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The Great Process

Life falsifies our illusions. If we had to say what the ‘meaning’ of life was, this would be as good an answer as anything. This doesn’t mean that reality has any kind of agenda to get rid of illusions or anything like that; this isn’t the same sort of thing as the an orthodox theologian wanting to get rid of heresy – illusions aren’t heresies that need to be stamped out! The reason orthodoxy hates heresy is of course because it is threatened by it, but reality isn’t threatened by illusion, just as the truth isn’t threatened by lies. It is of course the other way around – lies are threatened by truth.

 

 

The great process that happens in life is nevertheless the process by which our illusions are inexorably falsified. This is the ‘direction’ life always moves in – the direction of reality manifesting itself, even though this is not something that we seek or desire! This is the direction of growth, the direction of a tree growing or a flower blossoming – fruition occurs and the thing about this is that it always ‘surprises’ us because we have no way from looking at the seed what it is that is going to come about as a result of that seed manifesting its hidden potential. There is of course also the ‘counter-movement’ or ‘counter-process’ and this is the complementary direction of us steadfastly defending ourselves against the tendency of life to go against our cherished illusions and ‘lay them bare’, so to speak. On the face of it, it seems as if the movement of us defending and promoting our illusions is by far the strongest one – it is as least by far the most evident one. Sometimes it’s hard to see the other movement at all; we might be forgiven for thinking that it has been overwhelmed completely by the second type of process, the ‘illusion-building’ process. Generally speaking, this business of ‘defending and promoting the illusion’ is all that we see – not that we are supposed to see it like this of course! We’re supposed to see the basic societal activity in this world as being positive, progressive and wonderfully inspirational; if we saw the ‘official business of the day’ as being all about promoting illusions and covering up the truth we would suddenly find ourselves very isolated, very much out on a limb. We would be instantly labelled as ‘conspiracy theorists’…

 

 

There is nothing we can do to directly change the external manifestations of the tendency to cover over the truth (or promote illusions) – when we are unwise enough to attack illusions, we immediately become subsumed within the illusions world. As Philip K Dick says in his novel Valis,

To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement. This is a paradox; whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies.

 

Society itself is the embodiment of the drive to permanently obscure the truth and defend / promote illusion – society itself is ‘the Empire’. Not all illusions are promoted by society, clearly – the social level of organization is the arena in which various illusions are left to ‘fight it out amongst themselves’; as a kind of experiment the aim of which is to see which false version of reality wins out and grows strong. This has of course been going on right from the beginning; the struggle has been going on as a long as people have had a social level of organization. Throughout the course of history certain particular illusions have ‘gained the upper ground’ and have persisted, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Just as computer viruses can be bred and allowed to compete with within the virtual world of ‘computational space’, so too do with ‘versions of reality’ compete with each other inside the virtual space of our own thoughts and the world we see all around us is nothing other than the resultant of this process. It is no exaggeration to say that the human race is a slave to this ‘virus-breeding’ experiment, which is an experiment that runs itself since none of us even know that it is going on…

 

 

We could also quite legitimately see the social level of organization – the ‘public domain’ – as that realm in which all of our psychological projections are ‘cut loose’ and allowed to do their own thing, so to speak. Society is the ‘projection world’ therefore, it is the world in which our disowned projections get to run amok and do what they will. Inasmuch as we are living unconsciously and refuse to have anything to do our own inner life (choosing instead to obsess over the outer or theatrical world) all we are ever doing is ‘splitting-off projections’, which then control us absolutely in the most ridiculous of ways. And it’s not just that we don’t have anything to do with the inner world – we absolutely refuse, in our rationalist tradition, to acknowledge that there is such a thing as ‘the inner life’. Instead, we sentimentalize all of the higher expressions of what it means to be human and cheapen them to the point where we quite lose track of what it is that we imagine we are talking about. We might therefore say that our culture ‘enshrines’ this value or that value, but all of that is nonsensical ideology with no actual substance to it. Without consciousness, there are no values – there is just vacuous rhetoric. Or as we could also say, with the true individual being on the scene – instead of the generic man or generic woman – there are no values anywhere, only empty imagination. After all, as Jung says, the individual is the only carrier of values and society is implacably against the individual, no matter what it may claim to the contrary, just as it is implacably against consciousness

 

 

If we ‘take against’ this generic world, this world of ‘disowned projections’ and say bad things about it then this doesn’t really help matters because when we dislike something what we’re actually doing (as we could readily see if we brought a bit of awareness into the picture) is throwing out a projection into the world then saying that it is ‘a bad thing’ that exists out there and has nothing to do with us! Whether we like something or dislike something it’s the same – we’re relating to our projections in an unconscious (or ‘non-recognizing’) way. So this is simply echoing or restating what Philip K Dick says in the quote given above – when we feel aversion and hostility to what is going on in the world around us then all that we are doing is ‘further energizing the unowned projections’, as if they really need any more energizing! What does help is for us to notice this ‘illusion-validating’ activity, as it always is doing, rather than taking the easy option of pointing the accusing finger at the outside world, which is (as we have been saying) nothing than our own unacknowledged thinking made concrete.

