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The Framework

The framework is how we check up on ourselves. It’s how we check up on ourselves to make sure that we’re real. It’s also how we imprison ourselves…

 

 

We check up on ourselves constantly – we practically never let up on it. We really do want to make sure that we exist! And yet this reflexive ‘checking up’ activity of ours – as we have just said – is doing us no favour at all. It’s doing us no favours because it’s trapping us. Checking up on ourselves the whole time to see if we exist is trapping us because the procedure of how we do it takes away all our space.

 

 

When we check up on ourselves we create a loop, naturally enough. That’s what ‘checking up’ means – it means looping back on ourselves. As soon as we do this we get caught in the loop, which means that – for us – the loop is all there is! The loop is everything and everything is the loop. The question we might ask, therefore, is why should this be the case? Why can’t we check up on ourselves, if we want to, without straightaway getting trapped in a loop that has no actual space in it?

 

 

We can try to answer this question by coming back to the idea of ‘the framework’. If we are to check up on ourselves (and hopefully verify ourselves in the process!) then we need a framework. We can’t check anything otherwise. There’s no such thing as ‘checking’ without a framework. Or we could say, there’s no such thing as measuring without a framework. And as we could also say, there’s no such thing as defining (or conceptualizing) without a framework. In its most essential form, ‘checking up’ involves two things: it involves having a template or standard to act as a basis, and it involves having a means by which we can perform the all-important operation which is where we compare what we are checking up on with the accepted template, with the accepted standard. We perform the action of comparison, and then the result comes out – either the thing we are checking gets validated, or it doesn’t. Either it’s one way or it’s the other…

 

 

This action is as we have said a loop – we start off with the template, we then apply this template to whatever is to be checked, and then we come back to the template with our measurements to see if what we just checked up on gets validated or not. The key element in this cycle is as we have said the framework because only the framework can pass judgement on whether something checks out or not. What gives the framework this power is the fact that we put it in a position of authority. We do this by ‘setting it up above us’, so to speak. We set it up so that we don’t have the power to question it, so that we don’t even have the power to think of questioning it. By doing this we make the framework our ‘unconscious basis’ for everything. This is great because we can then use this unquestionable basis to make absolutely authoritative judgements, both about the world around us and about ourselves. We can use this unquestionable basis – in other words – to furnish ourselves with certainties…

 

 

It isn’t something that we ever tend to reflect on but the only way we can obtain the raft of logical certainties that we rely on so much is via the framework. No framework, no certainties! And what we have called ‘checking up’ is of course all about certainties – if I wasn’t able to obtain some kind of certainty at the end of my checking-up process then the whole exercise would have been in vain. There would be no point in it. So the upshot of all this is the observation that the framework is an absolute prerequisite if there is to be any ‘checking up’ to be done. And we really do want to check up on ourselves, as we have said. This is a serious necessity.

 

 

The framework is able to provide us with certainties because it says what everything is. This is the great thing about the framework (the FW being of course the same thing as ‘the rational mind’) – it can tell us, in the most authoritative way, what everything is. But this marvellous gift that the framework provides us with is also a curse. The ‘great thing’ is also a catastrophe! The power that the framework has to make absolutely authoritative judgements, as well as being its great strength, is also its catastrophic downside. It provides us with what we want but at the same time it constitutes the single worst disaster that could ever befall us…

 

 

The reason the power of the framework to define everything is its downside as well as its strength is – as we have said earlier – because we have put ourselves completely in its power. We have had to put ourselves in its power or else we wouldn’t have been able to avail ourselves of the precious certainties which it provides us with – the certainties which are the whole point of the exercise. That’s the price we had to pay, therefore. But when the FW defines everything, says what everything is, says what is real and what is not real, then we can never get away from it. How can we get away from the FW when it is the FW that says what everything is?  If we do try to get away from the FW and go where the FW isn’t, then then ‘where the FW isn’t’ gets defined by the FW the same as everything else does. If I go ‘outside the FW’ then I can only go where the FW itself defines as being ‘outside the FW’. So when I imagine that I am travelling on an adventure out beyond the FW into whatever mysterious wide world it is that lies out there, this is only ever the FW’s ‘tame version’ of that mysterious wide world…

 

 

Another way to put this is to say that the one thing the FW can’t define is space, and space is what we need to move beyond the all-determining influence of the framework! Actually, everything the FW defines is itself. This is the same as saying that every single thought that we have ever thought (or ever could think) is a product of the thinking mind. It sounds very obvious when we say it like this, but in practice this never occurs to us at all. If it did occur to us then we would soon get bored of thinking thoughts, but we don’t  – generally speaking – get bored with the thinking process. On the contrary, each and every thought that comes along seems fresh, seems new. The power of the thinking process to keep us captivated seems to be unlimited! So if everything the FW defines is simply ‘itself’ (just as all thoughts are just the same old thinking process) then this means that space is ‘what has not been defined by the FW’. Space is everything that isn’t the FW, in other words. Clearly, then, we can never use the framework for moving beyond the framework, and yet at the same time unless the FW tells us that something is real, that something exists, then we can never see it. We can only see stuff if the FW tells us that it’s there. We are therefore completely under the power of the FW, completely under the power of the thinking mind.

