We surround ourselves and our purposeful activities with a special type of validating ‘mental context’ – a type of information-filtering mental bubble which has the function of agreeing with us, so that our thoughts (and the goals or purposes which arise out of them) actually seem to mean something. Our ideas, our thoughts, our statements about the world, our purposeful actions meet with instant agreement within the specific context of this artificially constructed mental environment and so their meaningfulness is automatically confirmed for us. Without the validating mental bubble, this doesn’t get to happen!
Naturally, this business of producing a producing an artificial bubble of self-agreement for ourselves is something that we do quite unconsciously. If it was not unconscious then the function of the bubble would be quite lost since if I know that what I have just thought or just intended only makes sense because I have agreed in advance that it shall do this makes the whole exercise pointless. It takes the good out of it. If I know that my statements about the world are only meaningful to me because I have provided the specific limited context which will make them meaningful, then this is the exact same thing as knowing that these statements are in fact meaningless.
LIVING IN A BUBBLE
This is like when a rich or powerful person surrounds himself with ‘yes-men’ – insincere self-serving sycophantic ‘hangers-on’ who will flatter him ceaselessly and agree immediately with whatever he says. There is a very trivial ‘surface-level benefit’ here in that the person being flattered and agreed with will get to feel that they are as wonderful as they are being told they are, but in the bigger picture it is obvious the person in question is being made a complete fool of. Everyone else knows that I am vain and foolish apart from me – and the fact that I have no insight into my vanity and foolishness makes me all the more foolish. It makes me into a complete joke! If I could see the joke then I wouldn’t be the joke.
In the same way when I surround myself with a closed bubble of automatic self-validation – which I do by choosing to look at the world and myself in the one specific (and therefore narrow) way which causes my thoughts and purposeful actions to make sense – then I obtain the trivial benefit of validating my arbitrarily chosen viewpoint, but at the price of making myself ridiculous. I have made myself ridiculous because the sense of ontological security that I have thus obtained is entirely hollow, entirely fatuous, and yet I am going around brim-full of confidence, completely assured that the security I take for granted is real and solid and not an insubstantial wish-created phantom. Another way of saying that I have made myself ‘ridiculous’ is to say that I have made myself unreal, and this is the cost of living in a validating mental bubble.
I have also made myself ridiculous because the clear-cut sense I have of what is true and what is not true, what is real and what is not real, what is important and what is not important (which is a sense that I very rarely come anywhere near to doubting) is only there because I have chosen for it to be there, and then chosen to forget that I have so chosen. Thus, the information which I operate on the basis of every day is not really information at all – it is mere ‘pseudo-information’ or ‘virtual information’. It is ‘the information that makes sense in a game’ (or ‘the details that make sense in a dream’). We can also say that it is the type of ‘information’ known in the Weizsacker Model of Pragmatic Information as confirmation.
So on the one hand the device works very well since our thinking, our purposes, do indeed seem eminently meaningful to us and so we are – in a superficial kind of a way at least – happy. We very rarely question this evident meaningfulness and even when we do it is usually more of an intellectual exercise than anything else. Perhaps we are taking a philosophy course, or having a conversation with philosophically-minded friends. On the face of things, the ‘problem’ of ‘how to find ontological security in life’ has been neatly solved. On the other hand however it is of course the case that the problem has only been pushed somewhere else, since now – if we paid attention – we would see that there needs to be something to agree with the artificially-produced ‘automatically agreeing context-of-interpretation’ or else that artificial context will in turn be rendered meaningless! Once we start off validating, then we need to ‘validate our validation’, in other words. This is a version of the old problem of ‘cosmic tortoises’ – if we say the world rests on the back of a giant tortoise (as is the case for example in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) then we have to have another tortoise under the first, and then of course another and another forever and forever. The chain of tortoises can never reach an end because if it did then the last tortoise would have to support all the ones above him without himself having anything to support him!
