In The Absence Of Being…

In the absence of being we need tricks, we need gimmicks, we need dodges, we need strategies. With being no tricks, no gimmicks, no dodges, no strategies are needed…

 

Things being what they are however there is fierce business going on in the buying and selling of tricks, gimmicks, dodges and strategies of all kinds. Things being what they are, the person with the best strategy gets to be the winner. The Holy Grail – as far as we are concerned – is some kind of super-effective trick or strategy.

 

Things being what they are, the question on everyone’s lips is “What’s your angle?”That’s what we all want to know.  Everyone has an angle after all and the player with the best angle wins the game, as we have just said. We are perennially interested in the type of approach the other guy might be taking – just as long as he isn’t an obvious loser, otherwise, of course, we’re not so interested! No one asks a loser what his strategy is!

 

If being replaced ‘nonbeing’ then an entire world, an entire system, an entire way of life, would vanish overnight. The whole economy would collapse. None of that stuff would be necessary – none of that would be relevant. We would no longer have this all-consuming concern with tricks, gimmicks, dodges and strategies. We could take it easy instead. We could hang out. We could enjoy life. We would no longer have to spend all our time ‘trying to make something be what it isn’t’.

 

This seems like such a strange thing – too strange for us to grasp, generally speaking. It’s an alien concept. When our whole way of life is about trying to make something be what it isn’t (even though this may not be how we see it) then how strange must it feel to all of a sudden stop this? What would we do with ourselves? What would our lives be about then? Or would we be then? As Jean Baudrillard says,

It is always the same: once you are liberated, you are forced to ask who you are.

Our sense of self (our identity) is provided for us by our ‘seeking behaviour’ – our seeking behaviour (and the specific strategies by which we enact this never-ending seeking) are our identity. Just as Carl Jung says that through the process of unwise social adaptation we very quickly end up being our masks, being our roles, being our personas, it is also true that we end up being our tricks, our gimmicks, our strategies. What else are ‘masks, roles, and personas’ other than strategies, after all? All of these are a means of seeking; all of these are way of seeking the being that we so painfully lack in our lives.

 

For this reason (because we have ended up becoming our own strategies) we don’t want to ‘give up our ceaseless strategizing’. Giving up our tricks (‘the tricks of the trade’) would mean losing our identity and we certainly don’t want to see that happen. Stumbling across being would mean the loss of our identity as the striver, the seeker, the controller, the master player, etc, and that’s why we don’t want to have anything to do with ‘being‘. Erik Fromm says that if we ever came across freedom then we would run a mile, and the very same could be said for being!

 

This puts us in a very odd position therefore. It puts us in an extraordinarily odd position. Our entire way of life is based on the (unacknowledged) striving for being (since we strive without really knowing what it is that we’re striving for) and yet this being is – at the same time – the very last thing that we want. Our whole identity is defined by our strategies, by our approaches, by our ‘striving to obtain being’ and yet it is this very identity that we would have to say goodbye to if we actually found what we were looking for. We are searching for being on behalf of the ever-hungry concrete identity and yet the concrete identity doesn’t really want to have anything to do with it.

 

It is this very identity that we would have to kiss goodbye to forever and yet – quite understandably – the identity which is based on tricks and dodges and strategies, the identity that is based on the ongoing never-ending doomed attempt to ‘make good its lack of being‘ – doesn’t want to say goodbye to itself. That’s not part of its plans at all. The concrete identity very much doesn’t want to ‘kiss goodbye to itself’ and if it has any say at all in the matter (which it does) then it won’t…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Father

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The ‘Dark Father’ of unbridled rationality eats his own children, just as Cronos did in the ancient legend. He might not actually physically eat them as Cronos the Titan did, but by the weight of his controlling and stultifying authority he represses their psychological growth – he prevents them from ever becoming what they could otherwise be. ‘Control’ – in this context – doesn’t just mean telling people what to do and what not to do, when to do it and when not to do it, it means telling us how to see the world. But it isn’t enough simply to say this. It’s not just that we have been told how to see the world, we are told in such a way that we don’t realize that we actually have been told how to see the world. We don’t realize that we have been controlled at all – we think that the world just is that way.

 

Cronos the archetypal dark father eats his own children. He devours them before they can amount to very much, he devours them before they can get to the stage of challenging his authority. Later on, as we know from the legends that have passed down to us, he slipped up (tricked by his wife) and failed to devour the infant Zeus and this ‘slip-up’ was the beginning of the end for him. Zeus – with the help of his mother who was naturally not happy to have all of her children eaten by their infanticidal father – and was reared elsewhere, in secret. Later, Zeus returned in all his strength to defeat his father and the rest of the Titans in the war to end all wars – the Titanomachy. So in a way we can say that Cronos was right to eat his children – he knew what would happen if he didn’t!

 

Cronos devouring his children – and the war between the Gods and the Titans that followed – has immense psychological significance, which is of course what gives the myth the power that it still has. Even in the second decade of the twenty-first century we are making films about this cosmic conflict – albeit not very good ones. The myth is a universal one – in the Norse tales the Gods (Odin, Thor, Loki, and the rest) had to contend with the Ice Giants, which was an another ‘titanic’ struggle. The significance that we’re talking about here has to do with the struggle between the dark, repressive force of unconsciousness, and the emergent consciousness, which despite being fragile in its beginnings is a force that in time – if allowed to grow and become strong – will overturn the whole order of things.

 

Consciousness is born in the dark cave of unconsciousness – it emerges from this suffocating darkness and all too easily returns to it. It flickers like a newly lit candle and is very easily extinguished again. It is not just that the newly emergent consciousness is precarious – the force of what we have called unconsciousness is actively opposed to it and is implacably resolved to snuff it out as if it had never existed. Jung draws upon European fairy-tales to highlight this archetypal scenario. The precarious situation of the emergent consciousness can be seen – according to Jung – in the motif of the young child abandoned in the forest, helpless before all the terrible dangers that have their home there. The motif of the child points to the archetype of the Self and what this type of story tells us is that in order for us to realize the Self in our lives (i.e. in order for us to become who we really are) we have to brave all these dangers as the abandoned child does and yet somehow come out on the other side...

