Ideas Are Never True

Every single thing we believe to be true only gets to be true to us because of the way in which we secretly select the context of understanding that makes it seem true. We make such a big song and dance about ‘these things that we hold to be true’ – we couldn’t make a bigger song and dance than the song and dance we make about ‘these things that we hold to be true’! The history of the human race is full of the bloody dramas that have resulted from disputes over ‘what we hold true’, and yet – as we have just said – what we claim so portentously to be true only gets to seem true to us because of the way in which we have chosen a particular way of looking at the world without admitting to ourselves that we have done so. This is the irony that underlies all of the conflicts that makes up human life, both in the past and in the present day. It is also an irony that we are oblivious to…

 

This is a remarkable thing to consider – our view of ourselves and our history tends to be rather pompous and overblown but really human history comes down to nothing more than an endless series of squalid squabbles over ‘what gets to be accepted as true’ when actually all our so-called ‘glorious truths’ are nothing more than self-serving fictions. We have a strange relationship with the truth both on an individual and a collective level – we hoot and bray about how much we value it and yet at the same time we couldn’t actually care less about it! If any one of us were confronted and told that the things we most seriously hold to be true are no more than fictions that we have set ourselves up to believe in we would deny this in the most vigorous way that we possibly could. Because we put so much energy and dedication into saying something is true when it just plain isn’t it stands to reason that we are going to react particularly violently to anyone who comes along and asks us to be so good as to acknowledge the fact of our self-deception in this regard. There is no way we can be unbiased about our bias – it wouldn’t be a bias otherwise! Maintaining the bias is the name of the game – this is our ‘major obsession’, this is the ‘pet project’ that takes up pretty much the whole of our life. Saying that the thing which isn’t true actually is true is a full-time job because we can never afford to relax too much in case it all starts to come unravelled on us.

 

‘Maintaining the fiction’ isn’t just a thing we do at weekends therefore – it subsumes everything else and becomes our whole life. What’s more, we all get together to form collectives dedicated to saying that the fiction we uphold isn’t a fiction at all, that it’s totally for real. When we all get together to say this it seems like the greatest thing in the world to us – it seems noble and wonderful to us, it stirs our spirit and makes us feel good about ourselves. It makes us want to wave a flag and cheer. And yet the bottom line is that what we so fervently hold to be true, isn’t true. We’re just conforming to the party lines – we’re just conforming to what everyone else is busy doing and at the same time we’re all telling each other that doing this is a great thing. It doesn’t matter how fervent we are, it doesn’t matter how many of us conform to upholding the narrative – none of this hoo-ha is going to make the slightest bit of difference, obviously. We simply don’t have the power to make what isn’t true be true, no matter how zealous we might be at the task. Just because fifty million people believe unquestioningly in a fiction that doesn’t make it any less fictitious!

 

What a tremendous thing it would be – we might say – if we put all of that effort, all of that dedication into something that wasn’t a lie. When we go against the truth then we don’t get anywhere, despite all the fine talk and elegant clothes, when we go with the truth however then there’s no limit to how far we can go. When we band together to go against the truth then there might be a fine spectacle that gets produced, there might be a great display of pomp and circumstance, but underneath all that show the misdirected energy is only ever going to turn into rivers of toxicity. It doesn’t matter whether the ‘lie’ we are claiming to be true is the ego, the organization we are a member of, or the nation or country we see ourselves as belonging to – toxicity is always going to be produced as a result. To paraphrase Philip K Dick, ‘we are in service to a wrong thing’ so toxicity or pain-displacement is inevitable; pain is produced and ‘passed on to someone else’. When we are unconscious we have to pass pain on since psychological unconsciousness may be defined as ‘that state in which we automatically displace pain’.

 

When we aren’t in service to a false master however, and we don’t turn all our energy against ourselves (like the scorpion which stings itself) then instead of toxicity and socially-sanctioned lies something happens – something which is necessarily mysterious and indescribable and yet at the same time the truest expression of what it means to be human. Our true nature – very clearly – is not to be as we are now. What we find so very hard to see is that it is perfectly possible to live, and yet not turn this living of ours into the fervent embracing of a socially-sanctioned lie! We can’t see this – of course – because the very last thing we are ever going to do is consider, even for a moment, that the things which we hold to be true are actually only fictions that we have ended up – for whatever reason – promoting and defending. Life – as we have said – has become synonymous with this business of ‘promoting and defending fictions’. The fact that this is a complete travesty of what life ‘ought’ to be never dawns on us. We never pause to consider this. What happens with us is that our ‘basic energy’ (if we may call it that) goes immediately astray – it goes astray because our fundamental way of being when we are in the unconscious mode is to defend our ‘idea of ourselves’ whilst remaining oblivious to who we actually are. The idea always comes first, in other words!

