The Machine Self

The biggest thing that we don’t know, but would benefit immensely from knowing, is that we are constantly turning ourselves into machines, for all the world as if there was some great advantage to be had in this! We turn into machines out of laziness and fear of responsibility on the one hand, and as a result of the unrelenting pressure of society on the other hand, which wants us to become machines. Society wants us to become machines because it – needless to say – is itself a machine. Society is a machine and it needs us to become machines too.


A handy definition of a machine – in this context – is to say that a machine is something that always does everything for a reason. Alan Watts says that a person who always does everything for a purpose is a ‘vulture’, which is nicely put, but we could just as well say that such a person is ‘a machine’. When we put ourselves in the position of doing everything for a purpose’ we demean ourselves – worse than just demean, we lose ourselves. The mechanical world is a world in which consciousness is completely lost, like water soaking into blotting paper. Consciousness has nothing to do with purposes, and purposes have nothing to do with consciousness. Consciousness is another realm entirely, and purposes have no meaning here – they carry no weight.


‘Purposes’ are always smaller than we are, and so if we live for the sake of these purposes we become no bigger than they are. We become petty, in other words. We may say that the purposes in question are serving us of course, but this is simply not true! We serve our purposes, rather than vice versa. The boot is on the other foot.


This ought to be obvious – generally when we have a purpose or goal we say to ourselves (or think to ourselves) that we have to do such and such, or that we ought to do such and such. This is us being ruled by our purposes; if we could say ‘I can do such and such but I don’t have to’ then that would be entirely different but all too often we can’t say this (or even if we do say it, or do believe it) it isn’t  actually true. We just prefer to see things this way; we prefer not to uncover the true nature of our situation.


Often – very often in fact – when we succeed in obtaining a goal we feel good because the ‘pressure’ to obtain is gone and we feel great relief because of this. We have been a ‘successful slave’. The curious thing is that we actually see this pressure (which we can’t shake off until we’ve ‘done the thing that we’re supposed to do’) as being the very same thing as our own true motivation. We say that we are ‘motivated’! It might be ‘motivation,’ but it’s not ours however!


Whenever we feel that we are not doing well enough, that we not ‘making the grade’, that we have ‘failed’, that we have let ourselves (or someone else) down, then this is because of this external (or extrinsic) motivation. We are being ‘bullied from the inside’, to put it bluntly and this relentless bully, this heartless ‘inner critic’, isn’t our own true motivation. It has nothing to do with us whatsoever – it’s a ‘foreign introject’. Genuine motivation isn’t like this – genuine motivation isn’t a tyrant, isn’t a bully, isn’t relentlessly punishing if we don’t manage to do whatever it is that we are ‘supposed to have done’.


Our own true motivation never makes us feel bad in this way; it inspires us rather than forces us to engage in the task. It’s based on curiosity and playfulness rather than ‘crude non-negotiable need’. Everyone talks about ‘satisfying our needs’ but needs for machines, not human beings. ‘Pressure is for tires’, as they say. Needs are unfree – they are rules that we have to obey. ‘Needs’ are the stick that beats us up and down the garden path, and the rewarding feeling that we get when we meet them is due more to the relief from the pain of the need as anything else. The cessation of all-pervading, all-conditioning pain equals pleasure.


True motivation (which is intrinsic not extrinsic) isn’t all about ‘goals’ or ‘end results’. That’s ‘machine talk’! True motivation is about the process, not the end results. It isn’t about ‘end-gaming’, it isn’t about ‘ticking the box’ so that we can feel better and then move on to the next task. It’s not driven by goals, but by the genuine heartfelt interest we feel in engaging in whatever process it is that we are engaging in. We’re doing it simply ‘because we doing it’, not because we hope to get something out of it. We aren’t being ‘vultures’, we’re being human beings. Who wants to go around being a greedy old vulture, after all?