Needless to say, we get around this thorny problem the same way we get around every irreducible problem – by ignoring it. Thus, our ‘automatically agreeing artificially-produced context-of-interpretation’ becomes meaningless, because it itself is not being supported, but we remain oblivious to this fact just as we are oblivious to the fact that there is such a thing as an artificially produced ‘context-of-interpretation’ (or ‘adopted framework’) in the first place. We have therefore created a bubble of ‘unconscious meaninglessness’ for ourselves, which is like a bad smell that we do not notice anymore because we are so familiar with it, or an ongoing disagreeable background noise that we have screened out from our attention. It’s there – like the legendary elephant in the living room – but no one ever draws attention to it. No one ever notices the thoroughly uncompromising fact that there are huge steaming piles of elephant dung all over the carpet! We might trip over these prodigious piles of elephant dung (or even fall headfirst over into them) but the one thing we never do is notice them.
Or instead of elephants in the living room we could talk about ‘invisible furniture’: it is as if we have lots of furniture everywhere, heavy-duty armchairs, sofas and foot-stools scattered all around the place which we are for some reason unable to see, and which as a result we end up tripping over the whole time. And the peculiar thing about this is that we still don’t notice them, even when we trip headfirst over them and bump our heads. We do in some fashion notice the fact that we have taken a fall (and that we are painfully sore from the knock we just took) but what we do then is to blame something else for what has just happened. ‘Blaming something else’ means of course that we are guaranteed to keep having the same problem over and over again – we might try to ‘do something about the problem’ but since all our efforts (like our complaints) are directed to the wrong department, nothing is ever going to change as a result. We’re knocking into stuff on a regular basis but because we’re displacing the pain elsewhere we never get any the wiser. The ‘furniture’ – we might say – equates to the constrained living quarters that we are squeezed into, and the pain that we have to displace as a result arises because of the unnatural restrictiveness that we have to put up with on a constant basis, even though we don’t know we’re putting up with anything.
Another way of expressing this is to say that our trick of automatically validating our assumptions has produced an unwanted (and deleterious) consequence for us. We are, by utilizing the validating mental bubble as we do, unwittingly or inadvertently manufacturing a sort of unwanted and unacknowledged ‘by-product’ – i.e. the ‘unreflective industry’ of our habitual routine-based everyday lives creates a type of invisible (and non-degradable) waste-product which accumulates steadily and irreversibly all around us, whether we see it or not.
This unwanted by-product of our unconscious mental activities has a peculiar set of properties. For a start, we can say that it is inert, in the sense of not entering into anything that is going on, and also in the sense of ‘not going anywhere’, not ‘developing’. It is produced only to take up space, like so much expanded polystyrene strewn all over the floor. It takes up space but cannot be seen to take up space; it can’t be seen to be taking up space because it is the inevitable consequence of the way in which we have had our assumptions validated for us – the only way we could see it would be if we were willing to see through our assumptions! As a consequence of it taking up all the space that it does it follows that the curious unacknowledged inert by-product that we are talking about here will impede our general ‘mental mobility’ (or ‘flexibility’) and obstruct our freedom of vision.
It is as if I am afflicted with compulsive hoarding behaviour and am compelled to fill my living space with thousands of black bin-liners full of second-hand clothes or old newspapers and magazines so that only a few routes are left possible in the house – for that example, I can walk from the front door to the bed, and from the bed to the toilet, and possibly also from the living room table to the kitchen, but any other possibilities are barred to me. I go from A to B via well established tunnels, and my vision or view of my world also comes in me via ‘a tunnel’. The gross ‘over-simplification’ of possible movements here is due not to any active property of the bags but is simply a result of the fact that they are there and taking up space.
If the stuff that I am hoarding was useful in its own right – which is of course the assumption that I am acting on – then my sacrifice of mobility and breadth of vision might (just conceivably) be worth it. I have tunnel thinking, tunnel vision, and tunnel everything else but at least I have lots and lots of this valuable stuff that I have accumulated. But when the stuff is useless (and the inadvertently produced inert mental by-product that we are talking about is quintessentially useless, useless with a capital U) then I have given up everything and opted for a punishingly restricted existence for nothing. In short, I have sacrificed the essential freedom and ‘openness’ of life for the sake of accumulating mere ‘garbage’.
