t either feel proud of who we are or ashamed of who we are. How can we be proud of who we are or ashamed of who we are if ‘who we are’ has nothing to do with us? In practice of course we can and do feel either good about ourselves or bad about ourselves in this way – generally speaking it is either the one way or the other, it is either pride or shame (which equates to ‘winning or losing’). Conventional wisdom says that one way is good and the other way isn’t good; we know that it’s not good to feel too proud about ourselves (because that’s called ‘having a big ego’) but it is seen as being healthy to have a certain degree of positive self-regard. The healthy way (or so it is said) is for us to feel good about ourselves up to a certain point and this is called ‘self-esteem’. Good self-esteem is seen as being an important part of mental health.

Having good self-esteem is seen as being mentally healthy just as having poor self-esteem is widely regarded as being unfortunately unhealthy but the point here is that either way were taking on a responsibility for ourselves that we just don’t have, as we have just said. If we have to talk in terms of what is mentally healthy or otherwise then we would have to say that both good self-esteem and low self-esteem are equally unhealthy; they are equally ‘unhealthy’ because they are both based on a complete delusion, the delusion in question being that we are responsible for ourselves (i.e. that we are in some way the result of our own doing or our own choices). This is the classic Western way of seeing things.

If we were to see things clearly for once however (just supposing) then we would see something absolutely fascinating – we’d see something that is both absolutely fascinating and profoundly liberating. What we would see is that who or what we are has nothing to do with us. This is what consciousness (as opposed to ‘attachment’) always shows – it shows that ‘it’s got nothing to do with you’, as David Bowie says in The Man Who Sold The Moon. The nature of things has nothing to do with us; reality has nothing to do with us. We didn’t make reality after all – we didn’t make it and so how can we possibly be ‘responsible’ for it?

Seeing things in this very clear, perfectly unattached way is very rare however; it’s very rare because what we normally do is that we overlay the world with our own acknowledged projections, as Carl Jung says. We personalise the world, we ‘make it all about us’. When we do this everything gets very sticky, very claustrophobic – we have no ‘space’ any more, no more ‘sense of perspective’. We don’t have any space because there’s no space in ‘the world of projections’. Another way of putting this is to say that we can’t ‘project’ space – space equals ‘no projections’, it equals ‘not me’. Space equals – we might say – freedom from this claustrophobic ‘sense of self’, and this – of course – comes across as being rather a peculiar notion for such a ‘self-based’ or ‘self-celebratory’ culture as ours. It comes across as very peculiar notion indeed!

This is of course never actually spelt out in so many words because we are not thinking as clearly as that – our formula for happiness or fulfilment (or whatever we want to call it) is ‘add more self and stir…’ We just keep adding more and more self to the mix, as if this were a recipe that couldn’t possibly go wrong. The more self the better, after all! This might be our assumption (it certainly seems to be) but what experience shows every time is that what is refreshing for us, what is vivifying for us, what is life-giving for us is ‘not-self’, the ‘absence of self’, and not the unbearably suffocating presence of it. What we call ‘neurotic suffering’ is purely and simply the suffering of ‘too much self’.

‘Less is more’ when it comes to the self but this doesn’t mean that we have to humble ourselves or denigrate ourselves or deny ourselves. That’s still having too much self. It’s still having too much self because the self still thinks that it is a key part of the equation – it thinks that the ‘answer’ is dependent upon its manoeuvring, upon the way it comports itself. It wants to redeem itself in some way so that it can now be a ‘good’ self, so that everything will now be OK with it still being a key part of the picture. This isn’t it at all however – it’s not that we need some ‘new improved type of self’ but that we need actual space to live in, where ‘space’ equals ‘no-self’, as we have just said. ‘No-self’ is never the output of the self’s activities; the situation where there is a refreshing absence of self is not our responsibility. If we make it our responsibility then all that happens is that we fill up all the available space with yet more and more self.

The point here is that we completely overvalue our own manoeuvring, our own attitude or response to the situation – our manoeuvring has nothing whatsoever to do with reality, it doesn’t matter in the least what we ‘think’ of reality. Reality isn’t dependent on what we do about it or on what ‘attitude’ we take towards it. All of our attitudes or responses are equally irrelevant and when we see this perspective comes back into the picture. We think that ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ is so very important but what sort of delusion is this? We are overvaluing our own manoeuvring, overvaluing our own controlling. Being successful is a meaningless thing – it just means ‘more self’. Failure is meaningless thing – that too just means ‘more self’. What would bring a sense of meaning back to our lives would be less self not more self, and less self – as we have said – can never be the result of our manoeuvring, the matter how ‘skilful’ that manoeuvring might be! ‘Less self’ isn’t our responsibility; ‘less self’ isn’t our responsibility because ‘less self’ simply means reality and reality – as David Bowie says – has nothing to do with us.

Two Views of Mental Health

There exist two diametrically opposed (and therefore incompatible) views with regard to what mental health is or is not and which view we hold depends upon whether we are in Being Mode or Doing Mode.

Doing Mode –

When we are in this modality our ‘sense of self’ is based entirely on our doing, which means that when there are ‘problems’ with our SOS, then these problems have to be corrected with yet more doing (since in this modality ‘doing’ is the foundation level).

This gives rise to ‘the knot’ – it gives rise to the knot that only gets tighter and more intractable the more we try to fix it! Doing cannot cure the pain that is caused by too much doing. Rationality cannot undo the knot that is itself.

When one level of doing goes ‘wrong’ (according to its own terms, that is) then another level of doing has to be brought into play to fix it and this – of course – gives rise to an infinite regress. The internal contradiction in doing can never be undone by using yet more doing. This is equivalent to saying that the systematic error which lies hidden in the System of Thought cannot (as David Bohm says) be eliminated by ‘thinking about the problem’, or ‘analysing the problem’. That simply amplifies the error.

‘Doing Mode’ and ‘the System of Thought’ are one and the same thing since ‘doing’ can only come about as a result of ‘thinking’. ‘Doing’ (which is to say purposeful activity) is the expression of thinking, it is thinking translated into reality. In Doing Mode we are trying to get reality to accord with our thinking. Rationality and purposefulness are one and the same thing.