It remains true of course that in some respects we are machines, inasmuch as we are generally subject to certain hardwired rules or needs. That is in our biology, that’s part of being living organisms – if we are hungry then we have to eat, and there’s no getting away from this. There are also ‘psychological needs’ like ‘the need to be accepted by the people around us’ (or ‘the need to belong’) and these needs also have their place. We don’t need to let them rule our lives, or determine everything about us, but we can acknowledge that they are there, and give them due respect on this basis. We have a ‘machine-like’ aspect, but we are also tremendously more than that. We can be ‘machine’ and ‘not machine’ at the same time, and that is the whole art of living consciously!


The ‘Great Tendency’ is however (as we have said) for the Machine Self to take over and become the whole of who we are. The Machine Self is a jealous god and it tolerates no other influences – if it can, it will devour us whole every day. It does devour us whole every day! This is Rumi’s ‘lower self’ – the fearsome dragon which must never be woken up. If it gets woken up it will gobble us up in a flash and then extrinsic motivation will be the only type of motivation there is and everything will become about obtaining goals, following rules and ‘doing things for a purpose’. Life will become a mere mechanical routine. As a result of falling into the mechanical mode of being we become alienated from our own humanity and it’s not just ‘easy’ for this to happen – it’s what almost always does happen. It’s a foregone conclusion. This is what society will unfailingly do to us, if we just stand by and let it. We’re willing participants in the process. We ‘do it to ourselves’, we are complicit in the conspiracy without knowing that we are. That’s what society is, after all – it’s an unconscious thing; it’s ‘us doing all of this to ourselves’. We are all busy doing this thing to ourselves; busy turning ourselves into machines without any free (or unconditioned) consciousness, for all the world as if this were ‘a good thing’….


Being reduced to the level of our purposes and our thoughts is as we have said a demeaning kind of a thing – it strips us of what is best of us, leaving nothing behind but a mechanical husk. Our purposes (or thoughts) end up defining our whole lives, defining who we are, and yet they have nothing to do with us really – they are trivial things, superficial things, meaningless things. Our purposes would mean something if they served our true being, if they served who we really are, but they don’t. Who we really are has been lost in all this unceasing mechanical ‘busy-ness’, which always claims to be serving some so-called ‘higher purpose’, but which doesn’t. We’re caught up in an endless circular game that has no ‘purpose’ outside of itself. It is its own goal.


There is no ‘higher purpose’ to the mechanical life, to ‘life as a machine’ – there is only ‘busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness’, pointless busy-ness which leads on to nothing more than yet more pointless busy-ness. We’re kept so busy with all the purposeful doing that we never get the chance to see what we have lost through it, which is our true (non-mechanical) nature. We’ve have become alienated from this nature, and so would no longer recognize it even if we came across it. We think that our well-being is something to strive for mechanically, something that needs to be obtained or won but it isn’t. It’s there already, and can only be discovered when we STOP striving and grasping all the time…






The Twist

Life has a hidden twist in it. Or rather we should say that when we live life in the way that we always do live it, then it has a hidden twist (or glitch) in it.


The twist that we’re talking about here is very easy to explain – life isn’t purposeful and yet we nevertheless live it on purpose.  This involves ‘a twist’ because once we start living life on purpose then we can’t stop, we can’t go back. What’s more, we can’t see any way in which life couldn’t be purposeful – we’ve become incapable of seeing that it could be any other way. This means that we’re living life one way, as if it were one thing, whilst really it is another thing entirely – something that we really don’t understand and this puts a kind of ‘kink’ or ‘glitch’ in life that keeps tripping us up. We’re somehow ‘at odds’ with the basic nature of things and we can’t see it.


There are therefore two parts to this twist – one part is that we can’t go back to the way life used to be, and the other part is that we can’t understand how life could be any way other than purposeful. That has become incomprehensible to us – if we don’t live our life on purpose, deliberately, by design, according to our intentions, then how is it going to happen, we ask? Someone has to be in the driver’s seat, choosing what direction we’re going to go in, deciding what is going to happen next, avoiding problems that may lie ahead, making plans for the future, etc…


Both of these two parts make up one and the same twist of course – we’re stuck in ‘not being able to go back’ and we’re also stuck in ‘not being able to see that there is anywhere to go’. We’re caught up in living life purposefully and that’s that. It won’t happen for us spontaneously any more – if we don’t make it happen then it’s not going to. So now we’re in this situation where we’ve got this thing that we have to push around ahead of us wherever we go, like a rusty old supermarket trolley full of rubbish, and as soon as we stop wrestling it and struggling with it the thing goes off the track and ends up in the ditch. This is why as a culture we’re always banging on about ‘having a goal’ or ‘having a plan’. It’s also why we’re always talking about how great it is to be motivated.


