When we become continuously aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything, then and only then can we be truly ourselves. Only then are we not ‘leaking’ essence the whole time, leaking ‘being’ the whole time, like a bucket that is so full of holes that it loses water as fast as it is poured in.
The other way of putting this is to say that when we aren’t aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything then we aren’t ourselves. We are something else – something which isn’t actually anything. When we aren’t aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything then we are continuously being ‘eaten up’ by every little issue, everything little problem that comes along to bother us. We are consumed by all these humdrum concerns that seem so pressing, so important, so deserving of our attention, but which actually aren’t at all. To say that these proliferating issues or problems are ‘eating us up’ sounds like poetic licence but it isn’t – we actually are being eaten up, we are being consumed, to the point where there is virtually nothing of us left….
‘Voidness’ tends to sound like a rather unpleasant or disagreeable sort of a thing – being continuously aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything doesn’t necessarily sound like something we’d particularly want to do! And yet when we say ‘Voidness’ this really just means perspective – it means having the unimpeded and uncluttered space to see everything for what it truly is! Seeing everything for what it truly is means that we aren’t forever being caught up in ‘stuff’, bothered by ‘stuff’, hemmed in by ‘stuff’. Without perspective, all sorts of petty nonsense starts looking important to us and because it looks so important we can’t look beyond it. Because we can’t look beyond all of these petty concerns we get caught up in them – they define our horizons for us. They become our horizons. The ‘useless clutter’ that we cannot see through defines the limits of what we can know, the limits of what we can be aware of…
To be aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything is the same thing therefore as being aware that there are no final realities, that there is nothing to get ‘stuck on’, that there are no issues that absolutely have to sort out and no rules that we have to obey. There are rules only if we want there to be, but because the rules are there only because we have freely chosen that they should be there this means that actually they aren’t there at all. They aren’t there in any final sense, which is of course the way rules have to be there if they are to mean anything. A ‘provisional rule’ (a rule that says “You can obey me if you feel like it…”) isn’t really a rule at all – its freedom!
Having perspective means that we aren’t hemmed in by rules therefore – it means that we can see that the only rules which are there are the rules that we choose to be there. To be aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything means therefore that we are aware of ‘the voidness of all rules’ – the Great Void is said to be ‘void’ because it is void of all rules, void of all things, void of all ‘final realities’!
Instead of ‘rules’ we could talk about ‘literal truths’ and say that the Great Void is void because it is void of all literal truths, void of all literal descriptions. There’s nothing there to get caught up with, nothing to get stuck on, nothing to get ‘hooked on’. Or we could say that the Great Void is void of form, void of structure, void of fixed or defined surfaces that we can orientate ourselves towards (or orientate ourselves in terms of). There might appear to be fixed or final surfaces around us but they always give way to something else when we look into them carefully enough. These apparently ‘defined surfaces’ invariably reveal themselves to be other than what we originally took them to be, and this is the principle of voidness (or ‘emptiness’).
Seeing that the defined surfaces aren’t what we originally took them to be (or what they presented themselves so very plausibly as being) is not what usually happens however. What usually happens is that we don’t pay careful attention to these apparent surfaces but rather we react to them in what we might call a ‘prejudicial way’. We have already made up our minds about these surfaces and so we only see what we are predisposed to seeing. Reacting in a prejudicial way means that we react with either like or dislike – “I like this, I don’t like that” we say to ourselves when we engage with the provisional realities we are encountering and this is what turns everything into a ‘defined surface’. This is what reifies everything. Our unexamined predisposition to either like things or dislike them is therefore what causes the world to be defined for us in the way that it is.
