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Living Life By Proxy In The Designed World

The ‘Designed World’ is without any doubt the most incredibly phenomenally astoundingly effective ‘trick’ there ever was or ever could be, and yet – notwithstanding its unsurpassed effectiveness – there is a massive anomaly or contradiction hidden right at its heart which we could straightaway uncover if we wanted to…



This fundamental ‘anomaly’ reveals itself in terms of the failure of the illusion of ‘who we think we are’ to remain entirely convincing, as it almost always does. There can be no greater anomaly than this, obviously enough! What could possibly be more unsettling (or more anomalous) than ‘the failure of the self-illusion to continue appearing to be the self’? Unusual conditions are of course generally required to bring about this type of ‘failure’ – this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. One way to approach this matter is to say that the illusion of us being who we think we are, of us being who the mind represents us as being, goes hand-in-hand with (or ‘is the same thing as’) the illusion of us ‘being control’ and so it is when we are pushed beyond the point at which we are able to maintain this comfortable illusion of ‘being in control’ that the anomaly starts to reveal itself.



This failure of the ‘control illusion’ can happen in this distinctly unpleasant way – but it can also happen in a pleasant way. A ‘pleasant’ way would be where we suddenly feel happy or peaceful or present without us having made any effort to bring this state about. The feeling of well-being or happiness or peace is therefore incongruous; it’s incongruous because it is not part of the programming of the system – it cannot be explained, it cannot be predicted and on this account it shows up (in the terms of the system) as being anomalous. This is a very curious thing therefore because although such experiences are without question most wonderful and delightful, we still need somehow to bring them in line with all the rest of our experiences. We feel that we need to control them and classify them and replicate them, in other words. The second (very painful) failure of the control illusion occurs – as we have indicated – when what we see as ‘negative outcomes’ are occurring and we are powerless to do anything about it. Not only are we powerless to do anything about it, we cannot help intuiting that – on a very deep level – there is simply no question of us controlling what’s going on in the way that we believe we ought to be able. This loss of belief in the ‘control illusion’ represents the gravest threat to the integrity of the system therefore. This threat to the integrity of the system is what we sometimes call ‘anxiety’ and it is – needless to say – seen in purely pathological terms. We should always have this belief in the power of personal control (Albert Bandura’s ‘perceived self-efficacy’!) and so if we lose it this must be a type of illness, something needs to be medically treated by drugs or by therapy.



Just to go over once more what we have so far said: the first (or ‘pleasant’) type of anomaly in the official story has to do with the spontaneous arising of unprogrammed happiness or freedom. [And happiness or freedom can of course never be programmed to be ‘part of the script’, any more than peace of mind can be.) What we’re talking about here might be a ‘pleasant anomaly’ but an anomaly it is all the same and we are therefore obliged to try to bring it under control; we were obliged to try to regulate it in some way. When we have made the unprogrammed happiness part of the ‘official story’ then it will no longer be an anomaly, and so we can relax again! The second (distinctly unpleasant) type of anomaly has to do with the arising of mental pain or discomfort that we can do nothing about. The whole point of control is that we can do something about mental pain / discomfort and so when it so happens that we can’t do anything about it this represents the ultimate challenge to the ‘illusion of the control’, the ‘illusion of self-efficacy’. It is of course true that very often mental pain / discomfort will arise and can to some extent or other be managed; in the common vernacular, we would then say that we are ‘coping’. Our coping mechanisms are ‘operating as they should be’, in other words, even if we are still having a fairly rough time. So when a challenge comes along and we immediately implement a set of standard management procedures (as we always do) and the pain or difficulty is satisfactorily sorted out, then no anomaly appears – it’s simply ‘business as usual’. From the point of view of the mechanical system (the status quo) this is of course what we want to happen. Everything goes back to normal. The system resets. From the point of view of what we might call ‘the Arising of Actual Consciousness’ however there is no advantage to be had in ‘coping’ or ‘managing challenges’! There is no learning to be had when our tried and trusted coping strategies function as they are designed to function; where things get really interesting is when we can’t cope, when we have gone beyond the limit of what we can take. This is where the adventure starts.



