to top

The Method and the I-Concept

There is no way to attain peace of mind. There is nothing we can do to enable ourselves to reach this state. Whatever we do with this end in mind will in fact only make matters worse – the more we chase after the state of peace the further it runs away from us.

 

 

The reason that anything we do to attain peace of mind only makes matters worse is because all methods belong to the what Wei Wu Wei (1963, P 16) calls I-Concept

 

All methods require a doer. The only ‘doer’ is the I-Concept.

 

All methods belong to the I-Concept and wherever the I-Concept is there can be no peace…

 

 

Whenever we insist on believing in the imaginary I-Concept, and – what is more – saying that ‘this is who we actually arethen we have created a situation in which there can never be any peace. There are two illusions for the price of one here: [1] is that there is such a thing as the I-Concept, and [2] is that we are it…

 

 

Once we put it like this then it becomes very obvious why there can be no peace when we insist on believing in the I-Concept – if the truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as the I-Concept and yet we are trying as hard as we possibly can to say that there is, then clearly there can be no peace. If there is no I-Concept and we are trying as hard as we possibly can to say that ‘this is who we are’, then similarly, there can be no peace…

 

 

The problem is therefore that when we talk in terms of ‘attaining peace of mind’ it is the I-Concept which wants to do the attaining, and so the whole endeavour is ridiculously banjaxed right from the word ‘go’. Could there ever be a more ill-fated endeavour than this? Could there ever be a more impossible project than this? Peace is not something that can be ‘attained’ – certainly it is not something that can be attained by the I-Concept – which is ‘who I am not’. Peace was there all along. There never was a time when it wasn’t there. There never could be such a time. The only way that there could be a problem in all this fathomless and indestructible peace is when the I-Concept sets out to attain it, when the I-Concept conceives the idea and the intention that it should somehow obtain it for itself.

 

 

But even amidst the struggling and striving and general ‘thrashing around’ of the goal-obsessed I-Concept there is still peace. As we have said, there was always peace. There just isn’t peace for the I-Concept, that’s all! There isn’t peace for the I-Concept because it necessarily sees everything in terms of a struggle that needs to be successfully resolved, a fight that has to be won, a problem that has to be solved…

 

 

Whenever there is a problem to be solved, the I-Concept straightaway needs a method, a logically-consistent set of defined (and therefore reproducible) steps that, when followed, always leads to the desired result. This is the beauty of a method – that it can be relied upon to deliver the required result, where we want and when we want, just so long as we follow the steps correctly. A method isn’t about ‘luck’ or ‘chance’, or about the charisma of the person who is using it, it is a sure-fire thing!

 

 

A method is a prescribed sequence of steps, a ‘logically-defined pathway from A to B’, but it is also an extension of the I-Concept. The method is an extension of the I-Concept both because it makes sense exclusively within those terms which the I-Concept  takes for granted (it would have to) and because it exists solely for the purpose of benefiting the I-Concept (there would be no point if it didn’t). The only way that the method wouldn’t be an extension of the I-Concept would be if it didn’t make sense within the terms that it takes for granted, and if it didn’t exist solely for the purpose of benefiting the I-Concept…

 

 

In this case (which is admittedly absurd) the method wouldn’t simply be an extension of the I-Concept, but it wouldn’t it be ‘a method’ either since it fails to meet the basic criteria of what a ‘method’ is. It would neither be understandable to the one who is to use it, nor would it deliver a result that matches (or even roughly approximates) the intention or aim behind using it, so what possible reason could I have for using it? It would deliver results that are both unwanted by the I-Concept and probably totally incomprehensible too (i.e. irrelevant in relation to my way of understanding the world), so obviously there is no possible incentive for me to use it (‘me’ being another word for the I-Concept).

 

 

The above argument is useful because it shows something that we would not ordinarily understand. It shows that if I seek to attain peace of mind (or happiness) by using a method (any sort of a method) then what I am actually trying to do therefore is extend myself!  I am looking to perpetuate myself, to extend myself outwards indefinitely; I am in other words trying to promote or prolong myself on an ongoing and continuous basis, without at any point acknowledging to myself that this is what I am trying to do.

