Identifying With the Rule


Whatever the purposeful self does it is because of fear. Fear is behind everything the purposeful (or controlling) self does, and since fear is all about not owning up to the true nature of things this also means that the purposeful / controlling self does not own up to the fact that everything it does is because of fear. It doesn’t see things like this – it doesn’t see that that fear is the underlying driving force behind all its apparently varied ‘purposes’. It doesn’t want to see this. Because we are not owning up to this fact everything in the realm of purposefulness is done on a ‘false basis’ therefore. It’s all duplicitous – our highly publicized purposes are a smoke-screen, they are there to conceal something not achieve something.


This ‘running away from seeing that we are afraid’ necessitates the creation of two levels of consciousness – [1] is the superficial (or ‘theatrical’) level which is where we have this or that apparent reason for doing whatever it is that we are doing, and [2] is the deep-down unacknowledged level which is fear (or ‘unquestionable need’). What we’re talking about here therefore is a game – ‘a game’ being what we might refer to as ‘a form of systematic self-deception’. The game we’re playing in everyday life is thus all about restricting our awareness to the superficial or theatrical level and pretending that this is the only level there is. On the theatrical level we have lots of false (but nevertheless effectively validated) reasons for doing things and none of these reasons feel like fear! Complications might arise in the game as a result of living exclusively on the theatrical level (in fact they will of course arise) but no matter what happens we mustn’t allow ourselves to see that whatever we think we are doing it is really only ‘running away from seeing that we are afraid’. This is the Number One rule of the game – to not see that everything we do is driven by unacknowledged fear. When the naked fear is allowed to be seen then this is the end of the game. The deception is over at this point.


Because none of the reasons we say we have for doing stuff are true this means that all the activities that take place in the purposeful realm are ultimately meaningless. They have meaning on the nominal level but that is only the meaning we say it has. As soon as we stop saying that the activity in question has the meaning that we say it has then it ceases to have it! The meaning or significance of our purposeful activities exists only as a result of our continual exertion therefore. We don’t see ourselves as being engaging in this particular type of effort (i.e. the effort to keep the game meaningful to us); the only effort we see ourselves being engaged in is the effort to pursue the goal that we are purposefully involved in chasing after. We see ourselves as ‘straining to achieve the goal’ not ‘straining to make our goal-orientated activity seem meaningful to us’, but since our activity is only meaningful because of our purpose for engaging in it exerting ourselves to fulfil our stated purpose is the same thing as exerting ourselves to keep the activity meaningful. Saying that the goal is worthwhile and making the effort to achieve it are the two sides of the same thing. It’s the same drum that we’re banging and vigorously banging the drum of purposefulness is a large part of what we do in life; the more the fear threatens to come to the surface the more purposeful (the more ‘serious’) we become!


The purposeful realm is a charade that has to be maintained therefore – if it were not for our ongoing maintenance it would not exist. We cannot allow ourselves to see that we are ‘maintaining the charade’ however because if we did this we would immediately see that the charade is only a charade, and then it would be a charade no longer… This necessitates us ‘splitting ourselves in two’ since the left hand must not know what the right hand is doing. We need to split off a part of ourselves that can then have the job of maintaining the charade so that the rest of us (the part that hasn’t been split off) can go ahead and take the charade seriously! The part of us that has not been split off can then believe in the charade and quite honestly say that it is not colluding in any way in the construction or maintenance of what is going on. Saying that we split ourselves up into ‘the maintainer of the game’ and ‘the player of the game’ is another way of talking about this business whereby we create two levels of consciousness – only one of which we are allowed to own up to. These are both ways of looking at games and game-playing and the key element in both is that we facilitate our running away from fear by aligning ourselves with a rule so that the rule in question is no longer visible to us.


