No Subject, No Object

We all know what the world looks like from the POV of the ‘central distortion’ or ‘bias’ that we fondly call ‘the self’. This never comes as a surprise! The question that we never ask is however, ‘What does the world look like when this central distortion or bias isn’t in play?’ That is an infinitely more interesting question to consider…


When we look at the world from the POV of the everyday self (the bias we can’t see to be a bias) what we see is a function of that bias and nothing more. What we see is that bias, reflected right back at us. The everyday conditioned self can only see that view of the world that allows it to carry on being the everyday conditioned self. That’s the way the self functions – that’s the only way it can function. If the self saw a view of the world that didn’t confirm its validity as ‘the self’ then it wouldn’t be able to function as a self and the whole point of the self is that it can reliably continue to function as such! The self is an assumed viewpoint that never changes, an assumed viewpoint that fears changing, and so whilst everything in the universe changes, the self alone stays the same.


The self’s view of the world is only there to maintain the fiction of itself in other words, and as such it is of no interest. It is ‘of interest’ only to that self and even then it isn’t something that the self is genuinely interested in, only something that it needs to be able to rely on. The self needs to feel that its narrow view is the only view that there is, the only view that matters, but beyond this it is has no curiosity. The self has no curiosity about itself! The self and the view of the world which it relies on comes as a sort of a tautological package – the self gives rise to the view and the view gives rise to the self. This is like saying that society is of no genuine interest to us and that the only point in it is to stabilize our idea of ourselves. Society is of no real interest in itself – it is an equilibrium state, it is ‘a state of being that agrees with itself’ and as such it is quite vacuous, quite hollow. When we adapt to the social system we become it and it becomes us, and all for the sake of perpetuating the status quo, whatever that ‘status quo’ might be.


There is no way anyone can say that an equilibrium state is interesting – it cannot be interesting because it contains no information and the reason we can say that it contains no information is because it exists ‘in agreement with itself’. ‘Where there is conflict there is consciousness’ says Jung. To be incongruent with society is to exist – how can one exist unless one stands out in some way? It is of course true that we are all continuously looking for ways to ‘stand out’, ways to be different, but the problem with this is that the social system itself provides us with those ways of being different, and so this isn’t really going to work! We opt for lifestyle choices that will enhance our individuality; we buy the product that will say something about us as the true unique individuals we are. To be defined by society is not to exist, so we look for more interesting, more ‘edgy’ ways of being defined by society. Physically speaking we still exist, it is true, but psychologically we cannot make this claim. Psychologically speaking, we haven’t been born yet! In terms of being ‘our true selves’ we do not exist – we are simply reflections of the system. We are its reflection and it is ours…


To agree with society is to agree with the generic and to agree with the generic is – of course – to be the generic! If we agree with the generic then we can be ourselves because ‘the generic’ and ‘who we really are’ are antitheses. Being incongruent with society doesn’t mean breaking the rules or ‘being a rebel’ (which is itself of course a societal construct), it just means that we don’t see the world in a generic way. Of course we all feel that we are non-generic – this is a ubiquitous illusion. Even the most socially adapted person still feels – very strongly – that they are a unique individual. We can’t be persuaded otherwise! We would get angry or affronted if someone tried to persuade us otherwise. This false perception of individuality is the ‘gift’ that society provides us with in return for our freedom.


To see the world in the way that the socially adapted mind does is of no real interest. To find out that someone subscribes to this view is not an interesting datum; this is not information. It is not information because we could already predict this to be the case with over 99 % certainty. What constitutes information is when someone is non-congruent with the consensus view – this is the surprise, this is the thing that we can’t predict. The moment I start to see things differently is the moment I wake up from my socially-prescribed sleep. Society is sleep – the gift it gives us is the gift of not existing and yet thinking that we do. This is – we might say – ‘the easy option’; we are provided with the two-dimensional illusion of being the true individual that we are without the need to make any effort on our part. Nothing of who we really are has to go into this – it’s the default position, it is something that is done for us by the external authority. It just falls into our lap and we never question it. We are too easily convinced. We don’t want to know otherwise – finding out who we really are is hard work; it involves very painfully disinvesting from the illusion that we have become so solidly wedded to. We’d rather just take the difficulty-free option; we’d rather just play at being true individuals and society facilitates this game superlatively well…


