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Inverted Peace

Inverted peace is peace too, we just can’t see it. We just can’t see that it is peace. Really, there is only peace! But if there is only peace then what is ‘inverted peace’? If there is only peace, why do we so rarely experience it? Why do we continually experience the lack of peace?



Inverted peace, we may say, is when we can’t find peace no matter what we do. There is no peace, only the restless search for a relief that never comes, a relief that is always ‘just around the corner’. Inverted peace is a lack of ease combined with a self-deceiving hope that there is some escape, some way out, which there isn’t. When we manage to deceive ourselves successfully so that we believe that there is a way out for us then we say this is ‘thinking positively’ and when the shine wears of the freshly minted self-deception and we can no longer believe in the possibility of escape then we call this ‘being negative’. One way we believe in our goals, the other way we do not. Being in a positive frame of mind is, needless to say, is counted as being a very desirable way to be whilst being negative is not. How can we possibly succeed if we are being negative? The contaminating stink of negative or anxious thinking puts the kybosh on everything. It is a jinx that we need to avoid at all costs…



As soon as we describe ‘inverted peace’ in this way it becomes apparent that what we’re actually talking about is the human condition. It’s not anything strange or unusual! Inverted freedom is simply everyday life, it is life the way we live it every day. Perhaps a more readily-understandable way of talking about the state of inverted peace is to say that it is ‘the state of desire’. We don’t feel good about the way that we are but we feel that it will all turn around and that everything will be great if only we can obtain whatever goal it is that happens to be shining out to us at the time. Every goal we get attracted to carries this promise to us – that’s where the attraction comes in. The promise of peace is of course – as we know from experience – a false one. When has the attainment of a goal ever brought us peace after all? At the very best there is an all-too-brief brief period of satisfaction before the next goal appears on the scene…



Inverted peace is the type of peace that we chase but never find, in other words. It’s the idea of peace rather than the real thing. It is a ‘relative idea’ that we construct in relation to the lack of peace or satisfaction in our current situation; it represents the cessation of the lack of peace that we’re currently experiencing and so – as Krishnamurti  says  – it is nothing more than the extension of the agitated state of mind that we’re in at the moment. Our ideas of peace are projections of a fundamentally unpeaceful mind-state and so they are not peace at all.  The same is true with regard to all our talk of freedom – when we talk about freedom we’re really talking about relative freedom, which is the projection of a fundamentally unfree state of mind. We’re experiencing the pain of bondage (bondage to our thoughts, bondage to the mind-created reality) and so we create the thought of not being enslaved to our thoughts, not being trapped in the mind-created reality and we call this particular thought ‘freedom’!



Another way of talking about inverted freedom is to say that it is the state of being a slave to fear. This is of course just looking at desire the other way – desire and fear are reverse sides of the same coin, the coin of attachment. When we are the slaves of fear then there certainly isn’t going to be any peace – ‘fear’ and ‘peace’ are hardly going to go together! To say that fear and peace don’t go together is being too coy about it – the fear realm (which is the realm of conditioned existence) is itself the inverted analogue of peace. Fear is the antithesis of peace; it is peace seen upside-down. When we are the slaves of fear, living in the fear realm, then we are always looking for a way out of that realm. All our motivations come down to this one primary motivation – the motivation to escape from the fear that defines our existence in this realm. When we think that we have found an escape route then we feel good and when we think that we have actually succeeded in escaping from fear then we feel very good indeed. There is no relief sweeter than the relief of imagining (however deludely) that we have escaped from fear. The perception – false as it may be – that we have successfully managed to ‘run away from fear’ is the extraordinarily intoxicating nectar whose taste we crave night and day.



The intoxication wears off very quickly however and with it any last remaining shred of euphoria. We ‘come to’ in the cold light of day with a bad head on us – our hiding place from fear turns out to be a pipe dream. It turns out to have been no more than a form of delusion, a form of self-hypnosis, and any apparent ‘benefit’ that seemed to have come about as a result of our belief in it is rudely revealed for what it is. When the period of intoxication in which we had had allowed ourselves to feel that everything was sorted out it is not just that we find ourselves ‘back to square one’, we are back to square one with a very bad hangover, we are back to square one with a lot of extra suffering involved. Our unwillingness (or rather inability) to endure the backlash necessitates a whole new round of avoidance. The essential process here may be described as follows: we’re grasping at security and for a while we think we have found it, but then the inevitable period of disillusionment sets in and we’re worse off than we were before because we’re now ‘withdrawing’ from our addiction to a comfort zone that has just let us down. There’s nothing for it at this stage therefore but to carry on with ‘grasping-type’ behaviour and hope that we have more luck next time around.