‘Motivation’ is what gives us the energy and stamina to somehow keep pushing ahead with the old shopping trolley, uphill struggle though it is. It is the magic ingredient that makes it possible for us to keep the show on the road, and keep forging ahead to our Big Goal (whatever that might be) and with all the necessary (and usually very tedious) steps that lead up to it. We have to keep on ticking all the boxes until we hopefully get where we really want to get in life and finding the motivation to do this can be a challenge. It’s a challenge to do all the stuff that we’ve got to do along the way because we’re not really interested in that but we have to do it all the same and that’s why ‘motivation’ is such a magical word for us. It sounds good to us because that’s what’s missing! When faced with the artificial type of life that we’re supposed to be getting on with our natural motivation tends to depart and that’s why we have to go to motivational seminars and such-like nonsense.


There is something very terrible about all this talk of ‘motivation’ and ‘strategies’ and ‘tools’ and ‘goals’. It’s a horrible way of speaking. We shouldn’t have to be looking for ways to trick ourselves to stay motivated; we shouldn’t have to be using goals and targets all the time as a means of giving meaning to what we’re doing. Pretty clearly, something has gone badly wrong when we have to do this. What’s really going on here – loathe as we are to see it – is that we have had to substitute all of this goal-driven stuff, all of this ‘extrinsic motivation’, for ‘intrinsic motivation’, which is motivation that happens by itself. It’s as if the engine in our car has conked out and we have to get out and start pushing the thing ourselves instead. This will work fine if we’re going down a hill, or even on the flat if we’re strong enough, but once we start going up against a major incline we’re going to run out of steam very quickly. Then we’re in trouble because the car’s going to start rolling back down the hill again, in exactly the opposite direction to the one we want it to go in.


Replacing intrinsic with extrinsic motivation is going to prove untenable in the long run not just because its unremitting hard work with no actual joy or creativity in it, but also because the whole thing is inevitably going to reverse on us at some point or other. Our own will, as indomitable or as trusty as we might like to think it to be, is going to turn traitor on us and let us down. It’s going to start working against us instead of for us. It’s going to ‘flip-over’  – having been pushed one way as far as it will go the pendulum is going to reach its limit and go into reverse on us. It’s going to swing the other way. The fact that we can ‘achieve our goals’ is one thing and we’re very fond of trumpeting on about how great and wonderful and inspirational this is, but just as well known (if much less likely to hit the headlines) is the fact that we are forever undermining and sabotaging ourselves too. We are forever pursuing ‘perverse goal’ – goals that if we were in our right mind we wouldn’t really want to achieve, goals that are to our disadvantage rather than our advantage. This ‘reverse-current’ of our will-power is every bit as well known to us as the positive variety, it’s just that we don’t like talking about it so much.


This ‘reverse current’ of will might seem incomprehensible to us, it might seem like something that we ought to be able to ‘therapize’ away by coming out with lots of frothy psychobabble or ‘positive thinking’ (or possibly CBT) but we only think this because we don’t understand what we’re dealing with. We’re trying to ‘will away’ glitches that have been caused by our own wilfulness; we’re trying to deliberately iron out problems that are the result of our own pernicious ‘deliberateness’. What we’re actually coming up against here is the resistance that has been set up by the over-use of our rational will – this is what happens when we try to ‘rationalize life’ and make everything into a puzzle we have to solve, or task that we have to purposefully do. When life is made into a problem that needs to be solved or a task that has to be completed then resistance comes into the picture and then we find out (eventually) that we’re actually fighting ourselves.


