The clearest, most essential example of an information collapse (or a ‘break in symmetry’) is the creation of an issue where beforehand there wasn’t any. An ‘issue’ – we might say – is where something has to be done – where there is a non-negotiable need to do something. We could also say that an issue is an ‘oversimplification’ of the original situation such that the original situation becomes irreversibly understandable in terms of a basic polarity of RIGHT OUTCOME versus WRONG OUTCOME. There is a way for things to be that is good – and a way that is bad. Alternatively, there is a way to see things that is right, and other ways which are wrong. Before there was symmetry (i.e. no polarity), afterwards there is. What this comes down to is the inversion process that takes place when a rule or criterion takes precedence over reality so that we weigh reality in accordance with what the rule or criterion says. Before the rule took precedence then – obviously – there could be no so thing as right and wrong, good or bad; afterwards this polarity dominates us completely – it becomes the burning issue, the source of concern. When the rule pops into existence this doesn’t just simply change what is going on, it inverts it.
Beforehand everything is just ‘what it is’ and we don’t know what it is, and afterwards everything has to be seen in terms of the rule. The rule is ‘the measure’. Beforehand there was no discrimination whatsoever and all is unconditionally allowed (which is not quite putting it correctly since the idea might be given that there is something there to ‘unconditionally allow’ everything and there isn’t); afterwards nothing is allowed unless it satisfies the rule. So post-collapse there is a thing and that ‘thing’ is the rule! The rule is what matters here – the rule is the master and reality itself can only be granted the status of being ‘real’ if it is first weighed up against the all-important criterion and found to be acceptable in terms of it. So whilst reality might be ‘great’ it is only great because the thinking mind secretly gives it permission to be so, and so the hidden implication here is that the thinking mind must actually be even greater.
It goes without saying that we will spend an inordinate amount of time loudly paying lip-service to various values or concepts as being ‘great’ or ‘wonderful’ or ‘supreme’ but the truth is that it is these values are only great, wonderful, supreme etc because our evaluative criteria say that they are. When we respect the values that our inherent prejudices inevitably predispose us to respect then we are of course only respecting our own prejudices. Or as Krishnamurti says, when we worship a god that our own rational mind has invented then we are simply worshipping that rational mind; we are praising ourselves whilst not letting on to ourselves that this is what we are doing. So if I have a religious experience and then as a result go to the trouble of creating a new religion and laying down a dogma about it all this has nothing to do with what the original religious experience was about but everything to do with the way it has now been organized. If I berate you as a heretic I am angry not because you have offended God but because you have offended me – which is completely unforgivable. This is of course why religious fundamentalists and dogmatists in general are renowned for being so very serious about everything – they are serious about everything because they are serious about themselves. Such people are disguised self-worshippers and if anything gets in the way of the very serious business of self-worship then the one thing you can be sure of is that retaliation will be swift and terrible! No punishment is worse than that meted out by the self-idolizing self-worshipper for anyone who dares even to suggest that what he is doing is anything less than the pinnacle of all that is supremely honourable, glorious and praiseworthy.
THROWING A WOBBLY
Setting aside the subject of religious extremism, we can bring our discussion back on course by observing that issues of all kinds have the covert function of reinforcing or reaffirming one’s underlying prejudices. An ‘issue’ is a projection of one’s bias (or prejudice) and when we get caught up in the issue – as we do, this being the whole thing about issues – then because we have displaced our attention on the external drama we get distracted from seeing that it’s really all about ‘our stuff’ and not whatever is going on with the drama. The real issue is me, when it comes down to it, not anything else but I am emphatically pointing my finger away from myself! The more forcefully I react, the more I take it for granted that the reason for my over-the-top reaction must be valid, in other words – the drama (or ‘issue’) is self-fuelling.
This is ‘tautological self-validation’ at its most pernicious – the intensity of my negative evaluation and the force of my attempt to seize control of the situation (or at the very least, to unambiguously seize the moral high-ground with regard to what’s going on) serves to make my reasons for so reacting unquestionable to me. The more strongly I throw myself into reaction the more reason I have to react, and so the whole thing just carries on from there; if I didn’t make an issue about whatever happened in the first place then I wouldn’t have to react, but once I do react then I am caught up in the sticky mess of it. In one way I don’t want to be caught up in the drama because it’s painful and exhausting but into another way I do because – as we have said – this way I get to carry on displacing the attention from where the problem really is.
