The Projected World

We can only pursue things that make sense in relation to our fixed point of reference, just as we can only ever run away from things that makes sense in relation to this same fixed POR and so what this means is that we can only run towards or flee away from our own reference point. To see things like this puts a completely different perspective on the matter, naturally – ‘fleeing’ and ‘pursuing’ no longer seem so very different from each other when we look at them like this!


All of our goals only ‘make sense’ in relation to our taken-for-granted reference point and so insofar as we spend most all of our times pursuing goals of one sort or another all we are doing is working very hard to stay on the same spot. Contrary to what we might think, we’re not trying to bring about change at all – we are trying our best to maintain the state of ‘non-change’ without realising that this is what we are doing. We’re committed to staying the same whilst telling ourselves that we’re interested in progress!


Our whole lives exist in relation to this fixed point of reference (or ‘the taken-for-granted framework’) – not just what we think, or what we do, but also how we perceive ourselves, and this makes a mockery of life itself. This is what it means to live within the ‘Domain of the Known’ – living within the Domain of the Known means that we living in an inverted version of life and not the real thing. There can be no such thing as ‘life that always occurs in relation to a fixed POR’.


If we say that life is ‘a journey into the unknown’ (just as Jung says that consciousness is a movement which takes us from an unknown origin to an unknown destination) then we can immediately see that this ‘movement into the unknown’ is absolutely the one thing that is never going to happen within a framework of reference. The only type of movement that can ever take place within a framework is ‘the movement from one known to another’ – which is ‘the movement that is no movement’. Instead of being part of this genuine ‘uncontained’ movement we create our own type of movement that isn’t motion at all but merely a ‘vibration’. This Universal Flow (or Universal Flux) means nothing to us, we cannot relate to it at all; instead, we put all our money on the ‘static vibration’ which is ‘the movement that takes place within the framework of thought’. The vibration is the only type of change that can exist within the remit of the framework of thought; it is – therefore – the only type of change that thought can ever recognise.


The reason we are able to make this statement is very obvious – thought only recognises the type of change that makes sense within its framework of reference and this framework is made up of ‘linear axes’ at right angles to each other where each axis has <positive> at one end and <negative> at the other. For each axis, then, there only exists ‘movement in a positive direction’ (i.e. gaining or increasing), and ‘movement in the negative direction’ (which equals losing or diminishing). When we have a framework made up of a number of these axes the same of course remains true – the only type of movement that can ever be acknowledged by the system is movement from one pole to the other. The ‘so-called’ movement that we are talking about here is no more than a ‘mapping out’ of the framework, therefore. Nothing new ever happens within the terms of the framework because whatever happens within the terms of the framework IS the framework. There’s nothing else it can be.


When we are envisaging an abstract framework made up of a number of axes that are strung out between two poles this statement is easy enough to grasp – anything that is defined in terms of a certain ‘measuring stick’ is that measuring stick, it is that measuring stick because if there were anything that didn’t make sense in terms of it then that ‘something’ wouldn’t exist as far as our definitions go, and our definitions are everything to us. Our definitions are everything to us because that’s all we believe in – when we are able to exhaustively define something then this – weirdly enough – proves to us that it actually exists! When we pin something down (or when we ‘trap it in a box’) then we say that it exists and is real, even though the one thing that we definitely know about reality is that it can never be pinned down. If we say that reality can be pinned down then what are the pins, and what is the board that we are pinning it to? There is no ‘pinning down’ of reality because pinning down requires two things in the are no ‘two things’ in reality, but only the one thing. Reality isn’t something that can be ‘held in opposition to itself’, in other words, as UP and DOWN or LEFT and RIGHT can. It can’t be ‘made into two’.


When we are talking about some abstract framework somewhere that doesn’t have any personal significance to us then we can very easily see that nothing new can ever happen within it (since everything that happens within the terms of a framework is simply a ‘mapping out of that framework’) but the point isn’t to look at ‘the framework’ as some sort of abstract consideration but to look at it in terms of what it means to us and how we live our lives, and what we experience life to be. The framework we are talking about is thought after all and thought defines the whole world for us. All we are ever allowed to know about (thought being the jealous god that it is) is the world that it shows us, the world that it tells us ‘is real’, and so this makes the properties of the abstract entity called ‘the framework’ all of a sudden very relevant, very significant to us. All of a sudden it all gets very personal! When we reflect on the deniable truth that ‘nothing new ever happens within the framework’ and then consider that pretty much our entire lives take place within the remit of the framework of thought, how is this insight going to sit with us? How happy are we going to be about this?