Being Mode

The modality which is based on being doesn’t give rise to any Sense of Self (oddly enough, as it may seem to us) because the only way a sense of self can come about is as a result of doing (i.e. we have to ‘do’ a boundary or ‘make’ a boundary or ‘decide on’ a bundary). There can’t be any sense of self without a boundary, after all! ‘What is a soldier without a foe?’ asks Robert Wyatt. ‘What is a self without the other’, as we could rephrase this line. Being does not exist in a state of opposition to itself, it has no good or bad in it, no right and no wrong. Only doing has this – doing has to have a ‘good versus bad’ or a ‘right versus wrong’. If it didn’t then there would be no basis for our doing, nowhere to start from and nowhere to go to. Purposeful doing can’t exist without a right way and a wrong way – without a ‘right’ there can be nothing to aim at, without a ‘right’ there can be no purpose to what we’re doing.

Being is therefore ‘nonlocal’ – it cannot be located within a framework. Frameworks are examples of doing, after all; frameworks are examples of doing because the separation of the two poles, separation of the two opposites, the separation of plus and minus, is itself a doing, and there can be no framework without the separation of plus and minus. The FW equals ‘a separation of plus and minus’.

Saying that being as nonlocal is another way of saying that there can be no self in being! ‘Being’ isn’t a limited thing, it doesn’t take place within a framework, it doesn’t occur in response to certain conditions having been met. Being cannot be tied to any conditions or related to any conditions.It cannot be defined or measured…

Part [2] – The self is a ‘solution’ to an apparent ontological problem

When we look at being (or non-locality) from a particular or specific point of view it appears to be ‘a problem’. Non-locality inevitably presents itself as a problem’ or ‘an error’ when seen from a particular POV – there’s no way that it can’t do. Non-locality ‘does not compute’. How can a logical system understand non-locality, after all? NL flies in the face of logic – it appears, from this perspective, to be infinitely paradoxical. We can’t get any purchase on it at all. It’s like saying that the answer to any conceivable question is always going to be ‘yes’! (or that the answer to any question we may ask is always going to be ‘no’!). This falsifies the question we are asking; more than this, it falsifies the basis for asking any question that we might ask. It falsifies ours framework since a framework needs for there to be a right and a wrong, if everything is equally YES (or NO) then that does not compute and that is always going to be the situation with non-locality.

All of our questions come down to ‘Where is it within the FW of our terms of reference?’ (i.e. ‘What is the answer within the terms of our particular way of thinking about things?’ and ‘Where is it?’ is of course a fundamentally meaningless question when it comes to non-locality! Another – simpler – way of putting this is to say that because we have no concept for NL (obviously we can’t because ‘a concept’ equals ‘a location within the FW of thought’) and so when we come across it in our day-to-day lives (so to speak) we can only register it as ‘error’. Anything that doesn’t make sense within the terms of the taken-for-granted framework equals ‘an error’ – this is the only way the framework can maintain its integrity. Whenever we encounter any manifestation of being therefore (any manifestation of non-locality) then we do two things – [1] We write it off as error, and [2] we attempt to correct for it. Correcting for the ‘error of being’ comes down to maintaining the Mind-Created Sense of Self, as we have said. That’s the only way we can maintain the MCSOS. Most of the time this seems to work just fine; we can say that the correction ‘appears to work just fine’ because the Mind-Created Sense of Self appears perfectly viable to us and we don’t perceive any serious problem with it! It functions flawlessly as our ‘basis’ in our day-to-day lives and we don’t have to worry about it…

Just because we don’t ‘see the problem’ with the MCSOS does not mean that there isn’t one there however – it just means that it hasn’t shown itself to us yet. The problem or jinx hasn’t manifested itself yet but this is no reason to relax! The MCSOS is a ‘problem waiting to happen’ (or ‘a jinx waiting to unfold’) and all the time that passes up to this point (however nostalgic we might become later on with regard to that time) is nothing more than a dream or mirage. Notwithstanding this, when we are in ‘Doing Mode’ then we see this period of time (the period of time in which the glitch inherent the MCSOS hasn’t manifested yet) as being the state of ideal mental health. Mental health is implicitly being defined as ‘that state of affairs where we can carry on identifying with MCSOS without there being any apparent problem with this’. It is possible to have this view of mental health, but only if we make sure to take a very superficial view of things. This definition of mental health can also be referred to as the state of being in which we are ‘limited without knowing that we’re limited’, or deluded without knowing that we are’. When we do start to become aware of ‘limitedness’ (or of our ‘deludedness’) then this necessarily painful awareness is – therefore – seen as mental ill-health and we will try to cure it (or at least, we will try as best we can to ‘dull the pain of the awareness’).

When we are in Being Mode then mental health is something very different. To be mentally healthy is to have some degree of relationship with the truth of our situation and this translates into ‘seeing the glitch’. ‘Seeing the glitch’ means seeing that there is a problem that we can’t fix; we can’t fix a glitch because our so-called ‘fixing’ actually makes the problem worse. Fixing feeds the glitch – fixing feeds the glitch because the fixing contains the glitch. Fixing is the glitch! When we truly see the jinx for what it is then we see very clearly the problem can’t be fixed and seeing this is the same thing as ‘dis-identifying with the MCSOS’; just as long as we persist in not seeing the glitch inherent in the self-construct then the state of identification will continue. Believing that we can ‘fix’ the problems inherent in the MCSOS causes us to continue to believe that this self-construct is who we are. It is telling therefore that our mental health industries insist on ‘promoting fixing’, ‘talking about fixing’, and ‘coming up with more and more doing-type ‘therapies’ designed to return us to what we fondly imagine was a state of ‘good mental health’…

The Greed Of The Runaway Simulation

Conditioned existence is an absolute limitation. We might think that it is a limited version of reality but that it is at least still some kind of a version but this isn’t the case. It’s actually something completely different, completely unconnected. As well as being an absolute limitation conditioned existence is also a trap because when we are in it can’t understand how they could be possibly be anything else. Conditioned existence is an absolute limitation and yet this absolutely limited state of being is now all we have got, and not only that but it is the only thing we can believe in. We have no capacity to acknowledge or recognize anything else.


What is it mean to say that ‘conditioned existence is an absolute limitation’, though? We can say it easily enough; we may even understand it – in a purely intellectual sort of a way – but what are we actually saying here? The problem is that unless we know what it means to be not limited then we can’t know what being ‘limited’ means either. Clearly we can’t. Otherwise, all we have got are our limited ideas of what it means to be ‘limited’, which is the same thing as ‘the machine’s simulation of what unsimulated reality might look like’. The thinking mind is guessing at what lies beyond it, but getting no further than itself for all its feverish guessing.