Whichever way you look at this therefore it always comes down to the same old thing – there is a lack of ease, a lack of comfort where we are and our unwillingness (or incapacity) to endure this discomfort necessitates the search for ease (which we might also call ‘satisfaction’ if we look at it one way and ‘relief’ if we look at it another). As a result of our activities we keep on obtaining ghost satisfactions or phantasmal reliefs but because it’s only ever ‘the hollow promise of something great’ that we’re getting our good feeling from the search is an endless one. We’re desperately searching for a relief that we can never find (and which deep down we know we can never find, even though we’re fighting against this knowledge) and it is this deeply unhappy modality of being that we are calling ‘the state of inverted peace’.



We might sometimes say that we’re ‘searching for peace’ but what we’re looking for isn’t really peace – it’s simply ‘relief from pain’ and ‘relief from pain’ is in no way the same thing as peace. Whether we’re talking about gaining relief from the painful pangs of desire or escape from the fear that is closing in on us from behind, what we’re grasping for isn’t peace. It’s the cessation of difficulty, the cessation of whatever it is that is challenging us. Whatever I am looking for is nothing more (as Krishnamurti says) than a projection of the painful / fearful state of mind that I’m trapped in therefore and how can the unacknowledged projection of a painful / fearful state of mind ever be the same thing as peace?



Peace isn’t something that needs to be defined in relation to something that isn’t peace; it’s not merely how we feel when the ‘bad thing’ is taken away – it’s a reality all by itself. It’s actually the only reality there is. There is only peace. What we’re grasping at, or searching for, is simply oblivion; we searching for oblivion and we’re calling it peace. We’re searching for the state of perfect unconsciousness, which we’re seeing as a positive reality that exists legitimately in its own right. When all of our troubles been put behind us, when all of our worries have been taken from our shoulders, then this to us is ultimate freedom – the ideal state of being – whereas the truth of the matter is that what we’re grasping for is mere blankness, the abdication of consciousness.



This is what ‘inversion’ is all about. Inversion, we might say, is when we look at reality from an unreal standpoint, thus turning reality itself unreal. In inversion, everything we understand, we understand backwards and the reason for this is that the vantage-point we are utilizing in order to see reality is a wholly artificial one. We’re turning everything upside-down by filtering it through the pin-hole camera of the rational mind. But why is this ‘vantage point ‘artificial’, we might ask? One what grounds do we make this assertion that the thinking mind cannot have anything legitimate to say about the world? This is a very straightforward point to argue – the reason we can say that the viewpoint which is the rational mind is ‘artificial’ is simply because it does not exist unless we say it does. It can only be maintained when we continue to pump energy into maintaining it. What better grounds for claiming artificiality could we have than this? There is no ‘naturally occurring viewpoint’; there is no ‘framework that exists all by itself’. The universe does not come with a built-in viewpoint, a built-in ‘authorized way to see things’ – saying that there is a ‘right way’ to see things is something we do in order to obtain a sense of security about things. We can play about with viewpoints to be sure, we can experiment with them to see what the world looks like when seen in such-and-such a way but this is entirely our own doing. The universe doesn’t require of us that we look at it in any particular way. Models, theories, beliefs, ideologies and opinions are strictly our own business, despite the fact that we so very vigorously claim them to be true in their own right…



Really there is just ‘Everything’ and there is there is no special viewpoint that comes with it. There is no viewpoint at all! How could there be ‘a viewpoint’? This is a ridiculous notion, for all that it is so very commonplace an assumption. How could there be one bit of ‘Everything’ that is different from all the rest in that it has the special role of being some kind of fixed platform that we can stand on in order to make meaningful survey of the rest of the territory? Or to put this another way, how could there be such a things as a static position with regard to the ungrounded flow that is the universe, a static position which is somehow an exception to the principle of change that holds good everywhere else and which allows us to make definite statements about the universe that we live in? Reality doesn’t come divided up into ‘parts’; it doesn’t come ‘complete with static points of reference’. These two statements are the same thing; a ‘part’ is a static point of reference when it comes down to it – if it wasn’t static (or unchanging) then it couldn’t be defined as ‘a part’. There can no question of ‘referencing’ anything (or establishing defining relationships) when it comes to the Whole!