To be born (in the psychological sense) is the most difficult of things; we are – as Jung says – completely unsupported in this. The world is against us – the sleepers will always do everything within their power to pull us back into the collective dream. Either that or we are rejected, shunned, ostracized, driven out from the group. Being who you really are is a formidably arduous task and there are no structures to support you in this; structures only exist to support you in being who you are not. If being who you aren’t is your wish, then people will bend over backwards to help you! When we are socially adapted then the deep-down pain of having lost one’s core (having lost one’s essential being) turns into condemnation and enmity towards anyone who might be breaking out of the group, going against the structure, and thus betraying everyone else. No act is more unforgivable than this! When we are ‘unfree without knowing that we are unfree’, and when (as we do) we have a deep reluctance to confront this profoundly unpalatable truth, then the one thing we resent more than anything else is to see someone else moving towards freedom. We resent this without knowing (or caring) why we do, and all of our un-owned personal darkness is visited upon them…


Being ‘who we truly are’ doesn’t just fall into our laps, therefore. Far from it! This is the ‘pearl of great value’ spoken of in Matthew 13:45-46 and it is not to be found at a bargain price in any second-hand store. The tawdry, second-hand ‘version of the truth’ which is obtained with no effort is not just of ‘no worth’, it is a curse, it is a liability. Although this gift of the system (i.e. ‘the pseudoself’) represents an avoidance of effort in the first instance – and this is of course what is so attractive about it – the price that we pay for it later on is very, very high. We’re just not told about it and that’s why the offer seems like such a good one! The details are in the small print somewhere and we’re in far too much of a hurry to avail of the deal to be bothering to read that. The deal is ‘avoidance of difficulty in the short term at the price of unimaginable difficulty in the future’ but we don’t see the second part of it. We get a holiday from facing life’s challenge but this holiday is paid for dearly later on when that challenge ‘turns negative’ on us and starts pursuing us to the ends of the earth like one of avenging furies from Greek mythology. This is always the deal with psychological unconsciousness, the state of ‘soul-sleep’ – ‘sleep is very comfortable but waking up is very bitter’, says Gurdjieff. According to Jung, unconsciousness is the ‘original sin’ for which nature will punish us without leniency. Not knowing what we were doing (because we were unconscious) will not work as an excuse!


We started off by saying that ‘we all know what the world looks like from the POV of the central bias which is the self’. Strictly speaking however, this isn’t actually true. It isn’t true because what we’re seeing is an illusion that isn’t known to be an illusion. The system that is made up of the self and its view of the world is a closed system, and anything that is ‘seen’ in a closed system isn’t true, isn’t real. What we’re seeing just plain isn’t there so we can’t be seeing it! There’s no such thing as ‘a closed system’ in the first place and so naturally we can’t see anything real when we’re in one. What we’re seeing when we see the world from the POV of the everyday self isn’t there because there isn’t any such thing as ‘the everyday self’. What we have here are two illusions feeding off each other, only it’s really just the one illusion. It’s an illusion that isn’t really there (just as all illusions – by definition – ‘aren’t really there’) but to itself it seems to be there. There is this big generic ‘definite reality’ and we would all – inevitably – swear that this is what we are seeing. But it isn’t – we can’t be seeing it because there’s no such thing. The view of the generic mind is an illusory one – it’s illusory because there’s no such thing as ‘the generic mind’. Just as there isn’t a ‘generic person’, there isn’t a generic mind. The view we rely on every day to stabilize who we like to think we are is an illusory one; it is the illusory reflection of an illusory mind. So the upshot of all this is that we don’t know what the world looks like from the POV of the everyday self, which is the POV of the illusory mind. We only ‘know’ a hallucination. But if we don’t know a hallucination to be a hallucination, what do we know? When we don’t realize that the world we are relating to on a daily basis is merely a mental projection, what are we really seeing?