 

That the child should survive all the dangers of the wild forest (just as Hansel and Gretel survived, just as the twins Romulus and Remus survived) seems incredibly unlikely to say the least! We might quite reasonably object that this is too improbable a story to take seriously, given the number of co-incidences that are needed for it to work. The point is however that whenever consciousness does come into its own (whenever the Self does miraculously come back into being after being broken apart and scattered to the four corners of the world) this is the only way that it could have happened – through an extraordinarily unlikely ‘chain of chance’. This is the same argument we meet in relation to the huge improbability of coming across a planet possessing the exact conditions necessary for the evolution of life. How unlikely is this? But the thing is of course that it is only after life has arisen and sentient beings have evolved that we can be in the position of asking the question. We’re looking at things backwards therefore – once consciousness has arisen then we can become aware of the difficulty in it ever arising in the face of all the forces that are ranged against it!

 

We can relate this point to Cronos eating his children. The odds against surviving as a child of Cronos were always formidably great. It is very nearly a sure thing that you will be immediately be eaten. But then again it only takes one helpless infant to beat the odds and you have a Zeus on your hands! Only one helpless child has to survive the tyranny of the Dark Father and there will to be a full-scale Titanomachy for him to reckon with later on! Or as we could also say, only one Romulus and Remus has to survive (or even just a Romulus) for there to be a Rome, and not just a Rome in fact but a fully-fledged Roman Empire with all the trimmings…

 

From a psychological point of view therefore we can say that the odds are very much against consciousness surviving very long before being devoured by the forces of unconsciousness. Consciousness is always being born, just has Cronos’s children were always being born, but it is very nearly inevitable that they will meet their end very quickly indeed, as a matter of course, as a matter of mere routine, we might say. We can see this drama (the annihilation of consciousness) being enacted all around us every day – or rather we can’t see it being enacted around us every day because we’d have to be consciously present to witness it and we aren’t. This is a crime without witnesses (a ‘perfect crime’, as Jean Baudrillard says) and so it is also a crime that goes widely unreported…

 

The reason for the lack of witnesses is because if we are not conscious in the first place then none of this talk of ‘consciousness being devoured’ makes any sense at all! When we’re safely unconscious then everything seems fine, everything seems dandy. Everything is as it should be. We can’t see that there is anything amiss with the world at all – everything seems to be in the proper and correct order and so there is simply no cause to be going on about this business of ‘consciousness being unceremoniously devoured shortly after it is born’. In a world where no one is their own true Self the lack of the Self is hardly likely to be commented upon! In a world where everyone is asleep being asleep is going to be seen as the right and proper way to be. In a world where everyone is telling the same lie, then that lie has become the truth…

 

Life – for us – has become a matter of ‘fitting into the format’ (although at the same time we don’t see that we have fitted ourselves into it or that there was any ‘format’ to fit into in the first place). The format has become invisible because we have fitted into it so well. When we adapt ourselves perfectly to the format then what this means is that we’re seeing the world in terms of that format (such that there is no element of our daily experience that remains unformatted) then this situation is simply seen as ‘the correct way to be’, ‘the only way to be’. Only it isn’t exactly seen as such but assumed as such so that the only time we bother our heads about the status quo is to notice when someone isn’t fitting in and is therefore standing out to everyone else because of this ‘failure to adapt’.

 

The formatted way of things is just taken for granted – we unquestioningly accept it without realizing that we have accepted anything. This is of course simply the way that ‘formatting’ works – to believe is not to know that we believe. As soon as we know that we are believing something then this is the beginning of us not believing it. As soon as we see that we have made an assumption about reality then we are ‘conscious of the assumption’ and when we are conscious of it then it is no longer an assumption. We are no longer ‘assuming’ anything in this case. We’re no longer taking it for granted.

 

This gives us a good way of what is meant by the term ‘consciousness’ therefore. Consciousness, we may say, is when the formatting that the rational mind is imposing upon us becomes visible as formatting. Normally, as we have said, the truths that make up our shared (or agreed-upon) world are so ‘self-evidently valid’ that it would never occur to us to question them. When we become conscious however this changes everything. The so-called ‘self-evident’ truths that everyone takes for granted all of a sudden get shown up as being not so true after all. They get shown up as being lies – lies that everyone automatically believes in, lies that everyone accepts as being true…

 

Becoming aware is an act of rebellion. Becoming conscious is as Krishnamurti says ‘the only revolution’. It’s the only revolution that is worth a damn – everything else is just empty posturing. Everything else is just a smoke-screen, everything else is just a red herring. Once we understand consciousness as the capacity to see our formatting (or ‘our ability to see a lie for a lie’) then we can see why unconsciousness has to react the way it does to the emerging consciousness. It can’t afford to do otherwise – it can’t afford to have the light turned on. The lie can pass itself off very easily indeed as the truth when there is no consciousness around to see it for what it really is. When there’s no consciousness then we all just accept the lie at face-value. We all just passively go along with the formatting, no matter what the formatting is. We don’t care what the formatting is – we just care about fitting into it. We don’t care what the rules are, we just care about how well we can obey them…

 

The ‘Dark Father’ is the male (or ‘rational’) authority that our society is based upon. It is the system that defines us, and regulates us once we have been defined. It is the system that tells us what life is and how we should live it. It is the system that tells us what is real and what is not real. Psychologically speaking, the reason we can say that society is based on masculine authority is because it is the expression of the rational mind – the rational mind’s essential property being that it defines (or ‘quantifies’). It ‘lays down the law’, which is the masculine (Yang-type) principle at work. The rational mind says what is, and saying what is also means saying what is not. By asserting a positive ‘truth’, therefore, the thinking mind restricts us absolutely. We become trapped in the stated world, the defined or ‘positive’ world, and being trapped means that we lose the ability to see what has been denied in order that this ‘positive world’ could be created. We lose the capacity to see what assumptions have been made, in other words. We lose ‘consciousness’.

