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The reason we can’t change our mental state on purpose is because the only thing we can use to change that mental state is that very same mental state. All we can use to change a particular mental state is itself. So, for example, if I’m anxious then I try to use the state of anxiety as a basis for changing that anxiety – I ‘get anxious about being anxious’, in other words. Or if I’m angry, then I automatically try to use the state of anger against that anger – I ‘get angry with the anger’, as if this is going to do any good! If I am unhappy then I unhappily wish that I wasn’t so unhappy and this of course doesn’t do me any good either. Or we could also say (in more general terms) that if I am in a state of desire, a state of painful craving – my automatic response to this is to ‘desire not to desire’, to ‘crave an end to my craving’, and this too is hardly going to get me anywhere!




Whatever state of mind I’m in, I unfailingly bring this state around with me wherever I go – no matter how much I might try to escape it. The state of mind I’m in is ‘how I am’ and there’s no getting away from it. Whatever ‘way I am’ gets reflected the way in which I do things (it gets reflected in my thoughts and actions) and so whatever I do to try to escape or change that state of mind gets perpetuated by virtue of the fact that I am doing it in the way that manifests that very state. If I try to get free from anxiety then I am anxiously trying to get free, if I try not to be angry then I am trying not to be angry in an angry way, and so on.



I can never wilfully get away from the mental state I’m in because when I’m in that state that’s who I am. That state is ‘the truth of my situation’, so to speak. So the reason I can’t change my inner state on purpose is because the ‘purpose’ in question is always an extension of me, and that ‘me’ is the inner state I am trying to get away from! I’m trying to run away from myself, in other words. I don’t see it like this of course – I see it in a positive light, I see it as ‘progress’ or ‘moving forward’, as ‘realizing my goals’, but really it’s just an exercise in denial. Self-willed change is only camouflage, only a disguise – it is ‘change in a dream’ or ‘change in our own imaginations’… The more we ‘advance’ or ‘progress’ or develop ourselves in a way that we see ‘positive’ and ‘desirable’ therefore, the further we get from any sort of actual reality!




The only way I can break the causal chain of determinate being that I’m trapped in is by accepting my inner state, by not trying to change how I am, but self-acceptance is no easy ‘get-out clause’ because I can’t accept myself on purpose. ‘Accepting myself the way I am’ is not a choice I can make because if it were a choice then that would mean that I could do it at will, simply because I want to. It would be the same as any other choice I might make, such as the choice to go for a coffee, or have my hair cut. Really, there is no choice at all involved where the inner state is concerned, and this is what we find so hard to understand. This is the ‘choiceless awareness’ of which Krishnamurti speaks. We could say perhaps that I ‘have’ to accept my inner state (since there is no choice in the matter) but then again it is also true to say that I never do, that I am always trying to change my inner state – whether I realize that I am or not. So even though ‘how I am’ is essentially choiceless, I spend all my time doing making choices – I spend all my time making choice after choice about how I want to be! This is ‘conditioned existence’ – the state of being in which we are continually hiding from ourselves.



We could resolve the contradiction here by saying that accepting my inner state is the only real thing that I can do; anything else (any apparent choice) is denial – which is just ‘pretending’. Pretending, and then pretending that I am not pretending, is the only option open to me if I don’t find it within myself to accept the way I actually am. It’s either honesty or self-deception, in other words – there are no other possibilities! In practice, what we almost always do is persuade ourselves that we can change our inner state on purpose. We have succeeded so well in this that we would find it practically incomprehensible if someone came up to us that and said that, actually, this is a profound impossibility – that no one can change their state of mind just because they want to. It is almost 100% guaranteed that we’re just not going to get this – we’re sold on the idea that we can change ourselves if we try hard enough and we seriously don’t want to hear otherwise…



The key to everything (the key to the impossibility) lies in the fact that we want to change. That’s why we can’t change. What does it mean to say that ‘we want to change’? Normally, when we hear this it sounds like a commendably positive aspiration – it sounds courageous and honourable and responsible and so on. It sounds as if the person talking has ‘bitten the bullet’ and is willing to do whatever is necessary to ‘mend their ways’ and ‘improve themselves’. The fact that we think this shows how little insight we have on anything! As Krishnamurti says, our nature is (for the most part) violent and if we – sick to the back teeth of our own violence – resolve to become this marvellous thing called ‘non-violent’ then this resolution is simply our violent nature wanting to be what it isn’t, which is ‘non-violent’. All conditioned states of mind always want to be what they are not, this is their nature! So my resolution to be non-violent is itself an act of violence, as is everything else I do or aspire to do. I wish to turn the violence of my nature on itself, so to speak, and make it ‘non-violent’, and not even for the briefest of moments do I stop to see the absurdity of what I am doing.