How does it feel to reflect on the statement that nothing new ever happens within the remit of thought and that, on this account, nothing new ever happens in our lives (since our understanding of what is going on in our lives is entirely conditioned by thought)? This is too big a thing to take on board all in one go – what exactly does it mean to say that nothing new happens in our lives’? The crux of the matter here is that the meaningfulness of our activities, when we are in ‘Rational Mode’, absolutely depends upon our perception that change is taking place. Everything depends on this perception. The meaningfulness of our activities when we are in Rational Mode (and we almost always are) depends upon the perception that we are ‘getting somewhere’, the perception that we are progressing towards some sort of meaningful goal or outcome. We feel good when we have this feeling just as we feel bad when we perceive ourselves to be losing ground rather than gaining it. Even when we feel bad because we are experiencing ourselves as ‘losing ground rather than gaining it’ this is still meaningful to us however and so it still goes to create the subjective ‘projected world’ that we live in. The Projected World is made up of the possibilities that we think it holds for us rather than what it actually holds. Or we could equivalently say that the PW which we live in is made up equally of both ‘movement in the progressive direction’ and ‘movement in the regressive direction’ and this is like saying that a game is made up of winning on the one hand and losing on the other.


When we talk about the ‘small picture’ – which is made up of what the thinking mind is telling us is going on in any one moment  – then the change we perceive to be happening is either going on is either going to be meaningful to us in a euphoric or in a dysphoric way. Change towards what we want is good and change towards what we don’t want is (of course) bad. At any one point in time we are either going to be seeing things positive or negatively, therefore. This is only our conditioned perception of things however because the Projected World is always made up of positive movement and negative movement in an equal amount (how could it not be?) and so the true or unconditioned perception would always have to be that ‘nothing is happening’. We could if we wanted say that ‘nothing new is happening’ but this is the same as saying that ‘nothing is happening’ – both statements come down to the very same thing. Nothing is happening because whatever progressive movement that seems to be going on is always going to be perfectly counterbalanced by the equal and opposite regressive movement. In a vibration the net movement is always zero, as we all know very well. In the Projected World the net movement is always zero and because it is always zero the ‘net meaning’ is also always zero – the euphoria and the dysphoria cancel each other out. The Projected World is a Null World, in other words.


It’s only because [1] we ascribe meaning to movement that we see as occurring in either a positive or negative direction and [2] we don’t see these two types of movement as ‘always cancelling each other out’ that we able to create an actual subjective world – if we could see that the net movement was always zero then there would be no ‘wanting to move in a positive direction’ and no ‘fear of moving in a negative one’. There would be no ‘fleeing from the dreaded prospect of losing’ or ‘positively gravitating towards the situation of gaining ground, or gaining the desired outcome’. There would be no ‘trying to obtain a pleasant state of mind’ and no ‘trying to avoid an unpleasant one’, and it is the fleeing from pain and striving for pleasure (and the states of expectation that are generated by the mind in this connection) that constitute the subjectively real Projected World. The PW is made up of us either projected positively or projecting negatively – it is made up of us is expecting something good to happen to us or dreading something bad. We think that the good outcome is very different indeed to the bad one but this just isn’t true; it just isn’t true because both the positive and negative outcome equal me, just as succeeding and failing both equal ‘me’. The Projected World is only ‘me’ therefore – it is obviously the case that my projections are always only me. Of course the Projected World is always ‘only me’!


This brings us back to our starting statement, which is that we can only pursue things that makes sense in relation to our fixed (but invisible) point of reference, just as we can only flee from things that make sense from this same reference point. As we have just said, our whole world is made up of fleeing and pursuing (along with the euphoric or dysphoric expectations that go along with this) and – more than this – it is also the case that the subjective reality of who we understand ourselves to be (i.e. our identity) is created by this fearful or hopeful expectancy, this negative or positive projecting. We can all understand readily enough how the Projected World is the projection of ‘the assumed identity’, what is less obvious is the way in which the identity itself is created by this ‘act of projection’. ‘Pursuing’ and ‘fleeing’ are how we create the self; we pursue our attractive projections and run away from the repellent ones and it is the pursuing and running that make these projections seem real to us. Making the projections our projections ‘seem real to us’ (which is the result of us acting on the basis of attachment, as we have just said) has the effect of making the one who either pursues or runs away seem real, and so it is that the act of projecting (and then reacting to these projections with either aversion or attraction) has the effect of creating the self that is doing the projecting and reacting. That’s the whole game in a nutshell.


