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The Fool’s Lantern

There’s a big secret that we’re not allowed to know anything about – the anti-conspiracy theorists are wrong when they say that there is no conspiracy! One should never bet on reality turning out to be what it presents itself as being after all; whatever else might prove to be the case, it won’t be this! Nothing is ever going this obvious and we are foolish in the extreme if we think it is.


The ‘big secret’ is this – none of our thoughts are real,none of the things that thought tells us are true actually are. They’re not even a little bit true. We go from place to the place, completely engaging with this thought-created world as we do so, and yet it’s all a phantom. The illusory thought-created world is a constant for us; we won’t let go of it for a second – we chew it over constantly, like a dog with a bone. If anyone tried to take our bone off us we’d bite them!


 This isn’t the same as saying that ‘nothing is real’ (or that ‘the world is real’), this isn’t a philosophical discussion we are having here; all we are saying is that our thoughts about the world aren’t real. Very obviously our thoughts about the world aren’t real – they are only thoughts after all! Thoughts are real as thoughts it is true, but they don’t present themselves as thoughts – the image doesn’t come with a subtext that says ‘this is only in image’, as in Magritte’s famous painting. The idea doesn’t announce itself to be ‘just an idea’. The whole thing about thought is that it is a type of ‘formal representation’ of reality and this is the same thing as saying that it isn’t what it is formally representing.


Our thoughts are only a formalised representation of reality but we don’t actually have this awareness– we inhabit the thought-created world full-time and we never take a break to reflect on the fact that it is only a representation. We are far too busy reacting to what thought shows us to do that!   We are far too busy making plans to ‘achieve our goals’ and avoid ‘not achieving them’ to tune out of the show.We are not interested in tuning out of the show – we’d be too afraid of missing something! Attachment keeps us tuned in, in other words.


Just because we are obsessed with the thought-created world (and can’t let it alone even for a minute) doesn’t make it real however. Just because we are continuously concerned and preoccupied with the show doesn’t mean that the show isn’t just a series of empty images. If we were to realise that the thought-created world to which our attention is glued is only a seamless system of representations then our attention would undo itself with a ‘ping!’ immediately but this never happens. If it did happen then we’d notice the ‘ping!’ – it would be like an elastic band snapping painfully back on  us! The awareness of the unreality of the world that we are constantly relating to in this attached way is there on some level, but we are not attending to it. We can only relate to this awareness of our world ‘not being real’ (anymore than Tom and Jerry cartoon is) when it is transposed or transfigured into some different format. The awareness in question is displaced, in other words.


This is like the ‘fear of the empty screen’ that Baudrillard talks about – when we are absorbed in watching the transmission (or show) on TV, and have tuned out of the awareness that it is only a show, then a break in the transmission will be a nasty/fearful experience for us because we are ‘attached’ and this means that we don’t want to know that what we are attached to isn’t real (which is exactly what the empty screen or break in transmission’ shows us). We don’t know what we’re afraid of but we’re afraid all the same! We’re all the more afraid for not knowing what we’re afraid of…


We are ‘attached’ in exactly the same way therefore to the thought-transmission,only it’s very rare for this broadcast to be broken or interrupted – it usually takes a big shock to the system to do this. Whenever we are attached to some determinate reality (so that we no longer know it to be such, but instead see it as the backdrop or context that everything else take place within) then the fear of seeing that what we attached to isn’t real is always going to be there in some displaced form or manifestation.


 Attachment always has to take place in relation to some determinate (or ‘defined’) reality – otherwise, there wouldn’t be anything to be attached to! When we are attached to determinate or defined reality then this creates fear in other words. As we have just said, ‘attachment creates the fear of seeing the nonexistence of what we are attached to’. The point is that when we are attached to a defined reality then that DR has to supply everything for us – it’s all we’ve got, after all! Where else can we look? If we can’t find what we need here where can we find it? We’ve only got the one cupboard to look in…


We are dependent upon the DS because it’s the only reality we can know about, the only reality we can believe in, and yet it can’t give us anything real – it can’t give us anything real because it isn’t real in itself. All it can do is distract us from the fact of its inherent emptiness by giving us promises of future positive outcomes and threatening us with projected negative outcomes. This sucks us neatly into the game and by then we’re too busy to notice that the game is only a game.


‘Playing the game’ means that we are doing everything for the sake of illusory (or ‘nominal’) reasons – reasons that don’t actually exist. When we get subsumed within the game (which happens in a flash) then we think we know why we’re doing what we’re doing but we don’t.  We’re in the situation of ‘playing the game for the sake of playing the game’, even though we think that our motivation is something else. We are ‘controlling for the sake of controlling’, in other words; we’re controlling because we’re too frightened of what will happen if we stop!



 This works as a kind of ‘positive feedback loop’ that keeps us trapped in the system. Just as soon as we become afraid to see that the defined reality to which we are attached (and which we exclusively believe in) isn’t real then a displaced form of fear comes into existence, a form of fear that appears to have an independent existence in this world. The effect of the fear that we have unwittingly projected out into the world is to pressurise us even more to find solutions within the terms of the game that we have been tricked into playing,  without seeing (and moving ever further away from seeing) that it is ‘immersion in the game’ and nothing else which is creating the pressure that keeps us playing!


The fear of the outcome of not controlling (or ‘failing to control’) becomes the same thing as‘the fear of the empty screen’, the fear of discovering that the unreality of everything we believe to be true, the unreality of everything we need to believe to be true. This means that the secret reason for us wanting to ‘obtain the goal’ (or ‘win at the game’) is to avoid this fear – the ‘fear of the empty screen’. The fear has become disconnected from its source, and now stalks the land as a ‘force in its own right’. Just as long as we are too afraid to seethe fear where it belongs, we have to see it where it doesn’t belong, which is wherever we unconsciously project it!