As we started off this discussion by saying, life is essentially spontaneous in nature (i.e. it isn’t governed by rules) – it isn’t purposeful, it isn’t a movement that is on its way to a specified goal! As Alan Watts says over and over again, life isn’t something that’s done for a reason, in order to ‘get somewhere’ by it. The universe didn’t come into existence for a reason, it doesn’t exist in order serve our rational will. There’s no ‘plan for life’! Sometimes we hear talk about ‘God’s plan for us’ but this is the very same thing – it’s our own absurdly clunky rational thinking projected onto God because we can’t imagine anything else apart from ‘goal-orientated activity’. There always has to be a goal – where we are right now can never be good enough! There always has to be something missing, something that we need to reach out for. But all of this is quite ludicrous – we don’t live so that we can kill ourselves trying to obtain this, that or the other dumb concrete goal. To imagine that this is the case is to degrade life to the level of a game…


The ‘twist’ is therefore just another way of talking about resistance. The twist is what happens as a result of resistance – we’re resisting life happening the way it wants to happen by imposing our own brand of order on it. We’re trying to make life be the way we think it ought to be and we never see anything odd about this at all. We always try to make life be the way we think it ought to be simply because that’s ‘the way we think it should be’… We never look any further than this. That’s the end of the matter, as far as we’re concerned. We never look any further than ‘what we think’ – we never look any further than our own thoughts. What we have called ‘the twist’ is nothing other than our own resistance to life. When we strive to achieve a goal that we see as being good and wholesome that is resistance and when we perversely go against ourselves and ‘score an own goal’ that’s resistance too. It’s all resistance. Anything purposeful is resistance, by definition! We’re trying to achieve something that isn’t already the case and so by definition we’re resisting what is the case. Resistance is our basic activity – when we try to promote and further our ‘idea of ourselves’ this is resistance and when we ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ this also is resistance. It’s all what we have called ‘the twist’.


Life itself isn’t twisted, we are! We are the twist, we are the glitch. We are the spanner in the works. This of course all sounds very negative (reprehensibly negative, in fact) to our rational-purposeful way of looking at things. No square-jawed, steely-eyed, high-profile motivational speaker is going to go along with this! The formulation of our predicament that we just presented here doesn’t give us a leg to stand on. It isn’t affirming for our concept of ourselves at all and that’s what self-help gurus, popular psychologists (or any kind of conventional psychologist, come to that) always offer us – affirmation for our idea of ourselves. affirmation for the self-concept is a lot like flattery – it might feel good at the time but it certainly isn’t doing us any favours in the long run!


Life’s a lot simpler without the twist. That’s like being a child again – life works with you not against you. With the twist – which we can’t see and don’t know to be there (since it is us) – complications and entanglements keep on piling up. Things don’t go smoothly, even though we will have periods when we think that ‘things are going our way’. The very notion of ‘things going our way’ is glitched however – life isn’t supposed to be going our ‘way’, it’s supposed to be going its way! Life isn’t supposed to be falling in line with some arbitrary mental construct (or idea) that we have come up with, and that we have put on a pedestal as if it were the most important thing in the universe. If that’s the way that we want to live life then we’re in for a bumpy ride and no mistake…


Ultimately, those bumps aren’t a bad thing though. They’re there to remind us of something – they’re there to remind us that life isn’t supposed to be purposeful! Or as we could also say, the ‘bumps’ are there to remind us that we aren’t really the idea that we have of ourselves. It helps to see that these bumps – our trials and tribulations – aren’t a bad thing. It helps because then we don’t take against them so much! We won’t hate them so much. Insight into the nature of things is always liberating – insight is always liberating because it shows us that everything is already in the process of sorting itself out. Everything is already in the process of sorting itself out and so there’s no need for us to intervene. ‘Insight’ is actually the mirror-image of paranoia in this way, because paranoia always shows us that something bad is happening and that we very much do need to intervene! Paranoia is ‘twisted insight’…


