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The More We Control…

The more we control, the stupider we get. Or, to put this in a more neutral-sounding terminology, we could say that the more we control, the less we know what the real reason is for our controlling. Or better still, we could say that the more we control, the more we lose sight of the fact that we don’t actually have to control…

 

 

This is a hugely significant principle, as well as being one that we have very little – if any- appreciation of. The principle that ‘control creates the need for control’ (where before there was none) is one that none of us can afford to remain oblivious to – unless, that is, we don’t mind incurring an astronomical amount of suffering! If we don’t want to incur all this suffering – which we probably don’t, this being implicit in the nature of suffering – then it seems fair enough to say that we really ought to acquaint ourselves with this particular principle!

 

 

It is as we have said a pretty fair bet that we do mind incurring suffering – particularly when it comes in industrial quantities, and so if this is the case we would be well advised to be more careful about losing sight of this business of ‘the more we control, the more we lose sight of our freedom not to control’. It doesn’t makes sense to lose sight of this key principle if we are so averse to suffering and pain, and yet lose sight of it we do – pretty much all the time! We lose sight of this truth for the simple reason that ‘controlling makes us stupid’…

 

 

It’s not too hard to see how ‘losing our freedom not to have to be in control’ is going to be a recipe for suffering. If I don’t have the freedom to stop controlling (or if I don’t see that I have the freedom to stop controlling) and yet at the same time I am not able to achieve the outcome that I want to achieve then very clearly this is a ‘recipe for suffering’. It may be the case that what I am trying so hard to achieve is frankly impossible, and yet that at the same time I believe fervently not only that it is possible to achieve the goal but also extremely important (if not absolutely vital) that I should do so, and this is of course an even better recipe for suffering. Even just by saying this we have already accounted for a major component of everyday human suffering – more than accounting for merely just a ‘major’ part of human suffering, we could say that ‘not seeing that we don’t have to control’ accounts for almost the whole of our suffering.

 

 

 

Even when I am successfully in control of whatever parameters it is that I feel I need to be in control of, this is still an infallible recipe for suffering. Superficially speaking, things might seem to be perfectly fine just so long as I am in control (i.e. there mightn’t appear to be any suffering involved) but because this situation of ‘everything seeming to be fine because I am in control’ is necessarily predicated upon the need to remain in control (so that I don’t actually have the freedom ‘not to be in control’) this means that the situation isn’t really ‘fine’ at all. Far from it. Things couldn’t be less fine in fact because I am now a slave to the need to stay in control, even though the chances I am not going to be able to actually see this. Things are not ‘fine’ because not only am I ‘a slave to the need to control’, I am also unconscious that this is the case.

 

INTOXICATION WITH THE ‘ILLUSORY GOAL’

 

We don’t as a rule see ‘being in control’ as ‘a state of slavery’ – we somehow manage to see this profoundly unpalatable fact of our obligation to control in a positive way, in a way which makes it seem perfectly OK, if not actually desirable. Whilst we see the situation as ‘being in control’ as being a very positive thing ‘being in control because we have to’ obviously doesn’t really sound quite so good. It doesn’t sound so positive when we see that we are slaves to the need to be in control. What’s so very great about being a slave, after all? It is however as if we have been rendered blind; it is as if the state of ‘being in control’ is such a wonderfully exciting thing that we just can’t see beyond it. It is as if – in other words – we are so utterly intoxicated by the thought of being in control that we just don’t think beyond it…

 

 

Being in control is treated as ‘an end in itself’ but it isn’t because once we do gain control of a situation that control has to be actively maintained. Being in control is by definition a highly precarious (or unstable) state of affairs so that although we might think (in an unexamined kind of a way) that all our troubles will be at an end once we solve this problem or solve that problem they won’t be. The reality of the situation is that there will straightaway be another problem to be solved, and then another and another – with no end in sight! What is keeping us going through all these interminable problems however is the never-very-carefully-examined belief that if we learn to control well enough then one day we will reach that exalted level of existence where we don’t have to control any more. This is the same sort of thing as working away in a job that we don’t like but getting through it by imagining that one day we will make enough money so that we don’t have to work anymore. This may or may not turn out to be the case (probably not, in the majority of cases) but the thought of this happy day definitely helps us soldier on…