The game is always a nullity, no matter how real it may seem. The whole Projected World is made up of nothing else but the self that is doing the projecting, and that self gets to experience itself as being real because of its projections, because of the projected world that it believes in and reacts to. So what is this telling us? It’s easy to understand that ‘projections aren’t real’ – we can all understand that – but to see that ‘who we take ourselves to be’ is the result of us reacting to our projections in the automatic way that we do react to them, is of another order of significance entirely. This isn’t something that gets talked about so much in psychological cycles – that our projections are crucially important to us because they are the way in which we get to create a concrete sense of self. Our projections aren’t real but then again neither are we. Our projections aren’t real and neither are we but at the same time we have to point out that our projections are ‘real to us’ – when we are identified with then concrete self then they are as real as real can be. When we are identified with the concrete self or identity then fear and desire are ‘as real as real can be’ and not only there are they perfectly real to us, they are the forces which control our lives. When we are in the identified state then we are ‘ruled by attachment’; ‘being in the identified state’ and ‘being ruled by attachment’ are one and the same thing – the two can never be separated.


So when we function as the concrete identity and wholeheartedly believe ourselves to be this identity then we are being ruled by fear and desire and what we are ‘fearing or craving after’ our only own projections and our projections are ‘our own selves’ and nothing more. What I fear and what I desire are both me therefore – it’s all just the one, self-contained system; the Projected World is just the one, self-contained system. One aspect of me seems to be ‘the answer’ and the other ‘the problem’. All my time is spent trying to ‘solve the problem’ – in whatever way that problem might present itself to me – and yet I am the problem! My entire motivational system is based on obtaining the right outcome and avoiding the wrong one and yet both of these outcomes are the same thing, both of these ‘outcomes’ are my own unacknowledged projections. Both of these outcomes are me. This is just another way of talking about the nullity therefore – all of my hopes are the nullity just as all my fears are. All my purposeful endeavours are the nullity and it is these very endeavours – and the fact I’m throwing myself into them in the wholehearted way that I am – that both creates and fuels the nullity. All of my successes and all of my failures are the nullity, and what might possibly lie ‘beyond failure and success’ is something that I have no interest in whatsoever. That doesn’t exist for me. This profound ‘lack of interest’ in anything beyond what I want and what I don’t want equals ‘the nullity’ therefore, and so the nullity is just another way of talking about the self…









5 thoughts on “The Projected World

  1. This hit home. I just wrote an essay on racism that tries to dig down to the roots of racism, which leads down through the cultural/personal logjam over identity. But to do this I touch that third rail you allude to (“ruled by attachment” or what Bohm means by “thought runs us”), which is too much. Or as you say, “how is this insight going to sit with us? How happy are we going to be about this?” The deafening silence in response to what I said is interesting I think. Thanks.

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    1. It’s not too much perhaps to say that racism must exist in the very nature of the concrete identity, that the self is inescapably racist right to its core. Inasmuch as we support the cult of the concrete identity we support racism and we aren’t going to give up the cult of the concrete identity any time soon. So that’s ‘the third rail’ and no one wants to talk about that, as you say!

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      1. I just remembered that I wrote a very short article on tthe toxic membrane of the self’, or something to that effect –

        Did you see the film Infinite Potential, about the life of David Bohm? My colleague was working in the Maudsley in London many years ago and David Bohm was once in one of her therapeutic groups. (Professor Bohm suffered from intense bouts of intense depression, my friend was telling me). It was something like a bowling group. He won a prize and was very gracious about it. She didn’t know who he was but said he was a very nice man! Another time one of his friends came in and spent the day chatting with him, a guy called Francis Crick, and she brought them tea!

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      2. Replying to below: YES, I watched the documentary. In fact, in about 2 hours I’m going to watch the documentary again online, and it’s going to include a panel discussion involving people interviewed in the documentary (for a cost, through the Pari Center). That’s fascinating that your friend gave him therapy sessions. Yes, I’d known of his depressions. Interesting! Thanks. (Meanwhile, I took down my essay because I made so many odd errors writing it. I’m re-doing it. I messed up my first attempt badly. Odd. I’ll send you a link to the one I’ll finally finish in a few days (I assume).

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