We can go a certain distance towards saying something about what this ‘limited’ modality of being is like, what it means to be living life in this extraordinarily limited way, however. We can for example say that conditioned existence is like a simulation that simulates everything, a simulation which simulates reality itself, but which is itself nothing. This is such an incredible thing – the simulation pretends to be so much and yet it is so very little. How – we might say wonder – is such a thing even possible?Why is it possible? How can something that doesn’t exist pretend to be everything, and get away with it?


And yet this is not only possible, it happens all the time! It happens on a routine basis – as far as we are concerned, it never doesn’t happen. It never doesn’t happen to us because we are always stuck to the thinking mind and its ideas; chief amongst them being its idea about who we are, its idea concerning our ‘identity’. This is a curious thing right here – there is no such thing as ‘identity’ anywhere and yet the simulation invents it – the simulation invents it and, what’s more, it makes it seem like an essential ingredient in the mix.We can no longer see beyond it. The simulation is actually based on identity, just as a game is based on ‘the player of the game’. The simulation needs the one who is to believe that the simulation is real just as a game needs the one who is to play it, the one who is to ‘take it seriously’ but this ‘identity’, this ‘player of the game’, is nothing more than a made-up thing. It’s a construct of the system, and the system itself isn’t real.


So as soon as we start taking this identity seriously we get caught up in the conditioned form or analogue of existence, and we most certainly do take it seriously. Identity is conditioned existence and conditioned existence is identity. The suggestion that identity is merely an invention, a fiction, and that it isn’t to be found anywhere in the real world no matter how hard we look, doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to us. It can’t make sense to us because ‘identity’ is the most fundamental fact of existence there is as far as we’re concerned. It is ‘the most basic fact of existence’ there is when we are operating within conditioned reality but the qualification here – as always – is that conditioned reality isn’t actually real.


What do we imagine that ‘identity’ or ‘self’ is, however? What are our reflections on it? What does it look like, what is its essential nature? The point here however is that we don’t reflect on identity, and the question of what its essential nature might be. Identity is a baton which we are handed in a relay race and the point is to immediately run with it rather than stopping to question its ontological nature.The nature of this thing called ‘identity’ is that believing in it precludes any questioning of it and this is of course the case with all beliefs! A belief is a belief because we never reflect upon it, because we never reflect upon what it is that we believe, and an identity is an identity because we never reflect on what ‘having an identity’ actually means!


‘Having a belief’ and ‘being subsumed by this mind-created simulation of reality’ are very much the same sort of thing in this regard. A belief is no good without someone to believe in it just as a simulation is no good without having someone to perceive it as being real. We are generally very proud of our beliefs. ‘I believe…’ I say, as if this actually means something. Our belief isn’t really in the set of ideas we say we believe in however, what we really believe in is ‘the one who has the beliefs’! My ideas are me, after all – they are certainly not anything else. I project them onto reality but that doesn’t mean that they belong there. When I say that I am proud of my belief what I mean is that I am proud of me – I mean that I am proud of my identity. Reality itself has no need of any believer however. Why would it? Why would reality need anyone to believe in it, after all? Only the unreal needs someone to believe in it, someone to validate it.


A system of belief is never content to occupy only part of the space that is available. It’s not as if we can have a rigid belief about one portion of life and yet at the same time remain perfectly open-minded about all the other portions! We can’t have a mind that is closed and open at the same time; if I have a belief then I have a belief about everything and if I am open-minded then I don’t have any belief about anything. Belief systems always want to explain everything – they are greedy that way. Their greed is absolute. If they didn’t explain everything then what they didn’t explain would be a threat to them! A ‘belief’ is just like a ‘simulation’ therefore – even the simulation isn’t anything it attempts to be everything and even though a belief isn’t true it nevertheless attempts to explain the whole world…


Conditioned existence is thus a world that has nothing at all in it. It is infinitely impoverished. When I try to spell out my belief system to you it may sound as if it has lots of different terms in it, but it doesn’t. It’s all just ‘the belief system’, just as everything in a theory is ‘only just the theory’. Everything in the belief system is just the same as everything else in it – it has all got exactly the same flavour to it, and it’s a very bland flavour indeed. Theory is always grey, as Goethe says. When we are attempting to live our lives in the mind-created simulation of reality it may seem that there are lots of different choices in it, it may seem as if there are lots of different possibilities there, but they aren’t – it’s all the same thing, it’s all just ‘the simulation’. There is absolutely no diversity there, none at all. The other way of putting this is to say that everything I experience as all just ‘me’; after all, it’s all just my ideas, my thoughts, my assumptions, my presuppositions reflected back at me. Everything I experience is just ‘me’ reflected faithfully back at me at every turn, and that ‘me’ wasn’t ever a real thing in the first place…



Anxiety Can’t Be ‘Managed’

Mark Twain is sometimes quoted as saying ‘worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe’. This just isn’t so however – if this were true then we would be able to stop worrying quite easily and we absolutely can’t. If this were true then that would mean that the anxiety or worry ‘shouldn’t be happening’ and having this attitude that ‘anxiety shouldn’t be happening’ is exactly what lies behind the anxiety in the first place!



If I have the attitude that ‘the anxiety shouldn’t be happening’ then I am alienated from it and all I can do is keep on trying to push it away. We can’t simply ‘push it away’ however – as experience shows very clearly – and so this leaves us in a very disagreeable position – it leaves us in the position of being alienated from our anxiety, of being 100% against it. and yet at the same time utterly unable to get rid of it. And – to add the final touch to this mix – when we push against anxiety then this only feeds it. We are actually perpetuating the anxiety therefore – we are perpetuating it by being alienated from it and by the fact that we are fighting against it. We are perpetuating the very situation that we most want to get away from and this happens because we automatically take the position that ‘the anxiety shouldn’t be there’.



Trying – in any way – to argue against the anxiety and say that it ‘shouldn’t be there’ (or saying that it isn’t necessary to be suffering from anxiety if we take the correct steps) isn’t such a great idea therefore. We are not just pointing the finger at Mark Twain here of course – all ‘rational therapies’ – very obviously – take the position that the anxiety shouldn’t be there and that it wouldn’t be there if we take ‘the correct steps’. That’s the whole point of ‘fixing type’ therapies, after all! The whole point is that if we do what that therapeutic protocol tells us to do (which we think about things in the way it tells us to) then this will help us with the anxiety. All ‘fixing-type’ therapies put us in the position of being alienated from anxiety. How could they not?