 

This is not to say that the masculine principle is inherently evil in nature but simply that when it is overvalued (which means of course that the feminine principle has been denied) then it turns malign. The balance has been lost and the result is disaster – albeit a disaster that we cannot see! This idea of an imbalance in favour of the masculine principle was – according to Jung – well known to the ancient alchemists who spoke in terms of the need (as a certain point in the alchemical process) for the ‘Old King’ to be murdered and dismembered. The Young King uses his masculine power not in denial of the feminine but in order to protect the kingdom against misfortune and enemies. His is a wise, benevolent, tolerant authority, therefore. The Old King on the other hand has become a dark force, an embodiment of ‘restriction for the sake of restriction’, ‘control for the sake of control’, ‘power for the sake of power’. The Old King has come to love the exercise of power just for its own sake, and so the only thing he cares about is hanging on to his power, hanging on to the authority he abuses… As Paul Levi says in his article on the Dark Father motif on his website Awaken In The Dream

The figure of the dark father is traumatizing to others, as it traumatizes everyone under its dominion. Because it is attached to the position of power it finds itself in, this figure is not interested in change, and therefore has become calcified and rigid.

In Tales of Power, Carlos Castaneda speaks of how the benevolent guardian all too easily morphs into the despotic guard, which is the same idea applied to the ego (the inner ruler) rather than any external figure –

We are born with the useful aspect of having an ego as our guardian. But too often a guardian becomes a guard. A guardian is broad-minded and understanding, a guard on the other hand, is a vigilante, narrow-minded and most of the time despotic.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell talks of the ‘Tyrant Holdfast’, whose name alone is enough to explain what he is about –

He is the hoarder of the general benefit. He is the monster avid for the greedy rights of ‘my and mine.’ The havoc wrought by him is described in mythology and fairy tale as being universal throughout his domain. This may be no more than his household, his own tortured psyche, or the lives that he blights with the touch of his friendship and assistance; or it may amount to the extent of his civilization. The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world – no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper.

 

Self-terrorized, fear-haunted, alert at every hand to meet and battle back the anticipated aggressions of his environment, which are primarily the reflections of the uncontrollable impulses to acquisition within himself, the giant of self-achieved independence is the world’s messenger of disaster, even though, in his mind, he may entertain himself with humane intentions. Wherever he sets his hand there is a cry (if not from the housetops, then – more miserably – within every heart): a cry for the redeeming hero, the carrier of the shining blade, whose blow, whose touch, whose existence, will liberate the land.

The Tyrant Holdfast’s grip on his kingdom is absolute and nothing is permitted to thrive in it unless it serves him. The same is true for the Dark Father of our over-valued rationality – nothing is permitted breathing space unless it agrees with the unquestionable rules of the assumed formatting. Nothing is allowed unless it serves this formatting, unless it does this formatting’s work and not its own. Independence from the framework is not tolerated, under any circumstances. It’s prohibited. As soon as we are old enough to understand language we are subjected to this insidious formatting of reality, and before very long we have lost the ability to experience ourselves and the world in any other way than the way it permits. We see ourselves via the mechanical format, via the external framework and we lose ourselves in the process…

 

There can be no part of us that doesn’t make sense within the terms of the framework. Nothing that doesn’t make sense within the framework is given any credence, any credibility at all. The only part of us that is given credibility is the part that accords with our assumptions, that part that agrees with the rules of the game that we have unwittingly agreed to play. But the ‘part’ of which we speak actually isn’t a part of us at all – it isn’t actually a part of us at all because the game that we’ve unwittingly agreed to play is ‘the game of being what we’re not’.

 

Consciousness keeps on being born into the world and the system keeps on formatting it, turning it into ‘not-consciousness’, turning it into pseudo-consciousness, turning it into a parody of consciousness. And if we think we are already conscious (and that this whole idea of over-valued rationality being the Dark Father is ridiculous) then that’s because we’ve already been devoured. That’s because the thinking mind is telling us – which it does as a matter of routine – that we’re conscious already, when the truth is that we’re not…

 

Not Judging

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Kierkegaard says “when you judge me you negate me.” This is equally true when we judge ourselves! Even though we may not realize it we judge ourselves all of the time, one way or another, and so in doing this (in evaluating ourselves as being this, that or the other) we unfailingly negate ourselves.

 

This isn’t to say that we only negate ourselves when we judge ourselves in a negative way – any sort of a judgement, whether it is favourable or unfavourable, glowing or condemning, commendatory or pejorative, is a negation. It doesn’t matter what sort of an evaluation we slap on ourselves, it’s a negation just the same.

 

The reason for this is that all judgements are (of course) definitions and it is the defining that negates us, not the value we ascribe to the definition. When we define ourselves we put ourselves in a box, we make it impossible that we could be anything other than what we have just defined ourselves as being. This is inherent in the very nature of defining – defining traps us and there is no such thing as a ‘good’ trap! When we define ourselves we take away our own freedom – we take away the freedom we had to be what we were before we defined ourselves as being ‘this, that or the other’. This is a freedom we didn’t even realize we had!