When we are pushed beyond what we can deal with by using our everyday coping strategies then (as a rough and ready ‘rule of thumb’) we could say that we generally either get angry or afraid, depending upon our temperament. Either we turn toxic, and lash out viciously at anyone in sight, or we become anxious or self-critical (which are ‘inwardly-directed’ forms of toxicity). Neither of these reactions may seem particularly interesting at first glance, but they are. Anger and fear are both interesting because in both states the purely mechanical (i.e. unfree) nature who we think we are is revealed. Everything is now ‘out in the open’, for those who have eyes to see – the ‘mechanism’ is lead bare. The key point is that if I am angry then I’m not free to act in a ‘non-angry’ manner, and if I’m afraid then I’m not free to act in a ‘non-fearful’ way. Normally, of course, we don’t notice this because I automatically ‘go along with the mechanical impulse’ and as a result of going along with the impulse I feel very strongly that it is me who want to fight or lash out, or that it is me who wants to run away or hide. What we are doing feels voluntary, in other words. But if, of course, we make the experiment of trying not to fight, trying not to run, then we discover immediately that this option just isn’t open to us. We are locked into the mechanical reflex – we could try to ‘fight against our fighting’, or ‘run away from running away’, but this isn’t going to free us from the fear/anger. Actually this ‘second-order manifestation’ of fighting/fleeing is just as involuntary as the ‘first-order’ fighting/fleeing – we can escalate the controlling as much as we like but all that happens is that we get more and more tightly locked into it. Systemic mechanical problems can never be solved by that same system; ‘a problem can never be solved by the same thinking that created it,’ as Albert Einstein says.



This shows us from something very significant – if only we could find it within ourselves to be interested in it. What it shows us is that we are not our true selves; our true nature isn’t ‘unfree’ and so straightaway our attention is drawn to the anomaly. How can I be who I truly am, and yet nevertheless be compelled like a machine to do this or do that, to think this and think that? Something is obviously not right here – I’m not a machine, and yet I am operating as one… Why am I playing at being a machine? If I were to true to my actual nature then I would be totally autonomous – in fact, not in illusion. We could equivalently say if I am ‘in reality’ (and not in a ‘positively-stated version of reality’) then I am straightaway going to be free. That is incontestably going to be true. ‘Freedom’ and ‘reality’ are synonymous; there’s no such thing as a reality that is not free, or genuine freedom that is not part of reality! Rules do not create reality, even though they are to be found in it. There is no rule (or compulsion) behind reality. The Designed World however is made up of nothing else but rules – rules which can under the right conditions simulate freedom (and true volition), it is true, but rules nonetheless…



If we can see through this illusion therefore, and see that we are living in a world that is made up of rules, a world in which there is no freedom at all, then we are seeing that we are not at all who we thought we were. [Or to put this the other way around, we can see that ‘who we thought we were isn’t us’]. If we could spot the anomaly then we would start to see that we have somehow ended up being identified with a collection of mere mechanical reflexes, reflexes that are part and parcel of the spurious mechanical world that we have become trapped in. The machine does machine-type things, as it always does, and normally we identify with this behaviour and think that it’s us doing it and that we want to do whatever it is that it’s doing, but what we’re calling ‘the anomaly’ is when we see that all of this stuff we’re involved in is machine-type stuff and that it’s not reflective of our true nature at all. Our default setting is to be a machine, as Gurdjieff says. We would have to be asleep not to see this! Being asleep actually means being ‘unchallenged in one’s mechanicalness’  – when the machine is able to do what it ‘wants’ to do then everything is tranquil and we feel that ‘everything is OK with ourselves and the world’. When the machine doesn’t get to do what it ‘wants’ to do however then there will be a situation in which negative emotions are very much in evidence; this is where there is going to be plenty of what we call ‘negativity’ and if we looked at this ‘negativity’ we would immediately see the machine. But we don’t.



