In our culture, euphoria is the ultimate commodity. It’s not just the ultimate commodity – it’s the only commodity. It’s the only thing that matters to us, the only thing we value. Chasing euphoria what it’s all about – it’s not money that makes the world go around – it’s the all-consuming motivation to obtain euphoric states of mind. Money is only ‘a means to an end’ in this regard – it wouldn’t be of any value at all to us if it didn’t make us feel good. The same is true of power or status – very obviously, we only strive for power and status (or approval or acceptance) because of the good feeling it gives us!
Daisaku Ikeda refers to euphoria as rapture and he has this to say about it:
The aim of Western materialist culture appears to have been to employ science and all the resources of the earth to build palaces for this state of Rapture. Certainly, many people, perhaps unconsciously, regard the state of Rapture, represented by material affluence, as an ideal condition.
BUYING INTO THE LIE
Rapture, we might say (in a rough and ready way) is the good feeling we get from being unconscious. When we hit the nail right on the head with regard to being ‘switched off’, when we score a perfect bulls-eye with regard to being ‘shut down’, then euphoria is the pay-off we receive. Euphoria is the pay-off we get for snoozing, for forgetting, for falling into the pit of oblivion. Euphoria (or rapture) – we might also say – is the addictively good feeling we get as a result of buying into a false version of reality, a hugely over-simplified version of reality, a bad (generic) copy of reality. Over-simplifying in this way feels as good as it does because we have neatly side-stepped or avoided a challenge. We have avoided the biggest challenge there is – we have avoided the challenge of being in reality!!!
So at the same time we receive the reward of euphoria we also obtain a false view of reality and in this false view of reality we have not handed over our consciousness at all. In this false, ‘euphoria-generated’ view of reality we’re not snoozing – we’re wide awake, we’re on the ball, we’re with the program, we tuned in to what’s going on… In this false (or conditioned) view of reality we’re not asleep, we’re not unconscious, we’re not ‘shut-down’ or ‘switched off’ at all. So this is really quite some deal, when we consider it – not only do we get to have the rapture that we crave so much, we also get to be oblivious of the terribly steep price we have had to pay in order to get it! It’s as if we getting something for nothing, which would appear – on the face of it – to be a very neat trick indeed…
THE REAL PURPOSE FOR BEING PURPOSEFUL
What we have so far said gives us a very precise way of understanding purposeful human activity – we can say that all of our purposeful behaviour is directed towards achieving the state of unconsciousness. And as we have just said, part of achieving the said ‘state of unconsciousness’ is that we don’t know what it is we have actually ‘achieved’. We think that we have achieved something else – something ‘real’, something worthwhile, an objective value of some kind. If someone were to come along and say what we’ve just said, if someone were to come along and put forward the argument that all purposeful human activity is directed towards achieving the state of unconsciousness, then we would think that they had gone stone mad. We would think that they have lost the plot. If we weren’t capable of any depth of philosophical thinking (and most of us aren’t) then that’s almost certainly what we would think. It doesn’t just seem ‘not right’ to us to hear such a viewpoint articulated – it seems downright insulting…
When we set out to achieve a goal we don’t set out to become unconscious (or rather more unconscious) – we set out to achieve something tangible, something real. We have identified a specific situation as being particularly advantageous to us, and so we are doing our best to bring that situation about. We’ve identified a goal and we’re trying to attain it. It sounds crazy to suggest that what we are doing with this ‘purposeful’ type of behaviour is to maintain a state of psychological unconsciousness but this is exactly what we are doing. We’re ‘preserving the status quo’, we’re ‘perpetuating the existing pattern of thinking’, the ‘established pattern of being in the world’, and this is psychological unconsciousness in a nutshell. This would make a very good definition of what it means to be ‘psychologically unconscious’ – i.e. we could say that being unconscious means to be promoting and perpetuating the existing pattern of thinking. It means to ‘go along with the status quo’, whatever that status quo might be.