 

The thing about a definition is that it makes the object of the definition certain – when we define something we are therefore converting uncertainty into certainty. We are reducing the inherent uncertainty of what we are defining to zero. It tends to sound rather strange to say this since we don’t usually see why everything should be ‘inherently uncertain’. We don’t necessarily go around seeing the world as being inherently or intrinsically uncertain, even though it is. And yet it ought to be abundantly clear that the world is uncertain – uncertainty is (we could say) the essential element in life. This is what Heraclitus meant when he said that “All is flux”. In life, everything is changing, nothing is fixed, nothing is set in stone. Even stone isn’t set in stone, and if this isn’t uncertainty then what is?

 

We could also try to explain the inherent uncertainty in life by saying that everything is influenced by everything else. There are no sealed compartments in the universe – everything is part of the one whole. If there do seem to be compartment then this is purely because compartmentalization is how the thinking mind works. Our mind works on the basis of rigid boundaries – nature doesn’t! As Ken Wilbur puts it,

THE ULTIMATE METAPHYSICAL SECRET, if we dare state it so simply, is that there are no boundaries in the universe. Boundaries are illusions, products not of reality but of the way we map and edit reality. And while it is fine to map out the territory, it is fatal to confuse the two.

What the absence of any hard-and-fast boundaries in reality means is that – as we have said – nothing is sealed off from anything else. Nothing exists alone. No man is an island. This is the ‘ecological principle’ – no one thing can be considered or studied without taking everything else into account. Actually, if everything is connected to everything else then there are no distinct ‘things’ so to put a lot of effort into studying distinct things (as we very much tend to in Western culture) is a nonsense. It creates confusion and ‘counter-productivity’ by the lorry-load. We place huge emphasis on the exhaustive definition of the specific ‘isolated element’ (the ‘particular thing’) but since everything is connected to everything the isolated element or particular thing doesn’t actually exist!

 

From the ecological point of view we can say that everything is a part of the overall network, such that a change in one element in the network will inevitably have a bearing on everything else since nothing stays ‘contained’ in just the one portion or region of the network. It follows from this principle that we can’t be ‘certain’ about any one element in the network – we can’t know everything about one particular element because this would entail knowing everything about everything that influences that element, and this is a pretty big ask. We would then have to know ‘everything about everything’, and how are we going to manage this? All ‘things’ are inherently uncertain, therefore, because all things are inescapably interrelated to all other things. Each node in the network vibrates in tune with all other nodes, in tune with the web itself, and so how can we treat any one thing, any one element as if it had some sort of an existence outside of this web of mutual relations? This is a total impossibility, and yet at the same time this is the only we way we can get to be ‘certain’ about anything…

 

The ‘inherent uncertainty’ that we’re talking about isn’t some kind of peripheral property that might conceivably be eliminated (or at least reduced) – inherent uncertainty can only be eliminated at the price of making what we’re being certain about unreal! Intrinsic uncertainty isn’t an error in the system (which is how the rational mind sees it) – it is an irreducible property of the whole. Each little element in the network is uncertain because it partakes in the overall ‘uncertainty’ of everything. Or to put this another way – every ‘part’ of the whole is irreducibly uncertain because there are no parts, because it isn’t a part at all, because it’s really the whole in disguise!

 

We may of course ask why the whole has to be irreducibly uncertain – why in other words can’t we just get a ‘theory of everything’ and then that ‘theory of everything’ will make everything certain. This is the classic rational question. But the thing about this question that seems to elude us is that there can’t be anything outside of the whole, since if there was something outside it then it clearly wouldn’t be ‘the whole’. And if we can’t get outside the whole – which we need to if we are to slot everything into a framework, into a TOE – then we can’t make everything certain. If we say – in an attempt to escape this logical glitch – that there can be a framework outside the of the whole which we can use to make the whole certain then we have a situation where the framework is inside itself (i.e. it’s like saying that the set M is a member of itself) and this is a Russellian paradox. If the all-determining framework is inside the whole as well as outside and this all-determining framework is being used to provide definite information, definite statements about the whole to make it certain, then the framework is being use to provide information about itself and this a tautological regression. A thing cannot define itself because any invisible assumptions that are in that thing cannot be highlighted by that same thing! And ‘things’ always contain invisible assumptions – that’s what makes them things in the first place!

 

Stuff is only ‘certain’ because we have slotted it into a taken-for-granted framework of seeing things, and when we do slot it into the framework what happens is that we automatically take the element that we are focussing on out of the relationship that it has with the whole, out of the dynamic interplay of influences which is ‘everything’. We abstract the element from the interrelationships that make it what it actually and so what we end up with something that is no longer what it started off as. It’s now just a function of our way of looking at things! What we’re doing when we make something certain therefore is that we are denying that element for what it actually is by implicitly claiming that it is ‘only what we think it is’. We are negating the actual reality of what we are making certain of, in other words – by fitting the element under consideration into the over-arching framework that is the rational mind (and by doing this implicitly denying that there ever could be such a thing as ‘something that is not accounted for by our all-determining framework’) we are negating reality itself…

 

The thing that we are judging or labelling is infinitely more than we take it to be with our judging and labelling, and so really we are committing a type of violence here, loathe though we may be to admit! The ‘index of uncertainty’ that we have handily eliminated with our mental categorizations is the difference between what the reality we are labelling really is, and what we say it is, and this turns out to be the most important ‘difference’ there ever could be! This difference means everything – it means the difference between reality itself and some bloodless simulation of it, the difference between the menu and the actual meal itself. If we were to somehow imagine that this difference is not so very important as all that, all we would need to do to correct this viewpoint would be to try to live by eating nothing but menus for a month! There is no sustenance in categorizations, no nutritional value in formal descriptions or definitions…

 

