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Non-Equilibrium Psychology

Non-equilibrium psychology is psychology without a baseline! A baseline is of course usually considered ‘a good thing’ because it allows us to make definite statements (i.e. it enables us to develop some kind of positive knowledge about whatever subject it is we are studying). This advantage is offset however by the way in which our ‘baseline’ is also our ‘blind-spot’.

Of course our baseline is our blind-spot – how could it be otherwise? Our baseline is what we measure everything by in order to produce our ‘positive data’ but the very fact that we are measuring everything by it means that it must necessarily be a blind-spot. It is, after all, the one thing we can never measure! It is the one thing we can never look at, since all of our ‘looking’ comes down to measuring.

In some areas of study having a blind-spot may not necessarily be such a disadvantage. All logical systems come with a built-in blind-spot (since all logical systems are based on rules and a rule is the very same thing as a baseline) and so if our aim is to adapt to a rule-based system then we don’t need to question the rules that it is based on. It is the way that it is and we just need to go along with this. The material world is a good example of this – we accept the physical constants of the material universe as being ‘the physical constants’. They are the constants that we have to work with; in another (parallel) universe they might be different, but we are not in a different universe and so that conjecture doesn’t matter!

With regard to psychology however, it’s a very different story. The psyche isn’t a logical structure or system. If it was then there would be no freedom in it, and therefore no possibility of consciousness. Everything would be regulated. There cannot be any such thing as ‘consciousness without freedom’ – consciousness is like perspective in this regard, if we just have the one pre-programmed point of view then clearly we won’t have any perspective on that point of view, we will have no way of seeing it for what it is. We will have no way of questioning it – we will have no way of seeing ‘the way in which it isn’t true’. A mechanical process cannot question itself – that’s what makes it a mechanical process. A rule cannot question itself – that’s what makes it a rule. A measuring stick cannot measure itself – that’s what makes it able to function as a ‘measuring stick’.

If we continue to relate consciousness to perspective (which seems like a good angle to take) then we can infer that no mechanical process can ever become conscious. This accords with our everyday experience – if I am conscious then this means that I can question things, it means that I don’t have to take things for granted. Being conscious means that I am more than the determinate structures that I am presented with (it means that I am not defined by ‘the rules that make up the system’). If I am defined by the rules of the system then I am the system and in this case the perspective available to me is set at zero. The system is all there is in this case. If I can’t question the logical statements that I am presented with then I am defined by them and there is nothing of me that is not so defined;  I – as ‘consciousness’ – am not present in that situation, therefore. Consciousness – we might say – is what is not defined by the logical system, in other words. It is what cannot be defined.

At this point in the argument it can be seen that we are not treating consciousness (or the psyche) as a ‘positive object’ that can be studied by the thinking mind. It’s not just another ‘structure’ or ‘system’ that we can get to the bottom of. It’s not some kind of ‘understandable thing’ but rather it’s when we understand that – ultimately – there’s no such thing as ‘an understandable thing’. Relatively – with regard to what we might call ‘determinate phenomena’ – there is, but with regard to such matters as ‘the psyche’, or ‘the ultimate nature of reality’, there isn’t. With regard to the everyday world of common experience there are ‘understandable things’ that we can discuss sensibly using a literal (or ‘regular’) language. This point knew hardly needs to be emphasised, we might think! But what does need to be emphasised is the fact that we get so very comfortable in this consensus world of ‘readily understandable things that can be discussed using a literal or regular type of language’ that we think that this convenient and easily shared world is all that there is. We fall into a sort of sleep – the type of sleep that is unfailingly induced by the absence of anything that is not readily understandable within the terms of the frame of reference that we have (unconsciously) agreed upon.

Living in the type of world that is immediately understandable (or describable) in terms of a collectively-validated framework of reference is very convenient for sure but the downside to this convenience is that we ‘fall asleep on the job’, so to speak. We nod off. We fall into the collective doze, the ‘Big Sleep’. Everything in this world – which is the Equilibrium World – immediately makes sense to us in the regular kind of way that it always does make sense (which is very superficial kind of a way) but if we were ever to take the trouble to look beneath the superficial level of meaning (which we don’t) we would unfailingly discover that what we think is sense is actually total nonsense! The Equilibrium World is camouflaged redundancy – it is ‘the nullity in disguise’. Living in the nullity (and having therefore to be very careful never to examine things too much) is the price we pay for ‘convenience’, and it’s a very inconvenient price when it comes right down to it.

