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The Assumed Context


Our actual situation – the situation that is genuinely there when look to see ‘what is there’ – is that we are going somewhere but we don’t know either who we are or where we are going (or where we happen to come from either). The situation that we perceive ourselves to be in is, on the other hand, a very different one from this – we perceive it to be the case that we know exactly where we’re going and where we came from, and we absolutely do feel that we ‘know who we are’. We totally feel that we know who we are. There’s nothing we know better, it seems. All of our attention goes on this notion of ‘who we think we are’ (along with ‘what we think we are doing’) and this is a very strange thing, all things considered. It’s a very strange thing because when all our attention is on the construct of ‘who we think we are’ and ‘what we think we’re doing’ then none of it is on what is actually real and if that’s not strange what is?

The situation where we have no way of knowing who we are or where we are going is of course infinitely less limited than the one that we take for granted, which is a closed situation (this is to say it is not one that is open to any sort of radical revision). We are actually trapped in ‘an all-defining assumed context’ – no matter what we do we can’t contradict the context that defines us and yet this context is not at all true. It’s an assumed contact, it’s a context that we take for granted, and if we didn’t assume it (or didn’t take it for granted) then it simply wouldn’t be there. The assumed context is simply our ‘knowing’; it is nothing more than our thoughts about the world, our ideas of the world. Our thinking has completely ‘closed down’ reality for us – the ‘open situation’ (which is the only situation there could ever be) has been replaced by an invented situation, a made-up situation, a situation with absolutely no possibilities or potential in it at all.

Naturally an artificial or made-up situation has ‘no real possibilities in it’; an invented or made-up situation doesn’t have any real possibilities it because it isn’t real itself. When we invent something we ‘say what it is’ and when we say what something is only the stated reality of ‘what we say it is’ gets to be there and so there are no extra possibilities to be had there. There are only the possibilities that we give it. This is how it works when we state things; stating things is a ‘positive act’ but a positive act is one that takes away possibilities not one that generates them! What is not definitively stated is full of possibilities, full of more possibilities then we could ever imagine, whilst what is stated can only ever be what it is arbitrarily said to be – the designed world is always profoundly sterile, in other words.

Instead of saying that ‘the designed world is sterile’, we could say that ‘the assumed context which is our knowing is sterile’ – it is sterile because (by its very nature) it doesn’t permit any freedom at all. It’s not enough to say that the assumed context doesn’t permit any freedom; we ought to make the point that it doesn’t permit any life. This makes the point more clearly. When Rumi states that ‘I learned  that every mortal will taste death. But only some will taste life’ it is the assumed context he is referring to – just as long as we exist within the all-defining assumed context of our knowing then we won’t be able to taste life. Life after all is not something that is permitted by the AC. Life is the ‘ungrounded movement’ that we started off by talking about – it is this unknowable movement that is life and nothing else. Life is completely unknowable and that’s what makes it life. Life can only ever be unknowable – if it is anything else then what we talking about in that case is the mind’s simulation of life and the mind’s simulation of life is not life. The mind’s simulation of life is sterile, lacking in any possibilities, lacking in freedom, and if this is so how can we call it ‘life’? We only call it life because we don’t know any better, because we have nothing else to go on. It’s a delusion that ‘this is life’.

When Heraclitus says ‘Life has the name of life, but in reality it is death’ this again is exactly what he means; he is making the point – which is a point that is basic to mysticism and esoteric psychology – that we are very naïve to think that just because we happen to be biologically alive, that automatically means that we’re consciously alive – the first comes easily, the second requires tremendous work on our part. ‘Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep,’ Anthony de Mello starts off by telling us in his book Awareness, ‘they’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.’ In the mind’s simulation of life (or in the mind’s simulation of being awake) we know who we are and we know what we’re doing – we know exactly where we came from and where we want to go. When we die – if we are conventionally religious – we believe that we will continue to be ‘who we think we are’ and that we will either be in place called heaven or a place called hell. Both heaven and hell are ‘known destinations’, needless to say. Our future-projection of either ‘salvation’ or ‘damnation’ is also sleep therefore; not only hell but also heaven equals ‘death as opposed to life’  – both are the same because both come down to the mind’s construct of an identity or the mind’s construct of a place.

When we are asleep then the greatest thing we could ever possibly hope for is also sleep; when we are asleep then all we care about is sleep in one form or another. Anything other than sleep is of no interest to us whatsoever. Furthermore, when we are asleep then we are always impatient, we are always in a hurry, we are always under pressure. We are always in a hurry because we believe that the type of sleep that is being represented to us by our goals is infinitely preferable to the type of sleep that is represented to us by our thoughts of ‘where we perceive ourselves to be right now’. This is our motivation for everything – the absolutely unquestionable belief that one form of sleep is preferable to another. And what’s more, as we all know, the ‘preferable form of sleep’ is always the one which is just out of our reach…

The cruellest, most agonising craving that we could ever experience – the sort of craving that could very easily make slaves of us for our entire lives – is nothing more than the desire to swap type one type of sleep for another, as if this would be the answer to all our problems, as if this would be the sweetest thing on earth. Our interminable goals, of which were so inordinately proud, are likewise nothing more than the ongoing attempt to achieve advantage by exchanging one form of sleep for another. No matter what we may be attracted to as a goal or destination, we’re still in the very same position – we are in a position of totally believing that [1] we are who we think we are (i.e. the position of believing that we are who or what the all-determining assumed context tells us we are) and that [2] we know – on the basis of ‘who we think we are’ what would be advantageous for us and what would be disadvantageous. Our true situation isn’t like this at all however; our true situation couldn’t be more different to the way we imagine it to be…

Art: Carpe Noctem II on pinterest


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