Suppose you were in the Purely Conceptual Reality and you couldn’t tell the difference. Suppose you were in the Purely Conceptual Reality and it was substituting itself for the real world so that you couldn’t tell the difference – would there be any way that you could ever spot the switch? Are there any things, any ‘tell-tale’ signs – that we could look out for?
The PCR is like a glossy, endlessly-proliferating global shopping centre – image follows image with never any break, with never any discontinuity. It’s all a single seamless surface and there’s nothing else there’s nothing else that isn’t it, nothing that isn’t a part of it, a facet of it. No matter where you look therefore, you will never find anything that contradicts (or calls into question) the show that is being put on. Unless you already had reason to suspect that something wasn’t right, you could wander around this hypermarket of the mind’ forever therefore. As far as the system itself is concerned, there are no inconsistencies, there are no signs of anything being amiss with the system itself, there are no signs that the system is anything other than what it says it is.
One sign that we might spot, if we weren’t captivated by the display in the way that we almost always are captivated, is that there is nothing of any real interest in it! The whole thing is just one glossy image after another, and when you’ve seen one ‘glossy image’ you’ve seen them all. When you see the formula behind the images then the magic is gone. When you’ve seen one production of the conceptual mind then you have seen them all because they’re all cut out of the same cloth. It’s all just a ‘repeat performance’, over and over again, and herein lies the PCR‘s ‘secret weakness’!
The PCR secret weakness is that it’s all a sham, another word; the hidden ‘bug’ or ‘flaw’ in the system is that there is actually nothing of any substance in it. It’s all in ‘the development’, but what we don’t see, and never suspect, is that there’s nothing there that is being developed. The original assumptions are all empty of content. As long as we assume that there is something there, and we never look back it to check it, then we can go on ‘developing’ it forever! Given the tremendous (in fact absolute) poverty inherent in this set-up, we might wonder why this poverty never actually reveals itself. Why do we never spot it?
The trick – as we have already intimated – is that the surface of the PCR (as two-dimensional as it may be) somehow absorbs all of our attention and leaves nothing of it ‘left over’ so that we might be aware of anything else. Everything is all very concrete, in other words, and there’s no questioning of the image as it is being represented to us. We have been told the story, but we can’t question the story, in other words. We can’t interpret it in any other way that the way we have been told to interpret it; the narrative is a literal one and so we are trapped in it. The way this trick works (the way our attention gets ‘trapped so effectively) is by ‘the mechanism of promise and threat’ – we are either promised something that we are desirous or we are threatened with something that we are afraid of, and what better way of ‘capturing our attention’ could there be than this?
The actual ‘mechanism’ by which our attention gets swallowed up or absorbed is a very straightforward one – as soon as we ‘buy into’ the promise or threat that is being made then we immediately get shunted down ‘the road of controlling’, and controlling very neatly (of course!) diverts our attention from ‘how things actually are’ to ‘how we want them to be’ (which is a mental projection). We are ‘hypnotized by the ideal’. Not only have we switched our attention from ‘the real’ to ‘the projected’, but there is now also the whole question of how we are to get things to happen in the way we want them to happen, and this takes up (or can take up) a huge amount of our attention. Working out how we can manipulate the situation in our favour (i.e. strategising) can very easily soak up every last little bit of attention that we’ve got! We become mere ‘mechanisms’, in this case….
An extreme example of this is anxiety, which is where we are trying to ‘change a situation that we can’t actually change’ (or ‘solve a problem that can’t actually be solved’) – anxiety can absolutely drain our attention, leaving none left over for anything else, so in this case it is very easy to see how a threatening image that is being produced by the PCR can take away all of our perspective (‘perspective’ being equitable to ‘free attention’). When all of our attention is sunk into the desperate task of controlling (either because we want something very badly, or because we very badly don’t want it) then there is quite simply none left. We have been transformed into ‘a worrying machine’. It’s not just anxiety – all desire/fear does this, when acted on. Acting on attraction or aversion turns into ‘strategizing’, and strategizing eats up our free awareness. It gobbles it all up for breakfast.
So because the ‘bland surface’ which makes up the PCR is geared to either incite either desire or fear, and because we automatically react to desire/fear by trying to control to make it happen (or make itnot happen, as the case may be) we straightaway lose the ability to see the PCR for what it is, and instead – see it as being what it represents itself as being, which – as we have said – is a world made up entirely of promises and threats. This is not of course to say that we see the world that is being presented to us as ‘a system of promises and threats’ – that perception would imply an awareness that the PCR just doesn’t permit us to keep! Rather than seeing the promises as promises or the threat as threats, we simply react without ever questioning the fact that we are reacting.
The fact that the PCR operates by creating a world made up of attractive and repulsive images that we react to without questioning (and lose all our free or unattached awareness in the process) demonstrates something very interesting. It demonstrates something that is not just ‘interesting’ but utterly astonishing. If the PCR is made up entirely of threats and promises (and has no ‘random’ elements in it) then this is simply another way of saying that it is made up entirely of our hopes and fears, and if it is ‘made up entirely of our hopes and fears’ then it is actually nothing other than ourselves being reflected back at us. The PCR is ‘a seamless universe of self’, to use William Gibson’s phrase.
So that’s one way of putting it – to say that the PCR is simply ourselves reflected back at us in a way that we don’t have a spot (and this of course nothing if not obvious once we come out and say it – whose concepts are they that are making up ‘the Purely Conceptual Reality’, after all?) But if we can also flip this around and say that when our attention gets captured, as it does get captured, by the PCR then the result of this is that the PCR (which is the virtual environment that has taken full control of our perceptions and cognitions) constructs our self according to its own blueprint, according to its own schema for us. What it means to be captured – attention-wise – by the PCR is that we then think that we are this generic, hollow identity that has been constructed (via ‘back-projection’) by the virtual reality we have bought into.
So suppose you were in the PCR and you couldn’t tell the difference between it and genuine reality, what exactly would this mean? How would we ever be able to spot it? We can look at this question a bit more clearly now and the most succinct answer is to say that we won’t be able to ‘tell the difference’ (or ‘spot what’s going on’) just as long as we allow the PCR to tell us who we are. Another approach is to say that we won’t be able to ‘tell the difference’ just as long as we are acting on the basis of either attraction or aversion, and this is saying the very same thing in a different way (since it is ‘acting on the basis of desire or fear’ that causes us to identify with the ‘false or generic self’). The thing about this however is that we are not in the ordinary course of events ever going to have the inclination to not ‘act on the basis of fear or desire’. We are not going to have the inclination not to construct the generic self’. We think we are the self after all, so why would we question its core motivation?
Even if I hate myself and passionately don’t want to be myself (which is a common enough situation) that isn’t going help me any. Hating myself and reacting against myself in a negative way just makes me stick to the conceptual identity all the more. I buy into ‘the game’ all the more. How do we ever get to learn that we are not this mind-constructed identity and that our hopes and fears are being supplied for us, like everything else, by the PCR, and are not ‘our own’ at all? That is the really interesting question – how does freedom ever come into the picture? How does it arise within a purely mechanical situation that is made up wholly of ‘rules that need to be obeyed’? The identity we think we are – on the other hand – is the least interesting (or ‘most barren’) thing there could ever be. The identity that is provided for us by the PCR is ‘the least interesting thing there ever could be’, and yet this is all we care about.