The concrete self is always aggressive – the concrete self is inherently aggressive. There is no way that the concrete self can ever manage to be non-aggressive; this is a complete impossibility! The self’s aggression stems from its fundamental insecurity – one definition of aggression is to say that it is ‘insecurity that is acted upon’. Insecurity and aggression go hand in hand, therefore. We could also say that aggression is fear that is acted upon – if we feel fear without trying to do anything about it (if we feel fear honestly) then there is no aggression but just as soon as we try to run from the fear, hide from the fear, control or manage the fear, then aggression is born. The concrete self is always aggressive because it is always on the run from fear – if it wasn’t on the run from fear then it wouldn’t be concrete!
Morality and religion are ways in which we attempt to tame the self and its aggressive behaviour – we try to make it change its ways, we try to teach it to behave in a less obnoxious fashion. We would like to become kinder, gentler and more compassionate in our nature; we would like to be less judgemental both to ourselves and others. Very often, this translates into us trying to bully the self to become what it never can be – nothing actually changes deep down but we feel a pressure the whole time to be ‘better than we actually are’. We feel – either consciously or unconsciously – that we’re not good enough and this turns into the very judgementalism we are trying to get away from. Either we’re judgemental of ourselves because we know that we not what we ‘ought’ to be or we succeed in pretending to ourselves that we are ‘morally superior’ (because we follow all the codes of society, of our group, of religion) and then of course we’re judgemental to anyone who isn’t able to successful to pretend successfully. We look down on those who don’t belong to our group, or on those in our group who fail to keep the standards up.
What we’re really doing here is that we’re trying to use violence to cure our violence, and hoping to get somewhere with it – even though we’ve been trying this same thing for thousands of years and it’s never worked yet! As Krishnamurti says, we notice the violence of our nature and make a goal of being ‘non-violent’, but this goal is nothing more than an extension of our violence. We are reacting against our violence and the reaction is every bit as violent as the thing that is being reacted against. The violence that is being reacted against and the violence of the reaction are the same thing – it’s the very same violence in both cases. Making goals and pursuing them is violence and this is what we always do – this is the characteristic action of the thinking mind and the thinking mind is by its very nature violent, is by its very nature aggressive. The everyday thinking mind is aggressive because it is always trying to change things. The everyday thinking mind is ‘inherently aggressive’ because it is always trying to impose its own brand of order on the world, a brand of ‘order’ that is actually nothing more than a terribly crude and ham-fisted over-simplification of the way things actually are.
We started off by talking about the inherent aggression of the self and we ended up talking about the fundamentally violent nature of the rational mind. The self – we said – can’t be anything else other than aggressive because its core motivation (the only motivation it has!) is the motivation to defend itself, the motivation to protect / save itself. The self is always either defending or promoting itself, both of which of course come down to the same thing. Both equal ‘aggression’. Then we moved on to the thinking mind and we stated that this mind is always trying to impose its own patented form of order on the world. This so-called ‘order’ – we said – is really just a vastly over-simplified version (more of a ‘parody’ or ‘crass caricature’ than a simplification) of the way things really are, which clearly lends the substitution process distinctly sinister over-tones. What then – we might ask – is the connection between the one statement and the other? How did we get from one to the other so easily? What have the ‘aggression of the self’ and the ‘violence of the rational mind’ have to do with each other?
Just as soon as we ask this question the answer starts to present itself. The self needs to protect itself all the time because it is insecure and the reason it is insecure is of course because it has no actual basis – it cannot seem solid or real to itself unless it puts effort into creating this impression. This is not hard to see – if the self is always trying to validate itself then the bottom line is that it doesn’t feel valid. If it is always trying to build itself up then this can only be because it doesn’t feel substantial. So we have the self forever trying to build itself up and we have the rational, theory-making mind which is always trying simplify things (always trying to put everything in a box) and the connection is clearly that the process of simplifying the world (or ‘putting everything in a box’) has the function of creating the impression of ‘substantiality’ that the self requires. If something is in a box then it must be real, it is self-evidently real just as long as we don’t question the authority that put the box there…
The connection between the aggression of the self and the violence of the rational mind is therefore that the self is solidified as a concept (just as all other concepts are solidified) when we do take an over-simplified view of the world. When our understanding of reality has been drastically reduced in complexity by the operation of the thinking mind then it is as if the self has been surreptitiously ‘written into’ the picture. When thought provides its own version of ‘what reality is’ then the self – as the focus of attention, as the ‘king of the castle’, as the de facto ‘centre of the universe’ – has its right and proper place in the scheme of things. It has now become a fixture of the universe, a permanent inalienable feature of reality, whereas before it wasn’t. It has been sneakily put there as if ‘everything is about it’ (as if the world revolves around it) when this is simply just not true. It’s a barefaced lie that everything is about the self – its just the self that says this is so!
This is a ‘magic trick’ therefore. This is ‘sleight of hand’. This is the phenomenon of reification – a thing has been made before there was no thing. This is not to say that ‘over-simplifying’ (or ‘de-complexifying’) is of itself some kind of sinister or nefarious act. It is a perfectly legitimate thing to do – whenever we come up with a theory or model of the world this is what we are doing. This is the proper and lawful operation of the rational mind – this is how the engine of thought works. As Karl Popper, the pre-eminent philosopher of science says,
Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.