When an issue comes up what this means is that I become unaccountably excited by something that doesn’t really warrant such excitement at all. I gesticulate frantically and talk (or think) nine-to-the-dozen. I do a veritable dance around about the place, beside myself with righteous indignation. I throw a wobbly. I throw a tantrum. This is of course classic decoy-type behaviour – the whole point of all this wretched drama is to displace attention (both my own and that of any audience that I might have attracted) away from my own unexamined assumptions, my own unconscious biases. The more I act out my biases into the world the more invisible they are going to become to me, and so I am guaranteed to carry on being subject to them. I’m ‘safeguarding my biases’, therefore – I’m hanging onto the in perpetuity, and this is the real point of the little dance that I am doing…
The reason I am so keen to hang onto my biases, my unfounded assumptions about reality, is obviously because provide me with something I need, some form of security or self-validation. My position is clearly shaky, and I need to distract attention away from this shakiness by getting caught up in a drama of some sort. The question is then “Why is my position so shaky?” Why do I need to keep on creating issues to distract myself? Clearly I am feeling bad about myself in some way, but what exactly is the nature of this ‘bad feeling’? We could also ask why I can’t legitimately address this problem (whatever it is) – why do I have to distract attention from it the whole time and say that the problem is somewhere else?
The general tactic of displacing attention (and by implication, blame) from oneself onto another, innocent target is one that is familiar enough to us. We could paint a little scenario here to illustrate the principle: There I am standing there uneasily in the town square, surrounded by people, feeling very vulnerable and guilty for some reason, when all of a sudden I can’t bear it anymore and pick randomly on some hapless person standing nearby and loudly accuse him of the very crime that I am feeling so bad about. Because of my loud, insistent public denouncement attention gets firmly placed on the scapegoat and – as a result of everyone else also harbouring guilty feelings that they do not want anyone to know about – the poor guy is summarily lynched, with great gusto, by an enraged mob! My sneaky manoeuvre has been carried out successfully…
This scenario naturally sounds rather extreme to us but actually the basic mechanics of unconscious pain-displacement gets enacted over and over again every day. Whenever we feel bad – generally without us being particularly in touch with the unpleasant feeling – we look for ways to displace the pain. If someone comes along and ruffles our feathers in some way then we are absolutely delighted to have the pretext to discharge some of our pain in their direction. This will be done, of course, quite unconsciously – which is to say, we never have any inkling of what we are doing or why and so we can retain the high moral ground throughout. To call this sort of behaviour ‘commonplace’ is to understate the matter – unconscious pain-displacement is in fact ‘what it’s all about’. That is why we are always being mean to each other – because we’re feeling bad and we don’t (consciously) know that we are feeling bad. That’s why kids get bullied at school, why couples fight, why children and old people get abused in institutions, why bosses give their underlings a hard time at work, why people of a superior social class look down on the lower classes, why everyone wants to be better than everyone else, and so on. Acting out our unacknowledged pain drives everything!
ACTING OUT EXISTENTIAL PAIN BY BEING ‘DEFINITE’
This surreptitious (or sometimes not-so-surreptitious) unloading of unacknowledged pain on someone else is only a small part of the picture however. Acting out pain via behaviour is crude and easily visible example of a broader process which is where we reaffirm our idea of ourselves via engagement in various projects, various endeavours. We asked earlier why we should feel bad about ourselves and thus be in a position of having to keep acting out this pain by involving in dramas of one sort or another. There can be lots of specific reasons why we might be feeling bad but underlying all of these there is – we could suggest – a kind of ‘pain associated with existence itself’ that we constantly need to be distracting ourselves from. Why should the fact of existence itself be ‘a pain’, we might quite reasonably wonder? The point isn’t however that being in the world is pain but rather that existing in the world in a defined (i.e. compartmentalized) way is a pain. Conditioned existence is a pain. This is of course the Buddha’s First Noble Truth as outlined here in this passage from the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (taken from the Wikipedia entry) –
Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
For the purposes of our argument we can say (in a very rough kind of a way) that the ‘pain’ that we’re talking about here – the ‘pain of conditioned existence’ – is pain of not feeling justified (or secure) in our identity, in who we think we are (which is to say, in our mind-created understanding of ourselves). Where this constant background of pain comes from is easy enough to see once we put things like this –
Because ‘who we think we are’ is an identity that has been created for ourselves by the rational mind, and because everything the rational mind creates is based upon arbitrary rules which it is constitutionally unable to see as arbitrary this guarantees us a life-time supply of ongoing irredeemable ontological insecurity!
