The analytic mind is like an engine which never stops. It is an engine, furthermore, which has been made the very centre of our being – despite the fact that it actually has nothing to do with who we are and is in reality nothing more than some sort of ‘extraneous addition’, some kind of ‘foreign body’ or ‘implant’.
The reason we can say that it has ‘nothing to do with who we really are’ is being who we are is quintessentially unique or original, and the analytic mind contains nothing unique in it whatsoever. This mind is the antithesis of unique or original or individual – it is entirely regular, being based entirely on precedents (or ‘rules’). Because it is entirely regular it is also entirely ‘empty’ – it is empty of anything new or unexpected, it is empty therefore of any actual reality. Informationally speaking, it is a tautology, a redundancy.
We can furthermore say that when this engine is constantly exercised (or ‘operated’) – as it is – then this has the effect of automatically erasing all awareness of who we really are. In place of this awareness it installs instead a spurious sense of identity which isn’t actually anything at all really, only a vacuous artefact of the analytic mind, which is itself entirely vacuous anyway!
If we understand this, then we understand everything we need to know about psychology – if we understand this clearly then that’s all we need to understand in order to work towards being free from the delusory sense of identity that is being continuously spun for us by the ever-busy machine-mind.
By keeping us busy all the time the mind ensures that our awareness is always caught up, fully engrossed in all the null-operations that it is running on our behalf, and because we are fully engrossed in this way this means that we have no sense at all – not even the slightest intimation – of who we really are!
But let us suppose – just for the sake of the argument – that the engine of thinking which is the everyday mind is no longer facilitated in its constant senseless activity and that it doesn’t therefore absorb all of our free awareness on a full-time basis. Let us suppose that it stops doing this. In this – admittedly hypothetical – case we would in due course begin to become aware of something completely unexpected, something truly astonishing. We would start to get a sense of what it is that we have been so effectively prevented from seeing by the never-ending barrage of thoughts that has, up to now, been absorbing all of our attention.
At first the lack of the familiar presence of the thinking mind will seem like a diminution, a lessening of our being rather than a gain. The ensuing quietness and simplicity will seem like a loss of some essential part of ourselves – the very core of ourselves, in fact. With the noisy old engine gone everything seems so very simple, so very rudimentary, that there doesn’t really seem to be anything of value there at all. What is left is something like a bare cupboard, a shopping trolley with no goods in it, or a blank page with no writing on it, perhaps. The self that I knew and was so very familiar with – which was created by the automatic identification with the mind-machine – is gone and I have been provided with nothing ‘solid’ in its place.
The machine itself – we might say – is still there in some way, but in a very different capacity. It is there in its capacity as tool or instrument, but it is no longer ‘centre stage’ – it is now like a vacuum cleaner that has been unplugged and left in the broom cupboard under the stairs. It has now been stripped of all its pretensions, all its power to project meaning. It is therefore perceived to be quite empty, like a second-rate street conjuror whose tricks have all been seen through. The machine-mind is empty because it has no purpose of its own – it is after all only a tool, only an instrument, only a machine… When left to its own devices (so that it calls the shots) it only does stuff for the sake of doing it, it ‘controls for the sake of controlling’ in other words. It ‘thinks for the sake of thinking’.
The thought-producing mind has now fallen so flat that we don’t even bother to look in its direction any more – never mind donate our attention to it on an ongoing basis! It has no more pull on us, no more power to fascinate, to entrance. This therefore is putting the machine of the mind back in its proper place, back where it belongs – in the broom cupboard, switched off until needed again. And when we do switch it back on again, the difference will be that we will be using it rather than vice versa.
It is not possible to imagine a bigger change than this – in one scenario the machine is running us, and in the other (admittedly hypothetical) one we are utilizing it, when and where we want to. When this machine is allowed free reign to chug away all by itself, promoting itself the whole time, exercising itself the whole time, generating thereby an entirely false sense of self for us to identify with, then clearly it is not in its right place. The tail is wagging the dog, the tool is telling the user of the tool what to do and when, the spoilt child is dictating terms to the parent.
When this happens everything is about the mind, it’s wants, it’s whims, it’s peculiar ideas, it’s likes and dislikes, it’s tantrums and sulks. Everything becomes so much about the spoilt child which is the mind that we – the harassed parent, the user of the mind – lose any sense of ourselves as an autonomous being and become, therefore, a mere extension of this spoilt child, this petulant and tyrannical machine-mind. We become like an extra arm for the thing. This mind is so very demanding, so very greedy for attention, that we don’t have any time for ourselves, so to speak. We lose sight of ourselves entirely. The machine-mind calls all the shots, makes all the rules. And yet at the same time it knows nothing – it is completely foolish, completely lacking in any real sense. It is after all, nothing more than an empty, senseless mechanism. Letting an empty, senseless mechanism dictate terms, call all the shots, etc, is clearly an insane situation! What could be more insanely, ridiculously irresponsible than this?
When this nonsense is ended, on the other hand, and the machine-mind is no longer the centre of the universe, the centre of all attention, the sponge for all the attention, then our autonomy starts to come back to us. We are no longer only there only to do what the senseless mechanical autocratic mind wants us to do, only to be what it wants us to be, only to perceive or understand what it wants us to perceive or understand. As we have said at first we will seem to have lost something essential from the core of our lives, just like an institutionalized patient who is suddenly pulled out of his institution. Our structural basis has been removed. And then, as our autonomy returns to us, we start to become aware of something quite extraordinary, quite unknown.