As soon as we define unconsciousness like this it becomes inarguable that when we’re pursuing our goals, enacting our purposes, etc, then we’re striving to further this state. How could we ever have a goal or a purpose or a plan or an agenda that doesn’t reflect the existing pattern of thinking? My goals are my pattern of thinking – they’re certainly not anything different. It is of course true that there seems to be something different about my current goals – they look new, they look special and shiny, but the fact of the matter is that they aren’t at all. Thoughts are always old, as Krishnamurti says and our goals are every bit as old as the thinking they arose out of. The whole mechanism of rational thought is to reshuffle our mental categories so as to come up with something that looks fresh and new – that’s what keeps us interested in our thinking after all – but this can never be more than a superficial reorganization. The basic categories of thought stay constant throughout and are never challenged. They can’t be challenged because we’re using them as a basis!
The reason that we are pursuing unconsciousness as if it were the greatest good (and the reason we can’t for the life of us come anywhere close to seeing this, to understanding this) is because we have adopted the convention of seeing everything upside-down. We have called unconsciousness consciousness, we have called being asleep being awake. This is what Gregory Tucker calls ‘the Master Lie’, the Master Lie being
…what it takes in this dream to defend the fiction right now as real, and not a mind generated dream.
So we have said that the dream is not the dream – we have said that we have a life outside of the dream, independent of the dream. It could also be said that we have made ‘not seeing that we are dreaming when the truth is that we are’ the ideal state of mind. We have made ‘believing the Master-Lie’ into the very definition of sanity, in other words. Because ‘not seeing that we are in a dream when we are’ is implicitly seen as the ideal way to be in the world it is natural that we aim for it in everything we do – everything we do is for the sake of bolstering up the dream so that it doesn’t look like a dream; our lives are exercises in ‘optimization’ and the optimum that we are seeking to approximate as best we can is the euphoria-producing state of being unconscious (or deluded) but not seeing that we are.
THE LAND OF THE LOTUS EATERS
This is of course the very same thing as simply aiming at ‘being unconscious’ because we can only be ‘unconscious’ when we don’t know that we are! To be wholly and completely distracted from seeing that we are completely deluded is the ‘ideal state’ that all our strategizing is aimed at. We want to take something or other totally for granted so that we can pursue our trivial games with impunity and when we hit the nail right on the head with regard to this unstated aim is when we obtain the much-sought-after reward of euphoria, the universally coveted prize that Daisaku Ikeda calls rapture. This is ‘drinking from the fountain of oblivion’ – the source from which we receive a shot of the ultimate narcotic drug, the ultimately intoxicating ‘nectar of unconsciousness’, the precious dream-inducing elixir. Our situation is like that of Odysseus’s crew when they find themselves in the land of the lotus-eaters:
I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return…
THE UNIVERSALLY DESIRED GOAL OF ‘TOTAL IMMERSION’
The way we pursue the nectar of unconsciousness isn’t by munching lotuses (or loti) by the sea shore but by playing games, the overt aim of all games being simply ‘to win’, and the covert aim always being to forget that the game we are playing is only a game! In gaming terminology, ‘rapture’ is when we achieve total immersion. Immersion is what we want, immersion is what we measure the enjoyment factor of the game by, immersion is what it is all about, but at the same time when it comes to the ubiquitous state of psychological unconsciousness ‘total immersion’ is always going to a double-edged sword. The reason it is going to be a double-edged sword is simply because unconsciousness is bound to contain equal quantities of both rapture and despair. It’s a fifty/fifty mix. How can it not be? When we sleep how can we know whether it will be to dream a pleasant dream or to be put through the wringer of an out-an-out nightmare? Since we are solidly asleep we will believe in whatever dream comes along – be it pleasant or be it unpleasant. We’re passive recipients, we’re the victims of our dreams – we don’t get to choose whether it’s the one way or the other, the good way or the bad way. We think we get to choose, but we just plain don’t!