The problem is therefore that rules are not – and never can be – ‘valid’ in the sense that the thinking mind assumes them to be. All rules are only ever valid because we say that they are (because we agree for them to be) and there is of course precious little security to be had out of such an arrangement! That is why we take such trouble not to see the ‘relatively true’ nature of rules, but whether we see it or not makes no difference because the insecurity is still there – the best we can do is successfully hide it from ourselves. If a rule were to be ‘valid in itself’ (as it claims to be) – which is to say, if the rule were to be meaningful without an ‘entropy debt’ having to be created at the same time allowing it to be meaningful – then that rule would constitute a legitimate analogue of reality but the point is that there is no such thing as ‘a legitimate analogue of reality’! The rule only seems to be valid because we are now looking at the world in the particular way that the rule itself needs to assume in order for it to look valid and this of course means that it isn’t actually ‘valid’ at all. This is a cheap trick – anything can appear true or valid this way.
It is precisely because the rule is only a rule when a huge amount of information is unavailable to us (and the fact of the information of this unavailability is also withheld) that the rule is not at all a legitimate analogue of reality. Far from being a legitimate analogue – which is to say, some sort of honest envoy or ambassador – the rule is a false analogue – it is a false analogue because it is based on the principle of deception. The fact that the rule (and the world that is created from a dependence on rules) is based on the principle of deception has certain consequences, naturally. For one thing, the apparently valid reality that is created thereby is incalculably inferior in ‘quality’ (although our ability to realize this is taken away at the same time perspective is lost) and for another thing, the assertion of that positive reality involves constant effort. Not only does it require constant effort, it requires an effort that is completely and utterly doomed right from the outset since as soon as the ‘positive’ is aggressively asserted the ‘negative’ which will sooner or later replace it is born! Nothing positive is ever asserted without its nemesis simultaneously being born – for a while we can glory in the positive, as if it were an eternal achievement, but the truth that we know deep down (but do not wish to face) is that the negative we have also created is always there, waiting patiently in the wings, waiting for its hour to come. The antithesis always arises at the same time as the thesis.
The nemesis of our positive assertion can afford to wait patiently in the wings since its eventual triumph has been guaranteed right from the onset. For this reason any ‘glorying in the positive’ always has to be a very superficial type of a business – it has to be shallow or otherwise it will see through itself and instead of ‘glorying’ there will be ‘despairing’! There has never ever been (nor could there ever have been) any question of the positive creation not being overthrown, and so inasmuch as we are identified to the hilt with the positive (which we are) the only possible basis on which we can build our lives has to be one of fundamental, non-negotiable self-deception. Putting it like this of course puts a different complexion on things entirely! One might perhaps think that one could identify with the negative instead (i.e. with the dreaded nemesis instead of the original effort) as a way of dodging the bullet but in this case the negative would simply be the positive (since it represents what we want) and so the nemesis of our hopes is still out there haunting us. Everything has just switched around. As far as false analogues of reality go therefore, there is simply no way to win.
This is a supreme irony really since the whole thing about issues (or games) is that that they are all about winning. The basic all-important polarity of RIGHT WAY versus WRONG WAY (or WINNING versus LOSING) is what underlies the game which means that ‘the need to win’ is paramount and cannot ever be ignored. Striving to win is compulsory, in other words – there’s no freedom in a game! So we have to win (failure is not an option) but at the same time the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed – as we have just said – is that we can never win! So what kind of a screwed-up situation is this? Very clearly, if this is what conditioned (or defined) existence comes down to then of course it has to be the case that ‘existence equals suffering’.
GETTING TRAPPED IN A CIRCULAR ARGUMENT
The other key point that we mentioned about issues (or games) is that that are entirely unnecessary, except on their own terms. This is the same as saying that ‘before the issue arose, there was no issue’. Before the issue arises there is simply no need for the issue, everything gets on perfectly well without it and there are no problems at all. After the arising of the issue however, there is no way to go back to this state of perfect peace and well-being except – or so we think – by solving the issue on its own terms. And this is impossible because its own terms are self-contradictory –
The framework of thinking that I assume when I start taking an issue seriously (when I start ‘playing the game’) contains not reality but the false analogue of reality. The false analogue of reality contradicts itself since it is a closed system and the consequence of this self-contradiction is that even when I appear to have ‘won’ all I have really done is to create a new problem for myself in the future, a problem which I have yet to be made aware of. The ‘new problem’ is simply the old problem in disguise, because in reality nothing was ever actually ‘solved’.
