There are two psychological processes that are going on in our lives – and there are only two psychological processes that are going on. We might think that there are many more types of things happening in the mind that can be enumerated and classified but that is simply our confusion. Our confusion is not to see that there are only these two basic processes going on! These two processes correspond to what the alchemists called dissolving and coagulating – the former is where the system under consideration moves out of equilibrium, and the latter is where it moves towards equilibrium. From the perspective of the ancient alchemists, that’s what it all comes down to, and from the point of view of modern non-linear thermodynamics (also known as complexity theory) that’s also what it all comes down to. What other types of movement could there be, after all? Either a system because more predictable or less predictable, either it reveals itself to be more and more complex as it evolves, or else it sinks into information collapse, and becomes progressively less complex. These are the only two possibilities – either there’s the direction of increasing information, or there’s the complementary direction of increasing entropy. Either we move out of equilibrium, or we move towards it…
The world we live in is very much given over to the second process, the second direction. It is as if we understand this to be what life is supposed to be all about; we believe – in other words – that life is, or ought to be, all about taking some sort of positive stance, all about making ourselves more ‘definite’ (or more defined). The more we assert ourselves to be this, that or the other, the better we imagine ourselves to be doing. Society tells us that this is what we ought to be doing – it tells us that this is where our advantage lies, in defining ourselves in the terms that it itself has provided us with. This is the process of adaptation to a given determinate reality, therefore; the given determinate reality is the equilibrium state to which we are being inexorably pulled. It can hardly be argued with that adaptation is the dominant process in the world around us; this is the only direction that seems interesting to us – interesting in the sense of personal advantage, that is, rather than ‘philosophically’ interesting (adaptation is of course never philosophically interesting). Adaptation is where the acceptance is, where the wealth is, where the status is, and so why wouldn’t we be ‘interested’? We’re looking for the big pot of gold, we’re looking to be winners and have our names up there in big flashing letters…
The other direction – which is the movement out of equilibrium – isn’t interesting to us therefore. It doesn’t really exist for us; it doesn’t make any sense to us that anyone would want to travel in this direction and so we don’t give the matter any thought. If we were to have a bit of understanding about what movement out of equilibrium entails that would only serve to put us off even more because moving out of equilibrium means that we find ourselves in a situation where the prize which is to be won (or the prize which has been won) becomes less and less meaningful to us, less and less important to us. And not only is it true that the prize (i.e. fame, or the pot of gold) becomes less and less real to us, so too does the seeker after the prize become less and less real. The game is no longer real to us, and neither therefore is the player of the game. This relativization of all the values that used to mean so much to us, and which used to motivate us to get up in the morning and do all the things that we do, is profoundly perplexing from the POV of the adapted self; not only is it perplexing, it constitutes a loss that will cause us a great deal of suffering. Moving out of equilibrium means that we lose the world that we got all our validation from, and this constitutes the ultimate disaster as far as the adapted self is concerned. For this reason, any activities that take us away from equilibrium are actually an anathema to the everyday self. As Jung says in his commentary on the ‘Introitus apertus’ –
You wish to have results that flatter your pride, you expect something useful, but there can be no question of that as you realize with a shock. Because of this you no longer even want to be fruitful, as it would only be for God’s sake and not your own.
So from the societal POV (from the POV of the adapted mind) there is only one direction to go in and so the only question we need to care about is the how good one is at travelling along down it. Have we got a motorized vehicle? The road itself is a given so our responsibility is simply to travel down it as fast as we possibly can. Or to put this another way, there is no question at all about whether we should play the game or not, but only about how successful we are to be at it. From the conventional viewpoint (which needless to say is the only viewpoint we are likely to come across) it’s a waste of time saying that ‘there are two psychological processes that are going on in life’ – as far as we are concerned there is only the one. But just because the conventional (or adapted) mind has zero interest in the process whereby we move away from equilibrium, the process whereby we ‘dissolve’ what we think we have gained rather than working at ‘coagulating’ (or concretizing) it all the more, doesn’t mean that nature herself is going to go along obediently with our prejudices.