Insight shows us that we can’t do anything about being identified with the thinking self, even as it shows us that we aren’t really that self. We can’t do anything about our situation – if we try to then we just make matters worse. We pull the knot even tighter than it already is. The way that we are is the way that we are and that’s that! We are the way that we are but that’s OK because when we act as the purposeful self (as we always do act) then this creates a backlash which works – if we let it – as a reminder to remind us that we’re aren’t really this ‘purposeful self’, that life isn’t really this ‘deliberate’ or ‘forced’ thing that we have made it into. This isn’t a reminder to ‘do something about it’ however because as we have said there’s nothing we can do about it! It’s a reminder in the sense that it reminds us to remember something that we have always known, deep-down, but which we have nevertheless forgotten…


Knowing that everything is already in the process of sorting itself out means that we can ‘relax into’ whatever it is that is happening, so to speak. And if we can’t relax into what’s going on then that’s OK too because that too will sort itself out – all we need to do in this case is ‘relax into not relaxing’, therefore! Whatever level the tension or conflict exists on, we can relax into it being there and in this case, even though the twist is still there, and very much in painful evidence, we know on a very deep level of our awareness that it’s OK for the twist to be there because the twist ‘is its own solution’, so to speak. When we know that it’s OK for the twist (or glitch) that’s in life to be there (when we know that we don’t have to fight against it or try to fix it) then – curiously – knowing that stops the twist being the twist. We’re connected with our deeper awareness of who we are (the deeper awareness that knows that there’s no need to ‘do stuff on purpose’) and so there is no more divide. The twist only functions as a twist when we resist it – paradoxically therefore, if we allow it to be a glitch then it no longer is a glitch….



Image:The Birth of Venus (Audio Editor glitch) by Omletofon






What’s My Motivation?

When we talk about motivation, and the importance of ‘being motivated’ there is immense scope for confusion here because what we don’t normally realise is that there are two totally different types of motivation. The key thing is not that we should be motivated (which is what we usually think) but that we should know how we are being motivated (i.e. what ‘exactly is motivating us’). Motivation is generally seen as being good ‘no matter what’ – in fact it is just about seen as seen as the secret of everything, the key to success and happiness, etc. That is why there are ‘motivational speakers’ – to provide us (at a cost, naturally!) the magic ingredient of motivation. It’s all about the motivation, so we’re told, and what we really need – if we are ever to amount to anything – is to work out how to get it.


The question that we don’t usually ask is “What sort of motivation is it that is being sold to us?” The most common type of motivation is where we incentivize ourselves to do stuff. This really comes down to coercing or compelling ourselves to carry out some task and the reason we need to coerce or compel ourselves is of course because we don’t really want to do it. We can call this type of motivation extrinsic because it doesn’t come from within us – if it has to be imposed from outside, by the thinking mind, by the use of incentives, then obviously it doesn’t come from within. It’s an ‘external adjunct’. In the case of extrinsic motivation we are essentially doing something that we don’t want to do for the sake of some reward (or for the sake of avoiding a punishment, which is of course a reward in itself). We are not doing what we’re doing for the sake of doing it, in other words, but for the sake of what we’re going to get out of it…


The other type of motivation is therefore motivation that does come from within and so we can call it intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is of course exactly the other way around to the extrinsic sort – we’re not doing what we’re doing reluctantly, because of what we think we’re going to get out of it, but because we genuinely do want to do it, whatever the outcome. We’re not doing it because there is a reward if we do it right, or because there is a penalty if we don’t – we’re doing it because it’s in accord with our true inner nature. We don’t need motivational speakers to give us the key for this type of motivation therefore! We don’t need to go to talks or workshops or attend courses or anything like that because there is no standardized or formulaic way to get in touch with our own intrinsic motivation. No strategy can help us here, much as we love strategies. No angle will help, fond as we are of angles. There is no ‘trick’ or ‘gimmick’ to getting in touch with our own intrinsic motivation – the only thing that is needed is sincerity and no one else can tell us how to be sincere! There are no methods to being sincere – in fact if there is a method (i.e. if there is any forcing, if there is any coercion or compulsion) then there can be no sincerity.


