Wherever there is a centre there is impoverishment. The centre collapses everything into a frozen, static frame of reference, the ‘reference point’ being of course itself. The centre orientates everything around itself, it arranges everything around itself. It allocates everything its correct position in relation to itself. The centre takes a special position – it presides over everything and gives everything its meaning.
The centre simplifies everything. It reduces everything, but doesn’t say that it reduces everything. It limits everything without admitting to doing so. If it admitted to limiting everything by its very existence then it would have to admit that it presides over an impoverished kingdom, a kingdom that is not really worth presiding over. This would of course be defeating the whole point of the exercise. The point of the exercise is to become the monarch of a substantial kingdom, not an insubstantial one! Or to put it another way, the point of the exercise is that there shall be a point, the point is that the centre-creating action that I have taken shall not prove to be redundant or ‘self-cancelling’. If I perform an action and straightaway that action deletes itself, goes back on itself and negates what it has just achieved (like a circle, which goes up only to straightaway go down again) then I might as well just not bother, and when I perform the action of ‘establishing a centre’ this is exactly what I am doing. I am engaging in a self-cancelling act. I feel that I am gaining something as a result (I feel that I am gaining a kingdom to rule over) but actually the result is a null one, an empty one. There is no net gain to the operation. I might as well just not bother.
Saying “This is the centre” feels like a meaningful action at the time (it actually feels intensely meaningful in a euphoria-generating sort of a way) but this is only because in the act of establishing a centre I simultaneously make the limitations which this centre imposes invisible to me. Perspective is instantaneously lost because by identifying with a centre, by seeing the world from this supposed ‘vantage’ point, I instantly become subject to the limitations that are inherent in this centralized viewpoint. I perform the action of identifying with a centre, of seeing things in this centralized way, because my perception is that I am thereby providing myself with a ‘vantage point’. My perception is that I am obtaining the ‘uncancelled advantage’ of having an elevated position (a privileged status, so to speak) and the intensely rewarding euphoric feeling that comes with this gives me the green light to ‘buy into’ the process all the way. I rush therefore to sign on the dotted line in order that I might be the official beneficiary of all the advantages that come with the deal. The snag in the deal (the small print at the bottom of the contract that I don’t bother to read) is that the initially-perceived benefits only appear to be so because I no longer have the perspective to see that they are not actually benefits at all.
The vantage point only appears to be a vantage point because my horizons are now limited without me being able to see that they are limited. My elevated position is only elevated because my world has shrunk so much around me that I can’t see that I am fooling myself. The advantage I have obtained only appears to be an advantage because I am measuring it in terms of the narrow and quite arbitrary framework which I have now restricted myself to. All I have done, therefore, is to opt to become ‘a big fish in a small pond’ – I have dumbed myself down and this trick allows me to imagine that I have obtained some real sort of benefit when I haven’t. Dumbing down allows me to feel that I have gained territory when I haven’t because now I’m too dumb to see that what I have gained isn’t actually anything at all. The dumbing-down process seems to work very well indeed (in fact it appears to produce absolutely miraculous results every time) but the only reason it for this is because I have now become ‘too dumb to know that I am dumb’, and so now anything is possible. The only ‘privilege’ I have obtained therefore is the highly doubtful privilege of being infinitely credulous, infinitely gullible, infinitely prone to being fooled or taken in…
The limitations that I become subject to when I establish a centre are the limitations of logic. Establishing a centre is the same thing as entering into the realm of logic, and when I do this I become subject to the limitations that are inherent in that realm. Only in logic – only in a ‘logical continuum’ – can there be a centre. Only in a realm governed by logic can there be a centre because in order to have a centre it is necessary to have an overall framework, a grid system made up of lines of latitude and longitude that we can use to ‘read off’ where exactly things are in the grid. We can only locate stuff when there is a framework, a grid system to locate it in, and that framework is logic. Talking about a centre is of course only to talk about a particular ‘extra-special’ location; despite the fact that it sounds extra special however it is still only a location just like any other location, and so it needs a framework. Another way of putting this is to say that for there to be a centre it is necessary to have a ‘measurable world’ – a domain which always exists within the jurisdiction of the framework by which measurements are carried out. If there was any portion of the domain under consideration that wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the framework then the notion of the centre as a centre would be meaningless. How could we possibly know that it really was the centre unless the domain of which it is supposed to be the centre is perfectly accountable in all respects? The centre can only be the centre when everything is known and so what is not known can in no way, not by any stretch of the imagination, be said to have ‘a centre’!