This doesn’t however mean that we should try to ‘make friends’ with our anxiety so that we are no longer ‘taking against it’ and thereby feeding into it. The problem with this response (even though it seems to make sense, based on what we just said) is that it’s a ‘purposeful action’ and all purposeful actions are an attempting to fix something or run away from it. What else would our ‘purpose’ be, after all? Our ‘purpose’ (our ‘agenda’) is to get rid of the anxiety; if this is the approach we’re taking then we’re trying to get rid of anxiety by making friends with it. We’re manipulating as normal, therefore.



Any purposeful and deliberate approach that we might take towards the anxiety is always going to have the effect of alienating us from it simply because we are interfering, simply because we are ‘trying to control’. As Huai Nan Tzu says –

When one seeks to regulate something,
he is in fact going contrary to it.


Where he seeks to embellish something,
he is in fact harming it.


Nonaction does not mean being completely inert,
but rather that nothing is initiated from the ego-self.


The only type of action that ever comes from the ego-self is controlling or manipulating, which is an interesting thing to realise! The ego itself actually creates and maintains itself through controlling, which means that not only is controlling the only type of activity that the self is capable of, but also that it absolutely needs to keep on controlling if it is to continue existing (or rather, if it is to seem to itself to continue existing, which it doesn’t really since it is only a thought). To suggest to ‘this thought of who we are’ that ‘not controlling’ is a cure for anxiety is not very helpful therefore since the ego-self is more afraid of not controlling (and what this may mean) than it is of the anxiety! And in any event – as we have said – ‘the thought of who we are’ is simply not capable of ‘not controlling’, any more than it is capable of ‘not judging, or ‘not scheming’.



We can’t control our worrying or anxiety, therefore. We can’t manage it because managing is also controlling. When it comes down to it, anxiety can never be separated from the idea or thought that we have about who we are – the two always go together, even though the inherent anxiety of the self-concept may be hidden or latent for a long period of time. The reason the ego-self can never be truly free from anxiety (even though it can be in ‘successful denial’ of it for a time) is very easy simple to explain – if the ego-self can only maintain itself by control, and if it starts for some reason to doubt its ability to control, then not only does this threaten its ability to function effectively in the world (in terms of our confidence with regard to obtaining our goals) it also – much more significantly – threatens the ego-self’s very existence. Even though we can’t see the connection between the ability to control (or ‘the ability to put a slant on things’) and our continued ego-based existence, the connection is still intuited on some deep level of our being.



We might ask why the ego-self (or self-concept) should suddenly start to doubt its ability to control with such major consequences and one way to answer this question is by suggesting that there is a process here happening whereby, for whatever reason, we ‘glimpse the truth’, and having glimpsed it we can’t forget about it again! ‘Ignorance is bliss’, so it is said, and in the case of the self-concept this is most certainly the case. The self-concept needs ignorance just as the supernatural creatures known as vampires are said to need the protection afforded by the cloak of night. On one level we can say that ignorance for the ego-self means that it doesn’t see that it is always controlling; and on a deeper level we can say that ignorance for the ego-self doesn’t see that it always has to be controlling in order to maintain (or validate) itself, and awareness of both of these points is disagreeable to us. The second point is, of course, the most disagreeable of all!



This isn’t to say that we consciously ‘make the connection’ but rather what we’re saying is that we have ‘become aware of it without knowing that we have’ and that this secret knowledge (which we can’t allow ourselves to know that we know) changes everything. It puts a different complexion on things entirely. We are fighting a much grimmer battle now because not only are we ‘controlling in order to maintain the ego-self’, we are also struggling against the awareness that this is what we are doing, along with the awareness of what this means. The reason this struggle is a grim one is of course because we now know a deep, deep level that what we are trying to do is impossible; it’s impossible because if the ego-self isn’t real (clearly it can’t be if we are having to maintain it ourselves) then how can we ever make it real, no matter how hard and gamely we struggle? This is a bit of a no-brainer really. The ego-self which has had this dangerous semi-conscious insight into its own nature is necessarily ‘pessimistic’ in its outlook; we may observe that it is guilty of the sin of ‘negative thinking’ but why wouldn’t it be? Awareness, after all, has come into the picture. The blissful ignorance has been fatally punctured and we can’t go back to how things were before.



It sounds strange to be talking about the ego-self in this way, as if it weren’t real, when this is very much who we understand ourselves to. This idea seems deeply perverse; it seems to go against everything that makes sense to us. The particular strongly-defined ‘sense of self’ that we’re talking about here is however simply a function of our very focused way of looking at things, which is to say, it is a function the ‘way’ of the rational intellect. We’re looking down a microscope, so to speak, so that whilst what we see gets to be rendered in great detail, we have had to become blind to a very broad section of reality in order to have this type of vision. It also like having our awareness shone through a narrow slit in some kind of opaque partition, as in the famous optics experiment. In daily life – because of the ‘focusing’ effect of the rational intellect – we end up with the permanent ‘fixed sense of ourselves’ as it is produced by a very narrow beam of awareness, and because this construct or artifact is there all the time, is so ubiquitous, we almost inevitably make the mistake of thinking that it is who we are. If we weren’t so exclusively rational in our outlook this wouldn’t be the case, but we are.



When we do think that this artifact of our tightly-focused attention is who we are then of course we do owe a debt that needs to be paid; we owe a debt that needs to be paid even though we can’t for the life of us see what that debt is although though we still know (in some way) that it’s there. The debt in question has to do with what we have to do in order to keep the self-concept afloat; the fact that we have to keep ourselves unaware of what it is we’re doing and why. Anxiety (and its low-grade cousin worrying) isn’t something that is completely ‘unnecessary’ therefore, isn’t something that we should not be doing’. It isn’t ‘meaningless suffering’, in other words, but rather it’s there for a reason. It’s telling us something. If we are in the business of ‘identifying with the self that is produced by the tightly-focused beam of attention that is coming through the narrow slit of the thinking mind’ then we are always going to have this debt to pay – it is rightfully ours! The self can’t do anything about the situation, naturally – anything it did try to do would only exacerbate the situation, as we have said. The point is however that the ego-self doesn’t have to do anything! All that is necessary is for us to see that this ‘sense of self’ is an artifact of our totally-tightly focused beam of attention. How can we be anxious about it then?



