A positive reality is a definite reality – it is a reality that is defined as being this way rather than that way. A positive reality is a definite or certain reality, but it is also a reality that we ourselves have to assert! It is a made reality, a constructed reality, a designed reality.
A positive reality isn’t going to be there by itself in other words – it’s only going to be there if we make it be there. It’s only going to be the way that it is if we make it be that way. This in itself is fine, there’s no problem with this at all, the only thing is that we have this tremendous unexamined desire for there to be a positive reality that no one has made, for there to be a positive reality that we ourselves haven’t designed. This is a problem because there simply isn’t such a thing! It doesn’t exist and it never could. We’d have a better chance of finding a unicorn gambolling around the village green one morning than we would of coming across a positive reality that no one has made. We’d have a better chance of finding ten unicorns sitting around a table in the local pub playing Seven Card Whist and discussing where they are going to go on their holidays…
The reason we’d have more luck with the unicorns is because there could be such a thing as unicorns (however remote the chances) but there could never be such a thing as a ‘self-existent positive reality’, a positive or defined reality that no one put there. If we were clear-minded enough then we’d see this in a flash, we’d see it straightaway without the need for any more talking about it. But because we’re always so confused and clouded up with our thinking we can’t see it at all. We can’t see why there shouldn’t be a positive reality. When we come to this question with our everyday type of thinking still very much in charge then there are insurmountable problems in grasping the point. This is of course only to be expected since the way our everyday thinking works is by proceeding from a fixed basis. Rational thinking has to come from a position of certainty – if there wasn’t this water-tight certainty with regard to our initial position then the thinking process could never get started.
This ‘limitation’ (or ‘qualification’) is all very well (it has to be since that’s the only way the thinking can happen!) but the point is that the ‘fixed basis’, the ‘certain position’ that we’re talking about here is nothing other than the positive reality that we have just said can’t exist! The thinking mind gets around this snag very handily by simply assuming a solid basis to work from. This is a very easy thing to do – we all do it all of the time. We do it every day. We might for example say something like “Well let’s just take it that Jim isn’t going to attend this meeting and just get started without him.” What we’ve assumed mightn’t be true – Jim might show up large as life half an hour later – but that doesn’t matter. We have acted on the basis that he wasn’t coming and that’s fine. We needed a basis. It’s a lot better after than just hanging around aimlessly for an indefinite period of time unsure of whether he’s going to turn up or not.
Assuming stuff is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, in other words. As we’ve said, we all do it, all of the time. Life would be impossible if we didn’t – we have to assume certainty where there isn’t any. If we waited until absolute certainty came along then we’d never get anywhere! Mathematicians do this kind of thing every day as part of the legitimate pursuit of their trade – you might for example (as a mathematician) say “Let n equal the set of all whole numbers that are divisible by three.” What you’ve actually done here is to ‘create a positive reality’ – you’ve created a set and a set is a defined reality, a reality that we can say lots of specific stuff about that is going to be definitely true. This is of course a perfectly legitimate thing for a mathematician to do – there wouldn’t be any mathematics if we couldn’t do it!
When we’re assuming stuff in a formal way (as in the two examples given above) then we know very well that we’re doing it. We’re explicitly doing it. We could hardly not be aware since we’re actually saying that we are doing it as we do it! We know that we’re doing it at the same time that we’re doing it – it’s a conscious process, an aware process. No one is trying to cover up anything –there’s no funny business going on. It’s like guessing but knowing that you’re guessing. But suppose that we make a guess without knowing that we’re making a guess? What happens then? How does that work? So – very obviously – what happens there is that we mistake a flimsy and unsubstantiated guess for a definite statement of fact; we mistake a white fluffy cloud floating around happily in the sky for a rock-solid dependable firmament that we can go ahead and build a housing estate on!
This type of error is naturally not something that we can afford to turn a blind eye to. It is the type of error that is liable to have rather major consequences. When we imagine ourselves to be working off a rock-solid dependable firmament (which is never going to give way on us no matter what happens) then this influences our whole outlook on life. This false viewpoint conditions our psychology. It makes entirely different creatures of us. One way of trying to describe the change that comes across us when we consistently mistake a guess for an absolutely true statement about reality is to say that it makes us lazy! Mentally speaking, we get very lazy indeed – we get to be practically comatose. Another way of describing the change that happens is to say that making this mistake makes us very unimaginative, very dull, very concrete. We’re very definite about stuff that we don’t actually have any right to be definite about, very sure of stuff that isn’t actually real. We’re very sure of what we think we know, and we have no imagination or interest in anything else. Basically, we don’t care about anything other than what we falsely imagine we already know!