 

 

Alternatively, we could say that by using a method I am of course trying to create conditions which reflect my needs, my requirements, my desires. But since my needs, my requirements, my desires are myself (i.e. are reflections of myself), all I am really trying to do is to ‘import myself into every situation’! My unspoken agenda in using a method (or having a goal) is therefore that every situation has to have me in it. Or – we could say – my hidden agenda is ‘that everything has to be about me’. This is an absolute, bottom-line requirement on my part! And yet this unfettered (if not to say downright pathological) self-promotion and self-referentiality is somehow supposed to result in ‘peace’ or ‘happiness’…

 

 

So what we’re getting at here is the idea that – for the I-Concept – ‘peace’ or ‘happiness’ is synonymous with that situation in which it has successfully infiltrated and permeated every relevant situation, in much the same way that an aggressive mould will take over an uncolonized layer of agar in a Petri dish, or a virus will take over a host organism when that organism becomes infected!  ‘Peace’ and ‘happiness’ are just code words for the successful colonization of the world by the viral I-Concept, in other words. ‘Peace’ and ‘happiness’ are synonymous with that point in time when the I-Concept successfully extends its empire outwards until there’s no more free space left to invade…

 

 

Of all the things the I-Concept could do to utterly destroy any chance of there being anything even remotely resembling ‘peace of mind’, (or any sort of harmonious situation) indefinitely extending itself (or ‘importing itself into every situation’) is the most effective, and yet there is nothing else it knows how to do. This is the only thing it can do – this is its ‘only possibility’. A virus only knows how to replicate itself and the I-Concept only knows how to convert everything to its own brand of order. Both are ‘rules’ that only know one way – that ‘way’ being their own way.

 

 

The activity of the I-Concept is an absolute cast-iron guarantee that there will be no trace of genuine happiness, that there will be no chance of peace of mind. And as we have said, there is no way of teaching the I-Concept to behave differently, to modify its viral ways – all it can do is to disguise its essential self-promoting activity in various ways, so that it might cleverly pass itself as being ‘something other’ than the way it really is…

 

 

Even if we were to try to think about what the I-Concept could do to find peace of mind even if it wasn’t so irredeemably ‘viral’ (or ‘invasive’) with regard to its compulsive need ‘to control everything for its own benefit’ (even if it had a chance of behaving differently) this would be a blind alley. This would still be an entirely pointless, entirely fruitless line of speculation because as we have already said there is nothing that we can do to help us attain peace of mind. There is no path, no route, no method, as Krishnamurti keeps saying. Peace of mind exists already, so we can’t ‘invent’ or ‘create’ it. It can’t come about as a result of me controlling everything for my own benefit…

 

 

Or we could say that because peace of mind exists already, and has nothing to do with me, there is nothing I can ‘add’ to it without covering it over, without obscuring it – it is as if there is a moment of immeasurable profundity, and I make some comment on this moment. In what way can my comment ever add to this profundity? No matter what I say, no matter what comments I come out with, my thoughts about the situation are always going to reduce everything to banality. This is like Krishnamurti’s story of someone climbing to the top of a mountain one morning so as to observe the sunrise from the summit; the friend – Krishnamurti says, can always be relied upon to spoil the moment by passing some utterly banal comment about how ‘beautiful’ or ‘wonderful’ the spectacle of the sunrise is.

 

 

Everything the I-Concept does is an extension of itself. Indefinitely extending itself, promoting itself, perpetuating itself is all it knows, all it can know.  Anything that it conceives, it conceives in terms of its own assumptions, in terms of its own viewpoint, in terms of its own benefit. Even if it were to see that compulsively importing itself into every situation is a disaster, and even if on this account it were to try hard not to do so, this would still be an action that is undertaken for its own benefit! Even if the I-Concept were to work hard at limiting itself, or putting an end to itself (removing itself and its activity from the picture so that there might be a bit of peace, a bit of something that is not itself), it is still extending itself indefinitely. Suppose that I have a method for ‘improving’ the self (or perhaps even ‘getting rid’ of the self entirely) – this sounds fine on the face of it but because every method belongs to an I-Concept (because the method is the I-Concept!) every time a method is brought into the picture a new, freshly-minted I-Concept is created…

 

 

When the self tries to destroy the self, a new self is straightaway created. Or as Krishnamurti says here, in the attempt to dissolve the self we strengthen the self –

 

Is it possible for the self now to be completely absent? You know it is possible. Now, how is it possible? What are the necessary ingredients, requirements? What is the element that brings it about? Can I find it? Are you following this, sirs? When I put that question, “Can I find it?” surely I am convinced that it is possible. I have already created an experience in which the self is going to be strengthened, is it not? Understanding of the self requires a great deal of intelligence, a great deal of watchfulness, alertness, watching ceaselessly, so that it does not slip away. I, who am very earnest, want to dissolve the self. When I say that, I know it is possible to dissolve the self. Please be patient. The moment I say, “I want to dissolve this,” and in the process I follow for the dissolution of that, there is the experiencing of the self, and so, the self is strengthened. So, how is it possible for the self not to experience? One can see that creation is not at all the experience of the self. Creation is when the self is not there, because creation is not intellectual, is not of the mind, is not self-projected, is something beyond all experiencing, as we know. Is it possible for the mind to be quite still, in a state of nonrecognition, which is, nonexperiencing, to be in a state in which creation can take place – which means, when the self is not there, when the self is absent? Am I making myself clear or not? Look, sirs, the problem is this, is it not? Any movement of the mind, positive or negative, is an experience which actually strengthens the ‘me’. Is it possible for the mind not to recognize? That can only take place when there is complete silence, but not the silence which is an experience of the self and which therefore strengthens the self.