If can’t understand the nature of this game then we can’t understand anything! The game is played for the sake of the defined self and the reason the defined self has to play is because playing the game is the only way by which it can continue to exist. It plays the game, as we have just said, by thinking of (and then implementing) strategies that will enable it to gain the positive outcome and avoid the negative. That’s all that’s needed; all that the defined self needs to do is to keep orientating itself towards gaining a positive outcome. It’s not success in the game that counts, but simply playing it. It doesn’t matter how well we do with our strategies therefore, if they actually pan out for us or not is irrelevant – all that matters is that we are orientated towards the positive outcome.


What drives the game is one thing and one thing alone – the ‘pressure’ (both of the positive and negative variety) that is created when we become attached to the defined or determinate reality. Because of this attachment – as we have said – we become incapable of understanding that this defined reality isn’t actually real at all and as soon as we do this – as soon as we lose sight of the Undefined (or Unstated) World, then we get translated into an entirely different modality of existence. We get translated into a crudely oversimplified mode of existence in which freedom is replaced by the brute mechanical fact of compulsion – compulsion that we adapt to so thoroughly(because we know nothing else) that we see it simply as being ‘THE WAY THINGS HAVE TO BE’.


The defined self has to struggle to achieve positive goals because understanding ourselves as ‘the defined self’ puts a particular type of ‘squeeze’ on us; twin forces have come into being – the force of attraction and the force of aversion. This ‘squeeze’ comes into being as a result of our incompleteness – to be defined is to be incomplete and it is this that banishes us from reality, since the Wholeness that is undefined reality can never be subdivided or partitioned in the way that the thinking mind does and yet at the same time still remain reality. Subdividing or partitioning Wholeness is only ever a ‘theoretical exercise’ – it cannot ever be an actual real operation or event.


All the same, just because we cannot comprehend that they is such a thing as ‘Wholeness’, or perceive that we are lacking in it, this doesn’t means that we still don’t unconsciously yearn for it. We don’t yearn for Wholeness (or God, as some would say) in a conscious way, but in terms of a ‘surrogate’ that actually has nothing to do with the real thing, but which is, instead, ‘a mere cipher’. This is what the ‘positive outcome’ (or winning’) is – it’s a cipher for Wholeness, it’s an opaque surrogate or substitute for Reality. Wholeness always leads us to freedom but when we only encounter it in its ‘cipher form’ it is instead ultimately entrapping. This parallels what Jung says about dual nature of the spirit Mercurius – that Mercurius is the Two-Faced God. in his higher form, Jung says, Mercurius is the Principle of Truth, the ‘Liberator’, whilst in his lower form he is the Father of Lies, the Master of Propaganda (or false information) who will mislead and bamboozle us until the end of our days. Jung equates the deceptive manifestation of the spirit Mercurius with the rational mind; it is the ‘Fool’s Lantern’ or Ignis Fatuus.


When we are living in the thought-created world (as we almost always are) then all the defined (or conceptualised) things that we relate to aren’t real. They’re not real at all but we can’t perceive this unreality – at least not directly. We do perceive this unreality indirectly however – we indirectly (or obscurely) perceive the unreality of the thought-created world in terms of attraction versus aversion,which is the same thing as ‘the need to be always seeking the advantage’. We are not really perceiving anything real here however – we’re too busy obeying(or trying to obey) the compulsion to gain the advantage to see anything truly.Reacting to attachments isn’t awareness after all – it’s the absence of awareness! Being ‘orientated towards seeking the advantage’ is the absence of awareness. Following the light of the Fool’s Lantern is the absence of awareness.


We spend our days mulling over stuff, chewing over stuff, dwelling upon stuff, worrying about stuff, and all of this ‘stuff’ has to do with the picture or understanding of the world that is provided for us by the Fool’s Lantern which is the thinking mind. It’s mundane old stuff that we’re concerned with – it’s dreary old stuff like an accountant’s page of figures, like the minutes of last month’s board meeting. No one can pretend that it is actually interesting! The content of our heads is rarely interesting; it’s purely utilitarian, for the most part. If it did happen to be interesting then it certainly wouldn’t have anything to do with the old ‘central processor’ which is the thinking mind!


 If we had any genuine awareness we’d know that all of this that all of this stuff which we continue preoccupy ourselves with isn’t real! How could it be, when it’s so very dull? Reality isn’t dull, reality isn’t like this! And yet not only do we not see that our mental content isn’t real, we fear discovering that it isn’t real more than anything else in the whole wide world. We fear discovering that the thought-created world isn’t real as if that were the worst catastrophe possible! Why do we have this absurd unconscious belief that all this dreary old stuff has to be real? Why do we keep up the pretence, because that’s what it essentially is? Why do we have to keep on pretending that it’s all so very important when deep-down we know that it isn’t? Why are we acting out our parts in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes?


All of these questions are rhetorical, of course. We resist seeing that the thoughts which fill our head aren’t real, that the thought-created world which we preoccupy ourselves with doesn’t really exist, out of our allegiance to the made-up self that we are pretending to be. Everything is done for the benefit of the defined self. Everything we do serves the defined self. If we were to see the Fool’s Lantern which guides us all of our steps to be the Fool’s Lantern then there would be no more defined self, and this seems like a disaster to us. And yet the defined self is every bit as dull and tedious as the thought-created world that it lives in…




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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