What we are saying here then – just to repeat the point – is that before we can have a centre the territory under consideration must, in its entirety, be subsumed within a given continuum of logic. As soon as we do this, however, we immediately render everything that we have thereby achieved ‘null and void’; the action whereby we ‘establish a centre’ becomes meaningless the moment it is successfully achieved precisely because establishing a centre entails subsuming the whole of the territory in question within a logical continuum. The continuum of logic has properties that are very rarely properly understood. One way to talk about these properties is to say that the continuum of logic is actually a null domain, that it is an empty kingdom. This is because the continuum of logic is a domain that is limited whilst at the same time giving no indication that it is limited.
The logical continuum is a closed system that contains no internal referents to the fact that it is closed and this has the effect of creating a type of ‘stretchy’ space – space that can be stretched and stretched, expanded and expanded, apparently without limit. Thus – curiously – this business of having a system which is limited without containing any internal referents to this fact creates a situation which is subjectively unlimited. The unlimited stretchiness of the closed system is a function of its ‘virtual generosity’ – it can carry on indefinitely expanding or extending itself in this way because, actually, there is nothing there to expand or extend. To put this another way, its indefinite expansion takes place in a wholly unreal (or inflationary) dimension.
But why should logic be limited in the first place? We don’t generally think of logic as being a limited or constrained sort of a thing. Why can’t logic extend itself indefinitely in a real way (which is indeed what we think of it as doing)? We only need think of a number line to make this point clear. A number line seems to go on forever – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7… in the one direction and then all the negative numbers in the other direction. I can keep on adding numbers to a number line forever – no matter where I get to I can always add the next one in the series, and then the next one after that, and so why isn’t this a real expansion? What we don’t see (and aren’t ever told) is that a number line is an exercise in redundancy. This means that the first step is simply repeated over and over again, as if I am doing something new or unexpected each time. It is as if I want to write a novel but run out of ideas straightaway and so instead of waiting until I get some inspiration what I do is to is to copy the first sentence and then just keep clicking ‘paste’ over and over again. Before very long, and with a minimum of effort, I can produce something equal in size to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, But whilst this might on the face of it seem rather impressive the sad truth is of course that it is all just the same line repeated to the nth degree. Quality is traded off for quantity, because quantity is easy, but quantity on its own is redundant. Quantity without quality is redundant. Despite the illusion of ‘moving forward’, no new territory has been covered and so it is all just a pointless exercise.
Anything I do deliberately, according to a plan or method, is always like this because we can only do what we ‘know’. If I have a method then I can keep on cranking the handle round and round and the prescribed ‘outcome’ will keep on popping out obligingly at the other end, as if by magic. But again, all I am getting is just the same thing over and over because there is no way that a method can produce an outcome that is new or unexpected. The very idea of a method producing something unexpected is ridiculous because the whole idea is of course to produce what we do expect rather than what we don’t. That would be like me planning to be surprised, or following a route on a map hoping to reach somewhere that is not on the map. Logic is a map, it is fully accountable domain, a known territory, and so there is absolutely nothing that can ever come out of logic that is not one hundred percent redundant.
In order for something to come out the other end there would have to be something unknown or uncharted at the beginning and the whole point of logic is that there is nothing unknown or uncharted. We can of course come across the situation where certain values are temporarily unknown but with the correct information these values can always be calculated – they can always be deduced, because the basic rules of logic are always there to allow them to be deduced. These rules can never be deviated from (that being the whole point of rules) and so there is never any time when it will not be possible, in principle, to derive exact answers to every logically valid question that one might ask. In short, the logical continuum is quintessentially definable as a set of knowable positions, each one of which can be reached from any other. Thus, there can be no such thing as position that cannot be known about or inferred from any of the others and so everything that comes out of logic is (by definition) quite redundant.