 

 

Whilst it is at least possible to make enough money so that one never has to work again, it most definitely isn’t possible to ‘control so effectively that we never have to control again’. This just isn’t going to happen. And yet this does constitute a motivational force – this is actually the motivational force behind all mechanical (or goal-orientated) living; as Gurdjieff says, we row as hard as we do because we’re hoping to reach the place where we won’t have to row again!

 

 

In the mechanical mode of being we don’t work because we enjoy the work for its own sake therefore, but rather we work because of what we anticipate getting at the end of the work. Really, we don’t want to work but we will do so if we think that there is some advantage to be gained (or if we think that there some disadvantage to be avoided). In the simplest terms, we could just say that mechanical (or unconscious) life is the type of life that is driven by fear and greed! Both fear and greed are informed by a consideration of what we either avoid or gain at the end of it, both are orientated towards some kind of static ‘end’ – either I escape the thing that I am afraid of or I gain the thing that I am greedy for. The satisfaction in both cases comes from putting an end to the work that I am doing in either running away from the bad thing, or running towards the good thing.

 

 

The everyday type of mechanical motivation is always about obtaining a ‘static outcome’ – it is always about bringing all uncertainty to an end, bringing all meaningful change to an end. As James Carse says, the paradox of finite play is that it is played to bring itself to an end. Mechanical motivation is always about getting to the ‘final destination’ and how marvellously great we will feel when we finally arrive there. Everything is about this, everything is based on this – it’s all about ‘arriving at the final destination’…

 

 

What happens when we lose perspective as a result of ‘controlling too much’ is therefore that we get infected with the feverish excitement of thinking that we are ‘nearly there’ and this feverish excitement – this intoxication – keeps us trapped in the controlling on a full-time basis. We ‘know’ that we’re going to score big time ‘if we just keep at it’. So we could say that not only is it the case that ‘the more we control the less we realize that we don’t have to control’ but that there is also this other side of things coming into play too, i.e. ‘the more we control the more we want to control’. So as we have already said: the more we control the more we fall prey to the ridiculous illusion that if we control well enough then we will reach the ultimate destination where we don’t have to control anymore!

 

 

If we control effectively enough, masterfully enough, then the idea is that we will never have to control again. This is the ostensible point of controlling. Freedom from the tiresome responsibility to keep on controlling is thus seen as being ‘the ultimate fruit of controlling’ – we ‘control so as to not have to control’, and this is the lure, this is the supreme prize that we are hankering after so badly. Because we are so thoroughly intoxicated with thoughts of this prize (be those thoughts conscious or semi-unconscious) we are as a result quite immune from seeing the truth of our situation, which is that when we get caught up in controlling (so that we believe on a very deep, very unquestionable level that controlling is the only answer, the only way out) then we won’t ever be able to stop

 

 

Really, everything isn’t that ‘great’, that wonderful, that ‘marvellous’ just because we happen to be in control. We might momentarily feel great when we obtain the correct outcome but this euphoric feeling is because of what ‘being in control’ means to us, without us actually consciously knowing what it is that it means to us. It is ‘an unconscious association’. This is the same as saying that the good feeling of ‘being a winner’ isn’t really because of the concrete fact that we have ‘won at the game’ (which is apparently the cause) but because of what ‘winning at the game’ unconsciously represents to us. And we have of course already been talking about what ‘being in control’ or ‘being a winner’ secretly means to us – what being a successful controller unconsciously symbolizes to us is the ultimate goal of having controlled so well, so effectively, that we are now free from the onerous need to keep to controlling. Every time we win, in other words, we get a little taste of the feeling that we know is going to come when we win Big Time, and as a consequence never have to play again…