Sincerity isn’t really amenable to coercion or manipulation in this way – I can’t make myself be sincere. Neither I become sincere because I think that it’s the right thing to do – if I think that it is ‘the right thing to do’ then all that this means is that my thinking mind is trying to artificially impose some ‘game-plan’ on the rest of me. It is coming from outside of me, not inside. I can’t be sincere ‘for a reason’, or because it suits me, in other words. I can’t be sincere because I am going to get something out of it!  I can’t tap into intrinsic motivation because I’m going to get something out of it, either. Intrinsic motivation isn’t an ‘external’ sort of thing anymore than sincerity is, and so I can’t buy it for myself in the same way that I can go to a shop and buy a new jumper.  I can’t learn it on a course. It isn’t an ‘adjunct’ or an ‘add on’, but rather it is something that is inseparable from our own true nature, if we can only connect with that nature.


So what we are saying here is that we can connect with our intrinsic motivation only through our sincerity and we can’t be sincere on purpose, or because it suits us to be. So this is really just another way of saying that ‘we can’t use extrinsic motivation to connect us with our intrinsic motivation’, which of course makes a lot of sense when we reflect on it! Naturally I can’t coerce myself to act in a non-coerced way. I can’t ‘control myself to be uncontrolled’ (or ‘force myself to be free’) – that is clearly absurd. I can’t cure myself of always doing stuff for a reason by using extrinsic motivation because the definition of extrinsic motivation is that it is always driven by a reason, by an agenda.


Once we have established that there are these two types of motivation, and that we rarely – if ever – distinguish between them, then the next thing to consider is what difference this might make to the way we live our lives. As soon as we ask this question however the answer becomes clear – we all know what it feels like to be living life in a controlled way, doing things because we think we ‘have to’, doing things unwillingly but under some kind of compulsion, doing things because it is our ‘duty’ to do them, etc, and so one and we all know (on some level or other) that there is another way, a way that isn’t so forced and heavy-handed. The other way of living life is of course not by telling ourselves what to do every step of the way, not by planning and calculating everything the whole time, not by ‘doing it because we think we have to’. This other – freer – way of life (which we so easily forget about) is the spontaneous way and whilst lip-service is always paid to the idea of living spontaneously (rather than living as if life were a forced march towards some kind of known destination), this is generally as far as it gets! For the most part we don’t live freely, we live under compulsion, as if we were in the army and a commanding officer has to be barking orders to us every step of the way. The ‘commanding officer’ might be someone else, it might be society in general, or it might be our own rational minds, but it comes down to the exact same thing in each case – we are living under compulsion.


Another way of talking about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is to say that latter is conscious whilst the former is unconscious. As we have said it is the second type of motivation that we are most familiar with in our daily lives and so what we are talking about here is essentially compulsion. Compulsion is unfree motivation; it means, as we all know, that we have no choice in the matter, that we are forced or coerced to do something or other. We can be coerced in two ways, we can be bribed (or ‘lured’) or we can be threatened (or ‘scared’). This is another way of saying that compulsions can be either positive or negative – in the first case we are gripped by desire, in the second case, fear. Both desire and fear are unfree (or non-volitional), as is very obvious if we ever try to go against them and not do whatever it is that the desire or fear wants us to do. Desire and fear both control us – they both ‘motivate us from the outside’. Desire and fear are both ‘motivations’, it is true, but they are motivations of the extrinsic variety.


Why we should call compulsion an ‘unconscious’ motivation takes a little bit of explaining. One way to explain it is to say that when we are craving something intensely we go straight into ‘unquestioning mode’ and then all we care about is ‘obtaining whatever it is we want to obtain’. Similarly, when we are terrified we similarly lose all interest in anything other than ‘escaping from the thing that we are terrified of’. There is no consciousness in either of these situations because being conscious means that we are free to take an interest in stuff OTHER than what the greed or fear is telling us to be interested in! Consciousness implies autonomy, in other words, which means that we are NOT being totally controlled or coerced by some type of extrinsic motivation. Being ‘totally controlled but not knowing that we are’ is a very good definition of what it means to be ‘psychologically unconscious’. It is not so easy to say what it means to be conscious on the other hand but we can make a start by saying that it has something to do (a lot to do) with being free to act (or not act) in accordance with our own true nature.


