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Pretending Mode

From a psychological point of views – as odd as it might sound – ‘trying’ or ‘striving’ is the same thing as pretending. ‘Trying’ is the same thing as pretending because we’re pretending that we actually stand a chance of being successful with whatever it is we’re trying to do! A ‘desire state’ is the same thing as pretending because we have to pretend to ourselves that it’s possible to get our own way, to actually get what we desire. We have to believe this or else we can’t engage in desire – it would be a non-starter. It isn’t however – the I-concept can never get what it wants because it’s only a concept. If we start with a concept (or a construct) then we can never go beyond a concept / construct…


The ‘I-concept’ (or ‘conditioned identity’) is itself ‘an extended exercise in pretending’ and – although we can’t see it – what we’re ultimately hoping to achieve with our trying, with our pretending, is to become real. We want to become real so we don’t have to pretend anymore. That’s the prize we are playing for. Each little victory, each little gain, takes us a little bit closer – we imagine, on some unconscious level – to the ultimate victory, the ultimate advantage, which is to be real and not a construct, to be real and not a figment of our own imaginations. Or, as Greg Tucker puts it, we could say that our ultimate aim – the aim behind all our other aims – is to prove conclusively that ‘the dream which Mind dreams’ is not a dream at all but an objective fact. We are ‘defending the impossible fiction’. It’s ‘impossible’ because – as Professor Tucker says,

There’s no way a dreamer in the dream can ever prove it is a person having a life outside of the dream because the dream has no outside.


We’re looking for something substantial (‘substantial’ meaning something that isn’t just ‘content in a dream’) and the assertion that there is such a thing as ‘the outside of the dream’ constitutes what Tucker calls ‘The Master Lie’. All of our trying, all of our yearning, ultimately relates to the goal of ‘making the impossible fiction to be real’. We might argue that – within remit of the Desire Realm – there are lots and lots of different desires which are competing with each other – we might say that there are multitudinous desires, endlessly diverse desires. This is not so however – all the things that we desire we desire only because they symbolise (although we don’t know it) ‘the impossible fiction becoming real’. The one thing we never want to learn is that the impossible fiction IS impossible, which means that the one thing we never want to encounter is the truth. Given the fact that we are so attached to the Master Lie, we have no other option but to pursue a life of never-ending fruitless striving…


Part 1


The situation here is that we have thrown ourselves into the pretending so much that we have quite forgotten that this is what we’re doing. All there is as far as we’re concerned is ‘the pretending’ and this means that our pretending isn’t actually ‘pretending’ at all. When the original has been removed from the picture then the copy (or ‘image’) can no longer be spotted as such.


In this world ‘pretending’ is all there is (since if something is to be in it then we first have to pretend that it is in it). Unless we pretend hard enough it doesn’t get to happen and this means that any changes or developments that may occur in our situation are also just going to be nothing more than ‘an exercise in pretending’. Given that the one who is adapted to a make-believe or fake reality is by virtue of the adaptation or agreement going to be equally make-believe or fake. With regard to this self which is the result of our adaptation to an unreal situation makeup make believe, we can say therefore that nothing about it is ever going to change unless we ourselves pretend that it does.


How can the Mind-Created Self change ‘all by itself’ (which is to say, ‘change spontaneously’) if it can only be what we say it is, or define it as being? If it is ‘only what we define it as being’ then if it is to change or develop then similarly it can only do so in strict accordance with our instructions. It’s only a construct after all, and so it can do nothing on his own basis; it has no life of its own, only the appearance of life that we imbue it with. The Mind-Created Sense of Self is a puppet and so of course it can’t do anything by itself – it only seems to have autonomy because we don’t see because we can’t see the strings (i.e., because the operation of thought is perfectly invisible).


‘Thought provides us with the information that we’re the boss when really it is’, to paraphrase David Bohm. We’re being taken for a ride, or – as we could also say – we don’t live our ideas, our ideas live us. In terms of ‘pretending’, we can say that we have this construct, this package of who we are, and this construct is being operated by the strings and pulleys of thought, and we pretend that the construct isn’t a construct, we pretend that we (as the construct) isn’t being controlled every inch of the way by thought. This is a ‘double-pretence’ therefore – we’re pretending to be what we are not, and we’re pretending that ‘what that thought we says we are’ has its own volition where it doesn’t. As Adyashanti says somewhere, this situation is like being on a fairground ride where we have a little make-believe car which comes equipped with a toy steering wheel to enable us to ‘pretend’ that we’re steering the ride – just as long as we steer the same way the ride wants us to go we’ll never know the difference!


