The thinking mind is an infinitely predictable sort of thing – it always does (or always tries to do) the very same thing, come what may. What the TM always tries to do is bring about some kind of resolution. This is really just another way of saying that thought is a tool or instrument, and its job is to obtain some kind of defined (or conclusive) goal or outcome. Who could argue with this? Thought’s job is to obtain there is a clear resolution to some sort of problem, whether this is a practical task that needs to be carried out or whether it is a matter of interpreting our situation in a clear and precise way. When we talk about thought in this way – seeing it from all sides, as it were – then we can see that there isn’t that much to it; there isn’t that much to it because all it does is create ‘false certainties’. They are false certainties because what lies beyond them is never mentioned (not by thought, at any rate) and because the reality that lies beyond the world of certainties is never mentioned we are all too likely to seize hold of these mind-produced certainties as if they were absolute in nature rather than being purely relative. It isn’t necessarily the case that when we think we will forget all about the ‘undefined and indefinable context’ which surrounds the definite statements that thought makes – we can perfectly well think whilst at the same time remaining aware of the provisional nature of thought. It’s perfectly possible to do this, but at the same time it is also true that if we take our eye ‘off the ball’ even for a moment then we can very easily forget that there ever was a ball. To stay aware of the strictly provisional nature of the thought-created world is – in a way – a sort of a test, and as tests go – it surely ranks as the most difficult one ever. This most difficult of all tests is the test of staying detached.
Being ‘detached’ doesn’t mean being unengaged, as has often been pointed out. That’s like saying that in order to be interested in something we have to be obsessed with it, which is clearly not at all true. Obsession has nothing to do with ‘interest’. What we are attached to is our idea about things, our concept of things, and being attached to our ideas or concepts precludes us from ever being genuinely engaged. To be engaged with our ideas about reality is of course the very same thing as being alienated from reality. We might be engaged with our ideas but thought itself is never ‘engaged’ with anything – it simply acts out of its preconceptions. It could be said therefore that thought as an instrument will ‘act correctly’ – so to speak – when we are stay mindful of its limitations and don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, the ‘bigger picture’ being something that thinking mind can’t ever see. It’s not the TM‘s job to see the Big Picture any more than it’s a microscope’s job to see the stars. In even more simple terms, we can say that what is necessary – if thought is to serve us – it is for us to use it, rather than it use us. We can’t afford to ‘go to sleep on the job’ or thought most certainly will use us and when this happens then instead of it being in our service, we will be in its service, much to our detriment. We will then – as Philip K Dick says – be ‘serving a false master’. The false master takes everything we’ve got (until we can give no more) and it gives us nothing in return. It promises to give us all sorts of things to be sure, but its promises are always empty, just as its certainties are always ultimately ‘false’.
So let us suppose that we are careless in our use of the instrument of thought (as we almost inevitably are) – what happens then? How does the thinking mind become ‘the false master’? What exactly does this mean, anyway? When thought is being ‘used correctly’ – we could say – then it gives us useful answers to our questions; it provides us with a provisionally accurate picture of what is going on and this picture guides our actions in a helpful way. Thought does what it is ‘supposed to do’, but it doesn’t do any more. It draws the line – it doesn’t ‘rise above its station’, it doesn’t ‘exceed its own capabilities’. Or as we could also say, the machine which is the thinking mind does what it is supposed to do and then it stops. We could think of the ‘magic porridge pot’ here – the porridge pot in the fairytale magically provides us with our fill of porridge, and then it desists from doing this, which is every bit as important as starting in the first place. The important thing to understand here is that the porridge pot will not stop producing porridge of its own accord, as the fairytale tells. The demon which has been unwisely summoned by the sorcerer’s foolish apprentice won’t go back to where he came from, demons being much easier to summon than they are to banish again! The thinking mind can’t stop of its own accord because it neither knows how or why to stop. In order to see when the functioning of a machine is no longer useful or appropriate we have to be outside of the machine, we have to be essentially independent of the machine; this is because – as far as the machine itself is concerned – it is always useful. To put this another way therefore – to the machine everything is ‘the task’. To the machine, there are no limits to the job.