So far we have said that the ‘by-product’ we are talking about has the property of being inert and the property of taking up space. In addition we have said that – despite being essentially inert – it nevertheless exerts an influence on us by virtue of the fact that it takes up space. We have also mentioned a fourth property, which is the property of being unnoticeable to us. Even when our essential living space is constricted and our mental mobility is completely lost to us we do not notice the presence of this inadvertently manufactured product or our habitual mentational processes. We don’t notice the ‘by-product’ and we don’t (directly) notice the severely constrictive and immobilizing influence that it has on us. It could be said therefore that we act in a peculiarly constrained (or stilted) way without being aware that we are doing so – we are like clowns who are funny because they make a show of being unaware of their own clownishness.
What we are talking about here – ‘the irreversible accumulation of a space-occupying blank, inert and invisible mental substance which is produced inadvertently as an unwanted by-product of our automatic cognitive processes’ – is an extraordinarily hard notion for us to grasp (or even to have an interest in grasping, for that matter). Somehow we can’t even manage to imagine the vague possibility of it existing; we can’t even manage to get anywhere near the rough vicinity of the general ball-park of imagining for a moment that such a thing as this could exist! In short, we have no concept of it whatsoever. It sounds like a ‘made-up’ sort of a thing, it sounds fantastical and unprovable. We can however refer to this mysterious hypothetical mental ‘waste-product’ in a much more direct, specific and understandable way by saying that it is the mental equivalent of what in the physical world is commonly known as entropy. What we are talking about here is mental entropy, ψ S, and the reason we have so little imagination for it (or interest in it) is because the rational thinking process only works when we don’t – when we do develop an interest in mental entropy then all our assumptions start to become transparent to us and when our assumptions become transparent (instead of opaque) then the logical mind can no longer function.
There are a number of possible definitions of physical entropy. One way of defining it is to say that it is ‘unusable energy’ – energy that is right down at the bottom of the ladder of transformative processes, and because it is right down at the bottom of the ladder, can’t be used to drive anything else. If we say that potential energy is potential energy because it is still somewhere ‘above’ ground level, then entropy is when everything already is at ground level, and can’t fall any further. Naturally entropy increases as time goes on because more and more ‘waste heat’ is produced by all the processes going on in the universe, and this waste heat represents the ‘end of the line’ since it cannot be turned into anything else. So we can say that the end-product of all material processes is inert and ‘useless’, that it gradually and irreversibly accumulates, and that eventually it will banjax the whole show because when entropy is all that there is nothing will ever happen ever again. This is what the Victorians were pleased to call ‘the Heat Death of the universe’.
Entropy may also be defined as ‘useless information’ – which is to say, information that tells us nothing new, nothing that hasn’t been said before a million billion times, nothing useful or usable. Useless information is redundancy, it is a kind of background hum of recycled or repeated information that might – if you were slap-dash enough in your outlook – appear to be something new, something useful, something interesting. As it happens, the major part of our culture is made up of this sort of endlessly recycled and very superficially revamped information. This is what Jean Baudrillard speaks of as the Realm of the Hyperreal – the world which ‘feeds off itself’, the world which is made up of references to some idea or theory we have of it. According to Andrew Robinson:
Hyperreality is a special kind of social reality in which a reality is created or simulated from models, or defined by reference to models – a reality generated from ideas. The term has implications of ‘too much reality’ – everything being on the surface, without mystery; ‘more real than reality’ – too perfect and schematic to be true, like special effects; and ‘para-reality’, an extra layer laid over, or instead of, reality. It is experienced as more real than the real, because of its effect of breaking down the boundary between real and imaginary. It is a ‘real’ without ‘origin or reality’, a reality to which we cannot connect.
Alan Watts is also talking about the hyperreal when he says:
A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusion.
Thought is such an astonishingly virulent thing – in other words – that it doesn’t even need reality in order to operate! More than this, we could in fact say that reality is actually a serious danger to thought because it threatens its monopoly! What happens when thought does create an entire, self-sufficient world by reference to itself is that redundancy (or entropy) is reaching a maximum, and because redundancy is at a maximum everything turns into illusion. The ‘self-validating mental bubble’ that we started off by talking about is also a way of talking about entropy – when we live within the bubble the only sort of information we come across is information that has been invisibly degraded so that although it still seems like genuine information, it is actually disguised redundancy.
