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Adapting To The State Of Zero Freedom [2]

The ‘blankness that does not see itself as blankness’ does not by any means seem like the ‘starting point’ of our journey – it seems like the endpoint, it presents itself as being the endpoint and in pragmatic terms it acts as an endpoint because no reality beyond it is ever acknowledged. It is a final state that only gets to be a ‘final state’ because of the way in which we resolutely refuse to consider that there is or could be anything beyond it – it is ‘a limit that we ourselves have put in place’, therefore. It’s a line in the sand we draw and subsequently never pass beyond. Having drawn the line, however, the tables have subsequently been turned on us. The tables have been turned because of the way in which we are using this ‘assumed limit’ as a baseline upon which to orientate ourselves, upon which to build our viewpoint of the world. We have adopted it as a ‘point of reference’ around which to organise our thinking and for this reason our thinking can never ever transcend it. When adopt the frame of reference we necessarily make ourselves blind to the fact that we have set the limits ourselves (and that the limits aren’t real) and so – as a result of this necessary blindness – we end up in a situation where our perception or understanding of the world is being controlled by something that we can’t ever examine. We end up being wholly determined by factors the existence of which we cannot ever comprehend and have no way of knowing about. This therefore is a situation where we are ‘hoisted by our own petard’. We are now ‘the victims of our own device’; we have ‘checked into the Hotel California and can’t check out’, and so on and so forth…

What we’re talking about here isn’t anything fancy therefore; what we’re talking about is simply the thinking mind – nothing more and nothing less. The rational mind is the ‘petard’ upon which we have been hoisted in such an undignified fashion, the rational mind is the ‘entrapping device’, the rational mind is the ‘Hotel California’ – or as we could also say, it is ‘the blankness that cannot see itself as blankness’. It is also ‘the blankness that we can’t see to be blankness’; we can’t see the MCVR as being ‘blank’ (or ‘devoid of any genuine information’) because we are now constructed on the basis of that very same virtual reality. We can no more see this mind-created world as being devoid of information then we can see ourselves and our concerns as being completely redundant, completely futile. Thought’s blind-spot is our blind-spot and this blind-spot is the one that exists in relation to reality itself. When the blind-spot on the basis of which we are operating exists in relation to reality then – one way or another – we know we are in trouble, but the thing about this is precisely that we don’t know – we don’t know because we can’t see that there’s anything wrong. So – in brief – we are drawn into utilising the thinking mind on a full-time basis because of the huge short-term benefits that come from doing this, and then – when we know nothing else but the ‘known territory’ that thought has provided us with – we suffer the loss of our connection with the unconditioned reality, which is not a loss were able to know about or are in any position to be told about. We’re not able to know about the loss but we are able to suffer from it and this is – therefore – a type of suffering that we cannot hope to understand just as long as we are ‘thinking rationally’ about things. One manifestation of our ‘loss of connection’ with reality might be said depression, which we moderns in our great wisdom generally ascribed to ‘faulty brain chemicals’ (or something equally trivial). Unsurprisingly, the thinking mind is not in a great hurry to blame itself for neurotic distress; it is bound – by its very nature – to always look elsewhere for the culprit.

We are the ‘victims of our own device’ because we have made creating the Territory of the Known our pet project, our ‘Number One Concern’. We are all about creating the Territory of the Known and yet – at the same time – we are so engrossed in this task that it has become entirely automatic for us and because of this we never see ourselves doing it. We never see ourselves ‘creating the Territory of the Known’ and neither do we in any way aware that this is what we are doing; we don’t have any possibility of actually conceptualising this process and this is problematic because it has such tremendous consequences for us later on. What we’re doing is that we are converting the radical unknown into the known in the manner of someone laying out a carpet ahead of them wherever they go so that there will never be a time when we not walking on the carpet. Because there never is a time when we’re not walking on the carpet we don’t have any way of knowing that we are – if there are times when we actually weren’t walking on the carpet then we would know that there is such a thing as it but since there isn’t we have no way of knowing this. ‘Walking on the carpet’ has become the whole world to us and we have no concept of anything else. We have trapped ourselves with our efficiency therefore – if we weren’t so damn efficient at ‘rolling the carpet out’ then we wouldn’t be trapped in the way that we are, like so many flies on a strip of fly paper.