Conditioned existence comes at a price, just as the Buddha said in his First Noble Truth, which is the truth that we rational Westerners don’t like. Conditioned existence is an inherently painful (and anxious) mode of being because it is both limited and ‘dependent upon conditions’. We can’t understand that we’re painfully restricted and dependent upon conditions because we don’t have any perception that there is any other possibility. Ironically therefore, in addition to the suffering created by our arbitrary restrictedness there is also the anxiety and worry that comes about because of our doubts regarding our ability to successfully maintain and protect this extraordinarily limited and painful mode of existence.









Loss Of Wonder In The Realm Of Cause And Effect

Khalil Gibran says something to the effect that if we can keep our eye on the daily miracle that is our life – which is admittedly not an easy thing to do – then we would wonder no less at our pain and suffering then we would at our joy. We would in this case wonder equally at everything! This might sound suspiciously like mere ’empty piety’, but this is far from being the case – it is demonstrably true that if we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture then we will wonder at everything that comes our way. How could we not wonder? What will seem to be ‘wholly negative’ in a very black-and-white way is actually nuanced. The very same might be said to be true of unconsciousness – if we keep an eye on the ongoing miracle of reality, then the phenomenon of unconsciousness will seem to us to be no less a matter for wonderment than the phenomenon of consciousness does. Anything we don’t judge is a matter for wonderment.


To be going right around in an unconscious state is just as much of a miracle as when we go around being conscious, the only proviso here being that when we are unconscious then we do not in any way see our existence as being ‘miraculous’. The reason for this – we might say – is because we are wholly subsumed within the causal realm, the ‘realm of cause and effect’. In the causal world – needless to say – everything that exists has a cause and the very fact that it has been caused means that it is not going to seem miraculous to us. If anyone were to ask us about some particular phenomenon we would simply point to the cause and say ‘It’s because of that’. ‘It’s because of that’, we say, and then there’s no more discussion on the subject. We will explain all phenomena in terms of their causes and it is by doing this that we create ‘the Domain of the Known’. In the Domain of the Known everything is known, everything can be explained in a logical way, and this means that nothing is a miracle.


This device of ours is however not in the least bit legitimate. We are – as has often been pointed out – merely avoiding the issue by doing this. We are avoiding the mystery of the Whole by focussing only on the fragmentary view that thought shows us. A very simple example of this type of thing is where we ‘explain’ the world by saying that God created it for his own inscrutable reasons. Then – when we look around at the world – we are not in the least bit surprised by it. We know that God created the world and this furnishes us with what looks like a very legitimate explanation. What could be more legitimate explanation than ‘God wanted it to be so’? It is of course true that we still pay lip-service to what we call ‘the Miracle of Creation’ – we feel duty bound to do this after all. We say it, but we don’t feel it. No one can perceive a miracle out of a sense of obligation, after all. The same is true when we’re talking about a ‘sense of gratitude’ – we know that we have an obligation to be grateful to God for creating the world (of course) but the very fact that we have this sense of obligation means that it is perfectly impossible for us to genuinely experience the emotion. By saying ‘God created the world’ we have denied ourselves the possibility of feeling any wonder. We cannot blame God for this however but only ourselves; it is our own mental manoeuvre that has done this to us and nothing else. Wherever there is a concrete explanation there can be no wonder.


It’s not just in rational religion that we find this type of thing going on – Richard Feynman pointed out that our ‘explanations’ in science have exactly the same character: we can define one fundamental force (for example magnetism) in terms of another force, and then we can proceed to explain that force in terms of yet another one, until eventually we come right back to where we started. What exactly have we had we ‘explained’, in this case? If there’s one thing we know for sure it’s that loops don’t explain anything! This is reminiscent of Alan Watts’ ‘dictionary game’ which is where we pick a word at random and then look up the definition of the words that the dictionary uses to explain our chosen word with. Eventually – Alan Watts says – we will come back to the very same word that we started off with. If we are short-sighted in our approach to life then we can allow ourselves to imagine that everything has been satisfactorily explained (and as a result we can rest in a state of comforting ontological security); when we look into the matter a bit more deeply however we can see that nothing has been explained and that everything is still every bit as much of a mystery as it started out by being.


The thinking mind is the very same as a dictionary in this respect – it is made up of ‘loops of meaning’ that only seem to explain things. This is necessarily so since there is nothing for the cause-and-effect chains of inference to attach themselves to but themselves! There isn’t any definite foundation, there isn’t any convenience ‘skyhook’ for us to hang everything off. If we want a skyhook then we will just have to make one ourselves and this is precisely what we do do. We hang everything on some conveniently skyhook or other and the effect of doing this is to remove all wonder from the world. The skyhook we are using in order to do this (in order to ground our ‘chains of cause and effect’) isn’t really there at all and this means that the ‘lack of wonder’ isn’t there either – even though the ‘lack’ in question is very much there for us in a pragmatic or subjective way. In the absence of wonder (in the absence of the awareness that ‘there is no skyhook’) the type of meaning’ that we are subjected to flattens us. It flattens us because there’s no getting away from it, because this is a stone that we can’t crawl out from under. This type of meaning (which is Extrinsic or Assigned Meaning) flattens us because there is absolutely no nuance in it – it is in other words ‘the type of meaning that imprisons us‘. ‘No nuance’ means absolute containment; we have become two-dimensional (or fractional) beings, locked into the Realm of the Known, which is the Realm of Thought.


From inside of this realm, this self-sustaining bubble of thought, it is impossible for us to perceive just how restrictive it is. We can’t actually perceive the restriction at all. One way in which we can appreciate the walls that contain us however is in terms of our reaction to what thought tells us, our reaction to our rational understanding of whether our situation is good or bad, advantageous or disadvantages. In short, being subsumed within the causal realm of thought means that we are going to react in a remarkably ‘flat’ and mechanical way; we react to the completely ‘un-nuanced’ picture of reality that the rational mind is providing us with in a manner that is equally ‘un-nuanced’. Our reactions are mechanical and so too are the moods that we fall into as a result of us believing the story-line that we have been provided with. Once I judge (or rather once the thinking mind judges) my situation is being unfavourable then I’m ‘down in the dumps’ immediately and although I can’t see it, there is something more than just a little bit ridiculous about the mechanical correspondence between my mood and the description of reality that thought has provided me with. There is something comical about it, even though I absolutely can’t see it. Instead of any perception of the comical way in which how I feel is completely determined by the arbitrary movement of thought, I will feel ‘bad’ in a way in a very literal, very non-nuanced, very ‘non-ironical’. There is basically ‘no talking to me’; there’s no talking to me because I am thought’s prisoner. The spark has been knocked right out of me, as it always is when it’s the operation of the Demiurgic Principle that we’re talking about.