Just as energy is useless when it has been degraded enough, so too information is useless when it has been degraded in this way – what makes information be information is that it has the capability of producing change. It is as Gregory Bateson says “the difference that makes a difference.” Degraded information however is incapable of producing any change because there is never anything genuinely different in it, and so what it does give rise to may be referred to as ‘the Information Death of the universe’, which is a morass of ‘stagnancy, stasis and sterility’ that we somehow take to be dynamic, progressive and fertile! Unless the thermodynamic heat death of the universe (which is still a long way off), ‘information heat death’ is a state of affairs that has already arrived, even if we don’t realize it – it is what we know as society.
Moving on from society to the people who make it up, we could say – if we wanted to continue talking in this vein – that the ‘Information Death’ of the individual would be that point when all genuine change, all newness, all creativity in the individual grinds to a final juddering halt. It would be the point where the individual in question ceases to grow, becomes frozen, doomed from that moment onwards to do no more than repeat (in a thoroughly grotesque fashion) the same old pattern of thinking and behaving over and over again until physical death finally catches up with the psychic death. This might seem an unduly harsh way of looking at things but life is change (i.e. a journey) and so when it turns into nothing more than an ongoing sequence of established routines, a sterile ‘circular process’, then it has to be said that life has been parodied.
When mental entropy reaches its maximum and ‘information death’ sets in I become frozen in a parody of life, an external mechanical semblance or simulation of life that nevertheless suffices to fool any casual observer into thinking that life is still continuing as usual. The maximization of mental entropy means that I continue to enact the behaviours which are habitual to me: I continue to walk gamely forward in the manner of a clock-work toy soldier, and as I go I continue to trip up over all the obstacles in my path that I cannot see. I continue in other words to involve myself in repeated acts of self-sabotage and self-nullification, unable to see what the true cause of my self-frustrating behaviour is, unable to learn anything from the experience no matter how many times I go through it. Put like this, of course, mental entropy does not sound like such a strange or mysterious thing at all – on the contrary, it might well begin to sound quite familiar…
THE TRIUMPH OF THE PAST OVER THE FUTURE
On the one hand mental entropy can therefore be envisaged as the insidious process in which genuine information flowing through the psyche gets progressively replaced by stagnant or sterile information, endlessly recycled, mass-produced information – stuff which looks superficially the same as the real thing but which crucially fails to ‘deliver the goods’ in that it does not, and cannot, give rise to genuine change. No longer are we travelling with a fast-moving river on its journey to the ocean; instead, we are mired down in the shallows somewhere, trapped in a landlocked pond. We’re stuck on a mud-bank; we’re ‘up shit creek without a paddle’. Our future is predetermined by the patterns of our past – our future is our past, endlessly recycled and reinstated as if any divergence from this hallowed routine would constitute a crime or error of the greatest degree. This is the situation where – as James Carse puts it – the past triumphs over the future.
Coming at things from a slightly different angle, we can say that mental entropy is inaccessible information, which is to say, it is information that has been lost to us without us realizing the fact. The more information that has been lost to us in this way – without us even realizing that there ever had been anything there to be lost – the bigger the burden of mental entropy to which we are subject, and the less space we have available to us to perceive the world in a different way, think about the world in a different way, and act in the world in a different way. The greater the amount of mental entropy we are subject to the more ‘invisibly constrained’ we become, the narrower our horizons become. The more mental entropy builds up, the shorter our restraining ‘leash’ becomes – until in the end all we can do is go around in very tight circles, unable to behave any differently for fear of choking altogether.
Mental entropy is as we have said our ‘mental blind-spot’ – like the better known visual blind-spot, it is ‘a place that we cannot see and cannot see that we cannot see’. The difference is that whilst the visual blind-spot is caused by the presence of the main trunk of the optic nerve, what gives rise to the mental blind-spot is nothing but occluding blankness, blankness that we cannot see or in any way guess at. The fact that we are not aware of this mental blind-spot does not mean that it does not have an effect on us any more than the act of blanking out awareness of a tiger that is sitting right next to me will ensure that the tiger won’t eat me. The tiger will actually have an easier time of eating me, not a harder one – I might as well present myself on a dinner plate with knife and fork, salt and pepper and a bottle of tomato ketchup thrown in for good measure! In the same way, being sublimely unconscious of the existence of mental entropy doesn’t by any means save me from it – I have delivered myself to it on a plate and it makes me into its slave, its puppet, its helpless plaything.