Dreaming can be good or bad therefore and we just have to take our chances. We’ve signed up for the ride and we just have to go along with it – the scary bits just as much as the enjoyable bits. Every gratification has to be paid for later on in the reverse coin, for the simple reason that the one who is being gratified doesn’t actually exist! The dreamer doesn’t exist; as Gregory Tucker says, we don’t dream the dream, the dream dreams us… We don’t think the thought, the thought thinks us. And we are the thought! So when we aim for the state of unconsciousness (where we won’t know the dream to be the dream) the euphoric hit we are longing for is only the sweetener, it is only the incentive. If only we could see straight we would see that there is no such thing as euphoria that does not mask and equal and opposite degree of despair. As Alan Watts says, it’s like a wave – you never get a wave with only the top half, with the crest but not the trough. All euphoriant drugs come with a ‘flip-side’ after all – as every drug user knows very well indeed, the more wonderfully intense the high the more brutally savage the come-down! Whoever escaped from this universal balancing principle? How could we ever be foolish enough to think that it might (somehow) be different for us? And yet we think this all the time…
MURDERING THE REAL
Instead of ‘game-playing’ we can also talk in terms of purposeful or goal-orientated thinking and say that whenever we take a particular narrow way of looking at the world totally for granted, and strive as hard as we can to obtain some goal or other that makes sense from this assumed point of view, then we are pursuing unconsciousness. This is – needless to say – what we do pretty much all of the time. What else do we ever do? In our normal mode of orientation towards life we are continuously reaching for ‘completion’ with regard to our goals, with regard to our purposes, with regard to ‘how we think things should be’. When we’re in purposeful mode we are therefore continuously attempting to close the gap between ‘how the world actually is’, and ‘how we would like it to be’ and what this means is that we are trying to eliminate the distinction between our mental model of reality, and reality itself. When the gap becomes zero, when the distinction becomes non-existent then we have hit the jackpot. Reality has now been ‘murdered’ and no one is the wiser; the ‘perfect crime’ has now been committed and this is when we receive the craved-for pay-off of euphoria. If there was anyone left standing around to witness the crime then there wouldn’t be the euphoria, there wouldn’t be the ‘forgetting’. Only when the perfect crime has been committed can we reach that state of rapture, only when there is no witness left can we drink deep of the oh-so-sweet nectar of oblivion…
Even when we think we aren’t being goal-orientated the chances are that we are. Even when we think we’re ‘appreciating the present moment’ we’re not – the very fact that we think we’re appreciating it proves that we aren’t! If my goal is to be in the present moment this is still only a goal and as such no different from any other goal that I might strain myself to achieve. If I want to have no goals this too becomes ‘just another goal’. Our very perceptions are goal-orientated, as back-to-front as this may seem – just as our ideas about ‘how we think things should be’ are goals, so too are our mental impressions about how we think things ‘are’. In other words, our current impression of ‘the world as it is’ is every bit as much a mental picture (or model) as our conception of how we would like it to be. The only way it wouldn’t be would be if we were ‘out of our minds’. In the general run of things, everything is mind-moderated – the present just as much as the past and the future. If I happened to take a look around me and see the world without the automatic intercession of the rational-conceptual then this would be like jumping into another world! This would be a radical departure from everything I have ever known – it would be the ultimate ‘leap into the unknown’…
Almost everything we perceive we perceive through our categories of thought and this is why we can make the odd-sounding statement that ‘perception’ is a form of goal-orientated behaviour. The overt aim of looking at the world is to see that world, whilst the covert aim – we might say – is to fit everything in to our pre-existing mental categories. Or to make this a little bit clearer, our stated aim is to perceive reality whilst our unstated aim is to confirm for ourselves that our way of looking at reality is in fact the correct one. ‘Completion’ (or optimization) in this case is when our assumptions about the world (which are our categories of thought) exactly fit the data that we are currently receiving about the world. Our (unconscious) expectations are exactly confirmed and as a result there is ‘zero disagreement’, zero dissonance’ ‘zero disparity’ – there is nothing there to ‘rock the boat’ with regard to the assumptions that we have unconsciously made and so we have successfully managed to stay unconscious. ‘Out of conflict comes consciousness’ as Jung says, and the corollary of this is that out of the lack of conflict comes the perpetuation of unconsciousness. When my categories match reality perfectly then I’m ‘out cold’ – when ‘Actual equals Expected’ then I’m in a spiritual coma, I’m in the ‘Equilibrium Trance’…
THE CLOSED WORLD