The continuum of logic is not the same as ‘reality’. It is a vanishingly thin slice of the pie of reality. Moreover, it is like a vanishingly thin slice that can’t tell us anything about the pie from which it was cut. It can’t even tell us that it was cut from a pie because – as we have said – it contains no internal referents to the fact of its incompleteness. For it to contain such referents would mean that it would have to be capable of giving rise to outcomes that are logically inconsistent with it, which would be the same thing as a plan that can lead to results that were not part of the plan, or a map that can lead us to a destination that is on the map. Sticking rigorously to the plan means that we never go beyond the plan and sticking rigorously to the map means that we never go beyond the map. And where the continuum of logic is concerned we are talking about a degree of rigour that goes far beyond anything we would know in everyday life – there is no possibility of not being rigorous because to be ‘not rigorous’ would be the same thing as being ‘not logical’ and being ‘not logical’ – by definition – never happens in the continuum of logic. Thus, the realm of logic cannot contain any referents to anything outside of itself. It cannot contain any referents to anything that is not it, and so it cannot contain any information about the fact of its incompleteness.
This is the crucial thing to understand about logic. To say that it is one of the most vitally significant things that we ever could hope to understand would not be over-stating the matter, and yet – as we have said – this is not taught at schools or universities (and if it is, it is never stressed as being of any significance whatsoever outside the narrow discipline that is being taught). The reason we can say it is so important to understand how logic works is because logic isn’t just something we find in a maths book – it is something we find in our heads. It is the authority we invariably defer to in our day-to-day lives. The reason it is so remarkably helpful to know about the peculiar properties of the logical continuum is because – putting the matter in a very straightforward manner –our consciousness invariably gets sucked up into it (or subsumed within it) in such a way that when we look out at the world we look out on a purely logical basis. When we look at ourselves, we do this too on a logical basis. We see everything with the eyes of logic.
This means that we don’t, in practical terms, live in the real world (although we will of course swear blind that we do) but rather we live in the world that is shown to us by the continuum of logic, which in the process of showing us its interpretation (as David Bohm says in Wholeness and the Implicate Order) fails to mention or give any indication that all it is showing us is its own interpretation, its own ‘version’. The net result of not bothering ourselves to understand how logic works and what the peculiarities of the system of thought might be is that we end up limited but not knowing that we are limited, closed off from reality but not having any clue that we are closed off. We end up living in the Palace of the Rational Mind – a palace which may seem very splendid to us but which possesses an invisible snag, the snag being that it is an impoverished realm, a realm that is founded upon the principle of ‘disguised redundancy’. The fact that the redundant nature of our living quarters is disguised – so that we don’t see that no matter how fast we run we never actually get anywhere because the space we live in is a meaninglessly stretchy space) means that we don’t get totally frustrated and fed up with it the whole time. The illusion we are provided with might be crappy in itself, but somehow it keeps on managing to appeal to us. It is hollow, bereft of any real interest, but somehow a very snappy dresser at the same time!
The mind-created world that we live in is a very narrow slice of reality that does not appear in any way to us to be a ‘very narrow slice’. This is how logic works – this is the only way in which logic can work. Logic is like a biologist working in a well-equipped laboratory. When she is given a specimen to investigate what she does is to freeze the specimen using liquid nitrogen and then shave off a very thin layer using a microtome. She then mounts the extraordinarily thin sample obtained in this way on a slide, stains it according to what features she is interested in looking at, and takes pictures of it using a very powerful microscope. This is of course a perfectly valid way to investigate the world just so long as we remember that we cannot use the static picture thus obtained to infer the non-static nature of the original living creature. The biologist of course knows very well that the laboratory specimen came from a living thing (and is of course familiar with the phenomenon of life) but in the absence of this knowledge the actual nature of life is not inferable from the abstraction that is being examined by the microscope. It doesn’t work that way – the original reality can be used to derive any number of thin abstractions but no thin abstraction can ever be used to reconstitute the non-abstract original.
Information loss is a one-way street – the fossil can’t turn into living creature with the same facility that the living creature can turn into a fossil. The conceptually-mediated world in which we live is just like a fossil (or the prepared laboratory specimen in our example) only in this case we are most definitely not aware of the prior reality from which it was derived. If we were aware of that reality then this awareness would have the most radically transformative effect possible on our lives. There is no way that we wouldn’t know about this radical transformation if it happened. If we are simply carrying on as normal then this shows that we don’t know about the original, it is proof positive that we are still caught up in an informationally-degraded, vastly over-simplified and therefore profoundly impoverished version of reality which we have glibly taken to be the real thing.