The fact that I don’t see that by solving a problem on a false basis creates a new problem (which is really a ‘knock-on’ or ‘displaced’ version of the old one) is why I am able to rejoice and enter into that marvellous state of euphoria that comes about when I perceive my winning to be real rather than virtual! Euphoria is what we are always striving for and yet because a clear view of things inevitably precludes any chance of me enjoying my euphoric reward, it is absolutely essential that I do not allow myself to see what is really going on. As we have already said, in order for me to be able to ‘glory in the positive’ it is necessary for me to perceive the world only in the most superficial of ways. Or to put this another way:
In order for me to continue trading on the sense of security that I obtain as a result of believing in the genuine possibility of ‘winning’ I have to make sure that I stay strictly within the bounds of that short-sighted modality of awareness that is the modality of the game. Consciousness is not permitted therefore because consciousness would preclude the possibility of enjoying the euphoria that comes about when I am able to believe in illusory sense of security that the game creates.
Saying that an issue is essentially unnecessary is equivalent to saying that it ‘tautologically self-creating’ – it creates itself, in other words. Anxiety is an excellent example of this sort of process. Anxiety is of course all about the creation of issues: I pick out one possibility out of an infinite ocean of possibilities and then I proceed to reify it by asking myself the deadly question “But what if such-and-such a thing happens…?” Before I ask that question the eventuality in question was just one more possibility, one out of many others – we may say that the possibility is like an unspecified fish swimming around unobserved in an ocean that is full of fishes of all colours, shapes and sizes. It is there all right, but it is of no particular relevance to me. It isn’t an issue. This isn’t the same thing as saying that the fish doesn’t exist for me because if I were to say that then this would mean that I had a particular personal relationship with the fish in question – I have that relationship whether the fish exists or not.
Non-issues do not exist and they do not ‘not exist’ – they are neither true nor untrue! There is no ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ to them because they don’t exist in relationship to an assumed framework and without a framework YES and NO have no meaning. Non-issues might be said to be situations which have nothing to do with the self – they are not constructed or understood in relation to me. They might be there alright (and then again they might not be) but the type of existence that they might possess or not possess does not include ‘me’ as part of the equation. Mathematically speaking, non-issues are like random numbers – numbers which have been left unspecified. They are MAYBE’s – they are not defined or located in relation to any fixed frame of reference, and because they are not defined it is as if they are transparent rather than opaque – they offer no resistance to anyone. They don’t create any dramas!
After I ask the question “What if such such-and-such happens…?” there is no more transparency. I have picked a fight – I have created an issue. The beautiful clear sky-blue transparency of MAYBE has been collapsed into the stony dichotomy of RIGHT WAY versus WRONG WAY, YES versus NO. The polarity of <+> versus <-> is not transparent because both the confirming YES and denying NO are fundamentally closed in nature. If I frame an enquiry – in whatever way – then I have closed a door. If the universe replies to me with a YES, then this confirms the validity of the assumptions that I have had to have made in order to ask the definite question, and the same is true if the universe answers my question with a NO. Either way, I hang onto my assumptions rather than letting them go. Both YES and NO are definitive answers – they end the matter. Either way I need look no further. Not only are they final with regard to the situation being asked about, they are final with regard to the model of the world that gave rise the question in the first place. If I ask you “Is the money in the account yet?” and you answer that it is then I have trapped you in my conceptual framework, and if you answer that it isn’t then I have trapped you just as much! All the attention goes in the wrong direction, which is to say all the attention goes into wondering whether it worked out one way or the other and none of my attention goes into wondering if the categories are meaningful in the first place!
OPAQUE VERSUS TRANSPARENT
Thus, by concerning myself with superficialities (i.e. the outcome of the game) I ensure that I never get a chance to question the meaningfulness of the rules behind the game. I am thus effectively trapped in it, which is exactly what I wanted. We can therefore say that games (or issues) are opaque situations and non-games, or non-issues, are transparent. The former allows free movement in any direction whilst the latter grabs hold of the light of awareness and doesn’t let it pass. In this an issue is like an attention-seeking person who won’t let you see beyond them; more dramatically, it is like black-hole which bends any ray of light passing by it into itself and never lets it return on its way back into the wide open universe from which it came. The gravitational ‘law’ of the black-hole is – colloquially speaking -“There is nothing more important than me”. Similarly, the gravitational law of the issue is “If it doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m on about, then it is of no importance”. Either way, this law is equilibrium-seeking in nature.