That anger and fear very much do tend to get the better of us is of course so well-known that we don’t give it a second thought. We don’t see through what is happening here, we don’t see through the mechanical ‘hijacking’ that is going on. Everyone gets angry, everyone gets self-critical, everyone gets anxious and afraid, but we never learn anything from this. What’s to learn, we ask? The same is true for desire, for greed, for envy and jealousy and pride – all of these states are well known for ‘getting the better of us’. But our culturally-conditioned way of looking at what Sogyal Rinpoche calls the ‘afflictive states of mind’ (which correspond to the seven deadly sins mentioned in the Bible) is to say that we have to stand up to them and staunchly resolve not to let them get the better of us. There is a very strong cultural bias here towards what we might call ‘mechanical morality’. We insist on thinking that we can ‘correct the fault’ if we try hard enough, if we aren’t too indolent and self-indulgence to keep on ‘fighting the good fight’. Mechanical morality causes us to miss the point completely however – we miss the one thing that can help us, we miss any chance of seeing the anomaly that can free us from being identified with the illusory mind-created ‘sense of self’.  Because we miss the chance we embark on the wrong road; we embark on the road of trying to mechanically fight the mechanical reaction. What this means is simply that we are controlling ourselves the whole time; we are ‘fighting one compulsion with another’ and the best outcome we can hope for here is a temporary victory over the anger, or greed, or jealousy or whatever. And it is only ever a temporary (or cosmetic) victory, an apparent victory, because the state of mind that we are fighting against is still there under the surface. All that has happened is that we have covered it over with ‘the mask of morally-congruent behaviour’ (which is of course what we all end up doing pretty much all of the time). We then – as Carl Jung says – ‘identify with the mask’ and naïvely imagine that ‘we are who are who we are pretending to be’. Problem solved – or so it would seem…



Not seeing that the mechanical or theatrical self (which is the self we are pretending to be without knowing we are pretending to be anything) is devoid of all freedom means that we are forever getting tied up in very convoluted knots. We are involuntarily reacting to our involuntary reactions. When we do see that this self that we are imagining ourselves to be ‘has zero freedom it’ then this insight puts a different complexion on things entirely: instead of identifying more than ever with the mechanical or theatrical self, and straining as hard as we can to do something that is completely impossible (and generating lots of toxic emotions at the same time) we observe that this ‘self’ [1] Has no freedom in it and [2] Isn’t who we are anyway, and this – of course – proves to be a very helpful thing to see! In seeing this we recover the freedom that we didn’t know we had lost (rather than putting huge pressure on ourselves to do what we never can do, to do what we never will be able to do). In our culture all the emphasis is on control, on ‘doing’, on ‘technical mastery’, and none is on seeing what we are trying to do is impossible. All of the emphasis is on ‘doing something that can’t be done’ and ‘being something that no one can be’. None of the emphasis is on seeing that we don’t have any freedom or seeing that we are’ trying to be someone who doesn’t exist’!



Just to reiterate the basic point that we are making here: it is very hard to come across anything in the Designed World (which is the presented world, the positively stated world, the world we are supposed to see and believe in) that will tip us off to the fact that who we think we are in this world doesn’t actually exist, isn’t actually real. This is such an extraordinary elusive truth for us to get to grips with, particularly since we do not in any way want to get to grips with it. If there ever was a repressed or denied truth, this is it! If ever it happens that we do spontaneously come across a break in ‘conditioned reality supply’ – if the ‘reality feed’ fails temporarily for some reason – then we almost invariably regard this occurrence as a false or hallucinated perception and discounted accordingly. Perceptions indicating that the everyday reality is false or illusionary are – unsurprisingly enough – regarded as evidence of pathology by our society; no good (no truth) is ever seen in them. To say that this type of perception is given ‘zero credence’ in our world is therefore to severely understate the matter – this is a ‘taboo subject’ if there ever was one. The anomaly hidden at the heart of our consensus reality is going to stay hidden, if we have anything to do with it (and we do of course have everything to do with it).



So, any sense of well-being or happiness or peace that is ‘too big’ to fit into our narrow and mean-spirited little scheme of things is pathologized and profound far-reaching mental or emotional pain is pathologized as well for exactly the same reason. Ecstasy (the state of consciousness, not the drug!) has to be made illegal too because it renders ridiculous all of our small-minded pleasures and satisfactions, which are the only reason we stick to the tiresome old treadmill of routine life in the way that we do. Ecstasy is the forbidden fruit, for this exact reason. Tremendous pain and disillusionment has to be repressed or denied as well therefore. Pain/fear/despair that is too great causes us to see through the game just as much as joy that is too great – both make us incapable of (or insusceptible to) being manipulated by the normal system of rewards and punishments that our routine world relies on. Both make us see through the superficial values that we are supposed to take seriously. Trivial satisfactions and superficial disappointments or annoyances are ‘grist for the mill’ for the Designed Environment – that’s the very stuff that makes up the ongoing drama that traps our attention. Anything that gets too real for us totally banjaxes the mechanism however – we can’t package it neatly in terms of the ongoing drama and so the whole thing starts to fall apart…