All in all therefore it could be said that we’re heading for disaster in a big way. We’re cruising for a bruising. We’re about to fall off a cliff and we don’t know it. We are gambling everything on the guess not being a guess at all but an absolute irrevocable statement of fact and we’re not even aware that we’re gambling. We don’t know that we’ve got a gambling problem – we think we’re sober-minded level-headed responsible members of society when actually we’re setting ourselves up in the biggest way possible! We’re setting ourselves up for the biggest surprise ever and it’s not going to be a good one. We’re narrowing ourselves in because we are assuming that our particular narrow take on reality is ‘the be all and end all’ and we’re putting all of our eggs in the one (precarious) basket because we’re gambling on our lazy guess being ‘right’. To say therefore that we’re making ‘an unwise choice’ here doesn’t come anywhere close to it – this is folly taken to the nth degree! As Yang Chu says, we’re ‘moving in a narrow grove, we’re preoccupied with petty things’…
If we come back now to what we were saying just a little whole ago, we can suggest that the reason we find it so hard to see why there couldn’t ever be such a thing as a ‘positive reality that doesn’t need to be propped up’ is because our everything thinking process absolutely relies on there being such a thing for its very functioning. Clearly, the thinking mind is not going to be orientated towards seeing that there can be no such thing as an absolutely definite statement without us first agreeing (in secret) that there should be such a thing! There’s just no chance of this happening. If however we go back to the distinction that we made earlier between ‘consciously guessing’ and ‘guessing without knowing that we are guessing’ (or ‘making assumptions with awareness of what we’re doing’ and ‘making assumptions without knowing that we’re making assumptions’) we can see that it is very clear not only that is there a world of difference between these two things, but also that the second scenario of guessing without knowing that we’re guessing is an utterly ridiculous sort of a thing to get mixed up in! It’s not just ‘folly to the nth degree’ in other words, it’s pure undiluted absurdity.
If ‘assuming without knowing that we are assuming’ is so absurd (which it is) then the clear awareness of this absurdity throws us back in the other direction towards ‘assuming whilst being aware that we are doing so’. This is clearly the ‘non-absurd’ direction to go in. Or we could say, this is clearly the direction in which reality lies, i.e. – reality is ‘uncertainty’ rather than ‘certainty’. When we are consciously taking something for granted then we’re being aware of something for which there exist no convenient categories of thought – we’re being aware of intrinsic uncertainty. The ball has been thrown high up in the air and we don’t know where it will land. We don’t even know for sure if it will land. We don’t even know if it still is a ball – it could have turned into something else for all we know, it could have turned into a magical bird and flown off. Intrinsic uncertainty means that ‘it’s all up in the air’, that ‘it’s all undecided’. There’s no decider so it hasn’t been decided. And yet despite us not having a concrete category to account for what is happening (to account for the intrinsic uncertainty) we still know that it’s perfectly OK for the situation to be the way that it is. More than this, we know somehow that the appreciation of the irreducible uncertainty of what’s going on is an appreciation of reality itself. Our dull old mental categories aren’t reality – intrinsic uncertainty is reality!
But on the other hand when we don’t appreciate the inherent uncertainty in what’s going on then what this means is that we’re confusing our categories with reality. We’re confusing our guesses with what our guesses are supposedly about. In this case there isn’t a ‘what’s out there’, there’s only our categories; the prosaic categories of our thinking process have substituted themselves for what is genuinely ‘out there’. We are now in the absurd position of mistaking our mental categories for reality on a full-time basis. We don’t see the world; we don’t have any awareness of the world – for us it’s just ‘categories, categories, categories…’ all the way. Our categories are tiling over the universe. They are reaching out forever, filling all the available space like an endless solid chain of interlocking cogwheels stretching out dismally into the distance. This is what the world is to us when we don’t realize that our guesses are only guesses, that our assumptions are only assumptions – it’s a whole lot of conceptual cogwheels (or tiles) with no space between them. This is what a ‘positive reality’ is! That’s what a positive reality is all about…
So ‘a positive reality’ is when the universe is completely tiled over with conceptual tiles, but there is more to it that just this. A positive reality is when the universe is completely tiled over with our concrete concepts, our concrete thoughts, and where we have to unconsciously commit ourselves to making sure that no cracks ever appear! This is the job that we have taken on – the thankless job of ‘wall-papering over the cracks’.
If cracks do start to appear then this is bad news – cracks are what we are afraid of. The cracks are negative reality, which is the reality that no one has created, that no one has designed, that no one has said ‘should be there’. The negative reality is the reality that is ‘there all by itself’ – it is a reality which has no features or characteristics that we can describe or define or draw any conclusions from. It is how the world is ‘in itself’ when we’re not aggressively imposing all of our banal positive projections on it.
Negative reality doesn’t impose any restrictions upon us. It doesn’t make any rules. It doesn’t impose any conditions. It isn’t aggressive.
Negative reality doesn’t need to be aggressive because it’s real!
It’s real and we are afraid of it….
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.