 

The effect of this orientation is to profoundly alter our way of interacting with the world, and with each other. The simplest way to explain this is to talk in terms of ‘sensitivity versus aggression’. When we are operating on the basis of our ideas then we are inevitably aggressive – everything then becomes about changing the world in accordance with our presuppositions about how it should be. Everything becomes about control, in other words. If you were to ask why there is such a pronounced tendency for us all to want to be in control, and to consider this a ‘good thing’, then this is the reason – it is because we are always operating on the basis of our ideas. Everything is always about making the world (and other people, of course) conform with our ideas for it (or for them). We create systems and then we put all our energy into trying to get everything to fit into these systems of ours, on the basis that when that happens then this will be a ‘good thing’. But everything is not just about trying to get the world and other people to conform to our ideas – it’s about trying to the world and other people to conform to our untrue ideas, our false ideas. It’s about trying to get everything to fit into a system (or construct) that isn’t actually real!

 

Ideas are always untrue. This is because they are ideas! Ideas (or thoughts) are necessarily unreal – they are only ‘provisional conjectures’, exercises in ‘what if…?’ Thoughts or ideas are ‘simplified descriptions of reality’ rather than being reality itself. We could also say that our ideas are metaphors, even though we very rarely understand them as being so. This is the ‘truth’ of ideas – that they are playfully made ‘versions’ of reality that aren’t really meant to be taken seriously. Having said this, we have to make the qualification that although thoughts aren’t ‘serious’, they very much do present themselves as being so! We could say that thoughts play at being literal descriptions in a very serious or deadpan fashion. The way our thoughts work is that they make ‘playful statements about reality’ that don’t in anyway declare themselves to be playful – their nature is akin to that of a person who is telling a joke whilst keeping a very straight face the whole time. Their deadpan expression doesn’t mean that they aren’t joking, it just means that they are pretending that they aren’t joking for the sake of the joke. Pretending that you aren’t joking is an essential part of the joke, in this case. The bottom line is that thoughts simply don’t have the flexibility to be ironic. Thoughts don’t have the flexibility within them to be ironic because – as Robert Anton Wilson says – they are based on Aristotelian logic and Aristotelian logic can either say YES or it can say NO and that’s about the size of it. Very clearly, there’s not a lot of humour or playfulness in this! Actually there’s no humour or irony in it at all. There’s zero humour in it and there’s also zero reality.There’s simply no category or facility for irony (which is to say ‘YES-that-doesn’t-really-mean-YES’) in logic and this is just the way logic is. That’s logic’s ‘necessary deficiency’. This doesn’t mean that the universe itself is lacking in irony or humour, though! The deficiency lies with us, not the universe. The joke’s on us, though we can’t see it…

 

When we operate on the basis of our literally-understood thoughts then we are fundamentally unreceptive to any new information – this is of course going to be the case because ‘new information’ is precisely that information which will contradict what we already understand to be true. That’s what ‘information’ is – it’s something that we don’t already know! ‘Aggression’ means therefore that we are both fighting against anything new, and struggling to consolidate what we already know (or rather think we know). When we are living life on the basis of ‘our idea of who we are’ then, as we have already said, this means that our actual raison d’être is to be perennially fighting against new information, even though we will never admit this. The ongoing struggle to humourlessly and aggressively assert our ‘truths’ – which aren’t actually true at all – has become synonymous with life itself. The antithesis of aggression is(as we have said)sensitivity and sensitivity – needless to say – is where we are very much open to new information, very much open to new ways of looking at the world. Sensitivity – we might say – is where we understand all of our constructs as being essentially playful and once we understand our constructs in this way we can use them to honestly investigate reality instead of dishonestly shutting it down.

 

What bigger difference could there be than this, therefore? What bigger difference could there be than the difference between open to the truth, interested in the truth, and fighting tooth-and-nail against the truth whilst at the same time claiming dishonestly to be championing it?  Or as we could also say, what bigger difference could there be than the one that exists between of being ‘a lover of the truth’ (i.e. literally – ‘a philo-sopher’) and a ‘fearer of the truth’? When we are in ‘control mode’ we are forever chasing this fantasy outcome, this mirage that everything is going to work out for us just so long as we control successfully. We ‘know best’ so all we have to do is stick to our guns – all we have to do is to push ahead to make it happen regardless of what obstacles might lie in our path. The stubborn conviction that ‘we know best’ is of course nothing more than a ridiculous illusion – we’re simply charging blindly ahead because we’re afraid to open our eyes and see what’s actually going on. We actually know nothing at all but we’re far too scared to ever admit it…

 

When we’re being sensitive, or ‘exploratory wrt reality’, then we know that we don’t know best. We’re open to new ways of being, new ways of looking at the world. We’re not meeting life with a hard, unyielding surface – which means of course that we’re not meeting life at all. We’re not playing – we’re shut down! When we’re in ‘aggression mode’ then we’re having nothing to do with life. We only relating on our own terms, which means that we’re not relating. We’re making the experiment of ‘not being part of life’, but only ‘part of what we think life should be’. What we think life should be isn’t life, however; it’s just a fantasy, it’s just an extension or projection of our frozen mind-state. There is no happy outcome to this fantasy however, no matter how far we push it, no matter how good at controlling we are. Saying that ‘there is no happy outcome’ tends to sound pessimistic to us. It actually sounds worse than pessimistic; it sounds heretical – we aren’t going to take that on for a moment. The other way of looking at this however is to say that discovering that ‘the experiment of not being part life’ is never going to work out for us is actually the best news ever! What could be better than this?