This might be easier to see if we talk in terms of our nature being ‘controlling’ rather than ‘violent’ as ‘violent’ sounds rather extreme, rather shocking. It’s really just another way of saying the same thing though since all control equals violence. So if my nature is controlling (which is to say, if I am always trying to impose my own agenda on reality and get things to be the way I want them to be) then it is quite possible that I will get sick of this at some point and decide to give up my pathological need to always be in control. I will decide to turn over a new leaf and stop trying to impose my own ideas, my own agendas on everything and this will naturally seem to be a very positive and wholesome aspiration on my part. The resolution to stop being so controlling all the time makes perfect sense to me and so I try to put it into action, the only problem being however that this decision, this resolution, this intention, is just another example of me always trying to be in control…



Any attempt on my part to change things from being ‘the way that they are’ to ‘the way that I want them to be’ is control, so there is clearly nothing I can (deliberately) do to stop myself being controlling! There is no way for me to control myself to stop controlling – this – needless to say – is a perfectly insoluble paradox. When I am in a conditioned mind-state then I simply don’t have the freedom not to control – this is the whole thing about being in a conditioned mind-state! The only type of freedom the conditioned self has is the ‘freedom to control’ (i.e. ‘the freedom to bring or try to bring everything in line with this mind-state’); this however isn’t freedom at all but its ‘inverted analogue’. It is the ‘caricature’ of freedom. So I can’t escape the unfree state of mind in which ‘controlling’ is the only possible modality of being – I am stuck in controlling. The only way I have of finding relief from the inherent pain of the conditioned state is by controlling successfully (which brings with it the reward of euphoria) rather than unsuccessfully (which brings the lash of dysphoria). As a result of this ‘carrot-and-stick’ mechanism I am very effectively ‘tied into the game’, therefore.



There is a way of recovering intrinsic freedom in this situation, as we have said earlier, so that I am not constantly trying to be in control (i.e. so I am not constantly running away from fear!) and that is through accepting myself for being the way that I actually am. This is a suggestion that I can easily understand and it actually seems to make good sense: if trying to change locks me into the mind-state, then ‘accepting’ must free me! The rational mind can understand this well enough and is resourceful enough to adopt it as a new and improved strategy. ‘Accepting’ now becomes the new buzz-word, the new thing to do. The only thing is that I have no more idea of how to ‘accept’ than I do to fly unaided through the air! Talk of ‘acceptance’ is cheap – we can as easily talk of ‘accepting ourselves’ as we can talk of anything else, but how does this bring us any closer to the reality of letting go of our ‘need to control’? How do I ‘accept’, after all? How do I go about it? How do I get myself into an ‘accepting’ state of mind?



We are face to face here with the same old conundrum, the same old paradox. It is always there waiting for us, no matter which way we come at it! The desire for acceptance is itself non-acceptance and there’s no getting away from that. The intention to be ‘accepting’ rather than ‘non-accepting’ is itself fundamentally non-accepting. As Alan Watts points out, I am staunchly refusing to accept my own non-accepting nature! The very thought of acceptance is resistance, is evidence of a fundamentally non-accepting state of mind. The very moment I have the thought of accepting I am a million miles away from any possibility of practicing what I am thinking of. The very thought of ‘acceptance’ is itself non-acceptance – as are ALL thoughts, without any exception whatsoever.




This being the case, how am I even to start? What’s my starting point? If no matter what I do I’m starting off on the wrong foot, then how do I go about accepting my inner state? In theory, ‘accepting’ is fine but practicing it is another matter! It is of course not matter of what I do, but whether or not I can see things clearly. Even though, from a practical everyday standpoint, we are understandably convinced that ‘doing’ is the key to everything, from a psychological point of view the only thing that counts is seeing, which is to say, insight. As Krishnamurti says, ‘the seeing is the doing’. What insight shows us is that all thoughts are the same, just as all actions that come from thought (which is to say, all purposeful or goal-orientated actions) are the same. This is like the activities of a political party – on the surface the activities seem to be diverse and varied, but when we look closer we can see that they are all the same. They are all the same because they are all about ‘promoting the party’. The party never does anything that isn’t about promoting the party – this isn’t going to happen, any more than a commercial organization is going to do something that isn’t about profit.



