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Consumed By Games (Part 1)


Every time we think we create a Finite Game to get trapped in, and this is just another way of saying that thought, when we can’t see it for what it is, acts as ‘the Predator’. The game consumes us; it consumes us so that there is nothing left over!

Finite games are traps because they are ‘null situations’ which do not declare themselves as such, and which we cannot see to such once we have taken this particular viewpoint for granted. Finite games are null situations which present themselves as being dynamic and progressive when we are immersed in playing them.  When we have adapted to the viewpoint of the game then we don’t see the perimeters that are shutting us in – instead, we see the possibility of progress, the possibility of advancement, the possibility of developing our situation in rewarding way. This possibility of advancement (or the possibility of release or escape from pain if we are looking at it the other way) preoccupies us to the extent that we never see beyond it. We can’t see that the appearance of freedom that is being dangled in front of our noses is only a device; we can’t see that it’s only a trick of the game to hook us in.

It is because we cannot see the hallucination of progress or advancement to be ‘only a hallucination’ that causes the finite game to be a trap, therefore. In reality, we are confined to a very small space (a virtual space, in fact) in which is no real possibility of change or movement; we don’t see this however because we are fixated upon the illusion that there is possible progress in our situation. We seem to live in a much bigger world than the world we actually do live in because we believe that our projections are a real thing and that they therefore contain genuine possibilities. We are running full-speed to avail of these possibilities but we aren’t ever actually going to get anywhere and this is what it means to be ‘playing a finite game’. Projections can be either of an attractive or an aversive nature – an attractive projection is one seems to present us with the positive possibility of ‘gain’ whilst an aversive projection is one which presents us with the possibility of acquiring a negative advantage (more commonly known as ‘a loss’). Between the fear of the negative possibility unfolding (and the full-scale investment in control that this fear engenders) and the craving for the positive gain-type possibility (and the feverish controlling which this perception gives rise to) there is no time left for us to give attention to anything else. To say that we are ‘kept busy’ is putting it mildly; we are – it would be better to say – given a full-time occupation. We’re given a full-time occupation with no entitlement to any leave, not even bank holidays.

This business of ‘being given a full-time occupation’ is of course what games are all about – this is simply another way of talking about a game. Games give us a job to do and they don’t ever let us ‘not do’ the job – we have to be doing the job all the time. The way the game does this is by motivating very strongly – it motivates us by rewarding us if we do the job well and punishing us if we don’t. Another – starker – of putting it is to say that the game takes away our true volition, our true freedom, and replaces this true volition or freedom with external compulsion – which is to say, ‘the game controls us’. We don’t play the game, the game plays us. We are being controlled by the game try to take advantage of the positive possibilities and run away from the negative one, but the key point about this is that we perceive the compulsion to win (or the compulsion to avoid losing) as our own true motivation and not ‘external control’ at all.

Instead of saying ‘every time we think we create a finite game’ could say that every time we think we create a polarity – it means exactly the same thing. Polarity is where reality gets split into two opposites, positive and negative; this polarity, this ‘system that is made up of positive on the one hand and negative on the other’ is not itself real however – the world that is made up of separate opposites plus on the one side and minus on the other is not a real world. The dual world is not a real world because reality can’t be separated into two different things. This is such a fundamental perception for us – this seeing the world to be made up of lots and lots of different things – and yet this not a true perception but a trick of the thinking mind. There aren’t lots and lots of different things; there’s no such thing as ‘lots and lots of different things’ – there is only what the alchemists of old sometimes called ‘the One Thing’, the Unus Res. The Unus Res is known to us in alchemical writing from the famous first two lines of the Liber Hermetis de alchemia (the Book of Hermes on Alchemy):

True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracle of one thing .

(or, that ‘the miracle of unity is to be attained’, in Idries Shah’s translation).

This is of course identical to the meaning of Saying 22 in the Gospel of Thomas:


When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the upper as the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male shall not be male and female shall not be female, then you enter the Kingdom.