We won’t physically starve to be sure but we will starve nonetheless in a less tangible way – by living in the Mind Created Virtual Reality in place of the original we will be starved of the actual feel of reality, the actual taste or flavour of reality. We will be starved of the healing grace that comes with unconditioned reality, and which comes from nowhere else. When we succeed in eliminating the inherent uncertainty of the world this might seem very neat and tidy from one point of view (from the ‘book-keeper type’ point of view of the rational conceptual mind, that is) but the unintended side-effect of achieving this neatness is that we have put ourselves in the wholly tautological (or ‘self-referential’) situation of being the ‘Mind-Created Self’ living in the ‘Mind-Created Virtual Reality’ and when it comes down to brass tacks this isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs! It’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be in the publicity brochures, so to speak…

 

Only the intrinsically uncertain (i.e. the unsimulated) is real – everything else is a mere surface-level impression, everything else is simply a ‘two-dimensional label’, an ‘empty formula’ that we take to be an exhaustive description of whatever it is we are labelling, whatever it is we are describing. Unquantifiable substance is converted into dry definitions, into ‘facts and figures’. So what we’re basically saying here in this discussion is that this is what the thinking mind does all the time! The everyday thinking mind can’t not do this – this is the only thing it can do. The mind judges, just as a sweeping brush sweeps, just as a toaster toasts stuff, just as a cement-mixer mixes cement. Categorizing (or ‘judging’) is all that the everyday mind does, and what’s more, when it runs away with itself in the way that it is so prone to doing it can’t turn itself off!

 

Within its proper remit, this function of the everyday thinking mind is not problematic. Far from being ‘problematic’, it is crucially useful to us. The thinking mind has a job to do and it performs this job superlatively well. The ‘problem’ starts when the instrument which is the thinking mind ‘takes over’ and starts applying itself willy-nilly to all aspects of our life, to every aspect of our life. Once it does this then there’s no turning back and the thinking mind will just keep on a running in the background as a kind of permanent feature. It’s like a radio or television that never gets turned off, and we just get used to it running away as it does in the background the whole time (we get uncomfortable when it doesn’t). What happens when the thinking mind runs all the time in the background is that all the ‘intrinsic uncertainty’ in life gets eliminated, it gets ‘done away with’. The inherent uncertainty of life gets eradicated (like an error or mistake that we don’t want messing up our nice, neat picture of things) and all we have left is a bunch of dogmatic descriptions, a bunch of literal definitions, a bunch of labels, a bunch of dry old empty formulae…

 

Life gets chewed up by the runaway machine of the thinking mind and we don’t know the difference because we have – in the process of being chewed up – forgotten any other way that things could be. It now seems normal to us for everything to be this way. And not only that, the uncertainty factor, the ‘error factor’ (which as we have said is actually nothing other than life itself) has become the enemy, has become ‘the thing to be gotten rid of’. Thought is great for mechanical stuff therefore but the thing is that when it takes over it treats everything as if it were mechanical, including ourselves. Thought ‘re-writes’ us in its own mechanical language (or ‘code’) and we never notice the difference, we never notice the transition. So we end up as a result of this unnoticed transition living in a world that is actually a tremendously ‘downgraded’ version of the original, a tremendously ‘over-simplified’ version of the original. And at the same time as living in a tremendously downgraded version of reality, we live as tremendously downgraded versions of ourselves, and so no one ever gets suspicious about the fact that something very dodgy has just taken place. As Jean Baudrillard says, the Perfect Crime (or the Perfect Murder) has been committed – it is perfect because there are no witnesses, because no one has reported anything to the police!

 

Just to recap the central point there: with regard to the world around us, what happens when the rational mind takes over is – as we have said – that we miss out on the essential uncertainty of everything and it is that uncertainty (the lack of exhaustive definition) that gives life its flavour, its beauty, its poetry. The logical-conceptual mind doesn’t like uncertainty – more than that, it can’t function with uncertainty, it can’t tolerate uncertainty, it can’t abide uncertainty. This mind likes to sweep everything up in neat, orderly piles. It can’t help being like this – it is the rational mind’s nature to order everything, just as it is a sweeping brush’s nature to sweep! But when it does this it takes the mystery out of everything, the magic out of everything, the unique flavour (or ‘suchness’) out of everything. The rational mind scoffs at mystery and magic – it sees stuff like this as sentimental, woolly-minded, ‘airy-fairy’, etc. It sees this kind of stuff as just plain silly. It wants to get rid of this kind of thing and make everything neat and tidy and orderly. The only problem with this however is that this sort of a ‘sanitized world’ just isn’t worth living in – there’s nothing of substance in it, nothing of interest in it. This isn’t life at all – it’s a bloodless simulation of life…

 

The rational mind has no wings. It will not believe in anything other than its own dull literalisms. As Sri Guru Granth Sahib says,

For that which we cannot see, feel, smell, touch, or understand, we do not believe. For this, we are merely fools walking on the grounds of great potential with no comprehension of what is.

 

The everyday categorical mind has its ‘dark’ side therefore. It has a tendency in it that will – when unchecked – produce a world for us that really isn’t fit to live in, a kind of grey, flavourless world; a dull, repetitive, routine sort of a world. It produces a world that is a tasteless copy of the real thing, an ersatz world, a counterfeit world. This is one half of the story. The other side of the story is that this labelling, judging, analyzing mind does the same thing to us. It transforms us (or degrades us) into colourless ersatz versions of ourselves, bland generic versions of ourselves. In Kierkegaard’s language, it negates us. It negates our true nature, and provides us with something else instead – something that isn’t our nature… The categorical mind negates us because it turns us into mere categories! It turns us into mere concepts, into nothing more than ‘mental constructs’. How can the thinking mind do anything other than this? How can it not do this? Just as the sweeping brush sweeps and the toaster toasts, the thinking mind judges and judges and judges. And when it’s done with this, it does some more judging, just for good measure…

 

So all we need to do – if we want to come back to ourselves, if we want to live in a world that hasn’t had all the mystery, magic and poetry swept out of it, is to stop judging! All we need to do is to leave stuff as it already is, no tidying, no organizing everything into neat orderly piles, no conceptualizing, no analyzing, no more non-stop thinking…

 

What could be simpler than this? We don’t have to do anything, we just have to ‘stop doing what we always do’ – stop the judging, the evaluating, the commentating, and all of that. In one way therefore this is astonishingly simple – as we have said, all we have to do is to be sensitive to what is actually already there, which essentially means not aggressing reality, not trying to control or rewrite reality, not automatically (and compulsively) trying to make stuff be what we think it ought to be…

 

On one hand this is the simplest anything could ever be, but on the other hand things aren’t quite so easy as all that. To be simple in this way actually constitutes a challenge that is far greater than we could imagine. We’d never know just how much of a challenge ‘not doing what we usually do’ is unless we tried it. What makes it so hard is the fact that we are almost completely identified with the thinking mind – which is another way of saying that we automatically believe just about everything it tells us!