When we look out at the world without the central bias being there then there is no hallucination, no unacknowledged reflection of that self; no ‘agreement’ of the generic mind with the world that it projects. There is no hallucination, no reflection, no ‘agreement’ because there is no assumed self there at the centre of it all. There is no ‘self’ and no ‘other’. When there is no central distortion or bias there is no splitting up of the world into subject and object – there is no polarization, no dualistic divide. So what we are saying is that it is the rational mind and nothing else that creates this all-important divide between subject and object, observer and observed and the funny thing about this split is that although to us in our conditioned state there is the biggest difference in the world between the one pole and the other (i.e. self and other, subject and object), in reality there is no difference between the two poles at all. ‘Positive’ agrees with ‘negative’ – it’s all the one logical continuity. One side agrees totally with the other just like buying agrees with selling (to paraphrase Alan Watts) and because there is nothing but agreement there is tautology, there is hollowness. Duality is an illusion, as Eastern philosophy tells us; we say that there is a difference between subject and object but that is only because we are looking at things in the particular way that makes there be a difference. We insist on there being a difference between positive and negative by the way in which we adhere like limpets to the one-sided viewpoint provided by the rational mind (which is predicated upon [+] not being the same as [-]).


When we’re operating out of the rational mind we’re always seeing something that isn’t there, in other words. We’re seeing reality with all the information (all the ‘surprise-factor’) taken out of it and reality with all the information sucked out of it is a type of a trick, a kind of a phantom appearance that keeps running away from us. One way to describe this phantom appearance is to say that it is a type of black and white optical illusion where the target we are approaching keeps reversing or flipping over from white to black every time we focus in on it. Every time we imagine that we have the target (i.e. the white spot) cornered it ‘becomes its own opposite’ and we have to start chasing it all over again. ‘Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones, but by contrary extreme positions’, says Friedrich Nietzsche.


This is a simple visual representation of a paradox – black becomes white and white becomes black. It flips over. A paradox – we might say – is nature’s way of showing us that what we’re trying to catch can’t be caught. It’s a manifestation of impossibility. Our ‘error’ lies in trying to make the world definite: we make the world definite by observing it exclusively via a framework and ignoring any part of it that does not fit within it. This is the only way we can make things definite but what is definite is at the same time a tautology – we just can’t see it and because we can’t see it we are caught in the paradox. Every time we close in to the target it slips away from us and appears somewhere else and the harder we try to get hold of it (the tighter we squeeze) the more vicious the paradox gets. Another visual illustration of this paradoxical principle (the principle of slipperiness) is to say that it is like ‘squeezing a partially inflated balloon’ so that wherever we squeeze the bulge it isn’t. The bulge is always somewhere else and squeezing harder isn’t going to help matters because it is the squeezing that creates the bulge!


In the same way, then, it is squeezing reality by fitting it into a static framework that creates positive and negative certainty (i.e. polarization). Optimizing our efforts to secure the positive certainty – which is to say, the goal – isn’t going to work because the goal (or rather what the goal represents to us, which is ‘nailing down reality once and for all’) is always going to escape from us. Our grasping creates the illusion of what we are trying to grasp, and illusion – by its very nature – always exists ‘somewhere else’. Illusions can’t exist ‘right here, right now’ because that would make them real; illusions always have to exist ‘just out of reach’ – they are projections, in other words. The tighter we squeeze, the more the illusion taunts us because the squeezing that creates it.


And as we have been saying, it’s not just the illusion of the goal that gets created by the grasping, so too is the illusion of the definite grasper.  The striver and what is being strived for are the two sides of the same coin – the puppy and its tail! In reality of course there is no subject and no object, no puppy and no tail. The duality, the polarity is created by the squeezing (or as we could also say, it is created by taking all the perspective, all the information out of the picture). It is created by the entropy in the system. this gives us a way of looking at the question as to what the world looks like from the POV of the everyday self (which is a viewpoint with no perspective in it) – all we ever see is the illusion ever receding or approaching and the thing we see either receding or approaching doesn’t actually exist. It only seems to exist from the POV of the self. The self is ‘a distortion’ and so are its objects! Or to put this another way, the self is composed of the absence of information (which is to say, it is ‘a shadow’) and so is the definite world that it relates either positively or negatively to…


