We are compelled, in this world, to identify with ‘a machine for creating suffering’, a machine otherwise known as the thinking mind. This is the primary requirement of the game, the thing we have to do before we do anything else – become identified with the rational mind. Once this fateful identification has taken place then we’re free to proceed! We are then free to ‘get on with our lives’…
There are of course certain benefits that come with as part of the package. When we take on the identity of the machine mind as our own (when we take the thinking mind as being who we – in our essence – are – then we have a good chance of being able to mesh successfully with the machine world that the machine mind has created. Why wouldn’t we be in with a chance, after all? We stand a perfectly good chance of ‘making it on the terms of the machine world’ and when we do we will be richly rewarded (also on the terms of the machine world). We will reap the benefits and so what’s wrong with this? Where’s all the pain and suffering here, we might ask?
Everyone knows what it means to ‘mesh successfully with the machine-world’, although we are unlikely to put it in quite these words. ‘Meshing successfully’ is pretty much what we all want, it’s pretty much what we’re all dreaming of. It certainly doesn’t seem like much fun when we aren’t able to mesh! The possibility of us being able to fit in successfully to the system is what we live for, generally speaking. This is what we’re aiming at; this possibility is what keeps the game interesting for us. Not succeeding on the terms of the system may equal suffering, but we’re focussed on winning not losing, thank you very much! We don’t want any ‘negative thinking’!
It can be seen that there are two ‘positive’ ways of looking at this set-up. The first (apparently) positive thing here is that we are immediately supplied with a good strong motivation, a motivation that keeps us busy and on our toes. We are given something to look forward to, and when we look forward to it we experience positive excitement, positive (or euphoric) anticipation. The second positive thing is that we get to feel on top of the world if we do score, if we do ‘get it right’. Admittedly, it’s not always going to work out for us, and it’s not going to work out for everybody, but as we have said, at least we’re ‘in with a chance’. We’re in with a chance and what more could anyone ask for?
Things aren’t quite as simple as this, however. We might think that they are but they aren’t. We’re being more than just a little bit dumb, more than just a little bit simplistic, if we take the twin factors of ‘motivation’ and reward’ as being positives! There’s a kind of a snag here and it’s not a little snag either. The snag in question is that – in the excitement – there’s something important that we’ve forgotten about. We’ve forgotten that the one who is experiencing the motivation, the urge to succeed, and the one who is also (possibly) going to hit the jackpot, and walk away with the big prize, isn’t actually who we are. When we crave the prize, and the rewards it brings, it’s not actually us who is craving it. When finally obtain that wonderful warm glow of success, it’s not us who is being successful, it’s not us who is winning. It’s not our dreams we’re chasing but the machine’s dreams! We chasing mechanical dreams. And is not even us chasing them but the machine’s version of us…
This of course puts a rather different complexion in things. The euphoria of winning only feels good to us if it actually is us who is winning – it’s hardly going feel as good otherwise! We don’t get to feel good when the other guy wins instead of us, after all. So the point is that in order to be in with a chance of meshing successfully with the machine world we have to be firmly identified with the machine mind. Now this isn’t strictly the case – we could succeed interact successfully with the machine and yet not be identified with it, but if we do this isn’t going to feel in the least bit meaningful to us. ‘Winning’ isn’t going to mean a damn to us, in this case! It’s all going to be a hollow exercise, a sterile and utterly pointless mechanical procedure…
To get the real ‘feel good’ factor – which is the sweet, sweet taste of success, which is the thrill of having ‘made it’ – we have to be seeing the world in a very particular, very narrow sort of a way. We have to see everything the way the machine wants us to see it! In order for the prize to be meaningful to us we have to align ourselves exactly with the Frame of Reference so that this becomes our only way of seeing things – then and only then can we know that wonderful addictive thrill of knowing that we have definitely ‘got it right’. Then – and only then – can we avail of the ‘feel-good factor’ that we so desire.
Here is the glitch therefore – we can only avail of the reward of euphoria when we align ourselves exactly with the mechanical mind, when we lose all connection with who we really are. That’s the only way it’s going to work out for us – that’s the only way it can work. We can have our chances of ‘making it’ in the machine world, of ‘hitting the big time’, of ‘achieving’, but only at the price of losing who we really are. We can have our chance at ‘winning in the matrix’ only by letting the machine mind live our lives for us, and that’s exactly what we do! We can gain in this artificial man-made world only at the price of losing our essential humanity.
This wouldn’t of course be the first time that we have heard this particular idea. There’s a definite ring of familiarity in it! This particular glitch, this particular dilemma was already very well known many, many centuries before the dawn of the machine age. This particular ‘warning’ has been around a long, long time. The question is however, have we become any wiser over the centuries? Have we learned not to be suckered into this particular deal quite so easily? Very clearly we not any wiser – it would be utterly ridiculous to claim that we were. Even the word ‘wise’ has fallen out of vogue – it’s being ‘smart’ that has all the kudos these days. We celebrate qualified ‘experts’, not wise men and women… That actually sounds kind of quaint! We’re more desperate than ever to jump on the band-wagon. We’re keener than ever to throw out the baby with the bath-water! We’ve never been keener!
It’s not the psyche we’re interested in but the rational mind, and the rational mind doesn’t actually exist. It’s an artifact, an abstraction, a sterile game that goes nowhere. As Jung (1933, pp. 74-75) says,
Despite all the psychology we think we possess today, the psyche is still infinitely more obscure to us than the visible surface of the body. The psyche is still a foreign, almost unexplored country of which we have only indirect knowledge; it is mediated by conscious functions that are subject to almost endless possibilities of deception.
The degree to which we aren’t identified with the rational mind, the machine mind, is the indication of how human we are. The machine mind in not the human being! The machine mind is not anything, really, and so if identifying with this mechanical mind is not a recipe for suffering what could be? When we turn our back on the psyche we turn our back on reality at the same time. There is no non-psychic reality! There is no mechanical world to adapt to! If we make reality a stranger to us then where exactly does this leave us? What exactly is the advantage? We might be super-smart, but where has all this much-vaunted smartness of ours gotten 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.