The question “How can we spot the mind-created virtual reality for what it is and so not be taken in by it in the way that we always are taken in by it?” turns out to be a very fruitful one. What is so fruitful about this question is that by asking it we find out just how difficult and tricky a thing this is! It’s tricky in one way but not at all tricky in another – for example, you might just see it one day, without any forethought on your part, and that’s all there is to it. On the other hand, if we do think about it and try to come up with some way of optimising our chances of spotting the MCVR then things become very tricky indeed! We find ourselves in a kind of mental labyrinth that we can’t get out of.
The thing is – of course – that we create the MCVR with our thinking, with our presuppositions, with our goal-orientated or purposeful activity, so if our interest is not creating it then this puts us in a very difficult position! Furthermore, creating the MCVR is the same as ‘putting ourselves in the position of not being able to see it’ since as soon as we do see it the MCVR – it stops functioning as a ‘reality’. Our deliberate attempts to actually see the MCVR veil it even further from our gaze therefore; all that will happen as a result of our effort is that we will create a new level of solution to get trapped in. We’d be more likely to catch sight of it if we didn’t have the intention of doing so in the first place…
What we really need to understand here is the difference between the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ approaches. The ‘positive approach’ is where we do something deliberately or ‘on purpose’, which is of course our usual mode. We think that we know everything about the purposeful modality but we don’t; we only understand the part of it that we’re supposed to understand. It could be said – however odd it might seem to do so – that our ordinary everyday purposeful behaviour has two levels upon which it operates – one overt and the other covert. The overt level of things is of course where we try to attain whatever goals it is that we have set out to attain whilst the covert level has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of ‘whether we succeed or not with our goal-orientated activity’, and everything to do with the secret business of creating and maintaining the MCVR. This is where our ultimate allegiance lies therefore, no matter what the matter what else we might think.
We don’t know about this ‘ultimate allegiance’ of ours however – if we did know about it then that would immediately spoil everything. If I were to know that the real reason for all my rational thinking and purposeful activity was to ‘project the positive world’ then I would also know that the positive world is something that I have created and this would change my relationship with it to the extent that I would no longer be able to treat it as ‘a reality’. The MCVR – when it is no longer seen as a reality – isn’t actually anything at all! Essentially therefore, I am ‘split in two’; I am working against myself without knowing it. Another way to try to explain this point is to say that the construct which I call ‘myself’ – on its most essential level – doesn’t serve me but some other (undisclosed) master.
This is a very interesting way of looking at things albeit of course not a particularly familiar one! We can elaborate on this idea by talking in terms of an ‘adversary’ who we are up against without knowing that we are up against anybody. The term ‘adversary’ is not meant in any literal sense but is used merely to give a sense of the sort of ‘dynamic’ that is going on here. This ‘adversary’ has the upper hand inasmuch as he provides us with our ‘sense of self’ which is, needless to say, the basis for everything we perceive and understand and do. We might quite reasonably say that the adversary we face (without knowing it) has the advantage in this case! No matter what we think we want, it’s really the adversary who wants it – we do his bidding in all things, without ever suspecting it. He gives us his ‘will’ and allows us to imagine that it is our own. Or as Carlos Castaneda says in The Active Side of Infinity, the predators gives us their mind, which becomes our mind’.
The ‘self-construct’ on which basis I am operating has nothing to do with who I really am, and – more than this – its nature is not just different to mine but antithetical. Every single atom of it serves the ‘adversary’ not me, despite what I might misguidedly think. It is plain – in this case – that no matter what we do beneficial is going to come out of it. My will is not my own; my most basic impulses are fundamentally tainted, and if the original impulse itself is tainted then how can any course of action that comes from it ever come good? I might believe quite honestly that my motivation is one thing, but if I cannot see that my hidden allegiance is always to something quite different from what I believe it to be then nothing I say or do is going to mean what I claim it does.