The thing about the carpet is that it isn’t diverse in the way that actual unspecified (or uncategorized) reality is – the carpet is quintessentially a ‘generic product’. It is a ‘generic product’ because it comes out of a template, the template which equals ‘the assumptions that have been made by the thinking mind in order that it might think’. This is a very straightforward point to make: the system of thought is based on rules and rules cannot ever produce anything unique. What we’re looking at here are two antithetical processes: on the one hand we have this thing called ‘reality’ which is ‘an unfolding of the new,’ and on the other hand we have ‘the reiteration of the old’, which is the rule-based unfurling of the System of Thought. It is far from being obvious that there is never anything new (or ‘unique’) in thought – this is generally something that never ever occurs to us. It never occurs to us that ‘the carpet is only the carpet’, as we’ve already said. Thought has the property of ‘pseudo-newness,’ we might say – a property which we can relate to the well-known ‘the grass is greener…’ principle. Elsewhere (i.e. somewhere where we are not) takes on the allure of something special, something intriguing, something wonderful or glamorous. It takes on the look something highly desirable, essentially. When thoughts arise they take on (to some extent or other) this glamour, this flickering, tantalizing promise which is the substitute for real newness. Pseudo-newness is a very effective substitute for the real deal but at the same time it’s not a good one – it’s a shoddy, rubbishy or ‘third rate’ substitute inasmuch as it is cheap ‘theatre’ rather than true substance. It looks as if there is going to be something, there is the appearance of something developing but actually nothing is developing. As soon as we get goods into our hands they start to fade and wither and we have to begin the search all over again. It’s exciting in the first phase precisely because we are convinced that ‘something is happening’, precisely because we are convinced that there is ‘a development occurring’, but our ‘convictions’ aren’t worth a tin of beans. We can become convinced of anything at all at the drop of a hat and obtaining excitement as a result of this easily-obtained conviction comes at a price; it comes at a price because what we are so sure will happen never does – not really. ‘Disappointment is the flip-side of false excitement’, we might say.

‘Pseudo-newness’ is a polar phenomenon, which is to say, newness gets diffracted (or broken up) into two complementary types of false–or–theatrical promise: there is the promise of something ‘good’ (which we are all too keen to believe in and which generates euphoria when we do believe it, which explains our keenness to subscribe to whatever it is that thought is telling us) – and then there is, to counterbalance this, the promise (or threat) of something ‘bad’, which we are also quick to believe in (despite the fact that we don’t want to believe in it) and which generates negative euphoria (or ‘pain’) just as readily as the attractive or nice-sounding promise generates positive euphoria (or ‘pleasure’). In order to reap the benefit of euphoria we have to make ourselves gullible with respect to the productions of thought but when we are gullible in this way we are also setting ourselves up for dysphoria into the bargain. We want euphoria so badly that we refuse to see that that the price we always pay for it is ‘equal and opposite dysphoria’ – this is the penny that never drops. The thing about ‘pseudo-newness’ is therefore that it is a polar phenomenon and the thing about polarity is of course that it always cancels itself out. Waves always cancel themselves out – to start off with we see the positive displacement (or crest) and this might be of a height +10 Units, and then the next thing is that we get hit by the negative displacement (or trough) which will then have a depth of -10 Units. A wave is always as tall as it is deep. A wave is always an empty phenomenon therefore – it has appearance but no content. There is a disturbance occurring on one level, but on a deeper level nothing at all is happening – as it is said in Buddhism, all phenomena are in their essential nature tranquil. All phenomena are in their essence ‘disguised tranquillity’, we might say; a stormy sea will look very rough, very violent, very active, but – ultimately – the storm itself is no more than ‘tranquillity disguising itself something else’, something that isn’t tranquil.