‘Completion’ can therefore be either  when we succeed in getting things to be the way that we want them to be, or  when we succeed in seeing the world in the way that we want to see it. In the first case we don’t look beyond completion because in an unconscious way it signifies a return to wholeness to us – on a deep level we know that we are not whole, we know that there is something important missing, and our purposeful actions have the hidden agenda of somehow returning us to the state of being that we have lost. If we did ‘think beyond the goal’ then we wouldn’t get so excited about achieving it because we’d know that the goal was only just another goal. We’d know that even when we do achieve the goal we are only ever going to have to start striving all over again to achieve the next goal, and then the next one and then the next one after that. Really, therefore, what we call ‘the goal’ just means ‘the routine’ and who gets excited about embarking upon a routine? When we don’t see beyond the next goal however then this goal takes on a magnetic quality for us – it calls us like a siren because we allow ourselves to assume – on some unexamined level – that after we achieve this one then we won’t have to strive any more…
In the second case we don’t think beyond completion for a different reason. We don’t think beyond completion because we don’t that there is a ‘beyond’. We don’t think beyond ‘Actual equals Expected’ because we aren’t able to think beyond it. We don’t think beyond our mental categories because we don’t know that they are only mental categories. We don’t know that we are making any assumptions about reality in the first place! This after all is the whole point about assumptions – that we don’t know that we are making them. So the whole point about assumptions is that we never look beyond them. That’s what makes an assumption an assumption – if we saw that we were ‘taking our mental categories for granted’ then in this very seeing we would be looking beyond them. The fact that we never do look beyond what happens when we manage to get reality to match our assumptions for it is why we manage to exist in state that is to us absolutely final, although in reality it isn’t at all.
There is a tremendous inertia about this state – it has become (for us) simply ‘how things are’ – and yet at the same time there is no reason for it seeming to be so to us, other than the fact that we never look beyond it. The lid has been closed and that is that. It’s a total obstacle and yet at the same it’s as insubstantial as a spider’s web; it’s a brick wall and yet at the same time it doesn’t actually exist…
THE ZERO-W ATTRACTOR STATE
For all of our efforts in reaching the state of completion or optimization, for all of the irresistible magnetic pull that it has on us, there is nothing really special about it, no particular quality or content to it that any other state would not have had just as much. And it’s not just that the state of completion or finality has ‘no special content to it’ – it has no content at all. The state that we never look beyond (the state which to us is the end of all journeys, the fruition of all processes, the world itself) actually has zero information content. It is inarguable that this final state has zero information content – information is after all anything that surprises us, anything that does not fit in with our preconceptions, and the act of pushing for completion is the act in which all possible future surprises are uncompromisingly eliminated! That’s why it is called ‘completion’. If we want to talk in terms of reaching the ‘optimum state’ then it’s the same thing – if the optimum state has been arrived at then by definition there is no need for anything else. ‘Optimal’ means that nothing else is required – the target has been reached and that is that.
What all of this shows therefore is that our normal ‘purposeful’ type of orientation to life is all about striving for the state of zero information. ‘Information’ (i.e. any surprises or unwanted changes) equates to error after all and error is what we are trying to get rid of. When all error is eliminated then this is when we have hit the jackpot – this is when we ‘get it right’. When all error is finally gotten rid of then this is celebration time, this is party time! And yet – in reality – this is utterly ridiculous – life doesn’t just ‘stop’, life doesn’t just suddenly become ‘complete’ or ‘finished’. Life doesn’t have a goal! Life can’t be optimized! What is life if not the ongoing unimpeded flow of information, what is life if not a continual ‘surprise’? What would life be if it didn’t come as any sort of a surprise to us, if it exactly and precisely confirmed our expectations? What kind of a thing would this be?
On the face of it, from our regular old goal-orientated perspective, we imagine that it’s either going to be ‘something really great’, or ‘something really terrible’. It’s either going to be the jackpot or it’s going to be going down the tube, down the waste-disposal chute. It’s either going to be win or lose; it’s either going to be heaven or hell. If the desired situation, the desired state has been achieved, has been correctly ‘finalized’, then this is ‘heaven’ and if some other situation comes about then we’ve lost our chance and so this is ‘hell’. It’s ‘hell’ because we really don’t want it, because we are very upset and unhappy about it. But actually this is all nonsense! All final states are hell, whether I can see it or not. Any fixed or determinate situation, extended unchanging forever and ever, is going to be hell. We don’t think that it will be (because we have never looked beyond the ‘golden moment’ of achieving it) but having assiduously having made our bed (and bought the duvet and the sheets and matching pillow case), we will then have to lie in it. And it’s only a matter of time before we get very fed up indeed with lying in it!