The reason all thoughts and all purposeful actions are the same when it comes right down to it is because they are all about controllingrational thoughts and purposeful actions all come down to the various (and apparently diverse) manifestation of our ongoing attempt to ‘stay in control’. The idea that we are all of us trying to stay in control the whole time – as a matter of course, as a matter of routine, because it’s simply ‘what we do’ – is not one with which we are familiar – although on reflection, it ought to be. All purposeful activity is naturally about controlling (we are trying to control the world to fit in with our purposes) but so too are the thoughts from which this purposeful activity stems. The purpose or goals come out of our thinking after all – nowhere else. The ‘purposes’ are our thoughts.



Whenever we think (in a rational rather than an intuitive way, that is) we are trying to get the world to fit into our scheme for it, our conceptualization of it, our model of it. We’re not just trying to make it fit – we’re succeeding! We’ve pulled it off. We are ‘bending reality to make it fit the conceptual box’ we have for it every moment of the day – with the only exception being when the rational mind goes off doorman duty when we’re asleep. We are compelling reality to match our uninspired assumptions about it every day of our lives, and we never stop to consider that this is what we’re doing. Every time we describe the world to ourselves (which we do on a continuous basis!) we are making it match our assumptions about it – our ‘assumptions’ being the very same thing as our ‘conceptions’, of course. We only know the world through our thoughts, through our conceptions, and so how can anyone say that we’re not controlling reality?



The act of thinking is an act of blatant ‘spin-doctoring’ and so it could quite fairly be said that ‘spin-doctoring reality’ is pretty much what we’re all about. That’s the name of the game. This is legitimate in one way since in order for us to pursue our very specific biological interests we need to be able to ‘narrow down’ how we perceive that world we need to be able to tune into the things that are relevant to us  – just as a pick-pocket needs to be able tune into pockets or handbags – but at the same time we have to acknowledge that spin-doctoring, by its very nature, is never going to tell us anything about the world. It’s only ever going to reflect back our own agenda at us. Spin-doctoring and controlling are never going to take us out of our regular old way of seeing things (any more than purposeful or goal-orientated thinking is) and this – whether we can appreciate it or not – is a very severe limitation. It’s just about as severe a limitation as you can get…




Rational thinking and purposeful behaviour are all about ‘extending the same old set-up’. They are about ‘preserving the status quo’ and nothing else. Controlling is all about preserving the status quo – what else would it be about? We might think that control is all about obtaining goals, realizing ideals, progressing in a positive direction, managing our situation, etc, but these goals and ideals and ideas concerning what direction we should be going in and how we should be getting there are all projections of our static mind-set and nothing else. They are that static mind-set – goal-orientated activity is just the static mind-set extending itself, that’s all. We tend to glorify goal-driven behaviour but really it’s just that old, old business of viral self-replication. A fixed pattern (or viewpoint) is perpetuating itself, promoting itself, persistently trying – in its blind, mechanical way – to make itself permanent! There is no ‘progress’ here therefore, just the interminable copying of the blueprint, copying of the blueprint, copying of the blueprint, copying of the blueprint, until hell freezes over or pigs sprout wings, whichever unlikely event happens the sooner.




The way that control works is that there is a fixed, inviolate frame of reference and everything else (everything that is not the fixed, inviolate frame of reference) is open to being changed in accordance with this framework. What is ‘on the inside’ never changes, in other words, whilst what is ‘on the outside’ is fair game for being changed – if deemed necessary – so that it falls into line with what is on the inside. This is what control means – the inside stays the same, no matter what, whilst the outside gets to be manipulated according to what is on the inside. Rational thinking/purposeful behaviour is always about bringing the outside world (of which we are a part) into line with the set of unchanging ideas that we have ‘on the inside’. We don’t see it this way because we believe that we can change these ideas quite freely and choose whatever outcomes we want – this gives us the feeling that we are in charge, that we are in the driver’s seat, that we are calling the shots, and this is why ‘being in control’ seems like such a good position to be in. It certainly doesn’t feel as if we are being controlled by our thinking, which is what is really happening!