If both the way that we see the world, and what we want to do in the world (i.e. the goals that we see as being important in the world) are being 100% controlled by some external factor (i.e. the conditioned mind) then we can say that there is no consciousness in this situation – there is only the ‘external factor’ which is determining everything about my reality and anything other than this we neither know nor care about. We could therefore compare the unconscious situation to water when it is forced to flow down a canal and perform various tasks (such as turning a water-wheel) – in this case the water is only what the canal says it is, and does only what the canal says it is to do. It is not given the freedom to be (or to do) anything else. When our awareness is totally regulated or determined in this way (i.e. when it is conditioned in this way) then we could say that this is the state of unconsciousness, which is our usual way of being.


We could also say that compulsion is unconscious motivation because when we are craving that we don’t really know what it is that we are craving for, and when we are afraid we don’t really know what we are afraid of. This is a more difficult point to grasp because we automatically assume that we do know what we are greedy for, and that we do know what we are afraid of! The thing about this however is that we only know the prize we are craving to get our hands on is good because our thinking mind tells us that it is, and we only know that the threat which we are running away from is bad because this same mind informs us that it is so. We just go along with this way of seeing things – we go along with it because this is the understanding that we have been provided with and we never stop to question it. The conditioned mind says what is good and what is bad and this is how it controls us! Whatever labels, whatever evaluations the mind automatically provides us with are taken as being ‘synonymous with reality’, and so we are left with no choice but to act (or try to act) in accordance with these labels, these evaluations. In this situation it could be said that we are being ‘controlled by our thinking’ (or that we are being ‘controlled by our conditioned minds’) and this is just another way of talking about extrinsic motivation.


So – just to repeat this point – when we are driven by fear or desire we have already taken it for granted that we know what the object of our fear or desire is, and we are now acting on this basis. This basis is never questioned; this is after all the whole thing about ‘a basis’ – it constitutes a ‘jumping off point’ (or ‘launching pad’) that is never going to be examined. All of our energy goes into the jumping and none into reflecting on ‘why it is so important that we should do this’. We don’t reflect on the ‘why?’ because we are now 100% preoccupied with either trying to ‘avoid the thing’ or trying to ‘obtain the thing’. We’re not ‘curious’, we’re ‘cunning’!


Under the influence of fear or desire we close our minds to anything other than this very black-and-white picture and it is this ‘closing of our minds’ that gives rise to the force of compulsion. It is this that gives rise to the ‘extrinsic motivation’. In essence, the ‘black and white picture’ (which equals ‘our thoughts about the world’) is being acted out through us, without us having any say whatsoever in the matter. We are therefore no more than ‘the passive vehicle through which our thoughts or ideas or beliefs are being enacted’. This of course means that they are not ‘our’ thoughts or ideas or beliefs at all – it’s completely the other way around! We are their vehicles: they don’t belong to us, we belong to them!


We can therefore talk about the phenomenon of the ‘closed mindedness’ (which is the hallmark of the unconscious state) by saying that it is all to do with the mechanical process by which a label is allocated to whatever is going on. It has to do with the way in which we are ‘slaves to the evaluation process’. The ‘label’ is our ‘definite’ (i.e. ‘black-and-white’) description of reality and once the ‘definite description of reality’ has been arrived at we never look back – from this point onwards we are not in touch with reality but only with our description of reality. This is what ‘having a closed mind’ means!


Extrinsic motivation is never about ‘learning something new’ therefore; it’s always about ‘acting out the old’ and ‘the old’ boils down to the impressions that we have formed (or have absorbed) about reality. ‘The old’ is ‘mechanical mind-stuff’ in other words, and extrinsic motivation is the way that this ‘mechanical mind-stuff’ (which is stuff which is not us, but which pretends to be us) gets to reproduce itself and perpetuate itself, just like a virus reproduces and perpetuates itself, just like any habitual pattern reproduces and perpetuates itself. Krishnamurti talks about ‘the old triumphing over the new’ and this is exactly what he is speaking of – the mind (which as Krishnamurti says ‘is always old’) reproduces itself over and over again to the exclusion of anything else, and the type of compulsive motivation which almost always dominates our lives is all about compelling us (out of either fear or desire) to keep on reinstating the old. We have allegiance not to the real but to the conditioned mind’s version of ‘what is real’ and this allegiance shows itself in the way in which we never look into the difference between ‘the thought’ and ‘the reality’.