 

Through this failure of our project (the project of making what is untrue be true, the project of making our fantasies be real) we find ourselves in the situation of being able – finally – to discover that there is infinitely more to life than we ever thought there was! What a happy discovery this is! Who wants to be proved right, after all? The impulse to ‘want to be proved right’ is the most terribly perverse impulse we could ever entertain – how is this ever going to be a ‘good thing’? What are we going to do when we have proved ourselves to be right? When we have authoritatively and indisputably ‘validated our own lie’ then just where do we go from this? Just what do we think is going to happen next…?

 

 

 

 

The Spectre At the Feast

When we’re living in the unreal world pretending that its real this is always going to make us anxious. We’re anxious that we’ll be found out! That would of course be the ultimate disaster because then we’d know – the cat would be out of the bag. The cat would be out of the bag and no mistake and so then we’d have to admit that there’s no cat! We’d have to admit that there’s no bag either…

 

So this is of course the prefect recipe for anxiety. There’s none better, in fact. What could be better than this? We’ve hit upon the thing, the very thing we need to do in order to create the spectre of anxiety – the spectre which is going to haunt us for just as long as we keep up the pretence. This is ‘the spectre at the feast’, the ghostly presence that we can never confront. This, naturally enough, is what gives anxiety its power over us! We can never allow ourselves to find out what we are anxious about because finding that out will take us in the one direction we don’t want to go down – we’ll happily go down any road but not this one…

 

We can never allow ourselves to find out what the actual reason for our anxiety is – that is after all the very thing that we are never supposed to find out. If the game we are playing is the game of pretending that the game is real (and not a game) then we can find out anything we want just so long as we don’t find out this one thing, this one thing that changes everything. We have the freedom to discover anything at all just as long as we don’t discover that it’s all a big charade. We’re free to discover anything at all just so long as we don’t discover that we don’t actually have any freedom!

 

If we were to find out that we’re living in an unreal world pretending to be real then this wouldn’t be bad in relation to any of the terms of reference that we have available to us in the game. No terms of reference exist to explain why finding out that ‘everything is just a charade’ would be so very bad! And yet we know that it would be bad – we know that it would be bad in a way that we can’t even allow ourselves to understand and straightaway therefore this makes it really, really bad. Engaging in this particular sneaky manouevre makes the unwanted outcome superbad. It potentiates it to the nth degree.

 

Knowing that the unwanted outcome is bad in a way that we can’t even allow ourselves to know about (because it is so very bad) is the worst and most frightening category of ‘bad’ that there could ever be. This is the ‘perfect recipe for anxiety’ – this is anxiety in a nutshell. This is what makes anxiety be anxiety – the fact that we can’t allow ourselves to know what it’s all about. This the fear that swallows everything up – we’re afraid of the fear and so we’re caught up on the vicious circle that Alan Watts talks about – running away from fear is fear. The fear feeds voraciously on itself and the outcome is anxiety…

 

We don’t need to know anything about the unwanted outcome other than the fact that it is bad. That’s enough – the unwanted outcome is bad and so we’re not allowed to let it happen. There are no other levels of meaning, no other possible interpretations. Everything is black and white – we just have to make sure that the bad thing never gets to happen and that is that. Getting interested in why the bad thing is so bad is not allowed and so that makes it a bad thing too. It’s actually the same bad thing – knowing about the bad thing is the same as the bad thing. Knowing that knowing about the bad thing is also the bad thing is also a bad thing. It’s all the same bad thing…

 

Certain tasks are impossible and one such task in never letting ourselves know about the bad thing. The very fact that we have made a rule about the bad thing saying that we should never let ourselves know about it draws our attention to it. By denying it in the way that we have done we’ve actually made it the most important thing in the whole world. Everything we do is done for the covert reason of not thinking about the bad thing and that means that we have to make sure to live our lives only on the overt level of meaning, the theatrical level of meaning. This doesn’t leave us much space for living, however. It doesn’t actually leave us with any space and this lack of space is in itself anxiety-provoking because it tells us that something dodgy is going on in the background.

 

We have to keep on pretending that the lack of space that we are so painfully suffering from (the lack of space that is unrelentingly oppressing us) isn’t there.  We have to keep on pretending that the lack of space that we’re living in actually is space. We have to keep on pretending that the theatre is real. We have to keep on living in the unreal world whilst pretending that it’s real, and this is why the spectre of anxiety is always with us. Even when we manage to temporarily forget about him by immersing ourselves as much as we possibly can in the superficial theatrical world (so that we can at least make a good pretence at enjoying the feast) he’s never very far away. He’s watching over our shoulder…