What does the world look like when we are identified with the machine which is the thinking mind? This turns out to be a very easy question to answer – the world (when we are identified with the machine which is the thinking mind) looks like the machine reflected right back at us, only we don’t know this. We don’t know that what we’re seeing is the machine reflected right back at us, we think that what we’re seeing is simply ‘the world’…
When we look out at the world and we’re identified with the machine then what we see is the machine – the machine is looking at the machine, the machine is interacting with the machine, only it doesn’t know this. It doesn’t have the necessary mental agility or flexibility to see this. It doesn’t actually have any mental agility / flexibility – this being the way of machines. The machine is therefore locked into the situation where it interacts with itself (or with a world that is created entirely out of its own assumptions) without having the capability to ever ‘jump out of the loop’ and see that this is the case. Again, this is simply the way of machines – they don’t (and can’t) see beyond their own logic, so if their own logic takes them around in circles then circles it will be!
What, we might ask, are the psychological ramifications of this for us? What are the ramifications of us being identified with the machine without realizing it and as a consequence being trapped in a world that is made up entirely of that machine’s limiting assumptions? What are the ramifications – for us – of the machine which we are so helplessly identified with only ever seeing itself and only ever interacting with itself? Is this something we should know about?
These questions are – needless to say – largely rhetorical! It’s pretty obvious that the psychological consequences of our unconscious identification with the machine are not going to be good! To be more specific about it, we can say that when the machine only ever sees / interacts with itself then there is no ‘seeing’ and no ‘interacting’. These are actions that are no actions; these are null actions. This however brings us back to our original question, which is ‘What does the world look like when we are identified with the machine which is the thinking mind?’ In one way it’s not good saying that the interactions that we have on this basis are ‘null actions’ that only seems to exist. It’s no good saying this because – for the most part – that’s all that we have. We all look at the world in a mind-identified way, so what can we say about the experience that we have on this basis? Surely we can’t just write it off, with the stroke of the pen (or keyboard)?
One approach that we can take is to say that when we look at / interact with the world on the basis of the fixed viewpoint which is the thinking mind then everything proceeds in circles. The consequence of being so unreflectively identified with rational thought is that we live in a closed world, in other words. So now we’ve made a bit of a ‘jump’ in that instead of saying that our thought moderated way of seeing things ‘doesn’t exist’ (or ‘isn’t real’) we’re saying that it’s a circular world, a closed world. The crucial thing to understand here is that we have no way of knowing that we are living in a circular or closed world and so – from our perspective – it isn’t. From our perspective it’s an open world, which is of course the only way a pragmatically-functioning world could be. A world which is closed, a world where nothing could ever happen, is not a world and we could not relate to it as such.
When we are identified with a fixed viewpoint then we can’t see our limits (which come down to nothing other than the fixed viewpoint itself) and so, subjectively speaking, we are living in an open world. The world that we are inhabiting exists for us therefore – it functions as a world. The key point to make about this subjective world is that we’re operating in a situation where the opposites seem to us to be separate or disconnected things. To understand what this perception is like is no great challenge because it’s the perception most of us have most of the time. No one needs to lecture us on how to appreciate the flavour and nuances of the ‘polar world’ because it’s just about the only world we know. We’re all very adept at seeing the opposites as being entirely separate things – the extreme and uncompromising oppositional ‘unlikeness’ of the opposites is the fundamental principle upon which our world is based. The result or consequence of this unambiguous oppositionality is also very straightforward to explain – the result of living in the polar world is that we are forever flying from one opposite to the other! That’s the main part of our lives – flying (or trying to fly) from the unfavourable opposite to the favourable one…
Saying that the main part of our lives is spent flying from one opposite to the other (or at least orientating ourselves in this way) helps us to understand what the world looks like when we are identified with the fixed viewpoint of the rational mind – the world (for the most part) looks like the opposite of where we’re actually at and this is of course just another way of saying that either fear or desire is involved. The world always has to look like either an attractive or a repellent opposite because that’s how the RT inevitably sees things – it sees things in terms of ‘one opposite versus the other’. How could we ever argue otherwise, seeing as how thought constructs everything in terms of whether there is a ‘fit’ with regard to its categories, or whether there isn’t? If we look at things from a fixed position then polarity is automatically involved – either there is agreement with our position or there is disagreement. The polarity we see is simply our own ‘fixedness’ being reflected back at us therefore – the fixed viewpoint equals polarity and polarity equals the fixed viewpoint.
So if we now come back to the question of what ‘the complementary opposite looks like’ this leads us straight into the realm of ‘like and dislike’, ‘attraction versus aversion’. So we have to ask what something which is attractive looks like, which is clearly a ridiculous question! There’s no external objective standard of what is likeable or dislikeable, attractive or repellent. If I like a thing then that’s something to do with me, not the thing itself. It’s my own psychological attitude, my own internal bias that is determining this – really, all I’m seeing is this bias being reflected back at me. Or as we could also say, all I’m seeing is myself being reflected right back at me. As long as it’s only like and dislike we’re talking about, then I’ve never seen beyond myself – the world itself is something I haven’t a clue about. I don’t know about it and I don’t care. The question isn’t therefore what the world, or objects in the world looks like to me when I am identified with the thinking mind, but what I look like to myself when I don’t know that it’s me!
