When Reality is an Error
When we control reality then what’s real becomes unreal and what’s unreal becomes real. So we turn reality into unreality and at the same time as we do this we lose the ability to know that it has become unreality. The reason we have lost the ability to discern the unreal from the real is because – in the process – we ourselves have become unreal!
Unlikely as this may sound, this is what happens. This is what inevitably has to happen when we control reality – that this should happen is inherent in the very nature of controlling! When we control what we do is to change the outside world in accordance with certain criteria that we have with regard to the sort of change we want to see taking place. Essentially, what happens is that the criteria get to be ‘mapped out’ in the outside world – reality gets to be ‘moulded’ by them, we could say. In the act of control, we narrow down the all-important discrepancy between ‘how things are’ and ‘how we’d like them to be’ until – ideally – this discrepancy ultimately gets to be zero!
This in itself doesn’t come as a big surprise and what we have just said (about what control essentially consists of) hardly seems to be worth making such a big deal about but what we don’t see is that when we manage to control effectively enough to be able to reduce the discrepancy (i.e. the ‘error’) to zero what we have effectively done at the same time is that we have actually gotten rid of reality. Reality is the discrepancy between ‘how things are’ and ‘how we’d like them to be’! Reality is the error we are striving to eliminate with our controlling! Reality is the gap we are trying to close!
It might sound like a very strange thing to say but from the point of view of logic, reality is ALWAYS an error. That’s the relationship logic has with reality. Logic sees everything backwards in this way and this isn’t simply some odd little quirk or peculiarity of logic that we’re talking about here – this is how logic works. This oughtn’t to come as too much of a surprise – logic is after all a system of abstractions and so the only way such a system can function is by taking its own abstract propositions seriously (i.e. by seeing them as a perfectly valid base-line) and then – as a corollary of this – ignoring everything that doesn’t agree with this base-line, this starting-off point as being illogical, which is to say, as being ‘an error’.
Logic always has to start off on the basis of an assumed ‘absolutely true statement’, and this in itself is a curious kind of a notion. How can any statement be absolutely true – surely we have to agree on some kind of context because any kind of statements can be made, true or otherwise? How can there be a statement without a context, without a framework within which it makes sense? And if a statement is only true in relation to the context that we have agreed upon (which is the only way it ever can be true, since it can’t very well just hang there in empty space, like a branch without a tree, or a twig without a branch, or a leaf without a twig) then it is relatively not absolutely true. It is true ‘relative to its own assumptions’, so to speak, which is the only way anything can be true. It’s ‘true within its own context’.
Logic however is constitutionally unable to have any truck with such things as ‘relative’ truth; for logic, a statement is either true or it is not true, as Aristotle pointed out over two thousand years ago! Logic can only start off at all from an absolutely firm basis, a basis with no ‘wobble’ in it at all, a basis with no blurry edges (no fuzzy boundaries) in it at all. That is the fundamental prerequisite before it can go any further – this is the thing that is absolutely necessary before it can go any further. Once logic has got going, once it has started off on its journey then it cannot of course ever really leave this basis – it has to continue relating to the world on this definite basis and so what this means is that everything it relates to actually has to be an extrapolation of its original starting-off point, an extrapolation of the original ‘definite statement’. This is why we are saying that ‘logic can never really depart from its basis’. This however is a very strange kind of a thing – obviously – since what kind of a journey is it where everything we relate to is simply an extrapolation of our starting-off point, i.e. a continuation or extension of our starting-off point? Clearly this is no sort of journey at all – the very most we could say would be that it is the illusion of a journey. We’re staying still, whilst at the same time imagining that we are actually going somewhere…
So logic is an illusory (or virtual) journey. But another way of approaching this is simply to say that the starting-off point itself doesn’t really exist, never mind the supposed journey that is launched from this basis. Definite statements are abstractions, as we have said, so how can any meaningful sort of journey proceed from the basis of an abstraction? In reality there are no such things as ‘definite statements’. Or rather we could say, ‘there are no such things as definite statements that can be related to reality’ since reality cannot be reduced to a back-and-white, either/or type of a statement. Any definite statement only makes sense from the point of the view of the context that it itself assumes, as we have said, but the problem with this is that the statement in question is simply an extension or continuation of that assumed context! So now what we’re saying is that the definite statement only makes sense in relation to itself, which is to say, the statement only gets to be definite in the way it claims to because of ‘self-referentiality’, because of the existence of a ‘circular argument’.