Every day life is the nullity in disguise therefore – it looks meaningful, but it isn’t. It seems to make perfect sense, but it doesn’t. Just as the everyday world is a nullity, so too is the self that constructs itself in terms of this world. Everything we understand on the basic of that basis of the thinking mind is the nullity. There is no way that it couldn’t be! The thinking mind is an equilibrium system – it’s an equilibrium system because the only values that are allowed in it are those values which make sense within the terms of the assumed frame of reference, which are terms that cannot be questioned. The frame of reference by its very nature has to take itself for granted, as we have already said, and so everything it does is done on this basis. This means that even if it were to try the question itself it would have to try to carry out this questioning on its own basis, and if it is carrying out the questioning on the basis on its own basis then this means that it won’t be able to see its basis. The more the framework of reference tries to question its own basis, questions and assumptions, the blinder to itself it becomes. The more the framework of reference tries to do anything on its own basis (which as we say is the only basis it can do anything on) the blinder to itself it becomes!

The fact that all operations are carried out by reference to some taken-for-granted basis that we cannot ever get to know about has consequences. The consequences are (as we have said) that the world which we have constructed on the basis of the unexamined frame of reference is a null world. It would only be ‘true’ if the assumed framework it is based on were ‘true’ and that assumed framework is not ‘true’ – it’s only ‘true according to itself’, which is not the same thing at all. The null world is a null world because it is self-referentially true, in other words. Having to live out our lives within the infinitely sterile remit of the nullity (or within the realm of ‘disguised unreality’) is the price we pay for convenience, as we have said. We might therefore ask the question as to what this ‘convenience’ (which is obviously so supremely important to us) is?  ‘Convenience’ with regard to what exactly? What exactly are we talking about here? Whatever it is – we may surmise – it must be worth a hell of a lot to us if we are willing to put up with the consequences of having to live in a null world’!

Having to live in a ‘null world’ has got to be – by any stretch of the imagination – the most odious of all possible bad consequences and so we must surmise that the ‘benefit’ that we obtain as a result of shaking hands on the deal must be very great indeed. But then again, perhaps we only imagine that the benefit is ‘very great indeed’. Perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps it isn’t so great at all, perhaps we are grievously mistaken in our estimation of the benefit or advantage being good enough to outweigh the extraordinarily steep price that we are paying…

The ‘benefit’ (as we have already indicated) is simply that we get to live in a knowable world, a world that it is possible to obtain positive data about. We get to live in a knowable reality and most importantly – we also get to be ‘the knower’, we get to be the knower who knows the knowable world. The knower is after all no good without a knowable world to know, and the knowable world is no good without a knower to know it! This is the situation that we are so keen to obtain for ourselves therefore and that price we pay for this highly desired situation is the nullity (i.e. the ‘hollowness’) of it all. The known world is after all only our blind-spot being reflected back at us, with us not recognizing it for what it is.  Thus, what we know we don’t really know and because we construct ourselves in terms of what we supposedly ‘know’, we (as we understand ourselves) don’t actually exist in the first place! This is the meaning of the nullity; this is what a ‘null world’ is all about…

‘Non-equilibrium psychology’ is a bit of an ironic or jokey term really therefore; it is an ironic or jokey term because non-equilibrium psychology doesn’t generate a body of positive data about the mind or about the psyche, and if it doesn’t do this then there isn’t a ‘discipline’ there that we can learn about, read books about, attend courses about, etc, etc. There are no maps, no models, no frameworks, and therefore no predictions that can be made. No verifications or validations are possible; nothing can be either proved or disproved. No qualifications can be awarded, therefore, and so we can’t tell who is a genuine ‘Non-E psychologist’ and who is merely bullshitting! In summary, there is absolutely no possibility of anyone else every agreeing with us as to what non-equilibrium psychology is all about. After all, when two or more people agree on something then what they agree upon is a consensus and a ‘consensus’ is by definition an ‘equilibrium’!


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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