REPLACING INTRINSIC WITH EXTRINSIC SPACE
The effect that mental entropy has on us manifests itself in various ways, and to varying degrees. At what we might call ‘the lightest end of the scale of stilted or distorted thinking and behaviour’ we could say that the way mental entropy influences us is by putting a kind of imperceptible pressure on us which – a kind of pressure which even though we can’t consciously feel it drives us more and more into the prescribed zone of the rational mind. We are – we might say – progressively forced to vacate the splendid mansion which is the whole psyche (and of which rationality is only one small part) and retreat ignominiously, bit by bit, into the narrow, cluttered broom-cupboard of the thinking, planning, analysing, evaluating mind.
We were of course already operating to some extent out of the rational mind since it is operating out of the rational mind that creates mental entropy in the first place, but what causes the problem is when we overuse it, when we ‘over-value’ it, when we ‘think all the time’, as Alan Watts says. Rationality is something like heroin (or ‘Duff beer’ in The Simpsons) in this regard in that it is both the cause of the problem, and the ‘cure’ at the same time! Playing the game of rationality safely distracts us from the inimical influence of the by-product of rationality, and so once we start off down this road then we have no choice but to carry on. Intrinsic space (which is the genuine article, the real deal) has been substituted for by extrinsic space (which is the formal description or model of space, i.e. the hyperreal), so that the very idea that there is or even could be such a thing as ‘intrinsic space’ is quite lost to us, quite incomprehensible to us. If it can’t be formally described, measured and verified then it doesn’t exist for us!
Once the entropy builds up it will start to exert an undetectable influence – it replaces the immeasurable immensity of intrinsic space with a kind of ‘blank, opaque and impermeable surface’. The surface is not what we might call ‘actively toxic’, but because it does not provide us with anything nutritious (i.e. it is absolutely blank in its nature, being essentially unreal) it is so to speak ‘passively toxic’. It’s like an inert gas – it won’t poison us but it can kill us through denying us oxygen! In extrinsic space there’s no fresh air available so we have to breathe the synthetic variety; there’s no genuine warmth to be had so we have to look at a photo of a crackling log fire and make do with that instead. As a result of the lack of any genuine life (e lack of any wholesome, honest-to-goodness nutrition) we are forced to look somewhere else for something to do and as a result we are driven into the ‘prescribed recreational ground’ which is the rational-logical mind. This is pretty much the same thing as being driven to watching TV all day long because we are no longer creative enough in ourselves to think of anything else to do!
When this unwitting withdrawal into rationality takes place there are ‘irreversible consequences’. We lose our intrinsic freedom – we lose the possibility of looking at the world in different ways, thinking about the world in different ways, acting in the world in different ways. We get hemmed in by the blinkers of logic. It could also be said that we ‘lose the higher-faculties’ – the psychic faculties that we would have had if we hadn’t been unconsciously pressurized into abandoning tjhe greater part of ourselves. The ‘house of our Father’ has many rooms, but we have now perversely retreated into only one of them – the small and very sparsely appointed room of rationality, which is as we have said more of a broom-cupboard than an actual room. When we retreat into rationality the ‘non-mechanical’ side of life naturally becomes closed off to us, and so we have to make the most of what is offered to us, even if it is dreadfully sparse. We have to adapt to what’s there, even though it isn’t very much.