We can’t help wondering – of course – at this point in the argument, who were what this so-called ‘adversary’ is? They are flavours (very strong flavours, in fact) of medieval Christianity coming through and the doctrine of ‘the two natures’ (i.e. the ‘higher nature’ of spirit, and the ‘lower nature’ of flesh). Going back even earlier we can see echoes of Radical Dualism, which states that the universe is an arena for an ongoing war between two utterly antithetical forces. We are also reminded, perhaps – of the Neoplatonic idea of the soul being imprisoned in the body, and the parallel Hermetic doctrine of God (or the spirit Mercurius) being trapped (in a state of deep sleep) in matter or the material universe.
These echoes are interesting, but there is no need for us to delve too deeply into them at this point. Instead, we could look at what quantum physicist David Bohm (more contemporaneously) says about the way in which we are controlled, without realising it, by the thinking process:
Thought runs you: thought, however, gives false info that you are the one who controls it. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us.
Even more to the point as regards what we were saying earlier about the ‘secret agenda’ which we all unwittingly serve to create the MCVR (or ‘project a positive reality’), David Bohm says,
Thought creates our world, and then says’ I didn’t do it’.
If we had to say who or what this adversary is therefore, one good answer would be to say that it is thought, or the thinking mind. This then leads us on to wonder why exactly thought would be considered as being ‘adversarial’. We certainly don’t go around perceiving it in this light Thought actually seems quite a helpful thing, most of the time!
There is something we can say about this – we can argue, just by way of an initial exploration, that the ‘two natures’ that we are looking at here are ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’. Thought is clearly quantitative (since it measures and compares) whilst we can relate ‘quality’ to reality itself, before it gets quantified or measured by the thinking mind (i.e. before thought defines or describes it.) Both Alan Watts and David Bohm suggest the two words ‘maya’ and ‘measure’ come from a common root. David Bohm, in Wholeness and the Implicate Order writes,
Now, in the East the notion of measure has not played nearly so fundamental a role. Rather, in the prevailing philosophy in the Orient, the immeasurable (i.e. that which cannot be named, described, or understood through any form of reason) is regarded as the primary reality. Thus, in Sanskrit (which has an origin common to the Indo-European language group) there is a word ‘matra’ meaning ‘measure’, in the musical sense, which is evidently close to the Greek ‘metron’. But then there is another word ‘maya’ obtained from the same root, which means ‘illusion’. This is an extraordinarily significant point. Whereas to Western society, as it derives from the Greeks, measure, with all that this word implies, is the very essence of reality, or at least the key to this essence, in the East measure has now come to be regarded commonly as being in some way false and deceitful. In this view the entire structure and order of forms, proportions, and ‘ratios’ that present themselves to ordinary perception and reason are regarded as a sort of veil, covering the true reality, which cannot be perceived by the senses and of which nothing can be said or thought.
We can see therefore that these two natures cannot be ‘lumped together under the same roof’. The ‘thing itself’ and ‘the description of the thing’ are worlds apart – there is no bridge between them at all – no matter what we might ‘think’ (!). To say otherwise would be like saying that quantity can somehow be turned into quality if we fiddle around with it enough! That would be like saying that a shopping list can somehow become the shopping itself, or that something we read in a storybook can jump out of the pages and become real!
This is an even more fundamental division than it sounds: if I describe or define something, then I am projecting my own meaning, my own value system on it. Therefore, as Kierkegaard implies when he says ‘If you judge me you negate me’, when we define something we are actually denying its true nature! If we were therefore to somehow try to somehow ‘lump quality and quantity’ together and imply that they are not radically different, then what we would in effect be saying here is that ‘you as you truly are in yourself’ and my ‘denial of you as you truly are in yourself’ are in some way the same thing’! As the saying has it,’ if you’ll swallow that you’ll swallow anything!’ There couldn’t actually be a bigger (and more obvious) lie than this, and yet it is a lie that we all believe wholeheartedly every day of our lives!