Another way of putting this is to say that we say what something is, and then we (implicitly) say that we didn’t say anything. We (implicitly) deny that it was us who said it was like this – we create a positive reality and then act as if it were already there, we act as if it exists quite independently of our intentions in the matter. ‘How things are’ (the nominal level of meaning) is the rule and ‘us going along with things as if it were not our choice to do so’ is us identifying with the rule. When we identify with the rule we take it totally for granted. We ‘act as if it were normal’, we act as if it were ‘the only possible way to do things’. The rule thus becomes the base-line that we don’t ever see – we don’t see the base-line, we only see our deviations from it! We can give an example to make this clearer – suppose that I want to bring about a certain outcome. After making the necessary effort I manage to achieve the outcome that I wanted and the achievement of this outcome is seen as an ‘unqualified positive’. The desire or need that I have to obtain the goal is not questioned, is taken for granted, and the relief from the need is perceived as being a ‘stand-alone positive’ which we freely strive towards. It doesn’t feel good to achieve the goal because it is a relief from the relentless pain of the desire in other words, but because the goal is a good thing in itself!


To succeed in obtaining the goal is ‘good’ because this accords with the rule and the rule is ‘good’ because (i.e. lawful or legitimate) because we have assumed that it is. It’s good because we have aligned ourselves with it. Not obtaining the goal is ‘bad’ for the very same reason. ‘Identifying with the rule; is a very natural thing to do – we instinctively align ourselves with the superior force. This might mean going along with a particular person if there is someone in a position of authority who has clearly defined ideas about the way things should be, or it could mean going along with the views of the group rather than one’s own because the group is always more powerful than the individual. We go along with the stronger force because we pretty much have to, but at the same time as conforming to the external authority we allow ourselves to believe that we are freely choosing to fall in line with it because this is what we think too. We’re not being forced, we’re agreeing of our own free will. We adopt the viewpoint in question, and we don’t even see ourselves as doing so; as far as we are concerned, the viewpoint reflects what we think anyway and so there’s no question of us simply ‘going along with the majority’. We are ‘agreeing with what is right’, which is a different thing altogether. The accepted viewpoint of the collective thus becomes the unquestionable basis for seeing everything. The generic thus replaces the unique.


So in exactly the same way as this the rule which is fear becomes the unquestionable basis for seeing everything. We are creatures prone to adapting ourselves to the biggest force in town and so of course we are going to adapt ourselves to the rule of fear. Nothing is more persuasive than fear, after all! Fear is the biggest bully around, the biggest tyrant in town. Compulsions don’t come any bigger or meaner than fear and in fact all compulsions – of whatever type – are only ever ‘fear in disguise’. Greed is only fear in disguise, obsession is only fear in disguise, perfectionism is only fear in disguise, jealousy is only fear in disguise, pride or egoism is only fear in disguise, anger is only fear in disguise. All of these compulsions (‘the passions’ as Jung says) are ‘fear in disguise’ and they all convert us from the unique to the generic…


As we have been saying, when we align ourselves with fear it becomes invisible – it only gets to be visible under certain situations, certain situations where we feel that we need to be in control but can’t be. When all our options for control have been taken away from us then we know fear. The idea of this thing called ‘control’ therefore is that it is supremely empowering for us; to be ‘in control’ is to be empowered, we think. And yet if we weren’t being driven by fear then there simply wouldn’t be any need for control. The whole point of control is that if we exercise it effectively then we will escape the outcome we don’t want, the outcome we hope to avoid. ‘Control’ is the active side of fear therefore – the more we fear the more we seek to control. Control is fear, it’s the very same thing as fear, but because we have identified with it so completely control seems to be a very different sort of a thing to fear – it seems like our protection against fear, our safeguard against fear. Perversely, to be in control seems like a sign of strength rather than cowardice! When we manage to successfully control we are awash with positive feelings, we are awash with euphoria. We feel heroic. And yet this highly-prized euphoria isn’t ‘a thing in itself’, it isn’t ‘a thing in its own right’ – it’s simply the good feeling we get when we allow ourselves to believe that we have successfully escaped from the fear that we never had the courage to own up to in the first place!