 

REDUCING ONTOLOGICAL RISK

 

We could also talk about this ultimate goal or ultimate prize in terms of maximizing ontological security (or reducing ontological risk, which is of course the same thing). Every time we have success in controlling this translates into ‘reducing risk’ – reducing risk is what controlling is all about, after all! Success is only success when it is secure, when it is has been properly ratified and confirmed so that it can’t slip out of our fingers or be taken away from us again. A master finite game player is therefore defined by James Carse as someone who is so experienced and so skilled at the playing the game that they can never be surprised. Playing a finite game is in itself essentially an exercise in risk-elimination because when we are focussed on a defined goal, with specific rules that must be followed in order to attain this goal, then we have no interest in anything that is not related to this black-and-white task. The irrelevant gets eradicated.

 

 

Life in this way gets very conveniently ‘simplified’ into a known domain, into ‘what we know about’. Already therefore, we have reduced the risk of having our attention brought to anything that is not related to the defined goal to zero, which represents a massive jump in terms of perceived ontological security. When we are playing a finite game we are as we have said only ever going over known territory, and honing our skills at achieving the designated advantage before our opponent does, and so radical uncertainty has been replaced by the trivial variety – the trivial variety of uncertainty having to do with the banal question of “Who gets to win – me or you?”

 

 

Playing a finite game is our way of replacing radical risk with trivial risk, and once we have done this then we can get on with the business of reducing the trivial risk of ‘losing at the game’ to zero! This is what winning is all about – if playing a finite game is all about reducing risk then winning is about reducing the risk still further! Whilst playing there is always uncertainty as to whether or not I am going to win and so all my efforts in the game go towards getting rid of this uncertainty once and for all. Once we actually win then all risk, all uncertainty has abruptly been reduced to zero and this is what gives us the good feeling that is attendant upon winning. Zero risk always feels good – at least in the short term! Zero risk (the definite elimination of the unwanted outcome) is what gives rise to the intensely rewarding flash of gratification that comes with successful controlling. The thing about the flash of euphoria that comes with ‘winning’ the game is of course that it doesn’t last and so we have to play it again and again. We have to keep on playing – game after game after game. We’re chasing something with all this activity, obviously, and what we are chasing is (as we have been saying) the supreme euphoric hit that will be ours when we play so well that we never have to play again…

 

THE ‘DEFINITE YES’

 

What we’re after is the status of being an All-Time Winner – not just a winner of this game or that game but a ‘winner-in-perpetuity’, a winner who never has to prove himself again, a winner who has won the game so emphatically, so definitively, that he or she need never play again. James Carse relates this to the quest for immortality – a statue in our likeness will perhaps be raised in the town square so that those generations yet to come will be permanently reminded of our accomplishment. We will be granted an official title or place in the history books. Or perhaps a street will be named after us. The result is the same no matter whichever way – our glory is guaranteed and there is no more need for us to enter into the fray again in the attempt to make a name for ourselves. We have arrived – we are now somebody, we have now entered into the ranks of the immortals. The status of being an All-Time Winner means that we’re never going to be toppled or nudged off our throne – we are definitively ‘good’ and we so don’t have to worry about anything ever again… All uncertainty is gone, forever.

 

 

In terms of our perennial quest to maximize security or minimize risk therefore this truly is the Holy Grail. We have reached the final destination – risk has been reduced to ZERO. We have entered into a state of glory and personal vindication that will never diminish. This is the Jackpot, this is the Big One – they don’t come any bigger than this!