 

Just as we are almost completely identified with the thinking mind, we are similarly almost totally identified with the Mind-Created Self – it is the same phenomenon looked at from a different angle. And the thing about the Mind-Created Self is that it has no choice other than to be aggressive. It has no other options open to it. All the Mind-Created Self (i.e. the Defined Self) can do is be aggressive – that is its inescapable nature.

 

So the first step in ‘not judging’ is simply notice this – to notice that the Defined Self can’t help judging. We notice this without blaming the Defined Self for being what it is, without judging it for being what it can’t help being…

 

 

 

 

D-Motivation

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Who could ever give us permission to be? Whatever could we possibly do to deserve the permission to be, to earn the permission to be? How would we go about making ourselves eligible for a favour of such unthinkable magnitude? Nothing comes free after all, and so what would the price for the ultimate boon of being be?

 

This is of course – whether we realize it or not – a profoundly deep philosophical question, a philosophical question that has immense ramifications in our everyday lives. From the point of view of our normal conditioned mind, we would have to do a hell of a lot to be worthy of being. This is a big deal. If we spend the best part of our lives paying off the mortgage on a semi-detached house, how long would we spend paying off this debt? It’s like telling somebody – as ministers of the Church have been telling us for centuries – that Jesus died for your sins, so what are you going to do to make it up to him? This is a burden we can never crawl out from under – as Alan Watts (himself an ordained minister) says, we can’t even find it within ourselves to feel properly grateful for what has been done for us, never mind pay back the debt! The best we can do is go around feeling guilty about the fact that we can’t feel as grateful as we should – a permanent sense of guilt being one way that we have of paying off the debt (or of at least paying off the interest on the debt).

 

Another way of putting this is to ask “What are we going to do to earn the grace of God, to deserve the grace of God?” Obviously there is nothing we could ever do and so we’re banjaxed right from the start – we’ve been placed under an obligation that we can never fulfil, a debt that we can never pay, and this kind of thing clearly suits the establishment very well indeed! It’s like being in debt to the bank to such an extent that we’re obliged to keep on working at a job we hate to the end of our days, which is needless to say an all-too-familiar scenario. These days people tend to be less concerned about the need to earn or deserve the grace of God. We don’t phrase it (or understand it) like that anymore, but this doesn’t mean that we aren’t caught up in the same glitch, the same trap – we still feel that we need to be allowed to be by some external authority, we still need to be given special dispensation of some kind. We can’t do anything without this permission, but we don’t know where it is to come from. This isn’t so much of a spiritual dilemma as it is a basic everyday psychological one. We can’t just go ahead, we can’t just ‘be’ – we need external validation, we need someone to tell us that it’s ok. We need to be told that we deserve the status of ‘being here’ in the world so that we ourselves may believe this to be the case. Other people need to agree that we deserve to exist, in other words! The most obvious example of what we’re talking about here is society – society (we might say) is a system within which we can be granted varying degrees of, if not being itself, then some sort of analogue of being, some sort of substitute for being…

 

All societies are predicated upon some sort of ‘ranking system’ which allocates status in accordance to how well we measure up with regard to the unspoken (but nevertheless very well understood) rules of the game. The lowest rank is where we have no status because we haven’t managed to jump through any of the hoops, and the highest is where we have jumped through all of them and emerged at the other end covered in glory. It could also be said that the ranking system is based purely upon the amount of money we have, which is a much simpler way of determining who gets to deserve existence: if we have no money then we are inconsequential and worthless and no one cares a damn about us, and if we are extremely wealthy then we are by definition very consequential and worthy indeed. We are then said to have ‘substance’!
Since the usual way to obtain money is to adapt ourselves wholeheartedly to the social system and dedicate our lives to the sort of stuff that society thinks we ought to be dedicating ourselves to, this turns out to be a very handy way for the system to be guaranteed our continued support – if we want to be granted the ‘permission to be’ (which equals ‘social acceptance’) then we have to play the game, then we have to conform to the rules. It’s as simple as that – it is the social game that grants us being (or rather the ‘conditioned analogue of being’) and so we have no choice other than to learn to play the game as well as we possibly can. We have to compete for being within the social matrix, which means that there are going to be winners and losers. The divine unconditional gift of being has thus devolved into a limited commodity that has to be fought over – a limited commodity that is controlled by an elite group of ‘winners’!

