Thought Works by Excluding Wholeness

There’s no such thing as an algorithm that can help us to map out (or explore) the Whole of Everything – this is sublimely impossible. If ever anything were sublimely impossible then this is it.

There is no formula or rule for the Whole and this is problematic for us because we can’t help thinking that there should be. This belief is what lies behind search for the Theory Of Everything, the search for a formula that explains everything, which is something we haven’t given up on yet, despite our ongoing lack of success in this utterly laughable endeavour.

There’s only one way to search in a way that is guaranteed to cover all the unlimited possibilities that make up the Whole and that is via randomness. Random searching will – given enough time – hit upon all the possibilities making up the Whole whilst a rule or formula will show up only those possibilities that reflect back the standpoint which that rule or algorithm represents. For this reason we can say that ‘a rule predicts the reality that it shows us with 100% accuracy’, and this clearly isn’t such a great thing.  This is extremely suspicious, to say the least…

It isn’t such a great thing because there’s never going to be any new information about the world which our rule-based searching (or rule-based interpretation) is showing us. When our description ‘predicts the world that is being described’ then this is a type of blindness. When <Actual> is identical to <Expected> then this is what we could call a ‘dead’ situation – we already know exactly what we’re going to find and so where is the interest in this? We already know what the answer to our question is going to be; we know what the answer to our question is going to be before we ever ask it and so what is the point in asking it? This is an exercise in redundancy…

All rational approaches are redundant in this way, which is an odd thing to consider (where we to be willing to do so). When we investigate the world around us in a logical or rule-based way all we are ever doing is ‘confirming our hidden expectations’ therefore and this is an entirely self-defeating type of business. There IS nothing more dreadfully self-defeating than engaging in bias confirmation. We say that we’re ‘interested in finding out what’s going on’ and in this way we seek to partake in the glory that accrues to ‘the Discoverer of New Things’ whilst all the time the only thing we’re really interested in is being ‘proved right’. ‘Being proved right’ is all we care about.

We can say that there is no such thing as ‘an algorithm that can be used to explore (or map out) the Whole of Everything’, or we could (equivalently) say that there’s ‘no such thing as a set of evaluative criteria that can be used to interpret (or register) the totality of what is possible. We’re involving ourselves in a closed loop of self-agreement either way; we’re generating a thick smog of disguised redundancy either way. There isn’t any way to apprehend the Whole on the basis of rationality since any rule we use will only ever call forth a reality that echoes the assumptions that it’s based on (and a ‘reality’ that faithfully echoes the assumptions we have made in order to be able to investigate it is not reality but something else). What it is is a kind of Shadow World – a shadow world that is brought about by ‘obstructing the light’ rather than ‘letting it through’. We’re blind but we don’t know it – what we take to be an actual independent reality is nothing other than our own recognized shadow, which we automatically project on the world wherever we go.

This is a shadow world that we all inhabit and inasmuch as we make sense of the world we live in with the everyday analysing/conceptualising/categorising mind we are inevitably going to be living in our map of the world rather than the thing itself. A map – as we all know – has no substance in it, it doesn’t possess any ‘essence quality’ (or – as we could also say – ‘suchness’) in the way that the actual territory does. Instead of something that is actually real it has a bunch of mind-created boundaries that include what lies on the inside whilst excluding everything on the outside (this being the thing that boundaries do). We can look at this including / excluding business as being an inverted analogue of whatever it is that we are trying to map out or describe – it is ‘inverted’ because instead of actual intrinsic content which shines out all by itself what we have is a mechanical manoeuvre by which we are tricked into ‘inferring content where there is none’.

The trick in question is nothing if not straightforward – the presence of a boundary (which ‘includes one area whilst excluding the other’) creates the false impression that there is something there to be included. This is an automatic inference on our part. We could also look at the trick in terms of figure / ground – by highlighting the figure (which we do by drawing a line around it) we create the impression that there actually is such a thing as ‘the figure’. Boundaries are how the rational mind creates the illusion of the Positive World, the illusion that there is such a thing as a Positive Reality, therefore. The Positive World is the Stated World and the ‘Stated World’ is the world that is erroneously inferred as a result of taking our mental boundaries seriously. This trick is what creates the illusion of solidity or certainty that we navigate by in daily life.

Boundaries don’t trick us by themselves but rather they work by ‘giving us a way to trick ourselves’. A boundary is ‘a divide’ – we infer a difference between the one side of the divide and the other. One side of the divide includes and the other side excludes and the inference is that there is something there which is being included. There isn’t anything that is being included however – that just isn’t the case. We say that it is but it isn’t – nothing is being divided, nothing is being excluded / included – all of that type of stuff is ‘only happening in our heads’.

The bottom line is that Wholeness can’t be divided – it can’t be broken up into parts and slotted into our mental categories and when we imagine that we have done so, we are only fooling ourselves. We can relate this to the alchemical motif of the fugitive stag – just as the fugitive stag will always outpace its pursuers, the Whole of Everything will always frustrate our attempts to know it. The elusiveness of the mystical stag is directly proportional to our efforts (or determination) to catch it, which is something Alan Watts illustrates by using the image of a puppy trying excitedly to catch its own tail – the faster the puppy chase its tail the faster it seems to be running away. We can’t obtain Wholeness for ourselves no matter how we try but neither can we ever escape it. As Jesus explains in the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 22) –

The Kingdom of God is inside you and all around you

Not in a mansion of wood and stone

Split a piece of wood and I am there

Lift a stone and you will find me.

The impossibility of ‘gaining the Whole’ and the equal impossibility of ever escaping it both come down to the same thing – the ‘virtue’ known as equanimity.  We can – for example – only find peace when we no longer care if we find it or not. Or if we wish to express this in Arthurian terms, the Grail Castle can only be found by one whose ‘heart is pure’.

Image credit – kaliban, on

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