WANTING TO BE REAL
We might yearn for something so much it hurts, but this doesn’t mean that once we get it we’ll still want it. This is the all-important difference between ‘the chase’ and ‘the catch’. The yearning and the getting are two very different things. When I finally get my hands on the prize I will momentarily feel very good indeed but the good feeling, the euphoria is all about the idea of what I have obtained, not the reality. The ‘idea’ has to do with the security that the conditioned self yearns for – the security that is not just about safety from the ravages or uncertainty and change, but more essentially it is about the confirmation that this self actually exists, actually has a valid existence, an existence all of its own, and is not just a function of our narrow way of looking at things! This type of security (or validation) can be approached, and apparently momentarily achieved (at the moment of hitting the jackpot) but it can never be hung onto. It can never be hung onto because even at the best of times it can never be more than a precarious illusion!
When we do manage to obtain security from change and uncertainty what we unfailingly find is that we have obtained a sterile prison – it is a prison because it’s an exercise in permanency, and it is sterile because all fixed or determinate situations are sterile. To be definite is to be sterile, these are two words for the same thing! This is the ‘sting in the tail’ that we never see coming – we yearn for the secure or certain situation with all our heart and then the secure or certain situation proves to be a prison! This is really what we might call ‘the most basic spiritual principle’ – what we grab hold of and try to possess turns to ashes in our hands. What we – out of fear or desire – strive to secure for ourselves we unfailingly lose. We lose it by trying to hold onto it. We lose it by trying to control it. We lose it by trying to be ‘certain’ of it…
THE ABSTRACT SELF
When we talking about a fixed or determinate situation that is to be extended unchanged forever we could be talking about an equilibrium state that has been achieved in the outside world, but more essentially we are talking about the inner equilibrium state more commonly referred to as ‘the self’. The self is the prison we don’t see as such. An equilibrium state is one which is ‘characterized’ (if we may say that) by its complete lack of information content. That’s precisely what makes an equilibrium state an equilibrium state. We could make the same point by saying that the key property of an E-State is that it doesn’t ever change. It is a situation that can be relied upon to keep on staying the same – it is a situation that just keeps on repeating itself, rehashing itself, reiterating itself, reinstating itself! Redundancy is therefore maximized and information content is reduced to zero. Redundancy is the name of the game. This might sound like a somewhat obscure and technical way of talking about things but what we’re really talking about here is straightforward transformation – the transformation of the real world into a formal system. Or to put this another way – the real world is being switched for a simulation, an abstraction.
THE ‘CONVERSION PROJECT’
The self is an abstraction, in other words, and its constant urge is to transform the outside world – as far as it can do – into an abstraction too! It can’t really do this of course but this is the task that it is labouring at nonetheless. This is its ‘hidden agenda’ and the fact that it can never succeed is no problem because just as long as the self is busy (i.e. just as long as it is purposefully engaged) then it can hope, it can look forward to the moment of glory when it finally achieves its dream. Even thinking about this produces euphoria, and every little step that the conditioned self takes along the road to this end (or rather along what it falsely understands to be the road to this end) generates deceptively encouraging moments of pure rapture. When the conditioned self imagines that it has progressed in this direction (the direction of converting the whole of reality into a simulation!) then it is irrepressibly exultant, it is over the moon, and when it suffers a set-back then it is dejected, it is demoralized, it is discouraged and despondent. When the conversion project ISN’T going well then instead of the sweetness of euphoria it gets to taste the bitter pill of dysphoria… And yet no matter whether the project seems to be going well or whether it doesn’t seem to be going well it never is really. It never is really because the whole thing was completely ridiculous, completely impossible right from the very onset! How could we ever convert reality into an abstraction? The only way we could ever succeed at this is in our imaginations. We can only ever manage seem to be getting somewhere when we successfully deceive ourselves into thinking that we are…
It may sound deeply peculiar to say that what we are all secretly trying to do when we are in purposeful mode is to ‘convert reality into a simulation’ but it shouldn’t be. It is a very obvious point to make, once we think about it. When I try to exert control on the situation that I find myself in then what I am essentially trying to do here is bring the world into line with my plan for it, my model for it. Plans and models and theories and descriptions and definitions all belong firmly in the realm of the abstract – here’s nowhere else they can exist – so OBVIOUSLY what I am trying to do when I am in purposeful mode is to convert the world into an abstraction, into a simulation. I am trying to ‘make the outside a faithful reflection of the inside’ and what’s on the inside is the equilibrium state known as the conditioned self.