The process of adaptation, the process of ‘fitting in’ (and as a result being definite or defined) is absolutely vital as far as the structure of society is concerned – the machine requires parts that are engineered to fit it, and fit therefore the requirements of all the other parts, after all. So if it’s ‘the health of the system’ that we are considering – and it almost always is – then the movement out of equilibrium is actually going to be regarded as pathological. It is going to be seen as a malfunction or a sickness, obviously. Matters are not as simple as this – we may assume that the same principle that applies to society also holds good for the health of the individual (in the past, the health of the individual has indeed been defined in terms of one’s ability to perform one’s socialized tasks, or carry out one’s allotted role in society) but this is not the case. What is good for society (or any other social group) is most emphatically not good for the individual; for the individual it is the counter-movement (the movement away from equilibrium) that turns out to be of critical importance and the reason becoming unadapted is of ‘critical importance’ is because it equals growth! And without growth, without that crucial movement by which we reach out beyond our customary understanding of ourselves, there is no genuine life. Without growth there is only a mockery of life – something that superficially looks like life, but which is actually a terrible parody.
What is beneficial to the health of the machine is the reverse of beneficial as far as the actual human beings who make up society are concerned. It is simply not possible to live any sort of genuine life if we are locked in a fixed image or concept of ourselves – what follows on from this mechanical identification is not life but something else. Reality itself may be ‘characterized’ by saying that it is the fluid situation in which every apparently fixed (or ‘defined’) position always gives way and turns out to be not so fixed or defined after all. This is a necessarily clumsy way of saying what reality ‘is’ because what we’re actually saying is that reality isn’t anything – it’s a movement rather than a thing. And not just this, but it’s a movement that has no fixed context to take place within; it is a movement ‘from one unknown to another’, as Jung says. Reality, we might say, facilitates situations in which we can make definite statements about the world and about ourselves, but it itself is not a definite statement – if it were then we would have to ask what exactly it is a definite statement about! Inasmuch as the adapted mind only understands definite statements, what we have just said will make no sense at all to it, however.
So the machine – we could say – is that domain in which ‘everything has to make sense’. The reason everything always makes sense in the domain of the rational mind is because everything is being seen within the context of the same static framework; anything that doesn’t make sense in relation to the static framework is repressed, denied, kept out of sight. We’re pretending that there aren’t any other ways of looking at what’s going on and so whilst we’re repressing all unauthorized content, we’re also denying that we’re repressing anything. Not only are we pretending, we don’t know that we are pretending, in other words. The result of this manoeuvre is that we live in a world in which everything is either known or knowable, and where nothing can ever radically surprise us or ‘upset the applecart’. Another way of putting this is to say that we are living in a world in which there is no depth to anything. We don’t see that there is no depth to anything however because we don’t have any concept that there could be such a thing; we don’t know that there are any other ways of seeing the world and so we don’t miss the extra perspective that these ‘other ways’ would provide! We live in a flat universe and we don’t know that it is flat; we live in a truncated reality but we don’t have any suspicion that it is truncated. With regard to this peculiar situation therefore, we can make the very straightforward point that living in such a world isn’t mentally healthy for us. As Louie Crew says, ‘healthy’ comes from the Old English word Hal, which is also a root for the word ‘whole’, and so by definition existing exclusively within the limits of a mental abstraction (whilst not knowing that we are) cannot in any way be considered ‘healthy’!
The consensus reality which is society only acknowledges the domain of rational thought – the social system is the externalization (or extension) of the thinking mind so of course society cannot acknowledge any reality that is not the product of thought. If we are to receive any support in moving beyond flatland therefore, it cannot come from society, or the generic mind that society fosters. Only an individual who has won freedom from the stultifying hypnosis of the generic mind can support another person to discover their own individuality, but the problem here is that social matrix does not support individuality, and so it is as if we find ourselves alone in a desert – the desert of the generic. There is no uniqueness to be found in the society just as there is no uniqueness to be found in the domain of thought – uniqueness (or ‘depth’) is only to be encountered outside of the continuum of thought, and the continuum of thought is all we know. We are effectively cut off from the source of our own mental health (or Wholeness), therefore. We’re cut off from ourselves and this is the same thing as being cut off from the source of our mental health; ‘mental health’ – as we have said earlier – simply means to be wholly ourselves. We can hardly be ‘mentally well’ and yet at the same time not be ourselves, which is what society requires of us….
Mental health lies away from the equilibrium and yet when we are in the E-Realm we don’t know that there is anything else! Mental health (or wellness) lies in an unknown direction – it lies in a direction we don’t know about and actually can’t know about, just as long as we are living our lives on the basis of the adapted mind. All the institutions and systems that we have work by propelling us in the other direction, the direction of increased definition, increased certainty, increased compartmentalization, increased ‘solidity’ or ‘concreticity’. We have one answer to everything and that just happens to be the ‘answer’ that made us sick in the first place. Another way of putting this is to say that mental health is actually an ‘alien concept’ to us; it comes out of a way of looking at ourselves and the world that is just not part of our formatting. But we use our formatting for everything – if we want to get better at doing something we use our formatting, if we want to solve a problem we use our formatting, and yet if we are to become ‘well’ (or ‘mentally healthy’) then we have to go against our formatting.