 

 

So what we are saying here is that when we get that feeling of gratification as a result of controlling some outcome or other effectively the reason we feel so good is not because of the stated reason (i.e. it is not really because we have correctly obtained the specified goal) but because – on an inaccessible level of our awareness – we get to feel that we are one step closer to the supreme goal of ‘not having to be a slave to the need to prove ourselves any more’. Or alternatively, we could say that we feel that we are one step closer to the supreme goal of not having to worry about ‘losing the prize’ ever again. Successfully bringing about whatever outcome it was that I had been struggling to bring about makes it more believable to me that I am truly an ‘effective controller’ and that I am able on this account to rise above the need to contend for the title. I am partaking – to some small extent – in the glory that I believe is to come, and which I will one day will be able to claim (amidst a triumphant blaring of trumpets and a deafening beating of drums) as my own. This then is the ‘definite YES’.

 

THE SNAG

 

The only problem with all this is that what we are playing for (that state of ‘unconditional success’ and the glory that attends it) doesn’t actually exist in reality!   The ‘definite YES’ doesn’t exist in reality! This is the one ‘little snag’ that the scheme fails to take into account. Unconditional success for the controlling self is fine as something to play for, just as any provisional token would be ‘fine as something to play for’. It’s fine because we can play for it as much as we want –we can keep on playing for it forever – just as long as we don’t mind never getting it! We can play until the cows come home or until hell freezes over or until pigs evolve wings, but the goal of unconditional success is never going to be any more than an attractive (we might say a maddeningly attractive) illusion. This supreme goal, which keeps us hooked into the game until we collapse from exhaustion is a kind of mirage or hallucination – it only makes sense to us as a viable proposition because (as we have said) we have become so intoxicated with the crazed and heedless desire for it so that we can no longer see straight. Our wits are befuddled, our intelligence addled.

 

 

Control only ever leads to the need for more control. Trying to claim otherwise is like saying that ‘we can obtain the state of blessed peace if we fight hard enough for it’, or like saying ‘if we interfere enough with a natural system we will eventually return it to being as beautifully natural as it was before we started interfering with it’. We could say that trying to claim that if we control effectively enough then we will become free from the need to control any more is like saying that ‘if we persist in our addiction stubbornly enough, then we will one day get to the point where we will no longer be addicted’! This is as crazy as saying that ‘if we keep giving in to a bully and do everything that he wants then eventually he will get to respect us for being so helpful and leave off with his interminable bullying on this account’. It is as crazy – in other words – as the idea that if we enslave ourselves to some brutally oppressive system thoroughly enough and give up every last spark of precious autonomy we have in the process then one day – as a reward for being such a good and obedient slave – this rotten and oppressive system will give us back our freedom….

 

THE DELUSORY ANALOGUE

 

Having said this, it has to be pointed out that it isn’t actually freedom we’re looking for (even though we might say that we are, even though we might think that we are) but something else – something that is serving as a kind of ‘delusory analogue’ for freedom. The ‘delusory analogue’ is’ freedom for who we think we are’ – it is ‘freedom for the self to fulfill all its conditioned desires’ rather than ‘freedom from the self” which is the only true freedom. Freedom for the self is just ‘slavery that we can’t see as such’!

 

 

What we’re looking for with all our incessant controlling is – as we have been saying – the ultimate validation of being an uncontested all-time winner. We want to know that we’ve won something that can’t ever slip through our fingers again. Or we could also say, what we are looking for is the ultimate ontological security of knowing for sure not only that we exist, but also that we are ‘existing in the right way’!

 

 

Whichever way we formulate it, this has got to be the most ridiculous goal ever. We want to be the definite uncontested and undeniable winner, and know for sure that this is the case, but at the same time we don’t want to have to keep on doing the work of maintaining the game within which we are this winner. We want to be definitely right but at the same time we don’t want to be saddled with the onerous responsibility of maintaining the frame of reference within which are most definitely ‘right and not wrong’. Yet if we don’t maintain the game then there won’t be a game, and so there can’t be any such thing ‘a winner’ any more. And similarly, if we don’t maintain the framework of meaning then there won’t be one, and so there won’t be any way for us to be ‘definitely right’ in the way that we are existing (any more then there will be a way for us to be ‘definitely wrong’)…

 

 