The gratifying perception of ‘being in control’ is always an inversion of what is really going on however because controlling traps us in the framework of reference that is taken for granted by the thinking that lies behind the controlling. Being in control necessarily means being a slave to the thinking that we use to instigate the control – only we just don’t see that controlling enslaves to the thinking (or rather to the assumptions that the thinking is based on). Another way of making this same point is to say that our goals, without exception, confirm the validity of the rational perspective we are using to conceive them, which means that the goals are an extension of that rational perspective. So we think we are bringing about something new by our goal-orientated action, but really we are just reinstating the old. We’re playing the finite game – we’re blocking the new by continually reiterating the old. We’re keeping radical uncertainty at bay by continually exercising the same old strategies, by continually playing the same old cards…




When we are ‘in control’ we can never see the assumptions that we are perpetuating – naturally we can’t since assumptions are things that we ‘take for granted’! Our goals and agenda’s are extremely important to us but at the same time – paradoxically – we are profoundly unwilling to look into the question of why they are so important. We have a cover-story, we have a rationale that we always come out with, some kind of ‘stock answer’, but we won’t go into it any deeper. We won’t go into it any deeper because what really matters to us is not knowing why the outcomes we are striving for are so important but the sense of security that having unquestionable goals or outcomes provides us with. And these unquestionable goals and outcomes (which we are not willing to make the subject of philosophical enquiry) are, as we have said, no more than extensions of the dogmatic viewpoint that we have had to take in order to have them. So control always comes down to this same thing – it always comes down to promoting a way of seeing the world without either having an interest in questioning this viewpoint or even caring – even vaguely – what the assumptions behind this viewpoint are!



Controlling always proceeds out of a central ‘darkness’ therefore – it operates out of unconsciousness in accordance with the time-honoured principle which says ‘the more unconscious we are of what is driving us, the more confident we can be in our controlling!’ The idea that we can change our own inner state by exercising control is thus laughably ridiculous – our inner state is predicated upon a basic sense of certainty (or sense of security) that comes about only because of our ignorance regarding ‘what it is that we are assuming’ and so just so long as we hang onto this sense of certainty, this sense of security (which we are doing via the act of control) we are never going to be able to change that state of being. The only way our inner state can ever change is if awareness is allowed to enter the picture, but – as we have said – if we do this then we lose that security of ‘thinking that we know what we are doing’. We move out of the world of the known, in other words, and into a world that is infinitely bigger that our ‘knowing’ could ever encompass. Controlling perpetuates the known – which is ultimately illusory – whilst consciousness exposes this scam, exposes this charade, and thus makes the very idea of ‘controlling’ untenable.




When we see this – clearly and without any reservations – then this constitutes spontaneous insight. Insight is what brings about change – thinking only brings about ‘more of the same’ disguised as something different! The insight here is that all of my rational thinking is about control, is about ‘holding on tight’ rather than ‘letting go’.  We hold on to ‘what we know’ (which is an illusion) at the expense of ‘what don’t know’ and can’t know – which is real!



The rational mind is all about ‘holding on tight to our precious biases’ (rather than ‘letting go of them’) but until we ‘let go’ in this way we can’t see the world as it really is. We can’t see the world at all! Naturally we can’t see the world as it actually is in itself until we let go of the unexamined prejudices which we are using to create our ‘personalized version’ of reality. We can’t be conscious and yet prejudiced at the same time – it’s either one or the other and as a rule we choose ‘the other’!



Even when I’m thinking about letting go I’m still holding on – I’m holding on to the idea of letting go! I’m controlling (because that’s all that I know, because I’m afraid not to) and so – absurdly – I’m trying to control myself so that I ‘let go’. My thoughts about not controlling are yet more attempts to control, therefore. They are elaborations of the same hierarchy of control. When I see this clearly (when I see that my thoughts about freedom have nothing whatsoever to do with freedom) then it naturally happens that I do let go – I let go of my compulsive identification with the thinking process because I see through it. Or to put this another way, I can’t be conscious and believe in the integrity of rational thought at one and the same time.



When I see that it doesn’t matter what I think – because all thoughts are about controlling (because all thoughts are about preserving the status quo, are about holding onto a set of invisible prejudices) – then naturally it happens that I stop taking these thoughts ‘at face value’ in the way that I always would have done before I had the insight into what ‘thinking’ is all about. This is like seeing through a corrupt government, which claims to be acting in my interest but which is not at all. Similarly, my thoughts claim to be about something which they aren’t: they aren’t going to bring me any freedom, even though they say that they are, so why would I listen to them?