 

Another variant on money might be said to be ‘fame’ or ‘public visibility’ – in this case we could say that the more people know about us then the more of the ‘analogue for being’ we possess, and so the more real we feel. This is a very well understood formula – if nobody knows me then I am invisible and I don’t therefore exist, and if I am the name on everybody’s lips then I am granted existence in spades. I am as a result of my fame as real as real can be and no one (including me) can doubt it. This too is a competition since – very obviously – we can’t all be famous! We can’t all be rich since money has to be a limited commodity in order for the game to proceed, and the same is of course true for fame. The winners get to be ‘somebody’ whilst the losers (who are always going to be in the overwhelming majority) are obliged to suffer the utterly ignominious fate of not being anybody. Existence is for the privileged elite. All we can do is dream of being somebody; all we can do is hope and yearn to be somebody…

 

Within the overall game that we are playing which is society there are innumerable lesser games – games within games within games. In all games we are competing (even in one-player games we are competing – we are competing against ourselves) and what we are essentially competing for (no matter what we say it is) is the analogue of being, the inferior substitute for being. Generally speaking, we just call this ‘winning’! The good feeling that we get from winning is therefore analogous to the good feeling that we get from being. We have wangled it so that we get to feel that are – because we have won at the game, whatever that is – deserving of being. Who can say that we aren’t – aren’t we the winners after all? If the winner doesn’t possess this ultimate existential validation then who does? Haven’t we achieved the most that can be achieved within the terms of the logical system that we are adapted to, the logical system that we have substituted for reality, the logical system that we take to be reality?

 

The other side of the coin here is of course the side in which we fail to win at the game and instead of ending up as winners we end up as losers instead. If being a winner means that we are granted being (because we deserve it), being a loser means that we are not granted being because we don’t deserve it! We have nothing and so we aren’t anything – we don’t show up on the map at all because winning is how you get to be on the map. We don’t show up on the map and so we have no existence. The types of games we may play within the overall game which is society are multitudinous – the goals we compete for may range from ‘what kind of job you do’ or ‘what part of town you live in’, to something as simple as ‘who gets to have the last word in an argument’ or ‘who has the smartest put-down’. Everything is a game. Even science has become a game, according to Professor Lovelock – it’s not about being curious about reality and finding some kind of universal truth, it’s about competing with all the other science-game players to see who can get the most papers published, who can get the best name for themselves.

 

All we know are games, generally speaking. All purposeful activity is a game of one sort or another – the game is to ‘achieve the stated purpose, to ‘obtain the stated goal’. If I achieve the purpose then I have won at the game and I get to feel good; if I fail to achieve the purpose then I have lost at the game and instead of feeling good I feel bad. So going on what we were saying before, the real aim of the game isn’t to control the situation effectively enough to ensure that the desired outcome comes about, the real aim is to obtain being as a result of this effectiveness. This type of statement (saying that we play games in order to obtain being, or that we engage in purposeful activity in order that we might get to exist) doesn’t of course make any sense to us because it seems so very obvious that we already have being, that we already ‘exist’. This seems to be pretty much a given! Who would doubt this?

 

Psychologically speaking however the type of being that we have is promissory rather than actual – it’s just that we never focus on this because we are so very used to dealing in promises that to us it has become the ‘real thing’. This might seem strange when we first hear the idea but it’s the same thing as money – money isn’t wealth, it isn’t ‘value’ in itself, but rather it is a promise of value. Going back in the history of banking, this promise used to be written on the banknote itself – the Bank of England used to inscribe “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of ten pounds” on ten pound notes, for example. These days we don’t have the gold standard whereby the bearer of the note can (theoretically) go into the bank and exchange the note for gold, but rather the ten pound note can only be exchanged for other notes that add up to the same value! This of course is nonsensical but nobody minds because we don’t bother to look too deeply into it. The basic principle remains the same, however – money is a promise of value rather than value itself. This is obviously true – as is often said, you can’t eat money! There’s no nutritional value in banknotes…

 

Moving from the peculiarities of economics to the peculiarities of human psychology, we can therefore say – quite straightforwardly – that all of our mental constructs or thoughts are promises of being rather than being itself. Naturally this is true – our thoughts and concepts are representations of reality, not reality itself. And it is also true that exactly the same conflation has occurred that we have just been talking about – we have got to the stage where we treat the mental constructs as being ‘the real thing’, and so we don’t bother to look any further. This is what Jean Baudrillard is talking about when he refers to the realm of ‘the hyperreal’; according to the Wikipedia entry,

Hyperreality is the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies.

It could be said therefore that whenever we think some thought or other, we do so because that thought carries the promise of being. This can work in two ways (since all mental constructs are dualistic in their nature): the thought in question sucks us in either because it promises to lead us to being, in which case it is a pleasant thought, or it sucks us in because it warns us of possible ‘loss of being’, or possible ‘danger to being’ in which case what we’re talking about is an unpleasant (or ‘repellent’) thought. Either way, the thought has a magnetic hold on us – it grabs our attention equally well in both cases, both the positive and the negative. Because the mental representation has become conflated with the reality which it is supposed to be representing the ‘promising thought’ makes us feel good, and the ‘warning (or threatening) thought’ causes us to feel bad. Thought has thus become an actual reality in itself since if the thought alone is enough to produce a state of euphoric bliss, where is the need for anything else? Thought alone is enough to produce mental states of heaven or hell, therefore…

 

We are surrounded by promises of being – which is to say, promises that if we do this, that or the other then we will be (or alternatively, that if we do X, Y or Z then we will avoid a threat to us being, which is the same thing only backwards). This is not quite how we understand it (the thoughts aren’t phrased in exactly this way) but this is what it nevertheless comes down to. The underlying implication of living in a promissory world (as we do) is that our situation is lacking in some very significant way, but that this deficiency may be remedied by if we do what thought tells us to do. We implicitly understand ourselves to be lacking in some way but at the same time the specific remedy for this ‘lack’ is presented to us in some suitably attractive and plausible format. This is of course what advertising is all about, just to give what is probably the most obvious example of this sort of thing – we’re motivated by a perception of lack, by a perception of need. We’re sold the idea that we’re not good enough the way we are. When we conceive some sort of an attractive or alluring goal, this is exactly the same thing – every time our attention is magnetized by some thought, some idea, some mental construct, this is motivated by the hope of remedying some kind of ‘assumed deficit state of being’. Why else would it have such a hold on us?