CONVERTING REALITY INTO A GAME
In one way we can say (as we have done) that the task of converting the world into a simulation is an impossible one (and this is exactly the same as saying that the task of controlling the world is an impossible one) but in another way we could argue that this job, this task, this endeavour, has already been achieved. One level of control is to bring physical and energetic processes occurring in the world into line with how we think they should be (which can only ever be, at best, a rough approximation) but the other, subtler level of control is where we control the meaning that the world has for us by only registering information that corresponds to our categories of perception, our categories of thought. Success in this modality of control is most assuredly a possibility – in fact we do it every day of our lives! We very rarely don’t do it! Inasmuch as we relate to the world via the rational-conceptual mind we are only taking notice of those limited aspects of reality that correspond to our pre-existing mental categories, and what this means is quite simply that we are – via the process of cognition, via the process of thought – converting the world into a simulation. What else do we imagine that we do with our thinking? What else could we do with thought other than convert reality into a simulation, into a ‘rational-conceptual abstraction’? To convert reality into a simulation is the ultimate act of control, and we are all extraordinarily proficient at it.
Of course our rationalization or conceptualization of the world is an abstraction. If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t be able to understand it. The fact that we can understand it proves that it’s an abstraction – reality itself cannot be understood, it can’t be ‘authentically’ modelled or simulated, which would be a contradiction in terms. Actually, the word ‘understand’ means to render ‘to render abstract’ – we ‘stand under’ whatever it is that we are trying to understand, which means that we have effectively removed ourselves from it. We’ve taken ourselves out of the picture and created in the process a kind of ‘false or imaginary reality’, a reality in which we are not present. We don’t however want to see things like this: we want to see the picture of the world that has been produced by the thinking mind as a true and trustworthy guide to what is really going on. It’s not just that we want to, we need to! We get existential vertigo if we don’t. We put our ‘positive knowledge’ of the world on a pedestal – the very last thing we want to see is that it’s just a mass of abstractions, no more substantial than the froth on the top of a pint of Guinness! For us to appreciate that our predominant activity in the world is the activity of trying to reduce everything to abstractions (so as to bring it into the master-abstraction which is the idea we have of ourselves) would of course be too damaging for the endeavour that we are engaged in. It’s not just damaging, it’s terminal. It’s a show-stopper. This type of endeavour (the endeavour of trying to reduce the world to an abstraction) can only work when we don’t allow ourselves to see what we are doing! The ‘conversion project’ is a project that only ever pays dividends when we don’t admit to being engaged in it…
The suggestion that we only ever feel good, feel satisfied, feel gratified or pleased, when we momentarily manage (in a superficial way) to turn the living, flowing world into a carbon copy (or ‘extension’) of the dead abstraction which we mistakenly imagine ourselves to be is utterly outrageous. There is no more outrageous a statement than this! If this doesn’t shock us then we just aren’t taking it in. When the stasis within me finds an echo (or arranges an echo) in the outside world then I feel good, I feel that I am getting somewhere, I feel that I am progressing. When the ‘abstract analogue’ within me (the psychic parasite which I am unwittingly hosting!) gets to extend its field of influence and create an ‘empire of literal correspondences’ in the outside world then I feel that I am achieving something real or worthwhile and when it doesn’t get to do this – when the process of life continues on its mysterious way independent of my wishes, independent of my attempts to control it, then I am upset, annoyed, frustrated, irritated, out-of-sorts, dismayed, despondent and demoralized, and so on. So what kind of a bizarre situation is this, we might ask ourselves? Could there ever be a more back-to-front way of living life than this? Could there ever be more of a mockery of what life should by rights be about, if it were allowed to proceed naturally?