Once we have thrown ourselves into this pretence, this act – the pretence or act of ‘identifying ourselves with thought’s generic avatar’ – functions as a kind of ‘one way valve’, it’s an irreversible transition inasmuch as the only information we have access to is the information that is being provided by the machinery of thought. The only info we have access to is the info that comes from the machinery of thought and the machinery of thought can’t tell us about the transition (since it works purely on the principle of self-reference, which means that it can’t ever conceive of anything that exists outside of the hermetically sealed world which has been created via the act of ‘self-referentiality’. ‘The outside’ doesn’t exist when it’s a closed world that we’re talking about, obviously enough! There are no windows to look out of, only mirrors which reflect our own illusions back at us. The closed world is a ‘Hall of Mirrors’ and nothing we see there is real; there’s nothing real (or independently existing) there to reflect back and so all we ever encounter are ‘reflections of reflections of reflections’, or ‘copies of copies of copies’, the one giving rise to the other in an endless descending cascade.


The self-we-pretend-to-be is a copy of a copy of a copy, therefore; it comes about as a result of an incestuous loop of thought that feeds upon itself and bootstraps itself into existence on the back of a self-cancelling circle that we can’t see to be a circle. It has a kind of an existence – we might say, but it’s the hollow kind, the provisional kind, the kind of existence that adds up to nothing at the end of the day.  Borrowing David Bohm’s image, we could say that it is like a static whirlpool which is still part and parcel of the river although it looks like something that exists in its own right. What we’re ‘pretending’ here – we might say – is that the copy isn’t a copy but the One and Only Original Article. This ‘pretending’ has no limits since we can then say that the ‘inferior copy of the copy we started off with’ isn’t an inferior copy of a copy but the proper thing, which takes us down the slippery ‘entropy slope’ towards a place of ultimate meaninglessness. There is – in this sense – no limit to how far reality can be degraded, and then degraded again, (although, strictly speaking, it is only our perception of reality that is being degraded, not the actual thing itself).


Part [2]


When we talk about the world which only exists because we say it does or the world that is only there to the extent that we have defined it as being there we basically talking about a formal world as opposed to the real one. We’re talking about the world as we have formally described it as being. This is an exercise in ‘let’s suppose…’ – nothing more and nothing less. Life is not to be found in any formal world but what we can have there is the appearance of life, the simulation of it, and this appearance, this simulation, gets to see 100% real to us just as soon as we can contrive not to see that everything we believe in hinges  upon this ‘it is as if…’ (or ‘let us suppose…’). All we need to do – in other words – is lose sight of the way in which we ourselves have freely agreed to see things in this way.


What is necessary for the game to work (so that it no longer seems to be a game) is for us to forget about the way in which – as James Carse says – we give away all our freedom to the rules of the game. The way the formal realm of our thoughts works is by excluding all actual freedom from the situation (which includes the freedom we would have needed in order to see that there is no freedom in this virtual world). Freedom is the jinx – freedom is the spanner in the works that fatally disrupts the operation of thought’s essential mechanism. Freedom – we might say – has to do with the way in which we don’t actually have to see things (or do things) within the closed format that thought provides us with and so when there isn’t this freedom then we perceive it to be the case that things had to have been this way, that they couldn’t ever have been any other way. The absence of freedom is what produces the static framework of thought which allows us to experience ourselves as this consistent self.


The original reality – on the other hand – is nothing else but freedom, which makes it impossible to think about, impossible to conceive of. It is impossible to conceive of the original reality because there’s no fixed platform (no ‘right way’) to view it from. The thinking mind operates, as we’ve just said, on the basis of Zero Freedom – we assume a framework (we freely assume a framework!) and then this means that we have given away our freedom to see things in this in any other way then the prescribed one. Stuff that makes sense within the framework is allowed whilst anything else simply doesn’t exist. When we say that thought works on the basis of Zero Freedom this is what we mean it’s not freedom, no leeway, in a framework even though fixed framework even though it was freely arrived at. Freedom gives rise no freedom (because it’s free to do so) but no freedom cannot produce freedom (because it isn’t free to do so). There is a key asymmetry going on here, therefore – an asymmetry which is responsible for the world of rules that we exist within.