Euphoria is – we might therefore say – ‘the successfully disguised face of fear’. The successfully disguised face of fear is what we are constantly chasing after in the realm of purposefulness. That’s what we’re after. No matter what our ‘purpose’ is, the reason achieving it feels as good as it does is because in this way we feel that we are successfully running away from fear. This isn’t of course a conscious sort of thing – it’s not that I am saying “I am feeling good because I have fooled myself into believing that I have successfully ran away from the fear which I am too scared to admit to in the first place”. That would clearly be ridiculous – that wouldn’t work at all. How could I possibly get a good feeling out of that? If I am lying to myself in order to feel good I obviously can’t admit to myself that I am doing so! Rather, I am feeling the euphoria because I am successfully achieving something that unconsciously represents ‘escaping from fear’ to me. The victory that I have achieved is a token for something else, but I cannot allow myself to see what it is a token for. This is what it means to be living in the duplex realm, the realm of theatricality…


The various purposes that we preoccupy ourselves with have the meanings that we ascribe to them, but underlying this nominal level of meaning (which is the theatre, the show) lies the level of meaning that we are not allowed to know about, which is fear. Saying that all of our purposeful or goal-orientated behaviour is driven (from behind the scenes) by fear is a rather unpalatable statement to come across. It does not on the face of it seem to be a particularly inspiring picture. It is more than just a bit insulting to our self-importance. Most of us would probably deny such a suggestion on the grounds that it is blatantly nonsensical – clearly most of the purposeful activity that we engage in is directed towards sensible goals, goals that are unquestionably not all about escaping some kind of invisible all-powerful and all-pervading fear! It demeans everything to say this. Our goals could be quite practical, such as avoiding danger or securing food or shelter. They could be eminently sensible and morally responsible. We could actually be helping someone else, or doing something for the public good, in which case how is it fair to say that we’re only doing what we’re doing for the sake of escaping from our own fear? It sounds ridiculous to say that there no ‘true’ purposes, no purposes without a hidden agenda. How can everything be a game, we might ask?


The thing about this however is that everything can be a game quite easily. It can be the case much more easily than we realize. Anything that comes out of the thinking mind (and not out of somewhere deeper and more essential to our being) is a game. Inasmuch as our purposes are constructs of the thinking mind (which of course they are!) they are part of a game that we are playing and the particular game that we’re playing is that our thoughts are the same thing as reality. We don’t see thought as being a game but once we put it like this it can be seen that it has to be – the thought is never the thing and yet in everyday life we are quite happy to lose sight of the all-important ‘difference’ between the model and the reality that is being modelled. The descriptor becomes the same thing as the thing that is being described and no one ever notices the irreversible ‘collapse’ of information that has taken place here.


There are possibilities here therefore – one is to use our descriptors (our categories of thought) consciously (i.e. ironically, in the way that Rene Magritte does The Treachery of Images) and the other is to use them unconsciously (or non-ironically), which is where we quite forget that the image is only the image. Once we do forget in this way (when the ‘difference’ – as far as we are concerned at least – no longer exists) then we’re playing a game, and ‘playing a game’ means that we’re not doing things for the reason we think we are doing them. Everything is only ‘for appearances’ sake’, everything is ‘on the level of the theatrical’. This is we could say what is meant by being ‘a slave to appearances’ – the so-called ‘freedom’ is only on the surface and underneath the surface is ‘the need to appear a certain way’, which is simply fear. When we are being serious or non-ironic about what we’re doing then this shows that we are being driven by a fear we cannot admit to – lack of humour is what defines the purposeful realm. If we want to know how free we are from the yoke of fear all we need to do is take a look at how spontaneous we are, how humorous we are…


Purposes and goals belong to the realm of the rational intellect – they are concrete (or ‘literal’) and the nature of reality is non-concrete, non-literal. Our purposes are in other words an expression of our black and white thinking and for this reason they don’t have any actual relationship with the nature of reality itself. We have said that all purposeful (i.e. concrete) behaviour – without exception – is driven by fear (or rather is driven by ‘our need to escape from fear without us knowing that we are escaping fear’) but we could equally well have said that our literal, black and white way of describing the world to ourselves is our way of escaping from ‘a fear that we cannot admit to’. When the difference between the symbol and what the symbol stands for is zero (as far as we are concerned, at any rate) then that means that we’re playing a game – it’s as simple as that. Everything we do from this point on is duplicitous – it’s ‘for the sake of appearances only’.