When we chase after our goals we are chasing after unconsciousness. To attain a goal is to match the stasis inside me with a projected version of this stasis on the outside; I render reality in my own abstract terms in other words, and I do not acknowledge what I am doing. “When you judge me you negate me” says Kierkegaard and this holds good for reality too – when we render reality in our own terms we negate it. Our thinking about reality is therefore the negation of reality. Reality, life, the world – is never what we say it is and by saying what it is we ensure that we never see it, we ensure that we never know it. This is the only definition of reality we can have – that it is not what we say it is, not what we think it is. Any positive definition is an unacknowledged negation, a ‘covering over’. We could also say that reality is consciousness but this isn’t a definition because we don’t know what consciousness is! We don’t know and we can’t know, no matter what ideas we might have to the contrary. Consciousness isn’t an object that we can look at or study – it isn’t an object, it is what looks at objects; it isn’t a thing, it is what relates to things. If consciousness is our essential nature and if it is also the same thing as reality itself then how can we get outside it to study it, to make it an object? Whatever we make into an object (which we can study, which we can say something about) is necessarily an abstraction, and all abstractions are the same when it comes down to it. If you clearly see one abstraction then you’ve seen them all.
The only way we could study consciousness therefore would be to exit from reality and start looking at the world from some sort of an ‘abstract platform’ and then evaluating it systematically from this dubious basis. This is of course what we do all the time – we do it every time we use the rational mind – but this isn’t telling us anything about consciousness, any more than it is telling us something about reality. As Bodhidharma says,
If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.
When we look at the world from the standpoint of the ‘abstract platform’ of the mind then this isn’t consciousness at all. This isn’t being conscious – it’s being unconscious. When we are unconscious then everything is turned on its head, everything is seen upside-down. When we are unconscious we see this as being conscious, and as for true consciousness itself, we simply have no referents for it. Consciousness is the piece that’s missing – it’s missing and we don’t have the slightest clue that it’s missing. The elimination of consciousness is therefore the ‘perfect crime’, it is the crime that no one ever talks about, the crime we don’t even have any way of conceptualizing….
THE BLIND GOD
What we call ‘being conscious’ is the operation of the rational mind proceeding as it does from the abstract platform of our unexamined (and quintessentially groundless) assumptions. The way that this mind works is by putting meaning (or judgements) on everything that it comes across. It ‘covers over’ the world with its rational output and we see this as being conscious! We replace reality with our own spurious interpolations and we talk grandly about this as actual ‘awareness’. Even when the rational modality asks questions it does so on the basis of its unexamined assumptions and so by ‘asking questions’ it is still covering over the world in its own output. There is absolutely no way that the rational modality could ever register anything as a datum that it itself has not already said to be true.
The rational machine which we put all our trust in is a ‘blind god’ – just the same as Samael in the Gnostic Text The Hypostasis of the Archons (The Reality of the Rulers) was a blind god –
On account of the reality of the authorities, (inspired) by the spirit of the father of truth, the great apostle – referring to the “authorities of the darkness” – told us that “our contest is not against flesh and blood; rather, the authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness.” I have sent this (to you) because you inquire about the reality of the authorities.
Their chief is blind; because of his power and his ignorance and his arrogance he said, with his power, “It is I who am God; there is none apart from me.” When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And this speech got up to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came forth from incorruptibility, saying, “You are mistaken, Samael” – which is, “god of the blind.”
His thoughts became blind. And, having expelled his power – that is, the blasphemy he had spoken – he pursued it down to chaos and the abyss, his mother, at the instigation of Pistis Sophia. And she established each of his offspring in conformity with its power – after the pattern of the realms that are above, for by starting from the invisible world the visible world was invented.
This is cast as a story relating to the very creation of the world (albeit a characteristically Gnostic ‘inverted creation’) but it is also a metaphor which is as current as any metaphor could be – ‘the blind god’ is the rational mind, which falsely imagines itself to be ‘the measure of all things’. Being blind as Samael is, how can he imagine himself otherwise? When we follow the thinking mind, the rational-conceptual apparatus, we share in its blindness, and we also share in its delusion. When under the power of this delusion we call being asleep being awake, we call unconsciousness consciousness. We’ve mistaken a bunch of shadows which we ourselves have created for reality. When we follow the blind god and become blind ourselves we see the darkness as being light, and as for the light itself, we simply have no way of no way of knowing anything about it!
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.