The fact that the logical continuum is an abstraction is its limitation. The state of being an abstraction is a limited state in that it is necessarily incomplete, despite at the same time being ‘complete in itself’. It is complete in itself because it contains no indications that it is not everything. [Or we could say that it is complete in itself because it is constitutionally incapable of imagining anything that is not itself.] The fact that the logical continuum is complete in itself therefore constitutes another limitation – a higher level of limitation, a ‘meta-limitation’. The meta-limitation is simply ‘the limitation on knowing that we are limited’. The key point about an abstraction is as we have just said that it can’t be used to reconstitute the whole, that it can’t be used to infer the original. The abstraction can’t be used to provide information about ‘where it came from’ because this vital information has been necessarily lost in the ‘abstraction-making process’. This is why the abstraction cannot know itself to be an abstraction. Thus, the continuum of logic cannot know itself to be an abstraction because it is limited without knowing it is limited – it can’t know itself to be an abstraction because it is ‘complete in itself’. Therefore the continuum of logic (which is the world created by rational thought) is two different things at one and the same time. From the inside it is the whole of reality, a properly substantial world, whilst on the outside it is a mere hollow abstraction. Subjectively it is ‘everything’, but objectively speaking it isn’t really anything at all…
When we talk about ‘establishing a centre’ what we are really talking about is the operation whereby the rational mind creates a definite picture of the world. To establish a centre is to relate everything to the known, and ‘the known’ is simply the everyday mind. What we are talking about therefore is cognition, or knowing. Knowing stuff is of course what we are all about – we are all ‘knowers’ and our knowing is our strength. We are hungry to know, avid to know, intensely and ungovernably desirous to know. And yet the act of knowing, despite being apparently highly advantageous, is at the same time self-defeating, self-cancelling, and self-nullifying. The moment I establish a centre I capture for myself a profoundly impoverished kingdom, I obtain a ‘null domain’. I gain the reassuring advantage of ‘knowing stuff for sure’, of having definitive (or categorical) knowledge, but at the same time as I make this gain I sustain a corresponding loss, in a ‘swings-and-roundabouts’ fashion.
This ‘loss’ can be understood in terms of psychological entropy, PSY S. Psychological entropy is ‘ignorance the existence of which we are ignorant of’ – it is ‘stuff we don’t know and don’t know that we don’t know’. I want to have the ontological security of knowing stuff for sure, but the price for this security is that I have to accept a vastly shrunken, vastly over-simplified, and profoundly impoverished version of reality in place of the real world. There is no way around this – if I want the one then I have to have the other. The reason for this stipulation is because positive (or categorical) knowledge can only be obtained within the severely constrained remit of the continuum of logic. In short –
In order to have the satisfaction of ‘knowing stuff for sure’ I have to live in an abstract world that I cannot see to be abstract!
In the abstract world which is my ‘kingdom’ I get to know more and more about less and less until eventually I know ‘everything about nothing’. I get to be extremely knowledgeable about what is ultimately an unreal world, and this of course not by any means an unfamiliar idea – it happens every time I get very good at playing some game or other. This is (or can be) the frustrating thing about games, the fact that what we get so wonderfully good at doing doesn’t really have any useful applicability in the wider world, the world that isn’t a game.
So ‘establishing a centre’ is way of talking about gaining positive (or categorical) knowledge, and it is also a way of talking about getting good at playing games. But of course ‘the centre’ that gets established in either the positive knowledge system or the game can be understood in another, more basic way – it can be understood as the self. When I establish a centre I establish a self – it is the same thing, fairly obviously. Thus, everything we have said about the drawbacks involved in establishing a centre applies exactly the same for establishing the self.
We can make all the same statements: Wherever there is a self there is impoverishment. The self collapses everything into a frozen, static frame of reference. The self organizes everything around itself. The self allocates meaning. The self is monarch of an unreal world, the world that defers to it as a centre. The self takes up a ‘special position’. The self is absolute ruler of a null domain. The self only seems to exist because of psychological entropy, PSY S (i.e. the self only seems to exist to itself, from its own limited perspective). The self is a game which we can get very good at indeed, but which has no useful applicability at all in the ‘wider world’, in the world that ISN’T a game!
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.