The upshot of all this can be expressed as follows: the self never sees the world at all, it only sees its projections, and both it and its projections are composed – in a manner of speaking – of the absence of information. We’re talking about ‘shadow play’ here. And yet at the same time we have to remember that there is no such thing as ‘the absence of information’! Information is all there is…




10 thoughts on “No Subject, No Object

  1. I must confess I know little about Advaita or Shankara beyond a vague familiarity. What I have read sounds very good to me – non-dualism makes so much sense to me I wonder how anyone could doubt it! When I was 18 and was on the hippy trail in Kathmandu a very tall Western sannyasin-type guy in robes sold me a copy of Shankara’s Bhaja Govindam. I think I felt intimidated into buying it by the way he looked at me. I didn’t actually read it for many years even though I carried it around with me – when I did I found it very inspirational and still do.

    1. You wrote,” ‘What does the world look like when this central distortion or bias isn’t in play?’ ”

      What is your answer to this?
      Do not feel shy if you do not know the answer. You are not expected to know everything. Just say that you do not know.

  2. i only know what the world looks like to the central distortion that is ‘me’ and I am this ‘me’ all day long, every day. Nothing seems to dent it very much. It never seems to stop being there…

  3. Thank you for your honest and unpretentious answer.

    I want to have a conversation with you if you will in the same open way.

    I agree with you that what we perceive is not what actually is existing and happening. It is a sort of illusion.

    You wrote,
    “When we look out at the world without the central bias being there then there is no hallucination, no unacknowledged reflection of that self; no ‘agreement’ of the generic mind with the world that it projects. There is no hallucination, no reflection, no ‘agreement’ because there is no assumed self there at the centre of it all. There is no ‘self’ and no ‘other’. When there is no central distortion or bias there is no splitting up of the world into subject and object”

    My question to you is that how do you know this.

    1. In one way I can’t really say that I ‘know’ it – or at least know it in the way that people usually mean when they talk about knowing. It’s not coming out of any consensus-type knowledge system that I have been taught or indoctrinated with. But I guess I do know it in another way because when I write it (or think it) it seems right. I don’t find myself questioning it or doubting it at all because it rings so true. I remember when I started writing many years ago feeling unsure of my ‘right’ to come out with stuff that I really had nothing to support at all other than my hunch or intuition – particularly as it went totally against everything I have ever been taught at school or university or whatever. It’s like I could imagine how ridiculous it would seem to the generic way of seeing things and this made me doubt myself a bit, sometimes more than a bit. But as time went on – and it is 25 years down the road for me at this point – my trust in the process of intuition has deepened and deepened and my trust in the ‘consensus version of reality’ has correspondingly waned and vanished completely. The authority or sway of the external world starts off huge and overpowering and we daren’t ‘think for ourselves’, so to speak, but then we get to realize that all that authority (as impressive as it might seem) is just pure empty bluff….

  4. I enjoyed reading this — thank you for tackling it. What is your take on the dream world then where the self is arguably absent or balanced or simply different? In some ways, it seems to give credibility to our dreams being a truer representation. Hit me back with some thoughts!

    1. Hi.. I guess that my position is that the dream world and the self are the two poles of the same phenomenon, such that the dream is the externalized projection of the self, which it perceives to have nothing to do with (i.e. which it understands as an ‘external objective reality’. The essential relationship here is between ‘the self’ and ‘its own unacknowledged projection’ therefore, which is pretty much how Jung describes the unconscious state, I think. So your question might possibly be redefined therefore (I know that its a bit presumptuous of me to redefine your question!) as “What is left when there is no self and no dream-world that is being dreamed by that self?”

      1. I just realized I missed your point there about ‘dreams being a truer representation’ – there is on the one hand – one could say – the concrete dreaming of the rational mind (which we mistakenly take to be reality) and the dreams we dream when we are asleep, and these – because they are not rational, not concrete – can give better hints of what the ‘hidden reality’ is like. So our ‘irrational dreams’, because they are metaphors and allegories rather than dry so-called ‘facts’ ARE a better representation I think!

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