 

 

Structural mechanisms have of course been set in place to validate and promote illusions but these mechanisms or structures are impregnable because we cannot communicate with them. The whole point is that we can’t communicate with them – the rules that govern society are not open to be examined. Rules are never open to being examined or questioned and that’s what makes them ‘rules’ in the first place. ‘Rules are rules’, as we are not infrequently told! The structures and systems that are in place in society are not open to communication – they tell us what we should be doing and thinking rather than vice versa – but what we can usefully notice is the way in which we ourselves are continually validating and promoting our own cherished illusions – this being something that we do more or less constantly with a completely uncritical fervour. Just as the fanatical follower of some creed or other feels the enthusiastic promotion of the tenets of their creed to be the most wonderfully virtuous and worthy thing that they could ever do, so too do we believe that promotion of our own self-serving illusions to be perfectly natural, to be a perfectly ‘right and proper’ thing for us to do. We would pat ourselves on the back in recognition of our ceaseless and unstinting efforts in this direction; we would tend to consider ourselves worthy of some kind of award or medal…

 

 

There is – we might say – one main construct that we are promoting along with a number of adjuncts which we are also very keen to validate and defend. The Number One construct is of course the idea that we have about who we are and the ‘adjuncts’ are all the things we believe in, all the views that we hold, that go to support the central, all-important illusion. We all have opinions about this and that, sometimes opinions that we get we get very excited indeed about, and the reason we are all so attached to these ridiculous opinions of ours is that they all have the secret function of propping up the absurd fiction of the self-construct. The more excited or exercised we get over our opinions the more important the opinion in question must be with regard to the all-important mission of propping up the SC and the very fact that we are getting so bizarrely excited goes to show – very clearly indeed – that this construct of ours which we are implicitly saying ‘is real’ isn’t actually real at all. As we have already said, only illusions need to defend themselves and fight to say that they’re real…

 

 

Almost everything we do is ‘defensive’ in this sense; an awful lot of what we do is for the sake of maintaining the self-concept. All of the dramas that we get involved in on a daily basis are for the sake of maintaining the self-concept – it thrives on dramas and without them it starts to feel decidedly peaky. Every time we get caught up in thinking about something we’re maintaining the self-concept; that’s the hidden motivation behind all of our reiterative thoughts about this and that and everything else in-between. All of our purposeful behaviour (no matter what our overt goals might be) has this secret function; whenever we act on the basis of our thoughts (i.e. ‘our models and theories about the world’) we are re-affirming the validity of this assumed basis to ourselves – it doesn’t actually matter whether we succeed or fail in our endeavours because we’re confirming the validity of our models and theories either way. As a rule of thumb therefore we can say that purposeful behaviour is – ultimately – for the sake of validating the self-concept (or the framework that gives rise to it) whilst spontaneous activity serves no master. All purposeful behaviour sings from the same hymn sheet (all purposeful activity ‘tows the party line’) whilst spontaneity – by its very nature – is always radical. While it is perfectly possible to utilize rational-purposeful behaviour without blind attachment to the framework from which it arose (and without undue attachment to the outcomes that we are seeking) this is always a rare thing. What we’re talking about here is ‘conscious’ or ‘unattached’ activity and this isn’t something we come across every day! The usual situation is for us to maximally identified the whole time with a particular fixed mental attitude just as a barnacle might be attached to the hull of an ocean-going trawler. The fixed mental attitude is our master for the simple reason that it is fixed, and we are afraid to let go!

 

 

Attachment is our only way of being in the world – this is the only way we know, the only life we know. When attachment to a fixed outlook is our modality we are however fundamentally at odds with life and so the only life we know is the ‘life’ (in inverted commas) of being at odds with life! We’re at odds with life because whilst life is all about ‘falsifying illusions’, we’re all about trying as hard as we can to preserve them forever! It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is never going to work out for us; what we really doing here therefore is ‘setting ourselves up for the biggest possible fall of which we’re capable’. Even though suffering is the thing we like least in life, we’re putting ourselves directly in line for some of the most gruelling suffering around – the suffering of being ‘wedded to illusion’, the suffering of being 100% identified with a position that is absolutely guaranteed to be undermined. There is only one thing that is certain in this world and that is that the certainty of every illusion ultimately being shown up as such and we have gone and pledged our allegiance to the illusion-world and made it thereby the most important thing in the world that what we are assuming to be ‘definitely true’ shall not be shown up to be ‘totally untrue’. We’ve made our well-being dependent on something that can never be true and if this isn’t setting ourselves up for a fall then what is?