 

 

The FW and the world it defines as being real (which is only ever itself in disguise) is a closed system. Saying that the FW is a closed system is a way of saying that there is no way out of it – at least not on its own terms. And because we have put the FW in a position of unassailable authority over us, this means that its terms are the only terms in town! This is why we say that when we check up on ourselves (to see if we exist) we automatically imprison ourselves.

 

 

The ‘loop’ that we create when we check up on ourselves is the FW and the FW is the loop. It all just goes around and around. The loop is when we travel out from the FW (or from the templates created by the FW) to the world that the FW has defined (by using these templates); it is when we move from the thinking mind to the thinking mind’s projections. It feels when we do this that we are getting somewhere but this feeling is completely misleading – we aren’t getting anywhere at all!  Between the FW and what the FW defines as real there is no space at all. There is no space because the FW and the world that it defines are one and the same thing…

 

 

Actually, what we’re saying here – in a roundabout, beating-about-the-bush kind of a way – is that the world we create for ourselves when we perform this action of ‘checking up on ourselves’ is unreal.  If there’s no space in a world then that world is unreal – it has no reality. How can there be a world without any space within it? That’s a contradiction in terms. We are very used to glossing over the primacy of space. We are very much inclined to disregard the role played by space entirely – we value structure over space. We worship structure – we think it’s ‘the be all and the end all’. And yet without space structure is nothing. What good is a tea cup without the space in it in which to pour the tea? What use is a house without any space in it for us to inhabit? As we read in Chapter Eleven of the Ta Te Ching

 

“We mold clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness in it,

that makes the pot useful.”

 

“We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.”

 

Or as Alan Watts asks, what good is a symphony without any gaps between the notes? Space is where we live – we can’t live anywhere else, and yet in the mind-created world (which is the world that is made up of certainties, out of logical statements) there is no space…

 

 

The only way out of this contradiction (or rather the only way to avoid creating this contradictory situation for ourselves) is by not checking up on ourselves the whole time. The only place in which we are able to find our own true spacious being is in the gap that opens up when we aren’t forever reflexively checking up on ourselves. And yet we check up on ourselves compulsively, neurotically, obsessively, automatically – we can’t help checking up on ourselves. Our ‘checking up’ is a kind of involuntary twitch and this involuntary twitch allows us practically no space at all – we are strangling (or choking) ourselves on a full-time basis! We are possessed by an involuntary reflex that keeps us permanently trapped in an unreal world…

 

 

We are of course very much inclined to deny that this is the case. Most of us would deny this view of things. “I’m not trapped in an unreal world.” I will say, “I’m getting on just fine, thank you very much!” But according to the mystics, this is simply because we have forgotten what freedom is. We have forgotten the taste of freedom. We have been in prison so long that it has become normal for us. We’re institutionalized! As Philip K Dick (1981) writes in The Divine Invasion

 

Those down here are prisoners, and the ultimate tragedy is that they don’t know it; they think they are free because they have never been free, and do not understand what it means. This is a prison, and few men have guessed.

 

To be free from the prison we have to see it; to be free from the framework we have to see it, but because we are operating from the basis of the framework the framework itself is something we never see. The prison is our ‘taken-for-granted-context’ – it is our ‘absolutely-taken-for-granted-context’, and so how are we ever going to see it? Every time we use our mind we take the FW for granted and so seeing the FW becomes a pragmatic impossibility.

 

 

From the standpoint of the framework, the framework itself can never constitute an obstacle. Instead, anything that gets in the way of the framework ‘doing its thing’ (i.e. continuously stating and reinstating itself) is seen as an obstacle. Because we have adopted the viewpoint of the framework as our own (because we want to be able to check up on ourselves to see if we exist) we are blind to the fact that the FW is a prison.

 

 

All of this comes about because of the way in which we want so badly to prove to ourselves that we do indeed exist, and so we might wonder where this ill-advised ‘craving for validation’ comes from. The answer is clear enough, if we have the stomach to hear it – we crave validation because we have fallen into the ‘error’ of identifying ourselves with the constructs of the framework, and neither the framework nor its constructs (neither the thinking mind nor its projections) are real…

 

 

 



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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