This process of making ourselves narrower and narrower, until we get turned into a distorted copy of who we should be, also happens when we are repressing personal content of one sort or another and this is of course something which we are much more familiar with. If I am repressing my own personal pain – whatever that pain might be – then I am obliged as a result to live in a very limited modality, to live in a ‘shut down’ kind of a way. I have to ‘down-size’. The reason for this down-sizing is that if I venture out of the safe zone of my shut-down modality I can sense the repressed atmosphere, the dark psychic ‘odours’ of whatever it is I am trying to avoid. If I keep myself busy during the day and preoccupy myself with the defensive or self-distracting games that I have evolved then I don’t get to sample this highly unpleasant psychic atmosphere, but I cannot afford to step out of this stilted and mechanical safe zone. I cannot afford to take the risk of leaving myself open to what might be out there. There is a toxic threat there that is personal to me, a type of darkness that is only waiting for its opportunity to come home and roost, like a flock of persistent homing pigeons that I have denied access to, so obviously I have to keep the shutters shut. Or perhaps I have to actively turn the pigeons away, drive them off with shout and yells in the vain hope that they go off and roost somewhere else instead.
The dark shadow of mental entropy is however different to this in that it is not personal, and it does not actively pursue me in the way that my own repressed feelings might pursue me, and knock vigorously on my door. Mental entropy does not actively impinge on us, generate personalized nightmares and so on, it simply blocks us, occludes us, hems us in, and makes us smaller and smaller as people. It denies us the stature we should have; it turns us into ghosts of ourselves. Beforehand, we would have had the possibility of making genuine changes in our lives but once the entropy takes over we are rendered sadly predictable – we become mechanical, incapable of acting in a surprising way. We become ‘blank’. As our capacity to change is taken away from us so too is our actual individuality – it is as if we no longer in there. When the unqualified freedom of intrinsic space is taken away from us ‘who we truly are’ is lost, for the simple reason that we are that unconditioned spaciousness.
THE VIRTUAL SELF
When the only space that is left to us is conditioned space then the only self we can be is the virtual or conditioned self. All we are able to manifest of ourselves are those possibilities that are permitted by the conditions that underpin the ‘pre-formatted space’ within which we exist, and so we can only ever be what our ‘formatting’ allows us to be. This doesn’t seem to us to be an infringement of our freedom for the simple reason that we don’t have any way of knowing that any other possibilities exist. Conditioned, extrinsic or pre-formatted space is another way of referring to the ‘validating mental context’ (or ‘bubble’) that we talked about at the beginning of this discussion. The point about this ‘context’ or ‘bubble’ is, we said, that it instantly agrees with the way that we have of seeing the world, thinking about the world, and acting within the world. It validates our assumptions for us so that we don’t feel them to be ‘assumptions’, but rather as the right way to operate or function. This at the same time vastly oversimplifies life for us, and removes all sense of relativity about our adopted mode of being in the world – it makes us very certain of ourselves, in other words!
We wouldn’t buy into this tailor-made ‘validating mental context’ if there wasn’t some benefit to be had from it, and this is the benefit. It really does make the uncertain and angst-ridden business of living (or ‘being alive’) one hell of a lot easier. In fact it makes it so much easier that it becomes rather ridiculous – if not to say entirely pointless! This brings us to the disadvantages of living in an information-filtering mental bubble, the disadvantages of living in extrinsic instead or intrinsic space, the disadvantages of living on the basis of a whole bunch of assumptions that we can see to be there because we’ve had them spurious validated for ourselves. The first ‘disadvantage’ is that we can only operate within the limited format that we have been provided with, and we aren’t able to know that it is limited (we’re ‘restricted without knowing that we’re restricted’, in other words). The second disadvantage is the one which we have just mentioned – the fact that life becomes unpleasantly ridiculous, unpleasantly pointless (or hollow), unpleasantly redundant once we buy into the oversimplified version of it. We can’t get something for nothing and if we avoid the essential difficulty (or challenge) of life then that is the price we have to pay. The third disadvantage – we could say (just to make the point a bit more clearly) – is that we get to be somebody we aren’t, somebody who doesn’t actually exist!
So just to recap, if we want the way that we choose to perceive the world to be automatically validated as ‘the right way’ (along with the thoughts that we think and the deliberate actions that we perform as a result of these thoughts) then the price we pay is that we have to choose only those perceptions, thoughts and actions which the framework of logic that we are using can validate. And at the same time there is of course no perception of there being any choice being made because due to the closed nature of the framework of logic (because of the closed nature of any framework of logic) so we don’t see that our strategy for ‘making life easier’ has stymied us. This however makes fools of us – we become ‘ridiculous without seeing that we are ridiculous’. Our purposeful selves get to be validated at every turn (i.e. we are able to continue along without feeling the need to question ourselves, without being in any way aware of the conditional (or ‘game-like) nature of our existence) but the price we pay is that the whole exercise has become entirely absurd. Or instead of saying that the exercise has become entirely ‘absurd’, we can say that it has become entirely redundant.