The whole thing about controlling is that we have to pick a value, pick a base-line, pick a standard and then bring everything into line with it. This is what controlling is – this is controlling in a nutshell! But the snag we run into here is that there isn’t any such thing as a baseline or standard until we pick it, and yet if we have to pick it ourselves the whole thing becomes ridiculously arbitrary. ‘Controlling’ is only meaningful as an activity when the baseline or standard we are bringing everything into alignment with isn’t something that has been arbitrarily chosen by ourselves, when it isn’t some kind of ‘hyped-up redundancy’. How can I get the intensely rewarding feeling of ‘getting it right’ if it is me who has decided what ‘right’ is in the first place? This is absurd. The whole exercise becomes totally empty, totally fatuous, totally redundant, once I realize this…

 

 

The snag is therefore that we want very much to have this good feeling of being validated as being ‘a successful controller’ but that we can only enjoy this feeling if it wasn’t us who invented the game in the first place purely as a means of getting this good feeling! And yet the ideal state that we are so fixated on obtaining, the destination we are so dead-set on arriving at, is this situation where we get to be validated as the All-Time Winner without having to play the game anymore (and by implication, without having to maintain the frame of reference that gives rise to the game anymore). We want to arrive at the ‘final destination’ (which is where we can enjoy the fruits of our controlling in perpetuity but don’t have to control any more) but what we refuse to see is that there is only such a thing as ‘a final destination’ when we agree for there to be one (when we control the situation so that there is one). What we’re gunning for therefore is something we just aren’t going to be able to have – no matter how much intelligence and effort we put into it! It’s an absurd goal.

 

DEFECTING FROM THE DREAM

 

Greg Tucker talks about this type of thing in terms of ‘defecting from the dream’. Defecting from the dream is what – according to Greg Tucker – we are constantly trying to do in life, despite the fundamentally impossible nature of this quest. This is our perennial activity. We are, says Greg Tucker, ‘dreamers in a dream’ – we are dreaming the dream (which is the usual way with dreams) but we are also a part of the dream as well, which is to say, we are dreaming the dream and the dream is dreaming us!  This is perfectly fine in itself but our problem is that we are constantly trying, with all the resourcefulness and cunning available to us, to prove that we have an existence outside of the dream, that we have an existence that is independent of the dream. To this end we try a lot of things but no matter how hard we try, no matter how much of a fight we put up, no matter what clever strategies we come up with, the plain fact of the matter (as we would clearly see if we looked carefully at what we are trying to do) is that we are just never going to be able to swing it. We are never going to be able to defect from the dream!

 

 

Now although the goal of becoming an unconditional success (i.e. obtaining an unconditional YES result from the universe) is completely and utterly impossible (not to mention ridiculously absurd) it still does serve some kind of a useful function. For a start – as we have said – the illusion that we can obtain the goal (the idea that we can defect from the dream) provides us with the motivation to keep on playing the game of trying to obtain it. The illusory goal of becoming an unconditional success or all-time winner does more than this however, as we can see if we look into the matter a bit more. The pursuit of this illusory goal is what facilitates the creation of the self! The self – though it is constitutionally unable to see this – constructs itself via its goal; more specifically, it constructs itself via its belief in itself to obtain them. Implicit in this (as we have been saying) is the understanding that the goals which are to be obtained are not meaningful simply ‘because I have said that they are’, but meaningful (or real) of their own accord, meaningful all on their own, so to speak…

 

TAUTOLOGICAL SELF-CREATION

 

It is only via these two things therefore ([1] my belief that I am able to successfully control the world by obtaining those goals which I want to obtain, and [2] my belief that these important outcomes or goals are not important ‘merely because I myself have agreed for them to be important’) that I am able to bring myself into existence. I have to be able to be an ‘effective controller’, and those goals which I am exercising effective control over (so as to bring them about when and where I choose) have to be ‘non-redundant goals’, i.e. their accomplishment has to be genuinely meaningful and not merely acts of self-deception. An even shorter way of putting this is simply to say that what the self needs to do in order to create itself is to play a game without knowing that it is playing a game…