When we think “I like this, I don’t like that” we feel that this impulse is coming from ourselves but really the impulse to think, the impulse to like or dislike, comes from what we have called ‘the defined surface’ that we are reacting to. The impulse to like or dislike is an extension of the logical continuum (the logical structure) which is the defined surface – we simply go along with the impulse and take it as being only right and proper that we should be thinking in this way, reacting in this way, judging in this way. We go along with the impulses and take it totally for granted that when we ‘hitch a ride’ on the mechanical impulses in this fashion this is the very same thing as freely expressing our own true volition…
The thing is though, when we do this (when we go along with the thoughts that are actually no more than extensions of the logical continuum that we cannot see beyond) then we are creating a closed world that we cannot see to be such. We are creating a kind of private (or pocket) universe. So the thing about like and dislike, attraction and aversion, isn’t that it’s ‘unspiritual’ or anything like that, but simply that it automatically stops us being curious about the particular thing that we are reacting to and when we stop being curious about the thing that we are reacting to we become an extension of that thing. We become the thing that we are reacting to. To be reactive is to exclude the possibility of being curious and when we are no long curious we can’t see what we are reacting to. Reacting with attraction or aversion, like or dislike prevents us in other words from paying proper attention to the defined surface that we are dealing with and as a result of this ‘lack of attention’ this ‘defined surface’ becomes opaque to us. It becomes an ‘absolute limit’ that we can’t go beyond – it hems us in without us seeing that we have been hemmed in. We don’t see that we have been hemmed in because we can’t conceive of the possibility that there could be anything beyond the defined surface, and this is precisely what makes it a ‘defined surface’. This is what makes it a ‘positive’ (i.e. reified) reality.
Not being able to see beyond the thing that we are reacting to (because we have lost all curiosity about it in our ‘rush to react’) means that this thing has become a final reality for us. It has become a literal truth and so when we are in ‘the mode of reacting’ the world becomes no more than a seamless conglomeration of such literal truths. Not being able to see beyond the defined surface means that we can’t see its inherent voidness, therefore. We can’t see its intrinsic emptiness. This blindness has consequences for us because we are then – as we have said – hemmed in without knowing it, constrained without knowing it, restricted without knowing it. Basically, we are getting short-changed – we have been persuaded into accepting a far smaller, pettier, infinitely more restrictive ‘version’ of reality under the impression that it is the real thing, under the impression that it is the most that we could ever expect. We’re actually ‘down-grading’ our version of reality without having the slightest clue that there is any down-grading going on, and this invisibly degenerative process can go on and on indefinitely. It’s not just that it can go on and on either – it does go on and on, and will continue downsizing and downsizing, degrading and degrading, devolving and devolving, until we start getting curious about what is going on!
But this is not all of it. As well as being tricked into downsizing into a smaller, pettier, ultra-cluttered version of reality (as if there actually could be such a thing as a ‘version’ of reality!!) we also lose essence, which is to say, we lose more and more of who we actually are. We lose being – we get translated into something that is not being but which looks like being. We exchange being for something that is a substitute for being, only there are no substitutes for being!
We can see how this ‘loss of essence’ (or ‘loss of being’) comes about by looking more closely at the nature of this defined surface. The defined surface is as we have said just another way of talking about a logical continuum. Logic is essentially a thing with two sides, just as a category or a rule has two sides. There is the YES side and there is the NO side – either something belongs in the category or it doesn’t, either you obey the rule or you don’t. The key point is that there is no middle ground (Aristotle’s Principle of the Excluded Middle) – either things are the one way, or they are the other, and these are the only two possibilities. So the thing about this is that if we have been persuaded into taking the logical continuum (or defined surface) seriously, then we have to somehow accommodate ourselves to this demand, this pressure, that logic is placing upon us. Logic (or thought) is pressure – how could we imagine it to be otherwise? The pressure (or stress) of having to adapt ourselves to a black-and-white reality is our constant companion – sometimes it might ease up for a while but it never goes very far away…
The pressure that we are talking about here is the pressure to ‘get things right and not wrong’. Stuff can’t just be ‘the way that it is’, after all, it has to be sorted, it has to be ordered, it has to be managed. It has to ‘obey the rule’. It is this ‘obeying of the rule’ that creates structure, and by the same token, it is this ‘obeying of the rule’ that denies all those possibilities that the rule hasn’t specifically pointed to.
When we deal with the defined surface on its own terms therefore (the terms that it tells us are the only terms) we are compelled to accommodate ourselves to the ordering principle of logic. We have to obey the logic of the situation as it presents itself to us and this is a ‘one-way’ kind of a thing – we adapt ourselves to logic and not vice versa. The water obeys the dictates of the conduit it flows in – the conduit does not obey the water. We are therefore left with no choice other than to get as good as possible at playing the game that the defined surface has set before us (even though it doesn’t tell us that it is only a game). If we are to ‘get on’ we have to see things its way, we have to see things from its point of view – or to put this another way, if we are to survive in a world that is made out of logic then we must INTERNALIZE that logic.
