The movement out of equilibrium is the movement out of our frameworks. This is of course the only type of movement that is of any interest since movement within the framework is no movement at all. As Krishnamurti says in The Urgency of Change,
Change is not a movement from the known to the known…
Change from one known to another is staying the same, not change! It is simply reshuffling our known alternatives in the hope that (miraculously) something new will come out of it. Nevertheless, we are all fascinated with the type of movement or change that takes place within the framework. Collectively speaking, we are wholeheartedly engrossed in it; we are obsessed with it to the exclusion of anything else. On an individual or personal basis too – for the most part we simply couldn’t give a damn about anything else. We just can’t get enough of the stuff that happens with the framework…
And yet this is a deeply surreal situation! It is as surreal as any painting by Salvador Dali, as absurd as any play by Samuel Beckett. Here is the thing, the ‘no frills’ story: change that takes place within the FW is no change at all, whilst everything that takes place outside of the FW is an inexhaustible source of wonder and mystery. And we simply couldn’t ignore anything more determinedly than we ignore what lies outside the FW! What lies outside the FW simply doesn’t exist as far as we are concerned. We ignore the real deal therefore and at the same time we lavish every last bit of our attention and energy on what is (supposedly) going on inside the FW! So what sort of situation is this? What can we possibly say about such a scenario? It sounds too crazy to be true, and yet this is precisely what is going on. No one who isn’t asleep on their feet will say otherwise – it’s as plain as the nose on your face! This is the most readily observable feature of human existence – the fact that we’re all ‘only looking the one way’, the fact that we’re all extraordinarily heavily invested in ‘missing the point’ big time…
The situation is therefore that we are endlessly fascinated by blankness – despite the fact that ‘blankness’ (i.e. the state of ‘vapidity’ or ‘vacuity’) is by its nature the very epitome of all that is tiresome and nonsensical – and we are infinitely averse to noticing (or having anything to do with) the ‘non-blankness’ all around us, even though this ‘non-blankness’ is our own true nature! A team of shire horses couldn’t pull us towards being interested in our own true nature! A herd of stampeding woolly mammoths couldn’t drag us away from being endlessly fascinated with the ‘pernicious vacuity’ to which we have devoted our lives! God Himself (or Herself) couldn’t prize us away from this unwholesome addiction….
Not to put too fine a point on it, what we are doing is that we are ‘worshipping at the altar of oblivion’. Oblivion is our God, although we will never admit it. We are worshipping, worshipping, worshipping for all we are worth and what we are bestowing our fervent adulation upon is the vacuity, the nullity. As we worship the nullity we lie – we turn what we’re doing on its head and say that we are celebrating life, celebrating existence, celebrating the potential that exists within us all. This is the only way it could work – this is the only way to worship at the altar of oblivion. If we did so honestly – with the awareness of what we were doing – then precisely because honesty (or awareness) had entered the picture, we would no longer we would no longer be worshipping at the altar of oblivion. We would no longer be ‘the faithful servants of the lie’; after all, the only way to serve a lie is to claim that it is the truth. If we allowed ourselves to see that the lie which we serve actually is a lie then we would be being disloyal – we would then be the betrayers of the lie! We would then be traitors to the cause!
We might want to know – at this point in the discussion – what exactly is this lie that we are supposed to be serving so faithfully? It is after all usually something of an insult to be accused of such a thing. Most of us would deny any such affiliation with a lie – particular a lie that encompasses our whole lives! The answer to this question is however very easy to demonstrate – the lie is everything we believe in! The lie in question is anything we believe in, anything we take for granted, anything we ‘assert to be definitely true’. The lie is anything that has been asserted as being true by the thinking mind. To think is to lie – to think is by definition to fabricate a false reality! What else would we expect the thinking process to produce – we surely wouldn’t expect it to produce the truth!
The conceptual mind produces models of reality – that’s its job, that’s what it’s supposed to do. In this – the proper and rightful activity of the thinking mind – there is no dishonour, no dishonesty, no taint of subterfuge. Everything is fair and above board. To be consciously aware that the thinking mind produces models of reality, analogues of reality, ‘signifiers’ of reality, etc, is not to serve a lie. There is no lying involved here – only honesty. But the whole point is that we DON’T remain aware of this – on the contrary, every time the mind produces a thought, an opinion, a map or signifier of reality, we straightaway take it to be a literal truth and continue blithely ahead on this basis. This – therefore – is what we mean by ‘serving the lie’.
It’s not true to say that we always accept the conceptual output of the thinking mind as a literal description of reality. We ALMOST always do this! There are of course times in our lives (moments here and there during the day, perhaps) when we retain a sense of irony with regard to the self-proclaimed veracity of our own mental productions. At such times we are creative, humorous, spontaneous, light-of touch. At such times we are actually ourselves! At such times we can clearly see what Rene Magritte referred to as The Treachery of Images. We can see – as Magritte did – that the image is not the thing, that the menu is not the meal.
At such times all of our cognitive output is bracketed with little quotation marks, little apostrophes hanging in the air. Just so long as these little aerial apostrophes are there bracketing our thoughts then we are light, humorous, creative, spontaneous and truly ourselves. When we forget about them however then all is lost and we come immediately plummeting down from the dizzy heights of the irono-sphere into the crushing banality of the concrete or literal realm. The concrete realm is a whole different ballgame: when we forget about these little apostrophes in the air then – straightaway – the tables are turned and instead us being in the driving seat, so to speak, the thinking process is. The moment we forget about the quotation marks our thinking controls us and we don’t know the difference. We don’t own our thoughts – our thoughts own us! We still go around saying ‘I thought this’ or ‘I thought that’ (or ‘I had this thought’ or ‘I had that thought’) but that just isn’t how it is at all.