Whether I have thoughts of ‘holding on’ or thoughts of ‘letting go’ it makes no difference to me because it’s all just the same old business of controlling. Controlling really isn’t that interesting, when we see it for what it is – perpetuating a stale old status quo just for the sake of it! Where’s the interest in that? Controlling is only fear – the fear of the unknown…




The very root of the problem is therefore that I am so flatly identified with the thinking process that I am completely convinced that one thought is different from another. Whatever the thought says, I believe and so if I have a thought which is about ‘accepting’ or ‘letting go’ then I take this thought at face value – I don’t see this thought as being fundamentally ‘insincere’ in the sense that it claims to be about relinquishing control whilst really it is just a more subtle (i.e. disguised) form of control. All rational thoughts are fundamentally insincere in the sense that they implicitly claim to be relating us to the reality to which they are referring, whilst the truth of the matter is that they are only relating us to themselves (i.e. when we think about things we are relating not to the world itself but to the two-dimensional mental projections that we have overlaid it with).



Once I ‘break up’ with thought however and am no longer its faithful partner (i.e. once I am no longer so flatly identified with it) then the ‘tautological containment facility’ which is the system of thought has lost its power to contain me. As soon as cease to believe to automatically, so mechanically, with everything that the thinking process is telling me, then straightaway there is a glimmer of light, a glimmer of genuine freedom. The ongoing pattern of ignorance which is unconscious living has been compromised at this point because the only thing that keeps the pattern going – that keeps the pattern reiterating itself ad nauseam – was my complete trust in the thinking process as being what it sets itself up at being. If thinking is the corrupt government, then what keeps it going is my abject conformity, which arises out of my fear-driven refusal to question the ‘official story’. Once the spell is broken then things begin to change. The tyranny of rational thought has begun to crumble, even though this will not be immediately apparent. A crack has appeared in the structure, a ‘flaw’ or ‘fault’ through which the light can now shine! Cracks, after all, are how the light gets in – as Leonard Cohen says…




Naturally this process of ‘breaking up with thought’ doesn’t happen all at once, all in the one go. Just because we stop believing in the government doesn’t mean that the government goes away after all – there is still a lot of work to be done. So even though I have started to see through thought (and its global virtual-reality system) the mechanism is going to carry on operating, with all the dead-weight of inertia that is behind it. The flywheel is formidably heavy, and it won’t stop turning overnight. But even though the system of thought might still appear to be ruling the roost, whenever I have a thought and don’t take this thought seriously (in the way that it wants to be taken) then a little bit of freedom, a little breath of fresh air, has entered the situation. Things are as stale – and as entrenched – as they used to be. What is happening here is that I am ‘deviating from the script’ – I am deviating from the script by the mere fact that I no longer believe in it.



If I find myself in a mental state which is painful to me then naturally the script is all about changing this mental state. When I don’t believe the script (i.e. when I have insight into the way in which the script, far from allowing me to exit the painful mind-state, actually perpetuates it on an indefinite basis) then what this actually means is that I am accepting the mental state! Accepting the mental state that I’m in simply means seeing that it IS the mental state that I’m in, and that there is nothing I can do to escape it. As long as I keep on believing – despite all the evidence to the contrary – that my thinking can free me, that my thinking can help me to exit the painful mental state, then clearly I am ‘not accepting’ it. ‘Accepting’ doesn’t involve some kind of titanic effort of will therefore – simply that I stop fooling myself!




Whichever way I am, that ‘way’ is quite choiceless! How can I choose the way that I am? What kind of insanity is this? This is an extraordinarily freeing insight to have. For a start, it frees me from any feeling of responsibility I might have about ‘being the way that I am’. Painful mental states always seem to come with this sense of responsibility – for a start, I feel that I shouldn’t be feeling this way, that I should ‘do something about it’. In effect, I blame myself (or see myself as being weak) because I haven’t done something about it, and other people generally feed into this kind of guilt. Even if the mental state in question is so heavy and so overwhelming that I no longer believe that I can change it, there is still the believe that I could have done something about it, if only I had made different choices in the past. In essence, what is happening here is that I am ‘feeling bad about feeling bad’: I feel that it is shameful to feel so bad, that there is something reprehensible about it, and this too is a form of ‘taking responsibility for the mental state’, even if it is an impotent ‘in-growing’ form of responsibility.