The machine-self is gone and following its removal there is an unexpected degree of sensitivity. The mechanical self is not sensitive but the consciousness that had been pressed into its service is, and what this unfettered consciousness now starts to become aware of is something utterly unprecedented. On the one hand we could say that what this consciousness starts to become aware of is ‘what is actually out there’; we could say that it starts to perceive the real world as opposed to the conditioned world which was manufactured by the machine mind. And on the other hand we could say that it starts to become aware of the true self, rather than the false, limited, hollow self it had been previously provided with – the ‘conditioned self’ which was only ever a refection of the machine’s rules, its inbuilt logical expectations.
There is absolutely no way that we could have guessed or intimated the existence of the unconditioned reality from the standpoint of the mechanical or rule-based mode of being. From that standpoint, I perceive myself to be contained, limited, regulated, standardized, and essentially ‘unremarkable’ when it comes right down to it. I don’t really (if I were to be honest with myself) feel that there is anything particularly unusual about me. Generally speaking, of course, we don’t exactly go around saying that we feel ourselves to be contained, limited, regulated, and all the rest of it, but on a fundamental – if not very conscious – level this is how we understand ourselves to be. We understand ourselves to be mere objects – albeit objects that we are very attached to! How could we be conditioned and not feel this way – this is what being a conditioned being is all about! It is about being a regular old object or thing, it is about being just another unit, just another ‘brick in the wall’…
Conditioning is the very antithesis of the unique or the individual – it is regular, repetitive, and completely predetermined at all times. It is by necessity utterly lacking in even the slightest trace of true individuality or originality. Conditioning makes us into mere ‘things’, which as we have said is the antithesis of what we really are. Most of the time however our situation doesn’t feel quite as dire as all this however, and one reason is that we’re not completely caught up in our conditioning. There is usually a bit of spontaneity there, a bit of ‘freedom’ or ‘humour’ or ‘lightness’ about us and as long as we still have our sense of humour we know that we’re not entirely ‘machine-like’ because machines have no sense of humour. Machines, by their very nature, never see the funny side of things! They’re all about doing the thing that we’re supposed to be doing, being the way that we’re supposed to be (and so when this sort of stuff no longer matters to us then we know we’ve got a bit of freedom from our conditioning).
Another reason we don’t usually tend to realize that our situation as conditioned beings is fundamentally limited (i.e. that it is a situation that is never ever going to actually get anywhere!) is because we are always orientated towards goal-states, which are productions of the mind and which falsely indicate (or promise) benefits to us that are – so it seems – only just around the corner! Orientated to these goal-states as we are, we are then able to imagine that we are going to obtain the benefits that are inherent in them at some point and that this will spell very good news for us. Because of our infatuation with the mind’s projections – which glitter with a promise they can never deliver – we do not realize the true poverty of our situation and we are hopeful, we live in hope. Hope seems like a good thing to us on this account.
This of course is only half the story because just as often as we are infatuated or bewitched by positive projections (i.e. ‘attractive goal-states’) we are also going to be negatively infatuated (or obsessed) by negative projections, by aversive or repellent goal-states. So we spend all our time either in the state of desire, which is ‘pleasurable anticipation’, or in the state of fear (or anxiety) which is the state of ‘pessimistic anticipation’, the dysphoric counterpart of desire. Either way we’re preoccupied, and so either way we’re distracted from seeing that our situation as conditioned beings is at all times quintessentially sterile. It is quintessentially sterile in that it isn’t ever going to go anywhere different from where it already is…
Because there is no way that we could infer (or guess) the existence of the unique from the standpoint of the regular, the ‘alogical’ from the point of view of the logical, there is absolutely no way at all that we can ever ‘guess’ what the nature of the real world is like, or what the nature of the true, unprogrammed self is like. Even saying this is ridiculous because we fundamentally don’t believe that that there is such a thing as a ‘genuine reality’ – a radically-different ‘original reality’ which we don’t know about and can’t perceive. We don’t believe in any such thing and because it is so absolutely fundamentally obvious to us that there isn’t any such thing as a true reality which is radically different from the one we know and are familiar with we don’t even know that we don’t believe in it!
And even if we did believe that there was a ‘real reality’ out there somewhere (instead of the false one we normally experience) we still would be able to geuss what it was like. The logical mind can only guess (or project) what lies within its own logical remit; regularity can only conceive of further regularity – it can only conceive of the regularity which is itself, in fact. Thus, the regular old pre-programmed self couldn’t possibility imagine what it would be like to step outside of its own shoes, so to speak, and see what things look like then. The true world, as has been said, is a world that lies at right angles to the concerns of the purposeful self. I am looking one way, whilst reality itself lies somewhere else entirely!
So when the dull, familiar contours of the world we know – the definite or ‘reified’ world – start to blur and fade away, and then disappear entirely, it is a new world that we see! It is as if the fog unexpectedly blows away and we can finally see where we are standing, we can finally see the beautiful pristine countryside that was surrounding us all along. This new world, when it dawns on us, always comes as a complete surprise. It is such an astonishing, unimaginable surprise that we wonder how we could ever have forgotten it and become preoccupied instead with empty nonsense, like a man who lives so long in the shadows that he forgets that there is such a thing as the light. We wonder, perhaps, how something so marvellous, so splendid and so tremendous, could have been hidden from us.
The answer to this is of course very simple. We forget ‘the Garden’, as Philip K Dick puts it, as a result of being trapped within the grim confines of ‘the Black Iron Prison’. We have been exiled from Paradise – the face of the Divine Reality is hidden from us as a result of the dark influence of the runaway machine-mind…
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.