Anxiety And Depression

The Radical Unknown is an active or dynamic principle. Instead of saying that it is ‘active or dynamic’, could say that it is creative – it isn’t bound to any form. Form actually has nothing to do with it. We could also say that the Radical Unknown is an independent principle that is neither determined by anything else nor sustained by anything else.

Then we come to the World of the Known, – the ‘Realm of Known Things’. This realm is passive and non-creative; and it is most definitely ‘bound to the world of form’ since things are form. That’s how they get to be things. Known things don’t exist in any independent way but are – as it is said in Buddhism – subject to ‘causes’ and ‘conditions’. Known things do have to be sustained (or ‘maintained’) therefore and if they are not maintained then they will not continue to exist.

Although the Realm of Known Things is dependent upon causes and conditions (and doesn’t therefore have any independent existence) we don’t see this to be the case and we relate to this realm very much as if it were ‘self-existent’. Furthermore, we could also make the point that the Realm of the Known is the only realm we ever have any business with and that we don’t acknowledge the Radical Unknown in any way in the course of our day-to-day lives.

We’ve actually got this all wrong therefore – we think that there is only one realm of existence and that this is the Realm of the Known, which makes that ROTK the most important thing and RU not at all important. It’s completely the other way round however. We could try to redress the balance by saying that the ROTK is a small and bounded domain, and that it is like an island which is surrounded on all sides by the boundless ocean which is the Radical Unknown. The Realm of the Known is a very minor (and not very interesting) affair, in other words.

Even this isn’t expressing the relative proportions correctly however – the World of Known Things is actually ‘smaller’ than this again because it has only a strictly provisional existence. It exists only because something is maintaining it; it exists only because we have said that it does, because we have agreed that it does. Saying this puts things in more perspective – on the one hand there is this tiny bubble of the apparently real ‘World of the Known’, which we falsely believe to be the entirety of everything, the sum of all that is possible, and on the other hand there is this infinite ocean of the Radical Unknown, which is the only ‘thing’ that really exists…

One thing that we haven’t particularly focused on so far is the fact that we all firmly identify ourselves with the Realm of the known, and implicitly – if not explicitly – believe that we belong to this world, are a part of this world. Who we are is known, in other words, and so we are not ‘radically unknown’. Who we know ourselves to be is – on the contrary – deeply familiar to us. We know all about ourselves; so much so that on some level we’re all pretty much fed up with our own dull and predictable existence. This state of affairs is generally called boredom or ennui – there is nothing new anywhere, only the same old wretched carry-on. We’re actually in the business of ‘suffocating ourselves’, although we won’t admit this.

This business of being ‘fed up and jaded’ (of having no real joy or interest in life, which is what this comes down to) isn’t the half of it though. That is only one aspect of the ‘downside’ that comes with identifying ourselves with the Realm of the Known. In order to acquaint ourselves with the other disagreeable aspects of this deal all we need to do is cast our minds back to what we said about the ROTK at the beginning of this discussion – the characteristic nature of known things is that they are passive, inert, lacking in any ‘spark of life’ (when it comes down to it) and so we can say that the Domain of the Known is the Domain of the Nonliving, the Domain of ‘mere mechanical stuff’.

‘What you call life is death and what you regard as death is actually life,’ as Heraclitus says (albeit in a slightly paraphrased form) and so – as a result of identifying with a ‘known thing’ (which is to say, as a result of identifying with the humdrum rational ego or self) we becomes subject to a bizarre inversion, a bizarre inversion whereby all we ever want is ‘ever-increasing security for the rationally ego’, and this – as anyone with any psychological insight at all knows – is a ‘living death’. What a situation it is therefore – we are of course very averse indeed to pain and suffering (needless to say) and yet all we can ever do is gravitate helplessly in this direction!

The downside of identifying with the ROTK is therefore that the ego or self we embrace as being ‘who we are’ is essentially a dead thing (like a stone or boulder) that gravitates constantly and inevitably towards pain and suffering. Not only this but the so-called self or identity we have to carry around with us is an onerous burden that will never repay the effort we put into maintaining it! It’s a lost cause that we keep on investing in, in other words. It’s a ‘money pit’ which will never give us any return. And to cap it all – so to speak – this burden of ours, this weight that we have to lug around with us wherever we go, is ‘fundamentally unreal’ and so – as a result – we are haunted by a fear that we dare not name – which is a fear that we will one day find out about this unreality. This is the hidden anxiety that is always attended to upon conditioned existence. If we actually wanted to know where anxiety and depression come from, at root (which we don’t!) then we need look no further than this…

Art: Ultrastrangeness from

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