‘Serving the lie’ is no fun – how could it be? What possible benefits or happy consequences could there be from propping up the lie, from conforming to nonsense, from swearing allegiance to a fabricated reality? This type of language might seem a bit harsh – all this talk of ‘the lie’ might seem overly dramatic. And yet it IS dramatic – we just can’t see how dramatic it is. We can’t see how dramatic it is because we are operating on the basis of the rational mind – we would need perspective to see this and perspective is the one thing the thinking mind does not permit us. It makes its living by not permitting us any perspective – the whole exercise depends on us having no perspective, having no sense of irony! The thinking process couldn’t hang together otherwise. The thing about this however is that when we fail to see the irony in all of our mental productions then we are going to be acting on the basis of something that just isn’t there!
Our thoughts say that there is something there but the reality is that there just isn’t. This is how thoughts work, as we have already said. It’s the only way that the thinking process can work, but at the same time it makes for a very peculiar situation! Everything I think and do is based on there being something there (in a concrete or literal way) that just plain isn’t there. Not only is there no concrete or literal truth in the place that I say there is, there isn’t any ‘concrete or literal truth’ anywhere, and there never could be!
Any exposure at all to this strange and exotic thing called ‘truth’ cuts the ground from under this set up. No ground was ever cut away as thoroughly as would be the case if our mental productions were brought into actual contact with the truth. It’s like saying that you wouldn’t have a shadow if you stood on a court yard surrounded by powerful flood lamps on all sides. Or it’s like saying that you couldn’t have an ice-cube in a furnace. It’s this degree of impossibility that we’re talking about. So as a result of this very great vulnerability as regard exposure to the truth, the type of concrete mental activity that proceeds on the basis of ‘there being something there when there isn’t’ is always inherently aggressive, inherently forceful. The type of purposeful or rational activity that proceeds from the basis of our thoughts actually being true as always uncompromisingly assertive – not because what is being asserted is true (obviously enough) but because of the exact opposite. If someone goes around asserting that this idea or that idea (this theory or that theory, this belief or that belief) is ‘true’ then this is of course precisely because it is not true. On some level we all understand this principle perfectly well – look for example at the religious zealot running around aggressively asserting his creed. Why else would he need to be so violent, so humourless, so intolerant if what he professes to be true were not a pack of shabby lies?
We can talk about the inherently aggressive and intolerant nature of the controlling rational mind, which never wants to look at its own basis. We can talk about all the various (essentially nonsensical) things that are being asserted, the various untenable positions that are being defended, the various unsustainable structures that are being propped up at such great cost. But we can also look at all of this in terms of the ‘taken-for-granted viewpoint’ which is showing itself in all these assertions, in all of these positions, in all of these structures. We could – in other words – look at the inherent aggression, violence and intolerance that we have been drawing attention to in terms of the characteristic activities and strategies of the self.
We began at the start of this discussion by talking about this extraordinarily odd situation whereby we are all hypnotically engrossed in the sort of activity that takes place within (or makes sense within) the assumed framework of the rational mind, whilst at the same time we remain steadfastly ignorant of (and profoundly uninterested in) everything that is happening outside of it. We talked about how we dine feverishly on empty husks of nonsense (in a veritable feeding frenzy) and turn our backs on the limitless abundance and profundity of the real world which lies all around us. So this behaviour – whilst initially confusing in its perversity – now makes perfect sense. This ignorant exclusion of anything real, anything genuine, is the only way that the self can carry on being the self. This is basic ‘self-preservation behaviour’: the conditioned self can only ever concern itself with stuff that will confirm its (conditional) existence. It can only ever concern itself with its own projections, in other words, because its own projections are the only thing that are going to confirm its existence. For sure, nothing else will!
So the ‘profoundly perverse behaviour’ that we have been talking about makes perfect sense when we look at it like this. There’s a reason for everything the self does and the reason for its ‘ignoring of reality’ is its need to preserve – at all costs – the illusion of its own existence. This is basic ‘self-maintenance’. But even saying this doesn’t quite make the point clearly enough. When we ‘serve the lie’ it is the self that we are serving. The self is ‘the thing that isn’t there’, but which we act on the basis of the whole time. The self is the ‘false basis’ we never want to question. So when we spend all our time acting aggressively, assertively, forcefully (selfishly!) on the basis of something that isn’t there in the first place, where is this going to get us? How is this ever going to work out well for us? How we are ever going to find happiness or peace? What did we ever expect to get as a result of all this aggression and cunning other than trouble? As Wei Wu Wei says,
All the evil in the world, and all the unhappiness, comes from the I-concept.
The I-concept is both inside and outside of us. The I-concept is what lies behind all of the structures and all of the rational activities that are going on inside of us, and it is also what lies behind all of the structures and systems (and all of the feverish goal-orientated activity) that we can see going on every day on the outside of us (not in nature, but in the man-made world which we are doing our best to replace nature with). But this ubiquitous I-concept doesn’t actually exist, and it is the truth of its non-existence that gives rise to all of its inherent toxicity…
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.