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The Curse Of Mechanical Nature

Our curse that we cannot see as such is that we are imbued with a crassly mechanical quality that is not rightfully ours and which we cannot shake off. This ‘mechanical nature’ transforms us into something we are not therefore, it ‘renders us in a different medium’ – a medium that is both alien and inimical to our actual nature. In general we cannot – as we have said – see this curse in action but in what we might call ‘extreme’ or ‘exaggerated’ cases the peculiar dysfunction nature of our mechanical formatting becomes very visible indeed. We become cold and unfeeling, like a machine; we become rigid and concrete and humourless, we don’t get the subtle nuances of life. We have no interest in the subtle nuances of life. We have – in these cases – very clearly lost the human quality. When the mechanical quality takes over completely then even though we still look exactly like living breathing human beings, there’s nothing human about us at all…



Even in the cases that are not extreme or exaggerated – i.e. most of us – we can see this same mechanical quality – we just need to know what we are looking for. What is lacking when we are afflicted with the curse of ‘mechanicalness’ is that quality of genuine feeling – we don’t genuinely feel things and when we come out with stuff what we are coming out with is only skin-deep. We say it but we don’t really mean it, in other words – we might think that we mean it (we will probably be totally convinced that we mean it) but deep down we don’t. There is the plausible appearance that I genuinely do mean whatever it is that I am saying – and this will generally satisfy everyone involved, including myself – but the appearance that has been generated is entirely deceptive. What is lacking is ‘authenticity’ therefore and whilst we’re all fond of using that word, and do so very comfortably, we are not generally very inclined to look into what it actually entails.



When we say something but don’t really mean it then this is in other words an act. An act can be very good, very convincing, but it is always lacking in one essential element – we don’t actually mean it! If we did mean it then it wouldn’t be an act. We can furthermore say that if I am acting and then I discover that I am acting, then my discovery that I am acting is not itself an act, and thus the type of ‘acting’ that we talking about is unconscious rather than conscious in nature. We don’t know that we’re doing it, in other words. We can say therefore that the degree to which we are investing in this act – without knowing that we are invested in it – is the degree to which we have been taken over (or ‘possessed’) by the mechanical quality that we have been talking about. The phenomenon of being possessed by the mechanical quality of mechanical energy is not something that we can have any insight into when we are so possessed therefore, and this is why it can be spoken of as the condition or state of being psychologically unconscious.



The idea that we can go through our lives performing actions that our heart isn’t truly in, coming out with opinions that aren’t really ours, expressing sentiments that we don’t really mean is  of course a deeply disturbing one. What could be worse than this? And yet just as long as we are separated from our true spontaneous selves (which we are when the mechanical energy takes over) then this is inevitably going to be our fate. We are going to be condemned to a type of ‘fundamental insincerity’ which we will be trapped in and see as being normal. Even if we consciously wanted to we won’t be able to ‘break out’ and say something that we genuinely do mean, or do something that we honestly and truly do want to do. This ‘is the prison of the purposeful mind’ – when we’re in this prison we’re slaves to the mind which always does everything for a reason, and that ‘reason’, that ‘agenda’ is never anything to do with our own heart…



It’s a very peculiar thing but this ‘act’ takes on a life of its own and we get caught up in this pseudo-life rather than our own. We wouldn’t have expected this – how would we expect that something which we are doing (i.e. ‘the performance’ or ‘the act’) would take on a life of its own and want to run the show? It’s not even that we wouldn’t ‘expect’ such a thing to happen – we really wouldn’t have the faintest notion that this could be possible. We ‘wouldn’t see it coming’ – we wouldn’t expect the device to somehow get the better of the maker of the device. This is completely counter-intuitive. We don’t anticipate the artificial life to over-run the source that gave rise it (which is essentially what Jean Baudrillard says hyperreality is always so prone to doing). So if we were to go back to the idea of us being caught up in a type of regimented insincerity that we can no longer appreciate as being false or insincere because we have got used to it, because we no longer know of anything different, because we no longer have access to any other mode of being than this regimented one, then we can see that this ‘insincerity’ takes over at precisely this point at which we lose sight of the act being only an act, the performance being only a performance, the artificial posture being only an artificial posture…




So the precise point at which we cease to be aware that we are putting on an act or performance is also the point at which this act or performance ‘takes on a life of its own’, and the other way of putting this is to say that this is the point at which the ‘mechanical energy’ possesses us and denies us the right to be who we authentically are. When we express things like this then the idea doesn’t seem so strange after all – it makes an intuitive kind of sense. It’s like making the point that when we say something that isn’t true, and put all of our energy and dedication into pretending that it is true, then sooner or later we will come to believe that the lie is true ourselves. The pretence stops being playful and becomes deadly serious. The lie in question may then be said to have run ‘away with us’ and taken on a life of its own! This is such a widespread principle that we could go on enumerating instances of it for ever – society itself might be said to be a lie that has run away with us. The persona – as Jung says – is definitely a very pertinent illustration of the principle. In all of these cases a posture has been assumed, and then ‘the wind has changed’ and we are stuck with the result, however disagreeably constrictive (or imprisoning) it might be.