‘The Kingdom’ here – we might say – is simply reality, and this saying shows how utterly impossible it is to enter reality via thought. To say that ‘everything is just the one thing’ doesn’t make any logical sense since a thing only be a thing when there are other things to compare it with. Or as we could also say, a thing can only be a thing when it is limited on all sides, hemmed in on all sides, defined on all sides. If the ‘thing’ in question isn’t limited on all sides then we can’t say anything about it – we can’t know even the first thing about it in this case. If we can’t define it then we don’t know if it’s even there. For a thing to be a thing it has to be completely bounded, they can be no ‘spilling out’ from the boundaries; that ‘spilling out’ would ruin everything, banjax everything. It would banjax the whole logical system. When ‘everything is the one thing’ however then boundaries simply don’t come into it; boundaries don’t come into it and so our only way of ‘knowing anything about anything’ also doesn’t come into it.

A ‘boundary’ is the very essence of a finite game because a boundary is made up of the separation of plus and minus, yes and no – the boundary is ‘yes’ on the one side and ‘no’ on the other and that’s all there is to it. There’s no arguing with this. no leeway with this. The anatomy of a boundary is not at all hard to describe therefore! The anatomy of a finite game is not at all hard to describe either – a finite game is made up of the desired outcome on the one hand and the feared outcome on the other (or as we could also say, it is made up of ‘winning’ on the one side and ‘losing’ on the other). Whenever we happen to be living in ‘the world of projections’ we are playing a finite game therefore. We are ‘playing a finite game’ because our world is made up of only two things (as we have said earlier) – it is made up of attractive appearances and repulsive (or frightening) appearances. The positive projection is where there appears to be a possibility that is going to be highly advantageous to us whilst the negative projection is where there is an equally significant possibility that is just as disadvantageous as the positive one was advantageous! The two types of projection are mirror images of each other.

The reason we call finite games ‘games’ is of course because they’re not real; the particular situation we are calling a FG isn’t a real situation because there is no such thing as a ‘positive direction versus a negative one’ – there’s no such thing as this because – as we just said – the opposites don’t have separate existences in the way that we very much take them to and when we say that there are two possible directions to travel in this is exactly what we are doing. An FG is based on the premise that there are these two possibilities – the advantageous one and the disadvantageous one – and so when we see that ‘advantage’ equals ‘disadvantage’ (or that yes equals no) this does away with any appearance of reality that the game might previously have had for us. The game appears to be real precisely because we don’t see that yes and no can never be separated. We could of course object that advantage versus disadvantage (gain versus loss) has a very definite meaning to the one who stands to either obtain the advantage or not obtain it but this turns out to be a rather empty objection. It turns out to be an entirely empty objection because it is only this polarity (only this artificial ‘polar situation’) that gives rise to the perception that there is one who stands either to win or lose.

Earlier on, we stated that not only do our projections ‘keep us busy’ but that they provide us with a full-time occupation. This is one way of putting it and another way would be to say that the game provides us with a ready-made identity or self that only cares about one thing, which is ‘winning and not losing’. This is nothing more than a restatement of the idea that a FG provides us with a ‘total motivational system’ which is not actually our motivation at all but which is ‘imposed on us from the outside’. This ‘compulsion-type motivation’ is imposed upon us from the outside, but we nevertheless identify with it and believe most strongly that the ‘external compulsive force’ is our own volition, a genuine expression of ‘who we truly are’. This isn’t the case however – the compulsion-that-is-disguised-as-our-true-volition isn’t an expression of ‘who we truly are’, it’s an expression of who the game tells us we are. Clearly, that’s not the same thing at all.

The point is that the fixed – or definite – sense of self (or sense of identity) is entirely conditional upon us relating to the world in a ‘polar’ way, which is the way that we are always going to be relating to the world when we are operating from the basis of thought (since thought is polarity itself). To think is to play a finite game, as we started out by saying; to think is to buy into the illusion that there are these two all-important directions to travel in, which are the directions of ‘improvement’ and ‘disimprovement’. Not only this, but these two directions (the plus one and the minus one) actually constitute the whole of our motivational system so that – for us – ‘the best thing in the world’ is winning, just as ‘the worse thing in the world’ is losing! The other way of putting this is to say that when the game supplies us with ‘our entire way of looking at the world’, it also supplies us with our identity since it is our way of looking at the world (what we want and what we don’t want, what we see as good and what we see as bad) that enables us to construct an identity, that enables us to construct ‘a self’. The self is the one who hopes and fears after all; the self is the one who likes and dislikes, the one who strives to obtain the favourable outcome and avoid the unfavourable one, and all of this business of ‘hope versus fear’, ‘like versus dislike’, the struggling and striving to obtain the favourable outcome all comes down to ‘the finite game’. The finite game creates the self that plays it. Or as we could also say, the self is the one who reacts all the time, is triggered all the time, and is struggling to stay in control all the time.

