What is ‘the vibration’? One way to answer this rather cryptic question is to say that what we are calling ‘the vibration’ is the inevitable result of the use of psychological aggression.
When we are aggressive we strike out at our own projections (either this, or we try to grab them and pull them towards us). There’s no other way aggression can work – either we’re striking out at some object in our conceptual reality or we’re trying to hook it in, and seize hold of it.
This is all that’s needed to set up the vibration, therefore. As soon as we see that aggression can only ever occur in relation to our own concepts, our own mental projections, we can understand how it is that the vibration is going to be set up. What else would we imagine could be the result of us ‘interacting’ with our own projections?
The word ‘interaction’, when used in this context – is of course entirely misleading. There can be no interaction between a thing and itself. There can be no interaction between me and my own projections! Interaction (the genuine rather than the tautological sort, that is) always result in change. This is what interaction is all about – it’s all about encountering the unknown and then changing as a result. It’s all about reaching out beyond ourselves and the confines of our conceptual knowledge, and this is precisely what doesn’t happen when we ‘interact’ with our own projections.
When we reach out beyond ourselves and encounter the unknown then change always going to happen as a result. It can’t not happen. We don’t even need to try to prove why this should be so – we can all see why this should be so straightaway! To touch the unknown is to be changed by the encounter. By the same token therefore, when it is ourselves (or our own constructs) we are interacting with (or relating to) then the one thing we can be sure of is that there won’t be any change. When there is no reaching out beyond what we already know (or think we already know) then nothing changes – how could it?
And yet even though nothing changes (as we have just made a big point of saying) it isn’t sufficient just to say this. It isn’t sufficient just to say this because – on the one hand – we do perceive ourselves to be interacting one way or another with the outside world, and – on the other hand – we do also perceive changes that take place as a result! This can best be illustrated by the example of playing a simple game such as flipping a coin or throwing the dice to see what the result is going to be, whether it’s going to be good or bad, whether we’re going to win or lose. When we do this there is no way that we are ‘reaching out beyond ourselves’, since both ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘win’ and ‘lose’ our own categories.
When we are playing a game all we care about our own categories, all we care about is whether we win or lose (obviously enough) and so there’s no interaction with the world going on, and yet – despite this – as far as we concerned there’s a very big difference between the one outcome and the other. As far as we’re concerned, to win at the game we are playing at represents the biggest ‘change’ in our circumstances that we could possibly imagine (which is of course why we get so very excited about it) and yet – actually – no change at all has taken place. No change ever takes place within the realm of the known – as Krishnamurti says, ‘the movement between one known and another is not a movement’!
When we are playing a game then there are two very big so-called ‘changes’ in our situation that can take place – one changes is where we succeed and the other change is where we fail! When we are playing a game the difference between the one outcome the other is the biggest difference they could ever be (it is at any rate the only ‘difference’ we care about, as we have said) but at the same time there is no real difference here at all. The thing about a game is that nothing that happens in it ever makes any real difference. The thing about the game – a thing that makes it into a game – is that no real changes ever take place in it. All the so-called ‘changes’ are of course entirely virtual, entirely nominal.
This situation is a peculiar one therefore because even though no change has taken place (it can’t take place because there is never any genuine ‘reaching out’ to the outside world taking place in a game) we believe and act as if there are – potentially – very big change that can go on, and all our ‘well-being’ (or ‘regard for ourselves’) is tied up with this supposed change. Subjectively, there is change (or the possibility of change) going on whilst objectively there is nothing going on and – furthermore – they never could be anything going on since there is no actual interaction taking place.
There is only one thing we need to understand to explain what is going on to create the apparent change that takes place in a game and that is the idea of ‘oscillating displacement’. This is of course a very familiar idea – it’s not some kind of arcane or exotic phenomenon that we are referring to here! We can think of the skin of a drum when it is hit by the drumstick: there are two factors in this situation – one being the tightness (or tension) in the skin of the drama, and the other being the force imparted by the drumstick. You don’t have to have a Masters in physics to know what happens as a result of these two factors – we set up a vibration, we set up an ‘oscillating displacement’ in the membrane which is the drum-skin.