 

 

Once we understand this then we can see without any difficulty at all that the whole of conditioned life, in all of its aspects, comes down to one thing and one thing only – it comes down to having our entrenched position slowly but surely undermined, it comes down to have our most cherished illusions very thoroughly falsified. Generally speaking, of course, we don’t see life like this at all! We see life as (potentially at least) a wonderful journey in which we get to ‘obtain our goals’, or ‘realize our dreams’. Life doesn’t always happen like this, in fact it’s probably almost always not like this, but that is nevertheless our idea of what it should be like. That’s the blueprint that we have in our heads, and which we hold everything up against. In essence, it’s like a Hollywood ‘feel-good movie’. When we look more closely at this Hollywood movie-version of life we can see that it is fundamentally a story of life affirming our basic illusions, despite there being difficulties or challenges along the way and that it is the ‘affirming our illusions’ bit that makes us feel good when we watch it! And the Number One Illusion, as always, is the illusion of the self-concept which is – as we might expect – taking a central role in the proceedings…

 

 

The view of life that we have been putting forward is very different and it would be much harder to express in a movie format; not only would it be much harder to express as a movie, it is very doubtful if anyone would want to come along and see it! It certainly wouldn’t be a box-office success…  Life is ‘a journey’ alright but it’s not a journey towards achieving our goals or realizing our dreams. That would be ridiculous, seeing as how our goals are banal, generic sugar-coated illusions and our dreams are just that – dreams. In our heads we are travelling in the general direction of the fulfilment of our goals, it is true but this simply means that we are spending most (if not all) of our lives in a state of denial. We have been ‘brain-washed’ by the official story, so to speak, and we ourselves are colluding with this process for all that we’re worth. The ‘culture’ that we surround ourselves with is also part of the brainwashing, part of the story that we are telling ourselves – if something is a true work of art then it wakes us up out of the collective dream, it doesn’t mire us even deeper in it, and yet the world of art, the world of classic music, the world of literature that we make so much of very rarely challenges our key assumptions about who we are and what life is all about, and if it doesn’t challenge us in this way it’s not really ‘art’ at all. It’s simply ‘yet more stuff producing by sleeping people’, if we may put it like that.

 

 

Unconsciousness is denial – that’s what this ubiquitous state of ‘psychological unconsciousness’ is all about. When we’re in denial mode then there are two possibilities of experience open to us – one is that our denial is successful and the other is that it ceases to be successful. In the first case we experience euphoria and we say that we’re ‘having a good time’ and in the second case we experience dysphoria and we complain of having ‘a bad time’. Our idea of what life ‘ought to be’ comes down to continuous successful denial therefore, although we are of course flatly incapable of acknowledging that this is actually what we are talking about! A ‘good time’ is a good time for the delusory self-concept – who else would be having the good time, after all? When we talk about ‘enjoyment’ and ‘contentment’ we’re talking about the enjoyment and contentment that come about as a result of being able to hang onto in our highly-valued illusions. The joy of letting go of stuff, or ‘letting go of ourselves’, is not culturally celebrated and if we try to make out that it is (and we often do) then this is simply another, more sophisticated level of self-deception.

 

 

Life – it is often said – is a ‘journey of learning’. This is true but it isn’t true in the way we think it is! It’s not actually the type of learning that we want to have anything to do with. We like the type of ‘learning’ that affirms our key assumptions, not the type that undermines them, and life – as we have been saying – conspires relentlessly to undermine rather than support our illusions. That – naturally enough- is the sort of process that it is! We do learn in life but it is learning that occurs against our own wishes – it is learning that takes place despite our best efforts, not because of them! For the most part, we do not learn in life, we go in a different direction entirely… Our whole endeavour is the resisting of this learning, after all. Because of our steadfast attitude of resistance to learning (and the celebration of false learning) when truth does come our way we are ill-prepared to avail of it – it is too terrifying for us, too painful and shocking. We have made ourselves too narrow to be able to contain this truth, too mean-spirited to be able to accept it. Eventually – so the mystics say – we will learn the truth that sets us free, the truth that brings true joy and happiness, but we will be fighting this marvellous liberating process every step of the way…

 

 

 

 

Art: Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins. Good Knight. Image taken from beautifulbizarre.net

 

 

 

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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