The thing about this is that anything which only gets to be true because of a circular argument, anything which depends totally upon self-referentiality in order to exist, isn’t really true at all, doesn’t really exist at all. Self-referentiality can prove anything at all, and this of course means that it doesn’t prove anything. This is how ‘beliefs’ work – I can say, with total assurance, that such-and-such is true because I believe it to be true (i.e. it’s true because I say that it’s true) but then again I could equally well believe in anything at all, and then that would be true too! I can say anything I want, with the greatest of ease, and so this way of determining what is true or not doesn’t mean a thing. The argument is hollow. Circular arguments are, as everyone knows, ‘inflationary currency’ – self-referentiality is a currency that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. A definite statement only gets to be so impressively definite therefore because it itself gets to say that ‘it is so’; it gets to be impressively definite because it doesn’t take into consideration any point of view other than its own, so what’s this really worth? The definite statement only seems like it means anything (in the literal way that it does claim to mean something) when we passively ‘go along with it’ and get sucked up into seeing things the way it does but when this happens what this means is that we are now in the situation where we can no longer see abstract representations as being merely ‘abstract representations’. For us, the abstract (which as we have just said doesn’t exist, except on its own terms) is now the whole world! There has therefore got to be something deeply fishy about this…
Going back to the point that we were just making then, logic is a trick. Unless we wangle things, unless we pull off some kind of a ‘fast one’, radical uncertainty is all there is. Radical uncertainty is where we can’t say where one thing ends and the other begins – which means of course that there aren’t any things! ‘Trivial uncertainty’ would be where we can’t say very much (or perhaps even anything) about the things in which we are interested (the things we want to talk about), but radical uncertainty, on the other hand, is where we can’t even say that they are these things in the first place! Without definite endings and definite beginnings there are no things and if there are no things then we can’t really say anything about anything – without things we’re stymied, without things we’re banjaxed. Unless there is a definite IN and an equally definite OUT (i.e. a definite YES and a definite NO) there are no things and if there are no things then there is no possibility of making ‘definite statements’. What would we be making a statement about, after all? So when there is nothing but radical uncertainty there can be no logic anymore because – as we have said – logic is all about definite statements.
There is of course no problem at all in everything being ‘radically uncertain’, which is as we have said where there are no more things to make definite statements about and where logic is as a result can no longer a meaningful proposition. There can’t be any problem because for there to be a problem there has to be a rule saying that such-and-such a situation can’t be allowed, that such-and-such a possibility can’t be permitted, and in radical uncertainty there are no rules saying what can, and what cannot be allowed! This is really just the same as saying that there can be no endings and no beginnings in pure undiluted uncertainty. No boundaries means ‘no rules’, because a rule is a boundary. Boundaries equals rules, and rules equals logic, and logic equals ‘cause-and-effect’ – it’s all the one, and in radical uncertainty (which Wei Wu Wei calls noumenal subjectivity) )there isn’t any of it! There is none of that stuff…
So because there are no rules, no boundaries in radical uncertainty there can be no problems. A problem only occurs when we want things to be a certain way and something or other is obstructing this from happening. In radical uncertainty there are no ‘certain ways’. (There are no ‘things’ either, as we have pointed out!) This isn’t to say that radical uncertainty ‘doesn’t exist’, that it isn’t ‘real’, that it is just some hypothetical fantasy or something like that. This state of being radically uncertain – which is the state where nothing at all is being controlled in accordance with this set of rules or that set of rules – is just the way things are in themselves before we start messing about with them, before we start interfering and imposing our own ideas, our own frameworks on the proceedings. It’s the natural state of affairs. We could therefore say that this is what is ‘genuinely real’, even if we can’t say what ‘this’ is (since the only way we can say what anything is is to have boundaries with ‘is’ on one side and ‘is not’ on the other). We could say that the world of radical uncertainty is what is actually real, whilst the world of ‘stopping and starting’, the world of ‘endings and beginnings’, the world of ‘in and out’, ‘yes and no’, (i.e. the world of boundaries and the things that the boundaries delimit or bound) is a world that we believe to be real but which isn’t. We could say that it is only a kind of a game we are playing with ourselves, a kind of playful exercise in ‘make-believe’…
We could say this just as long as we don’t get caught up in trying to make some sort of definite statement about ‘what’s real and what isn’t’, some kind of black-and-white statement about ‘what exists and what doesn’t exist’. This could of course very easily happen – we could all too easily start saying that radical uncertainty is the only reality and that the realm of formal relations (i.e. the realm of boundaries and rules and cause-and-effect) that we usually believe in is totally unreal. But if we did say this then we’d be ‘inventing a boundary’ – we’d have fallen headfirst into the vicious trap of making definite statements about ‘what’s going on and what’s not going on’, which would put us slap-bang in the middle of the realm which we were trying so strenuously to say doesn’t exist! This would be a most ignominious irony.
