When we get cut off from the core of who we are then we become the helpless prey of external mechanical compulsions. We could also say – if we wanted to use Jungian terms – that we when the Self archetype is not realized in us then we are liable to be eaten up by all sorts of complexes. These external compulsions (or complexes) are vicious – they care nothing for us, they care nothing for what will become of us when they are finished with us. Why would they care? That’s not their nature. External compulsions are not about ‘caring’, they’re just blind mechanical forces…
Cut off from the core of who we are we are little more than mere ‘gullible energy’, as Chogyam Trungpa puts; we are meat for the meat-grinder, we are fodder for the machine, we’re ready to dance to dance for anyone who plays the pipe. We have no choice in the matter but we don’t know that we have no choice in the matter. We think we’re calling the tune.
When we’re cut off from the truth of who we are we see everything back to front. Whatever mechanical impulse comes along and takes possession of us (just as an opportunistic joy-rider might take possession of a car that has been left with the driver’s door open and the key in the ignition) we automatically identify with. Whenever an external compulsion comes along and gets us to dance like a puppet we automatically think that it must be us who wants whatever it is that the compulsion wants. We automatically align ourselves with the compulsion. The mechanical impulse becomes ‘our self’ because we haven’t actually got a ‘true’ self (or centre) of our own. We’re ‘gullible’, we’re ‘anybody’s’, we’re ‘for hire to the highest bidder’…
When we’re cut off from the truth of who we are then we’re helpless as regards this ‘mechanism of identification’. We’re infinitely vulnerable to it. We’re completely at its mercy. We never see it coming – we can’t see it coming. We don’t have the capacity to see it coming. We don’t have the capacity ‘not to identify with the external compulsion’ any more than a PC has the capacity to resist the programs that we choose to download into it!
Because we have ‘no truth of our own’ we somnambulistically follow whatever mechanical truths come along. We go along with whatever pseudo-truth shouts the loudest. Because we have no truth of our own we become intensely, fanatically loyal to whatever one-dimensional pseudo-truth it is that has got lodged in our head. The more cut off we are from the core of who we are the more humourlessly insistent we become with regard to proclaiming and enforcing whatever senseless dogma it is that we have latched onto.
These pseudo-truths, these dogmas, these mechanical impulses or compulsions deny our inner life. They do not permit us any inner life! They do not allow it. If we were to have an inner life then we would be in touch with the richness, beauty and generosity that come from within, the wisdom and peace that come from within, and we would have no time for the vicious mechanical impulses and all of their toxic nonsense. We wouldn’t be taken in by their lies. As Jung says, if we do not recognize the lumen naturae spoken of by the alchemists (the light of nature) then instead we get to be hypnotized by the ‘fool’s lantern’ which is the ignis fatuus, otherwise known as the ‘disconnected rational mind’.
Clearly it is not in the interests of the mechanical forces that rule over us to permit is an ‘inner life’, which is the only true life. The false cannot stand up to the true; the false can only act with impunity when it gets rid of any glimmer whatsoever of ‘the light of truth’. It can only rule the roost when the truth is made into a heresy. Consciousness itself then becomes taboo – an ‘offense against the orthodoxy’, a ‘crime against the state’.
Instead of an inner life – which is ‘ours by right’ – we are provided with the outer life, which is the ‘mechanical conscious-absorbing circus’, the ‘show’ or ‘theatre’ that we are compelled to take an interest in. This circus or theatre impinges on us from every direction; its racket permeates every aspect of our existence. The toxically aggressive hubbub drowns out the ‘still quiet voice within’ and isolates us from any source of wisdom. The megaphone tones of the ‘official story’ blocks out the luminous Epinoia, renders us insensible to it. The testimony of experts causes us to doubt our own intelligence, our good sense, and throw our lot in with a caravan of fools.
To be denied our inner life in the way that we have been has tremendous consequences. Our life as puppets of vicious mechanical compulsions brings no good to us – only discord, suffering and terrible confusion. To the outer world the mechanical life brings its legacy of ongoing brutality, exploitation, conflict and oppression – the visible outward symptoms of inner possession. The ‘True King’ has left his throne empty and the false steward is having a field day; instead of ‘just rule’ there is nothing but rampant corruption and widespread injustice. The Kingdom is left in ruin – good men and women are persecuted and jailed whilst the wicked prosper and are granted high office.
On the inside there is nothing but the spectacle of our own ‘inner death’ – the world-shaking calamity that no one ever mentions. This inner death that no one wants to know about shows itself in terms of addictions, vices, cruelties and obsessive concern with unimportant things. Sport and ‘the cult of celebrity’ being just two examples! Rampant narcissism, belief in nonsensical social systems and religions, and the wholesale absorption in the ‘world of images’ are further symptoms of the inner absence that we could point to…
What we call neurotic mental illness is also a result of our ‘unacknowledged inner absence’. Neurosis isn’t really an ‘illness’ however. What’s ‘an illness’ is to be totally possessed by external compulsions and yet at the same time to be perfectly OK about it, perfectly adapted to it. If we’re OK about being ruled in every aspect of our lives by mechanical compulsions what does this say about us? How could we possibly be happily adjusted to this state of heteronomy, this state of ‘being told what to do every step of the way’? And this state of heteronomy, this state of social-adaptation is what we call being ‘mentally healthy’!
When I am depressed I know that I have somehow lost my ‘authenticity’, I know that life has lost its meaning for me. I know that I am disconnected from what matters most, which is being. When I am anxious I have accurate insight into my own ‘lack of agency’, the lack of any true capacity to do. This awareness is terribly painful, but is it an illness? Am I not gaining true insight into the actual nature of my station, which is that I have lost my connection with the core of who I really am?
Is it ‘healthy’ to think that all is well when it isn’t? I am ‘well’ in the dream it is true, but the dream itself isn’t true. Dreams aren’t, as a rule! We could also say that it is ‘the system of denial’ that is well, that is healthy, but the health of the system of denial doesn’t spell well-being for me, but quite the opposite. To honestly feel one’s own pain and loss (and one’s own complicity in the system by which this was instigated) is hugely challenging, hugely difficult, but it is not an illness – it is only represented by the system as such. The system attempts to cure our ‘illness’ by reformatting us, reconditioning us, and thereby convincing us to disown our own insights, seeing them as nothing more than ‘distressing symptoms of an underlying pathology’. The system attempts to ‘cure’ us by further separating us from ourselves, in other words.
The pain that we are talking about here is the pain of our own essential individuality being denied, being ‘prevented from being born’, so to speak. This pain – profoundly unwelcome as it is – is actually the pain of birth. These are birth-pangs, rather than the symptoms of some failure in our biology or psychology. The suffering we are going through is not in vain, therefore – without any doubt at all it represents the death and letting go of ‘who we thought we were’, but the death and letting go of who we thought we were is the birth of who we really are.
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.