Whenever thought describes the world to us it does so in a completely un-nuanced way and as a result we fall head-first into the prison of literal or concrete thinking. We cannot in any way ‘question the reality’ that we’ve been given by thought; rather than ‘us questioning it’, it determines us… The boot is firmly on the other foot, in other words. The curtain has come down and so instead of us perceiving reality (instead of us being sensitive to the nuances of reality) our environment (which is now the ‘conditioned’ or ‘thought-created’ environment) ‘tells us what to perceive’, just as David Bohm says. Thought tells us that we are free, and so we automatically believe it, just as we automatically believe it in all other matters .A determinate or conditioned environment will always tell us what we are to perceive, what we are to think about and how we are to feel about what we perceive or think. Thought provides us with a total script for living, in other words…



Thought tells us everything but – rather than us seeing that thought is telling us everything (because there isn’t the space for that perception) – we believe that this is ‘just the way things are’. We believe that this is the way things are and the most eloquent, charismatic and talented speaker in the world could not convince us otherwise, not if they were to talk to us all night and day. How can one explain the ‘non-concrete’ to a concrete thinker, after all? The world itself (unlike the productions of thought) is nuanced and the only way to perceive it therefore is in a similarly nuanced or ironical way. Nothing is what it seems and so it is not possible to jump to any conclusions. It’s impossible to know whether we should feel good or bad, happy or sad about anything, and this is itself the ‘wonderment’ that we started out by talking about. Having this sense of wonderment is the very same thing as ‘being free’ therefore, and this is precisely what is denied us in the Domain of the Known, which is the Realm of Cause and Effect…






Servants Of The Mechanical Mind

We humans are – for the most part – a highly ‘incurious’ folk. We’re not naturally like that but we’ve become like that. We just want to be left in peace so that we can go on doing whatever it is that we already are doing. We don’t want to be bothered, in other words. Whatever the thing is, we just want to be allowed to carry on with it and not to be interfered with. We don’t want to have anything else coming into the picture. We implicitly see whatever it is that we are doing as ‘good’ and anything that gets in the way of it as being ‘bad’ (and this is not because of any inherent special virtue in what we doing, but simply because it happens to be what we are doing).


This isn’t a moral judgement, even though it tends to sound like it. It’s just the way things are. For the most part we genuinely do believe that whatever it is we’re doing does have some special inherent value; we’re absolutely convinced that it does and it would take a hell of a lot to dent our conviction. This is therefore a matter that’s ‘out of our control’; it’s out of our control because we aren’t in control – we are being controlled by our beliefs, we are being controlled by a customary way of seeing and behaving in the world. If we have beliefs about the world or about ourselves (and who doesn’t?) then we going to be controlled by them – that’s just the way it works. To say this might in itself strike us as being odd since, more often than not, we see our beliefs as empowering us, strengthening us,providing us with a solid foundation to face life from and so on. Moreover, we see our beliefs as being our ‘choice’, which is of course very different kettle of fish from power ‘being controlled by them’! And yet we are being controlled by our beliefs and this could hardly be otherwise – any description of the world that we can’t (or won’t) question is always going to control us.


This brings us back to what we started off this discussion by saying – that it is our nature – by and large –to be a profoundly incurious folk. It is our beliefs, our habitual and well-worn ideas about reality, that cause us to be incurious (or ‘unquestioning’). To live with a belief about the world is to be unquestioning of that world; to have ideas about things is to be incurious about those things. Beliefs by their very nature are something that we automatically accept, just as ideas are, just as thoughts are. To go around being completely hemmed in by a fog beliefs, ideas, conceptions and thoughts is to be deadened by them therefore – we are deadened by them because we are never actually looking at anything, not really. We’re not looking at anything because of all of our thinking, because of the constant activity of the rational mind. Being a ‘thinker’ isn’t such a great thing after all!


We could of course ‘look’ at our thoughts (in a curious way) and this would be a very interesting thing to do. The thing is however that we don’t look at our thoughts – thoughts have this kind of a property in them that means that they automatically direct our attention to some ‘predetermined target’. We’re ‘told where to look’ in other words. We are deftly directed elsewhere, and the thought (whatever it might be) doesn’t want us to look at it. It’s like a signpost in this respect – a signpost doesn’t want us to look at it, it wants us to look at where it is pointing. We’re always thinking about ‘some-thing’, in other words, and what this ‘something’ is is inevitably a construct of thought! Actually, we can’t think about something that isn’t already a construct of thought!


Our thoughts don’t director us towards reality in other words, and this is the point that we find so hard to understand. The thought stands for some element in reality but it doesn’t direct us to reality – it CAN’T do that because reality isn’t a predetermined target, because reality is ‘uncertain’ or ‘fluid’. Thought works by ‘specifying’ and how can we specify something that is uncertain? How can we point at something flows, something that isn’t the same thing twice? What we are saying here is that ‘the thought’ and ‘what is being thought about’ aren’t two different things, much as we might imagine them to be. Looking at this the other way around we can say that ‘thought’ and ‘reality’ are two qualitatively different things and that the former doesn’t lead onto the latter. There is a discontinuity between the two that we would need to ‘actively jump over’. Being passively pushed or pulled along by thought isn’t going to do that.


What thought does therefore is that it ‘refers us to itself’, or – to express this another way – thought refers us to its signifier or referent for reality as if this signifier or referent for reality were the same thing as reality. This is what we might call ‘the Hyperreality Principle’ in honour of Jean Baudrillard – the invisible conflation of the map and the territory. The ‘reference’ and ‘what is being referenced’ are taken as being one and the same thing and this is why Anthony De Mello says ‘Thought as a screen, not a mirror; that is why you live in a thought envelope, untouched by reality’.