‘Accepting’ tends to be mistaken, in our goal-orientated world, as nothing more than passive resignation. Either that or it is seen as a means to an end – which is to say, I believe that if I ‘accept’ the painful mental state, then it will go away. Both resignation and hope are attitudes of mind however – they are mind-moderated stances that we take. Either way I am thinking something, and ‘thinking something’ is just what we always do. ‘Accepting’ means seeing reality for the way it is, nothing more, and no thinking – no rational processing – is needed for this…



Rational processing can never result in us ‘accepting reality’. There can be no ‘reason’ for accepting reality – the very idea that there should (or could) be a reason is ludicrously bizarre! There could be a reason for ‘not accepting reality’ (although it would have to be a very superficial reason) but there can be no reason for accepting it. If we have to have a reason for accepting reality then this means that – actually – we aren’t accepting it. Why else would we be playing clever? Why else would we be being tricky about it? why else would we have an agenda?



‘Accepting’ is not a thought, in other words, any more than ‘seeing reality’ is a thought. Nothing real is a thought. Thoughts are all ‘alternative versions’ of reality – versions of reality that have relevance to our agenda, one way or another (either positively or negatively). I’m in the thought, therefore – I’m there behind it somewhere – there is no such thing as a thought that is not personalized, a thought that doesn’t have me there in the background somewhere.




The perception of reality has nothing to do with the thinking mind. How could it? Thinking is only ever about changing things, adjusting things, slanting things – the one thing thought can never do is report on things as they actually are. The one thing thought can never do is leave things as they are. For this nothing ‘extra’ is needed, no over-lay is needed, no spin-doctoring is needed – all that is needed is for the thinking mind to step aside, to withdraw gracefully from the picture, and this is the one thing that the everyday thinking mind – of its own accord – will never ever do.



Because I am identified with this mind no matter what mental state I might be in I will always have something to say about it – I will always have some comment to make. I will either like it or dislike it: if I like it then I will be try to extend it, I will try to ‘shore it up’ to make sure that it will last as long as possible and not slip through my fingers, and if I don’t like it then I will try to get it to go away. I will try to control it out of existence. Either way there is the attempt to change – either the attempt to hold on (which is positive attachment) or the attempt to push it away, to get rid of it (which is negative attachment). These are the only two possibilities for the thinking mind – either it says YES or it says NO. Either you are an ally or a foe, and friend or enemy. Either you are for it or I’m against it…



When I find myself in a painful mind state then obviously the mechanical impulse is to say NO to it – if I can manage to exit the mind-state by self-distraction then I will do and if I can’t then I will resist it by controlling the meaning of what is going on and evaluating my situation in a negative way, negative evaluation being a kind of last-ditch for of control. If I am able to choose to distract myself I will do, and if I can’t then my ‘choice’ is to repeatedly tell myself that what is happening is a ‘bad thing’, in other words, in whatever words I find suitably expressive of my feelings. The reason I do this is because it appears to give me some degree of freedom over what is going on – I’m not entirely powerless, I still have the power to ‘file an objection’, the power to ‘complain’. This is my only option and so I exercise it to the hilt!



But if only I could see things more clearly I would see that ‘the freedom to complain’ isn’t freedom at all! This is a delusory version of freedom. By negatively evaluating my situation I am in effect turning my back on it – I am refusing to play ball. I am turning my back on my own inner state. This is all very well but my inner state is all I’ve got – the reality of my situation is the only reality there is. And actually this inner state of mine (which I am refusing to have anything to do with) is my gateway to freedom. This is where my freedom lies, not anywhere else! It certainly doesn’t lie in the false freedom to ‘protest reality’ and turn my back on it, the false freedom to ‘progress in my own imagination’…



Choicelessness is really the same thing as freedom, therefore, if only we could see it. Choicelessness is the inner state – it’s how I actually am – and this inner state, as painful or unwelcome as it may be, is also the gateway to unexpected spaciousness – the gateway, we might say, to a ‘bigger, more expansive version of ourselves’. Running away from ourselves (by ‘choosing how we will be’) is on the other hand the gateway to a smaller, more degraded, more corrupted version of ourselves…



We could also say that ‘choosing’ is the gateway to illusion. Only the thing about this illusion that we are opting for is that it is the type of illusion that comes with a very special sense of security about it, inasmuch as when we choose we create the illusion of ‘the one who chooses’. When we control, we create the illusion of ‘the one who controls’. When we conceive of a goal (and strive to obtain it, as if it were ‘the most important thing ever’) then we create the illusion of the one who plays the game, the illusion of the one who might win out over all the odds. The very thought of this creates a wonderfully good feeling, and this wonderfully good feeling – this euphoria – is what we are ultimately playing for.