We have our own version of mental health, as we have been saying, and this is what we might call ‘formatted mental health’. Formatted mental health has to do with maximized functionality within a given context, which means that good health happens as a consequence of reflecting back to assumptions implicit in this context, this environment, as accurately as we possibly can. ‘Good mental health’ means that we perfectly model society’s assumptions, in other words, but ‘perfectly modelling society’s assumptions’ is just a fancy way of saying that we let the system tell us who to be! This is therefore a strange way of looking at what it means to be mentally healthy – somehow (according to this viewpoint) being mentally healthy is when we successfully collude in the societal process of being what some external authority tells us we should be at the expense of who we really are! What we’re looking at here therefore, are two ways of looking at mental health that are fundamentally incompatible each other. This brings to mind the well-known line in Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters”.
Or as we also read in Saying 47 in the Gospel of Thomas –
Jesus said, “A person cannot mount two horses or bend two bows.
And a slave cannot serve two masters, otherwise that slave will honor the one and offend the other.
Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine. Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil.
An old patch is not sewn onto a new garment, since it would create a tear.”
We can either serve the ‘external authority’, which is the master who is outside of us, or we can honour our own well-being (or our own truth), but we cannot do both at the same time. In practise however we don’t usually see things as clearly as this – things are blurred, things are confused. We conflate the two masters, the two directions, and think that it should be possible to honour one’s own well-being whilst at the same time living in the house that the adapted mind has created for us. This mind will of course claim that this is possible but in reality it is no more than a barefaced lie, an outrageous lie. It’s like working in an institution or organization which claims to have genuine concern for the well-being of its employees – it doesn’t really, it only cares about the wellness of its employees to the extent that this affects its own productivity. Inasmuch as the mental health of any individual working for it is a thoroughly alien consideration as far as the hive-mind of the organization is concerned it must also necessarily be thoroughly incomprehensible, and inasmuch as ‘good mental health’ is thoroughly incomprehensible to the organization it cannot really be said to care about it!
Furthermore, it is not just the case that the mental health of the individual is beyond the ken of the organization and always will be, it is also true that the two things are incompatible – mental health is just another way of talking about ‘inner freedom’ and this is the last thing that the organization or institution wants to be fostering! The only reason we work for the company or the organization or the institution is that we are not free not to do so – on one hand we need the job and cannot see any other way of making a living, and on another hand we have been conditioned to see what we’re doing as normal and reasonable and we don’t see anything harmful about it. All of this is of course also true for the ‘big institution’ which is society. Society does not care about our mental health or well-being – it only cares in relation to its definition of what constitutes ‘mental health’ or ‘well-being’ and its definition of mental health means ‘conditioned slavery’. It wants us to be ‘well adjusted slaves’! The hive-mind which is society hasn’t a clue regarding what true wellness means – it doesn’t know and neither does it case. As we said at the beginning of this discussion, it doesn’t acknowledge the direction of ‘moving out of equilibrium’. Disequilibrium is a profoundly alien notion as far as society is concerned…
What we keep coming back to is the utterly incomprehensible nature of mental health from the POV of the adapted mind. What we are calling ‘mental health’ or ‘wellness’ is ‘the ultimate state of non-adaptedness to any system’, the ultimate state of disequilibrium, and what can the adapted mind know about this? What can a regular or programmed number know about the state of being ‘random’? What sympathy can an equilibrium-seeking system have for those chaotic unprogrammed fluctuation that take us in an entirely unpredictable direction? What interest does a perfectionist (or a fascist!) have in that which is not perfect, in that which does not obey the rules? These are all rhetorical questions of course – the relationship of the adapted mind to the ultimate state of disequilibrium (which happens to be the same thing as reality) is ultimately one of pure fear. To say that there is a ‘relationship of fear’ is to say that we do our utmost to make sure that there is NO relationship, i.e. we will place as many obstacles and barriers and wall between ourselves and what we are afraid of as we possibly can. We will entrench ourselves; we will erect fortifications on a major scale. This then is our relationship with our own true mental health (or ‘our own true or unconditioned nature’) – it is the ‘relationship’ of fear…
Art: MENSCHINE. Die menschlichen Roboter