It is the thinking mind that breaks everything up into parts; it is the thinking mind that manufactures the static framework which it necessarily takes for granted and operates from. It is thought that creates ‘inverted peace’, therefore. It is thought that creates this unhappy situation in which we are continually ‘not at peace’ but are forever and fruitlessly grasping at what we deludely take to be peace but which isn’t anything of the sort. ‘Inverted peace’ doesn’t just mean that ‘everything is broken up into parts or fragments’ – it means that we have identified ourselves with one part or fragment and are trying to exploit or control all the other parts! When the part which we see as being the ‘legitimate centre of the world’ wins out over all the illegitimate centres and established its own autocratic monoculture in place of the unsatisfactory  situation that prevailed before then – we say – there will be peace. It’s peace as I understand it from my own narrow viewpoint. It’s ‘peace on my terms’, which are the only terms I care about, the only terms I see as legitimate. These are the terms that I take so much for granted that I can never actually see them, and yet it is out of this profound ‘unconsciousness’ that I somehow imagine that some good will come, if I persist stubbornly enough in my endeavours…



What I am hoping for is relief from the pain that has caused by my own obstinate attempt to force an outcome that is a ridiculous impossibility and –needless to say – there is zero chance of any such relief coming my way! The type of ‘peace’ that I’m looking and hoping for in such an indefatigable way is the type of ‘peace’ that comes when I have finally managed to deny reality successfully, but as we hardly need to point out this is one endeavour that no one is ever going to be successful with! If my conception of peace (or happiness) is concomitant with an impossible outcome (i.e. the outcome of a lie being somehow converted by our stubborn adherence to it into the actual truth) then what I am calling peace is actually a fail-safe recipe – as we have said – for never-ending strife and suffering. This is what ‘inverted peace’ is – it is the very antithesis of peace that we cannot see as such.



But as we started off by saying, inverted peace is peace too, even if we can’t understand it as such. The reason we can’t see that inverted peace is peace too (the reason we can’t see that the antithesis of peace is also peace, when it comes down to it) is because we are looking at everything from an unreal viewpoint. Our viewpoint is an extrinsic one – it is a view taken from outside of the unfettered flow of possibilities which is reality – but at the same time it is not possible to get outside the unfettered flow of possibilities that is reality. We just think we can, we just imagine that we can. This is like saying ‘nothing can ever take us out of the universal state of harmony that is the Dao’. How could there be something that is not the Dao? How could there be a possibility that is not within the Universal Set of All Possibilities?



We often feel that we are breaking universal harmony. It is of course part of the human condition that we are constantly feeling that we are ‘going wrong’ or that we have taken a ‘wrong turn’ somewhere down the line. To have this feeling is an inevitable consequence of our reliance on the thinking mind and its categories. If we rely on rules for our orientation in the world then the price we pay for this dependence is that we have set ourselves up to feel that we have ‘gone wrong’ (or that we ‘are wrong’). It is rare enough that we don’t feel ourselves to be wrong (or ‘not good enough’) in some subtle (or not so subtle) way – the thinking mind is not going to let us off the hook once it has us in its power. All we need to do in order to notice this is to sit still for a while and take the time to notice how we are feeling in ourselves – what we almost invariable notice is that we feel uncomfortable or ‘un-validated’ in some way and as a result of this unsatisfactory / uncomfortable feeling we are driven to strive for relief. This ‘striving for relief’ is inverted peace, which is our way of being in the world. ‘Inverted peace’ is another way of talking about conditioned existence. We’re always striving for answers, striving to make things better, but it is this ceaseless mental striving that is creating all the conflict and frustration. The striving is what is taking us away from the state of peace, not what is bringing us closer to it…



And yet we can’t ever move away from the state of self-existent peace; we can’t ever break away from Universal Harmony, no matter how much we thrash around, no matter how many knots we tie ourselves up in. The point that we keep coming back to is that inverted peace is peace too, even though we just can’t see it. Peace never stops being peace. What we can do with our searching and struggling is to postpone that moment when we see that inverted peace is peace too – we can put this awareness ‘on the long finger’, so to speak, by stubbornly persisting in believing in what we’re doing, and in this way we maintain the unreal viewpoint, and the unreal view of things that it generates. But our searching and our struggling exist in ‘virtual time’, or what Krishnamurti calls psychological time. As long as we’re fighting against reality an inverted view of reality is created in which everything is seen backwards. We live our conditioned lives within the narrow scope of this inverted picture of reality and the ‘inverted picture of reality’ is (as we have been saying) a function of the hopes and fears of the illusory self, the self-who-we-are-not. But this ‘self-who-we-are-not’ doesn’t exist, and neither does the world it projects…




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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