Now as soon as we say this we can see where this is going. Not only do we end up (as a result of this process of adaptation) living in a down-sized version of reality without actually knowing the difference) but we also lose our own unique way of looking at things. Instead of our own unique way of looking at the world, we have to make do with a ‘generic’ viewpoint, a viewpoint that isn’t ours. What is more, we can say that this generic viewpoint (this way of looking at things that isn’t ours) is fundamentally hostile to us, fundamentally inimical) towards ‘who we really are’. It is only in favour of us when we are reformatted in its own terms. How can we imagine that the generic viewpoint isn’t hostile when its modus operandi is to remake us in its own image, to rewrite us in its own binary language? By the time we have slotted ourselves into the categories that it has provided us with to slot ourselves into there’s nothing left of us! To be represented in terms that are not our own (and not be allowed to see that there are any other possibilities available) is to be negated, erased, nullified. Our being is lost and instead of being we are given an artificial version of being, a poor substitute for being, an inferior analogue of being. Our essence is gone and instead of essence we are provided with a kind of two-dimensional generic ‘shell-identity’ – a kind of ‘cartoon version of ourselves’ that is utterly lacking in any subtlety, utterly lacking in any finer qualities, utterly lacking in any genuine individuality.
Really, what the defined surface (or logical continuum) comes down to is an exercise in problem-solving. Everything is a problem unless it agrees with the way the logic of the system says it should be. Life itself is seen as a problem to be solved, a puzzle to be correctly resolved. Thus, when we live life on the basis of logic we are continuously confronted with problems (big and little) that we feel we have to solve. This is why we think so much, why we are continuously thinking about this, that and the other! Thinking is our problem-solving. Problems and issues are continuously on our mind, continuously bugging and bothering us, continually gnawing away at us on some level or another, and this is what keeps us so firmly STUCK in the Mind Created Virtual Reality. We are kept going by the hope (or assumption) that one day we will get to the end of all these problems and issues, that one day we will finally succeed in thinking our way to freedom, but the truth of the matter is of course there is an endless conveyer belt of ‘things to be bothered about’ (or ‘problems to be fixed’) coming our way. As soon as we fix one problem, another one comes along to take its place! The only thing that would unstuck us would be to disengage in the continuous problem-solving type activity, to stop being bothered and bugged the whole time, to refrain from taking seriously what has been given to us to take seriously…
This is the funny thing though – we might at this point in the discussion turn around and demand to know just how on earth we are supposed to ‘stop being bothered’ by all the things that bother us. How do we stop taking the defined surface seriously, for heaven’s sake? This is like being told ‘not to worry’ when we are worrying – we all know that it is beneficial to stop worrying but the whole point of worrying is that it doesn’t come with an off-button! What we find so very hard to see however is that the logical ‘seed’ has to be in our minds before we get bothered, before we start worrying. In other words there has to be a rule in our mind telling us to take something seriously before we can start taking it seriously! [Or to put this another way, we have to agree to be bothered before we can be bothered.] Just as is the way with vampires, the logical continuum (or defined surface) can’t gain entrance into our abode unless we first invite it in. Once we have allowed the program (or conditioning) in then it takes over and starts operating us – it starts telling us to be bothered about stuff, it starts telling us to worry about stuff, it starts telling us to take stuff seriously. It starts telling us what we should like and what we should dislike…
When the logical system starts operating us then essence goes out of the window. If we can’t manage to solve the problem (of obtaining what we like and avoiding what we don’t like) then essence goes out of the window and if we can solve the problem then essence still goes out of the window. Essence is lost either way – it’s lost either way because when we’re taking the defined surface seriously this means that we can only feel that things are OK if the relevant conditions are satisfied. But even if the conditions are satisfied the system of logic can’t give us our essence back. It can’t give us our essence back because it doesn’t recognize that there is such a thing as ‘essence’. The system of logic is constitutionally incapable of recognizing or acknowledging that there is any such thing as ‘essence’ because the only thing that it can recognize is itself! The only thing that registers with the defined surface is the defined surface. The only thing that registers with the system of logic is something which takes seriously the same basic rules that it takes seriously, and this excludes essence. It excludes essence because essence isn’t a defined surface, because essence isn’t based on a set of rules. What we are calling ‘essence’ is the very antithesis of a defined surface – it is all-encompassing space!
‘All-encompassing space’ is simply another way of talking about ‘perfect ineffable Voidness’ and so we can say that this Voidness is the essence of who we are. When therefore we are continuously aware of the perfect ineffable Voidness of everything then we have come back to ourselves. We become again who we truly are. The bucket is no longer leaking – it can carry water from one place to another…
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.