We very rarely give much thought to the difference between ‘the reality’ and ‘the thought’ but actually there is all the difference in the world. When we can see the difference then this is when freedom comes into the picture, and when we can’t then this is when what we have called extrinsic motivation continues to rule the roost. When we don’t know the difference between reality and the ‘version’ of reality that our conditioned minds provide us with then ‘compulsion which we can’t see as compulsion’ comes into play.  ‘Seeing the difference’ actually comes down to seeing the world that exists beyond our thinking – it comes down to seeing that there is a world beyond the world that we ‘think’ is there, and this is a very good definition of what it means to be ‘conscious’ rather than ‘unconscious’.


Just to sum up, what we have just been saying is that the motivation which is compulsion is based on an assumption (or a description, or a thought) which is not at all the same thing as reality. It’s not coming out of reality at all, but something else – it’s coming out of an ‘extraneous version’ of reality which is based on the unexamined assumptions that exist in our everyday thinking mind. Or we could equivalently say that the compulsion is coming out of the automatic evaluations that are constantly being performed by this mind – actually these evaluations are the compulsions. They are our own unreal creations.


When we react on the basis of these automatic evaluations then needless to say we don’t perceive reality as it is in itself, but rather we perceive reality as it is represented by our own mental projections. If unconscious motivation comes from the relationship between me and my mental projections, then conscious motivation must (as we have already suggested) have something to do with the relationship between me and what lies beyond my projections. In order to relate directly to the reality which lies beyond our mental projections all that is needed – it could be said – is curiosity, which is a quality (like sincerity) that is inseparable from who we really are.


The state of mind in which we are not curious (and as a result react helplessly and mechanically to our own mental projections as if they were not mental projections but reality itself) is the state of psychological unconsciousness, and as the psychologist Carl Jung has noted, this ubiquitous state of being is in itself the primary cause of all our neurotic pain and suffering.


Jung says somewhere that ‘Man’s worse sin is unconsciousness’, which tends to sound rather odd to our modern ears. This however is not a ‘sin’ in the usual religious sense, it is not a sin that we commit consciously but one that we get caught up in despite ourselves, with no knowledge of what we are doing. Yet whether we know what we are doing or whether we don’t makes no difference to the outcome, according to Jung; we suffer the consequences just the same, and the ‘consequences’ are all the various forms of neurotic suffering that descend upon us as a result of living unconsciously.


Really, when we live unconsciously – when we live on the basis of extrinsic motivation rather than on the basis of genuine volition – then we are – in effect – our own enemies. How could this not be the case, when we are ignoring our true volition in favour of what the conditioned mind is telling us to do? This is a very old idea – “To thine own self be true” as Shakespeare famously says in Hamlet, and if we fail to be true to our own selves then how can we ever expect to be happy? If we turn our backs on ‘who we really are’ then how can we ever expect to find peace or meaning or fulfillment in life? How can a false mind-produced version of myself (living in a false mind-produced version of reality) ever be happy?


All this fuss about ‘motivation’ and how it is the key to everything in life is really just part of the hoax therefore. The reason motivation becomes a big issue is because we’re cut off from our true selves, cut off from who we really are. Because of this ‘dissociation’ between ‘who we think we are’ and ‘who we truly are’ everything has to be forced to happen, compelled to happen, in accordance with whatever ideas we have in our heads about what should be happening, or about what we should be doing. We have been cut off from our sincerity and as a result we have to ‘fake it’ – and as everyone knows ‘faking it’ doesn’t bring any energy with it…


If we could only reconnect then ‘motivation’ wouldn’t be an issue. We wouldn’t need to go on about it the whole time, or attend courses on it, or read books about it, or whatever else. If we could only reconnect with ourselves then we wouldn’t feel that we needed to be more motivated. After all, motivation happens all by itself, just as soon as we’re free to be who we really are…



Art: JR