But where the ‘trickery’ comes in (and we use this word advisedly) is where an oversimplified version of the world is imposed without us getting a chance to see what this happened, so that we take the picture is being presented to us as an honest and undistorted representation of the reality that is being modelled. The trickery comes in (in other words) when we are presented with a model of reality without being told that it is only a model, when an ideology is imposed on us without us being able to see that it is an ideology. It is in the presentation of a ‘reality’ which we cannot question, a reality which we are not permitted to question (or even see that it is possible to do so), that the trick comes in. This is the ultimate act of violence because it is invisible violence – it is (as Jean Baudrillard says) ‘the perfect crime’. It is ‘the crime to which there are no witnesses’.
When the world is oversimplified without us being able to see that any oversimplification has taken place then we have been made prisoners. We are then in the situation of living in a tawdry mind-created simulation whilst imagining it to be actual unquestionable reality. We have been deprived of the right to question. When we’re in this situation (the situation of being in a simulation without realizing it) then all the things that the simulation takes for granted (and oversimplification is at root nothing other than the process of ‘taking things for granted’) ‘pop up’ for us as actual self-evident facts, or ‘features of reality’. Reification occurs, in other words, and reification may be said – therefore – to be the result of a process in which we orientate ourselves towards the positively emphasized features of a conditioned reality so that all our attention is wholly taken up by these emphasized features and none is left over to observe or be aware of the mechanism by which these positive or emphasized features have been created. We notice only what we’re supposed to notice and ‘noticing only what we’re supposed to notice’ precludes us becoming aware of the trick that has been played on us (or that we have played upon ourselves). Our attention is thus taken up by the unreal at the expense of the real!
Our attention is ‘taken up’ or ‘captured’ by the self and its objects (i.e. the things that it relates to) and this is odd because the self and its objects are constructs of the oversimplification that has taken place without us knowing that it has taken place, constructs of the crude model that we have bought into without knowing that we have bought into anything. This is a funny kind of a knot that we’re involved in therefore; it’s a strange kind of a trap that we’ve got caught up in (without us seeing that there is any kind of knot, any kind of trap there at all). A world of ‘definite objects’ has been set up, has been put in place and our only way of being in this world is to be in thrall to these objects. We implicitly see this state of affairs as being ‘only normal’, and so we do not see it at all. We seek validation and fulfilment through our relationships with these mind-created objects – that’s pretty much what our life consists of. We are obliged to seek validation / fulfilment via our relationships with these objects – this is the only road that is open to us, and yet this is not a road at all. It’s not a legitimate road to go down because ‘the self’ and ‘the objects which it defines itself in relation to’ are not different things. On the contrary, the self and the objects are two aspects of the very same thing, which is the oversimplified reality that we are dealing with. They are the two (nominally different) poles of the very same logical system!
If one thing can be defined in terms of another thing then the two are the same thing. Who we really are however is not ‘a thing’ at all and so it does not need to be defined or validated by any mind-created objects. Only things can be defined, only things can be either validated or devalidated. The truth is that we are trapped in an unreal situation and we’re desperately struggling to wring some sort of semblance of reality out of it. That’s why we’re always being aggressive, that’s why we’re always seeking to be in control, always trying to ‘gain the advantage’ – it’s because we have no genuine being and we’re trying to get some! ‘Being’ – for us – shows up in a distorted or displaced form as attractive / glamorous objects that we seek to have advantageous relationships with. This has nothing to do with being however – that is just us chasing our own projections, that is just us grasping at illusions.
The reified self can only continue to exist in what appears to be a ‘secure’ way when it believes in an oversimplified universe. Only in such a universe – as we have said – can there be a ‘concrete self’ and ‘definite objects’ for that self to relate to in the convoluted attempt to establish validity for itself. A closed context is needed if the self is to satisfactorily solidify itself in the way that it wants (or rather needs) to. Our constant ‘thinking about things’ is therefore the way in which we go about creating this closed context for ourselves. Our constant ‘rationalization of our situation’ is how we spin the web within which we can feel secure about this supposed ‘concrete identity’ of ours. This is a prison, however. A closed context is a prison – it is ‘death for the spirit’. The spirit (i.e. the undefined us) cannot live in a world that is made up of definite things; there can be no genuine life (or freedom) in this ‘world of fixed or mechanical relationships’, this ‘world that has been created by the closed context of the rational mind’. This is no life at all and so our great solution (the solution to the thorny problem of ‘how to reify the self’) is no solution at all. Far from being a solution, it is the source of all our suffering!
This brings us back to what we were saying at the start of the discussion about the concrete self and its incurable aggression. We might of course start wonder how we are to undo this terrible convoluted mess, how we might free ourselves from ‘the prison of the thinking mind’. How – we might ask – do we ‘unsimplify’ the oversimplified universe and find out way back to reality again? How do we find our way out of crass confines of this false mind-created world and back to the real world with all its blessed spaciousness and lack of definition? If it is true that I got here (in this unhappy place) by ‘oversimplifying the universe without knowing that I am’, how do I reverse the process?
This is of course where we get caught in a glitch. All of these questions are framed from the POV of the mind-created self and the mind-created self is the over-simplification that we are trying to remove ourselves from! The truth is that there is no one who needs to escape and nothing that needs to be escaped from. Both the would-be escapee and the prison are the two sides of the very same illusion; both the escape artist and the prison he or she wishes to escape from are the two nominally different poles of the same (unreal) system, which is ‘the system of thought’. The attempt to escape is an act of aggression and any act of aggression is always going to have the consequence of perpetuating the aggressor – and yet it is that very aggressor that we are attempting to escape from!