If we draw a line between the realm of non-dual subjectivity and the abstract world of duality then this is itself an exercise in duality – by doing this we have created a boundary with ‘real’ on the one side and ‘unreal’ on the other (or ‘exists’ on the one side and ‘doesn’t exist’ on the other) and this would be missing the point in a big way! It is in fact not possible to miss the point in a bigger way than this – this is epic ‘point-missing’! We can’t say anything definite about radical uncertainty – we can’t put it in a box by saying what it is and what it isn’t, much as we’d love to. As we have said, there aren’t any rules, any boundaries in radical uncertainty, but neither can we say that there is ‘an absence of rules and boundaries’ because the absence (or negative) of a definite statement is still a definite statement. We can’t get away from definite statements simply by going against them, simply by denying them!
All of this business of making rules, of inventing boundaries, or categorizing stuff and saying ‘what things are and what they aren’t’ is thinking, is logic, and unconditioned reality is not an exercise in logic. There’s no thinking about it. Unconditioned reality (or radical uncertainty) isn’t a ‘problem’ therefore because problems come out of thinking. On the other hand, radical uncertainty is a problem when we start off from the situation of taking some definite standpoint as being ‘unquestionable’. It then becomes a very big problem. If we start off from the fundamental base-line of ‘mind-manufactured certainty’ and use this as our standard for determining everything else then radical uncertainty becomes more than just a ‘big problem’ – it becomes something that’s so threatening to the established set-up that it can’t even for a moment be acknowledged for what it is. It becomes ‘a thing’ we can’t talk about, a ‘thing’ that we can’t allow ourselves to know about. Not only do we have to prevent ourselves from knowing about it, we have to prevent ourselves from knowing (or even suspecting) that we are preventing ourselves from knowing it…
The system of logic (or the system of thought) manages this by automatically labelling radical uncertainty as error. ‘Error’ is just a reject category, a ‘rubbish’ category, a ‘we’re not interested in it’ category. Once something has been labelled as error therefore we don’t have to take any more notice of it – all we do is label it as error and then instantaneously forget about it! Even saying this is over-stating our engagement in the matter – we don’t ‘forget’ about it because we never got as far as registering it in the first place. The way this ‘dumping process’ works is that we automatically throw away anything that doesn’t match our categories, our criteria, without taking the slightest bit of notice of what it is that we are throwing away. We couldn’t care less! We are completely ‘careless’ of what we are throwing away, what we are disregarding – we never know what it is that we have thrown away, and we never notice ourselves throwing it away in the first place. That’s how ‘care-less’ we are! Just to repeat the point that we’re making here, what we are doing this to – what we are ‘disregarding without noticing ourselves disregarding’ – is anything that doesn’t match our abstract measuring stick, anything that doesn’t match our abstract criteria, our abstract mental categories. And this – quite simply put – is reality, which is the ‘non-abstract’. Reality is the error which logic is rejecting (or which the logic-using mind is rejecting).
As we have said, logic (and therefore the logic-using mind) is entirely based on rules and so when we organize ourselves on the basis of rules (as we do) then this is called ‘controlling’. So logic or controlling (controlling being simply the extension of logic into the field of action) is all about systematically disregarding or ignoring reality! The more logical we get, the more we are creating our ‘own unreal world’, a world which – despite being fundamentally and irredeemably unreal – seems nevertheless to make perfect sense to us.
Logic is essentially the denial of anything that is not known (or not knowable) by logic and since all logic can know is itself, this makes the world of logic a tautologically unreal world. This is a very curious thing to consider because the world that is made up of ‘definitely true statements’ seems – ‘by definition’ – quintessentially real, quintessentially solid and reliable to us – what could be more solid and reliable than a definitely true statement, after all? If it’s definitely true then this means that it is unquestionable – we don’t have to question it, we don’t have to examine it. We can’t question or examine it! And yet it is – or so we are saying here – the fact that the statements we are leaning on so heavily are ‘definitely true’ that absolutely guarantees their profound unreality.
Thus it is that through the action of logic (through the action of the logical or rational mind) the unreal becomes real whilst reality itself becomes something that we are constitutionally unable to take any heed of! Once we’ve starting off on this side of the fence it becomes hard to see how we could ever find our way back to reality. Logic is a slippery slope to yet more logic, rules lead only to yet more rules. The more we control the more controlling seems to be the only possible answer and yet controlling isn’t the answer at all but rather ‘a problem we can’t see as such’. It’s an invisible problem, an undetectable problem. It is a ‘problem’ inasmuch as controlling creates the situation of ‘an unreal controller struggling to successfully control an unreal world to its own advantage’ – the problem here being that ‘the advantage of the unreal controller’ is no one’s advantage, for all that we spend all of our lives struggling as hard as we can to attain it…
Image – eflux.com