The more determinedly we run from existential terror the duller and more oppressively routine the world we create as a result of our running will be. Running is what creates the Determinate Worlds, the worlds which enslave us completely without us ever realizing it. Existential terror is what gives rise to the soul-sapping ‘bureaucracy of thought’, which is our means of running away from openness. This being so, we may surmise (from the type of world that we see all around us) that we are fleeing from existential terror very determinedly indeed. We’ve got that accelerator pedal pushed right down to the floor…
It is bad form to remark upon just how dull and oppressive the world we have made for ourselves is – we have to pretend that we think it’s an interesting and worthwhile kind of a world, even if somewhere in our hearts we know this not to be true. It’s rather like being at school assembly when the national anthem is being sung – the easiest thing by far is to go along with it even when you yourself recognise that the sentiments you’re pretending to share are utter nonsense. The societal world we make we have made for ourselves is exactly like this – it is made up entirely of crappy ideas but if we’re to get on with socialized life (and what choice do we have?) then it works better if we don’t focus on this unfortunate truth.
All ‘made worlds’ are like this – anything that has been caused, created or deliberately brought into existence is always like this. Anything we think is always like this. All made or designed things are specific, just as all statements of fact are specific – a ‘statement of fact’ only gets to be such because all other possibilities (other than the one that has been indicated) have been firmly excluded. All other possibilities have been excluded as firmly as anything ever could be excluded; the laws of logic do not tolerate any degree of ambiguity, as Aristotle noted. Everything is rendered in terms of yes and no, right and wrong, black and white; either something exists (within the specific parameters we have set out for it to exist within) or it doesn’t exist at all – no third possibility is recognized. The only questions logic can ask of the world are closed questions.
In order to have form (or structure) there has to be exclusion, there has to be definition, but the price for this exclusion / definition is the lack of any actual content, which is something we make a point of not dwelling on! The world of form is always hollow – ‘form’ and ‘hollowness’ are two ways of talking about the same thing. The Defined World is always like this – we know what things are and that affords us a particular sense of control, a sense (however illusory) of having a handle on things, which offsets the vertigo of the Undefined World, the world that hasn’t been converted into purpose-made categories, but the unacknowledged trade-off that we have involved ourselves with here means that we gain ontological security only at the price of any worthwhile content.
The Defined World might be reliably solid and unquestionable (which is the way that we like it to be) but there’s nothing in it, in other words. We live on the outside, in the realm of consensual experience, and there’s no inside, no depth, no interiority. If we did have an interior life – a life that hasn’t been defined by the template of our social context – then this would relativize the subjectively objective environment that we exist within, and when the so-called ‘objectively true environment’ gets relativized it is no longer able to sell itself to us as being objective, as being ‘true no matter which way we look at it’. When we live on the outside, in the unforgivingly black-and-white realm of definite appearances, then we’re in the position of having placed thought above us as our Lord and Master; we are now seeing everything in the way that we have been given to see it and that is what creates the illusion of objective truth.
Were we not to place the mechanism of thought above us in this way then the illusion of an objective external reality would evaporate in a flash. Interiority, on the other hand, means that we aren’t viewing things in the prescribed way but in ‘our own way’. We’re not responding to external pressure, external influence. ‘In our own way’ means that we’re being autonomous therefore. It means that we’re not dining out on any second-hand realities anymore – we’ve cut out the middleman and we’ve gone straight to the ‘original source’. The other way of putting this would simply be to say that we’re actually being conscious of what’s going on rather than reading or interpreting our situation according to ‘the book of rules’ that we have been provided with. To be conscious of what’s going on (rather than focussing on the mind’s interpretation) means allowing the raw data to be what it already is in itself rather than obsessively organizing it so that it comes to us bounded by the constraints that we ourselves have put in place and when we do this all bets are off. All bets are off because we’ve given up control, because we’ve taken our hands off the wheel, because we are no longer projecting our own sterile brand or order upon the world.
When we allow ourselves to be conscious of the forms and structures that make up our environment (rather than merely taking them for granted) then we can plainly see their relativity, which is to say, we can see how the structures we perceive are only valid in relation to the specific viewpoint that we have chosen to look at them from. We can see how we ourselves participate in creating the defined world that we’re living within. This awareness annihilates the sense of there being an objective exterior reality that has a bona fide independent existence all of its own and at the same time we lose this illusion we also lose the illusion of there being a defined self or platform from which we can meaningfully observe the world. The objectively true and verifiable external world and the one who lives in this world (and is a rightful part of it) are two ends of the same stick, so to lose one and is also to lose the other.
The strange situation where we lose the stick that has the conditioned identity at one end and the conditioned world at the other is what Wei Wu Wei refers to as ‘the state of non-dual subjectivity’. We can also relate it to what Carl Jung calls ‘the House of the Gathering’, which is where we withdraw or call back all of our projections allowing what was being concealed behind them to be seen at long last. Reality is finally being taken off the tight leash that we had it on. This is – then – the symmetrical situation in which there is infinite content, but no way of packaging that content, no way of measuring it, no way of safely organising it so that it doesn’t pose a threat to our worryingly fragile ego-construct. We could also say that it is the situation where everything has the freedom to be whatever it wants to be itself, without any type of external order / arbitrary limitation being imposed upon it. It could of course simply be said that what we’re talking about here is the state of freedom, but this doesn’t really tell us very much since we – as conditioned beings – are incapable of knowing what freedom actually means. We think freedom is all about us being able to control stuff so that it happens the way we want it to!
Freedom, when seen from the standpoint of the particular or localised self, simply equals fear. That’s what freedom looks like to the centralised or localised viewpoint of the self and why this should be fairly easy to see – freedom means ‘the removal of all artificial constraints’ and it is these artificial constraints that allow the localised viewpoint (i.e., ‘the concrete identity’) to exist. To be aware of our intrinsic freedom is thus to see the way in which we as the conditioned identity don’t really exist at all. We’re free to see that what we take to be real is only a construct and this isn’t something that the identity itself is able to take on board. All it can do is run away from the perception of this too-generous vista, the all-embracing vista in which every single viewpoint is equally true. When all viewpoints are true then no specific ones can be, which means that what we’re talking about is ‘non-locality’ or ‘openness’.
So it is that we flee from the situation where there is infinite content but no way of imposing order on that content, no way of measuring it, no way of wrapping it up and presenting it in bite-size chunks, to the antithetical situation were absolutely everything is organised and regulated and measured, but where there is no actual content at all. This is the state of affairs where all that exists are ‘rules and regulations’ and nothing ever comes out of this artificial situation apart from yet more rules and regulations, as if we didn’t have enough already. This is what we end up with when we – in our desperation – opt for a world that makes logical sense to us and which can be exhaustively known by us, which is what happens when we place thought above us as an ‘unquestionable authority’. Thought provides the Positive World for us.
Just so long as we continue to obey the Tyrant of Thought in all things then we’ll never have to clap eyes on that thing that we fear about more than anything else, which is unconditioned freedom. What we’re talking about you is ‘Freedom-with-a-capital-F, which is an entirely different beast from what we normally understand by the term. What we normally understand by the term is ‘the freedom to believe that we are this unreal concrete self’. When we say (as we so often do) that we want freedom it isn’t Unconditional Freedom that we’re talking about but something very different indeed. We actually mean the exact opposite of what we’re saying….