The force has to have some effect, it has to ‘go somewhere,’ (which is to say, it can’t just disappear) and at the same time it can’t continue because of the obstacle that is in the drum-skin. What happens is that the tension in the membrane causes the ‘counter-force’ encountered there to increase exponentially the further it gets from zero displacement. When all the force has been absorbed (and inverted into potential energy) it is immediately returned to the system in terms of ‘an equal and opposite force’. It’s ‘reflected back’, in other words. This is such a familiar idea to us of course that there is hardly any need to write a thesis about it, but the psychological parallel has not been so well elucidating. It has – it seems – not been elucidated at all, and this is an eloquent testament to our profound lack of appreciation of the mechanical nature of the everyday mind.
The ‘psychological manifestation’ of the principle of oscillation is easy enough to explain. The ‘force’ that is being applied to the system is of course our aggression, which is the ‘concrete sense of self’ asserting what it either wants or doesn’t want with regard to some identified outcome. It’s not so much a matter of what the actual outcome goal in question is, but rather the value that we attribute to it. This is what sets up the oscillation, this is what displaces the system ‘out of true’.
It could also be said that it is in this matter of ‘attributing value’ that our apparent ‘freedom to call the shots’ lies. This is where we seem to have leeway because we can attribute value to whatever we like. To take the example of ‘flipping the coin’, we can choose to call either ‘heads’ or ‘tales’ and so we can get to feel good about either possibility, if it happens to go the way we call it. What this shows is that we have the complete freedom to ascribe value to absolutely anything we want. We can say that ‘anything is anything’, in other words, and then go along with what we have just said as if it were completely and utterly true.
This might sound rather confusing but all that we are saying is that we are able to ‘judge’ the world in any way we want. We have the freedom to create a ‘customized world’ for ourselves with our judgements, therefore. This hardly comes as any great news – we all know this, we all know that we have the freedom to make of the world whatever we like. We may have the freedom to make of the world whatever we like, but this does not mean that we have ‘complete impunity,’ however. We act as if we have impunity but this is not at all the case, and so this – needless to say – significantly detracts from the freedom we think we have (or rather, from the freedom we unconsciously assume that we have) with regard to making of reality what we will.
It clearly isn’t true to say that we perceive ourselves to have the freedom to ‘make of the world what we will’ because if we did have that perception then we would also know that this so-called ‘freedom’ is quite worthless. If anything at all can be true, then nothing is true. We don’t see ourselves to be utilising this ‘freedom to construct the word in any way we wish’, but we are using it and that is why we are incurring the associated penalty (the ‘penalty’ being the reflection of our aggression back at us). To have this freedom (the freedom to make of the world what we will) and yet not use it is ‘penalty free’, we might say, but to utilize this freedom, whether we know that we are or don’t know, is always penalised, and this ‘penalty’ comes in the form of what J.G, Bennett calls ‘compensation’, which is where one opposite is (in time) compensated for by the other.
Ascribing value or meaning (i.e. saying ‘what something is’) is ‘an act of aggression’ – it is the essential act of psychological aggression, we might say – and as such it is ‘the force that has to go somewhere’, the ‘force that has to has some effect’. When we bang a drum with a drumstick the force has to go somewhere and because it can’t carry on in the direction that we send it, it bounces right back at us. It continues just as before, only with ‘reversed polarity’, and this of course balances the books perfectly. Because the surface we are hitting can’t be permanently distorted (i.e. can’t be bent permanently out of shape) the collision is an elastic one and all the energy (or force) comes right back at us, reflected faithfully back at us with reversed polarity.
In physical systems this is, as we have already said, a very well understood phenomenon; in terms of ‘assigning meaning’ (or ‘judging’) the notion that the meaning we are so freely assigning will come bouncing right back at us with reversed polarity is – it seems – unheard of. It’s not part of our understanding of psychology at all. What this means is that we are very lazily assuming that we can slap our judgements or evaluations on the world (and thereby create our own version of the world out of these judgements of ours) and then carry on with complete impunity.
If we were to step back and observe that our ‘entire conceptual world’ – the world which we live in and exclusively believe in – is ‘one big sustained act of aggression’, then we could hardly miss seeing that there is bound to be some sort of price to be paid for what we are doing. The most obvious way of looking at this is simply to note that when we live in a world that is made up entirely of our own judgements, our own evaluations, our own conceptualisations, then the world we have thus created is tautological, and what ‘tautology’ means is that we think we are saying something, or explaining something, when actually we are saying or explaining nothing at all. We seem to be explaining something, but we aren’t – we’re just restating the initial premises as if this were somehow ‘providing extra information’.