All we really saying here is that a finite game is made up of two things which are really just the one thing. The anatomy of a FG is that it is made up of ‘the view’ (which is how we see the world) and ‘the one who reacts to the view’, or ‘the one who controls continuously in relation to this view’. When we say that ‘the game keeps us busy’ that’s what we mean – we mean that the game keeps us busy reacting, that it keeps us busy controlling, that it keeps us busy being triggered. It doesn’t give us any time off to do anything else! Reacting or controlling is what creates the self and it is easy enough to see this – we are after all ‘reacting to’ (or ‘controlling in relation to’) the view that has been provided us by the FG. Nothing else exists for us and so there’s nothing else for us to orientate ourselves towards, nothing else for us to construct ourselves in relation to. It follows therefore that because we construct ourselves entirely in relation to the view that has been provided for us, then we must be that view.

The finite game and the finite game player are one, in other words. The player is defined in relation to the game and the game itself won’t of course work (or mean anything) unless there is a player playing it – this is not to say that the game actually ever means anything (although does seem to mean something from the perspective of the player, which is also the perspective of the game that is being played.) All of this shouldn’t really need so many words to make the point however – if we say that a FG is a situation where there is ‘advantage’ on the one side and ‘disadvantage’ on the other then clearly this presupposes the existence of the one who is either to enjoy the advantage or suffer the disadvantage! They can’t be any such thing as an advantage without that advantage being for someone, obviously enough. That would be like having this thing called ‘good luck’ without there being anyone there to actually have it…

The world of advantages and disadvantages, risks and rewards, hopes and fears etc isn’t really ‘a world’, is a projection – it’s a projection of the self, it’s an ‘externalisation’ of the self. The self is reacting to itself without recognising this highly pertinent fact. The whole finite game is just the self reacting to its own projections, whilst imagining the whole time that something meaningful is happening. All of our perceptions are false when we are in this closed situation – we perceive our projections to be ‘independently existing occurrences’ and they’re not; we perceives ourselves to be acting freely out of our genuine, honest-to-goodness volition as we strive to obtain these goals, whereas the truth is that we have no free will in this at all, being controlled as we are by our own projections, controlled in such a way that we are quite incapable of understanding what is happening. An ‘attractive’ projection is attractive because we are being controlled by the mechanical force of attraction that we wrongly understand to be our own motivation and an aversive projection is ‘aversive’ for the very same reason. When ‘positive’ is separated from ‘negative’ then a compulsive situation is created that cannot be seen to be compulsive, in other words. A ‘zero freedom situation’ is created that we cannot see to be entirely lacking in freedom. This is only one aspect of the ‘spell’ that we are under however, the ‘pseudo-volitional’ aspect, so to speak. In broader terms, what the finite game does to us – as we have already said – is that it provides us with a view of reality that is both totally false and totally unquestionable.

To put this more succinctly, can say that the key point is that a finite game looks very different ‘from the inside’ than it does ‘from the outside’ – there couldn’t be two more different views than this! From the inside of the FG we are simply living our life and everything is more or less what we think it should be, more or less what we expect it to be – there’s nothing particularly remarkable (or peculiar) about it. We don’t know what a finite game is and we don’t know that we are playing one. From the outside of the FG however there most certainly is something very peculiar going on – essentially, all that is happening here (no matter what we might think is happening) is that we are – in effect – bouncing from ‘positive’ to ‘negative’ and then back to ‘positive’ again. We are caught up in the reverberation, in other words. We’re like a super-elastic super-ball bouncing forever between two walls.

We are ‘caught up in a vibration‘ and that all the sense that’s going on here. The only logic that is operating here is ‘the logic of the vibration’ and the logic of the vibration is simply a repetition or alternation of the two polar opposites, which is a repetition or alternation that goes on forever and means nothing. There is only this very basic ‘sense’ – so to speak (if we can use that rather misleading word). There is this very basic ‘sense’ (or ‘logic’) of going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth but there’s nothing more to it than this. Our ongoing drama or narrative is of course very different to this. We personalize the vibration; we read much more into this situation than actually exists in it; we ‘read more to this situation than there is’ because we have compulsively identified with this false idea of self that the vibration is providing us with.


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