 

 

The new self that has been created when we struggle against the old self is ‘the self which fights against the old self’, ‘the self that seeks to improve the old self’, ‘the self which tries to get rid of the old self’. After all, when we behave in what is called a ‘moral’ fashion all that is happening is that the self is trying to modify the self (because of its frankly ‘immoral’ nature which it has now become painfully aware of and embarrassed about) and so we end up with the self-controlling self, the self-limiting (or self-judging self) which now has to ‘import’ itself into every situation to make sure that everything happens the way that its supposed to, to makes sure that everything now happens in a ‘moral’ rather than an ‘immoral’ fashion. But all that has really happened here is that the I-Concept has added another level to itself, so that the situation has actually become worse rather than better! This is all that morality ever does.

 

 

All of this sounds very pessimistic and very ‘negative’ – or at least it sounds very pessimist and very negative if we were hoping for some kind of a way out, some kind of a loop-hole! But there is no ‘loop-hole: everywhere we turn, the exit is sealed. Things aren’t as bad as they seem however – when all the ‘false exits’ (or ‘false solutions’) are seen for what they are then this is actually a good thing. The I-concept only manages to keep on going in the way that it does because it seems to have genuine possibilities, and so when we see that it has no possibilities at all (other than carrying on in the same way that it always does) this means that the illusion is well and truly punctured, and if the illusion is well and truly punctured then that’s the end of the I-Concept…

 

 

All that is needed in order for peace to start breaking out (like the sun breaking out from behind dark clouds) is for us to start seeing through the I-Concept – once we cease believing so unquestioningly in this particular illusion then all the struggling and striving (and hoping and fearing) that takes place on its behalf starts to subside.  It still carries on since there is an awful lot of momentum tied up in the whole business, but the heart has at this point gone out of it. This is like an old-fashioned steam train hurtling along the tracks – it doesn’t stop dead when the guy stoking the fire box stops shovelling in the coal on a continual basis, but this is the beginning of the end. If there’s one thing that we know for sure it’s that the train’s going to run out of steam sooner or later…

 

 

Even if the fireman forgets himself from time to time and throws in a shovel-full of coal (out of sheer force of habit) the train’s still going to come to a halt before too long. As long as the fireman keeps remembering himself, keeps remembering not to be throwing the fuel in the whole time (as long as he remembers himself as much as he forgets himself) then the mechanism will eventually run down of its own accord – it needs someone to keep on feeding it in order for it to keep on running, after all. The way we feed the engine of the I-Concept is by ‘taking it seriously’ – which is to say, by automatically falling into the frame of mind in which those things that are important and serious to the I-Concept, automatically become every bit as important and serious to us…

 

 

Every time we see things the same way that the I-Concept does, we are strengthening the I-Concept. Every time we take a goal created by the I-Concept seriously we are strengthening the I-Concept. Whatever goals we take seriously (whatever goals we want to achieve) we can be sure that they belong to the I-Concept and so this very basic business of taking goals ‘seriously’ and trying hard to achieve them (which necessarily involves ignoring the space between the goals, the stuff that is not relevant to the attainment of the goals) is how we feed the I-Concept and keep it strong.

 

 

As we have indicated, the goal of finding some kind of peace or happiness in our lives is no different to any other goal in this respect which necessarily means that ‘finding peace’ or ‘finding happiness’ can never happen as a result of anything we do. As Wei Wu Wei says (1963, P14) says,

 

All so-called volition is a manifestation of the I-Concept. Who seeks enlightenment? As long as it is sought under the compulsion of the I-Concept how could it possibly be realized?

 

 

Peace or happiness (or enlightenment) is not something that happens as result of what we do, but rather it is something that ensues as a result of what we don’t do. Everything we ‘do’ we do in order to obtain some goal or other and all goals belong to the I-Concept, just as all methods do. The I-Concept is its goals, is its methods. Non-doing – on the other hand – does not belong to the I-Concept! Non-doing is not a method!

 

 

‘Non-doing’ isn’t the reprehensibly passive sort of a thing that it tends to sound like either – on the contrary, non-doing is extraordinarily creative, it is utterly revolutionary in its impact. We are participating in the birth of something genuinely and radically new, something free and pure and completely uncontaminated by the designs of the Many-Armed, Super-Trashy, Super-Ubiquitous, Super-Invasive Multinational Corporation which we have been calling the I-Concept

 

 


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.

(Visited 65 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Comment