When I experience attraction or aversion all I’m seeing is the faithful reflection or mirroring of my own bias but – crucially – I don’t know this to be the case. If I did then I wouldn’t be able to take the phenomenon of attraction / aversion seriously, which clearly I do. I take that phenomenon very seriously indeed, in fact! If I could see that I like something or am attracted to it purely because I am biased (or ‘set up’) to do so then this would put a completely different perspective on the matter – I would no longer perceive the object as possessing some sort of ‘external value’ (or ‘quality’) that I can acquire. In Jungian terms, I would have ‘recalled my projection’; I would have taken it back so that it no longer appears to me ‘an objective thing having actual existence in the external world’. The attractive and repellent projections that we take so seriously when we’re in the identified state may be said to be a consequence of the way in which thought splits the world in two’ – ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ is a splitting of the original unity (or Wholeness) and so rather than experiencing our lack of Wholeness (or ‘our fractional status’, to borrow Joseph Campbell’s phrase) we project our deficit (the missing half) onto the world and experience it as an actual ‘value’ out there in the real world. This – we might say – is ‘the mechanism of duality’.
This brings us right back to the beginning of this discussion where we stated something to the effect that ‘being identified with the machine which is the thinking mind causes us to be unwittingly trapped in a null world where all we ever experience are our own un-owned projections’. We’re not actually interacting with the world at all because we’re too busy going around in circles. If someone were to come up to us and ask therefore what it is that we actually see when we’re in the unconsciously identified state then we could answer that what we’re seeing is our own ‘lack of wholeness’ reflected back at us, whilst being represented to us not as our own lack of wholeness (or our own ‘ignorance’) but rather as some independent element, the nature of which we never examine too closely because we’re far too busy trying either to acquire it or avoid it. We’re seeing some kind of mirage, in other words – it’s something that is a function of the mental state that we’re in and nothing more.
We can add something to this answer, though. There’s still room for us to improve it. One point that we haven’t so far stressed is that Wholeness can’t actually be ‘split in two’’ because it’s an irreducible quality of reality that is present in everything. It can’t ever be subdivided – or rather it can be, but only in our imaginations. This is of course a restatement of the ‘holographic universe’ principle which essentially states that every apparent ‘part’ is actually the whole in disguise, very much like Zeus disguising himself as a beggar! So because it is impossible, in reality, to subdivide Wholeness (this being merely an imaginary act) to be ‘deficient’ in the way that we have been talking about is more than just ‘a deficiency in this, that or the other’, it is a deficiency in reality….
It is not the case – therefore – that what when we are unconsciously identified with the dualistic mind we are encountering or perceiving our own lack of something or other in disguised form in the outside world, what we are encountering or perceiving (without knowing that we are) is our own unreality, our own nonexistence ‘rebounding’ on us, so to speak. This – by any standard, has surely got to rank as a fairly mind-bending suggestion – no matter how ‘far out’ you are in your thinking this is going to prove very troublesome to get to grips with! We’re not saying (just to reiterate the point) that the projections we react to during our day-day lives are the result of our buried emotional pain, our ‘issues’, our repressed sense of ‘inadequacy’ about ourselves, or anything like that. What we’re talking about goes very far beyond all of that. We might indeed say that the projections which control us in our everyday lives have their root in our ‘inner pain’ but the pain we’re referring to here is the pain of having no actual reality.
Having no reality (which is something that we automatically lose just as soon as we identify with the dualistic mind) we compensate for this by producing all sorts of frothy fantasies, which proliferate feverishly all around us, but these ‘feverish fantasies’ are nothing more than our own absence of reality being projected outwards onto the world. Our fantasies are our unreality, therefore – we just don’t recognize them as such. Another way of talking about this is to speak in terms of the ‘mutually-conditioning’ nature of the opposites – UP produces DOWN at the same time that DOWN produces UP. A world is created between the two poles, but it is not a real world! It’s not a real world because the divide or split between the one opposite and the other doesn’t really exist. This – known as ‘interdependent co-arising’ or ‘dependent co-emergence’ – is one of the key principles in Buddhism. Writing in ‘Buddhism for geeks‘, Andrei Volkov defines dependent co-emergence as follows:
Dependent co-emergence, also known as “inter-dependent origination” or “dependent co-arising”, is a peculiar phenomena taking place during construction of entity by the mind. Any such construction requires capturing the identifying characteristics of an entity, and using these characteristics to delineate the totality of perceived sensory data into the entity and its complement. When affirmation takes place, the implicitly negated complement simultaneously arises.
To further illustrate the point, Volkov also quotes the Buddha as saying:
When “this” exists, “that” comes to be. With the arising of “this”, “that” arises. When “this” does not exist, “that” does not come to be. With the cessation of “this”, “that” ceases.
This frames our original question as to what we see when we’re identified with the machine which is the thinking (or dualistic) mind quite nicely – what we see in this case is our feverish fantasy of what we imagine reality to look like, based on our complete and utter lack of connection with anything real….