 

Once we reflect on the matter then we can see that all of our purposeful behaviour (and the world-view or model that this behaviour arises from) is predicated upon this business of ‘remedying a deficit’. In one way this might seem obvious since the whole point of purposeful behaviour is to ‘obtain something that we don’t already have’, but what we’re talking about here goes much further than just this. If I haven’t got a hat to wear and I go and get myself a nice hat this may be superficially construed as ‘remedying a deficit’ but from a psychological point of view there is a world of difference between me obtaining a hat because I pragmatically need one (to keep the sun off my head, for example) and because I unconsciously believe that possessing a fine hat will remedy my deficit state of being! In the first case I am essentially OK in myself either way (whether I get a hat or not) but in the second case I am only OK if I manage to get a suitable hat (because I am sadly deficient in being or substance and only possessing a fine hat can remedy this unfortunate state of affairs). The first behaviour arises out of freedom (or equanimity), and the second out of ‘blind need’ – which is to say, it arises out of a non-negotiable need whose actual nature we are unconscious of.

 

It is not really the surface level physical aspect of the behaviour that we are talking about here therefore but the unacknowledged symbolic aspect. In the realm of the mind it is of course exclusively the symbolic level of meaning that we are dealing with, which is to say, it’s not the actual ‘thing-that-is-to-be-obtained’ that is important but what the ‘thing-that-is-to-be-obtained’ represents to us. So for example we can say that the purely biological realm of motivation is one thing (if I am hungry then food becomes attractive, etc) but almost always our motivation goes beyond this pragmatic level of meaning into whatever the object of my desire represents for me on another (non-pragmatic) level of meaning. In the case of food these two levels of meaning operate simultaneously – I eat because I need to ingest food in order to stay alive but I might also be eating to fulfil various symbolic levels of meaning that I am very unlikely to be aware of. This could of course be one reason why I continue to eat after my biological need has been fulfilled – because there is some other deficit that I am trying to remedy, some intangible psychological deficit that cannot be so straightforwardly satisfied as simple physical hunger!

 

The ‘intangible psychological deficit’ that we are on about here is as we have said a deficiency in being. Acting on the basis of a perceived deficiency of being is what makes us needy and fearful on the one hand, and aggressive on the other hand. If I wasn’t suffering from a deficiency of being then this would change everything – I would no longer be helplessly driven by Deficiency motivation (D-motivation) but instead I would be operating on the basis of what Abraham Maslow calls B-motivation (i.e. Being motivation). The difference between D-motivation and B-motivation is that when I act out of the former I act out of a sense of inner fullness, but when I act out of the latter I act out of a sense of inner lack! The first type of action is playful and sensitive, and is more about exploring the world than anything else (which is to say, accepting it on its own terms) whereas the second modality of action is serious and crudely deliberate and not at all sensitive to ‘the way things are’. D-motivation is fundamentally aggressive – rather than being about exploring the world that we live in it is all about ‘getting what we want’ or ‘meeting our agenda’ which comes down to exploiting the world around us (or the people around us), all for the sake of assuaging our unacknowledged inner lack, our unacknowledged inner deficiency.

 

Essentially, operating on the basis of D-Motivation means that we are behaving in a driven and ruthless way. The ‘unplayful’ nature of our interaction with the world shows itself on the one hand in our goal-orientatedness, and on the other hand in our crudely concrete understanding of the world, our flatly literal descriptions of the world. Literal descriptions of the world – although we don’t generally see this as being the case – are pure naked aggression against reality and this aggression comes out of a lack of being. Being itself never manifests in terms aggression – it doesn’t need to because it hasn’t been backed into a corner. It doesn’t need to be because it isn’t defending a lie. Being doesn’t need to be violent or aggressive or controlling; lack-of-being on the other hand always has to be this way. It always has to be because it is driven by desperation – the desperation of trying to exist when you don’t!

 

We could say therefore (in a rough and ready kind of way) that there are two ways of trying to obtain being – one is to obey some external authority in the belief that it will grant us permission to be when we finally manage to fulfil all its requirements, and the other is to say that we become that authority ourselves and attempt to take being for ourselves by sheer force, by sheer aggression, by sheer brutal coercion. Neither way works however, either the passive or the aggressive. There is no way that either can work because the starting-off point in both cases is wrong – if we start from a deficit state that we are going to carry that deficit state along with us wherever we go. Or we could say that if we start off from a place of wanting then we are going bring that wanting (that hunger) along with us wherever we go.

 

Really the D-motivation that we are talking about is another way of talking about fear – when we have no being then everything is about avoiding having any awareness of the reality of our lack of being, everything is about ‘displacing our attention’ away from this terrifying truth. What causes our attention to be displaced the whole time (one way or another) is fear – the fear of seeing the truth of our situation. Truth itself has become the enemy, although we won’t of course see it like this. So when we are in the ‘deficit mode of being’ all of our motivations are nothing other than disguised fear. It’s all fear. Fear is our master in everything – although we are of course too afraid of seeing the truth to ever allow ourselves to see this!

 

This is therefore a thoroughly rotten situation, a thoroughly rotten set-up, no matter which we look at it. What’s good about this? What could we possibly find to say that is good about living life on the basis of disguised fear (which is to say, living life on the basis of being who we’re not)? The only good thing about this thoroughly wretched situation is when we learn to see beyond it! And yet this was not always the case. If we were lucky enough to have had loving parents (parents who themselves were not too cruelly driven by D-motivation) then as small children we would have felt ourselves to have ‘the right to be’. We would not of course have reasoned it out for ourselves in this way, but we would nevertheless have felt ourselves to have ‘the right to be’, just by being there. We would have understood (not in any ‘rational’ way, of course) that we don’t need to do anything (i.e. ‘prove ourselves) in order to feel that we are allowed to be. We would have known – quite naturally – that this grace is freely bestowed on us all, no matter what our situation might be…