What this means when applied to the instrument which is the thinking mind is that the whole world becomes a problem that needs to be solved; reality itself is perceived by the instrument as ‘a problem that needs to be solved’ since reality does not fit into thought’s categories and so the ‘problem’ is that this lack of resolution needs to be sorted out once and for all so that everything is accounted for, so that there are no loose ends lying around. The thinking mind hates loose ends, after all; loose ends means that it hasn’t done its job properly and the TM is a stickler for doing its job properly. It’s a workaholic, it’s a perfectionist of the first degree. So when we fail to tell thought that its services are no longer required what happens is that it keeps on running, keeps on ‘chewing up the whole world’ as per its allotted task. The sweeping brush keeps on sweeping, despite the fact that the need for sweeping has long since passed. The sweeping used to be the answer to the problem, but now it is the problem itself, and anyone who has ever suffered from anxiety can understand this. If nothing happens to change the situation we are all going to be swept to our doom. We will be swept into the dustpan and thrown out unceremoniously into the garbage can…
If we say that thought’s job is to produce a ‘definite picture’ of things then what happens is that it keeps on doing this until the whole of everything has been turned into a definite thing; thought keeps on defining and defining and cataloguing and cataloguing and it doesn’t know when to stop. As long as the problem is there (in its eyes) will continue and the problem (i.e. reality) always will be there. The thought has no way of knowing when to stop; it has no conception of it, no measure of it. This can’t be seen as being thought’s fault because there is absolutely no way in which the thinking mind can ever appreciate the fact that the ‘bigger picture’ simply can’t be defined exhaustively defined or catalogued. Thought can’t be expected to understand that ‘the Whole of Everything’ can never be measured, conceptualised, or defined because its actual mechanism is to do exactly this. Thought is a mechanism for measuring, conceptualising, and defining, and it can hardly be blamed for doing what it is what its nature is to do. Thought is nothing if not predictable in this respect, as we started out this discussion by saying. A sweeping brush can only sweep, the porridge pot can only produce porridge and the instrument of thought cannot be expected to go beyond it’s all about own bounds. When the thinking mind is left operate ‘as it will’ this always going to be a disaster, in other words.
The ‘disaster’ that we talking about in the case of the runaway thinking mind is a psychological situation than most of us find ourselves in every day of our lives. This is exactly ‘how things are’ for us – it’s what we take as ‘normal’, it’s what we see as being the right and proper way for things to be. Thought defines everything, despite the fact that it is ludicrously illegitimate to define ‘the Whole of Everything’ since definitions can only occur by relation by relating what is being defined to ‘something else’, to some external or extrinsic context, and as far as ‘the Whole’ is concerned there is no external or extrinsic context. The Whole doesn’t come with a framework. This business of defining anything so that it all becomes one big seamless structure or system is an absurdity that thought is never going to be perturbed by – it’s never going to be the least bit perturbed by it and neither are we just as long as we are taking thought as our master. We accept the reality that we have been presented with, as the line in The Truman Show goes. Thought is telling us what’s real so why should we question it? How would we even get the notion that they could be the possibility of questioning it? If someone were to come along and say that ‘there is an undefined world outside of the world that thought tells us about’ we would laugh at them – would laugh at them because the suggestion is so vague and ridiculous. ‘Prove it!’ we will say, sublimely oblivious to the fact that all ‘proofs’ occur via the authoritarian approval of the tyrant which is the thinking mind.
The thinking mind is always a tyrant when we hand over responsibility to it; it is our ‘handing over of responsibility’ that makes it into a tyrant because we have given away our ability to question it – the only questions we are now allowed are the questions that thought itself supplies us with! The instrument of thought is a tyrant because the way it functions is always black-and-white – ‘black and white’ is of course its mechanism, ‘yes versus no’ is its mechanism, either/or is its mechanism. To try to explain to the thinking mind that both <yes> and <no> always miss the mark, that there is something else apart from ‘either/or’ is a perfect impossibility. That would be like trying to convey the idea to a steel cog that there should be gradations (or possibilities for purchase) between the teeth that are actually already in it Obviously this is going to turn out to be a ‘losing argument’ – a cog is a cog and that’s all there is to it. If thought is our master then we really do have to go along with it – we have no freedom apart from the freedom that thought gives us and the crucial point about this is that thought doesn’t give us any freedom and it never can. Freedom isn’t what the system of thought tells us is real after all – freedom is what lies beyond yes or no, beyond right or wrong, beyond the cogs of the machine and this subtlety is precisely the point the thinking mind can never understand.