Redundancy is just another term for entropy and the effect of mental entropy is – as we have already said – to render us wholly predictable. Because we are operating within a closed format (within the type of space that has no possibility of surprise within it) we lose who actually are because ‘who we actually are’ cannot be facilitated by this closed format. So at the same time that we lose our ‘space to unconditionally be’ we lose our true individual nature – we are no longer permitted to us to be who we truly are because who we truly are can’t be validated by the closed framework of logic. The framework of logic cannot ‘validate’ who we really are any more than it can ‘specify’ who we really are – it can only specify those possibilities which correspond (in a strictly linear fashion) to its own assumptions, its own rules, its own ‘taken-for-granted’ position. And there are no rules for who we are!
Individuality is always unique (otherwise we can’t call it individuality!) but a logical context by its very nature can’t recognize uniqueness – that would be like asking a computer to produce a random number by means of an algorithm, which is an impossibility since ‘random’ means precisely that the number in question hasn’t been arrived at via a logical, step-by-step process. So instead of the undefined uniqueness which is the true individuality we are left instead with the defined regularity which is the system’s version of the true individuality, which is the ‘conditioned’ self. The conditioned self isn’t who we are – it’s who we have ‘agreed to be’ without actually knowing that we have agreed to anything!
When ‘no framework’ – which is the open or unconditioned situation – is replaced by the all-determining closed framework that is logic, then the undefined ‘I’ which is our true nature is replaced by something that is in essence a parody (or inverted copy) of that self. How could this be otherwise? How could we say that this is not the case? As we have said, the true unlimited individuality no longer has the unqualified freedom to be there and so it can only manifest those possibilities that it is allowed to manifest. The only possibilities I am free to manifest are the possibility which are permitted me by the system of logic and these permitted possibilities actually are the system of logic. So the only thing that ever does manifest is the system of logic, which is simply a bunch of mechanical rules!
What the framework of logic denies me therefore is my actual being. There is no room for being in the constrained or ‘fully-regulated’ realm which has been created for me by the rule-based rational mind. I am there (or so it seems) and yet I am not there because my actual being (which is who I truly am) has been disallowed by the rules of the game I am playing. My actual presence (my ‘being there’) has been surgically removed, just as a surgeon might remove a dangerously infected appendix. An just as my appendix is removed under anaesthetic, without my knowing about it, so too my true self is taken away from me without me either knowing on the one hand that I have lost it, or on the other hand being able to in any way conceptualize or imagine what it is that I am now having to make do without. It is gone, and my capability of knowing that it is gone is also gone. This however is truly staggering – what does it mean to have lost one’s being? How can one adapt after such a terribly radical surgery? What is left to adapt? What’s the point in adapting? The point is however that we do adapt – and not only is it the case that we merely adapt, we adapt perfect. We carry on as if nothing had actually happened. What happens after the radical surgery of which we speak is that I get to exist as the ‘virtual self’ – the self which seems to exist but which doesn’t.
SUMMARY – THE ‘INVERSION’
The reason this very strange thing (i.e. the creation of the ‘virtual self’) can happen is because mental entropy is a two-edged sword – on the one hand it surgically removes or excludes our being (which is non-quantifiable, non-provable, and non-describable) whilst on the other hand it facilitates, with astonishing effectiveness, the creation of a ‘simulated or virtual reality’. Mental entropy does this because by excluding from our awareness everything that isn’t – from its taken-for-granted static viewpoint – ’quantifiable’, ‘verifiable’, and ‘describable’ it produces the formal or abstract ‘virtual -world’ which corresponds with this assumed static position. The virtual world doesn’t just ‘correspond’ with the assumptions we make in order to create it – it is those assumptions! It is those assumptions made concrete. The formal or virtual world is the projection of our assumption upon on the uncreated or unformatted world.