‘Reality’ is what we can’t deal with by our standardised coping mechanisms; when we go to see a therapist or psychologist then he or she may give us some ‘evidence-based’ set of procedures to enact when we are feeling stressed or in emotional pain but this is only ever only ever any good for the trivial (or ‘manipulable’) type of mental pain/discomfort. This is still suffering to be sure but it is suffering within the normal range, it is still ‘on the map’ is an experience – it’s something we can talk about with others and compare notes. It presents significant suffering to be sure, particularly if it persists over a long period of time, but all the same we have never at any stage fallen off the map into the into uncharted territory of pain and anguish that none of our fellows can comprehend, even if they wanted to. For that type of suffering ‘standardised methods of coping’, or ‘skills’ are not going to work. We insult people by telling them that they will.  The reason we came to be in such distress in the first place is because our normal coping strategies have failed us, because the attempt to ‘stay in control’ has failed us and so to try to use control or manipulation here is basically an exercise in denial – we’re trying to prove that the thing which no longer works actually does work after all. We’re trying to put it all ‘back in the box’. Ultimately, however, this ‘pain that cannot be suppressed’ is a blessing rather than a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s an opportunity for a liberating insight that could not be obtained in any other way. It is an opportunity for an insight which ‘rational therapy’ certainly isn’t ever going to provide us with. Rational therapy isn’t really about insights, although it claims to be. Rational therapy is after all nothing more than ‘an extension of the system’, a nested mechanism within a mechanical world which we do not want to see through. It’s that same world in miniature, in a microcosm.



This is where the split between two paradigms, two ways of looking at the world, becomes particularly clear. If the mind-produced or mind-congruent version of the world (which we have been calling the Designed World) were the only reality then loss of control or failure of the coping strategies would be an unconditionally bad thing, and this is indeed how we see it. This is of course how we see it. The world (as we know it) is letting us down; it is no longer a source of security or comfort to us and there is nothing else that can help us other than this positively-defined reality. It’s our ‘life-support machine’. There’s nothing else out there to help us. This is the way we can’t help seeing things when we things when we believe that the Designed World is the only world there is, very obviously. But if this man-made world which we implicitly believe to be the final reality is only ‘a construct that has consumed us’, then to have the positive or stated world become for whatever reason ‘uninhabitable’ for us (or unbelievable to us) gives us a chance to see beyond it and – eventually – to come to realise that the type of life which it supports is ‘a life not worth living’. The ‘unconscious life’ is a life not worth living because there is no authenticity in it, there’s no real connection in it – either to the world or to ourselves or to anyone else! And if there is no possibility of authentic connection in it (if we ourselves are not ‘in it’ but only some fictionalised version of ourselves) then we have missed the point the big time. We’re ‘living life by proxy’ and this just isn’t going to work! Someone who isn’t real is having an unreal experience, and that’s all that the designed world can ever offer us – various hallucinatory experiences perceived from the point of view of a dreamer who doesn’t know (and doesn’t want to know) that they are a dreamer. The dreamer doesn’t want to know that the dream they are dreaming is only a dream and this is where the Designed World comes in, it helps us out here by ‘officially corroborating’ the fiction, by making it all the more hard to question…



The fact that no one (or very few of us, at any rate) ever sees the deterministic world we inhabit as being a trap (or as being ‘deterministic’, for that matter) shows just how effective a trap it is. No one is trying to escape it (not in a real way, anyway); on the contrary, we’re all trying to figure out ways of successfully living the narrow type of life it provides us with, we’re all trying to solve the puzzle that it presents us with in the belief that when we do so we will obtain happiness and fulfilment at the other end. Others have done it (or so it appears from the glossy advertising images we are bombarded with on daily basis), and so we want to be one of them! We want very much to be one of them. We want to ‘make it’ in life just like they did. But no matter what the images (and the image-making machine) may tell us, nobody has ever solved this particular problem (i.e. the problem of how to play the system successfully in order to have a genuinely fulfilling life) – nobody has ever solved this problem and no one ever will because it CAN’T be solved! It’s a perfectly insoluble puzzle. It can’t ever be solved for the very simple reason that everything that takes place within the system is unreal, and so how can an exercise in unreality ever lead to fulfilment? It was never meant to fulfill us – that’s not the point. We’re living life by proxy in the Designed World and so no matter how well the proxy does in the game that’s never going to help us!








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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