The nature of reality is not something that can be honestly represented in terms of literal descriptions; such descriptions come about via the operation of our conceptual categories – if the incoming data fits into the category then obviously it’s a YES and if it doesn’t then it a NO and this is the basis of all our rational thinking. It is the basis of how we interpret the world (and ourselves) and it is also the basis of our ‘purposeful behavioural output’. If it so happened that reality did have a character that corresponded with our mental categories (i.e. our crude digital assumptions about it) then that would be fine – a literal or concrete description would then be the right man for the job. The matter would then be done and dusted. End of story. The business of ‘describing reality’ would then be complete and we could move on to something else! The problem is however that we have absolutely no evidence at all that reality equals our assumptions about it (i.e. there is no evidence that our mental categories do correspond to some deep structure in the nature of reality) and this means that our literal descriptions are actually evasions of the truth…


A more succinct way of putting this is simply to say that reality is radically uncertain. It’s not that reality is ‘uncertain in itself’ – it’s just ‘uncertain in relation to our fixed frame of reference. It’s uncertain with respect to our FOR simply because there is no correspondence between our static framework and reality! There’s no correspondence at all and so as far as our arbitrary viewpoint is concerned we say that reality is ‘radically uncertain’ – as if the fault lay with it and not with ourselves for being so absurdly wooden in our approach! Even more succinctly put, the incoherence arises since as Krishnamurti says reality is always new and thought is always old. For us (speaking from the viewpoint of the rational mind) the new is ‘uncertain’. Of course the new is uncertain! How could it not be uncertain? What sort of new would it be if it were not uncertain? Whoever heard of a type of new that is ‘expected’, a type of new that is ‘safely predictable’?


Instead of saying that we are afraid of uncertainty (or ‘the unknowable’) we could therefore say that we are afraid of the new. The new is what scares us. As Robert Anton Wilson would say, we are suffering from a bad case of neophobia. The new is not of course a bad thing in itself – it’s just that we are mortally afraid of it! It’s a bad thing because we are running away from it, or rather it’s a bad thing because we’re trying to run away from it but we can’t (if we were able to run away from it then it would be any sort of a thing because we wouldn’t be aware of it). The usual state of affairs is for us not to be aware of the new and this is the way we like it. We replace the new with the ‘pseudo-new’ of our ceaseless mental productions and that’s why we are always thinking so much – we need to be continually distracting ourselves with the superficially new, the superficially different, so that we don’t suffocate with an overdose of ennui. And all of this is because are afraid of encountering the new!


Why then should we be so terrified of the new? Why should we feel the need to ‘identify with the rule’ so as to avoid it? One way to answer this question is simply to say that the new is a challenge. The new – the radically different – is the ultimate challenge. We have to face it absolutely unprepared – how after call can I prepare for the new? In order to meet the new I have to let go of everything I know since everything I know is the old and the old will stand in the way of me meeting the new. ‘What I know’ is what makes me feel secure and so to give this up is the ultimate act of courage. To identify with the rule is infinitely easier because the one thing the rule never does is to confront us with the new! With the rule it’s always ‘more of the same, more of the same’. With the rule our only job is to protect the old and ensure its continuation at all costs. Protecting the status quo at all costs and fighting off anything that might challenge it (i.e. ‘controlling’) isn’t an act of courage; it is – as we have been saying – the result of fear.



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