We could also talk about the proposed ‘two antithetical natures’ in terms of consciousness and thought, which comes to same thing as quantity versus quality, only looked at in a different way. Consciousness (we might say) shows us what is true whilst thought projects a ‘false reality’ (or as we could equivalently say, following on from the quote given above, ‘measuring creates maya). When it comes right down to it therefore – even though it sounds very odd to say it – thought is ‘the Great Denyer’. Thought operates by ‘denying reality’ which it does in a covert way by substituting its own crude version of ‘the real’, and then keeping quiet about its role in this substitution – just as David Bohm says in the quote given earlier. The rational mind does not ‘shine light on the world’, as we imagine to, it obscures it. As Jung says, the thinking mind is ‘the fool’s lantern’, the ‘ignis fatuus’. Jung, according to this passage taken from symbolreader.net relates the ignis fatuus to the shadow (or ‘deceptive’) side of Mercurius:
Every god, like every archetype, had an ominous shadow side, and so did Mercurius. In Alchemical Studies (par. 303) Jung warns that Hermes comes as the lumen naturae (light of nature) only to those who are mindful and vigilantly strive towards it, while for many the same light “turns into a perilous ignis fatuus [foolish fire, an illusion], and the psychopomp into a diabolical seducer.” He is, after all, the son of Maya, a great goddess of Illusion. In an Orphic Hymn, Hermes is called “the Interpreter of All.” There is indeed a real danger connected with Mercurius, which is being caught in the web (Maya) of lies, sleek word propaganda disguised as the ultimate truth.
Saying that thought is the deceiver (the diabolical agency responsible for the web of maya that we are all caught in like so many unfortunate soon-to-be-eaten flies) sounds obviously wrong to us – it sounds very obviously wrong to say this because we know rational thought to be the ‘Great Key’ which unlocks the physical world for us, and bestows upon us a tremendous advantage (an absolutely indispensable advantage, it would appear) when it comes to surviving in this world. Why did we go to all the trouble of evolving big brains (and having endless trouble with all our teeth squashed too close together as a result) if rational thought is only ‘a fool’s lantern’? We have to get a bit less simplistic in our approach if we are to understand this. It could be – for example – that there are two worlds, not just the one; if there are ‘two antithetical natures’ then why can’t there be to antithetical worlds as well?
This then is going back to Radical Dualism and the Hermetic/Neoplatonic way of looking at things. Thought works in the physical world – we might say – because it is a faithful reflection of it – there is a match (or correspondence) and the match means that thought ‘delivers the goods’. Both thought and the physical world are based on the same principle; both based on rules (or ‘disymmetries’) whereas the ‘deeper world’ (the subtle or invisible world that exists beneath this visible/tangible one) is non-quantitative, non-‘metric’ in nature. If we say that the space-time continuum is metric (which it is, because space, time and energy all exist in quanta (i.e. are ‘particulate’ in nature) then we can say that the sub-quantum (or infra-quantum) universe (i.e. the symmetrical or rule-less reality that exists prior to the physical universe) is non-metric, which is to say, it can’t be measured and mapped by thought. The ‘positive world’ (the ‘world of features’) is worthy of respect, but it cannot be given priority to the negative world just because we have no way of apprehending this deeper world. If we know and believe only in the visible/tangible world (which is to say the positive or mind-created virtual reality which corresponds/maps onto it) then we are ‘foolish’. We cannot be any other way – there’s no way not to be foolish unless we can see through the positive or defined reality. If our vision is restricted to the positive reality than our lives can never amount to any more than a prolonged exercise in foolishness. It is ‘foolishness’ because all we are ever doing is reacting to our own projections (which are as we have said ‘a denial of reality’, and therefore of an antithetical nature to the principle we are denying) as if they are the same thing as reality, which – as we keep saying – couldn’t be further from the truth.
In order to free ourselves from the web – and not be wrapped up in a cocoon and then duly sucked dry by the great big fat spider whose web it is – we have to see our projections (i.e. our positive statements about the world) for what they are and recognize them as being antithetical to reality itself, rather than naively imagining them to be a faithful reproduction of reality, and placing all our trust in the agency that has created them. How far are we from doing this, however?
Art: Sérgio Odeith
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.