We think that we’re playing for the prize but really we’re playing for the good feeling that we get when we get to be successful; we’re playing for the euphoria that comes when we win the prize. The prize is merely a token – it doesn’t matter what it is really. What we’re really after is that wonderfully euphoric sense of security that comes when we believe we have the power to choose…





Image – pxfuel,com








  • Saša

    The reason we can’t change our mental state on purpose is due to something called identification.

    We unwillingly attach to every thought, every emotion the feeling of “I” thinking that we have it – one, indivisible, unchanging I(and also one indivisible, unchanging mind). But this way thinking, or point of view, is just an illusion, according to Gurdjieff since the nature of human being is that it is multiple – a legion, which is particularly true of our personalities.

    It is only through this unconscious lying to ourselves that we let ourselves be in the grip of states such as anxiety, fear or any other.

    February 20, 2016 at 3:20 am Reply
    • Nick Williams

      This ‘identification’ is a curious thing though because there is no ‘one who identifies’ – there is ‘identification’ but no ‘one who identifies’. I’m only in the grip of such states such as fear, desire, anxiety, jealousy, anger and so on because I have ‘lied’ to myself that there is such a one as ‘me’ who can experience the emotions in question. But if I didn’t start with the lying in the first place then there wouldn’t be anyone to lie to!

      April 27, 2016 at 8:35 pm Reply
  • Matt B.

    This is the most helpful description of acceptance that I have ever read – thank you! Question: what is the definition of “insight”? It is described as an inner “seeing”, but what exactly does that mean? Would it be correct to say that it’s a non-verbal, non-rational thought? Or a feeling? Something else? I would say that through my psychological and spiritual explorations, I’ve had a number of important insights over the years – not just ideas I read about, but actual “aha” moments. But I would say those were a result of a combination of conscious and subconscious thinking. When people talk about insight without thought, that sounds nonsensical to me, but perhaps that’s only because I haven’t had many (or any) real insights…

    BTW, it would be great if you could add a notification feature to this blog like you recently added to your other blog, so that commenters can receive notifications if you or someone else replies. In the meantime I’ll just check back later…thank you for this blog.

    April 23, 2016 at 9:25 pm Reply
  • Nick Williams

    Thanks for your very positive feedback Matt. I was trying to think about whether insight can come without thought! It’s hard to know whether one has had a ‘real’ insight – you could have what you take to be one and then later on realize that it was nothing at all. Or just a very minor one! It’s all relative I guess, relative to where we are at the time. I would say that it is possible to have insight without thought, though – my understanding would be that reality is the absence of thought and that when we come across a little bit of this marvellous absence it knocks us sideways and we call this ‘an insight’. Then we think about it a lot, but the thinking is like a corrupting of the little dose of reality that we came across, or a corrupting of ‘the numenosity’ as Jung calls it.

    Or it could be said that the insight comes out of the absence of ‘me’ rather than the absence of thought. The two being the same thing when it comes down to it. So I could have the insight that I don’t exist, but then of course it’s not really me having it. Which from our normal way of looking at things seems pretty nonsensical…

    I will try to sort that notification thing out – I didn’t even know the other blog had it!

    April 26, 2016 at 10:35 pm Reply
  • Matt B.

    Thanks for the reply. It seems ironic that the thinking mind distorts the insight, and yet without the mind we would not remember the insight at all (though of course even things we don’t remember can still be important at the time and affect us, perhaps in some permanent way).

    May 4, 2016 at 2:20 am Reply
  • Nick Williams

    Yes that’s true, remembering distorts! So everything we remember isn’t true!? Or perhaps we could say that everything we remember has been subverted and rewritten by the system to make the system seem like its real. The system creates its own history…

    May 4, 2016 at 8:07 am Reply
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    November 14, 2017 at 2:32 am Reply

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