As Ilya Prigogine and Isabel Stengers explain in their book on non-equilibrium thermodynamics Order Out of Chaos, the only thing that matters to an equilibrium-seeking process is the final destination. It is the particular set of values that constitute the reality of attractor site that is important, not where the material being drawn into the attractor site came from. A black hole doesn’t care where the stuff comes from that drifts into its dark sphere of influence – it has zero curiosity about the outside world, all it has is the implacable rule which is itself. Speaking somewhat anthropomorphically, the black-hole might be said to be absolutely interested in where the stuff it grabs hold of goes (i.e. it must move into the zero-dimensional point which is itself) but not at all interested in where the stuff came from. If I am a Bible-bashing fundamentalist and you happen to enter my sphere of influence then it is very important to me to bring you into accordance with my beliefs, but of no consequence at all what your ideas or beliefs might happen to be. If I was as interested in other possible points of view as I am in my own then I wouldn’t be a fundamentalist at all! I would on the contrary be an open-minded and genuinely curious person. This all comes down to Prigogine and Stengers’ basic principle of equilibrium-seeking processes, which can be expressed very simply as follows –
It isn’t where you came from that matters but where you are going, and in an Equilibrium system where you are going is utterly fixed – it has been finalized, it has been written in stone.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ONE-SIDEDNESS
If we look at this ‘basic principle’ for a moment we can see that it is basic to everything – it doesn’t just belong to the realm of certain physical or energetic processes, it actually lies behind every definite form or structure that exists in the physical universe. More than this, it lies behind every definite statement, every literal description that has ever been made. What we’re looking at here is nothing other than the ‘principle of one-sidedness’ which allows a rule to be a rule. The principle of one-sidedness means that anything which agrees with the rule is allowed, and anything that does not is immediately discarded without any further ado. What agrees with the rule is included in the specially favoured circle, the hallowed and jealously guarded club of the self-congratulating elite – and what does not agree is dropped instantly – dropped in the way that a thing of zero interest to us is dropped, turned away at the door in the way that a homeless person will be turned away from the door of the Savoy Club in London! The homeless person (presumably) isn’t a member and so he won’t be let in. The doorman doesn’t really care about the guy’s life story or what he has to say for himself – all he cares about is that the guy should be sent on his way as quickly as possible…
The ‘information-dumping’ processes that we are talking about here are all examples of entropy in action. Just like a black hole implacably determines the direction of all particles and light rays which wonder into its field of influence, so too does the rule determine what is allowed to be ‘meaningful’, what is allowed to be considered to exist. This is the so-very-familiar tyranny of ‘my way or the highway’ – the wretchedly banal tyranny so dear to the heart of every petty despot throughout mankind’s history. Whether we are talking about black-holes or petty tyrants the result of absolutely inflexible, monomaniac-type control is that the majestically broad sweep of unlimited possibilities is narrowed down to just the one possibility. Diversity is reduced, collapsed into uniformity. The stupendously rich and diverse banquet of reality ‘as-it-is-in-itself’ is transformed into the thin, meagre gruel of ‘informational impoverishment’. Everyone ends up saying the same things, thinking the same thoughts, dreaming the same dreams, watching the same shows on TV, buying the same products, wearing the same clothes, and so on. Everyone ends up part of the same old system. Everything becomes subsumed within James Moore’s ‘blank tidal wave’ which races ahead getting ever bigger and ever more destructive as it surges irresistibly ahead, sweeping all before it in its senseless onward rush. So on the one hand the entropic process is what lies behind the functioning of the rational mind (the activity of which is predicated upon rules that we must not question, rules that we dare not even see as simply being ‘rules’) and on the other hand it is what lies behind the macroscopic structure of society, which takes its rules totally for granted in exactly the same way.