The inherent ‘tranquillity’ of all things isn’t something we ordinarily tend to appreciate, needless to say. Instead, we relate to the level of the drama, the drama of what appears to be going on – we relate to the ‘positive or negative content’, to the promise or threat that we see there. This is the realm of conditioned existence and when we live in the realm of conditioned existence there is no such thing as tranquillity or peace – there can’t be because conditioned existence is made up of nothing else but ‘waves’, nothing else but apparently positive developments (or apparently negative developments). Tranquillity has nothing to do with developments that go in either a positive or negative direction, either towards victory or defeat, and so for this reason it has no existence for us. We couldn’t be less interested. We can relate to positive development or negative development because this means something very important to us (needless to say!) – the mind-created sense of identity is actually made up of nothing else but hopes of gaining and fears of losing (it is made up of nothing else but ‘attraction to potential advantages’ and ‘aversion to potential disadvantages’). It comes into (apparent) being as a result of our (perceived) movement either in the one direction or the other, it is the result are either gaining or losing (even though when we take a good look at what’s going on, there is never actually any gaining or losing going on). ‘Gaining/losing’ is an absurdity when we see things in a broader way. There’s never any gaining or losing going on because there are only waves or oscillations and – as we have already said – wave-type movement always cancels itself out. It’s a trick or illusion that there is some sort of change going on – really there is no positive or negative movement going on and because there is no positive or negative-type movement going on this isn’t something that the self can ever relate to. The self is a wheel that is made up of this positive/negative movement (which is the same movement). The self can never relate to tranquillity because tranquillity is the absence of the self, therefore. The self can’t relate to ‘the unfolding of the new’ – it has to relate exclusively to the safe substitute or analogue of ungrounded (or ‘contextless’) change or else it can have no existence.

This thing that we are, somewhat clumsily, calling ‘pseudo-newness’ is really just polarity – in the state of polarity things are always either ‘waxing towards the positive pole’ or ‘waning towards the negative pole’. The pendulum swings either the one way or the other and there’s not much else it can do apart from this. Pseudo-newness (or pseudo-change) always comes down to this therefore – the positive pole suddenly appears and starts coming closer (or manifesting fully). The ‘goal’ (in all its glory) suddenly appears on the horizon and this greatly excites us. It’s not sufficient just to say that it is ‘exciting’ for us when the realization of the goal appears on the horizon – it is as if what is happening is happening for the very first time, it is as if what is happening has never happened before. We can relate this phenomenon to Stuart Hall’s idea of ‘false spontaneity’ which is where we come out with some shop-worn cliché or opinion as if we are the first person on earth to ever say it, as if no one has ever heard such a poignant observation before in the entire history of the human race. And then a few hours later we will say the same thing again and yet still be convinced of its originality. To us, the tired old opinion is always fresh, always new, and that’s exactly why we keep coming out with it. It is always ‘freshly-minted currency’. Pseudo-newness is exactly the same as this in that every time we come close to realising our goal it is as if we had never been in this position before; the thrill of anticipation is the same every time. We are expecting something wonderful and original to be delivered and yet all that is happening is that an old, old wheel is turning – the wheel of thought. The oscillation always oscillates, after all. The wave always goes up and down (because that’s what waves do) and yet every time ‘maximum positive displacement’ occurs we feel that something great is about to happen. Or to put this another way, every time the positive pole waxes we feel that we are really and truly getting somewhere. This is the illusion that never grows old…

The pendulum might keep on swinging as predictably and monotonously as a metronome therefore, but because of the way in which our consciousness is completely fixated by it (such that positive and negative are the limits of what we can know about) each new swing seems like a brand-new development, something quite unprecedented. If we speak in terms of the ego or self, we can say that every time the ego is pleased or gratified it is like the first time, and every time it receives a slight or snub, this stings as if it’s never happened before – even though it always happens, even though euphoria and dysphoria are all the self ever knows. Ego gratification and ego outrage are always fresh (they are always fresh to the ego concerned at least, at least). This is why the ego/self is as easily flattered as it is – this is ‘the trick that never fails to work’ because it is as if the ego had never been flattered (or humoured) before. There is no possibility of learning here, therefore. The very fact that we are so fixated upon the perennial waxing and waning of the two poles means that our lives are at all times going to be perfectly and immaculately unreal – our absorption in duality guarantees this. Between the two poles of ‘loss and gain’ nothing but unreality can ever exist – this is the realm of ‘camouflaged redundancy’, the realm of ‘pseudo-newness’. When we are adapted to this realm (which is ‘the State of Zero Freedom’) then everything will always come to nothing…

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.
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