To summarize what we’ve just said – thought can only function as thought when we have zero mobility with regard to our chosen viewpoint; the very possibility of there being another viewpoint is utterly and completely inconceivable to us and what this means is simply that we don’t have any perspective on anything, and it is because we have no perspective that our thoughts and ideas can function AS thoughts or ideas…


The Principle of Asymmetry that we’re talking about here is the key to everything, therefore; without the operation of this principle then we would never be able to have any thoughts, we wouldn’t be able to form the mental images of the world that we rely on so much. We wouldn’t be able to form and maintain the mental image of who we are either, which is pretty much all that we care about. Which gives rise to the core rationale for everything we think and everything we do. The Principle of Asymmetry is at root the same thing as ‘the irreversible arrow of time’ that we can read about in any textbook on thermodynamics: we can move very easily indeed in the direction of increased structure, increased definition, increased regulation or control but we can’t go back again. We can’t go back again without some kind of input from outside of the system. If we wanted to express this asymmetry in less familiar terms, we can say that we can transition from the real world to a formal world as easily as ‘falling off a log’ but – crucially -we can’t reverse this because there is no formal means of doing so, because there is no ‘defined methodology for obtaining the desired outcome’ (i.e., the outcome of returning to reality again).


If we how entropy relates to the Psychological Realm, therefore, we could say that it has to do with the way in which we can transition from the non-abstract to the abstract world about thought the constant transition back again because the abstract world doesn’t contain the any information about the non-abstract world how could it, after all? If it did then it wouldn’t be abstract anymore; an oversimplified picture of the world doesn’t contain the information that would be necessary in order to reconstitute the un-simplified (or original) situation because if it did then it would hardly count as ‘an oversimplified picture of the world’! ‘Entropy is a measure of the missing information in a particular frame of reference’ (paraphrasing Amina Vat Baker) and so – this being the case – of course there’s no way of coming back from that particular FOR – the information telling us how to do this (so to speak) is exactly the information that is missing!


Going back now to the idea of ‘pretending’ that we started off with, we can equivalently say that pretending very quickly reaches the point of becoming irreversible – we reach the point where we forget that we’re pretending, and so we imagine that what we’re doing is ‘for real’. All we know is pretending and so in the absence of any light to shine upon what’s going on here pretending becomes the gold standard for what is real. Anything incompatible without pretending can’t be real, and he is dismissed for this reason. Earlier on we spoke of ‘contriving to lose sight of the way in which we freely agreed to say see things within the terms of this particular FOR’, but this could be said to be a rather unfair comment given that it is the Second Law of Thermodynamics that we’re looking at here and that is hardly our doing. We are – we might argue – the helpless victims of this universal law, not the instigators of it.


On the other hand, the fact that there is such a tremendous short-term psychological payoff for forgetting or losing sight of the Big Picture means that – on an unacknowledged level – we are more than happy to collude with this universal law and take what appears to be ‘the easy option’; losing sight of the original reality (which is the only one!) suits us very well when avoidance is our game, after all. Somewhere along the line, we agreed to sign up to conditioned reality – if it is the case that we started off in freedom, then it must have been the case that we freely chose to give our freedom away. ‘Whoever plays, plays freely’, says James Carse. Once we have given our freedom away however, then we have no choice but to ‘go along for the ride’.  The conditioned self which is so keen to avoid the challenge of having to see the truth about its situation is itself a ‘function of our ignorance’, which is to say, an artifact of entropy, a consequence of entropy. Just as ‘knowing requires entropy’, as Stuart Kauffman says, so too does the (false) knowing of who we are as being this or that ‘concrete entity’ (which is to say, as being ‘me’). Just as ‘entropy is the price of structure,’ (as another Nobel Prize winner, Ilya Prigogine informs us) so too can we say that ‘ignorance of which we are completely ignorant of’ is the price of getting to go ‘along for the ride’ of believing that we actually ARE ‘the literally conceived everyday self’…






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  • Robert

    Hi Nick, how are you?

    Thanks for writing these articles – I really enjoy reading them as you come from a different perspective to that of mainstream (positive psychology). Mainstream psychology is utter bollocks, and we haven’t got a clue about mental health. All mainstream psych does is fix us to get a long with the system and play the game as you say. It’s the system that makes people mentally unwell in the first place, although as you say there’s nothing wrong with anybody anyway – the system just diagnoses people with a mental health problem because they are not playing the game, not following the rules and fitting in.

    Have you watched Emerson (non duality) on Youtube?

    December 13, 2023 at 6:00 am Reply
  • Robert

    Hi Nick 👋

    December 15, 2023 at 6:25 am Reply
  • Robert

    Thanks for your reply, and on youtube as well.


    December 15, 2023 at 6:26 am Reply

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