A thought stands for some element in reality but it doesn’t direct us to reality – it can never do that. It can’t do that because reality is not a predetermined target, reality is not because reality is ‘uncertain’ or ‘fluid’. It isn’t as fixed or static thing thought always specifies and so how can we specify something that is uncertain. We point to something that is uncertain. What we are saying here is that thought and what is being thought about aren’t two different things, much as we might imagine them to be that they are. Looking at this the other way round we can say that thought and reality are two qualitatively different things and – furthermore – that the former doesn’t lead onto the latter. There is a discontinuity between the two that we would need to actively jump over. Being passively pushed or pulled by thought isn’t going to do that and so when ‘thought is our master’ then we are never going to leave the Domain of Thought. We’re not ever going to be directed outside of the envelope and so we won’t know that there is ‘an outside’.


We can see that this is the case quite easily just by watching ourselves – thinking is continuous, not episodic, and when we think we slide from one thought to another without a break. We imagine that we are taking a break, we ‘think’ that we aren’t thinking all the time, but we are. In order not to be ‘caught up in thinking all the time’ (and ‘thinking about nothing else but our own thoughts’,as Alan Watts says) we would have to be consciously paying attention when we’re‘lost in thought’ and we just don’t remember to do this.That’s why we’re ‘lost’! We’re preoccupied with one thought after another and when this happens we don’t know that we thinking, we don’t see that we’re thinking, and so we’re not in reality at all. We’re somewhere else. We’re ‘untouched by reality’, just as Anthony De Mello says.


So the point of all this is that if we are ‘lost in thought’, as Eckhart Tolle says, or contained ‘within the envelope of thought’, as Anthony De Mello puts it then of course we are going to be incurious about the world about us. We don’t even know that there is a word outside of us, as strange as this may sound! We assume that we are ‘present in reality’ but the truth is that we are simply being ‘automatically referred on’ from one thought to another in what is actually a repeating loop. Usually the loop is big enough so that we don’t notice that it’s a loop; sometimes however – and a good example is when we’re lying in bed late at night unable to get to sleep because of worries that are bothering us –we can actually see the loops. Not that being aware of being trapped in a loop helps us any course – at least not in the short-term! Anxiety – as it happens – makes us even less curious about the world, or about life, than we normally would be. We become even more caught up in our thoughts (as every anxiety-sufferer knows) – the suffering caused by being trapped in our heads can easily be just as bad (or even worse, perhaps) than the pain that is being created by the anxiety. They can be experienced as two different types of pain.


It could of course be said that when we are anxious we are still interested in somethings – we are interested (albeit in a ‘negative’ or ‘fearful’ way) in what we are anxious about. We’re interested in finding solutions to whatever problems it is that are on our mind. We’re interested in learning how to be free from our anxiety (i.e. we are interested in the ‘solution’ to our anxiety). This isn’t curiosity however because we are only responding to the pressure that our thinking is putting us under – the pressure to ‘solve the problem’, whatever the problem might happen to be. Curiosity can never happen (on the other hand) as a result of pressure – curiosity happens freely, not as a result of pressure that’s been put on us. We can’t be compelled to be curious. Curiosity is an expression of our innate freedom, in other words.


This gives us a good way of explaining why we can never be ‘curious about the world or ‘curious about ourselves’ when we are contained within the envelope of thought – we don’t have any freedom to be curious, we are on far too tight a leash for that. Instead of having a genuine interest in things we are agenda-driven; when thought is our master then everything we do is agenda-driven, which is to say, we are motivated by the need to obtain something we think will be of value to us, or avoid something we believe to be bad news for us. This is the motivation of attraction/aversion, the ‘motivation that is imposed upon us from the outside’, the ‘motivation of the mechanical mind’. It isn’t too hard to understand how the motivation of the mechanical mind causes us to operate on the basis of greed or fear the whole time, what we don’t perhaps appreciate so quickly is ow ‘Extrinsic Motivation’ (which is the antithesis of curiosity) causes us to be as incredibly gullible as we are with regard to whatever picture of reality it is that we are being presented with. When we are ‘incurious’ then no matter what picture of reality we are presented with by the thinking mind/conceptualising mind, we are going to accept it at face value. Of course we are, that’s what ‘being incurious’ means – it means that we will go along with whatever the ‘accepted thing’ seems to be and that is exactly what we human beings are like, for the most part. To be unconscious is to be malleable. What we are concerned with is ‘looking for the advantage’ and ‘avoiding the disadvantage’ in the terms of the framework that we have been given. This has nothing to do with curiosity about the framework. Our attention is always ‘on the small stuff,’ in other words.


When we’re curious then we are looking at the ‘big picture’ but whoever looks at the ‘big picture’? This isn’t really ‘the done thing’ – we won’t fit into society by being interested in the big picture, after all. What’s more, if we were to catch a glimpse of the big picture – which has nothing to do with our personal hopes and fears, nothing to do with the all-consuming dramas of our everyday lives – then this would ‘upset the apple cart’. No one likes to be shaken up out of their comfortable sleep. No one likes to be disturbed from their habitual pattern of doing and seeing things and this is precisely what ‘being curious’ always does! As we’ve said, we just want to be allowed to carry on doing whatever it is that we’re already doing,and we don’t care what that is.We’re not interested in what that is, just as we’re not (really) interested in whatever it is we believe in (just so long as we have something to believe in). We’re not interested in seeing whatever it is we’re doing, we’re just interested in ‘carrying on doing it’ and ‘carrying on not being interested in it and if this doesn’t sound particularly inspirational, then that’s because it isn’t!



Art: street art in Kaunas, Lithuania





Trying To Improve An Illusion

There is very odd fact about our existence that we don’t generally observe and this fact is that we can never just be in the world, we have to be in the world whilst thinking about being in the world and this business of ‘being in the world whilst continually thinking about being in the world’ isn’t being in the world at all! It is something else entirely. Being in the world whilst thinking about being in the world is the same thing as ‘existing in a desire state’ and the pertinent point about this is that desire states aren’t real.


We can never just ‘be’ in the world for some reason; this is the one thing we just can’t do. We obviously believe (on some level) that this continual thinking–type activity is highly beneficial to us, if not actually essential. Why else would we put so much energy into it – we’re obviously looking for some advantageous outcome that is going to come about as a result of our investment! Clearly, it’s not enough for us just to be in the world – that seems to be of no value at all to us – we always have to looking for some mysterious ‘advantage’. This then provides us with a very neat summary of the human situation – a continual striving for improvement, a continual searching for advantage.


It is of course fairly normal for us to be spending our time looking for some kind of advantage. We’re conditioned that way; we’re brought up that way. It is widely considered to be a good thing to be busying ourselves doing this, that and the other and ‘busy’ means – in essence – ‘looking for an advantage’. What else would it mean? We’re not investing energy in activity for nothing – we’re looking for a result, we’re trying to improve things.