This brings us back to what we were originally talking about, which is to say getting caught up in self-validating tautologies that go nowhere whilst appearing to do so (or at least appearing to contain the possibility of going somewhere if we work at them long and hard enough). We were saying that common-or-garden anxiety is a very good example of this sort of thing. The non-anxious state of mind can be characterized in terms of maximum perspective (even though, strictly speaking, maximum perspective cannot be characterized at all since characterization is only possible when we restrict to one particular perspective). This means that there are no rules in operation – anything could be, or could be not, but nothing has to be, or has not to be. As soon as we make any kind of definite statement however the unfettered sweep of possibility is severely reigned in – symmetry has been broken and we are now trapped in a closed system. As we said, in anxiety the type of statement would be of the ‘but what if such-and-such happens…’ variety and in order for me to frame this question it is necessary for me to ‘assume a framework’. What I am doing therefore is that I am making the experiment of looking at things a particular way – I am ‘trying it out’. But the thing is that any position I take out automatically and tautologically ‘self-validates’ and so I get stuck in it! It is only by being stuck in a closed system (without being able to see that I have) that I can get to be definite about anything! We can therefore say that any definite statement, any positive assertion is by its very nature a trap –
The definite statement doesn’t lead to any ‘greater reality’ – it only leads to itself! Since the only possible justification that the definite statement has for existing is because it is supposedly relating us to reality (i.e. the point of it is that it is relating us to something that is not it) this means that that ‘the definite statement’ is by its very nature is fundamentally entrapping.
AS SOON AS I THINK A THING IT BECOMES TRUE
There is a weird kind of loop inherent in the business of making positive assertions: when I make the experiment of taking a definite position (which is of course the only sort of position there is!) one might be forgiven for thinking that there actually has to be a particular position somewhere out there for me to take. But until I take up the position, that position doesn’t exist. The only way that the position – as a position – can exist is on its own terms – outside of its own assumed context it doesn’t exist. This means that ‘the position’ and ‘the framework within which this position exists’ are the same thing. The ‘positive statement’ and ‘the context of meaning which this context assumes’ are the same thing. In short, and not to beat about the bush any further, the reason my position exists as a position is purely because I have chosen for it to so exist. It is an exercise in ‘intending something to be true, and then not letting ourselves know that it was us who intended it’. The information relating to ‘what happened before the symmetry break’ has become inaccessible to us and this is why we can say that games (or the rational mind) cannot function in the absence of entropy.
When I experiment with making a particular statement (again, there is no other type of statement!) I do not just ‘make the experiment of making the statement’ – I make the experiment of reducing my perspective to such an extent that the statement actually seems meaningful to me! Then because I have had to give away so much perspective I can no longer see that the statement only seems meaningful because I have given up perspective I can’t help thinking that the statement is actually valid on its own basis. The point that we are making (and remaking) here is that all statements are effortlessly self-validating, and the reason that they are so ‘effortlessly’ self-validating is because the act of self-validation is pure 100% redundancy all the way through. This is a null-operation, a null-act. Nothing really has happened, nothing really has been done! And yet, despite the entirely bogus nature of the certainty thus generated by the thinking mind we all spend almost all of our time proceeding as if our rules, our beliefs, our literal descriptions of reality are 100% meaningful! This is of course what it means to be ‘playing a game’.
As we have just said, games depend on entropy. This statement is equivalent to James Carse’s principle of self-veiling, which we can paraphrase as follows –
In order to play a game we have to veil from ourselves the freedom which we have to not play the game (which is to say, in order to play a game we have to ignore the freedom which we have to not obey the rules that create the game).
The set of non-negotiable necessities or rules that make up the game are a function of entropy rather than being a function of reality. If the rule reflected a genuine feature of the underlying reality – as it implicitly claims to – then it would constitute information. Rules actually do look like information – if I come across a list of rules, neatly and precisely printed out in bullet form on a sheet of A4 paper and pinned up on a notice board this would fool anyone into thinking that they were being presented with genuine information! Yet each rule only stands out as being meaningful because when we read it we conform to the very narrow frame of reference that the rule in question assumes. By narrowing down our awareness in accordance with the narrow domain which the rule exists in we obtain the illusion that ‘we are being told something real’. The process of creating a positive (i.e. defined) reality is therefore a bit like creating a figure by sculpting a black of stone. Everything we don’t want is chipped away and discarded, until we end up with precisely what we do want.
