The self’s world is a null world and yet it cannot see it. The one thing that the self can never do is see that it inhabits a null world – if it could do this then it would instantly let go of itself, which is something that it never ever does. It’s a condition of being the self that one can never ever let go of the idea of being the self that one thinks one is. This is what gives the self its infinite obdurate stability.
The self exists in a state of permanent delusion and its delusion is that its world is NOT a null world. This is the delusion that it simply can’t see through no matter what it does. This is the self’s defining delusion – the delusion of its own potentialities! It is only because of this delusion that it can carry on believing that it exists. Without the delusion that its world is not a null world the self would not be able to take another step forward.
There is nothing more terrible than the null world which the self inhabits. This is the ultimate form of slavery. The self however is fundamentally incapable of appreciating just how terrible this world is – the only way it could appreciate this would be if became aware, became conscious, and this is the one thing the self can never do. ‘The self’ and ‘consciousness’ do not go together; they do not belong together in the same sentence. The self is not a vehicle for consciousness – there is no such thing as ‘a conscious self’!
To be conscious is to move beyond the self – it is to be ‘not self’ as opposed to being the self. The ‘not-self’ is consciousness, or ‘awareness of the truth’. There is nothing the self can ever do that will result in it becoming ‘aware’ or ‘liberated from illusion’. The only way this could happen would be if it ‘let go of itself’ and this is the one thing it can never do. The self isn’t in the slightest bit interested in awareness or freedom for their own sake, only in ‘awareness or freedom for itself’, and that is the one thing it can never have.
When the self does not let go of itself (which as we have said it can never do of its own accord), but rather hangs on in grim determination to its false perceptions of reality, then it is free to inhabit the null world which is its own assumptions projected outwards onto the world. The null world exist because of the self’s inability to recognize the null world for what it is; or as we could also say, the null world exists because of its incapacity to see itself for what it truly is.
The self sees itself as existing within a world that is possessed of genuine possibilities of development. It is driven in everything it does by the need to avail of these possibilities. We could also and equivalently say that the self is driven by its motivation to benefit itself, and avoid any costs (or sacrifices) that it might have to pay. The self sees advantages (or possibilities) where there are none however, and so its ‘fundamental motivation’ is always directed towards illusion. Its tendency is always to head deeper and deeper into illusion.
Because the self sees possibilities where there are none this necessarily incurs a type of ‘rebound-effect’. The rebound effect is how the falsely imagined possibilities (or advantages) get compensated for so that the ‘book of truth’ may remain balanced. The compensation for seeing advantages where there are none is the opposite of what we have mistakenly believed in therefore – the balancing of the books comes in the form of seeing disadvantages (or ‘negative possibilities’) where there are none. Plus is compensated for by minus; positive displacement of the pendulum by the negative (or ‘rebound’) displacement. The pendulum just keeps on swinging in its deterministic fashion. The oscillation just keeps on meaninglessly oscillating. We just keep on circling forever in Nowhereland…
The null world which the self inhabits is null by virtue of the fact that it is always perfectly compensated. There is never a time when this world is not perfectly compensated, or when ‘the books do not balance’. The null world is a world in which all actions, all apparent changes or developments, are at all times compensated for by equal and opposite actions. The self exists in a perfectly compensated situation and this can be seen by considering how it is motivated. The self is motivated – as we have just said – either by its desire to obtain illusory advantages or its non-negotiable need to avoid the backlash from believing in these illusory advantages, which is our belief in the illusory disadvantages that are now threatening to make good their claim on us. So the motivational system is made up of desire-and-fear, which are as we have suggested ‘mutually compensatory’ drives.
When it comes down to it, the self has only the one type of motivation and this is the motivation to obtain benefit (or advantage) for itself. This is ‘desire’, and it is also what we call ‘fear’. Desire/fear is a null motivation because – as we keep saying – the advantage that we desire doesn’t exist anymore than the disadvantage that we fear does. The benefit that we long for doesn’t exist because it is always perfectly compensated for by an equal-and-opposite ‘cost’ and the cost (or disadvantage) doesn’t exist for exactly the same reason…
The nullity of the self’s gains and losses, hopes and fears is – of course – a function of its own nullity, its own non-existence. We have said that the self is fundamentally incapable of perceiving its own true nature – this is, we have said, the one thing it can never ever do. But because the self cannot perceive its own nature (its own non-existence) directly, it is compelled to perceive a disguised analogue of its non-existence instead. The analogue of the self’s non-existence is simply its own inherently-compensated ‘drama’ – which is to say, the endless round of ‘advantage followed by disadvantage, benefit followed by cost’. The ‘samsaric round’ is the analogue of non-existence – it is what we compelled to experience when we refuse to see the truth of our non-existence directly.
Needless to say, the self cannot its own non-existence in the nullity of its ongoing drama of loss and gain. It can’t see this truth because it is constitutionally unable to perceive the nullity for what it is. As J. G. Bennett says, this self can only ever focus on one opposite at a time, and thus it never sees that they always operate by cancelling each other out. It is constitutionally unable to see that ‘up equals down’ that ‘winning equals losing’. Because the self is always focussing narrowly on either the advantage or the disadvantage, the plus or the minus, it cannot see that they are complementary faces of the same coin, the coin of illusion.
For the narrowly-fixated self, there is no ‘seeing’, no ‘awareness’ of what is going on here. This ‘narrow fixation of attention’ is the lack of seeing, the lack of awareness. This narrow fixation of attention is what’s making fools of us. We are therefore incapable of seeing the true nature of the null world which we inhabit. But just as the YES/NO cycle (the ongoing drama of ‘up and down’ is a disguised analogue of non-existence, there is an analogue for consciousness too. Because we cannot be aware of the paradox, the self-contradicting nature of the cycle of existence that we are trapped in, we are compelled to take notice of this paradox in another form, another way. Because we can’t be directly aware of the paradox, we have to dumbly endure itself consequences, we have to ‘suffer’ it. Suffering is the analogue of consciousness, therefore – it is what ‘stands for it’ in the absence of the genuine article.
So we could say that when we reject (or run away from) consciousness, suffering is what we get instead. We have to have something, after all! When we have no genuine being as a result of opting to inhabit the null world then instead of being – which we have rejected without realizing that we have done so – we have something else instead, we have ‘the pain of non-being’. The null world is simply suffering that we cannot clearly see as such, therefore, and the reason we can’t clearly see it to be ‘suffering through and through’ is because (as we have said) that we are always focussed narrowly on either the up-swing or the down-swing, the advantage or the disadvantage. We’re forever ‘chasing the illusory benefit’, in other words.
Disguised suffering is as we have said the analogue for consciousness, it’s what we have instead of it. But the other side of this is that when we go beyond the self and the null world which is made up of its projected assumptions, then we will become conscious and if we become conscious (or rather become consciousness) then we will give up the surrogate for consciousness, we will give up the onerous burden of unconscious suffering…
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.