Very clearly there must be some threshold at which we lose sight of what is happening here – to start off with we know what we are doing and it is all happening ‘consciously’, and then the next thing is that there is a critical point of transition and we no longer know that it is us doing it. We now perceive that what we are saying is actually ‘true of itself’ and not just ‘true because we are saying it is’. The transition is one from us being aware of what we are doing and us not being aware of what we are doing and somehow being enslaved by what we are doing because we don’t know that we are doing it! Our narrative is now in control of us, instead of vice versa. The device has taken over so instead of us doing whatever we’re doing freely we’re doing what we’re doing because we feel we need to do it, which is ‘lack of freedom’ rather than freedom. We can therefore look at this moment of transition in terms of a ‘flipping-over’ of freedom into lack of freedom without us seeing that anything has actually happened here. We carry on regardless – utterly oblivious of the catastrophic inversion of values that has taken place.



What happens – we could say – when we lose the ability to distinguish what is essentially a compulsion operating on us from honest-to-goodness free volition is that our world has shrunk to the critical point at which it is no longer any bigger than the story we are telling ourselves. This is the ‘critical threshold’ because it is at this point that we start taking the story (or ‘pretence’) seriously. Stating that our subjective world has shrunk to the point at which it is no longer any bigger than the story we are telling ourselves is another way of saying that we no longer have any perspective and as soon as we lose perspective (which means not being able to see that our narrative or description of the world is only a narrative, is only a description) we pass over unknowingly into a world where compulsion has been substituted for genuine freedom without us being able to tell the difference. We are taking the story seriously because we no longer see that it is only a story, because we have no other point of reference other than the story itself. We are taking the device (or ‘tool’) seriously because we have absolutely no perspective on it (other than the perspective’ which it itself provides us with, which is ‘phoney perspective’). The system is now supplying us with everything, which also (and critically) includes instructions with regard to ‘how to see the system’. The story has at this point ‘run away with the story-teller’!



The story has its own inbuilt logic and so because we are no longer able to see beyond it the internal logic of the system becomes not just ‘the internal logic of the system’ but ‘the only way things could ever possibly be’. Because we have identified ourselves completely with our own production, our own tool, our own device what we have called ‘the logic of the system’ has substituted itself for our own free will, has become – to us – indistinguishable from our own free will. This is what ‘identification’ means – it means that all perspective has been lost as a result of our subjective world having shrunk to exactly the same size as the story that we have told ourselves. External compulsion then becomes indistinguishable from genuine volition. It is at this point therefore that we can say that the tool has switched places with the user of the tool so that it is now the nominal ‘tool user’ who is being used! Such is the situation of all of us, really – no matter what we might like to believe to the contrary…



As we have just said, in the absence of any free will (and there is no free will in the mechanical situation we are talking about) all the motivation for whatever purposeful activity we are engaged in comes from what we have called ‘the internal logic of the story,’ which is the same thing as ‘the logic of the tool’ or ‘the logic of the device’. We are ruled absolutely by the logic of the device without knowing that this is the case because we have mistaken the logic of the device for our own free will. This brings us back to what we started off by saying right at the beginning of this discussion – that our curse is to be possessed by a mechanical nature which is not rightly ours and which we cannot shake off. The mechanical energy that drives us to do this and do that (whilst thinking the whole time that it is us who is in the driving seat) is the very limited and rigid ‘logic of the system’ which possesses every day of our lives, which rules us without us ever knowing that we are being ruled…



This mechanic energy has no ‘sensitivity to reality’. It’s not that it doesn’t have very much sensitivity – it doesn’t have any at all. All it ever does is to react in accordance with whatever triggers it is set up to react to. Very clearly, there is no freedom in this – all that can ever happen is that it will react to whatever it is designed to react to. Everything is decided in advance. It is all ‘decided in advance’ but nothing real can be decided in advance! Whatever is decided in advance is always going to be a null-situation, a situation that seems to exist and contain possibilities but which actually doesn’t. This null situation (the null situation that is created by the operation of the mechanical system) cannot ever be changed – it cannot ever ‘evolve’ or ‘get anywhere’. It cannot ever change or be the basis for any sort of a journey because it isn’t real. It is merely a kind of crude mechanical vibration that takes place between two abstract poles – the pole of PLUS and the pole of MINUS. ‘Imagination always turns in the same circle’ says P. D. Ouspensky. It’s as if we are just spinning around and around on the spot, spinning like tops but never getting anywhere by it. We’re crudely reacting to things that aren’t there, things that are only a projection of our own mechanical assumptions about the world, and as we crudely react in this way we are bizarrely convinced that these mechanical reactions are our own free will.




It is because we have completely identified with the mechanical system that we mistake the null-actions that derive from it for our own true will. We mistake the null-actions (or null-movements) of the system for genuine expressions of ourselves – we mistake the appallingly crass coerciveness of these meaningless mechanical reactions for our own heartfelt and authentic motivation, and what could be a grosser parody of the human spirit than this?






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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