 

 

Really, what I am doing is ‘trading on the futures market’ with regard the anticipated event of my unconditional success as a superlatively effective and accomplished controller. So whilst it is true to say (as we have been doing) that we are chasing this future idealized state of being, it is also true to say that we are using our firm belief in this eventuality to create our sense of ourselves. It tends to sound somewhat peculiar (to say the least!) to say this but we can work towards it in easy stages, so to speak. To start off, we can point out that what we’re talking about here (borrowing from the as-yet-unrealized future to create believable status in the present) is not dissimilar to an idea which we looked at earlier, which is the idea that the good feeling or euphoric buzz that we get when we obtain the concrete goal isn’t really because of the fact that we have achieved the goal but because of what this successful enactment of control (no matter how petty) symbolizes to us.  The successfully enactment of control is a very important thing because it is through our effectiveness as controllers that we hope to pull off the supreme act of control  – which is to achieve the SUCCESS that has no FAILING attached to it, the UP-without-a-DOWN, the YES that has been permanently separated from a NO…

 

 

This is like throwing a dice and having a six guaranteed every time. It is the situation where every side is an ‘up’ side – the situation where the up side is the only type of side there is. ‘Down’ sides have been banished forever. It is like having a special type of fried egg for breakfast which is ‘sunny side up’ whichever way up we have it. Or we could say that it is like being in the position of being ‘permanently one-up on the universe’. It’s like a wave that has a crest but no trough!

 

THE SOURCE OF ALL EUPHORIA

 

So every little successful act of controlling reflects in a minor but significant way the ultimate act of controlling, which involves as we have said the permanent separation of the opposites. It reflects the glory of this future event, this future accomplishment and even though this accomplishment, this supreme act of controlling, this permanent separation of what we want from what we don’t want is quite impossible, we (on some level) steadfastly believe not only that it is possible but that we personally will achieve it, and this is where the good feeling, the flash of euphoria, comes from. Euphoria – in other words – is the good feeling that we enjoy when we totally believe that an impossible thing can and will happen – the impossible thing in question being the status of being which we have referred to as ‘unconditional success’, which is to say, the act of permanently separating what we like from what we don’t like, what we want from what we don’t want…

 

 

If the source of all our euphoria is our belief in the fact that we will one day be able to pull off something that is plainly impossible (and not only impossible but absurd) then all of our motivation (which is to say, all of our mechanical or ‘mind-moderated’ motivation) is based on believing empty promises that we have told ourselves. Or we could say that our motivation in everyday ‘unconscious life’ is based on ‘believing empty promises that the system of thought has told us’, but since the system of thought only has power over us because we ourselves have given it this power, it comes to the same thing anyway.

 

 

So the whole economy of our thinking is founded upon a central unquestionable ‘empty promise’, and we can see that this isn’t really such a strange idea as all that when we put it like this because that is exactly what happens in the regular (monetary) sort of economy too! The principle that an incentive (or a promise) doesn’t have to be true in order to motivate us to do stuff is an old one, a tried-and-trusted one, and so that fact that we never will be able to permanently separate PLUS from MINUS is in one way quite unimportant – the mere idea that we can do this is enough to create the magic ingredient, the magic commodity of euphoria, and that’s all that we really care about. Euphoria is all that is needed to fuel the game.

 

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ‘BREAKING SYMMETRY’

 

Our explanation of how the self creates the believable fiction of itself is not yet complete, however. There is one more twist in the tale and this twist has to do with the relationship between euphoria (which is as we have been saying the motivation behind all of our goal-orientated striving) and the self which is experiencing the motivation. Life, we might say, is usually comprised of ups and downs, successes and failures, ‘positive’ results and ‘negative’ ones in equal measure. This is how things are in reality, rather than in our fevered (or ‘intoxicated’) imaginations. There is – it could be said – a law of conservation in operation behind the scenes such that every PLUS is balanced by a MINUS somewhere else. There is no gain without a corresponding loss somewhere further down the line and this ‘balancing out’ might be seen as deriving from the simple truth that all boundaries necessarily consist of an ‘in-side’ and an ‘out-side’.