‘Trying to improve things’ has therefore become a sickness for us. It’s not a bad thing in itself – obviously – but when it runs away with us so that we don’t know how to stop ‘looking for the advantage’ in every situation then it isn’t a good thing at all. It has become a horror, it has become a pestilence. Trying to improve things all the time and not to be able to stop is like having an itch that we can’t help from scratching even when this continuous scratching makes things worse rather than better and this is clearly not a happy situation. To be perfectly blunt about it, what we’re talking about here is a type of self-harming – it’s an addiction to an activity that is bad for us.


From time to time things do need ‘improving’ and that is an undeniable fact. If we’re looking for food and we need to eat something in order not to starve then this is a situation that needs improving! If we come across someone who is in immediate danger and needs assistance this is also ‘a situation that needs improving’ – the ‘advantage’ in question here is to ensure the other person’s well-being and safety. We have practical needs in life and these needs need to be looked after, obviously. But to say (or rather, unconsciously assume) that reality itself is something that continually needs improving (or continually needs fixing) is nothing short of insanity. Obviously this can’t be true and to so to be continuously and strenuously acting as if it was true is a sickness.


To be continually looking for the advantage and not to be able to stop (and, indeed, not even to be able to recognise the fact that there might be something else in life other than continually ‘looking for the advantage’) is nothing short of insanity, but it’s also a type of insanity that each and every one of us is perpetually embroiled in, which makes it invisible to us. Because we don’t come across anyone who isn’t doing the same thing that we’re doing this means that we’re not going to be able to recognise this strange situation for what it is. To us, it’s just ‘normal’. We think being busy the whole time is good.


If being (or reality) were somehow ‘deficient in itself’ then this business of ‘perpetual unrelenting fixing’ might make some sort of sense but this premise is – of course – utterly false and utterly ridiculous. How could ‘being’ or ‘reality’ be deficient? The irony is – as we started off by saying – that our continual attempts to improve reality actually degrades it – it is why we can say that continual thinking (and thinking is always an attempt to fix one way or another) is a sickness. It’s a sickness because we are continually degrading our own reality.


This is – without any doubt at all – an idea that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to us and the thing about ideas that don’t make the slightest bit of sense to us is that we don’t tend to entertain them very long! Our favourite activity is – or so we are claiming in this discussion – trying to improve things (either trying to improve ourselves or trying to improve the world) and the reason we are as invested or preoccupied as we are in the ‘improvement business’ is of course because we imagine that we’re making things better rather than worse! To learn that were actually doing the opposite of what we think we are and that we are degrading our reality rather than enhancing it is a very difficult thing for us to take on therefore. Human nature being what it is, when we come across an idea that is going to result in a truly radical change to the way we see the things then we just don’t go there. Our whole motivation is to preserve the integrity and stability of the apple-cart, not to upset it. We seek equilibrium, not disequilibrium.


How can we make such a claim as this however? How can we back up the assertion that we are continually degrading our own reality with our attempts to make things better? The key lies in what we said earlier, which is that ‘trying to improve things’ is fine when it is done from time to time for strictly practical reasons, but that when we’re at it the whole time then something has gone very amiss. ‘Improving things’ has in this case become an end in itself; ‘striving to obtain our goals’ has become an end in itself, ‘purposeful activity’ has become an end in itself. We might of course try to argue that striving to be a better version of oneself isn’t the same thing as continually struggling to obtain external goals but of course it is we wouldn’t know what direction to struggle in unless we first had an idea of what ‘better’ means and what ‘worse’ means. When we talk about ‘striving to better ourselves’ what we really mean is ‘striving to better accord with our idea of ourselves’, and this isn’t the same thing at all.


When we try to improve things in accordance with our ideas, or in accordance with our thinking, what this really comes down to is ‘worshipping a false god’, since ‘the thought is not the thing’. My idea of the world is not the world and my idea of who I am is not who I am. This brings to mind the old Zen story of the finger pointing at the moon – if the finger pointing at the moon helps us to see the moon then that is helpful (that is after all the whole point of the exercise) but if we get fixated upon the pointing finger instead (as if the finger itself were the thing) then this is a very great error! In this case we are ‘worshipping the teapot rather than drinking the tea’, as Wei Wu Wei says, and the only point of the teapot is to facilitate us in drinking the tea. The teapot isn’t an end in itself.


This is one way of looking at why ‘always trying to improve things’ is a disease therefore – because it causes us to deviate from our own true nature in a ‘suffering-producing’ way. A slightly different way of looking at this is to say, as we did earlier, that ‘trying to improve things’ is the same thing as ‘looking for the advantage’ and an advantage is something that always exists in relation to a particular point of reference. The point of reference that we’re talking about here is of course the self and the thing about this is that the self is an abstraction that has been created by thought. All reference points are created by thought and anything that has been created by thought is ‘an abstraction’ (an ‘abstraction’ being something that doesn’t exist in its own right but which has been produced by drawing boundaries that don’t really exist). All ‘improvement’ comes down to expanding the Abstraction Realm that we are taken for granted and this ‘expanding of the Abstraction Realm’ isn’t actually a real thing at all. It might be our favourite activity, but that doesn’t mean that it’s real!


As we have been saying, some specific ‘acts of improvement’ are necessary or helpful – if we are cold and we need to find a way of warming ourselves up then this type of improvement is of course perfectly legitimate. This is a type of ‘improvement’ that exists in relation to the physical organism and whilst the physical organism itself may be said to be an abstraction just as thoughts are (all matter is after all an abstraction from what Heraclitus calls the Universal Flux or from what David Bohm calls the Holomovement) we also need to make the point that this just happens to be an abstraction that is legitimately important to us! Our thoughts and beliefs are a different matter however – they could be useful if viewed in a strictly provisional way but they are more likely to be the exact opposite of helpful. When we can’t stop trying to improve our situation (and this means ‘continually grasping’ or ‘continually thinking) then this is because we are trying to extend or promote the Abstraction Realm that has illegitimately become our master.


This is what we might call a ‘counterproductive activity’ therefore, an activity that has become ‘against life itself’ – life itself is not an abstraction, after all. What we are essentially trying to ‘improve’ with all our grasping-type activity is an illusion and what we don’t see is that an illusion can’t be improved, no matter how much effort we put into it…