Creating positive mental figures (ideas, images, theories, belief-systems, dogmas etc) is the same in that we chip away and discard all the information that we don’t want in order to end up with the definite form that we do want. But here we are not throwing away mere neutral (or irrelevant) material – as we might understandably imagine to be the case when a sculptor is carving a figure out of stone. The sculptor can throw away unwanted material with impunity because the value of what he is creating is of course not degraded by the fact that he has discarded the greater part of the block of stone that he started off with! However this is not so when we are talking about is complexity-reducing (information-dumping) operation of the rational-conceptual mind –
There is no such impunity when what we are discarding is information since what we are throwing away here is the perspective that we would need in order to see that the positive figure we are creating by throwing away information is not actually a real thing!
GAINING UNREAL VICTORIES BY ‘DUMBING DOWN’
This is perplexing sort of a business really. Although I might seem to be carrying out an act of creation, I am not – what I am actually doing is reducing my awareness to the extent that I am able to take the hugely inferior analogue as being just as worthy of attention as the Ineffable Reality which I am vainly (and unknowingly) trying to copy. My act of creation would be better described as an act of laughable self-deception since all I am doing is making myself stupid enough and coarse enough in my sensibilities to be able to be satisfied with a worthless analogue in place of the priceless original! It is true that subjectively I am feeling I am in possession of something worthwhile but this subjective experience of having achieved something real is only possible because I have made myself so frighteningly unable to distinguish the banal from the sublime, the redundant from the true. We can express this principle in rather blunt terms –
I can manage to believe in anything I want to just as long as I don’t mind making myself stupid enough to be able to believe it.
‘Stupid’ in this context has nothing to do with intelligence – people who score high on intelligence tests are often far more stupid than people who do not score so well! What we mean by ‘stupid’ has nothing to do with raw computing power or the ability to carry out abstract reasoning but rather it is something more akin to ‘narrow-minded’ or ‘small-minded’. If I am narrow-minded then I don’t allow myself to see anything that doesn’t agree with my rigid categories. I don’t allow my assumptions to be ‘contradicted by reality’, in other words. There is no room for any radical surprises in my world because I already have it all figured out. If I am small-minded then I take petty details, petty rules very seriously. In fact this brings us right to the heart of the matter because if I make myself small-minded then trivial affairs straightaway seem portentous to me. This is ‘the big fish in the small pond’ principle – if you want to feel like the big cheese then all you have to do is to shut the bigger picture out (since it would straightaway put you in your place) and restrict yourself to some vanishingly petty domain of influence where you can indeed loom large as ‘a person to be reckoned with’. Arrogance always goes hand-in-hand with a very narrow consciousness; without the false confidence that comes as a result of assuming that ‘what I don’t know doesn’t matter’ I would soon lose my insufferable high-handedness and over-inflated self-regard. This in itself constitutes a very good reason for me never allowing myself to glimpse the truth, which is that ‘what I do know doesn’t matter at all…’ It’s what I don’t know that’s important! What I do know isn’t actually anything….
The word ‘stupid’ might sound too colloquial to be used in a discussion of human psychology and yet it is hard to think of another word that really does justice to the topic in hand. Saying that the rational mind is essentially stupid is really just saying that it is narrow – like a telescope is narrow. It only shows us a very tiny bit of what is there. This is itself is fine just as long as we remember this – the only problem here being that we are very much inclined not to remember! The telescope can be very useful when we remember that we’re using it but when we forget this fact then it becomes an affliction. When we forget that we’re seeing the world through a telescope we become ridiculously blind – we can’t even walk short distances without tripping up over pieces of furniture!
When we don’t remember that the rational mind is like a telescope in that it only shows us a vanishingly small portion of reality then we get in trouble – when we take the vanishingly small portion of reality to be the same thing as the vast scope of Open-Ended Reality then we have fallen into unconsciousness. Jung was clear on this when he spoke of unconsciousness as ‘original sin’ and stated that it is a sin that nature unfailingly punishes, with no leniency shown for ‘ignorance of the law’. We are punished every time. We are punished with pain, with suffering, and the only way we can stop incurring this pain and suffering is when we wake up and stop being hypnotized (or trapped) by the overpowering magnetic force of the ‘small picture’ that is created by the focussing lens of the rational mind. We are in pain because we are identified with the literal idea of ourselves that this narrow mind has given us – what will free us from the pain of being identified with the self-image is not our own cleverness, our own ability to control what is going on, but our willingness to relinquish this so-called cleverness, and the addictive illusion of control that comes out of it…