We could therefore say that the provable or verifiable world is – as Plato suggested in his cave allegory – ‘a shadow’ that is cast by our taken-for-granted assumptions. An entire self-sufficient, self-consistent reality is created which is – most peculiarly – nothing more than the shadow of a particular set of rules that I have gone along with without knowing I have gone along with anything. This simulated world is the assumption that I have unwittingly made – only it now exists in the form of ‘a projection that I cannot see to be a projection’, ‘a shadow (or phantom appearance) which I take to be a real thing’.
There is zero possibility of me seeing or in any way relating to anything that isn’t the simulated world since anything that isn’t the simulated world is of a qualitatively different nature from the shadow or projection and on this account I am going to immediately discount it. Even if I were to encounter aspects of the un-simulated world – which I inevitably will do from time to time – I am not going to dignify these aspects by taking them seriously but rather I will categorize the experience as being an aberration of some sort or another. Thus, to me, genuine (i.e. non-simulated) reality has now been relegated to the status of ‘an aberration’ or ‘error’. The fact that reality has been relegated to the status of an ‘error’ (i.e. my only response to it is to label it as such, without therefore looking into it any further, and then do my best to ‘correct’ it) says a lot about the world that I do not see as an error – the world that is a projection of my mechanical ‘rational-conceptual’ mind. What it says – not to put too fine a point on it – is that the rational projection which I take so seriously is no more than an absurd conceit. It is an ‘absurd conceit’ because it only gets to exist as a result of me pretending that reality doesn’t exist!
To put this another way, the simulated world that is created by:
 adopting a fixed position or standpoint, and then
 acting as if this fixed position or standpoint were ‘the only possible way of looking at the world’ is created by entropy.
Saying that the simulated world is ‘created by entropy’ is really just as handy abbreviation of saying that it is created by only looking in one particular direction and then acting as if this one narrow direction were the only direction that there is. The world then becomes ‘the only narrow direction’, ‘the one slice of the pie’, ‘the one logically-defined domain’. We can look at this in terms of standard ‘figure-ground’ theory: if I am ‘strict’ in my way of looking at the world such that I exclude everything that I have arbitrarily taken to be ‘the ground’ then through this strict observance of the cut-off point, the boundary, I automatically create what we call ‘the figure’. If I don’t screen out all perceptual data that doesn’t fit in with the standpoint that I have adopted then there won’t be a figure – I won’t be able to see where the one thing ends and the other begins and so as a result there isn’t ‘the one thing or the other’. Definition is lost and the figure no longer exists as a separate entity, which means that it no longer exists at all. The cut-off point or boundary beyond which I am not going to attend is an abstraction (it is something that I have ‘pulled out of the air’) yet as soon as I stop looking beyond it a whole self-validating, self-consistent world comes into focus for me, and immediately become the only world that I am aware of.
So once again we can see that the ‘created world’ (which is implicitly seen by me as ‘the only world’) is at root nothing more than an abstraction. It only seems to exist because of what I have arbitrarily decided not to see, which is ‘the ground’ and so whilst it is clear that I have created or manufactured the figure (the world that made up of defined objects) it is equally clear that I didn’t create the ground. The ground is ‘everything else’ – it is made up of all the perceptual data that doesn’t related to (or agree with) the fixed and therefore limited position that I have voluntarily adopted. What I have done with the ground to make it the ground is simply to ignore it and saying that I am ignoring it is the same as saying that I ‘don’t know that it is there’, and means that the ‘creative factor’ in the process – so to speak – is my own ignorance!
All of this can be summed up by that that the world which I take seriously (the virtual world which has my exclusive attention) is created by entropy. ‘Entropy’ isn’t an actual thing that has some sort of existence in the world therefore – it is just a way of indicating that I am acting as if real world (i.e. the world that isn’t a reflection of my assumptions, the world which isn’t an abstraction) isn’t there. By doing this I have turned everything into a ‘photographic negative’ of itself, so to speak – what’s unreal gets to be real and what’s real gets to be unreal. This therefore is the ‘inversion of values’ that creates the concretely defined world that we spend almost all of our time believing in…
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.