 

 

Because the defined (or definite) self only gets to be the defined (or definite) self by virtue of the fact that it has a boundary drawn around it, it can never escape from the unbreakable symmetry (or ‘equity’) that is inherent (if disguised) in every boundary. A boundary is a kind of ‘theatrical’ breaking of symmetry – it plays at separating YES and NO or IN and OUT but underneath this ‘theatre’, underneath this ‘play’, underneath this ‘pretence’, there is never at any time, under any circumstances, any sort of departure from the underlying unity. After all, as Alan Watts says, your ‘outline’ is the same thing as the universe’s ‘in-line’…

 

THE GAME OF UP AND DOWN

 

No matter how the controlling self may twist and turn therefore (no matter how it may manipulate and manoeuvre, no matter how it may plot and scheme) it can never get away from the underlying unity of YES EQUALS NO. The controlling self – as we have said – only gets to be the controlling self because of the way in which it defines itself as being separate from everything else. This – as Alan Watts says – is the game that it plays. Being separate or distinct from the rest of the world (which I then have to control in order that my relationship with it might be advantageous rather than disadvantageous) means that I have entered into ‘the game of up and down’ – sometimes I will be successful in my attempts to control the world and at other times I will be unsuccessful, and the amount of satisfaction I obtain from the former state of affairs must always be balanced by the dissatisfaction I obtain from the latter. Euphoria and dysphoria always balance out, just as the two sides (the plus side and the minus side) of the boundary which separate me from the rest of the world in the first place must always balance out.

 

 

What this balancing shows, very simply, is that there is in reality no such thing as a boundary – this is of course the case given that, at root, ‘all things are one’. Fragmentation or division is a fiction we project upon the world, not an inherent characteristic of it. Any apparent break in Unity is always only going to be caused by us playing the game of pretending that PLUS isn’t always balanced out by MINUS in the end! So what the fact that success is always balanced out by failure for the controlling self shows us is that there is no such thing as this self.

 

 

As far as the game we are playing is concerned this particular perception is clearly no good at all. As far as the controlling self is concerned this perception is no good at all and so what we do (in order to continue believing that there is such a self and that we are it) is to construct ourselves in relation to a very particular illusion – the illusion that it is possible to be an All-Time Winner, the illusion that it is possible to permanently separate ‘those outcomes which we like’ from ‘those we don’t like’.

 

 

This is of course the very same thing as simply believing in the illusion that there really is such a thing as ‘the self’. If we were able to ‘finally control’, if we were able to be permanently successful (which is Carse’s ‘state of unrelieved theatricality’), then what this would mean – by definition – is that we would be permanently and irrevocably separated from the rest of the world. This however, no matter how much we yearn for it, is just not possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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  • Saša

    No Sir, mechanical living has nothing to do with goal-oriented living from the point of view of Gurdjieff’s ideas. Speaking of which, we are mechanical(and machines) precisely when NOT in control of ourselves which is out natural state. We do not control our thinking and feelings in the sense that they are induced by our environment and are therefore mere reactions. Machines do not control what they are “doing”. It just happens.

    Gurdjieff often used to ask people “why you came?” or “what you want?” and was not willing to deal with aimless people(or people with no goal in their lives).

    Moreover:
    “The more we control, the stupider we get. Or, to put this in a more neutral-sounding terminology, we could say that the more we control, the less we know what the real reason is for our controlling. Or better still, we could say that the more we control, the more we lose sight of the fact that we don’t actually have to control…

    This is a hugely significant principle, as well as being one that we have very little – if any- appreciation of. ”

    To my thinking, saying that something IS A PRINCIPLE is a synonym to saying that something is a rule. And rules are always limiting and content-empty as I’ve learned from your posts.

    January 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm Reply

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