The ‘conceptual world’ is hollow therefore, and this corresponds to what we were saying earlier about there being no change possible in a system that does not interact (or that is not open to) the world at large, the world which is not continuous with our assumptions or ideas. Objectively, no change takes place, subjectively – on the other hand – it very much seems to be taking place, as we have said. Objectively, nothing has been said; subjectively however, the world we live in seems to be made seems to be full of all sorts of literal truth, all sorts of concrete facts, all sorts of ‘definite statements’. A very simple way to understand what we’re talking about here is in terms of a Möbius strip (or strange loop).
A Möbius strip is an oddity which appears to have two sides, two faces, but which really has only the one, the illusion being created by the fact that there is a kink or twist in the strip. Positive reality (i.e. ‘a reality that is definitely stated’) is exactly like a Möbius strip with ‘positive’ as one face and ‘negative’ as the other – we live our rationally-defined lives between these two extremes as if they were two separate possibilities which we have the power of being able to choose between, but this choice is quite illusory since there is really only the one surface there for us to ‘walk’ upon. There is no progression from minus to plus (or regression from plus to minus) despite our intense conviction that there is.
The positive reality contains ‘only one thing’ therefore, and this thing is the Möbius strip. The Möbius strip is, in its essence, an exercise in self-negating; it is an exercise in self-negating that we never see as such – ‘progression’ turns into ‘regression’ without us realising that any change in polarity has taken place. We know after it has happened, but we never see it happening. So we could therefore say that the ‘positive world’ – which is the world that we positively assert as existing or being true – is made up of only one thing and that one thing is ‘one step forward followed by one step backwards’. The definite positive (and there is no other sort!) always comes with the corresponding definite negative in tow and so by ‘being definite’ we always come right back to where we started from. We ‘progress’ only in an illusory way.
The strange loop is the very same thing as the liar paradox – the latter is the mathematical expression of the former. What the liar paradox shows is that we can never get anywhere by self-reference, and self reference is the only way we can ever go about making positive statements. To make a positive statement (i.e. to say something that is ‘definitely true’) is to extend the certainty of where we presently stand – we take a bold step forward from the ‘solid basis’ of what we think we already know, and we imagine that we are striking forth into new territory, but all we really doing is repeating ourselves. Stepping boldly forward on the basis of ‘what we think we already know’ is just to restate our original basis.
We are logically extending ourselves, we are ‘projecting ourselves forward’, but this isn’t the progression we imagine it to be because we’re not actually saying anything new. There is the illusion that we are covering new ground and we can derive a ‘good feeling’ from that illusion (we get a feeling of security and validation from it) but because that good feeling is based upon an illusion (the illusion of getting somewhere when we not) the good feeling that we are enjoying is going to have to be repaid paid for by feeling correspondingly bad at some point in the future. This is the psychological equivalent of the liar paradox. The liar paradox produces an oscillation which takes the form yes-no-yes-no-yes-no, and the psychological corollary of this produces the oscillation of feeling good-feeling bad-feeling good-feeling bad… We can’t base anything on an illusion after all, and the illusion we’re trading on is the illusion that we are actually getting somewhere.
There is no ‘progression’ going on – all that’s happening is that there is a kind of ‘subjective wobble’ occurring as we allow ourselves to (momentarily) believe that we have progressed when we haven’t and then subsequently suffer the backlash that comes as a result of this false belief. All that’s happening here is ‘the vibration of thought’ – the vibration of thought that we are forever keeping ourselves trapped in. This is the ‘neurotic hole’ that we have gotten ourselves into, and the more we ‘bank’ on the activity of the thinking mind to save us the deeper the hole is going to get. Every thought – every thought there ever was – -is a vibration. How could there be such a thing as a thought which is not a vibration, seeing as how all thoughts are definite statements. All thoughts try to say something real in a definite way, all thoughts are our attempt to ‘expand our territory’ (as Chogyam Trungpa says) but there is no progression to be had on the basis of ‘something we think we know but we don’t’. All that occurs as a result of this is a series of ‘false starts’…
Positive territory can’t be expanded because it doesn’t exist! What we’re actually doing when we try to ‘expand positive territory’ is that we are having an elastic collision with ‘a membrane’ that we can neither perceive nor comprehend. By exercising the freedom that we have (but do not know we have) to ‘say what reality is’ we progress in this illusory ‘positive direction’, but what we don’t see is that the type of ‘space’ we have thereby created for ourselves is paradoxical. It is paradoxical in the sense that ‘progressing in an illusory positive direction’ is the very same thing as ‘regressing in an illusory negative direction’, and this is ‘the vibration’ in a nutshell!